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Fri May 31, 2019, 09:27 PM

 

Friday Talking Points -- Mueller Speaks, But Not Quite Clearly Enough

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
I've been posting this weekly wrapup column for over ten years here at DU, and always run into the same problem as we get closer to each election. The DU forum categories shift around, with strict rules about where to post. I normally post these under "General Discussion" since it's about as generic as you can get, but now there is a new "Democratic Primaries" forum as well. These weekly columns attempt to cover all of the political world, so the main focus is usually not just on the Democratic primary race. As little as 10 percent of any individual column may address the primary races, while the rest is just generic political news of the week. I've been informed by the moderators to post these in "Democratic Primaries" for now, which I am happy to do, but just wanted to warn folks ahead of time that my "Friday Talking Points" columns (begun years ago as an homage to the great DU "Top Ten Conservative Idiots" column series, I should mention) will not exclusively be about the Democratic Primaries. Just to be clear to everyone, up front, to avoid any objections that most of these posts are "off topic."}

Robert Mueller broke his two-year silence this week, as he strode boldly to the podium and loudly announced: "ITMFA!" and then withdrew. 'This caused the term to spike in Google searches to a level never seen before on any subject, ever.

Well, no. That's not what happened. Many now think that's what should have happened, but unfortunately it did not.

Instead, Mueller all but begged Congress not to force him to testify, and warned that if he had to testify, he would strive to merely read excerpts from his written report and not answer any tangential questions at all (heavily implying that this would be a waste of time, and therefore why bother?). He reiterated in the strongest possible terms that Justice Department guidelines prevented him not only from indicting a sitting president, but also from accusing a sitting president of any crime in any way whatsoever (even indirectly) -- which includes making any sort of recommendation to Congress on the question of whether Donald Trump should be impeached. Doing so would be a de facto accusation of a crime, which the guidelines say Mueller should not do (under Mueller's interpretations of them).

This annoyed Trump no end, since Mueller also explicitly pointed out once again that if he had found no evidence of any crimes Trump committed, then his report would have clearly stated this in order to exonerate Trump -- but that he could not reach this conclusion at all. Trump even backed off from his "no collusion, no obstruction" claims as a result, and the best tweet he could come up with responding to Mueller was: "Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you." In other words, you couldn't prove it, so therefore it must not have happened. That's a significant change from the language Trump was using before Mueller spoke, to put it mildly.

What probably annoyed Trump more than anything, though, was the fact that Mueller absolutely owned the entire day's news cycle. To counter this, the very next day Trump pulled a brand new tariff out of his hindquarters, just to get his name back in the news. More on this in a moment.

Mueller's statement did have one pronounced effect: unifying the Democratic candidates on what to do next. Plenty of them reacted strongly, but our favorite came in the form of a tweet from Senator Elizabeth Warren:

Mueller leaves no doubt:
1) He didn't exonerate the president because there is evidence he committed crimes.
2) Justice Department policy prevented him from charging the president with any crimes.
3) The Constitution leaves it up to Congress to act--and that's impeachment.


She's not alone. Most of the presidential candidates are also now on board the impeachment train, and the Washington Post is keeping a handy reference list of all the House Democrats who are now calling for impeachment as well.

The most amusing reaction came from Newt Gingrich, who tweeted:

Muller tried today to have iut {sic} boith {sic} ways. If he thought President Trumpo {sic?} was guilty of something he should have said he was guilty of something.


The rest of the internet pronounced Newt guilty of not being able to spell. Those that weren't having lots of fun with the clown-like moniker "President Trumpo," that is.

But back to those hastily-announced tariffs. Again, the obvious interpretation here is that the following sequence of events happened:

(1) Trump watched Mueller on television.

(2) Since Trump has never read the Mueller Report himself, lots of what Mueller said was news to him.

(3) Trump became enraged that Mueller dominated that day's news cycle.

(4) Trump flailed around and then decided to do something dramatic on impulse, no matter how bad an idea his advisors think it is.

(5) Trump announced new tariffs on everything we import from Mexico (which will start at five percent and rise each month until they hit 25 percent) unless they "do something" about illegal immigrants entering our country.

(6) Voila! Trump owns the next day's news cycle.

You just know, in your heart of hearts, that this is how this new policy came into being. Trump even touted it hours ahead of time to tease the media -- something he usually doesn't even feel the need to do -- saying it would be a "big league" announcement.

You can tell it was a completely spontaneous decision because like most of Trump's "shoot from the hip" ideas, it directly undermines something else he's attempting to achieve. This week he had been pushing Congress hard to pass his "NAFTA version 1.1" trade deal with Mexico and Canada, which he desperately wants to succeed so he'll have something to run on next year other than that stinkeroo of a tax cut.

But opening a brand-new trade war with Mexico is going to put this trade deal in jeopardy, both in our own Congress and in the Mexican government's.

Now, the entire thing may be just a flat-out fake, it bears mentioning. Why do we say this? Because there are no details about what it would take for Trump to declare victory and end this tariff. He says he wants to force Mexico to not let in so many migrants, but there are no metrics attached to that vague and rather shifty goal. Every year, migration is cyclical, meaning in the winter the numbers always go down. If they do begin to fall after the summer's over, then Trump may just claim that it is all due to his hardline with Mexico and that he can now end the tariffs completely. In other words, maybe he's trying to be crazy like a fox.

If so, several Republican senators didn't get the memo. Already Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have denounced Trump's new tariff, and plenty of other Republicans may follow in their footsteps. Or maybe not -- the Republican Party has sold its soul to Donald Trump to such an extent that it's hard to say how much abuse they'll take before finally speaking out, these days.

In other news, documents were uncovered which pretty plainly show why Republicans have been pushing to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census. The New York Times initially reported that Republican operative Thomas Hofeller -- the guy who "spent nearly two decades as the Republican National Committee's redistricting chairman" -- was one of the originators of the scheme. He died last year, and his heirs turned over some hard drives with some interesting documents on them:

Hofeller analyzed Texas state legislative maps and determined that maps based only on the number of U.S. citizens "would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats" and "would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites," according to court filings.

Hofeller wrote that implementing these maps without adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census would be "functionally unworkable."


In other words, it wasn't just a nakedly partisan scheme, it was also simultaneously a racist scheme. No wonder Trump and his minions embraced the idea so quickly.

Speaking of Trump minions, it seems someone at the White House wanted to protect the tender sensibilities of President Man-Baby this week, as they ordered the military to cover up the name of a ship -- just in case Trump threw a hissy fit when he saw it on his trip to Japan. The Pentagon complied, and the ship's name was covered up with a large tarp. As if that weren't enough, sailors from the U.S.S. John McCain (originally named for Senator McCain's father and grandfather, respected Navy admirals who share his name) were disinvited from the president's visit to another Navy ship. This was all done "to keep Trump from being upset during the visit."

From the original scoop in the Wall Street Journal comes the basic story:

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was aware of the concern about the presence of the U.S.S. John McCain in Japan and approved measures to ensure it didn't interfere with the president's visit, a U.S. official said.... Sailors were directed to remove any coverings from the ship that bore its name. After the tarp was taken down, a barge was moved closer to the ship, obscuring its name. Navy officials acknowledge the barge was moved but said it was not moved to obscure the name of the ship. Sailors on the ship, who typically wear caps bearing its name, were given the day off during Mr. Trump's visit, people familiar with the matter said.


The New York Times had some more details:

A Navy service member based on Yokosuka said that all of the American warships in the harbor were invited to send 60 to 70 sailors to hear Mr. Trump's address, with the exception of the McCain. When several sailors from the McCain showed up anyway, wearing their uniforms with the ship's insignia, they were turned away, the service member said.


This all took place over Memorial Day weekend. Just imagine -- for one nanosecond -- what Republicans would be screaming if a Democrat had done anything remotely as disrespectful as this.

Speaking of the Pentagon and disrespect, today marks the one-year anniversary of the last time a Pentagon briefing happened on camera. In the intervening year (you just can't make this stuff up), celebrities have appeared at the Pentagon briefing room podium, including Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss.

And we have to end today on some prime idiocy. Talk about "you can't make this stuff up," folks! The Energy Department announced the approval of a liquefied natural gas project in Texas, saying it would allow "molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world." No, really! Here's the full story:

The department said the permit for the expansion of the Freeport, Texas facility "is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world." It wasn't the first time the Trump administration and others have linked U.S. exports of natural gas to political freedom in other parts of the world, especially places like Lithuania and Poland, which both rely on natural gas purchased from Russia. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018, Energy Secretary Rick Perry used the phrase, "exporting freedom," to describe growing gas exports.


Yet another example of life imitating Orwellian satire. Or, to put it another way, just another day in the Trump White House.





Before we get to the main award, we have a few Honorable Mention awards to hand out. The first goes to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for snarking it up at Trump's expense.

We may be biased on this one, we admit, because we've long suggested that Democrats use exactly the same talking point to powerfully point out one particular instance of Donald Trump's hypocrisy. Because his own family has already benefited from a practice he wants to do away with -- for everybody else, that is. Donald Trump's third wife was not an American by birth. She immigrated to this country. After she married Trump, she then sponsored her own parents to immigrate to America as well. Nowadays, Trump is for reforming the whole immigration system to make it "merit-based," because he doesn't like brown families from doing the same thing his own family did. Which is why we've been urging Democrats to point it out.

This week, Pelosi did so in her usual snarky fashion. When speaking in California this week, Pelosi commented on Trump: "I don't know if merit counted for when his wife's family came into the country. I don't know. Maybe it did. God bless them if it did. But he calls that 'chain migration,' which he wants to get rid of." Well done, Madam Speaker!

In a much more serious vein, we'd like to award a collective Honorable Mention to all the Democrats in the New Hampshire statehouse who successfully ended the death penalty in the Granite State. The Republican governor vetoed the bill, but the veto was then overturned (by the thinnest of margins) by the legislature, meaning New Hampshire will not sentence anyone to death from this point forward. So the Democrats who managed such an upset deserve (at the very least) our recognition with a group Honorable Mention.

But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to former Attorney General Eric Holder, for continuing the fight for voting rights and against gerrymandering. After he and his boss Barack Obama left office, they both announced they'd be championing this effort (through the National Democratic Redistricting Committee), but we have to say that Holder seems to be the one doing all the heavy lifting, from what we can tell.

This week, Holder was in the news for being the driving force behind a lawsuit in Mississippi challenging a law originally passed at the beginnings of the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow era. The law was passed for racist reasons, and remains on the books today.

Unlike almost every other state in the country, Mississippi has some unusual rules for how their governors get elected. A candidate doesn't win just by getting the most votes of any candidate. He or she doesn't win by even getting a simple majority of all the votes (50 percent plus one vote). To be elected governor, a candidate must not only gain a majority of all the votes cast, the candidate must also win a majority of all the state's 122 house districts. Only 42 of these districts contain a majority of African-American voters. Which was how it was initially designed -- to ensure that no black man would ever become governor (Historical note: "man" because this law was passed in 1890, which was 30 years before women even got the right to vote).

Holder pointed out that the law has worked exactly as designed: "This is not a theoretical thing. We have seen no statewide African-American elected to office since this was enacted, in spite of the fact that Mississippi has the highest percentage of African-Americans of any state in the country." The lawsuit itself is even more blunt:

This racist electoral scheme achieved -- and continues to achieve -- the framers' goals by tying the statewide election process to the power structure of the House. So long as white Mississippians controlled the House, they would also control the elections of statewide officials.


A whole lot of racist laws were enacted during this dark period in American history. Most of them -- thankfully -- have either been declared unconstitutional or have been wiped off the books by subsequent legislation in the past century. But not all of them. For singling this particular one out, and for attacking it with a lawsuit, Eric Holder is once again our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. We have no idea what the chances of success will be in the Mississippi legal system, but we certainly do salute Holder for making the effort no matter what the eventual outcome.

{Congratulate former Attorney General Eric Holder via Twitter, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}





Oh, heck, we know we already covered this in advance last week... but what the hey, let's just give the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award once again to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, for being the only Democratic governor to join in the parade of Republicans signing the most stringent anti-abortion laws since Roe v. Wade.

Disappointing doesn't even begin to cover it, but we already said all of that last week. Thanks for nothing, Governor, and here's another MDDOTW award to go with last week's.

{Contact Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.}




Volume 529 (5/31/19)

We have to begin here with a forward to our first talking point this week, to provide the proper credit where it is due. We first wrote about this subject way back in 2011, when it was more of a theoretical thing -- the Republican Party had included the strongest possible anti-abortion language in their party's platform, but they hadn't actually legislated it into existence at that point. Herman Cain was talking about it on the presidential campaign trail, which is why it was in the news, but again it was still merely theoretical.

Now that it is becoming reality in state after state, Democrats need to push back as strongly as possible against the shift in Republicans' position from "abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother," to "abortion should never be legal." But this idea wasn't ours to begin with, we got it from an excellent book on political messaging from Drew Westen titled The Political Brain: The Role Of Emotion In Deciding The Fate Of The Nation (a book, by the way, to which we give our highest and strongest recommendation). So before we get to our updated version, here is Westen's original suggestion for how to phrase this in a political ad: "My opponent puts the rights of rapists above the rights of their victims, guaranteeing every rapist the right to choose the mother of his child. What he's proposing is a rapists' bill of rights."

We've only ever seen one Democratic politician attempt anything close to such an ad, when John Walsh was running for the Senate seat vacated by Max Baucus. Unfortunately, Walsh had to later drop out of the race after plagiarism charges surfaced, so it is impossible to measure the impact of such an ad in any meaningful way. In any case, we wanted to provide a full citation of where our first talking point came from, in advance.



Rapists' bill of rights

Democrats need to make the case as starkly as possible why the Republican Party has been taken over by extremists.

"Republicans are pushing abortion laws in state after state which can only be called Draconian. Locking up doctors for 99 years for providing what is a woman's legal and constitutional right. Denying abortion access to those women who have been raped or molested by their own family members. Make no mistake about it -- such laws are nothing short of a rapists' bill of rights, because it will allow a rapist to essentially choose the mother of any children produced by their heinous crime. If the woman is forbidden from aborting such a child, then she'll be forced to give birth to her rapists' baby. For the rest of her life, she'll look into her child's eyes and see the DNA of her rapist looking back at her. The Republican Party has gotten so extreme that it is now standing up for rapists' fatherhood rights. That is abhorrent to me, and it should be equally as repugnant to everyone else. Rapists should have no fatherhood rights, period."



Hit them in the pocketbook

This has worked before, and it can work again.

"When North Carolina passed an extreme anti-LGBTQ law, both the corporate world and the sports world responded by pulling the plug on all spending within the state. This economic blow was so severe that the North Carolina lawmakers hastily had to backpedal. Now that Georgia has passed a Draconian abortion law, Hollywood is threatening to end all production there. The state passed favorable tax laws which have lured Hollywood to film plenty of movies and television shows there in the past few years, so this is more economic pressure than you might first think. There's a growing list of companies publicly stating that they'll be ending all their business in the state, and I applaud them all for doing so. If states want to pass laws to take us all back a half-century, then there's no reason Hollywood or corporate America should boost their economies in any way. Hit them where it hurts -- in jobs lost and their own pocketbooks."



Hypocrisy, thy name is McTurtle

A true Kinsley gaffe if ever there was one.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who so sanctimoniously lectured us all on how it would be some sort of affront to the Constitution to confirm a Supreme Court justice in the final year of a president's term -- which is just flat-out false, by the way -- this week confirmed what everyone already knew all along, that he was nothing short of a flaming partisan hypocrite. He laughingly said that of course he'd confirm a justice if given the chance to do so in 2020. Such partisan hackery was denounced by all those not in thrall to the Republican Party. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded with a terse: 'Senator McConnell is a hypocrite.' But Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe summed it up the best, tweeting: 'Hypocrisy is McTurtle's middle name. And his first and last name too. What a flagrant dickhead!' I find that I cannot improve upon his erudite phrasing."



Aiding and abetting Russia

Call it what it really is, in no uncertain terms.

"Maybe calling McConnell a turtle needs updating, because on the subject of Russian interference in America's elections, he's acting more and more like an ostrich with its head firmly planted in the sand. Bob Mueller warned us all once again that Russia launched a massive and coordinated attack on the integrity of our electoral process, and yet Mitch still refuses to admit this basic fact. Last month, the F.B.I. director said, and I quote, 'the threat just keeps escalating and we're going to have to up our game to stay ahead of it.' He also warned: 'We are very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020.' Even Trump toady Lindsey Graham moved two election-protection bills through his committee -- both of which are bipartisan, and both of which passed out of committee unanimously. But McConnell has refused to put either bill on the floor for a vote. At this point, the only conclusion possible is that Mitch McConnell is actually aiding and abetting Russian attacks on America's elections. Why else would he stop bills with such wide bipartisan support from moving forward?"



Speaking of disgusting obstructionism....

There's a very short window for this talking point to work, so it really should be deployed this Sunday morning on all the political chatfest shows.

"Three House Republicans have now -- on three separate occasions -- denied aid to Americans hardest hit by natural disasters. The Senate passed a compromise disaster aid bill last week, and the House could have put it on the president's desk by now, freeing up the flow of aid to those who desperately need it -- including in some very red states. When Congress returns next week, this bill is going to pass -- it has so much bipartisan support that the outcome is simply not in question. But disaster victims are being forced to wait an extra two weeks solely so some freshman Republican congressmen can see their names in the national news. This is disgusting and shameful behavior. I call on all Republicans who support this bill -- a bill that passed the Senate with eighty-five votes -- to denounce the actions of these three Republicans. Disaster victims deserve better than this."



Trump goes too far for even Republicans

The bromance continues, apparently.

"Donald Trump's love affair with the murderous thug who rules North Korea with an iron fist continues, no matter how provocative Kim Jong Un gets. After launching some missiles to rattle the world, President Trump declared that they had not done so, contradicting his own top military and intelligence advisors. Kim also called Joe Biden a low-IQ fool, and Trump agreed wholeheartedly, over the Memorial Day weekend. This was a step too far for even some of Trump's supporters. Republican House member Adam Kinzinger tweeted: 'It's Memorial Day weekend and you're taking a shot at Biden while praising a dictator. This is just plain wrong.' Marc Thiessen, who can best be described as being 'to the right of Attila the Hun,' also reacted negatively, on Fox News: 'You don't attack political opponents from foreign soil... And two, you don't cite the murderous dictator of North Korea as evidence of why Biden is a bad candidate.' Trump tried to spin the whole thing as somehow being respectful to Biden -- which nobody bought, by the way, because it was so laughable -- and in his tweet he actually used the term 'low-IQ' in the same sentence where he misspelled Biden's last name. Sadly, you just can't make this stuff up, folks."



One Trump bromance is dead, however

Maybe if Kim Jong Un had lost an election, Trump would have changed his mind.

"One Trump bromance is officially dead, though. Failed Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore apparently is no longer a favorite of the Trumps anymore. Because if there's one thing Trump can't stand, it's a loser. Moore was reported to be considering another Senate run, and Trump scathingly warned him not to even try, tweeting:

Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama. This time it will be for Six Years, not just Two. I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win. But he didn't, and probably won't.... Roy Moore cannot win.


A day earlier, Donald Trump Junior had tweeted even harsher words at Moore:

You mean like last time? You're literally the only candidate who could lose a GOP seat in pro-Trump, pro-USA ALABAMA. Running for office should never become a business model. If you actually care about #MAGA more than your own ego, it's time to ride off into the sunset, Judge.


So sorry, Roy. It seems like they're just not that into you any more."




Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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If I were to vote in a presidential
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Undecided

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Reply Friday Talking Points -- Mueller Speaks, But Not Quite Clearly Enough (Original post)
ChrisWeigant May 31 OP
Uncle Joe May 31 #1
ChrisWeigant Jun 7 #4
Uncle Joe Jun 7 #5
sprinkleeninow May 31 #2
Skittles May 31 #3

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri May 31, 2019, 09:30 PM

1. I believe you posted this in the wrong forum.

 

Thanks for the thread ChrisWeigant.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Bernie Sanders

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Response to Uncle Joe (Reply #1)

Fri Jun 7, 2019, 09:25 PM

4. See note at top

 

Thanks for the kind words!

As for the forum, please see the "Program Note" at the top for an explanation. I've been told if I even mention the primary candidates to post it in the "Primaries" forum by the moderators...

-CW
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Reply #4)

Fri Jun 7, 2019, 09:28 PM

5. Okay cool, kicked and recommended.

 

Peace to you ChrisWeigant
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Bernie Sanders

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri May 31, 2019, 11:45 PM

2. How low. US Navy service members. My dad Navy, WWII, Phillipines.

 

Pox be upon these unpatriotic pseudo Americans.

>>The New York Times had some more details:

A Navy service member based on Yokosuka said that all of the American warships in the harbor were invited to send 60 to 70 sailors to hear Mr. Trump's address, with the exception of the McCain. When several sailors from the McCain showed up anyway, wearing their uniforms with the ship's insignia, they were turned away, the service member said.<<
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Jay Inslee

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri May 31, 2019, 11:49 PM

3. I am disappointed in Mueller

 

I would have expected him to display much more courage than he has so far.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Beto O'Rourke

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