Schumer's message mishap
March 29th, 2011
07:11 PM ET
12 years ago

Schumer's message mishap

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Chuck Schumer was caught in a candid moment Tuesday, instructing fellow Democratic senators to describe GOP spending cuts as "extreme" and to blame the Tea Party for preventing House Speaker John Boehner from cutting a deal to end the budget stalemate, unaware his comments were being listened to by reporters on a conference call.

The behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Democrats' political message strategy came as Schumer, D-New York, was about to begin a telephone call with reporters to talk about negotiations with Republicans over government spending cuts.

"OK," Schumer could be heard telling senators who were preparing to address reporters on the call. "The main thrust is basically that we want to negotiate and we want to come up with a compromise but the Tea Party is pulling Boehner too far over to the right."

"I always use the word extreme," said Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat who is in charge of his party's political messaging. "That's what the caucus instructed me to do the other week."

As if on cue, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, opened the call by urging Boehner "to abandon the extreme right wing of his Republican caucus and come and compromise with us."

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, followed. He complained about "some of our right-wing extremist friends in the House."

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, was next. He urged Boehner that "this is not about satisfying the extreme elements of the Republican caucus."

The repetition on the theme went on from there.

The candid comments really weren't that different from anything Schumer has said publicly. Nevertheless, they came at a sensitive time for the budget talks and caused an instant backlash from distrustful Republicans.

"That's really not helpful if we are trying to reach an agreement here," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

"Chuck Schumer did us a favor, he exposed their tactic," said Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican leader. "He's basically instructing his members to deem any spending cut unreasonable. Any spending cut. So clearly they are not serious."

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican whip, accused Schumer of wanting "to engineer a political gain, which reporters could actually hear on a call. He's spending more time on politics that he's spending on policy. He's putting politics before people."

Asked by CNN about how the precall incident happened, Schumer shrugged, "I don't know." Then he quickly got back on message, arguing the cuts in the House Republican bill – HR 1 - go too far.
"I do think HR 1 is extreme. And almost everyone in our caucus does," he said before slipping onto the Senate floor.

Filed under: Charles Schumer • Congress • Democrats
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. zin

    Shameless pigs. and dems preach to repub voters about the slime they vote into office hahaha, keep ur own eyes closed, every1 play along

    March 30, 2011 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  2. NunYa

    Schumer to his Assistant: "Call the DNC and ask them how I'm supposed to think and act today, and ask for the buzzwords I'm supposed to use in my speech. You know – the same call I have you make every day. Get back with me immediately so I can act like I know which way the wind is blowing today. I have to appear to know SOMETHING!! GET ON THE PHONE! Thanks,."

    March 30, 2011 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  3. Chris

    Is this really news? Only an idiot doesn't know both parties have talking points they just constantly repeat over and over. They think if you say it enough people will believe it. Then again, it works and that's why they use pollsters to figure out which words and phrases the general public are more receptive to. Businesses also use the technique when if comes to advertising and public relations.

    Frank Luntz is one of the guys Republicans use to craft their message. This is what he had to say:

    "It's all emotion. But there's nothing wrong with emotion. When we are in love, we are not rational; we are emotional." " job is to look for the words that trigger the emotion." "We know that words and emotion together are the most powerful force known to mankind.."

    He won PoliticFact's Lie of the Year Award for his advice to Republicans to frame health care reform as "government takeover".

    "'Takeovers are like coups,' Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. 'They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.'"

    March 30, 2011 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  4. J. Garcia

    What a bunch of fake, insincere politicians!

    March 30, 2011 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  5. Chris

    Republicans do this exact same thing, constantly – and at a level that Democrats don't even come close to approaching.

    March 30, 2011 05:10 am at 5:10 am |
  6. Chedar

    You are telling the truth Schumer and I support you.

    March 30, 2011 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  7. KatR

    Schumer states the truth. Something the GOP doesn't like.

    March 30, 2011 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Soooo what's the problem with a strategy that incorporates getting everyone on the same page, delivering the same message, aaaaaand the message is truthful? The only problem I see is that the other "team" got wind of this play.

    March 30, 2011 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  9. Fair is Fair

    Democrats playing the blame game? I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

    March 30, 2011 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  10. Disgusted by Dems

    OK, now we know their plan. Any spending cuts are considered extreme by the dems. Fiscal responsibility and spending less are "extreme".

    March 30, 2011 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  11. Union Guy

    We all know that each party has a branding campaign against each other. i.e., They want to label each other negatively instead of talking about what they will do for America. Just sucks big time.

    March 30, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
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