“I want to tell you [Justice] Kavanaugh, I want to tell you [Justice] Gorsuch: You have unleashed a whirlwind, and you will pay the price.You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions!”
—–Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, sounding like Sonny Corleone, in front of the Supreme Court.
How many ways was this demagoguery wrong, as in spectacularly unethical? Let’s see:
- Schumer threatened Supreme Court justices, by name. What does “pay the price” mean, if not, “Just you wait, you’re gonna regret this!”
There is no possible justification for such ominous rhetoric
- It is an attempt at intimidation as well as encouragement to others to follow through on Schumer’s threat. This prompted Chief Justice Roberts into a making an unprecedented protest, as he wrote, “Statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”
Even addled Larry Tribe, the former Harvard Law School icon turned mad anti-Trump tweeter and conspiracy-monger, called Schumer’s outburst intolerable, tweeting,
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.
Prof. Jonathan Turley joined the chorus and wrote,
Schumer’s threat to the Court that “you will pay the price” is a direct attack on the integrity of our courts. I criticized Trump for his reckless comments about the courts. Where is the chorus of condemnation of Schumer? Schumer sounded more like a stalker than a statesman.
- This is an massive escalation over President Trump’s various attacks on judges for their rulings. It is an example of how a President can erode standards of decorum and civility: Obama began the rot, crossing the line of trying to pressure the Court the first time it considered the Affordable Care Act.
Trump went way beyond that with his comments and tweets about federal judges, and personal attacks on Sotomayor and Ginsberg, and now, thanks to Schumer, it isn’t just the President attacking lower courts, but a Senate leader threatening Supreme Court justices.
- Schumer’s comments were incompetent and incoherent. What “terrible decisions”? Neither Gorsuch nor Kavanaugh have written any Supreme Court opinions regarding abortion. How have they “reaped the whirlwind”? How can he attack a decision that hasn’t been made yet?
It’s a lesser issue, but calling the two justices by their last names while omitting their titles is a breach of traditional decorum. Roberts did not respond by saying, “Listen up, SCHUMER!” How can Democrats keep arguing that the President is defying norms when their leaders act like this?
The Senator was shouting to an angry mob, went off script, and let his rhetoric get out of control. The ethical response would be to say so and apologize, but Schumer let his spokes-spinner make the episode worse, stating,
Ugh. That’s terrible.—obviously dishonest on its face. In fact, it’s a Jumbo: “Threatening Supreme Court justices? What threats to Supreme Court justices?” If Schumer was referencing Senate Republicans, why were his threats specifically aimed at the two justices? He didn’t mention the Senate or Republicans!
Justices don’t care about “grassroots movements.” Those are the elected officials’ problem; not SCOTUS. The Court just interprets the law; if Congress is pressured into changing the law, that’s fine. The Justices don’t care. They don’t have to care; they have their jobs no matter what anyone thinks of their rulings.
Of course, they might care if they are at risk of being kneecapped or having their houses blown up.
The second part of Schumers’ mouthpiece’s doubledown is also dishonest. Roberts can’t fire back every time his justices are criticized, but Schumer’s rhetoric was a threat. He was correct to declare this an ethics foul.