MANHATTAN (CN) - Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand kicked off her presidential campaign Sunday, mere feet from the Trump International Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, calling President Donald Trump a coward.
“President Trump is tearing apart the moral fabric of his country,” she said. “He demonizes the most vulnerable and he punches down. He puts his name in bold on every building. He does this because he wants you to believe he is strong. He is not. Our president is a coward.”
The crowd of supporters cheered under a glaring midday sun.
“Look up at that tower,” Gillibrand continued. “A shrine to greed, division and vanity. Now, look around you. The greater strength by far is ours. We are here to reject the politics of fear and hate, to listen to what Lincoln called our better angels of our nature, because the ideals of this country - opportunity, equality, justice - are worth fighting for.”
Handfuls of Trump supporters chanted and held up signs at the back of the crowd throughout Gillibrand’s half-hour speech, which focused on the theme of bravery. Her campaign slogan is “Brave Wins.”
The senator called for a range of well-known progressive ideals: bold action on climate change, national paid leave and universal pre-K, transparency in government, “Medicare for All,” affordable college, union rights, an end to cash bail and the legalization of marijuana.
She also demanded the full release of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, which Mueller delivered to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Friday.
“The Mueller report must be made public,” Gillibrand said. “All of it. Nobody in this country, even the president, is above the law or immune from accountability.”
Gillibrand spent a significant portion of her speech on climate, calling for passage of the Green New Deal and a price on carbon.
“We need to treat global climate change like the existential threat that it is,” she said to cheers, adding that addressing a “global challenge of this urgency” would take “massive effort.” But that, Gillibrand continued, is exactly why she wants to do it.
“John F. Kennedy said he wanted to put a man on the moon in the next ten years, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. I believe we should look at global climate change exactly the same way,” she said. “We should aspire to net zero carbon emissions in the next ten years, not because it’s easy but because it’s hard.”
In calling for national paid leave, one of her longtime signature issues, Gillibrand called it “outrageous” that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world without the policy.
“You should never have to risk your job and income to take care of a new baby, a sick family member or your own medical needs,” she said. “I refuse to accept the false choice between your paycheck and your family.”
Paid leave, equal pay and affordable pay are economic issues, Gillibrand added, not just women’s issues.
She also called for raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour and expanding the G.I. Bill to cover free college for national public servants. She intends to help dismantle institutional racism in part by demanding higher standards for maternity care, legalizing marijuana and ending cash bail, she said.
Gillibrand was introduced by her friend Connie Britton, an actor and activist who roomed with her on a college study-abroad trip in Beijing in the 1980s. Britton is best known for her role in the television series “Friday Night Lights.”