I had completely forgotten about a 2007 piece I wrote for Talk of the Town about Chuck Schumer until Dylan Byers at Politico kindly resurrected it in advance of tonight's debate at Hofstra, on Long Island. For the piece, I took Schumer to the dumpy Chinese restaurant on Capitol Hill he prefers, and it was there that he told me about his imaginary friends, the Baileys, who, to his mind, are the perfect expression of Long Island middle-classness:
Schumer says that he is accompanied everywhere he goes by two imaginary middle-class friends, who advise him on all manner of middle-class concerns. Their names, until recently, were Joe and Eileen O'Reilly. "For the book's sake, we wanted them to be more national," Schumer said, "so they became the Baileys." The Baileys live in Massapequa, in Nassau County, a town that is invariably known on Long Island as "Matzoh-Pizza."
The Baileys are both forty-five years old: Joe works for an insurance company, Eileen is a part-time employee at a doctor's office. They worry about terrorism, and about values, and they are patriots--"Joe takes off his cap and sings along with the national anthem before the occasional Islanders game," Schumer wrote. He elaborated, "They're not ideologues. They're worried about property taxes. It's the tax they hate. And that's what Democrats don't get." He has also drafted the Baileys in defending the C.I.A.'s human-intelligence program: "Had Joe and Eileen been in the room after the hum-int screwup, they would not have indulged in the blame game, gutted the human-intelligence program, or weakened America."
The Baileys, Schumer said, sometimes dine out--not often, because of the cost--and they like Chinese. Which raised the question: What would the Baileys eat, if they were here at Hunan Dynasty? "The more conventional stuff," Schumer said, "but they're with it."
They're with it?
"I mean, they're not not with it." Schumer looked at a plate of steamed chicken and vegetables, and said, "They wouldn't order that. They would order kung pao chicken."
It was suggested to Schumer that he is a little bit weird. He acknowledged this to be true. "They're real for me," he said. "I love the Baileys."