So much for civil discourse. Sen. Charles E. Schumer briefly revealed his true face Tuesday as reporters listened to him instruct fellow Democrats in how to paint Republicans and House Speaker John Boehner as extremist Tea Party zealots in the budget debates.
“I always use the word extreme,” Schumer told his fellow Democrats. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”
Republicans were quick to blast the remarks.
“It just lends to the fact to what we’ve always known, that this is a political game," said Rep. Allen West on Fox News. "It’s about gamesmanship, it’s about maneuvering, and it really is about politics. It’s not about doing what is best for the American people, it’s not about reducing the size and scope of the federal government so we can get back to have long-term, sustainable economic and job growth. I think Charles Schumer showed his hand. Now it’s up to the American people to realize who are really the ones who are standing as an obstacle for us to move forward.”
West added that Schumer, Harry Reid, and Obama want a shutdown so that they can use it to blame Republicans, and position themselves for 2012.
The brief peek behind the curtain came as Schumer was about to start a conference call with reporters on Tuesday morning, according to The New York Times.
The No. 3 Democrat in the Senate was apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line when he began revealing what passes as strategic messaging for Democrats.
After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme.
A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell, according to the Times.
After finding their bearings, the Democrats launched right into their message.
“We are urging Mr. Boehner to abandon the extreme right wing,” said Boxer, urging the House to compromise on the scale of spending cuts and to drop proposed amendments that would deny federal financing for Planned Parenthood and for government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.
Carper, too, hit the word “extreme,” referring to some House Republicans’ “right-wing extremist friends.” Cardin decried Boehner’s giving into “extremes of his party.” Blumenthal closed by speaking of the “relatively small extreme group of ideologues” who are “an anchor” dragging down the budget negotiation process.
No doubt Schumer will pay more attention to the mute button on his phone as the debate continues.
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