Signs have been piling up that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema might not run for another term, sparing us all a three-way Arizona Senate race in which her ego battled it out for supremacy against Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and whatever heinous nominee the Republicans come up with. That jibes with McKay Coppins’ report of a conversation Sinema had with Sen. Mitt Romney, the subject of Coppins’ recent book, in which Sinema suggested she was ready to declare her time in the Senate a moral victory and move on the cashing-in phase of her career.
“I don’t care. I can go on any board I want to. I can be a college president. I can do anything,” Sinema reportedly told Romney. “I saved the Senate filibuster by myself. I saved the Senate by myself. That’s good enough for me.”
Yes, preserving the brokenness of a broken institution (House Republicans may be the most visible disaster right now, but never lose sight of how bad things are in the Senate) makes Sinema a winner for life. Also, she didn’t exactly do it all on her own. Sen. Joe Manchin will not be denied his credit for keeping the filibuster in place and the Senate stuck in the mud.
But also check out Sinema’s ambitions: “I can go on any board I want to. I can be a college president.” Being a corporate board member is a classic way to make a lot of money relative to the effort you put in. And being a college president is, like being a U.S. senator, a job that places a premium on schmoozing and fundraising—but for substantially higher pay.
This is what you say if you’re thinking, “The establishment must want to thank me for my service. How is that going to benefit my bank account?”
A Sinema spokesperson didn’t exactly deny that this is the basic plan. “Private conversations are easily misconstrued and mistaken during the game of telephone,” Sinema aide Hannah Hurley told Insider in a statement. “When asked about whether she was concerned that her stance on the filibuster could endanger her reelection changes, Kyrsten stated what she has stated for years now; she is not worried about winning the next election, and instead she is laser-focused on her ability and the Senate’s ability to deliver lasting results for our country.”
This is the glossy, polished-up translation of what Coppins quoted Sinema as saying—it’s the version a Senate press staffer works up for a statement, not the casual bravado-inflected version the senator tosses off to an ally. Ask yourself which one is more in character for someone who posted a photo of herself wearing a ring that said “fuck off” on Instagram. Or someone who curtsied while giving an elaborate thumbs-down on an amendment to increase the minimum wage. Or someone who interned at a winery over August recess. Add to that the specificity of the ambitions: board member, college president. Does this sound either out of character for Sinema or like something someone (Mitt Romney? McKay Coppins?) would just make up?
In any case, we’ll see what Sinema does with her life after leaving the Senate. Hopefully soon.