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Chuck Schumer: His Amnesty Advocacy May Doom Colleague Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) must be crazy. How else can his bizarre behavior be explained?
Despite the Democrats' clawing at each other's throats over Obamacare, the president's sagging popularity and the deep chill engulfing America about our future, the New York Senator and Senate Judiciary Sub-Chairman is hard at work preparing amnesty legislation to introduce after Labor Day.
But if the Democrats think Obamacare is a tough nut, wait until they try to ram through amnesty, America's most contentious issue.
The elites and the ethnocentrists want it; no one else does.
Actually, the thought of slugging out another so called comprehensive immigration reform bill is so unpopular within the Senate that several Democrats turned down the Judiciary post before Schumer, who aspires to the Majority Leader's job, accepted it.
What time has obscured is that in 1986, Ronald Reagan thanked Schumer for his pivotal role in passing the Immigration Reform and Control Act. [Remarks on Signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, November 6, 1986]
Schumer, then an unknown Brooklyn Congressman, brokered the key agricultural workers' compromise that revived a bill pronounced dead and ultimately led to the passage of the disastrous immigration overhaul. [Schumer Working on Immigration Reform—Again, by Tom Brune, Newsday, April 25, 2009]
What's truly puzzling about Schumer, however, isn't that he's forging ahead with amnesty against all odds but that by pushing it, he's dealing a potentially fatal blow to his New York Senate Democratic colleague Kirsten Gillibrand.
Gillibrand, on the other hand, faces a tough primary fight. If she survives it, her general election challenge (possibly against our ally U.S. Representative Peter King) will be straight uphill.
Overall, Gillibrand's poll ratings are indifferent. More important is that Gillibrand's probable primary challenger, U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy, leads her by ten points. [Polls Find Gillibrand, Paterson In Trouble, by Aaron Blake, The Hill, February 9, 2009]
To her Democratic rivals, Gillibrand has negatives aplenty. They see her as a young (at 42, the youngest Senator) country bumpkin (Albany, N.Y.) gun-toter who has strong family ties to Republicans, Big Tobacco and is excessively pushy, even for a politician.
Schumer and his "comprehensive immigration reform" plans represent a huge problem for Gillibrand. In short, whether she favors amnesty (she does) or the bill that Schumer's committee ultimately produces, Gillibrand has to get behind him.
Reduced to the simplest reasoning, Gillibrand owes Schumer.
During the first 100 days of her Senate career, Gillibrand floundered. Sensing that things were not going well, key Democrats came to her aide: President Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, many of the 13 other female Democratic Senators and even Caroline Kennedy's cousin, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
But Schumer emerged as Gillibrand's real savior. Schumer, more than anyone, became responsible for rebranding Gillibrand.
Gillibrand hit bottom shortly after the New York Times exposed how her successful legal defense of Philip Morris allowed the company to withhold scientific findings that proved the link between cigarette smoking and cancer. [As a New Lawyer, Senator Was Active in Tobacco's Defense, by Raymond Hernandez and David Kocieniewski, New York Times, March 26, 2009]
The Times followed up with another story that chronicled how Schumer took Gillibrand under his wing by arranging dinner with another immigration advocate, Senator Harry Reid (D.—NV) and taking her with him on fund raising trips throughout New York State. The Times strongly implied that Schumer enabled Gillibrand because he could control her. [N.Y.'s Junior Senator Gains a Defender: The Senior Senator, by Raymond Hernandez, May 9 2009]
In case anyone had doubts about their relationship, Schumer said about his protégé: "I don't endorse eighteen months out. But I can tell you I'll be endorsing her at the right time."
Although Gillibrand denies that she's Schumer's puppet, she admits that he's her mentor.
Recalling another recent dinner she had with Schumer, Gillibrand said:
"Chuck told me what I was doing wrong. He told me what events I should have skipped and what ones I should have gone to. And I listened. He knows a lot." [The Reintroduction of Kirsten Gillibrand, by Stephen Rodrick, New York Magazine, June 9, 2009]
Gillibrand's newly-forged friendships with Reid and Schumer go a long way to explain how she switched sides, from a moderate on immigration in the House to a Democratic party-line hack in the Senate.
Less than a year ago, Gillibrand strongly opposed amnesty as well as giving federal contracts to employers who had hired illegal immigrants and criticized the H-2B visa by proposing instead that farmers find legal workers if they cannot fill their labor needs with Americans. As a Congressman, Gillibrand strongly argued against former governor Eliot Spitzer's idiotic plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens.
Now in an alarming 180-degree about face, Gillibrand cosponsored the DREAM Act, opposes deporting illegal immigrants, wants to cease and desist ICE raids, and is working hand in hand with Reid and Schumer to create "a path to citizenship" for aliens.
For Gillibrand, Paterson represents a double liability. Many Democrats are still angry with Paterson for appointing Gillibrand to the Senate instead of Caroline Kennedy.
Worse, Paterson's popularity is in the tank. If he remains at the top of the Democratic ticket, he could take down Gillibrand with him.
But if Paterson withdraws, as some have encouraged him to do, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani could enter the gubernatorial race on the GOP side. His candidacy, which would draw Republican votes, would also be bad news for Gillibrand. [State Democrats Fear Paterson a Liability, by Raymond Hernandez, New York Times, August 10, 2009]
How New York 2010 plays out will tell us where we stand in the immigration war.
We have to get rid of the bad guys—Schumer, Gillibrand and Paterson—without replacing them with worse guys like Giuliani, McCarthy (NumbersUSA career grade: D) or two other Senate possibilities, U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney (F) or Steve Israel (D-).
In the Senate, Schumer will win by a landslide. In 2004, he crushed his token foe Howard Mills by gathering the largest majority (71 percent) in the history of a U.S. Senate race in New York.
But Republicans hold out the hope that former Governor George Pataki who has suddenly emerged as a possible GOP savior, will jump in to vie for Gillibrand's seat. [The Return of George Pataki, by Edward-Issac Dovore, New York Capitol News, April 29, 2009]
If Pataki or King, as expected, enter the Republican Senate primary, the immigration reform patriots have a good shot. Pataki is only so-so on immigration but he is a million miles better than either Schumer or Gillibrand.
Ousting Gillibrand would be doubly rewarding.
First, her departure from the Senate would take away a certain "yea" amnesty vote.
And if a Republican were to unseat Gillibrand despite Schumer's intensive activism for her, the Senate would view it as a sign that he is not the political heavyweight he perceives himself to be.
The rats have to be beaten back at every turn.
In June, I challenged the Democrats to put up or shut up on immigration. If they think they have the votes to pass amnesty, then let them go for it.
I don't think they do but I would love to see them try, ideally in late 2009 or early 2010.
I'm itching for the fight.
When defeated for the umpteenth time, politicians would have to conclude that immigration is too toxic and not an issue that it behooves them to support. Another failure may signal the last serious amnesty undertaking for several election cycles.
Better yet, a thwarted Democratic effort to defy the public will would harm them immeasurably in November 2010.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.