Can you name the most annoying member of the United States Senate? Oh, how quickly the names leap to mind: There’s Hillary Clinton, of course, but perhaps just as irritating in their own ways are Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd. How about Vermont’s dazzlingly dim duo of Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords? In a league of his own, possibly, is Edward “Somebody-grab-his-car-keys” Kennedy. And who can forget California’s own disgrace to the chamber, the intellectually challenged Barbagrera Boxer? Well, you could play the game all day, but no list of the Senate’s most loathsome characters would be complete without the name of Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York.
The American Conservative Union keeps tabs on voting records in both the House and Senate, scoring each legislator according to his adherence to conservative principles. By the ACU’s standard, Schumer has earned a lifetime score of six (out of 100) based on his record as a senator and as a member of the House of Representatives. Even Hillary Clinton, perhaps to her embarrassment, managed an eleven. How, then, to explain the news that New York City’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union representing 23,000 rank-and-file NYPD officers, has endorsed Schumer for reelection? “He is a staunch supporter of gun control and is a constant and aggressive advocate for a ban on assault weapons and cop-killer bullets,” says PBA President Pat Lynch on the union’s website. “The members of the NYC PBA know that when the chips are down, we can count Senator Charles Schumer.”
Can they? Granted, Schumer is one of the surest votes in the Senate for any new law seeking to further erode the Second Amendment, but if the senator and his fans at the PBA are under the impression that gun-control laws reduce crime they are not keeping up with the news. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” published its findings on the accumulated research thus far conducted on gun-control legislation, i.e. “51 studies that evaluated the effects of selected firearms laws on violence.” The conclusion: “The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.” That’s right, there is no reason to believe that the gun-control laws enacted so prolifically in the last 20 years have had any effect at all in reducing violent crime. For further proof that anti-gun laws are ineffective in preventing violence, one need only visit the morgue in Washington, D.C., where in 2002 the homicide rate was the highest among America’s cities over 500,000 in population, this despite some of the country’s most restrictive gun laws.
But, to a good Democrat like Charles Schumer, what do results have to do with anything? It’s how you feel that counts, and if all your professed good intentions can get you the endorsement of the cops’ union, why bring up the unpleasant fact that your voting record betrays your disdain for nearly everything the typical cop believes? The opinions of the union hacks notwithstanding, the average cop on the street is a dyed-in-the-blue-wool conservative, and his positions on the issues would fall more in line with those of Jesse Helms (ACU rating: 99) than with Schumer’s. Indeed, the great majority of cops would be pleased to see President Bush’s judicial nominees confirmed and installed on the federal appellate courts, the courts that have the greatest impact on how police work is performed on the street. But Schumer, a member of the Judiciary Committee, is among the Democrats filibustering the confirmation process on any judge who even hints at a belief that the Constitution is not as “alive” as Schumer and his ilk would wish. How utterly galling it is to see Schumer lecturing nominees on how their views are “outside the mainstream” because they have dared to express qualms at the proposition that infanticide is constitutionally protected. It’s fair to assume that most New York cops, many of whom are traditional Catholics of Irish and Italian ancestry, are more disturbed by the killing of babies than is Senator Schumer.
As a member of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union for LAPD cops at the rank of lieutenant and below, I long ago grew accustomed to being betrayed at endorsement time. The League twice endorsed Gray Davis for governor, but you probably wouldn’t have to take off your shoes and socks to count the number of L.A. cops who actually voted for him. (The League, no doubt seeing the writing on the wall, wisely kept mum on the issue of Davis’s recall.) And in my more than 20 years as a member I’ve seen the League endorse any number of leftist kooks in races for state and local offices. But I’m no expert on the affairs of the NYPD, so for insight on the Schumer endorsement I turned to two friends, both of whom serve with honor among New York’s Finest. One is a sergeant, the other a captain, but one in whose breast still beats the heart of a working cop. “How the PBA could endorse this whore [Schumer] is beyond me,” says the sergeant in an e-mail. He went on to describe the PBA’s executive board as “a bunch of self-serving lightweights.”
The captain was even more colorful in his description of the Schumer affair. “These rubes who run the PBA allow themselves to be exploited,” he told me. “They don’t speak for the cops because they aren’t cops . . . This guy [PBA President Pat] Lynch, he worked in [relatively placid] Williamsburg. He’s made about five arrests in his career.” The executive board, the captain said, “need to be taken to task for selling their membership’s asses so cheaply to politicians who would gladly join the ‘Lynch the NYPD Mob’ whenever it is politically expedient.” The only way to get them interested in an issue, he said, is with “a hot buffet with open bar and top-shelf liquor….”
In that regard the PBA sounds very similar to the L.A. Police Protective League. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that one of the costs of the benefits I derive from membership is the knowledge that while I’m eating a cheeseburger on the hood of a black-and-white and waiting for the radio to send me to the next catastrophe, League honchos are eating out on my dime, washing down prime rib with good wine in some swanky place no street cop has so much has seen the inside of. But that’s the way it works in America, where a cop (or a longshoreman or an ironworker) can become a union boss, demonstrating that mouthing support for the workingman is one of the best ways to avoid actually being one.
– Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.