Ed wrote about Schumer’s threats earlier today and Allahpundit wrote about Schumer’s follow up statement claiming he was being misconstrued (or something). Now President Trump has weighed in with this tweet:
There can be few things worse in a civilized, law abiding nation, than a United States Senator openly, and for all to see and hear, threatening the Supreme Court or its Justices. This is what Chuck Schumer just did. He must pay a severe price for this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2020
I’m sure someone is going to argue that Trump saying Schumer “must pay a severe price” is exactly the same thing as Schumer saying “Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind! And you will pay the price!” Here’s why that person would be wrong.
It’s not unusual for elected officials to say of some opponent on the other side of the fence that they will ‘pay a price’ for this or that statement or position. No one takes that as a physical threat because we all know what they mean. They mean that voters who are listening to what is being said will hold it against them and they’ll pay a price during the next election. Maybe in some cases they mean that the institution (Congress) will investigate and possibly censure them. And eventually, that will cost them in the next election. But in either case the price they will pay has to do with losing their job because they’ve crossed some line. That’s clearly how Trump seems to mean his use of this phrase. Schumer should a) have this held against him by voters or b) maybe have it held against him by the Senate.
What Schumer said earlier today was different. Supreme Court Justices aren’t elected; they are appointed for life. They won’t face the voters ever. So saying “you don’t know what will hit you” clearly can’t be a reference to the Justices being surprised at their comeuppance in the next election. In fact, the only way Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will leave the Court is if they a) resign or b) die. Obviously it’s more than a bit problematic to suggest either of those two things will be made to happen if they vote the wrong way on an abortion case.
So while I agree with Ed that Chuck Schumer isn’t making a physical threat and wouldn’t be very credible if he did, I do think he’s making another kind of threat, one akin to the mob behavior we’ve seen on college campuses, i.e. do what we want or we’ll shut you down. Frankly, that seems well within the realm of possibility. In the age of call-out culture and harassing people in restaurants and at their homes with bullhorns, I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to imagine some progressives might go there with Supreme Court Justices. And when they do, there will be people on the left (and probably a few hosts on CNN) saying they deserve it.
Even if you don’t think Schumer intended to take it that far, his statements clearly seem to be encouraging confrontational behavior. He’s encouraging the crowd to boo the Justices like cartoon villains. So imagine this case or the next abortion case doesn’t go the way Planned Parenthood hopes. Imagine some people start hounding the justices at their homes or even making death threats (which again seems more like a certainty to me). Schumer’s language today wouldn’t discourage that. On the contrary, it seems like he’s threatening just such a campaign as he speaks to a bunch of riled up abortion defenders.
If that’s not what Schumer intended, he could have simply corrected himself. Instead he came up with a lie about what he said that almost no one believes. I’m glad to see at least a few people on the left are not falling for it and are instead saying Chuck crossed a line.
These remarks by @SenSchumer were inexcusable. Chief Justice Roberts was right to call him on his comments. I hope the Senator, whom I’ve long admired and consider a friend, apologizes and takes back his implicit threat. It’s beneath him and his office. https://t.co/xbNnUeznRR
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) March 4, 2020
Having watched the Schumer clipa few times, it really was out of line! Not just for norms reasons (though I think those matter) but also because idle threats are dumb and expose impotence. Also the intelligence community stuff was weird and bad too.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 5, 2020
It’s something but I really don’t think the threat was idle or impotent as Hayes claims. The left is more than willing to go to extremes for Roe v. Wade. Schumer may not personally try to shut down the Supreme Court or harass Justices at their homes, but some of the people listening to him might and if so they’ll take his words today for encouragement.
Finally, here’s the full speech from Schumer: