WASHINGTON – Four years ago, Janet Napolitano, then secretary of Homeland Security, told Sen. Charles E. Schumer to forget about preclearance in Canada of incoming trucks at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo.
“There’s no chance,” she said of the plan by New York’s senior Democrat. “It can’t be done.”
Yet as Buffalo News reporter Robert J. McCarthy wrote last month, Napolitano is gone, and the United States and Canada joined in an experiment to have customs of both nations cooperate and inspect incoming trucks in Canada, instead of Buffalo’s crowded West Side. The deal is supposed to be permanent.
There is no doubt that Schumer’s strong, but quiet, oversight helped make it possible to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York.
What is it about Schumer? There was no public squalling about what Napolitano said, no public threats. But persistence. Insistence? Unyielding pressure?
Schumer takes the long view, one of the measures, maybe the best, of raw intelligence. He now realizes that he is very likely to lead the Senate’s Democrats after 2016, given his re-election next year and good health, and that President Obama will be retired.
As a result Schumer is disinclined to throw himself on his sword on two legacy Obama initiatives – the president’s chimerical deal on Iran and nuclear weapons, and the wild White House plan to give 11 Pacific Rim countries more access to American markets, to the obvious detriment of American workers.
The president’s loyal media corps never wrote that Schumer was an early holdout on Obama’s plan to negotiate a secret, “executive” agreement with Iran’s Islamist revolutionary government on nuclear development. That fact was reported only in the Jewish press, and as a result, here.
Schumer had to allow a lot of heavy breathing from the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry to pass over his head. Schumer was on the Senate’s reception committee when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress, amid a flood of self-righteous denunciations from Obama’s allies.
Without fanfare, Schumer then co-sponsored a bill that would give Congress the right to reject the agreement. Reluctantly, Obama agreed not to oppose the bill that was so bitterly opposed by his camp followers. Last week, the Senate passed it 99-1.
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership is America’s biggest trade deal, coming at a time when the number of idled Americans is still high, close to a record high. Critics suggest that the deal will place Buffalo’s two big automaking plants at increased risk to imports. It also menaces New York’s remaining needle trades.
Obama has come down hard on opponents. Nevertheless, Schumer has hardened his opposition to the deal.
The Obama administration wants Congress to react with a simple up or down vote, give him this wedge even before they know what’s in the TPP. Members of Congress, or their staffs with special clearances, can see some details. They must leave their electronic devices outside, can’t take notes and can’t talk about what they’ve learned.
Schumer’s office declined to say whether he has seen these details. But the senator publicly announced last week that he will oppose it unless the Senate first passes strong sanctions against currency games that China, Vietnam and South Korea already play to underprice their exports. Schumer said these practices have idled 180,000 New Yorkers.
Several groups are wondering why Obama is holding a TPP event at the Nike warehouse in Oregon (its sneakers are actually made in Asia), boosting a plan that could undercut U.S. sporting goods makers like New Balance and New Era Caps.
Why indeed is the president supporting programs that make it ever harder for African-Americans to get jobs?