Donald Trump is probably the low water mark for mocking opponents with schoolyard---or barnyard--- nicknames to demean anyone he disagrees with or doesn’t like. When accused by women of various sexual misdeeds, Trump has defended himself by calling them ugly, fat, horse face, not his type, among many labels. He may have hit bottom during the 2016 campaign when he imitated and made fun of reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a severely deformed arm and hand from a congenital condition affecting his joints.
Then there was the San Diego federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over the lawsuit against Trump University accusing the institution of fraud. Trump claimed the judge was biased because he was Mexican. In fact, Curiel was born in the United States. Trump later called him other names in connection with the judge’s hearing motions related to “the wall.”
Trump more recently attacked federal judge Amy Berman Jackson for bias in the trial of his friend Roger Stone. Trump also went on a tear about the jury claiming they too were biased, especially the forewoman. He doubled down and suggested that the trial was unfair, that he might undo the prison sentence Jackson handed down. Trump’s opinion was not based on being present at Stone’s trial, selection of the jury, or reviewing relevant documents---all which Jackson relied on in an effort to provide Stone with a fair trial.
Recently Trump called for Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor to recuse themselves on any cases involving the president because of bias. This demand was based on recent dissents that both justices wrote, which all justices write to greater or lesser degrees in the cases presented to the high court.
And there are any number of additional examples of Trump’s use of pejoratives and denigrating descriptions of anyone that dares have a different opinion than him. Not one cabinet member or cabinet level appointee who has been fired has gone without some kind of demeaning attack. Over the weekend Trump called Washington state governor Jay Inslee a snake because Inslee challenged the administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
How many recall in 2017 Trump’s speech to a police audience where he encouraged them not to be “too nice to the people they are arresting” that officers shouldn’t worry about protecting the head of a handcuffed accused being put into a police car. Does anyone seriously believe this comment, coming at an already difficult time for police officers all over the country, sent the right message to our law enforcement community?
In 2016, Justice Ginsberg made some injudicious remarks about Trump. She shouldn’t have, but she did apologize for them. Can anyone recall Trump ever once apologizing for anything he ever said about someone, or for that matter, anything?
All this leads up to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s recent statement where he personally attacked the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Schumer was part of an abortion rights protest outside the Supreme Court that was hearing arguments concerning a Louisiana abortion case.
Schumer’s words, which some took as threats, targeted the justices. “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price” and “you won’t know what hit you….” Chief Justice John Roberts, in a rare move, rebuked Schumer and called his comments “dangerous.”
I think it fair to say that Roberts was probably more concerned with the possibility that Schumer’s words could incite an extremist or unbalanced person to commit a violent act against a member of the court than that Schumer was intentionally inciting a criminal act. There is nothing in Schumer’s past to suggest that he is either violent himself or would advocate violence.
It was interesting to watch Trump defenders skewering Schumer for promoting violence. And Trump himself couldn’t resist tweeting in feigned high dudgeon, “There can be few things worse in a civilized, law abiding nation, than a United States Senator openly, and for all to see and hear threatening the Supreme Court or its Justices. This is what Chuck Schumer just did. He must pay a severe price for this!”
Schumer tried to explain himself by saying that his comments referred to a political price, that Republicans would pay for putting Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the court, that the justices would inspire a “major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.” In my opinion, Schumer’s explanation fell short, not because it wasn’t sincere, but because short of a full-throated apology---which still wouldn’t satisfy his Republican detractors---he left his original comments open for negative interpretation.
Schumer’s comments during a presidential election season did no favors for the ultimate Democratic nominee. He got down into the dirt with Trump, which only helps to undermine Americans’ faith in their elected officials and institutions. Reportedly, Schumer scored a 1600 on his SAT, which suggests he has a high IQ. On the EQ scale, though, he could probably use some tutoring. In the meanwhile he should lay low before doing any more damage to his party.