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Fri Sep 20, 2019, 08:19 PM


Friday Talking Points -- Ukraine-gate? MassiveTrumpCollusion-gate?

{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."}

We're in the midst of a brand-new breaking scandal -- one that's so new it hasn't even been assigned a "-gate" label yet. Ukraine-gate? Kiev-gate? MassiveTrumpCollusion-gate? As was entirely appropriate, Hillary Clinton had the pithiest tweet of the week: "The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election. Again."

What Trump did, apparently, was to pressure the leader of Ukraine to reopen an investigation into Joe Biden's son. Trump reportedly used the threat of stopping military aid to the country to extort his desired outcome. Then when a whistleblower complained about it, the White House and the Department of Justice conspired to cover it up by withholding the official complaint from Congress. That's the crime and the coverup in a nutshell.

The real question, of course, is whether any of it will matter one whit. Bribery is most definitely an impeachable offense, but the Senate Republicans are never going to vote to remove Trump. Whether Trump's impeached or not, the trial in the Senate is still a foregone conclusion, which probably makes the whole scandal a rather moot point. Sad but true, this is our current state of affairs -- Trump can do anything he wants, and Republicans are never going to hold him accountable because they fear his supporters too much. He probably could, as he once boasted, shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

Trump, as he is wont to do, set himself up for some punchlines, by asking in a tweet: "...is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader...?" The answer to that is pretty obvious, as many on Twitter took the time to point out. Trump also called the phone call to the Ukrainian a "perfectly fine and respectful conversation," and insisted "there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!"

Then Trump's personal lawyer went on television, and as Rudy Giuliani is wont to do, admitted that the entire scandal was essentially true. When asked: "So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?" Rudy shot back: "Of course I did."

Democrats, of course, are incensed. Here's just one official response to the growing scandal: "If the president is trying to pressure Ukraine into choosing between defending itself from Russian aggression without U.S. assistance or leveraging its judicial system to serve the ends of the Trump campaign, this would represent a staggering abuse of power, a boon to Moscow and a betrayal of the public trust." Which is actually putting it kind of mildly.

The whole week was pretty surreal, even without all the TrumpExtortion-gate news. Trump tweeted his abject subservience to Saudi Arabia to begin the week -- after boasting that America is "locked and loaded" against Iran after the recent attack on a Saudi oil facility, Trump then admitted who the real commander in chief of America's military is: "...waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!" In other words, Trump's not sure whether we're going to war or not because he has not received his marching orders from the Saudi king. It has become rather trite to say it, but just imagine for one millisecond what Republicans would have said if Barack Obama had ever issued such a statement. In fact, we don't have to wonder, because none other than Donald Trump did back in 2012: "Do we still want a President who bows to the Saudis and lets OPEC rip us off? Make America strong, vote for @MittRomney." In 2014, he also tweeted: "Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won't, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth--$ trillion!"

Tulsi Gabbard had perhaps the best reaction on Twitter, which was chock-full of ridicule for Trump's subservient tweet: "Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia's bitch is not 'America First.'"

The other big news from the Middle East was that Benjamin Netanyahu lost an election. His party came in second in the Israeli parliamentary election, meaning that he may be completely shut out of the next government. His opponent has said he wouldn't form a coalition government with Netanyahu's party unless they remove him as the party's leader. Donald Trump immediately threw Bibi under the bus, stating that "our relations are with Israel," and not Netanyahu himself. Ouch! If even his best buddy Trump is calling him a loser, then Bibi may just be toast.

Trump took the time this week to hold a rally in New Mexico, which he has convinced himself he can win next November. This is completely delusional, but whatever. Speaking of Trump's delusions, he wasn't impressed with Elizabeth Warren's reported crowd size of 20,000 supporters who gathered to hear her speak in New York: "Certainly, if I went to Manhattan, if I went there -- No. 1, she didn't have 20,000 people and No. 2, I think anybody would get a good crowd there. I think you have a good crowd there if you don't even go there, just say you're going and how many people are in the park." Got that? She didn't have 20,000 people, and if she did it's no big deal, and I could get that many even if I didn't show up after announcing I would. In other words, Trump is still pathologically fixated on crowd sizes. And himself, of course.

In the same vein, Trump inserted himself into the news of the death of Cokie Roberts, responding to a question about it with: "I never met her. She never treated me nicely. But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional and I respect professionals. Never treated me well, but I certainly respect her as a professional." In fact, Cokie Roberts had indeed interviewed Trump previously.

Trump also found the time this week to visit his precious border fence, even though it was not new fencing but rather replacement fencing. He magnanimously signed the fence with a Sharpie pen (because of course he did). Then he asked the border agent in charge to describe the secret technology they were deploying to protect the border, but thankfully the guy was smart enough to tell Trump that doing so would be a really stupid thing to do. He put it more politely than that, though: "Sir, there could be some merit in not discussing that." Ya think?

After teasing that this might be the week for White House action on gun safety legislation, Team Trump did a rather odd faceplant. They were up on Capitol Hill circulating a draft gun bill agenda to Republicans when someone leaked the document to a right-wing news source. This led to a quick backlash from the N.R.A. and it bizarrely led to the White House disavowing the draft that they were supposed to be whipping support for. Since Mitch McConnell has abdicated all legislative power to the president on the issue, it's looking like nothing's going to get done. And here's a grim stat -- for the first time ever, in 2017, more Americans were killed by guns than by auto accidents. While Mitch McConnell dithers.

Over in the House, Nancy Pelosi is hard at work attempting to make things better for all Americans, however. She just unveiled a plan to rein in prescription drug company profits, although it wasn't as strong as it could have been. Still, it will begin building a regulatory system that is becoming more necessary by the day. This could even be an issue where Pelosi could cut a deal with Donald Trump to force Mitch McConnell to take action, since Trump has long been in favor of doing something to bring down the out-of-control prices on prescription drugs. Republicans refuse to act, but if Trump gets behind it maybe they'll have to.

In election news, Joe Kennedy III is going to take on sitting Democratic Senator Ed Markey in Massachusetts. This is entirely a generational battle, since both men are about as progressive as you can get. So it's not a progressive-versus-centrist battle at all, it's an old-guy-versus-fresh-young-face fight. Kennedy's last name will, of course, give him an edge in the race, but it will be an interesting one to keep an eye on nonetheless.

In the presidential race, we are finally down below 20 candidates, as Bill de Blasio threw in the towel this morning. This still leaves 19 candidates to choose from, so there's still no shortage of Democrats running.

Bernie Sanders announced he now has over one million donors, a feat that was unimaginable before he entered presidential politics. And almost all of them have not yet given the maximum amount, so he's sitting on a gold mine of still-tappable supporters. Sanders announced a staff shakeup in New Hampshire and Iowa this week, but the real setback for him was when the Working Families Party announced it was endorsing Elizabeth Warren over him. In 2016, Sanders got their endorsement, so it's kind of personal to lose out on it this time.

An old video circulated (which raised some eyebrows) of Joe Biden telling a story about a gang leader called "Corn Pop" that sounded like it was straight out of West Side Story, but the whole thing is so silly we're just going to mention it and move on.

Kamala Harris is (as she put it) "fucking moving to Iowa," as she pins her whole campaign's hopes on doing well enough there to make it to Super Tuesday. However, she's got a big job in front of her, if a recent Iowa state poll can be believed. Biden led the poll with 25 percent, with Elizabeth Warren right behind at 23 percent, but Harris only pulled in a measly five percent -- down a whopping thirteen points from the previous poll. This puts her way down in sixth place. As we said, she's got a long way to go.

And Beto O'Rourke unveiled an interesting policy idea this week. He's calling for "drug war justice" grants to be paid to people who have spent time in prison for marijuana offenses. While this is an interesting idea, what's even more interesting is how Democrats have moved beyond merely calling for marijuana legalization and are now attempting to actually right some of the wrongs that the whole War On Weed has done over the decades.

And finally, two unrelated items to close on, one disgusting and one demeaning. A judge in upstate New York was forced to resign after he posted an image of a noose online, with the slogan: "If we want to make American great again we will have to make evil people fear punishment again." He also had to swear "never to seek or accept judicial office at any time in the future," which must be a relief to upstate New Yorkers.

Not to be outdone by Rick Perry, Sean Spicer made his debut on Dancing With The Stars this week, in a lime green shirt complete with ruffles. No, seriously. His dancing was likened, by one judge, to "being attacked by a swarm of wasps." It is a sight that, once seen, can never be unseen. That's really about all you can say about such a demeaning spectacle.

The shaming of Mitch McConnell with the label "#MoscowMitch" deserves some sort of mention here, because it worked so effectively.

Also worth mentioning are all the GM workers who are out on strike, mostly because the media is almost completely ignoring the work stoppage. This really should be bigger news than it so far has been.

Today, millions of students went out "on strike" themselves, to bring attention to climate change. One leader of this movement, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, appeared before a congressional committee this week and humbly offered up a United Nations report on the crisis as her testimony: "I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don't want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists. I want you to unite behind science. And then I want you to take real action. Thank you." That's pretty impressive, we have to admit.

But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to Elizabeth Warren, who gave a speech in New York City this week to 20,000 people. From a Washington Post report (that called it a "masterful, inspiring speech" ):

When she bounded onto the stage, at Washington Square Park in lower Manhattan, you wouldn't have expected someone so enthusiastic to start her address with a depressing story. But Warren began by recalling the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, which killed 146 garment workers -- almost all women -- in just 18 minutes, only a block from where she was standing. It wasn't just the bosses who locked them in the factory to prevent theft who were to blame for the fire and the deaths, Warren said; it was a corrupt political establishment, doing the bidding of wealthy business owners, who created the conditions that led to the tragedy. "Business owners got richer, politicians got more powerful, and working people paid the price," Warren said. "Does any of that sound familiar?"

Why, yes, it does.

From the Triangle fire, Warren argued that our inability to make any positive change on matters ranging from climate change, income inequality, gun control and health-care reform is the result of the corrupt capture of our government by the obscenely wealthy to keep and increase their money and power, the rest of us be damned. She outlined her plan, debuted Monday morning, to tackle Washington corruption. It's similar to legislation she introduced last year. "Corruption has put our planet at risk. Corruption has broken our economy. And corruption is breaking our democracy," she said. She also discussed her wealth tax, which would raise money to pay for universal child care, make public colleges tuition free, and wipe out the vast majority of student debt. "Two cents," the crowd chanted, quoting back her line at how little -- a 2 percent annual tax on assets -- that plan will cost people with a net worth of more than $50 million.

Warren then turned to the female-dominated reform movement of the Gilded Age. She evoked Frances Perkins, witness to the Triangle fire, whose activism changed fire safety rules after the tragedy, and who went on to serve as Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of labor, helping to enact everything from Social Security to the nation's first national minimum wage law. "Frances pushed from the inside," Warren said. "Frances Perkins became the first woman in history to serve in the Cabinet. And what did she do when she got there? Big structural change." It took Perkins and all the women -- so many of the reformers were women -- who marched with her, over and over again, to slowly but surely reform the system and American lives for the better, Warren said. To make change, she argued, requires the cooperation of both the activists who challenge the power and the bridge figures, like Perkins -- and Warren, or so her argument goes.

As if all that weren't impressive enough, Warren then stayed afterwards to take selfies with her fans for four hours. Her campaign has been counting how many selfies she's taken with supporters, and win or lose she will doubtlessly go down in history as the presidential candidate with the most selfies ever.

Also, as previously noted, Warren's impressive turnout sparked a moment of petulance from Donald Trump. As the campaign gets more intense, we can obviously expect this sort of thing every time a Democrat draws crowds in the tens of thousands of people, which is all to the good.

Kidding aside, though, we're giving Warren the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week solely for the speech itself, which was a real barn-burner. Warren is obviously making good use of the spotlight, and she's making some very impressive points along the way. Frances Perkins is certainly an admirable role model for Warren to cite, and weaving in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire story was also very appropriate. For giving such a masterful speech, Elizabeth Warren is once again our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

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

If we were Canadian, we'd obviously give this award to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, eh? Trudeau proved this week that white politicians with blackface photos in their past isn't a purely American problem.

Instead, we're reaching pretty far down in prominence to give the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award to a candidate for mayor in Memphis, Tennessee. Tami Sawyer began in politics as the face of the movement to take down the city's Confederate monuments, and she was looking to become the first woman and only the third black mayor in the city's history. She is running as a progressive.

Unfortunately, she has an online history of making some rather offensive remarks about lesbians. She's also used the word "retarded," which is a big no-no these days. These weren't from decades ago or anything, either, but from just five or six years ago. She did profusely apologize for her past language, which she said she used back when she was "a twenty-something" who was "preoccupied with myself, my own story, and having fun with friends." From her apology:

There are tweets that show a woman who, at that point, still hadn't come to terms with her homophobia, who still wasn't standing up and being a voice for all, regardless of ability. I am, not just deeply ashamed, but deeply sorry for those tweets, the harm they caused at the time, and the harm that seeing them now will still bring up, especially for members of those communities, and for all of us....

It is clear that I have not always been the person that I am today. I have said things on public platforms that are hurtful, offensive, and just wrong. As someone who works every day in the fight for justice, I am sorry I ever thought these things, said these things, and amplified these things. I am embarrassed by my past self and I am grateful to have had the space, the teachers, and the desire to grow beyond that version of me.

To those my words and actions from my past hurt: I am sorry.

But it's going to be tough for her to survive these revelations. Her mean-girl tweets were pretty bad, including one that seems to us to be absolutely disqualifying:

the lady whos dog got euthanized @ the shelter made me laugh. i know its mean, but she was crying and she just looked crazy.

Wow. That's not just brutal, that's downright inhumane.

Which is why, even though it is a minor political race, we simply had no choice this week. We had to give Tami Sawyer the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week because nothing else really even came close.

{Tami Sawyer is currently not in office, and it is our blanket policy not to provide links to campaign websites, so you'll have to search her contact information yourself if you'd like to let her know what you think of her actions.}

Volume 543 (9/20/19)

Kind of a mixed bag this week, with yet another "Republican publicly denounces Trump and calls for him to be ousted at the ballot box" opinion piece at the end. These are becoming almost a weekly occurrence, it seems.

A new superlative for Trump

Most. Corrupt. Ever.

"Donald Trump will go down in history as the most corrupt president ever. This week we learned that he's not only colluding with a foreign government to increase his chances of re-election; he's not only doing so while he is president; he's not only using extortion to do so; but he's actually using taxpayer money to bribe the Ukrainian leader to provide dirt on Joe Biden. That is downright stunning when you think about it. And where is the so-called 'law and order' party? They're jamming their heads in the sand once again, because they don't want to hear what their Dear Leader has been up to. Republicans are going to have to answer to history for their inaction, because it is now painfully obvious that we have the most corrupt president of all time."

Waiting for the marching orders

Waiting to hear what to do....

"Remember that time that Barack Obama bowed to Saudi royalty and conservatives had a hissy fit? Well, this week President Trump did more than just bow, he got down and licked their boots. He tweeted out that he was, quote, waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed, unquote. He is literally asking them for marching orders. Since when has Saudi Arabia been in charge of the United States military? Since when do American presidents wait for other world leaders to tell them what to do? And come to think of it, why can't Saudi Arabia fight its own wars? We certainly have sold them every military weapons system they've ever asked for, so why aren't they the ones to respond to an attack on their own soil? Wasn't that kind of the point of selling them all that stuff in the first place?"

Speaking of marching orders

Kowtowing seems to be happening all over Washington these days.

"There has been a shift in power in the United States Senate, as the Republican Party no longer takes its own marching orders directly from the N.R.A., they are now waiting for President Trump to tell them what to do on gun safety legislation. The Senate used to be an independent entity, with co-equal powers to the executive branch, but under Mitch McConnell they've become nothing short of Trump's lapdog. This is pathetic, and shows more than anything else how the once-proud Republican Party is now no more than a personality cult. It's sad to watch, really."

Trump's not the only corrupt one

Here's a scandal that could have wider repercussions.

"Speaking of Mitch McConnell, his wife Elaine Chao is now under investigation for corruption by the House, because apparently she's been using her job in Trump's cabinet as a way to help her family's fortunes. Her father and her sisters own a shipping company that moves goods between the U.S. and China, and Elaine has helped the family firm out by trying to include her relatives in meetings with Chinese officials, and letting her father boast of his influence on Air Force One. James Chao has given millions of dollars to both Elaine and to her husband, Mitch McConnell, over the years. It looks like it was a good investment, because he's certainly cashing in with the Chinese government now."

Put the Green in Green New Deal

Democratic candidates for president need to do a much better job of outreach to one particular group: farmers.

"This week, a letter signed by 500 farmers and organizations that represent 10,000 farms was sent to Congress, in support of the Green New Deal. The letter calls for 'the transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy alternatives, and the transition away from industrial agriculture toward family farm-based organic and regenerative farming and land-use practices that improve soil health and draw down and sequester carbon.' Farmers can be instrumental in Democratic plans for a new green economy, and any Democrat who isn't talking directly to the farmers about how they can be a part of it is a fool. Instead of writing them off as 'flyover country,' Democrats should offer farmers a seat at the table when discussing climate change. The letter concludes with a vision of how this can happen: 'We call on Congress to put the "Green" in the Green New Deal by empowering us to revitalize the health and economic security of this country's middle class, to make family farming economically viable again, and to help reverse climate change and improve America's air and water quality by making our ecosystems healthy again.' Democrats should take them up on this offer, obviously."

How Democrats are going to win in 2020

Some good news from an unexpected source.

"The numbers are in, and college students more than doubled their voting rate in the 2018 election as compared to the last midterm in 2014. Turnout rose the most sharply among young adults, in fact, out of any demographic group. College women are voting at a higher rate than men, and black women are voting more reliably than any other racial or gender group. And that's in an off year, without a presidential election. While the Republican Party increasingly relies on older white voters as their base, the Democrats are growing their party with young voters leading the wave. If young voters turn out in record numbers in 2020, then they will be at the forefront of putting a Democrat back in the White House while we all wave goodbye to Donald Trump."

A comatose crew

Opinion articles by Republicans denouncing Trump have become almost an art form in their own right. This week's entry to the genre comes from Abel Guerra, a Latino who worked in the White House for George W. Bush who is now begging his fellow Republicans to vote Trump out of office. Here's an extended excerpt, any portion of which could easily be a Democratic talking point this week.

Sept. 15 was the start of Hispanic Heritage Month -- a time that celebrates a community built on faith, family and a strong work ethic. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, judges, members of the military, police officers and even astronauts. All contribute greatly to the United States.

The feeling is not reciprocated by today's Republican Party. It is no place for Latinos. We don't feel welcome in a party that condones racism and looks away while the president degrades our community and destroys America. The once-proud party of Lincoln, established to abolish slavery, has been transformed into a comatose crew brainwashed by white identity politics and narrow-minded nationalist nostalgia.

. . .

Republicans have lost control of the monster they helped create. Trump hasn't changed. From day one, Trump spewed his white-supremacist views, promising to halt the invasion of immigrants and spurring a rhetoric of resentment and retaliation against the "other." No matter our background, we have been vilified as invaders, marked as illegal and degraded as subhuman. The silence from prominent Republicans is deafening. They have allowed Trump to normalize bigotry and use it as a winning strategy for their benefit. They enabled him to turn racist rhetoric into racial conflict, dividing our nation.

. . .

And now, they have blood on their hands. The Walmart shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3 was the inevitable outcome of 30 straight months of hate speech coming from the White House. Fueled by the president's vitriol, a killer sought out immigrants to slaughter. The shooting isn't just a tragedy; it's a massacre, a direct hit against our community. Do not imagine we do not all feel the consequences. I have a friend who lives in Austin. She says she no longer feels comfortable going to a store to purchase diapers for her child.

. . .

Republicans need to dust off their moral compass and remember what they stand for -- and what they stand against. If they do not, they will lose Latinos forever and relegate themselves once more to minority status, likely unable to regain control of Congress or the White House again. If countering racism is not motivation enough for the GOP to act, perhaps its looming political demise will be.

The United States is a great country. Hispanic Heritage Month honors the contributions the community has made -- and will keep making -- to keep it that way. And without Trump, the United States will be even better.

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 -- Ukraine-gate? MassiveTrumpCollusion-gate? (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Sep 2019 OP
sharedvalues Sep 2019 #1
flying rabbit Sep 2019 #2
CaliforniaPeggy Sep 2019 #3
ChrisWeigant Sep 2019 #4

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Sep 20, 2019, 08:52 PM

1. Collusion II-gate


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

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Sat Sep 21, 2019, 11:37 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)

Sun Sep 22, 2019, 06:24 AM

3. Very well done, ChrisWeignant!


You write well, and your thoughts are amazing and right on.

Keep on doing it. We need your clear vision during these turbulent times.

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 Sep 27, 2019, 07:48 PM

4. Kind words


Well, thank you for the kind words!

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

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