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Fri Aug 16, 2019, 09:05 PM


Friday Talking Points -- Let's Replace Columbus Day With Leif Eriksson Day!

{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."}

In 1867, right after the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson's State Department explored the possibility of buying Iceland and Greenland. This, of course, did not happen.

In the midst of the first World War, America was more successful at enticing Denmark to sell off some territory it didn't want. The deal was completed in January of 1917, after a few months of negotiations. The U.S. paid $25 million in gold (the equivalent of more than $575 million in today's dollars) and took possession of the Danish West Indies soon after. The islands were renamed the "Virgin Islands of the United States" and remain an American territory to this day.

After World War II, President Harry Truman offered another $100 million to Denmark in a second bid to buy Greenland. Denmark turned him down.

This week, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Donald Trump, for some strange reason, now wants to try to buy Greenland again. The Washington Post later followed up on the story:

The presidential request has bewildered aides, some of whom continue to believe it isn't serious, but Trump has mentioned it for weeks. The two people with knowledge of the presidential demand spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to reveal such White House planning.

As with many of Trump's internal musings, aides are waiting for more direction before they decide how seriously they should look into it.

Because, you know, maybe he'll just forget about it. Or lose interest if he discovers that there aren't even any cute penguins there. The best response to date came from Representative Steve Cohen from Tennessee: "A Great place for his 'presidential' library."


What obviously happened was that senior aides became so worried about Trump's idiotic proposal that they decided the only way to stop him from obsessing over it would be to leak it to the media and let them ridicule the idea. This used to be a common tactic in the early days of Trump's administration, but it hasn't been happening as often now that Trump has purged all he considers disloyal from his staff. But apparently buying Greenland was so nutso-crazy that someone decided to head it off by leaking it to the public.

No word yet on whether this is all a grand scheme by Trump to replace Columbus Day with the much more Aryan-sounding Leif Eriksson Day. But we certainly wouldn't put it past him, at this point.

Of course, we should all frown on spreading such blatant conspiracy theories, right? Well, not according to Trump, who also took the time this week to promote the insane conspiracy that Bill and Hillary Clinton personally snuck into a federal prison and killed Jeffrey Epstein. Or something. It's hard to tell. And it certainly isn't the first time Trump has promoted baseless and bizarre conspiracy theories. It likely won't be the last time he does so, either. So, with such presidential leadership as a model for our behavior, we have to say that many of the best people have been saying that Trump really wants to replace Columbus Day with Leif Eriksson Day -- and that he figures buying Greenland would be a dandy way to achieve this goal.

Is this any crazier than the multitude of craziness that spews unregulated from Trump's mouth on a daily basis? At a rally this week in Pennsylvania, Trump took credit for Shell opening a plastics plant which had actually been planned and started while Barack Obama was president, way back in 2012. During the same rally, Trump once again displayed his absolute ignorance about the way our electrical grid works, warning ominously about the dangers of generating electricity from wind power:

When the wind stops blowing, it doesn't make any difference does it? Unlike those big windmills that destroy everybody's property values, kill all the birds. One day the environmentalists are going to tell us what's going on with that. And then all of a sudden it stops. The wind and the televisions go off. And your wives and husbands say: "Darling, I want to watch Donald Trump on television tonight. But the wind stopped blowing and I can't watch. There's no electricity in the house, darling."

Maybe someone should explain to Trump that Eriksson's ship relied heavily on wind power to make it to the shores of North America? It's certainly worth a try.

The president also had a stark warning for the crowd: you better vote for Trump, even if you hate him. No, really. Trump is so worried about the possibility of a recession denying him re-election that he's now pre-emptively warning that any such downturn certainly won't be his fault, and that the only way to avoid it is to re-elect him:

The bottom line is, I know you like me, this is a love fest, but you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)'s down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes. So whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me.

Um... no. No, we don't. Sorry.

Trump also tried out another conspiracy theory to explain (in advance) any possible recession: it's all the media's fault. From his tweet:

The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election. The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!

It's gotten to the point where it is increasingly hard to even mock Trump, because the reality of what he does and says is so outlandish as to be more satiric than any attempts to satirize it. How do you mock such self-mockery? It's a conundrum, to be sure.

In other irony-is-dead news, Trump fat-shamed what he thought was a protester at a New Hampshire rally last night. The only problem was the guy was actually a Trump supporter who had gotten up to tear down a protester's sign. Anthony Scaramucci, who has become increasingly critical (and downright vicious) towards Trump, tweeted out what is actually a completely factual statement, in response to Trump's fat-shaming: "Said the fattest President since William Howard Taft." Twitter, quick to act, suspended The Mooch's account for violating their rules on abusive behavior. Donald Trump, of course, has never had this happen to him, despite regularly tweeting out much more abusive (and much less truthful) rants about all sorts of people.

But getting back to the economy, Trump is right to worry about the possibility that the longest expansion period in American history -- begun right after the Great Recession and continuing through the rest of Barack Obama's term -- may be finally drawing to a close. The "inverted yield curve" sparked this worry, which instantly gave rise to a new hashtag. An op-ed writer for the New York Times had perhaps the best setup for this new hashtag, tweeting:

Trump promised to eliminate the debt in four years; he increased it. He promised to win the easy trade war with China; he didn't. He promised Mexico would pay for the wall; it won't. His tax cuts were going to trickle down and spur the economy; it didn't. #TrumpRecession.

Of course, the White House has contingency plans just in case a recession does happen, right? Well, no. They don't. Trump did hastily cancel half of his threatened next round of tariffs against China when someone made him understand that this could impact Christmas shopping (because American consumers will pay the new "Trump tax," not China), but other than that there is absolutely zero planning for any cloudy days ahead, as the Washington Post reported:

Yet despite gyrations in the U.S. stock market and economic slowdowns in other countries, officials in the White House, at the Treasury Department and throughout the administration are planning no new steps to attempt to stave off a recession. Rather, Trump's economic advisers have been delivering the president upbeat assessments in which they argue that the domestic economy is stronger than many forecasters are making it out to be.

. . .

Administration officials are not actively planning for a recession because they do not believe one will occur, and they worry that making such plans would validate a negative narrative about the economy and precipitate a crash, according to people involved in internal discussions.

Former Treasury secretary Larry Summers was astonished at this news, and responded:

When the economy turns down, one of the important resources we have is policymakers' credibility. Ludicrous forecasts and economically illiterate statements have dissipated the credibility of the president's economic team. It's banana republic standard to deny the statistics, bash the central bank, try to push the currency down and lash out at foreign countries.

Of course, if a recession does come, Trump's economic team will be the best people to deal with it, right? Well, no. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post explains:

Bond markets are flashing warning signs. Stock prices are whipsawing. Some troubling economic data are rolling in, both here and abroad. All this suggests that the risk of a U.S. recession is rising.

Trump seems to be worried about getting blamed for what is coming. For months, he has been setting up the Federal Reserve as a scapegoat -- including for market swings caused by his own foolish trade wars. When stocks go up, Trump claims full credit; when they go down, it's the Fed's fault. Personal responsibility and all that.

My view on what he (and the rest of us) should be fixed on is slightly different. If indeed we have a downturn, Trump might or might not be the cause; the exact triggers of recession are often hard to pinpoint. But you know what would unequivocally be his fault, rather than fickle fortune?

A badly mismanaged recession. Which seems inevitable if, indeed, recession strikes.

If things go south, this administration doesn't have a plan. It never had a plan. And it doesn't have competent personnel in place to come up with a plan.

Trump's economic brain trust consists of a guy who plays an economist on TV, a crank who has been disowned by the (real) economics profession and the producer of "The Lego Batman Movie."

For the record, that last paragraph refers to Larry Kudlow (former CNBC personality), Peter Navarro (who recently suggested the Wall Street Journal editorial page sounded communist), and Steve Mnuchin (described as "earning the coveted title of the greatest sycophant in Cabinet history" ).

So there's nothing to worry about. With this dream team in place, what could possibly go wrong?

Maybe Trump is playing multidimensional chess, though. Maybe buying Greenland will solve all our problems, somehow. Hey, it worked out great for Leif Eriksson, didn't it?

Moving along to a few other notable things that happened in politics this week, Benjamin Netanyahu knuckled under to Donald Trump's wishes by barring entry into Israel to two sitting members of Congress. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar wanted to visit Palestine, but were denied after Trump pressured Bibi on the issue.

This provoked plenty of outrage from both the left and the right in this country, but the strongest response came from Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders outlined his own views of the region respectfully, in a recent interview:

All that I am saying is that we need a Middle East policy which is even-handed, which protects the independence and the safety of Israel, but also shows respect to the Palestinian people, many of whom in Gaza and elsewhere are suffering incredibly. I think what the United States should be doing, especially with the enormous amounts of money we're spending there, is to demand that Israel and the Palestinian leadership sit down and start working out their differences and create peace in that troubled region.

But when it came to commenting on Trump and Netanyahu, Bernie had a much more scathing response:

We have a president who tragically is a racist, is a xenophobe and who is a religious bigot. But the idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation which by the way we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, is clearly an outrage.

And if Israel doesn't want members of the United States Congress to visit their country, to get a first-hand look at what's going on, and I have been there many, many times, but if {Benjamin Netanyahu} doesn't want members to visit maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.

Bernie has a unique perspective on this subject, because he is Jewish. It's hard to paint Bernie as somehow "anti-Semitic," because being Jewish insulates him from such knee-jerk attacks. So we've got to give him at least an Honorable Mention for his remarks.

But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who rolled out yet another of her famous plans this week, on what the federal government should do to make life better for Native Americans.

This, obviously, is a touchy subject for Warren. But her plan is very impressive not just because she's tackling the issue head-on, but also for its breadth and depth. Her white paper on Native American issues runs over 9,000 words -- more than twice as long as any of her other plans. In it, she addresses all kinds of problems Native Americans face, from the legal restrictions imposed upon them to building up their infrastructure to improving their lives in multiple other ways. This has to be the most detailed proposal of any presidential candidate on the subject, back to perhaps Andrew Jackson.

Warren has been walking a tightrope on Native Americans for a while, now. She conclusively proved to a hostile newspaper in her hometown that she had never once used her claim of Native American ancestry to advance her career, but that somehow didn't matter to the rest of the media. She told her family story over and over again, in an effort to show that she was (1) definitely not trying to claim tribal membership, and (2) proud of her heritage nonetheless, but again this somehow got lost in the reporting. Then she took Trump's bait by taking a DNA test, which showed exactly what she had been claiming all along -- distant Indian ancestry, from six generations ago. This, somehow, was seen as a major mistake, and the punditary world -- incredibly -- pronounced her chances for winning the nomination were dead as a direct result. Trump, of course, has been mocking her with the name "Pocahontas" throughout it all. The fact that Trump can't even remember what country his own father was born in somehow didn't seem to matter.

Warren, to the astonishment of the pundits, has mostly weathered this storm. The whole thing just doesn't matter that much to the voters, which the media has finally begun to realize. If she was going to play it safe, she would never have developed a Native American plan to begin with, but she refused to take the safe route and instead issued an agenda that is sweeping in nature.

Because this news is so recent, the reaction from actual Native Americans has not yet been reported. But we'd be willing to bet it'll be supported by a majority of them, as it is so comprehensive and shows the depth of Warren's interest in helping the Native American community and in changing the ways the federal government impacts their lives for the worse.

For tackling this issue head-on, for the depth and breadth of her agenda, and for refusing to take the safe route throughout all of it, Elizabeth Warren is our clear choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

{Congratulate Senator Elizabeth Warren on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.}

As always, the word "disappointing" can be read two ways. It can mean someone did something that was obviously wrong and should be condemned, or it can mean someone who just disappointed a lot of people (either through action or inaction). This week, we're using the latter definition.

Beto O'Rourke is being begged by some in Texas to quit his bid for the presidency and instead come back home and run for Senate again. The Houston Chronicle wrote an editorial this week urging him to do just that, titled: "Beto, Come Home. Texas Needs You."

However, Beto is not interested. Now, perhaps he is just saying so because nobody's going to consider voting for someone who already has his eye on a different race -- Beto said previously that he wasn't going to run for president, before he launched his presidential campaign, for example. But he might be the Democrats' best chance of beating John Cornyn, especially after his record showing in the race with Ted Cruz.

The pressure got even greater when John Hickenlooper ended his own presidential bid this week, because everyone now expects him to announce that he will be running for a Senate seat in Colorado (a race that he will likely easily win). The goal of flipping the Senate just got a little closer for the Democrats, in other words, and Texas Democrats think Beto running in their state would also increase these chances.

But Beto isn't having any of it. Here's his response to the question, from an interview this week:

Let me make your show the place where I tell you and I tell the country I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate. I'm running for president. I'm running for this country. I'm taking this fight directly to Donald Trump, and that is what I am exclusively focused on doing right now.

That "will not in any scenario" phrase is pretty strong language, you've got to admit.

Beto O'Rourke has never really lived up to the hype he generated when he first entered the presidential race. He is currently polling in sixth place, behind Pete Buttigieg. He will be included in the next two debates, but so far he has not had any breakout moment to speak of in the first two (as his poll numbers reflect).

O'Rourke will have until December to make up his mind, so maybe there still will be time for him to re-evaluate his prospects before then. But we have to say that his response to the Chronicle editorial disappointed a whole lot of Democrats, both in Texas and beyond. For which we're giving him this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

{Beto O'Rourke is currently a private citizen, and it is our blanket policy not to link to campaign websites, so you'll have to dig up his contact information yourself if you'd like to let him know what you think of his actions.}

Volume 538 (8/16/19)

Some weeks, we pre-empt the discrete talking points to highlight a rant -- either from our own keyboard or from elsewhere. Sometimes we go with the standard talking points. This week, we're attempting to do both.

So we've got to warn everyone that our first talking point is a very long one. But it was so downright extraordinary that we couldn't manage to edit it down any further. At the same time, we didn't want it to be the whole of our talking point efforts this week, so we continue on afterwards with six other talking points for Democrats to use this week.

We apologize if this is information overload in any way, but we truly didn't know which way to go so we thought we'd try to have our cake and eat it too, as it were. After reading the first of these, you'll probably see why we chose this route this week.

No lie, Joe

Former House member Joe Walsh is probably best remembered for falsely yelling out "You lie!" during one of President Barack Obama's State Of The Union speeches. He's also known for being a Tea Party crank -- one who spewed forth all sorts of conspiracy theories (he was a big proponent of the "Obama's a secret Muslim!" lie). In his time in office, he was nothing short of odious, in fact.

Which is why his "Come to Jesus" moment this week (it's hard to call it anything else, really) was so striking. Walsh penned an opinion piece for the New York Times where he not only abjectly apologizes for spreading his previous lies, but also rips into Donald Trump with a fervor that is rare indeed among conservatives, Republicans, and especially Tea Partiers. For this reason, we had to include a lengthy excerpt of his article, which really should be read in full to be believed. Walsh calls for someone -- anyone -- to launch a Republican primary bid against Donald Trump, for all his many sins. Being true to his Tea Party roots, he begins with the fiscal irresponsibility of Trump, but then moves on to a much wider indictment of his own party's sitting president. Any individual quote from this article would be a dandy talking point for Democrats to refer to, as you can plainly see.

Fiscal matters are only part of it. At the most basic level, Mr. Trump is unfit for office. His lies are so numerous -- from his absurd claim that tariffs are "paid for mostly by China, by the way, not by us," to his prevarication about his crowd sizes, he can't be trusted.

In Mr. Trump, I see the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade. To be sure, I've had my share of controversy. On more than one occasion, I questioned Mr. Obama's truthfulness about his religion. At times, I expressed hate for my political opponents. We now see where this can lead. There's no place in our politics for personal attacks like that, and I regret making them.

I didn't vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 because I liked him. I voted for him because he wasn't Hillary Clinton. Once he was elected, I gave him a fair hearing, and tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I soon realized that I couldn't support him because of the danger he poses to the country, especially the division he sows at every chance, culminating a few weeks ago in his ugly, racist attack on four minority congresswomen.

The fact is, Mr. Trump is a racial arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia to rouse his base and advance his electoral prospects. In this, he inspires imitators.

Republicans should view Mr. Trump as the liability that he is: No matter his flag-hugging, or his military parades, he's no patriot. In front of the world, he sides with Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence community. That's dangerous. He encouraged Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he refuses to take foreign threats seriously as we enter the 2020 election. That's reckless. For three years, he has been at war with our federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as he embraces tyrants abroad and embarrasses our allies. That's un-American.

. . .

Mr. Trump has taken the legitimate differences that Americans have on policy and turned them into personal division. He's caused me to change my tone and to reflect upon where I went over the line and to focus on policy differences moving forward.

We now have a president who retweets conspiracy theories implicating his political opponents in Jeffrey Epstein's death. We now have a president who does his level best to avoid condemning white supremacy and white nationalism.

. . .

We need someone who could stand up, look the president in the eye and say: "Enough, sir. We've had enough of your indecency. We've had enough of your lies, your bullying, your cruelty, enough of your insults, your daily drama, your incitement, enough of the danger you place this country in every single day. We don't want any of this anymore, and the country certainly can't stand four more years of it."

Steve King defends the indefensible, once again

Representative Steve King this week actually defended rape and incest. No, really -- we didn't make that up. In fact, he put forth the novel theory that human life would have been totally wiped out by now if rape and incest hadn't contributed to the propagation of the species. If this sounds jaw-dropping to you, then you may not be familiar with all the other odious things King has said over the years. In fact, the only good thing to be said about this one is: "at least it wasn't racist, like all the other comments he's been condemned for." But that's not saying much.

Here is King, attempting to defend the notion that all abortion should be banned with no exception for rape and incest. Turning his words into a Democratic talking point is pretty easy, obviously (and should include the line "speak for yourself, Steve" ).

What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can't say that I was not a part of a product of that.

Don't quit your day job... or, on second though, maybe you should

Then there was Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, trying to crack wise.

"Trump's Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was speaking to a group of farmers this week, and he ridiculed them for daring to question Our Dear Leader Trump's trade war with China. He thought he'd get a big laugh from the crowd by telling a joke: 'What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar!' but instead it went over like a lead balloon. Farmers have been hit hard by Trump's trade war and they're hurting bad. Net farm income has collapsed -- in 2013 it was over $120 billion but last year it was only $63 billion -- half what it was under Barack Obama. Farmers are filing record numbers of bankruptcies. The head of the National Farmers Union denounced Trump's trade strategy 'of constant escalation and antagonism,' and stated bleakly that farmers 'can't withstand this kind of pressure much longer.' The head of the American Farm Bureau Federation echoed these sentiments, calling the China trade war a 'body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by.' One North Dakota farmer was even more blunt: 'Trump is ruining our markets.' And yet the member of Trump's cabinet who is supposed to care about farmers thinks the whole thing is nothing more than a laughing matter. Well, we'll see how many of these farmers decide that they can't bring themselves to vote for Trump again next year -- the last laugh may wind up being on Trump."

N.R.A. imploding

Finally, some good news!

"The National Rifle Association, for the first time in popular polling, is underwater. Fewer people support the N.R.A. than oppose it at this point, by a margin of 42 percent favorable to 47 percent unfavorable. Their lobbying efforts in Congress in response to the shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton have been described as 'gobbledygook' -- by fellow opponents of gun control, no less. One Republican on Capitol Hill described the N.R.A.'s meltdown as: 'There's no coordinated effort... there is no plan.' Trump himself has been saying the N.R.A. is, quote, 'bankrupt,' unquote. Perhaps this N.R.A. chaos means that Congress will be able to pass some gun safety laws that have the overwhelming support of the American people -- as much as 90-plus percent in the polls. Perhaps the N.R.A. fighting against such overwhelmingly popular ideas has finally caused their own demise -- one can certainly hope so, that's for sure."

Thank you, AIPAC

Pushback against Israel's move to ban two congresswomen came from a rather eye-opening source this week, since AIPAC is usually in close lockstep with Netanyahu, especially over the "boycott, divestment, sanctions" movement. But here's what AIPAC tweeted after the ban was announced, for which they should be praised:

We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib's support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib's calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.

Just sit down with the millions, and solve it over tea

Trump outdid himself on the Hong Kong protests this week.

"Remember back when Barack Obama got a whole lot of grief for not somehow standing up strongly enough for the pro-democracy upsurge in Iran when he was president? Remember how all the conservatives laid all the blame for the Green Revolution's eventual failure at Obama's feet, saying if he had only given them some vocal support the whole thing would have worked? Well, now that there's an enormous pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, where are those same voices berating Donald Trump for not doing the same thing? Trump's answer to the crisis was to suggest that President Xi of China 'meet directly and personally with the protesters' in order to have a 'happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem.' Seriously, that was his response. Trump predicted that the whole thing could be worked out 'in 15 minutes' if they'd just sit down and meet. So much for being a beacon of democracy shining its light on the world, eh? Does anyone in their right mind actually think that Xi and the protesters would have a 'happy and enlightened ending'?"

Moscow Mitch!

We've been repeating this one for a while now, because it seems to be working so well.

"Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ran down the list of bills the Democratic House has already passed this year in a speech this week -- universal background checks on gun purchases, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, election reform, expanding healthcare, and all the rest of it -- before ripping into the other chamber of Congress. She was right to do so, because the man who leads the Senate deserves as much shame as Democrats can heap on, not just for blocking all these very popular ideas, but also for refusing to protect our election system from Russian interference. Pelosi pointed this out in no uncertain terms: 'We sent our legislation to the Senate. Moscow Mitch says that he is the "Grim Reaper." Imagine describing yourself as the "Grim Reaper," that he's going to bury all this legislation.' Pelosi is right -- Moscow Mitch needs to go, if we ever want to see Congress get anything positive done!"

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 -- Let's Replace Columbus Day With Leif Eriksson Day! (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Aug 16 OP
murielm99 Aug 17 #1
oasis Aug 17 #2

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Sat Aug 17, 2019, 12:29 AM

1. Moscow Mitch!


You rock, Nancy!

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

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Sat Aug 17, 2019, 01:44 AM

2. Nicely written. Thanks for posting.


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

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