Sunday shows: Schumer tells Obama how to deal with a 'schoolyard bully' like Putin
After Russian president Vladimir Putin granted a one-year asylum to N.S.A. leaker Edward Snowden last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer released a statement calling Snowden a "coward" for not returning to the United States to face the consequences, and said Russia had "stabbed us in the back."
So it was a pretty safe bet that Schumer would say something inflammatory on Sunday morning, when he was invited to talk about the Snowden situation on "Face the Nation."
"President Putin's behaving like a schoolyard bully," Schumer told host Bob Schieffer. "And in my experience I've learned, unless you stand up to that bully, they ask for more and more and more. And he's always going out of his way, President Putin is, to seem to poke us in the eye, whether it's in Iran, in Syria, now with Snowden.
"So I would urge the president not to go forward with the bilateral meeting next month. That would give Putin the kind of respect he doesn't deserve at this point in time." Schumer also said Obama should press our allies to re-locate the upcoming G20 summit from St. Petersburg.
More significantly, perhaps, Schumer also expressed support for Sen. Jeff Merkley's legislation to open up the proceedings of the FISA courts that constitute the lone check on the broad surveillance program disclosed by Snowden. Schumer called it a "weakness" that "because the FISA Court is so secret, people don't know if it's being an effective independent arbiter or not."
"So a proposal like that of Senator Merkley, which would make the FISA Court provisions more public, of course, redacting anything that would affect national security, might make some sense and might let the American people know more what's going on," said Schumer.
Restrictions on the FISA courts seemed to be Democrats' preferred tweak to the government's surveillance programs, which were widely praised on Sunday for alerting officials to a possible Al Qaeda plot that led to the preemptive closure of more than 20 American embassies around the globe.
But Schieffer was more interested in the personal politics between Putin and Obama, which he said had a "high school-like scenario to it," and asked why Schumer thought Putin was needling him. (Schieffer, who last week called Anthony Weiner a "new age flasher," spared Schumer any questions about his former aide.)
"I think that President Putin feels the loss of Russian power, certainly since the end of the Cold War, keenly, being an old K.G.B. officer," Schumer said. "And he's trying to build it back up. The trouble is, the way he's trying to build it back up is not by strengthening the economy or making Russia a more free and robust place--he persecutes all of his political opponents--but rather by, sort of, stepping on our back."
Schumer has also called China a "bully in the schoolyard," but the last time a senator made news with the "schoolyard bully" line, it was Schumer's friend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, denouncing the proudly obstructionist freshman, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
No one called Cruz a bully on Sunday, but a number of his Republican colleagues expressed their disapproval of his call for Republicans to vote against any funding for the federal government if it provides funding to implement the president's signature health care law.
"It's just not that simple and easy," said Rep. Paul Ryan, who appeared after Schumer on "Face the Nation," and explained that cutting discretionary spending wouldn't affect entitlement spending covered by Obamacare.
"You know, rather than sort of swinging for the fences and trying to take this entire law out with discretionary spending, I think there are more effective ways of achieving that goal," he said. "We think that we can do better by delaying this law. We've already had votes to delay other parts of it. Democrats have supported us in that. And so I think there's going to be a better strategy to actually achieve our goal of ultimately delaying it, ultimately replacing Obamacare."
On "Meet the Press," Sen. Saxby Chambliss praised Cruz's "passion" for defunding the program, even if he didn't really agree with the strategy.
"I'd love to do it too," Chambliss said. "But shutting down the government and playing into the hands of the president politically is not the right thing to do. Plus, it's going to do great harm to the American people if we pursue that course. We've been there. It didn't work."