When President Barack Obama first fixed on what he wanted to see happen to the Bush tax cuts, he imagined that they should be extended for all Americans earning under $250,000, and ended for everyone earning above that amount. After the election, with Congress facing a more hostile and emboldened GOP Congress, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) imagined a compromise, where the extend-or-end line was pushed to Americans earning $1,000,000. The Congress is not going to pass either plan, so now, Obama and Schumer are at odds. At least, according to two simultaneous stories in the Washington Post and Politico.
By the way! You can make a pretty safe bet that this Obama vs. Schumer angle was spoon-fed directly to the two papers by Schumer's office, because this story is not interesting enough for anyone to actually chase down, and Schumer's plan has basically been a non-starter for weeks. But both papers have a hunger right now for anything having to do with intra-party squabbles -- from either party, really. So Schumer baits the hook with a conflict that no one had heretofore been discussing.
Having vanquished Four Loko, Schumer's camp really, really wants you to know that he is kind of a big deal. That's why the second paragraphs of each piece reads like this:
The newly appointed Senate Democratic "message" guru has emerged as the White House's chief antagonist over the tax cut deal Obama worked out with GOP leaders.
Schumer, the newly anointed message guru for besieged Senate Democrats, told Obama he wanted the president to hold the line and oppose Republican efforts to extend the cuts to families making more than $250,000.
See what they did there? There's a new "message guru" in town, folks! (And it's not Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who has lately been demonstrating his own Schumer-esque abilities to get himself in front of teevee cameras.) Behind the scenes of this "private" conflict between Schumer and the White House (that's no longer private, or even relevant to the tax cut discussion), Schumer is being rebirthed in fire. And lest you think of him as some tool of Wall Street -- a conclusion you may have reached as a result of being familiar with Chuck Schumer -- he wants you to know that he's sick of all the attention being lavished on millionaires, and that he cares about the middle class:
Schumer took a different view. Middle-class independent voters abandoned Democrats in droves last month, and Schumer, who just won a third term, wanted to portray the GOP as the party of millionaires and billionaires.
"My advice is very simple. It would be the same to the president, to my colleagues in the Senate and House, to people of the other party: Focus on the middle class like a laser," Schumer said.
Remember how this "standoff" was basically over Schumer's desire to give tax breaks to people earning up to $1,000,000?
There's also stuff in these articles that may as well have come from a Schumer campaign ad:
The contentious, mostly private standoff has turned Schumer into an unlikely villain among administration officials who have long valued his tactical skills and political acumen. It has also made him an unlikely champion to liberal activists who are seething at the Obama deal. In an appeal this week to supporters, the liberal group Moveon.org praised Schumer, a long-time ally of Wall Street, as one of their "progressive heroes" and saying "we need you now."
The elevation of Schumer, who oversaw historic Democratic pickups in the 2006 and 2008 cycles as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, poses a new challenge to Obama, who had enjoyed dominance of the party's national messaging operation over the past two years.
See, Schumer may be a villain today, but even as the White House grouses, they recognize that Schumer has amazing "tactical skills" and "acumen." How amazing? Well, just recall that as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, he got a lot of Democrats elected to office. Chuck Schumer is a man in whom "seething liberal activists" can put their faith. MoveOn needs him!
Anyway, my guess is this is basically the Schumer camp offering up a "Democrats in disarray" story in return for having newspapers talk about how awesome he is. It basically helps to confirm what you've long suspected -- that most of the "Democrats in disarray" stories are fed to the media by Democrats. It also goes to show what safe ground the media is running these stories: The pitch proves the thesis.
But I could be wrong! Maybe the White House leaked these stories about the conflict, and how dreamy and amazing Chuck Schumer is. Depending on how many times I hit myself in the head with a ball peen hammer, I could start believing this.
At any rate, you get the feeling that maybe if the Democrats were to ever all get on the same page, they might not be a half-bad political party!