Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, Charles Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, began to instruct fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.
After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tom Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John 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. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said, “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell.
Their hand inadvertently tipped, how did the assembled Democrats choose to proceed? As if the faux pas had never even happened, natch. Instruct, and you shall receive; talking points all the way, baby:
Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.
“We are urging Mr. Boehner to abandon the extreme right wing,” said Ms. 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.
Mr. Carper continued with the theme, referring to some House Republicans’ “right-wing extremist friends.” Mr. Cardin decried Mr. Boehner giving into “extremes of his party.” Mr. Blumenthal closed by speaking of the “relatively small extreme group of ideologues” who are “an anchor” dragging down the budget negotiation process.
They certainly follow marching orders well, don't they?
Ham-fisted message coordination aside, it's worth (once again) noting that the House-passed CR is anything but extreme. Placed in proper context, the GOP-backed cuts are virtually microscopic:
The "extreme demands" Reid is denouncing amount to a $61 Billion cut from a $1.6 Trillion 2011 budget deficit. That's four percent of this year's deficit. That's roughly 1/4 of our federal budget shortfall in February.
UPDATE - Democrats may publicly say that Republicans are culpable of pushing a government shutdown (I'm sure that's another rehearsed talking point), but who's really "quietly rooting for" that outcome -- purely for political gain?
“If I was head of DNC, I would be quietly rooting for it,” said Dean, speaking on a National Journal Insider’s Conference panel Tuesday morning. “I know who’s going to get blamed – we’ve been down this road before.”
Also, when Major Garrett corrects Dean's misstatement about social security checks being cut off in a partial shutdown, Dean essentially asserts that those details won't matter. "There's going to be a lot of talk about it, and a lot of nervousness," he said.
Golly, I wonder who might be doing all that talking and fomenting all that nervousness, Governor...