Schumer’s Cool Senator Trick

As the Democratic Minority Leader of the Senate, New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, has a job to do. His job is to fool you and make you hate the other team more than his team. To be clear, the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has the same, but opposite, job. McConnell really sucks at his job. Is Schumer any better?

Charles Schumer: Judge Gorsuch, We Won’t Be Fooled Again

Was he fooled before? Well, there were Earl Warren and Bill Brennan, Eisenhower’s biggest mistakes, but Chuck wasn’t a senator then so it’s not like he was fooled. But is this what he’s complaining about? Nah.

When Judge Roberts became Justice Roberts, we learned that we had been duped by an activist judge. The Roberts court systematically and almost immediately shifted to the right, violating longstanding precedent with its rulings in Citizens United and in Shelby v. Holder, which gutted the Voting Rights Act….Rather than calling balls and strikes, Chief Justice Roberts was a 10th player, shifting the power structure toward the privileged and away from the average American.

The overarching lesson of Chief Justice Roberts can be summed up in a familiar phrase: Fool me once, shame on them; fool me twice, shame on me.

C.J. Roberts fooled you, Chuck? You expected President George W. Bush to appoint a chief justice who was somewhere to the left of Thurgood Marshall? If so, it’s not that you were fooled, but that you are a fool. Nobody promised you that Roberts was going to be your activist, Chuck. If you want a president to appoint a player from your team, you need a president from your team. And a senate majority from your team wouldn’t hurt either.

So what is it you’re griping about with Judge Gorsuch, the judge confirmed with hugs and kisses by the Senate for that trivial position of circuit judge?

Given the administration’s disdain for the judiciary, any nominee to the Supreme Court, particularly by this president, must be able to demonstrate independence from this president. The bar is always high to achieve a seat on the Supreme Court, but in these unusual times — when there is unprecedented stress on our system of checks and balances — the bar is even higher for Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to demonstrate independence. In order to clear it, he will have to convince 60 of my colleagues that he will not be influenced by politics, parties or the president. The judiciary is the last and most important check on an overreaching president with little respect for the rule of law.

Damn, that’s inspirational, because I, too, think the judiciary is the “last and most important check.” I thought that when Obama was president. I still think it today. But what exactly are you trying to sell when you say, “the bar is even higher”? Was it Senator Schumer’s position that Supreme Court justices were throwaway jobs before? Were you unaware, until now, that they made kind of important decisions? Did you not realize how it worked, that there are nine of them and majority rules?

When I met with Judge Gorsuch on Feb. 7, I sought to ascertain his potential to be an independent check on the president. The judge was clearly very smart, articulate and polite, with superb judicial demeanor. But over the course of an hour, he refused to answer even the most rudimentary questions.

Rudimentary questions is a curious characterization, Chuck. Did they come from the senators’ secret book of rudimentary questions? Let’s find out.

I asked him whether an unambiguous Muslim ban would be constitutional. He refused to answer. I asked him if he agreed with conservative lawyers who say the president has abused executive power. He refused to answer. I asked him whether he thought the president’s comments on voter fraud would undermine our democracy. He refused to answer. I asked him about landmark cases like Citizens United and Bush v. Gore. He refused to answer. Since he claims to be an originalist, I asked him about his view of what the framers intended with the Emoluments Clause in our Constitution.

You used that word, rudimentary, but I do not think it means what you think it does. You asked questions that could then be turned around to embarrass Trump by holding one of your beloved press conferences where you could proclaim that even Trump’s Supreme Court nominee says he’s wrong and terrible.

Let’s be just a little bit real about this, Chuck. You know Judge Gorsuch. You confirmed him once, you’ve seen his record of decisions (the courts are kind enough to put them in books for senators to see) and you have an exceptionally clear and thorough idea of what he might do on the Supreme Court. Not perfect, of course, as many justices, Sonia Sotomayor comes immediately to mind, were kinda hardass on the circuit and didn’t find their empathetic groove until they sat on the big bench. But certainly a good idea.

And the same would have been true of Merrick Garland, who, like Neil Gorsuch, was an exceptionally qualified nominee for the Supreme Court. Though, to be honest, Chuck, Garland might have been better on some social justice issues, but on criminal law, he kinda sucked.

Without any hints about his philosophy or examples of how he might have ruled on landmark cases, the only way that Judge Gorsuch was able to demonstrate his independence as a jurist was by asserting it himself.

No hints, Chuck? All those opinions Judge Gorsuch wrote, joined, dissented from, etc., gave you no hints? Does it take a two by four to the head to give you a hint, Chuck? That’s really not good for someone who’s elected senator, not to mention majority leader, if you couldn’t find a hint in there.

Judge Gorsuch’s behind-closed-doors admission that he felt “disheartened” by President Trump’s attacks on judges could well be akin to Judge Roberts’s “balls and strikes.” Judge Gorsuch told it to me in private; when Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and I asked him to say it in public, he refused. Clearly he wanted this to be seen as a marker of his independence, because his handlers immediately told us, “You can tell this to the press.” A truly independent judge would have the fortitude to condemn the president’s remarks, not just express disapproval, and to do it publicly. The White House’s assertion that Judge Gorsuch’s private remarks were not aimed at Mr. Trump only raises concerns about his independence.

A truly independent judge wouldn’t acquiesce to Chuck Schumer’s childish vote extortion any more than he would Donald Trump’s. Gorsuch’s spokesman has released a statement* showing how you’ve tried to screw with the nuance to turn a completely appropriate statement by a Supreme Court nominee to your political advantage.

You may hate the fact that your gal didn’t get elected. You may hate what the Republicans did to Garland. But this is just slimy crap, Chuck, and it fools no one.

*The statement says:

Judge Gorsuch has made it very clear in all of his discussions with senators, including Senator Blumenthal, that he could not comment on any specific cases and that judicial ethics prevent him from commenting on political matters. He has also emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary, and while he made clear that he was not referring to any specific case, he said that he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing.

So there ya go.

13 comments on “Schumer’s Cool Senator Trick

  1. bevis the lumberjack

    “but in these unusual times — when there is unprecedented stress on our system of checks and balances”

    Ah, our elected betters – always gotta be some crisis that only they can lead us through if we’ll only follow.

    A blowhard marginally competent president tweeting away but more or less complying with a TRO is not comparable in terms of “stress on our system of checks and balances” to, say, Lincoln suspending habeas corpus. Or Nixon defying court orders and firing special prosecutors. Or even FDR trying to pack the SC.

    C’mon, Chuck.

    Reply
  2. Billy Bob

    Shoo, shoo, shoo, Schumer! Your gal lost. Your nominee got stonewalled by forces in the Senate more powerful than you. Get over it. Gorsuch does not suck. You suck for being such a political weasel, you, you, you. We second the motion that Gorsuch be confirmed, immediately if not sooner. Let’s get on with it. There are cases to be decided, decisions to be made.

    Reply
  3. Jim Tyre

    Don’t be harshing on Chuck, he’s achieved one of his goals already. The current Time magazine cover is a ginormous head shot of him, with the headline “Do The Democrats Matter?”

    Reply
  4. B. McLeod

    Some are born fools, some achieve foolishness, while still others are fooled into foolishness. In any event, where Schumer is concerned, what’s done is done. He should wear the cap and bells in all his floor appearances.

    Reply
  5. Charles

    “When I met with Judge Gorsuch on Feb. 7, I sought to ascertain his potential to be an independent check on the president.”

    What’s telling is that he was looking for a check on “the president,” meaning this specific President, not “the presidency”, as in the office generally.

    Reply
  6. Agammamon

    “. . . he will have to convince 60 of my colleagues that he will not be influenced by politics, parties or the president.”

    I’m *pretty sure* that he doesn’t have to convince 60 senators of any such thing. Maybe a few of them.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      I doubt even a few of them. Just as the Republicans knew Garland was a perfectly acceptable nominee, the Democrats know Gorsuch is as well.

      Reply

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