Reading Schumer in the New Yorker

Jefrrey Toobin of the New Yorker is out with a big profile of Chuck Schumer today (requires a subscription) and weighs in on the question of whether or not New York’s senior senator is in fact an honest-to-goodness liberal.

On the one hand, Toobin says, that with the departure of Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, Schumer is the most nationally prominent New York Democrat, and “In this role, he has come to seem to many Republicans as the embodiment of undisciplined liberalism,” and he quotes G.O.P state chair Ed Cox as saying, “He is a big-government liberal.”

But on the other hand, Toobin notes how much Schumer carried water for the city’s financial industry and how he is one of the few Democrats who knows the chamber well enough to pass bills with Republican support–despite being the man most responsible for putting Republicans in the minority.

The piece also examines the question of whether or not Schumer will one day take over for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, assuming Reid loses in November (something that looks increasingly unlikely, regardless). Toobin sees it as a contest between Schumer and his Capitol Hill townhouse mate Dick Durbin, with Schumer as the conciliator and Durbin the choice of those Senators who favor a more aggressive approach. It is not a subject that Schumer wants to talk about:

“Harry Reid and I are foxhole buddies,” he says. “We’ve been through the wars together…So Harry Reid made me, and I am loyal to him. Period, period, period.

A few more choice bits from the piece:

  • Massachusetts congressman Bill Delahunt shares the downstairs living room of that Capitol Hill townhouse with Schumer, Durbin (of all people!) and Rep. George Miller. “Our rats scare our cockroaches,” Delahunt says.
  • CBS considered doing a sitcom on the living arrangement, called “Four in the House.”
  • Schumer figures he is only the 20th most liberal Senator.
  • Schumer strongly advised Obama against making an ambititous health care proposal, and then praised Obama for sticking to his guns.
  • He pretends that Orrin Hatch is his ventriloquist’s dummy.
  • He wants to die in the Barcalounger of his Brooklyn home.
  • That home, on Prospect Park West, is now worth ten times what Schumer and wife Iris Weinshall paid for it.
  • In high school, he helped a teacher of his, Stanley Kaplan, get his test-prep business of the ground.
  • He flipped the Senate by pulling money from candidates doing well in order to help marginals.

 

dfreedlander@observer.com

 

Reading Schumer in the New Yorker