NEW YORK -- Chuck Schumer and Michael Bloomberg both believe in gun control. But only Schumer believes in political parties.
That contrast is at the heart of Schumer’s recent criticism of Bloomberg’s efforts to run ads against Democrats who voted against background checks. Schumer said in an interview with Time that the effort was not “effective.” What he really means, of course, is that Bloomberg using his vast fortune to punish Democrats is politically certifiable and undercutting of Bloomberg’s very own anti-gun agenda. The chances of a Republican Senate doing anything on gun control is approximately nil. By endangering some of the very Democrats that Schumer helped elect as architect of the current Democratic majority, Bloomberg is only guaranteeing the death of the issue he cares about perhaps most deeply.
Bloomberg and those close to him argue that a Democratic majority is useless if it doesn’t actually do anything on the issue, and that giving gun-control opponents a pass just because they belong to the Democratic Party is the actual madness. Schumer’s criticism, and the appeal of other Senate Democratic leaders, has not changed Bloomberg’s mind.
At an event in Queens Thursday morning, I asked Bloomberg about Schumer’s critique.
“I think at the moment we are running more ads against Republicans than Democrats but let me just point out this is not a partisan issue,” he said. “If you vote to continue the carnage on our streets I don’t care what party you’re in. To bring in partisanship when you are talking lives, lives and deaths and most of these are kids, just to me it doesn’t make any sense. Chuck is perfectly capable of expressing himself.”
He continued, “I can tell you that we are running more ads against Republicans than Democrats now but I’ll run them against anybody that wants to keep – this year we are going to have 12,000 people killed with handguns, 19,00 people committing suicide with handguns. A vote against fixing that problem regardless of what party you are in is a vote against fixing that problem and the fact of the matter is that the Democrats at the moment control the Senate, the Republicans control the House and my interest is not in preserving or changing that, that’s not my interest. I just don’t think that that’s germane.”
For a partisan warrior like Schumer, nothing is more germane. But Bloomberg’s aides have wondered about Schumer's credibility on the issue. They have long argued that while Schumer made his name as the force behind the Brady Bill and Assault Weapons Ban as a congressman, he lacked courage on the issue, to put it mildly, upon arriving in the Senate. Schumer, like many other national Democrats, made the assessment that guns were a losing national issue and political poison in swing states, such as Alaska, where Bloomberg is targeting Mark Begich.
His appeal to Bloomberg is not to use the billions to put a pox on both houses. Bloomberg's answer boils down to, 'oh spare me.'