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What Did Chuck Schumer Know and When Did He Know It

Commentary by Greg Lewis /
Feb 7, 2006

Democrats, prominent among them New York Senator Charles Schumer, have held President Bush to an irrationally high standard of proof in asserting that “Bush lied” to the American people regarding what he knew about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction before our invasion of that country.

However, no one has held Democrats to a similarly high standard regarding their own initiatives. To that point, I’d like to discuss the so-called “Spotted Owl” federal legislation of 1996, when Senator Schumer was Congressman Schumer. And I’d like to pose the following question:

Did Chuck Schumer knowingly lie about the probable fate of the Spotted Owl in order to get a piece of legislation passed?

In other words, with regard to the science on which the Spotted Owl legislation was rammed through, what did Chuck Schumer know, and when did he know it?

You may recall that the Spotted Owl legislation was enacted for the purpose of saving a species of owl whose habitat consisted primarily of old-growth forests in the American Northwest. The law pretty much shut down logging of those forests so that the natural environment of the Northern Spotted Owl — and thus, presumably, the species itself — could be preserved.

It’s been some ten years since the Clinton Administration engineered this legislation and put a virtual halt to the logging of old growth forests in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. In that time, the ban has resulted in the closing of nearly 1,000 sawmills and pulp and paper mills, and in more than 130,000 people’s having been deprived of their livelihoods through the loss of their jobs. The legislation designed to save the Spotted Owl has destroyed hundreds of small towns which had grown up around logging-related businesses.

The problem is that in the years following the passage of this legislation, the population of Spotted Owls has continued to decline… by a whopping seven percent a year in Washington state alone. As it turns out, it wasn’t the destruction of habitat caused by logging that was at the root of the decline in the Spotted Owl population; instead, it was the incursion into the Spotted Owl’s habitat of another species, the Barred Owl.

It had long been observed that Barred Owls, larger and more aggressive than Spotted Owls, tended to move into areas occupied by Spotted Owls, competing with their smaller cousins for dominance, and, what is more important, winning. Despite the fact that this information was widely known in the scientific community at the time the Spotted Owl legislation was enacted, it failed to surface during debate. It can certainly be supposed that Senator Schumer, intelligent and well-informed man that he prides himself to be, was aware of it.

If Senator Schumer had acknowledged research to that effect at the time of the legislative debate, he could very well have spared several hundred thousand American men, women, and children the devastating consequences of having their families’ livelihoods taken from them for no legitimate reason. Had Mr. Schumer acted upon information that he certainly must have been aware of regarding the real reason for the Spotted Owl’s decline, he could have prevented what amounts to nothing less than a contemporary American tragedy.

But, as we know, he didn’t do so. Then-Congressman Schumer almost certainly (by the standards he currently demands of the President) chose to conceal evidence that might well have changed the course of the history of American legislation in the 1990s.

If we hold Senator Schumer to these same standards he now insists President Bush be held to, then Chuck Schumer lied! There’s no other way to say it. At least in the contemporary dialect of Democrat-speak.

Chuck Schumer either willfully ignored or misrepresented the scientific research at the foundation of the Spotted Owl legislation, and in doing so he put the lives of American citizens at risk.

While we might argue that the course President Bush has charted in the war in Iraq has been marked by a number of miscalculations, we must acknowledge that his strategy is designed to confront directly, and ultimately to defeat, a legitimate threat to our country’s very existence and to that of western democracies in general. It’s difficult to make such a case with regard to Mr. Schumer’s Spotted Owl prevarications (or, to put perhaps a better face on things, omissions).

One of the results of President Bush’s policies has been to put a stake in the ground in the form of a fledgling Iraqi government and the promise of the emergence of western-style democracy in the Middle East. Mr. Schumer’s misrepresentations in support of legislation protecting the Spotted Owl have resulted in no such positive outcome. Rather, the law based on his lies has resulted not only in the collapse of a vital regional segment of the American economy but in widespread human suffering among Americans. This, you’ll recall, is a result of legislation that failed to deliver its intended results: the Northern Spotted Owl is still headed for extinction.

Given the many fundamentally important challenges that face our nation today — particularly in the area of international policy, where we must confront with utmost resolve the immediate and real threat to our very way of life presented by Islamist terrorism — we cannot afford to countenance public servants such as Senator Charles Schumer, who would sacrifice the interests of his fellow Americans to the ill-advised and scientifically insupportable passage of such legislation as that designed to protect the Spotted Owl, remaining in office.

Schumer has intimated that impeachment is an appropriate fate for a President who has “lied” to the American people in order to further his agenda. What fate is appropriate for a legislator who has done the same?

Perhaps Mr. Schumer should be called on to resign his position as a member of the United States Senate on the grounds that he has subverted his sworn duty to serve the interests of the American people to that of furthering a leftist/environmentalist political agenda that arguably runs precisely counter to the needs and interests of his, and every federal legislator’s, broader constituency.

By Democrats’ own standards, nothing less than Schumer’s resignation seems appropriate in the face of the social and economic damage to America’s interests his dereliction of duty has brought about.


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