Although New York State’s senior senator, Charles Schumer, and I have lived in the same Brooklyn community for the past 15 years, two of our children attended the same high school, and I picketed in front of his apartment building (9 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY 11215 for those who would like to write him) with members of Brooklyn Parents for Peace, we had only bumped into each other in the neighborhood once before. Then on June 24, 2006, our paths crossed twice.
While biking across the Brooklyn Bridge to join a "Grannies Against the War" rally (I am a grandfather), I passed Schumer biking in the other direction (Symbolic?). Two hours later, I biked past Schumer’s building while he was being interviewed outside.
I could not resist the opportunity to stop and chant anti-war slogans. Schumer told me to leave, but I pointed out we were in a public space and I had every right to be there. I demanded to know if he had reconsidered his position on the war against Iraq (he hadn’t) or if his daughters had left college (one attends Harvard, his alma mater) to enlist in the military and defend the nation against terrorism (apparently neither had).
Previously, Senator Schumer and I had a nasty interchange at a Hofstra University graduation (see "A Very Dangerous Democrat: An Encounter with Senator Charles Schumer,"). He was a little calmer this time, but essentially had the same message. He insisted that the American public supported his pro-war position and that military action had prevented another 9/11 attack.
He again demanded that I leave and when I wouldn’t, he launched into a personal attack. He ranted, "I know you, I know your type. You think you are smarter and more moral than everyone else."
I could hardly get a word in edge-wise (I was a little winded from an uphill bike ride) except "You really don’t know who I am."
At that point a crewmember stepped between us and asked me if I would leave so they could complete their assignment. While we spoke, Schumer continued to shout at me over the man’s shoulder. At that point I decided to go.
The irony is that according to a recent CBS poll, two-thirds of the people who identified as Democrats want the United States to leave Iraq as soon as possible. Schumer, who is chair of the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and part of the Democratic Senate Leadership, has a pro-war pro-Bush position that is also out of line with prominent members of his own party, including Robert Byrd, John Kerry, John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi. They should demand that he release an unedited version of the tape or else resign his party positions.
I worry that Charles Schumer is preparing for a presidential run in the event that Hillary Clinton’s pro-war campaign falters. I know Charles Schumer. He is intelligent, arrogant, nasty, angry, self-important, self-serving, ignores what he does not want to hear, and easily loses control of himself. It is a dangerous combination. He is truly a very dangerous Democrat.
ALAN SINGER teaches at Hofstra University. He can be reached at: CATAJS@Hofstra.edu