A true made-in-New York confrontation, akin to road rage on the Belt Parkway, has erupted inside Washington’s Beltway — at the highest levels of elected power.
The famously itchy Twitter finger of Donald Trump, the Manhattan-based president-elect, tapped out a reference early Thursday to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as “head clown” of the Democratic Party.
Some believe Schumer might wish to send Trump a thank-you note for shoring up his intraparty position.
“In Washington, you’re known by your enemies, not your friends,” said one political analyst who declined to be identified. “Not all the Trump-haters think of Schumer as a fellow liberal.”
Schumer, now in his fourth term, has clearly looked to close ranks — since the Hillary Clinton debacle — with leftier New England Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And a high-profile smackdown could get contributions flowing to his “out” party as it tries to regain its foothold.
Trump’s latest name-calling doesn’t arise out of the blue. It rebuffed Schumer’s statements the day before on MSNBC, a network that gives Democrats the kind of safe haven for commentary that Fox News grants Republicans.
On one front, the state’s senior senator said Trump was “being really dumb” by “taking on the intelligence community” on the topic of alleged Russian cyberhacking if only because officials could get back at him “six ways from Sunday.”
But it was in a rant about Obamacare that Trump launched his message that Democrats under “head clown” Schumer “know how bad Obamacare is and what a mess they are in,” but are not helping fix it.
Schumer has warned that “we’re not going to sit down in a room” with Republicans “once they repeal Obamacare and say let’s figure out a joint plan.”
And the satirical slogan “Make America Sick Again,” coming from Schumer, couldn’t have sat well with Trump.
The president-elect has vowed to kill Obamacare, as Republicans, who see it as a widespread failure, tried to do for years.
But how and when to replace the program promises to prove a tricky challenge for the GOP-controlled Congress. Schumer’s caucus has 48 of the Senate’s 100 votes.
On Thursday, the Obamacare spat for some provided a distraction from Senate testimony about Russian cyberthreats.
Before Trump ran for president as a Republican, he and his family contributed thousands of dollars to Schumer, as they did to Clinton when she was running for senator.
Under Trump’s presidency and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s majority, Schumer could become as important a functionary to his party as he might have been as a caucus leader in a Clinton administration.
As far as taking verbal blows: Schumer won his first Senate election in 1998 after his opponent, GOP Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, used a now well-known vulgarity to refer to the Democrat.
The new Schumer-versus-Trump show comes via the Capitol. But we all know where it originated — in what’s best described as New York’s confrontation belt.