With Eliot Spitzer gone, Chuck Schumer moves to the head of the list of smugly self-righteous New York pols. So it was particularly satisfying to see Sen. Jon Kyl [R-AZ] put Schumer is his place on This Week with George Stephanopoulos today.
A guest with Kyl for purposes of discussing the economy, Schumer clearly came in with a game plan: to analogize President Bush to the man who presided over the beginning of the Great Depression: Herbert Hoover. After Schumer tried it twice, Kyl had had enough and unleashed a riposte as devastating as it was reasoned.
CHARLES SCHUMER: It shouldn't have come to this. Had the administration acted more procatively earlier, particularly about the housing crisis, when many of us were asking them to, we wouldn't have gotten up to this point. And unfortunately this administration has sort of a Herbert Hoover mentality: don't do anything. And we've learned over 100 years of economic history that smart, measured government involvement, to try and deal with problems in the economy, particularly to prevent innocent people from getting hurt makes a great deal of sense, and yet every time we propose something, particularly on the housing market, which is the bullseye of this crisis, the administration says no.
A bit later, Schumer trotted out his Hoover line again.
SCHUMER: The things we've proposed, George, are much more modest, but the administration, with its sort of, again, Hoover-like, hands-off, no-government-involvement attitude, has said no.
That's when Kyl put down the hammer.
JON KYL: Well, first, I wondered how long it would take my friend, Chuck Schumer, to blame the Bush administration here. Of course, it wasn't the Bush administration, as much as it was Democrats in congress, who were pushing the lending institutions to get out there and lend more money, even to unqualified buyers. To minorities, to the poor, to the young, so that everyone could own a home. The Bush administration was somewhat to blame for that, as well. But Democrats in congress were making that push. And as a result, a lot of people took loans who couldn't qualify. In fact, they didn't have to qualify. No money down. There was no credit reporting. And a lot of them, frankly, couldn't afford it. So, let's don't blame the Bush administration for this.
And as to Hoover, it's Senator Schumer and his Democratic colleagues who want to raise taxes, like Hoover did when he refused to allow the Coolidge tax breaks to stay in effect and put in the Smoot-Hawley [a tariff-raising law widely blamed as a cause of the Great Depression]. And they of course, are opposing the free trade agreements that the president's trying to bring up. Let's understand that the Bush administration is trying to be pro-active on the tax and trade fronts.
Many in America might be unfamiliar with the culture of our Church of Unreconstructed Free Enterprisers. But as we like to say there: preach it, Pastor Jon!
Aside: Of course there's no silencing Schumer, and he later invoked Hoover yet again. But it's hard not to see Kyl as having decisively won the round.