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Friday Talking Points -- Debate Slate Set

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
This is a weekly roundup column of what is going on in the political world. For the duration of the 2020 campaign, I've been instructed to post it under the "Democratic Primaries" category rather than the "General Discussion" category, whenever the primary race is discussed. This discussion may be a large part of the column, or a very small part. Just wanted to clarify this up front, to avoid any objections that most of the post is "off topic."}

We have to begin by first ignoring all the rampant criminality spewing forth from the White House -- just for the moment, mind you -- to concentrate instead on looking forward, not back. Because we're less than two weeks away from the first round of Democratic 2020 presidential primary debates, and the Democratic National Committee just announced the lineup for the two nights.

Yesterday, they cut the field down to 20, which left four candidates out in the cold: Steve Bullock, Mike Gravel, Andrew Messam, and Seth Moulton. Today, they held the draw (our prediction: in future, the draw itself will be televised on C-SPAN...) and announced the lineup for each night. In doing so, the random nature of the draw conspired to almost entirely defeat the D.N.C.'s ultimate goal for holding such a draw in the first place -- not to have a "kiddie table" debate.

Learning from the response to the Republican 2016 debates, where candidates were separated into an "adult-table debate" and a "kiddie-table debate" (or, to be less caustic, an "undercard" debate) by their standing in the polls, the Democrats this time around decided to prevent this from happening by randomizing the process. Everyone who qualified would have a clear shot at both nights. They then refined this concept even further -- in an attempt to make the spread even more even -- by deciding to hold two draws, one among those in the top tier of polling and one among the lower. This way, the top tier would get divided evenly between the two nights, which would (they figured) prevent a single top-loaded debate from happening.

They figured wrong. Because out of the top five candidates in the current polls, four of them will be appearing together on the same night, while the other will be taking on a slate of all the lesser candidates on the other night. The only way they could have avoided this would have been to further refine their criteria so that (for instance) "out of the top four in the polling, two will appear each night," or something similar.

Here are the two nights' lineups. First, the roster for June 27: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren.

On the next night, everyone else who qualified will appear: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang.

It's pretty clear to see that the first night will be "Elizabeth Warren versus the field," and a pretty weak field at that. There are only three names on the first night's list that regularly poll above a single percentage point: Booker, Klobuchar, and O'Rourke. None of them is in the front rank of candidates, really. They're at the top of the lower tier, in fact. But Warren will face them without having to take on any of the other heavyweights in the race. So it's really an "Elizabeth and all the kids" debate.

The second night will be a sharper contest, with four of the top five having to face off against each other. The biggest matchup in this top group will be Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden trading blows, of course. But Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg will also be in the mix as well.

This was always a possibility, as I pointed out a few weeks ago. Random rules means that randomness rules -- the very matchup you're trying to avoid might just randomly pop up, in other words. It'll be interesting to see if the D.N.C. just sticks to the format it now has or decides to refine it further. If they keep with the system for the second debate, chances are it will be a little more evenly divided. But you never know -- it could be just as lopsided as this one is now going to be.

Of course, we'll be watching both nights, and we could easily turn out to be pleasantly surprised at the level of discourse on both nights. The real divide and the real debate may happen not between candidates either polling well or polling poorly but rather between the ideologies of the candidates. Which candidates will be vying with each other over who is more progressive? Which moderate candidates might take each other on? And will the sparks fly between the moderates and the progressives, allowing for a "breakout moment" for some lesser-known candidate? The whole point of allowing as many candidates in as possible to the first two debates was to present as many different viewpoints as possible, so this might be adequately achieved no matter what the lineup. As we said, we're certainly going to be tuning in for both nights, just to see.

As for the primary race itself, a major shift seems to be underway. It's too early to really tell (a few more polls next week might confirm it), but the race at the very top now seems to have expanded. What was a two-man contest is now shaping up to be a two-man-one-woman contest, as Elizabeth Warren may have caught up to Bernie Sanders. Neither one of them has topped Joe Biden in the polls yet, but Warren seems to have doubled her support in a matter of a week or so -- the most significant movement we've seen yet in the polling. She now leads Bernie in polls in Nevada (by 19 to 13 percent), California (18-17), and at least one nationwide poll (16-12). So second place is now officially up for grabs. Ironically, this will be the one interesting matchup (Warren v. Sanders) that we won't get to see in the first debates.

Speaking of good polling, Trump seems to be getting thrashed no matter which Democrat runs against him. A recent national Quinnipiac poll showed Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg beating Trump by five points (47-42 percent), Warren beating him by seven (49-42), Kamala Harris beating him by eight (49-41), Bernie Sanders topping trump by nine (51-42) and Joe Biden beating Trump by a whopping 13 points (53-40). Obviously, that's a pretty good place for the entire party to be, right about now.

Trump isn't just getting thrashed in public polling, either. His own campaign's internal polls paint an even more dismal picture. This was initially reported by the New York Times, but they didn't provide the actual polling data. Today, ABC got the full scoop, with the numbers. Trump's own polls show him losing to Joe Biden in Pennsylvania by 16 points, losing Wisconsin by 10 points, and losing Florida by seven. Trump is up in one state, but barely -- he only leads Biden by two points in Texas. Trump initially said, of the Times article, that it was nothing more than: "Fake numbers that they made up & don't exist," and that: "We have great internal polling -- we are winning in every state that we polled," but this time around the Trump campaign admitted that ABC's numbers were indeed correct (although, they pointed out, they were old numbers from March).

Trump, meanwhile, announced to the world that he'd certainly welcome foreign governments' attempts to influence the 2020 election, by taking a look at any opposition research they happened to pass along to him. In other (more Trumpian) words: "Yes, collusion!" You just can't make this stuff up, folks. Republicans all visited a pretzel factory in Pennsylvania to practice their defense of the indefensible, once again. How we long for the days when Republicans used to hector liberals for their "moral relativism."

In related news, Kellyanne Conway will be keeping her job even though she breaks federal law on a regular basis. This is all part of Trump's new political strategy, it seems: "How can it be a conspiracy when we do it in plain sight?"

One person not impressed with Trump's interview was Ellen Weintraub, the head of the Federal Elections Commission. She released a statement which didn't mince words at all:

Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation. Our Founding Fathers sounded the alarm about "foreign interference, Intrigue, and Influence." They knew that when foreign governments seek to influence American politics, it is always to advance their own interests, not America's. Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation. Any political campaign that receives an offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She also channeled her inner Joe Bob Briggs (tagline: "I'm surprised I have to explain these things" ) by tweeting a preface to this statement: "I would not have thought that I needed to say this."

In other "cleanup on aisle Trump" news, the president insisted that the Chinese economy had lost "$15 to $20 trillion in value since the day I was elected." China's economy is only $13 trillion, making this impossible. Also, Trump tweeted (in a lame attempt to excuse away that Stephanopoulos interview damage) that he had recently met with the "Prince of Whales." On the internet, much hilarity ensued. Oh, and the "friendship tree" that the leader of France gave to Trump has died -- the most fitting metaphor yet for Trump's attitude towards foreign policy.

In other "impossible to reconcile reality with Republican nonsense" economic news, a GOP leader in Congress came out and sheepishly admitted that those giant tax cuts are not, in fact, "paying for themselves," because GOP tax cuts never do, of course. Let's just check the actual facts, shall we?

Federal tax payments by big businesses are falling much faster than anticipated in the wake of Republicans' tax cuts, providing ammunition to Democrats who are calling for corporate tax increases.

The U.S. Treasury saw a 31 percent drop in corporate tax revenues last year, almost twice the decline official budget forecasters had predicted. Receipts were projected to rebound sharply this year, but so far they've only continued to fall, down by almost 9 percent or $11 billion.

Though business profits remain healthy and the economy is strong, total corporate taxes are at the lowest levels seen in more than 50 years.

Remember when Republicans used to pretend to care about deficits? It wasn't that long ago, as we recall. The deficit for this year is also way up, and may top $1 trillion before we're done.

It should come as no surprise, really, that Donald Trump is leading the Republicans off a financial cliff, since that's the only thing he's really ever been good at. His own campaign has reportedly stiffed at least 10 local cities for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he's topped the $100 million mark for how much American taxpayers have now had to pony up to foot the bill for his many, many golf outings. Remember when Republicans used to complain about the president golfing too much? Yeah, those were the days....

This spurred Obama's former White House ethics chief to suggest to Democrats in Congress that they introduce a "Golf On Your Own Damn Dime Act." Nice one!

One thing paying for itself (and then some) is marijuana, at least out in Colorado. State tax revenues from weed have now officially topped one billion (that's "billion with a B" ) dollars. This was far faster than all the projections had anticipated, by the way. A clear message for all the states which have not legalized recreational marijuana -- just look at all the money you're leaving on the table by continuing the failed War On Weed!

And finally, to mark the president's birthday in the best possible way, we encourage everyone to have a #HappyJohnMcCainDay (tweet it out to everyone you know, and help the hashtag's trend!).

We have to at least give Elizabeth Warren an Honorable Mention this week, for her surge in the polls, but we're going to hold off on the main award for her until we see if it is a real trend or just a few outlier polls.

Instead, we're giving the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, for his impressive legislative speed (and his even more impressive political savvy).

Immediately after Donald Trump's disastrous interview with George Stephanopoulos, Warner sprung into action. He drafted and introduced a bill in the Senate which would make the law crystal clear on the illegality of a political campaign accepting information on their opponents from foreign governments or foreign agents. His bill would have required campaigns to report any such attempts at interference to the F.B.I. Who, after all, could be against such a thing?

Warner moved for unanimous consent in the Senate, which would have allowed the Republicans to avoid having to go on the record in a roll call vote, but all it takes to derail this maneuver is a single objection. Senator Marsha Blackburn stood up and objected. While most of the Republicans in the Senate either condemned Trump's remarks or were silent, Blackburn stood up for Trump's right to get all the help he needs from Vladimir Putin. Remember when Republicans used to have the ability to feel shame? Nah, didn't think so....

This was more than a political stunt by Warner. As a stunt, it worked exactly as designed, that cannot be denied. But it also points to a larger problem -- Mitch McConnell refuses to bring up any electoral reform bills, including ones designed to prevent foreign interference in our elections. This is in keeping with his entire "legislative graveyard" strategy, it should be noted. Democrats really need to make as big a stink about this as possible (as we suggested yesterday, by prominently asking Republicans: "What Would Reagan Do?" ). And now Democrats will have Warner's bill to point to, when exposing how cowardly Republicans are now acting.

That, to us, is more than deserving of a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Warner moved quickly and decisively, and by doing so caught the Republicans with their pants down. Well done, Senator!

{Congratulate Senator Mark Warner on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

We've got two candidates this week, but since one of them is old news, really, we decided to just give him a (Dis-)Honorable Mention.

Joe Morrissey, a former delegate to the Virginia state legislature, plead guilty to "delinquency of a minor" after it was revealed he had had sex with a 17-year-old secretary. Now he's staging his political comeback.

In mitigation, he did eventually marry the woman and had three kids with her (they all pose in his campaign literature now). Because Morrissey just won the Democratic primary for his state senate district, unseating an incumbent, he is all but assured of winning in November (the Republicans didn't even put up a single candidate in their own primary, so Morrissey will be running unopposed). But again, his disappointments all happened years ago.

This week, however, Joe Biden said something rather stunning for a Democrat to say in 2019. This wasn't some sort of "Biden gaffe," either. While speaking to a group of "lobbyists and donors," Biden expressed his warm feelings for a rather put-upon group: "Wall Street and significant bankers and people, they're all positive, they can be positive influences in the country."

He did follow this up with: "But they didn't build the country. The middle class built the country." But that doesn't really change things much.

Now, Joe Biden hails from a very banking-friendly state. Delaware is a corporate-friendly state in general, and Biden has long been a friend of the big banks. He's personally written bills to help their bottom line, in fact (at the expense of all those middle class folks he identifies with). So it's not all that surprising that he'd say something like this.

What is surprising is that he'd say it at all, after witnessing the Great Recession at Barack Obama's side, though. Wall Street bankers are not exactly the most-beloved group among Democratic voters today, and for good reason.

So far, this seems to have slipped under the radar of the political media, mostly. Also so far, none of his Democratic rivals have picked up on it and used it against Biden. But then again, the debates are less than two weeks away -- so perhaps they're saving it to fling directly in his face or something.

But we noticed it, and we visibly cringed when we heard about it. Loving bankers is not the image the Democratic Party really should want to be presenting these days, and that's going to be a much harder thing to do if Joe Biden becomes the party's nominee for president. Which is why we have to give Biden this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

{Joe Biden is currently a private citizen, and our longstanding policy is not to link to campaign websites, so you'll have to seek out his contact information on your own if you'd like to let him know what you think of his actions.}

Volume 531 (6/14/19)

Today we're dispensing with our regular format, because there were two important campaign speeches this week worth highlighting. Frontrunner Joe Biden gave a speech in Iowa where he strongly castigated Trump (his prepared speech mentioned Trump a whopping 76 times), and Bernie Sanders gave a speech defining what he means by his brand of socialism (hint: it's F.D.R.'s brand, too). Both have enough excellent talking points within them that we had to defer to the professionals this week.

First, let's take a look at Bernie's speech. (We should mention that these quotes come from three different articles reviewing the speech, so they may in fact be out of sequence from the actual speech itself.)

Today, our Bill of Rights guarantees the American people a number of constitutionally protected political rights. Now we must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman and child in our country basic economic rights -- the right to quality health care, the right to as much education as one needs to succeed in our society, the right to a decent job, the right to affordable housing, the right to a secure retirement and the right to live in a clean environment. We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. And that is what I mean by democratic socialism.

. . .

While President Trump and his fellow oligarchs attack us for our support of democratic socialism, they don't really oppose all forms of socialism. They may hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism that enriches Trump and other billionaires.

. . .

If you are the Trump family, you got $885 million worth of tax breaks and subsidies for your family's housing empire that is built on racial discrimination. When Trump screams socialism, all of his hypocrisy will not be lost on the American people. Americans will know that he is attacking all that we take for granted from Social Security to Medicare to veterans' health care, to roads and bridges, to public schools, to national parks, to clean water and clean air.

. . .

We rejected the ideology of Mussolini and Hitler. We instead embraced the bold and visionary leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Together with organized labor, leaders in the African-American community, and progressives inside and outside the party, Roosevelt led a transformation of the American government and the American economy.

. . .

It is no exaggeration to state that not only did F.D.R.'s agenda improve the lives of millions of Americans, but the New Deal was enormously popular politically and helped defeat far-right extremism -- for a time. Today America and the world are once again moving toward authoritarianism and the same right-wing forces of oligarchy, corporatism, nationalism, racism and xenophobia are on the march, pushing us to make the apocalyptically wrong choice that Europe made in the last century.

Bernie's best crowd response came when he quoted Roosevelt directly: "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred." After the crowd went wild, Bernie quipped: "I must say, it does sound a little contemporary, doesn't it?"

Biden's Iowa speech, like his entire campaign to date, focused entirely on the differences between him and Donald Trump. Of which there are many. (Once again, these quotes were taken from three different articles, and are thus quite likely out of sequence.)

How many sleepless nights do you think Trump has had over what he is doing to America's farmers? Here's the answer -- as many as he had when he stiffed the construction workers, electricians, and plumbers who built his hotels and casinos -- zero.

. . .

Trump doesn't get the basics. He thinks his tariffs are being paid by China. Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs. The cashiers at Target see what's going on -- they know more about economics than Trump.

. . .

Did he do anything to signal that he's prepared to walk away from the thugs he's embraced on the world stage -- from Putin to Kim Jong Un? No. He did none of that. Instead, he gets up in the middle of the night to attack Bette Midler. He attacks the mayor of London. He attacks the American speaker of the House. It was a stunning display of childishness for the whole world to see.

. . .

Remember when Trump's Justice Department decided to argue that the Affordable Care Act in its entirety is unconstitutional just a few months ago? Now he's got his tail between his legs and barely mentions it -- doesn't even tweet about it -- because he knows the American people will give him a thrashing in 2020 just like they gave the Republicans in 2018 for trying to get rid of it. Well, guess what? If I become the nominee of this party, I'm going to give Trump a thrashing every day on health care.

. . .

How about when he said the way to deal with California's fires was to rake the leaves?

Biden had plenty of snappy one-liners like that last one during his speech. Most notable:

We choose hope over fear. Unity over division. Truth over lies. And science over fiction.

. . .

I believe that the president is literally an existential threat to America.

. . .

Donald -- it's not about you. It's about America.

And finally, Biden's response to Trump's 2016 campaign slogan was pretty priceless as well: "Let's make America America again."

Those are two pretty good speeches from the Democratic frontrunners, we have to admit. While we're still just at the start of the whole campaign, it's refreshing to hear that the Democratic candidates have already hit the ground running in such fine fettle. The pre-eminent question on Democratic voters' minds is going to be who is best positioned to beat Donald Trump. Biden and Sanders both seem fully aware of this dynamic already. Which is good news for Democrats, even if neither of them emerge as the eventual nominee. We've got to take this fight directly to Trump and his Republican minions, because you just know that Trump certainly isn't going to fight by Marquess of Queensbury rules. Or those of the Prince of Whales, for that matter.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Something's Wrong From The Moon

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
This is a weekly roundup column of what is going on in the political world. For the duration of the 2020 campaign, I've been instructed to post it under the "Democratic Primaries" category rather than the "General Discussion" category, whenever the primary race is discussed. This discussion may be a large part of the column, or a very small part. Just wanted to clarify this up front, to avoid any objections that most of the post is "off topic."}

Something's wrong from the moon, my friend
Something's wrong from the moon
As I look down at you, my friend
Something's wrong from the moon

-- Crack The Sky, "Nuclear Apathy"

Well, we certainly never thought we'd use that particular lyric as a headline, but it's just too tempting to pass up this week. Because President Donald Trump just tweeted the following bit of wisdom:

For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon -- We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!

Um, OK. Let's just examine what absolute lunacy this tweet is. Firstly, Trump himself has been the one pushing NASA to get back to the moon as soon as possible. Even stranger, the Moon is not actually "part" of Mars. It just isn't. It's a long way from Mars.

The Washington Post, tongue planted firmly in cheek, ran a response: "Fact Check: What Is The Moon?"

NASA has framed its lunar ambitions as a steppingstone to an eventual human mission to the Red Planet, which is possibly what Trump was referring to when he called the moon "a part" of Mars.

But just in case, it seems worth stating for the record: The moon is a satellite of Earth.

In fact, the moon is probably most accurately described as part of our own planet. Rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts show that lunar material carries chemical fingerprints almost identical to those found on Earth. Scientists think that the moon was formed from debris produced during an ancient, giant collision between Earth and a now-vanished protoplanet called Theia.

Mars has two moons called Phobos and Deimos, whose names come from the Greek words for "panic" and "dread." But these small bodies, and the planet they orbit, can be anywhere from 34 million miles to 249 million miles from our moon at any given moment.

Or, as Crack The Sky put it:

On the moon they're laughing hard
On the moon, they're falling off their seats
From the moon we're comedy
From the moon we're really quite a treat


But we're going to make a monumental effort not to get distracted by Trumpian tweets this week, at least up front. Because there was indeed lots of news being made in Washington, even while most of the media was looking at Trump's shiny, shiny lunacy.

The House of Representatives was busy this week, first passing the disaster aid bill that Republicans had been holding up, and sending it to Trump's desk to sign. They next passed a new "Dreamers" bill to fix the immigration problems of all the children brought here by their parents. And they're teeing up for early next week a vote on a bill to streamline the process of getting the courts involved in the stonewalling battle with the Trump White House:

House Democratic leaders are preparing to grant sweeping authority to committee chairs to sue the Trump administration over its refusal to comply with congressional demands for information -- from President Donald Trump's tax returns to former special counsel Robert Mueller's underlying files.

The draft resolution, which the House will consider on Tuesday, formally holds Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for defying House Judiciary Committee subpoenas seeking Mueller's unredacted report, its underlying evidence, and additional witness testimony.

But the most dramatic proposal will empower the chairs of all House committees to initiate legal action each time a witness or administration official defies a committee subpoena, a move to streamline and speed up the House's ability to respond to a mounting list of confrontations with the White House.

. . .

The resolution can also apply to subpoenas that have not yet been issued. Committee leaders will have the authority to enforce those subpoenas without requiring the full House to vote on each one. Democrats emphasize that the reason for the wholesale change is to prevent contempt citations from dominating House's limited floor time.

Democrats also finally fixed a giant corporate giveaway in a bill they'd previously moved on, but more on that a bit later in the awards section.

That's a pretty productive week all around, but you certainly wouldn't know it from the front-page headlines. We fully expect another round of "Democrats Can't Decide Between Legislating And Investigating" stories to appear, even though they're obviously doing both at once right now. Sooner or later they're going to have to hammer home the case that it is the Republican Senate that can't do anything at all. Mitch McConnell plainly stated that the Senate would "probably not" hold a vote on the new Dreamers bill. And yet still somehow it's always the Democrats who get questioned over not getting things done. Go figure.

House Democratic freshmen sent McConnell a letter begging him to hold a vote on H.R. 1, the sweeping ethics and election reform bill they passed, but he'll likely continue ignoring this, too. The Democrats were mincing no words in condemning McConnell for his inaction. Representative Max Rose: "He won't even take a meeting with us. At this point, I'm thinking the only way we can get a meeting with Mitch McConnell is if we take out our checkbooks and max out to him. That's the only reason why he sits down with people cause he is bought-and-paid-for." Representative Chris Pappas: "Mitch McConnell doesn't know what democracy looks like." Representative Tom Malinowski: "He has no argument for holding up legislation to protect our democracy from foreign interference. He is putting party over country."

Also a favorite of headline-writers everywhere is the "Democrats In Disarray" headline, which is why it's notable that nowhere near the same amount of ink gets spilled when it is Republicans who are engaging in intraparty warfare. This week, the White House tried to hold a meeting to get GOP senators on board with Trump's new Mexico tariffs, but they got an earful instead.

Defiant Republican senators warned Trump administration officials Tuesday they were prepared to block the president's effort to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, threatening to assemble a veto-proof majority to mount their most direct confrontation with the president since he took office.

During a closed-door lunch on Capitol Hill, at least a half-dozen senators spoke in opposition to the tariffs President Trump intends to levy next week in an attempt to force Mexico to limit Central American migration to the United States. No senator spoke in support, according to multiple people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The lawmakers told officials from the White House and Justice Department they probably had the Senate votes they needed to take action on the tariffs, even if that meant overriding a veto.

"There is not much support in my conference for tariffs -- that's for sure," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He said senators hope that negotiations with Mexico will be "fruitful" and that the tariffs will not happen. Most GOP senators strongly oppose tariffs because they view them as taxes on Americans.

The contentious lunch meeting occurred just hours after Trump, during a news conference in London, reiterated his intention to impose the tariffs next week and said it would be "foolish" for Republican senators to try to stop him.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators is planning on gumming up the legislative machinery even more by forcing McConnell to hold an endless series of votes on bills disapproving of another Trump policy:

A bipartisan coalition of senators on Wednesday introduced 22 separate resolutions of disapproval aiming to reaffirm the role of Congress when it comes to approving the sales of arms to foreign governments.

The effort, led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), follows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement last month that President Donald Trump was waiving congressional authority to complete 22 arms deals, worth about $8 billion, that would benefit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

. . .

Still, 22 separate votes -- which could take up to 10 hours each, according to Murphy -- would eat up a lot of precious floor time in the Senate and derail Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) agenda.

What's that? He has an agenda? What agenda? We certainly can't see an indication of one.

American manufacturing hit its lowest point since Trump took office last month, and today's jobs report was also pretty dismal. The answer, obviously, is to slap more tariffs on everyone! Another story which mostly snuck under the radar this week was the news that Trump wanted to hit Australia with tariffs as well as Mexico, but on this one he got more pushback:

Some of Trump's top trade advisers had urged the tariffs as a response to a surge of Australian aluminum flowing onto the American market over the past year. But officials at the Defense and State Departments told Mr. Trump the move would alienate a top ally and could come at significant cost to the United States. The administration ultimately agreed not to take any action, at least temporarily.

And because Trump said he wanted it done, the United States military will now have the critical mission of painting the border wall, to the tune of $150,000 of taxpayer money:

Members of the U.S. military will spend a month painting a milelong barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort "to improve the aesthetic appearance," according to a border official.

The beautification project in Calexico, California, will use black paint and cost approximately $150,000, using funding from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's tactical infrastructure maintenance funding, the official told HuffPost in a statement.

. . .

Last month The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump instructed that the bollards, or "slats" as he calls them, be painted "flat black."

The dark color would absorb more heat in the summer, making the metal harder to climb, he argued. He also asked that the tips of the bollards be pointed so that they could put climbers at risk of injury.

He's reportedly also complained that the current structures are ugly.

Senator Dick Durbin hit back on Twitter: "A disgraceful misuse of taxpayer $$. Our military has more important work to do than making Trump's wall beautiful."

The Democratic race for the presidency heated up this week, and will reach fever pitch when the lineups for the first debate are announced next week. The race has kicked off with an interesting dynamic: Joe Biden versus the field. Biden is so dominant in the polling so far that all the other candidates are beginning to take a few potshots at him, in the hopes of removing some of his appeal.

Biden himself had two stumbles this week. His campaign at first said he still supported the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal money from being used to provide abortions for poor women, and then he dramatically reversed himself after realizing that the Democratic Party no longer considered this a viable political stance. This is pretty early for a flip-flop, but perhaps he can put it behind him to some extent.

Biden also released his own version of the Green New Deal this week, which brought some decidedly mixed reviews. It went further than many had expected, which was a result of Team Biden getting a lot of pushback over their "middle ground" philosophy, but at the same time it also didn't go far enough to please everyone. But the real stumble came when it was revealed that the new position paper plagiarized some passages without citation. The Biden team swore this was an honest mistake, quickly released an attributed copy, and hoped for the best.

Now, this is a particularly bad mistake for them to make, since Biden saw a previous presidential run torpedoed over plagiarism. At the same time, many of the Democratic candidates also have position papers which heavily borrow (without attribution) from many sources, so that helps mitigate the political damage to Biden.

While we're not quite at the debate stage yet, Democrats are starting to appear together at "cattle call" events. The first was the state Democratic convention in California, last weekend. Another one just happened in Atlanta, and then this weekend they'll all be heading to Iowa. Up until now, the candidates have been free to chart their own courses, but now they'll have to compete directly against each other for the same audience.

As mentioned, the other candidates are starting to train their fire on frontrunner Biden. Many candidates took shots at Biden at the California event, which was made easier by Biden deciding to skip it. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were most notable. Warren hit Biden's idea that we'll return to some sort of normal after Trump is gone: "Some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges. If they dream at all, they dream small. Some say that if we just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a crisis. The time for small ideas is over." Sanders hammered Biden for not showing up to the event and heaped scorn on the idea of "middle ground." Seth Moulton later hit Biden on his support for the Iraq War.

All of this means the first debates are likely going to be must-see TV. Politico has a rundown of who has already qualified and who has not:

The 13 candidates who can book their tickets include the race's top figures. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Julián Castro are the top-polling candidates; following a random drawing, they will be split across the two nights, with five on one night and four on the other.

But also meeting both the polling and fundraising thresholds are Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee and two lesser-known figures: Marianne Williamson, best known for authoring spiritual, self-help books, and Andrew Yang, a first-time candidate who wears a baseball cap that says "MATH" on the front as he touts his proposal for a universal basic income.

After those 13 candidates, the rest of the field gets murky. According to a POLITICO analysis, an additional seven candidates have hit the polling threshold: Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell.

Teetering on the edge of qualifying is Steve Bullock. The other three candidates -- Seth Moulton, Wayne Messam, and Mike Gravel -- will likely be excluded from the first debates.

In other debate news, Jay Inslee is not happy that the Democratic National Committee turned down his request for an entire debate on the subject of climate change, and he's not alone in his disappointment.

And we'd like to close on a positive note, from the "better late than never" file. The New York Police Department formally apologized for the Stonewall raids which happened 50 years ago this month (and gave birth to gay pride parades and the entire gay rights movement). It's never too late to say you're sorry, right?

Plenty of the Democratic candidates had some impressive moments this week, but what impressed us more than any one individual were a few poll results.

The first poll came from Michigan. As noted in a followup article: "Trump has never had majority support in Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. He won each with a plurality of the vote." Trump's Michigan numbers are pretty dismal right now, with both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden beating him there by a whopping 12 points -- 53 percent to 41 percent. Also beating Trump: Buttigieg (47-41), Warren (47-43), and Kamala Harris (47-44).

But the truly astonishing poll came from Texas, showing that if the election were held today, Joe Biden would beat Trump in the Lone Star State by 48 percent to 44 percent. Granted, he's the only Democrat who polled above Trump, but six other contenders came within the margin of error (Warren, Buttigieg, O'Rourke, Sanders, Castro, and Harris). If Trump doesn't win in Texas, then he loses the race, plain and simple. That's why it's so astonishing.

Also impressive this week was ProPublica, although due to their nonpartisan nature they don't qualify for an award. Through their spotlighting of the underhanded way that TurboTax and other tax-preparation software companies inserted a loophole into a bill to permanently bar the I.R.S. from developing their own free tax software, enough Democrats on the Hill were shamed into finally doing the right thing. We discussed all of this in the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week section a few months ago in this column, so you can click over to see all the details. This week, a clean bill was introduced without the TurboTax giveaway, showing that shaming legislators does work, at times. So kudos to ProPublica for forcing the issue.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez deserves an Honorable Mention this week, for standing against the practice of solitary confinement. She did so for the most unlikely prisoner -- Paul Manafort. Manafort faces charges in New York, and he's going to be transported to Rikers Island in New York, which is in Ocasio-Cortez's district. She tweeted: "A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That's what solitary confinement is. Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary." Sticking up for a political opponent in such a fashion is admirably principled, one has to admit.

Kirsten Gillibrand also wins an Honorable Mention for her very comprehensive policy proposal to legalize marijuana nationally. Some form of this really needs to be included in the Democratic Party platform this time around.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, for reacting to the shooting in Virginia Beach by calling the state legislature to a special summer session to address gun safety laws. This may be nothing more than a stunt, as there is no guarantee that the legislature will even act, but no matter the outcome, Northam deserves praise for such decisive action.

He also may have added a potent quote to the entire gun control argument. He provided the perfect framing of the issue, in fact, saying he wanted "votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers" from other Virginia politicians. The whole "thoughts and prayers" thing had already been derided as being woefully insufficient, but nobody's ever put it quite so plainly before.

So for this talking point and for doing what he can to move the debate forward in Virginia in response to yet another gun tragedy, Ralph Northam is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

{Congratulate Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

Joe Biden certainly disappointed many Democratic women this week, with his support of the Hyde Amendment. He reversed course by week's end, but even in doing so left an impression of political opportunism.

A few of the candidates at the San Francisco meeting of California Democrats got loudly booed for making disappointing comments during their speeches, which they somehow are trying to portray as making them more electable in the general election. This ignores the fact that you've got to win the Democratic primary first, of course, so it's a strange tactic, but one that a few of the candidates (John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, and Michael Bennet) have now seemingly adopted.

But our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week goes to Democratic candidates who initially swore off big-money fundraisers only to later very quietly start holding them.

Last month in Manhattan, Beto O'Rourke held a private reception for supporters who had paid the maximum amount to his campaign or brought in as much as $25,000 by persuading others to do the same. It was the first such fundraiser of O'Rourke's presidential bid -- and a contrast from the early days of his campaign, when he emphasized that he had "no large-dollar fundraisers planned, and I don't plan to do them."

He's not alone. Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar all held fundraisers in the Bay Area during their trip. Buttigieg has also recently met with Wall Street donors. Private "salons" have been held in New York for O'Rourke, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Booker, and Bennet.

Raising money this way is disappointing, of course, but it's most disappointing for candidates who initially planned a grassroots campaign. That reeks of hypocrisy, in fact. So to Beto O'Rourke and all other Democrats who are going back on their promise not to rely on big-money fundraisers, we award this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

{We're not going to single anyone out, and anyway our longstanding policy is not to link to candidate websites. You'll have to express your displeasure by withholding donations from candidates who break their own promises, we suppose.}

Volume 530 (6/7/19)

Are they laughing at us from the moon? Well, let's see. Ted Cruz, a United States senator who once read Green Eggs And Ham on the Senate floor, responded to the accusation: "Ted Cruz ate my son" by tweeting: "He was delicious!" A Democrat might win Texas. The military is busy painting a wall in the desert. Oh, and the F.B.I. is finally coming clean on its Bigfoot files -- can't forget that one.

Yep, it's been that kind of week, folks, and you'll notice we've made it all the way to the talking points without even getting into all the lunacy Trump tweeted from Europe (with the exception of his "moon is a part of Mars" idiocy). We had to use two of our talking points to point out more Trump lunacy, but that's it. The rest of them are, as usual, provided to give Democrats some solid talking points over the weekend, to be used whenever possible.

Trump Tax!

Call the tariffs what they are -- a Trump Tax! Joe Biden gets the credit for this one, and this entire talking point comes straight from his campaign:

We can't trust President Trump to look out for American workers, because for all his bluster, he never does. Just look at the record: The trade deficit is larger than when Trump took office, he's forced labor to take a back seat in his dealings with China, and he's alienated our allies who also suffer from China's trade abuses. Instead of delivering results, Trump is asking American farmers and American families to bear all the costs of his trade war. His administration's erratic and impulsive approach to China is causing families economic pain. Joe Biden would rally our friends and allies to hold China accountable, so that working families and farmers don't pay an extra Trump Tax. Biden would also restore our standing in the world on Day 1, advance our security and prosperity, and deliver results for all Americans -- not just the well connected.

Seen the actual numbers?

Trump needs to be taken to task on this one as well.

"Donald Trump made all kinds of sweeping promises when it came to American manufacturing. He swore he was going to bring jobs back. But one key index of manufacturers just hit its lowest point of Trump's term. In other words, manufacturing is now worse off than it was when Trump took office. May was, quote, 'the toughest month in nearly 10 years' for manufacturers, and there's one key reason why: the Trump Tax. One leading economist bluntly stated: 'The sector can't thrive when it's being hit by new taxes at random every few weeks.... it's about the whims of a president who understands very little about how the economy actually works.' So while Trump loves to boast about how much he's doing for all the factory workers out on the campaign trail, he's actually making things worse for them. That's the reality, folks."

GOP in disarray!

Still waiting for this to get the same level of attention as when Democrats bicker.

"The Republican Party is in open revolt against their own president. If Trump goes ahead with his Trump Tax on Mexico, it now seems likely that the Senate could vote to end the tariff with a veto-proof majority. That's pretty astonishing, and shows how much the party is in disarray. On top of that, some Republicans are going to push 22 separate bills -- which could take up to 10 hours each -- onto the Senate floor to disapprove of Trump selling arms to Saudi Arabia without the approval of Congress. Republican senators are defying their own leadership on both these issues, and yet the media still hasn't really even noticed. Mitch McConnell is in the midst of Republican-on-Republican warfare right now, so you'd think it'd be worth a story or two."

McConnell can't get anything done

Put the blame squarely on the man responsible.

"I am astonished whenever I hear someone claim that Democrats 'can't get anything done' in the House. In actual fact, they've passed over 100 bills, including just this week a brand-new bill to solve the problems of the Dreamers. A new immigration initiative, and nobody even notices! All of these bills head over to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell has become a master of getting absolutely nothing at all done. McConnell refuses to bring the Dreamer bill to the floor, as he's been refusing to act on any House bill. OK, divided government sometimes leads to gridlock, but when it does can we all please put the blame where it belongs? Because the House Democrats are getting plenty of things done -- they're passing good legislation week in and week out, in fact. These things are not being sent to the president for one reason -- Mitch McConnell. He can't get anything done in his house, and it's time to forcefully point this out."

Another Obamacare success story

Democrats really need to tout these facts as often as possible.

"According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Before Obamacare came into existence, African-Americans diagnosed with advanced cancer were less likely to start treatment within 30 days than white patients. In states that expanded Medicaid as part of Obamacare, these disparity has now disappeared. Obamacare saves lives, period."

Tear down the wall!

Maybe we should build a wall between Mars and the moon?

"Donald Trump showed once again that he has absolutely no understanding of anything outside of his own inflated ego this week. Speaking to the Irish prime minister, Trump mistook a very serious issue in Ireland as being exactly the same as his own border monomania. One of the biggest sticking points in Brexit is what to do with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The people on both sides absolutely do not want any sort of border controls to appear again, but Trump had absolutely no clue what the issue even meant to the Irish. When asked about the issue by a journalist, Trump exposed his ignorance for all to see: 'I don't think the border's going to be a problem at all.... It will all work out very well, also for you, with your wall, your border. We have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here.' The Irish prime minister immediately jumped in to correct this idiocy: 'I think one thing we want to avoid, of course, is a wall or border between us.' Trump also insinuated that Ireland was part of the U.K., which further exposed how clueless he truly is."

Thick as a brick

Since we were browsing our 1970s records this week, we also had to use the title of a Jethro Tull album (which is perfect, since they're British)....

"There's a British phrase which seems appropriate, after hearing that Donald Trump couldn't quite grasp the fact that the London crowds he saw were laughing and jeering at him rather than cheering for him -- and that phrase is 'thick as a brick.' Mr. President, allow me to explain. When the most popular blimp of all time is a gigantic balloon known as the 'Trump baby blimp,' which shows you in a diaper with your tiny little hands grasping a phone, then they're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you. Does that help clear things up?"

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Posted by ChrisWeigant | Fri Jun 7, 2019, 09:30 PM (5 replies)

Friday Talking Points -- Mueller Speaks, But Not Quite Clearly Enough

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
I've been posting this weekly wrapup column for over ten years here at DU, and always run into the same problem as we get closer to each election. The DU forum categories shift around, with strict rules about where to post. I normally post these under "General Discussion" since it's about as generic as you can get, but now there is a new "Democratic Primaries" forum as well. These weekly columns attempt to cover all of the political world, so the main focus is usually not just on the Democratic primary race. As little as 10 percent of any individual column may address the primary races, while the rest is just generic political news of the week. I've been informed by the moderators to post these in "Democratic Primaries" for now, which I am happy to do, but just wanted to warn folks ahead of time that my "Friday Talking Points" columns (begun years ago as an homage to the great DU "Top Ten Conservative Idiots" column series, I should mention) will not exclusively be about the Democratic Primaries. Just to be clear to everyone, up front, to avoid any objections that most of these posts are "off topic."}

Robert Mueller broke his two-year silence this week, as he strode boldly to the podium and loudly announced: "ITMFA!" and then withdrew. 'This caused the term to spike in Google searches to a level never seen before on any subject, ever.

Well, no. That's not what happened. Many now think that's what should have happened, but unfortunately it did not.

Instead, Mueller all but begged Congress not to force him to testify, and warned that if he had to testify, he would strive to merely read excerpts from his written report and not answer any tangential questions at all (heavily implying that this would be a waste of time, and therefore why bother?). He reiterated in the strongest possible terms that Justice Department guidelines prevented him not only from indicting a sitting president, but also from accusing a sitting president of any crime in any way whatsoever (even indirectly) -- which includes making any sort of recommendation to Congress on the question of whether Donald Trump should be impeached. Doing so would be a de facto accusation of a crime, which the guidelines say Mueller should not do (under Mueller's interpretations of them).

This annoyed Trump no end, since Mueller also explicitly pointed out once again that if he had found no evidence of any crimes Trump committed, then his report would have clearly stated this in order to exonerate Trump -- but that he could not reach this conclusion at all. Trump even backed off from his "no collusion, no obstruction" claims as a result, and the best tweet he could come up with responding to Mueller was: "Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you." In other words, you couldn't prove it, so therefore it must not have happened. That's a significant change from the language Trump was using before Mueller spoke, to put it mildly.

What probably annoyed Trump more than anything, though, was the fact that Mueller absolutely owned the entire day's news cycle. To counter this, the very next day Trump pulled a brand new tariff out of his hindquarters, just to get his name back in the news. More on this in a moment.

Mueller's statement did have one pronounced effect: unifying the Democratic candidates on what to do next. Plenty of them reacted strongly, but our favorite came in the form of a tweet from Senator Elizabeth Warren:

Mueller leaves no doubt:
1) He didn't exonerate the president because there is evidence he committed crimes.
2) Justice Department policy prevented him from charging the president with any crimes.
3) The Constitution leaves it up to Congress to act--and that's impeachment.

She's not alone. Most of the presidential candidates are also now on board the impeachment train, and the Washington Post is keeping a handy reference list of all the House Democrats who are now calling for impeachment as well.

The most amusing reaction came from Newt Gingrich, who tweeted:

Muller tried today to have iut {sic} boith {sic} ways. If he thought President Trumpo {sic?} was guilty of something he should have said he was guilty of something.

The rest of the internet pronounced Newt guilty of not being able to spell. Those that weren't having lots of fun with the clown-like moniker "President Trumpo," that is.

But back to those hastily-announced tariffs. Again, the obvious interpretation here is that the following sequence of events happened:

(1) Trump watched Mueller on television.

(2) Since Trump has never read the Mueller Report himself, lots of what Mueller said was news to him.

(3) Trump became enraged that Mueller dominated that day's news cycle.

(4) Trump flailed around and then decided to do something dramatic on impulse, no matter how bad an idea his advisors think it is.

(5) Trump announced new tariffs on everything we import from Mexico (which will start at five percent and rise each month until they hit 25 percent) unless they "do something" about illegal immigrants entering our country.

(6) Voila! Trump owns the next day's news cycle.

You just know, in your heart of hearts, that this is how this new policy came into being. Trump even touted it hours ahead of time to tease the media -- something he usually doesn't even feel the need to do -- saying it would be a "big league" announcement.

You can tell it was a completely spontaneous decision because like most of Trump's "shoot from the hip" ideas, it directly undermines something else he's attempting to achieve. This week he had been pushing Congress hard to pass his "NAFTA version 1.1" trade deal with Mexico and Canada, which he desperately wants to succeed so he'll have something to run on next year other than that stinkeroo of a tax cut.

But opening a brand-new trade war with Mexico is going to put this trade deal in jeopardy, both in our own Congress and in the Mexican government's.

Now, the entire thing may be just a flat-out fake, it bears mentioning. Why do we say this? Because there are no details about what it would take for Trump to declare victory and end this tariff. He says he wants to force Mexico to not let in so many migrants, but there are no metrics attached to that vague and rather shifty goal. Every year, migration is cyclical, meaning in the winter the numbers always go down. If they do begin to fall after the summer's over, then Trump may just claim that it is all due to his hardline with Mexico and that he can now end the tariffs completely. In other words, maybe he's trying to be crazy like a fox.

If so, several Republican senators didn't get the memo. Already Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have denounced Trump's new tariff, and plenty of other Republicans may follow in their footsteps. Or maybe not -- the Republican Party has sold its soul to Donald Trump to such an extent that it's hard to say how much abuse they'll take before finally speaking out, these days.

In other news, documents were uncovered which pretty plainly show why Republicans have been pushing to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census. The New York Times initially reported that Republican operative Thomas Hofeller -- the guy who "spent nearly two decades as the Republican National Committee's redistricting chairman" -- was one of the originators of the scheme. He died last year, and his heirs turned over some hard drives with some interesting documents on them:

Hofeller analyzed Texas state legislative maps and determined that maps based only on the number of U.S. citizens "would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats" and "would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites," according to court filings.

Hofeller wrote that implementing these maps without adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census would be "functionally unworkable."

In other words, it wasn't just a nakedly partisan scheme, it was also simultaneously a racist scheme. No wonder Trump and his minions embraced the idea so quickly.

Speaking of Trump minions, it seems someone at the White House wanted to protect the tender sensibilities of President Man-Baby this week, as they ordered the military to cover up the name of a ship -- just in case Trump threw a hissy fit when he saw it on his trip to Japan. The Pentagon complied, and the ship's name was covered up with a large tarp. As if that weren't enough, sailors from the U.S.S. John McCain (originally named for Senator McCain's father and grandfather, respected Navy admirals who share his name) were disinvited from the president's visit to another Navy ship. This was all done "to keep Trump from being upset during the visit."

From the original scoop in the Wall Street Journal comes the basic story:

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was aware of the concern about the presence of the U.S.S. John McCain in Japan and approved measures to ensure it didn't interfere with the president's visit, a U.S. official said.... Sailors were directed to remove any coverings from the ship that bore its name. After the tarp was taken down, a barge was moved closer to the ship, obscuring its name. Navy officials acknowledge the barge was moved but said it was not moved to obscure the name of the ship. Sailors on the ship, who typically wear caps bearing its name, were given the day off during Mr. Trump's visit, people familiar with the matter said.

The New York Times had some more details:

A Navy service member based on Yokosuka said that all of the American warships in the harbor were invited to send 60 to 70 sailors to hear Mr. Trump's address, with the exception of the McCain. When several sailors from the McCain showed up anyway, wearing their uniforms with the ship's insignia, they were turned away, the service member said.

This all took place over Memorial Day weekend. Just imagine -- for one nanosecond -- what Republicans would be screaming if a Democrat had done anything remotely as disrespectful as this.

Speaking of the Pentagon and disrespect, today marks the one-year anniversary of the last time a Pentagon briefing happened on camera. In the intervening year (you just can't make this stuff up), celebrities have appeared at the Pentagon briefing room podium, including Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss.

And we have to end today on some prime idiocy. Talk about "you can't make this stuff up," folks! The Energy Department announced the approval of a liquefied natural gas project in Texas, saying it would allow "molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world." No, really! Here's the full story:

The department said the permit for the expansion of the Freeport, Texas facility "is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world." It wasn't the first time the Trump administration and others have linked U.S. exports of natural gas to political freedom in other parts of the world, especially places like Lithuania and Poland, which both rely on natural gas purchased from Russia. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018, Energy Secretary Rick Perry used the phrase, "exporting freedom," to describe growing gas exports.

Yet another example of life imitating Orwellian satire. Or, to put it another way, just another day in the Trump White House.

Before we get to the main award, we have a few Honorable Mention awards to hand out. The first goes to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for snarking it up at Trump's expense.

We may be biased on this one, we admit, because we've long suggested that Democrats use exactly the same talking point to powerfully point out one particular instance of Donald Trump's hypocrisy. Because his own family has already benefited from a practice he wants to do away with -- for everybody else, that is. Donald Trump's third wife was not an American by birth. She immigrated to this country. After she married Trump, she then sponsored her own parents to immigrate to America as well. Nowadays, Trump is for reforming the whole immigration system to make it "merit-based," because he doesn't like brown families from doing the same thing his own family did. Which is why we've been urging Democrats to point it out.

This week, Pelosi did so in her usual snarky fashion. When speaking in California this week, Pelosi commented on Trump: "I don't know if merit counted for when his wife's family came into the country. I don't know. Maybe it did. God bless them if it did. But he calls that 'chain migration,' which he wants to get rid of." Well done, Madam Speaker!

In a much more serious vein, we'd like to award a collective Honorable Mention to all the Democrats in the New Hampshire statehouse who successfully ended the death penalty in the Granite State. The Republican governor vetoed the bill, but the veto was then overturned (by the thinnest of margins) by the legislature, meaning New Hampshire will not sentence anyone to death from this point forward. So the Democrats who managed such an upset deserve (at the very least) our recognition with a group Honorable Mention.

But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to former Attorney General Eric Holder, for continuing the fight for voting rights and against gerrymandering. After he and his boss Barack Obama left office, they both announced they'd be championing this effort (through the National Democratic Redistricting Committee), but we have to say that Holder seems to be the one doing all the heavy lifting, from what we can tell.

This week, Holder was in the news for being the driving force behind a lawsuit in Mississippi challenging a law originally passed at the beginnings of the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow era. The law was passed for racist reasons, and remains on the books today.

Unlike almost every other state in the country, Mississippi has some unusual rules for how their governors get elected. A candidate doesn't win just by getting the most votes of any candidate. He or she doesn't win by even getting a simple majority of all the votes (50 percent plus one vote). To be elected governor, a candidate must not only gain a majority of all the votes cast, the candidate must also win a majority of all the state's 122 house districts. Only 42 of these districts contain a majority of African-American voters. Which was how it was initially designed -- to ensure that no black man would ever become governor (Historical note: "man" because this law was passed in 1890, which was 30 years before women even got the right to vote).

Holder pointed out that the law has worked exactly as designed: "This is not a theoretical thing. We have seen no statewide African-American elected to office since this was enacted, in spite of the fact that Mississippi has the highest percentage of African-Americans of any state in the country." The lawsuit itself is even more blunt:

This racist electoral scheme achieved -- and continues to achieve -- the framers' goals by tying the statewide election process to the power structure of the House. So long as white Mississippians controlled the House, they would also control the elections of statewide officials.

A whole lot of racist laws were enacted during this dark period in American history. Most of them -- thankfully -- have either been declared unconstitutional or have been wiped off the books by subsequent legislation in the past century. But not all of them. For singling this particular one out, and for attacking it with a lawsuit, Eric Holder is once again our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. We have no idea what the chances of success will be in the Mississippi legal system, but we certainly do salute Holder for making the effort no matter what the eventual outcome.

{Congratulate former Attorney General Eric Holder via Twitter, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

Oh, heck, we know we already covered this in advance last week... but what the hey, let's just give the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award once again to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, for being the only Democratic governor to join in the parade of Republicans signing the most stringent anti-abortion laws since Roe v. Wade.

Disappointing doesn't even begin to cover it, but we already said all of that last week. Thanks for nothing, Governor, and here's another MDDOTW award to go with last week's.

{Contact Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.}

Volume 529 (5/31/19)

We have to begin here with a forward to our first talking point this week, to provide the proper credit where it is due. We first wrote about this subject way back in 2011, when it was more of a theoretical thing -- the Republican Party had included the strongest possible anti-abortion language in their party's platform, but they hadn't actually legislated it into existence at that point. Herman Cain was talking about it on the presidential campaign trail, which is why it was in the news, but again it was still merely theoretical.

Now that it is becoming reality in state after state, Democrats need to push back as strongly as possible against the shift in Republicans' position from "abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother," to "abortion should never be legal." But this idea wasn't ours to begin with, we got it from an excellent book on political messaging from Drew Westen titled The Political Brain: The Role Of Emotion In Deciding The Fate Of The Nation (a book, by the way, to which we give our highest and strongest recommendation). So before we get to our updated version, here is Westen's original suggestion for how to phrase this in a political ad: "My opponent puts the rights of rapists above the rights of their victims, guaranteeing every rapist the right to choose the mother of his child. What he's proposing is a rapists' bill of rights."

We've only ever seen one Democratic politician attempt anything close to such an ad, when John Walsh was running for the Senate seat vacated by Max Baucus. Unfortunately, Walsh had to later drop out of the race after plagiarism charges surfaced, so it is impossible to measure the impact of such an ad in any meaningful way. In any case, we wanted to provide a full citation of where our first talking point came from, in advance.

Rapists' bill of rights

Democrats need to make the case as starkly as possible why the Republican Party has been taken over by extremists.

"Republicans are pushing abortion laws in state after state which can only be called Draconian. Locking up doctors for 99 years for providing what is a woman's legal and constitutional right. Denying abortion access to those women who have been raped or molested by their own family members. Make no mistake about it -- such laws are nothing short of a rapists' bill of rights, because it will allow a rapist to essentially choose the mother of any children produced by their heinous crime. If the woman is forbidden from aborting such a child, then she'll be forced to give birth to her rapists' baby. For the rest of her life, she'll look into her child's eyes and see the DNA of her rapist looking back at her. The Republican Party has gotten so extreme that it is now standing up for rapists' fatherhood rights. That is abhorrent to me, and it should be equally as repugnant to everyone else. Rapists should have no fatherhood rights, period."

Hit them in the pocketbook

This has worked before, and it can work again.

"When North Carolina passed an extreme anti-LGBTQ law, both the corporate world and the sports world responded by pulling the plug on all spending within the state. This economic blow was so severe that the North Carolina lawmakers hastily had to backpedal. Now that Georgia has passed a Draconian abortion law, Hollywood is threatening to end all production there. The state passed favorable tax laws which have lured Hollywood to film plenty of movies and television shows there in the past few years, so this is more economic pressure than you might first think. There's a growing list of companies publicly stating that they'll be ending all their business in the state, and I applaud them all for doing so. If states want to pass laws to take us all back a half-century, then there's no reason Hollywood or corporate America should boost their economies in any way. Hit them where it hurts -- in jobs lost and their own pocketbooks."

Hypocrisy, thy name is McTurtle

A true Kinsley gaffe if ever there was one.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who so sanctimoniously lectured us all on how it would be some sort of affront to the Constitution to confirm a Supreme Court justice in the final year of a president's term -- which is just flat-out false, by the way -- this week confirmed what everyone already knew all along, that he was nothing short of a flaming partisan hypocrite. He laughingly said that of course he'd confirm a justice if given the chance to do so in 2020. Such partisan hackery was denounced by all those not in thrall to the Republican Party. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded with a terse: 'Senator McConnell is a hypocrite.' But Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe summed it up the best, tweeting: 'Hypocrisy is McTurtle's middle name. And his first and last name too. What a flagrant dickhead!' I find that I cannot improve upon his erudite phrasing."

Aiding and abetting Russia

Call it what it really is, in no uncertain terms.

"Maybe calling McConnell a turtle needs updating, because on the subject of Russian interference in America's elections, he's acting more and more like an ostrich with its head firmly planted in the sand. Bob Mueller warned us all once again that Russia launched a massive and coordinated attack on the integrity of our electoral process, and yet Mitch still refuses to admit this basic fact. Last month, the F.B.I. director said, and I quote, 'the threat just keeps escalating and we're going to have to up our game to stay ahead of it.' He also warned: 'We are very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020.' Even Trump toady Lindsey Graham moved two election-protection bills through his committee -- both of which are bipartisan, and both of which passed out of committee unanimously. But McConnell has refused to put either bill on the floor for a vote. At this point, the only conclusion possible is that Mitch McConnell is actually aiding and abetting Russian attacks on America's elections. Why else would he stop bills with such wide bipartisan support from moving forward?"

Speaking of disgusting obstructionism....

There's a very short window for this talking point to work, so it really should be deployed this Sunday morning on all the political chatfest shows.

"Three House Republicans have now -- on three separate occasions -- denied aid to Americans hardest hit by natural disasters. The Senate passed a compromise disaster aid bill last week, and the House could have put it on the president's desk by now, freeing up the flow of aid to those who desperately need it -- including in some very red states. When Congress returns next week, this bill is going to pass -- it has so much bipartisan support that the outcome is simply not in question. But disaster victims are being forced to wait an extra two weeks solely so some freshman Republican congressmen can see their names in the national news. This is disgusting and shameful behavior. I call on all Republicans who support this bill -- a bill that passed the Senate with eighty-five votes -- to denounce the actions of these three Republicans. Disaster victims deserve better than this."

Trump goes too far for even Republicans

The bromance continues, apparently.

"Donald Trump's love affair with the murderous thug who rules North Korea with an iron fist continues, no matter how provocative Kim Jong Un gets. After launching some missiles to rattle the world, President Trump declared that they had not done so, contradicting his own top military and intelligence advisors. Kim also called Joe Biden a low-IQ fool, and Trump agreed wholeheartedly, over the Memorial Day weekend. This was a step too far for even some of Trump's supporters. Republican House member Adam Kinzinger tweeted: 'It's Memorial Day weekend and you're taking a shot at Biden while praising a dictator. This is just plain wrong.' Marc Thiessen, who can best be described as being 'to the right of Attila the Hun,' also reacted negatively, on Fox News: 'You don't attack political opponents from foreign soil... And two, you don't cite the murderous dictator of North Korea as evidence of why Biden is a bad candidate.' Trump tried to spin the whole thing as somehow being respectful to Biden -- which nobody bought, by the way, because it was so laughable -- and in his tweet he actually used the term 'low-IQ' in the same sentence where he misspelled Biden's last name. Sadly, you just can't make this stuff up, folks."

One Trump bromance is dead, however

Maybe if Kim Jong Un had lost an election, Trump would have changed his mind.

"One Trump bromance is officially dead, though. Failed Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore apparently is no longer a favorite of the Trumps anymore. Because if there's one thing Trump can't stand, it's a loser. Moore was reported to be considering another Senate run, and Trump scathingly warned him not to even try, tweeting:

Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama. This time it will be for Six Years, not just Two. I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win. But he didn't, and probably won't.... Roy Moore cannot win.

A day earlier, Donald Trump Junior had tweeted even harsher words at Moore:

You mean like last time? You're literally the only candidate who could lose a GOP seat in pro-Trump, pro-USA ALABAMA. Running for office should never become a business model. If you actually care about #MAGA more than your own ego, it's time to ride off into the sunset, Judge.

So sorry, Roy. It seems like they're just not that into you any more."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Throws Another Tantrum

What do you do with a president who wants to be impeached? That's a surreal question, but then again we live in surreal times. Donald Trump seems more and more like a man begging the House Democrats to impeach him. It's like every political decision he makes is designed to be so outrageous that it'll surely goad Democrats into starting an impeachment committee.

Trump thinks -- and he may very well be right -- that getting impeached and then having the Republican Senate refuse to remove him from office would be a political winner for him. There's simply no way to tell how it would play out during an election year, but the last president impeached by what the public saw as a purely political exercise actually saw his own job approval go up during the process. So Trump is betting the same thing will happen to him, and he may not be wrong in that assumption.

But it certainly leaves Democrats in a quandary. Impeaching Trump might just help Trump politically. But not impeaching Trump leaves him free to run roughshod over all and sundry, in increasingly outrageous fashion. That's a tough choice. So far, Nancy Pelosi has chosen to push forward with investigations, but not pull the impeachment trigger quite yet. Bizarrely, right after she held a meeting with her caucus where she damped down calls for immediate impeachment, Trump's head exploded and he threw an epic hissy fit.

While we're going to save most of the story of Trump blowing his top for later in the program, there are a few side notes worth pointing out. The Washington Post ran a helpful review of all the other times when an announced "Infrastructure Week" crashed and burned for Trump (the most notable being the "very fine people on both sides" reaction to Charlottesville, which actually happened at an Infrastructure Week presentation).

Also, right after Trump swore he was taking his bat and ball and going home rather than getting anything done with Democrats in Congress, Trump caved completely on his demands for border wall money and to stiff Puerto Rico, which allowed a bipartisan disaster relief bill to pass the Senate on an 85-8 vote. Trump threw in the towel a day after he said he wouldn't even negotiate with Democrats, which will wind up being good news for all those affected.

Trump did announce a further $16 billion in aid to farmers to bail them out of the mess that his trade war with China has saddled them with. But even Republicans are getting nervous about the devastation Trump is personally causing in the heartland, as evidenced by a letter Senator Jerry Moran wrote, charging that Trump's trade war would "cause long term damage to U.S. agriculture." He went on to write about Trump's preferred method of using taxpayer money for such bailouts:

Kansas farmers and ranchers understand the need to hold China accountable for bad behavior on trade. Yet, net farm income has fallen by 50% since 2013 and the trade war has pushed commodity prices down even further. Many farmers and ranchers are on the verge of financial collapse.

. . .

This inherent unpredictability of ad hoc disaster assistance underlies the strong preference of farmers and ranchers for markets to sell their livestock and crops instead of government payments.

Meanwhile, House Republican Justin Amash outright called for the impeachment of the president. He read the whole Mueller Report and came to that conclusion, which he shared last weekend. So far, he's the only Republican in Congress to do so, but it's still a notable development.

Trump's stonewalling strategy continues, as he blocked Don McGahn from testifying before a House committee this week. But the courts are moving quickly to address the situation, as two separate federal judges this week ruled against Trump's legal argument that Congress doesn't have the right to issue subpoenas to Trump's banks and his accountant. Trump immediately appealed both decisions, and one of them is already scheduled to be heard by the appellate court on July 12.

New York state lawmakers are doing their part, passing two laws directed at Trump this week. The first will allow congressional committees to get Trump's state tax returns, and the second will allow people accused of criminal activity in New York to be prosecuted even after the president pardons them (presidential pardons only apply to federal lawbreaking, but New York had a law on the books stating that people couldn't be tried for crimes prosecuted at the federal level -- now the new law allows for this in the case of anyone pardoned by the president).

This isn't an abstract possibility, since Trump has shown his willingness to use the pardon power to let off the hook anyone Fox News thinks should be given a pass. In fact, Trump was astonishingly going to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend by pardoning war criminals. That's right -- soldiers and contractors either being prosecuted or already convicted of murdering innocent people and disobeying the rules of war would get presidential pardons, and somehow Trump thought that he'd be honoring the military by doing so. Mitt Romney reacted to this news with: "I think it's a terrible idea to pardon someone who is legitimately convicted of committing war crimes. It's unthinkable." Unthinkable by normal people, but not so for Trump. Hopefully, the pushback against this idea has been so strong that Trump is now reportedly having second thoughts, so we'll have to see what happens (if anything) over the holiday weekend.

Before we get to the main award, we have to give an Honorable Mention to both Representative Judy Chu and Senator Richard Blumenthal. They both introduced into their respective chambers the "Women's Health Protection Act," which would "bar states from imposing restrictions on abortion that are medically unnecessary and interfere with a woman's ability to access care."

For some needed context, it hasn't been just this week that abortion rights have been under attack. From 2010 to 2016, individual states enacted 338 laws restricting abortion access. As Blumenthal put it: "We face a five-alarm fire in the danger to women's reproductive rights."

This bill has been introduced in every Congress since 2013. It now has 42 Senate cosponsors and 171 cosponsors in the House. For far too long, Congress has punted on its responsibility to fight back against the state-level attacks on Roe versus Wade. This bill would fix the problem once and for all, on a national level. Which is why we have to applaud Blumenthal and Chu for once again introducing it.

We'd also like to award an Honorable Mention to all the Democrats in Connecticut who managed to pass a law hiking the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Well done!

But, obviously, the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is none other than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She earns the award for being the most effective Democrat at getting under Trump's skin. Other Democrats should really be taking notes, because Pelosi seems to annoy Trump more than anyone else in Washington.

We wrote about the immolation of yet another "Infrastructure Week" earlier in the week, but in case you've been in a coma or something, here's the basic rundown. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were scheduled to meet with President Trump this week, where Trump was supposed to present his plan to pay for the $2 trillion infrastructure proposal that both sides had agreed to last month. Trump, obviously, had not done his homework. He had nothing to propose, as Chuck Schumer later pointed out:

What happened yesterday, in my judgment, is that they were so ill-prepared and afraid to actually say how they pay for infrastructure -- they were unable -- that they looked for a way to back out.... I think probably early that morning they concocted this, you know, temper tantrum and he walked out.

Trump was 15 minutes late to the meeting, probably because the White House was planning an impromptu Rose Garden address in the meantime. When Trump finally walked in to the meeting, he refused to shake hands or sit down, delivered a three-minute rant against Nancy Pelosi (who earlier that morning had stated that the president was obviously "engaged in a coverup" ), and then stormed out of the room. Trump later insisted that "I don't do coverups" -- which, of course, Stormy Daniels might just have something to say about.

Trump then strode to the Rose Garden podium, gripping notes that (in his own handwriting) listed his "achomlishments" (you just can't make this stuff up, folks), and appearing before a podium with a sign on it that read "No collusion. No obstruction." The internet had lots of fun pointing out Trump's idiocy afterwards, naturally. Trump ranted for a while, took two questions, and then exited. He seemed to draw a line in the sand: if Democrats in the House continued to investigate him for any reason, he would simply refuse to work with them on anything. He essentially wants to hold America's infrastructure hostage.

The back-and-forth between Trump and Pelosi got more intense all week long. Pelosi, after the "meeting" with Trump, said she prayed for both the president and the United States of America. She also said Trump "had a temper tantrum" instead of a meeting, writing in a letter to Democrats: "Sadly, the only job the president seems to be concerned with is his own. He threatened to stop working with Democrats on all legislation unless we end oversight of his administration and he had a temper tantrum for us all to see."

Trump then hijacked what was supposed to be an announcement of $16 billion more taxpayer money going to bail out the farmers hit hard by his trade war with China, and forced his toadies to stand up, one after the other, and insist that Trump was "calm" during his meeting with Pelosi. He called Pelosi "a mess" and said that she had "lost it." He also said, once again, that he was a "very stable genius." The internet also had a field day with this one, with the best response coming from Rob Reiner: "The only Stable Genius I know of is Mr. Ed."

Pelosi then shot back: "I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country. Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence." She also tweeted: "When the 'extremely stable genius' starts acting more presidential, I'll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues."

Once again -- nobody else seems to get under Trump's skin to such a degree. Which is why it's so amusing to watch when Nancy Pelosi does so. For standing up to Trump with a backbone made of steel, Nancy Pelosi is once again the winner of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. And, as we said, Democratic presidential candidates should really be taking notes, because one of them will have to take Trump on directly next year.

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

This week, Roe versus Wade came under attack. Multiple states took direct aim at it, passing laws to make abortion almost impossible (and, in Alabama's case, completely impossible). All of these laws are designed to wind up in the Supreme Court, because now that Justice Fratboy is on the court, conservatives think the time is ripe to challenge Roe.

In all of these cases but one, a Republican governor signed (or will sign) the new anti-abortion bills. But in Louisiana, it was a Democratic governor who said he will sign the bill into law. John Bel Edwards is one of a very few anti-abortion Democrats left in the party.

We find this disappointing, which is why we're awarding him this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Now, an argument can be made for making the party a "big tent," and it can also be argued that Louisiana is better off in general with an anti-abortion Democrat than with a Republican sitting in the governor's chair, but we still find the whole thing disappointing. There should be some things that the party as a whole stands for, and we believe that a woman's right to choose should be one of them for the Democratic Party. We're not alone in this belief, either.

Roe versus Wade is under attack. One court ruling could strip it of its power nationwide. America would return to it being up to the states whether abortion was legal or not. We think that's the wrong direction for the country to take. Which is why we feel we must give this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award to John Bel Edwards.

{Contact Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.}

Volume 528 (5/24/19)

As we are sometimes wont to do, this week we are foregoing our usual discrete (but seldom discreet) seven talking points in favor of just letting fly with an extended rant. Well, it's not exactly a rant, but it does include a little ranting here and there.

We wrote about this subject yesterday, after hearing that the White House was trying a rather laughable bit of political spin. According to Trump (and his chorus of toadies), Democrats are simply not capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Here is a tweet from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, pushing this false narrative: "Democrats are in a tailspin, and their 'leadership' is out to lunch. They have achieved practically NOTHING since taking over the House, and their obsession with impeaching this president is paralyzing any progress we could be making as the UNITED States."

This is utter hogwash, of course. But it strikes at the bedrock case that Democrats really need to be making in the 2020 election campaign. And when we say this, we aren't thinking so much of the presidential race but rather of all the down-ballot races for the House, for the Senate, and for statehouses across the country. So we decided it was time to provide a generic speech for Democratic candidates in all the other races. Here is the basic speech we would write for any of these candidates to deliver.

How Democrats Can Make The Case For 2020

In the upcoming election, American voters will have a clear choice to make between the two major political parties. One public service President Trump has done for the country {Pause for laughter}... no, really... one good thing he's done for us all is to rip the mask off the Republican Party and lay bare for everyone to see just how bankrupt they are of good ideas to improve people's lives. I mean, what does the Republican Party want to do for America? From where I stand, they really only seem to agree on three things. If you look at what little legislation they have proposed, it all boils down to one of the following three things: cut taxes for the wealthiest of the wealthy, build a gigantic wall on our southern border, and prevent as many people as possible from getting affordable healthcare. That's it. That's all they've got.

The Republicans held both houses of Congress for two years, and they want to win the House back and hold onto the Senate in this election. But what did they get done last time? A whole lot of nothing. One big tax cut that showered all its benefits on Wall Street and billionaires, and nothing else. They tried to kill Obamacare and replace it with absolutely nothing for tens of millions of Americans, but thankfully they weren't able to do so. And what else did they achieve? Nothing. What has the Senate achieved this year? As one Republican senator just put it -- and this is a direct quote: "Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada." This same senator summed up what his Republican colleagues have managed this year by saying: "the Senate hasn't done a damn thing except sit on its ice-cold lazy butt." That's a Republican senator, mind you, and I might add that I couldn't have said it better myself.

When I see Republican campaign ads, all I can see is fearmongering: "We should all be very afraid of this, that, and the other -- vote for us because we will slay the dragon!" But what positive agenda items do they have? They don't say. What do they want to do for the country? Their ads are silent on the subject. The only things Republicans now stand for are cutting your boss's taxes, building a pointless border wall, and denying healthcare to the poor, to women, and to anyone else they possibly can. They know full well that this stripped-down agenda is not really popular with the public, so they don't even try to run on it even though it is all they have left that they agree upon.

The contrast couldn't be clearer. Democrats want to get some good things done to move America boldly into the future. Republicans want to stop all of these ideas cold, but they have nothing to propose other than obstructionism. Oh, and a border wall.

Will building a wall on the Mexican border bring down prescription drug prices? No, it will not. Will building Trump's precious border wall bring a green new energy future to the country? Nope. Will a border wall raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour? I wouldn't hold your breath. Will that wall protect people with pre-existing conditions? I seriously doubt it. Will building a border wall give all Americans the choice to join Medicare? No, it won't. Will a border wall ensure equal pay for equal work? Not even close. Will building a border wall do anything for the Dreamers or solve our nation's real immigration problems? No way. Will spending a bazillion dollars building an ineffective wall mean teachers will be paid more? No, it will not. Will throwing money down this rathole make college more affordable for all? Not a chance.

That's their agenda stacked up against ours, in a nutshell. Democrats want to do all of these things to make people's lives better. Republicans don't want to do any of them, and the Republican Senate refuses to act on any of it.

This week, after the president of the United States threw a temper tantrum worthy of a two-year-old, he's been pushing some fake news in an effort to convince everyone that black is white and up is down. According to him, because the House of Representatives is once again performing its constitutional duty to provide oversight of the executive branch, somehow they aren't able to get anything else done. He tweeted this bizarre theory multiple times, in fact: "You can't investigate and legislate simultaneously -- it just doesn't work that way. You can't go down two tracks at the same time." And also: "Democrats are getting nothing done in Congress.... It is not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time."

Professional Trump apologist Sarah Huckabee Sanders also tried pushing this manure on the American public. She called Democrats: "incapable of doing anything other than investigating this president," and asked: "what significant pieces of legislation they have passed that are going to change the course of this country?" Sarah called the idea that Democrats can both investigate and pass bills "a complete lie." And then she stepped back, just in case a thunderbolt from Heaven struck her down for bearing such false witness. {Pause for laughter} OK, I made that last part up, I admit.

This lie is a monumentally stupid one because it is so easy to debunk. The House of Representatives has, in fact, been passing dozens of bills. Nancy Pelosi has been moving legislation like there's no tomorrow, in fact. All told, the House has sent over one hundred bills to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell refuses to act on any of them. We've sent them over a hundred bills and the year's not even half over. So yes, thank you very much, Democrats can indeed run investigations and pass legislation -- just look at their record! It's pretty obvious which party can pass bills and which party cannot, when you take even the most casual look at the facts.

In all this time, what has Mitch McConnell done? Nothing. Democrats aren't the ones who can't pass legislation, it is obviously the Republicans who can't do so -- and they don't even have the excuse of investigations to fall back on, because McConnell has become nothing but Trump's bootlicker. Republicans can't legislate, period.

The only way to end this gridlock is to elect more Democrats to the Senate, and take back the White House. The Republican agenda -- other than tax cuts, taking away your healthcare, and building the wall -- is empty. It is completely hollow. They've got absolutely nothing, which is why they're passing no bills. America gave them both houses of Congress and the White House and what got done?

However, if the American voters decide to give Democrats control, we've already got a strong agenda chock full of things that could make everyone's lives a whole lot better. You don't have to imagine what we'll do, just take a look at some of those bills the House has already passed: the For The People Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, the Save the Internet Act -- and that's just a handful of them.

Democrats want to reform our elections system to make it easier for everyone to vote. Republicans want to make it harder for you to cast your ballot. Democrats want to reform ethics laws for elected officials, while Republicans want to make the swamp deeper. Democrats -- and even some Republicans -- want to protect our elections system from hacking by foreigners, and Mitch McConnell refuses to act on it. Democrats want to make it illegal to deny someone housing or a job just because they are gay. Republicans are pro-discrimination. Democrats want to make college more affordable to all, and Republicans don't. Democrats want teachers in our children's schools to get paid more, and Republicans disagree. Democrats want to protect people's health insurance and people with pre-existing conditions, and Republicans want to take health insurance away and lock up doctors for providing women's healthcare. Democrats want the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour, and Republicans are fighting it. Democrats want to build infrastructure all across the country, and Republicans only want to build a border wall.

That is the contrast. That is what is on the ballot next November. Do we move forward together as a country, or do we refuse to even admit that problems exist? Do we want to make life better for people, or do we want to double-down on rigging the system for the few and against the many? Are we going to return America to being a shining example for the rest of the world to follow, or do we want to continue to be the world's laughingstock? Do we want to return to a time when we treated America's friends as friends, or do we want to continue to see our president coddle dictators because they say nice things about him? The choice is pretty plain. I know what I'm going to do next November -- I'm going to cast a vote for the future. I'm going to vote to move America forward once again. I'm going to reject the idea that there are simply no problems left for Congress to solve. I'm voting for Democrats, and I urge everyone who shares hope for the future to do the same, because it is the only way anything good will get done.

Thank you.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Immigration Hypocrisy

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
I've been posting this weekly wrapup column for over ten years here at DU, and always run into the same problem as we get closer to each election. The DU forum categories shift around, with strict rules about where to post. I normally post these under "General Discussion" since it's about as generic as you can get, but now there is a new "Democratic Primaries" forum as well. These weekly columns attempt to cover all of the political world, so the main focus is usually not just on the Democratic primary race. As little as 10 percent of any individual column may address the primary races, while the rest is just generic political news of the week. I've been informed by the moderators to post these in "Democratic Primaries" for now, which I am happy to do, but just wanted to warn folks ahead of time that my "Friday Talking Points" columns (begun years ago as an homage to the great DU "Top Ten Conservative Idiots" column series, I should mention) will not exclusively be about the Democratic Primaries. Just to be clear to everyone, up front, to avoid any objections that most of these posts are "off topic."}

It's been yet another week of life so bizarre it'd be hard to even imagine it as satirical art. Who would best be able to capture the lunacy and doublethink emanating from Trump's White House? Joseph Heller? George Orwell? Douglas Adams? Or perhaps Dr. Seuss? In other words, just another glorious week in Trumpland, folks.

The highlights (or lowlights, really) of this lunacy came during Trump's rollout of his brand-new immigration policy proposal. In the future, Trump announced, the United States should give much greater weight to skilled immigrants and much less weight to family ties in deciding who will be allowed in. Under a normal president -- even a normal Republican president -- this would be par for the course. With Trump, however, we have to consider not the par but the course itself.

Donald Trump owns a bunch of golf courses here in America. He runs these golf courses using various forms of labor. Up until very recently, he relied on workers who were undocumented (or, as Republicans so charmingly call them, "illegals" ). When this practice came to light in the media, all of these folks were hastily fired. But even beyond the illegal labor force, Trump also relies heavily on a visa used specifically for seasonal workers to hire foreigners as maids and other low-skilled labor to run his hotels and golf courses. His organization snaps up as many of these visas as they can each year, so that they can hire temporary summer help from other countries, rather than hire Americans to do the same jobs -- even though these are not high-skilled jobs. So much for all his talk about hiring Americans, eh?

That's a whole lot of hypocrisy, right there. But things got really surreal when he sent out (you can't make this stuff up, folks) his own son-in-law to make the case that people should be rated not on their family connections but rather on their actual skills. Seriously. His own son-in-law made the case that family connections should not be a consideration.

Maybe Jared Kushner is so skilled in his job that he was the best choice available? That would really be the only counterargument to make. Well, let's see how it all played out, shall we?

President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, faced pointed questions about his plan to overhaul the immigration system in a closed-door meeting with Republican senators Tuesday -- and failed to offer solutions to some key concerns, according to GOP officials who cast doubt on the viability of the proposal.

Publicly, senators emerged from their weekly Capitol Hill luncheon applauding the White House senior adviser's pitch to move U.S. immigration toward a merit-based system that prioritizes highly skilled workers, a task he undertook at Trump's behest.

But privately, Republican officials said Kushner did not have clear answers to some questions from the friendly audience, prompting Trump's other senior adviser, Stephen Miller, to interrupt at times and take over the conversation.

. . .

But some GOP senators left the meeting wondering whether Kushner understood the issue, the GOP officials said. Though some appreciated his efforts, they did not think his plan would advance anytime soon. No senator has stepped forward yet to turn Kushner's plan into legislation.

"He's in his own little world," said one individual familiar with the discussion in the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe the session. "He didn't give many details about what was in {his plan}.... And there were a number of instances where people had to step in and answer questions because he couldn't."

. . .

The GOP officials said Kushner also appeared to struggle to answer Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who asked how the plan would deal with undocumented immigrants already in the country. The administration official said Cornyn instead offered praise for the plan. A spokesman for Cornyn declined to comment on the private meeting.

At times, Miller jumped in to assist Kushner, especially on questions about how the plan would deal with low-skilled workers. "Miller interrupted him a lot," the individual said.

The article also made a tangential point as well:

Kushner also has tried to produce a peace plan for the Middle East after decades of fighting by inserting himself into the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those talks have broken down, however.

So, nothing to worry about there! But let's get back to Donald Trump's flaming hypocrisy on immigration. Trump has long railed against using family ties as a basis for legal immigration, calling it "chain migration," where one family member makes it in and then sponsors all their other relatives to come in legally as well. But please remember, Trump's own wife is an immigrant. And he certainly didn't seem to object any when she used her new status as his wife to sponsor her own parents to get green cards. That's right -- Trump's own in-laws used the same "chain migration" to get in that Trump's new policy is attacking.

So, to review: Trump used to use undocumented immigrants as workers at his golf courses and hotels. Trump continues to use visas to give unskilled jobs to foreigners rather than hire Americans. Trump's own family has used "chain migration" to get in to America legally. And now he wants to change all that -- for everybody else, assumably. He wants only skilled immigrants not relying on family ties to be allowed in. This is why the whole scenario is worthy of Joseph Heller.

Thankfully, even Republicans are balking at doing anything towards achieving Trump's goals. Nancy Pelosi helpfully categorized his big new proposal as a "dead-on-arrival plan that is not remotely a serious proposal."

But getting back to Republican lunacy (and Joseph Heller), we have to preface this next item with the definitive excerpt from the novel Catch-22.

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. "Is Orr crazy?"

"He sure is," Doc Daneeka said.

"Can you ground him?"

"I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule."

"Then why doesn't he ask you to?"

"Because he's crazy," Doc Daneeka said. "He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to."

"That's all he has to do to be grounded?"

"That's all. Let him ask me."

"And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked.

"No. Then I can't ground him."

"You mean there's a catch?"

"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

This is a necessary reminder, because this week the state of Alabama passed a law which (are you sitting down?) makes all abortion illegal except for an abortion performed on a woman who doesn't know she is pregnant. That is exactly how one of the bill's sponsors explained it:

{Under the new policy} anything that's available today is still available up until that woman knows she's pregnant. So there is a window of time, some say seven days, some say ten. There is a window of time that every option that's on the table now is still available. {...}

So she has to take a pregnancy test, she has to do something to know whether she is pregnant or not. You can't know that immediately. It takes some time for all those chromosomes and all that that you mentioned. It doesn't happen immediately.

Got that? When you ignore the "all those chromosomes" idiocy, it boils down to: if a woman doesn't know she is pregnant, she is free to have an abortion. If, however, she finds out she is pregnant, she cannot have an abortion.

Catch-22. Welcome to Alabama.

Alabama's new law is so extreme -- no exceptions for rape or incest at all -- that even people like Pat Robertson and the Republican leader in the House of Representatives are saying it goes too far. But that didn't deter the governor from signing the new law, which was quite obviously designed to entice the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. And with Justice Fratboy now on the court, anything is possible.

But let's move on to a more cheerful subject concerning the number 22. Or is it 23? Or maybe even 24?

This confusion is rampant in the media, as nobody's really sure what the total should be when discussing the Democratic 2020 presidential field. It all depends on who you count as a "serious" candidate, after all. There are really only three or four candidates who regularly get excluded from the totals, two for being non-politicians and one for running a vanity campaign.

Mike Gravel is running for president, kind of, but he's often the first guy people exclude when they're counting heads. But he may actually qualify for the first debates, which would pretty much argue for his inclusion in the list. The other two are not politicians currently, but then again neither was Donald Trump, right? Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson are often omitted from the totals of all the Democrats running, even though both have either raised enough money from enough sources (Williamson) or done well enough in the national polls (Yang) to also be included in the first debates.

The last guy who sometimes doesn't make the cut is Wayne Messam, who is a mayor from Florida. His fundraising numbers are the lowest of anyone's, and he does not register at all in the polls. So he really should be the first to be dropped from the "serious candidates" list, even though he often is included anyway (probably because Pete Buttigieg, another mayor, is doing so well).

We personally include everyone. This week, we had (hopefully) the last two candidates throw their hats in the increasingly-crowded ring, Steve Bullock and Bill de Blasio. Counting everyone -- Gravel, Yang, Williamson, and Messam -- this gives us 24 candidates currently running. But we are even more inclusive than that, as we set the absolute total Democratic field at 25 candidates. The one everyone else always misses is Richard Ojeda, who was the first candidate to officially drop out. But he was running at one point, so in any total of the whole field, he really should be counted as well. As we wrote earlier in the week, the question that is going to loom the largest over the Democratic race over the next few weeks is who will wind up debating whom in the first round of debates? The draw is going to be crucial.

Let's see, what else is going on? Trump is now apparently going to ask for another $20 billion (on top of the $12 billion already spent) to bail out all the farmers hit hard by his new tariffs -- or, to speak plainly, taxes. So how is that playing with his fellow Republicans? Let's check in with Senator Pat Toomey:

Think about what we're doing. We're inviting this retaliation that denies our farmers... the opportunity to sell their products overseas, and then we say, "Don't worry, we'll have taxpayers send you some checks and make it okay." That's a very bad approach.

Not exactly a rousing endorsement of the new plan, is it? Oh, and this program that is supposed to be helping American farmers apparently sent over $20 million in American taxpayer money to a pair of Brazilian brothers who have confessed their participation in a "massive corruption scandal." Nothing like putting America first!

This week, the first federal court case from Trump's stonewalling and obstructionism went before a judge, as Trump is suing to block the subpoena of his accounting firm. The official White House legal strategy (in this and multiple other court cases) is that because they have determined that Congress "has no legitimate legislative purpose" in investigating the president, then the president is free to ignore all their demands, requests, and subpoenas. The first judge to hear such a case was highly skeptical of such reasoning, and his decision is expected fairly soon, so we've got that to look forward to.

Something that we regularly look forward to is in the process of being completely ruined by Trump, however, as he's apparently now micromanaging what will happen in Washington D.C. on July Fourth, to (naturally) shoehorn himself into the arrangements. Back in February, Trump was roundly ridiculed for tweeting:

HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called "A Salute To America" and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!

Hold the date? Really? Is Trump honestly that stupid? Well, it appears so -- he's now mucking with a celebration that has successfully used essentially the same format for a number of decades, in an attempt to turn it into a campaign rally. Trump was denied his big military parade, so this is apparently his revenge. Or something. One can only hope a whole bunch of protestors show up to his speech!

And we have to end on just as surreal a note as we began, because apparently -- for some unfathomable reason -- Gene Simmons appeared recently at the Pentagon briefing podium. Um, to explain what the Kiss Army is doing these days? We really are at a loss to even begin to explain this one. Maybe Joseph Heller or Douglas Adams could do so, but we find it beyond our humble abilities.

We've got two Honorable Mention awards to hand out this week, as well as two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week statuettes to boot, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

First some recognition must be given to all the House Democrats who participated in a marathon reading of all 400-plus pages of the Mueller Report on the House floor this week. It was a political stunt, although it didn't draw much media attention, but it certainly took an impressive amount of stamina to produce.

Next, another Honorable Mention goes to Senator Elizabeth Warren, for her scathing takedown of Fox News, as she announced she would not appear for a town hall hosted by the channel. Her entire Twitter thread on the subject is well worth reading, but the one quote that really made a splash was when Warren called Fox News a "hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists." Tell us how you really feel, Liz!

Warren also deserves credit for goading Congress to act on abortion rights. She is entirely right -- Democrats in Congress could have fended off a whole lot of the current legal challenges to Roe if they had acted thirty years ago or so, when the right wing really began this legislative onslaught. But it's still not too late, as Warren points out:

"Court challenges will continue. And the next President can begin to undo some of the damage by appointing neutral and fair judges who actually respect the law and cases like Roe instead of right-wing ideologues bent on rolling back constitutional rights," Warren wrote. "But separate from these judicial fights, Congress has a role to play as well."

. . .

The senator said Congress must create federal, statutory rights that parallel Roe v. Wade's constitutional rights. These rights would include barring states from interfering in a provider's ability to offer medical care or blocking patients' access to such care, including abortions. This would invalidate state laws like those in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio.

Warren also proposed that Congress pass laws to preempt states' efforts to limit reproductive health care in ways that don't necessarily violate Roe v. Wade. Such efforts include restrictions on medication abortion and geographical and procedural requirements that make it nearly impossible for a woman to get an abortion.

These weren't the only specific things Warren proposed Congress fix, she had a whole laundry list of them. She concluded by throwing down a rather large gauntlet:

"This is a dark moment. People are scared and angry. And they are right to be," Warren wrote. "But this isn't a moment to back down -- it's time to fight back."

But we have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards, both for successfully moving good legislation. First up is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has been busy passing important bills out of her chamber this week. The first addressed a problem that Democrats really should have taken care of a long time ago, say when they held both chambers of Congress and had Barack Obama in the White House. Just because gay people can now get married everywhere, they still face legal persecution in multiple states. The Equality Act would fix this by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bars such discrimination on the basis of things like race and ethnicity.

The House passed sweeping legislation Friday to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after an emotional debate that underscored the divide between the two parties.

Democrats cast the decades-in-the-making move to change the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a historic step to extend protections to LGBTQ Americans, with several gay and bisexual lawmakers emphasizing the need for the bill called the Equality Act.

. . .

The bill would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, jury service and federal financing, protecting people from being fired or harassed for their sexuality or gender identity.

As Democrats cheered and applauded, the bill passed 236-to-173, with eight Republicans breaking ranks and joining all Democrats in backing the measure. It is unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate, and the White House has signaled President Trump would veto the measure if it ever reached his desk.

The Trump administration has taken several steps to roll back or limit rights for LGBTQ people, most notably Trump's broad restriction on transgender people serving in the military.

Despite a sea change in the past decade in public opinion regarding gay rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage nationally, 30 states have no laws protecting people, and proponents argued that the measure would create a national standard.

Pelosi has also been on a roll on the subject of healthcare. A lot of Democrats in the House got elected on promises to improve healthcare rather than the continued push from Republicans to destroy Obamacare, and this week was the culmination of the legislative efforts to do so.

House Democrats pushed through legislation Thursday to lower prescription drug prices, strengthen the Affordable Care Act and -- most significantly -- position themselves as the party on the side of health-care consumers as the 2020 election approaches.

The 234-to-183 vote, with every Democrat and five Republicans casting ballots in favor, gave a partisan hue even to three strategies to boost the availability of generic drugs that initially attracted GOP support. Those were merged, however, with measures that would block several Trump administration policies that Democrats characterize as "sabotaging" the ACA.

Both Pelosi and her Senate counterpart Minority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated strongly that Democrats would be using this issue against sitting Republican senators in next year's election:

"I have some news for the distinguished leader in the Senate, the Republican leader," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "The support for these bills is alive and well among the American people. He will be hearing from them because these bills are a matter of life and death and certainly quality of life for America's working families."

. . .

"Across the country, Americans are worried about rising costs, declining quality.... Nothing, nothing, nothing bothers people more than that," said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). There has been a relentless campaign of sabotage by the Trump administration to deny people health care.... But the Republican-led Senate -- no movement, nothing, no debate, no legislation, no votes."

While the media is obsessed with impeachment and the 2020 Democratic presidential horserace, Pelosi has very quietly been passing bill after bill, constructing the 2020 Democratic platform for all the party's candidates. Democrats everywhere will be able to run on: "Look at this list of good legislation the House has passed -- the only way these things are going to happen is with a Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the White House!"

Which brings us to our second Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who is also running for president. This week, in his day job, he signed into law the first-in-the-nation "public option" for health insurance. Right there on the Obamacare exchange with all the private insurance plans will soon be (in 2021) a public option plan to compare them all to. Since it is only state-level and not national, it will not be called "Medicare" but that's essentially how it will function -- as "Medicare For All Who Want It." We wrote about this earlier in the week, in case anyone's interested in our further thoughts on the subject, but we have to applaud Jay Inslee for his state's bold and pioneering action with his very own Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. In the very near future, we'll all have some solid data to analyze in this ongoing debate. No matter what the data winds up telling us, the fact that Inslee is making it happen is indeed impressive.

{Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her House contact page, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee on his official state contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.}

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week isn't on the list because of anything in particular he did this week, it's more of a "just because we heard his name in the news again" award. Because we have to warn mothers and fathers to beware -- and lock up your daughters! -- now that Carlos Danger is on the loose once again.

That's right -- Anthony Weiner is now out of jail. Which means we were reminded once again of what a complete schmuck the guy is:

Weiner was sentenced in September 2017 to 21 months in federal prison over the sexting scandal and began serving his time in November of that year. He was released early in February of this year due to good behavior and transferred from a federal prison in Massachusetts to a halfway house in the Bronx. Altogether, he served 18 months of his sentence.

After serving nearly 12 years in Congress, Weiner resigned from the House of Representatives in 2011 when he was caught exchanging sexually explicit photos with women via social media.

He relaunched his career in 2013 with a run for New York City mayor but was caught sexting a 23-year-old woman under the alias "Carlos Danger" and lost the Democratic primary.

Weiner then became the subject of a federal investigation in 2016 following a report that he was sending sexually explicit photos to an underage girl. In addition to landing him in prison, that investigation led authorities to search his personal computer and find work emails from his then-wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton. The discovery prompted then-FBI Director James Comey to reopen the investigation into Clinton's private email server in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign.

This wasn't some stupid scandal that had no real wider fallout, in other words. If Señor Danger had kept his (ahem) wiener in his pants, then Hillary Clinton might just have managed to surpass the whole F.B.I. emails scandal. But when Weiner was arrested, it blew up all over again -- right before the election. Meaning you could conceivably pin most of the blame for President Donald Trump directly on Weiner.

Which is why we're giving him yet another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, just because.

{We have no contact information for Anthony "Carlos Danger" Weiner, but if his past is any prelude, it'd be best if you don't start an email or texting thread with him anyway. We're just sayin'....}

Volume 527 (5/17/19)

The talking points are all over the map this week, since there was so much lunacy and idiocy emanating from Washington (and beyond). So without further ado, let's get right to them.

Alabama getaway

Democrats need to point out idiocy when they see it, as a general rule.

"The state of Alabama has just made pretty much all abortion illegal, with a jail sentence of up to 99 years for a doctor who performs one. This is just the worst example of the ongoing Republican war on women, as they try to roll back women's reproductive rights in state after state. For decades, voters have been fairly confident that Roe v. Wade was secure, but as we can all now see, that just isn't so any more. One Republican sponsor of the Alabama bill helpfully explained that women would be free to get abortions right up to the moment when they realize they are pregnant. Just stop for a moment and think about such idiocy. What is an Alabama woman supposed to do? Walk into an abortion clinic every few weeks and demand to have an abortion because she has no idea whether she's pregnant or not? That is absolute insanity! And yet that's exactly what Republicans think should happen, apparently. Doc Daneeka and Yossarian would be so proud...."

A merit-based son-in-law

Hypocrisy, thy name is Trump. Oh, and Kushner, too.

"Trump announced his new immigration policy proposal this week. Even though he personally profits from hiring undocumented immigrants on his golf courses, and even though he hires maids and other menial workers at his resorts from foreign countries rather than hiring Americans, he is now only for high-skilled immigrants being allowed in to the country. He wants a purely merit-based system, even though his wife is an immigrant who got her citizenship through their marriage. And even though her parents came in after Melania sponsored them, Trump is against what he calls 'chain migration.' And -- the most hilarious hypocrisy of them all -- he sent as his ambassador to Congress, to explain this merit-based system that would no longer take into account family ties, none other than his own son-in-law. Who couldn't even answer basic questions about the new policy from friendly Republican senators. I guess you've got to give Trump points for chutzpah, since he's obviously convinced everyone should just do as he says, not as he himself does."

A Trump-made disaster

They left themselves wide open to this one.

"Last year, Donald Trump had to shovel a whopping $12 billion in U.S. taxpayer money at farmers to bail them out from his disastrous trade war with China. His tariffs -- which are nothing short of one of the largest tax increases on the American public ever instituted -- continue to make life hard for farmers, it seems. Nobody else affected by his new taxes got such welfare from the government, though, and even the farmers weren't treated evenhandedly. Last week, Trump indicated that he would need $15 billion in taxpayer money to hand over for free to farmers desolated by his trade policy. This week, though, that figure had somehow climbed to a jaw-dropping $20 billion. The most ironic aspect of this spiral of idiocy, though, was when the White House tried to get the Republican Senate to add the farmers' bailout money to a disaster relief bill. Think about that for a second -- a bill designed to offer relief to those affected by natural disasters would also be used to offer relief to those affected by an economic disaster of the president's own making. It is nothing short of a Trump-made disaster, folks. By even suggesting that the funding be attached to this bill, Trump is essentially admitting that his China trade war is nothing short of a full-scale disaster. I can't really argue with that, myself."

Turning Michigan blue again

So let's see how it's playing in Peoria. Or, more to the point, Kalamazoo.

"Donald Trump is convinced that his trade war with China is going to somehow win him re-election. Well, let's see... in a state that Trump won by a bare 10,700 votes (out of 5 million cast), how are the new Trump taxes going over? Here is Michigan Agri-Business Association president Jim Byrum, on the new round of tit-for-tat tariffs between Trump and China: 'The noose is getting tighter. The new Chinese tariffs {are} going to hurt even more.' That's from a farm trade organization, representing a whole bunch of people who voted for Trump. Farmers are going bankrupt in record numbers as a direct result of Trump's trade war, so it's really not all that surprising to hear that some of them have had enough. Think Trump has a shot at winning Michigan again? If he's still in a trade war with China, I seriously doubt it...."

Walmart announces bad news for other Trump voters

This was inevitable, and it is now coming to pass.

"So, let's check the business pages to see how Trump's trade war is playing elsewhere, shall we? Reuters reported on two large retailers who just announced that they'll be hiking prices on their customers due to the new Trump tax:

Walmart called out the impact of tariffs on consumers after Macy's Inc delivered a similar warning on Wednesday. The department store chain's Chief Executive Jeff Gennette said tariffs on Chinese imports are hitting its furniture business and warned investors that additional levies would leave its clothing and accessory categories vulnerable.

They certainly won't be the only such stores forced to raise prices. No matter how many times Trump swears that China will be paying all the tariffs, his own economic advisor even had to admit last week that these taxes will instead be paid by you and me -- American consumers."

The Bible says so....

This one was pretty funny, in a "what's good for the goose" kind of way. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this week in support of the bill that she and Bernie Sanders have introduced in Congress that would cap all credit card interest rates at 15 percent. This is a real winner of an idea, but Ocasio-Cortez took it to a new level by challenging one particular group to get behind the effort, in a pair of tweets:

Usury - aka high interest - happens to be explicitly denounced in the Bible (& in many other religions).

Looking forward to having the religious right uphold their principles + sign onto my bill. ????

Unless of course they're only invoking religion to punish women + queer people.

But if Mitch McConnell wants to actually use religious principles for good + reinstate usury laws, he's more than welcome

Speaking of tweets

This is sort of a reverse-talking point. If I were a Democrat who wanted to speak out against the rising aggressive moves Trump (or Bolton) is taking against Iran, I'd print the following out and keep it handy, just in case the subject came up. All of these are tweets that Donald Trump let fly back in the midst of the 2012 presidential race. And, obviously, it's time to throw them back in his face.

In order to get elected, @BarackObama will start a war with Iran.

Now that Obama's poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.

Don't let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected--be careful Republicans!

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Flails On World Stage

Most Fridays, we tend to focus on President Donald Trump's flailings and failings on domestic issues, but this week his buffoonery on the world stage was really what was front and center. Sure, there's an ongoing constitutional crisis between the White House and the House of Representatives, but this week in particular seemed to be "foreign policy mishap week" for Team Trump.

After absolutely no progress whatsoever in the two months since Trump's failed North Korea summit, Kim Jong Un reminded Trump he was still alive by playfully launching a bunch of missiles into the sea. On two separate occasions over the past week, the North Korean dictator oversaw test launches of short-range missiles. This doesn't end his self-declared moratorium on I.C.B.M. launches, but it is still pretty provocative behavior which is obviously designed to embarrass Trump.

Down in Venezuela, John Bolton seemed to think it'd be real easy to stage a "coup" and then see if a real one developed to match the propaganda effort. This failed pretty miserably, all around. What was kind of astonishing is that some big names in the mainstream American media went along for the ride. Both CNN and the New York Times credulously reported "facts" that were nothing short of falsehoods. Stories appeared stating that the opposition leader had taken over a military airbase and had given a speech to "thousands" of cheering defecting soldiers and officers. The reality was that he gave a speech on a highway overpass near the airbase (not actually on it), and the crowd was closer to two dozen people, well under the "thousands" reported. The rebels never took over the airbase, and soon afterwards most of them retreated to foreign embassies, where they claimed political asylum. That's not much of a coup, but you certainly wouldn't have known it by what was reported at the time. This was a rare instance of Bolton and the White House crew pushing "fake news" (in its original definition) and the "liberal media" not bothering to check the actual facts on the ground. At the end of the day, it looked like nothing short of a fiasco.

Meanwhile, Bolton has also been rattling the war sabers with Iran, and it was announced that an aircraft carrier group and a detachment of heavy bombers had been dispatched to the region, just in case. As Salon reported:

Bolton announced that the U.S. would be sending carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf out of fear that Iran would target American forces in the region. But the Daily Beast reported that some officials see this response as an overreaction to intelligence that was less serious than Bolton suggested -- an allegation that would be consistent with the national security adviser's aggressive and dubious history, which eventually even turned President George W. Bush against him.

Remember the glory days of: "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction!"? Seems like déjà vu all over again....

But the biggest news of the week was how trade talks with China all but collapsed. There was supposed to be a round of final meetings at the end of the week and then a big trade agreement announcement, but instead that all crashed and burned and what we got was Trump upping the tariffs already in place from 10 percent to 25 percent, while threatening to also slap tariffs on every other product China sells us, while China darkly threatened unspecified retaliation.

Trump continues to insist on repeating a bald-faced lie, that "China pays" the tariffs, therefore it's actually a good thing and helping put money in American government coffers. In reality, the tariffs are paid by the company importing the goods right here in the U.S. of A., and then this tax is passed along 100 percent to American consumers. Nobody in China pays a dime -- not the exporting company or the Chinese government. Just another "Big Lie" from Trump's 2020 campaign, we suppose.

Speaking of Trump's war on the truth, Politico reported on an exodus of economists from the Agriculture Department, because they had dared to publish facts which put Trump's trade war in a bad light. From a summary of this story which ran in Salon:

At least six Agriculture Department economists quit on a single day in April after claiming that the administration was retaliating against them for publishing reports showing that President Trump's tariffs have hurt farmers, according to a Politico report.

The Economic Research Service, the USDA's research arm, has drawn the ire of the administration and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue after publishing reports showing that farmers are being harmed by Trump's trade wars as well as the Republican tax overhaul, current and former employees told Politico.

The reports shone a light on how Trump's tariffs have led to a decline in farm income, which the economists noted has already fallen by 50 percent since 2013. Another report showed that Republican tax cuts only benefited the wealthiest farmers.

After the reports were presented, Perdue "stunned" the agency by announcing that he would put a USDA official who reports directly to the secretary in charge of the Economic Research Service and move the agency out of Washington to a location closer to the "US heartland," according to Politico.

They couldn't stop the bad news from coming in from outside the administration, though. The Washington Post reported that experts at the nonpartisan Peterson Institute concluded that for every job either created or saved by Trump's steel tariffs, American consumers paid a whopping $900,000:

The cost is more than 13 times the typical salary of a steelworker, according to Labor Department data, and it is similar to other economists' estimates that Trump's tariffs on washing machines are costing consumers $815,000 per job created.... Many economists and business leaders point out that jobs in steel-using industries outnumber those in steel production by about 80 to 1, according to experts at Harvard University and the University of California at Davis.

But, please remember, Donald Trump is a genius businessman.

Or maybe not. The New York Times got its hands on hard data from Trump's income tax returns covering a decade from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s, and it showed that even during an economic boom, Trump lost more money than pretty much any other taxpayer in the entire country. All told, he lost almost $1.2 billion over a decade. He paid no income tax at all in eight out of these ten years.

Now, while the internet had a field day ridiculing Trump (the most popular suggestion was that his television show really should have been named "The Biggest Loser" ), what occurred to us personally was the possibility of other shoes dropping in the very near future. The Times very carefully stated that it hadn't seen Trump's actual physical tax returns (the pieces of paper he sent in, in other words) but instead printouts from the I.R.S. database which showed all the numbers Trump had entered on those forms. They obtained these printouts from someone who had "legal access" to them, according to the Times. But this begs the question -- if they've got a source who was able to pull all of these tax records out of the database, what would be stopping them from pulling all the other years of Trump's taxes? Maybe this article might just become "the first in a series" and we'll all get to see Trump's taxes one decade at a time, until we get caught up to the present day. Now there's an interesting thought!

We probably won't be seeing Trump's federal returns any time soon through House committees, because Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin just broke the law this week by refusing to turn over this information. But we might just get to see all of Trump's recent taxes anyway, courtesy of the state of New York. The legislature moved a bill this week which would create a law authorizing the release of New York state tax returns to three U.S. House of Representatives committees, should they ever ask for them. Since Trump had to fill out both federal and state returns, this would likely provide exactly the same information as his federal returns. So there's that to look forward to, as well.

Speaking of tax fraud, Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen reported to federal prison to serve his sentence, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was officially disbarred. But please remember, Trump only hires the best people!

Let's see, what else is going on? The White House is now in full-on stonewall mode, and can be expected to ignore any and all subpoenas and demands from House committees from now on. As Nancy Pelosi pointed out, Trump himself seems to be begging to be impeached on a daily basis.

Pelosi's not letting the grass grow under her feet in the meantime, however. The House this week passed two notable bills, one a disaster relief bill which -- much to the anger of Trump -- contained more money for storm-ravaged Puerto Rico. Despite a last-ditch effort by Trump, 34 Republicans voted with the Democrats, for a final vote of 257 to 150. The other bill the House passed will protect people with pre-existing conditions from states that are being allowed "waivers" on this important Obamacare protection. This is an important step, because many House Democrats specifically ran on this issue. Trump says he also wants to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but it's doubtful even he can convince Mitch McConnell to move on the bill.

The overall picture this week was pretty clear: Democrats are getting things done and pushing forward in their investigations, while Trump is lying and flailing around on the world stage. Just another week in Trump's Washington, in other words.

Before we get to the main award, we've got a few Honorable Mention awards to hand out first. A bill was introduced in both houses of Congress this week to institute a ceiling of 15 percent on what banks are allowed to charge in credit card interest. This is a pretty bold idea (which we wrote about earlier in the week), and one we'd bet would be wildly popular with the general public. In the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sponsored the bill while Bernie Sanders introduced it in the Senate. Both deserve at least an Honorable Mention for championing this issue.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill he's sponsored before, which would completely "deschedule" marijuana, removing it from the list of dangerous controlled substances altogether, which would allow each individual state to set their own marijuana laws without running afoul of federal law. Also deserving of an Honorable Mention is House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, who sponsored the same bill in the House. That's some pretty impressive leadership on both sides of the Capitol.

But we're giving the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, for his own commendable work on marijuana reform:

Illinois could legalize recreational marijuana by January 1, 2020, thanks to a new bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker touted as central to criminal justice reform.

The proposed legislation announced by Pritzker and Democratic lawmakers Saturday would allow people 21 and over to purchase recreational marijuana at a licensed dispensary in Illinois, which currently has a statewide prohibition on the drug with an exception for medical use. Residents would be able to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and grow up to five plants at home, and nonresidents would be able to possess up to 15 grams.

Most notably, details of the plan include expunging what lawmakers estimate will be about 800,000 marijuana convictions and allow people with such convictions to work in the cannabis industry. The proposal also mentions a $20 million low-interest loan program for minority-owned businesses, promoting what the proposal calls "social equity" in a predominantly white industry.

"We are taking a major step forward to legalize adult use cannabis and to celebrate the fact that Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation," Pritzker said during a press conference Saturday at the Black United Fund's office in Chicago. "For the many individuals and families whose lives have been changed -- indeed hurt -- because the nation's war on drugs discriminated against people of color, this day belongs to you too."

That is all very impressive indeed, especially the fact that the new law will come from the legislature (rather than, as with most such state efforts, through a voter referendum) and how focused it is on social equity. But to us, the really impressive line came later in the article:

During his gubernatorial campaign, Pritzker made equity-centric marijuana legalization one of the most important aspects of his platform.

We've been saying it for years, and we'll keep saying it until every Democrat gets on board -- not only is being pro-legalization now politically safe for prominent politicians, it is in fact a big campaign asset and should be treated as such. The people have long been way out in front of the politicians, and voters respond very positively to politicians who are brave enough to champion the issue wholeheartedly. This has been a radical sea-change over the past decade or so (Barack Obama never fully backed recreational legalization in either of his two elections, just to remind everyone), and it needs to be embraced by Democrats before Republicans wise up and steal the issue for themselves (footnote: former Senate Majority Leader John Boehner is now a marijuana industry lobbyist).

Which is why we'd like to honor Governor Pritzker with this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Not only is he pro-legalization, he "made equity-centric marijuana legalization one of the most important aspects of his platform." And now he is following through on his promises. That's about as impressive as it gets.

{Congratulate Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

We are happy to announce that no prominent Democrat disappointed us this week at all. Now, as always, we might have missed someone in the maelstrom that is the political news world these days, so if you'd like to nominate someone, please feel free to do so down in the comments.

Volume 526 (5/10/19)

We're going to mostly engage in some Trump-bashing this week, just because. But then down at the end, we've got two rather amusing talking points, just because it's been that kind of week. Enjoy as always, and use responsibly.

Trump's puppetmaster

This one is always guaranteed to get under Trump's skin.

"It seems to me that John Bolton is now running America's foreign policy, while Trump impotently flails around. Bolton has been the lead on the Venezuela policy (such as it is) and on trying to get Iran to provoke a shooting war by overstating the intelligence (shades of Iraq's non-existent 'weapons of mass destruction'). And who knows how much influence he has over the collapse of the trade talks with China? It's pretty obvious that Donald Trump has no real clue what goes on in the rest of the world, which is why it is so easy for puppetmasters like Bolton to pull his strings and make him dance. Trump ran on pulling back militarily overseas, but if he's not careful, Bolton is going to get American involved in two separate new wars."


Again, guaranteed to get under Trump's skin.

"With the release of Donald Trump's tax returns for the 1980s and 1990s, it's obvious that even in a booming economy, Trump is a complete failure at making money. When everyone else was making profits hand over fist, Trump was a big fat loser. There's just no other way to put it. He may have even won the crown for Most Money Lost By A Single Taxpayer, in fact, since his losses were so breathtakingly huge. How can anyone lose over one billion dollars in ten years? Well, it takes a special kind of failure to reach such astronomic proportions, which is why all the teasing on Twitter is entirely justified -- Trump's television show should really have been called 'The Biggest Loser,' since that is exactly and literally what he was, back in the 80s and 90s."

It's YOU who are paying this tax!

Democrats really should make this a much bigger deal than they currently are.

"Donald Trump stands up in front of adoring crowds and lies his face off. OK, well, that's nothing new, really, but this time the lie he's feeding them is just laughable. Trump tells the rubes that the tariff on Chinese goods is a great thing because it puts a bazillion dollars into the Treasury. As he tells it, he's really sticking it to the Chinese government, who has to pony up all this hard cash. But that's nothing short of a great big lie, because they don't pay a dime of it. Instead, the American public pays in higher prices on all kinds of goods. The tariff is paid by whatever company imports the Chinese goods -- like Walmart, for instance -- and then gets passed right along to the consumer in higher prices. So what all these people are cheering is the fact that they are paying the tariffs themselves, not China. I mean, you can fool some of the people some of the time, right?"

Hundreds of prosecutors agree Trump should have been indicted

This one is one of those stories that, in normal times, would have been the lead story for days. Nowadays, however, it was barely even noticed.

"This week, over six hundred federal prosecutors signed a letter which stated that what was revealed in the Mueller report should have led to indictments of Donald Trump. If he wasn't currently president, charges of obstruction of justice should clearly have been brought against him, in other words. This group was completely nonpartisan, consisting of hundreds of federal prosecutors who served and were hired by both Republican and Democratic administrations. The sheer number of signatories to this letter is just stunning. To hearken back to Nixonian language, hundreds of prosecutors have now agreed that the president is indeed a crook."

Hard to call this one partisan, too

Twist this particular knife for all it's worth.

"Yet another subpoena emerged from Congress this week demanding the testimony of one of Donald Trump's minions and partners in crime. The only surprising thing was that the subpoena for Trump's son Donnie Junior didn't come from a House committee led by a Democrat, but instead from a Senate committee chaired by Republican Richard Burr. That's right -- the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee just subpoenaed Trump's own son, to answer for his lies before the committee which the Mueller Report exposed. Reportedly, he's considering taking the Fifth Amendment, which is probably a good idea since he obviously perjured himself the last time he spoke with the committee. Republicans have been whining that all the investigations of Trump are nothing short of partisan witch hunts, but one of their own just proved that to be a lie."

Maybe you should get it ready for some inmates?

Too, too funny.

"When Nancy Pelosi was publicly interviewed by Washington Post reporter Bob Costas recently, he asked her what she would do about Steve Mnuchin clearly breaking federal law by refusing to allow the I.R.S. to furnish Trump's tax returns to a House committee. When he pointed out that some Democrats 'have even raised the prospect of arresting the Treasury Secretary,' Pelosi responded by pointing out that while possible, this might soon wind up being impractical. 'Well, let me just say that we do have a little jail down in the basement of the Capitol,' Pelosi responded, before pointing out, 'but if we were arresting all of the people in the administration' who deserved it, 'we would have an overcrowded jail situation, and I'm not for that.' The reaction to this quip was, quote, a roomful of laughter, unquote."

Holy idiocy, Batman!

Not that Trump was going to get very many votes in New England anyway....

"This week, in one day, the White House welcomed the Boston Red Sox to the White House to celebrate their championship victory. All but one of the players who is a minority refused to even attend the event, while all the white players did attend. But that wasn't even the most embarrassing thing for Trump. In the notice for the event, the Boston Red S-O-C-K-S were congratulated, and later on -- you just can't make this stuff up, folks -- the White House listed them as 'World Cup Series Champions.' How boneheaded do you have to be to make not just one but two such idiotic mistakes on the same day?"

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Male Chauvinist Pig Withdraws Bid For Fed Seat

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
I've been posting this weekly wrapup column for over ten years here at DU, and always run into the same problem as we get closer to each election. The DU forum categories shift around, with strict rules about where to post. I normally post these under "General Discussion" since it's about as generic as you can get, but now there is a new "Democratic Primaries" forum as well. These weekly columns attempt to cover all of the political world, so the main focus is usually not just on the Democratic primary race. As little as 10 percent of any individual column may address the primary races, while the rest is just generic political news of the week. I've been informed by the moderators to post these in "Democratic Primaries" for now, which I am happy to do, but just wanted to warn folks ahead of time that my "Friday Talking Points" columns (begun years ago as an homage to the great DU "Top Ten Conservative Idiots" column series, I should mention) will not exclusively be about the Democratic Primaries. Just to be clear to everyone, up front, to avoid any objections that most of these posts are "off topic."}

Those are strong words to use in a subtitle, as well as so dated as to almost be anachronistic. But we feel this is the perfect phrase to sum up Stephen Moore's announcement that he's withdrawing from consideration for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Because apparently Moore has been in a coma since just before Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in a tennis match billed as the "Battle Of The Sexes."

Moore's attitudes on gender fit neatly in to this decades-ago era of rampant misogyny, nowhere more obvious than how he sees the sporting world. He has opined at length on women in sports, dismissing professional women tennis players as "inferior" to men -- who simply do not deserve to be paid anywhere near what they are (if they even should be paid at all). But the sport he gets most worked up about is basketball. Here is an extended rant from Moore from an article he wrote for the National Review back in 2002. It begins, naturally, with a healthy dose of testosterone:

Ah, March, the greatest month of the year. This is the season where I return to bachelorhood, lock myself into the TV room and tell my wife that I'll see her sometime in April. Oh, and by the way, keep those three crying kids out of my hair for the next three weeks.

Charming. Oh, and go fix me a sandwich while you're at it. But he really gets going on the subject of how even peripheral inclusion of women into the male bastion that is (or, according to Moore, should be) basketball is a sign of the impending apocalypse. Or something. Here are his first two manly suggestions for improving the situation:

1. No Women. How outrageous is this? This year they allowed a woman ref a men's NCAA game. Liberals celebrate this breakthrough as a triumph for gender equity. The NCAA has been touting this as example of how progressive they are. I see it as an obscenity. Is there no area in life where men can take vacation from women? What's next? Women invited to bachelor parties? Women in combat? (Oh yeah, they've done that already.) Why can't women ref he {sic} women's games and men the men's games.

I can't wait to see the first lady ref have a run in with Bobby Knight.

This speaks to a bigger and more serious social problem in America: the feminization of basketball generally. Turn on ESPN or even the networks these days and you're as likely to see women playing as men. USA Today devotes nearly half its basketball coverage to the gals: Stephen F. Austin beat Mary Washington 65-62. Do I have to shout in {sic} on a mountaintop? I don't care!

No one does. We are being force fed lady hoops. I have never in my life met anyone who actually liked watching women's basketball. I don't even know any women who like women's basketball. There's no such thing (I hope) of {sic} an office pool for the women's NCAA tournament.

And while I'm venting on the subject, here's another travesty: in playground games and rec leagues these days, women now feel free to play with the men -- uninvited in almost every case. Look, I acknowledge that some of the girls these days are half decent. They can shoot the rock. But that's not the point. When I play basketball, I push, I hack, I elbow, I bite, and I swear like a sailor. It can get pretty competitive and, well, vulgar. I think I speak for almost all men when I respectfully tell the ladies that we don't want you anywhere around during these precious moments of male bonding.

There's no joy in dunking over a girl. Never mind that I can't dunk (except on the eight-foot baskets). If I could, I wouldn't celebrate dunking over someone named Tina. I can't see myself staring her down and roaring: "In your face, sucka!!" And the girls are always trying to fast break. Look, I'm 42 years old, if I try to get out on the break, I'm likely to pull a hamstring.

But I digress. Back to the NCAAs {sic}. Here's the rule change I propose: No more women refs, no women announcers, no women beer venders, no women anything. There is, of course, an exception to this rule. Women are permitted to participate, if and only if, they look like Bonnie Bernstein. The fact that Bonnie knows nothing about basketball is entirely irrelevant.

2. Bonnie Bernstein should wear a halter top. This is a no-brainer, CBS. What in the world are you waiting for? To quote the immortal Wayne of Wayne's World, "If Bonnie were president of the United States, she'd be Babe-raham Lincoln."

Still think "male chauvinist pig" is somehow overstating the case? We don't.

(Oh, and by the way, it was Garth who uttered that line, not Wayne. Get your movie quotes right, dude!)

Think this is a man that should be determining fiscal policy for the entire American economy? Well, to be scrupulously fair, this was an article written a while back, and rampant sexism and misogyny isn't directly related to how Moore sees the economy. So let's check out something he said about the labor force in 2016, only three years ago:

During a debate about minimum wage in 2016, Moore claimed that low labor force participation could be corrected by allowing children to work.

"I'm a radical on this; I'd get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting to work at 11, 12," he said during the debate.

No wonder his own kids are crying! Maybe they got their very own character-building start in life by working in sweatshops and linen mills? We shudder to even imagine it, but his own words force us to. This is the man that Donald Trump wanted to be seated on the Federal Reserve, folks. We were all saved from this international embarrassment by a handful of Republican senators (led by Joni Ernst), who torpedoed Moore's nomination this week by essentially saying to Trump: "He'll be confirmed when (male chauvinist) pigs fly...."

But let's shift to more positive news for a moment. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado officially entered the Democratic presidential nomination race this week, bringing the total number of Democratic candidates up to either 20 or 22 candidates, depending on how you count (the difference is whether you count the two major non-politicians running or not). A total of seven senators are now running, which is 15 percent of the total number of Democrats currently in the Senate. But the field may still not be set quite yet, as Montana Governor Steve Bullock appears about to make some sort of announcement of his own. Two other prominent Democrats are still considering a run as well (Stacey Abrams and Bill de Blasio), so we're probably not quite done growing the field yet.

There was one poll out this week which was kind of interesting in a wonky way, because instead of reading the whole list of Democratic candidates, the pollsters just asked it as an open question: "Who do you support for the Democratic nomination?" and didn't prompt respondents with any names. When asked, a whopping 54 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents essentially chose "undecided" by not naming anyone. This figure hasn't changed much since January, when it was 56 percent. Because of the large "undecided" vote, the actual candidates got a lot lower numbers than we've seen in the other polls: Joe Biden got only 13 percent, followed by Bernie Sanders (9 percent), Pete Buttigieg (5 percent), Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren (4 percent), Beto O'Rourke (3 percent), Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker (1 percent), and all the others not even chalking up a single percent.

This could mean people are either (A) still making up their minds which candidate to support, (B) waiting for the debates to make a choice, (C) not paying any attention to the race at all yet, or (D) some combination of the above. But it certainly is something to keep in mind when considering the other polls (all of which prompt the respondent with a list of names). Support for all the candidates isn't running particularly deep this early in the game.

Speaking of individual candidacies, Kamala Harris had a good week, but we'll have more to say about that in a bit. Pete Buttigieg wins the honor of being the first recipient of a sleazy false attack from the right, as it was revealed that two GOP operatives tried to recruit young men to make false sexual assault allegations against Buttigieg. The Daily Beast uncovered this whole sordid story. While Buttigieg is the first to be targeted by lies and innuendo by right-wing whackadoodles, he certainly won't be the last.

And we've got the first Joe Biden gaffe, if it can even be called that (we'll see whether he tries to backtrack from it or not). Biden was in Iowa and made a rather tone-deaf argument about China. Here is what got Biden into hot water:

China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man.... They can't figure out how they're going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. I mean, you know, they're not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They're not competition for us.

China is not an economic competitor to America? Um, well, that may have been true at one point in Joe Biden's personal history, but it certainly sounds pretty out of touch today. As many have pointed out, from both the left and the right. Biden's closest competitor in the polls is Bernie Sanders, who had this reaction: "Since the China trade deal I voted against, America has lost over three million manufacturing jobs. It's wrong to pretend that China isn't one of our major economic competitors. When we are in the White House we will win that competition by fixing our trade policies."

OK, as usual we have far too much to cover and far too little time, so we're just going to cover the rest of the week in lightning-round fashion.

Attorney General William Barr appeared before a Senate committee this week to answer questions, and then refused to appear before a House committee. This only adds to the growing perception that Barr may well go down in history as one of the most partisan and political attorneys general in modern times. He apparently sees his job as nothing short of protecting Trump against all the slings and arrows misfortune throws at him. Several Democratic senators did a fine job of grilling Barr on his lies, past and present, but the House Democrats have been denied calling him a liar to his face in the same room he uttered those lies a few weeks back. Next up may be holding Barr in contempt of Congress, so stay tuned!

In healthcare news, the Trump administration now officially has taken the position that Obamacare should be terminated by the courts in its entirety, which would throw over 20 million people off their health insurance, and take the rest of us back to the days when pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps and all the rest of it are once again allowed. As one Washington Post columnist reminded us:

You've probably forgotten that a little over a month ago, Trump promised that Republicans were about to come up with a health-care plan that would be "spectacular." Then just days later, he decided that they wouldn't actually be doing that, and all that spectacularness would have to wait until after the 2020 election. They can't produce a plan, because they know that one that actually embodies conservative principles would be politically disastrous. So they have to just keep putting it off.

So, once again, the Republicans will be running on destroying all the good things people love about Obamacare, and replacing it with absolutely nothing -- not even any smoke and mirrors. That should be a pretty easy political argument for Democrats to win (see: 2018 midterms). The House, meanwhile, held the first-ever hearing on the concept of "Medicare For All."

Trump tried to make some positive legislative news by appearing to agree with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi over a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, but of course with Trump you can never trust what he says about his support because he usually changes his mind on a whim later on. It's always Infrastructure Week somewhere, in other words.

The Senate failed to overturn Trump's veto of their resolution which attempted to end American involvement with the Saudi war on Yemen, even though a majority of senators voted against Trump.

A federal judge ruled that the second case challenging Trump's acceptance of emoluments from foreign governments can go forward, rejecting Trump's inane argument why it shouldn't.

Federal judges also ruled against the blatant gerrymandering of both Ohio and Michigan, and ordered new maps be drawn up (in Michigan) before the 2020 elections.

There was a power struggle over at the National Rifle Association, between Wayne LaPierre and Oliver North. Ollie lost. But the N.R.A.'s troubles aren't over, because now the House is going to examine all their shifty finances (and ties to Russia, for good measure).

And finally, to end on an amusing note, aging gameshow host Chuck Woolery tried to tweet in support of Trump emerging unscathed from the Mueller Report, but didn't exactly wind up solving the puzzle, when he tweeted the phrase: "NOT QUILTY." Several waggish commenters pointed out that he shouldn't be making such "blanket" statements. Heh.

We have two Honorable Mention awards to hand out before we get to the main award this week. The first is for sheer showmanship, and goes to Steve Cohen, a House member from Tennessee. Since everyone on the committee knew Attorney General Barr wouldn't be showing up for his scheduled hearing, Cohen brought some props just to make an amusing point -- that Barr was nothing short of chicken. Cohen brought a statuette of a chicken, which he placed in front of the empty chair Barr should have been sitting in, and if that weren't enough to drive his point home, he also brought in a bucket of KFC, which he proceeded to eat from. Not exactly subtle, but it certainly got his name in the news (and it was indeed pretty funny).

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also had a pretty good week, on both style and substance. After Barr failed to show up for his House committee hearing, Pelosi minced no words in her reaction, where she flat-out called Barr a liar. Multiple times. In multiple ways. She also pointed out that this was "a crime." It certainly sounds like she's giving the green light to those who want to next hold Barr in contempt of Congress, so this fight is obviously far from over.

On substance, Pelosi's House passed another bill to further define the 2020 Democratic platform, a bill which would force the United States to stay in the Paris climate agreement that Donald Trump wants to exit from. This bill will, of course, go nowhere in the Senate, but it just adds to the list of things Democrats can be expected to do if they win back the White House next year. This bill got almost no media coverage, but it will likely be featured in Democratic ads soon enough. So Pelosi had a pretty good week all around.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Senator Kamala Harris, who sits on the Senate committee that Barr did show up in front of. Harris is making a centerpiece of her presidential campaign her experience as a prosecutor, and her skills were once again on display during Barr's hearing.

Harris grilled Barr on multiple subjects, and exposed the fact that Barr hadn't bothered to dig into any of the details of Bob Mueller's investigation, and hadn't even read the full report Mueller put out. Harris also revealed the fact that Barr refused to say whether anyone in the White House had asked or suggested that he open any investigation into anyone. Barr tried to split the hair of what "suggested" meant, but in the end he essentially refused to answer the question. Now, there's really only one reason why he couldn't flat-out deny such a thing had ever happened, obviously, so this was a strong argument against Barr being anything more than a total Trump loyalist and toady. His job description does not include "being the president's personal attack dog," of course, and Harris helped expose this more than anyone else during the hearing.

Harris has largely failed so far in capitalizing on her impressive campaign launch, and hasn't really moved the polling in her favor much in the past few months. But the clips of her grilling Barr may help to give her a boost on the campaign trail. Whether they wind up doing so or not, though, Harris was clearly the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

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

Sadly, we have two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week. The first goes to the disgraced ex-mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh. You may remember hearing her name in the news about a week ago, when her houses and offices were raided by the F.B.I., which is investigating her for corruption and graft.

This week, she finally bowed to the inevitable and resigned. Here are the basic details:

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) stepped down Thursday, after The Baltimore Sun uncovered earlier this year that she had made hundreds of thousands of dollars by getting companies with business ties to the city to buy her "Healthy Holly" children's book series.

Pugh didn't attend the press conference announcing her resignation. Instead, her attorney Steve Silverman read a statement on her behalf.

. . .

Pugh had been on indefinite leave since April 1, after being hospitalized with pneumonia. The same day, {Maryland Governor Larry} Hogan ordered the state prosecutor's office to open an investigation into Pugh's book sales.

Health giant Kaiser Permanente bought $114,000 worth of the books from 2015 to 2018, according to the Sun. The company also landed a major contract with the city during that time.

Pugh also sold the books to the University of Maryland Medical System, of which she had been a longtime board member.

If Democrats are going to take the high road on blatant grifting while in office to defeat Donald Trump, then they simply cannot condone fellow Democrats with their hands in the cookie jar. Pugh is now the second Baltimore mayor in a row to be forced from office due to scandal. And she's also now the first winner this week of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

Our second MDDOTW winner hails from Alabama, where the state just passed an unbelievably restrictive anti-abortion law, to directly challenge Roe v. Wade. Speaking in opposition to the new law, one Democrat tried to make some sort of point about unwanted children, but missed by a mile with the language that he used. Here is the whole story:

A day after the Alabama House of Representatives passed what could become the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country, state Rep. John Rogers, a Democrat, took to the House floor to voice his support for a woman's right to choose.

But the perplexing words he used have drawn intense pushback from conservatives, who are orchestrating a nationwide push in state houses this legislative session to restrict abortion access and, they hope, force the Supreme Court to reevaluate Roe v. Wade.

Rogers argued Wednesday that "it ought to be a woman's choice" about terminating a pregnancy, an autonomy that would disappear entirely if the majority-Republican Alabama Senate passes the "Human Life Protection Act" -- a bill that would criminalize abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

"I'm not about to be the male tell a woman what to do with her body," he said, repeating a common refrain among abortion-rights advocates. "She has a right to make that decision herself."

Then his argument took a turn.

"Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or kill them later," he said. "You bring them into the world unwanted, unloved, then you send them to the electric chair. So you kill them now or you kill them later. But the bottom line is that I think we shouldn't be making this decision."

Missteps like this only give the anti-abortion extremists a gift, because this has already become a rallying cry in conservative circles. Again, Rogers was apparently trying to make a point about unwanted children, but he failed badly in making any kind of political case by the language he chose to use. For doing so, and for handing the opposition a ready-made political bludgeon, John Rogers is our second winner of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

{Catherine Pugh is now a private citizen and it is against our policy to give out contact information for such persons. We couldn't find an official contact page for Alabama Representative John Rogers, but you can contact him on his Facebook page, to let him know what you think of his actions.}

Volume 525 (5/3/19)

We have two main themes for the talking points this week: lies, and the economy. And then at the end, just for fun, we've got Katie Couric. Enjoy, and as always, use responsibly!

Liar, liar!

The more Democrats actually use the words "lie," "liar," "lied" (etc.), the more the media will begin to feel comfortable doing so. Hey, it's worth a shot, right?

"As Nancy Pelosi so bluntly put it, the attorney general of the United States has now been proven to have lied to Congress. This is likely why he didn't want to face the same committee he had earlier lied to this week, in fact. And as Pelosi also helpfully pointed out, lying under oath while testifying before Congress is a crime. Lying to Congress under oath is illegal. Barr lied to Congress under oath. At the very least, House Democrats should immediately move to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. Our top law enforcement officer in the country is now a proven liar, which is a pretty sad state of affairs."

Pants on fire!

And then there's the king of lies....

"In Trump's first 100 days in office, Trump, on average, told fewer than five lies per day. In the past seven months, his rate of lying has increased to a whopping 23 lies per day. This covers the period building up to the midterms, and it's only going to get worse as 2020 approaches. On April 25, Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity for 45 minutes, and told 45 lies. He appeared before reporters for eight minutes the very next day, and told eight lies. Trump spoke before an N.R.A. meeting and lied 24 times during his speech. In a campaign rally on April 27, Trump managed a whopping 61 lies. When you add all of these up, as the Washington Post has been doing all along, Trump has now told over 10,000 lies in less than two and a half years. It took him 601 days to reach 5,000, but only 226 days to surpass 10,000. He must have all his pants made out of asbestos, or something."

Want to reduce suicides?

This is big news, and should instantly become a Democratic talking point.

"A recent scientific study showed that there is a rather easy way to combat the growing problem of suicide in America. Want to see less people killing themselves? Then raise the minimum wage. That's all it takes. The difference in suicide rates between states with higher minimum wages and those who haven't raised them is rather dramatic, in fact. Giving people more money for their hard work has all sorts of positive side effects, and it's now been proven that one of these is to reduce the number of suicides. Democrats want to see a nationwide minimum wage of $15 an hour, and we also want to see the minimum wage linked to economic indexes so that it gradually rises over time. Republicans apparently want to see people work for peanuts and don't care that this causes higher suicide rates, among other things."

Farmers hurting

Another economic argument that Democrats need to be making.

"The Commerce Department just came out with a statement with plenty of bad news in it for farmers. Farmers are getting hit the hardest in Trump's childish trade war with the world, and their income has shown a steep decline over the past few years. Farmers are hurting as a direct result of Trump's bumbling trade policies. Pork prices are down, soybean prices are down, and farmers are now planting crops in the second straight year of uncertainty about foreign markets in general. This has driven farm incomes dramatically down. Many farmers may not survive a second year of Trump's trade war, and a third year would take even more of them down. Trump tried to paper over this economic pain by giving farmers a bailout of $12 billion in taxpayer money, but even this free money hasn't stanched the bleeding. Since Trump has yet to see a single trade agreement become reality, no one knows when this bleeding is going to stop. Why do Trump and the Republican Party hate farmers so much?"

Gold Star families hit with huge tax hikes

This one is even more cruel than the last one.

"Trump has been bragging about the supposed wonderfulness of his signature tax cuts ever since Paul Ryan jammed them through Congress. But they certainly haven't been wonderful for Gold Star families, many of whom are getting hit with enormous tax hikes on their survivor benefits. They're having to pay thousands more in taxes just because the Trump tax cut changed one rule. It's almost like they were specifically targeted or something. Now, that would be a disgusting and disgraceful thing to do, but given Trump's own animosity towards Gold Star families, you have to wonder whether this isn't so much a bug of the Trump tax cuts as a feature."

No wonder people still think the system is rigged!

Obviously, the public is starting to see through all the lies and chicanery.

"All of this economic hardship the Trump administration has been causing is likely one big reason why the American public is still looking for authentic populism and turning away from Trump's fake populism. One recent poll showed that sixty percent of the public thinks the system is still rigged for the rich and powerful rather than being fair for all, across the board. Trump's tax cuts for the wealthy, Republican resistance to a minimum wage hike, Trump's war on farmers, and pretty much everything else the GOP does has all led us to the point where six-in-ten Americans think the system is rigged against them in favor of those who already have wealth and power. No wonder Bernie Sanders is doing so well in the Democratic polls. People are still looking for an authentic populist champion, rather than Trump's fakery."

Tell us how you really feel, Katie....

This one requires an introduction. Samantha Bee filmed her second "Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner" show, which ran opposite the real W.H.C.D. last weekend. It had many amusing bits, but the funniest was probably the initial video, shot as a spoof of the Alien films. Sigourney Weaver was featured prominently, but Katie Couric (as a spoof version of Newt) got the best line of all, which we had to end today's column with for sheer amusement value:

I'd rather get another televised colonoscopy than cover the 2020 election.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Posted by ChrisWeigant | Fri May 3, 2019, 09:27 PM (2 replies)

Biden Enters The Race As The Clear Frontrunner

{Program Note: Due to dealing with ongoing automotive problems, I was not able to do a full Friday Talking Points column today, so my apologies for the lack. Instead, I did have time to write the following extensive overview of what Joe Biden's entry has already meant for the Democratic presidential nomination race. It's not a full wrapup of the week, I realize, but it'll have to do for today. By next Friday, hopefully we'll be back up and running (both figuratively and literally, for the car) for our usual Friday Talking Points column.}

Former Vice President Joe Biden entered the 2020 Democratic presidential field as the clear frontrunner, which is a new experience for him. In his previous two runs for president, he never got to where he is now: comfortably leading the entire pack. Biden is polling ahead of the previous frontrunner Bernie Sanders by anywhere from a few points to a healthy margin of 10 or more, and both men are far out in front of all the other contenders, who are all struggling to even manage to break into double digits in the polls.

Add to that today's breaking news, that Biden outraised everyone else in his first 24 hours, and Biden has -- for now, at least -- cemented his frontrunner status. Biden raised an impressive $6.3 million in his first day, topping the other two highest candidates in this metric as well (Beto O'Rourke raised $6.1 million and Bernie Sanders raised $5.9 million on their first day on the campaign trail).

But even though he's never had the experience of leading the pack before, Biden is already acting like a frontrunner. His introductory video was a marked departure from the other candidates running, because Biden did not focus on any one political issue or lay out his plans for America's future or make the case why he's the best Democrat to win the nomination. Instead, Biden focused almost exclusively on what the entire election is about for many (if not most) Democratic voters: beating Donald Trump. Biden made the case that for America to remain true to its ideals, President Trump must not have a second term in office.

In particular, Biden spoke about what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, while explaining why he decided to run for president again:

We saw Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open, their crazed faces illuminated by torches, veins bulging, and bearing the fangs of racism. Chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the '30s. And they were met by a courageous group of Americans, and a violent clash ensued, and a brave young woman lost her life.

Biden singled out Trump's "some very fine people on both sides" statement and shared his own reaction to it:

With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.

Biden then laid out the moral case for replacing Trump, calling it a fight for the soul of the nation. If Trump is denied a second term, Biden said, history will record that this was simply "an aberrant moment in time." Biden continued: "But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White house, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation."

Biden is making a moral argument; that it is absolutely imperative to deny Trump a second term. The future of our country and the soul of our country is at stake. Those are powerful arguments to make.

Of course, Biden has the luxury of beginning his campaign this way, for a number of reasons. He really needs no introduction to the public, having been Barack Obama's vice president. His name recognition is already the highest of anyone running. He is seen as such a force in Democratic politics that his name was added to all the polling up to this point even though he wasn't running yet. That right there is an indication of strength. And his name's inclusion was justified, since he's been leading all of the polls so far.

Biden's announcement was always going to make the biggest splash, which may be the reason why he waited so long to make it. This way his entry won't be overshadowed by any other campaign announcements, because everyone else has already jumped in the race.

Because he already has earned frontrunner status, Biden didn't have to prove himself to a Democratic audience. Instead of detailing his agenda or trying to differentiate himself from the pack, Biden was free to train his sights on Trump, rather than the rest of the field of candidates. By doing so, he may have reshaped the race, at least for the next few weeks. Biden's powerful video will challenge other Democratic candidates to remember what the ultimate goal of this race is: defeating Donald Trump. That's really what the race for the Democratic nomination is about, and the voters are quite likely to choose the candidate they think has the best chance of taking on Trump, no matter what actual policies the candidate champions. So Biden is already seen as leading on this front, taking the fight to Trump himself and framing the election as an absolute moral imperative.

Of course, there's no guarantee that Biden will remain the frontrunner. Will his first day on the campaign trail be his best, as voters now deal with the reality of Joe running rather than just hoping he would? It's too soon to say, but the other alternative is equally possible at this point: Biden's strength in the polls will add to his "electability" factor, and more people will begin supporting him because they see him as the best opportunity to beat Trump (in part, because so many others are supporting him). It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if it is fed by positive media coverage.

Biden is quite obviously aware of the electability argument, as seen by his choice of Western Pennsylvania for his first campaign rally. His message to Democratic voters is clear: If you want to win Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, I am the candidate who can do that.

Of course, the downside to being the frontrunner is that everyone else in the field will be gunning for you. To win the nomination, the other candidates now have to beat Biden, and so they'll be doing their best to highlight Biden's weaknesses to cast doubt on his electability. And there are a number of such weaknesses to be exploited.

The first became apparent with a story which ran in the New York Times the day Biden announced. In it, Anita Hill said that Biden had called her up a few weeks ago in an effort to apologize to her for her treatment in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in the 1990s. Biden chaired the committee at the time, and he has never fully apologized for the way the committee treated Hill. He has also never directly apologized to Hill, which he obviously was trying to rectify before he announced his candidacy.

From the Times article:

In a lengthy telephone interview on Wednesday, {Anita Hill} declined to characterize Mr. Biden's words to her as an apology and said she was not convinced that he has taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearings -- or for the harm he caused other victims of sexual harassment and gender violence. She said she views Mr. Biden as having "set the stage" for last year's confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.... And, she added, she was troubled by the recent accounts of women who say Mr. Biden touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.

Biden's problem, though, is wider than just the Anita Hill episode, because in general he (not unlike Trump) apparently sees apologizing as something a politician should never do because he believes it shows weakness. So Biden has been the past master of the "non-apology apology," in which "mistakes were made," but at the same time, because Biden sees his own heart as always having been in the right place, he can't actually apologize for any of his past behavior at all. So he winds up with some form of: "I'm sorry people were offended," rather than: "I'm sorry I did (or said) that." At times, as Anita Hill just pointed out, this falls far short of Biden offering a real and heartfelt apology. And, as many have pointed out, Biden had almost 30 years to apologize to Hill and did not do so -- he only reached out to her a few weeks before his presidential campaign announcement.

Biden has many other things in his political record many Democratic voters would like to see him apologize for as well, so this test is likely to come up again and again for him (especially in town halls or pointed media interviews). Biden has previously taken positions on political issues which are seen as wildly out of touch with where Democrats are today.

When he first started his political career in the 1970s and 1980s, he staked out a position against busing to desegregate public schools. This wasn't a popular position with African-Americans back then, and it has not gained in popularity over time, either.

Biden authored a "tough on crime" bill which became law in the 1990s, in an era when Democrats were falling all over themselves to prove how tough they were on criminals (because Republicans regularly beat up on them on the campaign trail over the issue). This led to millions getting locked up for what had previously been seen as low-level crimes, which disproportionately affected minorities. Part of this effort was to make crack cocaine insanely more penalized than powder cocaine -- a disparity of 100-to-1. African-Americans caught with five grams of crack got prison sentences while it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to draw the same sentence. Since crack affected the African-American community more than suburban powdered cocaine dealers, this seemed almost designed to punish minorities disproportionately.

Biden's home state of Delaware is the most corporate-friendly in the nation, which is why most big corporations incorporate there. Nowhere is this more evident than the banking industry. Biden wrote a bankruptcy bill while Delaware's senator that absolutely prevented anyone from ever getting out from under crippling student loan debt by declaring bankruptcy, which has contributed to the student loan crisis in the country.

Biden also voted for the Iraq War, which isn't as big a deal as it used to be, but some Democratic voters still cannot forgive such a vote.

Biden has said he regrets some of these past positions, but he swears he was trying to do good when he championed them. In other words, an argument that "the times were different." But again, this often falls short of actually apologizing for taking such positions. Biden will likely be called on the carpet by voters during the campaign for at least some of these things, and it remains to be seen whether he's going to fully support many policy positions that have now become mainstream in the Democratic Party. It's been over a decade since Biden ran for anything, so he's got some catching up to do to where the party is now. To give just one example, most Democratic candidates now favor (in some fashion) the legalization of marijuana. Biden used to be a drug warrior, and it's not yet apparent that he's changed his thinking much on the War On Weed, even though the electorate has gone through a major sea-change on the issue.

So Biden risks being seen as out of touch, although he can probably get over this perception as he lays out exactly what issues he now does and does not support. Just because he was on the wrong side of an issue decades ago doesn't mean he can't have "evolved" on the issue, and he'll have the chance to prove that as his campaign really gets up and running. But he likely won't evolve on all of these issues, as part of his brand as a candidate is going to be appearing as a moderate (as opposed to radical progressive) Democrat. Progressives may not support such positioning, but this may play much better with undecided voters.

Of course, there are three drawbacks to Biden's candidacy that he can do nothing about. He is white, he is male, and he is old. He would, in fact, be our nation's oldest president, should he win the race. And with so many minorities and women in the race, the electorate may be looking for more diversity than Biden can bring to the table. But again, it remains to be seen precisely how big a deal any of this will prove to be with the actual voters.

For the time being, at least, Biden seems to have weathered the storm of being accused of "handsiness." He offered up another non-apology apology on this one, saying once again that his heart was always in the right place and he's just a real physical guy when it comes to glad-handling, but he'll be more respectful of personal boundaries in the future. Biden also likely won't face as much grief over his "gaffes" either, because Donald Trump has completely obliterated the issue of making stupid mistakes of this sort (Trump recently tweeted that the terror attack in Sri Lanka had killed "138 million people," when the island doesn't even have a fraction of that living on it, to cite just one glaring example, where Trump was literally off by a factor of a million). Who cares if Biden has a minor slip of the tongue when Trump drops such whoppers on an almost hourly basis, at times?

Joe Biden entered the Democratic presidential nomination race by positioning himself as the best guy around to actually beat Donald Trump. That, at this point, is a convincing argument and one that the other candidates have barely touched upon. Biden has introduced the issue into the midst of the campaign, and it will now fall to all the other Democratic candidates (either all 20 or all 18 of them, depending on how you count) to make the case for why they would be a better person to take Trump on than Biden.

Personally, I see this as a healthy thing for the race as a whole. None of these Democrats should ever forget for even one moment that the race is not just to beat all the other Democrats running. That's only the first lap, after all. Becoming the Democratic nominee means having to take on Trump directly in the general election. Polls have already shown that this is the overwhelming litmus test among Democratic voters -- to the point where voters admit that they want the best candidate to beat Trump even if that candidate doesn't share their own agenda. Any Democrat would be better than Trump, to put this feeling in the bluntest terms. Democratic voters are looking for the best candidate to do precisely that.

Joe Biden enters the race by directly focusing on this key point. His message is crystal-clear: "We have to beat Trump, and I am the best chance of doing that." Biden still has a lot of convincing to do with Democrats, and he'll have to flesh out his own agenda in the coming weeks. But if he keeps to his central theme of running not against the other Democrats but against Donald Trump, he may not only hold onto his lead over the other candidates running, but he may actually expand it. Biden's entry is going to force all the other candidates to make the same claim -- of being the best chance to beat Trump -- whether Biden himself winds up on top or not. So far, he's got this issue all to himself, but that will likely soon change. Which is all to the good, because the voters really do want to see Democrats start making the case of how Trump can be beat. We're not trying to elect a leader of the Democratic Party, after all, we are trying to retake the White House from Donald Trump. Biden is going to force everyone else to refocus on this key goal, that's for certain.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant

Friday Talking Points -- The Mueller Report's Aftermath

Yesterday, Robert Mueller's investigative report on Donald Trump was made (mostly) public. Today, Trump and his cheerleaders are insisting that he has been totally vindicated and exonerated, while some Democratic candidates for president are demanding that impeachment proceedings be launched in the House of Representatives. That's a pretty wide gulf in perception, but at this point it was to be expected.

Just as has already been revealed in multiple behind-the-scenes tell-all books written about the Trump White House, at the heart of the Mueller Report's findings on obstruction of justice is a bit of incredible irony: what saved Trump from the more blatant forms of obstructing justice was nothing short of his own incompetence. He'd order an advisor to do something that was clearly illegal or highly unethical, and the advisor would either refuse outright or just do nothing in the hopes that Trump would forget about the whole thing. The fact that high-ranking aides would repeatedly just fail to act on Trump's outrageous demands in the hopes he'd soon forget about them obviously means that such a tactic was often effective. The picture this paints is not a flattering one, of Trump blowing up and screaming at someone to do something but then being so easily distracted that he'd forget all about it and often never mention it again. Again, this is the same picture painted by multiple tell-all books as well as a variety of other sources, so it is probably pretty accurate. Trump was saved from a whole lot of lawbreaking because he'd immediately forget that he had demanded such a thing. Hell of a way to run a country, isn't it?

This Keystone Kops performance begs the question of how many other wild-eyed things has Trump demanded of his staff only to be completely ignored? How much chaos have "the adults in the room" prevented, just by allowing Trump's faulty memory to erase his own tantrums? It's a frightening thought, really, especially after so many of these adults in the room have confirmed such episodes after they've left Trump's administration. The Mueller Report didn't create this narrative, it merely built on it.

Democrats, of course, are wondering what to do next. Elizabeth Warren led the pack of presidential candidates by explicitly calling today for Trump's impeachment:

The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.

As of this writing, the only other candidate who has agreed has been Julián Castro. Most of the others took a more measured stance. Many denounced Attorney General William Barr's press conference, where he toadied up to Trump to the exclusion of all else. Many called for further investigations by Congress, or demanded that the full and unredacted Mueller Report be made available to members of Congress. And most Democrats took the opportunity to slam Trump around, of course.

Nancy Pelosi, so far, has been charting a cautious course. She has scheduled a conference call for Monday so House Democrats can discuss what is going to happen next. Jerrold Nadler has called for hearings with lots of witnesses, including both Barr and Mueller himself, to happen in the next few weeks. Steny Hoyer, though, openly scoffed at the idea of impeachment: "Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months, and the American people will make a judgment."

Hoyer immediately received some pushback, but he and Pelosi are probably right about the politics of the situation. Those calling for impeachment right now are leaning heavily on the "it's your constitutional duty" argument, which is a potent one indeed. But to what end? Opening an impeachment process would mean more investigation, but that's going to happen anyway, whether you call it "an impeachment hearing" or not. Mueller's team launched 14 tangential investigations, so the Justice Department already is hard at work on everything Mueller uncovered that was not considered conspiracy or obstruction, but which still may be criminal. The House has several committees already investigating all things Trump, and those investigations are going to move forward no matter what else happens.

Just for the sake of argument, let's say the House did vote in the next couple of weeks to impeach Trump. Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote, which means that 20 Republicans would have to cross the aisle and vote to remove Trump from office. Twenty Republicans. Any bets as to the likelihood of that happening?

Now, as many have pointed out, obstruction of justice was at the center of both the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the looming impeachment of Richard Nixon. A president obstructing justice is indeed a high crime and misdemeanor, in other words. In their own words, many Republicans still serving in the Senate today were absolutely outraged at Bill Clinton's obstruction of justice, way back when. So Mueller's case for obstruction -- laid out in ten instances within his report -- is entirely sufficient to remove a sitting president.

That's an excellent legalistic point, but it does not exist in a vacuum. Bill Clinton, if you'll remember, not only survived impeachment (when enough Senate Democrats stuck with him) but his popularity actually went up during the process. He emerged politically stronger and the Republicans in Congress emerged weaker. Absent any other bombshell revelations about other Trump misdeeds, this is likely exactly what would happen if Democrats immediately began impeachment proceedings. The House could impeach him, but the Senate would not convict him. He'd be in a constant rant against Democratic overreach, and he'd paint himself as the victim of nothing but partisanship. In the end, he'd win and Democrats would "chalk up a moral victory by acting," or something. But it would all definitely affect the 2020 election, that's for sure.

At this point, we have to agree with what has been Nancy Pelosi's position all along -- that not unlike Potter Stewart's definition of pornography, the American public "will know an impeachable offense when they see one." And that we haven't met that standard yet. So far, nothing in the Mueller Report has changed our mind, either.

Democrats should continue in their efforts to obtain an unredacted Mueller Report, just to see what else it contains. They should redouble their efforts to investigate the president for government misconduct, for elections misconduct, for financial misconduct, and for anything else there is to be uncovered. The search for a smoking gun is nowhere near over, in other words. Any one of these investigations may reveal something so shocking that even Republicans refuse to defend Trump. But we're just not there yet.

Of course, there were other things happening last week than just the Mueller Report. The Democratic presidential campaign got a little more concrete with the release of fundraising figures for all the declared candidates. Here are the totals everybody raised in the first quarter of the year:

  • Bernie Sanders: $18.2 million

  • Kamala Harris: $12 million

  • Beto O'Rourke: $9.1 million

  • Pete Buttigieg: $7.1 million

  • Elizabeth Warren: $6 million

  • Cory Booker: $5 million

  • Amy Klobuchar: $4.6 million

  • Kirsten Gillibrand: $3 million

  • Jay Inslee: $2.3 million

  • John Hickenlooper: $2 million

  • Andrew Yang: $1.8 million

  • Marianne Williamson: $1.6 million

  • Tulsi Gabbard: $1.5 million

  • Julián Castro: $1.1 million

  • John Delaney: $300,000

  • Wayne Messam: $43,500

By week's end, though, the big news was that Joe Biden is finally ready to throw his hat in the ring. He's teasing an announcement possibly next Wednesday and possibly from Charlottesville, Virginia (to make a statement against Trump's "very fine people on both sides" idiocy). Will Biden be the last major announcement for Democrats? Will the field finally be set? Well, probably not -- Senator Michael Bennet also seems ready to launch, but he'll likely wait until after Biden does. To date, there are 17 Democratic politicians running (those who have held or currently hold some kind of office) as well as two outsiders (Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson). With Biden and Bennet in the race, those numbers will be 19 and 21, respectively. To be completely accurate, you'd also have to count Richard Ojeda, who officially ran but became the first candidate to quit the race. So the entire field will be at least either 20 or 22 candidates, depending on how you count. Whew!

There wasn't a whole lot else going on in Washington this week, as everyone was focused on the Mueller Report. If you're sick of in-depth analyses of the Mueller Report or just need a laugh, we would highly recommend Alexandra Petri's amusing "book report" on it (written in the style of a junior-high-school student who obviously hadn't read the whole book).

Let's see, what else? North Korea is testing weapons again, just to rattle the world's cage a little bit. Oh, and a bit of good news to end on, here -- the state of Arkansas is going to replace a statue of a Confederate inside the United States Capitol (each state is allowed two statues of prominent citizens to represent the state in the "People's House" ) with a statue of "The Man In Black," Arkansan Johnny Cash. Now there's a "retire the Confederate statues" move that everyone can go along with!

The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week made news for entering not a lions' den but rather a Foxhole.

Senator Bernie Sanders appeared Monday night on Fox News to participate in live town hall meeting. This was obviously a risky thing for any Democrat to do, because you never know what'll happen on Fox.

Sanders, however, not only held his own but from all accounts actually knocked it out of the park. He defended his own positions, he defended making money from writing a book, and the Fox moderators got a huge dose of humiliation on what was supposed to be a gotcha question. All around, a pretty good night for Bernie!

We wrote about this earlier in the week, while suggesting that more Democrats ought to go on Fox if they truly have the strength of their convictions. Bernie's defense of Medicare For All was probably the highlight of the entire evening, but before we get to audience participation we have to point out one thing few have so far noticed about Bernie's position on the issue.

As far as the inside-the-Beltway media crowd is convinced, Medicare For All is a big, scary thing to virtually everyone, because it would totally do away with the private health insurance industry, and "most people are happy with the insurance they get through their employers." Well, yes and no. Bernie has been countering this impression with a valid point that few have ever bothered to make -- you may like your company's health insurance, but just because you like it doesn't mean that each and every year you aren't in danger of your employer deciding to go with a different company that is offering cheaper rates. When this happens (as it does for millions, each and every year), people lose access to their favorite doctor, they have to understand a new company's system from scratch, and they themselves have no say in the matter whatsoever (unless they're lucky enough to belong to a Union). So just because you get health insurance through your employer, there is no guarantee that you'll have that same insurance and doctor next year, or the year after that. That is the reality people live with, but that is completely ignored in what passes for a Medicare For All debate in the mainstream media. Bernie is pointing out something that everyone can relate to, in other words, because it is so commonplace.

But getting back to the audience participation. When the moderator asked the town hall audience how many had health insurance through their employer, a sea of hands went up. Then -- in true gotcha style -- he asked how many people would be willing to give up their employer's healthcare for Medicare For All. What Fox obviously expected was for almost every hand to go down, because this proves their own warped world view. What actually happened, though, was that almost every hand stayed up. People are fed up with health insurance companies, whether they are paid through their employers or not. This is why -- another fact usually ignored by the media -- Medicare For All actually polls very well among a majority of Americans. As those hands proved, even on Fox News.

So for outfoxing Fox News in such spectacular fashion, Bernie Sanders is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. He may have even won the MIDOTW this week anyway, even if he hadn't appeared on Fox, because he topped the list of Democratic candidates in first-quarter fundraising ($18.2 million) and also led the pack in percentage of money raised from small donations -- 84 percent (more on this in a moment). Both of those are impressive statistics, especially considering how far out in front Bernie is. Number two in fundraising was Kamala Harris, who only raised $12 million. This means that Bernie led all challengers by an amount ($6.2 million) that was more than twelve other campaigns had collected in total. That's pretty impressive all around.

But we didn't even have to resort to the numbers game to make this week's decision, because Bernie's performance on Fox News early in the week was all we needed to see to determine this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

{Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

Now, we do understand that political campaigns always try to spin everything as positively as possible for the candidate. But, at times, such spinning is so wildly misleading that it needs to be called out as cutting too close to outright dishonesty. We got a taste of this in the first-quarter fundraising numbers reported by the Democratic presidential campaigns. We're not sure any of it rises to an actual Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, so instead we will leave this week's MDDOTW statuette on the shelf and instead award (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards to a number of Democratic candidates, for how their campaigns are spinning the numbers.

The first example was in how the fundraising numbers were reported. Most of the campaigns reported the amount raised for the primary election alone (election law splits donations for primaries and for the general election into two categories). But three candidates tried to obscure the record. Two of them -- John Hickenlooper and Amy Klobuchar -- reported the total they had raised for both the primary and the general as one lump sum. This artificially boosted their numbers compared to the other candidates' totals. And one candidate -- John Delaney -- reported over $12 million raised, but failed to break this down into what he had personally given to his own campaign versus what other people had donated. The actual amount ($300,000) Delaney had raised was a tiny fraction of what his campaign said he had (Note: the numbers in the above list have all been corrected to what was raised from donors for the primary, not what these three campaigns claimed).

There was a second way the campaigns tried to obfuscate their own records as well. It has become a point of honor within the Democratic Party to boast of how much of your campaign chest was raised "from small donations." But there are two ways to measure this -- the way everyone previously had measured it, and a new way which sounds a lot better in campaign literature, but which is also misleading.

The first method measures campaign funds. What percentage of your funding was given in the form of small donations (usually defined as $200 or less)? Take the amount raised by small donations and divide by the total raised, and you get a percentage of your funding that came from small donors. This is the accepted way of measuring things, or at least it had been up until now.

A second way has now appeared, which helps make the numbers sound a whole lot better. Instead of measuring money, instead measure the number of donors. So take the number of small donations and divide by the total number of donors. Voilà! The percentage becomes much higher (because this metric ignores the imbalance in the size of the donations between large and small donors).

The Washington Post fact-checkers helpfully pointed all this out (while awarding two Pinocchios to all the campaigns fudging the numbers). Measured in the standard way (comparing the amounts raised), Bernie Sanders leads the field with 84 percent of his money raised through small donations. Behind him are Andrew Yang (81 percent), Elizabeth Warren (70), Pete Buttigieg (64), Marianne Williamson (60), Beto O'Rourke (59), and Tulsi Gabbard (55). All the other candidates fell below 50 percent, meaning over half of the money they raised came from larger donors.

But five of the candidates decided their numbers weren't impressive enough, and instead released the "compare donors, not money" numbers instead. Let's begin (in increasing order of the severity of the sin) with Beto O'Rourke, who reported that he had raised a whopping 98 percent of his money from small donors. In terms of money raised, however, this number falls to only 59 percent -- a difference of 39 points. That is, to be blunt, misleading. It's the difference between "almost everybody" and "six out of ten."

But he wasn't the worst, by far. Amy Klobuchar reported 85 percent of small donations, when she raised only 35 percent of her money this way. She doesn't have many big donors, but they've got deep pockets, obviously, to create a 50-point disparity in the numbers.

Kamala Harris was even worse, reporting the same 98 percent as O'Rourke but only raising a measly 37 percent of her money this way -- a 61-point difference.

But there were two champions by far in the "fudge the numbers" category this week, because both Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hickenlooper reported numbers so filled with fudge you expected a Keebler elf to be answering questions afterwards. Gillibrand reported a sunny 92 percent of small donors, but only raised 17 percent of her money this way. Hickenlooper reported a more-modest 85 percent small donors but only raised a pathetic 10 percent of his money from small donations. Both candidates misstated the actual number by a jaw-dropping 75 percentage points.

Spinning bad news, as we mentioned, is expected from political campaigns. But there are lines candidates should not cross. One of these lines is using the same metric as the rest of the political universe in measuring your campaign's effectiveness. For attempting to blur or erase these lines this week, we have (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards for the following: John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Beto O'Rourke. And we have a double (Dis-)Honorable Mention award for both John Hickenlooper and Amy Klobuchar, for using both methods of dishonestly trying to boost their fundraising numbers. Let's try to adhere to some agreed-upon standards in the future, folks.

Volume 524 (4/19/19)

Not surprisingly, our talking points this week deal exclusively with the Mueller Report and the continuing fallout. While other things did happen this week, by week's end it was yet another one-story week, with the Mueller Report sucking all the oxygen from everything else that was happening, which is reflected in our talking points.

Incompetence saves Trump

You just know this is getting under Trump's skin....

"For two years, America was saved from the worst excesses of the Republican Party by the Tea Partiers in the House being so incompetent that they ground the conservative agenda to an absolute halt. Now we're finding out that we were saved from the worst excesses of Donald Trump by the sheer incompetence of Donald Trump. If Trump's orders had been followed out -- if his aides had done what he explicitly told them to do -- then we wouldn't even be having an argument about impeachment, because he would have obviously obstructed justice at every turn. The only thing saving him from this is his own inability to follow through on much of anything. His aides ignored his demands or just refused to follow his orders out. They were apparently confident in the fact that Trump would forget what he told them to do almost as soon as he told them to do it. And for the most part, they turned out to be right. Trump's presidency is already an abject failure and disaster, but it would obviously be a lot worse if his people actually did what he told them to do. We're lucky, in fact, that Trump is such an incompetent leader."

Here's one clue...

This one should be used pretty much every time the press confronts any White House spokespeople from now on.

"When I hear Sarah Huckabee Sanders speak from the podium in the White House briefing room, I know full well that what she is saying is almost certainly a lie. She has admitted under oath that she just makes stuff up when answering reporters, pulling stories and quips from thin air to back up Trump's delusional view of the world. In fact, at this point, it's easy to tell when Sarah Huckabee Sanders is lying -- just watch her lips. If they're moving, she's probably lying."

The refuseniks

Again, almost guaranteed to get under Trump's skin.

"The Washington Post had a good rundown of all the top aides to President Trump who just flat-out refused to follow his orders. In shorthand, here is their list: 'Jeff Sessions refused to unrecuse himself. Don McGahn refused to have Mueller fired. Rick Dearborn threw a message from the president to Sessions in the trash. Rob Porter refused to contact the number three person at the Justice Department. Chris Christie refused to contact James Comey. Rod Rosenstein refused to hold a news conference to lie for the president. K. T. McFarland refused to send a memo. Dan Coats refused to put out a dishonest statement.' That's a lot of refuseniks working directly for the president! And one has to wonder -- all of this evidence was gathered on only two subjects. How many other insane or illegal orders does the president give on a regular basis that his aides must be trusted to just flat-out ignore for the good of the country? What else has he demanded be done that never happened? I mean, we're all happy that Trump is so incompetent that he forgets things he said five minutes ago, but it's kind of frightening to contemplate what would happen if so many people didn't just ignore Trump's worst impulses."

One of the best memories

This was entirely expected, what with the answers being in written format.

"Donald Trump used to brag about his memory, saying he had 'one of the best memories of all time,' but I guess it's not as great as he thought. In his written responses to Mueller's questions, Trump used some form of the phrase 'I do not remember' a whopping 37 times. So much for being one of the best memories of all time, eh?"

The other 14 investigations

We're not done yet, folks.

"Some of what was redacted in the Mueller report deals with ongoing investigations. There are an astonishing fourteen of these investigations, launched in tangent to the main Mueller investigation. And none of these -- not one -- has concluded yet. So while the Mueller report was an important milestone, those who are now saying it is the end of the road and we should all just move on are woefully mistaken. Not even counting the investigations launched in Congress, there are still 14 federal investigations going on as a result of what Mueller's team uncovered."

A culture of dishonesty

For our final two talking points, we turn to two paragraphs that stood out for us in the post-Mueller Report media coverage. The first is from the New York Times, which did not pull any punches.

The White House that emerges from more than 400 pages of Mr. Mueller's report is a hotbed of conflict infused by a culture of dishonesty -- defined by a president who lies to the public and his own staff, then tries to get his aides to lie for him. At one juncture after another, Mr. Trump made his troubles worse, giving in to anger and grievance and lashing out in ways that turned advisers into witnesses against him.

No fake news here

The second makes a very important point. There was indeed "fake news" in all of this, but it was the "fake news" coming from the White House. The media got it right, the White House insisted it was "fake news" but in the end it turned out their own denunciations were the fakest thing around.

The mainstream media's report on the incidents that Mueller examined with regard to obstruction were, in virtually all cases, completely correct. The White House's denials were bogus and right-wing cheerleaders who claimed the media got it "wrong" were themselves wrong. Trump did try to fire Mueller; he did mislead the public regarding the Trump Tower meeting; and he did try to influence witnesses.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Another Fun Week In Trumpland

Welcome back! Our Friday Talking Points column has been on a forced hiatus for the past month, due to a rather severe bout with the flu. But while we're up and running once again, we're still not at 100 percent, so we're going to foreshorten our usual weekly roundup introduction this week. Instead of attempting the monumental task of getting back up to date with a month's worth of craziness from Washington, we're going to just write a generic introduction that should be able to stand in for just about any week in the Donald Trump era. Call it a "Mad Lib" fill-in-the-blank do-it-yourself rundown. Everyone ready? Then here we go....

Generic Weekly News Roundup

President Donald Trump embarrassed himself today by claiming (TOTAL LIE), and then following up on Twitter with (INSANE CONSPIRACY THEORY). Both were immediately disproven by (WIDELY AVAILABLE AND INDISPUTABLE FACTS). When asked for comment, the White House merely stated that "the president's words speak for themselves." Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway was quoted blaming (ANYONE BUT TRUMP) for the whole fracas.

Earlier, Trump had fanned the political flames by tweeting (HATE-FILLED RANT), which once again clearly violates the Twitter rules of conduct; but when contacted about it, the head of Twitter stated: "We're going to interpret his tweet as (TOTAL HORSE MANURE RATIONALIZATION) rather than being savagely directed at (VULNERABLE MINORITY)."

Trump was also in the news this week for firing (HIGH-RANKING ADVISOR), which he claimed was due to (TOTALLY MADE-UP AND CAPRICIOUS REASON). Multiple White House sources report, however, that the real reason was that (HIGH-RANKING ADVISOR) refused to violate numerous federal laws when directed to by Trump, which sent him into a rage.

The Trump administration made some foreign policy news as well, by insulting the leader of (FORMER CLOSE U.S. ALLY) and declaring America would be pulling out of (LONG-STANDING INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT) because, as Trump put it, "We don't need all these dirty foreigners telling us what to do. America First!"

Senate Republicans reacted to all of these crises by (HIDING THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND), after Mitch McConnell further distanced himself from Trump's actions by claiming: "Trump? Trump who? I hardly know the guy...."

House Democrats, meanwhile, have launched their (VERY HIGH ORDINAL NUMBER) investigation into Trump administration wrongdoing, issuing subpoenas to (ALL AND SUNDRY). "We're going to get to the bottom of the (BLATANT LAWBREAKING BY TRUMP AND HIS MINIONS) scandal," promised Adam Schiff.

In the 2020 Democratic nomination race, (LIST OF THREE MORE DEMOCRATS YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF) are all jumping into the race, bringing the new total number of candidates to an all-time high of (NUMBER NORTH OF 20). The new hopefuls declared that they definitely saw a path to the nomination, as long as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have heart attacks sometime real soon now.

In the current field, Senator Elizabeth Warren released (WILDLY POPULAR AND DETAILED POLICY IDEA), but the media completely ignored it because it was so intently focused on (LATEST SHINY-OBJECT NON-STORY FROM CAMPAIGN TRAIL). And also because they had to have time to run the (LATEST ADORABLE CAMPAIGN VIDEO) from (CURRENT MEDIA DARLING CANDIDATE), thirty or forty times each hour. " (CURRENT MEDIA DARLING CANDIDATE) has really locked up the (CAT-LOVERS / DOG-LOVERS / ROCK FANS / STAR WARS FANS / YOUTH ACTIVIST / SENIOR CITIZENS) vote, with this new video clip," said every cable news anchor, simultaneously.

Sigh. When you write it all out like that, you really have to wonder whether to laugh or cry, don't you?

But that'll have to mostly do for this week's rundown, since covering the entire month of our untimely absence is a hill too steep for us to climb right now. But as always, we do have a smattering of news that didn't really fit anywhere else but seems worthy enough to mention before we get on with the awards.

First a few random notes from the campaign trail. Bernie Sanders has committed to releasing ten years of his tax returns by Monday (tax day), so his detractors will have to latch on to something else to complain about, we suppose.

Michael Avenatti, who at one point considered running for president, got hit with three dozen federal charges this week, which is on top of the other state charges he's already facing. He apparently played pretty fast and loose with his clients' money, and it's now coming back to bite him on the hindquarters. This is a tangential story, since he declined to run, but imagine if he was actively campaigning right now -- it would be a whole different matter then.

Since Avenatti isn't running, the "most bizarre Democratic candidate" award has to go to Mike Gravel, who recently jumped into the race. Or, more accurately, his Twitter account is what appears to be running, after being taken over (with Gravel's permission) by some snarky youngsters who seem bent on tearing down all the other Democrats in the race. Here's just one example of what Mike Gravel's Twitter account has been up to of late:

if you want a vision of the future under Cory Booker, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever. and every once in a while it stops for an inspirational lecture on how we should never stop dreaming

But that's not even the weirdest Twitter story this week. Julian Assange was unceremoniously hauled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and will now begin a very long process of fighting extradition to the United States. This came after the Ecuadorians had just had enough of Assange treating their embassy badly, from all reports. But the question on some reporters' minds was what would happen to Assange's cat? He had his own Twitter following (as "Embassy Cat" ) and has reportedly been transferred to an Assange family member for the duration -- "until they can be reunited in freedom." So everyone can rest assured that the "Wee Kitty Leaks" cat is doing fine.

From the campaign trail, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is moving up significantly in the early polling, after receiving a wave of media attention over the past few weeks. But on substance alone, we have to award both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Honorable Mention awards this week, for making solid policy proposals in the midst of the campaign.

Sanders filed this year's version of his Medicare For All bill, which four other Democratic senators running for president signed onto. That's an impressive achievement, and shows the growing appeal of the idea in the Democratic caucus. Warren announced a new tax idea which would institute an alternative minimum tax for corporations who make over $100 million a year. She announced this plan the same week it was revealed that 60 of America's largest corporations -- including Amazon, Netflix, Chevron, Eli Lilly, Delta Airlines, General Motors, IBM, and Goodyear -- all paid zero taxes under the new Trump tax code. Some even got huge rebates. This is precisely what people mean when they say the tax system is rigged, and it is precisely what Warren's new idea would address.

The Democratic National Committee deserves an Honorable Mention award as well, for launching a nuts-and-bolts effort to defeat Donald Trump. Trump is planning on running on the slogan: "Promises made, promises kept," so it is important to push back on this rather faulty argument. From the story:

Responding to criticism that Democrats were too focused on Trump's temperament and personal attributes during Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, the party's main organizing arm says it's making a major expansion of its opposition research team that will be "hyper-focused" on the impact of Trump's policies on local communities. A team of several dozen staffers have compiled an archive of thousands of documents obtained through local news and Freedom of Information Act requests that will be used to spotlight promises Trump made during visits to specific communities -- and to "put a human face" on what's happened since then.

Trump's lies during his 2016 campaign can only come back to haunt him if Democrats bother to point them out, so this should hopefully pay some solid dividends in next year's general election.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Here's why, in a nutshell:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at a ceremony next month, the Kennedy Library Foundation announced Sunday.

The California Democrat is being recognized for leading "with strength, integrity and grace under pressure -- using her power to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens," former ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the foundation's honorary president, said in a statement.

"She is the most important woman in American political history and is a true Profile in Courage," Kennedy said.

. . .

Pelosi called the award "a powerful testament to the extraordinary legacy and leadership of President Kennedy."

"At President Kennedy's inauguration, I was blessed to hear him speak of ‘the energy, the faith, the devotion... that will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world,'" Pelosi said in a statement. "It is inspiring that the award itself is a lantern, a manifestation of that light."

While it may cause Hillary Clinton to gnash her teeth in envy, Nancy Pelosi is indeed now "the most important woman in American political history." She is more than deserving of the Kennedy Profile In Courage award, to which we're going to add our own humble Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, as well.

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

We have two news items from the upcoming Maine Senate race to take on Susan Collins this week, one of which rises to the level of a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award.

Senator Joe Manchin for some reason decided to weigh in on the race, even though no Democratic opponent has even emerged yet. The West Virginia senator stated unequivocal support for his Republican colleague, saying: "If she wanted me to, I would campaign for Susan Collins. For America to lose somebody like Susan Collins would an absolute shame. I feel that strongly about her."

In other news from the race, Susan Rice disappointed many by announcing that after consideration and consultation with her family, she was going to take a pass on challenging Collins next year. Even though she and her family have strong Maine roots, she would have had to fight off the image of being a carpetbagger, something that matters a whole lot to Mainers. But many national Democrats had been excited at the prospect of Rice running.

Former White House Counsel to Barack Obama Greg Craig faced a federal indictment this week, but it had nothing to do with his tenure at the White House (unlike, say, Michael Flynn). Craig had joined a lobbying operation with Paul Manafort years after leaving the White House, which is what got him into so much trouble (this is a continuation of the fallout from Manafort's illegal lobbying and fraud). Nevertheless, Craig certainly deserves at least a (Dis-)Honorable Mention for joining up with Manafort in the first place.

But our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is Representative John Lewis, who spearheaded the effort to pass a bill this week which will make it illegal for the I.R.S. to develop its own free tax-filing software so that millions of American taxpayers could easily and quickly do their taxes each year.

Now, this story is a somewhat convoluted one, but at its heart it represents the worst of Washington -- special-interest money trumping any concern for average Americans. Software companies who already have tax-preparation software lobbied hard to bar the I.R.S. from competing with them, and House Democrats rolled over and let them, plain and simple.

The underlying bill is actually full of good ideas to reform the I.R.S., including limiting the use of private debt collectors, which made the choice of whether to vote for it or not a tough one. Progressive Democrats led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez initially fought against the bill, though, because of the provision which protects services like TurboTax from competition from a free I.R.S. filing service. Eventually, the progressives were talked into supporting the bill, but they're still not happy about it. Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Katie Hill were both reportedly convinced by John Lewis:

{Representative John} Lewis, one of the authors of the sweeping IRS bill, worked quickly to tamp down the revolt. He met with two progressives who seemed ready to try to sink the legislation -- {Representative Alexandria} Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), both first elected last November. And he not only persuaded them to let the bill pass on a voice vote, he actually got them to speak in support of it.

"We talked, and explained the bill, and in the end, they supported it," Lewis told HuffPost Wednesday.

"Sometimes you just have to talk to people," he said.

Lewis said he told them that the Senate could work on the free-filing issue, though he stopped short of making a firm commitment on the matter.

"It's going to be left up to the Senate to do it," Lewis said. "We're not going to dictate what to do or not to do."

Lewis, in his conversations with Ocasio-Cortez and Hill, stressed aspects of the bill that Democrats like. It contains language preventing the IRS from referring debts from some lower-income taxpayers to debt collectors. And it includes provisions to improve IRS customer service, address identity theft and authorize grants for nonprofits to provide free tax-filing assistance to low-income people.

The progressives aren't going to let this bill become the final word, though:

Ocasio-Cortez said Wednesday that Lewis took seriously the concerns she and Hill raised, and she anticipates working with him on separate legislation addressing the electronic filing issue.

She and Hill "are certainly planning to draft that legislation," Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPost.

Floor speeches by the two new lawmakers made clear that, while they were supporting the legislation, they took issue with the electronic tax-filing provisions.

"Long-term, we should be looking at a solution where everyday people do not necessarily have to spend hours every year preparing tax returns when the majority of Americans have relatively simple and straightforward returns," Ocasio-Cortez said in her speech.

Hill noted some of the bill's positives before calling out the language prohibiting the IRS from making available electronic tax filing software of its own.

"In this freshman class, I and many of my colleagues were sent to reject corporate influence and stand up for people," Hill said. "This puts us in a difficult spot."

But she added that "the rest of this bill is too important" to try to block its passage over the electronic filing issue.

Another freshman, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), said she is planning to work with her colleagues on that legislation.

"This is not a done deal," she said of the dispute over electronic filing.

However, in an ideal world, they wouldn't have to go back and fix this odious corporate giveaway. The argument Lewis made was, in effect, a complete abdication of his own responsibility: "Don't worry, maybe the Senate will fix it." Obviously, the Senate wouldn't have to fix it if the House did their job correctly in the first place.

Again, this is precisely what voters hate about Washington and the way lobbyists continue to rig the system against the average person. For being at the forefront of such a disgraceful capitulation to lobbyists, John Lewis is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

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

Volume 523 (4/12/19)

OK, we admit we're a little rusty in the talking points creation game, but we're going to do our best. They kind of range all over the map, but they end with one bit of Democratic trolling which should put a smile on everyone's face, so there's that. Without further ado, let's just get right to it, shall we?

Making out like bandits

Just business as usual, really.

"It was revealed this week that 60 of America's top corporations paid absolutely nothing in taxes this year, after the Trump tax cuts showered them with goodies. That's right -- a long list of companies including Amazon, Netflix, Chevron, Eli Lilly, Delta Airlines, General Motors, IBM, and Goodyear all paid exactly zero dollars in taxes, after making billions of dollars in profits. Some even got money back, meaning their tax rate was below zero. Remember when the Republicans swore up and down that their tax cuts were designed to help the average guy and not the fatcats? Well, it turns out they were lying, just like they always do on this subject. In actual fact, their tax cuts hit average Americans hard while at the same time allowing corporate giants to rake in billions while paying nothing at all to the U.S. Treasury. Because that's what Republicans really care about -- allowing Wall Street to make out like bandits while sticking it to everyone else."

Show us your taxes!

This needs to be a constant refrain throughout the entire presidential campaign.

"Donald Trump needs to show us his taxes, and he needs to do so right now. The I.R.S. is currently defying federal law by not releasing Trump's tax returns even though a House committee has demanded them in accordance with federal law. When will we finally get to see what Trump is so desperately hiding? He's obviously terrified of something contained within his taxes becoming public, and he'll go to any length to conceal whatever it is from the voters before the election. But federal law is clear and unequivocal. So let the court fight begin, because the sooner we all get to see Trump's taxes, the sooner we'll find out just what sort of con he's been running on the American people."

A Trump resigns

This didn't get nearly enough notice in the media.

"Donald Trump's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, had to resign her federal judgeship this year because an investigation had been launched into the Trump family's rampant tax fraud going back decades. Barry herself appears to have benefited from these schemes, first reported by the New York Times. When she found out an investigation had been opened into the affair by a judicial conduct council, she dodged the scrutiny by just resigning her seat as a federal appellate judge. So while she probably won't be the last, Maryanne Trump Barry has become the first Trump family member to resign a federal post in disgrace after her past tax avoidance came to light."

Full? Then why hire immigrants?

Another Trump slogan that needs to get smacked down.

"Donald Trump has a new slogan he's been using in the discussions about what to do about the border -- he says 'our country is full,' and therefore can't take any more immigrants, period. But he's never explained why, if the country is so full, his own businesses rely so heavily on an immigrant workforce. He abuses the visa system to get maids for his hotels, and he outright looks the other way to hire plenty of illegal immigrants on his golf courses, so I guess the country isn't all that full at all. If he still needs to use lots of immigrant laborers then you'd think he'd realize that there are some jobs that Americans just won't do."

Maybe Attila The Hun?

Trump continues to purge one of his own cabinet departments, apparently because they kept insisting on following federal law rather than follow Trump's instructions to the contrary.

"Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to walk the plank this week, after the former head of the Department of Homeland Security apparently refused to be even more cruel to immigrants than she has been during her whole tenure. Nielsen is not exactly a profile in courage, and will be remembered for putting small children in cages and ripping them from their parents' arms at the direction of Trump. And then lying about it all to Congress, of course. But not even tear-gassing mothers and children was enough for Trump, who finally followed the advice of his senior aide Stephen 'Darth' Miller. Trump then fired a whole bunch of others who had been annoying Miller, leaving no one in charge right at the height of what he calls a 'national emergency' at the border. One has to wonder who exactly will meet Miller's high standards for cruelty to be offered Nielsen's former job now -- perhaps we'll see Homeland Security Secretary Attila The Hun next?"

Cain wasn't able

There's all sorts of amusing ways to make fun of this one.

"It's heartening to see that at least four Republican senators still have enough backbone to realize that Herman Cain wasn't exactly the most qualified guy to be named to the Federal Reserve this week. With their opposition, it now seems likely that Cain will withdraw from consideration rather than face an embarrassing spectacle of Senate hearings. Maybe he'll go back to 'Ubecki-becki-becki-becki-stan-stan' or something. Or, to get biblical, one might say that Cain wasn't able, and leave it at that."

George Conway trolls again

This last one isn't so much of a talking point as it is just downright funny Trump trolling from a master at the game. George Conway, husband of Kellyanne, has changed his Twitter mini-bio. It used to just say "Lawyer." But he's updated it to the following:

George Conway

Lawyer. Windmill cancer survivor.

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