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Fri Aug 9, 2019, 08:55 PM


Friday Talking Points -- The Fallout Continues

{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."}

Will anything actually change this time around? Will these mass shootings finally spur the politicians to act, when all the others didn't? While it's easy to be pessimistic, since it is rare indeed that anything happens after such tragedies, perhaps this time is different. We couldn't say why this time seems to have had more of an impact than the other 250 times it has happened this year, but so far it has. Perhaps it was the fact that there were multiple mass shootings in a single day or perhaps it was the high body count or perhaps it was the El Paso gunman's obvious racist motivation, but for whatever reason this time could be different.

Of course, the big question at the heart of whether the National Rifle Association can be defeated in Congress this time around is whether the Democrats can get Donald Trump on their side or not. As of this writing, that is still an open question.

Trump, true to form, is all over the map on gun safety reforms. One day he expresses his strong support, the next day he doesn't even mention the subject. One day he's pushing for universal background checks, the next day he's saying what a fine chat he had with his buddy Wayne LaPierre. So it's still very much up in the air.

Mitch McConnell, also true to form, is resisting all action. He's said he won't call the Senate back for a special session in August, and he's waffled on what the Senate will do when it does return from its monthlong summer break. Perhaps he'll allow a floor vote on gun safety legislation, and perhaps he won't.

The Democrats have two bills already awaiting Senate action, both of which would get rid of all the loopholes in the current federal background check program. Previously, Trump said he would veto them if they passed the Senate, but that could change if he changes his mind on the subject.

The Republicans seem to have a newfound love for "red flag" laws, which is rather odd because they've always opposed them in the past (as their N.R.A. masters demanded). So perhaps some combination of a red flag law and universal background checks might actually have a chance of passing the Senate?

Well, once again, it's pretty easy to remain pessimistic. The N.R.A. still has a stranglehold on the Republican Party, and they have been opposed to any new legislation, period.

In opposition, however, is the fact that Republicans are already having a tough time in their suburban districts, where many women voters are downright disgusted with their refusal to act on gun safety. Voting against gun safety this time around is going to lose Republicans more of these suburban voters. So it becomes a calculation of two forms of self-interest: votes versus campaign cash. That may sound cynical, but it is indeed what the GOP now faces.

The public outcry over the recent shootings seems different this time as well. It has been more sustained than normal. Usually, mass shootings occupy the national stage for only a few days, and then fade in importance as other things happen. This time, that doesn't seem to be happening at all. The El Paso and Dayton shootings have occupied the front page of the news all week long, and have dominated the political world. Perhaps it is because Congress is on vacation, which is typically when political news sees a lull, or perhaps these shootings really were more shocking than all the others. Either way, the public pressure is a lot higher on the politicians this time around. Will this result in any actual legislation? Well, maybe. But just maybe -- please remember that it usually doesn't.

It will probably all come down to whether Democrats can goad Trump into action, by telling him that he'll be the greatest president ever on gun safety if he does so. That could tease his inflated ego into getting behind such a push. Everything is always about Trump, to Trump, so Democrats should really use this leverage to move him.

Trump has been proving all week long how he sees the issue -- as a reflection of him, of course. In his first tweet, Trump called for "strong background checks" and then personalized the whole thing as a campaign slogan for him: "We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!"

The next day, Trump gave one of his signature "hostage video" performances, where he read a speech others had written for him off a TelePrompTer, in a voice so devoid of emotion it was hard to stay awake listening to it. Trump might as well have prefaced the speech with the admission: "I didn't write this and probably don't agree with it, but my staff is forcing me to read these words to you, so here goes...." In the speech and afterwards, Trump placed the blame on everyone but himself, of course. He didn't mention background checks at all during the speech. But he did manage to confuse Dayton with Toledo.

Trump then visited Dayton and El Paso, and again it was all about him. After visiting a hospital in Ohio, Trump for some unfathomable reason ripped into Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Both Brown and Whaley had actually praised Trump's visit afterwards:

"They were hurting. He was comforting. He did the right things. Melania did the right things," Brown said. "And it's his job in part to comfort people. I'm glad he did it in those hospital rooms."

Whaley added: "I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the President of the United States came to Dayton."

This, however, wasn't enough for Trump social media director Dan Scavino, who tweeted: "Very SAD to see Ohio Senator Brown, & Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley -- LYING & completely mischaracterizing what took place w/ the President's visit to Miami Valley Hospital today. The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video. They all loved seeing their great President!"

Because, of course, it's not about the victims, it's about how much of a "Rock Star" Trump was. Trump echoed this later on Twitter: "Then I saw failed Presidential Candidate (0%) Sherrod Brown & Mayor Whaley totally misrepresenting what took place inside of the hospital."

Brown is not actually a presidential candidate -- meaning the one who was lying was, once again, Donald Trump. Need more proof? While Trump barred the media from the hospital visit, immediately afterwards (before he even landed in El Paso), Team Trump put out a slick campaign-style video of the event, set to music. In Texas, Trump summed up what he thought the day was about: "The love, the respect for the office of the presidency, it was -- I wish you could there to see it. We had an amazing day." Even Trump's own staff privately admitted later that the whole day was "something of a debacle, that these were not the headlines they wanted to see."

Later, a bootleg video filmed inside the El Paso hospital Trump visited was released, which showed that Trump was focused like a laser beam... on Trump:

I was here three months ago, we made a speech, we had a -- what was the name of the arena... that place was packed, right?... That was some crowd. And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto -- Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot.

But to get back to the background check issue, Trump continued to flip and flop all week long. When Trump spoke off-the-cuff to the press again, he once again predicted background checks could happen: "There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we've never had before. I think both Republican{s} and Democrat{s} are getting close to a bill on, to doing something with background checks."

So, as we said, it's really anyone's guess what the upshot will be in the Senate. Will Trump force Mitch McConnell to act? Maybe, but then again maybe not. Earlier in the week, over 200 Democratic House members signed a letter demanding Mitch call the Senate back to vote on gun safety bills. Later, over 200 mayors from both parties made the same demand in a letter they sent to Congress. But Mitch refused to do so. So it's going to take a lot more pressure on him and on the Republican Party before they act, obviously.

In other Trumpian news, there seems to be a new legal defense for people accused of political violence. You might call it the "Trump made me do it!" defense. There were two instances of this last week: convicted mail bomber Cesar Sayoc, and a guy in Montana who was arrested after slamming a 13-year-old child into the ground and fracturing his skull for not taking his hat off during the national anthem. Sayoc's lawyer argued during a sentencing hearing that Donald Trump's inflammatory rhetoric contributed to the motivation of the mail bomber. From the Montana attacker's lawyer: "{President Trump} is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished. He certainly didn't understand it was a crime." Nothing like our president being a good role model, eh? Or, at the very least, a flimsy legal excuse.

In some "irony is dead" news, Texas is now poised to loosen its already-lax gun laws, as new laws which were passed and signed earlier are now taking effect. Nothing like opening the barn doors even wider after the horses are gone, we suppose.

Let's see, what else is going on? Let's close on a few good-news stories for Democrats....

Orange County, California -- once a bastion of Republicans, and a base of support for Ronald Reagan -- now has more Democrats registered to vote than Republicans. This is after the 2018 midterms completely wiped out GOP representation in the county -- there is now no part of Orange County that has a Republican House member.

Speaking of Republicans disappearing from the stage, another Texas Republican in the House has announced he won't be running for re-election. An even dozen Republicans will now be retiring "to spend more time with their families," which opens up multiple avenues for Democrats to pick up more House seats in 2020.

More good news, from the Wall Street Journal -- big banks have given up "thousands of pages" of data on Donald Trump, Trump's businesses, Trump's family, and Russians who might be involved with them. This trove of documents has been handed over to both New York state investigators and congressional committees. So we'll see what shakes out after they've had a chance to dig through it all.

And we have to point out two articles that every Democrat who is even the least bit worried about the Democratic presidential campaign should really read. The first is titled "Democrats Should Stop Freaking Out" in the Washington Post, and the second one comes from Bill Curry in Salon. Curry points out in detail how the "Democrats are moving too far left" meme in the media is largely wrong:

Democratic unity reflects another, deeper shift: the party's movement toward what pundits still call the left but what is actually a new American center, already born, that struggles now only to be recognized. The new center embraces social issues: it is pro-choice and anti-gun; pro-marriage equality and anti-discrimination in any form. All these positions enjoy support of 60% or more of the American people, a figure that coincides with Lyndon Johnson's vote share when he set that record.

The consensus extends beyond social issues. Roughly 60% of voters think global warming is real, is man-made and is a genuine crisis. About the same proportion back nearly every tax hike on corporations and the super-rich that has been proposed. A higher percentage, around 70%, would regulate prescription drug prices and enact a health care public option. Eighty percent would end family separations at the border and offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

. . .

These issues that 60% of all voters agree on, 90% of all Democrats agree on. The party has never known such unanimity, nor have its views ever aligned so closely with those of a large majority of unaffiliated voters. And Republicans? On all these issues they swore an oath of fealty to views held by barely a third of the electorate. Democrats have a rare political luxury: they can run hard on issues dear to their base without needing to tack to some other perceived center in the general election.

And finally, we can all rest assured that if Bernie Sanders is elected, he'll let us all know everything the government knows about aliens. Not legal or illegal aliens, but extraterrestrials. Appearing on Joe Rogan's podcast, Bernie swore he'd make everything public:

"Well, I'll tell you, my wife would demand that I let you know," Sanders replied with a laugh, adding that she had pressed him in his role as senator for any information on aliens. (He said he doesn't have access to those records.)

Sanders went on to say that if he did become president and found out anything about aliens, he'd announce it on "The Joe Rogan Experience."

While many of the Democratic presidential contenders reacted strongly to both the shootings and Trump's subsequent words and actions, none did so better last week than Joe Biden. Biden took the time to write his own speech as a response, and he certainly didn't pull any punches:

"How far is it from Trump saying this is an invasion, to the shooter in El Paso declaring, quote 'this attack is the response to Hispanic invasion of Texas,'" Biden asked the crowd. "How far apart are those comments? How far is it from white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Trump's very fine people chanting, 'you will replace us,' to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh saying, 'we're committing genocide, Jews are committing genocide on his people.'"

"I don't think it's that far at all," Biden said. "It's both clear language and in code. This president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation."

He also said that Trump "has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington" -- referring to the segregationist former Alabama governor who unsuccessfully mounted four bids for president as an opponent of the civil rights movement.

. . .

In his remarks outside the eastern Iowa town of Burlington, Biden compared Trump unfavorably to the four presidents who preceded him: George H.W. Bush, who renounced his National Rifle Association membership amid gun violence; Bill Clinton, who rallied the nation after the Oklahoma City bombing; George W. Bush, who visited a mosque shortly after the 9/11 attacks; and Barack Obama, who sang "Amazing Grace" at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, after a mass shooting there in 2015.

Biden referred to those four as "Presidents who led, who opposed, chose to fight for what the best of American character is about."

"Sadly, we don't have that today," he continued. "We have a president who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation. And that makes winning the battle for the soul of this nation that much tougher -- harder."

"Trump offers no moral leadership; he seems to have no interest in unifying the nation, no evidence the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least," Biden said. "Indeed, we have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division."

Biden issued a call to the American public to stand against hate in the absence of Trump's leadership.

"We're living through a rare moment in this nation's history. Where our President isn't up to the moment. Where our President lacks the moral authority to lead. Where our President has more in common with George Wallace than he does with George Washington," said Biden to loud applause from the crowd.

"We are almost 330 million Americans who have to do what our President can't. Stand together. Stand against hate. Stand up for what -- at our best -- our nations' best, when we're the best."

Biden even went toe-to-toe with Trump, directly taking on Trump's own caricature of Biden. In his speech, Biden scoffed at Trump's "hostage video" performance after the shooting: "His low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week I don't believe fooled anyone at home or abroad." Biden later reacted when informed that Trump had tweeted "Sooo Boring!" about his speech: "He should get a life."

Biden has always tried to make his campaign all about defeating Trump, and this week was the perfect opportunity for him to show how he'd do so. The other Democrats had to make do with television interviews or soundbites, but Biden took the time to write and deliver a speech right afterwards that really set the standard for the other Democrats for the entire week.

For doing so, Joe Biden is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week (even if he did drop a few gaffes later in the week on unrelated subjects).

{Joe Biden is technically a private citizen right now, and our blanket policy is not to provide contact information for such people or links to a campaign website, so you'll have to search his contact information out for yourself if you'd like to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

Joaquin Castro, twin brother and campaign manager to Julián, tried a political tactic this week that backfired. Joaquin decided to publicly shame those in San Antonio (which he represents in Congress) who had maxed out their donations to Trump. He tweeted a graphic labelled "Who's funding Trump?" with the names and occupations of 44 local people. Castro tweeted with the image: "Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump. Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.'"

Now, Joaquin didn't break any laws by doing so -- as both he and his brother pointed out, this information is already accessible to the public and no phone numbers or addresses were included. Even so, it was a remarkably boneheaded stunt, given the circumstances. Trying to shame individuals for their political donation history is bad optics in the best of times, but in a week devoted to the aftermath of a mass shooting, it is downright insensitive.

Julián should have realized this and, at the very least, distanced himself from his brother's misstep. However, he later defended Joaquin's action, which made the whole thing worse: "That kind of information is put out all the time, and for anybody to pretend or suggest that it's not, that's just untrue."

Republicans, predictably, were pretty scathing in their denunciations. Steve Scalise, who was shot on a baseball field for his political beliefs, put it best: "People should not be personally targeted for their political views. Period. This isn't a game. It's dangerous, and lives are at stake. I know this firsthand."

He's right. The intent may not have been to "target" anyone, but at this point splitting hairs like this is a losing battle. The optics were terrible, and Castro should have realized this and reined in his brother. Instead, they both keep insisting that there's nothing wrong with what they did.

Any other week, this argument might have been more valid. But not this particular week. For attempting to publicly shame Republican donors right after a mass shooting in his state, Joaquin Castro is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

{Contact Representative Joaquin Castro on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.}

Volume 537 (8/9/19)

This week we've got a few lengthy excerpts rather than smaller talking points, but we thought it was important to sample some reactions to both the shootings and white supremacy from across the political spectrum this week. It's rather astonishing that so many conservatives and Republicans have finally had enough in the wake of the El Paso shooting and Trump's reaction to it. So we thought we'd feature a few of these in and amongst the Democratic reactions this week.

The real numbers on white supremacist violence

This was a stunning scoop from Yahoo.

"Congress has demanded statistics from the F.B.I. on white supremacist violence, but so far the agency has refused to provide any. But as Yahoo News just uncovered, these stats are available, and were sent to the state of New Jersey. The picture they paint is stark. Even though the category of white supremacist incidents was watered down by the F.B.I., to a generic one of 'racially-motivated violent extremism,' it turns out they needn't have bothered. Because every single one of the racially-motivated violent events was perpetrated by a white supremacist. Over half of all domestic terrorism cases of any kind last year came from white supremacists. And every single one of the race-based domestic terrorism incidents came from white supremacists. I have no idea why the F.B.I. is withholding this information from Congress, because it paints a very obvious picture indeed."

Declaration of war from the right

This one's a bit long, but it definitely needs saying. It comes from an extraordinary editorial in the National Review from staunch conservative David French.

It's time to face some dreadful, terrible facts. The United States is now facing a deadly challenge from a connected, radical, online-organizing community of vicious white-nationalist terrorists. They are every bit as evil as jihadists, and they radicalize in much the same way. And just like the ISIS terrorists our nation and our allies have confronted in the great cities of the West, they use the most modern of tools to advance the oldest of hatreds.

French then runs down a partial list of recent white supremacist attacks: Charlottesville, New Zealand, a California synagogue, and El Paso.

And if you think that's the sum total of white-supremacist violence, you're sadly mistaken. Most Americans remember the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Do you remember the white supremacist who killed a black man in New York with a sword? Do you remember the attempted church massacre in Kentucky, where a white supremacist who couldn't gain access to the church gunned down two black victims at a Kroger grocery story instead? Do you remember that a member of an "alt-Reich" Facebook group stabbed a black Maryland college student to death without provocation, or that a white man in Kansas shouted ethnic slurs before shooting two Indian engineers in a bar, killing one?

Substitute "jihadist" for "white supremacist" or "white nationalist" and then imagine how we'd act. Imagine how we've acted.

It's time to declare war on white-nationalist terrorism. It's time to be as wide awake about the dangers of online racist radicalization as we are about online jihadist inspiration. And it's time to reject the public language and rhetoric that excites and inspires racist radicals. Just as we demanded from our Muslim allies a legal and cultural response to the hate in their midst, we should demand a legal and cultural response to the terrorists from our own land.

He clarifies exactly what this means at the very end:

Law enforcement should pursue terrorists relentlessly. Policymakers should think creatively. And our nation's leaders need to focus on reconciliation and unity, and if they are not up to that most basic and fundamental aspect of their job, then they must be replaced.

Act like Lincoln

The following was a blistering series of tweets from Nebraska state senator John McCollister, who is a Republican. After he tweeted these, the state Republican Party asked McCollister to leave their party.

The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it's the truth.

I of course am not suggesting that all Republicans are white supremacists nor am I saying that the average Republican is even racist.

What I am saying though is that the Republican Party is COMPLICIT to obvious racist and immoral activity inside our party.

We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries "sh*tholes," tells women of color to "go back" to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth.

We have Republican senators and representatives who look the other way and say nothing for fear that it will negatively affect their elections.

No more.

When the history books are written, I refuse to be someone who said nothing.

The time is now for us Republicans to be honest with what is happening inside our party. We are better than this and I implore my Republican colleagues to stand up and do the right thing.

We all like to cite Abraham Lincoln's Republican lineage when it is politically expedient but NOW is the time to ACT like Lincoln and take a stand.

F.B.I. agents make a suggestion

In all the discussion about gun safety laws, there's another tool law enforcement could use that isn't getting as much attention.

"The F.B.I. Agents Association demanded this week that Congress pass a law making domestic terrorism a federal crime -- which it currently is not. They warned that domestic terrorism poses 'a threat to the American people and our democracy.' The president of the organization stated that: 'Acts of violence intended to intimidate civilian populations or to influence or affect government policy should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism regardless of the ideology behind them.' This is an organization of over 14,000 current and former F.B.I. agents urging Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime. There is no reason why a domestic terrorist should receive any different treatment in the courts than an international terrorist. The F.B.I. agents are right -- Congress needs to act to make all acts of terrorism a federal crime, no matter what the twisted justification for such acts may be."

We are not helpless here

Below is the full statement the Obamas put out after the shooting. We thought the whole thing was worth reading.

Michelle and I grieve with all the families in El Paso and Dayton who endured these latest mass shootings. Even if details are still emerging, there are a few things we already know to be true.

First, no other nation on Earth comes close to experiencing the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United States. No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do. Every time this happens, we're told that tougher gun laws won't stop all murders; that they won't stop every deranged individual from getting a weapon and shooting innocent people in public places. But the evidence shows that they can stop some killings. They can save some families from heartbreak. We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.

Second, while the motivations behind these shootings may not yet be fully known, there are indications that the El Paso shooting follows a dangerous trend: troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy. Like the followers of ISIS and other foreign terrorist organizations, these individuals may act alone, but they've been radicalized by white nationalist websites that proliferate on the internet. That means that both law enforcement agencies and internet platforms need to come up with better strategies to reduce the influence of these hate groups.

But just as important, all of us have to send a clarion call and behave with the values of tolerance and diversity that should be the hallmark of our democracy. We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don't look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people. Such language isn't new -- it's been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world. It is at the root of slavery and Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it's time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much -- clearly and unequivocally.

Do something, Mitch!

Tim Ryan had the best talking point of the week, in reaction to Mitch McConnell's refusal to act. Interviewed on CNN, Ryan became quite heated:

Come on, Mitch McConnell, where are your guts? You're from Kentucky -- everybody I know from Kentucky's got guts.... Do something, because the American people are fed up with you. We're fed up with you stonewalling everything. People are dying on the streets just a few hours from your house, and you're sitting there doing nothing.... Get off your ass {and call the Senate back into session}!

Mitch obviously doesn't get it

This was jaw-droppingly unbelievable. So point it out, as many times as you can.

"Mitch McConnell -- hours after the El Paso shooting -- tweeted a photo he found amusing, of a display of gravestones, one of which had the name of his political opponent on it. This was his response to a mass shooting -- to find it funny that someone put Amy McGrath's name on a tombstone due to her political beliefs. This is absolutely despicable, and it is definitely not funny. I call on Mitch McConnell to apologize for promoting an image of a gravestone of his opponent mere hours after one of the worst mass shootings in recent American history. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior from any elected official, period. Mitch McConnell should know better, but apparently he needs the rest of us to remind him of what is and what is plainly not acceptable in political discourse."

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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Reply Friday Talking Points -- The Fallout Continues (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Aug 9 OP
oasis Aug 10 #1

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Sat Aug 10, 2019, 12:42 AM

1. Interesting story on Bros. Castro. ImWithThem on putting Trump


supporters on blast. As for Slimy Steve Scalise's two cents in the matter, he can take a flying leap.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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