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Fri Oct 6, 2017, 09:59 PM

Friday Talking Points (456) -- Rex Says What Everyone's Been Thinking

It's getting kind of hard to understand why Rex Tillerson is still secretary of state. He just had an extremely rough week, and that's even without counting the breaking news that he had previously called President Trump not just a "moron" but a "fucking moron." It's easy to get distracted by such salacious news (especially when Tillerson pointedly refused to deny the "moron" part of it), but even before that juicy leak, Tillerson was roundly being ridiculed for, once again, how his boss snarkily contradicted and belittled him on Twitter. Last weekend, Trump destroyed Tillerson's efforts to bring North Korea to the diplomatic table, tweeting that Tillerson was "wasting his time."

This prompted Dana Milbank to write the funniest bit of satire we've read in a while -- and this was before the "moron" story broke:

See Rex.

Rex is a big dog. Rex is the top dog. Rex has a good job. Rex can fly! Rex has a jet. Fly, Rex, fly. Rex flies to other lands. Rex sits. Rex shakes. Rex speaks. When Rex speaks, Rex thinks he speaks for the U.S.A.

See Donald. Donald owns Rex. Rex is Donald's dog. Donald is loud. Donald is big. Donald is bigger than Rex. Donald is mean to Rex. When Rex speaks, Donald tweets. Donald tweets like a bird. Tweet, Donald, tweet. Donald's tweets hurt Rex. Donald says: Bad, Rex! Do not speak, Rex. Rex, you do not speak for the U.S.A. Only Donald speaks for the U.S.A.

Rex rolls over. Roll, Rex, roll. Good boy. Rex tells Donald he will not be a bad dog again. Rex tries. Rex tries hard. Rex tries very hard. But then Rex forgets. Rex thinks he speaks for the U.S.A. again. Donald gets mad again. Donald tweets again. Rex rolls over again.


That's not exactly the level of respect the secretary of state is supposed to portray to the world, to put it mildly. Then came his hastily-arranged news conference, after the "moron" story broke. Tillerson forcefully denied that he had ever even considered quitting, but when asked to refute the "moron" charge, Tillerson completely dodged, calling it "petty nonsense" that he was "not going to deal with." This prompted some further satire from the Washington Post, in the form of a "statement" from Tillerson, mocking his presser performance:

Hello. I am making this statement of my own free will. (blinks rapidly) (keeps blinking) I AM NOT IN PAIN OR ANY SORT OF TROUBLE. I never even thought of leaving, and not because if I had thought it, Donald Trump -- a good, smart man, the best of men -- would have known at once and sent me to the cornfield.

Derrick.

That's not a code word that I say to beg someone to come rescue me from this nightmare of my own creation. It's just fun to say into a camera.

How could I leave Donald Trump, whose agenda makes total sense and which I fully support? It has a wisdom I don't see because my mind is too small and foolish. Donald is the light of the world. He is wearing lots of clothes and they are the best, most imperial clothes, and I just wish I could see them....


Heh. But while Tillerson is currently the laughingstock of Washington, the more important point is that he already is the laughingstock of the entire world. What foreign leader trusts that Tillerson actually speaks for Trump these days? He'd have to be an utter... well, you know.

Will Trump fire Tillerson soon? Nobody really knows. But, unsurprisingly, Trump is annoyed, if only for the reason that Tillerson is on television and Trump is not, as Axios reported: "After what Trump considered a strong trip to Vegas, he seethed when he got back and saw Tillerson's gaffe dominating cable-news coverage. Everywhere he flipped, there was Tillerson's face instead of his." Refusing to deny he had called Trump a moron, no less.

In other moronic news (which has to be the most amusing segue we've ever been able to type), Donald Trump flew down to Puerto Rico to enjoy himself. No, really! At the end of the trip, Trump actually said "it was really something that I enjoyed very much." Not so enjoyable for the people still digging out from Hurricane Maria, one of whom took the time to stand by Trump's motorcade route holding a sign which said: "You are a bad hombre."

But Trump wasn't satisfied with just enjoying himself. He actually told one family he met (in one of the richest neighborhoods in San Juan) to "have a good time." You just can't make this stuff up, folks.

As if the island hadn't had enough of large masses of hot air already, Trump took the time during his visit to praise himself -- and everyone who sufficiently praised Trump -- in effusive terms. He belittled the storm's damage, saying it wasn't "a real catastrophe" like Hurricane Katrina. He once again blamed Puerto Rico for causing him hardship, telling them "you've thrown our budget a little out of whack." This prompted Chuck Schumer to respond: "Stop blaming Puerto Rico for the storm that devastated their shores."

Trump, earlier in the week, appeared mystified by the concept of Puerto Rico being an island, in a way not seen in the White House since George Dubya's time: "This is an island surrounded by water -- big water, ocean water." Um, yeah, sure. Pretty much all islands are surrounded by water, Mister President -- in fact, it's right there in the definition of "island."

But back to his visit:

At one brief stop at a church, Trump told the gathering that they no longer needed flashlights, and he tossed rolls of paper towels into the crowd as if they were basketballs. He took a helicopter tour, visited a ship, posed for selfies -- and then left an hour earlier than scheduled.


Trump told the crowd "Flashlights, you don't need 'em anymore," apparently unaware that 95 percent of the population didn't have their electricity restored yet.

The only thing Trump did manage to do right during his visit was to not publicly argue with the mayor of San Juan, who had earned his ire late last week. Immediately after Maria hit, Donald Trump spent four days at his golf resort in New Jersey, without uttering a single peep about the response effort. It wasn't until he returned to the White House and saw the news reports on Monday that Trump even realized the extent of the disaster. Last Friday, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz had had enough of the inaction:

I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives. I am done being polite, I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell. We are dying here. If we don't get the food and the water into the people's hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.


Trump responded with mean tweets, of course, slamming Cruz and all Puerto Ricans (who "want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort" ). But when the two met, they were civil to each other during Trump's visit. Later on, however, Cruz chimed in with more criticism, saying Trump had been "insulting to the people of Puerto Rico" by "throwing paper towels and throwing provisions at people."

Russel L. Honoré, the retired general who cleaned up George W. Bush's mess after Katrina, also had some choice words for President Trump: "The mayor's living on a cot, and I hope the president has a good day at golf."

However, none of this made much news back home, because the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history happened in Las Vegas. The National Rifle Association even took a rare stance in favor of increasing regulations on the "bump stock" that the shooter used to essentially turn a standard semiautomatic weapon into a fully-automatic machine gun. That's a stunning stance for the N.R.A. to take, so perhaps this time won't be like all the others, where nothing ever gets done in Congress on the touchy issue of gun safety laws.

This is already too long, so we'll just quickly whip through a few other news items from the past week before we move on to the awards and the talking points.

In obscene abuse of taxpayer money for ritzy private flight news, we have cabinet members Elaine Chao taking trips aboard Gulfstream jets "including during day trips to cities about an hour's flight from Washington, as well as longer official sojourns to France and Italy for which flights cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars," and Steve Mnuchin, who has used military aircraft seven times since March at a cost of more than $800,000. Democrats in Congress are even asking about Kellyanne Conway's use of private planes. Oh, and the Secret Service has spent over $137,000 on "golf cart rentals" during Trump's frequent trips to his resorts in New Jersey and Florida. So this story is still flying along, so to speak. The Washington Post even put up a helpful page to track all the private flights from Trump advisors, since it's getting hard to keep them all straight.

For the first time in seven years, the landmark Obama job creation record streak has ended. The jobs report from last month showed a loss of 33,000 jobs, but it really isn't fair to lay this at Trump's feet, since the biggest reason was the horrendous hurricane season this year.

The Trump administration just made it a whole lot easier for companies to deny birth control in their employees' healthcare, putting another nail in the coffin of the "Ivanka won't allow her daddy to stomp all over women's rights" trope. Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions reversed the federal government's stance on protecting transgender rights.

We're glad to see the media finally picking up on the most obvious example of how Trump's tax cuts would affect Trump's taxes, since we've been trying to draw attention to it for a while now. From a Washington Post story, the lead item of how Trump's taxes would be affected:

Mr. Trump in particular might benefit from the elimination of the alternative minimum tax (A.M.T.), which prevents taxpayers from using deductions and loopholes to avoid paying at least a minimum amount to the federal government.... Mr. Trump’s return from {2005} was leaked in March, and it showed that the A.M.T. obliged him to pay $31.3 million more in taxes that he otherwise would have.


Donald Trump will reportedly announce next week that he's decertifying the Iran nuclear weapons deal, but we'll deal with that when it happens next week.

What else? Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the release of the Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape, which proved just how offensive Trump can be towards women.

And, of course, we must end with a big Requiescat In Pace for Tom Petty, who will be missed. His death broke a lot of hearts, so to speak.





Before we get to the main award, we have two Honorable Mention awards to hand out. The first doesn't technically apply, since Supreme Court justices are supposed to be above partisan politics, but we didn't know where else to stick this little gem, so here goes.

Elena Kagan, during oral arguments on a case involving the police response to a house party in Washington D.C., made an interesting semi-confession. Talking about parties she had attended "long, long ago," Kagan admitted that "marijuana was maybe present at those parties." Gotta love that coy "maybe" in there, but if she's saying what we think she's saying, then it's comforting to know at least one justice has experienced weed in the past.

Our second award is more clear-cut, since it is completely political. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose purpose is to get Democrats elected to the House, is now running ads slamming Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell over healthcare. From the ad's script:

Paul Ryan and Washington's establishment Republicans, catering to drug companies and special interests. Coming after your health care. Increasing your out-of-pocket costs. A devastating age tax if you’re 50 or older. Ending guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions.


This is the way to slam Republicans on their own votes, and we encourage such efforts during the whole midterm election season. Turn about, after all, is fair play. Republicans have successfully demonized Nancy Pelosi, but their own leaders have massive weaknesses as well. Ryan is the weakest of these, and it's about time Democrats made some political hay at his expense.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to none other than "Monopoly Man." It could be argued that he isn't technically eligible for the award, but our ears are deaf to such arguments.

During a hearing on the Equifax data breach in the Senate Banking Committee this week, a man showed up dressed as Monopoly's Rich Uncle Pennybags. He sat behind the witness table in the audience, occasionally twirling his white moustache, blotting his forehead with what is assumably a large-denomination fake dollar bill, and playing with his monocle. The photos and videos of his antics are absolutely priceless.

The stunt was launched by Public Citizen (the organization originally founded by Ralph Nader), and was a brilliant example of effective political theater. The point of the stunt: "forced arbitration gives Equifax a monopoly over our justice system." In a press release (attached to a photo of another member of Public Citizen in the hilarious costume), they explained further:

Forced arbitration gives companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax a monopoly over our system of justice by blocking consumers' access to the courts. The {Congressional Review Act} resolution striking down the arbitration rule is a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card for companies engaged in financial scams. It should not pass go.


Rich Uncle Pennybags, when contacted afterwards, admitted that he "made the Equifax folks around me pretty uncomfortable," but he surprised everyone by not causing a commotion at all, content to merely make a statement quietly from his seat. Although, afterwards, they did try to "chase down {the Equifax CEO} as he was leaving the hearing in an effort to give him a bag of money," but were unsuccessful. "He kept walking... forcefully."

So to Public Citizen and for all who were involved in the "Monopoly Man" Rich Uncle Pennybags, well done! This was a brilliant way to shine a spotlight on a little-noticed hearing, and a superb bit of political theater. Even though the organization is non-partisan, we still have no hesitation awarding them our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

{Congratulate Public Citizen on their web page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.}





We really struggled with our only candidate for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, but in the end decided not to award it to Representative Linda T. Sánchez.

Sánchez is the fifth-highest-ranking member of the House Democratic leadership team. In a yet-to-be-aired interview on C-SPAN, she called for Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and James Clyburn to all step down from their leadership positions in the Democratic House caucus.

Now, we've heard the cases, both pro and con, for keeping Nancy Pelosi on as leader. On the plus side, Pelosi is the best Democratic House leader we've seen in a long, long time -- she does a masterful job of keeping her caucus together on key votes, whether in the majority or the minority. That skill is crucial for Democrats, especially in the House. Pelosi is also a formidable fundraiser. But on the minus side, she is an absolute lightning rod for political attacks by the other side. This is because she's not only the best Democratic leader we've seen in a long, long time, she's the only such leader the House has had in a long, long time. She's been around so long that most Americans know her name. This is why anti-Pelosi ads are effective. If she stepped down, a relative unknown wouldn't generate the same amount of fury from the Republican base -- there'd have to be a learning-curve period.

But for Pelosi stepping down to have any positive effect, she'd have to pretty much do it right now -- before the election campaign season gets underway. But Sánchez backed off such a suggestion, saying "the leadership change did not need to happen immediately, but by after next year's elections." This would defeat the whole point, it seems, which is the real reason we considered Sánchez for the MDDOTW award. Why do such a political move on a timetable that won't help you out politically, after all?

But in the end, we decided that that wasn't a good enough reason. Perhaps Sánchez was just being polite (that remark about the timing was not a direct quote from her, rather a quote from the article about the upcoming interview program). She did try to deflect the issue away from age, pointing instead to "seniority," but that's really just another word for the same thing.

Reasonable Democrats can disagree about whether Pelosi should step down or not, which is why we ultimately decided not to award the MDDOTW this week. It's disappointing for Pelosi fans to hear, but it's not disappointing to all Democrats, some of whom share the same opinion.

As always, if anyone has any other nominees for the award, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments.



Volume 456 (10/6/17)

Another mixed bag this week, with a bit of pure snark at the end, just because.

So let's just dive right in, shall we?


Hypocrisy, thy name is...

A continuing series!

"In the latest revelation that Republicans produce more than their fair share of flaming hypocrites, Representative Tim Murphy was forced to resign his seat in Congress this week. Murphy, a staunchly anti-abortion Republican, apparently thinks nobody should be able to get abortions... except his mistress, of course. She berated him in a text for having 'zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.' Murphy essentially then used the plea of rank hypocrisy in response, blaming all the anti-abortion statements on his staff: 'I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more.' About that staff -- some in Washington are even saying that it was his tyrannical chief of staff that convinced Paul Ryan and other senior Republicans that Murphy had to go. Murphy's chief of staff reportedly: 'regularly engaged in brutal verbal abuse of lower-ranking aides, from calling aides "worthless" and their work "garbage" to asking derisively, "Do you or do you not have a f---ing college degree?"' So maybe it was his total hypocrisy on abortion, or maybe it was because he ran his office in tyrannical fashion -- either way, I'm glad he'll soon be gone."



Down the memory hole (1)

Time for an Orwellian review (part one).

"It's a good thing journalists are on their toes with the Trump administration, because otherwise they'd miss it when an executive department is ordered by the Ministry of Truth to send something down the memory hole. FEMA attempted to do this this week, removing drinking water and electricity statistics from its web page on how Puerto Rico is recovering from Hurricane Maria. That's a pretty Orwellian solution to the problem of your own incompetence, to put it mildly. When the story broke, they were shamed into putting the figures back up on their web page, thankfully. And the public can always check the full story on the status.pr web page that Puerto Rico put up to measure the recovery. As of today, 90 percent of Puerto Ricans still don't have electricity. Trump may have moved on from his insufficient disaster relief effort, but the people of Puerto Rico have not -- and they can't just be wiped off FEMA's website in the hopes everyone will forget about them."



Down the memory hole (2)

At least in part 1, the shaming worked.

"The Treasury Department is also getting in on the memory hole action. Even though their archives of policy documents go back over four decades, one particular paper just disappeared from their website. This was done for a purpose, so that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin can just flat-out lie about corporate income taxes. The paper in question came to the conclusion that 82 percent of corporate taxes affect the shareholders, while only 18 percent of the burden is borne by the workers. Mnuchin has recently publicly flipped those numbers, claiming workers bear up to 80 percent of the corporate tax burden. When the truth is inconvenient, just make it go away so you can lie like a rug about it to the public! How convenient! Big Brother would have been proud indeed."



About that House budget...

The House just passed a budget bill. It has all sorts of ugly numbers in it. Thanks to Senator Brian Schatz for pointing out a few of these, in a tweet with a photo of the actual numbers involved:

This budget document shows Senate R's are voting to cut Medicaid by 1 trillion, Medicare by 473 billion. Pass it on.




Real fake news

Unlike how Trump uses the term ("fake news is news I don't like" ), some fake news from years ago just got "realitied." (Note: If that's not a word, then it should be. Hmmph.)

"Remember when Republicans were up in arms because -- as they put it -- Barack Obama was siccing the I.R.S. on conservative political groups, out of spite and malice? Even back then, Democrats protested that liberal groups were also targeted, because it was the job of the I.R.S. to certify such groups. Turns out the Democrats were right. The Treasury inspector general just released a report showing that while groups with names containing phrases like 'Patriot' or 'Tea Party' were indeed scrutinized, the I.R.S. also scrutinized groups with affiliation with the defunct ACORN, as well as those containing phrases such as 'Progressive,' 'Green Energy,' 'Medical Marijuana,' and 'Occupy.' Fake news, meet reality."



Fake fake news

This one is even more pronounced, because it directly "realities" the claims of fake news Trump has always made.

"Donald Trump this week tweeted that the Senate Intelligence Committee should, quote, look into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made-up FAKE!, unquote. What triggered this tantrum was the announcement by the committee that they had reached consensus that the intelligence community's assessment of Russian hacking during last year's election was to be trusted. Russia did indeed meddle in our election, period. That is the reality, to put it another way. The committee did admit that 'the issue of collusion is still open,' but said that it had now concluded definitively that the hacking had taken place -- something that Trump has always called 'fake news,' all evidence to the contrary. So if the intelligence committee really wanted to investigate some fake news, they could always start with pretty much everything the president's ever tweeted."



Thank you, Rex

OK, this last one is just snarky for the sake of being snarky, we fully admit.

"Finally, one sane adult in Washington has said exactly what everyone else has been thinking all along. Rex Tillerson's characterization of Donald Trump -- with or without the expletive -- speaks directly to what millions of Americans truly believe. Rex speaks for me, whether he wants to admit it or not. Maybe after he's fired we'll hear his honest assessment of the man in the Oval Office? There's one tell-all book I'd certainly buy! In the meantime, thank you Rex, for saying what we all have been thinking for a long time now."



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 (456) -- Rex Says What Everyone's Been Thinking (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Oct 6 OP
Skittles Oct 6 #1

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Oct 6, 2017, 10:40 PM

1. for the record, I think Rex Tillerson is a fucking moron too

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