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Member since: Tue Jun 24, 2008, 01:34 PM
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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Slumps

It was another rather momentous week in politics, as the Republicans chalked up enough midterm wins to retake control of the House of Representatives but fell short in the Senate, where Democrats picked up one seat (which is enough to assure them control) with one race still waiting for a runoff election in early December. The GOP will have a razor-thin House majority, which is quite likely to produce nothing but chaos for the next two years. After the results were known, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she (and her whole team) would step away from leadership roles and allow a generational shift to happen in the Democratic House caucus. And Donald Trump formally announced his third bid for the presidency, which didn't exactly go over as well as he might have hoped. Plus there will be the first White House wedding in years, and Joe Biden will become the first octogenarian to occupy the Oval Office when he turns 80 years old on Sunday. All in all, a big week.

Let's start with Trump's announcement first, because there has been a notable shift in his media coverage, as well as his relative power within the Republican Party. Here is how the Washington Post covered his speech -- in a news story, not an opinion piece. For once, they provided the proper amount of context:

Donald Trump, the twice-impeached former president who refused to concede defeat and inspired a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election culminating in a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, officially declared on Tuesday night that he is running to retake the White House in 2024.

The announcement at his Florida Mar-a-Lago Club came in a moment of political vulnerability for Trump as voters resoundingly rejected his endorsed candidates in last week's midterm elections. Since then, elected Republicans have been unusually forthright in blaming Trump for the party's underperformance and potential rivals are already openly plotting challenging Trump for the nomination.

. . .

"This comeback starts right now," Trump said Tuesday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort, the site three months ago of an FBI search warrant to recover records he took from the White House, including some that were highly classified. He added later, "In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States."

. . .

Trump's urgency to announce also comes from wanting to get ahead of a potential indictment in any of the several ongoing criminal investigations into his conduct. He and close associates are under multiple criminal investigations: by the Justice Department for the effort to submit phony electors claiming Trump won key states in the 2020 election and for the mishandling of classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago; and by an Atlanta-area prosecutor for pressuring Georgia officials to overturn that state's election results. His company is also in the middle of a trial for criminal tax fraud and the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit that could freeze the company's operations, already winning the appointment of an independent monitor.

A defeated former president running for election again while facing potential criminal indictment is unprecedented in U.S. history. Trump becomes the first former president to run again since Theodore Roosevelt, and the first since Grover Cleveland to do so after losing reelection. He is the only president to be impeached twice, and the only one impeached by a bipartisan vote.

. . .

And he has profoundly altered the tenor of American public life -- shattering long-held standards of decorum and civility with often shocking attacks on political rivals, judges and reporters. He has frequently made racist and antisemitic remarks, mocked people with disabilities and denigrated developing countries, bragged about sexual assault and paid hush money to a porn start, praised dictators, declined to disavow extremists, inspired his supporters to resort to violence and defended white supremacists and Jan. 6 rioters.

As we said, the proper amount of context is key. The New York Times ran their story with the headline: "Trump Announces 2024 Run, Repeating Lies And Exaggerating Record." But it wasn't just the mainstream media, Trump took some incoming fire from members of his own party as well:

"He's doing it from a place of defensiveness, of his own self-opportunity and weakness," New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), fresh from a 16-point win in the first presidential primary state, said in an interview earlier Tuesday outside the Republican Governors Association meeting in Orlando. "So he's announcing he's going to run for president at a low point in his political career. I don't know how that's going to work out, man."

What really must have hurt was how even the rightwing media largely expressed disappointment. The group MeidasTouch helpfully put together a video of all of these moments, for anyone who is interested. Sean Hannity even cut away from Trump's speech halfway through on Fox News, which had to have hurt.

Trump's speech was low-energy and frankly pretty boring to listen to. It was supposed to last 35 minutes, but he ad-libbed so much it wound up lasting over an hour:

Trump aide Jason Miller promised a 35-minute, "very forward-looking" speech. Instead, it was interminable, meandering and, well, low-energy, as Trump kept departing from the teleprompter into gibberish.

He was defensive. He said the "fake news" is "trying to blame me" for the disappointing election showing, but he had an "unprecedented success rate" (!) with his endorsements.

He spoke nonsense: "I've gone decades -- decades -- without a war, the first president to do it that long," he said of his four-year term.

And Republicans think Joe Biden's got declining mental facilities? Sure, OK, Trump's time in office felt like it was decades long (to the rest of us), but that's just a bizarre thing to say.

Trump apparently invited lots of GOP bigwigs down to hear him speak. Virtually none of them showed up:

The party's chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, was not present. Nor were several of Trump's most reliable congressional allies, such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida or Jim Jordan of Ohio, who in some cases blamed their absence on the weather.

Among the few notable Republicans present were Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), who lost his primary and is leaving office; Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock; and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Instead, the crowd was padded with Trump rally superfans, alt-right influencers, and alumni of various Trump political and business ventures. There were no prominent elected officials.

Even the crowd he did manage wasn't all that into it -- people tried to leave in the middle of his speech but Trump's security barred the doors and wouldn't let them out (you just can't make this stuff up, folks!). Ivanka Trump immediately announced she wasn't going to have anything to do with her daddy's campaign.

The bloom seems to be decidedly off the Trumpian rose, to put it mildly.

Trump's other reason for announcing early was to get the whole party to rally around him and thus cause any other Republican contemplating a run to think twice about it. This didn't really work either -- there hasn't been a notable rallying effect at all. Unless you count the megadonors who are rallying around the idea of never giving another dime to Trump, that is.

Before we move on to other news, Trump's legal situation got noticeably worse this week, as a Republican operative was convicted of funnelling Russian cash to Trump's first election campaign, and the Department of Justice announced the appointment of a special counsel to handle any impending indictments of Trump. It was also revealed that Trump did indeed try to sic the I.R.S. on his political enemies while in office.

Moving on, America will now have to endure a 2-year clown show in the House, under the "leadership" of Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy will have exactly the same problem Nancy Pelosi did -- of having to keep all the wings of the party happy and in line -- but it's a pretty safe bet that he won't be anywhere near as successful at doing so. He hasn't even secured enough votes from his caucus for the official speaker election in January, at this point. In their own private vote, 31 Republicans voted against him. He will be able to afford only perhaps 4 or 5 defections to win the speakership, so he's got a lot of cajoling to do in the meantime.

What we can expect to see -- indeed, the first thing the Republicans in the House announced to the public -- are lots and lots of investigations. Remember Benghazi? Like that, only in multiple directions at once. This is going to prove to the American public that the Republicans' answer to high inflation, high gas prices, the border situation, crime, and any number of other things they ran on will be to delve into Hunter Biden's laptop. That's their plan for governing, apparently.

They (quite obviously) risk going too far, but they don't seem to have a glimmer of understanding on that front (except, just maybe, on whether they'll immediately impeach Biden or anyone else). The more unhinged these "investigations" are, the easier it is going to be for Democrats to win back the chamber in 2024, plain and simple.

Over on the Senate side, Mitch McConnell lost 10 votes (a fifth of his caucus) in his own leadership election. To Senator Rick Scott, who took Trumpian refusal to admit reality to a whole new level with his bid:

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who was charged with delivering his party a Senate majority this year, gazed upon his work this cycle and saw evidence of his genius. True, Republicans lost many winnable races and will not take control of the chamber. They may lose in Georgia. Scott's release of an "11 Point Plan to Rescue America" was a public relations disaster that sent Republicans fleeing. Democrats used it as a weapon all the way to Election Day.

And yet, despite all this, Scott decided he was the man to lead Senate Republicans to future glory.

That puzzling notion led Scott, who chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle, to mount a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Scott announced his leadership bid at a contentious meeting of his colleagues Tuesday. "It was like Festivus from 'Seinfeld,'" Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said. "The airing of grievances."


While Republicans were in disarray, however, for once Democrats were in perfect array. The generational leadership handoff is going to be one of the smoothest ever. Pelosi and her team of other octogenarians will all step back from leadership and become backbenchers for the next two years, and there will be no squabbles about who will replace them. But we've got more to say on this whole subject down in the awards, so we'll leave it at that for now.

Speaking of disarray in the GOP world, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was named the loser of her race but is refusing to concede, issuing promises to "keep fighting," which could possibly mean some court cases (that will be laughed out of the courtroom, of course). In Georgia, where the election isn't over yet, Herschel Walker showed America once again how patently unfit he is to serve in the Senate by going on a riff about vampires and werewolves. No, really!

[Herschel] Walker, the Trump-backed former NFL running back facing Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in a run-off election on December 6, went off on a lengthy tangent about the film "Freak Night" during a speech in McDonough, Ga.

"I was here watching a stupid movie late at night hoping it's gonna get better, it don't get better but you keep watching anyway. Cause the other night, the other night I was watching this movie -- I was watching this movie called "Fright Night," "Freak Night" or some type of night but it was about vampires," he said. "I don't know if you know but vampires are some cool people, are they not?"

"But let me tell you something that I found out: a werewolf can kill a vampire, did you know that?" he added. "I never knew that. So I don't want to be a vampire anymore, I wanna be a werewolf."

There's more of it, if you can stomach it. One funny line from later in the article: "'There are no werewolves in Tom Holland's 1985 film Fright Night' wrote journalist Adam Ward."

And to close on a feel-good item, America is back on track to return to the moon. The Artemis I rocket carrying three mannequins successfully lifted off from Florida and will travel to lunar orbit before returning. This is the first such mission in 50 years and will serve as a test flight to work out any problems before human astronauts make the voyage. The launch had been delayed more than once and for more than one reason, but after its successful launch is now on its way to circle the moon. For those of us old enough to remember Apollo, this will be very nostalgic, but for anyone of any age it should be a truly inspiring event.

First, some celebratory news. President Joe Biden's granddaughter Naomi King Biden will tie the knot in a White House wedding with her fiancé Peter George Heermann. The next day, Biden will celebrate (reportedly in very subdued fashion) his 80th birthday. Congratulations all around!

We have three Honorable Mention awards to hand out this week, two for a bill that advanced and one for his future in the Democratic Party.

A key vote was held this week as the lame-duck Congress kicked off, as the Senate cleared the Respect For Marriage Act by a vote of 62-37. This will codify marriage equality into federal law, hopefully putting the subject beyond the reach of the radical Republican Supreme Court. The two Democratic cosponsors of the bill, who agreed to hold off on the vote until after the midterms were over, were Senators Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema. They both deserve credit for getting enough bipartisan support for the bill to advance. Only one more vote remains in the Senate, and it will only require 51 votes, not 60, so it is pretty much a done deal at this point.

And it was announced that Hakeem Jeffries would become the next leader of the House Democrats, which will make him the first Black person to ever lead a national party in Congress and will put him on track (if the Democrats retake control) to become the first Black speaker of the House. Which is pretty historic, you've got to admit.

Of course, Jeffries will be able to move up in the ranks because Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she will be stepping away from leadership for the next two years. Her floor speech was a moving testament to how historic a leader she has been, and to her own strength of character.

Nancy Pelosi broke all the glass ceilings on her way up to leading the Democrats, first becoming party whip and then in 2003 becoming the first woman to hold the rank of minority leader. In 2007, after the Democrats won back control, she became the first woman speaker in history. When the Republicans took back control in 2011, she did not step down but stayed on to lead her party in the minority again, and was rewarded for her persistence in 2019, when she assumed the speakership for the second time. For the past 20 years, Pelosi has been a political force in Washington.

Pelosi's legacy is secure. Some are even now calling her the most successful speaker in all of American history. We're not entirely sure about that one (it's pretty subjective), especially since we have no idea of what the House was like in its first 150 years or so (due to never having delved into the subject). But in our minds, Pelosi was at the very least the strongest speaker since Tip O'Neill, who was a truly legendary leader.

Losing control of the House made the decision to step down fairly easy -- it would have been a different story, perhaps, if the Democrats had pulled off the miracle of retaining control of the House. In that case, Pelosi might just have stuck around for another two years of leading Democrats, since doing so would be awfully tempting (with a Democratic Senate and president to work with). But since that wasn't the case, it meant the time had come for Nancy to go.

Pelosi showed her steely control of her party in the way she exited, as well. There will be no intraparty squabble about who will take over, because all of Pelosi's team was also convinced to step down at once -- opening up the whole leadership team for a generational change in power. The smoothness of the transition is indeed a testament to Pelosi's skills in keeping her party together in both good times and bad.

As we pointed out when writing about Pelosi's speech yesterday, this may not be the end of the D'Alesandro/Pelosi political dynasty, as at least one of her daughters seems interested in perhaps stepping into the San Francisco House seat when Nancy retires from politics altogether. Whether that takes place or not, Nancy Pelosi will be long remembered in Washington as one of the strongest and most successful speakers the House of Representatives has ever had.

So it is with our own thanks that we hand Pelosi yet another Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, to add to her collection of them. Nancy Pelosi will certainly be remembered for a very long time to come by us.

[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

Let's see... there are a whole lot of Taylor Swift fans who are more than a little disappointed in Ticketmaster, that's for sure. And Twitter seems on the brink of grinding to a halt as well, but neither one of those things is strictly political, we just thought we'd mention them in passing....

There is a lot of disappointment in the New York Democrats who lost four House seats that they really shouldn't have, because this alone might have been enough to hold onto control of the chamber.

But the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week goes to President Joe Biden, for the announcement today that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (or "M.B.S." ) has been granted legal immunity within America. Here's the story:

The Biden administration has granted legal immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a protection that even President Donald Trump's administration didn't offer.

For critics of MBS, as the Saudi leader is known, the immunity decision is a slap in the face. It will likely rouse new protests in Congress and among human rights activists that the Biden administration is accommodating Mohammed for reasons of realpolitik -- and compromising its values in the process.

The decision was triggered by a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington against MBS and some 20 other defendants by the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, a Post contributing columnist who was murdered by Saudi operatives in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. The suit alleges that the crown prince and his co-defendants were responsible for the murder.

The action is the latest in a cascade of controversies that followed the murder, which the CIA concluded resulted from an operation authorized by MBS. The Trump administration shielded the Saudi leader, but President Biden initially claimed he would hold him accountable, describing him as a "pariah." But over time, Biden has sadly capitulated to what he viewed as a need to mend relations with the man who might be Saudi Arabia's king for decades.

A State Department official said the decision to grant immunity was a "purely legal decision," triggered by MBS's recent elevation to prime minister. But the State Department and the White House could have intervened on policy grounds to prevent granting the legal exemption, which MBS has sought for more than two years.

U.S. District Judge John Bates, who is hearing the Khashoggi case, asked the Justice Department in July for a ruling on whether MBS should be granted sovereign immunity, as his lawyers requested. On Sept. 27, three days before the deadline for the Justice Department's response, Saudi King Salman declared his son prime minister. That triggered Thursday's decision that MBS was entitled to sovereign immunity as a "head of government." Bates could conceivably reject the State Department filing, but such a rejection of a government option he had requested would be unlikely.

On the face of it, the whole "sovereign immunity" might seem like a hard-and-fast legal status for America to grant to other world leaders. But there's one very big flaw with that reasoning, and his name was Manuel Noriega. We not only tried him in an American court, we actually launched a war to go snatch him away from Panama -- the country he was leader of, at the time. So it's not like there isn't precedent that points the other direction as well.

Biden's decision is even more galling when you consider that the Saudis ignored Biden's plea to pump more oil in the run-up to the midterm election and instead snubbed him by announcing a reduction in production -- perhaps in an effort to influence the election in Republicans' favor. This was a serious insult to Biden, which makes today's announcement all the worse.

Sooner or later America will wean itself from fossil fuel and will thus be able to ignore what dictatorships in the Middle East do, but that day is still far in the future. Until we get there, we have to care about our relationship with Saudi Arabia whether we like it or not. Which leads to things like what Biden just approved. For doing so, even if it was geopolitically necessary, Joe Biden is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Contact President Joe Biden on his White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 686 (11/18/22)

Our talking points are kind of all over the map this week, but at least we've got two rather amusing items to close the list on. Enjoy, and as always use responsibly!

Thank you, Madam Speaker

Democrats are already doing a pretty excellent job of showing Nancy Pelosi with praise this week, so this talking point is largely not even necessary to suggest. But we wanted to get our own thanks in.

"Thank you Nancy Pelosi for herding the Democratic cats better than anyone ever thought was possible. Thank you for holding your caucus together through thick and thin. Thank you for all the historic legislation you shepherded through the House of Representatives. Thank you for your groundbreaking achievements for women everywhere. Thank you for being a Democratic leader we all could look up to. Thank you for the past two decades of your leadership. While we still can use the title, we'd like to say thank you Madam Speaker for all that you have accomplished."

A proven winner

This is a point worth making.

"Democratic politicians usually do better with the voters when they are willing to actually stand up for people, instead of just giving lip service to their concerns right before every election. And this past election showed without a shadow of a doubt that standing up for women's rights is a proven winner. The media missed this, but Democrats on the ground campaigning couldn't ignore it. Women voters were angry at the rights being taken away from them by a radical rightwing Supreme Court. It wasn't some passing issue for them. And Democrats finally, as a whole, stood up strongly for women's rights instead of shying away from the issue (as they have done far too many times in the past). This is the biggest lesson of the 2022 midterms: women's rights are important, and standing strong for them is a proven way to win elections. I hope other Democrats never forget this lesson."

Fight back -- do your jobs!

There's a flip side to this too.

"The way to fight back against the extremists on the Supreme Court is for Congress to write these things into federal law so there is no legal question to even contemplate. The Senate just moved forward this week to pass marriage equality into federal law. Some Republicans voted against this, saying that such a law isn't needed because a previous court decision legalized same-sex marriages. But as we all have seen, that means nothing any more. Precedent and stare decisis are meaningless words to the radicals on the high court. So Congress has to step up and pass basic rights into federal law. Marriage equality should just be the beginning of this effort, too. The right to contraception, voting rights, and the right to an abortion all need to be written into law as well. For now, I was happy to see the first of these efforts succeed in the House. The Respect For Marriage Act should appear on Joe Biden's desk for his signature before Christmas, and we look forward to seeing him sign it into law."

Democracy won

Another thing the media scoffed at, before the election actually happened.

"There's one other big takeaway from the 2022 midterms: democracy won. People who ran on the Big Lie conspiracy theory that the previous election had somehow been 'stolen' lost all across America. Some won minor offices, but the ones running to put themselves in charge of running the elections systems lost their races in virtually all the swing states. They lost governors' races and contests for secretary of state. So in 2024 the public in all of these states can rest assured that their votes won't be ignored and that We The People will determine the winners and losers of our elections. Which is just as it should be. Which is why I say that the biggest 2022 winner was democracy itself."

Trump is a loser and a joke

The two things every bully is most scared of hearing.

"Donald Trump is a proven loser. He lost his re-election bid. He lost the House and Senate while he was president. He lost two elections in a row where Republicans could have gained control of the Senate. And some Republicans and some rightwing media are beginning to wake up from their feverish delusions and say so. In fact, a lot of them are now treating Trump as a joke. His own supporters are trolling him -- at his announcement speech someone put a manila envelope with the words 'Top Secret Nuclear Codes' on one of the tables. His favorite child Ivanka has already refused to have anything to do with his campaign. Donald Trump is a loser and a joke, plain and simple. Which is exactly what Democrats have known all along."

Florida Man

Rupert Murdoch had some fun at Trump's expense.

"The rightwing New York Post didn't seem very impressed with Donald Trump's campaign kickoff, to put it mildly. Right after his speech the tabloid paper noted it with a very tiny headline at the bottom of the front page which read: 'Florida Man Makes Announcement,' showing that even they have realized that Trump is nothing but a joke. Or the butt of someone else's joke, perhaps. To add insult to insult, readers were instructed they could read all about it... on page 26."

They sure do!

And we had to end this week with a real hall of fame moment....

"Kari Lake, after being informed she had lost her election for Arizona's governor, tweeted out what could be the all-time winner in the 'Best Self-Own' category. She tweeted: 'Arizonans know BS when they see it.' Plenty of people agreed with her, but not exactly the way she had intended. Because it's obvious that when Arizonans see Kari Lake, they know exactly what to think of her -- without her even having to point it out."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Whew!

Well, that was a better week than we expected, we have to say.

The 2022 midterm elections are now over (although the counting still isn't) and the one big takeaway is that either Republicans dropped the ball or Democrats ran excellent campaigns all over the country. Or maybe some combination of the two. The red wave simply did not appear as predicted. A "blue breakwater" turned it back.

This is downright historic. As of this writing, the outcome is still in doubt -- control of both chambers of Congress is still up in the air. But no matter how the remaining races turn out, Democrats managed an expectations-defying performance.

The last president, Donald Trump, lost 42 House seats in his midterm election. Barack Obama, in his first midterm in 2010, lost a whopping 63 House seats. George W. Bush rode a "rally 'round the president" wave of good feeling (due to 9/11 still being fresh in people's minds) and actually picked up eight House seats. But Bill Clinton saw the loss of 54 seats in 1994. Stacked up against those precedents, no matter what the final tally in the House, Democrats did spectacularly well at beating the odds.

If you go back even further, in fact, it gets even more impressive. Since 1934 we have had 22 midterm elections. The president's party lost, on average, 28 House seats and four Senate seats over this time period. Joe Biden's Democrats may wind up picking up a Senate seat and holding House losses to single digits.

This happened even though Biden's approval rating is below 45 percent -- usually seen as a pretty disastrous place for any president to be -- and inflation is running higher than it has in decades. Americans are not happy about the prices they pay for gas, for food, for rent, and for everything else they need to buy in life. But even with all this economic discontent, the electorate refused to "throw the bums out."

The media completely blew it, in their prognostications of what this election would be like. They were snookered by a wave of partisan Republican polls released in the final weeks of the campaign, and they had all convinced themselves that abortion wasn't really that big of a political issue for voters. Neither tidbit of inside-the-Beltway cocktail-party conventional wisdom panned out.

Here is how Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank summed things up:

I'm sorry to say that my colleagues in the political press blew it.

The headlines coming into Tuesday's elections almost uniformly predicted a Democratic wipeout. Here's just a small sampling:

"The bottom is dropping out of the 2022 election for Democrats"

"Democrats, on Defense in Blue States, Brace for a Red Wave in the House"

"Red tsunami watch"

"The Republican wave is building fast"

"Democrats fear midterm drubbing as party leaders rush to defend blue seats"

"Why the midterms are going to be great for Donald Trump"

"Breaking down the GOP's midterm momentum"

"Democrats confront their nightmare scenario on election eve as economic concerns overshadow abortion and democracy worries"

I pulled those from The [Washington] Post, the New York Times, CNN, Axios and Politico -- but the rest of the news media called it much the same.

. . .

So what happened? Political journalists were suckered by a wave of Republican junk polls in the closing weeks of the campaign. They were also swayed by some reputable polling organizations that, burned by past failures to capture MAGA voters, overweighted their polls to account for that in ways that simply didn't make sense. And reporters fell for Republican feints and misdirection, as Republican operatives successfully created an artificial sense of momentum by talking about how they were spending money in reliably blue areas.

An extraordinary profusion of bad partisan polling flooded the media late in the campaign, coming from GOP outfits such as Trafalgar (which had Blake Masters over Mark Kelly in the Arizona Senate race, Don Bolduc over Maggie Hassan in the New Hampshire Senate race, among others) and Rasmussen (which gave Republicans a five point edge in the generic ballot).

In other words, the Republican Party did an excellent job of gaslighting the media, but fell short of gaslighting the public. Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times began her take on things a lot more succinctly:

I'll admit it: I let the right, and political analysts who were listening to the right, psych me out.

We have to admit that even though this blog was started in large part to point out the ridiculousness of how the mainstream media sees things, we were also snookered. We absolutely dreaded sitting down on the night of the election to watch the returns come in. But as it turned out, the red wave never appeared on the horizon. Early on, Democrats won some key races that were seen as bellwethers of the electorate's mood. This continued, as the vote-counting moved slowly westward (as the polls closed in each state). Somewhere along the way, perhaps halfway through the night, a tiny spark of optimism began to grow. Maybe things weren't going to be disastrous? Maybe we weren't about to enter a very dark time in American politics?

This proved to be the case. The voters proved all the pundits wrong. In a big way. Thankfully....

So what really happened? At this point it's not entirely clear, but several storylines have emerged. The first: democracy won. President Joe Biden explicitly stated this in a post-election press conference, and he was not only right but his victory lap was entirely deserved. Biden gave two major speeches during the campaign, both on the same subject: the danger to American democracy of electing people who were firm believers in the Big Lie that the 2020 election was "stolen" from Donald Trump -- especially the danger of electing them to offices where they would oversee the next presidential election. The "election-deniers" lost pretty much across the board (a few races in Arizona and Nevada are still outstanding), in both races for governor and secretary of state. Democracy held firm.

The second: abortion rights is not some momentary impulse of a political issue that just "fades away" after a few weeks or a few months. People -- and not all of them women -- are still angry that the radical-right Supreme Court saw fit to toss a constitutional right out the window. And they turned out, and they voted accordingly. Standing up for abortion rights is a solid winner for Democrats -- so look for a whole wave of ballot initiatives in the 2024 election to guarantee the right to abortion in state after state. Not only did abortion rights sweep the board this Tuesday night, but it drove turnout. That is the gold standard of "wedge issues," and it's the first one favoring Democrats so heavily in a very long time. If Democrats don't exploit this for all it is worth in 2024, it will be nothing short of political malpractice.

Long after the polling organizations and the media collectively decided that the issue of abortion rights had faded into the background, the exit polling on Tuesday showed a radically different picture. While inflation was the number one issue people named as most important in deciding how to vote (at 31 percent), abortion was a close second (at 27 percent). But that was nationwide. In individual states it was even higher:

In Michigan, where a referendum to put abortion rights into the state constitution was approved by voters, 45 percent of the electorate said that issue was most important compared with 28 percent who named inflation. In Pennsylvania, 37 percent named abortion compared with 28 percent who cited inflation.

In New Hampshire, it was 36 percent naming inflation and 35 percent citing abortion. And in that state, even as Republican Gov. Chris Sununu rolled to reelection, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan held off a strong challenger to win by 10 percentage points, and two Democratic House members, Ann Kuster and Chris Pappas, easily defeated their GOP challengers. Republicans had thought any or all three of those contests could end up in their column.

In many places, this was the Dobbs election, plain and simple. It was Roevember. Three states had ballot initiatives which codified abortion rights into their state constitutions (California, Michigan, and Vermont). All three won handily. Two states tried to restrict abortion rights (Kentucky, Montana) by ballot measures. Both failed. Democratic candidates embraced the issue wholeheartedly, instead of just giving it passing mention, and ran thousands of ads on protecting women's health care, women's rights, and women's freedom. The Republicans were caught flatfooted, since the party had no cohesive position to rally around. Also since even if they had had some stock position on the issue, it would have been a very unpopular one. This basic dynamic isn't going to change in the next two years, unless Democrats pull off a miraculous upset and retain control of both the House and Senate (in which case, they could codify abortion rights at the federal level). It's going to be just as potent a motivator to get people to the polls in two years as it was this Tuesday.

Other takeaways from the election results: young people voted at impressive rates (for the third straight election), women voted at impressive rates, Democrats in general turned out in impressive numbers. The overall turnout for this midterm may not quite be as high as it was in 2018, but it will still likely be higher than any other midterm in decades. Voters are engaged, in the era of Trump.

Other Democratic issues did well as ballot referenda too. Legalizing recreational marijuana won in two states (Maryland and Missouri) while falling short in three others. Raising the minimum wage passed in a number of places. But it wasn't just ballot measures that saw strong support from the left -- Democrats might also pull off another historic feat:

Democrats are expected to hold on to their existing majorities in both the Nevada state Assembly and Senate when all votes are counted. If that happens, it would mark the first time since at least 1934 that the party in control of the White House retained all of its state legislative majorities in a midterm election, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Democrats have already confirmed that they will retain majorities in Colorado and Maine, where Republicans had targeted both chambers of each state legislature. The DLCC claimed victory in Nevada on Thursday, although the results have not been officially confirmed.

They also flipped at least three chambers -- Michigan's House and Senate and the Minnesota Senate -- Tuesday night. A single additional victory in Pennsylvania, where ballots are still being counted in some races, would give them the majority in the state House.

And they may succeed in breaking the GOP's stranglehold on one or both chambers of the Arizona Legislature, where a single flipped seat in either body would result in a tie.

. . .

That helped secure a total Democratic victory in Michigan, where those in the party will now hold complete control of the state Legislature and the governor's mansion for the first time since 1984. The flip of the Minnesota Senate, meanwhile, completed the Democratic trifecta.

Democrats also prevented Republicans from taking supermajority control of general assemblies in Wisconsin and North Carolina, outcomes that will preserve the veto power of the states' Democratic governors.

The most shocking result, however, may ultimately come from Pennsylvania, where Democrats entered Tuesday needing to flip 12 state House seats to win a majority. Even The States Project, which said it spent $11 million on Pennsylvania state House races alone, thought that was an unlikely outcome and considered it more plausible that Democrats could make enough gains to put the majority in play in 2024.

Instead, Democrats racked up wins across the state that could now give them the majority for the first time since 2010 if the results in a final race break their way.

Democrats defied historical norms up and down the ballot, in other words. This is heartening to see, since ever since Barack Obama got elected Democrats have been losing ground in the statehouses across the country. Which is where things like redistricting, election law, and abortion law are decided.

Things went so well for Democrats we actually read an article that used the term "blue wave" ("The GOP Thought It Could Make Gains In New England. A Blue Wave Hit Instead." ). That's how good a night it was.

The Democratic Party really should consider sending a big bunch of flowers to Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Scott, just to thank them for their stellar work in torpedoing Republican chances this time around. Scott, early on, put forth his own "platform" document (since his party has been too chicken to admit to the American public what their agenda will be for the past four straight years), which prominently featured "sunsetting" all federal laws every five years. This would mean Congress would have to vote on things like Social Security and Medicare, over and over again. Graham, meanwhile, introduced his own federal abortion ban legislation with mere weeks left in the midterm campaigns -- which just drove the point home how much Republicans want to strip women's freedoms away nationwide (even in blue states). Trump, of course, was Trump. He made every rally about him and him alone, and harangued every Republican candidate to support his monomania about the 2020 election Big Lie. Much to their detriment, almost everywhere.

It may be short-lived, but we are now in an extraordinary period where the Republican right-wing echo chamber is actually turning on Trump. Rupert Murdoch's media empire seems to be done with Trump, as both the Wall Street Journal and the tabloid New York Post absolutely savaged Trump after the election by prominently calling him the thing he hates and fears the most -- a loser. Trump is an anchor on the party. A ball and chain. A millstone around their necks. This message was even publicly stated by a few Republican politicians, showing that discontent for Trump's antics seems to be growing. It's pretty easy to see why:

But in 2020, Trump became the first president since the Great Depression to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in a single term. And you'd think ushering the party to a potential loss of a very winnable Senate majority and a subpar midterm election might cause certain people to decide maybe this isn't working for them.

It remains to be seen whether this will last or not, though. Trump seems to be ignoring all advice to lay low at least until the Georgia Senate runoff election happens (in early December) and is reportedly plowing ahead with his planned big announcement next Tuesday -- coincidentally the same day Mike Pence's book will be published. Trump wants to announce his 2024 bid for the presidency very badly and it looks like he's not going to wait any longer. He may be right -- if he jumps in and starts a bandwagon effect, he could send all those Republicans now complaining about his drag on the party back into cowardly silence.

But something feels different, at this point. Now Republicans actually have a proven winner to rally around instead. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had an excellent night Tuesday and cruised to re-election. He is now seen by many Republicans as the savior of their party -- a way for them to be just as angry at "woke liberals," but without all the egomaniacal nonsense. Trump is afraid of DeSantis eclipsing his hold on the party and has already started attacking him. So this could be the main event in the GOP boxing ring for at least the next few months (unless leadership challenges appear for Kevin McCarthy and/or Mitch McConnell, both of which are distinct possibilities).

Has Trump truly lost his mojo? Time will tell. He could indeed continue to fade until he's no more than an angry voice crying in the political wilderness. But then again, plenty of people have been making that very prediction for roughly seven years now, and it's never actually happened yet. So who knows?

The best thing about the 2022 midterms is that they apparently went off without a hitch. There were no mobs of people storming the counting sites. There were no heavily-armed "elections observers" intimidating voters in Democratic areas. And even most of the election-deniers sheepishly conceded their races when they lost. There are a handful who are making loud noises, but nobody is paying much attention to them.

There could be one big exception to this, if gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake loses in Arizona. Not only is Lake aboard the MAGA Express in a big way, she is already spreading conspiracy theories about the vote-counting even though there are still reportedly hundreds of thousands of votes left to count (as of this writing). If she comes up short (she is currently losing by almost 30,000 votes), she could easily make a big stink. She's been a full-throated adherent of Trump's Big Lie, so it wouldn't be out of character at all for her to whine just as loudly as Trump's been whining for the last two years.

This could provide a real test for the rest of the Republican Party. If they truly do want to move on from Trump's egotism, they could all refuse to support Lake's wild "I wuz robbed!" conspiracy theories. They could, in a word, just ignore her. Or they could jump on board with Trump, who will doubtlessly enthusiastically back Lake's "Little Lie" (along with his own 2020 Big Lie), and give even more life to the issue of looking backwards rather than forwards. We could see it going either way, really.

No matter what happens in the final races, though -- no matter what the eventual makeup of Congress will be next year -- we have to close where we began: with relief. Because it could have been so much worse than whatever it turns out to be. Democrats prevented a big red wave of an election, and they have every reason to be proud of doing so. They impressively beat the odds and beat the conventional wisdom. And that made for a very good week all around.

It is hard to pick just one Democrat our for recognition in what was such an impressive week. It's hard also to resist the urge to give the award to a demographic group of American voters -- women who care about constitutional freedoms, or young voters who are becoming increasingly reliable for the Democratic coalition. Both showed impressive power at the ballot box and certainly deserve the thanks of every grateful Democrat in the country.

We have to at least give an Honorable Mention to President Joe Biden, for his two speeches on the importance of fighting for American democracy. Both were mostly sneered at in the political media, mostly for being "out of touch." "Why doesn't Biden give a speech on inflation and the economy?" was a common refrain.

Well, it turns out Biden was craftier than the pundits gave him credit for. He returned to an overarching theme from his own campaign, which might be stated as: "We as a country are better than this -- C'mon, people!"

And people listened. It turns out voters were very concerned with the future of American democracy, and they refused in almost every instance of electing an acolyte of Trump's Big Lie to a position where they would be in charge of or running the whole state's election system. The Republicans ran a slate of foxes to guard the henhouse, and the American people were not fooled. Biden merely fed into this sentiment, he didn't create it. But it was the media itself which was "out of touch," not Biden. For which he deserves some credit.

But there truly is only one choice for this week's award, because John Fetterman was the most impressive winner of all this week. Fetterman, of course, suffered a stroke just before the primary election (which he won). He has been in recovery ever since, which has included some issues with processing audio and choosing words (which is common for stroke survivors, it bears mentioning). But despite this, he insisted on holding a single debate with his opponent Mehmet "Dr." Oz, where he had some troubles and some stumbles.

After the debate, many pundits wrote off his chances entirely. He was declared dead in the water. Oz would surely triumph after such a performance.

Instead, the exact opposite happened. Fetterman's support didn't budge an inch in the polls, while Oz was the one who suffered the most damage from the debate -- for his answer on abortion law where he explained that the decision should be left up to: "a woman, her doctor, and local political leaders." The voters of Pennsylvania had a different opinion about that, to put it mildly.

Fetterman, before his stroke, was something new on the political stage, at least over on the Democratic side of the aisle. He was brash, he was a fighter, and he was about as blue-collar as you can imagine. He speaks the language that rural and small-town voters like to hear. He is a character with a whole lot of charisma.

So here's hoping he makes a full recovery and starts to become a go-to media presence as one of Pennsylvania's senators. He has the ability to cut through the nonsense and speak plainly about all kinds of issues Democrats care about, and he could prove to be a real rising star within the party. For this week, he was easily the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senator-Elect John Fetterman on his campaign contact page (which we can provide a link to, now that the election is over), to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Surprisingly, for such a good week, we have quite a few candidates for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. It was tough to choose just one of them in fact. Although we will say that all of them (with the exception of one) qualified on the "disappointed many Democrats nationwide" interpretation of the award rather than the harsher "did or said something completely disappointing" side of things.

We start with the exception to that statement. Sean Patrick Maloney chaired the group in the House of Representatives who were tasked with getting Democrats elected. Now, arguably, he did a pretty good job of this in a very difficult environment. But he is a very establishment/centrist sort of Democrat and some progressives in the party have not exactly been happy with all his choices (to put it mildly). Ironically perhaps, Maloney did do a good job of building that "blue breakwater" against the red tide, but he failed in the most basic job he had: getting himself re-elected. It's always disappointing when someone in leadership loses their seat, of course, to party stalwarts.

But the reason why Maloney qualified on both interpretations of the MDDOTW award was that he had to settle a score on his way off the political stage, and took a few potshots at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before his exit. She smacked him back (naturally), but his sour grapes left a bad taste in many mouths. So he's our first winner of a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award, this week.

Our next two are rather sad, because both politicians seemed so destined for higher things. And either one of them could actually make it happen some day, we will still admit. But Beto O'Rourke and Stacey Abrams both (once again) lost their big races, in Texas and Georgia. They have now moved into not just "perennial candidate" territory (by one count, Beto has been campaigning for multiple offices for 1,175 of the past 2,048 days), but -- alas -- "perennial loser" status. Again, it pains us to say this, but it seems to be true. Perhaps it's time to move on to "politician emeritus" status, and morph into political commentary on a cable channel? Just an idea....

And our final two winners of the (Dis-)Honorable Mention award both ran for the Senate and were both pretty easily defeated. Val Demings challenged Marco Rubio in Florida and lost rather resoundingly. Tim Ryan was an excellent candidate, by all accounts ran an excellent campaign for a Senate seat from Ohio against a Trump-selected candidate who ran a terrible campaign, and yet he still lost. Much to the disappointment of Democrats across the country (Ryan, especially).

But our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week was Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin, who failed to defeat one of the least-popular senators around. Ron Johnson was considered extremely vulnerable, due to his extreme positions against vaccinations and COVID precautions (which veered off into conspiracy theory more than once) and due to the fact that he demonstrably participated in the effort to overturn the Electoral College's decision on January 6th. Plus, he's not a very likeable guy and is one of the dumbest Republicans in the Senate (which, as we have noted before, is really saying something, these days).

Barnes failed to seal the deal, even with all those tailwinds. He came close -- Johnson only won by a single percentage point -- but he failed to knock off what had been considered one of the easiest pickups in the whole country. If Barnes had won the day, then right now Democrats would only need one of the remaining three races where the outcome is in doubt politically to retain control of the Senate. Even more importantly, if Democrats run the tables on those remaining three, they would have wound up with 52 senators -- enough to finally and completely ignore Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and get some important things done.

But that's simply not possible now. Which is beyond disappointing. Which is why Mandela Barnes is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Contact Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes down at the bottom of his campaign website (which we can provide a link to, now that the election is over), to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 685 (11/11/22)

It's hard to call this week's talking points anything more than a victory lap, unless you prefer seasonal sports metaphors and would rather call it "spiking the football in the endzone" instead.

It was a good week for Democrats, obviously.

So we just decided to exalt in that feeling, for our talking points this week. Enjoy!

Democracy matters

Biden was right.

"You know, I listened to the media go on and on about what voters were supposedly thinking while they decided who to vote for and I listened to all their horserace reporting and I have to conclude that they missed a very important fact -- one that President Biden spoke to while the media types sneered. Democracy matters. It matters a great deal to a great many Americans. More than fluctuations in the economy, more than the price of gas, more than all the scare tactics in all the apocalyptic Republican campaign ads. Democracy means a great deal. In state after state the voters looked at candidates who were essentially promising them that if they were elected they could guarantee Republican victories in all subsequent elections. And the voters wound up agreeing with Biden -- such a concept is un-American and downright dangerous. When faced with the choice of democracy versus one-party rule no matter what the voters thought, people chose democracy. Maybe the media could do some reporting on that?"

Freedoms matter

Another one the media blew.

"Seeing tens of millions of American women lose basic constitutional freedoms because the Republicans finally got their dream of packing the Supreme Court with ideological radicals was a much bigger deal than many pundits predicted. But freedoms matter. Freedom matters to women of prime childbearing age, it matters to women old enough to remember what life was like pre-Roe, and it matters to all women in between as well. And you know what? Women's freedoms matter to a whole bunch of men, too. I'd like to personally thank Senator Lindsey Graham for showing America exactly what the Republican Party really wants -- a federal law which restricts women's rights. He could have kept quiet until after the election and all the Republican candidates might have successfully downplayed their extreme positions, but because Graham introduced his bill they were all forced to answer whether they would support it or not. So thank you Lindsey Graham for helping to prove how important women's rights truly are as an issue for American voters. The Democratic Party will be using your bill for at least another couple of election cycles to come -- right up to where we get enough power to turn the clock forward again and restore women's rights back to where they were before the Supreme Court's wrongheaded decision was handed down. Because freedoms matter."

More thanks...

Democrats need to realize this wasn't a one-time thing.

"I'd also like to thank young voters across America for turning out and participating in our democratic system. This is in fact the third election in a row that the youth of American has proven to be decisive in the election, and that now includes two midterm elections. These two elections, in 2018 and this year, saw the highest overall turnout of any midterms in decades. People are newly engaged, ever since the Republican Party went completely bonkers, it seems. Young people aren't the apathetic slackers that Republicans think they all are. And the Democrats should start listening to both young voters' groups and younger Democratic politicians a lot more often, because if young people are going to be a major player in the Democratic coalition, they need to be at the table a lot more."


The schadenfreude is so tasty, at times....

"Republicans, realizing that young voters are treating their party like the plague, flailed around for some way of counteracting the power of young voters. Many started calling for the voting age to be raised -- which is thankfully not even an option since the right for 18-year-olds to vote is enshrined in the Constitution itself, in the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Others went even more bonkers, like the Fox News personality who had an easy solution to the problem of young voters not buying in to the Republicans' nonsense. After noting that married women voted for Republicans a lot more than single women, he concluded: 'Single women and voters under 40 have been "captured" by Democrats. We need these ladies to get married. It's time to fall in love and just settle down. Guys, go put a ring on it.' No, seriously, that was his answer to the problem of Republicans offering not a single solution to the problems young voters take the most seriously, and of the Republican Party actively fighting in court to prevent college students from getting up to $20,000 of their student loan debt forgiven. Young voters vote Democratic for a reason, folks, and it isn't because Mr. Right hasn't come along yet."

We keep telling you...

Just some friendly advice, right?

"Democrats keep telling their Republican counterparts that their party would be much better off if they left Donald Trump sitting by the side of the road and moved on. I mean, it's rather obvious to us. He is a loser, plain and simple. He was the biggest loser as president since the Great Depression. He helped lose what could have been a 'red wave' midterm election for the Republicans. He is about to announce his third bid for the presidency, which may wind up losing the Senate runoff race in Georgia. Maybe he'll even go there and campaign for his chosen candidate! Ask any Republican right now if they think that's a good idea or not. Trump is toxic -- even the New York Post and Fox News are now saying so. He's got the Midas touch in reverse -- everyone he touches loses. We've really got your own best interests at heart when we Democrats say to Republicans: 'Move on... dump Trump.' Because that really would be the smart move right now."

It's possible to win big without Trump

Speaking of Georgia....

"Republican politicians are all terrified that if they cross Trump in any way that he'll unleash such voter fury on them that they won't ever be able to get elected again. But that's becoming less and less true. Just look at Georgia -- where two Republican politicians who earned Trump's wrath just handily won re-election: Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. These two stood firm and refused to 'find 11,780 votes' for Trump in 2020, and Trump has been on the warpath against them ever since. But both easily won their Republican primary elections and both just won re-election. They should stand as shining examples to the rest of the GOP: you can win even after enraging Trump. You can survive it. If more and more Republicans make this choice, it'll dilute Trump's power even more, since he simply won't be able to focus on all his perceived 'enemies' within his own party. Crossing Trump is not political suicide anymore."

Don't trust partisan polls

This is the biggest lesson of all, for the media. Will they learn it? Tough to tell, at this point....

"Some polling aggregators are better than others at weeding out junk polling. Unfortunately, one of the biggest sites around has a decided rightward lean. So they included a lot of midterm polling in the final weeks of the campaign that came straight from the Republican Party. They skewed these polls very favorably to all their candidates and downplayed the strength of the Democrats. Because there were a lot of these polls and not very many independent polls from the same time period, this caused the poll-of-polls average to show a big rightward swing, right before the election. And the media went along for this ride and told us all the Democrats were toast. The non-partisan polling wasn't actually all that bad for Democrats, and it proved to be rather accurate. So let's all make a post-election promise for next time, shall we? Don't trust partisan polls."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Get Out And Vote!

Some weeks, we pre-empt our own talking points here and just deliver a rant (because sometimes the circumstances seem to almost require it). This week, however, we're going to pre-empt the entire Friday Talking Points column. For some reason, we just don't think handing out awards to Democrats (good and bad) or providing talking points is the important thing, this week. At this point, the Democratic talking points are kind of set in stone; new ones wouldn't do much good with such little time between now and Election Day.

America will head to the polls next Tuesday, and the portents do seem rather ominous. In the early-morning hours, a full eclipse of the moon will be visible coast to coast -- or a "blood moon" as it is sometimes called (because it is going to turn blood-red). Anyone susceptible to superstition and reading omens has got to be a little concerned by that, right?

Perhaps it is Nature's way of ushering in the vaunted "red wave" on Tuesday? And then again, perhaps not. This is where it is mandatory to haul out the old: "The only poll that matters happens on Election Day" saying, of course. The public opinion polling has been all over the place, and perhaps influenced by two big things: how the pollsters undercounted GOP/MAGA voters in 2016 and 2020, and how there have been a lot of Republican-financed polls released in the past two weeks or so (which could have skewed the averages, if their own numbers are too optimistic). The only truth is that nobody really knows what will happen Tuesday night... or Wednesday, or Thursday....

That is one thing which seems almost guaranteed: we won't know the outcome of all the races on Tuesday night. We might not know who is going to control the Senate. Any race which is close is likely to take days to accurately count, and the Republicans are going to be sore losers pretty much anywhere they do lose (especially in close races).

Republicans have done a rather clever thing, because it allows them to complain as a direct result of how they set the situation up. In many states, early votes and mail-in votes are not allowed to be counted before the polls close (some of these laws are new ones, passed after the 2020 election, it should be noted). Mail-in ballots have to be verified, which takes a lot longer than counting the votes cast on Election Day (or in-person during early voting). So there is a built-in lag time. Recent history shows that more Democrats mail in ballots than Republicans, which is why Donald Trump wanted all vote-counting to stop in states like Pennsylvania in 2020, since he was ahead in the early returns. Look for many Republicans in tight races to attempt the same tactic, this time around. This may even be exacerbated by a truly paranoid movement at the grassroots level for Republicans to vote not just in person but at the last possible moment. According to the tinfoil hat brigade, somehow this will disrupt Democratic computer algorithms and prevent the big steal from happening. Whatever -- they can vote whenever they like and it won't make a difference, but a big flood of last-minute votes might delay the counting even more.

Republicans have bought into Trump's Big Lie so much that they now seem to truly believe that any election they don't win was due to Democratic cheating -- and not to "more votes cast against you than for you," which is the reality of the situation. But reality is so passé in our Trumpian times, at least for them.

If they were correct (they aren't) and elections were actually being "stolen" from them (they're not), then it would demand some sort of response. Court cases are just the mildest form of this response, when you get right down to it. Trump sued more than 60 times after the 2020 election, but never produced a single piece of evidence that proved any widespread cheating, so of course all his lawsuits failed. This time around, it will be multiple candidates suing, probably in many states, and it's going to introduce even more confusion and distrust into the American system of counting votes. Which is the end goal for all of this effort, of course. Republicans are fighting a battle not so much in the courtroom but rather out in the arena of public perception. Which is why it is called a Big Lie in the first place -- because if you repeat it enough times, people will start to believe it. Trump lives his life dedicated to this proposition, and now the entire Republican Party is about to follow him down the rabbit hole in a big way.

Legal hissy fits over losing are one thing, but there are many out there who are primed for a much more dangerous response. Violence is now a tangible fear in American elections. The people whose job it is to run elections have been getting death threats since 2020. Droves of them have quit their jobs, which is entirely understandable, what with all the death threats. This has left people in charge who are either inexperienced or understaffed or active election-deniers themselves. That is a recipe for disaster right there.

And it is likely to get worse. There are, by various counts, somewhere around 300 election-deniers running for office across the country. And while the big questions on Tuesday night will revolve around which party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate, the down-ballot races could set the stage for absolute chaos and a constitutional crisis in the 2024 presidential election.

One Republican candidate -- for governor of Wisconsin -- actually blurted the quiet part out loud this week, promising a crowd of supporters: "Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I'm elected governor." That is exactly what could happen if these candidates for offices like governor and secretary of state in some key swing states actually win. They are openly promising to subvert future elections in the Republicans' favor, no matter what. And as it stands, federal laws are not really strong enough to prevent this constitutional crisis (there is one bill to fix the Electoral Count Act, but it will have to make it out of the lame-duck Congress because the Senate didn't have enough time to vote on it earlier).

No matter what happens with control of Congress, if the state-level elections candidates who are promising guaranteed GOP wins are elected, the stage will be set for the most contentious American presidential election since... well, since the last one, actually. But the last time around, Trump and his legal team (and we do use that term rather loosely) were for the most part completely incompetent in their efforts to steal an election. Next time around, they're all going to be a lot more prepared and they'll have a lot more tools at their disposal -- and a Supreme Court majority that just might let them get away with it.

And even all of that isn't the worst-case scenario. Because now political violence is becoming completely accepted by one of America's two major political parties. So we may not see metaphorical "battles" in courtrooms in the post-election period, we may see actual fighting in the streets. The worst impulses from the fringiest part of the Republican Party are being amplified and encouraged by Republicans from Trump on down. The vicious attack on the speaker of the House's husband might just have been a prelude to worse things to come.

President Joe Biden tried (for the second time) to address this during the week. He gave a short (21-minute) speech on democracy, warning of the growing storm of political violence on the horizons. The entire speech is well worth reading, if you missed it. Biden does not mince words (we wrote about his speech earlier in the week at more length).

The New York Times chimed in with an editorial titled "America Can Have Democracy Or Political Violence. Not Both." This is where we are, as a country.

The Republican Party reacted to Paul Pelosi getting his skull fractured by a man who was deep into right-wing conspiracy theories by either tacitly supporting political violence, spouting baseless and cruel conspiracy theories, or by making jokes about it. And it's all par for Trump's golf course -- this is what he has now trained them to do. Not that they needed much of a push, but now the Republican Party is completely without shame. No behavior or speech is considered too extreme any more. There is no political price to be paid from saying the most revolting or disgusting things to the public. In fact, the base cheers them on when they try to outdo each other's cruelty.

Senator Debbie Dingell of Michigan bluntly warned of where this is all leading: "Somebody is going to die." Democrats have tried calling out Republicans for their either tacit or overt approval of political violence, but as we mentioned, for a party without shame or honor, trying to shame them into changing their ways is virtually pointless. Charging the perpetrators of such violence in court and convicting them isn't all that big a deterrent either, as there will always be more to take their places. It barely even made the news, but the same day Paul Pelosi was attacked, a 22-year-old Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty to issuing death threats to Representative Eric Swalwell. How can this be much of a deterrent when it is barely even noticed -- because worse political violence stole the headlines that day?

Some Republicans are belatedly realizing that they have contributed to this entire situation. There was an extraordinary column written by a Republican strategist in the Washington Post this week -- a man who had orchestrated a "Fire Pelosi" movement back in 2010, complete with a logo of her in flames. He's now come to realize the monster he helped create, writing:

More and more in our politics, the loudest, angriest, most divisive voices get the most attention (and money). Real solutions, and the politicians who put their heads down to do hard work, get short shrift. Collectively, we have to lower the temperature. People keep getting hurt. We're very lucky no one has been killed -- and I worry I need to emphasize "yet."

As a Republican, I know the original sin begins with us. Republicans -- not all, to be sure, but enough -- vilified Barack Obama's most personal attributes. His religion was questioned. Racist cartoons were common. So were jokes about Obama's African heritage ("Kenya hear me," Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert said at a House Republican Conference meeting). Rebukes came, but they weren't loud or frequent enough. The old "not one of us" racist trope remained.

Then along came Donald Trump, whose campaign message was essentially yelling "fire" in a crowded political theater. When Trump urged his supporters to "knock the crap" out of protesters, they obliged, just as extremists have when Trump told them in 2020 to "stand back and stand by." Trump's rhetoric -- years of picking at our every division -- made the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection inevitable.

It should remain an indelible stain on the soul of a party that continues to support Trump, whether out of opportunity or fear.

The nation's police are ramping up for the election. That's not a normal sentence to type -- or it shouldn't be, at any rate. But the news that they are aware of the threat is somewhat relieving, at least. One group in Arizona has already received a court injunction preventing them from being within 75 feet of voting drop boxes, because they -- some of them wearing full military battle gear -- were caught intimidating people, taking photos of people and license plates, and generally acting like thugs. But this sort of thing may happen at actual polling places on Election Day, without much warning. So it's good the cops are at least preparing for the possibility.

When Joe Biden was elected president, he optimistically predicted that "the fever would break" among Republicans. They'd all realize that Donald Trump's style of politics was toxic and they'd reject him en masse and they'd come out of their daze and sit down and help get the nation's work done once again. This, obviously, has not come to pass -- instead, the exact opposite happened.

If the voters elect a Republican House or Senate (or both), politics is going to grind to a halt for two years. Well, there will be one frenzied period, as the lame-duck Congress tries to batten down the hatches to prevent as much chaos and destruction as possible before the Republicans take over. But after that, it's going to be an endless parade of spleen-venting and vitriol, for the next two years. They will overreach in doing so, that much is almost guaranteed. In fact, even though they will indeed overreach, their base is quite likely not going to be satisfied with anything they do -- because the base will be expecting even more extreme actions from them.

This won't bode well for Biden's remaining two years in his first term, of course. His agenda will shrink to whatever he can manage to accomplish through executive orders and other executive actions. If Republicans take both chambers, his veto pen will get a lot of use. Biden's legacy is already pretty secure, though, since he has accomplished more in his first two years than most presidents manage in four. But we'll still be in for two long years of seeing nothing get done in Washington except bickering and airing the most bizarre conspiracy theories imaginable.

The silver lining in all this is that 2024 might get a lot easier for Democrats, after the public is exposed to two years of abject nonsense from a Republican-led House. At some point the swing voters will throw up their hands and decide: "Enough, already!" And two years in the wilderness will force some changes in the party leadership, among Democrats. Nancy Pelosi will likely retire, and if her fellow octogenarian leaders decide to do the same we could get some new blood to lead Democrats back from that wilderness.

Of course, as we said, nothing is written in stone. Getting out and voting is the important message right now. Turnout is expected to be historically high in Tuesday's election, and every registered voter can join in with the effort to make it even higher. Will the pollsters undercount the Republican vote again and we see a big red wave? Or will they undercount Democratic voters resulting in a surprise upset?

It's up to you. It's up to all of you. Don't just make sure you voted, make sure all those you talk to on a regular basis vote too. That's the only talking point that matters right now.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
Posted by ChrisWeigant | Fri Nov 4, 2022, 06:29 PM (1 replies)

Friday Talking Points -- Election Fears

We have to admit, we're more than a little worried about the upcoming midterm elections. Not about who will win (that's a different subject), but about the elections themselves. Because for the first time in a very long period in American history, one of the major political parties is openly attacking the election system itself. This is a dry run for the 2024 presidential election, and at this point it is impossible to say that Election Day (and the counting of the votes thereafter) won't be marred by intimidation, internal sabotage, and/or outright political violence. And that's a pretty sad state of affairs for American democracy.

The signs are all there. Few are paying enough attention to them, but nobody will be able to express shock and surprise afterwards by saying: "Who could have seen something like this coming?" Because people already are.

The Washington Post ran an editorial this week which began:

This year's midterms are not shaping up to be normal elections. In an environment in which one party is gripped by skepticism and denialism about foundational democratic processes, new avenues are opening for voter intimidation and election interference -- a stress test that could be a small taste of what is ahead in the 2024 presidential election.

Early signs of danger are popping up across the map at multiple levels in the election system.

They then provided a list which included: "undermining local election officials," "conspiracy-minded partisans watching -- and staffing -- the polls," and "threats against voters."

In some places, proactive steps are being taken to introduce as much confusion and doubt into the system as is possible. Nye County, Nevada decided to ban the use of machines to count votes and instead has instituted a hand-count policy. Let's check in and see how that's going, as they begin to count the absentee ballots already sent in:

After a full day in the Nye County office building in Pahrump, 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Las Vegas, some 60 volunteers had counted about 900 of the 1,950 mail-in ballots that the county has received so far.

It took 60 people an entire day to count 900 ballots. That is 15 ballots per person for an entire day. Here are some further details on how it went:

Two groups of five that The Associated Press observed Wednesday spent about three hours each counting 50 ballots. Mismatched tallies led to recounts, and occasionally more recounts. Several noted how arduous the process was, with one volunteer lamenting: "I can't believe it's two hours to get through 25" ballots.

. . .

One group observed by AP found during their first 30 minutes that they had mismatched numbers for eight candidates. A recount took nearly 40 minutes, and two of the recounts still had different outcomes.

"That's going to be my new name. Mismatch," said one of the talliers.

They took two hours to accurately count only 25 ballots. They counted for 30 minutes, got a total, and it was wrong for eight voters. They recounted for 40 minutes, and they still got "different outcomes."

What could possibly go wrong, when they gather to count the Election Day votes? Nye County is now the most-populated county in the continental U.S. to use hand-counting. In Nevada, a different tiny county (Esmeralda) hand-counted votes and it took them seven hours to count 317 ballots.

But Nevada Republicans want to institute this system for the whole state, including the heavily-populated Clark County, where Las Vegas is. Which would mean they'd get done counting maybe sometime around Valentine's Day.

This is systematic sabotage of the previously-working-just-fine election system from within. And it's not the only type of sabotage either. Republicans try to sneakily access voting machines, intimidate voters at the polls, and openly advocate violence even after the election. Here's what Steve Bannon had to say about what a newly-elected Republican House majority would do: "[W]e're going to do it by bayonet... that's going to be reality."

The White House has reportedly issued a national security warning about threats to the upcoming election -- both foreign and domestic.

We are entering uncharted waters.

This week, three people were convicted in Michigan of aiding the plot by a right-wing conspiracy to kidnap the state's Democratic governor. And just today we got the news that a nutjob wielding a hammer broke into Nancy Pelosi's California home and beat Pelosi's husband so badly with it that he's undergoing brain surgery. The attacker reportedly demanded: "Where is Nancy?" which should sound familiar since we heard that on January 6th, 2021 -- from the mob who stormed the United States Capitol in a failed insurrection attempt.

The Pelosi home invasion at least caused the Republican leaders in Congress to finally condemn violence against their political opponents, but they didn't say a word about how their entire party has been nodding and winking at calls for political violence by the current leader of the party. They're all probably practicing their: "What a shocking surprise -- who could have seen this coming?" lines, just in case they'll need them on Election Day or soon after.

America is in a very dark and deluded place right now, and no one can predict how the upcoming election will turn out. It could be smooth and normal. But it might not be, at least not everywhere. Trump's Big Lie is now believed by a huge swath of the Republican base. Despite absolutely no evidence whatsoever having been found in the two years since the 2020 election, they still believe what their party's leader tells them (ad infinitum) while all the other Republicans either echo this delusion or quietly look the other way.

So no matter which party does well on November 8th, we're still downright worried about the midterm election. The election itself, not the outcome. And that's scarier than any Hallowe'en horror story, really.

Speaking of horror stories, let's check in with Trump's legal woes. This week saw the start of a fraud trial in New York against the Trump Organization (one of multiple investigations there). Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows was ordered to testify to a Georgia grand jury, but if he may appeal this up to the Supreme Court (and who knows what they'll do?).

Trump lost at the appellate level in a very old case, so a House committee may finally get to access his tax returns. And Trump's lawyers apparently have been desperately trying (using the strongest language possible) to talk him out of actually making an appearance under oath in front of the House January 6th Select Committee, so here's hoping they fail and he does show up.

All these investigations and cases are tightening the circle on Trump, in case you've lost track of them all. And the Washington Post helpfully added up all the jail sentences Trump cronies have already gotten and came close to a whopping 30 years' worth. And in many ways, this is likely just the beginning.

Out on the campaign trail, there were a passel of debates this week, but only one garnered any real media attention (which we'll be talking about a little later). The media has shifted back to "big red wave coming" mode, but the reality is that there are fewer actual polls being conducted, more and more of them are done by partisan organizations (who often skew the numbers favorably), and anything could happen on Election Day. So get out and vote! Prove the punditocracy wrong!

Attorney General Merrick Garland reversed a Trump-era policy this week and announced new Justice Department guidelines which will bar subpoenas, search warrants and seizures of reporters' records, in all but the most extreme cases. Which is a big win for the First Amendment.

Liz Cheney is openly endorsing Democrats in both Michigan and Arizona, now that she's been freed of any reason to show loyalty to a political party that has completely ostracized and shunned her.

A group of protesters gathered at the Russian Embassy in Washington this week to openly smoke lots of marijuana and display a gigantic (inflatable) joint with the message on it (in Russian): "Free Griner and Russians from Putin." This is in support of Brittney Griner, who lost her appeal and will now be headed to a Russian labor camp to serve out her Draconian sentence.

And finally, something to make everyone smile, mostly because it is not about our politics but instead Britain's. After their last prime minister lasted (we counted) only four Scaramuccis in office, we learned that the Chief Mouser of 10 Downing Street, otherwise known as Larry The Cat, will soon be welcoming his fifth prime minister to what is more his house than theirs. Which prompted a bit of amusement online (we're almost certain the cat-sized podium was Photoshopped in, but it's still a hilarious photo) of Larry gravely accepting some new duties. Cheers!

While a few Democrats had some impressive moments in this week's debates, none of them really made a splash in the political media. Barack Obama is finally entering the fray of the midterm cycle, which to us seems rather woefully late. What's he been doing up until now that he couldn't have made a few appearances?

We do have an Honorable Mention for Joe Biden this week, for making an announcement banning two specific (and insidious) kinds of "junk fees" from banks. Biden spoke of his broader initiative to fight such hidden fees not just in banking but also in airline pricing and plenty of other places. But the bank fees ban was the one which made it through the extensive federal rule-making process this week, all the others are still working their way through the system.

But we do have to say it smacks perhaps of "too little, too late." If Biden had announced it a month or two earlier, it might have had a small impact on the midterm campaign. If Biden had been touting this effort loudly and frequently, it'd just be another milestone on a continuing story of protecting middle-class consumers. But neither one of those is really true, so it just became the most recent thing (the last one was allowing over-the-counter hearing aid sales) that Biden has managed to accomplish to help average people that both he and the Democrats at large have dropped the ball on selling to the American people as a partisan victory. Which is why he wasn't even really considered for the main award this week.

Instead, the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week was Representative Mary Peltola from Alaska. Since Alaska doesn't have all that many people, she had to win a statewide race to get to the House -- the first Democrat to do so in 50 years. But it was a special election, so she's now running all over again, to beat Sarah Palin and another strong Republican candidate.

This week, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski actually endorsed Peltola rather than either of the Republicans running. Speaking at a meeting of Alaska Natives last week, Murkowski had some kind words for Peltola: "Mary is a woman whose heart is as grounded in Alaska as anybody you're going to find." Peltola is the first Alaska Native in history to be elected to Congress, it bears mentioning. So after the meeting, a reporter asked Murkowski if she was voting for Peltola. Here's what happened:

Asked if she would rank [Representative Mary] Peltola first on her ballot next month in Alaska's new ranked-choice voting system, [Senator Lisa] Murkowski paused. After a full 18 seconds, she said, "Yeah, I am." She then mumbled, "I'm going to get in so much trouble."

Asked to respond to Murkowski's de facto endorsement, Peltola said, "I'm voting for her, so we're even-steven."

That is pretty classy, we've got to admit. There is a Democrat in the Senate race but they don't have a prayer of winning, even with the ranked-choice ballot. The real race is between Murkowski and a Trump-endorsed MAGA candidate. So what Peltola was really doing here was putting country above party -- which was exactly what Murkowski was doing in the first place too (we wrote about a few similar cases on Monday).

For doing so, and for doing so without hesitation, Mary Peltola is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Representative Mary Peltola on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

We have two candidates for Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, so our decision was based on the sheer volume of the disappointed.

Which means we only have a (Dis-)Honorable Mention to give to Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the House Progressive Caucus. This week, a letter from House Progressives to President Biden was released, and then within a day was retracted, because of the outcry among other Democrats.

With two weeks to go before an election, Jayapal apparently decided that it was a good time to release a somewhat-critical letter on Biden's Ukraine war policy. This letter (you can read the whole thing, if interested) several times urged Biden to explore "direct talks with Russia," which would leave the Ukrainians out in the cold. The letter was actually written (and signed, by most of the signatories) months ago, when the situation on the ground was quite different. Which makes it all the more confusing why it was released now.

Jayapal, rather unconvincingly, blamed it all on an unnamed overeager staffer who just sent the letter to the White House without permission. The blowback was pretty immediate, with even some of the members who had signed the letter saying they wouldn't do so now.

Our advice to both Jayapal and the whole Progressive Caucus: stick to your core concerns about domestic economic issues.

The timing couldn't have been worse -- right after Kevin McCarthy threatened that if Republicans take control of the House the Ukraine military aid might just stop -- and the politics of challenging your own party's president right before an election were horrible. So in terms of the level of disappointment, this one was actually worse.

But as we said, in terms of the numbers of Democrats who were disappointed, we sadly have to award John Fetterman the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

We do so reluctantly. Fetterman suffered a stroke, just before the primary election happened. We can't remember this ever happening in the past (although some candidates have actually died before an election and still won). And we have personally known stroke survivors. We understand that not being able to get the words out don't mean that the words aren't there in the person's head. Verbal and auditory processing powers are not the same as cognitive abilities. And he's got a good comeback for all the complaints: "By January I'll be much, much better. But Oz will still be a fraud."

Even so, Fetterman's debate performance was painful to watch. The only saving grace was his opponent Mehmet "Dr." Oz stepping on his own two feet on abortion, giving his position as:

There should not be involvement from the federal government in how states decide their abortion decisions. As a physician, I've been in the room when there's some difficult conversations happening. I don't want the federal government involved with that at all. I want women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that's always allowed our nation to thrive, putting the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.

The phrase "local political leaders" is already being heavily featured in new Fetterman ads, as well it should be.

Even so, we have to count ourselves among those who think that Fetterman refusing to debate wouldn't have been as damaging for him politically as the debate performance he turned in. And for that, sadly, we have to say John Fetterman was the winner of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week. We hope Fetterman continues to improve, we hope he wins, and we hope to see him prove his critics wrong when he takes his seat in January. But that debate was still painful to watch.

[Contact Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 683 (10/28/22)

Joe Biden did promise us "boring."

We have to keep reminding ourselves of that, because he just isn't anywhere near the party spokesman he seems to think he is. We have long suspected that Biden's attitudes towards what to do to win elections is frozen in time, somewhere back in the 1980s or 90s.

Just once in our life we'd like to get another Democratic president that is really good at politics. Someone who knows how to sell their own accomplishments. Someone who can explain complicated things in a very easy-to-relate-to way and not manage to sound 30 or 40 years out of date.

Someone like Bill Clinton, in other words. Clinton had plenty of flaws, but selling his agenda and "explainin' stuff" was his true genius. Barack Obama would occasionally do an adequate job of it, but overall never even came close to the standard Clinton truly set. Joe Biden should be able to do this -- as we all know, he's from humble beginnings in Scranton -- but when he attempts it these days it never sounds to the listener as convincing as you can tell Biden thinks it is.

Case in point: the new "closing argument" from the White House. Are you ready for the talking point that's going to win the Democrats the midterm elections? Here you go:

Administration officials repeatedly described the Republican agenda as "mega MAGA trickle-down economics" during a conference call, echoing a phrase Biden used last week at a Democratic National Committee event.

"Republicans are doubling down on their mega MAGA trickle-down economics that benefits the very wealthy," Biden said Monday. "It failed their country before and will fail it again if they win."

They started out this election cycle with the cringeworthy "ultra-MAGA," and they've now come up with a brilliant way to top this: "mega-MAGA trickle-down economics."


Why are so many Democrats so incredibly bad at this wordsmithing stuff? In 683 of these columns (and counting) we have sadly never once had the thought: "Democrats have improved so greatly in formulating talking points and sticking with them that maybe it is time to retire the idea of a 'Friday Talking Points' column."

In other words, here we go again -- time for our weekly attempt to solve this seemingly-intractable problem. Here are our closing arguments we would urge campaigning Democrats to consider using.

Recession avoided

Tout today's good growth number!

"After two quarters where the economy slid back, we are now moving forward again. Growth was a healthy 2.6 percent last quarter, and that entire time Republicans were out there trying to convince everyone we were in a recession. But the jobless rate remains at a 50-year low and wages are still increasing. The recovery from all the effects of the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. While Republicans are out there cheering for the economy to do worse than it is."

Their "plan" would make things worse!

Hit this one hard.

"Inflation, of course, is still a problem. In fact, it is a worldwide problem, although America is weathering this storm better than a lot of other countries. Economic signs are looking up, and we're finally getting inflation under control again. Meanwhile, the Republicans love to bring up the subject of inflation, but they have no idea what to do about it. They really don't. The only ideas they have are stale retreads of hoary Republican ideology -- like more tax cuts for the wealthy. That would put more money in the economy and make inflation worse -- but they don't seem to care. It's like they say -- if the only tool you have is a hammer, soon every problem will look like a nail."

Local political leaders?

Thank you, Dr. Oz.

"This week, Dr. Oz said in his debate that he wanted, and I quote, women, doctors, local political leaders, unquote, to be the ones to make a decision on abortion for that woman. Local political leaders? This was jarring, but in fact it is exactly what every single Republican out there is advocating. Allowing local politicians to make medical decisions for women. Oz even actually knew exactly what he was talking about -- he also said, 'as a physician, I've been in the room when there's some difficult conversations happening.' And yet he still wants local political leaders to have the veto power over these decisions. This is the world Republicans want all women to live in. Most of them are better at obscuring their true goal, so I'd like to thank Dr. Oz for phrasing the official Republican position so memorably. Democrats, of course, believe that such decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor. Period."

Books about divorce next?

Use a very broad brush with this one. Why not?

"Apparently, banning all mentions of gay parents in schools isn't enough for some Republicans. Not content with dictating what children can and cannot hear -- like the fact that some families have two mommies -- they're also dictating what can be in the school library. And the Republican running for governor of Michigan would even ban books that mention divorced families. Because apparently her kid read one and was exposed to the idea that a child could have two homes. Which they undoubtedly had already been exposed to, just by talking to their fellow classmates. Where does this moral totalitarianism end? When will the book-banners and speech-censors be satisfied? That's what you have to wonder with all these Republicans who want to police morality and restrict freedoms -- where will it all end?"

Democrats fighting to help, Republicans fight against it

This is a broader point and can be used with all sorts of issues.

"Democrats have been fighting to help average middle-class American families. We've fought to lower prescription drug prices for the first time. We fought to limit the cost of insulin, so evil corporations can't just hike the price a few hundred percent when they feel like padding their bottom line. We fought to make most hearing aids available over the counter, saving seniors thousands of dollars each. We are fighting to forgive student debt to give the COVID Generation a chance at buying a new house or starting a family. Every step of the way, we've fought for the little guy. And every step of the way, Republicans have fought hard against it. They would reverse a lot of what we've been able to accomplish, because Republicans care a lot more about big business making obscene profits than they do about family budgets. Democrats are fighting to help families while Republicans fight tooth and nail to stop it from happening."

Social Security and Medicare

To his credit, Biden has been leaning into this one, but it needs to be a lot more widely used by Democrats.

"Republicans are even openly admitting something they used to try to hide until after an election was over -- that they are coming with big axe for Social Security and Medicare. They're admitting that they're going to hold the full faith and credit of the United States to the rest of the world hostage in their quest to cut both Social Security and Medicare. Who in their right mind would even think of such a plan? As I said, Republicans used to deny this to the voters and then turn right around and do it anyway, but now they don't even care any more -- they'll tell you right to your face they're coming for Social Security and Medicare. And they'll threaten a global financial meltdown to get it, too."

Democrats fight for democracy

This is sort of a sleeper issue in most campaign coverage, but the voters care about it more than you might think.

"Democrats will fight for democracy. We will fight to keep American elections free and fair. We will fight any attempts to intimidate voters. We will fight for the right of all American citizens to cast their ballot, and we will fight to make the process as easy and accessible as possible. Republicans are openly admitting they are fighting against all of that. According to them, any election they didn't win was somehow rigged and should be overturned. According to them, the only legitimate election is where the Republican wins. This is so un-American it should frighten everyone. I don't know what they call that, but it is not democracy. They are openly telling you they will overturn the will of the people at the drop of a hat in order to seize or hold onto power. Democrats are not just fighting for Americans, they are now fighting for American democracy itself."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Student Loan Relief In Sight

Next week, millions of students and former students are on track to have $10,000 to $20,000 of their student debt wiped off the books. Republicans are incensed and are desperately fighting to halt this debt forgiveness before it can happen. It is a perfect example of the ideological divide between the two parties -- one of whom is trying to help millions of people while the other fights against it tooth and nail.

This is a real success story for President Joe Biden, and it's going to happen right before the midterm elections, so hopefully it will motivate some young voters to get to the polls. Biden delayed announcing student loan forgiveness (which he had promised to do while campaigning) for over a year, but now the timing seems to be working rather well for him politically, we have to admit.

The application for debt forgiveness was rolled out (go to StudentAid.gov) without a lot of media fanfare, but in the first week alone a whopping 22 million students -- over half of the 40 million who are eligible -- signed up for it anyway. There have been no technical problems with the application, unlike the Obamacare marketplace site's disastrous rollout (which Joe Biden proudly pointed out this week: "We made sure we tested it" ). Letters will be going out soon to everyone who is eligible for debt relief, so those who still haven't realized they can benefit will be informed. For tens of millions, the debt relief will actually cancel all of their outstanding loans and allow them to face the world for the first time without this burden of debt.

Republicans, of course, are doing everything they can to stop it from happening at all. Multiple lawsuits have been filed -- but this week they had two major courtroom defeats, both at the hands of Republican-appointed judges. Six red states sued to halt the program, but a federal judge in Missouri tossed their case out because they have no standing to sue. Meanwhile a separate case had asked the Supreme Court to issue an emergency order to halt the program, but Justice Amy Coney Barrett flat-out denied this request. There may be more rulings coming in the next few days, since the loan forgiveness program may actually start wiping out students' debt as early as this Sunday.

As mentioned, Republicans are absolutely incensed that federal money is being used to make tens of millions of Americans' lives better, because according to them that's only supposed to happen for the ultra-wealthy and/or for giant corporations. Shoveling federal largesse at those two groups is perfectly fine with them, but... students? That's a step too far for them, apparently.

As we enter the midterm homestretch, Democrats should be touting this as good news -- brought to you by a Democratic president. Joe Biden also announced this week that he would be releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and he browbeat the oil companies to stop raking in massive windfall profits and bring the price at the pump down to where it should be. Coincidentally or not, gas prices have been falling all week, after a peak in a minor bump upward.

Today, Joe Biden got some more good economic news as last year's budget deficit came in at half what it was the year before -- falling by an all-time record of $1.4 billion in one year. The deficit would have been even lower without the one-time expense of the student loan forgiveness, where 30 years of debt relief was counted in a single month. Voters admittedly don't care as much about budget deficits as they once did, but good news is good news.

Biden is also taking Republicans to task for blatantly and openly threatening not just the American economy but the stability of the entire world's economy if they take power in Congress next year. Why would Republicans choose this risky course? To slash Social Security and Medicare. Once again, a pretty easy political case to make about which party is actually fighting for the little guy and which party is not. As Biden himself pointed out:

If you're worried about the economy, you need to know this Republican leadership in Congress has made it clear they will crash the economy next year by threatening the full faith and credit of the United States -- for the first time in our history putting the United States in default -- unless we yield to their demand to cut Social Security and Medicare. Let me be really clear: I will not yield. I will not cut Social Security. I will not cut Medicare, no matter how hard they work at it. And folks, we know what the Republican Congress will do if they regain power. They're telling us straight-up about it.

The mainstream media is presenting a false choice to the public, that Democrats are only running on the abortion issue, while Republicans are running on fixing the economy. It is true that Democrats are making a big deal about the loss of women's freedoms (as well they should) but Republicans simply have no economic plan at all. What is their answer on inflation? They don't have one. What bill would they introduce to lower both inflation and gas prices by waving a magic wand? It doesn't exist. Their campaign strategy is to yell as loud as they can about how bad things are and hope nobody notices that they have no solutions to any of the problems they bring up.

Except, of course, to slash Social Security and Medicaid. That much, Republicans are willing to publicly state. Oh, and to perhaps cut off all military aid and abandon Ukraine to Vladimir Putin -- that's one other plan some of them are willing to admit.

This week, Joe Biden promised that the first bill he would send to Congress if Democrats hold the House and add two seats to the Senate would be to codify Roe v. Wade. Republicans want to do the opposite -- they want a federal law to ban abortions even in deep blue states. Again, the differences are pretty stark between the two parties.

You wouldn't know any of this (or very little of it) from watching the media's never-ending fascination with horserace politics. We're smack in the middle of "debate season," so there have been lots and lots of stories written about gaffes or zingers or "big moments" in many of the senatorial and gubernatorial debates held so far. But in all of those stories there is precious little discussion of any of the actual policy differences between the candidates. If it's not contained in a short "zinger" clip, the media yawns. 'Twas ever thus, we suppose....

At least the media has woken up (somewhat) to the fact that there are dozens of GOP candidates out there running on Donald Trump's Big Lie, who are all essentially pledging to the voters that in the future any election that Democrats win will be considered illegitimate and should be overturned. That is a scary and dangerous idea, but that's where Trump's monomania has led us all. How many states will have election deniers running their 2024 elections? The answer to that, sadly, is quite likely "more than zero."

It now seems that every single week that passes brings bad legal news for Donald Trump. In the courts so far, Trump is precisely what he fears the most -- a big loser. Without getting too far into the details of any of them, here's a quick rundown of courtroom setbacks for Trump, just in the last week alone:

After the Supreme Court denied Trump's appeal in the case surrounding all the government documents he stole, the Justice Department immediately filed a different appeal to the initial basic ruling which created the "special master" overseer. They were all but invited, in the appellate court's ruling, to challenge this entire ruling when they challenged only a small part of it. This ruling laid out precisely why the special master never should have been appointed in the first place, and now the Justice Department is asking the same appellate court to essentially agree with itself and toss the entire ruling and the special master. Stay tuned....

Some of those government documents were top secret, of course, and the Washington Post is now reporting on the seriousness of the secrets they contain. Meanwhile, Trump is trying to argue a legal impossibility on some of the documents -- that they are his own personal papers, but at the same time are government documents covered by executive privilege. They cannot be both -- they could conceivably be one or the other, but not both. This position is expected to get laughed out of court, obviously.

The big breaking news today is that the House Select Committee on January 6th has now officially subpoenaed Trump, asking he come in next month to testify under oath. They also want some documents from Trump. This is breaking news, so no word yet (as of this writing) as to how Trump will react. We're betting on "badly."

Testimony continues on many fronts, as well. Trump underlings are testifying to the grand jury on the documents case, the grand jury looking into January 6th (not the House committee, mind you, but the criminal grand jury), and the Georgia grand jury on election tampering -- where Senator Lindsey Graham will indeed have to testify. A judge also ruled that the House January 6th committee can access emails from attorney John Eastman which document an important Trump lie. Trump was warned by his own attorney to stop talking about non-existent voter fraud in Georgia, and then after being told this Trump signed his name to a legal filing which included the false claims. Lying to the public in politics isn't a crime, but lying in a court filing is, and the emails prove Trump knew it to be a lie beforehand.

Trump himself was deposed this week in the defamation case against him by E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of raping her many years ago. While neither side has leaked anything which was said in his deposition, Trump pre-emptively torpedoed his own defense in this case by repeating his defamation on his Truth Social media site. His legal defense was, essentially, that he was a government employee (the president) when he first made the comments Carroll is suing over, and therefore is protected because making comments about someone who has accused you of rape is "part of the president's duties." But he's no longer president, and he just publicly made the same statements. Wave bye-bye to your defense strategy, Donnie!

Speaking of Truth Social, it continues to melt down as the complicated deal which was supposed to inject a ton of money into it crumbles into ruin. And now there are disgruntled fired executives who are dishing all the inside dirt on the company's ongoing downfall to the media (and to investigators).

Let's see, what else? Steve Bannon was just sentenced to four months in prison for refusing to obey a congressional subpoena, although he won't spend a night behind bars until all his appeals run out.

The big counter-investigation that Trump created, to somehow prove that the F.B.I. and the "Deep State" concocted the Russia investigation just completely fell apart, as the prosecutor lost in court again. This puts his courtroom conviction rate at 0-for-2, and he's now expected to wrap everything up and issue a final report. So much for the "crime of the century," as Trump liked to call it -- when they went looking, they found no there there. Just more Trump conspiracy theories....

And just as icing on the bad-news cake for Trump this week, it was revealed that his hotels charged the Secret Service "exhorbitant rates" while they were protecting Trump and his family. Which comes as no surprise to anyone, but it's nice to see the proof of it.

Bizarre news from the campaign trail: Mehmet "Dr." Oz, who wants to be senator from Pennsylvania, is not only being "dogged" by ads about all the dogs killed in medical experiments in a lab he used to run, but also for a rather strange comment he made years ago -- that he drinks his own urine.

You just can't make this stuff up, folks. Oz was appearing on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show a while back, and started talking about the flavor of urine. An astonished Kimmel asked him: "How do you know how it tastes? Who's tasting it?"

Oz replied that "of course" he drank his own urine on occasion. He even incredulously asked Kimmel why he hadn't ever drank his own pee: "Are you kidding me? Where have you been?!?"

This is the man Republicans want to represent Pennsylvania in the United States Senate. Joe Biden amusingly pointed out this week that Oz had actually gone to high school in his home state of Delaware, but that "Delaware was smart enough to send him to New Jersey." Ouch.

In other amusing campaign trail news, a prankster tried to give Herschel Walker a bunch of condoms this week... for obvious reasons.

Maybe it's why more and more Republicans are walking away from their party. This week saw Jim Leach, who served 30 years in the House as a staunch Republican from Iowa, endorse the Democrat running against Senator Chuck Grassley. This is after he switched from being a Republican since the early 1960s to registering as a Democrat. What happened on January 6th and everything since then finally drove him away, and he reluctantly came to the conclusion that the Republican Party "has become dishonest and criminal."

We couldn't agree more, but he left out "and completely divorced from reality." And nominating quack doctors who ingest their own excreta, just for good measure.

We gave him an Honorable Mention for a strong debate performance last week, and this week we've decided to elevate Representative Tim Ryan to our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

Ryan is running for a Senate seat in Ohio, which used to be a purple state but has become redder and redder over the past decade or so. Not entirely -- their other senator is a Democrat (Sherrod Brown) -- so it's still a winnable seat for Ryan, if everything falls in his direction.

He's running against a hand-picked Trump guy, J.D. Vance, and the race is extremely close. Either candidate could win.

The truly surprising thing is that Ryan has pretty much been abandoned by the national Democratic Party. They are not injecting millions of dollars into this race, because they feel their money is better spent on other races elsewhere. This is almost inexplicable, since the Ohio race is so close. Ryan has been left on his own, but even with this handicap, he will still achieve one impressive feat, even if he winds up losing -- locking up Republican money in Ohio that won't be spent elsewhere. As Politico reports:

Tim Ryan is arguably running the country's most valuable Senate campaign. Even if he doesn't win.

The self-described Democratic "underdog" is neck-and-neck with J.D. Vance in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). And Ryan's doing it without the help of the national party while forcing Republican groups to spend more than $30 million countering him rather than on Democratic-held seats in places like Arizona and Colorado.

. . .

"Tim Ryan has forced national Republicans to spend roughly $40 million in a general election in a state that they had no plans to spend in," said Justin Barasky, who managed Brown's winning 2018 reelection bid. "He is going to be responsible, one way or the other, for helping Democrats hold the Senate. Win or lose."

Of course, we're hoping that winds up as "win" rather than "lose." Ryan would be a perfect match to Sherrod Brown in the Senate, since they share the same focus on working-class issues. Democrats like Brown and Ryan represent a chance for the Democratic Party to wrestle the mantle of "populism" back from the fake populism of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

If Ryan does manage to defy the odds and win, hopefully it will cause a shift in how the national party prioritizes populists within its own ranks, for the next election. But for now, win or lose, Tim Ryan is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Representative Tim Ryan on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Last week, we gave the MDDOTW award to three Los Angeles city councilmembers and a local labor leader. This week we're heaping on an extra (Dis-)Honorable Mention for two of the councilmembers -- the two who still refuse to resign.

Gil Cedillo at least has an excuse, of sorts. His term is almost up anyway, so he'll be vacating the seat very soon now anyway. But Kevin de León could actually face a recall for his insistence on staying put. De León issued what many considered a very weak apology this week, in an effort to hang onto his job. It wasn't very well received. So a recall effort is a definite possibility, here.

But this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is none other than Joe Biden, who in an offhanded remark yanked the rug out from a very good idea. Biden is already making political hay out of the fact that Kevin McCarthy is openly threatening to use the debt ceiling as a hostage to get Biden to agree on cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Which is good, because it is not only an odious thing to threaten, it shows the basic irresponsibility of the Republican Party these days.

So why would you allow this to happen over and over again? There is an easy way to solve this problem permanently, and that is to remove the requirement that Congress vote twice on money it spends. Currently, spending is approved through a budget and then paying for this budget has to be approved by raising the debt ceiling. But there is no rational reason for this system to be in place. Most other countries have nothing like it -- it is an American quirk. All it would take to get rid of it forever would be for Congress to pass a bill saying "when a budget is passed, it inherently gives the Treasury the power to borrow money if necessary to pay for it." Poof! Just like that, the debt ceiling idea would disappear into smoke, and we'd be just like every other major industrialized country.

Biden was asked about this possibility today, and here's what happened:

But he also ruled out taking one of the more extreme measures to avoid such a fight, saying he opposes eliminating the debt limit altogether as a means of averting future confrontations. Such a move, he said, would be "irresponsible."

Say what? Removing the power of the Republicans to periodically threaten to default on the nation's debt in order to score political points would be "irresponsible"? How?

Removing this hostage from GOP clutches once and forever is clearly the most responsible thing Biden could do -- but he just killed that idea before it even got a chance to happen.

This is beyond disappointing. Refusing to even consider this is shortsighted, because every single time the Republicans hold Congress while a Democrat is in the White House, they are going to play this dangerous game of chicken. Every single time. Like clockwork. Until a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president put an end to this periodic misery.

Which won't happen any time soon, according to Joe Biden. For blowing this possibility out of the water and also for calling the most responsible thing to do "irresponsible," Biden is clearly the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Contact President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 682 (10/21/22)

We've still got a few weeks left before the midterm elections, but we're going to devote the talking points this week to closing arguments Democrats should be making, out there on the hustings.

Democrats have plans and ideas. Republicans don't. That should be the core of every political message from the Democrats, since it has the benefit of being not just true but obvious. And while Republicans are making political hay out of inflation, there are actually plenty of other economic subjects which should be highlighted as well (in an effort to break through the media's oversimplified take, which is basically: "Democrats are running on abortion, Republicans are running on the economy" ).

So here are seven ideas for good closing arguments for Democrat to make.

Gas prices headed down again

This is the biggest issue for many voters, so let them know things are getting better again.

"After falling over a dollar a gallon, gas prices inched up for a short period. But we're now beyond that little bump and gas prices are falling once again. They're down 10 cents this week, in fact. The same week President Joe Biden announced another release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and castigated the oil companies for gouging customers and posting record profits. Somehow I don't think this was a coincidence, do you?"

Students about to benefit

"President Biden's student debt relief program got smoothly up and running last week, and 22 million students signed up to get either $10,000 or $20,000 forgiven from their student loans. This is going to make an enormous difference in tens of millions of families' budgets. Many of these students will now be debt-free, and will now be able to contemplate things that seemed out of reach -- a new car, getting married, having children, buying a house. This is a huge improvement in millions of lives, and it is going to happen as soon as this weekend for some. Why are the Republicans fighting this so hard in court? Why do they reject improving so many millions of lives? I have no idea -- you'd have to ask them."

Protect Social Security And Medicare

We realize we already used this quote at the start of the article today, but we felt it was worth repeating. Joe Biden summed things up nicely -- Democrats will fight hard for Social Security while Republicans will threaten a worldwide economic meltdown in their attempts to cut them.

If you're worried about the economy, you need to know this Republican leadership in Congress has made it clear they will crash the economy next year by threatening the full faith and credit of the United States -- for the first time in our history putting the United States in default -- unless we yield to their demand to cut Social Security and Medicare. Let me be really clear: I will not yield. I will not cut Social Security. I will not cut Medicare, no matter how hard they work at it. And folks, we know what the Republican Congress will do if they regain power. They're telling us straight-up about it.

Cut in half

Biden had one other good quote this week, after getting the good news on the deficit. He rightly pointed out that "the deficit fell by $1.4 trillion -- the largest one-year drop in American history," which is also a good way to frame it.

The federal deficit went up every single year in the Trump administration -- every single year he was president. It went up before the pandemic. It went up during the pandemic. It went up every single year on his watch....

On my watch, things have been different -- the deficit has come down both years that I've been in office, and I've just signed legislation that's going to reduce it even more in the decades to come.

Jobs jobs jobs

Don't forget to beat this drum too.

"Under Joe Biden's watch, the American economy has created 10 million new jobs as it recovered from the pandemic. That's a record amount for any president, folks. The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low. Almost 700,000 manufacturing jobs have been created, as companies bring those jobs back from overseas due to the policies Democrats have enacted. 'Made in America' is becoming a reality once again. And that's a record to be proud of."

Protect women's freedoms

We put the abortion issue way down the list, but it's still an important point to make.

"Democrats are on the front lines in the fight for women's constitutional right to bodily autonomy after a radical and extreme Supreme Court threw these rights out the window. Republicans across the country are taking freedoms away from women in their quest to force them to give birth no matter what the circumstances. Victims of rape and incest as young as 10 years old are going to be forced to carry to term, because Republicans think that's the kind of country we should all live in. Democrats reject this and are fighting hard to restore women's rights to every woman in America, no matter what state she lives in."

They got nothin'....

End any or all of these points with a simple comparison.

"What are the Republican plans for improving anyone's lives? I haven't heard any. What would they do if they get power in Washington? Throw as many monkey wrenches into the economy as they possibly can. They'll try to cut Social Security and Medicare. They're even out there bragging about it! Republicans simply have no plan -- on anything, really. You may not agree with every single thing the Democratic Party wants to accomplish, but at least we tell you exactly what our agenda is and what we're willing to fight for. Republicans won't, because if they honestly did tell you what they want to do, they know you'd be much less inclined to vote for them."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Will Trump Take The Bait?

Maybe he'll actually take the bait, who knows?

Maybe Donald Trump's planet-sized ego and rampant unbridled narcissism will convince him that there just is no possible downside to testifying in front of the January 6th House Select Committee. This isn't just idle speculation, as hours after yesterday's hearing New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman posted the following (which has since been similarly reported in multiple media outlets):

Since it became public that the House select committee planned to subpoena Trump for his testimony, the former president has been telling aides he favors doing so, so long as he gets to do so live, according to a person familiar with his discussions. However, it is unclear whether the committee would accept such a demand.

Sounds like a plan. Put him on live television. He'd love it. He'd get great ratings (which is truly all he cares about when appearing on television), since tens of millions would watch. All his MAGA followers would watch to cheer for Trump, and the rest of the country wouldn't be able to resist watching, just to see the fireworks. The nation's strategic popcorn reserves would run dangerously low, that's our guess.

Trump released a letter this morning which is chock-full of invective and insinuation against what he likes to call the "unselect committee" and lefties in general, but any mention of the subpoena or Trump testifying is notable for its absence. So maybe he really is seriously thinking about it?

Of course, if Trump did appear, it would be a three-ring circus from the start. Trump has taken part in literally thousands of lawsuits, but somehow still doesn't have any sort of basic understanding of the legal process or the governmental process or the U.S. Constitution in general.

If Trump did appear, it would be at a congressional hearing. He would be under oath, giving testimony. It would not be a trial. It isn't even an investigation which could lead to an indictment, since a whole separate branch of government is in charge of such things. Trump would not be allowed to "cross-examine" anyone (since he would be the only witness, what's he going to do, cross-examine himself?), and he would definitely not be allowed to call his own witnesses. But, being Trump, he does not understand this even on a basic level. To him, all the world's a stage, and a courtroom merely one type of performance art. To say nothing of a committee hearing room.

The committee would expect to conduct the interview as it has conducted every other interview: the witness would be sworn in, and then the witness would politely answer questions from the committee members. The witness wouldn't get to question the committee, since that's not how the process works (except to clarify certain points about the questions asked).

But that is decidedly not what would happen if Trump did show up. Far from it.

First, Trump would demand to make an opening statement. That much is pretty guaranteed. He would likely ramble on for at least 45 minutes to an hour, venting his spleen as only he can (and he is a master of the spleen-venting art, it must be acknowledged). If the committee didn't let him finish his tirade, he would claim they were "censoring" him and "not being fair" to him and all sorts of other nefarious things.

So let's say the committee does allow him all the time he needs to get all the venting he needs to off his chest. The smart thing for them to do at that point would be to just completely ignore it all and begin questioning Trump, although I could see Bennie Thompson (or perhaps Liz Cheney) actually taking the time to refute Trump's fantastical and made-up claims for a few moments. Either way, though, the next phase would soon begin.

Anyone who has watched any of the hearings so far knows what is supposed to happen next. The committee members (and their lawyers) pose questions to the witness. The witness is allowed to confer with his or her lawyer before answering, and has a number of choices. They can either answer the question fully and honestly, they can answer the question partially (on advice of their lawyers to avoid anything that could fall under "executive privilege," for instance), or they can completely refuse to answer the question on the grounds that the answer is covered by executive privilege. The only other option is to refuse to answer the question entirely, on the Fifth Amendment grounds that it may tend to incriminate them. Those are supposed to be the only options.

Trump wouldn't be limited by that list, of course. Trump would treat the entire thing as if it was a presidential debate, which is to say: "as if there were no rules which applied to him at all." He would talk all over the questioners. He would interrupt, he would yell, he would try to intimidate them, he would bluster, he would ridicule them, he would personally insult them and their families, he would bring up completely unrelated and not-even-tangential issues, he would spend his entire time trying to score points, period. Anyone who has the slightest doubt that this is precisely what would happen should go watch clips of Trump debating, because it wouldn't just be "exactly like that," it would likely be ten times worse.

What Trump would not do is to actually answer any questions put to him. Does anyone really honestly think he would? He will ignore the question. He will answer the question he wishes had been asked, instead. Or he will just sink into the mire of playground taunts. Again: go watch any of his debates if you doubt this.

How would Bennie Thompson react to this tsunami of irrelevancy? It's tough to tell, really. Would he shut Trump's microphone down? Would he attempt to gavel Trump to silence? Would he threaten to hold Trump in contempt of Congress for his childish display of boorishness? Thompson seems like he's got a core of steel but usually doesn't let it show -- instead he displays intelligence and righteousness in a very calm and sobering manner. But how would that stack up against a Trumpnado of bluster and rudeness?

Our educated guess is that at some point during the proceedings -- probably within the first half-hour (just a guess, mind you) -- Donald Trump would completely flip out, lose his cool, stand up, and huffily walk out of the hearing. Nothing like a surprise ending, right? He'd then likely grandstand for the cameras outside the hearing room, just to vent his spleen a little more.

But we do have to admit the entire experience would indeed be "must-see TV." We'd watch. We'd be glued to our set, in fact. And so would (at a guess) at least 100 million other Americans.

Which Trump knows, full well. That's the catnip, for him. That's the bait. A bigger audience than he's had since he was president. All eyes on him. Stellar television ratings. Him getting to "tell his side of the story." Him getting to tell the committee members exactly what he thinks of them in the most scathingly personal terms imaginable, starting with Liz Cheney. Him against the committee, with no holds barred.

Trump also knows full well that no matter what happened in the hearing he would emerge and proclaim himself the victor. He would crow about how wonderful his performance was, how it was the best political performance not just in all of American history, but in all of human history all the way back to the beginning of time, and he would brag about how "perfect" his appearance was right up until the day he died. All of that is pretty much guaranteed.

So what's to stop him? If he can spin anything into a smashing victory against his nefarious opponents, why wouldn't he jump at the chance to do so?

One can only hope....

This was all precipitated, of course, by the House January 6th Select Committee voting unanimously yesterday to issue a subpoena to Donald Trump.

Which was merely one part of a very bad week for Trump's legal team, in the larger universe of legal proceedings against him. One judge ruled that Trump has to sit for a deposition in the case brought against him by E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of raping her. The deposition will likely take place next week.

Without fanfare, the Supreme Court summarily dismissed Trump's appeal in the case of the government documents he stole when leaving the White House, with a terse, one-sentence ruling: "The application to vacate the stay entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on September 21, 2022, presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied." That one probably hurt the most, out of all the bad legal news this week.

In New York, the state attorney general moved to freeze all the assets of the Trump Organization, although it remains to be seen whether she'll convince the judge to do so or not. If it happens, it would be a body blow to Trump's real estate empire.

More grand jury depositions took place this week, on the January 6th insurrection. These aren't the workings of the House committee, this is the Justice Department's investigation, which has a lot more legal might behind their subpoenas.

It also seems that a worker at Trump's Florida golf resort has been spilling the beans to the F.B.I. and is now talking to the press about having to move boxes of possibly-classified documents from the storage room where they were supposed to be kept to Trump's personal residence.

All of this has added up to quite a few legal bills for Trump, so much so that it is eating up many millions of dollars of donor money that could have been spent on the midterm elections. What a shame!

Once again, Trump has also eaten up most of this week-in-review segment of the column, so we're just going to whip through a few other notable events and then move on to the awards section. And we do have one surprise for readers later: short talking points, for once! So you've got that to look forward to....

Plenty of Republican senators and Senate candidates made news this week, starting with Tommy Tuberville just going full-on racist at a Trump rally in Nevada. He has managed to get away with this, with minor blowback, for two reasons: the media lets Republicans get away with naked bigotry these days, and his own party simply doesn't care since Donald Trump so obviously approves. Democrats, of course, handle things differently, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Pennsylvania Senate wannabe Mehmet "Dr." Oz killed puppies. And the Democrats are going to make sure as many people in Pennsylvania hear about this as possible. Because... well... puppies.

Oz also gave a speech this week standing in front of Adolf Hitler's car, complete with swastikas. You just couldn't make this stuff up if you tried!

Herschel Walker continues to crash and burn, in case anyone's interested. The Republicans aren't, they're all standing staunchly with him no matter what. Morally reprehensible? Who cares, in today's Republican Party!

Most pathetic performance of the week was Senator Mike Lee begging Mitt Romney to endorse him, on nationwide television. To date, Romney has not done so.

That's about all the campaign bilge we can stomach for one week. A few positive items from the other side of the aisle, a story of shining achievement for humankind, and one final amusing bit and we're done.

Bob Menendez is leading the charge in the Senate to immediately halt all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, after they effectively sided with Vladimir Putin by agreeing to decrease oil production. It is rumored that Joe Biden is also interested in sending a message to the Saudis, so this could actually become a reality.

Biden's move to pardon people convicted of simple possession of marijuana in federal court is wildly popular among the public, which should come as no surprise to anyone.

NASA successfully smacked a spacecraft into a small asteroid and by doing so proved its orbit and trajectory could be changed. The results were far beyond what they were hoping for, in fact. We wrote about this earlier in the week, because it is the first "proof of concept" of what could become a planetary-defense system to be used against any threatening comet or asteroid. This is big news for the human race, in other words!

In big news for the feline race, we end with 10 Downing Street's chief mouser, Larry The Cat. Larry is a pretty feisty kitty, and has been seen driving other animals off the property (pigeons, another ministry's cat, etc.). But this week footage emerged of Larry taking on a fox that is easily half again as big as Larry. Larry fearlessly walks up to the fox, the fox attempts to hide in a flowerbed, so Larry takes a literal flying leap at him and lands with all claws drawn. Sadly, the bushes obscure the moment of truth, but the fox soon emerges and flees, with Larry hot on his trail. The fox then (perhaps to save some face) tries again, but Larry stares it down and chases it off once again.

Now that is a First Cat worthy of the name! Go Larry!

There was one Democrat who turned in an impressive performance this week, but an earlier entry was better, so we're only going to give Tim Ryan an Honorable Mention.

Ryan is running for the Senate in Ohio, and he debated his opponent J.D. Vance this week. Earlier, while appearing at a rally for Vance, Donald Trump had mocked him with:

J.D. is kissing my ass! He wants my support so much. I think he's running, J.D., on an "I love Donald Trump" policy. Yeah, he said some bad things about me, but that's before he knew me, and then he fell in love.

So Ryan turned it all back on Vance, right to his face:

I don't know anybody I grew up with, I don't know anybody I went to high school with, that would allow someone to take their dignity like that and then get back up onstage. We need leaders who have courage to take on their own party. And I've proven that. And he was called an ass-kisser by the former president.

Ouch. Later in the debate, Ryan tightened it up into a memorable campaign slogan:

I'm for Ohio. I don't kiss anyone's ass like him. Ohio needs an ass-kicker not an ass-kisser.

That is definitely an award-worthy takedown, folks!

But this week we're retroactively giving the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

We all got a very candid behind-the-scenes look at what Pelosi's leadership looks like yesterday, as the House Select Committee played video of Pelosi and other congressional leaders (of both parties) during the siege and invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

Pelosi (and, to be fair, all the other leaders) are all doing exactly what Donald Trump should have been doing, but refused to. They are desperately trying to get some help to the forces defending the Capitol. They are seen calling the governors of Maryland and Virginia, the Pentagon, the attorney general, and Vice President Mike Pence, begging them all to send in the cavalry.

Throughout it all, of course, Trump was gleefully watching television.

Pelosi stands out in these videos. She is genuinely shocked at the events unfolding, she is determined to get the ball rolling on sending in the National Guard (or anyone else who might help), and she is resolute and direct and decisive throughout it all.

In a word, she showed real leadership.

She kept her head while others about her were losing theirs. She did what she had to do, and she did so as effectively as possible. She stepped into the leadership void that Trump had left behind.

Pelosi did have one moment where she blew off some steam, which is understandable given all she had faced that day. Here's the story:

New footage from Jan. 6, 2021, shows a candid moment when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened to physically strike then-President Trump, should he have joined those protesting at the Capitol.

In the video, which was publicly shared Thursday, Pelosi admits the actions could have resulted in her going to prison -- a consequence she said she would "be happy" to accept.

"I hope he comes, I'm going to punch him out," Pelosi tells her Chief of Staff Terri McCullough, who discourages her boss from making the comments. "I've been waiting for this, for trespassing on the Capitol grounds. I'm going to punch him out."

"I'm going to go to jail, and I'm going to be happy," the speaker added.

Obviously, she was kidding. We think.

Seriously though, Nancy Pelosi is second in line to the presidency. If events had turned out differently that dark day, she might even have become president before the next day dawned. If Mike Pence had actually been captured by the mob, they might have either torn him to bits or frogmarched him out to that gallows they had set up outside the building and hanged him. If the cabinet had moved to declare Donald Trump unfit to serve via the 25th Amendment, Nancy Pelosi might have had to step into the job for the next two weeks (technical note: this section of the 25th Amendment has never been used and is more complicated than people think, so even if it had been invoked, Pelosi might not have become "acting president" ).

If this had indeed come to pass, those video clips clearly show she would have been up to the task.

So even though these videos are almost two years old now, Nancy Pelosi is definitely our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. In a time of chaos and crisis, she showed unflinching leadership. There really is no higher praise than that for any politician.

[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

First, allow us to say one final thing, as Tulsi Gabbard officially departs the Democratic Party: "Buh-bye! Don't let the door hit you on your way out!"

Sorry... we just had to get that off our chest.

Snark aside, however, this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week was painfully easy to identify, even though it's pretty far down the food chain of politics.

Early this week, the Los Angeles Times published an exposé based on an audio recording which had been anonymously posted online. Nobody disputed that the audio consisted of a conversation between at least four people: three members of the Los Angeles City Council and one local Labor leader. They were talking about redistricting the city (after the 2020 Census) and plotting to draw the lines to increase Latino representation at the expense of Black and other minority voters. The language used is reprehensible. It is racist, plain and simple. There's no other word for it.

The speaker of the racist lines is City Council President Nury Martinez. The other two councilmembers are Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León. The fourth participant in the conversation is Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

Universally, Democrats condemned Martinez and her odious racism. Everyone from California's governor all the way up to President Joe Biden called for her to immediately resign. The (Democratic) state attorney general is now investigating the entire city's redistricting process. This is all exactly what is supposed to happen when a member of a political party is proven to have done something indefensibly racist.

At first, Martinez somehow believed she could survive the political firestorm. She apologized and resigned her presidency of the city council... but not her seat on the council. She announced she would be taking a leave of absence, in the hopes it would all blow over and die down after a while. She was wrong. A few days later, she bowed to the inevitable and resigned completely.

The Labor leader has also resigned his presidency. Unfortunately, the two other council members have not. They did not make any racist remarks on the recording, but then again they didn't have anything to say to Martinez when she did. They didn't object or push back in any way.

Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León are toast, politically. They are dead men walking. They still somehow think they can brazen it out and continue their political careers, but they are wrong. Condoning (with their silence) remarks like this in the Democratic Party is disqualifying, period.

Kevin de León is probably the most frustrated by this turn of events, because he had a lot of ambition and saw for himself much greater things in the California Democratic Party. He had previously been a member of both houses of the state legislature, including a leadership position in the state senate. He displayed the measure of his political ambition in 2018, when he primaried Dianne Feinstein for her U.S. Senate seat. Feinstein won the two-person runoff in that race, but only by a little over eight percent. De León obviously had bigger and better things in mind for his political future.

But that dream is now over. When the two councilmembers tried to behave as if it were all somehow behind everyone (now that Martinez resigned), the acting president of the city council abruptly cancelled a council meeting scheduled to happen today, and issued a statement: "The people's business cannot be conducted until we have these next two resignations."

As of this writing, the two still have not resigned. But at this point, it is inevitable.

We are handing out Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to all four of the participants of this call. Martinez is guiltiest, of course, but the other three also deserve their political fate as well.

Racist talk may be condoned or even celebrated in the Republican Party these days. But the Democratic Party should speak with once voice in proclaiming such behavior absolutely disqualifying for any Democratic politician. Because America needs at least one party utterly dedicated to the fight against racism.

[Due to their resignations, former City Council President Nury Martinez and former Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera are now private citizens, and it is our standing policy not to provide contact information for such persons. However, you can contact Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo via his contact page, and Kevin de León on his contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

Volume 681 (10/14/22)

We've got a rather unique talking points section this week, for two reasons. The first is that we don't ever recall dedicating the entire section to what is essentially taunting one person. Perhaps we have (with Donald Trump, it's certainly possible, we freely admit), but we don't recall.

Second, it's going to be short. No, really! We know the audience we are trying to reach is easily distracted and favors to-the-point sentences, so that's what we're going to provide. We'll even limit ourselves to a single word as a lead-in, for each of them.

Perhaps this is silly, but at this moment in time it would seem like a goodly thing for all Democrats to focus on taunting Donald Trump. The late-night comics are already going full-steam-ahead in this effort, and it's such a fun game to play we feel that Democrats should get in on the action.

So here are our seven discrete (but never discreet!) talking points, each and every one of them aimed directly at Donald Trump's ego.


Let's start with the basic argument, shall we?

"You said you want to get your side of the story out there, right? So why not expose this gigantic hoax in front of the American people? Why not show us all what a big witch hunt it all is?"

Fun! (Part 1)

Toss the catnip with abandon.

"They'd probably allow you to give an opening statement, and you could make it as long as you liked -- wouldn't that be fun?"

Fun! (Part 2)

A lot more fun that what you've got now....

"Wouldn't it be a lot more fun than just using Truth Social to reach a small audience of followers? I mean, you'd be on teevee! On every channel! Everybody would get to see!"


Nothing like feeding into his instinct to insult and his instinct for self-aggrandizement, right?

"You're smarter than all those pointy-headed weenies on the committee, right? Why not show everyone how much smarter you are by telling them what you think of them to their faces?"


This is the catnip extraordinaire, of course.

"The ratings would be off the charts! It'd draw an audience of, like, half the American population! No president or politician has ever accomplished such a feat! They'd be the greatest ratings ever!!!"


Why not? Maybe he'll buy it....

"Why not appear right before the midterm election? You could make the case to all the voters how the election was stolen from you and undermine their faith in their vote being counted! Because that'll motivate more of them to vote for your candidates! You could guarantee a Republican landslide by appearing before the election! Why not do so?!?"


And finally, we just can't resist....

"Just think of how good it'll feel to walk out of the committee room and proclaim victory to the cameras! I mean, seriously... what could possibly go wrong?"

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

Friday Talking Points -- Biden Walks Back The War On Weed

We were reminded of an old political saying this week: "Only Nixon could go to China." Only a president who was long known as a staunch anti-communist warrior could open up American relations with communist China in the depths of the Cold War, without being painted as some sort of pinko/commie back home. This week's update might read: "Only Biden could pardon weed crimes." Joe Biden, before he became Barack Obama's vice president, had spent much of his life in the Senate being the biggest, baddest drug warrior around. He actually coined the term "drug czar" and worked with the Reagan administration to make the Office of National Drug Control Policy a reality. He's never been pro-legalization in any way, a fact that didn't exactly help him in the 2020 Democratic primaries. But there he was yesterday, taking the first steps away from the War On Weed that any U.S. President has ever taken.

Biden, of course, won't face any sort of political payback for his move. The American public is now overwhelmingly against marijuana still being illegal. Three-fourths of the states now allow it to be used medicinally. Currently adults can legally buy and smoke weed recreationally in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Next month, the citizens of five more states will vote on whether to fully legalize recreational use. The tipping point was reached a long time ago, but up until now the federal government has not made any move whatsoever to acknowledge this new reality.

President Joe Biden just took the first step towards restoring some sanity. From his remarks, announcing the new policy:

As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.

This has always been true. Indeed, it was the whole point of the War On Weed to begin with -- to arrest, prosecute, and jail as many Black people and college students as possible, to undermine the political opposition to (coincidentally) Richard Nixon. So it's long past time for the federal government to admit it, change the laws, and move on.

Biden then announced the changes he was making: pardoning anyone convicted of mere possession of marijuana in federal court (which will include convictions in D.C.), urging state governors to follow suit and also issue blanket pardons, and launching a new effort to change the official federal classification of marijuana:

Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine -- the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.

Again, this has always been true. It is insane that marijuana is treated as more dangerous than fentanyl. It makes no sense at all. But that's the way it has been, ever since Nixon launched his War On Drugs to begin with. Biden closed his remarks with another painfully obvious statement:

Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.

It is long past time, in fact. Neither Bill Clinton (who tried to dodge the issue by saying he "didn't inhale" any pot he had happened to smoke as a student) nor Barack Obama (who flat-out admitted he was a total stoner for a while) ever made this move. To be fair, though, the monumental shift in public attitude towards marijuana prohibition didn't really get going until after Clinton, and was nowhere near as overwhelmingly one-sided even when Obama was in office. So it fell to Biden to start righting these wrongs. Only Biden could pardon weed crimes, in other words, at least politically-speaking.

This is all momentous not so much because of the steps themselves, but because of their direction. We would label them "significant baby steps." Significant because of the reverse in direction, but baby steps all the same.

Since 1992 (the government apparently doesn't have data previous to this date), only about 6,500 people were convicted for simple federal possession charges. None are currently in prison. So it'll have a rather limited effect. You had to get caught with weed on federal property (or where federal law was the controlling one) -- a national park, for instance, or an airport. Everywhere else, state law would have applied instead. After getting caught, the federal prosecutor had to decide whether your case was serious enough to actually bring charges. Many low-level cases were likely dropped at this point. As you can see, this is a very limited "blanket" pardon indeed.

Washington D.C. is all federal property, though (technically, it is a federal enclave and not part of any state). So what would be a state-level charge anywhere else is automatically a federal charge in D.C. There is no estimate yet for how many people will be covered by the pardon who just got caught with a joint somewhere in the District, but it is likely a lot higher than the other 6,500 people it will affect.

In other words, it is indeed a significant step -- just ask any of those 6,500-plus people; they'll tell you. And it is what was possible -- Biden has no power to pardon any state-level offenses. So he should be applauded for taking the step, no matter how limited an effect it will have.

At the state level, many states led by Democrats have already effectively pardoned weed cases. Others are considering doing so. Red states mostly haven't, because they are still trapped in the War On Weed insanity, which is why what is really needed is a change in federal law.

Biden announced he'll be moving forward on a very basic change -- considering the ridiculous classification of weed -- but this is going to take a while. The process for such a change involves multiple departments of the federal government and it may well take years. If Biden's lucky, he might get to oversee this change somewhere around the end of his first term, to put it another way.

This change could be pretty timid, too -- nowhere near what it should be. If the only thing they manage to do is to change weed from Schedule I to Schedule II (or maybe III), that's not going to do a whole lot. What is really needed is to deschedule marijuana -- take it completely off the list of "dangerous substances" and start treating it like alcohol and tobacco. But it's unclear if the option of descheduling is even going to be considered in the process.

Biden took some significant baby steps. But it is really up to Congress to change things. There have been various efforts to do so for years, but even the simplest changes (such as allowing marijuana businesses to use banks instead of being forced to do all transactions in cash, or allowing marijuana businesses to take the same tax write-offs for business expenses that every other business in the country is allowed to do) have so far not happened. Good bills have passed the House, but they always die in the Senate -- where it is not just Republicans but also some old drug warriors on the Democratic side of the aisle (we are looking at you, Dianne Feinstein) who continually block necessary changes.

The War On Weed won't be over until the federal government gives marijuana control to the correct place within the federal structure: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That's where it belongs, obviously. But the president can't effect this change with the stroke of a pen. So it is impossible to fault Biden for not doing so.

He did what he could. That is reason enough for celebration, at least for us. He took some baby steps, but these baby steps are in a direction that no president has ever trod towards. This week might go down in history as the beginning of the end of the federal War On Weed.

Joe Biden was also in the news this week for touring Florida and Puerto Rico to personally see the hurricane damage. Notable during his trips: he did not insultingly toss paper towel rolls at anyone. He did, however, get caught on a hot mic dropping an F-bomb, to the delight of late-night television hosts across the land.

Today saw some good economic news, as the unemployment rate went back down to a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. But next week's inflation number is probably going to make more of an impact, no matter what it turns out to be.

In international news, Ukraine continues to kick some Russian butt on the battlefield, reclaiming vast swaths of their country back. Everyone in America (except for some Putin-loving Republicans, of course -- more about that in a bit...) cheered their victory.

Donald Trump is determined to waste as much of his donor's money as he possibly can on lawyer's fees for no apparent reason, as he proved this week by filing a $450 million lawsuit against CNN -- basically, for "being mean to me." Sooner or later this will get laughed out of court, so we've all got that to look forward to.

Trump also appealed the decision against him in the stolen-documents case, asking the Supreme Court to intervene in his favor. If the court weren't packed with partisan zealots, we'd say that this would also get laughed out of court, but these days who knows?

Liz Cheney appeared on behalf of Democratic candidates in Arizona, while one big Republican donor switched to backing the Democrat in a House race he had previously been on the Republican side (he switched after an election-denier won the primary).

But the big news from the campaign trail this week was about Herschel Walker, the GOP candidate for Senate in Georgia. Walker, who has staked out the most extreme forced-birth position imaginable, seems to have paid for his girlfriend's abortion. And she's got the receipts. Walker called the woman a liar and said he had no idea who she was (she has not publicly revealed her name), but it later came out that Walker actually did father a child with her later on, so that's pretty tough to believe. Walker initially threatened to sue The Daily Beast (who broke the story), but then immediately backed down from this empty threat. Walker's own son publicly ripped him a new one on social media, calling his dad a complete liar in absolutely unequivocal terms.

Every other Republican, of course, stood with Walker, since he's their only chance to recapture one of the Georgia Senate seats they lost last time around. The moral relativism oozing from the party is palpable (remember when Republicans used to denounce Democrats for moral relativism?... ahh, memories...). Newt Gingrich was perhaps the best example of ridiculousness in the midst of it all, saying Walker was "the most important Senate candidate in the country" due to his "deep commitment to Christ." This is a man who has been violent towards his partners, mind you, but the truly laughable thing about Newtie (who is no stranger to marital infidelity himself, it bears noting) was that the Democrat in the race is a senior pastor at Martin Luther King Junior's old church. There is no better example than that of the Republican Party's newfound love of style over substance, really.

Almost lost in all this frenzy was a new report that showed Walker lying about "supervising" six hospitals -- which is truly bizarre, since what hospital would ever let a man with such a dim grasp on reality supervise them? It was no surprise that this, like pretty much everything else that comes out of Walker's mouth, turned out to be a lie.

James Carville had the best take on the whackadoodle nature of many current Republican candidates for office, but we're going to save that for the very end.

For once, we're going to keep it fairly brief here in the awards section.

Before we begin with this week, we have a retroactive award to hand out. Last week, we completely missed Representative Elissa Slotkin's amazing speech exposing abortion foes for what they really are, so we wanted to rectify the omission. She is well-deserving of at least an Honorable Mention.

This week, a Democratic House candidate in Louisiana made some political advertising history, deploying what has to be the first campaign ad ever where the candidate is seen giving birth. It is effective and the whole ad is impressively well-put-together, so Katie Darling certainly deserves her own Honorable Mention for her pioneering ad. As well as our congratulations on her new baby!

But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is pretty obvious. President Joe Biden reversed the federal government's course on the War On Weed this week. As we've already said, the steps he took were both baby steps and quite significant. We know Biden will never be fully on board with complete legalization everywhere, but it is impressive he overcame a lifetime of being known as a tough drug warrior, and realized that the times have changed. The federal government is long overdue to start adjusting to this change, which is why Joe Biden's first steps towards that long-held goal were impressive enough, for now.

[Congratulate President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

We are likewise going to try to be brief in our second award, mostly because there is so much still left unknown.

The news broke this week (it was leaked) that Joe Biden's son Hunter is in some very hot water:

Federal agents investigating President Biden's son Hunter have gathered what they believe is sufficient evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase, according to people familiar with the case. The next step is for the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, a Trump administration holdover, to decide on whether to file such charges, these people said.

The investigation into Hunter Biden began in 2018, and became a central focus for then-president Donald Trump during his unsuccessful 2020 reelection effort. Initially, the investigation centered around Hunter Biden's finances related to overseas business ties and consulting work. Over time, investigators with multiple agencies focused closely on whether he did not report all of his income, and whether he lied on gun purchase paperwork in 2018, according to the people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case.

Agents determined months ago they had assembled a viable criminal case against the younger Biden. But it is ultimately up to prosecutors at the Justice Department, not agents, to decide whether to file charges in cases where prosecutors believe the evidence is strong enough to lead to a likely conviction at trial.

What was not said was the fact that, much like the Whitewater investigation, the investigators obviously didn't find what they initially set out to look for: "Hunter Biden's finances related to overseas business ties and consulting work." That would have been far more significant politically, since tax and gun charges are going to be almost impossible to pin on his dad. Filing bad tax info or gun purchase paperwork is a very personal thing -- it's usually not a sign of any great conspiracy. Again, this is far from what they were hoping to uncover.

And as the article points out, this is Trump's hand-picked investigator. Neither Biden nor Attorney General Merrick Garland has removed him from the case or otherwise interfered in the investigation -- both things that would definitely have happened if one of Donald Trump's kids were investigated while Trump was in office.

This is the way things are supposed to work, in other words. But for all the conspiracy theories the right has tried to float about Hunter Biden, this all looks like pretty small potatoes.

We're a firm believer in everyone receiving equal justice, of course. So we have no problem with the Department of Justice prosecuting the president's son if it appears he committed any crimes. But at the same time, we have to point out that these are not the crimes they were actually seeking.

Either way, though, Hunter Biden is easily our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, just for the headlines alone.

[Hunter Biden is a private citizen and it is our standing policy not to provide contact information for such persons, so you'll have to look up his contact info yourself it you'd like to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 680 (10/7/22)

We're going to take a detour before we get to the actual talking points, to highlight a masterpiece of writing. And of satire and parody. What's surprising is where it appeared -- in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court. By The Onion.

It's been a long time since we read something so hilarious, which is not exactly the norm when reading legal briefs. And it didn't really fit anywhere else here, but it deserves a spotlight for sheer brilliance alone.

Here is how their brief starts:

The Onion is the world's leading news publication, offering highly acclaimed, universally revered coverage of breaking national, international, and local news events. Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1756, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.

Fact check: The Onion began in 1988. And there are fewer than 8 billion humans on the entire planet.

But they do have a very serious point to make, which they lay out in their "Introduction and Summary of Argument" section:

Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government? This was a surprise to America's Finest News Source and an uncomfortable learning experience for its editorial team. Indeed, "Ohio Police Officers Arrest, Prosecute Man Who Made Fun of Them on Facebook" might sound like a headline ripped from the front pages of The Onion -- albeit one that's considerably less amusing because its subjects are real. So, when The Onion learned about the Sixth Circuit's ruling in this case, it became justifiably concerned.

First, the obvious: The Onion's business model was threatened. This was only the latest occasion on which the absurdity of actual events managed to eclipse what The Onion's staff could make up. Much more of this, and the front page of The Onion would be indistinguishable from The New York Times.

Later on, they explain the concept of parody, with a few side burns towards the people they are writing this document for:

I. Parody Functions By Tricking People Into Thinking That It Is Real.

Tu stultus es. You are dumb. These three Latin words have been The Onion's motto and guiding light since it was founded in 1988 as America's Finest News Source, leading its writers toward the paper's singular purpose of pointing out that its readers are deeply gullible people. The Onion's motto is central to this brief for two important reasons. First, it's Latin. And The Onion knows that the federal judiciary is staffed entirely by total Latin dorks: They quote Catullus in the original Latin in chambers. They sweetly whisper "stare decisis" into their spouses' ears. They mutter "cui bono" under their breath while picking up after their neighbors' dogs. So The Onion knew that, unless it pointed to a suitably Latin rallying cry, its brief would be operating far outside the Court's vernacular.

The entire brief is completely serious in the First Amendment protection they are arguing for, while simultaneously riotously funny (we would be willing to bet a lot that it's the first Supreme Court brief to ever use the term "Latin dorks," for instance). It's well worth reading in full, but we had to at least run a few excerpts here to give everyone a taste... and full disclosure, we became fascinated and enamored with the use of the editorial "we" first when reading the column ostensibly from the longtime publisher of The Onion (which, for those not familiar with them, were bizarrely hilarious in their own right). So anyone who rolls their eyes at us consistently (and pretentiously) using the editorial "we" in our Friday columns, you now know where the real blame lies.

But enough silliness... let's get on with the talking points, shall we?

Deschedule, don't reschedule

The real answer is getting Congress to fix the problem once and for all.

"I applaud Joe Biden's bold moves on ending the federal War On Weed. They are necessary steps which must be taken, and he is the first sitting president to reverse course on federal marijuana law, which I do appreciate and support. But the real answer is not just to study rescheduling marijuana on the list of dangerous controlled substances, but instead to remove it from the list altogether. That is what ultimately needs to happen, and everyone knows it. Put federal policy on marijuana in the same hands as the people who control alcohol and tobacco, where it belongs. Deschedule, don't reschedule."

The party of Putin

Whoops. It's tough when you actually come out and say what everyone suspects you of thinking, isn't it?

"The Conservative Political Action Committee hit a new low in their open embrace of dictators and strongmen this week, when they tweeted out:"

Vladimir Putin announces the annexation of 4 Ukrainian-occupied territories. Biden and the Dems continue to send Ukraine billions of taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, we are under attack at our southern border. When will Democrats put #AmericaFirst and end the gift-giving to Ukraine?

"This is disgusting. They are not 'Ukrainian-occupied territories,' they are in fact Ukrainian territories occupied by the Russian army after an illegal invasion. It is not 'gift-giving' to help an ally when they have been attacked without provocation, it is the right thing to do. Republicans just can't get over their Putin-love enough to see that, I guess. The Republican Party seems like it really wants to be the 'party of Putin,' these days."

Russian soldiers at our border?

Case in point....

"Kari Lake, the MAGA Republican running to become governor of Arizona, became just the latest Republican to use images of Russian soldiers in a political ad. She wasn't warning of Russian aggression, she was instead trying to pass them off as American National Guard forces who should be deployed on our southern border. As her Democratic opponent pointed out: 'If Kari Lake can't identify a uniformed member of the Arizona National Guard from a Russian soldier, she has no business leading our brave men and women as governor.' I could not agree more."

Racism and death threats need to be condemned by all

The media, sadly, is once again falling down on the job of holding other Republicans accountable for the increasingly unhinged and dangerous things Donald Trump says.

"Donald Trump last week on social media used the term 'death wish' against the Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. He used a blatantly racist slur against McConnell's wife, who used to be a member of his own cabinet. That sound of chirping crickets is all we heard from all the other Republicans. Even McConnell couldn't bring himself to denounce threats of violence and racist slurs used against his own wife. Other Republicans similarly ducked assigning any blame or condemnation to Trump. This is political cowardice of the first order. It used to be automatic for any politician to denounce such vile and dangerous language, but in Trump's GOP, anything goes, these days."

Your own son is calling you a liar

If times were normal and Donald Trump had never happened, this would have ended his political career. As it is, so far no Republican has had the guts to denounce Herschel Walker's hypocrisy and disdain for the truth. Which is par for the GOP course, these days.

"Herschel Walker seems like a perfect clone of Donald Trump's personality, which is probably why Trump so enthusiastically backed him. It seems Walker has never met a subject he can't blatantly lie about, and when confronted with his lies he doubles down and lies yet again. You know it has gotten pretty bad when your own son calls you out very publicly for lying your face off. And the big lie Walker got caught in -- proof that he paid for a girlfriend's abortion who he later fathered a child with -- is a doozy, since Walker has staked out an absolutist position on abortion. According to him, there should be no exceptions at all, abortion should be illegal, period. Except, of course, for his own girlfriends. Then apparently it's OK. The hypocrisy is just stunning, folks."

Dr. Oz killed puppies

Hoo boy.

"I'm not sure exactly why everyone seems to be ignoring this bombshell story, but it came out this week that Mehmet 'Dr.' Oz was in charge of medical studies at Columbia University that killed puppies. Over 300 dogs were killed, and the university later paid a fine for violating the Animal Welfare Act for these studies. Dogs were not given painkillers, and were essentially tortured. In one experiment, a litter of puppies were killed in brutal fashion without sedation, and then were allegedly 'left in a garbage bag with living puppies who were their littermates.' This is absolutely inhumane, and this should be front-page headlines all across Pennsylvania, at the very least. Does the Keystone State really want to send a puppy-killer to the United States Senate?"

Stupid is as stupid does

Leave it to James Carville to get right to the crux of the problem.

"The Republican Party will never come out and admit it, but all the problems they are having with all their whackadoodle nominees for office can be traced to one simple cause: their own voters. Their own base nominated these Bozos. No wonder they're so afraid of speaking the truth these days, because their voters simply are not interested in such things. Democratic operative James Carville summed it up rather starkly, saying that the 'very low-quality candidates' Republicans wound up with was due to a simple fact. In Carville's own words:"

They have a lot of stupid people that vote in their primaries. They really do. I'm not really supposed to say that but it's obvious fact. And you know, when stupid people vote, you know who they nominate? Other stupid people.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
Posted by ChrisWeigant | Fri Oct 7, 2022, 07:06 PM (1 replies)

Friday Talking Points -- The Calm After The Storm

We've long thought that America is at her best when disaster strikes. We've thought this since the massive 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, in fact, which we rode out in San Francisco. And we saw firsthand that when life is disrupted, it is disrupted equally. Everyone is affected, so everyone puts aside all their differences and just pitches in to help in the immediate aftermath. Maybe this is a rosy-tinted view, but it still holds mostly true.

Case in point is Hurricane Ian, which just devastated Florida and seems on its way to devastate the Carolinas next. Ian has been one of the biggest hurricanes in American history already (fifth-largest, from one news report) and we haven't even begun to comprehend the scope of the damage or how long it will take to recover from it. The damage isn't even over yet, and most of the East Coast will at least get some heavy rains before Ian disintegrates.

But already, some of the "We're all in this together" spirit has been showing. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis actually had some words of praise for President Joe Biden, which is downright astonishing since DeSantis yearns to run for Biden's job in two years. But there DeSantis was, praising the Biden administration's handling of the crisis so far. DeSantis is also heavily supporting the concept of federal disaster relief money flowing into his state, to help his constituents recover and eventually rebuild.

Of course, there are always those who are too mean-spirited to help their fellow Americans in any way. With every disaster relief bill that comes up for a vote in Congress, there is almost always a faction -- usually comprised almost entirely of Republicans -- who refuse to vote to help people out after a natural disaster of epic proportions. Here is a reminder of that, in a story about a man who used to hold a House seat and opposed storm relief for the region around New York City:

A federal bailout for the New York region after Hurricane Sandy was an irresponsible boondoggle, a symbol of the "put it on the credit card mentality" he had come to Washington to oppose.

"I sympathize with the victims," he said. But his answer was no.

That congressman? Ron DeSantis.

Funny how people change their tune when it is their own state that got hit, eh? Here is DeSantis on Fox News this week, encouraging his fellow Republicans to support disaster aid:

[W]e live in a very politicized time. But you know, when people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they've lost everything -- if you can't put politics aside for that, then you're just not going to be able to.

Except, you know, when those people live in New York.

Republican hypocrisy aside, we have to say that so far President Biden has been doing the job we all hoped he would when we elected him. He is the calm after the storm. FEMA pre-positioned water and fuel and other supplies so they'd be in place afterwards, and hopefully not even Puerto Rico (which got hit by Hurricane Fiona) will get ignored in the rebuilding effort. Biden said he would be travelling to the affected regions as soon as their infrastructure had been repaired enough to handle a presidential visit, and it's a pretty sure bet that he won't spend his time chucking paper towel rolls at desperate people while the cameras whirr and click. That's a big difference, obviously.

In other calming news, Congress has now passed a stopgap budget bill which Biden will sign before midnight tonight (he may have even already signed it), averting a government shutdown. They have successfully punted the budget ball to mid-December, which means a lot of work at the end of the lame-duck session. Passing the bill wasn't entirely drama-free, because initially Senator Joe Manchin was allowed to attach his pet bill on loosening regulations on big energy projects (which would have directly benefitted a pipeline project in West Virginia) -- but then he was forced to pull his part of the bill when he couldn't get enough Republicans on board with it. We wrote about this earlier in the week, how it was a comeuppance Manchin oh-so-royally deserved. But Manchin was at least gracious in defeat and pulled his bill with plenty of time for the Senate to pass the remaining budget bill.

Biden made some other notable moves this week, such as announcing a new plan to tackle hunger in America. His student loan forgiveness plan had to be dialled back a bit, to avoid lawsuits, which will adversely affect at least hundreds of thousands of students (if not a few million). This is a small percentage of the people overall who will be helped, though, so let's not blow it too far out of proportion.

The debt forgiveness program is already being sued, in two different lawsuits. Both will likely fail badly on proving they have "standing" to sue. Standing means you have suffered an actual injury somehow (mentally, physically, financially, whatever), and neither party has a very strong case to make. The first one is a guy in Indiana who insists that he will be harmed if $20,000 of his debt is cancelled, because then he'll be forced to pay $1,000 in state income taxes (which tax this benefit as "income" ). Except for the small fact that he could refuse the forgiveness if he wants to (he is having his college debt forgiven under a different program, so either way he'll be off the hook for the money -- in other words: refusing the Biden plan wouldn't harm him, either). Nobody's going to be forced to take part in the Biden plan, in other words. He's got such an obvious solution the courts will likely quickly dispose of his case: "Think the benefit will harm you? Then refuse it, it's as simple as that." The second case is brought by a handful of Republican-run states, and will likely fail since they have no real direct standing either.

In other legal news, Donald Trump's pet federal judge in Florida overruled the special master and gave Team Trump more time to dither and delay. She also told the special master that he can't require Trump's lawyers to actually prove (or even "commit to" ) the wildly-unfounded claims they've been making, which avoids having the lawyers being caught by perjury.

A story which didn't get nearly the attention it deserved this week was all the revelations about life inside the Trump Department of Justice, when -- from Bill Barr on down -- the entire department was politically weaponized. Trump enemies were to be punished, on orders from the White House. Which everyone largely suspected anyway, but it was good to hear an inside account of it.

Another Trump-era revelation: yes, it was also on orders from the White House that the Navy ship U.S.S. John S. McCain had its name covered up and obscured while Donald Trump visited the ship next to it in dock. Because Trump is that petty. This was nine months after McCain died, mind you.

And one last tidbit from Trumpworld: the company that puts on speeches by Trump (which are exactly like his rallies, except people have to actually pay Trump to attend) seems to be heading for bankruptcy. One assumes that Trump got paid first, but the investors are being stiffed. What a surprise! A grift from the get-go? Who could have ever predicted such a thing!

There are so many other examples of Republicans being idiots this week that we're going to have to just quickly whip through them all, here.

Senator Josh Hawley is apparently confused. In a fundraising letter, he warns of those dastardly woke liberals who want to "teach young children there is more than one gender." Um... OK, Josh... which one is it? The internet had all kinds of fun pointing the obvious out....

That one was amusing, but the rest aren't. The Michigan candidate for governor apparently thinks the current governor being the target of a kidnapping plot is somehow worthy of a punchline. Republicans continue to play the "Who can go lowest?" game, in reprehensible fashion.

Over in Pennsylvania, the GOP governor candidate believes that all abortion is murder and should be treated as such by the law. This means charging women who get abortions as murderers. This is more an entry in the "Who can be most extreme?" category.

A county commissioner appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had to hastily quit, after a photo surfaced of him in full Ku Klux Klan regalia. It could have been a Hallowe'en party, but even so....

And finally, we are learning more about how dangerous a character Roger Stone truly is. He will reportedly be featured in the next January 6th committee hearing, with video taken from a documentarian who was following Stone around through this period. Stone had plenty of downright frightening things to say, but possibly the worst was how he thought Donald Trump should handle the election -- by just declaring victory no matter what the vote was. And then Trump should tell anyone who complains: "I'm the president. Fuck you. You're not stealing Florida, you're not stealing Ohio. I'm challenging all of it, and the judges we're going to are judges I appointed." Because this is how the Trumpistas think things should really work in America. As we said: frightening.

The House Select Committee on January 6th did have a public hearing scheduled (now being referred to as "the last hearing before the midterms" ), but they postponed it due to Hurricane Ian arriving right when they scheduled it for. This did allow them the time to get Ginni Thomas to testify, however.

And finally, some lighthearted news. NASA successfully crashed a small probe into an asteroid -- the first planned impact of its kind ever. It was done to test a theory about diverting asteroids off course if one should ever threaten Earth, so it is an important experiment. It'll take a few months of close observations of the asteroid's new orbit to see whether it worked or not, so stay tuned....

Speaking of space, a U.F.O. made a surprise appearance in a government logo (of the "National Intelligence Manager for Aviation" ) this week... or maybe not? It could have been pranksters, but the photo is pretty amusing to see.

And what seemed like a prank but was actually just a bit of fun in Washington... the musician Lizzo toured the extensive flute collection at the Library of Congress (who knew?) and got to play several rare specimens, but the best one was a crystal flute given to James Madison by a French artisan. Reportedly, the flute had never been played before. Lizzo asked for, and got permission to break the rule of silence in the Library, and had fun playing in a very echoey hall. Then she also got to play a few notes on it in the middle of one of her concerts, where she obviously enjoyed the experience no end.

There's no political facet to that story, it's just a rare feel-good event in the Nation's Capitol. We thought it was a perfect item to end this week's news on, that's all.

President Biden, as we've previously mentioned, was a welcome bit of calm in the White House in a time of natural disaster. He's also done a good job of standing up to Russia without (so far) provoking them into escalating their war to unacceptable levels (like using those tactical nukes Putin keeps threatening to use).

But this week we have to give the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to California Governor Gavin Newsom, who signed a bill this week that will make it easier for farmworkers to form Unions. This was news, since Newsom had earlier indicated that he was going to veto the bill that the legislature had passed.

Here's the story:

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Wednesday making it easier for farmworkers to unionize in California -- a reversal from earlier threats to veto the bill that came after President Joe Biden and other Democratic heavyweights threw their support behind it.

Newsom walked outside the sunbaked front steps of the state Capitol and signed the bill in front of a small gathering organized by the United Farm Workers, the iconic union founded by the late Cesar Chavez whose members had kept up a monthslong vigil in Sacramento in support of the bill.

"California's farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace," Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.

Newsom made no mention of the fact that he had said he could not support the bill in its current form just before it passed near the end of the legislative session. His office said it had reached a "supplemental agreement" with the UFW and the California Labor Federation on future legislation that would enable labor regulators to "adequately protect worker confidentiality."

The agreement with the governor's office eliminates a provision of the bill that would allow mail-in union elections. In its place, workers will be allowed to join UFW by signing a card, a system long sought by organizers.

So in the end, the bill will be improved, due to Newsom working out a compromise with the Unions and the legislature. That's a win-win all around.

Newsom has a habit of playing it coy on big bills, and sometimes he vetoes them for what seem like bizarre reasons. Joe Biden and plenty of other Democrats had been urging Newsom to sign the bill, but nobody knew until this week whether any of it had worked or not.

Less than one percent of California farmworkers have a Union. This new law should allow that number to rise. Farmworkers do the hardest work you can imagine, in the hot sun all day (for the most part), and they are routinely treated incredibly badly by the agribusinesses. So it's about time the playing field got a little more level for them.

Which is why this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is California's own Gavin Newsom, for doing the right thing.

[Congratulate California Governor Gavin Newsom on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

The category doesn't exist, but if it did Joe Manchin would definitely win the title of "most disappointED Democrat of the week." Manchin cut a deal with Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democratic Party. He would vote for the Inflation Reduction Act if Schumer allowed him to bring up a pet bill to greenlight an energy pipeline in West Virginia, in fairly quick order. You know, just like the deal Manchin urged on the rest of the Democratic Party last year, when they all voted for his bipartisan infrastructure bill while Manchin promised he'd allow the Build Back Better bill to move forward too.

Manchin reneged on that deal, in a big and embarrassing way. So it's hard not to use the word "comeuppance" to describe what just happened in the Senate. Republicans wanted to punish Manchin for his vote on the I.R.A., so they refused to support his pipeline deal (even though normally they'd be in favor of reducing regulations and red tape for energy projects). Democrats didn't fully support Manchin either. So his pet bill had to be withdrawn.

Turn about is fair play. Hoist by his own petard. What goes around comes around. Choose your metaphor, there are many.

A little-known longshot candidate for a House race in New Jersey was caught this week ripping off a logo familiar to his district. It seems Matt Jenkins ripped off the "Wawa Goose" and stuck it on his campaign signs. As mentioned, he is a total longshot in a very Republican district -- he's only got about $10,500 cash in his campaign account -- and as he put it: "This is going to cost me money to change. Everybody knows my finances. I don't have any. To go out and reprint my signs, all my literature." Wawa, a regional convenience store chain, has sent Jenkins a cease-and-desist letter, so he may have no choice. But at best "theft of a convenience store's logo" is only worth a (Dis-)Honorable Mention.

Joe Biden earned his own (Dis-)Honorable Mention this week, by appearing in front of a crowd of people and asking "Where's Jackie?" To a woman who died in a car crash last month, Representative Jackie Walorski. To be fair, Biden's got 535 members of Congress to keep track of, so this might have been the fault of some staffer not updating him on the situation, but even so it was pretty bad optics.

But this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week goes to Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who apparently (once again) was jealous of the limelight Joe Manchin was enjoying, so she went off and gave a speech. With Mitch McConnell. Where the two praised each other so much that "lovefest" seems entirely appropriate. See for yourself:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Monday engaged in a mutual admiration exchange with the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), expressed support for restoring elements of the filibuster and suggested that Republicans might win control of the House or Senate in the midterm elections.

Several Democrats were unhappy, criticizing not only her remarks but her timing.

Sinema made the comments during a speech at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, speaking and answering questions at the invitation of McConnell. There, McConnell effusively praised Sinema in his introduction, saying she is the "most effective first-term senator" he's seen during his 37 years in the Senate.

"She is, today, what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: a genuine moderate and a dealmaker," he said.

Sinema, for her part, spoke highly of McConnell. "Despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship, one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution," she said.

Sinema went on to predict Republicans would do well in the midterms: "As you all know, control changes between the House and the Senate every couple of years. It's likely to change again in just a few weeks." She also went out of her way not just to defend her defense of the filibuster, but to say she supported bringing it back for judges and appointees as well:

"Not only am I committed to the 60-vote threshold, I have an incredibly unpopular view. I actually think we should restore the 60-vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already. We should restore it," Sinema said.

"Not everyone likes that," she continued, "because it would make it harder for us to confirm judges and it would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration, but I believe that if we did restore it, we would see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance, which is what, I believe, our forefathers intended."

Yeah, like all that mythical "middle ground" Barack Obama got, when he nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, right Kyrsten?

Now, speaking at McConnell's namesake university center isn't automatically a bad thing. Plenty of other Democrats have done so (including Joe Biden when he was vice president and Amy Klobuchar who spoke there this April). But please note that neither of them did so weeks before a midterm election. Sinema, of course, does not care what damage she does to fellow Democrats or the Democratic Party, since she has made it crystal-clear that the only thing she cares about is herself (and fattening her campaign accounts).

For going out and waving a white flag of surrender a little more than a month from a midterm election, for praising the leader of the opposition in the Senate, and for her general insistence that moderation will bloom in the mythical "middle ground," when that ground has been trampled into a muddy battlefield full of land mines, Kyrsten Sinema is easily our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Contact Senator Kyrsten Sinema on her Senate contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions.]

Volume 679 (9/30/22)

Another mixed bag this week. We start of with two bits of good news Democrats should be touting, and finish with more of a focus on the midterm campaigns.

Manufacturing rebounds

The New York Times had some good news for President Biden.

"American manufacturers have now added back more jobs than were lost in the COVID slump. When the economy shut down in early 2020, factory workers saw 1.36 million jobs disappear. But now, 1.43 million factory jobs have returned. There are now 67,000 more factory workers than there were pre-COVID, to put it another way. Thanks to Joe Biden and all the efforts by Democrats to convince American companies to bring their supply chains back home, America now has more manufacturing jobs than before the crisis. That is something to celebrate!"

No more nickel-and-diming

This is a small-bore change, as Washington and the punditocracy see things, but it is also one of those things which people will personally experience in a good and very direct way, since it'll end an enormous amount of frustration and anger at being nibbled to death by ducks.

"Back in the old days, you would go to buy an airline ticket and you'd be given a price. That was the price you paid. They gave you a seat assignment sitting next to your own children, they checked in a reasonable amount of luggage, and you even got to deal with a human being when you checked in, who would help you get what you needed. These days, of course, all of that costs extra. Little fees are added at every step of the way. The price you thought you were going to pay to fly somewhere turns out to be just a fraction of the total bill. It is annoying, but if Joe Biden has his way, this is all about to change for the better. If Biden gets his rule through, then the airlines will have to disclose the full price of flying immediately and up-front on any website that sells tickets -- so you can accurately compare the actual costs between airlines. Tens of millions of consumers will benefit from reining in the greed of the airlines -- or at least making this greed a lot more transparent. If all goes well, this big change could happen within months."

Da, Comrade!

Hoo boy. Talk about an "own goal."

"House Republicans, with great fanfare, unveiled a vague and nonspecific document as their midterm platform last week. They even created a video, with what they presented as typical scenes of the lives of various red-blooded Americans. The only problem? The stock footage they used was actually shot in Russia and Ukraine. So all those 'gosh darn it, what a fine upstanding American' vignettes actually showed Russians and/or Ukrainians. I mean, it's already pretty obvious which American political party Vladimir Putin is a big fan of -- do they really need to butter him up like this? I mean, what would Ronald Reagan have to say about this, one wonders...."

Extremism makes you less safe

This was inspired by an interesting article on an ad being run against Herschel Walker, to give credit where it is due.

"Republicans have gotten so extreme that they are now making life more dangerous. They refuse to enact commonsense gun safety legislation, even though a vast majority -- including a majority of gun owners -- favor such reasonable laws. Every time you hear of a school shooting, remember that Democrats are trying to fix the problem while Republicans have staked out such an extreme position that it endangers all our kids. And they're moving backwards on women's rights, too, by taking away the freedom of body autonomy and instituting forced-birth laws that don't even have exceptions for rape or incest or the life of the mother. This puts women's lives and health at risk for political reasons, plain and simple. The Republican Party has gone too far. Their extremism is making us all less safe."

Dr. Oz blows it again

Need some comic relief, after that last one? Here you go....

"Mehmet 'Dr.' Oz just shot himself in the foot again. He whined about John Fetterman's sartorial choices, saying that him wearing a hoodie was 'not an accident. He's kicking authority in the balls.' Oz accused Fetterman of signalling: 'I'm the man. I'll show those guys who's boss.' This led to Fetterman gleefully embracing the meme, tweeting out 'DC could use a kick in the balls.' It led New York Magazine to run an article titled: 'The Fetterman Campaign Should Just Hire Dr. Oz.' In other words, once again Dr. Oz has provided Fetterman with a dandy campaign slogan which will resonate with the voters. It's almost like this guy has never run a political campaign before or something...."

Nothing but the straight poop


"Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is being honored in the most appropriate way imaginable: with a life-size statue of him made out of poop. Previously, Johnson had publicly stated that he thought that climate change was, and I quote, 'bullshit.' So some enterprising folks in his state carved a statue... or, as they call it, a "scatue"... of Johnson, out of cow manure. A spokesman for NextGen Pac explained: 'The people in Wisconsin deserve a senator who believes in climate change and won't take money from the fossil fuel industry to get richer himself. That's why we joined MoveOn in Milwaukee today to call out Ron Johnson's bullsh*t... literally.' This is so appropriate and so funny that we wouldn't be surprised if Triumph the Insult Comic Dog had a paw in its creation, somehow."

Family values!

Is everyone with the last name "Trump" a horrible human being? Decide for yourself....

"Lara Trump set a new low for Trumpologists to study this week, by posting a video of her very small child riding a toy bulldozer during Hurricane Ian. She calls this, in the text she posted, 'character building.' In the audio, she can actually be heard laughing at her own child's distress. The child is visibly crying and is clearly traumatized at being forced to ride his toy in the rain. 'Character building'? Hardly. We have a few other choice terms for this: child abuse, or perhaps torture. This is so horrible and disturbing a video it is hard to fathom a mother who would proudly post it for the public to see... unless, of course, their last name was Trump."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Trump's "Secret Telepathic Unilateral Preemptive Irreversible Declassificat

We do try to avoid it in general, but this week it is impossible not to lead our news wrap-up with the ongoing Donald Trump Follies. Spoiler alert: it wasn't a very good week in Trumpland.

Here's how one Washington Post writer summed things up:

The legal dangers facing former president Donald Trump rose this week, after the New York attorney general filed a fraud lawsuit that could effectively shutter the Trump Organization and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit allowed federal investigators to continue their probe into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

. . .

Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed dozens of his former advisers, and many others, as part of a sprawling investigation into efforts to obstruct the transfer of power after the 2020 election. Separately, a Georgia grand jury has been looking at allegations that he tried to obstruct that state's electoral count by pressuring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to "find" enough votes to overturn the election.

An aspiring corporate partner for his new social media company has received subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission. District attorneys in Westchester, N.Y., and Manhattan have ongoing investigations of his companies. One of his sexual assault accusers filed court papers last month disclosing her intent to sue him under a recently passed New York law that offers exceptions to the standard statute of limitations for sex crimes.

In the first two of these listed, Team Trump suffered some major setbacks this week. This must have been somewhat of a surprise to them, since one of the setbacks came from a three-judge appellate panel that had two judges on it who had been appointed by Trump himself, and the other setback came from the "special master" assigned to the document-handling case that was Team Trump's personal choice (they submitted his name and the Justice Department didn't have a problem with him, so he got appointed). So much for what Trump calls "loyalty," eh?

What happened this week was Trump's fantasy world (where all legal disputes are decided exclusively in the court of public opinion) met the brick wall of actual jurists who follow the law. As with most smashing-into-a-brick-wall collisions, the result was not pretty.

Trump hit a trifecta of bad legal news this week. At least it must have seemed that way to anyone who subscribes to the "bad things always come in threes" philosophy (full disclosure: we are agnostic on this one -- maybe, maybe not...).

The first blow came from Trump's hand-picked special master, who in a very no-nonsense fashion let Trump's lawyers know that he was going to do an expedient job, he was not going to countenance vague insinuations (without any actual sworn statements), and if the government said documents were classified that was good enough for him:

A federal judge expressed skepticism on Tuesday about the efforts by former President Donald J. Trump's legal team to avoid offering any proof of his claims that he had declassified sensitive government documents that were seized from his Florida estate last month.

The statements by the judge, Raymond J. Dearie, who is acting as a special master reviewing the seized materials, were an early indication that he may not be entirely sympathetic to the former president's attempts to bog down the judge's evaluation with time-consuming questions over the classification status of some of the documents.

"My view is, you can't have your cake and eat it too," Judge Dearie said at a hearing called to determine the process he would use to do a sweeping review of materials seized from Mr. Trump.

. . .

At his first hearing as special master, Judge Dearie seemed to cut through this confusing web, telling Mr. Trump's lawyers in direct terms that he was likely to deem the documents classified -- unless they offered evidence to the contrary.

. . .

"We are going to proceed," he said, "with what I call responsible dispatch."

He shot down Trump's lawyers' attempt to just sort of insinuate that documents were in some Schrodinger's Cat zone of being both "classified and unclassified" until Trump decided it was time to open that box and let the world know. Judge Dearie essentially told Team Trump to put up or shut up. If the government said documents are classified and Trump doesn't explicitly claim they are not, then: "As far as I am concerned, that's the end of it," and he would assume they are classified. Period.

He also said he probably wouldn't even bother to look at the classified documents, since Trump still hasn't made the claim that any of the seized documents are his personal property, and being classified by definition means such documents are government property, telling Trump's lawyers: "If I can make recommendations... right or wrong, without exposing myself or you to that material, I'm going to do it."

In other words, Judge Dearie is going to act in a professional manner, do the job he has been assigned, respect national security, all the while ignoring distracting nonsense from Trump. Which must have been a blow to Trump, one assumes.

The second part of the trifecta happened the next morning, when New York Attorney General Letitia James held a press conference to announce she was filing a civil suit against Trump and three of his children (Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric) for committing massive bank fraud. She laid out specific criminal charges which could be brought against the Trumps (which she does not have the power to do), which included: "Falsifying Business Records... Issuing a False Financial Statement and... Insurance Fraud."

Here's the whole story:

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and his three eldest children over his long-running alleged tax-dodging scheme.

James hopes to convince a court to take steps to bar Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump from conducting business in the state of New York, along with making them pay some $250 million in restitution and limiting their access to loans.

"Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us," James said at a press conference outlining Trump's alleged misconduct.

We'll have more on this part of the trifecta a little later in the program.

This move hits Trump at the heart of his corporate empire. If James wins her case, she could effectively run the Trumps out of New York state, at least business-wise. Of course, he's already moved to Florida, but this final rejection of Trump by New York has got to sting at least a little bit.

The third shoe to drop (and we do realize that doesn't make much sense metaphorically, but we're going with it anyway...) was the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals pretty much laughing Trump's pet federal judge out of the courtroom. Trump challenged the seizure of documents from his Florida golf club not in the court which had issued the search warrant but instead by court-shopping to select a judge that Trump appointed mere days before he left office. This judge thanked Trump by not questioning his lawyers' bizarre and unsupported claims and by giving Trump exactly what he asked for: a special master to review all the seized documents for both attorney-client privilege and -- without providing a shred of legal reasoning -- for any claims Trump might make in the future of executive privilege. This could have been precedent-setting, since no other court has ever found executive privilege applies solely within the executive branch. She also barred the F.B.I. from continuing their investigation into the classified documents without requiring Trump's lawyers to actually claim that any of the documents had actually been declassified in some way.

The appellate judges tore her legal reasoning to shreds (which we wrote about yesterday in detail, or you can read the entire 29-page ruling from the 11th Circuit if you have the time). The federal government had only challenged the ruling barring the F.B.I. from seeing the classified documents, but the three judges took the time to leave everything else about Trump's pet judge's ruling in absolute tatters.

Trump has been trying to lead everyone down a rabbit hole this entire time. His "defense" (you can't even really call it that, because it isn't) all along is that somehow all the classified documents were magically unclassified and therefore Trump wins and he gets all the papers back. Um... no. That's not the way it works at all.

The three judges specifically addressed this, in what could be the definitive answer to the whole distraction of a question [emphasis added]:

The district court concluded that Plaintiff had an interest in some of the seized material because it included "medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information." But none of those concerns apply to the roughly one-hundred classified documents at issue here. And the district court made no mention in its analysis of this factor as to why or how Plaintiff might have an individual interest in or need for the classified documents.

For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings.

They are "owned by, produced by or for, or . . . under the control of the United States Government."

They went on to patiently explain: Trump "has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents.... And even if he had, that, in and of itself, would not explain why Plaintiff has an individual interest in the classified documents."

They then made it crystal-clear why classification isn't even relevant:

Plaintiff suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified. And before the special master, Plaintiff resisted providing any evidence that he had declassified any of these documents. In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal. So even if we assumed that Plaintiff did declassify some or all of the documents, that would not explain why he has a personal interest in them.

Or, to put it plainly: it does not matter whether Trump declassified anything or not. It is nothing more than a red herring.

One would hope the political media gets the message, because so far Trump has been doing a dandy job of distracting everyone with the "classified or not?" shiny object.

Trump has never -- not even in friendly Fox News interviews -- said why he thinks any of these papers are his personal property. And that is the entire case -- he stole government documents and refused to hand them back. Classified or not, those documents do not belong to him. And so far, he has provided no answer to the question of why he had those documents in the first place.

Thankfully, even two Trump-appointed judges can clearly see what the law actually says and tune out all the irrelevancies emanating from Trump's mouth (and legal mouthpieces).

One... two... three. The legal haymakers just kept coming. And Trump's answer to it all was to double down on the distractions. He claimed on Fox News (in an interview that was taped before the 11th Circuit ruling was made public) that he can telekinetically or telepathically (take your choice) declassify documents:

There doesn't have to be a [declassification] process as I understand it. If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, "It's declassified," even by thinking about it because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or wherever you're sending it. And there doesn't have to be a process. There can be a process but there doesn't have to be. You're the president. You make that decision. So when you send it, it's declassified. I declassified everything.

By doing so, Trump dug his own legal hole a little deeper, since he flat-out admits that he stole the documents: "...because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or wherever you're sending it." This is why normal lawyers will prevent their clients from speaking about impending cases in public, but Trump doesn't take legal direction very well (obviously).

One former F.B.I. agent had the perfect rejoinder:

"Omg he's actually invoking the Secret Telepathic Unilateral Preemptive Irreversible Declassification (S.T.U.P.I.D.) defense," quipped Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and attorney.

Seems like either "STUPID defense" or "stupid defense" summed up the legal week for Trump, now that we think about it.

However, Trump's mental gymnastics were a wee bit too far to go, for some Senate Republicans:

Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told CNN on Thursday that there is, in fact, a process for declassifying documents, and that "it ought to be adhered to and followed."

"I think that should apply to anybody who has access to or deals with classified information," he said. "I think the concern is about those being taken from the White House absent some way of declassifying them or the fact that there were classified documents removed -- without sort of the appropriate safeguards. I think that is what the Justice Department is getting at."

Even top Trump allies took issue with the former president's statement that he could declassify documents with his mind, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who simply acknowledged that "the process is probably more complicated than that."

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told the network there is a formal process that everyone must go through when declassifying sensitive material. "As I understand the Executive Branch requirements, there is a process that one must go through," he said.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who sits on the Armed Services Committee, told CNN that the handling of classified documents is a "very serious" issue.

"I think anyone who takes the time to appropriately protect that information and who has taken the time to see what's in the information would have serious concerns about how items could be accessed if they're not stored properly," he said. "And so once again, up here, we take it very seriously. People can get hurt, people can get killed if it's not stored correctly, and if that information gets out."

Which is why all of this is so important -- something Trump would dearly like everyone to forget about. This is national security classified information, and Trump had it stored in his golf resort with only the minimal security imaginable. Anyone could have broken into that storage room and made off with top secret information. That's why this is all so serious, as Senator Rounds helpfully pointed out.

Of course, a few other things were happening this week as well. Trump held a rally in Ohio that took place while an Ohio State football game was being played (a major faux pas in the Buckeye State), and during it went full-on QAnon. Over the past few weeks he's been more and more welcoming to the whole QAnon conspiracy theory, and that all culminated in him playing their anthem and them saluting him with one finger, providing an image that many found reminiscent of the "Heil Hitler" Nazi salute. Trump didn't seem to care.

Two minor stories to close on, in an effort (probably futile) to finish on a lighter note... speaking of anthems, the Space Force rolled out their official anthem. It's pretty bad. Maybe they should have hired William Shatner to write some lyrics and John Williams to provide some better music? Just a thought....

And finally, a shocking post by the surgeon general had many outraged. It seems Vivek Murthy likes to eat ice cream cones without any ice cream in them. Many expressed outrage and concern for his mental state online, after he proudly posted this gastronomic quirk. We remain neutral, having long ago adopted the attitude: "Whatever floats your boat." Whether that means an ice cream float or just a dry cone, we say: "To each his own!"

Several good bills passed the House this week, from a reform of the Electoral Count Act to a package of four policing bills. Everyone who worked hard to get these sent over to the Senate deserves credit, of course. The E.C.A. reform bill will likely have to be reconciled with a different version which may pass the Senate, so it probably won't make it to President Joe Biden's desk before the lame-duck period, but it is a critical thing to fix so that what Donald Trump attempted after he lost a presidential election can never happen again.

The policing bills may sadly only serve as "messaging" bills, since there probably isn't enough Republican support -- for bills helping police forces out! -- in the Senate. But at least it'll help Democrats defend against Republicans who continue to wrongfully accuse the entire party of wanting to "defund the police," so that's something.

President Biden did attend the United Nations General Assembly this week, after flying back from Queen Elizabeth II's funeral, and he delivered some strong words to Russia. So Biden at least is worthy of an Honorable Mention for showing the world that America can indeed elect adults to be our leaders once again.

But the real Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was Letitia James, New York's attorney general. Here is some more of what is included in the civil suit she brought this week against Donald Trump and three of his adult children:

Prosecutors in New York have been looking into [Donald] Trump's real estate business practices for several years following reports that he routinely undervalued and overvalued assets to avoid paying his fair share of taxes. [New York Attorney General Letitia] James said that "a comprehensive three-year investigation" involved a review of millions of documents and interviews with 65 witnesses. Along with members of the Trump family, the suit names Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's former longtime chief financial officer, alongside his right-hand-man Jeffrey McConney.

James' office is also making criminal referrals to federal prosecutors and the IRS, believing the Trumps to have violated federal law.

. . .

She gave several examples: One asset in New York City had been listed as being worth over 60 times what an appraiser had valued it. Mar-a-Lago, Trump's South Florida golf resort, was estimated to be worth $75 million, but James said it had been "valued as high as $739 million" on documents her office reviewed.

"All told, we uncovered more than 200 examples of false and misleading asset valuations that were used on his statements," James said, calling the pattern an "astounding" one.

She added: "It was a scheme that by its very nature became more profitable over time."

The hefty lawsuit is around 280 pages long and contains details on 23 assets that were misvalued at various times.

It bears mentioning that this is just one of the legal headaches Trump either faces or will face in the very near future. But James was first out of the gate -- the first one to file an actual court case against Trump. This wasn't done hastily -- it was the result of an investigation begun after Michael Cohen spilled the beans during Trump's presidency, after all.

James even had a soundbite ready to go: "This wasn't the 'art of the deal'... it was the art of the steal."

Just for being the first to (perhaps) hold Trump accountable for all his wrongdoing, New York Attorney General Letitia James is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senator New York Attorney General Letitia James on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

Once again, we are happy to report that we have no candidates for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week.

As always, feel free to make nominations down in the comments.

Volume 678 (9/23/22)

A mixed bunch, this week.

Oh, a program note for those of you who don't already know: the House Select Committee on January 6th is planning their fall season opener for next Wednesday, September 28th. Be sure to stock up on popcorn! Season One was pretty captivating television, so we have high hopes for Season Two....

But let's move on to this week's talking points, for now.

Fund The Police

The House made an attempt to defuse an issue Republicans have used as a political bludgeon this week.

"Four bills to fund police and encourage reforms in how policing is done passed the House this week. Taken together, this is a major effort to both support police officers and help them do their jobs, including (among other things) providing mental health professionals to aid cops when dealing with a situation involving someone with behavioral issues. The main bill in this legislative package funds small local police departments who don't have big-city budgets. It will provide to them equipment, including body cameras, and will allow small police departments money for recruitment and training -- including de-escalation training. But, sadly, while some of these commonsense bills passed with a large bipartisan majority, dozens of Republicans voted against funding the police. And you can bet we will be reminding their voters of this, out on the campaign trail."

GOP issues vague and gauzy promises

This is just a joke. So point it out.

"House Republicans today released yet another attempt to re-bottle the 'Contract With America' lightning, a document that supposedly tells the voters what they would do if they took control of the House of Representatives. This is notable, since in 2020 the Republican Party didn't even bother putting out a platform document at all. But it's pretty weak beer, when you try to figure out what they're actually standing for. There are no details, there are no specific promises, there is just an oatmeal-like mush of 'elect us, and everything will be wonderful... somehow' happy-talk. While Democrats are busy getting things done in the House, Republicans would be hard-pressed to agree on anything if they took charge -- that's the real takeaway from their so-called 'Commitment To America'."

Trolling Ted

Too, too funny.

"Senator Ted Cruz (R - Cancun) got caught doing something lots of Republicans try to get away with -- claiming political credit for something he didn't vote for. In this case, it was highway funding for the state of Texas. Cruz puffed his chest out and bragged about all the wonderful federal money coming to his state, but the White House had some shade to throw. In fact, it only took them five words: 'Senator Cruz voted against this.' Nice try, Rafael. Next time, maybe try not lying to your constituents, for a change."

Speaking of despicable lies...

Every so often a politician gets caught doing this, and they usually go down in flames immediately afterwards -- and rightly so.

"J.R. Majewski is running for a House seat in Ohio. He's been endorsed by Donald Trump. He supports QAnon. He attended the January 6th insurrection. None of that stopped the GOP from backing his candidacy to the hilt, but finally we have found something that is so reprehensible that the party itself walks away. In his campaign, Majewski has bragged about his service in the Air Force, saying things like: '[my] squadron was one of the first on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11.' Except that, you know, it wasn't. Majewski actually spent six months of the war safe on a base in Qatar, where he helped load planes. The majority of his service was spent in Japan. He lied about participating in a war, which is an insult to every servicemember who did serve in the war zone. And when he got caught in this lie, the Republicans decided they had heard enough and yanked almost a million dollars in ad money from Majewski's race. So finally we know that there actually are depths to which Republicans still won't stoop."

I'm with STUPID

Hoo boy. Funniest quip of the week, by far!

"A former F.B.I. agent had the best response to Donald Trump claiming he could just mentally declassify documents on the fly -- he called it the 'Secret Telepathic Unilateral Preemptive Irreversible Declassification defense.' Because, as Forrest Gump taught us all, 'STUPID is as STUPID does.' Maybe Trump's next act will be bending spoons with the awesome power of his mind? At this point, it wouldn't surprise me to see him try."

The reddest of herrings

Hammer this one home, until the media starts to get it.

"Three appellate judges -- two of them appointed by Trump -- rightfully pointed out in a decision this week that all of Trump's talk about classification and declassification does not matter. Not one whit. Not one iota. It is, as they put it, nothing more than a red herring. Repeat after me: Trump took the documents. They weren't his. He refused to give them back, and lied about it. He still hasn't said why he even thinks they are his. But they did not and do not belong to him. And taking things which do not belong to you is a crime. You'll notice that not once in there was there any mention of anything being classified or not because it is a red herring that just does not matter."

So which is it, Ron?

He caught himself, but that doesn't erase the fact that he said it.

"Senator Ron Johnson made a curious slip of the tongue the other day, saying (and I quote): 'My ranking member would always be bringing up white supremacy, which, you know, I condone... I mean... I... I... condemn.' Your Freudian slip seems to be showing, Senator. Johnson, of course, has made racist statements in the past, such as saying he wasn't worried about the January 6th rioters but that he would have -- if they had been Black Lives Matter instead. He actively plotted to overturn the 2020 election, and colluded with the fake electors scam. Wisconsin voters will have the chance to send Mr. 'I Condone... I Mean I Condemn' packing this November. Wisconsin deserves better than Ron Johnson in the Senate. This is just another reason why."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Ukraine, Trains, And Lindsey Graham

We fully admit that headline isn't really close enough to the original to trip off the tongue very well. But we're in an optimistically cheerful mood, so we're not going to change it.

These were really the three big political stories of the week. Last weekend saw the culmination of an incredible performance by the Ukrainian military. Within a week, they had retaken over 2,000 square miles of their country, as the Russian invading forces mostly just fled. That is beyond impressive, and may prove to be a real turning point in the whole war.

Or maybe not. They've still got an enormous amount of territory to reclaim, and the Russians are still fighting hard to hold the city of Kharkiv, in the south. So we'll see whether this astoundingly successful counteroffensive is a real harbinger of more such victories or merely an aberration. But whatever it turns out to be, the Ukrainian fighting forces had one heck of a good week.

The American news media barely took its wall-to-wall attention off of an impending royal funeral to take note. Which brings up a point that has indeed been bugging us -- didn't we fight our own war just so we never again had to act so obsequiously to the British monarch? Respect is one thing, but two weeks of "breaking news" stories as headlines -- each and every night -- is just a wee bit much, don't you think? Again: we fought a war so we don't have to do this stuff anymore!

Hrrrmph. Where were we? Oh, right, cheerful optimism. Which brings us to our next story, which bookended the good news from Ukraine -- President Joe Biden averted an enormous economic disaster this week, by forging an agreement between management and the Unions from the nation's freight rail services.

Biden, as we wrote earlier this week, was in somewhat of a bind. He really didn't want to see a strike happen, because it would not only have been a crippling blow to the American economy but also would have completely changed the dynamics of the midterm election campaign. At the same time, there are two parts of Biden's political persona which came into play: Biden loves passenger rail, and Biden has always been a very strong Union supporter.

We'll get to the details of how the deal was reached a bit later, but even though this will only be a momentary media story (it was, after all, a strike which didn't happen, so there's really only so much one can say about it...), it still shows exactly why over 80 million Americans voted for Joe Biden: to see calm and professional competence return to the Oval Office.

In between the early good news from Ukraine and the later good news about the averted rail strike, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrapped up a huge political gift and presented it to the Democratic Party. Seriously... someone at the Democratic National Committee should have sent him a bouquet of flowers or at least a fruit basket just to say: "Thanks!"

On a day where Biden could have taken some political hits -- he scheduled a victory lap for his Inflation Reduction Act becoming law right when a rather mixed inflation report came out -- Lindsey Graham stepped onto center stage and scored an "own goal" for the Republican team.

Graham announced he was introducing a bill in the Senate which would ban all abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy -- which is barely into the second trimester. He had previously sponsored bills which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks (which is not too far away from the 22-24 weeks Roe provided for), but he decided on a whim to cut it back by over a month. When confronted by a woman (at his press conference where he announced his bill) who had had serious fetal abnormalities discovered after her 15th week of pregnancy, Graham had no answer for her. He said he didn't know whether his bill had an exception for fetal abnormalities. His bill, no matter what he would like to believe it says, would indeed make ending such a pregnancy illegal (there is no exception in Graham's bill for fetal abnormalities at all).

More than anything else, this shows the real-life consequences of the Draconian laws Republicans are salivating to pass. Most women who get abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy are not doing so because they don't want a child, but because they do want a healthy child... but they don't want to be forced to give birth to a fatally-malformed baby who will die within days. This is the reality the forced-birth crowd refuses to admit even exists.

Graham's announcement was much worse, politically-speaking, though. Because a whole lot of Republicans had been trying to stake out a "not our problem" position, by insisting that the Dobbs decision put the whole issue back in the proper arena -- state governments. "Oh, no, we wouldn't even think of passing a national ban!" they say, out on the campaign trail, "That'd be up to the state governments and I'm running for the U.S. Congress, so why are you even asking me about it?"

This dodge is no longer operative. Graham let the cat out of the bag, two months before the election. Yes indeedy, Republicans will pass a nationwide ban, which would mean all those state laws in blue states that preserve women's rights would be null and void.

Republicans had been hoping to use mealy-mouthed non-positions to avoid Democrats hammering them too hard on the campaign trail about abortion. They can't do this anymore. All due to Lindsey Graham. Seriously, someone at Democratic headquarters really should have sent him a nice bouquet to thank him (one Democratic official did approve of the idea of sending "gift baskets or champagne" to Graham and the other hardline forced-birth Republicans "for their selfless act of service today" ). Thanks to Graham, the issue is going to be front and center of every campaign this year.

Which is going to help, because the Republican forced-birth position is getting less and less popular as time goes on and tens of millions of American women lose rights and freedoms. Women (and men) out there are angry about Dobbs, and they are motivated to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Some are already warning GOP politicians of the impending "Roevember."

Republicans are reacting the way they always seem to do these days, by trying to limit democracy and the power of the voters. In multiple red states, Republicans are scurrying to make it harder and harder for ballot initiatives to make it onto the ballot or pass when they do. Because they are all terrified that what happened in Kansas could happen in a lot of red states. They are right to be terrified of this, because it could indeed happen. A whole lot of Republican women didn't want Roe overturned, it seems.

Many Republicans running for office are quickly trying to flip-flop on the issue, despite all those times they were caught on video proclaiming they were the most pro-life candidate anyone had ever seen. Good luck with trying to convince suburban women you've had a change of heart on that one, guys....

Meanwhile, here's what a few Democrats are saying, after opening Lindsey's wonderful gift:

"Republicans are coming after your rights," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Tuesday. "We have already seen the devastation, the health-care crises, that these extreme abortion bans have caused: patients who are unable to get a prescription filled, doctors who are unsure if they can do their jobs -- forced to wait until patients get sicker, until their lives are in danger, before they can take action. That's what we're seeing in Republican states right now. And it is a nightmare they now want to impose on every single corner of our country."

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who is locked in a tough reelection bid, said she would block any efforts in the Senate to advance a nationwide abortion ban.

"We don't need any more male politicians telling women what we can and can't do with our own bodies," she tweeted.

Let's see... what else is going on out in the political world? Republican governors are using people's lives as political pawns, but that's not really all that newsworthy (it's kind of their entire M.O. when you think about it). Joe Biden's support went up in a major poll by nine points in one month, and another poll showed that the opinion of America in the rest of the world has recovered from its all-time lows, now that Biden is in charge.

Which brings us to our obligatory check on what is going on over in the "Trump Follies" this week. Donald Trump went full QAnon on his failing social media site, in a desperate bid to get people to like him. He -- once again -- threatened violence in the streets if he's ever indicted and said he'd still run for president even if that happens (because of course he would -- he'd run from a jail cell if he had to).

A new book is out showing just how weaponized the Department of Justice became under Bill Barr, never mind how he's now trying to whitewash the period where he served under Trump. No surprise there, really, but it's interesting to hear the details of how bad things got.

The current Justice Department beat their own self-imposed 60-day deadline (before an upcoming election) and served 40 subpoenas to all and sundry who were involved in the effort to come up with "fake electors" after the 2020 election. The most amusing of these was Mike Lindell, who had his phone confiscated after being surrounded in a Hardee's drive-thru.

Not amusing (even though the pun is sitting right there) was the following disturbing story:

An armed Donald Trump supporter who told cops he wanted to restore the "President King of the United States" was arrested at a Dairy Queen in Pennsylvania, where he said he wanted to kill Democrats and liberals, WTAJ-TV reported.

Jan Stawovy, 61, was arrested without a struggle on multiple felony charges, according to police in Delmont. Several people were inside the fast food restaurant at the time.

OK, we can't resist: "President King" supporter arrested at Dairy Queen.

Trump did score one minor victory this week, as his hand-picked judge named a special master, gave him oodles of time, and told the Justice Department it can't access all the secret documents they retrieved from Trump's Florida resort until the special master is done. But at least Trump has to pay for it all -- the taxpayers won't be on the hook for the special master's fees at all. This will delay things a bit, but not stop the case against Trump from eventually being built.

A few more items and then we'll get on to the awards. The MAGA candidate in the New Hampshire Republican primary for the Senate won his race against a slightly-more-moderate contender. Immediately after winning, he disavowed Trump's Big Lie, in order to position himself better for the general election. It was jaw-dropping to see -- we're surprised the interviewer didn't get whiplash from hearing his response:

Like a driver making a screeching U-turn, Don Bolduc, the Republican Senate nominee in New Hampshire, pivoted on Thursday from his primary race to the general election, saying he had "come to the conclusion" that the 2020 presidential election "was not stolen," after he had spent more than a year claiming it was.

"I've done a lot of research on this, and I've spent the past couple weeks talking to Granite Staters all over the state from every party, and I have come to the conclusion -- and I want to be definitive on this -- the election was not stolen," Mr. Bolduc said in an interview on Fox News.

He continued to falsely claim there had been fraud in the election but acknowledged that the outcome was not in question.

"Elections have consequences, and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country," he said.

. . .

Switching horses on Thursday, he said in the Fox News interview, "We, you know, live and learn, right?"

Hoo boy. The campaign of Senator Maggie Hassan, the Democrat who Bolduc is running to defeat, was quick to respond: "Don Bolduc is desperately trying to run from years of spreading the Big Lie, but he can't hide from the video receipts." Nice.

And two final items to warm everyone's heart this week:

It's now official -- Sarah Palin cost the Republicans Alaska's only House seat. If the other Republican running had been in second place before the ranked-choice ballots were tallied again, he would have beaten the Democrat who now sits there. Thanks, Sarah!

And beyond endearing was the video clip of Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempting to swear in a new House member, with his family present. Due to special elections, Pelosi swore in three new House members, including Democrats Mary Peltola (who won that Alaska seat) and Pat Ryan of New York. But during Ryan's ceremonial swearing-in, both his sons completely stole the show. First Pelosi has to corral the one on his feet (who is having way too much fun), and then Ryan and his wife are presented with a conundrum with the babe-in-arms. His wife had to hold the Bible flat, Ryan had to place one hand on it and hold the other up, and that didn't leave any hands to hold the baby. So Ryan just handed him off to Pelosi to hold.

It just doesn't get any better than this, in Washington.

We almost wish we could send some sort of "Most Impressive" award to Lindsey Graham this week, but hey, rules are rules....

Kidding aside, the winner of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week was pretty easy to pick. President Joe Biden averted economic catastrophe, two months before a national election. That's impressive as all get-out.

The Unions easily had the strongest position in the negotiations, since what they were asking for was so downright reasonable. The rail freight companies have just posted banner profits, due mostly to the economy recovering from the age of COVID, but also due to slashing employees. There are fewer people working the trains (which have gotten longer and longer). The people working the trains could face penalties and even firing for not maintaining perfect attendance on the job. This included being on call for weeks on end. They got penalized for taking time off for a doctor's appointment (or even an operation). This was Draconian in this day and age, allowing no time off "including weekends, outside of holidays and preplanned vacation, even in the case of emergencies."

Which is why the Unions were prepared to strike. They're sick of being treated like peons. With the incredibly tight labor market, it would have been just about impossible to replace the workforce with scabs if a strike had happened, and they knew it. They also knew full well public opinion would be on their side -- at least at first.

So Joe Biden called for an "all hands on deck" response. Well, maybe that's the wrong metaphor, we seem to be mixing up trains and boats here, sorry....

Let's try again: So Joe Biden called for his team to do everything they could to stop this runaway freight train from wrecking. His cabinet members responded, with the secretaries of Labor, Transportation, and Agriculture taking lead roles in the negotiations. Biden's top White House economic advisors pulled their weight, too. So an Honorable Mention is appropriate for Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, as well as all the White House team directly involved in the negotiations.

The deadline for a strike was midnight on Thursday night. Wednesday, a marathon negotiating meeting was called that wound up lasting an astounding 20 hours (they even reportedly ran out of coffee). After a morning and an afternoon of getting essentially nowhere, President Biden phoned into the meeting at 9:00 at night, when everyone was having dinner (Italian food, reportedly). Biden reportedly stressed that failure was "unacceptable." Here's what happened next:

"Both the union and the company [sides] moved after 9 o'clock," [Labor Secretary Marty] Walsh said. "They started having real conversations" about the issue of time off, potentially the most significant sticking point in the talks and something that rail unions have not typically been able to negotiate as part of their contracts.

"That was the first time it's ever happened," [Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis] Pierce said. "And that was the big one left; that was a tough one to get."

"Up until that point, nobody was willing to move," Walsh said. "They were wordsmithing more words than I probably can document. And plus, it was a long day. We'd been there for 12 hours at that point."

The conversation turned next to health care, Walsh said -- and "around 1:30 in the morning, the union moved significantly in one of their asks, and the company moved significantly on one of their asks."

By the time an agreement was finalized shortly after 4 a.m., "it was emotional," Walsh said. Negotiators "were exhausted" and "relieved." For Walsh and his team, "it was very pleasing."

By the time Washington woke up Thursday morning, the deal was done. Much to the relief of all. The disaster didn't happen, because of some hard work on the part of the administration. And this would indeed have been a disaster of epic proportions. The next morning, Walsh expressed his relief:

"It's like, Holy Christ: The magnitude of what would have happened," Walsh, running on an hour-and-a-half of sleep, said in an interview. "We'll never fully understand, thank God."

Joe Biden deserves praise for averting this calamity. Which the Union side was more than willing to give him:

"This level of support would have been impossible even under [President] Obama," said Larry Cohen, who served as president of the Communications Workers of America. "This outcome would not have been possible under all preceding presidents."

That's pretty high praise. We won't try to add to it, we'll just add our own Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to the accolades. America dodged a bullet (train?) this week, and we have Joe Biden to thank for it.

[Congratulate President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

We have mixed feelings about this one. Democrats took a gamble this week. It might work out fine. But then again it might not. And if it all falls apart, Democrats will have missed their opportunity to make Republicans pay a price for a very unpopular political position during the midterm elections. So the whole thing is in abeyance. It's up in the air. So this award might prove to be given in error, we fully admit up front.

This week, Chuck Schumer announced that the Senate will not -- as expected -- be holding a vote next week on the Respect For Marriage Act, which would cement the right to both interracial and same-sex marriage into federal law as well as overturn the odious Defense Of Marriage Act of the 1990s. Here is the gamble they made:

After a great deal of cajoling and negotiating, Senate Democrats have delayed a vote on the Respect for Marriage Act until after the midterm elections. One way to look at this is that they have preserved the possibility that the bill could overcome a Republican filibuster and become law in the lame-duck session. Another is that they just let Republicans off the hook.

Democratic Senators Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema have been working with Republicans Susan Collins, Rob Portman, and Thom Tillis to come up with a bill that could convince the necessary 10 Republicans to vote for it. A measure already passed the House -- with an astounding 47 Republican votes -- but Republicans in the Senate demanded that it mention religious liberty and explicitly ban polygamy. So they've been working on language and were supposed to introduce their draft on Thursday so Schumer could schedule a vote for it next Monday.

So far, that makes three GOP votes. Lisa Murkowski could probably get behind it as well (she's said she supports marriage equality but has yet to expressly signal her support for this bill). That makes four. Getting the other six could prove to be impossible, even though the issue polls at higher than 70 percent (including a majority of Republican voters).

If getting ten Republicans truly is going to be impossible, then the vote should have been held now. It would put them all on record, less than two months before an election. Only a few of them would have been vulnerable as a result (Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Marco Rubio of Florida, most notably), mostly due to two-thirds of the Senate not even being up for re-election this cycle. But it would have helped Democrats everywhere because it would just be one more piece of evidence of how extreme and out-of-touch the Republican agenda truly is.

If getting the ten votes is within the realm of possibility, then not holding the vote was the smart thing to do. Republicans would resent it if a vote were held now, and they'd refuse to join the effort after the election, in the lame-duck Congress. They'd (fairly accurately) say that Democrats just wanted a political bludgeon to hit them with, rather than actually wanting to see the bill pass. By not holding the vote, Schumer is being polite to the Republicans by not making it just all about politics. So perhaps some will return the favor by getting on board.

As we said, it's a gamble. One Democrat summed it all up pretty well:

"My personal preference is to put everyone on the record before the November elections but I understand the decisions that are made about when the prospects are best for passing the measure," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. "I want a law, not just a bill."

Our own feelings are mixed as well. So we've decided to only conditionally award Chuck Schumer this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. If, during the lame-duck session, the bill passes and is signed into law, then we will rescind his award and wipe it from his record. If, however, the bill fails then he will have earned it for not making the best possible political use of it he could. If the bill does fail, we'll doubtlessly give Schumer another MDDOTW award, and we'll send this one along too at that point.

[Contact Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 677 (9/16/22)

We've got two central themes this week (since battlefield victory in Ukraine isn't really going to move the American political needle much). The first is going to be fleeting, because American memories just aren't that long and avoiding a disaster is always a lot more forgettable than actually going through one. And then we've got one cheap shot at Joe Manchin at the end, just because he deserves it so much. Enjoy, and as always, use responsibly.

Biden kept the trains running

Woo wooooo! All aboard....

"President Joe Biden loves trains -- everyone knows that. So it wasn't too big a surprise to see that he took a very personal interest in avoiding the economic catastrophe that would have happened if the freight rail in this country were halted due to a strike. Biden is also a strong supporter of Unions, so it's also not surprising that the train Unions got what they were demanding in the end -- changing the inhumane attendance policy that penalized workers for seeing the doctor or even having an operation. They now will have the right to do so, under the deal Joe Biden and his administration just cut. So the crisis was averted, due to some hard work. And Joe Biden can now rightfully claim that he kept his beloved trains running on time."

Competence, not chaos

Remind everyone what they voted for.

"Joe Biden has restored competence and professionalism back to the White House. You know what didn't happen during the negotiations? One side or the other was never demonized by the president. One side or the other wasn't personally attacked on social media. The president never threw a temper tantrum worthy of a 2-year-old. Instead of the chaos we all sadly had to endure for four years, what we got was exactly what we voted for: calm competence. Results. Finding common ground. Elections have consequences, folks, and the fact that we didn't enter into an economic crisis this week was a big one."

They are lying to you

Plain and simple.

"If a Republican politician tells you he or she doesn't want a national abortion ban, they are lying to you. They will get to Washington and they will vote for one because they'll be terrified of the anti-abortion extremists in their own base. Senator Lindsey Graham let the cat out of the bag this week by showing everyone exactly what the Republican Party stands for -- forced births. On a nationwide level. Overturning the will of the voters in blue and red states which guarantee women's rights. Imposing their idea of morality on everyone in this country. They won't be satisfied with stripping basic human rights away from the women in the states they do control, they want to strip all American women of their rights. They have told you who they are -- so believe them. Because any Republican now saying 'Oh, we should leave it up to the states' is lying to you. They will not leave it up to the states, given half a chance. Don't let them have that chance. Vote for Democrats who will fight for your rights and the rights of your daughters. Repeat after me: Roe, Roe, Roe the vote!"

Why clueless men should not be making these decisions

Exhibit A.

"Lindsey Graham introduced a bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks. His ban is better than some the GOP men have come up with, because at least it allows for exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. But he still doesn't understand what it means at all -- he has no wife or daughter to explain it to him, I guess. He tried to make it sound reasonable and 'how Europe handles it,' but while Europe does set limits on completely elective abortions -- when a woman decides for whatever reason that she doesn't want a child -- it still allows for humane exceptions for fetal abnormalities. Some of which can't even be identified until the 20th week of pregnancy. Ask any woman who has been through the experience -- this is a heart-wrenching decision for women who are trying to have a healthy baby. It is traumatic enough to be informed that your baby will have birth defects that will soon kill them without having to deal with moralizing Republican politicians who have no clue what it is like to be in that situation. Clueless men should not be in charge of these decisions, it should be up to the woman and her doctor, period. Which Lindsey Graham just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt -- when asked whether his bill contained an exception for fetal abnormalities, Graham said that he didn't know if it did or not. It does not. Which he should know. Get clueless men out of the doctor's office! Vote for Democrats who will protect women's rights!"


This has been incredibly successful, and should be leaned into by all Democrats.

"You know, a while back, the anti-abortion crowd somehow convinced the news media to rebrand them as 'pro-life,' because they thought it sounded more positive than 'anti-abortion.' Well you know what? Neither of these is fully correct. As we've already seen in the states that have ripped basic rights away from women, the Republican Party is now officially forced-birth. They want to force women to give birth. They want to control all women's bodies. They think The Handmaid's Tale is a blueprint and not a warning. They want to force women who are about to miscarry to wait until their lives are actually at risk before allowing a doctor to save their life -- instead of just doing a safe procedure earlier, which would avoid the threat of death even entering into the equation. They want to force women to carry to term fetuses with horrible deformities -- such as not growing a head or a brain -- and then have to watch it die. This is inhumane. this is causing pain and anguish for no reason. This is barbaric. But that's exactly what forced-birth means: you are forced to give birth, no matter what. Don't let them get away with their 'pro-life' euphemism any more, call them what they really are: forced-birth."

You tell 'em, Joe!

This one is a Joe Biden quote, but it could be repeated by any Democrat. Biden was attending yet another big infrastructure project breaking ground, up in Massachusetts, to point out to the American people that they'll soon be seeing some real results from the deal he cut last year. And he had an absolutely perfect way of framing the issue:

When you see these big projects in your hometowns -- cranes going up, shovels in the ground -- I want you to feel the way I feel: pride. Pride in what we can do. Pride in what we can do when we come together.

Give us two more senators, we'll bring this back

Draw this connection, because most parents had no idea where this money came from or why.

"When Democrats were dealing with the COVID emergency, we were willing to test a few ideas out. And one of them was spectacularly successful. Democrats -- with zero Republican votes -- expanded the Child Tax Credit in the tax code and made it proactive. Each month, parents who weren't wealthy got a check for $300 per child. Pretty simple idea. And you know what happened as a direct result? Child poverty came down in this country by over 60 percent in a single year! The child poverty rate went from 13.7 percent to a record low -- a low not seen since 1967 -- of only 5.2 percent. Millions of children in millions of families saw this benefit. All through one program. Unfortunately, we've got one Democrat in the Senate who mistakenly believes that all parents did with the money was spend it on illegal drugs. So we couldn't get an extension of the program, and this year child poverty rates will likely shoot right back up again. But we know how to fix it and we have proven it works. So give us one or two more Democratic senators, and we can make this program permanent and reduce child poverty by over half. If you're a parent and you appreciated those $300 checks, vote blue and you'll soon see them in your mailbox once again."

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