Schumer to Bush: ‘Cool It!’

Sen. Charles Schumer, a leading Democrat in the fight over judicial nominees, urged President Bush to intervene and rein in the strongest conservative critics of Democratic opposition to some candidates.

Schumer, D-N.Y., delivered his party’s weekly radio address Saturday, in which he decried “a whiff of extremism in the air the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.”

Without naming any, Schumer criticized “small groups … trying to undermine the age-old checks and balances that the Founding Fathers placed at the center of the Constitution.”

Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush’s appellate court choices with the threat of filibusters, which means those nominees would need 60 votes to be confirmed. Republicans are considering using their majority to change rules to require a simple majority vote for confirmation.

In his radio appeal, Schumer sought to draw Bush more directly into the fray by urging the president to denounce some conservatives who have used harsh language to criticize the Democrats.

“I am making a heartfelt plea to you, Mr. President. When you came to Washington, you said you wanted to change the climate in D.C.,” Schumer said. “Those stating these abhorrent views count themselves as your political allies. One word from you will bring a halt to these un-American statements. That would be a way to strengthen democracy here at home.”

The senator referred generally to some activists comparing judges to the Ku Klux Klan and terrorists.

Schumer’s message marked the second week in a row Democrats chose a New Yorker to make the party’s radio address on the issue of judicial nominees.

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo, once considered for a spot on the Supreme Court by President Clinton, made a similar appeal last week, arguing against the Republican effort to end judicial filibusters.

Republicans have also complained about some of the Democratic language in the judges debate. The GOP and some Jewish groups criticized Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, for alluding to the rise of Adolf Hitler in a speech about Republican efforts to end judicial filibusters.

Schumer charged a small group of conservatives have “tremendous influence over the Republican Party and seems to be dictating its politics and policy” on the judges issue.

“Americans are a mainstream people, and we are a people of faith. Most of us believe deeply in God, but we also believe deeply in the right of debate and compromise,” the senator said.

© 2005 The Associated Press