Senator Charles Schumer, Another Democrat Weak Link Against Iran

The New York politician likes to position himself as the leading pro-Israel Democrat in the Senate - but a few threats from the White House and he’s gone without a fight.

Seth Lipsky
Seth Lipsky
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Seth Lipsky
Seth Lipsky

Heard the one about the dog that didn’t bark? It’s from a famous Sherlock Holmes story called “Silver Blaze.” The dog didn’t bark when the favored horse went missing on the eve of the big race. Must have been that the hound knew the perpetrator. Hmmmm.

Have you noticed that, following the collapse of the drive for new sanctions against Iran, Senator Charles Schumer has suddenly gone silent? U.S. President Barack Obama chose the State of the Union message to declare that he would veto the measure, known as the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, which would make new sanctions automatic if the mullahs fail to live up to their agreement.

Yet there hasn’t been a peep out of the man who likes to position himself as the leading pro-Israel Democrat in the upper chamber. Schumer publicly maintains that his ambition in life is to be majority leader, the position now held by Senator Harry Reid, who refused to bring Iran sanctions to the floor. Suddenly the cat has got his tongue.

The administration is putting it out that the sap here is the leadership in the American Jewish community, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It folded like a house of cards after the leading Democratic sponsor of the legislation, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, started waffling on whether it should be brought to a vote.

The beef seems to be that the measure needed to be “bipartisan.” Yet it’s hard to see where bipartisanship is lacking in the measure. Its sponsors in the Senate include at least 15 Democrats and 43 Republicans. What could be more bipartisan than that in a Senate controlled by the Democrats?

A bit more leadership from someone and it could have had a veto-proof majority. So where is Senator Schumer, whose career ambition as mentioned is to be majority leader in the Senate? He was all over the place arguing for the need for new sanctions, which would kick in if the mullahs break the agreement with Secretary of State John Kerry.

As recently as December, when Obama started threatening a veto, Schumer was vowing to press ahead with the sanctions bill. “We have a disagreement with them,” he said in an interview with Buzzfeed website. “Many of us believe that ratcheting up sanctions, not reducing sanctions, is the best way to produce peace and get Iran to forego a nuclear weapon.”

Yet a few more veto threats from the White House - and suggestions that backers of it will want war - and Schumer is gone. His own website homepage is silent on the subject. He isn’t vowing a fight. He isn’t showing leadership.

The thing that needs to be said here is that this is all too typical. I will never forget the battle over the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was passed in the 1990s and was supposed to have required the Clinton administration to move the American embassy to Israel’s capital.

For months beforehand, Schumer was vowing that the embassy would be moved by the end of the year. At the last minute, Senator Dianne Feinstein slipped into the legislation a waiver provision, which allowed the president to slither out of the obligation. Schumer voted for it, and the embassy is still in Tel Aviv.

Something similar happened when Obama nominated Charles Hagel to be defense secretary. Hagel had made a career marking himself as one of the most anti-Israel members of the United States Senate. Schumer strode through the Senate cloakroom, vowing to oppose his confirmation. But one short meeting with Hagel, and Schumer started singing his praises.

The collapse of the sanctions bill is being retailed by the left as a defeat for AIPAC. “The Illusion of AIPAC’s Invincibility.” is the way the Huffington Post headlined a column by a pro-Iran partisan. But at least AIPAC tried. The difficulty was the Democrats.

How does one know? It’s the tell-tale silence. Schumer was all over the news as recently as early January. “Senator Schumer not taking ‘no’ for an answer on Iran sanctions” was a typical headline, issued January 11, 2014. Since then, almost total silence. The reason is that he and the other Democrats know that they’re the weak link. That’s what the silence means. It’s - how to put it? - elementary.

Seth Lipsky is editor of The New York Sun. He was a foreign editor and a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, the founding editor of The Forward and its editor from 1990 to 2000. His books include “The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide” and most recently “The Rise of Abraham Cahan.”

Sen. Charles Schumer.Credit: AP

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