Liberal, Conservative Politicians Discuss 'Seminal' 2008 Election

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - Offering ideas to the 2008 presidential race hopefuls, two politicians from opposite sides of the political spectrum came together Friday to discuss what they believe Americans want and need from their government.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich addressed a press conference in Washington, D.C., in part to promote recent books which they say contain advice to those on the campaign trail.

"I worry that our country and my party do not have enough ideas to move us into the 21st century," said Schumer, who is credited with engineering the Democratic midterm victory last November, particularly the "Six for '06" campaign promises.

"I hope the candidates will take my ideas and use them as a platform for 2009," he said.

Schumer said the six campaign pledges "were good for the 2006 election, but they're rather small bore ideas -- they're important, but they're not going to carry a generation."

The six priorities were national and homeland security, energy independence, health care, jobs, college access and retirement security.

"We are at a seminal time of change," Schumer said. "The average middle class voter is up for grabs, and 2008 is going to be a seminal election like 1932 which established a generation of Democrats and like 1980 which established a generation of Republicans."

(In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt swept to victory over Republican Herbert Hoover, and the Democrats won control of the Senate. In 1980, Ronald Reagan trounced Jimmy Carter and the Republicans seized control of the Senate.)

Gingrich added, "I hope we can reshape 2007 and 2008 in a very serious way. The world is really changing."

Gingrich is himself considered a possible candidate for the Republican nomination, but he reiterated Friday that it would be "stupid" to announce before September.

Among his suggestions, Gingrich said, "We need to invest in human capital," and make structural changes in how to deal with some of the nation's problems.

"Health care and education are the two systems the federal government has screwed up, and in both, the costs keep rising, without necessarily having any comparable increase in productivity," he said.

"The heart of our problem of income disparity is not tax policy, it's education policy," Gingrich argued. "I think there are some structural changes that need to be made, including a tough-minded analysis of the unnecessary cost of higher education.

"The more the feds have subsidized higher education, the more higher education has become a bloated self-indulgent system," he said.

Schumer agreed about the need to invest in education "The greatest failure of our government right now and the greatest failure of my party is not having a major educational platform," he said, calling for a voluntary switch to a national education system, tied to a freeze in property taxes.

But Schumer also said "the idea of a smaller government and tax cuts won't work anymore" for middle-class Americans - like the fictional characters in his book, the Baileys.

"The average middle-class family, who I call Joe and Eileen Bailey, are worried. They're worried about the future," he said. "They're a typical middle-class couple. I've had them in my head for 15 years. They are real to me. They're real. I talk to them.

"It's how I beat Al D'Amato [in their 1998 Senate contest] ... and how we took back the Senate - by talking to the Baileys, this average middle-class couple who I love."

Schumer argued that "Democrats have a better chance of creating the next generation than Republicans."

This was because, he said, "Republicans are controlled by two interest groups that don't represent the Baileys" - the religious right and the very wealthy.

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