The Tailor-Made Scandal

Sure, it was a stretch for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to say that time had run out on a critical debate over immigration reform because the U.S. Senate had to move on to the no-confidence vote on Alberto Gonzales. The attorney general certainly inspires confidence in no one, but any real attempt to impeach him or force his resignation would obviously begin in the Judiciary Committee, where ranking Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) seems ready to help. Democrats held their vote, which failed like they knew it would, but they dragged vulnerable Republicans on the record, just like they wanted to.

Was it Reid's idea or that of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Oversight and Courts Subcommittee of Judiciary and of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee? The firing of U.S. attorneys from the Department of Justice has turned out to be just the sort of scandal the new majority needs to cement its fragile 51-49 majority in the next election, and not only is Schumer leading the investigation into the firings, he is leading the party's campaign. No matter how you shake it, as he hunts for facts he is hunting for dollars and votes.

This bothered Schumer many years ago. Back then he was running for the Senate and was outraged that Sen. Al D'Amato had "used the Banking Committee" to mount partisan attacks against the Clintons. "Do you know what he [D'Amato] did right after he got elected? ... He became chairman of the national Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the most blatantly political position you can hold. Then, shortly after that, he embarked on his partisan and political inquisition of the First Family," he told the New York Times in October of 1998.

Months ago Specter raised this issue in a committee hearing, according to the Washington Times. "I believe there is a conflict of interest between Senator Schumer's position as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the leader of this inquiry," Specter said during one committee session. "I fail to see any conflict whatsoever," Mr. Schumer reportedly responded. His sense of the Senate may have failed, but Schumer's got the confidence.