Schumer: "The sooner the better" on Trump impeachment

Up until now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been resisting the wave of impeachment talk from the left wing of his own party. Schumer has preferred to remain reserved, saying that impeachment talk is at least “premature” and the Special Council’s investigation should continue unimpeded. It’s a safe position to stake out and demonstrates Schumer’s lengthy experience playing the American Game of Thrones. But during the Labor Day parade in New York yesterday, there was a moment where he at least appeared to do a complete reversal. When a parade observer shouted out a question about when the Democrats planned to impeach the President, Schumer took up his bullhorn and said, “the sooner the better.” (Fox News)

In an off-the-cuff moment caught on video during a Labor Day parade in Brooklyn Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told a bystander who asked when President Trump would be impeached, “The sooner the better.”

Schumer’s comment appeared to be a sharp break from his own previous rhetoric and that of other party leaders, who have avoided discussing impeachment proceedings for fear of alienating moderate voters ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“When are y’all going to impeach Trump?” someone calls out in the footage from behind a barricade as Schumer, carrying a megaphone, walks past with his security detail in the West Indian-American Day parade.

“The sooner the better,” Schumer quickly replies. The same bystander apparently counters: “‘The sooner the better?’ That’s not answering the question.”

When contacted for comment, Schumer’s office denied that was his position, saying that he had misheard the question. At first, I thought perhaps Schumer might be trying to appease his base, who have lately taken to blaming him for allowing the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings to go forward, as Ed noted earlier today. Then, thinking better of it, he might have decided to walk it back. But if you watch and listen to the actual exchange, that might not be the case at all. Let’s turn up the volume and check out the video.

Believe it or not, I’m leaning toward taking Schumer’s side on this one for a couple of reasons. First, when you listen to the video, it’s probably easy to argue that Schumer should have heard the question clearly. But we’re getting the audio from the back of the crowd near the person shouting to the Senator. Schumer, on the other hand, is out in the street with thousands of people yelling and motors of parade vehicles in his ears. Also, as his staff went on to note, pretty much all the focus this week has been on the Kavanaugh confirmation, so it would have been easy for him to assume that’s what the guy was asking about. “Defeat” sounds enough like “impeach” under such circumstances.

Beyond those technical details, I’ve been watching Chuck Schumer here in New York for a long time now and suddenly backing impeachment (and doing so with great apparent enthusiasm) would be totally out of character for him. Schumer is a partisan to be sure, but he’s first and foremost a pragmatist. That aspect of his nature is what’s allowed him to rise so far in a party where some of his positions are clearly out of the mainstream. (He’s been a steadfast supporter of Israel in a party which frequently seems rife with antisemitism, or at least pro-Palestinian sentiments.)

He’s carefully considered his position on the impeachment question and he would be very unlikely to suddenly reverse it in the middle of a parade. If his party chooses to go that route after the Mueller investigation is complete, I have no doubt he’ll be onboard. But secretly, I believe Chuck Schumer thinks Donald Trump is more of a benefit to the Democrats than a danger because opposing him makes for such good politics among the base. So I’m going to give Schumer the benefit of the doubt here and call this parade exchange a simple case of crowd noise and misunderstanding a question.

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