Chuck Schumer Caught Programming His Fellow Senate Robots

WASHINGTON - MARCH 15: U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) takes a call on his cellular phone after stepping away from a media conference on Capitol Hill March 15, 2006 in Washington, DC. At the media conference, Schumer and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that they plan to travel to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong next week to discuss Chinese currency measure practices, intellectual property issues as well as port security with officials there. The trip will occur prior to a scheduled Senate vote on whether to impose a high tariff on Chinese goods, in apparent retaliation to the Chinese yuan being reportedly held at an artificially low exchange rate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Photo: Alex Wong/2006 Getty Images

It's no secret that political parties instruct their members on what talking points or themes to hit on when discussing a particular issue in the media. It's part of why most interviews with politicians are so mind-numbingly boring. But it's still awkward when you witness the sausage being made, which is what happened in a sort of modified hot-mike moment earlier today, when Chuck Schumer failed to realize that reporters were already on the line for a conference call with Senate Democrats that was set to begin in a few moments. As the Times reports:

After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tom 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 spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John 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.”

When the conference call commenced, the senators dutifully repeated the talking points as they were told. And yet, during their next reelection campaign, they will all claim to be "independent thinkers."

On a Senate Call, a Glimpse of Marching Orders [Caucus/NYT]