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Fri Feb 8, 2019, 10:05 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Big Speech, And A Virginia Meltdown

It's been an eventful week, with Trump's second State Of The Union speech and Virginia politics entering complete free-fall. Democrats in the House began work in earnest this week as well, on both the legislative and investigative fronts. Also, there are now some new Boondocks comics! So the week was anything but dull, although it was a bit disjointed.

President Donald Trump gave his second State Of The Union speech this week, in which he flat-out threatened the United States economy if Democrats had the temerity to investigate him. Here are the two relevant passages, from the transcript:

But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution -- and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.

Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America's future. The decision is ours to make.

We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.

Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.

. . .

An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!

Even Republicans were too stunned to applaud that last line, it's worth mentioning. And, the very next day, Democrats decided not to "choose greatness" and instead forged ahead in multiple investigations of the Trump administration. As is their constitutional duty, of course.

Even Trump's ham-fisted threats rang hollow. After all, in the 1990s, the Republicans investigated Bill Clinton within an inch of his life, and yet the economy boomed. So there is no direct correlation to be found, sorry.

Later, Trump hilariously claimed that what the Democrats were doing was "presidential harassment," and (even more amusingly) that "the Republicans never did this to President Obama." Seriously? On what planet? And that's not to mention the 18 times Trump has called for investigations into his political opponents, either. Sheesh!

We'll have other tidbits from both the speech and the reaction to the speech later on in the program, but for now let's move along to the other political news. Democrats have begun walking the tightrope between aggressively investigating Trump and not appearing to go overboard, and so far they've been pulling it off. One House committee is taking the time to lay the groundwork for getting Trump's tax forms from the I.R.S., rather than just going right ahead and doing so. Other committees are opening new investigations with similar caution. Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, are being as scrupulous as possible about moving forward, which is the right thing to do for now. The next few weeks are going to be very interesting on C-SPAN, that's for sure. Today was the first notable hearing, as Democrats grilled Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, but he'll just be the first of many.

Democrats are also moving forward legislatively, but here too they are taking pains to get things right. They're holding hearings and getting their ducks in a row, with legislation to follow. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a splash this week by introducing the "Green New Deal," but this was largely aspirational -- a "plan to create a plan," as one commentator put it. In other words, it lays out some very high goals to shoot for without solid details as to how we're going to get there. This prompted some immediate criticism, but we don't buy it for two reasons. The first is that she's only been in office a single month, and the second is that no green plan is going to get through the Senate in the next two years anyway. She's got plenty of time to flesh her ideas out, in other words.

There was news (both important and trivial) from the presidential campaign trail this week, most of it involving Democrats who have either declared their candidacies or are about to.

Beto O'Rourke was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, and dropped many hints that he's going to run. Amy Klobuchar announced that she'll make an announcement this weekend, which almost certainly means she's in, too.

Bernie Sanders hasn't announced yet, but he took the time to offer his own personal rebuttal to the State Of The Union speech this week. Bernie waggishly pointed out: "I hate to say this, but not everything Donald Trump said tonight was true or accurate." Bernie also pointed out this week that a single drug company had taken a drug that used to be absolutely free for patients and slapped a jaw-dropping $375,000-per-year price tag on it. Sanders called this "a blatant fleecing of American taxpayers" and "an immoral exploitation of patients who need this medication," and it's hard to disagree. High drug prices are a more potent issue than most politicians realize, even deep in Trump country, so Bernie deserves some credit for getting out in front of this example of corporate greed gone wild.

Elizabeth Warren faced new questions when the Washington Post uncovered a Texas bar card that she had filled out with her race listed (in her own handwriting) as "American Indian," and she has issued a fresh new round of apologies.

Meanwhile, Cory Booker announced that he now has a girlfriend. This brings up an interesting point, since America has only ever elected a bachelor to the Oval Office once in its entire history (James Buchanan). It was also announced this week that a super PAC had formed to support Booker. Booker has promised not to take PAC money, and didn't explicitly call for this PAC to end. He's in the same position a lot of Democrats now find themselves -- after having previously benefited from big donors, they've now got to try to position themselves as purely small-donor candidates, now that the rank-and-file voters' mood has changed so much.

Billionaire Howard Schultz, who is seriously considering an independent bid for the presidency, had a pretty rocky week. First he begged people to use a different term than "billionaire." Here's his suggestion, instead:

I would rephrase that and say that "people of means" have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair, and I think that speaks to the inequality but it also speaks to the special interests that are paid for people of wealth and corporations who are looking for influence.

Maybe we can compromise on something like "people of B.S."? Schultz then gave a speech billed as a policy speech, to show everyone that he's a serious guy with serious answers to America's problems. The only problem was, he didn't really have much in the way of answers, he spent most of the time just badmouthing both parties in an extreme display of false equivalence. He used the terms "far left" or "far right" fourteen separate times during the speech, but the audience wasn't all that impressed. On two separate occasions, Schultz had to beg the audience to clap, drawing immediate comparisons to Jeb Bush.

Away from the campaign trail and Congress, the biggest news of the week was Virginia's government in total meltdown mode. But we're going to address that in the awards, so we just mention it here in passing.

And we have some sad news to close on, as the death of John Dingell was reported. Dingell holds the record for longest-serving House member (he was elected a staggering 29 times, and first took office when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president), and was called the "Dean of the House" -- high praise indeed.

Requiescat In Pace.

We have a number of Honorable Mention awards to hand out this week, starting with Nancy Pelosi for her sarcastic clap at Trump during the State Of The Union (which quickly went viral on the internet). Her own daughter Christine Pelosi translated this "mom-speak" for everyone, just in case anyone was still wondering: "Oh yes, that clap took me back to the teen years. She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she's disappointed that you thought this would work. But here's a clap." Priceless!

Bernie Sanders also gets an Honorable Mention for exposing Catalyst Pharmaceuticals' insane greed. Here's the story, in case you haven't heard it:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is demanding to know why a pharmaceutical company has slapped a $375,000 list price on a drug that patients used to get for free.

Sanders accused Patrick McEnany, president and CEO of Catalyst Pharmaceuticals Inc., of “a blatant fleecing of American taxpayers” and “an immoral exploitation of patients who need this medication” in a scathing letter Monday.

The drug, known as Firdapse, treats a rare autoimmune disease called Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, which fatigues and weakens muscles by causing the body to attack its own tissues.

The drug had been available at no cost for two decades under the name 3,4-DAP from Jacobus Pharmaceutical as part of the Food and Drug Administration’s compassionate use program. The drug, though unapproved specifically for Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, often was prescribed by doctors for the condition.

Catalyst in November won expedited FDA approval to sell Fidapse {sic} as the first treatment for Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome. A month later, the company announced the list price for a year’s treatment: $375,000.

Adam Schiff, who is going to become a serious thorn in Trump's side, reopened the House investigation into Trump's Russia connections again this week. He also broadened the scope of the investigation to include:

(3) Whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates.

(4) Whether President Trump, his family, or his associates are or were at any time at heightened risk of, or vulnerable to, foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion, or have sought to influence U.S. government policy in service of foreign interests.

Explicitly mentioning Trump's family was a nice touch.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week goes to Stacey Abrams and all the women in suffragette white in the audience for Trump's speech.

Abrams had the tough job of giving the Democratic response to Trump's speech, and she did a great job. In ten minutes' time (as opposed to Trump's 82 minutes), Abrams strongly rejected the Republican and Trumpian way of looking at the world and instead offered up a very different way to view politics. She rejected Trump and the GOP strongly without stooping to name-calling or nastiness. On that level alone, she bested Trump.

Abrams is obviously not going to quietly fade away, and national Democrats are already trying to talk her into running for Senate in 2020. Flipping a Georgia Senate seat would be even more impressive than flipping the governor's office, in the grand scheme of things. Whatever she chooses to do, though, her speech this week showed that she's ready for it.

During Trump's speech, though, the women in suffragette white really stole the scene. One hundred years ago, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. This political fight took decades to win, and it was an enormous victory for American women. A century later, a whole wave of women entered Congress as the vanguard of the Resistance and Women's March movements. That is historically fitting.

Trump even gave them a nod during his speech, which they turned into the most interesting protest seen in a long time in Congress. Instead of rudely yelling something ("You lie!" ), the women all essentially thanked Donald Trump for getting them elected. If there had never been President Trump, then a whole lot of these women would never have won office, plain and simple. Their joyful reaction to Trump pointed this out in a way that was nothing short of brilliant and spontaneous.

Trump's 2019 State Of The Union will be remembered for two things in the future (that's our guess, anyway): flat-out threatening Democrats not to investigate him, and the Democratic women in suffragette white delightfully thanking Trump for getting them elected.

{You'll have to check which House members wore white and sat in the suffragette section for the big speech on your own if you'd like to congratulate them, and Stacy Abrams is now a private citizen, so we cannot provide contact information for her, either -- sorry.}

In one week's time, Virginia's government has seen more scandals than most states see in a decade. Except, on reflection, maybe Illinois or New York.

Kidding aside, Virginia's politics are in total free-fall right now, and we apparently haven't even hit bottom, with new revelations and accusations appearing on a daily basis. Last Friday, the news that Governor Ralph Northam had an indefensible photo on his medical school yearbook page broke. He apologized for appearing in such a racist photo, and then the next day recanted and said it wasn't him. Oh, and that he had never seen the photo before. Although he had actually donned blackface, and seemed strangely expert on what to use (noting that shoe polish takes forever to get off). He actually had to be stopped by his wife from proving he knew how to moonwalk.

Next up was Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who was accused of sexual assault (or rape, depending on the legal definition) by a woman who said he forced her to perform oral sex at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Fairfax is black, so he briefly was seen as a great answer to Northam's scandal -- he could step in and take over, which would be a fitting result. Democrats then spent a few days agonizing over whether to be hypocritical or not. They had drawn a line with Brett Kavanaugh's accusers, and now they either had to uphold the standard of believing all accusers or show a monumental amount of hypocrisy.

Then the second in line to the governor's office, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, came out and admitted that he too had worn blackface while in college. This was after he had called on Northam to resign for wearing blackface, mind you. This meant that the top three Democrats in the Virginia government were all tainted one way or another. If all three of them stepped down, it would mean a Republican (who is third in the line of succession) would take over the job.

Then came yesterday's news: the Republican state senate leader had been the editor of his college yearbook, which included not only photos of students in blackface, but also reprehensible racist language. This allowed the state's Democrats to begin calling the multiple scandals "bipartisan," but that's really not saying much, at this point.

Today's news (which just broke): a second woman has now accused Lieutenant Governor Fairfax of raping her. Any hopes Democrats had of him becoming governor assumably died when this news broke.

Probably the most astonishing thing in this whole sordid story is that nobody has yet resigned. Northam reportedly hired an investigator to find out the full story of that photo, and he apparently isn't going anywhere in the meantime. Fairfax also was hanging in there, but that was before today's news broke (this situation may have changed by the time you read this, however). Mark Herring is also hanging tough, waiting to see what the other two wind up doing. Last week, we predicted that Northam would be gone within hours (by Monday morning, at the latest), but events have proven this optimism wrong.

Which leaves us with only one clear option: handing out Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to all three men. The word disappointing doesn't even really begin to cover it, either. The story of Democrats flipping Virginia from red to blue has been one of the most interesting political developments over the last decade or so, but these scandals could set Democratic hopes in the state back in a big way. None of the statewide offices is up for election this year, but Virginia does have legislative elections in November. Democrats were hoping to build on their gains, but this is now in serious question.

Instead of optimistically looking forward to the next election, Virginia Democrats are now trying to hold a discussion of when blackface is a career-ending political sin and when it could be excused. And the only other possible way out of their problem is backing a man who has now twice been accused of rape.

For putting their state and their party in this position, we hereby award Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. We sincerely hope this situation gets resolved soon, so we don't have to keep giving them more MDDOTW awards, week after week.

{Contact Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on his Virginia state government contact page, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax on his Virginia state government contact page, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on his Virginia state government contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.}

Volume 517 (2/8/19)

Half of this week's talking points deal with Trump's big speech, and then the other half are pretty scattershot. Use responsibly, as always.

Mobster tactics

This needs to be denounced in the strongest possible terms.

"President Donald Trump began his State Of The Union speech by issuing a threat to Democrats: don't investigate me, or either the economy will tank or perhaps I'll start a war. It's hard to read his words any other way, really. I would call this a banana republic thing for a president to do, but I don't want to insult banana republics. It's closer, in fact, to a mobster running a protection racket -- 'Nice little economy you got here, be a shame it something happened to it.' Not since Richard Nixon called for an end to the Watergate investigation in a State Of The Union has the country seen this level of desperation from a president. Trump must have a lot to hide, if he's attempting to take the entire economy hostage over it."

What Trump said and didn't say

The contrast is striking.

"We heard quite a number of words in Trump's State Of The Union that have never before been uttered in such a speech. Among them were: bloodthirsty, sadistic, venomous, and chilling. Soaring inspirational oratory this was not, in other words. It seems that fearmongering is all Trump has left. You know what he didn't even mention at all during his entire speech? The deficit. The national debt. Social Security. Medicare. Climate change. Gun safety. Voting rights. Forced family separations at the border. Some of these subjects Republicans used to deeply care about, but Trump didn't even give them lip service. The absence of leadership in Trump's speech was stark, when you compare what he did say to what he didn't even mention."

Not that you can believe him anyway

This is the new normal, but that doesn't mean Democrats shouldn't continue to point it out.

"The fact-checkers at the Washington Post reviewed Trump's State Of The Union speech and found 30 blatant falsehoods in it. That's astonishing, because it means Trump lied roughly once every three minutes. Now, there's always some partisan spin in these speeches, but spin is one thing and outright falsehoods are another. At this point, if I were a Democrat running for president, I would make the promise never to lie to the American public a cornerstone of my campaign, because I think the American people are sick and tired of Trump's constant lying."

Thanks for my job!

This clip will live forever, at least in the hearts and minds of Democratic women.

"Of course, the most amusing part of the speech was when Trump touted how many women now had jobs. Many suffragette-white-clad congresswomen leapt up in delight and began pointing to themselves. The message was as clear as crystal -- 'Thank you for my job, Mister President, because if you hadn't been president I probably never would have won my election!' Somehow, I don't think that's how his speechwriters expected them to react, but it was absolutely priceless."

Poor baby

Hit Trump in his image, hard.

"Donald Trump was supposed to be the hairy-chested he-man of politics, a counterpuncher extraordinaire who would singlehandedly fight against all odds and personally carry the day. In reality, however, he's nothing short of a whiny and annoying snowflake. He began complaining this week about 'presidential harassment' which was probably the funniest and most ironic thing he's ever complained about. Those mean old Democrats didn't listen to his extortion threat during his big speech, and went ahead and started investigating him anyway. Poor baby! He even tried to claim that Republicans had never done such a thing to Barack Obama, which made it all the more hilarious (at least, to anyone who hasn't been in a coma for 10 years). And we're just starting the oversight of Trump, so it's bound to get worse -- he'll be spending a whole lot of time whining about how mean everyone is being to him in the coming months, that's my guess."

Meanwhile, the scandals keep coming

It's really hard to even keep track anymore.

"There are so many Trump administration scandals awaiting oversight that it'll be hard to even get to them all. Just this week it was revealed that U.S. weapons sold to Saudi Arabia are being given to Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed forces in Yemen. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates are breaking the arms sales agreements we have with them, and essentially handing over American weapons to enemy forces. In any normal administration this would be an enormous scandal (remember "Iran/Contra," for instance?), but with Trump it barely even caused a ripple, due to all the other ongoing scandals and investigations. The House committees certainly have their work cut out for them, that's for sure."

;Executive time equals not making things worse

And finally, a big silver lining needs pointing out.

"It was just revealed that since the midterm elections, Donald Trump has spent over half -- reportedly 60 percent -- of his working time doing absolutely nothing. The White House euphemistically calls this 'executive time,' but what it really means is Trump hanging out in his quarters watching cable TV and calling up his friends to chat. I thought Trump was all about not using silly 'politically correct' terms? Whatever. But when you think about it, the fact that Trump spends over half his day -- the days he's actually working, instead of off golfing, that is -- doing nothing but screaming at his television set is actually pretty reassuring. Because if he's watching cable then what he isn't doing is screwing things up further. I mean, when you get right down to it, every minute Trump spends not at his desk is a minute when he's not making things worse. So maybe he should up his executive time to 70 or 80 percent of his day?"

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Reply Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Big Speech, And A Virginia Meltdown (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Feb 2019 OP
akraven Feb 2019 #1
pangaia Feb 2019 #2
ChrisWeigant Feb 2019 #3

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Feb 8, 2019, 10:10 PM

1. Great post, Chris, and I'm saving it.

You got a heart for it, too!

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Feb 8, 2019, 10:10 PM

2. Well, he sure got this statement right..........

"We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. "

Little did he know!!

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2019, 10:17 PM

3. Thanks for the hearts!

Thanks to akraven and a second anonymous donor for my Valentine's Day hearts!


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