Conservatives don’t usually pity the pugnacious, media-frenetic Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). But give the guy a break. Really, have we ever seen a prominent senator so abused by a president of his own party?
First, President Obama throws him out to slow the rising tide of objections to defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel. Schumer is compelled to sacrifice his pro-Israel bona fides and accept a series of implausible and insincere reversals in Hagel’s positions. He is conned into giving the stamp approval before the drip, drip of more controversial Hagel statements and alarming positions come out. Schumer is now left dangling in the wind. You can imagine the thought bubble above his head at Hagel’s hearing today: “Are you kidding me? Are you serious? I’m supposed to believe you’re Israel’s best friend. Do I look like a moron?” (Meanwhile, Sen. Ben Cardin’s thought bubble would look something like this: “Hey I could be Mr. Best Friend of Israel. . . . Do I dare go against this Iran-coddling, anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-gun blowhard? Puleez McCain, get under his skin. … Make him lose it! Get me outta here!”)
This is a lose-lose for Schumer. Either he’s the man who paved the way for the most anti-Israel defense secretary in history or he’s the guy humiliated when the Hagel nomination fails. Either way the White House has done him no favors.
Then Schumer becomes Mr. Bipartisan. He works with Republicans (something he hates) and comes out with a reasoned immigration reform plan that is far to the right of what Hispanic groups want and far too generous toward new workers for Big Labor’s taste. Next along comes the president. He goes left, making an issue of gay partners, clamming up on guest workers and leaving out a border security trigger. Once again Schumer is hung out to dry. (Well, thanks very much, Mr. President. Make me look like the right-winger. And you get the victory lap at MALDEF?)
Schumer’s travails are hardly over. Soon Republicans will be going populist, going after the big banks (some of his favorite donors) and decrying all those retirement benefits for rich people (“Hey, they’re my rich people!” Schumer would say.). By the end of this he’ll look like a phony Zionist, a faux immigration reformer and a pal of the rich and powerful.
Sure, Schumer is an infamous demagogue. There is no senator more partisan. And yes, the most dangerous place in D.C. is still between Schumer and a microphone. But have some heart, Republicans. The guy has a “kick me” sign on his back and the White House is kicking away.