On Sunday, December 19, 2004, I had a startling exchange with New York Senator Charles Schumer at the Hofstra University graduation. Schumer has a habit of appearing at graduation at the last minute uninvited, speaking to the audience about his experience as a recent college graduate, and then immediately escaping from the podium. I hoped to speak with him on a number of occasions but have never had the opportunity. This year he arrived while faculty were lining up to enter the arena. I approached him and asked, “Are you reconsidering your position on the war in Iraq now that the justifications presented by the Bush administration have all proved to be false?” He immediately became agitated and starting shouting aggressively. I will paraphrase the exchange as best as I can.
At first, Senator Schumer demanded to know what I would do. I replied, “The Bush administration policies have destabilized that entire region of the world. I would work with European allies to find a way to leave immediately.”
He accused me of being a “fool,” and stated that if the United States withdrew from Iraq it would be subject to a terrorist attack worse than 9/11 during the next three years.
I responded that I thought the country was at even greater risk because of the occupation and wanted to know if he would resign his Senate seat if the United States was attacked anyway.
Now Schumer shouted “I know people like you.” He accused me of being responsible for the destruction of the Democrat Party and said “with your ideas you should not be allowed to be a teacher” (He really said this!).
When I replied that he didn’t know who I was or what I thought , he kept on shouting, “I know your type.”
At this point security guards started to come between us, but Schumer signaled them to back away. Now he kept on repeating, “I was in the anti-war movement during Vietnam.”
I said, “That was because you didn’t want to be drafted. Is your daughter going to join the National Guard so she can serve in Iraq?” At that point he turned and walked away.
I confess, I did not anticipate Schumer’s aggressiveness, arrogance, level of nastiness, impulsiveness and closed mindedness. This is a man considered a liberal and he has Presidential ambitions. Anti-war groups have tried to meet with him hoping to sway his views. There is nothing to sway here. He is a dangerous man.
ALAN SINGER teaches at Hofstra University. He can be reached at: CATAJS@Hofstra.edu