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Chuck’s Stake

Why is Schumer suddenly wading into the World Trade Center rebuilding process? And why does he think Bill Frist’s a good thing for the Democrats?

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You’d think Senator Schumer was busy enough trying to shore up Democratic power in D.C. But then he thrust himself into something he’d managed to stay officially aloof from: the bogged-down redevelopment of ground zero. Greg Sargent asked him what he’s up to.

If things don’t shape up down there, you’ve suggested diverting the $2 billion in federal rail-link funds—but you haven’t said to what.
My first preference is the link. But you could put all the money into the Second Avenue subway. Or commercial-tax incentives downtown. Or into reconfiguring ground zero. We don’t build big public-works projects like Lincoln Center anymore. Other cities are doing wonderful things.

Like the stadium?
I’m religiously agnostic on the stadium. I lobbied the mayor and Dan Doctoroff incessantly to move on the 7 line. I also lobbied Gifford Miller, who’s against the stadium. They’re all for the 7. I wouldn’t have been able to bring those parties together if I were either for or against the stadium.

But isn’t that “agnosticism” lending support to a Republican during an election year?
I have differences with Bloomberg. But when he’s helpful to us in Washington, I’m not going to say he hasn’t been. But I will wholeheartedly support the Democratic nominee.

Could your protégé Anthony Weiner beat Bloomberg?
Yes, but I’m not picking sides in the Democratic field.

Is the GOP going to go through with its filibuster plan?
Bill Frist has no choice, because the hard-right extremists are calling the shots. It makes my job easier. When the American people sniff extremism in the air, they go the other way. Schiavo, Social Security, the attacks on judges, DeLay—they’ve all helped us.

Enough to win back the Senate in 2006?
There’s an outside chance.

How?
I’m trying to teach this to candidates: When I ran, I had a guy in my head named Joe O’Reilly. He makes $55,000, he’s an insurance salesman, he’s an independent, has three kids. His wife, Jill, works in schools. He’s imaginary, but I always know how I’ll talk to him.

Any other imaginary friends, Senator?
No, all the others are flesh and blood.


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