WASHINGTON – The most powerful man in the world and America's most powerful Democrat haven't exactly gotten along well since Donald Trump called Chuck Schumer a clown.
But it now looks as if Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York might conceivably be able to bond – over a glass of milk.
A day after Trump vowed to help dairy farmers who are struggling thanks to what they call unfair Canadian trade practices, Schumer Wednesday said he would work with Trump on the dairy prices.
"I welcome President Trump’s statement yesterday taking issue with Canada’s damaging new dairy pricing policies that are unfair trade barriers harmful to American farmers," Schumer said Wednesday. "I look forward to working with the Administration to pressure and persuade the Canadians to reverse this unwise policy, which is a violation of our agreements."
That's just about the nicest thing Schumer has had to say about Trump or any since the billionaire was sworn in as president Jan. 20.
They were friends of convenience once, a decade ago, when Trump was a deep-pocketed developer/reality TV star and when Schumer was head of the committee charged with electing more Democrats to the Senate.
Trump even did a fundraiser for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee at the time. And the Wall Street Journal reported late last year that Trump had given $8,900 in campaign contributions to Schumer over the previous 20 years – more than he gave any other senator.
“I have always had a good relationship with Chuck Schumer,” Trump tweeted last Nov. 20.
I have always had a good relationship with Chuck Schumer. He is far smarter than Harry R and has the ability to get things done. Good news!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2016
He had spoken with Schumer a couple of times since Trump's election victory, saying his fellow New Yorker was smarter than outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and that he "has the ability to get things done. Good news!"
For his part, Schumer vowed to work with Trump on an infrastructure package and trade.
Their relationship soured, though, starting in early January, when Trump, out of the blue, tweeted: "The Democrats, lead by head clown Chuck Schumer, know how bad ObamaCare is and what a mess they are in."
The Democrats, lead by head clown Chuck Schumer, know how bad ObamaCare is and what a mess they are in. Instead of working to fix it, they..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2017
Schumer replied not with a tweet, but with an admonition.
"I’d say to the President-elect and the Republicans that this is not a time for calling names," Schumer told reporters. "It’s time for them to step up to the plate if they want to repeal (Obamacare), and show us what they’d replace it with."
Differences between the two men resurfaced at Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration. There, Schumer delivered a speech reveling in America's diversity and its bright future. Moments later, the new president took the podium to deliver a far darker message about the threats he saw from undocumented immigrants and Islamic terrorists.
Less than two weeks later, Trump issued a harsh executive order limiting immigration from several Muslim majority countries. Schumer not only decried it, but also cried while doing so.
Trump couldn't believe it.
“I noticed Charles E. Schumer yesterday with fake tears,” Trump said on Jan. 30. “I’m gonna ask him who is his acting coach because I know him very well, I don’t see him as a crier. If he is, he’s a different man. There’s about a five percent chance that it was real, but I think they were fake tears.”
Schumer's office refused to respond at the time. But as Trump's policy proposals drifted far to the right on immigration and health care, Schumer's back stiffened. He fiercely opposed most of Trump's cabinet nominees and became more likely to taunt the president rather than work with him.
"The TrumpCare bill failed because of two traits that have plagued the Trump presidency since he took office: incompetence and broken promises," Schumer said late last month after the collapse of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. "I have never seen an administration as incompetent as the one occupying the White House."
Things got so bad between Schumer and Trump that Rep. Chris Collins said late last week: "It's clear that Schumer has no relationship with anyone at the White House, and vice versa."
But the nation's dairy farmers may just bring Trump and Schumer together again.
Without mentioning Schumer, Trump began the rapprochement on Tuesday during a speech in Wisconsin on his "America First" policies.
“We are also going to stand up for our dairy farmers,” Trump said. “We’re going to get together and we’re going to call Canada and we’re going to say what happened, and they might give us an answer — but we’re going to get a solution, not just the answer.”
What happened is, like the Trump-Schumer relationship, complicated.
Dairy farmers in the United States complain that Canada and its provinces are issuing regulations that prevent ultra-filtered milk from America from being shipped north of the border. Ultra-filtered milk, which is mostly used in the making of cheese and yogurt, is a key export from New York and Wisconsin, the nation's top dairy-producing states.
New York farmers think the Canadian policies have driven down the price of milk to the point that it might drive some of them out of business.
To prevent that, Schumer said he would be happy to work with the president.
"When we renegotiate NAFTA – an agreement I opposed – we should make topic number one enforcing existing trade commitments to reverse these restrictive dairy pricing policies," Schumer said. "We hope they move quickly before we are forced to take retaliatory trade actions against them. But hopefully Canada, feeling the heat, will act before then.”