On Kavanaugh, What is Schumer Thinking?

It shocks the conscience that Schumer wouldn’t apply as much pressure as possible for no votes.

There are many words for this sort of strategy, but I’m not sure “wise” would be one of them:

The top Democrat in the Senate has vowed to fight President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee with everything he’s got. Just don’t expect him to crack down on his red-state Democrats who go rogue and back Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.

“Punishment is not how this place works,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said in an interview this week.

Schumer is trying to stay upright on a nearly impossible political balance beam he has wobbled across throughout Trump’s presidency, caught between his party’s demanding left flank and centrist Democrats whose survival in ­November’s midterm elections will decide the Senate majority. No other congressional leader has experienced dueling pressures so acutely.

Although anger against Trump has reached a fever pitch in the Democratic Party and activists are clamoring for all-out war against Kavanaugh, Schumer has opted not to use hardball tactics to pressure moderates from Republican states to join the resistance.

The strategy reflects the pragmatic instincts of the 67-year-old Brooklyn politician, who 12 years ago helped sweep the party into power by recruiting and propelling several red-state Democrats to victory. But the decision also exposes him to a possible backlash from the liberal base if the Senate confirms Kavanaugh.

It shocks the conscience that Schumer wouldn’t apply as much pressure as possible on Democratic centrists to vote no on Kavanaugh. For all intents and purposes, Kavanaugh is Vladimir Putin’s second pick for the Supreme Court, and his common sense dictates that his confirmation should be vigorously resisted by Democrats. There is nothing wrong–and, frankly, everything morally right–in Schumer making it clear to Democrats tempted to vote for Kavanaugh that their decision will not be looked upon favorably.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed with the help of Democrats–any Democrats–it will constitute nothing short of a savage betrayal of the Democratic base. Schumer’s apparent laissez-faire attitude towards Democratic centrists who seem to think Kavanaugh is just a swell guy is disturbing. The stakes are just too damn high.

Even Schumer knows how high those stakes are:

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is escalating a contentious dispute over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s records, pressing former president George W. Bush directly to release all the documents from the nominee’s five years in the White House.

In a letter released Friday, Schumer wrote to Bush with a “time-sensitive” request: to make public all of Kavanaugh’s paperwork, including from his three years as Bush’s staff secretary, a period when Kavanaugh controlled all the documents that flowed to and from the Oval Office.

Senate Republicans have pushed back against the Democrats’ demand, calling it a delaying tactic and arguing that staff secretary papers would give no insight into how Kavanaugh — President Trump’s pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — would act as a judge. But Schumer argued to Bush that releasing all the nominee’s records is “consistent with your commitment to transparency and is strongly in the public interest.”

“While the country may be divided on whether Judge Kavanaugh should join the Supreme Court, there ought to be no disagreement on whether the process that leads to a confirmation vote should be a fair and impartial one,” Schumer wrote to Bush in the two-page letter, obtained by The Washington Post in advance of its release…

Schumer says Senate Republicans plan to ask for what Schumer called a “prescreened subset” of Kavanaugh’s White House counsel records that will be vetted by Bush’s legal team, which Schumer argued could exclude the National Archives from the screening process. Republicans dispute that the Archives will be excluded.

“I understand that you have a right to review your administration’s documents before they are released, and there is nothing wrong with that,” Schumer wrote to Bush. “My concern is that the Archivist of the United States, who is responsible for guiding the review and release of responsive documents, would be cut out of this new process being contemplated by Senate Republicans.”

The National Archives, in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) dated Thursday and also obtained by The Post, confirms that it has already provided copies of some of the Kavanaugh-related records to Bush representatives. The Presidential Records Act allows a former president or his aides special access to the papers, which usually remain private until 12 years after the president leaves office.

The American people have a right to know the full track record of the man Putin, er, Donald Trump is trying to shove onto the Supreme Court; Schumer’s request makes sense. Suggesting that he will take it easy on Democrats who vote to confirm Kavanaugh does not. This is not a time for comity. This is a time for combativeness.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.