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Fri Jul 6, 2018, 08:00 PM

Friday Talking Points (491) -- FART Act, Pruitt Out

We are (of course) not drawing any onomatopoetic comparisons to Scott Pruitt's last name with that title -- perish the thought! -- because it is merely a reference to two political stories which bookended this week. That's all. Ahem.

We begin with a little history. Benjamin Franklin was a funny guy, and was also prone to irreverence. When serving as U.S. Ambassador overseas, Franklin wrote a downright hilarious response to a scientific society's attempt to spur interesting research. This essay goes by many names, including: "A Letter To The Royal Academy On Farting," as well as the simpler: "Fart Proudly." Here's just a sample:

It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind.

That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.

That all well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such Offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge that Wind.

Franklin then goes on to propose -- modestly, of course -- that research into what people could consume to make their farts not stink would benefit all of humanity. And this was long before elevators had been invented!

Over 200 years later, the Trump administration -- you cannot make this stuff up, folks -- was reportedly considering a proposed piece of legislation on trade, which would have removed any congressional oversight over tariffs and also given the green light to Trump to ignore all those pesky W.T.O. rules as well. Borrowing a phrase Trump loves to repeat, they called their proposed bill the "United States Fair And Reciprocal Trade Act."

This, obviously, is the biggest acronymical faceplant since George W. Bush decided to call his invasion of Iraq "Operation Iraqi Liberation." Could any Republican really stand (with a straight face) on the floors of Congress to defend the "U.S. FART Act"?

Ben Franklin, obviously, would have been amused.

By week's end, the White House was desperate to clear the air of such a stinkeroo of a news story, so they decided to "accept the resignation" of E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt. To summarize, we began with the FART Act and ended with "Pruitt out."

What the media interestingly didn't really pick up on with the Pruitt firing (oh, excuse us, "resignation" ) was the fact that a very interesting story broke a few days beforehand. Now, Pruitt was already having yet another rough week, as some of his aides testified to a closed session of a congressional oversight committee. Reportedly, they confirmed some of the more juicy details of Pruitt's numerous scandals, including the fact that Pruitt retaliated against anyone who dared to suggest that what he was doing was creating ethical problems (to say the very least). So that's what the news media went with -- "Pruitt Fired After Aides Testify."

But this ignores the other big Pruitt story of the week, which was that Pruitt directly asked Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, so that Trump could then replace Sessions with Pruitt. Pruitt would serve in this capacity for a while, and then step down to run for office back in his home state. Trump, obviously, didn't take him up on this scheme.

But we've seen this sort of thing before -- any Trump aide the news reports is trying to manipulate Trump behind the scenes lives on very thin ice. Trump is terrified of the storyline that puppetmasters are pulling his strings, and he's fired people who even dared to suggest such a thing before, so it should have been a fairly logical conclusion that this at least partly led to Pruitt's ouster this particular week (Pruitt's had so many bad weeks and so many different scandals that one wonders why this particular week was any different than all the others, in other words).

But Pruitt's exit isn't really all that much cause for environmentalists to celebrate, since the guy who is replacing him comes directly from the coal industry. So the henhouse will be left in charge of the foxes once again, even if the new fox is less ethically-challenged than the last one.

Of course, some responded to Pruitt's exit with snark. Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty responded: "How much can you get for a slightly used soundproof booth on eBay?" But the best response, though, came from presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who pointed out: "The Pruitts of Southampton was a 1966 ABC sit-com, starring Phyllis Diller, about a family trying to live beyond its means." Now that is a funny coincidence!

Of course, it was the week of July 4th, which is always chock-full of symbolism, and this year was no exception. A woman actually climbed up onto the Statue of Liberty to protest Trump's immigration policy, which is about as symbolic as you can get for an immigration protest, really. Also this week, it was revealed that the Trump administration is busily kicking immigrants out of the United States Army, for no particular reason. To twist the knife, many of the brave soldiers who were unceremoniously shown the door were not given honorable discharges, which would have protected them from possible deportation. Nothing like respecting and honoring the troops for Independence Day, eh?

But there was one protest which really stood out this week. Reverend Stephen Carlsen, the rector and dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, decided he had to do something about the cruel Trump immigration policies. So he put the nativity figurines of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus out on the church's front lawn, surrounded by a chain link cage. As he explained, Joseph and Mary were also a migrant family fleeing violence in their home country, after Herod ordered the execution of baby boys in Bethlehem. As he put it: "People forget what that scene means. That was a homeless couple who weren't welcome anywhere, who took refuge in a the barn, and it was to that couple that Christ was born."

He has spent time standing on the sidewalk in front of the display to talk to passersby about it. Some people can connect the dots and agree, but some don't, according to Carlsen. When asked how long the display would remain outside the church, Carlsen responded: "How long is it needed? I would love for it to be outdated and be taken down. That would be my greatest wish."

We've got a lot of folks to mention this week, but before we begin, we would like to send some "get well soon" wishes to Steny Hoyer, Democratic House Minority Whip, who was hospitalized this week for pneumonia.

We're handing out three Honorable Mention awards this week, for various reasons. The first goes to Representative Barbara Lee, who wasted no time after Joe Crowley's recent primary defeat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Because Crowley will be out of office in January, it will leave his leadership position as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus open. Lee becomes the first person to toss her hat into the race to replace Crowley, which would (if successful) represent a double win for Progressives. It'll be interesting to see who else puts their name forward, but for now Lee is the only person who has announced her interest.

Our second Honorable Mention goes to Chuck Schumer, for sheer New York chutzpah. Schumer spoke on the phone briefly with President Trump, and suggested uniting America by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. No word on how Trump took this suggestion, but for daring to make it Schumer deserves some sort of recognition. It certainly would go a long way towards fairness, but we're not exactly holding our breath in anticipation of Trump following Schumer's advice, if you know what we mean.

And our final Honorable Mention goes to Cori Bush, who is running for a House seat in Missouri. She apparently had been getting some body shaming, and decided to push back on Twitter. Under proud photos of herself in various outfits, Bush posted:

As a candidate I've heard my hips are too big, and not just from trolls. "Wear dark pants." Well, I look like women in my district, who I serve. If elected, ALL OF THIS goes to Congress. Hips can't legislate but maybe they should! NO BODY SHAMING #WomenInPolitics! #thesehips Deal

That's the way to tell them! Nicely done....

As amusing as those last two were, we still had to slightly-retroactively award Bernie Sanders this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. As we wrote earlier this week, Bernie is well on his way to enacting a fundamental change in the Democratic Party's rules -- specifically, those dealing with the "superdelegates" to the national convention.

On the same day Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee voted 27-1 to change the rules for superdelegates. They will no longer be able to vote in the first round of nomination balloting at the convention, unless one candidate has already wrapped up the nomination by winning the majority of the pledged delegates. Otherwise, the superdelegates will get to vote starting with the second round of voting. This effectively removes the power to throw the nomination to one candidate or another by the sheer weight of the superdelegates' votes. At the same time, it still allows the superdelegates to get an automatic ticket to the convention and it still will allow them to cast their vote (one way or another). As we wrote earlier, this seems a rather elegant compromise between competing interests.

Even so, it's a clear win for Bernie Sanders, who pointed out how undemocratic the superdelegate system was, last time around. His supporters initially called for the abolition of superdelegates, but Bernie is now happy with the compromise they reached.

This isn't a done deal yet, as the proposal now has to be voted on by the full D.N.C., which will happen next month. But the 27-1 vote in the Rules Committee shows that it already has support from those in the Bernie camp as well as the Clintonistas. This bodes well for the proposal's chances of passing and becoming the new rules for 2020.

If it does pass the full D.N.C., then Bernie will have successfully fixed a glaring inequity in the way the Democratic Party nominates their presidential candidates. Even if -- as was the case with Hillary Clinton -- a huge majority of the superdelegates endorse one candidate before the primary voting even begins, it will not have any direct effect on any candidate's chances to win the nomination. These superdelegate votes won't count unless a candidate has already won the nomination, removing the power of the superdelegates to put a rather large thumb on the scale before the voters have any say in the matter.

Unrigging this system is in fact one of the most impressive outcomes of the bitter rivalry from 2016. Not only did Bernie Sanders see his complaints addressed with real change, but at the end of the day almost everyone was happy with the outcome. That is impressive indeed, and it's why Bernie Sanders gets a slightly-belated Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

{Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

Maybe it was because of the holiday this week, but no Democrat seriously disappointed us all week long, so the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award will have to stay on the shelf until next week. That is, unless anyone's got a suggestion for someone disappointing that we missed, this week, down in the comments?

Volume 491 (7/6/18)

This week's talking points range from Trump Baby to J. K. Rowling rolling on the floor laughing, so it's an interesting collection this time around. With no further ado, let's just get right to it, shall we?

Trump Baby will fly!

Now there's a fun headline!

"When Donald Trump visits the United Kingdom later this summer, he will be greeted by a 'Trump Baby' blimp hovering over Parliament in protest. The blimp depicts Trump holding a cell phone (oh, excuse me, a "mobile" to Brits) in his tiny little hands while wearing a diaper (whoops... I mean a "nappy," of course). How appropriate! The mayor of London just granted permission for the Trump Baby protest, the TrumpBabyUK Twitter account noted. That's right -- Trump Baby will be flying high to greet the president's arrival."

Seriously, though, baby jails are not who we are

On the more serious side of babies, Democrats need to start using this term as many times as possible, because it truly sums up the awfulness of the Trump administration's heartless policy.

"I'm sorry, but when I consider what it is to be an American and how our country should do things in our name, jailing babies shouldn't even be on the list. The very concept of baby jails should be abhorrent to any American citizen, no matter what you believe should be done on immigration. We are jailing babies, and that is just wrong, period. A church in Indiana this week put their nativity figurines of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph out on their front lawn with a chain-link cage around them. But it's even worse than that because they really should have just put the Baby Jesus in the cage, alone. Because under Trump, Mary and Joseph would be kept in separate jails. This is where Trump has led our nation, and it is high time every decent citizen speak with one voice, saying loudly: 'No more baby jails! Not in our name!'"

Keystone Kops all over again

This is the inevitable result of determining policy on the fly, folks.

"Just like they did with the travel ban, the Trump White House proved once again that absolutely no thought whatsoever was put into what their new 'zero tolerance' policy would actually mean to the human beings who would be directly affected. No guidance was given, no systems were put in place, they just thought they'd wing it and everything would turn out fine. What happened instead was more reminiscent of the Keystone Kops, flailing and failing badly. Recently, the Trump administration admitted it didn't even know the precise number of children who have been ripped from their parents' arms to be confined in horrific conditions. They're estimating that it is 'under 3,000' but they really have no concrete idea. They called it 'difficult and time-consuming' to even attempt to keep track of which children belong to which parents. They're now attempting DNA testing to fix the disaster of what should have been routine recordkeeping. If all that weren't bad enough, the New York Times reported that even the woefully inadequate procedures that were attempted didn't work, because 'Customs agents deleted the initial records in which parents and children were listed together as a family with a family identification number.' This led to the situation where 'parents and children appeared in federal computers to have no connection to one another.' The stunning levels of incompetence the White House displayed during the travel ban fiasco were chalked up to a new administration that had only been in power a very short time. Except that excuse doesn't work anymore, a year and a half in. This entire human rights disaster has to be laid squarely at the door of Donald Trump and the gang of incompetents he surrounds himself with."

Dutch prime minister refuses to enable Trump's fantasy world

This wasn't widely reported, at least not here in America.

"Donald Trump infamously lives in a fantasy world inside his own head, where everything he does is wonderful and nothing bad ever happens. On the trade wars he has started, according to Trump, it's all good. He was trying to explain this in a joint appearance with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte this week, but Rutte wasn't having any of it. When Trump said that if America and Europe 'do work it out, that'll be positive, and if we don't work it out, that'll be positive also,' Rutte injected a bit of reality into Trump's fantasyland, saying bluntly: 'No. It's not positive.' Trump responded: 'It'll be... it'll be positive.' So I'd like to thank Mark Rutte for so refreshingly pouring cold water on Trump's delusions in such a public way. Trade wars are not positive no matter what the outcome, which is a fact that Trump still has yet to face."

Does anyone remember the Cold War?

Seriously, this should be jaw-dropping, but in today's GOP it is merely par for the course, somehow.

"If someone told you, during Ronald Reagan's last year in office, that 30 years from then eight Republican members of Congress would spend their Fourth of July in Moscow kissing up to the Russian government -- even though it had been proven that the Russians interfered in the most recent U.S. election -- you would have thought it an insane prediction. And yet, here we are. The leader of this delegation, Senator Richard Shelby, openly admitted that the Republicans were visiting to 'strive for a better relationship' with Moscow, and would not 'accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,' which is an absolutely astonishing statement for anyone who lived through even a piece of the Cold War. Meddling in our presidential election is 'this or that or so forth'? Really? Wow. Russian state television openly mocked the Republican delegation for appearing so weak. It was pointed out that all the tough talk the Republicans had promised back home 'changed a bit' by the time they got to Moscow. Folks, that sound you are now hearing is Ronald Reagan spinning wildly in his grave."

How does he get a pass on this stuff?

This is a talking point that truly should be deployed by pretty much any Democrat on television, as many times as possible.

"Donald Trump has started a trade war, and he is incensed that Harley-Davidson responded by announcing they'd be moving production overseas as a direct result. Trump seemingly wants all immigration halted because he cannot stand foreigners coming to America at all. Both of those would seem to be bedrock beliefs not only of the president, but also of all his followers. However, there's a few glaring contradictions between these political stances and how Trump and his family run their various businesses. Because Trump really only gets irate at companies who manufacture things abroad that aren't named for Trump or his family. Ivanka uses Chinese factories to make all her branded clothing, and Trump used to have all his Trump ties made in China as well. This is somehow perfectly fine with the Trumps, while Harley-Davidson announcing it will be doing the exact same thing is somehow a gigantic betrayal of the president. Likewise, Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort just applied to hire dozens of foreign workers as cooks and waiters. Trump's business empire actually prefers giving jobs to foreign workers, whether in their own countries or right here in America. So where is the outrage? Trump creates jobs for foreigners, not Americans, and that's somehow supposed to be OK while no other American company should do the same? That's a pretty glaring bit of hypocrisy, and yet somehow his followers don't seem to mind, for some bizarre reason."


Finally, just for fun, we have the most brilliant response to Trump from anyone this week. Technically, this isn't really a talking point, but it was close enough for us. You'll see why.

Donald Trump, obviously peeved over people who point out that he capitalizes words in his tweets in much the same fashion as was trendy in Ben Franklin's time (see that excerpt, above), decided to fight back on Twitter this week. He tweeted:

After having written many best selling books, and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the Fake News constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalize certain words only for emphasis, not b/c they should be capitalized!

J. K. Rowling was amused by this tweet, since Trump in claiming to be smart proved once again that he just isn't. Here are Rowling's two tweets, reproduced in their entirety:

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha *draws breath* hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

'pour' hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Others also pointed out Trump's homonymic mistake, and soon enough the tweet was taken down and reposted with "pour" corrected to "pore." This led to another round of laughter from Rowling:

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahaha someone told him how to spell 'pore' hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahaha

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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