10:56 am Sep. 4, 2012
Senator Chuck Schumer thinks the bar for the Democratic convention, thanks in part to the performances of Paul Ryan and Chris Christie, is set at Not Vapid.
"I think the convention is a tremendous opportunity for us and I'm glad it came after the Republican one, because what the average American is looking for is not what happens in the past—which is I think what the Republicans want to do, point the finger of blame at the president—but what are you going to do in the future?" Schumer told me after a press conference in Battery Park yesterday. "Because their convention was so vapid, in terms of specific plans for the future, we have a real opportunity to say, 'Here's what they think, here's what we think. Who do you, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, think is going to do a better job for you and your children?' That's the distinction."
In the lead-up to the convention, Republicans have posed the classic re-election question, asking whether the country is better off than it was four years ago, which surprisingly seemed to catch off-guard a number of aides and surrogates for the president on Sunday morning.
But Schumer said Obama has "a tremendously positive opportunity to move forward" in Charlotte.
Schumer, who is responsible for crafting the Democratic message in the Senate, said he was happy with the Democrats' star speakers, compared to Romney's speech.
"I think Bill Clinton—there's nobody who can do this better than him—and I'm so glad he's the main speaker on Wednesday night," Schumer said. "And the president always rises to the occasion. And I think you will find his speech will be a speech that really gives people hope for the future, in a much more specific way than Romney's speech. I think Romney's speech was trying to say, 'Well, I'm not a hard-right meanie the way I seem to be.'"
Schumer said that of features G.O.P. convention speakers Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, only one of them managed to give an effective speech.
"I thought of the three rising stars, only one had some success: Rubio, and I like him, I think he's good," Schumer said. "Ryan particularly, to me, has been a fraud. And was sort of deified almost by the mainstream media."
Schumer said he was satisfied that the coverage of Ryan's speech included a lot of unflattering assessments from fact-checkers.
"I was glad it came out, his basic disingenuousness," he said. "And the basic deification of Ryan by some mainstream media figures, I think that's over."
As for the other two, Schumer said: "I know Rubio pretty well. I think he's a decent and honorable guy. And I was glad that he came off pretty well. And Christie, you don't have to say anything, he showed who he was ... I think Rubio will emerge from this—of the three sort of heir apparents or leading contenders—he helped himself and the other two hurt themselves. And I just feel personally glad about that."
Schumer added, "I hope when a guy like Ryan criticizes the president for not moving forward enough for Simpson-Bowles, when he is the number one reason that Simpson-Bowles collapsed. It's appalling. And in the past, he's been given a pass for things like that."
Schumer said Democrats should use the gathering in Charlotte to attack Ryan's Medicare plan, which was supposed to have been a gift for Democrats, but has yet to materialize as such in some swing-state polls.
"One thing that's important at the convention, and I hope the president does it, is to really distinguish on Medicare what we want to do versus what they want to do," he said. "Because they're trying to conflate the two."
Schumer said Medicare was already helping the party in Florida and other states, and that it should start helping them more.
"I think as the Medicare issue is drawn, here's one where they instinctively believe we're more on their side than others," he said. "And once the issue is drawn, it's a winner for us now, but it's going to be a much bigger winner a month from now. And we should not back away from the fact that we have to wring out the inefficiencies in the system and hold down the costs of Medicare. But without hurting beneficiaries."
According to Schumer, Democrats want to "wring out the inefficiencies" of the system, but Republicans are reluctant to "go after the providers, who are the people who are doing a lot of their super PAC ads for them."
For his part, Schumer said he'd be talking about Israel and Iran this week, and voucing for the president's commitment to make sure Iran does not become a nuclear state.
"I'm going to say this when I speak, but if you look at the two greatest threats to Israel, what are the two greatest existential threats to Israel? Iran, number one. And rockets from Hezbollah, number two. On both those issues, this president has done far more than anyone else. George Bush or anyone else.
"And I've met with him on Iran. I believe, I truly believe, he will never allow a nuclear Iran. I believe that. That's in his bones. And sometimes, people claim sometimes he doesn't listen to countervailing views, on this one, that's a good thing."
Schumer said the perpetual talk about Republicans making in-roads with Jewish voters was just that.
"I heard it when I ran against D'Amato and everyone said, 'Look how much he's done for Israel and Holocaust survivors,'" he said. "And I got 78 percent of the Jewish vote. And most of the 22 percent Alfonse D'Amato got were Orthodox votes or neocon votes. I think it'll be pretty much the same."
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