The left will tell you that Schumer’s problem is a chronic failure of nerve in confronting Republicans.
But what if, and bear with me here, he’s really just an imbecile?
I don’t agree very often with Chief Justice Roberts, especially his partisan decisions which seem highly political on Citizens United, Janus, and Shelby.
But I am thankful today that he—almost alone among Republicans—stood up to President Trump and for an independent judiciary.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 23, 2018
Roberts’s point to Trump was that it’s unfair to impugn the integrity of the federal bench by describing its members as “Obama judges” or “Trump judges.” It makes them sound like Tammany Hall cronies. To which Schumer says, “Right. Listen to the Bush judge.”
The Twitterati are merciless:
When you say you agree with someone & yet you can't get through a single Tweet without doing the exact thing he was criticizing. https://t.co/x28lp1GICv
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) November 23, 2018
In less than 280 characters, Chuck Schumer:
• Criticizes partisan SCOTUS decisions
• Criticizes Donald Trump for suggesting there are partisan SCOTUS decisions https://t.co/N6LqmUr7UI
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) November 23, 2018
“trump is attacking the courts for being too political and that’s an attack on our system! also the courts are too political”
— Kilgore Trout (@KT_So_It_Goes) November 23, 2018
Does Schumer believe, as Trump does, that the judiciary has integrity only to the extent that it rules in his favor? Here’s what he said in 2007 about Bush’s SCOTUS nominees:
“We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts of Justice Ginsburg replaced by another Alito. Given the track of this President and the experience of obfuscation at hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court at least, I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances. They must prove by actions not words that they are in the mainstream rather than we have to prove that they are not.”
He’s fine with judges appointed by Republicans. Just not ones who are “out of the mainstream,” i.e. ones who would rule against him on any major issue, i.e. ones to the right of David Souter. (Five years after Schumer said that, allegedly radical right-winger John Roberts would cast the deciding vote to rescue ObamaCare from constitutional oblivion.) He’d respond, I assume, by claiming that he respects Republican judges to the extent they respect longstanding precedent, but that’s not true. He has only warm words for Anthony Kennedy’s habit of overturning precedents that limited gay rights, after all. All of which makes this the second time in four days that Trump has been lashed by Democrats for being too brusque in making a point with which they largely agree in substance.
If you want to be charitable to Schumer, you can read his tweet as a comment on the propriety of presidential rhetoric about the judiciary, not a comment on the judiciary itself. He’s not denying that judges are ideological or claiming that it’s inappropriate to criticize their decisions; what he dislikes is Trump using the bully pulpit to delegitimize adverse rulings by suggesting that they’re products of blind partisan loyalty (“Obama judges”). You can believe judges should be independent in the sense of being free from presidential influence without believing that they’re independent in the sense of having no ideological preference. But even if you give Schumer that benefit of the doubt, you’re still stuck with his “out of the mainstream” read on Bush’s nominees. Trump claims his judicial antagonists are partisan hacks, Schumer claims his own antagonists are too radical to merit a spot on the federal bench. The goal in both cases is to question the legitimacy of rulings made by those antagonists. So what’s the difference between them, really, apart from the fact that Trump’s megaphone is larger?
Eh, I think all Schumer’s trying to do here is work the refs. He knows Roberts is now the swing vote on a Court that includes Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. He’s reminding him here that if he wants to be seen as legitimate by the left, he’ll have to do more for them than cast the vote that singlehandedly saved Obama’s signature achievement and kept the Democrats’ journey towards single-payer on track.