I'm having trouble right now determining if Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is more or less useless than the combo DVD/VHS player I've had for 15 years now and carted across the country in multiple moves. Then I realize how unfair a statement that is because I still have a VHS tape containing episodes of the brilliant but short-lived 1998 FOX series "Brimstone" featuring the wonderful John Glover as the Devil, which no one in 20 years has seen fit to officially release on DVD or digital.
Yeah, so it's no contest: Schumer is more worthless than my held-together-with-duct-tape-and-crossed-fingers device that plays outdated media. This is the nicest thing I can say about Schumer right now after his comments this week about the Supreme Court vacancy Trump plans to fill with the ghost of some 17th Century Salem witch hunter.
Attendees on a recent town hall teleconference questioned whether Schumer's strategy was tough enough to have a real impact, per the Washington Post. "We are in a gunfight, but we have a butter knife," one of the attendees said.
While more "disruptive" ideas like quorum-breaking — which would require Democrats to withhold their attendance at Senate sessions, and thereby prevent lawmakers from reaching a "quorum" — have been floated as possible tactics, Schumer has indicated that he prefers to focus attention on the issue areas that have been raised. He asked constituents at the recent town hall to stop "prodding Democrats to use their limited procedural power to delay a Supreme Court confirmation," according to ABC News.
"I think if we put all of our eggs in that basket, we'll have less of a chance to focus on the substantive issues," he said, per Politico.
What the hell is he talking about? What "substantive issues" can we focus on after Trump has cemented a conservative majority on the Court for a generation? These are the end times. Fight, damn it! I'm not sitting in the back of the bus because your sorry ass doesn't want to get your fingernails dirty. Nancy Pelosi would never put up with this. She would whip votes. She'd go on the offensive. (Remember when she went on TV and said Trump was coo coo for Cocoa Puffs?)
Yes, I know Trump holds all the power right now with a narrow but solid Senate majority that will definitely confirm his Scalia/Gorsuch clone. Schumer needs to break that majority, swinging at least two Republicans to his side, but he also needs to demonstrate a McConnell-like willingness to employ whatever stalling, I don't care how norm-breaking, tactics he can to delay the hearings until after the midterms, when there's a long shot chance of Democrats regaining the Senate. (He also needs to WHIP THE DAMN VOTE and stop letting the Heitkamps and Donnellys vote their "conscience.") But he can't even do that. No, instead he concocts the brilliant scheme of getting on his knees and begging that gleeful bullying asshole in the White House to play nice and maybe even let Schumer keep his milk money twice a week.
According to The Hill, Schumer's phone call with Trump lasted five minutes, but it's unclear how much of that was just Trump laughing hysterically while rolling around on the Oval Office floor. Schumer must've hit his head during a raucous Fourth of July celebration and forgot how politics work. What would Trump have to gain from nominating a moderate? He would alienate his own base and, unlike Schumer, he's not dumb enough to do that. What evidence is there that Trump ever does anything that's not in his best interests? Does Schumer not comprehend how much Trump loathes Obama so the notion of his making any decision similar to one by his predecessor is absurd? That's it? That's all Schumer's got -- literally just "check-the-box" Hail Mary passes, the obligatory scene in a death row movie where someone makes that final desperate call to the governor?
It's painful to remember, but FiveThirtyEight gave the Democrats a more than 70 percent chance as late as October of coming out of the 2016 elections with a Senate majority. Schumer was set to be the Majority Leader alongside a President Hillary Clinton. That is an entirely different job than Minority Leader under a President Donald Trump and an enabling, corrupt GOP. Schumer is quite simply not a wartime consigliere, and we are paying the price for his fecklessness.
Schumer adores "order" and "civility" so much he will chasten Rep. Maxine Waters on the Senate floor for daring to suggest that civilians peacefully confront the people actively destroying the country. Meanwhile, Schumer is silent the day after Trump racially taunts Waters as having an IQ in the "low 60s" and spews racist misogyny at Senator Elizabeth Warren.
(Uh, NBC, why "appears" to mock? He's obviously mocking her. It's like describing a Jerry Seinfeld routine as "comedian appears to mock expiration dates on milk. It's hard to say. He could be in earnest.")
Trump's shameless display of misogyny and racism should be all Schumer is talking about -- not just because it's the right thing to do and would demonstrate to the Democratic base of women and minorities that he gives a damn about us. It's also politically wise. If Obama had viciously attacked women GOP senators the Thursday before he revealed his Supreme Court pick, McConnell and his Injustice Gang would've ripped him apart and derailed the announcement.
If Schumer can't put Trump on the defensive, despite ample opportunities like this one, then he's completely useless, and he can't even play me a fuzzy recording of "Brimstone." It's time for a change.
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.