As I’ve noted in a few of my posts, none of the purported ‘precedents’ Republicans have come up with over the last three days to justify their actions speaks at all to the current situation President Obama faces after the death of Justice Scalia. But even the seeming Holy Grail of GOP gotchas – Sen. Schumer’s speech before the American Constitution Society in 2007 – basically says nothing when you actually hear or read what he said, as opposed the media chatter or even the brief Politico write-up everyone has been passing around.
As you’ve probably heard, what’s being widely trumpeted around is that Schumer said in mid-2007 that Senate Democrats should not confirm anymore Bush Supreme Court nominees – and this was six months earlier in President Bush’s second term than we currently are in President Obama’s second term.
What a hypocrite!
When I first heard about this, I thought, ‘Well, maybe Schumer said something silly speaking to a liberal legal group. But some offhand comment that was never followed through on and didn’t come from a person who was in a leadership position is hardly dispositive.’ Schumer’s my senator but he’s not the most temperate or considered guy on Capitol Hill. But when you listen to what he said, he didn’t say anything remotely like what’s being parroted.
It’s a comical embarrassment for all the reporters who’ve been punked with this.
What Schumer actually said was that Senate Democrats had been hoodwinked by President Bush’s first two Supreme Court picks – Roberts and Alito. They’d accepted assurances that they were mainstream conservative judges who would operate with the precedents and decisions of the Rehnquist Court but hadn’t. (Certainly, the experience since 2007 has more than ratified this perception.) Schumer said Democrats should try to block any future Bush nominees unless they could prove that they were ‘in the mainstream’ and would abide by precedent.
Now, where did I get this from?
I actually watched this video from the Christian News Service and posted to youtube by “Tea Party 2”. So I assume we can take it as given that it’s not creatively edited.
Here’s what Schumer says (yes, I just transcribed it myself):
“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 goes on a bit longer in the video clip – but it’s basically elaboration on that. I’ve embedded the clip I’m working from at the bottom of this post.
Now, ‘mainstream’ is a subjective rather than a technical term. But Schumer was reacting to Roberts and Alito’s much freer willingness to overturn past precedent, even under conservative majorities. But all that is beside the point. Schumer quite explicitly never said that the Bush shouldn’t get any more nominations. He also didn’t say that any nominee should be rejected. He said they should insist on proof based on judicial history, rather than just promises that they were mainstream conservatives rather than conservative activists, which both have proven to be. But again, set all this aside. He clearly spoke of holding hearings and being willing to confirm Bush nominees if they met reasonable criteria.
There’s just no there there.
I figured this was ridiculous – a cherry-picked quote playing to an audience focused on liberal jurisprudence. But it’s considerably more ridiculous than I even assumed. There’s just no there there. It’s silly.
Here’s the video …