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Two sides Of Schumer

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted October 6, 2003

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is highly regarded within political circles for his ability to capture the mood of the moment and milk it to his advantage. However, whether Senator Schumer should command respect based upon consistency and willingness to put principles ahead of "politics of the moment" is another matter.

Charles SchumerThis can be seen clearly by the Senator's statements in the current flap over whether a White House official - Karl Rove is the one taking the rap in press allegations -- had permitted disclosure of a CIA agent's name.

Don't take my word for it. Let Senator Schumer's own words do the talking.

Already, Senator Schumer is demanding an independent prosecutor to investigate the matter because he does not trust Attorney General John Ashcroft to do so in an above-board manner.

"Dastardly" is the term that Senator Schumer has used to describe the leaking of the name. "There are many serious allegations that this is at the highest level of the White House," Schumer has argued.

When asked whether he is letting politics take precedence, the Senator replied: "It's the right thing to do."

This would be understandable if only the Senator had not been so vociferously opposed to cracking down on national security leaks. For instance, it was Senator Schumer who in a November 6, 2000 Congressional Quarterly Daily Monitor story complimented President Clinton when he vetoed a measure to increase the penalties on those who had been found guilty of disseminating classified documents to unauthorized parties.

Not only did Senator Schumer proclaim in a news release "President Clinton did the right thing." He actually cited the veto as being consistent with the First Amendment. Then, he added: "Although the bill seemed well-intentioned in its attempt to deter leaks of classified information that could affect our national security, it did so without regard for the potential of rampant over-classification of government information and would have had a profound effect on the ability of an informed citizenry to keep our government honest."

On August 4, 1989, then-Representative Schumer expressed concern in a Los Angeles Times story about a new federal policy that would have permitted the prosecution of federal employees who leaked information to the press.

What was Schumer's concern? "Whistle-blowers could be prosecuted on political whim."

But that's not all.

Then, there are the Senator's statements in The New York Daily News on October 10, 2001. He spoke just after President Bush had expressed anger about leaks that he thought came from Congress at a time "when we have troops at risk." President Bush was angered about these breaches. Senator Schumer wasn't angered by the breaches. Senator Schumer thought it was the President who had blown his lid unnecessarily. "I abhor the leaks from Congress, but I don't think it's just Congress that's leaking," Senator Schumer told The New York Daily News. "We're going to have to come to some [compromise on] the need to share information...with the Hill and the need to keep it secret."

Clearly, jeopardizing national security by making irresponsible leaks cannot be condoned whether it is the Republicans or the Democrats, the Executive Branch or the Congress or the press who does it.

I sincerely doubt, however, that this will be the last we hear from Senator Schumer on the matter.

Just remember this: What you hear from Senator Schumer now is not what you would have heard from him as recently as two years ago.

Is the Senator's memory failing? Or does he have selective memory?

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

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