You gotta admit — the man is versatile. Yesterday, Adam Schiff made the case that his membership on the House Intelligence Committee is indispensable to American national security. The White House followed up yesterday by insisting that his expertise was crucial to the committee, which Karen covers in our next post.
Less than 24 hours later, Schiff’s now launched a campaign that abandons his House seat altogether — and takes aim at the seat of another Democrat:
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a decades-long fixture in San Fernando Valley politics who rose to national prominence as a top Democratic foe to then-President Trump, is joining a contest for U.S. Senate that is quickly shaping up to be highly competitive, he announced Thursday.
A mild-mannered former prosecutor, Schiff built a profile as a moderate Democrat focused on foreign policy and national security. The Trump era, however, thrust him into the spotlight, as he led the first impeachment of the then-president and served on the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that culminated in referring Trump to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.
“The Senate is where many of these fights over the future of our democracy take place,” Schiff said in an interview prior to his campaign launch. “Some of Donald Trump’s biggest enablers are in the Senate. And I think that is where I can most effectively champion our democratic institutions.”
So he’s indispensable to House intelligence oversight yesterday and dispensable enough to retire from his seat altogether today? How does that work? It works as well as using TikTok to proclaim your expertise in intelligence work — a platform which US and other intel services suspect is a proxy and/or Trojan horse for China’s spies.
That’s hardly the only curious aspect of this decision and timing. In the first place, the US Senate seat in California up for grabs next year isn’t vacant. Democrat Dianne Feinstein currently holds it, and while many figure she planned to retire at the end of this term, she has yet to announce that decision. Schiff is the second significant Democrat to announce a primary run for the seat, which normally would appear unseemly and grasping — especially if a Republican did it. If this was June and Feinstein hadn’t budged, these announcements would be understandable. But in January?
Furthermore, Schiff’s logic about the Senate being a more effective place for his crusading doesn’t make sense at all. Democrats have a reasonable chance of winning back a majority in the House next year, since the margin of the GOP’s majority this year came from New York and California. A win would, of course, allow Schiff to return to the Intel committee, where he could continue his McCarthyist demagoguery to his heart’s content.
A Democrat win in House races may not have a great chance in a presidential cycle with Joe Biden on the ticket, but it’s a lot better odds than Democrats have of holding the Senate majority in next year’s election cycle. They will go in defending ten more seats than Republicans, almost all of them in red or purple states. Even if Schiff wins the primary and general election, he’s almost certain to be operating in a clear Senate minority. And Democrats should have no trouble winning the seat that Feinstein currently holds, whether she runs again or not, and whether or not Schiff runs for it.
And consider this: the last time a Senate seat became available in California, it created an internecine feud between Hispanics and black Democrats over Gavin Newsom’s appointment, in which both constituencies demanded representation. At least Katie Porter is female; what “equity” and “representation” appeal will Schiff have in this race, especially given the pressure to find a black woman in 2021 for the seat that Kamala Harris vacated?
That calculation suggests a few things, but intelligence isn’t one of them, or at least not wisdom. Democrats knew Schiff had ambitions to move up to the Senate at some point, and this is going to be the only real opportunity for a while, but they must be scratching their heads at this decision. The only real reason for Schiff’s new campaign is Schiff’s ongoing ego trip.
Update: Chuck Schumer’s already questioning it. In fact, as Manu Raju reports, he sounds overtly unhappy about Schiff’s move:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declined to comment on Rep. Adam Schiff’s bid for the seat occupied by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “Much too early,” he told me
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 26, 2023
Maybe Schumer just doesn’t want to have to deal with Schiff for six years. Who would?