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Fri Jun 7, 2019, 09:30 PM


Friday Talking Points -- Something's Wrong From The Moon

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
This is a weekly roundup column of what is going on in the political world. For the duration of the 2020 campaign, I've been instructed to post it under the "Democratic Primaries" category rather than the "General Discussion" category, whenever the primary race is discussed. This discussion may be a large part of the column, or a very small part. Just wanted to clarify this up front, to avoid any objections that most of the post is "off topic."}

Something's wrong from the moon, my friend
Something's wrong from the moon
As I look down at you, my friend
Something's wrong from the moon

-- Crack The Sky, "Nuclear Apathy"

Well, we certainly never thought we'd use that particular lyric as a headline, but it's just too tempting to pass up this week. Because President Donald Trump just tweeted the following bit of wisdom:

For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon -- We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!

Um, OK. Let's just examine what absolute lunacy this tweet is. Firstly, Trump himself has been the one pushing NASA to get back to the moon as soon as possible. Even stranger, the Moon is not actually "part" of Mars. It just isn't. It's a long way from Mars.

The Washington Post, tongue planted firmly in cheek, ran a response: "Fact Check: What Is The Moon?"

NASA has framed its lunar ambitions as a steppingstone to an eventual human mission to the Red Planet, which is possibly what Trump was referring to when he called the moon "a part" of Mars.

But just in case, it seems worth stating for the record: The moon is a satellite of Earth.

In fact, the moon is probably most accurately described as part of our own planet. Rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts show that lunar material carries chemical fingerprints almost identical to those found on Earth. Scientists think that the moon was formed from debris produced during an ancient, giant collision between Earth and a now-vanished protoplanet called Theia.

Mars has two moons called Phobos and Deimos, whose names come from the Greek words for "panic" and "dread." But these small bodies, and the planet they orbit, can be anywhere from 34 million miles to 249 million miles from our moon at any given moment.

Or, as Crack The Sky put it:

On the moon they're laughing hard
On the moon, they're falling off their seats
From the moon we're comedy
From the moon we're really quite a treat


But we're going to make a monumental effort not to get distracted by Trumpian tweets this week, at least up front. Because there was indeed lots of news being made in Washington, even while most of the media was looking at Trump's shiny, shiny lunacy.

The House of Representatives was busy this week, first passing the disaster aid bill that Republicans had been holding up, and sending it to Trump's desk to sign. They next passed a new "Dreamers" bill to fix the immigration problems of all the children brought here by their parents. And they're teeing up for early next week a vote on a bill to streamline the process of getting the courts involved in the stonewalling battle with the Trump White House:

House Democratic leaders are preparing to grant sweeping authority to committee chairs to sue the Trump administration over its refusal to comply with congressional demands for information -- from President Donald Trump's tax returns to former special counsel Robert Mueller's underlying files.

The draft resolution, which the House will consider on Tuesday, formally holds Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for defying House Judiciary Committee subpoenas seeking Mueller's unredacted report, its underlying evidence, and additional witness testimony.

But the most dramatic proposal will empower the chairs of all House committees to initiate legal action each time a witness or administration official defies a committee subpoena, a move to streamline and speed up the House's ability to respond to a mounting list of confrontations with the White House.

. . .

The resolution can also apply to subpoenas that have not yet been issued. Committee leaders will have the authority to enforce those subpoenas without requiring the full House to vote on each one. Democrats emphasize that the reason for the wholesale change is to prevent contempt citations from dominating House's limited floor time.

Democrats also finally fixed a giant corporate giveaway in a bill they'd previously moved on, but more on that a bit later in the awards section.

That's a pretty productive week all around, but you certainly wouldn't know it from the front-page headlines. We fully expect another round of "Democrats Can't Decide Between Legislating And Investigating" stories to appear, even though they're obviously doing both at once right now. Sooner or later they're going to have to hammer home the case that it is the Republican Senate that can't do anything at all. Mitch McConnell plainly stated that the Senate would "probably not" hold a vote on the new Dreamers bill. And yet still somehow it's always the Democrats who get questioned over not getting things done. Go figure.

House Democratic freshmen sent McConnell a letter begging him to hold a vote on H.R. 1, the sweeping ethics and election reform bill they passed, but he'll likely continue ignoring this, too. The Democrats were mincing no words in condemning McConnell for his inaction. Representative Max Rose: "He won't even take a meeting with us. At this point, I'm thinking the only way we can get a meeting with Mitch McConnell is if we take out our checkbooks and max out to him. That's the only reason why he sits down with people cause he is bought-and-paid-for." Representative Chris Pappas: "Mitch McConnell doesn't know what democracy looks like." Representative Tom Malinowski: "He has no argument for holding up legislation to protect our democracy from foreign interference. He is putting party over country."

Also a favorite of headline-writers everywhere is the "Democrats In Disarray" headline, which is why it's notable that nowhere near the same amount of ink gets spilled when it is Republicans who are engaging in intraparty warfare. This week, the White House tried to hold a meeting to get GOP senators on board with Trump's new Mexico tariffs, but they got an earful instead.

Defiant Republican senators warned Trump administration officials Tuesday they were prepared to block the president's effort to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, threatening to assemble a veto-proof majority to mount their most direct confrontation with the president since he took office.

During a closed-door lunch on Capitol Hill, at least a half-dozen senators spoke in opposition to the tariffs President Trump intends to levy next week in an attempt to force Mexico to limit Central American migration to the United States. No senator spoke in support, according to multiple people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The lawmakers told officials from the White House and Justice Department they probably had the Senate votes they needed to take action on the tariffs, even if that meant overriding a veto.

"There is not much support in my conference for tariffs -- that's for sure," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He said senators hope that negotiations with Mexico will be "fruitful" and that the tariffs will not happen. Most GOP senators strongly oppose tariffs because they view them as taxes on Americans.

The contentious lunch meeting occurred just hours after Trump, during a news conference in London, reiterated his intention to impose the tariffs next week and said it would be "foolish" for Republican senators to try to stop him.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators is planning on gumming up the legislative machinery even more by forcing McConnell to hold an endless series of votes on bills disapproving of another Trump policy:

A bipartisan coalition of senators on Wednesday introduced 22 separate resolutions of disapproval aiming to reaffirm the role of Congress when it comes to approving the sales of arms to foreign governments.

The effort, led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), follows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement last month that President Donald Trump was waiving congressional authority to complete 22 arms deals, worth about $8 billion, that would benefit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

. . .

Still, 22 separate votes -- which could take up to 10 hours each, according to Murphy -- would eat up a lot of precious floor time in the Senate and derail Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) agenda.

What's that? He has an agenda? What agenda? We certainly can't see an indication of one.

American manufacturing hit its lowest point since Trump took office last month, and today's jobs report was also pretty dismal. The answer, obviously, is to slap more tariffs on everyone! Another story which mostly snuck under the radar this week was the news that Trump wanted to hit Australia with tariffs as well as Mexico, but on this one he got more pushback:

Some of Trump's top trade advisers had urged the tariffs as a response to a surge of Australian aluminum flowing onto the American market over the past year. But officials at the Defense and State Departments told Mr. Trump the move would alienate a top ally and could come at significant cost to the United States. The administration ultimately agreed not to take any action, at least temporarily.

And because Trump said he wanted it done, the United States military will now have the critical mission of painting the border wall, to the tune of $150,000 of taxpayer money:

Members of the U.S. military will spend a month painting a milelong barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort "to improve the aesthetic appearance," according to a border official.

The beautification project in Calexico, California, will use black paint and cost approximately $150,000, using funding from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's tactical infrastructure maintenance funding, the official told HuffPost in a statement.

. . .

Last month The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump instructed that the bollards, or "slats" as he calls them, be painted "flat black."

The dark color would absorb more heat in the summer, making the metal harder to climb, he argued. He also asked that the tips of the bollards be pointed so that they could put climbers at risk of injury.

He's reportedly also complained that the current structures are ugly.

Senator Dick Durbin hit back on Twitter: "A disgraceful misuse of taxpayer $$. Our military has more important work to do than making Trump's wall beautiful."

The Democratic race for the presidency heated up this week, and will reach fever pitch when the lineups for the first debate are announced next week. The race has kicked off with an interesting dynamic: Joe Biden versus the field. Biden is so dominant in the polling so far that all the other candidates are beginning to take a few potshots at him, in the hopes of removing some of his appeal.

Biden himself had two stumbles this week. His campaign at first said he still supported the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal money from being used to provide abortions for poor women, and then he dramatically reversed himself after realizing that the Democratic Party no longer considered this a viable political stance. This is pretty early for a flip-flop, but perhaps he can put it behind him to some extent.

Biden also released his own version of the Green New Deal this week, which brought some decidedly mixed reviews. It went further than many had expected, which was a result of Team Biden getting a lot of pushback over their "middle ground" philosophy, but at the same time it also didn't go far enough to please everyone. But the real stumble came when it was revealed that the new position paper plagiarized some passages without citation. The Biden team swore this was an honest mistake, quickly released an attributed copy, and hoped for the best.

Now, this is a particularly bad mistake for them to make, since Biden saw a previous presidential run torpedoed over plagiarism. At the same time, many of the Democratic candidates also have position papers which heavily borrow (without attribution) from many sources, so that helps mitigate the political damage to Biden.

While we're not quite at the debate stage yet, Democrats are starting to appear together at "cattle call" events. The first was the state Democratic convention in California, last weekend. Another one just happened in Atlanta, and then this weekend they'll all be heading to Iowa. Up until now, the candidates have been free to chart their own courses, but now they'll have to compete directly against each other for the same audience.

As mentioned, the other candidates are starting to train their fire on frontrunner Biden. Many candidates took shots at Biden at the California event, which was made easier by Biden deciding to skip it. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were most notable. Warren hit Biden's idea that we'll return to some sort of normal after Trump is gone: "Some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges. If they dream at all, they dream small. Some say that if we just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a crisis. The time for small ideas is over." Sanders hammered Biden for not showing up to the event and heaped scorn on the idea of "middle ground." Seth Moulton later hit Biden on his support for the Iraq War.

All of this means the first debates are likely going to be must-see TV. Politico has a rundown of who has already qualified and who has not:

The 13 candidates who can book their tickets include the race's top figures. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Julián Castro are the top-polling candidates; following a random drawing, they will be split across the two nights, with five on one night and four on the other.

But also meeting both the polling and fundraising thresholds are Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee and two lesser-known figures: Marianne Williamson, best known for authoring spiritual, self-help books, and Andrew Yang, a first-time candidate who wears a baseball cap that says "MATH" on the front as he touts his proposal for a universal basic income.

After those 13 candidates, the rest of the field gets murky. According to a POLITICO analysis, an additional seven candidates have hit the polling threshold: Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell.

Teetering on the edge of qualifying is Steve Bullock. The other three candidates -- Seth Moulton, Wayne Messam, and Mike Gravel -- will likely be excluded from the first debates.

In other debate news, Jay Inslee is not happy that the Democratic National Committee turned down his request for an entire debate on the subject of climate change, and he's not alone in his disappointment.

And we'd like to close on a positive note, from the "better late than never" file. The New York Police Department formally apologized for the Stonewall raids which happened 50 years ago this month (and gave birth to gay pride parades and the entire gay rights movement). It's never too late to say you're sorry, right?

Plenty of the Democratic candidates had some impressive moments this week, but what impressed us more than any one individual were a few poll results.

The first poll came from Michigan. As noted in a followup article: "Trump has never had majority support in Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. He won each with a plurality of the vote." Trump's Michigan numbers are pretty dismal right now, with both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden beating him there by a whopping 12 points -- 53 percent to 41 percent. Also beating Trump: Buttigieg (47-41), Warren (47-43), and Kamala Harris (47-44).

But the truly astonishing poll came from Texas, showing that if the election were held today, Joe Biden would beat Trump in the Lone Star State by 48 percent to 44 percent. Granted, he's the only Democrat who polled above Trump, but six other contenders came within the margin of error (Warren, Buttigieg, O'Rourke, Sanders, Castro, and Harris). If Trump doesn't win in Texas, then he loses the race, plain and simple. That's why it's so astonishing.

Also impressive this week was ProPublica, although due to their nonpartisan nature they don't qualify for an award. Through their spotlighting of the underhanded way that TurboTax and other tax-preparation software companies inserted a loophole into a bill to permanently bar the I.R.S. from developing their own free tax software, enough Democrats on the Hill were shamed into finally doing the right thing. We discussed all of this in the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week section a few months ago in this column, so you can click over to see all the details. This week, a clean bill was introduced without the TurboTax giveaway, showing that shaming legislators does work, at times. So kudos to ProPublica for forcing the issue.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez deserves an Honorable Mention this week, for standing against the practice of solitary confinement. She did so for the most unlikely prisoner -- Paul Manafort. Manafort faces charges in New York, and he's going to be transported to Rikers Island in New York, which is in Ocasio-Cortez's district. She tweeted: "A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That's what solitary confinement is. Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary." Sticking up for a political opponent in such a fashion is admirably principled, one has to admit.

Kirsten Gillibrand also wins an Honorable Mention for her very comprehensive policy proposal to legalize marijuana nationally. Some form of this really needs to be included in the Democratic Party platform this time around.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, for reacting to the shooting in Virginia Beach by calling the state legislature to a special summer session to address gun safety laws. This may be nothing more than a stunt, as there is no guarantee that the legislature will even act, but no matter the outcome, Northam deserves praise for such decisive action.

He also may have added a potent quote to the entire gun control argument. He provided the perfect framing of the issue, in fact, saying he wanted "votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers" from other Virginia politicians. The whole "thoughts and prayers" thing had already been derided as being woefully insufficient, but nobody's ever put it quite so plainly before.

So for this talking point and for doing what he can to move the debate forward in Virginia in response to yet another gun tragedy, Ralph Northam is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

{Congratulate Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

Joe Biden certainly disappointed many Democratic women this week, with his support of the Hyde Amendment. He reversed course by week's end, but even in doing so left an impression of political opportunism.

A few of the candidates at the San Francisco meeting of California Democrats got loudly booed for making disappointing comments during their speeches, which they somehow are trying to portray as making them more electable in the general election. This ignores the fact that you've got to win the Democratic primary first, of course, so it's a strange tactic, but one that a few of the candidates (John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, and Michael Bennet) have now seemingly adopted.

But our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week goes to Democratic candidates who initially swore off big-money fundraisers only to later very quietly start holding them.

Last month in Manhattan, Beto O'Rourke held a private reception for supporters who had paid the maximum amount to his campaign or brought in as much as $25,000 by persuading others to do the same. It was the first such fundraiser of O'Rourke's presidential bid -- and a contrast from the early days of his campaign, when he emphasized that he had "no large-dollar fundraisers planned, and I don't plan to do them."

He's not alone. Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar all held fundraisers in the Bay Area during their trip. Buttigieg has also recently met with Wall Street donors. Private "salons" have been held in New York for O'Rourke, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Booker, and Bennet.

Raising money this way is disappointing, of course, but it's most disappointing for candidates who initially planned a grassroots campaign. That reeks of hypocrisy, in fact. So to Beto O'Rourke and all other Democrats who are going back on their promise not to rely on big-money fundraisers, we award this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

{We're not going to single anyone out, and anyway our longstanding policy is not to link to candidate websites. You'll have to express your displeasure by withholding donations from candidates who break their own promises, we suppose.}

Volume 530 (6/7/19)

Are they laughing at us from the moon? Well, let's see. Ted Cruz, a United States senator who once read Green Eggs And Ham on the Senate floor, responded to the accusation: "Ted Cruz ate my son" by tweeting: "He was delicious!" A Democrat might win Texas. The military is busy painting a wall in the desert. Oh, and the F.B.I. is finally coming clean on its Bigfoot files -- can't forget that one.

Yep, it's been that kind of week, folks, and you'll notice we've made it all the way to the talking points without even getting into all the lunacy Trump tweeted from Europe (with the exception of his "moon is a part of Mars" idiocy). We had to use two of our talking points to point out more Trump lunacy, but that's it. The rest of them are, as usual, provided to give Democrats some solid talking points over the weekend, to be used whenever possible.

Trump Tax!

Call the tariffs what they are -- a Trump Tax! Joe Biden gets the credit for this one, and this entire talking point comes straight from his campaign:

We can't trust President Trump to look out for American workers, because for all his bluster, he never does. Just look at the record: The trade deficit is larger than when Trump took office, he's forced labor to take a back seat in his dealings with China, and he's alienated our allies who also suffer from China's trade abuses. Instead of delivering results, Trump is asking American farmers and American families to bear all the costs of his trade war. His administration's erratic and impulsive approach to China is causing families economic pain. Joe Biden would rally our friends and allies to hold China accountable, so that working families and farmers don't pay an extra Trump Tax. Biden would also restore our standing in the world on Day 1, advance our security and prosperity, and deliver results for all Americans -- not just the well connected.

Seen the actual numbers?

Trump needs to be taken to task on this one as well.

"Donald Trump made all kinds of sweeping promises when it came to American manufacturing. He swore he was going to bring jobs back. But one key index of manufacturers just hit its lowest point of Trump's term. In other words, manufacturing is now worse off than it was when Trump took office. May was, quote, 'the toughest month in nearly 10 years' for manufacturers, and there's one key reason why: the Trump Tax. One leading economist bluntly stated: 'The sector can't thrive when it's being hit by new taxes at random every few weeks.... it's about the whims of a president who understands very little about how the economy actually works.' So while Trump loves to boast about how much he's doing for all the factory workers out on the campaign trail, he's actually making things worse for them. That's the reality, folks."

GOP in disarray!

Still waiting for this to get the same level of attention as when Democrats bicker.

"The Republican Party is in open revolt against their own president. If Trump goes ahead with his Trump Tax on Mexico, it now seems likely that the Senate could vote to end the tariff with a veto-proof majority. That's pretty astonishing, and shows how much the party is in disarray. On top of that, some Republicans are going to push 22 separate bills -- which could take up to 10 hours each -- onto the Senate floor to disapprove of Trump selling arms to Saudi Arabia without the approval of Congress. Republican senators are defying their own leadership on both these issues, and yet the media still hasn't really even noticed. Mitch McConnell is in the midst of Republican-on-Republican warfare right now, so you'd think it'd be worth a story or two."

McConnell can't get anything done

Put the blame squarely on the man responsible.

"I am astonished whenever I hear someone claim that Democrats 'can't get anything done' in the House. In actual fact, they've passed over 100 bills, including just this week a brand-new bill to solve the problems of the Dreamers. A new immigration initiative, and nobody even notices! All of these bills head over to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell has become a master of getting absolutely nothing at all done. McConnell refuses to bring the Dreamer bill to the floor, as he's been refusing to act on any House bill. OK, divided government sometimes leads to gridlock, but when it does can we all please put the blame where it belongs? Because the House Democrats are getting plenty of things done -- they're passing good legislation week in and week out, in fact. These things are not being sent to the president for one reason -- Mitch McConnell. He can't get anything done in his house, and it's time to forcefully point this out."

Another Obamacare success story

Democrats really need to tout these facts as often as possible.

"According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Before Obamacare came into existence, African-Americans diagnosed with advanced cancer were less likely to start treatment within 30 days than white patients. In states that expanded Medicaid as part of Obamacare, these disparity has now disappeared. Obamacare saves lives, period."

Tear down the wall!

Maybe we should build a wall between Mars and the moon?

"Donald Trump showed once again that he has absolutely no understanding of anything outside of his own inflated ego this week. Speaking to the Irish prime minister, Trump mistook a very serious issue in Ireland as being exactly the same as his own border monomania. One of the biggest sticking points in Brexit is what to do with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The people on both sides absolutely do not want any sort of border controls to appear again, but Trump had absolutely no clue what the issue even meant to the Irish. When asked about the issue by a journalist, Trump exposed his ignorance for all to see: 'I don't think the border's going to be a problem at all.... It will all work out very well, also for you, with your wall, your border. We have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here.' The Irish prime minister immediately jumped in to correct this idiocy: 'I think one thing we want to avoid, of course, is a wall or border between us.' Trump also insinuated that Ireland was part of the U.K., which further exposed how clueless he truly is."

Thick as a brick

Since we were browsing our 1970s records this week, we also had to use the title of a Jethro Tull album (which is perfect, since they're British)....

"There's a British phrase which seems appropriate, after hearing that Donald Trump couldn't quite grasp the fact that the London crowds he saw were laughing and jeering at him rather than cheering for him -- and that phrase is 'thick as a brick.' Mr. President, allow me to explain. When the most popular blimp of all time is a gigantic balloon known as the 'Trump baby blimp,' which shows you in a diaper with your tiny little hands grasping a phone, then they're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you. Does that help clear things up?"

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
primary today, I would vote for:

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ChrisWeigant Jun 14 #5
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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Jun 7, 2019, 09:35 PM

1. Thanks for posting this.


Great write-up!
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Jun 7, 2019, 09:38 PM

2. K&R nt


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

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Jun 7, 2019, 09:59 PM

3. Your writing is like eating a huge nutritious meal!


Lots of nourishing stuff to chew on and we come away full of great facts!

Thank you!

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Pete Buttigieg

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Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #3)

Fri Jun 14, 2019, 09:02 PM

5. Bon appetit!


In over a decade of blogging, this is one of the most interesting responses I've ever gotten! Nice food metaphor, and I thank you for the kind words.

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

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Jun 7, 2019, 10:02 PM

4. Kicked and recommended.


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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