Reporters got somewhat more than they expected Tuesday when they dialed into a telephone news conference hosted by Senate Democrats for the purpose of lobbing rhetorical grenades at House Republicans over the budget impasse.
Not realizing that journalists already waiting on the call could hear his every word, Sen. Charles Schumer, began taking them through their talking points as the lawmakers waited (or so they thought) for the call to start.
As the New York Times' The Caucus blog reported:
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, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. 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. "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.
Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.
Schumer is one of the more unflappable partisans in the Senate. So it's not surprising he was hardly slowed by the gaffe.
Meanwhile, the error gave Boehner's press office a chance to have some fun.An excerpt from their news release:
As part of that distraction campaign, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was overheard giving 'marching orders' to other Democratic Senators to call the GOP 'extreme' shortly after former DNC Chairman Howard Dean said that Washington Democrats should be 'quietly' rooting for a government shutdown.
Clearly, Sen. Schumer missed the "quietly" part.