Thursday, December 17, 2009


"Putzhead" Chickens Come To Roost?

Sen. Chuck Schumer should know better than to use this sort of language -- even in a sotto voce tone -- with a member of the public.

This is true given that the good senator owes his office to a moment of definite un-Senatorial behavior by the man who previously occupied the seat. In 1998, then-Sen. Al D'Amato was in a dogfight of a re-election with tenacious challenger Rep. Schumer.

During a political event with Jewish supporters in the campaign's waning days, D'Amato referred to his opponent as a "putzhead." He initially denied it, but then someone attending the event confirmed it. Schumer pounced and D'Amato never recovered.

Yes, there are differences: For one, Schumer isn't in a re-election campaign. In fact, he's been expected to cruise to a third term next year. And, unlike D'Amato, Schumer owned up and apologized rather quickly.

However, this isn't an image that one gets of Schumer. He's seen as both a relatively smart politician and a tenacious campaigner (he was responsible for the Democrats re-taking the Senate in 2006). But an incident like this can be a potential game changer. In one important way, this was worse than D'Amato's slip. The former senator was talking about another politician. It could have been seen as a "heat of battle" situation. Schumer said a vulgar word about a woman who was just doing her job.

Stay tuned to see if this sticks with Schumer.

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