Tags: Trump Administration | Iran | panama canal | schumer | iran

Schumer Defection Similar to Sen. Baker Breaking Over Panama Canal

Friday, 21 August 2015 12:14 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Since Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced his opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement Aug. 5, pundits have likened his break with most Democrats to that of GOP Sen. Howard Baker when he supported handing over control of the Panama Canal to Panama in 1978.

Back then, after nine weeks of rancorous debate in the Senate, 16 Republicans joined with 52 Democrats to ratify the controversial Panama treaties by 68-to-32.

Schumer was the first Democrat in the Senate to oppose the Iran deal, with New Jersey’s Robert Menendez becoming the second on Tuesday. Another sign of crumbling support for Obama's controversial pact with Iran.

Schumer has been considered a near-cinch to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid as Senate Democratic leader in 2016. 

Assuming all 54 Republicans vote to maintain the sanctions on Iran that the Obama administration wants lifted as part of its agreement with the Tehran regime, 11 more Democratic senators are needed for the two-thirds vote needed to override a certain veto of Obama of maintaining the sanctions.

“"Chuck Schumer will be the key player," Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., said of the New Yorker in July, noting that he "will be the [next] Democratic Senate leader" and his eventual decision on whether to back the president’s premier foreign policy achievement will be critical to what is done with it in the Senate.

Much as Schumer is increasingly criticized by Democrats for abandoning the Obama White House, the day, Baker in 1978, was pilloried within the Republican Party by its growing conservative movement over “selling out” to Jimmy Carter on what they called the Canal “giveaway.”

“Sen. Baker, who was minority leader at the time, was responsible for lining up most of the 16 Republicans,” Rob Mosbacher, who was Baker’s administrative assistant, said to me.

Referring to his late uncle William J. Casey, campaign manager for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential bid and later CIA director, Larry Casey, told me how “I had lunch with Uncle Bill in 1978, before he went for Reagan, and he told me he could support several of the Republican candidates in 180 but not Howard Baker because he helped give away the Panama Canal.”

The cause of thwarting the transfer of the Canal back to Panama and its Marxist strongman Omar Torrijos fueled Reagan’s near-successful nomination challenge to President Gerald Ford in 1976.

In 1977, the American Conservative Union, led by Rep. Phil Crane, launched an all-out grass-roots and media offensive against the treaties. Members of Congress and retired U.S. military officers (including retired Adm. John McCain Jr., namesake-father of the Arizona senator) jetted the country as part of a Panama Canal “Truth Squad” responding to the Carter administration’s case for ratification.

“Given Reagan's opposition, Sen. Baker knew that his support of the treaty would be a serious problem to his own presidential aspirations,” said Mosbacher. “Although Schumer wants to be minority leader, he does not plan to run for president in the near future and thus must only get the votes of a majority of his caucus, not presidential primary or caucus voters.

But Cissy Baker, the senator’s daughter, who went on to a successful career in television news, said her father’s position on the controversial treaty “did not have a negative impact on his career . . . he went on to win re-election [in 1978] with more than 55 percent of the vote.”

Baker faded early in the presidential race two years later, with Reagan easily winning nomination and election. But the Tennessean did move from minority to majority leader as Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time in four decades.

In 1984, he retired to private law practice but three years later, Reagan — never one to hold past disagreements against anyone — tapped him to be his White House chief of staff. Baker died last year at age 88.

In Mosbacher’s view, “While Sen. Baker was doing something ‘statesman-like’ by voting for what he thought was in the best interests of the country at his own political expense, Sen. Schumer basically is deciding to go along with his New York constituency.”

“[West Virginia Democrat] Robert Byrd, who was Senate majority leader in the 1970s, once said ‘Courage? That’s Howard Baker and the Panama Canal,” Cissy Baker told me. “My dad made the decision he did because he felt it was the right thing to do. I think Sen. Schumer made his decision on Iran for the same reason.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Since Sen. Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y., announced his opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement Aug. 5, pundits have likened his break with most Democrats to that of GOP Sen. Howard Baker when he supported handing over control of the Panama Canal to Panama in 1978.
panama canal, schumer, iran
Friday, 21 August 2015 12:14 PM
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