Opinion: In his non-apology for threatening conservative justices, Chuck Schumer actually blames Republicans

by Peter Heck · Mar 6th, 2020 6:35 am

In July of last year, Senator Chuck Schumer was beside himself. Pacing the halls of the Capitol, Schumer was telling every news camera he could find that he had no choice but to introduce a Senate resolution condemning President Trump for his inflammatory rhetoric. He even went so far as to liken the president's bombast to those of totalitarian regimes:

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said the president was appealing to the "worst instincts in people" and the jeers from the crowd were "eerily familiar to what happens in dictatorships."

I believe the psychological term for Schumer's condemnation is "projection." After all, just eight months later, that same New York Senator took to the podium to do a little inflaming himself. Addressing a group of pro-abortion fanatics about a current case before the Supreme Court, the Senate Minority Leader threatened:

"I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."

It was nearly impossible to justify or defend those comments, which even provoked the usually stoic and unflappable Chief Justice John Roberts to issue a stern but deserved rebuke:

"Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous."

To be sure, this wasn't the first time Roberts felt the need to defend the judiciary from the reckless remarks emanating from the other branches. In 2018, Roberts scolded President Trump for his attack on the ruling of an "Obama judge." NBC reported at the time:

Asked Wednesday by the Associated Press about the president's comment, Roberts responded, "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them."

Trump didn't accept the correction then, and Schumer's immediate instinct was to reject correction now. Through a spokesman, Schumer clapped back at the Chief Justice, accusing him of a, "deliberate misinterpretation of what Senator Schumer said," before continuing:

"Senator Schumer's comments were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grass-roots movement on the issue of reproductive rights."

Except that's not at all what the Senator's comments were referencing. There was no mention of Senate Republicans losing elections, or of a grass-roots movement. The targeted "you" was directed solely at Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh. The defense was so poor that even notorious leftists rolled their eyes.

Liberal law professor Laurence Tribe:

Even MSNBC's Chris Hayes:

Of course, less responsible progressive social media trolls settled on a weak, "Well Trump said Sotomayor and Ginsburg should recuse themselves because they're biased" line of argument.

First, the left has been saying for almost four years now that President Trump is upsetting all our political norms and standards by his speech and conduct. Therefore, it's bizarre to use that very conduct as the measuring rod for what is appropriate among political leaders.

Second, the two examples aren't even close to comparable. Suggesting that a judge has demonstrated outward hostility to a party in a case and therefore should honorably recuse themselves from ruling on that case is a far cry from threatening a judge that they will personally pay the price and "won't know what hit them" if they rule in a certain way. The former is logical; the latter is judicial intimidation.

With the pressure building, Senator Schumer took to the floor of the Senate Thursday to offer his version of a mea culpa:

"Of course I didn't intend to suggest anything other than political and public opinion consequences for the Supreme Court, and it is a gross distortion to imply otherwise. I'm from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language. I shouldn't have used the words I did, but in no way was I making a threat. I never, never would do such a thing. And Leader McConnell knows that. And Republicans who are busy manufacturing outrage over these comments know that, too."

If you're spotting an "I'm sorry" in there, you're doing better than I am. Call this whatever you want to call it, except an apology. It isn't even close. Two times in this small paragraph of text, Schumer actually blames Republicans for everything, accusing them of "gross distortion" and "manufacturing outrage."

Maybe we're all just supposed to expect this arrogant, unrepentant, lack of contrition from our leaders these days. But I guess I'm still of the belief that we can and should expect better.

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