Schumer Blasts Fellow Democrats in New Book
Saturday, January 20, 2007
by Ian Bishop
WASHINGTON In a revealing new book on politics,
Sen. Charles Schumer comes out with guns blazing not
at President Bush, but at his own Democratic Party.
Schumer, one of the most powerful figures in
Washington, rips his party for being in the clutches
of special-interest groups for too long and for losing
touch with the middle class.
"Washington Democrats too often took their cues from
interest groups without considering the needs of the
average person," he writes in "Positively American,"
which is due to hit stores next week.
"Group identities around the country were less
important, but those claiming to represent group
interests in Washington were stronger than ever,"
Schumer wrote. "Democrats had lost touch with their
base the middle class."
He charges that clueless Democrats had their heads in
the sand and didn't even realize they'd lost the
confidence of the key voting group.
"We talked about them, but we didn't listen to them.
Even worse, we were under the illusion that they liked
what we had to say," he wrote.
"In the 2004 election, the middle class was the
runaway bride and Democrats were left standing at the
altar," Schumer wrote of an election that saw
Democrats lose seats in the House and Senate, and John
Kerry get thumped by Bush.
In the face of rapidly changing times, Schumer slammed
his party for being unable to craft a bold agenda
because it was paralyzed by the need to build a
consensus during policy meetings.
"Big ideas were made small; tough choices were made
weak; bold plans were made timid. A lot of our best
stuff was drowned in a sea of consensus," he wrote.
He said he fears that Democrats pronouncing the
rebirth of the party in the wake of their sweep back
into power on Capitol Hill are "forgetting a critical
truth about the election."
"The overwhelming reason for our victory was that Bush
had screwed up," he added.
"Unless we build on our values to generate better
ideas, sharper policies and a clearer vision, we will
be in trouble" in 2008.
"Now that we control Congress and because a
presidential election with no incumbent is
approaching, the onus is on us."
Schumer's 274-page book is a manifesto to help
Democrats expand control in Washington and it
revolves around the middle class.
A copy of the book was obtained yesterday by The Post.
After orchestrating the Democratic takeover of the
Senate in the last elections, Schumer is now in a
position to put some of his middle-of-the-road ideas
He is the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate and serves as
Majority Leader Harry Reid's top political adviser, in
addition to heading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee through the 2008 cycle.
In his book, he suggests that Hillary Rodham Clinton
first got a twinkle in her eye about running for
Senate in New York in 1998, when she came up four
times to campaign for him during his contest against
Al D'Amato. That puts the beginnings of her interest
in a Senate run earlier than many people thought.
"I like to think she remembered the tremendous
reception she'd received that fall. She helped me win,
and I hope her visits were a factor in her decision to
run in 2000," he said.
But he admitted occasional strains with Clinton,
writing, "Hillary and I are both ambitious,
hardworking politicians who occasionally step on each
The tome reveals Schumer did some of his best thinking
at a restaurant called Hunan Dynasty "my late-night
office and dinner spot when I'm in Washington."
Szechuan shrimp and string beans in black bean sauce
is a daily staple in Schumer's D.C. life - and he
loves the free almond cookie the owner gives him after
He treated Clinton to Hunan Dynasty when she first
came to the Senate, and she immediately caused a
scene. Fellow diners gawked at the former first lady
and "the entire kitchen and wait staff filed over with
"For me, given a choice between straitjacket stardom
and that free almond cookie I'll take the almond
cookie every time."
And it was at the restaurant where he saw the
"sobering" data that the Democrats still lost
middle-class whites by 6 percentage points in the 2006
Schumer is so obsessed with winning back the middle
class, he devotes pages to the fictitious Joe and
Eileen Bailey of Massapequa, L.I. the people
Democrats should be targeting and talking to.
In Schumer's mind, the Baileys are both 45 he's in
insurance and she's an administrative assistant - with
three kids in public school and getting by on $75,000
Joe likes the Islanders and golf. Eileen splurges now
and then at the mall.
Neither follows politics particularly closely, but
they skim the newspaper and watch the nightly news
and they always vote.
"Too often, the Democratic Party ignored them. I make
it my mission not to," Schumer wrote.
His manifesto puts forth 11 meat-and-potatoes issues
that he insists Democrats must press. He says the
secret recipe to winning over the Baileys and other
middle-class voters is a "50 percent solution."
That means Democrats should aim to boost math and
reading scores by 50 percent, and increase anti-terror
funding by 50 percent.
Furthermore, they should try to cut child obesity,
children's access to Internet porn, cancer mortality
and abortions all by 50 percent.
Schumer said Democrats need to hang their hat in 2008
on the 50 percent solution because they lack the
high-impact buzzwords that the GOP rode to victory in
2004: "War in Iraq. Cut taxes. No gay marriage."
"In the absence of eight words, the 50 percent
solution is a concrete and realistic promise that
gives middle-class voters something to grasp," he
But if anyone can come up with eight words to sum up
an agenda, Schumer wrote, "Let me know if you come up