Chuck Schumer Assaults Supreme Court Justices With ... Their Own Words
Chief Justice Roberts — the man I will forever blame for demolishing voting rights because of how he did that — got up his in feels yesterday over comments Chuck Schumer made at an abortion rights rally earlier in the day. The Court is hearing arguments about June Medical Services v. Russo, an abortion-related case that might result in Louisiana having zero abortion clinics. The Senate minority leader is normally meek and non-confrontational. He sells the Democratic agenda like Jack Lemmon sold real estate in Glengarry Glen Ross, but someone must've spiked Schumer's egg cream with piss and vinegar. You love to see it.
SCHUMER: I want to tell you [Justice Neil] Gorsuch. I want to tell you [Justice Brett] 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.
Holy crap! Schumer stood outside the Supreme Court building and threatened fierce, bloody vengeance against Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Whatever happened to pure ethics and nice manners? Whatever happened to class? Donald Trump's failed impeachment made Schumer crack. He's gone gangster! Or — and let's walk through this together — he's literally just quoting Kavanaugh's own words back at him.
During Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation hearings, the credibly accused attempted rapist charged Democrats with orchestrating a political hit job against him. He had no real evidence of this, but it wasn't like he was applying for an important job in the legal profession. Once he'd reached full diva, Kavanaugh claimed Democrats had "sowed the wind for decades to come. I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind."
I guess Roberts was asleep during all that, but he's selectively awake now! And boy is he mad. Chief Justice Fancy Pants released this statement Wednesday afternoon:
This morning, Senator Schumer spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while a case was being argued inside. Senator Schumer referred to two Members of the Court by name and said he wanted to tell them that "You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions." 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. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.
Roberts has consistently promoted the rather arrogant view of the Supreme Court as some lofty celestial organization whose decisions don't have real-world impact on actual human beings. Well, he believes that most of the time. Note what he said in his dissenting opinion against Oberfell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in the nation.
Schumer rightly pointed out that you can't rob women of their bodily autonomy without facing serious backlash, but he obviously wasn't suggesting violent reprisals against anti-abortion justices. Here's what Schumer later said while looking directly at the Supreme Court building:
SCHUMER: The bottom line is very simple: We will stand with the American people. We will stand with American women. We will tell President Trump and Senate Republicans who have stacked the court with right-wing ideologues, that you're gonna be gone in November and you will never be able to do what you're trying to do now, ever, ever again. You hear that over there on the far-right? You're gone in November.
Republicans are pissing their pants because Schumer has apparently politicized the Supreme Court, as if Mitch McConnell didn't do just that when he held a Supreme Court seat open for Republicans' maximum political benefit. Sen. Ben Sasse, who people insist on believing is a "sensible" conservative instead of just another brick in the right-wing wall, released this ridiculous statement.
SASSE: Think about this, if a Republican threatened Justice Sotomayor or Justice Ginsburg, it would be the biggest story not just in Washington but all across America.
Don't know how to break it to you, senator, but Donald Trump is a Republican. Roberts didn't bother to defend his female colleagues on the Supreme Court from Trump's personal attacks. They were so 10 days ago.
Sasse walks the martyr's path, claiming that Schumer's "bully tactics aren't getting much air time right now because there's so many people in bed with his defense of abortion and his attack on an independent judiciary." However, Schumer's comments were a big story and did receive a lot of air time. Conservative publications are going nuts, and on CNN last night, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin demonstrated an inability to comprehend simple metaphor.
TOOBIN: It was inappropriate. It did sound like a physical threat. I think if you look at Chuck Schumer's entire record, if you look at how he behaves, he does not threaten people physically. It was certainly a bad choice of words.
It was not in any way a "physical threat." Toobin comes so close to grasping "context." Yes, Schumer does not normally threaten people physically, so it's reasonable to assume that his comments weren't literal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — always eager to kick a political opponent when they're down — condemned Schumer in the Senate today.
MCCONNELL: Contrary to what the Democratic leader has tried to claim, he very clearly was not addressing Republican lawmakers or anybody else. He literally directed the statement to the justices, by name. And he said, quote, "If you go forward with these awful decisions,'" which could only apply to the court itself. The minority leader of the United States Senate threatened two associate justices of the US Supreme Court. Period.
McConnell grossly claimed Schumer requested an actual contract hit on Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — in broad fucking daylight, which is the least effective way of making contract hits. Schumer could've at least asked someone to turn off all the cameras.
I understand that the media and political moderates want "both sides" to behave, but they tend to just promote unilateral disarmament. Democrats should behave like church mice, but Republicans can continue expressing themselves like the rats they are. Conservative candidates across the country are running disgusting ads demonizing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.
Schumer himself absorbed cynical right-wing talking points about Maxine Waters. He criticized Waters on the Senate floor in 2018 for suggesting that citizens should "push back" against the Trump administration. The supposed "public harassment" of political opponents she apparently promoted was actually just holding them accountable for their actions, as if we live in a representative democracy.
I was pleased to see that Schumer didn't cower and hide under his bed from the collective right-wing assault. His spokesman released this statement.
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.
For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing's deliberate misinterpretation of what Senator Schumer said, while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes.
We applaud Schumer for showing us he has a spine. However, we still want him to step aside and let Elizabeth Warren serve as majority leader if Democrats regain the Senate.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).