DETROIT -- He is one of the most powerful people in Washington. A legendary political strategist. A prolific fundraiser with deep ties to America's wealthiest industries. A senator who can get almost anyone in the country on the phone within minutes.
But that phone will be an ancient LG flip-phone. The kind teenagers in the late 1990s deployed to tell their parents that no, they weren't partying at Jeff's house when they were, in fact, partying at Jeff's house.
"I bought 10 of them in case they run out," says Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), laughing and extending the black phone across the table to be examined.
It starts to buzz in his hand, the LED display flashing excitedly. "It's Harry." He flips the phone open and we go off the record.
Schumer is attending his first Netroots Nation conference -- an event organized by and for digitally savvy progressives. Old hands on Capitol Hill are accustomed to Schumer's predilection for earlier technology. He has a habit of flipping open his LG before entering a hallway full of reporters, a maneuver some suspect is a ruse to avoid answering questions. But in a convention center full of bloggers arranging meetings and drinks with rapid-thumbed smartphone texts and emails, Schumer's lo-fi swag calls attention to itself. It's jarring enough to make some wonder if it is a conscious hipster style statement.
It is not.
"I love them," he explains. "The number one reason is, my staff knows I'm a type-A personality. So I would email them constantly with different things for them to do. This way they don't have to answer -- it's much less [busywork]."
"Okay, that's A," he continues. "B, you can FOIA any email. Ask Chris Christie!" he jokes, relishing a quick laugh at the Republican governor's expense.
"Third, I hate it when I go to meetings and everyone is looking at their iPhones. No one is paying attention to each other and all that. Fourth, unlike a square like this," he points to the iPhone on the table which is recording our conversation, "this," he raises his hinged treasure, opening it slowly, "goes from your ear to your mouth. You can hear much better and talk much better."
I tell him that former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was occasionally ribbed for using a Razr in 2008.
An aide explains that it was a once-popular Motorola flip-phone model deemed quaint by the later Bush years. Schumer changes topics. His father, he says, never acclimated to the introduction of aerosol shaving cream. "He just liked the brush!"
Like father, like son.