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Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2000 / 10 Shevat 5761

Evan Gahr

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Schumer's new insensitivity -- REMEMBER New York's other senator? Charles Schumer has finally stepped outside Hillary Rodham Clinton's long shadow. Lucky for Chuck he, not Hillary, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he and his fellow Democrats have been riding roughshod over attorney general nominee John Ashcroft. How unfortunate for Schumer that he slimed Ashcroft with allegations of "racial insensitivity." Not only is it an odiferous charge that is easy to make but almost impossible to rebut -- but it can also come back to haunt you.

Who'd have thunk that Schumer himself would now stand accused of the very thought crime charges that he leveled against John Ashcroft. The New York Post reported January 29 that Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, complained in a letter to Schumer early this month that the senator has urged the Justice Department to thwart his proposal to create the first major-black owned airline in 30 years. The proposed company, DC Air, would work in partnership with American Airlines.

"As an African-American businessperson who has a personal net worth significantly greater than the market capitalization of [rival companies] Jet Blue and Air Tran combined, I am offended that you could argue that these two companies deserve an opportunity that should be denied to me," Johnson wrote. "It cannot be that you believe that they are better businesspersons; perhaps it is because they are white businesspersons." Ashcroft might ask Schumer: How does it feel?

Johnson expounded upon his racial grievances in an interview with New York Post Albany bureau chief Fred Dicker. "If Schumer was a Republican and not a Democrat, everyone would be jumping up and down saying, 'How dare you not support us?' I'm trying to figure out what the rationale is for someone who is a member of the liberal Democratic Party to oppose DC Air -- when that party has a fundamental commitment to minority ownership and equal opportunities for minorities."

Was he calling Schumer a racist? Johnson responded with all the subtlety of a brick to the head. "If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck and quacks like a duck ..."

Schumer in turn responded that he had opposed the proposed deal on its merits. In today's culture that's a flimsy argument. No wonder that prominent black Democrats Rep. Charles Rangel and State Comptroller Carl McCall subsequently contacted the Post to say Schumer is no racist.

It remains to be seen if the public squabble will encourage Schumer to temper his rhetoric against Ashcroft. On Monday, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patrick Leahy jumped on the anti-Ashcroft bandwagon. Although Schumer was publicly silent on Ashcroft, he and Oregon Democrat. Ron Wyden were the only members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to vote against Interior Secretary nominee Gale Norton.

At the Ashcroft hearings Schumer accused Ashcroft of using "a double standard" to oppose the nomination of pro-criminal judge Ronnie White to the federal bench. In a tone more sad than angry, Schumer said Ashcroft had displayed "real insensitivity to our long and tortured history of racial relations."

Double standards? Insensitivity? Schumer should talk. In recent years, he has helped turn veteran race baiter Al Sharpton into a Democratic kingpin. Could any Republican survive an alliance with a white demagogue who plays the race card as blatantly as Sharpton does?

In January 1998, then Rep. Schumer and other New York senatorial hopefuls gathered at Sharpton's Harlem headquarters for his public policy forum. The shindig took place during Sharpton's defamation trial in the Tawana Brawley case, which did nothing to lessen Schumer and other Democrats' admiration for Sharpton. In fact, as The American Spectator later reported (June 1999), they spoke of Sharpton in such effusive terms that casual observers could have mistaken him for the second coming of Martin Luther King.

Ever the charmer, Sharpton returned the favor by dubbing Schumer "Reverend Schumer." Schumer gushed, "If it worked for you why can't it work for me?" Sycophancy did the trick. Schumer won in November with overwhelming black support. He and other prominent Democrats then gathered at Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters for a post-election "Action Rally.''

Action, indeed. When Sharpton subsequently exploited the accidental police killing of African immigrant Amadou Diallo, Schumer did his best to help the Rev. Al stoke the flames of racial antagonism. On January 17, 2000, Schumer joined other prominent Democrats, including Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, at Sharpton's Martin Luther King day celebration. There Sharpton urged enlisted Diallo's bereaved mother in having the Justice Department intervene in the case.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch finds the attacks on Schumer and Ashcroft alike to be profoundly misguided. "I've had my differences with Schumer but it's ridiculous to attack Schumer as racially insensitive," he tells TAS. On the other hand, "I disagree with Schumer on Ashcroft," Koch says Schumer and the Democrats have failed to substantiate their charge that Ashcroft is anti-black.

Koch says Schumer and other Democrats are also wrong to oppose Ashcroft on ideological grounds. After all, "we lost the election and George Bush won." The new president, he says, should be entitled to pick an ideological soul mate to run the Justice Department.

While emphasizing that he has publicly supported abortion rights since the early '60s, Koch nonetheless says he finds objections to Ashcroft's anti-abortion views particularly misguided. Liberals should just grin and bear it, he suggests. Kate Michelman can fret, "Oh, my G-d, Ashcroft is going to change the law" -- but "that's what Bush ran on," Koch says.

Alas, mainstream Democrats like Koch hold less sway on the Democratic Party these days than Michelman. On Tuesday Schumer's Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 in favor of Ashcroft. Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold was the only Democrat to break ranks to support Ashcroft.

Democrats have worked themselves into a lather demanding that Ashcroft enforce existing law, particularly Supreme Court decisions. But what about the high court's 1986 ruling that upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law? What if Ashcroft takes them at their word? Like Schumer after his sad experience with Robert Johnson, maybe they should think twice before setting out on another borking crusade.

JWR contributor Evan Gahr is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


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12/20/00: Whose America? Here are some election results the "mainstream" press won't report
12/14/00: Gore's last smear campaign
12/05/00: Fido v. Fido --- the emerging 'pets' rights' movement
12/01/00: Missile defense fog
11/17/00: The Dersh opens his yap one time too many
11/13/00: Gore's biggest missing Florida bloc
11/07/00: Hillary's cruel blow to American pluralism
11/01/00: Given Hillary's history should anyone -- other than society's most radical -- be surprised?
10/26/00: Remembering Gus Hall, that 'all-American' kinda guy
10/19/00: Hey conservatives, Nader wants your vote!
08/24/00: Not So Super-Heroes
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08/01/00:The Visigoths are coming! The Visigoths are coming! ... Or so the media thinks
07/12/00: Geraldo's Food for Thought
06/27/00: Time for To Execute a Murderer
06/20/00: Hillary and the Cop-bashers: Will the real Ms. Rodham please stand up?
06/08/00: For voting rights purposes, should criminal offenders be judged not by the content of their character but the color of their skin?
05/10/00: Feminist Majority Rule
05/02/00: The Tin Man's Doctor
03/07/00: Bob Jones hypocrisy: Liberals are lecturing Americans on "anti-Catholicism"?
02/03/00: The red and the Black: The Left-wing Extremist in Bill Bradley’s Camp
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12/16/99: Yellow journalism for the Pink Lady?
12/07/99: How to make the American Psychological Association squirm

© 2001, Evan Gahr adapted from The American Spectator online