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Fri Nov 1, 2019, 08:18 PM


Friday Talking Points -- Infair To Rupublicans!

{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."}

Does President Trump's phone even have a spell-checker? One has to wonder, when he tweets so many idiotic misspellings on such a regular basis. This week's gem came directly after the House voted on impeachment inquiry procedures, which Trump wasn't exactly happy about:

Republicans are very unified and energized in our fight on the Impeachment Hoax with the Do Nothing Democrats, and now are starting to go after the Substance even more than the very infair Process because just a casual reading of the Transcript leads EVERYBODY to see that.....

.....the call with the Ukrainian President was a totally appropriate one. As he said, "No Pressure." This Impeachment nonsense is just a continuation of the Witch Hunt Hoax, which has been going on since before I even got elected. Rupublicans, go with Substance and close it out!

Rupublicans? How infair!


For only the third time in the past 100 years, the House of Representatives has now officially gone on the record in favor of an impeachment inquiry. Nancy Pelosi remarked in a floor speech before the vote: "I don't know why Republicans are afraid of the truth. Every member should support the American people hearing the facts for themselves. That is what this vote is about. It's about the truth. And what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy."

This vote is what Republicans have been loudly demanding for weeks, because it is so impossible for them to (as their Dear Leader begs) "go with Substance and close it out!" The substance is inarguable, which is why they haven't bothered to make such arguments. So they've directed their fire on the process instead.

Will the vote held this week make the Republicans happy? No, no it won't. They'll immediately find something else to whine about, because the facts are still the facts and they're impossible to refute. Maybe they'll all start taking their cues from Alaska's Don Young, who just responded to a question about Trump's wrongdoings by (you just can't make this stuff up) headbutting a camera.

The most hilarious argument they've been reduced to making is that the closed-door hearings have been unfair because "Democrats selectively leak testimony to the media." This absolutely ignores the fact that there are 47 Republicans in the room when the testimony is given. As the Washington Post pointed out:

But Republicans on the three committees in these depositions could do the reverse, by leaking information that exonerates Trump. It seems likely that isn't happening not because of their profound respect for the testimony, but because to date there hasn't been information exonerating Trump.

Trump, of course, lives in his own reality, and he's still hoping that the whole impeachment inquiry is somehow going to just go away if he wishes real hard. Kellyanne Conway, the morning before the House vote, echoed this delusional behavior: "You either have the votes or you don't. Guess what? A dirty little secret: They don't have the votes." A few hours later, Nancy Pelosi did indeed have the votes -- 232 of them, to be exact. She only had two defections from her own party, and she picked up the one independent (Justin Amash) in the House. All along, Republicans have been hoping that somehow vulnerable Democrats would refuse to back the impeachment inquiry because they'd be scared of their own prospects for re-election. That didn't turn out to be true, much to Kellyanne's (and Trump's, assumably) surprise.

This is likely due to the fact that impeachment is getting more and more popular with the public, over time. Polls show that support for the impeachment investigation is somewhere around 55 percent, whereas support for impeaching and removing Trump is hovering right around 50 percent. Both of those numbers have been creeping upwards, too. So the smart re-election strategy would be to support impeachment -- something that Republicans may sooner or later realize. So far, that hasn't happened, it's worth mentioning. House Republicans voted unanimously against the impeachment procedures they've been demanding a vote on, without a single defection across the aisle.

The impeachment inquiry has already been moving at top speed, but it's about to move along even faster. Nancy Pelosi is now indicating that the public hearing phase will begin within weeks -- before the end of November. This makes a lot of sense, because the case is so easily provable, and because they've been hearing exactly the same story from pretty much every witness who appears before the committee:

"A lot of the damning evidence already came out. And a lot of these witnesses are corroborating essentially the same narrative, which hasn't changed," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

A House Intelligence Committee source echoed that sentiment, asserting that the investigators gathering reams of evidence behind closed doors are not willing to let the process drag out, especially as the White House seeks to block the testimony of next week's spate of high-level witnesses.

"The reality is we could fill every day of the next month with a new potential witness interview," the source said. "Given the evidence we've collected so far, we think we're ready to enter a public phase sooner than later."

This is smart, because at this point, they could just streamline the process, and ask each new witness: "Please describe what you witnessed Donald Trump and his team doing with Ukraine, by using a Latin phrase."

"Um, that would be quid pro quo."

"What was the quid?"

"Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid and a visit to the White House."

"And what was the quo?"

"Dirt on the Bidens and proof that Russia didn't hack the 2016 elections."

"Thank you, you may be excused... NEXT!"

Pelosi followed the vote with an appearance on Stephen Colbert's show, where she explained the dynamics at play with House Republicans:

"The thing about this, again, it's about the Constitution," Pelosi explained. "We're honoring our oath of office, we're there to strengthen the institution in which we serve, and if they don't want to do that, that's their problem.

"But it's interesting because they have been talking process, process, process, because they know they can't really go near the substance issue," she added.

Trump, meanwhile, has reacted to the news with a rather novel idea -- he's considering going live on television to read the semi-transcript of the Ukraine call. He thinks this would be a modern-day "fireside chat," but in reality it would more accurately be seen as a "dumpster-fireside chat." Or maybe that's too "infair" to the president.

One interesting point worth considering is how this is all going to affect the Democratic presidential race. The candidates are all pretty much on the same page, so this isn't an ideological problem, but rather one of timing. There are still six senators in the race (Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren). If the impeachment happens in December (a likely guess, given the pace things are moving along), then the trial in the Senate will likely take place in January. Would all six candidates faithfully return to Washington to spend six days of every week hearing the presentation of the case, since all senators are in essence jurors? If so, that would mean the loss of a large chunk of time out on the campaign trail at an absolutely crucial moment. Iowa kicks off the primary season at the beginning of February, but if six of the candidates disappeared from the campaign for an extended period of time, it might leave the field wide open to those who aren't sitting senators (Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, most notably).

The possibility exists that some of the candidates might decide that campaigning is more important than being present in the Senate while the trial happens, which they would explain by stating they have already made up their minds with the facts revealed by the House. But it'd be a tricky political decision to make, that's for sure.

There was one other big story in the political world this week, as President Trump totally pre-empted all the Sunday morning talk shows last weekend with the announcement that a raid had successfully killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. Trump's announcement and press conference was (as usual) rather bizarre at times, as when Trump once again came out in favor of war crimes. For years, he's had the mistaken notion that pillaging after a war is somehow acceptable behavior. He has repeatedly stated -- of both Iraq and now Syria -- that America should just go in and take the oil. He was convinced by his military advisors to leave some troops in Syria to protect the oil fields, but his understanding of what this means is seriously flawed. During his Baghdadi announcement, Trump once again stated that America should just go in and grab all the oil we can, because we somehow deserve it.

This led to an incredibly bizarre statement in reaction to Trump's announcement from none other than Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian dictator:

I tell you [Donald Trump is] the best American president. Why? Not because his policies are good, but because he's the most transparent president. All American presidents commit crimes and end up taking the Nobel Prize and appear as a defender of human rights and the "unique" and "brilliant" American or Western principles, but all they are is a group of criminals who only represent the interests of the American lobbies of large corporations in weapons, oil and others. [Trump] speaks with transparency to say, "We want the oil." What do we want more than a transparent foe?

So far, the death of Baghdadi hasn't registered much in Trump's approval polls, which isn't all that unusual. When Barack Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden, his job approval numbers only went up six percent, and by the following month they were right back where they had started from. Bin Laden was known to a lot more Americans than Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, so Trump probably won't see much of a "rally 'round the president" poll bump at all.

One other bizarre footnote from Trump's announcement was pointed out by Dan Froomkin (who just launched a new media watchdog site: "Press Watch" ):

How likely is it that we will soon establish that Donald Trump flat-out lied when he gloated on Sunday morning that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died "running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, crying and screaming all the way"?

I suspect not long. But most news consumers will be surprised.

That's because they didn't read or see any pushback against Trump's comments -- which, even if true, were manifestly sadistic, inappropriate and suggestive of some disturbing interpersonal dynamic.

Trump has a long history of lying about, well, almost everything. As New York Times reporters Peter Baker, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, to their credit, told readers fairly high in their lead story, the video feeds Trump saw could not have detected any whimpering and no other officials independently confirmed Trump's account.

Froomkin then documents how the entire rest of the media world essentially reported this lie unchallenged. We'll be checking Froomkin's new site on a regular basis, because in the past he's always been an excellent scourge of the mainstream media's bias (and laziness, and stenography, and downright idiocy at times).

One other shameful thing that happened early in the week was a concerted Republican attack on a war hero. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded by an I.E.D., was smeared by several lower species of life this week, by an unfounded accusation that because he was born in Ukraine, he somehow must be a double agent for them. This ignores the fact that his family left the former Soviet Union when he was three years old, as well as ignoring his brave service in the uniform of the United States.

One of the lowlifes essentially calling Vindman a spy was that towering ethical maven John Yoo, who (you'll remember) infamously wrote the memo that allowed George W. Bush to torture prisoners. Eventually, to their credit, several Republicans -- Liz Cheney most notable among them -- stood up and denounced these vicious smears. But the best denunciation came from MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, who used to be Bush's White House communications director:

Wallace then went after [Fox News host Laura] Ingraham, [John] Yoo and former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), who suggested on CNN that Vindman's loyalty might be suspect because he was born in Ukraine before his family moved to the United States.

She didn't mince words, either.

After playing a clip of Yoo saying "some people" might call Vindman's work "espionage," she jumped in.

"Except those people aren't chickenshit like the three of you," Wallace said, "and they know he passed a background check that the president's daughter and son-in-law didn't."

Let's see, what else has been going on? Rudy Giuliani apparently butt-dialed an NBC reporter twice over the past few weeks, which led to much merriment on Twitter (example: "Rudy keeps talking out of his ass!" ). Trump's poll numbers are just as dismal as ever. And the Democrats scored a big win in the state courts in North Carolina, where a panel of judges threw out the gerrymandered map of U.S. House districts and ruled that this map cannot be used in the 2020 election.

Oh, and a final note with some very late-breaking news today: Beto O'Rourke is officially out of the Democratic presidential race.

OK, let's move along to the awards, after a shameless plug for our annual Hallowe'en column, filled (as always) with Jack O'Lanterns and two scary tales (for right and left). Boo!

Before we get to the awards this week, we have to admit we just don't know what to think about the resignation of Katie Hill from the House of Representatives. Should she be considered for most impressive or most disappointing? It seems impossible to answer that, given what we know and don't know about what happened.

She is unquestionably the victim of "revenge porn" after nude photos of her were leaked to the rightwing media. Nobody should have to go through that, and she even got some support from a totally unexpected corner:

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of the few lawmakers publicly declaring support for the embattled freshman, said it stems from the "baby boomer era of judgment" looming over Capitol Hill.

"Frankly, I think it's a generational issue," Gaetz said in an interview. "A lot of these baby boomers I serve with don't understand that millennials, by virtue of having smartphones, have shared stupid moments and regrettable moments for a substantial portion of their lives."

"We cannot adopt an ethic that some bad thing or embarrassing thing that you've done, released through the inflamed passions of an ex, somehow impairs your public service or fitness as a candidate," said Gaetz, a conservative bomb-thrower who rarely aligns with Democrats.

You may remember Gaetz, since he was the leader of the Republicans who last week crashed the impeachment hearings -- he's no lefty or anything.

But the story simply isn't that clear cut. If Hill truly was the innocent victim in all of this and is merely being slammed by the husband she's in the process of divorcing, then why did she quit?

She maintains that she did have an affair with a campaign staffer, but that she did not have a second affair with one of her legislative staffers, once she became a member of the House. That second affair accusation has triggered an ethics investigation into Hill.

If the second affair didn't happen, though, she could just have easily announced that she would not be running for re-election in order to give another Democrat a clean shot at holding on to her seat (which was won in a California district that Democrats flipped in 2018). But she resigned immediately instead -- which has the benefit of immediately ending the ethics probe against her.

So we really don't know what to think about the situation. Hill did give an emotional final speech in the House yesterday, and she's vowing to fight for other people who have been victimized the same way she has. That's admirable. But doubts remain about whether she has been telling the truth about the second affair, after her abrupt resignation. So we've decided to pass on giving her any sort of award, at least until further facts come to light.

Moving along, we have to at least give an Honorable Mention to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who just released her fully-paid-for Medicare For All plan. She avoided the "raising taxes on the middle class" trap by instituting new taxes on employers instead of employees. This is a smart way to go, but it seems certain that her fellow Democrats (those not named Bernie, that is...) will continue to attack her on the issue. It'll certainly change the conversation at the next debate, though.

But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She introduced her resolution setting the rules for the impeachment inquiry's public phase this week, and she very elegantly refused to take the Republicans' bait in doing so. Rather than a vote on approving the impeachment inquiry, Pelosi instead let the House vote on the rules for continuing an impeachment inquiry that already exists. Democrats now have an answer to all of the complaints from Trump and his minions about not holding a House vote -- forcing them to make some other inane argument (rather than argue the facts of the case, of course).

Pelosi not only held her vote, she also held her party together. Even though conservatives had deluded themselves into the belief that somehow the vote was going to fail, it didn't. Pelosi never holds votes when she is unsure of the outcome, please remember. In the end, she only lost two of her party's members, which was far fewer than had been predicted. Even Tulsi Gabbard voted for it in the end.

Nancy Pelosi is, without a doubt, the finest "cat herder" the Democrats have seen in their lifetimes. She is without peer in leading the House Democrats, and this week was just another confirmation of this basic fact. Her victory lap on Colbert's show was fun to watch, as well. All around, there's really no other choice this week for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week than Nancy Pelosi.

{Congratulate Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.}

Pelosi may or may not have engaged in a little arm-twisting behind the scenes, but she got more votes for her resolution than anyone expected. Two Democrats everyone had been counting on voting "No" actually flipped when the votes were counted:

Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), one of the few Trump-district Democrats who has been reluctant about backing an impeachment inquiry, voted yes.

"It's about transparency in the process; I like the fact that the transcripts will be made public and the American public will get the chance to understand what's going on," he said Wednesday, adding that he still is not convinced Trump needs to be impeached. "I am not prejudging anything... until I see all the evidence."

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), who was undecided as of Wednesday night, also supported the resolution.

"I think the vote will allow a fair and open process and will finally let Americans judge for themselves," Brindisi told Syracuse.com on Thursday morning.

But it wasn't unanimous. So while we understand the politics of the vote, we still are going to go ahead and award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Representatives Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, the two Democrats who didn't back Pelosi up in the end.

{Contact Representative Collin C. Peterson on his House contact page, and Representative Jeff Van Drew on his House contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.}

Volume 549 (11/1/19)

Another mixed bag this week, as there was (as always) a whole lot going on in politics. To change things up, we're going to lead off this week with the now-standard "Republican denouncing President Trump" talking point, and then work our way through all the rest of the week. Enjoy, and use responsibly.

Tell us what you really think!

Richard W. Painter used to be an ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. He reacted this week to the news that Trump was busy raising money for Republican senators who might consider voting against him if he gets impeached. And Painter most decidedly did not mince his words, on Twitter:

This is a bribe.
Any other American who offered cash to the jury before a trial would go to prison for felony bribery.
But he can get away with it?
Trump lures GOP senators on impeachment with cold cash

The senators can raise their own campaign cash.
Any senator who accepts cash from @realDonaldTrump before the impeachment trial is guilty of accepting a bribe and should go to the slammer.

If @realDonaldTrump doesn't want to get hit with a bribery charge, during the impeachment process he had better stick to raising money for GOP challengers in senate races, not incumbent senators who will vote guilty or not guilty in his case.

How much quid pro quo proof do we need?

Repeat the phrase Trump hates as much as possible.

"House Democrats are reportedly going to move on from their fact-finding stage in the impeachment inquiry because they're hearing exactly the same story over and over again, and at this point they feel that no more proof is necessary. Witness after witness has admitted under oath that Donald Trump did indeed use military aid to Ukraine as a quid pro quo to force them to dig up dirt on his political opponents. One witness reports the quid pro quo, and then the next witness verifies the exact same story. It's been quid pro quo after quid pro quo. No wonder the Republicans aren't making any sort of factual argument and are instead lost in the weeds of process arguments. I mean, how many people have to swear there was a quid pro quo to prove it did indeed happen that way?"

Dot dot dot...

This may or may not wind up being a big deal, but it certainly is pretty easy to make the political case that it is.

"One interesting thing that came out of the testimony of Lt. Col. Vindman was that what the Trump White House released was not actually a full transcript of the Ukrainian phone call. Early on, reporters noticed a few ellipses in the text, and now we have the confirmation that those 'dot dot dots' did indeed represent things that had been edited out of the transcript. So where is the full transcript? What exactly is Trump still hiding? It must be pretty bad, considering what they didn't even bother to edit out of that phone call. I call on the White House to release the full transcript now, because the American people deserve to know what all those 'dot dot dots' are hiding."

We still have values?

Senator Bob Menendez provided a fun "gotcha" moment this week.

"In his Senate hearing to become the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan fully admitted that what Trump did with the Ukraine should not have happened. When asked whether an American president should solicit foreign investigations into his domestic political opponents, Sullivan had to sheepishly admit that doing so would not 'be in accord with our values.' This is Trump's own pick to be our ambassador to Russia, and he seems to have stronger moral values than the man who appointed him, by far."

This shoe may eventually be on the other foot, guys

Yet another massive ethical lapse by Republicans.

"The president admitted last weekend that he informed the Russians of his raid on the Islamic State leader before he had told any of the Democratic leadership in Congress. He flat-out stated that if he had briefed Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they might have turned around and leaked it, thus putting military lives at risk. How insane is that? What possible proof does Trump have to essentially accuse the top two Democrats of treasonous behavior? None! And you know what we heard from Republicans in Congress about this travesty? Nothing! I would warn them, however, of what they're normalizing here. In the future, a Democratic president might decide to leave Republicans in the dark about something -- and they'll have no moral right to complain, since they are obviously OK with Trump doing exactly that. This one could come back to bite them in the future, in other words."

Lock him up!

Hoo boy. Let's go to the replay, shall we?

"Ever since Donald Trump became president, he has avoided all public appearances where he isn't speaking to a hand-picked crowd of his own supporters. He has never faced an actual crowd made up of a cross-spectrum of Americans before, and it is now easy to see why. Trump showed up at a World Series game last week, and boy did the crowd let him know what they thought of Trump. First there was incredibly loud booing from all corners of the stadium, then came the sustained chants of: 'Lock him up!' This is what the baseball-loving public really thinks of Trump, obviously, and Trump certainly didn't look too happy when he heard it. My guess is that this will be the first and last time Trump ever appears before a crowd that he didn't personally select beforehand -- and for good reason."

Good riddance!

Trump decamps. New York politicians "infairly" celebrate.

"Upon hearing the news that Donald Trump had changed his official residence from New York to Florida, a few New York politicians had some very New York things to say about it. Governor Andrew Cuomo reacted with: 'Good riddance... he's all yours, Florida.' And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was even more to the point: 'Don't let the door hit you on the way out or whatever. Our deepest condolences to the good people of Florida as Trump attempts to outrun his past (and near future).' C'mon, Bill, tell us how you really feel. Heh."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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