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Member since: Tue Jun 24, 2008, 02:34 PM
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Journal Archives

Friday Talking Points -- America Is Back

President Joe Biden had a pretty good week all around. He began the week in Europe, where he met with the leaders of NATO, the European Union, the G7, a few royals (just to mix things up), and Vladimir Putin. That's a pretty packed schedule, but Biden seemed to manage just fine. The Europeans were both visibly thrilled and massively relieved to be visited by a United States president who was, once again, a sane adult (and not a petulant little child-man). They heaped praise upon Biden -- mostly just for being "President Not-Trump." You may laugh, but please recall President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize solely for being "President Not-Dubya," years earlier. But more seriously, Europe announced some deals with Biden (including, notably, a truce being called on the subsidy war over Boeing and Airbus airplanes). Not only were personal relationships either reaffirmed or begun, tangible diplomatic progress was made. Europe stood as one with the United States over the contentious issues of Russia and China, which only strengthened Biden's position for his meeting with Putin. The Putin summit didn't produce a whole lot in the way of tangible deliverables, but then again it didn't produce an American president willing to believe Russia's ex-K.G.B. leader over his own intelligence services either, so it has to be chalked up as a major improvement. Throughout it all, Biden stuck to one very simple slogan that summed up what his trip was supposed to be showcasing to the world: "America is back."

Republicans (being Republicans) badmouthed Biden for all they were worth, back home. So much for that whole "politics ends at the water's edge" tradition, but truth be told that has been fading for the past few decades anyway, so this wasn't a total surprise. In fact (and astonishingly enough) the only Republican quote we heard this week that was exactly what an opposition party leader should say about a president abroad came from none other than Donald Trump. He actually said, of Biden: "I think the election was unbelievably unfair, but I want this guy to go out and do well for our country." Again, this used to be a fairly normal sort of comment ("If the president succeeds, then America succeeds, so of course I hope he does well" ) for these sorts of situations, but it was actually pretty extraordinary because, as mentioned: (1) it was the only one like it we heard, and (2) it came from Donald Trump, of all people.

In fact, there was an even-more-astonishing quote from Trump, in the same phone-in interview with Sean Hannity: "We got them by surprise in '16, and in '20 we did much better than we did in '16. Shockingly, we were supposed to win easily at 64 million votes and we got 75 million votes. We didn't win, but let's see what happens on that. The whole thing was shocking." Did you catch that? "We didn't win." That is the first time since the election that Trump has actually admitted that Joe Biden won the election, and he lost. It only took him seven-and-a-half months, but many (us included) expected Trump never to actually admit it in such plain language -- so it was a welcome surprise as well.

As for Biden's "America is back" tour, Republicans have been having a hard time complaining about such obvious success. They half-heartedly tried to claim Biden was somehow saying "We're taking America backwards, not forwards," but they quickly dropped this tactic when it gained zero traction. There was the usual vitriol over Biden gaffes (real and imagined), and lots of downright bizarre championing of Vladimir Putin's opinions, but they really didn't have much to work with -- and it showed. Other than Trump, the GOP has now sunk to the level where they will actually side with the leader of Russia over an American president (if you walk by Ronald Reagan's grave and listen closely, you will hear some very rapid spinning sounds). They also tried to somehow say that the summit happening at all was a gigantic mistake by Biden ("don't reward Putin!" ), which completely ignores the fact that they cheered Trump's Putin summits on wholeheartedly. They also, laughably, tried to suggest Biden should somehow have "gotten tougher" on Putin, again hoping everyone would just conveniently forget all those times when Trump absolutely fawned over Putin, without getting a thing in return.

Back home, Republican messaging idiocy has been on full display over the lightning-fast passage of a bill to make Juneteenth (6/19) a federal holiday. The right-wing media is trying to somehow morph this into "they're cancelling Independence Day!" but not with any noticeable success. But much more on Republican idiocy later in the program.

Biden's old boss got a big win this week, when the Supreme Court threw out the latest nonsense court case trying to declare Obamacare unconstitutional. The vote, astonishingly, was 7-2, and this makes the record for such cases at this level now 0-3. We're hoping (to mix a few metaphors) that this doesn't represent the "third strike" against rabid GOP Obamacare opposition, but in fact that it has now "gone down for the third time" and will peacefully sink beneath the political waves, never to bother us all again. One can hope, at any rate.

Let's see, what else? More and more abuses of power by Trump and his henchmen are coming to light, as Democrats continue to investigate. This week, it was memos from the Justice Department showing some of the political pressure that was applied to the department between the election and the inauguration. No real surprise, just confirmation of what everyone already assumed, really.

Infrastructure efforts keep chugging along. There's a new bipartisan group with an oh-so-slightly-higher offer (higher than the last Republican offer) on the table, but so far Biden hasn't indicated what he really thinks of it. The White House did warn that they'd only continue trying the bipartisan route for another week or so, and that the reconciliation train is now boarding at the station. So things could develop next week on this front.

Mitch McConnell just keeps proving (and ourtight admitting) over and over again that he wouldn't join a bipartisan effort if his life depended on it, which really should help Democrats to convince Joe Manchin that it's time to do something about the filibuster (more on Manchin in a moment).

And we close with some COVID news. It looks like Biden's goal of "70 percent of American adults getting at least their first vaccine shot" by the Fourth of July is going to fall somewhat short (but not by a whole lot, no matter what the actual number winds up being, it'll be in the high 60s, which is pretty close). And the Washington Post did a data dive that produced a story which can be filed under "Duh" -- COVID infection rates are dropping in the parts of America where more of the public has been vaccinated, while the rates are rising in the areas with fewer vaccinated. What few in the mainstream media have pointed out is just going to become more and more obvious as time goes by: vaccination is a political issue, and the stubborn refusal of many Republicans to get vaccinated is going to directly cause more deaths in red states in the very near future. Or, to put it another way: yes, the Republican Party has indeed become a death cult, folks.

We have a few minor awards to hand out before the big one this week.

First up for an Honorable Mention are the Texas Democrats who all came to Washington this week to lobby Congress. These are the brave folks who denied the Texas Republicans a quorum to pass severe voting restrictions in their state. The governor is going to call them all back for a special session, though, so this will probably just postpone the inevitable.

Which was their message: Pass the For The People Act in Congress, to preclude such voter-suppression efforts at the state level. They deserve continued applause not just for their stunt, but for using the national political leverage they gained by it in the best possible way.

Also from Texas, House member Lloyd Doggett also deserves an Honorable Mention for his new idea on how to improve Obamacare. Since there are several diehard Republican states that still refuse to expand Medicaid, Doggett's bill would make it possible for individual cities and counties to independently buy in to the Medicaid expansion. This would avoid waiting for their state to do it, and is an absolutely brilliant solution to a seemingly-intractable problem. It could wind up getting millions more people heath insurance, which is a worthy goal indeed.

And we've got to be fair and also hand an Honorable Mention to Senator Joe Manchin for releasing a very detailed list of exactly what he can and cannot support in the effort to pass voting rights legislation. Manchin laid out his priorities for both the For The People Act and the upcoming John Lewis Civil Rights Act, and while his priorities list is a lot shorter than what's in the bill (and even includes some rather Republican ideas), the mere fact that he's being so detailed about what he wants is impressive enough, at this point. Up until now, his only public stance had been that any such bill had to be at least a little bipartisan, and that was it (we did write about this in more detail yesterday, if anyone's interested).

Stacy Abrams also deserves an Honorable Mention for almost immediately throwing her considerable support behind Manchin's new memo.

But we have to admit, there was indeed a clear winner of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, and it was President Joe Biden.

Biden's Europe trip did indeed show the world that "America is back." He accomplished that goal, hands down. Foreign policy has returned to normal (meaning "sane" ). The world breathed a gigantic sigh of relief. Praise was heaped upon Biden by his peers from the biggest of our allies. Biden met with Putin, and conducted himself well. All around, America was indeed back.

There's one more thing to add that kind of got lost in the fray this week, too. The Biden administration unveiled a policy that is approximately 20 or 25 years overdue. Ever since the Oklahoma City bombing, in fact.

Since that point, there has been an ongoing refusal to allow federal law enforcement to take seriously the threat of right-wing political violence in this country. Report after report showed that right-wing domestic terrorists were the biggest internal threat this country faced, and yet there was a political refusal to really do much of anything about it.

As Joe Biden tells the story, he decided to enter the race to beat Trump when he saw the response to the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally. That one event was the deciding factor for Biden -- that's why he ran. So this may not have been his biggest campaign promise, but it certainly was his most personal. And now he has followed through and the federal government can finally treat the threat with the seriousness (and resources) it has been demanding all along.

So for achievements both foreign and domestic this week, President Joe Biden is the clear choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

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

We're going to have to punt on this one. We have one incident which was disappointing, but it somehow didn't seem to qualify for the main MDDOTW award.

So instead we'll give Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer a (Dis-)Honorable Mention for slipping up and using a very outdated term this week. In an interview, Schumer said the following:

When I first was an assemblyman, they wanted to build a congregate living place for retarded children. The whole neighborhood was against it. These are harmless kids. They just needed some help.

This used to actually be the accepted and standard term, and Chuck is old enough to have learned it when it was contemporary. But it has been seen as a slur and has been removed from polite (and political) conversation for at least the past few decades. So Schumer really should have known better.

To his credit, he immediately apologized, saying he was "sincerely sorry for his use of the outdated and hurtful language."

Which is, in part, why we decided it only really merited a (Dis-)Honorable Mention instead of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

And as always, if anyone's got any suggestion for a nominee that we overlooked this week, please let us know about it in the comments.

Volume 623 (6/18/21)

As we are sometimes wont to do, we decided it was a good week for a rant. This is a subject we've long been annoyed about, but the lack of proper Democratic outrage for everything that is happening today is not just regrettable, it is fast becoming political malpractice.

We are in a very fragile and momentous period. It is getting more fragile by the day, as Republicans continue to attack and undermine pretty much every institutional norm in all of government. They have been exposed for being morally and ideologically bankrupt, and caring solely about getting and retaining power. That's it. That's really all the party stands for, anymore.

So where are the Democrats who are pointing this out, on a regular basis?

Where are our attack dogs?

Where are the Democratic attack dogs? Where are the people on our side who can get booked on nationally-televised political shows and show some fierce indignation and scorn for the Republican Party? Oh, sure, there's the Squad, but too many of their fellow Democrats are so frightened by the Republicans demonizing the Squad for them to be completely effective.

Granted, in general Democrats don't go in for the emotional side of politics nearly as much as Republicans do -- and that was true long before the rise of Trump and Trumpism. Democrats are more prone to rational debate and trying to build their case to the public with fact-based reasoning. But, really, who has time for that anymore? Who would watch that? When does a clip of any of that make the news and get seen by tens of millions?

Where is our version of a Ted Cruz? Or Lindsey Graham? Or even the governors of Florida or Texas? Where is the Democratic outrage towards the increasing insanity within the Republican Party? It's like the house is burning down and the Democrats are convening a hearing on the back lawn to soberly discuss the relative merits of different types of fire extinguisher, while the flames leap higher.

In fact, pointing out how insanely dangerous the Republican Party has gotten these days has really become pathetically easy, which is why I am so astonished that Democrats don't explicitly make that case, every time they get the chance.

Let's start at the top of the party, but because we'd be here all day discussing Donald Trump's craziness in full, we'll just limit ourselves to the past week. A respected New York Times journalist reported that, while watching President Biden meeting with Vladimir Putin, it finally sunk in for both Trump and those around him that: "Oh, someone else is president and not Donald Trump." Think about that for a moment. The election was almost eight months ago. Biden was sworn in to office in January. And Trump and his team are just now fully realizing that Biden is actually president. This is insanity, plain and simple.

But maybe you'll say: "Oh, well, that's just Trump." But it's not. Congress passed a bill this week to give every single Capitol Hill and other police office a Congressional Gold Medal for bravely defending the United States Capitol from insurgents hell-bent on a coup attempt. An astounding twenty-one Republicans in the House actually voted against the measure. So much for all that "defend the police" and "blue lives matter" talk, eh? In fact, Representative Andrew Clyde wouldn't even shake the hand of Officer Michael Fanone in an elevator this week. This story is just shameful -- or it should be, at least:

"I simply extended my hand and said, 'How are you doing today, Congressman.' I knew immediately he recognized me by the way he reacted. He completely froze. He just stared at me," Fanone said in an interview.

Fanone said Clyde did not motion to shake his hand in return.

"I said, 'I'm sorry, you're not going to shake my hand?' " Fanone said he told Clyde.

He said Clyde answered, "I don't know who you are."

Fanone said he responded: "I'm sorry, sir, my name is Michael Fanone. I'm a D.C. police officer and I fought to defend the Capitol on Jan. 6." Fanone said he described being stunned repeatedly in the back of the neck and beaten unconscious, stripped of his badge and radio.

"His response was nothing," Fanone said. "He turned away from me, pulled out his cellphone and started thumbing through the apps." Fanone said Clyde turned on the camera app but did not point the phone in his direction. Fanone said he believes Clyde was trying to record audio of the encounter.

"After that, I just simply stood there," Fanone said.

He said Clyde bolted when the doors opened.

In a separate interview, Fanone used even more pointed language:

Once the elevator doors opened, Fanone said Clyde "ran, as quickly as he could, like a coward."

Fanone said he took his interaction with Clyde "very personally," saying it was an insult and "middle finger" not only to himself, but also to every officer who bravely responded to defend the Capitol on January 6.

That is today's Republican Party, folks. What other Republican has denounced such disrespect? None that I am aware of. This is par for the course in the Republican Party today. This, mind you, from a Republican who was reportedly "screaming like a banshee" in the House while the mob attacked the doors to their chamber. Now just for one minute imagine how much loud and indignant political hay Republicans would make over such an incident if a Democrat had dared such a snub. It would last for months! And yet, I'm willing to bet many of you haven't even heard this story yet. That is the measure of the utter failure of Democrats to show the right and proper amount of indignation.

And remember -- he was just one of almost two dozen House Democrats to vote against honoring the cops who defended Congress with their lives. Where's the outrage for all of them?

Not only are House Republicans shamefully voting against cops, they're also shamefully voting against honoring the liberation of the last slaves in America. The Juneteenth holiday bill was unanimously passed by the Senate, but 14 Republicans in the House voted against it. At least, with that one, it makes a little more sense, sad to say.

Astoundingly, some right-wingers came out in ideological opposition to the new Juneteenth holiday because, according to them, it will create a second Independence Day, and "cancel" July Fourth, somehow. Again, where is the sustained and vocal outrage from Democrats?

Republicans just seem to be getting more and more unhinged these days. The divorce from reality is almost complete, folks. People like Jim Jordan are just unbelievably out of touch, and they show it on a regular basis. In a hearing which touched on the new revelations of abuses of power by Trump and all his minions, much of the discussion centered on the recent news that the Department of Justice had been ordered by Trump's chief of staff to investigate whether -- and you cannot make this stuff up, folks -- Italians had somehow hacked the 2020 election from satellites. This wasn't the only attempt to get the Justice Department to buy into crazy post-election conspiracy theories, either. Thankfully, the acting attorney general ("acting" because the previous one had quit suddenly, likely to avoid being caught up in this idiocy) refused all such pressure to turn the Justice Department into a personal attack dog for Donald Trump. Jordan was outraged (as he usually is), but not because of the blatant abuse of power, but because the Justice Department refused a presidential order. No, really -- here's how he put it: "That is a problem. When the chief of staff to the president of the United States asks someone in the executive branch to do something, and they basically give him the finger, I think that's the problem we should be looking into." Such an insane viewpoint "gives the finger" to the entire concept of the Justice Department being independent of political pressure, you'll note. Again, think of how Republicans would react if a Democrat had expressed such an outrageous opinion.

Sadly, he's not even the stupidest or craziest Republican around. Now we've got even-worse lunatics running for high office. In New Hampshire, a guy who didn't just storm the Capitol on January 6, but actually posted a video of himself chugging a bottle of wine he had just stolen, isn't even aware who he is running to replace. Here's the exchange between Jason Riddle and an NBC reporter, about him entering the race to replace Representative Ann Kuster:

RIDDLE: I thought Ann was a state representative.

Q: No. So, a state rep is in the State House, in Concord.

RIDDLE: Yeah, that's what Ann is!

Q: No, no, no, she's in Washington.

RIDDLE: Oh. Well, I guess I have to run against that, then.

Clueless! And he's not even the craziest! Down in Florida... no surprise, right?... a candidate running for the House of Representatives was recorded threatening one of his opponents, Anna Paulina Luna, with a foreign hit squad. Here are just a few excerpts of what William Braddock had to say to a Luna supporter he was trying to win over:

I really don't want to have to end anybody's life for the good of the people of the United States of America. That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a fucking speed bump in the road. She's a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood....

I have access to a hit squad, too, Ukrainians and Russians. Don't get caught out in public supporting Luna.... Luna's gonna go down and I hope it's by herself.

My polling people are going to charge me $20,000 to do a poll right before the primary. And if the poll says Luna's gonna win, she's gonna be gone. She's gonna disappear. For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few.... For the better or the good of the majority of the people, we've got to sacrifice the few....

I call up my Russian and Ukrainian hit squad, and within 24 hours, they're sending me pictures of her disappearing. No, I'm not joking. Like, this is beyond my control this point.

He even offered up more specifics about the hit squads:

Russian mafia. Close-battle combat, TEC-9s, MAC-10s, silencers kind of thing. No snipers. Up close and personal. So they know that the target has gone.

Braddock now has restraining orders against him, but for some reason has not been arrested yet. And he was bragging about assassinating a fellow Republican.

Have you even heard about this? Has any Democrat expressed the opinion that the entire Republican Party is quickly advancing down a road where political violence -- an incredibly dangerous concept -- is actually no big deal? I certainly haven't heard any Republicans condemning this, have you?

You think this is overstating things? I don't. Marjorie Taylor Greene apparently went too far when she compared having to wear a mask to fight a global pandemic to the Holocaust, so she was forced by her party to go to the Holocaust Museum, where she gave a half-hearted apology (of sorts). But she has not retracted nor apologized for calling the Democratic Party Nazis, and Republicans seem to be fine allowing that one to slide by.

This is dangerous idiocy, folks. This normalization of what used to be considered fringe, tin-foil-hat lunacy is not going to end well unless it is opposed now and doesn't get any further out of control.

You really don't have to look very far in today's Republican Party to find opinions and positions that aren't just rotten to the core, but are downright insanely dangerous. The United States Capitol has already been attacked once. A coup was attempted, in broad daylight, and Republicans refuse to even agree to investigate it. A sitting U.S. president tried to steal an election and he was aided and abetted by far too many in his own party. They are now consumed with rigging all the state-level election laws in their favor so the next time around they will be able to just disregard whatever the voters think and install a Republican president no matter what. Do you think that a House of Representatives run by Kevin McCarthy is going to certify Joe Biden's re-election if he beats Donald Trump once again? I don't.

Again, this is dangerous stuff to even contemplate. And it should provoke outrage. But for some reason, Democrats keep calm and collected and refuse to make a big deal out of any of it.

Democrats can't even do a good job of tooting their own horn on the things they have managed to accomplish. Far too few voters are even aware that the COVID relief bill passed earlier this year was a completely Democratic effort. Far too few realize that the Republican Party voted en masse against those $1,400 relief checks. When checks start arriving in millions of parents' mailboxes this month for the new child tax credit refund, few will realize that those checks didn't get there by magic but because Democrats put them there.

So I ask once again: where are our attack dogs? Where are the prominent Democrats who can get just as wound up as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan over the undermining of democracy that the Republican Party is now in the midst of? Where is the outrage? Where is the indignation? These are not normal times. Normal and calm political discourse is not what is called for here. A little high dudgeon would be nice to see instead. But I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for it, if you know what I mean.

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

Friday Talking Points -- Making America Respected Again

President Biden is currently in Europe, in the midst of his first trip abroad since he took office. So the folks at Pew Research decided it was a good time to see how America is now viewed by the rest of the world (or the countries with advanced economies that were surveyed, at any rate). The answers are exactly what you'd expect them to be -- America's standing in the world has dramatically improved, now that a sane adult is in charge of the country once again (instead of an unstable and temperamental toddler).

Before we get to the numbers, though, a quick summary from Politico captures the feeling perfectly: "When we talk to European diplomats and officials, they all say the same thing -- the Biden presidency is a 'sigh of relief' after the 'near-death experience' of Trump." Of course, European diplomats are not the only ones who feel this way, as tens of millions of Americans have indeed had similar feelings since January. Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries (on a day-to-day basis) of this renewed respect for the United States are the American expatriates living in Europe and elsewhere around the world. No longer will they have to be regularly embarrassed by their own country's president. No longer will they have to hang their heads in shame when their friends ask how America could ever have elected such a buffoon to lead it. No longer will twentysomethings enjoying a Eurail Pass feel the need to sew Canadian flags on their backpacks and add "...eh?" to the end of all their sentences, to put it another way.

First Lady Jill Biden is perhaps the best ambassador of this newfound feeling of goodwill. On the trip with her husband, she wore a jacket with the word "LOVE" prominently emblazoned on the back. Many were quick to compare this sartorial choice to Melania Trump's contemptuous jacket (which she wore while travelling to visit children separated from their parents at the border due to her husband's cruel policy) with the cold-hearted message: "I really don't care, do U?" displayed for all to see. Just to rub in the stark difference even more, Jill Biden released a photo of her poring over a thick briefing book in preparation for the trip, since neither one of the Trumps is exactly a noted reader of important information (and that's putting it mildly). Jill's message couldn't have been clearer, which she even reinforced to reporters: "I think that we're bringing love from America. This is a global conference and we are trying to bring unity across the globe and I think it's needed right now, that people feel a sense of unity from all the countries and feel a sense [of] hope after this year of the pandemic."

No wonder America's standing has improved so dramatically. How dramatically? From that poll:

Trust in the U.S. president fell to historic lows in most countries surveyed during Donald Trump's presidency, according to Pew.

Under [President Joe] Biden, it has soared. In the 12 countries surveyed both this year and last, a median of 75 percent of respondents expressed confidence in Biden to "do the right thing regarding world affairs," Pew found, compared with 17 percent for Trump last year. Sixty-two percent of respondents now have a favorable view of the United States vs. 34 percent at the end of Trump's presidency.

"The election of Joe Biden as president has led to a dramatic shift in America's international image," the Pew report reads.

. . .

The United States' favorability rating grew at least 23 percentage points from last year in France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, and a majority of respondents in all four view the country positively.

Among all 16 publics surveyed this spring, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ranks just ahead of Biden in the percentage of respondents who said they trust the leader's decision-making on world affairs, with a median score of 77 percent. But Biden, with 74 percent, garnered higher rates of confidence than French President Emmanuel Macron, [Vladimir] Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

More Biden/Trump numbers from the raw data, in head-to-head comparisons: 77 percent of people agreed that Joe Biden was "well qualified," while only 16 percent would say this about Trump. And only 14 percent called Biden "dangerous," while a whopping 72 percent applied the label to Trump. The biggest disconnect? Biden was called "arrogant" by only 13 percent of people surveyed, while an astounding 90 percent agreed that Trump was arrogant.

Biden is using "America is back!" as his message for the trip, but he could just as easily have claimed he was "making America respected again." That's probably closer to the truth of the matter.

Biden's message was ostensibly tailored for the Europeans, but it's also a pretty powerful one domestically as well. Before he departed on his trip, he wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post where he touted his own record so far:

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and our domestic vaccination strategy, our economy is now growing faster than at any time in almost 40 years. We have created more jobs in the first four months of our administration than under any other president. Wages are increasing for American workers. And, as America's economic recovery helps to propel the global economy, we will be stronger and more capable when we are flanked by nations that share our values and our vision for the future -- by other democracies.

Also announced right before the trip: 31 million Americans are now covered because of the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act -- another record-setting number.

Unlike Trump, who loved to brag about how superlative his presidency was (usually without anything to back up his empty braggadocio), Biden is already setting impressive records. Which is pretty worthy of respect no matter where in the world you live.

Let's see, what else is going on over on this side of the Atlantic? Right before Biden left for his Europe trip, he formally withdrew from the talks with Senator Shelley Moore Capito over a pie-in-the-sky bipartisan infrastructure bill. Another group of Republicans jumped in, in an attempt to waste even more time hunting the elusive bipartisan unicorn, and they even grandly announced they had a deal. Of course, there was no actual deal, since the two sides have irreconcilable differences over how any of it should be paid for. Republicans want to raise the gas tax while Democrats are adamant that no taxes be raised on anyone making less than $400,000 a year and instead want to tax only people making more than that, as well as giant corporations. This is the circle which cannot be squared in all of this bipartisan Kabuki, and it shows no signs of being resolved at any point. Reportedly, the Democrats are now moving forward on passing Biden's entire economic package using budget reconciliation rules which prohibit the filibuster, so at least they're not sitting around waiting on the non-existent bipartisan fantasy any more.

This is what bipartisanship gets you, in fact -- the Senate just released a report on the January 6th insurrection (which leaves plenty of enormous questions unanswered), but to get the Republicans on the committee to sign on to the report they had to not actually call it an insurrection. This is funny, after all the noise Republicans have been making of late over Democrats insisting on using "woke" inclusive language. It seems Republicans only get "woke" when they have to euphamize an insurrection attempt against Congress, the U. S. Capitol, and American democracy. What snowflakes!

We have two items for the "you just can't make up how stupid Republicans are, at times" files this week. The first was Louie Gohmert proving vying for the "stupidest member of Congress" title (a competition he regularly used to win, but now has to up his game since people like Marjorie Taylor Greene arrived to challenge him). In a hearing, Gohmert asked the supervisor of the National Forest Service the following question:

I understand from what's been testified to, the Forest Service and [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on climate change. I was informed by the past director of NASA that they have found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly, and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun, and we know there's been significant solar flare activity. And so is there anything the National Forest Service or B.L.M. can do to change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, they would have profound effects on our climate.

The astonished official managed not to laugh in Gohmert's face, and instead politely responded: "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert." She deserves a raise or at least a fat bonus for not blurting out: "Holy mackerel, are you really that stupid, Congressman?"

But these days, as we noted, the competition is fierce. Representative Mo Brooks is being sued by Representative Eric Swalwell for his key support for the 1/6 insurrectionists. Everyone else Swalwell is suing has accepted the lawsuit's existence, but Brooks has been doing a hide-and-seek routine for months, to avoid being served with the court papers. So Swalwell's process server served his wife instead. Brooks had a public hissy fit afterwards because apparently the process server walked into the (open) Brooks family garage to serve Mrs. Brooks with the court papers. Brooks tweeted out a photograph of his computer screen (not a screenshot, which was apparently too complicated for a member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems to manage), which was displaying the state criminal code entry on trespassing. The only problem was, Brooks forgot to take down notes taped to his screen which revealed a PIN and what appeared to be his email password. And it took him over 20 hours to realize it and take the photo down. So Gohmert's got all kinds of competition these days!

And we end this week's roundup with two amusing footnotes about what is bugging Biden on his trip to Europe. Literal bugs, in fact. First the press plane accompanying the president was delayed for seven hours after too many cicadas flew into the engines, and then Biden himself was attacked by a rogue cicada on the tarmac. Biden calmly brushed the huge insect off his neck, turned to the reporters and made a joke about it. Or, to put it another way, nothing really bugs Biden all that much -- even actual giant bugs!

We found two minor news items noteworthy this week, but didn't think either one of them rose to the level of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. The first was the news out of Washington state, where the state government officially sanctioned a "Joints For Jabs" program that hands anyone who gets vaccinated on-site a free pre-rolled marijuana cigarette. Of course, we had to write about this one earlier in the week (with our apologies, once again, to Cheech and Chong), just because it was one of those things pretty close to the top of our "certainly never thought we'd live to see this" list: a governmental agency legally passing out free weed. We've come a long way, baby, as the (tobacco) cigarette ads used to say....

The second wasn't even on our list of highly-improbable things, but perhaps should have been. Here's the story, for those who may have missed such important political news this week:

A New Mexico sheriff who is running for mayor of Albuquerque was interrupted while on stage at a campaign event by a flying drone with a sex toy attached to it and a man who punched him.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales' campaign said the Democrat was unharmed and "will not be intimidated."

The Albuquerque Journal reported that a video posted on Facebook shows Gonzales answering questions from the audience while standing on a stage at an events center when the drone bearing the sex toy started buzzing near the stage.

A sheriff's office report said the owner of the event center grabbed the device.

Not exactly impressive, but was certainly worth pointing out, don't you think?

Sex (toys) and drugs aside, though, we do have a rather impressive collective winner of this week's MIDOTW award: the Texas Democratic Party. They are fighting back against the effort to pass Draconian voter-suppression laws in perhaps the best way possible: by putting their money into a massive voter registration drive. What is particularly notable about this effort -- which follows the admirable path Stacey Abrams laid down in Georgia -- is how early they are starting. This is not some last-minute thing a couple months before an election, this is instead much broader and more foundational. The New York Times had the full story:

The Texas Democratic Party and a coalition of allied progressive groups announced a major voter registration program on Tuesday, pledging to focus on registration in racially diverse communities at a time when the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature is vowing to pass a host of new voting restrictions, many of which would disproportionately affect communities of color.

The plan, which aims to register at least one million Democrats out of the state's three million unregistered eligible voters, will be a combination of old-school field operations, mail outreach, digital ads and door-to-door canvassing.

. . .

Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said that the program would most likely cost $13 million to $14 million this year, making it the single biggest investment in voter registration by the state party in its history. And the party is embarking on the effort in an off-year for national elections, an often sleepy time with a disengaged electorate and a recharging political base.

. . .

"We have historically had turnout issues in Texas, particularly with the Latino community, which is a big part of our base," Mr. Hinojosa said.

The program will take a targeted, nearly voter-by-voter approach to registration. If a voter lives in an apartment building and has no phone number on record, the first outreach will probably be an in-person visit or a flyer left by a volunteer with registration information. Younger voters will be targeted with online ads. And a new app called Register Texas (different from a 2020 web tool by the same name) will allow activists to sign in and find canvassing opportunities to register for.

The effort follows the blueprint laid out by Stacey Abrams in Georgia, with Texas Democrats aiming to cover every corner of the state to find voters to register.

"We got clobbered in the rural areas and in West Texas," Mr. Hinojosa said. "So we've got a lot of work to do, but we think we can do it. Because the payoff for the Democratic Party nationally is great. If you're able to take back the State Legislature, put yourself in the position of winning the next U.S. Senate race and also the governor's mansion, then Texas is well on its way to becoming the battleground state that everybody wants it to be."

Republicans are plotting to suppress Democratic votes? Then overwhelm them with so many votes it won't matter. The success Stacey Abrams managed in the two Georgia Senate races did not happen overnight, it was the direct result of years of hard work signing people up to vote. That's what it takes -- a sustained and very broad effort. And that is precisely what Texas Democrats are attempting.

Now, there are those who are pretty cynical about the perennial pipe dream of turning Texas blue, mostly because no matter how high people have gotten their hopes up in the past, it just never seems to materialize (over and over and over again).

But then, that's the way we all used to see Georgia, too. And Virginia, before that. And Arizona. And Colorado. It can work, in states with quickly-changing demographics. So it is not completely out of the question that it could eventually bear fruit in the Lone Star State as well.

For making such a monumental effort to do so -- for putting up an impressive amount of money, and for doing so early -- we have to give a group Most Impressive Democrats Of The Week award to the Democratic Party of Texas. Well done, and we all wish you luck in your effort!

[Congratulate the Texas Democratic Party on their official website, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

There were some things that didn't exactly fill us with glee this week from the Democratic side of the aisle, but we're going to ignore all the minor ones to beat the same drum, once again.

Senator Joe Manchin wrote an opinion piece for a hometown newspaper this week where he explained his newfound love for the filibuster -- a love so deep it is now more important than several of the things he used to care quite a bit about.

His logic (if you can call it that, it's a lot closer to "magical thinking" ) is that protecting voting rights simply must be done in a bipartisan manner -- which totally ignores the fact that one of America's political parties is now fully dedicated to destroying voting rights in as many places as possible. These efforts, where successful, have all passed on strictly partisan lines, which only heightens the irony.

Manchin's piece has many "if I doesn't laugh, I thinks I'm a-gonna cry" lines in it, our favorite being: "our party labels can't prevent us from doing what is right." This, as he argues that doing what is right simply must have the correct party labels attached to it, or else it somehow shouldn't happen. If party labels don't matter, then who cares whether the vote is partisan or not partisan? Caring about this aspect is doing nothing short of making party labels the centerpiece, rather than "doing what's right," which is truly the important thing. This point flies far over Manchin's head, obviously.

Again, Manchin actually admits this within his piece:

Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. Today's debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage. Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won't instill confidence in our democracy -- it will destroy it.

As such, congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.

In other words, the Republicans are allowed to "seek partisan advantage" which will "destroy" our democracy -- but to combat this, a certain amount of Republicans simply must be on board with the effort or else everyone should just sit back and allow the republic to be divided and destroyed because to fight partisanship with partisanship is even worse. Worse than our democracy being destroyed, mind you.

Salon ran a very interesting article which explored what might actually be going on with Manchin, seeing as how he used to actually be for the bills he is now singlehandedly blocking:

Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat famous for his vow to maintain the Senate filibuster and thereby scuttle much of President Biden's agenda, recently published an op-ed opposing the For the People Act, Democrats' whopping voting-rights bill. That article strongly echoed talking points from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- and appeared shortly after the influential pro-business lobby resumed donations to Manchin's campaign after nearly a decade.

Manchin, who co-sponsored the sweeping voting rights legislation in 2019 and has supported filibuster reform in the past, became the first Senate Democrat to oppose the bill this week while reiterating his opposition to changing the filibuster, a key roadblock to voting reform. Skeptical members of Manchin's party have questioned the reasons for his opposition, especially after after a recent poll found that a majority of West Virginia voters support changing the filibuster rules and that 79% of the state's voters -- including a large majority of Republicans -- support the For the People Act.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., suggested that Manchin's opposition to the proposal and filibuster reform may really be about measures in the bill aimed at cracking down on lobbyists and dark money.

That certainly makes a lot more sense than any reasons Manchin has offered up for his change of heart.

The best take on the situation we read this week didn't exactly pull punches in the language used:

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has the right to live in a make-believe wonderland if he so chooses. But his party and his nation will pay a terrible price for his hallucinations about the nature of today's Republican Party. And even this sacrifice might not guarantee that Manchin can hold on to support back home.

Manchin's declaration Sunday that he will vote against sweeping legislation to guarantee voting rights nationwide and that he "will not vote to weaken or eliminate" the Senate filibuster is a huge blow to President Biden's hopes of enacting his ambitious agenda. There's no way to spin this as anything other than awful.

. . .

Manchin did say he supports another proposed House bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would essentially restore provisions of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act forbidding some states to change election laws without obtaining preclearance from the Justice Department. The original preclearance rules were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

But Manchin wants this, too, to win bipartisan support. Unless Manchin changes his position on the filibuster, 10 Republican senators would have to cross the aisle and join with Democrats. So far, there is one -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The other nine must be in some parallel dimension, visible only to Manchin, where all the leprechauns, tooth fairies and unicorns are hiding.

Leprechauns indeed.

Manchin's fellow Democrats were also not exactly pulling punches, either, in their reaction to Manchin's article:

At the heart of their frustration is that Manchin is not asking for policy concessions but that legislation must have bipartisan backing to garner his support. Many Democrats view the idea that there are bipartisan deals to be struck on major parts of the Biden agenda as hopelessly naive, and that anger bubbled over on Sunday.

"Manchin's op-ed might as well be titled, 'Why I'll vote to preserve Jim Crow,'" Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) tweeted.

"We didn't need an op-ed to know you're unwilling to protect our democracy," Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) tweeted.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said his office had reached out to Manchin's several times to discuss how they could move forward but had not heard back.

"Sen. Manchin isn't interested in engaging in a conversation on the filibuster," Bowman said. "He's interested in serving a corporate agenda."

But Manchin did get some praise for his stance this week. From Donald Trump (who conveniently seems to have forgotten how hard he pushed Mitch McConnell to scrap the filibuster rule when he was in office). If the only person who agrees with your political position as a Democrat is Donald J. Trump, then (to state the obvious) perhaps it is time to rethink your position?

For his announcement that easily half of Joe Biden's agenda should now officially be considered dead, this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week was a no-brainer this week. And you can take that "no-brainer" remark any way you wish.

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 622 (6/11/21)

Another mixed bag this week, with a few Donald Trump items thrown in just for fun at the end. As always, enjoy responsibly.

Did I blink and miss it, or what?

Maybe he was trying a new career as a standup comedian? That's the only possible explanation we can think of....

"Mitch McConnell sanctimoniously declared this week that, quote, it's pretty clear the era of bipartisanship is over, unquote. To which I respond: um, excuse me? Mitch? Just when, exactly, did this golden era of bipartisanship begin? Because from what I can remember, Mitch McConnell has been actively destroying any vestige of bipartisanship for over the past decade, at a minimum. This is the same McConnell who forced every single piece of legislation to clear the 60-vote filibuster hurdle, in an unprecedented maximization of partisanship. The same McConnell who turned judicial confirmations into a partisan take-no-prisoners battleground -- remember when he refused to even hold hearings on a Supreme Court justice for a year, and then turned right around and hustled one through in weeks when his own party was in charge? Does anyone else remember that? Because I do. Remember when he swore a vow to do everything in his power to make Barack Obama a one-term president, no matter what that meant for the success of America? OK, that was a while ago, so let's instead remember just last month when he swore a new oath to devoting 'one-hundred percent of our focus... on stopping this new administration.' That's the same Mitch McConnell, right? Who just declared the 'era of bipartisanship' to be over? I'm sorry, Mitch, but I must have blinked and missed it, because if there was any actual era of bipartisanship it must have lasted about a nanosecond -- because for the last decade and more, you have been the absolute world champion at killing any hint of bipartisanship in the Senate stone cold dead. So please, spare us the gaslighting now, will you? Unless you're trying to make us laugh."

Tax the rich

An idea which just gets more and more popular over time.

"There was an exposé published this week which showed how little the wealthiest Americans paid in federal taxes -- a tiny, tiny percentage of what an average blue-collar worker pays. Some of these billionaires actually wound up paying zero income taxes at all in some years, while they went right on amassing fortunes worth billions of dollars. Democrats think this is wrong, and want to make them pay their fair share. They've wanted this for a while now, but now we have actual proof of why this is such an important goal. When a billionaire pays not only a lower tax rate but less absolute dollars in taxes than a nurse or a firefighter, then something is seriously wrong with the system. This is precisely why making billionaires pay a fair share is so wildly popular with the public. Stop the free ride for the one percent!"

Republicans want you to pay more for gas

This one is kind of tricky, because there are a lot of Democrats who think raising the gas tax is a good idea too. But let's make absolutely sure everyone understands who is now proposing it, and what the other option on the table is, because that puts it into some needed perspective.

"Don't believe all those reports you may hear about some sort of 'bipartisan infrastructure deal' being struck between Democratic and Republican senators. While they may be able to agree on how much to spend and what to spend it on, the two sides are as far apart as ever on how to pay for it all. Which brings up a big point the Republicans really don't want you to know. Democrats -- led by Joe Biden -- have insisted that taxes will not be raised on people making less than $400,000 per year. Democrats want to tax big business and the ultrawealthy to pay for infrastructure improvements. Republicans, on the other hand, have drawn a red line and say they simply cannot vote for increasing taxes one penny on billionaires or gigantic corporations. Instead, they want you to pay for the whole thing. They want to raise the tax on gasoline that we all pay at the pump. Of all the possible ways to raise money, that's the one they chose -- making you pay more for gas. Democrats are against this because it would hit the poorest drivers the hardest. Instead, Democrats want the wealthiest to pay more taxes, not the poorest. That's the difference between the two sides, and it doesn't seem to me to be a difference that either side is willing to budge on, no matter how they may promise they've got a deal. I'll believe it right after I see 60 senators vote for it, in other words."

Tax the rich, help American families

Democrats really need to stop allowing Republicans to even use this word with a straight face.

"Everyone calls Donald Trump a 'populist' and says that the Republican Party has somehow realigned itself to be a populist party now. This is utter hogwash. Republicans are the ones fighting hardest for the richest among us and they want to stick it to the average American family every chance they get. A study just out proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt. If Joe Biden's economic plans were enacted into law, it would dramatically hike taxes on only the tippy-top of the income scale, while it would cut thousands in taxes from the average American family -- especially those families with children. That is true economic populism, folks. Helping the little guy and making the fatcats pay. What could be more populist than that? And not a single Republican is for the idea, which only goes to prove they're about as far from real populism as you can get, ideologically. The GOP is the party of the elite, just as they've always been. Democrats are the true economic populists, and if the Biden agenda is passed we will prove it to every American family in the nation."

Wrong yardstick

Please point this out with every chance you get, because so many people are drawing erroneous conclusions from meaningless data.

"When you hear economic numbers for approximately the next year's time, please take them with a grain of salt. Because the normal way of measuring progress simply does not work right now. In normal times, one month's figures would be compared to the same month from the previous year. This would show the change, over time. But let's everyone please remember where we were one year ago -- in the grips of a pandemic, a lockdown, and the economic crisis it caused. Obviously, those numbers are pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things, when you're trying to measure inflation or any other economic marker. To get an accurate picture, you need to go back two years, and treat 2020 as the aberration it really was. Is inflation up last month from the same month in 2019? No, it really isn't. So stop fearmongering about the change since 2020, since it is the equivalent of Noah measuring how rainfall patterns have changed exactly one year after the Flood. It just makes no sense at all, in terms of understanding what is truly going on."

Trump's lies keeping insurrectionists in jail

The irony is so thick with this one you can cut it with a knife.

"Many of the people charged with participating in the January sixth insurrection against Congress are now trying to convince judges to let them out before their trial dates, rather than having to stay in jail. They are arguing that it was a one-time event that is not likely to be repeated in the future. But many judges are denying these motions for a rather astonishing reason -- because Donald Trump won't shut up about his Big Lie. Because Trump is out there still fanning the flames of revolt and refusing to accept the incontrovertible fact that he lost the election, the judges have decided that similar insurrectionist attempts are clearly possible in the near future. What this means is that these people probably would have been given the benefit of the doubt and let out before their trials but Trump himself is essentially keeping them locked up. The irony would be pretty amusing if this weren't such a serious subject."

Definitely on fire, that's for sure

Poor, poor, pitiful Trump.

"Donald Trump gave his first public speech in months last weekend, and it was the usual rant about his Big Lie and all his mountain of grievances against anyone who has ever said a bad word about him. In fact, it was a lot lower-energy than usual, for Trump. He barely raised his voice, which you've got to admit was pretty un-Trumpian. He looked downright sleepy, in fact. But that's not what anyone was talking about the next day, because the internet was consumed with the question of whether Trump had actually put his pants on backwards or not before his speech. And whether he was actually wearing an adult diaper or had just gained a whole lot more weight. Now, there were disagreements on both these points, but the one thing that everyone could agree on was while Trump's pants may or may not have been on backwards, as usual, his pants were definitely on fire throughout his entire speech."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Bipartisan Kabuki's Last Act

The ushers are flashing the lights in the lobby. Intermission is over, and the last act of the "Bipartisan Infrastructure Kabuki" extravaganza is about to begin. Actually, truth be told, we were among those who thought this play would be over by now, but apparently a final act was hastily added at the last minute, for no real apparent reason.

President Joe Biden called Senator Shelley Moore Caputo today, in what most view as the final negotiation attempt which will try to hammer together a compromise infrastructure package that 10 Republican senators will actually vote for. Biden is, in essence, making his final offer. It is eminently reasonable, considering where the two sides started from, but that doesn't mean it will have any chance of success, since Republicans are really just trying to run the clock out and stall for as long as they can get away with before they admit to the world that there simply is no infrastructure bill that 10 Republican senators are ever going to vote for -- at least not while a Democrat sits in the Oval Office.

President Joe Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan in March, right after the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act. His opening bid was $2.3 trillion in new spending, all of which were solid investments in America's future. Republicans immediately insisted that they would vote for nothing they didn't include in their particular definition of "infrastructure," which equated to: "Can you drive your car on it, or not?" Sadly, this is not an exaggeration, although they later did relent a tiny bit on a few things that cars cannot actually drive upon.

Republicans took an entire month to come up with a counteroffer, which they touted as a $568 billion plan, but which actually contained less than $200 billion in new spending. Biden then dropped his offer by a half-trillion dollars, down to $1.7 trillion. Republicans countered with what they called a $928 billion plan, which actually only contained $257 billion in new spending. Again: all of Biden's proposals have been 100 percent new spending.

Originally, Memorial Day was supposed to be the end date for this process -- that's when Biden had said if he didn't see substantial progress, he was just going to walk away and pass his plan using budget reconciliation rules (which avoid the filibuster in the Senate). But he extended his timeline -- a clear victory for the GOP, which is only truly interested in stalling this exercise in futility for as long as humanly possible.

This week, Biden invited Senator Shelley Moore Caputo to a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office. She has become the chief GOP negotiator, which means that for once West Virginia's two senators jointly hold the fate of a presidential agenda in their hands. But more on Joe Manchin in a minute.

All along, Republicans have said that touching any part of their latest tax cut (passed with an entirely partisan vote, mind you) was a red line they would not cross. They wanted unspecified "user fees" (read: increased gas taxes) and a new tax on electric vehicle drivers (most of whom are assumably liberals) to pay for everything instead. Biden countered with a new idea that fell outside the Trump tax cut -- a new "global corporate minimum" tax of 15 percent, to ensure that American corporations pay at least something in taxes (55 of the largest U.S. corporations didn't pay a dime of taxes last year). And Biden insisted on two things: the plan had to be at least $1 trillion, and that meant $1 trillion in new spending -- no more gimmicks, in other words.

From a bargaining viewpoint, Republicans could conceivably chalk this up as a victory. Biden has come down more than half from his initial $2.3 trillion offer, while they would have only risen from zero to $1 trillion. Also, Biden was being entirely reasonable by splitting the remaining difference -- he would come down from $1.7 to $1.0 trillion, while Republicans would move up by roughly the same amount, from $257 billion. That's fair. This is reportedly what was in Biden's offer to the Republicans today.

However realistic though it may be, it is still completely unrealistic to think that such a number could be agreeable to any Republican senator, much less 10 of them. After all, that is four times as high as they have previously indicated they could go, and it would mean voting for a brand new corporate tax, which is anathema to Republicans in general. So there is every expectation that the Republicans will reject this offer.

The only remaining question is whether they will walk away from the table entirely or make some laughable counteroffer that Biden will then reject. Either way, though, the clock is ticking and if no deal is in hand on Monday, Democrats are going to immediately begin moving on "Plan B" -- passing all (or the lion's share, at least) of Biden's initial $2.3 trillion plan by reconciliation. Their only worry at this point will be what Joe Manchin will demand at the last minute, as he gets his name in the news once again.

Whatever happens, though, hopefully the curtain will fall on this Kabuki theater and we can all pretend it was done in good faith, so that Manchin can be comfortable voting for the bill using reconciliation. Unlike many other of Biden's priorities, this will not require reforming the filibuster rules at all, so it should be an easier sell with Manchin. But then, you just never know, with him.

Republicans will be able to pat themselves on the back for wasting, at a minimum, almost three months of Biden's term. They will not have one a single concession, they will have zero input into the bill, and their opposition votes will not block passage of the bill at all. So the wastage of time is their only consolation prize, but seeing as how it is precisely what they were aiming for all along, they'll still see the whole thing as worthwhile.

As long as Biden doesn't try to slip the deadline again, of course. This is still a danger -- there might be one more act of Kabuki to sit through, in other words.

Perhaps not, though. Joe Manchin isn't the only Democrat in the Senate, and the progressive wing is getting more and more fed up with all this delay just to assuage one man's insane fantasy that bipartisanship is somehow even possible in today's Senate. Manchin was reportedly shocked that the January 6th commission investigation didn't get enough bipartisan support to pass, and Chuck Schumer has lined up a whole roster of Democratic bills for the Senate to vote on in June -- none of which are expected to beat the filibuster -- just to prove to Manchin and a few others (notably Kyrsten Sinema) how futile it is to expect any sort of normal behavior from today's Trumpified Republican Party.

Even Biden himself is getting a little annoyed. In the midst of a very moving speech on race and how America is in a fight for democracy right now, Biden addressed both Manchin and Sinema (although not by name):

I hear all the folks on TV saying: "Why didn't Biden get this done?" Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.

This wasn't entirely true, about their actual voting patterns, but it was a clear message nonetheless -- Biden's patience is not endless. And his frustration is growing. He is not alone, in that. No Democrat in the audience other than Manchin even wanted to see this final Kabuki act, after all. But here we are, waiting for it to begin.

President Biden has been getting a few things done in the meantime. His Tulsa Race Massacre speech was historic (he was the first president to visit for the anniversary, 100 years after it happened) and it showed a renewed sense of purpose on the issue of voting rights, where state-level Republicans continue to pass laws designed not only to suppress Democratic votes, but also to allow for partisan hacks to declare elections null and void after the fact as well. This is no less than a direct assault on American democracy, so it was good to hear Biden giving the issue the prominence it deserves. He also announced Vice President Kamala Harris will be taking the lead on passing federal laws that will rein in the worst of the state-level excesses Republicans are now so busy enacting. This effort will, in essence, boil down to convincing Sinema and Manchin to change the filibuster rules to allow for questions of constitutional rights to be passed with a simple majority vote, so it is unclear what the chances of it succeeding actually are, at this point.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans continue their descent into madness. Think that's overstating the case? We don't. And we're not the only ones:

A conservative writer has confirmed a report that former President Donald Trump is telling associates that he expects to be reinstalled as president this summer.

"The scale of Trump's delusion is quite startling," National Review senior writer Charles C.S. Cooke wrote on the magazine's website.

. . .

But Cooke went even further, saying Trump not only believes he'll be put back into the Oval Office but also that he will be gifted with a Republican majority in the Senate, believing that two Democrats will be booted from Congress and replaced by the GOP candidates they defeated.

He cautioned conservatives against downplaying or dismissing the report.

"This is not merely an eccentric interpretation of the facts or an interesting foible, nor is it an irrelevant example of anguished post-presidency chatter," he wrote. "It is a rejection of reality, a rejection of law, and, ultimately, a rejection of the entire system of American government."

Trump, he wrote, is "so unmoored from the real world that it is hard to know where to begin in attempting to explain him."

Some of us have thought that for a while, now. And it's not just Trump, either. Former lieutenant general and confessed felon Michael Flynn was asked, at a QAnon conspiracy convention this week: "I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can't happen here?" by a member of the audience who pronounced the country's name "Minnimar."

Flynn's answer? "No reason. I mean, it should happen. There's no reason."

Calls for the Pentagon to court martial Flynn to strip him of his pension went unheeded. Perhaps because he is not the only military official who seems to have gone around the bend these days -- so much so that the possibility of a military coup right here at home in the U.S.A. is now a tangible thing to be feared.

As we said: a descent into madness.

In Arizona, the continuing saga of having Looney Tunes characters conduct an election "audit" creeps forward once again, prompting the secretary of state (a Democrat) to set up a site where she posts all the disturbing things official observers have witnessed during the past few weeks of this circus, while the official county recorder (a Republican) of the county in question felt the need to write a piece for the conservative National Review entitled: "The Madness Of The Maricopa County Election Audit." In it, he asks the reader to think about being audited by the I.R.S.:

For that reason, even though an IRS audit might annoy you and cause you some stress, you'd eventually realize that you have nothing to fear as long as the audit is done fairly and properly.

But you'd likely feel differently if the IRS outsourced the audit to someone who:

  • Had no applicable professional credentials

  • Had never previously run a tax audit

  • Believed that Hugo Chavez had nefariously controlled your tax-auditing software

  • Had publicly stated prior to examining your taxes that you’d certainly committed tax fraud

That is what is happening to elections in Maricopa County, Ariz. -- the home of almost two-thirds of Arizona's voting population.

He then goes on to document the idiocy that is currently underway in his own county. He ends with a scathing denunciation of the company conducting the "audit."

Perhaps I could have celebrated another confidence-boosting audit if it had been run by a professional elections firm like Clear Ballot. Or else a top-notch auditor like Deloitte.

But Cyber Ninjas? I'm not going to believe a darn thing they say. And I'm a Republican who voted for Trump.

OK, just a few random items left and then we'll move on to the awards. Trump's stupendous blog -- announced with much hoopla and fanfare one month ago -- just turned out the lights this week. It lasted all of 29 days (as many pointed out, this is not even three Scaramuccis!). But a special award for snarkiness goes to HuffPost, who ended their report on the blog's demise with some salient facts:

"From the Desk of Donald J. Trump" was preceded in death by Trump Airlines, Trump beverages, Trump: The Game, numerous Trump casinos, Trump magazine, Trump Mortgage, Trump Steaks, a Trump travel website, Trump telecom, Trump University, and Trump Vodka.

Late-breaking news, as well: Trump will remain banned from Facebook for at least two years. Whew!

Speaking of snark, or social commentary, or whatever you want to call it, we had to smile at the Florida punk rock promoter (for a night headlined by Teenage Bottlerocket, which we have to admit is a great band name!) who decided to make his own statement on vaccination by selling tickets to the show for $999.99 -- but with a discount price of only $18, available only if you can prove you've been vaccinated. Nicely done.

And finally, within a few days there will be an official report released by the federal government on the question of unidentified flying objects, which should certainly cause a media splash. Some already have the main scoop: the report essentially concludes "maybe... maybe not," by not ruling out extraterrestrials as the cause of some of these phenomena. So there's that for us all to look forward to!

We would like to award Melanie Stansbury an Honorable Mention this week, for winning a special House election in New Mexico. Stansbury will now represent Deb Haaland's old district, after Haaland was elevated to Biden's cabinet. It's a Democratic district, so the win itself wasn't particularly impressive, but the margin was.

Some were a bit nervous about this election, even though Biden won the district handily too. The Republican in the race tried to make the whole contest one of law-and-order Republicans versus defund-the-police Democrats. It didn't work. Stansbury fought back by stating her actual views and ran ads with cops telling the voters how much she had supported the police in the past.

The Cook Political Report was warning that a victory for Stansbury was likely, but if the margin was 10 points or less, it would mean dire things for Democrats in the 2022 midterms.

Stansbury won by almost 25 points. Well done, and welcome to the House of Representatives, Melanie Stansbury!

But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award is a group one this week, since the choice was obvious. Last Sunday night, the Democratic delegation in the lower house of the Texas legislature just stood up and walked out. By doing so, they denied the Republicans a quorum, meaning their Draconian voter-suppression bill could not pass, since the legislative session turned into a pumpkin at midnight.

Here's the story:

Texas Democrats staged a dramatic walkout in the state House late Sunday night to block passage of a restrictive voting bill that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, forcing Republicans to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote on the measure.

The surprise move came after impassioned late-night debate and procedural objections about the GOP-backed legislation, which would have made it harder to vote by mail, empowered partisan poll watchers and made it easier to overturn election results. Republicans faced a midnight deadline to approve the measure.

. . .

The exodus from the floor came after Chris Turner, the House Democratic chairman, sent instructions to colleagues at 10:35 p.m. Central time instructing them to exit the House, according to an image shared with The Washington Post.

"Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly," Turner wrote, referring to the key that locks the voting mechanism on their desks. "Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building."

"We decided to come together and say we weren't going to take it," state Rep. Jessica González (D) said in an interview after the walkout, adding that she objected to the measure's content and the way it was crafted with no input from her side of the aisle. "We needed to be part of the process. Cutting us out completely -- I mean, this law will affect every single voter in Texas."

. . .

In a statement, Turner said that dozens of House Democrats were prepared to give speeches objecting to the bill, but that "it became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their vote suppression legislation. At that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote."

After the walkout, House Democrats assembled at a predominantly Black church in Austin, Mt. Zion Fellowship Hall, to speak to reporters. Staff members said leaders chose the location to highlight the party's successful fight against a bill they said would have targeted voters of color in particular.

"We remain vigilant against any attempt to bring back this racist bill in a special session," Sarah Labowitz, policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.

They were brave for doing so, and making it so dramatic (nice touch, giving media interviews from the church), but they know that in the end their effort may be doomed to failure (the governor has already called for a special session of the legislature, and he's now threatening to veto the part of the budget that authorizes pay for the legislators). So they issued a rather pointed warning as well:

"Every American needs to be watching what's happening in Texas right now," Rep. Colin Allred (D-Tex.) said Sunday at a news conference. "And we have to have a federal response to this because this has gone way too far."

"This isn't legislation," he added. "This is discrimination."

Democrats urged Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation, which has been stalled in the U.S. Senate.

"This is a now-or-never moment in American democracy," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said, adding: "If we don't act now, then our democracy is not going to look the same either in 2022 or 2024."

Some were even more direct in their pleas to national Democrats to do something:

Martinez Fischer, who also helped lead the weekend walkout, said he hoped their protest would "wake the nation up," and called on the Senate to move on H.R. 1.

"It's important for Leader Schumer and leaders in the Senate to understand just where we are -- at a crossroads in America," he said. "I recognize that there are certain senators that believe that eliminating the filibuster is tantamount to destroying our country. And my only response to that is that there are people who want to destroy our country state by state, and we have to recognize that and that there is a greater good."

So while it may only be temporary, for now these brave Democrats succeeded in stopping the grand Republican plan to make elections partisan (and Republican) in as many places as they can. Doing so easily earns them the thanks of the rest of the nation and our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award as well.

[Congratulate these Texas Democrats on their official contact pages, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

We admit we've given Joe Manchin quite a few Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards of late, so we're going to give this week's MDDOTW to Senator Kyrsten Sinema, just so she doesn't feel left out or anything.

Sinema gave an interview this week where she doubled down on her support of the filibuster (which may be what prompted one of her biggest political supporters to disgree so strongly with her on the subject, later in the week). Sinema does not, to put it mildly, have the facts or history on her side in the fantastical arguments she makes:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is sparking a new round of progressive fury with her defense this week of the legislative filibuster.

Sinema, speaking to reporters alongside GOP Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) in Arizona, indicated that she hadn't shifted from her opposition to changing the Senate's rules, arguing that it "protects the democracy of our nation rather than allowing our country to ricochet wildly every two to four years."

"To those who say that we must make a choice between the filibuster and 'X,' I say, this is a false choice. The reality is that when you have a system that is not working effectively -- and I would think that most would agree that the Senate is not a particularly well-oiled machine, right? The way to fix that is to fix your behavior, not to eliminate the rules or change the rules, but to change the behavior," Sinema said.

She added that she thought the filibuster was designed to "create comity and to encourage senators to find bipartisanship and work together." When a reporter followed up on if Sinema was going to budge on the filibuster, she added: "No."

The filibuster never "protected the democracy of our nation," period. It protects the ability of a few to thwart democracy, in fact. Her suggested "fix your behavior" is just downright delusional. What 10 Republicans does she think are ever going to "fix their behavior" on anything Democrats are for? Democrats could introduce a bill declaring that the sky is blue, and at least 41 Republicans would vote against it just because they could. It simply is not possible, which is why we used the word "fantastical." The filibuster was never about "comity" or bipartisanship. It has always been a partisan tool, period.

So for getting her facts and her history wrong, and for not coming up with any better defense of the indefensible, Kyrsten Sinema is this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

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

Volume 621 (6/4/21)

There's no cohesive theme to today's talking points, rather just a few little themelets. Enjoy, as always, and please use responsibly.

Forward, or backward? Make up your mind....

These first few of these are in reaction to last week's successful Republican filibuster of the January 6th commission bill, which would have opened a nonpartisan investigation into the insurrection and all its causes.

"So let me get this straight -- Republicans in the Senate, who never met a Benghazi investigation they didn't love no matter how many of them were launched, are now telling us we should 'move on' and 'look to the future' rather than closely examine what led up to an insurrection which besieged the United States Capitol and interfered with the formal process of electing a president. We're just supposed to sweep the most serious attack on the seat of American government since 1814 under the rug? Without knowing what the commander in chief was ordering the Pentagon to do -- or, more likely, not do -- that day? And yet, for all this talk of 'moving on' and the future, the Republicans are also supporting a months-long so-called 'audit' of one Arizona county's ballots from the 2020 election. Where's their 'move on' spirit when it comes to that one, and all the others around the country? We've got to hire some absolute yahoos who have never done any election-auditing work in the past to determine whether the ballot paper has bamboo particles in it? Are they serious? Sounds like somebody's getting bamboozled, that much is pretty plain."

Not backing the blue

The mother and longtime partner of Capitol Police offer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after defending the Capitol against the insurrectionists, had a few things to say about Republican senators who refused to vote for the commission. Sandra Garza, who had been with Sicknick for 11 years, was particularly scathing about these Republicans:

It's all talk and no action.... Clearly they're not backing the blue.... For them to vote "no" -- it's not protecting law enforcement, and more importantly, it's not protecting our democracy.... I think they just don't want to do the right thing.

Stop the real steal now!

If Democrats were smart, they'd turn Trump's new favorite phrase around and use it against all the anti-democratic GOP plotting going on at the state level.

"Donald Trump's Big Lie is that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him. Ever since he's been using the slogan 'Stop the steal!' to describe a free and fair election that was not, in fact, stolen from him. But all the laws Republicans are passing in red and purple states right now all have one real underlying intent -- to make it easier for Republicans to steal the next election, or any election they don't like the results of, really. They are changing their elections systems from ones run by dedicated professionals to ones controlled by their own party hacks. They are doing this for a purpose and that purpose is to make it harder for true democracy to prevail in future elections. So I would tell all Democrats and all Americans who care about the sanctity of fair elections to join with me in demanding: Stop the real steal -- because it is coming if we don't."

Save the filibuster or save democracy

This is crafted for an audience of two, obviously.

"Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have both been adamant about their support for the filibuster, proclaiming -- against all evidence -- that it somehow fosters bipartisanship and democracy. What it favors, in fact, is something Alexis de Tocqueville never dreamed about in his wildest nightmare -- the tyranny of the minority. This summer, Democrats have a clear choice. They can move their agenda for America's future forward or they can see all their bold ideas wither on the vine, as Mitch McConnell kills them one by one. If the filibuster is allowed to remain unchanged, then Democrats will have precious few legislative accomplishments to tell the voters about on the campaign trail, and they may wind up in the minority in Congress as a direct result. But far worse than just losing partisan control is what will happen if none of the voting rights bills make it to Biden's desk -- we could be looking at the end of the American democratic experiment as we slide into the dark swamp of fascism, White supremacy, and might-makes-right. Sinema and Manchin have a clear choice: they can save the filibuster, or they can save democracy. But they won't be able to do both, and the day they are going to have to make this choice is coming soon."

Our democracy is fundamentally at stake

Think that last one was overstated? We don't. In fact, over 100 scholars from some of the nation's most-prominent universities just released a letter this week, which lays out the stakes and then identifies the problem, in no uncertain terms. This excerpt is a little long to be an actual talking point, but any Democratic politician worth his or her salt should be able to pick a few key lines from this to quote. We are providing the beginning and end of this letter (which is well worth the time to read in full), as a public service:

Democracy rests on certain elemental institutional and normative conditions. Elections must be neutrally and fairly administered. They must be free of manipulation. Every citizen who is qualified must have an equal right to vote, unhindered by obstruction. And when they lose elections, political parties and their candidates and supporters must be willing to accept defeat and acknowledge the legitimacy of the outcome. The refusal of prominent Republicans to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, and the anti-democratic laws adopted (or approaching adoption) in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas -- and under serious consideration in other Republican-controlled states -- violate these principles. More profoundly, these actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy. As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

The most effective remedy for these anti-democratic laws at the state level is federal action to protect equal access of all citizens to the ballot and to guarantee free and fair elections. Just as it ultimately took federal voting rights law to put an end to state-led voter suppression laws throughout the South, so federal law must once again ensure that American citizens' voting rights do not depend on which party or faction happens to be dominant in their state legislature, and that votes are cast and counted equally, regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which a citizen happens to live. This is widely recognized as a fundamental principle of electoral integrity in democracies around the world.

. . .

It is always far better for major democracy reforms to be bipartisan, to give change the broadest possible legitimacy. However, in the current hyper-polarized political context such broad bipartisan support is sadly lacking. Elected Republican leaders have had numerous opportunities to repudiate Trump and his "Stop the Steal" crusade, which led to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Each time, they have sidestepped the truth and enabled the lie to spread.

We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary -- including suspending the filibuster -- in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

Fighting for corporations to pay zero taxes

Biden brilliantly put the Republicans in a box with his most-recent offer. So Democrats should exploit it for all it is worth, the minute they turn down his offer.

"The Republican senators negotiating for a bipartisan infrastructure bill rejected Biden's first way of paying for the plan, which would have raised the corporate tax rate. They said they couldn't change the tax cut they passed a few years back, it was a red line for them. So Biden came up with a new way to pay for things -- a 15 percent 'global minimum' tax on corporations who use offshore post office boxes as addresses so they can avoid paying any tax to the United States. This is a very real problem -- 55 of the nation's biggest corporations paid zero taxes at all to the federal government last year. And it is no surprise because this happens each and every year. Biden is proposing a tax that forces them to pay their fair share. Republicans rejected it. Which means that Republicans are fighting hard for corporations like Amazon to pay zero taxes at all. There is just no other way to put it. They try to fool everyone into thinking they are somehow now some sort of populist party, but the truth is pretty plain to see. This is what they really stand for -- zero corporate taxes at all."

Please explain how this could be anti-fraud

Hit Republicans hard on the specifics of all these laws they are busily passing to change our election system into a complete partisan mess.

"So Republicans say that all their voter-suppression laws are all somehow targeting some mythical fraud that nobody's ever seen any proof of outside the deranged brain of their Dear Leader. That's the reason they cite, over and over again -- we've got to make elections safer, they tell us. So I would like them to explain how making it illegal for counties in Texas to hold early voting on Sunday mornings, while still allowing early voting on the same day, just after one o'clock in the afternoon. How does that fight fraud? How is a vote at the same polling place using the same method by the same person change from suspicious and possibly fraudulent to completely acceptable, depending on where the sun is in the sky? How is a vote cast at two in the afternoon somehow to be trusted when the same vote at ten in the morning is somehow suspect? Please, any Republicans who would care to, I'd like to hear the explanation for this. But I'm not exactly holding my breath, if you know what I mean."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
Posted by ChrisWeigant | Fri Jun 4, 2021, 08:57 PM (1 replies)

Friday Talking Points -- The Party With No Shame

The Republican Party continued its downward slide into shamelessness today, as they successfully used the Senate's filibuster to block a bill which would have created an independent commission to investigate the unprecedented attack on the United States Capitol (by insurrectionists who wanted to stop Congress from officially declaring the winner of the presidential election, because they didn't like the election's result). Six Republicans voted for the measure, and one more has said he would have if he had been present. Forty-eight Democrats voted for it, and assumably the two who were absent (Patty Murray and Kyrsten Sinema) would also have voted to approve the measure. But that only adds up to a possible total of 57, which still would have left the bill three votes short of the necessary 60. An odd footnote: the final vote (54-35) actually represented 60.7 percent of the senators who were actually present for it -- but that's not the way the filibuster rules work.

Republicans aren't even pretending to hide their real reasoning any more, that's the peak (nadir?) of shamelessness they have now achieved. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski made news as she begged her fellow Republicans to support the measure:

To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on January 6th, I think we need to look at that critically.... I think it's important for the country that there be an independent evaluation. Is that really what this is about, is everything is just one election cycle after another?

But Mitch McConnell had already answered that with a resounding: "Of course it is!" by arguing against the commission this week in a closed-door meeting of his caucus (which Murkowski presumably attended), telling his fellow Republicans that voting for a commission could hurt them in the midterm election cycle. That is the sole reason McConnell is not interested in investigating the worst attack on the seat of American government since 1814. He was just fine with Benghazi investigation after Benghazi investigation, because they were designed to do political damage to Hillary Clinton, but he knows that if the truth about Donald Trump's actions that day are ever fully exposed, it will hurt his party's brand. One of Republicans' biggest fears with the commission is that it would not meet the set deadline of preparing their final report by the end of this calendar year. If it went into 2022, it could impact the midterm election. And we certainly can't have that, as far as Mitch is concerned.

So instead, what is almost certainly going to happen now is that Nancy Pelosi will put together a select committee in the House, which will be as partisan as the Democrats feel like making it. This committee will not have an artificial timetable imposed on it, and it will not have the features of the proposed independent commission (which was modelled on the 9/11 commission, to ensure fairness). It will be completely and utterly run by Democrats, since they hold the majority in the chamber. The investigation is going to take place, in other words, it's just going to be a lot more partisan now that Republicans have walked away from the idea of a bipartisan and independent commission. To put it another way, Republicans may have just successfully shot themselves in the foot.

This isn't too surprising when you realize how far the party has gone down the rabbit hole these days. This is a conscious choice for most Republican politicians, because they are terrified at the sheer (and growing) lunacy of their own base voters -- a majority of whom firmly believe Trump's Big Lie that the election was somehow stolen from him. Fealty to Trump is now the sole tenet of the Republican faith.

Consider the following: Arizona's state government is about to pass a law that strips the ability of one elected official to defend election practices in court and hands it to a different elected official. This law is temporary and only applies to the term of office both will serve out. The reason? One is a Democrat and one is a Republican. You can guess which is which.

In Nevada, the state Republican Party just voted to censure one of its own for her refusal to feed the Big Lie. This is a fairly common occurrence, these days, among state-level Republicans, but this one was notable because they packed the committee vote with members of the Proud Boys, in order to pass the censure. The Proud Boys advocate political violence and White supremacy, so the Republicans are now officially welcoming terrorists not only into its ranks but into its party power structure.

Republican voters are embracing increasingly-bizarre conspiracy theories, aided and abetted by the right-wing media. And some conspiracy theorists have already been elected to Congress and continue to make bizarre pronouncements, as Marjorie "Three-Names" Taylor Greene did this week, on the subject of masks and vaccinations against a global pandemic:

You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.

Later, she doubled down on this outrageous idiocy, tweeting: "Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi's [sic] forced Jewish people to wear a gold star." And, when challenged, she responded: "I stand by all of my statements, I said nothing wrong." This is the same woman who, earlier, explored creating a caucus based on "Anglo-Saxon political traditions," please remember.

This is today's Republican Party. The House leadership is so terrified of the rabid nature of their own base that they refuse to punish members who compare having to wear a mask or prove vaccination status with the Holocaust. The party itself has been radicalized from within, and the only ones with the power to stop it are cowering in fear instead of standing up for what is right. Extremists run the show, and everybody else is trapped in a bunker mentality where they have abdicated any moral or political power to the crazies.

Greene raised $3.2 million for her re-election fund in just the first quarter of this year alone -- an outrageously-high amount for a House freshman (or for any House member, period). This is where the power now lies, within the Republican Party, and the "leaders" know it full well.

Meanwhile, suspected underage-sex-trafficker Matt Gaetz, who is travelling with Marjorie Three-Names (in their "Craziest of the Crazy" tour of America), just said this:

The internet's hall monitors out in Silicon Valley, they think they can suppress us, discourage us -- maybe if you're just a little less patriotic, maybe if you just conform to their way of thinking a little more, you'll be allowed to participate in the digital world. Well, you know what? Silicon Valley can't cancel this movement or this rally or this congressman. We have a Second Amendment in this country, and I think we have an obligation to use it.

Gaetz made this literal call to arms -- an encouragement to his followers to just go out to Silicon Valley and gun people down -- the day after a horrific mass shooting in San Jose, California (right in the heart of Silicon Valley). The Republican Party's shamelessness just knows no boundaries, folks. Neither Gaetz nor Greene face any punishment for their outrageous behavior as of this writing, and it's a pretty safe bet neither will face any punishment (at the hands of their fellow Republicans, at the least) in the future.

Another part of the growing GOP insanity seems to be feeding what can only be called the "Big Lie Industrial Complex." The three-ring circus of a ballot "audit" in Arizona looks like it will be adopted elsewhere (although other states may take precautions to avoid the worst idiocies of the Arizona fiasco). Georgia and Wisconsin seem like they'll be next. There is zero chance that any of these will overturn anything (Joe Biden is going to stay president no matter what, in other words), but they do successfully siphon money into the "fake vote auditing" industry (which was created specifically for this purpose, it's worth pointing out).

When Republicans like Liz Cheney tie themselves into knots to explain why they fight against Trump's Big Lie, but still support all the voter suppression laws Republicans are passing in state after state, they usually only want to talk about voter ID. But that's not the bulk of these new laws at all:

In Michigan, a voter transportation law bars "anyone from hiring transportation for bringing voters to the polls unless the voters are physically unable to walk." This has nothing to do with security at all. It allows rich people to call an Uber to go to a polling location, but it would bar churches from hosting "souls to the polls" events, a common turn-out-the-vote practice used by African American communities. This is straight voter suppression aimed at the poor, the elderly and African Americans.

Georgia and Florida have both banned the distribution of water or food to anyone waiting in line to vote (though they still allow poll workers to provide these items). Again, this does nothing to make voting more secure; it makes it more arduous, especially in African American-majority precincts where wait times are longer than in whiter precincts. Democracy Docket found that "every single county in the Atlanta metro area saw an average wait time of 45 minutes or more, meaning the region as a whole saw some of the longest wait times in the state. The most densely populated and majority Black region of the state was also where it was hardest to vote early in 2020."

Meanwhile, nearly three dozen bills seek to limit early voting, some of which are aimed squarely at African American communities. Democracy Docket reports:

Texas's HB 2293 would restrict early voting to between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. -- a deliberate attack on the 24-hour early voting sites set up by Harris County in 2020 that led to record turnout and expanded ballot access for people who worked long daytime hours and could not get time off.

Once again, this has nothing to do with voter IDs (it's in-person voting!) and does not make voting any more secure. It is about making it more difficult for certain people (mostly hourly employees and many with child-care issues) to vote.

Or, in other words, making it harder for Democrats to vote. Because the Republican Party is now shamelessly trying to stack the deck in their favor.

This all means 2020 was nothing more than a dry run, to them. If Republicans formed a 1/6 commission, it would be to investigate why the insurrection didn't succeed and make recommendations to do a better job overturning election results in the future. This is not hyperbole -- this is what is actually happening in America, right now.

Mitch McConnell threw his own political heft behind the effort to stop the independent commission from being formed. He tried to paint it all as some partisan effort, even though the bill was co-written by a Republican and had already had 35 House Republicans vote for it. In other words, Mitch just shamelessly lied about it, to justify killing it. But that has never bothered him, and it certainly doesn't now, in this dawning new era of Republican shamelessness.

The only remaining question is what Democrats are going to do about it all.

We don't really have a candidate we feel earned the respect of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week, sorry. Chuck Schumer forced the 1/6 commission vote in the Senate, where several Democrats made a forceful case for the bill, but no single one of them really stood out. Schumer's speech was forceful, but for blunt language we have to at least give an Honorable Mention to Jon Tester, for letting us know exactly how he sees things:

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said he believes there will be a future Jan. 6-style attack on the Capitol and "the outcome is going to be far worse."

"We've got to get to the bottom of this shit," Tester said. "Jesus. It's a nonpartisan investigation of what happened. And if it's because they're afraid of Trump then they need to get out of office. It's bullshit. You make tough decisions in this office or you shouldn't be here."

Can't say we disagree with any of that, personally.

We had one other Democrat of note who also deserves at least an Honorable Mention, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, for convening a long-term grand jury panel whose assumed purpose will be to intensely study Donald Trump, the Trump Organization, and other high-ranking executives (including members of Trump's family), and decide whether to indict anyone or not.

This almost rises to the level of the MIDOTW, but not quite. Grand juries are intensely secret proceedings, so it's not even guaranteed that Trump is the true target or not. And there is no guarantee of an indictment of the disgraced former president, or of anyone else. Even if indictments do get handed down, there is no guarantee of success in court, either. So there's still a long way down this path to go before we will truly be impressed (to put it another way). Maybe it's just being "once bitten, twice shy" after waiting for Mueller for so long, that could be it....

As always, if anyone's got another nominee for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, let us know in the comments -- we could easily have overlooked someone.

In some sort of recurring nightmare, we've got a (Dis-)Honorable Mention to give out (yet again) for a Democratic governor who issued mask and social-gathering rules for her state -- and then immediately got caught violating those rules at a party.

This time it is Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer who got caught having fun in violation of her own stated guidelines. Whitmer did issue a chagrined apology afterwards ("Because we were all vaccinated, we didn't stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize." ), but this was a pretty easy mistake to avoid in the first place, we've always thought.

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, however, is none other than President Joe Biden, who has already broken his own self-imposed deadline for progress in talks with Republicans over infrastructure. Biden had said he needed to see significant progress towards a deal by Memorial Day, but even with the absence of such progress, Biden's going to push the deadline forward "a week or possibly two," just in case bipartisanship suddenly magically breaks out in the Senate Republican caucus.

This is a fool's errand. It is just going to waste two more weeks (more, if Republicans can finagle it...) of precious time, with absolutely nothing to show for it at the end. The two sides are still unbelievably far apart, and the Republicans' offers have been pathetically small (much smaller than most media organizations even admit, which we wrote about earlier this week). It is chasing rainbows, pure and simple, to expect this situation to suddenly resolve itself.

The Washington Post had a good dissection of the impossibility of this task:

Let's start by considering three possible outcomes of this effort. First, Congress could pass a meaningful infrastructure bill with support from members of both parties. This is what both sides say they want (though that isn't quite true, which we'll get to in a moment).

Second, Democrats could pass an infrastructure bill with zero Republican votes. This is probably what will end up happening, provided that Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), self-appointed guardians of bipartisan compromise, can be persuaded that the effort to win the support of Republicans was performed with sufficient enthusiasm.

Third, the bill could fail altogether, either because Manchin or Sinema pulls their support, or because a Democratic senator falls ill and can't vote for it in the 50-50 Senate, or for some other reason.

Here's where we get to the important part. This is how President Biden would rank those three outcomes in order of his own needs and desires:

  1. Bipartisan passage of the bill

  2. Democrats-only passage of the bill

  3. Failure of the bill

And here's how Republicans would rank those outcomes in order of their needs and desires:

  1. Failure of the bill

  2. Democrats-only passage of the bill

  3. Bipartisan passage of the bill

As you can see, they're precisely reversed. Which is a big problem if you're hoping for an agreement.

If the bill passes on a bipartisan basis, Biden gets a double victory: He can claim a big legislative win, and also tell voters that he has achieved his goal of bringing cooperation back to Washington. He'll have done what other presidents failed to do, breaking the partisan logjam and showering benefits on communities across the country for years to come.

Which is precisely why that's the least desirable outcome from the GOP's perspective: Biden will get the credit, and voters will be a little less likely to believe that Washington can't get anything done. That would be terrible for Republicans, since dysfunction and gridlock increase voter dissatisfaction and produce a big win for the opposition party in midterm elections.

If the bill fails, on the other hand, it's a huge win for the GOP, a black eye for Biden, and proof that Democratic rule isn't delivering for people. They show their own partisans that they're mounting an effective opposition, and show everyone else that Biden is ineffectual and weak.

While Republicans can't guarantee that outcome (since Democrats can still pass the bill through the reconciliation process with a simple majority), by withholding their votes they reduce the margin for error Democrats have down to zero.

In sum, bipartisanship is in Biden's interest, but it is most assuredly not in Republicans' interest. They must surely be tickled pink about the fact that reporters constantly grill the White House about whether the president is being sufficiently bipartisan, but seldom ask Republicans what they're doing to compromise and seek cooperation.

Republicans are stalling, quite obviously, because the longer they can make Biden hunt for the bipartisan red herring, the less time there will be to pass such a bill with only Democratic support.

Biden should have stuck to his deadline, plain and simple. One week or even two isn't going to change the situation at all. He should know this, and up until now he seemed to. His sense of urgency seems to have flagged. He's already getting pressure from progressive Democrats to move on, and this pressure needs to increase so Biden will at least stick to his second, more-vaguely-defined deadline and eventually just walk away from the Republican stalling tactics.

For not doing so starting next Tuesday morning, though, Joe Biden is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

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

Volume 620 (5/28/21)

As we occasionally are wont to do, this week's discrete (but hopefully never discreet) talking points will be pre-empted, because we felt a rant coming on. Over roughly the next two months (since Congress scarpers off to sunny vacations for the entire month of August every year), Joe Biden's agenda will either largely happen or largely not happen. Which, as usual, will come down to the Senate. Which, as is currently usual, will come down to two specific Democratic senators.

To avoid disaster, every other Democrat needs to send these two the strongest message possible. So we decided to toss our two cents in, to get this ball rolling.

The stakes couldn't be higher

It is now official. The Republican Party has no shame. It is beyond being shamed, because they simply don't care anymore (not that they ever really did, all that much). Mitch McConnell leads the pack in being absolutely shameless in the party's complete and total acquiescence to a strongman leader. The Dear Leader is all, everything else is secondary -- including their solemn oath to defend the United States Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This is the same Mitch McConnell who stood on the Senate floor -- hours after an insurrection briefly interrupted the business of Congress and postponed the certification of the Electoral College vote -- and denounced the very same Dear Leader for instigating the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol. Now, however, Mitch has joined the shameless bunch who will do anything in their power to avoid holding Donald Trump responsible for the January 6th attack. Mitch isn't denouncing the mob anymore, he has surrendered to the mob, plain and simple. Because a commission finding out the truth might impact Republicans' ability to get elected in the 2022 midterms. This is about as shameless as it gets, but it's really only the tip of the iceberg.

The Republican Party has been taken over by radicals and extremists and all the sane Republicans who still hold office now cower in terror of their own base. It is past time to call all of this out for what it is. The Republican Party can no longer be reasoned with, because they have abandoned all reason. They have abandoned reality itself. And they are increasingly supportive of using violence as an acceptable political tactic. This is frightening, but it's what happens when a political party is taken over by extremists and fully radicalized.

The party no longer has conservative roots, instead what they are left with are the shifting sands of conspiracy theory. Most Republicans still think Joe Biden isn't the freely and fairly elected president, even though this is an evil lie. Republican politicians refuse to correct this, because they are terrified of the blowback from their own voters who fervently believe Trump's Big Lie.

Republicans have zero interest in governing. People from Mitch McConnell on down see anything positive that happens in America under a Democratic president as a bad thing. They are actively rooting for the president of the United States to fail, and they are doing everything in their power to make sure that failure happens. They are absolutely shameless -- they used to hide behind dog whistles and plausible deniability, but nowadays they just come right out and admit it. And prove it, by the way they vote.

Joe Biden, the Democratic Party -- and, in specific, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- are now faced with a choice. They can choose to reform the Senate's rules so they can get some important things done, in the hopes of convincing the public that when Democrats are in charge they can govern effectively -- or they can choose to allow Mitch McConnell to block Biden's entire agenda, after which Republicans will run for the midterms on the slogan: "Democrats can't get anything done!" That's it. Go big, or you might as well just go home because other than the budget, nothing at all is going to happen for the next year and a half in the United States Senate.

Up until now, Manchin has been allowed (indulged, really) to opine about the fantasy version of the Senate he carries around with him in his head, where Republicans are reasonable politicians who want to work for the betterment of America no matter which party is in charge. That Senate does not exist in reality, but Manchin is still clapping his hands hard in the hopes that Tinker Bell will revive and somehow get better. The time for this indulgence, though, is now over.

Since he was sworn in, Joe Biden's average job approval rating with the public has hovered right around a very healthy 54 percent. This popularity would only grow if he accomplishes more good things. Republicans know that, but some Democrats seem unclear on the concept. The only way Democrats are going to be successful in the midterm elections is if they have a solid message of: "Look at all the good things we have accomplished! Re-elect us so we can get more good things done!

That's really Democrats' only chance. Midterms normally skew against the party in power, and the next round will happen after redistricting, which will allow Republicans to gerrymander their districts even more. The margin of error is incredibly slim, too. But if Democrats run on an amazing economy and amazing new government programs that are tangibly helping out tens of millions of people, then they do have a solid chance at beating the historical odds.

The thing Republicans are really afraid of is how overwhelmingly popular all of what they deride as "socialism" actually is with the American people. Free community college? Sounds good! Free preschool? We'll take it! Help for home health care? What a great idea! All of Joe Biden's agenda items are like this -- when people hear about them and consider how they could make their own lives better, they overwhelmingly support the ideas. What's even more popular is the way Democrats propose on paying for it all -- getting big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. This is also incredibly popular even with Republicans.

Some of this can be accomplished through the budget, meaning Democrats will be able to at least partially deliver by avoiding the filibuster problem. But there are other important things which need attention too, and for them the filibuster rules simply must be changed. Key among these is voting rights.

Democrats have two bills to fight back against all the voter-suppression laws Republicans are passing at the state level, but they have to move very quickly or else the possibility won't even exist, at least for the 2022 election cycle. Candidate statement deadlines are fast approaching, as are the redistricting efforts, and the new rules need to be in place beforehand. This is an incredibly short window of time -- much shorter than some of the other things on the Democratic agenda. It has to happen now.

But for it to happen, two Democratic senators need to be convinced that the choice is either to reform the filibuster rules to force simple majority votes on voting rights legislation, or to just sit back and watch as all those Republican voter-suppression laws take effect as they take control of both the House and Senate.

Why would any Democrat want to see the second half of Biden's term in office torpedoed in such a fashion? That is the question that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema need to be asked -- repeatedly and pointedly.

What we are talking about isn't some obscure government program that could be reformed or even created, where bipartisan support is necessary to get both sides to the table. This is not something that we can all wait a few years to see how things develop across the aisle. We do not have such a luxury, folks. It really is now or never.

Democrats should be running on painting the Republican Party in the exact colors it has chosen. They are extremists and radicals who cannot even support a bipartisan investigation (created by bipartisan legislation) into the worst attack on American democracy since the Civil War. Republicans are either outright lying or silently abetting the Big Lie that the leader of our nation is not legitimate and was somehow fraudulently placed in power.

This is dangerous stuff, folks! This is serious.

The time for any fantasies about bipartisanship suddenly breaking out on Capitol Hill is now over. It ain't gonna happen, period. If it can't happen on the 1/6 commission, then it's not going to happen on anything -- infrastructure, voting rights, police reform, healthcare, climate change, or any of the other crucially-important issues facing everyday Americans. Republicans are -- once again -- absolutely dedicated to doing everything they can to see Joe Biden fail. That is their unifying motivation. They don't even care what he's attempting, how much it would help their own constituents, or how popular any of it is -- they're against it all because the Democrats are for it.

It's about time Democrats realize the bare-knuckles fight they are in. In 2020, Democrats spent a whopping amount of campaign advertising money on trying to convince the voters they would "reach across the aisle" and hammer out bipartisan solutions. This messaging did not work. The American people are much more interested in seeing things get done, and they don't particularly care how it happens -- just whether it does or not. How many voters are seriously going to say: "Well, my daughter now attends community college tuition-free, but I am so offended that this wasn't a bipartisan program that I am going to vote for the party that fought against it"? In the real world, people just don't think like that.

Bipartisanship was an illusion. It was a windmill set up by the Republican Party for the Democrats to helplessly tilt at. There just isn't going to be any bipartisan spirit at all for the next year and a half, and it's time Democrats fully wake up to that fact and start fighting back in the strongest way possible. They need to point out that bipartisanship requires two willing parties and one of them just is not interested right now. Because of this reality, Democrats need to forge strongly ahead without the Republicans and get some things done for the good of the country.

If every Democrat made this case constantly, from Joe Biden down to the lowliest House freshman, then Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin would have to take notice. The other Democrats need to present it as a choice between reforming the filibuster or becoming completely irrelevant in the minority in both houses of Congress next year. Manchin and Sinema can either go down in history as being the crucial votes that allowed a strong Democratic agenda to be enacted, or they can go down in history as the crucial votes that guaranteed minority status for their party in Congress as well as the failure of a sitting Democratic president to get much of anything done.

That is their choice. It's a pretty simple one. Success or failure. And the "bipartisan fantasy Senate" clock has now completely run down. It is now or never, senators.

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

Friday Talking Points -- Just Not A Good Bad Guy

Republicans, these days, just seem rather lost. They used to be so good at coming up with semi-cohesive talking points to use against Democrats, and they have always admirably been able to all sing from this same songbook every Sunday morning (for the political chatfest shows on television). But these days, all the issues they choose to highlight are all so incredibly short-term that the problem usually disappears before their politicization of the issue really even has a chance to take hold.

Case in point: Republicans' heavy lean on school reopenings. They've been so convinced this is going to be a big winning issue for them, they rode it all the way to getting a recall election called for California's governor (Gavin Newsom). But by the time Californians vote on it (later October or early November of this year), everyone will already be back in school again.

Pretty much all the Republicans' complaints about COVID restrictions fall into the same category. All the pushback (most notably from churches who had in-person services locked down for a time) on social distancing, all the weeping and wailing over the non-existent "vaccine passports," even all the outrage over mask-wearing and Dr. Anthony Fauci -- how much of this is really going to be a current issue in November of 2022, do they think? My guess would realistically be: "None of it -- everyone will have gratefully moved on by that point, and just prefer not to remember the entire pandemic and all the hardships it caused."

This crops up time and time again, of late. Last week, Republicans decided to try to spin Joe Biden's presidency as "utter chaos," pointing to two entirely transitory events: the Israel/Palestine war and the temporary gasoline shortages in the South and on the East Coast. For most American voters, both of these will be a faint memory, at best, within a few months -- never mind next year. And yet Republicans seemed to think they had this brilliant political spin against Biden that was somehow going to take him down several pegs with the public, so they began hammering him.

That was then, this is now. A cease-fire has been achieved in Israel, due in large part to Biden's team doing "quiet but strenuous diplomacy," behind the scenes. Gas stations now have plenty of gas, once again. The crises are not just over, but they were actually handled pretty well by Team Biden. The Republicans' complaints are what turned into a pumpkin, not Biden's standing with the public.

Now consider what would have happened if (shudder) Donald Trump had still been in charge. The gas shortages were solved because: (1) they were always going to be temporary, once the hacked pipeline company got back up and running, and (2) the Biden administration quietly did what it could to help, including waiving regulations and red tape that was getting in the way during an emergency situation. What would Trump have done? Tweeted about it a lot, one assumes. Blamed it on everything and everyone under the sun, in a desperate attempt to dodge any possible blame -- which would have just drawn attention to the fact that Trump just had no idea how to handle such a crisis. And I really shudder to think what he would have done about Israel, since Netanyahu is such good buddies with Trump. Trump probably would have sat back and given Bibi a total green light to continue bombing as long as he felt like it. Which doubtlessly would have been a lot longer than it actually was.

Hypotheticals aside, however, Biden handled the crises that popped up fairly well and fairly quickly. The media, of course, went into a breathless frenzy, which (in the case of the gas shortages) just increased and fed the public's panic, but Biden notably did not take this bait. The crises were instead solved quickly, quietly, and effectively. Which is precisely what the voters actually wanted from Joe Biden in the first place: calm competence. The Republicans' insistence on trying to make political hay from these sudden crises largely backfired. Biden's job approval ratings haven't slipped; they remain far higher than any number Donald Trump ever saw in the polls. Because people like such competence in their leaders.

Maybe this is why all the Republicans seem to have to complain about these days are short-term problems. They know that any crises will take at least some time to deal with, so they try to strike while the iron's hot and tarnish Biden just a little bit with each of them, in the hopes of generating some sort of cumulative effect. But there's a problem with this, too -- Biden's a pretty likeable guy. Which the GOP strategists are already admitting:

It's a phenomenon that's becoming increasingly pronounced as the outline of the 2022 midterm election comes into focus. Midterms are typically a referendum on the party in power, so the standard opposition-party playbook is to make every down-ballot race about the sitting president. But [President Joe] Biden's elusiveness as a target is forcing Republicans to rethink the traditional strategy.

Interviews with more than 25 GOP strategists and party officials depict a president whose avuncular style and genial bearing make him a less-than-ideal foil. He doesn't induce anger or rage, and at the moment, his White House is relatively drama-free.

In response, Republicans are preparing to break with time-honored custom and cast the president less as the central character in the midterm elections than as an accessory to the broader excesses of the left.

"Biden is not a good bad guy," said Ed Rogers, the veteran Republican lobbyist and strategist. "Obama was a haughty professor.... The Uncle Joe life story that he has -- the tragedy, the losses, the obvious empathy the man has, I think that's all legit. So, it's hard to demonize him."

. . .

"Because [Biden] is so boring, he's not as scandalous," said John Thomas, a Republican strategist who works on House campaigns across the country.

. . .

"Biden gives a fireside chat, and the fire goes out," said former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who served as National Republican Congressional Committee chair. "I mean, he does not evoke the strong emotion that Trump did."

We wrote further about this phenomenon at the start of the week, pointing out how tough a time Republicans have been having demonizing Biden.

What's truly notable about all this is that it is such a break from the GOP's past performance. For the past 20 or 30 years (at the very least, some would trace this back to Richard Nixon), Republicans have been masters at demonizing not only Democratic presidents but also the entire Democratic agenda. Republicans used to be the (rather sanctimonious) party of "family values" and "law and order" and "personal responsibility" -- a posture they contrasted with the likes of Bill Clinton and gay-friendly Democrats and flag burning.

Now? Now the Republicans have sworn fealty to a man who wouldn't know a family value if one came up and bit him on the hindquarters, while excusing within their ranks an accused sex trafficker of underage women. New this week: one of the people who will be challenging Liz Cheney in the Republican primary next year is a man who, when he was 18 years old, impregnated a 14-year-old girl, married her and then divorced her three years later. Two years after that, she committed suicide. In revealing this story, the candidate described it thusly: "She was a little younger than me, so it's like the Romeo and Juliet story." So far, the rest of the Republican Party hasn't even blinked an eye over this revelation. By way of contrast: "Well, maybe it would have been if he had committed suicide, too" is the response that popped into our head. Such moral excesses have become downright commonplace among their ranks (see: Roy Moore, for example), and certainly no cause for any other Republicans to chastise them in any way.

As for "law and order," 175 Republicans in the House just voted against a commission to investigate the worst insurrection attempt since the Civil War, for purely political reasons (because it might tend to shed negative light on their Dear Leader, right before the midterm congressional elections). The Capitol Police begged Republicans to vote for it, but in the end only 35 did, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is now actively trying to kill the bill's chances in the Senate. So much for the "law and order" party, eh?

Personal responsibility went right out the window with the advent of Trump as well. Now one of the GOP's biggest reasons to whine is what they call "cancel culture," which is essentially making people pay a tangible price for their sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, or other bigoted behavior. Because, according to the Republicans of today, all such actions and words should have absolutely no consequences whatsoever. Way to take "personal responsibility" to heart, Republicans!

Perhaps it is all due to the fact that Republicans have no positive agenda left to run on. They just don't. Their ideological cupboard is bare and full of spiderwebs. All they have left is cultural resentment and hatred of liberals. That's it. Donald Trump showed them all how just these two things could be effectively made into the entire Republican platform, and that is precisely what they have now done.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden just keeps calmly getting things done. By mid-July, checks will be in the mail for the parents of 90 percent of the children in this country (all but the wealthiest, in other words). They'll all be getting up to $300 a month (each) from the government. Or, more precisely "from Democrats," since not a single Republican voted for the program.

Biden signed an anti-Asian-American hate crimes bill this week as well. This actually was a truly bipartisan bill, since every Republican in the Senate voted for it (except one, who is now being called "Hate Crimes Hawley" online, as a result). But we didn't notice a whole lot of praise or congratulations from the Republicans for this overwhelmingly bipartisan achievement.

Biden's efforts to strike a bipartisan deal on infrastructure didn't advance much this week, however, and you can count us among the group who thinks this is all some rather elaborate Kabuki theater put on to convince Joe Manchin to vote for it under reconciliation rules.

Other than all that, it was another fairly quiet week, politically. At least, by the yardstick of the previous four years. Just calm competence wherever you look -- which is indeed becoming the new normal in Washington. Thankfully.

Before we get to the main award, we have to at least give a nod to a group that is just not eligible for our awards, due to the fact that they are Republicans. The Republican Accountability Project released an ad this week that brilliantly contrasts Kevin McCarthy's claim that everyone had now moved on and nobody was talking about the 2020 election being fraudulent any more with Donald Trump's continuing insistence that the entire party get behind his Big Lie complaints. Example after example of Trump's own words put the lie to McCarthy, so we strongly encourage everyone to check the ad out.

We also encourage everyone to check out the extraordinary floor speech by Representative Tim Ryan that earned him this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. It lasts less than a minute, so we encourage everyone to take the time to watch it (you won't regret it).

McCarthy had designated a Republican House member to negotiate with the Democrats on the bill to form the independent 1/6 commission to examine the insurrection attempt in full detail. A deal was struck, and McCarthy then immediately threw both the deal and his own designated negotiator under the bus. Mitch McConnell soon joined in the fun, by announcing his own opposition. Please remember, this is not a partisan bill, it was negotiated and agreed to by a Republican, who not only co-wrote it but also co-sponsored it in the House. But both McCarthy and McConnell brushed that aside and tried to spin it as some sort of nefarious partisan Democratic plot.

What is really going on is that Republicans don't want this commission to happen because (1) it would reveal the truth in full, and (2) that truth would make Donald Trump look really bad. Since most Republicans are all but allergic to both of those things these days, the bill had to be stopped.

McCarthy tried to convince his caucus not to vote for it, but in the end a whopping 35 of them did. McConnell may have more luck twisting GOP arms in the Senate. There is no guarantee Democrats can get 10 GOP senators to vote for it, at this point.

Which got under Tim Ryan's skin, to put it mildly. Here is the full transcript of his floor speech, for which he was allotted only 30 seconds of time. In that short interval, Ryan showed exactly how Democrats really should react to Republican fear and dereliction of duty on this issue:

I want to thank the gentlemen from New York and the other Republicans who are supporting this and thank them for their bipartisanship.

To the other ninety percent of our friends on the other side of the aisle: Holy cow! Incoherence -- no idea what you're talking about!

Benghazi -- you guys chased the former secretary of State all over the country, spent millions of dollars. We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can't get bipartisanship? What else has to happen in this country?

Cops. This is a slap in the face to every rank and file cop in the United States.

If we're going to take on China, if we're going to rebuild the country, if we're going to reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality, and you ain't one of them!

I yield back the balance of my time.

Impressively succinct, impressively to the point, impressively accurate, and impressively and emotionally delivered (seriously, if you haven't seen this video yet, take the short amount of time to watch it, it is well worth it).

Which is why Tim Ryan is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

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

The mayor of Chicago got some heat this week for a symbolic one-day policy she announced, but we really feel the heat was undeserved, so that's all we're going to say about it, sorry.

The White House just indicated that Joe Biden's first presidential budget request to Congress won't contain two rather large campaign promises Biden made: the public option for health insurance and lowering prescription drug prices. This is admittedly pretty disappointing, but we'll hold off on handing him an award until we actually see what's in it (this could be a trial balloon, we're giving him the benefit of the doubt for now).

Which leaves us, really, with nobody. We have no truly valid contender for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, so we're going to put the award back on the shelf until next week. Unless someone nominates a worthwhile candidate down in the comments, as always.

Volume 619 (5/21/21)

A truly mixed bag, this week. There's not that much more to say about them, so we'll just get right to it.

Criminal behavior

Hopefully this is making more than a few people sweat.

"The New York state attorney general just announced this week that their investigation into the Trump Organization is 'no longer purely civil in nature.' They are now 'actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity.' Legal experts tell us that what this means is that they've almost certainly uncovered a real smoking gun -- something that not only proves fraud but also proves that the people at the top knew about and actively condoned such fraud. No charges have been filed yet, but it could be just a matter of time before they are. Orange might not just be Donald Trump's skin color in the future, it may also be the color of his entire wardrobe."


Bill Barr's legacy continues to sink slowly in the slime.

"It was revealed this week that the Trump Department of Justice covertly obtained telephone records for a CNN reporter Trump didn't like and also actively tried to covertly obtain the identity of the spoof Twitter account 'Devin Nunes' Cow,' for no other reason than personal pique and abuse of power by those making such prosecutorial decisions. Thank all that's holy that we have some competent adults running things again instead of party hacks and Trump-worshipping toadies."

We have met the enemy and he is us

That video we mentioned in the MIDOTW section makes this point better, but we thought we'd take a crack at it too, since more Democrats really need to be saying stuff like this.

"Republicans are trying to gaslight the media and the rest of America into somehow believing it is the Democrats who can't let go of the 2020 election and are obsessed with it. But all Democrats want to do is to get to the truth -- a concept which obviously frightens Republicans in Congress. Instead, one man and one man alone is responsible for the ongoing obsession with the Big Lie. Donald Trump is the one who cannot let go, folks. He brings up his Big Lie on almost a daily basis, now. Far from 'moving on,' he is quite content to petulantly live in the past. Maybe some journalists should ask all these Republicans insisting on 'moving on' now why they haven't told Donald Trump the same thing?"

A laughingstock

We realize this is much longer than a normal talking point, but it is actually the abbreviated version (we wrote about this earlier this week, with longer excerpts, for those who may be interested). This is from an extraordinary letter from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to the leader of the state Senate. The Senate, of course is run by Republicans. Four of the five supervisors are also Republicans. This is in no way a partisan letter, in other words.

The supervisors are pushing back against all sorts of wild accusations made against them in the midst of the seemingly-endless fake "audit" of the 2020 election ballots by a fake "auditor" who believes in conspiracy theories. The entire thing is nothing more than a three-ring circus, which the supervisors point out in scathing language. Here are just a few key highlights:

That the Senate would launch such a grave accusation via Twitter not only before waiting for an answer to your questions, but also before your so called "audit" demonstrates to the world that the Arizona Senate is not acting in good faith, has no intention of learning anything about the November 2020 General Election, but is only interested in feeding the various festering conspiracy theories that fuel the fundraising schemes of those pulling your strings. You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call "kinematic artifacts" while shining purple lights for effect. None of these things are done in a serious audit. The result is that the Arizona Senate is held up to ridicule in every corner of the globe and our democracy is imperiled.

. . .

Your chosen "auditors," the Cyber Ninjas, are certainly many things. But "accredited by the [U.S. Elections Assistance Commission as voting system testing laboratories]" is not one of them. Regardless, we cannot give you a password that we do not possess any more than we can give you the formula for Coca-Cola. We do not have it; we have no legal right to acquire it; and so, we cannot give it to you.

. . .

Finally, we express our united view that your "audit", no matter what your intentions were in the beginning, has become a spectacle that is harming all of us. Our state has become a laughingstock. Worse, this "audit" is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic.

. . .

None of this is inspiring confidence. None of this will cause our citizens to trust elections. In fact, it is having the opposite result. You certainly must recognize that things are not going well at the Coliseum. You also must know that the County's election was free and fair, and that our Elections Department did an outstanding job conducting it.

Unfortunately, this has become a partisan issue, and it should not be one. It is time to make a choice to defend the Constitution and the Republic. As County elected officials, we come from different political parties, but we stand united together to defend the Constitution and the Republic in our opposition to the Big Lie. We ask everyone to join us in standing for the truth. The November 3, 2020 general election was free and fair and conducted by the Elections Department with integrity and honor.

Going to cost millions

This entire circus is going to wind up costing the county millions of dollars, too.

"The Arizona secretary of state, who is responsible for running the state's elections, just advised Maricopa County that none of the voting machines that were turned over during the fake 'audit' by the Cyber Ninjas can ever be trusted again. They did not properly provide security and proper chain of custody, so just about anything could have been done to those machines by just about anybody at this point. It's merely one more instance of the Keystone Kops nature of this entire circus. Now Maricopa County is going to have to replace all those voting machines, to the tune of untold millions of dollars. All to make Donald Trump somehow feel better. You know, I remember when Republicans were against government wasting money on pointless projects. Boy, those were the days, eh?"

I normally do this

This deserves all the ridicule Democrats can heap on him.

"Representative Andrew Clyde was in the news recently, for calling the armed and violent attempt to take the U.S. Capitol by force to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College election results a, quote, normal tourist visit, unquote. I mean, who are you going to believe, Andrew Clyde or your lying eyes? And now a photo has surfaced showing Clyde himself joining in the effort to barricade the House door with heavy furniture, in an attempt to stop the murderous crowd from entering the chamber. So the obvious question someone now needs to ask Clyde: 'Do you barricade the House doors for every normal tourist visit that passes through the U.S. Capitol, or perhaps was January sixth actually just a wee bit different, Congressman?'"

Finally! A fraudulent voter!

Well, they've been looking so long for one, you'd think they'd be happy....

"Finally, a clear-cut case of voter fraud was revealed this week. Unfortunately for the Republicans, it was not 'hundreds of thousands' of illegal votes, it wasn't even the tens of thousands it would have taken to flip any one state. Instead, it was one guy. Who voted -- twice -- for Donald Trump. In Chaffee County, Colorado, a man tried to vote as both himself and his wife. The case is notable because the woman has actually been missing since May of last year. Her husband was just charged with murdering her, as a matter of fact. And after he allegedly did her in, he decided to just go ahead and vote as her to help Donald Trump. As he himself put it: 'I just thought, give him another vote.' So of course this brand-new instance of voter fraud will be denounced loudly by all the Republicans who have been searching for such fraud for so long, right? Well, I'm not exactly holding my breath, if you know what I mean."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Welcome To Cloud Cuckoo Land

The Republican Party has officially divorced itself from reality. They have, quite simply, moved their headquarters to Cloud Cuckoo Land. Any among their ranks who do not swear fealty to the fantastic lies they now believe must be either shunned or expelled. That is the state of one of the two major American political parties, in the twenty-first century.

Normally, such a development would be a reason for glee among the other political party, but this is not merely a matter of Republicans believing that the world is flat, the moon is made of green cheese, or tax cuts always pay for themselves -- no, this is no mere pedestrian fantasyland they have now taken up residence within. This is far more dangerous.

Republicans now must bow down to Trump's Big Lie, that the 2020 presidential election was somehow "stolen" from him (with zero evidence to back this up, of course). Because of this forced fealty, Republicans have turned the Big Lie into a perpetual motion machine, feeding on itself. Since the election was stolen, that means lots of fraud must have taken place, and that means passing laws in as many states as they can to change the game for the next election cycle. But while most of the attention has been centered on all the voter-suppression aspects of these new laws, a much more insidious thing is also taking place -- Republicans are changing the rules of how votes are counted and certified. They saw what happened to Trump's attempt to steal an election last time, when Republican officials actually took their election oversight jobs seriously and resisted; and they aim to replace that system with one where Republican politicians are in charge of determining which elections they deem valid and which they don't. Elections with more votes for Democrats are obviously suspect and need overturning, to put it more plainly.

Think this is alarmist? We don't. What will happen if Republicans win back the House in either 2022 or 2024? Then Kevin McCarthy would be in charge of certifying the Electoral College vote in the 2024 presidential election. Think he's going to stand up for reality and the truth? We don't. We think he's going to do exactly what his Dear Leader tells him to do. We know this because he already is. Immediately after the insurrection attempt, both he and Liz Cheney denounced the violence and Donald Trump for instigating it, but while Cheney has remained consistent, McCarthy has changed his tune considerably since then.

As an admirer of erudition, we had to be impressed that we read more than one article this week which used the same word to describe what the House GOP (led by McCarthy) just did to Liz Cheney: they defenestrated her from her leadership position. Just chucked her right out the window. She refused to bow down to the Big Lie, so she had to go. She insisted that the emperor was naked, so obviously she was not fit to lead the party anymore. It didn't even matter that she is far more conservative than the woman who replaced her -- because the GOP's not about policy anymore, they're only about fawning devotion to a megalomaniac

Again, if the circumstances weren't so serious, Democrats would be popping popcorn and watching the GOP cage match with glee. But this is no laughing matter. Even though Cheney is completely complicit in how the Republican Party got to this sad juncture -- by recently supporting claims that "election integrity laws" are necessary, for instance (which is no more than a continuation of Republican lies about voter fraud that stretch back decades) -- her ouster is still a big danger signal.

In a hearing this week on the events of the January 6 insurrection, Republicans trotted out the freshest lies: that the insurgents were just "normal tourists" and "patriots." That there was no insurrection, and if there was, it was probably a bunch of antifa people in the crowd provoking all the violence. This is Orwellian territory, folks. The Washington Post reminded these lunatics of what really happened that day:

The Republicans' distortions about the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 defy the well-documented reality of what occurred that day -- 140 police officers were injured, some bludgeoned with flagpoles and baseball bats, with one officer's eye gouged, another later losing an eye; rioters chanted "Hang Mike Pence" and erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds; and members of the House and the Senate were rushed to safety in secure locations for several hours. The attack resulted in five dead.

But back to Cheney. McCarthy put the icing on this cake by writing a letter urging Cheney's ouster where he made the up-is-down claim that "unlike the left, we [Republicans] embrace free thought and debate." That's only true if by "embrace," McCarthy really meant "squeeze to death like a jungle python."

To use a word Republicans just love to toss around: Liz Cheney was cancelled by Republicans.

She went down fighting, though. Here's what she had to say to the meeting where she was voted out: "If you want leaders who will enable and spread [Donald Trump's] destructive lies, I'm not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy. But I promise you this, after today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln." She's got her work cut out for her, that's for sure.

The entire Republican Party is not just delusional about the results of the last election, they are actively planning how to steal the next one. That is an existential threat to American democracy. A group of over 100 deranged former generals put out a letter this week repeating Trump's Big Lie, chapter and verse. This is banana republic territory -- a place that America has never been before. Thankfully, virtually all of them have been out of uniform for decades, but even so it is a chilling precedent.

McCarthy's not the only one who has utterly divorced himself from reality, obviously. As one Washington Post writer (who had been on book leave for months) summed up what's been happening:

In Arizona, supporters of the defeated Trump are examining ballots with UV light to see "if there's bamboo in the paper" in support of a conspiracy theory that 40,000 fake ballots were surreptitiously flown in from Asia.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a Fox News-only signing ceremony for a state law that will disproportionately stop non-White people from voting.

Republican legislators in Tennessee and Colorado have offered defenses of the three-fifths compromise.

House Republicans attempted to form a caucus in support of "Anglo-Saxon" traditions.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) got ensnarled in a sex-for-cash probe that involves an underage girl.

Rudy Giuliani had his home and office raided by federal agents.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that "100 percent of my focus is on standing up to this [Biden] administration."

Update: Matt Gaetz must be getting nervous, since the guy he used to call his "wingman" has now cut a plea deal. This is likely to mean he'll spill the beans on Gaetz having sex with a 17-year-old for money. But of course, Kevin McCarthy has yet to reprimand Gaetz, since Trump is a big fan of Gaetz.

In other House news, Marjorie Taylor Greene (whom we are going to start referring to by the moniker the internet has bestowed upon her: "Marjorie Three Names," because it is so funny) ran down a hallway screaming at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Nancy Pelosi is calling for ethics charges to be investigated, since this does not live up to the standard of "never dishonoring this house with your behavior." A.O.C. later wryly noted: "I used to work as a bartender. These are the kind of people I threw out of bars all the time."

One Democrat already had to have her office moved away from Marjorie Three Names, due to threatening behavior. And a video just surfaced from a few years ago (before she was elected to Congress) of Marjorie Three Names literally shouting through A.O.C.'s mail slot because she likes to yell at people so much. She's like a ticking time bomb, and everyone already knows she's going to explode so ferociously at some point that even the Republican leadership will have to take note, but until that future explosion happens they are happy to pretend that she is somehow a normal and respected member of Congress. Because that's what the all the newspapers say in Cloud Cuckoo Land, of course.

Also in those fantastical papers is the story about how Liz Cheney had to be removed from leadership because she was so obsessed with the past, rather than the future of the party. This is laughable, since the specific things Cheney was being punished for were all reactions to things Trump recently said. Cheney was just contradicting Trump, who is the one who is truly obsessed with the past. Just check his new blog out (we refuse to provide a link, sorry, but here's the article this quote is from):

Trump posted to it 16 times this past week; nine of the posts rehash a 2020 election that is now six months in the past. On Friday morning, Trump promoted long-debunked theories that the votes added to the totals in Michigan in the early-morning hours after the election were suspicious.

"At 6:31 in the morning on November 4th, a dump of 149,772 votes came in to the State of Michigan," Trump said, six months and three days after that "dump."

Here's a different way of measuring it:

On Sunday, former president Donald Trump condemned "our fake Presidential Election." On Monday, Trump railed against having been cheated of a second term in "the greatest Election Fraud in the history of our country" and compared November to a jewel heist. On Tuesday, he called for new actions "so we never again have an election rigged and stolen from us."

Astoundingly, Kevin McCarthy responded by phoning in from Cloud Cuckoo Land: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with." Just beyond Orwellian. [The Washington Post helpfully provided an extended list of Republicans who have been saying exactly that.]

Here's how Trump is "thinking about the future," from an insider:

Privately, many Republican officials -- including some Trump allies -- are growing frustrated, worried that the former president is wasting his time on petty rivalries and grievances. They say they wish he was working to protect policies from his term and affirmatively helping Republicans in 2022. "All the 2022 stuff is, 'Well, what's in it for me?'?" said one former senior White House official, summarizing Trump's thinking.

And yet, in Cloud Cuckoo Land, it is Liz Cheney who is guilty of not letting go of the past.

State-level branches of the Republican Party are still actively censuring and calling for resignations from any Republican in Congress that voted against the Big Lie (or to impeach Trump). That is not looking towards the future.

In Michigan, a state GOP lawmaker just introduced a bill to license (and penalize) fact-checkers. No, really -- this is how far the "party of free speech" has sunk:

"My legislation will put Fact Checkers on notice: don't be wrong, don't be sloppy, and you better be right," Maddock wrote in a Facebook post announcing his proposal last week.

Maddock's bill, the Fact Checker Registration Act, was introduced Tuesday and would require fact-checkers to register with the state and insure themselves with $1 million fidelity bonds. Any fact-checker who did not register with the state could face a $1,000 per day fine. The proposed legislation would also allow anyone to sue a fact-checker over "any wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state."

Further west, Arizona state Republicans are conducting what has rightfully been called a "fraudit" of the vote from 2020. The state Republicans forced this "audit" forward and hired a brand new firm run by a supporter of QAnon theories to run it. They are consumed with examining the ballots under ultraviolet lights (for watermarks that do not exist) and under microscopes (to look for bamboo fibers that also do not exist, as supposed proof that tens of thousands of ballots were snuck in by the Chinese communists). Here is how one state Republican senator put it:

"It makes us look like idiots," Republican state Sen. Paul Boyer, who represents the kind of suburban district Ayres is afraid of losing, told the New York Times. "Looking back, I didn't think it would be this ridiculous. It's embarrassing to be a state senator at this point."

Boyer better watch out. It can be career-ending to admit the truth these days in the GOP. Another remaining realist, Adam Kinzinger (who voted to keep Cheney in her leadership role) said last weekend his party is "basically the Titanic... in the middle of this slow sink." He went on to identify the larger problem:

But Kinzinger sees this craven acceptance of lies destroying the Republican Party. "I have watched us compromise with crazy basically every two years," he said. "All that becomes is the starting position for the next iteration towards crazy."

This has even led some of the few remaining sane Republicans to publicly call for the creation of a new party. The reason why this effort is doomed is that all of them are merely former elected or appointed officials. Their political careers are all over already, in other words, so they have nothing to lose. It's doubtful that even if they spend a boatload of money setting such an organization up they could entice many sitting Republican politicians to jump ship.

Democrats can't sit on the sidelines of this fight. The push to pass two election reform bills (the For The People Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act) needs to be front and center very soon now. For some unfathomable reason, the Senate can only concentrate on one thing at a time (even with all those committees and whatnot), so this major push may have to wait until after Biden's next two spending bills are dealt with, but the clock is ticking and time is already running out.

Because if the new laws are going to change the 2022 election cycle, they need to be in place as soon as possible. Especially the provision for creating independent redistricting commissions, since the new districts will have to be drawn long before next year's election takes place. Democrats need to start fighting for these bills and explaining to the public the existential nature of the Republican attack on democracy. So far, the issue hasn't seemed to have gotten the proper amount of urgency. With one notable example, which we will identify in the awards section.

Democrats need to be pointing out the dangerousness of the other political party becoming the Big Lie Party, because the outcome of all this could be so incredibly serious. It is not safe for one political party to become so wildly unhinged, but so far Democrats haven't been doing a great job of consistently making this critical point.

Meanwhile, Republicans, as usual, have zero shame about how they twist things politically. Speaking of those two voting reform bills, Senator Ted Cruz had a rather breathtakingly Orwellian way of reframing them:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the bill "Jim Crow 2.0."

"This legislation is profoundly dangerous, and the reason it suppresses millions of votes is by allowing millions of people to vote illegally," Cruz said during a Senate rules committee hearing on the bill. "That is the intended effect and that would be the actual effect of this bill. It dilutes the legal votes of American citizens."

During a brief hallway interview after Cruz's comments, HuffPost pointed out that Jim Crow-era voting laws actually stopped Black people from voting.

"And in this instance the Democrats want to stop the voters from voting Democrats out of power," Cruz replied.

Of course, none of the idiocy coming out of the pie-hole of Ted Cruz is true, but you'll note how forcefully he sells his nonsense. Democrats need to equal this urgency with the solid truth.

One Democratic political action committee is doing a good job of not mincing words and bringing the proper amount of alarm to the issue. MeidasTouch released a new ad this week to mark the defenestration of Liz Cheney by warning that the Republican Party "has completed its transformation into a fascist, authoritarian death cult."

Here's the story:

Progressive PAC MeidasTouch's new viral video examines how ex-President Donald Trump is following "the rules of the demagogue."

The ad shows how Trump has been guided by a tried and tested method of manipulating "weak-minded people" to his own advantage -- by establishing a common enemy, telling simple stories "with no regard for the truth," attacking democratic institutions and the media, and cultivating a cult of personality.

Footage of the ex-president is interspersed with clips of dictators from history and the current day, including Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler, Cuba's Fidel Castro and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

"We've seen this happen before," says the narrator. "We can't let it happen again."

The video concludes with a call to reject GOP fascism.

Think that is overstating the case? We don't. We think they deserve this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award for it. Now is not the time for half-measures. Now is not the time for timidity. The Republican Party has sold its soul lock, stock, and barrel to Donald Trump, who is a completely amoral and narcissistic person. We (barely) survived one Trump presidency, but we might not survive a second one. So we offer our thanks to the MeidasTouch team for so clearly laying out what is at stake here. And we offer them this week's MIDOTW, as well.

[Contact MeidasTouch on their website, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

Sadly, we have to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week to Joe Biden. While Biden has been doing an admirable job of fumigating the federal government to get rid of all the Trump pests infesting so many different departments, they seem to have dropped the ball on a rather major one. As The Hill reports:

The Biden team has hired a slate of immigration judges initially selected during the Trump era, angering advocates who argue the White House is already failing to deliver in its pledge to push back against the prior administration's shaping of the judiciary.

The first 17 hires to the court system responsible for determining whether migrants get to remain in the country is filled with former prosecutors and counselors for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as a few picks with little immigration experience.

Almost none have made their career representing migrants in court.

The Thursday announcement from the Department of Justice (DOJ) initially perplexed immigration attorneys, advocates and even some former immigration judges who wondered why the group so closely mirrored the jurists favored by the Trump administration.

"The 17 new immigration judges referenced in the notice all received their conditional offers under the prior administration," a Justice Department spokesperson told The Hill.

Critics said the Biden administration has an obligation to fully vet the judges hired under their watch and rebalance a court system heavily shaped by the Trump team.

It's also a surprising move for a president that has otherwise sought to quickly reverse a number of Trump immigration policies while calling for a more humane response to migration.

"This is a list I would have expected out of Bill Barr or Jeff Sessions, but they're not the attorney general anymore. Elections are supposed to have consequences," said Paul Schmidt, now an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School after 21 years as an immigration judge. That included time serving as the chair of the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative body dealing with immigration cases.

"No one on that list is among the top 100 asylum authorities in the country, and that's the kind of people they should be hiring -- not prosecutorial re-treads," he added.

There is no real excuse for allowing 17 Trump appointees to become federal judges (with lifetime appointments). Especially not in such an important area of the judiciary.

We haven't noticed Biden hiring a whole lot of other Trump retreads, which makes this all them more inexplicable, really. So our only recourse is to urge the White House to rethink this move, as we hand Biden this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

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

Volume 618 (5/14/21)

We had a lot to get to this week, which meant a few talking points fell by the wayside. Like pointing out that while it is nice to hear the federal government is now going to take white supremacist domestic terrorism seriously now, it would have been even nicer if Republicans hadn't blocked doing so for the last 26 years (since the Oklahoma City bombing, in other words). Or to point out once again the idiocy of the people in Arizona looking for bamboo fibers in ballot paper. Or the fact that the GOP is just fine with an accused sex trafficker of children in its ranks while it swiftly moved to remove Liz Cheney for insisting on telling the truth.

In fact, we have nowhere else to mention that Vice (how appropriate!) has gotten ahold of Larry Flynt's F.B.I. file, just in case anyone needs a diversion this week.

In any case, let's just jump right in, shall we?

Stop the GOP steal

Turn the phrase around -- always a fun thing to do.

"Republicans are right about one thing -- there is a group actively plotting election fraud in order to steal an American election. But it's not liberals or Democrats or undocumented immigrants who are doing this nefarious plotting -- it is Republicans who are doing so. It's really the only item on their agenda, these days. GOP statehouses around the country are considering how best to ensure that politicians and not professionals will henceforth be in charge of determining election and ballot-counting procedures. There is only one good reason for them to do this, and it is to prepare for the next election. So I call on all good men and women to stop the GOP steal! Pass the two voting rights bills in the Senate to guarantee free and fair elections for all Americans no matter what state they live in. This is serious stuff -- our American democratic system is at stake."

Who is obsessed with the past?

This really needs to be pointed out. With all the sneering contempt it deserves.

"Kevin McCarthy thinks nobody in his party is still questioning the 2020 presidential election results. McCarthy also used the poor excuse that Liz Cheney was too obsessed with the past -- the election in particular -- to be in the party's leadership. What I wonder is has Kevin McCarthy ever met Donald Trump? I mean, Trump is the one who cannot let go of his Big Lie. Cheney was doing no more than responding to Trump for the past few weeks, but according to McCarthy she was the one obsessing over the past instead of looking to the future. So, yeah, Kevin, there is one person in a Republican leadership role who does keep bringing it back up and does still think Joe Biden was not fairly elected. But his name isn't Liz Cheney, sorry."

Always projecting

This is another bugaboo of ours -- how little Democrats point out the fact that Republicans are just masters of projecting their own sins onto others. So when we see it spelled out, we have to applaud it. This was from an article in Salon this week:

Despite all the preening about "free speech" on the right, the truth is complaints about "cancel culture" have always been code for "conservatives can say whatever terrible things they want, and liberals can shut up about it." And while play-acting as the victims of censorship because liberals mock or criticize them, Republicans have been busy actually silencing free speech: from demanding that athletes be fired for kneeling during the national anthem to, memorably, Donald Trump ordering the tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park. While conservatives whine about oppression because people call them "racist" on Twitter, they are actually using complaints about "wokeness" as an excuse for the literal government censorship of discourse that acknowledges the reality of racism, as Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times chronicled.

That's conservatism, of course: Always projecting their own sins onto their liberal opponents.

Orwell should sue

The up-is-down/black-is-white nature of the current GOP craziness really needs a spotlight.

"The Republican Party has apparently gone right 'round the Orwellian bend, folks. The GOP leader of the House Republicans wrote a letter to urge his caucus to expel Liz Cheney from leadership because of her thoughts and what she said, and he actually tried to state that Republicans, quote, embrace free thought and debate, unquote. The entire party is up in arms about 'cancel culture,' so they showed their disapproval by cancelling Cheney. Senator Ted Cruz, meanwhile, describes a bill that would expand voting rights as 'Jim Crow 2.0.' And the entire party is trying to sell itself as 'populist,' except for the inconvenient fact that they are against expanded unemployment benefits, against helping parents with child care, against free preschool, against free community college, against paying for home healthcare, and against increasing Obamacare subsidies. So what populist economic ideas does the party support? Your guess is as good as mine. Republicans are not just divorced from reality, they continue to try to gaslight us into their own fantasyland, where war is peace, freedom is slavery, and (of course) ignorance is strength. Orwell's estate should really sue them for plagiarism!"

Cow patties!

[Since this talking point contains stronger language than its subheading, we have to issue a language warning up front.] The following was how D.C. police officer Michael Fanone -- who served on the day of the Trumpian insurrection attempt and fought hard to protect the Capitol -- reacted to hearing all the Orwellian descriptions from Republicans that the whole day was just some sort of "normal tourist visit" by a bunch of patriots, who didn't mount a violent insurrection and besiege the Capitol on January sixth:

I don't expect anybody to give two shits about my opinions. But I will say this: Those are lies. And peddling that bullshit is an assault on every officer that fought to defend the Capitol. It's disgraceful.

So much for GOP populism

This is an excellent talking point from Senator Ron Wyden, and it was so good we had to run it untouched. Wyden is making the case for how Joe Biden and the Democrats want to pay for their American Jobs Plan versus how Republicans want to pay for their pathetically-smaller "infrastructure-only" plan:

The Republicans are saying those megacorporations that use roads and bridges and transportation systems every single day as part of their efforts to generate revenue... shouldn't have to pay a penny, and their employees, middle-income workers, should have to bear the burden.

Seems to be quite popular

Republicans are desperately trying to paint America as having slipped into some sort of hellscape, as they normally do when a Democrat is in the White House. A pipeline company gets attacked by ransomware? Gotta be Biden's fault, or maybe the Green New Deal -- yeah, that's it! That's the ticket! However, the actual voters out there seem to think differently, so this line of spin has a long way to go to get any traction.

"A recent AP poll showed President Joe Biden with a healthy 63 percent job approval rating with the public. That's over ten points higher than Donald Trump ever managed, to state the obvious. People really like how Biden is cleaning up Trump's COVID-19 mess, which is why Biden gets an astonishing 71 percent approval on his handling of the pandemic. Almost half of Republican voters -- 47 percent -- think Biden's doing a good job on the pandemic. But the truly optimistic number from the poll is that over half the country -- 54 percent -- thinks America is on the right track right now with Biden at the helm. That number is higher than it has been since 2017, when Trump took over. No wonder Republican politicians are so desperate, since even their own voters think Biden's doing a good job."

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

Friday Talking Points -- We Don't Need No Education! We Don't Need No Thought Control!

In 2018, Democrats dominated the midterm elections. This was not historically unusual, although the size of the victory was at the high end of the scale. Since there is now a Democrat in the White House, the 2022 election has to be seen as tilted towards the Republicans. But there is one very potent issue that Democrats should truly begin exploiting -- in the same manner they exploited healthcare in 2018. Back then, Democrats ran on a very obvious choice: vote for us, we will try to make health insurance cheaper and easier to get, while Republicans' only answer is to repeal Obamacare (which, by then, had become quite popular). It worked. In 2022, the Democrats' message should be: vote for us, we will make [or, if it passes, "we made"] four additional years of education free, while Republicans told you it was evil and socialism and maybe even communism -- while they fought hard against two free years of preschool for America's children.

This is a truly perfect message, because it aims right at the heart of the key demographic battleground: suburban women. Who here thinks suburban women are going to militantly fight against free preschool and two years of free community college? Because that is exactly what the new Republican position is. Don't believe this? Here they are in their own words:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: "[the Biden administration] wants to jack up taxes in order to nudge families toward the kinds of jobs Democrats want them to have, in the kinds of industries Democrats want to exist, with the kinds of cars Democrats want them to drive, using the kinds of child-care arrangements that Democrats want them to pursue." Those dastardly Democrats! Forcing people not to pay for child care! Oh, the horror!

Senator Tim Scott (in his response to Biden's speech to Congress): "[Democrats want] to put Washington even more in the middle of your life, from the cradle to college." To Republicans, providing free schooling is somehow the jackboot of tyranny, obviously.

Senator Josh Hawley, speaking of the Biden proposal: "I think there's a lot of lefty social engineering paid for by mortgaging the future of my children and my grandchildren." Mortgaging the future of grandchildren to pay for the grandchildren's school? Oh when will this nightmare end?!?

Senator Marsha Blackburn: "[Biden's proposal would] incentivize women to rely on the federal government to organize their lives. Three-year-old pre-K, they're going to mandate this. Two years of college, whether you like it or not. These are the things that take away choices from the American people. It favors those who want power and control over every single minute of your day. It is disgusting." None of this is true, of course -- nothing will be "mandated" or "whether you like it or not." That's just unadulterated moosepoop. And free school somehow "takes away choices from the American people." Like the choice of paying for school, or doing without. The death of freedom! She went further, during Biden's speech, tweeting an article from 1974 about the prevalence of affordable child care in the Soviet Union, with the text: "You know who else liked universal day care". Seriously -- universal pre-K is going to mean Marx and the commies take over our country? Say what???

Last Sunday, Chris Wallace of Fox News finally asked the question we have been urging all journalists to ask Republicans. Speaking to Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Wallace ran down the actual items in the Biden proposal, one by one. And then he asked: "Which of these programs do you think people in your state don't need?" Cassidy tried the standard GOP talking point: "It's not a bridge, dammit!" No, seriously, here was his answer:

It's not infrastructure. When people say, "Wait a second, I like this because we need a new bridge across the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles," I'm saying this plan will not give it to you. The amount of spending for roads and bridges is so low and split between 50 states over 5 years, you're not going to get your bridge. Now we may need this. But that is not going to give you a road and bridge. And that's what people in my state would really like to see.

This is ridiculous nonsense, of course. Who cares whether it's a bridge or not -- is it a good idea? Which (to our astonishment and to his credit) Wallace actually called out:

There are a lot of programs that aren't infrastructure and the question I'm asking you is would you support the government paying for them? I looked into it, in your state of Louisiana, the rate of child poverty is 25 percent -- one in four of the children in Louisiana are in poverty. And according to the White House, 42 percent of residents in Louisiana do not have access to child care. So wouldn't they benefit -- forget whether it's infrastructure or not -- wouldn't they benefit from these government programs?

This is precisely the question they all need to be asked. Repeatedly. Because they simply have no viable answer to it. Here is Cassidy's weak attempt:

I don't know if they would. If you think about the main driver of elevating out of poverty, it's good education. What we saw during the pandemic was teachers Unions keeping schools shut even when the Centers for Disease Control said it was safe to go back. The president wants to give universal pre-K run by the same teachers Unions. There's more money going to the school systems and the Unions and yet they still won't open? Not because the C.D.C. says it's not safe, but because they don't want to? Your kids are not going to have a better education. They're just not. So whether or not these programs benefit those who need it, we don't know.

Got all that? It's more than just anti-teacher word salad. First, education fights poverty the best. Second, if we spend money on education, then some of it finds its way into teachers' pockets and we obviously can't sanction that. Third, school reopenings! This issue is going to be almost totally forgotten by the 2022 election cycle, though. And finally, who knows? Maybe education doesn't actually benefit anyone, so of course we're against free education for the one-fourth of my state's children who live in poverty.

The disconnect between the Republican position and reality is just breathtaking. And breathtakingly stupid, since (once again) suburban moms may be the most important swing demographic in the midterms. Republicans lost them and lost them badly the last two election cycles, so if they lose them a third time it might permanently move them over to the Democratic coalition. And you know what Republicans are patting themselves on the back over -- their secret scheme to win back these same moms? Banning transgender kids from participating in school sports. That's it. That's their big wedge issue. Because it is so obviously more important to moms and dads than free preschool.

So we'll have banning transgender kids versus free pre-K and free community college, which will extend by four years the very same free public education that already exists in this country. Which the Republicans are planning on fighting on ideological grounds of "taking away your freedom" and "communism!" They're not even going to attempt to make a practical argument, because the practical argument boils down to: "You should have to pay a lot of money for your 3-year-old and 4-year-old to go to school. You should have to pay for community college. Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps, dammit!"

That, pretty obviously, should be a pretty easy political battle to win. On one side is a sane and reasonable solution to a problem that tens of millions of parents face and worry about, and on the other side is... free education is the Soviet Union? Seriously, what are they going to do, play Pink Floyd at their rallies? "We don't need no education / We don't need no thought control." Good luck with that, you know, with all those suburban moms out there. Maybe a laser light show would help?

This is a fight Democrats should be relishing just as much as they did the healthcare issue in 2018. Because this is what a winning issue looks like, plain and simple.

Speaking of Democrats and winning, President Joe Biden had another pretty good week. He did what could accurately be called "the most Biden-ey thing ever" this week, by helping Amtrak celebrate its 50th birthday. And you could just see how much fun he had while doing so.

Biden gave a few speeches to increase the already-high support for his two current big legislative agenda items, down in Louisiana -- a state that didn't vote for him, but is still (of course) part of America. Nothing like a bipartisan travel itinerary, eh?

The president also killed off forever the last remnants of Donald Trump's grandiose border wall project, and returned the money to the Pentagon (from where Trump had stolen it).

Also, his press secretary hinted that a new First Cat is on the horizon, predicting (probably pretty accurately) that it will "break the internet" when announced. All in all, a pretty good week.

And to end on a positive note, America just got at least a first vaccine shot into the 150-millionth arm. This is more than 45 percent of the total population of the country, and a stunning achievement in its own right. Of course, from this point on it is going to get harder and harder to convince people to get a shot, but for now the program is still hitting impressive milestones.

It was kind of a quiet week all around, really. Politics usually takes somewhat of a break after a big presidential speech to Congress, and this week was no different. So for both awards, we're not even going to hand out the major statuettes, and will retire them to the shelf until next week (unless we missed someone glaringly obvious, so feel free as always to make suggestions/nominations in the comments).

We do have one minor award in each category, however.

Nancy Pelosi is no stranger to snark. And this week, her office couldn't resist weighing in on the turmoil in the House Republican caucus. While one line of this sounds like Pelosi made up some hyperbole, sadly, she didn't have to. Here is the full text her tongue-in-cheek press release (titled "Seeking Replacement for House Republican Conference Chair" ):

Word is out that House GOP Leaders are looking to push Rep. Liz Cheney from her post as House Republican Conference Chair -- their most senior woman in GOP leadership -- for a litany of very Republican reasons: she won't lie, she isn't humble enough, she's like a girlfriend rooting for the wrong team, and more.

So what exactly are House GOP Leaders looking for in a #3? ... they want a woman who isn't a "threat" to them.

Again, that "girlfriend rooting for the wrong team" came straight out of the mouth of a Republican, not Pelosi. For pointing all this out (with extra snark), Pelosi and her press office deserve at least an Honorable Mention.

Once again, this simply does not rise to the level of the main award, so instead we're awarding a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award to all the Democratic candidates in the race for a special House election in Texas. The "jungle primary" was held this week, and the only two who will be advancing are both Republicans -- which locks Democrats out even before the final voting begins. We can't say it was exactly "dishonorable," but it was certainly disappointing. Just not enough to rise to the level of a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, that's all.

Volume 617 (5/7/21)

There were a lot of little issues this week, some of which had to wind up on the cutting room floor, but the seriousness of the direction of the Republican Party (or as we dub it, the "Big Lie Party" ) simply took precedence. What the Republicans are doing is downright dangerous not just for their party, but for the country and for our democracy. By centering their party around Trump's Big Lie and by sowing so much doubt and distrust about the most secure election in American history, they are setting up a situation where the next presidential election might indeed be stolen. By them. So we had to pay a goodly amount of attention to these developments, this week.

A nightmare? Spend a morning with my kids, that'll teach you what the word means!

This one is so easy, it is pathetic.

"Republicans are going to try to somehow fearmonger providing help for parents with child care, two free years of preschool, and two free years of community college as some sort of far-left socialist nightmare. Seriously. How many parents are going to recoil in horror at the news that their 3- or 4-year-old can go to pre-K for free? Or that their teen will be able to attend community college tuition-free? Does that sound like some sort of nightmare to you? And it'll all be paid for -- by rich corporations and the richest-of-the-rich individual taxpayers. If you don't make $400,000 a year, your taxes will not go up. That is somehow socialism? That is some sort of loss of freedom? That is some kind of nightmare? You know what? Democrats know that the American voter is a lot smarter than that, and will not be hoodwinked by ideological fearmongering."

Trickle-down ain't working

This was from an address Joe Biden gave right in front of that bridge the Louisiana Republican senator was blathering about. Biden frames this issue perfectly, so we find we cannot improve on his words (except, perhaps, we would have used "Democratic road" at the end, there... just sayin'...):

In my view, it's an easy choice between giving tax breaks to corporations and the super wealthy and investing in working families.... [The Trump tax cut] created a two-trillion-dollar deficit with the vast majority of that going to the top one-tenth of one percent of the wage earners. I don't want to punish anybody.... Just pay your fair share.... Trickle down ain't working very well. We've got to build from the bottom up.... I've never seen a Republican or Democrat road. I just see roads.

The Big Lie Party

They have redefined themselves, so let's call them what they truly now are, shall we?

"There is no Republican Party left. Instead, it has been replaced by the Big Lie Party. There is no unifying ideology, no platform, no core party belief anymore except one -- absolute worship of one man and whatever he is for or against on that given day. That's it. They are about to kick out one of the highest-ranking GOP leaders in Congress for daring to tell the truth when the rest of the party is quite content to run on Trump's Big Lie that the election was somehow stolen from him. All the other Republicans are just fine with swearing that the emperor's new clothes are gorgeous (and, of course, visible), while Liz Cheney cried out forcefully: 'but he's naked!' Because they really don't want to hear that -- the truth simply is not allowed in the party any more -- she has to be booted from her leadership post and another woman who totally supports this false conspiracy theory will take her place. Their one north star is now not only Donald Trump, but his Big Lie. Their biggest legislative agenda items at the state level is 'fixing' the problem of 'election security' which does not actually exist. That's what they stand for, and that is precisely what they are doing with their power. So why not just start calling them the Big Lie Party? Because that's really all they have become."

A threat to democracy

Liz Cheney's got a tough week ahead. Earlier in the week, we wrote an article about Cheney's extraordinary opinion piece in the Washington Post, which (as we showed) actually stood for truth, justice, and the American way. And against her party's stance on all three of those. But there were two other quotes worth mentioning from Cheney this week as well. Democrats should print these out and have them at the ready for any interview they do.

First, the quote that got her into trouble. Trump tried to float a new bit of gaslighting: that the falsehood that the election was stolen from him was not only actually true, but that the Democrats were the ones guilty of "THE BIG LIE" for pointing out this reality. Cheney fired back on Twitter, within hours:

The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.

This, of course, is now heresy within the Republican Party. You simply cannot just stand up and blurt out the truth like that! What was she thinking?!?

Later, at a closed-door conservative conference, she was even more explicit about the direction of her party:

We can't embrace the notion the election is stolen. It's a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy. We can't whitewash what happened on January sixth or perpetuate Trump's Big Lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January sixth is a line that cannot be crossed.

Cult of personality

Democrats are already getting gleeful at how closely the Republicans are tying themselves to Trump and his endless whining about his election loss. This will help Democrats, heading into the midterms.

"The Republican Party has become, in Liz Cheney's words, a 'dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.' Lindsey Graham admitted as much, later in the week. But every Democrat out there should really understand the depth of what we are fighting. Here is an extraordinary quote from a Michigan Republican organizer, explaining her views on the matter:"

I think I speak for many people in that Trump has never actually been wrong, and so we've learned to trust when he says something, that he's not just going to spew something out there that's wrong and not verified.

"Got that? Donald Trump, who uttered over 30,000 lies during his time in office, has, quote, never actually been wrong, unquote. That is what we're up against, folks. Blind faith. Belief in something that just isn't so. And a fierce and rabid determination to cling to that belief. Or, to put it another way, a cult."

Country getting more bipartisan all the time

It would be useful for Democrats to start separating "Washington Republicans" from the rest of reality. Since they've already voluntarily done so themselves, this is really just pointing it out.

"As Joe Biden likes to point out, the country itself is pretty bipartisan in what they want to see from the government. When he gave a speech in Louisiana this week, a Republican mayor introduced him with some support for his infrastructure plans. All of the items on Biden's jobs agenda and families agenda poll with incredible bipartisan support from the public. It is only the Washington Republicans who refuse to recognize this new bipartisan reality. They are the ones refusing to take part in any of it, even though their own constituents want to see Biden's plan succeed. Mitch McConnell just swore he was going to devote 'one hundred percent' of his energy to stopping all of Biden's plans. That is not what the country wants. Not by a long shot. Republicans just keep getting more and more extreme and out of touch -- even with their own voters -- with every passing day."

General meltdown

Hoo boy. Imagine for one tiny minute what Foxlandia would be saying now if this had been a Democrat and not a Republican!

"Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about a Russian contact and was later pardoned by Trump, just proved how much of a patriot he isn't. He was trying to lead a crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, a pledge that every schoolchild in America gets drilled into them until it is actually hard not to remember it. The Pledge is only 31 words long, folks -- it's really nowhere near as tough as the National Anthem or anything. And this, mind you, is coming from a retired 3-star general. Here is what he came up with, before just lapsing into silence as the crowd corrected him: 'I pledge of [sic] allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, individual [sic]....' Seriously. He added one word ("of" ), possibly changed another word ("individual," although it's hard to hear, he might have correctly used "indivisible" ) and left out 12 intervening words. Can you just imagine the faux outrage from the right if a Democrat had face-planted this badly?"

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
Posted by ChrisWeigant | Fri May 7, 2021, 08:44 PM (1 replies)

Friday Talking Points -- Biden Goes Big

President Joe Biden is either a radical, far-left socialist who hates many things about America and lied to everyone in his campaign about "unity" (because deep down he really just wants to divide us to foster his own political ambitions)... or he is not. If he isn't, then he just might be a moderate Democratic centrist who has been thrust into three simultaneous crises and who has reacted by abandoning his former timidity and instead decided that the time is now to prove to the American public that the federal government can indeed be a force for good in their lives, in the biggest way possible. Joe is going big, even though his natural instinct would be to sit down with Republicans and hash out a compromise that fell far short of what the Democratic side of the aisle thought was necessary.

That is the state of our political divide. Either you believe the first sentence in that former paragraph, or you believe the rest of it. The problem for the Republican Party is that a majority of the American people believe (to some degree or another) the more-reasonable interpretation of Joe Biden. This is why his job approval poll numbers are still higher than Donald Trump ever managed even once. Joe Biden looks and sounds like a moderate. But he seems determined to rise to the occasion, and he has shown a surprising amount of steeliness (and impatience) when confronted by GOP stalling tactics. This is likely due to the lesson he learned full well while serving as Barack Obama's vice president, when Obama was stymied multiple times by GOP bait-and-switch tactics. Obama, most notably on Obamacare, gave in on all sorts of issues in the hopes of forming a compromise plan that Republicans would vote for. This effort took up an enormous amount of time, and in the end, the Republicans refused to vote for it anyway. Biden learned the lesson: "put them on a timetable, and if they can't deliver enough GOP votes to matter in the Senate when that time is up, then feel free to ignore them and use budget reconciliation rules to get it done -- because all people will remember later is whether you got it done or not, and not how you got it done." That's an excellent lesson to have learned, when dealing with today's Republican Party, which is even worse than they were back in the Tea Party era under Obama.

The political week in Washington centered around President Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress. Biden spoke in front of a much-reduced crowd (due to COVID restrictions) in classic Biden fashion. Ted Cruz, who was caught on camera snoozing during the speech, later called this style: "boring, but radical." That's a pretty good description, actually. Biden delivered his speech with his usual folksy charm, getting emotional where appropriate and at other times almost whispering. And it was fairly boring to watch -- at least, compared to the clown show of watching Donald Trump attempt to read off a TelePrompTer. But then again, boring is what the American people wanted and voted for, so it's not like that's a bad thing. Biden is comfortably boring, to put it another way. But his plans are pretty radical, at least to a Republican like Cruz. Biden, in fact, is acting bolder than any Democratic president since Lyndon Baines Johnson, in terms of proposing what the federal government should do for its citizens. Biden even directly declared Reaganism dead in his speech: "My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked." No wonder Republicans like Cruz are scared.

Senator Tim Scott, who gave the GOP response to Biden's speech, darkly warned of what the Democrats wanted to accomplish, versus how Republicans thought things should be: "Our best future won't come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you -- the American people." The GOP's problem, however, is that virtually every single item in Biden's impressive agenda is actually wildly popular with the public -- most of them poll northwards of 60 percent. To put this another way: the voters aren't as scared any more when Republicans try to use demonizing words, because they can immediately see how what Democrats are proposing would actually help them and their families. They balance the idea of two years of free pre-school for their children and, later, two years of free community college against "it will come from you -- the American people," which, translated, means what it has always meant coming from Republicans: "no government money for you, we're giving it all to your boss and your company's owners instead -- you are on your own, pal." Calling something "socialism" just doesn't pack the rhetorical punch it used to, in other words. Not when Joe Biden is proposing such sweeping beneficial changes to average families.

The Republican Party cupboard is bare, when it comes to both ideas and counterattacks on Biden. This is becoming more and more evident every week, when the right-wing media echo chamber has so few things to successfully demonize that it just starts making stuff up to scare their viewers ("Joe Biden is going to limit you to only eating one hamburger per month! Ahhh! Everybody run!!!" ). Their latest grasping attempt to take Biden down a peg is worthy of a Pennsylvania pretzel-maker -- Biden promised "unity," but now that he's president he is incapable of unifying Congress (because Republicans are never going to agree to anything he proposes, ever). This is somehow supposed to be Biden's fault? The Republican Party is saying, in essence: "We won't work with you on anything, and it's your fault for dividing the country so much!" It's just laughable.

Here's a good take on it all, from a Washington Post speech review:

Maybe "unity" doesn't mean that Republicans and Democratic politicians agree on everything.

Or that a handful of Republican lawmakers get veto power over any policy.

Or that no one ever faces a tax increase.

Maybe it just means: Treat your fellow Americans with dignity, even when you disagree. At least, that was the subtext of President Biden's speech to Congress on Wednesday -- and a theme of his presidency so far.

Biden has proved a challenging adversary for Republicans to vilify. He's a generally congenial and empathetic politician, who has a compelling personal story rife with loss. He has working-class bona fides and has resisted conscription into Republican-framed culture wars. Republicans have tried caricaturing him as old and ineffectual -- yet also somehow unusually effective at transforming the country into a socialist hellscape. (GOP strategists appear aware that these critiques are somewhat at odds.)

So, Republicans keep returning to a Swift-boat-like attack: Strike at his strength -- his compelling message of "unifying" the country -- and portray it as a devious ploy to divide Americans instead.

Republicans argue that Biden offered a bait-and-switch, that he ran on healing our divisions but now plans to... pass a bunch of social programs benefiting the poor and middle class. If you're wondering how that latter agenda supposedly contradicts the former, you're not alone. The connective tissue, according to Republican officials, is that programs redistributing money to help the poor and middle class are somehow inherently divisive (class warfare!), regardless of the polls suggesting their popularity; or, in the GOP telling, only the programs Republican lawmakers vote for should count as unifying.

In other words, Republicans have decided that the test of Biden's desire to unify the country is whether Republicans themselves defect from the project -- and they have made clear their decision to always do so. As Republicans learned during the Obama years, the easiest way to ensure a president fails at achieving promised cooperation is to refuse to cooperate.

Biden, meanwhile, has taken the rhetorical battle to another level. He reminded Republicans that America does not live in a vacuum, and countries like China were out there competing with us. The absolute gridlock in Washington is hurting our country in this worldwide competition, which is why he is so determined to prove democracy can still work. Which he is planning on doing with or without Republican politicians:

"We have to prove democracy still works," Biden said during his speech. "That our government still works -- and can deliver for the people."

It all feels so reasonable. Why shouldn't Americans get to have democracy and get to have a functioning government, especially since we pay for it? Why shouldn't we want, as Biden said, "the wealthiest one percent of Americans to pay their fair share"? Why shouldn't we try to eliminate child poverty, an idea that made Republicans in the chamber so salty they refused to clap for it? Why shouldn't the wealthiest country in the world be able to provide its citizens with the same standard of living so many other less wealthy countries do with ease?

The thing is, these are the same exact arguments that progressives have been making for decades, and yet Republicans -- aided by a loud right-wing media, the racism of the majority of white voters, and a mainstream media addicted to false equivalencies -- were successful at demonizing such reasonable points as basically communism. Why then does it seem like Republicans suddenly can't land a glove on Biden?

Part of the credit should go to Biden himself, who is rising above what doubters like myself thought of him. He was able, as John Harwood of CNN said, to speak "in plain, non-political, non-ideological language invoking the people he wants to help."

By doing so, this article notes, he is directly attempting to poach all the blue-class voters that not only voted for Trump but have voted for Republicans going all the way back to Ronald Reagan (the original "Reagan Democrats" ). Joe Biden was in the Senate before Reagan ever became president, so he remembers a time when things were different.

His strategy is pretty simple to understand: give people what they want. Help them. Make their lives better. Then, come election-time, remind them which party did this for them and which party fought it. That is real populism, not just the snake-oil version Trump touted. And it can work.

This week, Biden proposed the third in his trio of legislative proposals to (as he puts it) "build back better." The first, the American Rescue Plan, passed Congress without any Republican support. The second two are his American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan he unveiled for his big speech. They would spend an additional $4 trillion on all sorts of things that would make life better for tens of millions of Americans. Biden would raise this money by raising taxes on corporations and people making more than $400,000 per year. Not a lot of blue-collar workers make that kind of money, to state the obvious (the only "regular guy" job we can even think of which would qualify would be: "football coach at a famous college," although we admit that there may be other esoteric examples).

Biden is offering things like home healthcare being covered by the government. Free pre-school and free community college tuition. Child tax credit extensions, to keep those $300 checks arriving in parents' mailboxes until 2025. Rural broadband. Guaranteed paid family leave for all workers. Funding child care. Increased subsidies to purchase Obamacare policies. Building wind turbines here instead of in China. How much of that really sounds all that bad to the public, even when Republicans scream "Socialism!" until they're blue in the face?

Even Fox News host Chris Wallace admitted as much, immediately after the speech:

"You know, I think this is going to be a popular speech with the American people," the veteran newsman declared. "He offered a lot of stuff. Four trillion dollars will buy a lot of stuff, from millions of jobs to child-care to community health centers, all kinds of stuff, community colleges."

[Chris] Wallace also suggested Biden's promise that middle-class Americans will not see their taxes increased to pay for these plans would be "pretty popular."

"Big corporations are going to pay for it," Wallace noted. "People making more than $400,000 are going to pay for it but the vast majority of people watching tonight aren't."

The Fox News Sunday anchor went on to say that the administration has made a "calculation" that after the coronavirus pandemic "people come to have a different feeling about government" and that "they now feel more trusting and more in need of government."

That is functionally admitting that what is "radical" to Ted Cruz actually sounds pretty reasonable to most American families -- even those that normally vote Republican. And this is Biden's ace in the hole, because he has insisted on redefining "bipartisan" to mean "across-the-aisle support from voters," instead of Washington politicians.

So far, it seems to be working. Biden's poll numbers are healthy (a lot healthier than Trump's were, by roughly 10 points, at this time in his tenure). The poll numbers for his ideas area even healthier. Biden can continue making the claim that his agenda is bipartisan because it has bipartisan support from the American people, and eventually the mainstream media is going to be forced to admit that he's right.

We are in for a gigantic battle over what the scope of the federal government should be. Biden is saying it should do far more for working-class families. Coincidentally, this is a similar argument to the one Donald Trump used to use. Helping the "forgotten" workers out there. Making people's lives easier with tangible help. Progressives have been arguing this for years, and they've finally got a rather unlikely champion in Joe Biden. He's not going to get everything done at once -- already several cherished items (such as lowering the eligibility age for Medicare) got left on the cutting room floor. Biden promises he will return to these things later, but the reality is that he probably won't get the chance. The two big proposals he has made will be the main subject of debate in Washington all summer long. But for once, it's going to be a straight-up "big government versus small government" battle, and for once the public seems to be a lot more open to letting the federal government do a lot more for them personally. So although it's going to be very tough, it looks like the chances for success are higher than they've been since L.B.J.'s time in office. And that's a pretty good way to wrap up Biden's first 100 days in office, really.

This one's pretty obvious this week. President Joe Biden is the clear winner of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week for both his speech to Congress and for his new American Families Plan. Biden had a great week all around, specifically timed to his 100th day in office. [For more details, see the entire rest of this article.]

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

This one was also (sadly) pretty obvious. Senator Joe Manchin is going to rack up a record number of Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards, at least for the foreseeable future.

This week, Manchin essentially killed any hope of making Washington D.C. the 51st state any time soon:

Sen. Joe Manchin III told reporters in his home state of West Virginia on Friday morning that he does not support the bill to make D.C. the nation's 51st state, according to audio provided by the Democrat's office and a report from WVNews.

Manchin, a key swing vote in the closely divided Senate, said he believed a constitutional amendment, rather than legislation, would be required to admit D.C. as a state. His stance deals a major blow to statehood advocates who were hoping for his support after the bill passed the House last week.

Manchin cited findings from the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter and comments from then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in reaching his decision.

It should be noted that it is even less likely that statehood for D.C. would ever happen, if a constitutional amendment were indeed necessary -- a fact Manchin is well aware of. However, no amendment really would be necessary for Congress to at least make the attempt (the Supreme Court may ultimately decide the question, but that certainly doesn't preclude Democrats from trying).

Which is why Manchin gets yet another MDDOTW, to add to his growing collection. Thanks for nothing, Joe.

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 616 (4/30/21)

Before we get started, we have to share a political quote that just didn't fit anywhere else today. We also apologize for largely ignoring the rest of the political week -- a week in which Rudy Giuliani's house got raided by the feds!) -- but Biden's speech so dominated the political discourse that we had to devote almost all of today's column to it.

But we have to at least mention the news that California is going to hold its second-ever recall election in a few months. Now, barring any unforeseen scandals appearing between now and then, Gavin Newsom will be just fine. He's got an approval rating in the high 50s, and that will likely go up even further when the entire state (and all the schools) fully reopen once again.

But just because Newsom is all but certain to beat the recall, that doesn't mean we're not going to have a three-ring circus before it does. The last time this happened -- which resulted in the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger -- there were a whopping 135 candidates on the ballot (including people such as Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman, and Arianna Huffington). This time around, there may be even more. Caitlyn Jenner has already thrown her hat in the ring, and so has one person who ran back then as well: porn star Mary Carey. And her campaign kickoff statement is worth quoting, just for a laugh: "Last time I ran I was young, dumb and full of fun. This time I have more experience and will not be taking this position laying down. I am ready to be on top!" In other words, let the circus begin! Bring in the clown car! Step right up, folks!

Amusements aside, here are our suggestions to combat the clownish complaints coming from Republicans over Joe Biden's sweeping agenda. This really is like shooting fish in a barrel, since they really have yet to latch on to any one (possibly imaginary) aspect of the plan to hammer him with (see: Obamacare, "death panels" ). For now, though, the Republican arguments are pretty easy to counter.


Biden made this one pathetically easy to defend.

"Republicans are going to lie to you -- they are going to tell you that Democrats are going to raise your taxes. For everyone except the absolutely wealthiest, this is false. How do I know it's false? How can I prove that to you? Well, let's see... are you a giant corporation? No? Then your taxes won't go up. Under the tax laws Republicans passed -- the last giant giveaway to corporate America -- we now have the largest corporations in the country paying zero taxes. And Republicans think that is just fine -- they don't want to change it a bit. Or how about... do you make over four hundred thousand dollars a year? No? Then don't worry -- your income taxes won't go up. Joe Biden has sworn he will not raise taxes on anyone making less than that per year, and no matter how many times Republicans lie about it, it still will be true. So don't worry -- your taxes won't be going up, period."

Partisan? Who cares?

The big GOP complaint is that Biden is passing things on a purely partisan basis. Fortunately, there's a very easy answer to this.

"Republican politicians in Washington love to complain that Joe Biden isn't being bipartisan. But you know what? People do not care who voted for a bill and who didn't, when they see the results. They just don't. Don't believe me? Well then, here's an easy way to prove it: how many people who got their $1,400 checks in the mail ripped them up in protest because no Republican voted for it in Congress? I'm pretty sure the answer to that one is 'zero.' People just do not care what happens in Washington, instead they just want to see things get done."

Socialist? Who cares?

Another big complaint is also just as easy to shoot down.

"Republican Senator Tim Scott, in response to President Joe Biden's speech this week, denounced the Biden agenda as, quote, Washington schemes and socialist dreams, period. Seriously? I mean, nice little rhyme and all, but seriously? Republicans have now taken to calling anything that taxes pay for 'socialist,' because they know the word used to scare the voters. But you know what? By their definition, we'd have no cops, no firefighters, no public schools, no public libraries -- because all of it would somehow be evil socialism. Biden is just proposing extending the list of what the government does a bit, so that it includes things that help average families out. They can call it whatever they want, but there is wide public support for these new programs, because voters are tired of seeing everything the government does only help out Wall Street and the ultra-wealthy. So, no, it's not 'class warfare' or 'socialism' to say that we as a nation should spend money on a few other priorities -- ones a lot closer to average Americans' kitchen table."

Infrastructure or not? Who cares?

This one is the silliest of the bunch, really.

"Republicans are saying we should all reject major portions of the American Jobs Act because they complain there are projects which are not technically 'infrastructure' -- as if that were some kind of big deal to the voters. You know what? It isn't. People just do not care whether Republicans split these hairs one way or the other. Who in their right mind is going to complain: 'My aging mother now gets her home healthcare covered by Medicare... but I personally cannot define this help as 'infrastructure,' therefore it is a bad thing and I am going to inform her to reject it completely and continue paying out of her own pocket'? Nobody! Nobody cares whether Mitch McConnell thinks it qualifies as infrastructure or not -- they just care whether it makes their lives easier or not. That's it, period."

Reject the scare words

Just push right on by all the bluster, and talk specifics instead.

"OK, let's start with this -- I do not care what you call these programs. You can call them anything under the sun, I'm not going to argue with any of it. Whatever lights your candle, OK? But after you get done, can you answer specifically which of these programs you support and which you don't? Take any part of Biden's American Jobs Plan or his American Families Plan and let me know whether it is a good idea politically or not. Because that is what people really want to hear -- a debate on the policies themselves, not whatever scare word you come up with to demonize them. If you're going to attempt such demonization, let's at least do it on the merits, OK?"

Throw it right back at them, with details

Force the conversation from the generic to the specific.

"Socialism? What, am I supposed to roll up into a ball of fear when you say that? Really? As you can see, I am not -- instead I'd like to ask you, specifically: is providing two free years of pre-school socialism and therefore evil? How many voters think like that? Is providing two free years of community college some sort of Washington scheme to remove all freedom from your life and therefore evil? Or would it actually help out tens of millions of people in your home state? If these two programs are evil socialism, then why should America provide free public school from kindergarten through twelfth grade? Isn't that equally as socialistic and therefore evil? It is absolutely impossible to square those two stances, in other words -- if K-12 public education is a worthwhile thing for the government to provide, then why not expand it two years in either direction? I mean, you can argue it'd cost too much or whatever else, but you cannot say that public education of a 5-year old is ideologically allowable when public education of a 4-year old is some socialist plot to takeover America. That just makes no sense whatsoever."

Far left? Don't make me laugh

And finally, we saved our favorite one for last.

"Republicans are falling all over themselves to fling the term 'far left' at Joe Biden and his agenda. They use this term, along with the words 'extremist' or 'extreme,' to try to paint Biden as some sort of wide-eyed radical looking to tear the system down. In the first place, they're not having much luck with this effort because I mean... well, just look at Joe Biden! Does he seem like a radical to you? Yeah, me either. Second, characterizing his agenda as 'far left' has worked pretty well to hoodwink the mainstream media into using the same language, but it's just not true. Take any one of Biden's proposals - free college, broadband expansion, whatever. Pick one at random. Then go ahead and check the actual poll numbers. These policies are supported by a huge majority of the public -- 60 percent, 65 percent, sometimes even higher. By definition that is not 'far' anything! That is instead mainstream. If you classify these ideas as 'far-left' then you also have to admit that America is now a 'far-left' country -- you can't have it both ways. It's all the other positions that are not mainstream, in fact. Biden's proposals are the mainstream, the Republican position has moved to the far right, and I'm betting that this time around the media won't get bamboozled into not noticing this rather glaring fact."

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

Friday Talking Points -- Biden Enters "First 100 Days" Homestretch In Good Shape

President Joe Biden just had a pretty good week. And next week's going to be even better for him. Especially considering how far we've come since this time exactly one year ago.

In the past week alone, Biden and his administration chalked up the following achievements or milestones:

Biden has already reached his (doubled!) goal of 200 million vaccine shots into people's arms in his first 100 days in office -- a week early.

Over 41 percent of the American population has been vaccinated at least once, including over 51 percent of all those currently eligible (age 16 and up).

The average number of new infections has actually started to come down once again, and is once again lower than the peak of the second wave. It is still too high, but at least it is heading in the right direction once again. The average deaths per day seems to have plateaued at just below 750 -- again, too high, but a lot better than the peak of almost 3,500 deaths per day.

We are very close to -- and in some areas, already beyond -- the tipping point for vaccinations, where the supply of vaccine suddenly becomes greater than the demand. Once this point is reached (it will arrive at different times in different states), anyone who wants a shot should essentially be able to get one on the same day, with no (or very little) waiting. This is much earlier than most experts had predicted, which is a positive sign indeed.

President Biden held a successful Earth Day virtual summit with dozens of world leaders, where the rest of the world saw America begin to regain its leadership position on climate change and green energy.

Biden began the week by almost immediately realizing he had made a mistake, so the White House then corrected it and changed course. This is also leadership -- admitting when you get something wrong, and then rectifying the mistake (something entirely absent under the previous administration). More on this in a bit.

Despite Donald Trump's dire predictions of economic collapse under a Biden presidency, the economy is doing just fine. Trump, from one of the debates last year: "If [Joe Biden] gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you've never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell and it'll be a very, very sad day for this country." The reality: since Biden became president, 1.3 million jobs have been created, the economy is headed for its best year since 1984, and the stock market is up more under Biden (16 percent) than it was when Trump first took office (10.5 percent).

Speaking of Trump, he actually had some praise for Joe Biden's announced Afghanistan withdrawal plan, calling it "a wonderful and positive thing." Trump did complain that Biden should have stuck to Trump's May 1 deadline, but generally approved of Biden's decision -- something few other Republicans managed to do.

You may not have even heard of Trump's praise for Biden, and there's a big fat reason for that. Because this week we all got to celebrate the first 100 days of Trump being banished from social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Some close confidants of Trump have reported that he has been somewhat relieved by not having to tweet all the time, and that it has actually relaxed him. The entire rest of the country echoes that sentiment as well.

In Congress, the D.C. statehood bill passed the House for only the second time in history, while an Asian-American hate crimes bill made it out of the Senate on an almost-unanimous vote (Senator Josh Hawley was the only Republican to vote against it, because of course he was). Biden's three nominees for the U.S.P.S. board -- who will hopefully quickly boot Louis DeJoy from the office of postmaster general -- moved forward in the Senate, as well.

Biden himself charted a higher approval rating among young voters this week than even Barack Obama ever managed, and Biden (and the rest of us) breathed a sigh of relief when the Minnesota jury returned three guilty verdicts for the murderer of George Floyd.

All in all, a pretty good week all around.

And just to remind everyone, one year ago today, Donald Trump said the following at a COVID-19 task force press briefing:

A question that probably some of you are thinking of if you're totally into that world. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous -- whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light -- and I think you said that that hasn't been checked, but you're going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that, too. It sounds interesting. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So if you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me. So we'll see. But the whole concept of the light the way it kills it in one minute, that's pretty powerful.

That's right -- it's "Inject Bleach Day" and "Sunshine Where The Sun Don't Shine Day," boys and girls! [Warning: of course, nobody should inject any disinfectant into their bodies for any reason, ever, because it will probably kill you. As for sunshine up your skirt, well, that's a matter between you and your proctologist....] Now that we have a sane and competent president once again, such idiocy has returned to its natural lair -- rabid and unhinged cable news shows.

This statement has already gone down in history as one of (if not "the" ) stupidest things a president has ever said during a press conference, but then again Trump has absolutely cornered the market in this category -- he's easily taken at least the top ten or twenty places on the all-time list.

Next week, among other things, Joe Biden will roll out the second part of his Build Back Better agenda (to be called the "American Families Plan" ), which is being teased thusly:

While final numbers had not been determined, the largest efforts are expected to center on roughly $225 billion for child-care funding; $225 billion for paid family and medical leave; $200 billion for universal prekindergarten instruction; hundreds of billions in education funding, including tuition-free community colleges across the country; and other sums for nutritional assistance, the people familiar with the matter said.

The tax-credits section includes an extension of the expanded child tax credit through 2025, the people said.... The expanded child tax credit, which offers families $3,600 per young child and $3,000 per older child, was first approved in the $1.9 trillion [COVID-19] relief plan and is set to expire at the end of this year.

Once this plan is unveiled, Biden will deliver his first speech to a joint session of Congress. Normally, in the first year of a president's term, this is not actually referred to as a "State Of The Union speech," because normally it is delivered within weeks of the new president being sworn in. This year, however, it is really a distinction without a difference, since Biden will have been in office a full 99 days when he delivers it, and since he has already visibly taken the reins of power and changed America for the better during that period. So instead of just an aspirational speech, Biden will begin by touting what he has already achieved, before exhorting Congress to do more on his agenda. Or, to put it another way: a typical State Of The Union speech.

The day after Biden speaks will be his 100th day in office, which should generate an absolute flood of good press for him. So while this past week was indeed impressive, next week might prove to be even more so.

Let's see, what else is going on? How about a few Republican cruelty footnotes?

Two House members -- Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert -- voted against renewing the National Marrow Donor Program, a nationwide program that matches donors to people in desperate need of bone marrow. How could anyone in their right mind vote against such a program?

And as time goes by, more and more inspectors general reports are appearing, which shed light on just precisely how awful the Trump administration was about just about everything. The most recent of these proves what has long been suspected -- the Trump administration "put up bureaucratic obstacles" which "stalled approximately $20 billion in hurricane relief" for Puerto Rico. They then obstructed the investigation into the delays. This was all done under the sleepy-eyed watch of Ben Carson, who refused to be interviewed by the inspector general's office during the investigation.

And if that weren't shocking enough, it seems the United States Postal Service is, for some unfathomable reason, monitoring social media accounts of Americans, even when it has nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the mail. Here's the frightening story:

The Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), part of the U.S.P.S. law enforcement arm, is one of seven groups that deal with cybercrime, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which says it targets the use of the mail to facilitate black market trade and other illegal activities related to drugs, fraud and violent crime. But that description neglects to mention that the group also tracks social media sites for "inflammatory" posts, including messages about planned protests.

"Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (U.S.P.I.S.) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021," said a March 16 government bulletin marked as "law enforcement sensitive" and distributed by the Department of Homeland Security. "Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts."

. . .

Civil liberties experts expressed concerns about the Postal Service's collection of social media posts.

"I don't understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues," Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who was appointed by former President Barack Obama to review the National Security Agency's metadata collection, told Yahoo News.

"This seems a little bizarre," added Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice's liberty and national security program. "Based on the very minimal information that's available online, it appears that [iCOP] is meant to root out misuse of the postal system by online actors, which doesn't seem to encompass what's going on here. It's not at all clear why their mandate would include monitoring of social media that's unrelated to use of the postal system."

Levinson-Waldman also raised questions about the legality of the program.

"If the individuals they're monitoring are carrying out or planning criminal activity, that should be the purview of the F.B.I.," she said. "If they're simply engaging in lawfully protected speech, even if it's odious or objectionable, then monitoring them on that basis raises serious constitutional concerns."

It's one thing for the N.S.A. or F.B.I. to do this sort of thing, but the post office?!? Who thought that was a good idea? Biden can't get those new board members confirmed fast enough, it seems.

As usual, we'll end on a rather amusing note. It seems the temptation for celebrities to enter politics has grown due to Trump's success, as this week Caitlyn Jenner announced she would be running for California governor during the recall election. This isn't much of a worry, since few expect the recall effort to succeed, but it is notable since the last time the Golden State held a recall, we ended up with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Not to be outdone, Matthew McConaughey polled over ten points higher than the sitting governor of Texas in a recent survey. McConaughey is reportedly now seriously considering a run. So perhaps Texas will soon get a new governor who will promise to make everything "alright alright alright" in the Lone Star State? Hey, stranger things have happened. Just ask Jesse Ventura.

We have three Honorable Mention awards to give out before the big one this week. First, although it is not the first time he has done so, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is the highest-ranking Democrat ever to get fully on board with the effort to totally deschedule and legalize marijuana at the federal level. Schumer promised at least a floor vote on the bill, which simply wasn't possible with Mitch McConnell running things. And, of course, he picked the day for his announcement with great care:

Speaking on April 20 -- a folk holiday for marijuana enthusiasts -- Schumer said on the Senate floor that he planned to draft and advance Senate legislation "not only to end the federal prohibition on marijuana, but to ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations."

"It makes no sense. It's time for change. I believe the time has come to end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country," he said, adding that strict federal penalties for cannabis have disproportionately hurt people of color who serve long jail sentences over possession of the drug and then struggle to obtain jobs because of their criminal records.

Schumer didn't used to support legalization, but he evolved on the issue after travelling to states that had already legalized it and just talking to lots of people there. In every case, they said essentially the same thing: the opposition had predicted the skies would fall and civilization would crumble if weed became legal, and in every instance this just did not happen.

Two House members also deserve Honorable Mention for fiercely pushing back on Jim Jordan's belligerent and disrespectful behavior in committee hearings. Jordan has made it one of his trademarks to prove to the world that he is the biggest anal sphincter in all of Congress. He treats committee hearings the same way he would a cable television interview. He talks whenever he feels the urge (despite rules which dictate who has the floor and who gets to speak without interruption), he thinks talking loudest and fastest wins all arguments, and he has zero respect for either the witnesses or the committee chair (to say nothing of his sneering contempt for Democrats luckless enough to share a committee with him).

It really should be up to the committee chairs to smack this guy down, but for some reason most of them fail to adequately do so. When the chair cuts in to Jordan after his time expires, Jordan immediately tries to pick a petty argument with the chair. When another congressman is given the floor, Jordan just keeps right on yapping.

Personally, we'd love to see some committee chair call in the House sergeant-at-arms and just have Jordan forcibly ejected for his refusal to follow civilized rules of debate, but we'll settle for what just happened instead. Representative Val Demings absolutely refused to put up with Jordan's insubordination, and then Representative Maxine Waters took it a step further:

Rep. Maxine Waters on Sunday said she told GOP Rep. Jim Jordan to "shut your mouth" during a hearing last week because the Ohio lawmaker was not respecting other lawmakers on the panel and was bullying the panel's witness, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The brief exchange between the California Democrat and Jordan (R-Ohio), which took place during a House coronavirus subcommittee hearing, quickly became a viral video clip. In it, Jordan repeatedly seeks to question the top infectious disease doctor after his time expires.

"Your time has expired, sir," Waters tells Jordan as he continues to press Fauci. "You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth."

Waters told Jonathan Capehart, host of MSNBC's The Sunday Show, that she saw Jordan as seeking to bully Fauci, adding: "There was an attempt to basically shut him down by Congressman Jordan."

"We only have five minutes each. And he does not respect the chair. He does not respect the other members. He speaks over time," Waters said, accusing Jordan of attempting to undermine Fauci and Democrats.

Waters is right. Jordan needs being told to "shut up" much more often, in fact. On a regular basis, until he changes his rude and disrespectful ways. So we feel Honorable Mention awards are in line for both of these no-nonsense congresswomen.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Ellison personally took over the job of overseeing the prosecution of Derek Chauvin (now "the convicted murderer of George Floyd" ), after questions were raised about the prosecutor originally assigned to the case. And, obviously, Ellison did a stellar job of it.

The jury took less than eleven hours to return a guilty verdict on all three counts -- which is blindingly fast for such a major case with such serious crimes. This was likely due to two major factors, the first being all the video of those horrific nine-and-a-half minutes, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt (certainly beyond "reasonable doubt" ) that Chauvin was, in fact, guilty of murdering Floyd.

But the second big factor was that the "blue wall of silence" did not hold. Other police officers -- including those of the highest rank -- testified for the prosecution. That is rare, in such cases. Incredibly rare. So Ellison should deserve praise for whatever he did to make this happen.

As previously mentioned, the vast majority of America heaved a giant sigh of relief when the verdicts were read. The media had already provided an overwhelming amount of coverage of the case (since video cameras were allowed in the courtroom), and they all broke in to cover the jury's verdict live.

Of course, being the media, then they all had to hide their thinly-veiled disappointment that the entire rest of that day's news cycles didn't feature protests, violence, or even rioting in the streets -- which the media were fully primed and prepared for.

But in the end, justice was served. And Attorney General Keith Ellison deserves a lot of the credit for ensuring that that happened, which is why he is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Minnesota Attorney General on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

To begin with, we did not for a moment consider either Nancy Pelosi or Maxine Waters for any negative award this week. Republicans tried to twist things they said right before and right after the jury's verdict was read, but in both cases they were attempting to make a partisan mountain out of a molehill. Personally, we didn't take this bait.

We do have two (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards this week, though. The first is for Senator Joe Manchin who -- long before a Democratic primary would even have been held -- gave a full-throated endorsement to Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in her 2022 re-election bid. This is just more of Manchin being Manchin, and flexing his outsized power in a 50-50 Senate.

Representative Jim Clyburn also deserves a (Dis-)Honorable Mention, for refusing to take his medicine. No, not the vaccine, his $5,000 fine for skipping the metal detectors outside the House floor.

Now, there is a very obvious problem with the way these security checkpoints are set up. Members of Congress are apparently subjected to being searched not only when they first arrive at the House floor, but also after every time they go to the bathroom. There seems a very obvious fix to this problem -- move the checkpoint back and include at least one set of bathrooms inside the secure area. Airports figured this out a long time ago, after all the post-9/11 changes, so it's not like this is rocket science or anything.

Anyway, here's what happened with Clyburn:

House Majority Whip James Clyburn is facing a possible $5,000 fine for evading the metal detectors off the House floor, which are part of the security protocols House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enacted after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The South Carolina Democrat was caught going around the detectors after he used the bathroom during a vote on Tuesday. If found guilty of violating the House's security rules, Clyburn -- a senior member of Democratic leadership -- would be the first Democrat to be fined under the new metal detector protocols.

. . .

Multiple House Republicans have faced the $5,000 fine, including one GOP member who similarly exited the chamber to use the same nearby bathroom. If Clyburn is not ultimately fined, it could spark a major issue in the chamber as Republicans are likely to question why they faced fines but not Clyburn. House Republicans voted against the fines in February.

Clyburn entered the House floor on Tuesday through an entrance that faces the Capitol Rotunda. He was wanded by security, according to a source familiar with the matter, who noted that he then voted, before exiting through a different door to go to the bathroom that is outside of the House Speaker's lobby. When he left the bathroom, Clyburn walked to his Capitol Police detail, who were speaking with the officer at the magnetometer in the Speaker's Lobby. They went around the metal detector to return onto the House floor, the source said.

Fair is fair. It does not matter whether this was intentional or inadvertent. If Republicans are getting fined for this behavior, then Democrats need to be fined just as consistently. That's the only real defensible position to take.

But Clyburn says he'll appeal the decision, which is a political headache for Democrats. He should instead promise never to do it again and put himself forward as an example to the other Democrats never to forget to go through security, ever. If Democrats are going to take this moral high road, then they must be consistent and evenhanded about it.

But the winner of this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is Senator Kyrsten Sinema, for a photo she posted to social media. After seeing it, you'll want to double-check that she is an actual United States senator and not some twentysomething desperately trying to look cool to her friends. Because that is exactly the vibe the photo exudes.

It shows Sinema drinking what looks an awful lot like sangria through a "just look at how cool I am!" bendy straw, in an outfit seemingly color-coordinated with the wine itself (including an "I am so darn hip!" hat). But the worst thing about this photo was noticed by an eagle-eyed reporter at Politico. https://twitter.com/MZanona/status/1383881855708012545 Sinema is wearing a ring that, upon close examination, reads: "Fuck off."

Once again, we remind everyone, this is a United States senator, not some desperate teen on spring break. Think we're exaggerating? Look at the photo and decide for yourself.

For us, that photo didn't have to speak 1,000 words to win Sinema this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, it really only required two words for that.

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

Volume 615 (4/23/21)

Yes, it's that time of week once again, where we suggest a short list of talking points for all Democrats to use, whether being interviewed on national television or just around the water cooler at work. A varied bunch this week with no particular theme. So sit back, relax, and enjoy....

How refreshing!

There's a larger point to this story.

"The White House announced last Friday that President Joe Biden would not be raising the number of refugees admitted to America this year, instead keeping in place the tiny 15,000 cap that Donald Trump had instituted. After some rather fierce pushback from Democrats and immigration advocates, however, the White House realized their mistake and on the same day announced that Biden would indeed raise the cap for this year. His initial pledge was to raise it to 62,500 this year and 125,000 the next, so this is a welcome course-correction. But what heartened me is that we once again have a president who is capable of admitting error and who is also politically secure enough to then change course as a direct result. After the previous four years, I find that incredibly refreshing, don't you?"

If this is Hell...

It's not time for a "mission accomplished" moment quite yet, but this drum still could use a little beating.

"Donald Trump predicted that if Joe Biden became president, and I quote, 'you will have a depression the likes of which you've never seen,' and warned 'your 401(k)s will go to Hell.' OF course, as with just about everything Trump ever predicted, none of that came true. Joe Biden has been president for almost 100 days. The economy is roaring back, mostly due to the efficiency of the Biden vaccine distribution program. The stock market is up 16 percent -- half again as high as Trump managed during the same period (which was only 10.5 percent). Over a million Americans have gone back to work. The economy is projected to grow faster this year than any year since Ronald Reagan was president. So I guess 'Hell' isn't such a bad place after all, eh?"

Except for, you know, Wyoming

What was she thinking?

"Wyoming's only House member -- because it is such a low-population state -- stood behind another Republican this week who was trying to come up with some other reason to deny statehood to Washington D.C. than the obvious one (racism). While Nancy Mace tried to make the case that D.C. 'wouldn't even qualify as a singular congressional district,' Liz Cheney stood behind her in support. This would not have been remarkable except for the fact that the entire state of Wyoming has 100,000-plus fewer people living in it than does D.C. So Cheney's appearance only served to point out what a ridiculous argument the Republicans have settled upon."

Anglo-Saxon Caucus stillborn

They're increasingly just coming out and saying the quiet parts out loud, folks.

"The so-called America First Caucus idea was quickly shelved this week, as well it should have been. The founding document defined the caucus as one having a, quote, common respect for Anglo-Saxon culture, unquote, as well as praising 'European architecture' as being 'stunningly, classically beautiful.' Prominent Republicans trotted out their usual fictions, such as the following from Kevin McCarthy: 'The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans -- not nativist dog whistles.' Liz Cheney added her opinion as well: 'Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.' Well, one would certainly like to think so, at any rate. I mean, really, I'm surprised they didn't want to name it the 'Aryan Caucus.' And as for what the Republican Party tolerates by way of racism and nativist dog whistles, I would point them to just about any statement on the subject from Donald Trump. Didn't notice much 'rejecting' of any of that from the GOP, did you? That shoe may be ugly, but it certainly fits and some in the GOP want to proudly wear it, it seems."

Three's a riot

Much like the voter suppression bills, there is another movement underway in Republican statehouses across the country that needs calling out.

"The state of Florida just passed a new law which defines a 'riot' as three people committing a breach of the peace. Two's company, three's a riot, I suppose, at least in the Sunshine State. If (gasp!) nine people are involved, the crime escalates to 'aggravated rioting,' with much harsher penalties. People arrested for alleged rioting would be denied release and must stay in jail until they see a judge. Confederate monuments now get special protections. And counter to standard Republican dogma, if a city or town in Florida decides to save money by reducing its budget for the police, the governor can override them. This is an obvious overreaction to the Black Lives Matter protests, and should be seen for exactly what it is -- just more ways to lock as many Black people up as possible."

Or you can just run them over

This is just flat-out insane.

"Remember the woman killed by a white-supremacist driver in Charlottesville, Virginia? Well, as far as the Republican Party is concerned, such vehicular manslaughter should no longer be considered a crime at all. In both Florida and Oklahoma, they're making it fully legal for drivers to just run over people peacefully protesting. The Oklahoma law states that drivers 'shall not be criminally or civilly liable for the injury or death if... [it] occurred while the motor vehicle driver was fleeing from a riot.' Seriously -- they're legalizing using your car to murder protesters. Strange how Republicans leap to defend police officers who shoot people using their cars to threaten cops, but want to allow drivers to use the same deadly force against protesters. If these laws were in place in Virginia, then assumably no crime would even have been committed in Charlottesville. This is completely insane, people -- not to mention evil -- and it is not worthy of a supposedly civilized society."

Y'all can vote... if you vote right, that is...

Again, they're just not even bothering with dog whistles any more.

"At the ceremony where the governor signed the new anti-protesting law in Florida, a local sheriff clarified what the real goal of the Florida Republican Party truly is in all of this. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd actually said the following: 'We're a special place, and there are millions and millions of people who like to come here. And quite frankly, we like to have them here. We only want to share one thing as you move in hundreds a day. Welcome to Florida, but don't register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north, or you'll get what they got.' Or, to put it slightly differently: as long as you vote for Republicans, everything will be just fine and dandy. But if you vote stupid, then watch out. Nothing like a supposedly-impartial lawman showing his true colors, eh?"

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

Friday Talking Points -- GOP White Supremacist Caucus Forms

Some Republicans have apparently decided that political dog whistles are just no longer even necessary. After the bombast of Donald Trump, they're now quite comfortable just openly saying exactly what they mean -- no matter how racist it might be.

We refer to the formation of a new congressional caucus: the "America First Caucus." Normally, this wouldn't be all that big a deal -- just some group of extra-Trumpy GOP members getting together to figure out what their Dear Leader would want them to do in Congress. But their founding document was leaked, and it goes a wee bit further in laying out the founding principles of the new caucus. Here are their first few paragraphs on immigration, for instance:

The America First Caucus recognizes that our country is more than a mass of consumers or a series of abstract ideas. America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions. History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse [sic] into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country. While certain economic and financial interest groups benefit immensely from mass immigration, legal as well as illegal, and the aggregate output of the country increases, the reality of large segments of our society as well as the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk is something our leaders can afford to ignore no longer.

As such, America's legal immigration system should be curtailed to those that can contribute not only economically, but have demonstrated respect for this nation's culture and rule of law. America's borders must be defended, and illegal immigration must be stopped without exception.

They call for protecting "this nation's culture," which is described as "a unique culture and a unique identity" (at least before all those undesirable immigrants tried to ruin it). These are all dog whistles, though, so in case you missed it, they further define exactly what they're talking about, in no uncertain terms: "uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions." White people, in other words. There's just no other possible definition of "Anglo-Saxon," really. The only surprising thing was that they didn't come right out and say "Aryan" rather than "Anglo-Saxon."

In case this wasn't evident enough, the caucus further injects their racial ideal into, of all places, architecture. No, really! Here is the first paragraph of the section on infrastructure:

The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom. As the Romans demonstrated with aqueducts, walls and roads, function and beauty are not at odds. Federally funded infrastructure, including roads, buildings, airports, seaports, bridges, should demonstrate a pride of workmanship. A bridge is not merely something to cross from side A to side B, it is a connection among peoples.

"European architecture" is "stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom." They'll even let the Italians into their Anglo-Saxon club, since Roman aqueducts are spoken of approvingly. Any other (non-European, one supposes) architecture must be summarily rejected, since it so obviously does not live up to their stated standards of beauty and freedom. Which is nothing more than: "White people designed and built it."

As we said, they're now just saying this stuff right out in the open. There just is no other possible way to interpret what they are saying other than it is pure White supremacy of the first order. White people get to determine the ideal culture of America, while immigrants (the document later clarifies this as only the ones who entered after 1965, which assumably lets all their own immigrant ancestors off the hook, since none of these congressmen are actual Native Americans) are the ones who need to immediately adopt all of White culture, and they certainly better not try to build an aqueduct that doesn't look as classically beautiful as those Roman ones do.

This group was the brainchild of the usual suspects, the craziest of the crazy: Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, and Louie Gohmert. Who are now entirely comfortable with letting the world know who they really are.

The real question is what the rest of the Republican Party will have to say about this. So far (this news broke today), we haven't heard a peep out of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy or any other prominent GOP leader. The longer they stay silent, the more they signal their acceptance of a group of Republican elected officials just coming out and blatantly admitting that they ascribe to White supremacy. This has all been aided and abetted by the hotheads on conservative cable channels, who are also now feeling comfortable just flat-out making White supremacist arguments on the air.

This all should come as no surprise, really. Donald Trump began his political career by denouncing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, after all. And he had a notable amount of political success beating this very ugly drum. He certainly didn't create the racism in the Republican ranks, but he legitimized and normalized it to a degree America hasn't seen since the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. For roughly a half-century afterwards, it was not deemed acceptable to say such things in polite society. Now, though, Republicans just don't care. They've all but destroyed the very idea of "polite society" already, and they are riding high on Trump's exploitation of racism in the ranks of their own voters, so this really must have seemed like a natural next step to them.

Which, of course, doesn't make it any less horrifying or disgusting. And the rest of the Republican Party now has a very tangible choice: denounce this indefensible White supremacy within their own ranks in the strongest terms, or allow evil to triumph by good men and women doing nothing. Our guess is they'll be quite comfortable with the "do nothing" route, since most of them have been following that path ever since Trump got elected. "Tweet? What tweet? Sorry, I haven't read it," will now become: "New caucus? Haven't heard of it... sorry, gotta run...."

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is calmly doing what he was elected to do -- make politics boring once again. Think about it -- in the past week, Biden has rolled out two major foreign policy announcements and made progress on various domestic programs, and he has barely caused a blip in the media by doing so. We already predicted this, and we are even more confident of the prediction now -- Joe Biden's presidency will be favorably compared to Dwight D. Eisenhower's. They will be seen as competent but boring executives who got a lot done while calming the frayed nerves of a nation. Which is, in a way, exactly what we all voted for. The divide between the parties is becoming starker and starker -- Democrats stand for competency and commonsense solutions, while Republicans are trying to sell you a tinfoil hat to combat the alien cosmic rays that can control your brain. This may be overstating things a bit for humor's sake -- but not by much.

Part of the reason why Biden achieved some significant things without much media attention was the fact that the Derek Chauvin trial (the cop who killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9.5 minutes) was so heavily covered, for the second week in a row. Both sides have rested their case, so sometime next week the jury will begin deliberations. This will be a pivotal verdict no matter what it turns out to be, but the whole thing did kind of suck all the media oxygen out of Washington in the meantime.

What you may have missed (in the midst of all the trial coverage) was President Biden's announcement that America will be ending its longest war and bringing all troops home from Afghanistan by 9/11. Biden, in his remarks, put it plainly -- it is now "time to end the forever war." Biden also announced new sanctions on Russia, for hacking America's computer systems (including several federal government departments) and for interfering in our elections. There's a new sheriff in town, in other words, who isn't desperate for Vladimir Putin's love and approval. A return to normalcy, in other words.

On the home front, the weekly unemployment filings number came in lower than at any point since the pandemic began. It's still high -- 576,000 people filed jobless claims last week -- but it is also way down from the peak of the crisis. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Biden continues to receive widespread public support in the polls:

The latest Morning Consult-Politico poll, for example, has the president at 60 percent approval with only 37 percent disapproval. He's off the charts among Democrats (92 percent) and wins independents 52 percent to 40 percent. Sixty-three percent approve of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic (compared to 24 percent approval for congressional Republicans). Despite the actions of many GOP governors, nearly 70 percent of voters think "Americans should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus even if it means continued damage to the economy."

The next big issue on Biden's plate (other than his first address to Congress, which will happen on the 28th of the month) is negotiating his infrastructure plan in Congress. Yesterday, a collection of Republican moderates was supposed to release their own $600-$800 billion infrastructure plan as a counteroffer to Biden's $2.3 trillion proposal. However, after teasing this plan to the media, it has not (as of this writing, at least) appeared yet. So apparently they haven't been able to agree even among themselves what it should contain, or (more contentiously) how they're going to pay for it. The one idea we've heard that could be included is not going to be a political winner (especially for Republicans), since it would involve either a gas tax increase or a per-mileage "user fee" (tax) on everyone (which would collect money from electric vehicles who avoid paying any gasoline taxes at all). As we said, neither has ever been seen as a Republican-supported idea, which might explain why they're having problems coming to any sort of agreement.

They're in a bind because they truly want everyone to believe again in bipartisanship, but at the same time they've got to explain things like supporting raising taxes to the rest of their own party. And they're so constrained by Republican dogma that they will likely never be able to come up with anything even remotely good enough for Biden. But they'll even admit (anonymously) to reporters that Biden's already winning the media narrative, as one staffer for the "G-10" (the working group of 10 GOP senators trying to agree on a plan) put it:

Back to the nightmare. It starts with what they see as some hardwired media narratives they can't shake: that Biden is a reasonable, deal-making moderate and that Republicans talk about compromise but really just want to obstruct. It's a perception that has given the White House all the leverage.

"Biden is a horrible villain for us," said the G-10 staffer, meaning not that he was an actual villain but that he was difficult to villainize. "There are deeply entrenched narratives that have some truth but are no longer totally true. Reporters believe them despite all evidence to the contrary."

They see a White House "constantly rubbing dirt in the face of Republicans" over the party's lack of interest in bipartisanship while "passing as many partisan bills as they possibly can through reconciliation before they lose the House in 2022."

. . .

"Everything they support is defined as either COVID relief or infrastructure, and everything they oppose is like... Jim Crow voter suppression and evil," this G-10 aide said. "And you constantly just feel like you're in this gaslighting chamber of insanity. But it's working."

What is truly funny is any Republican daring to whine about a "gaslighting chamber of insanity" after the past four years of Donald Trump. But at least they do realize they're on the losing end of this argument.

Joe Biden has shown that he is open to the concept of bipartisan negotiations and legislation, but he is also not going to patiently wait forever for such a thing to materialize. If the Republicans can't honestly bargain for a reasonable deal, then Biden will indeed move forward without them and get legislation passed that is overwhelmingly popular with the American public. Republicans have the choice of either working -- quickly, with no endless stalling allowed -- to influence such legislation, or they can refuse and sit back and watch Democrats (rightfully) claim all the credit for the success. Again.

Biden has already split his domestic agenda in two. His "American Jobs Plan" was the first part, and he's got another one waiting in the wings (the "American Families Plan" ). This was done to separate the things the White House knew Republicans would never support into a secondary bill that could pass using reconciliation, while allowing Republicans to have input on the infrastructure parts that they historically have supported. The Republican position right now is that the first bill must be shrunk to the bare bones and all the things they don't want to vote for should be pushed into the second bill. Biden will likely negotiate along these lines for a limited time, but if an agreement doesn't seem likely in the near future, then he may just decide to pass both bills using budget reconciliation rules in the Senate. The ball is really in the GOP's court, which is why their failure to release their own plan (after teasing it to the media) was notable. Let's see if they can even agree on anything among themselves....

In other news out of Congress, the House is about to pass (or has passed) a few notable bills. For the second time, a bill will pass to allow Washington D.C. to become a state. Also on deck is a bill which would create a commission to study the question of reparations for slavery. This is not actually a reparations bill, it's just a blue-ribbon commission, but it would be a good first step to take (just to study the idea and issue recommendations).

Senate Republicans (except for six of them) apparently realized the political optics were bad, so they decided not to filibuster a hate-crimes bill aimed at fighting anti-Asian violence across the country. Mitch McConnell voted for it, as he well should have, since he is married to an Asian-American (Elaine Chao). The final vote could come some time next week.

Democrats in both houses introduced bills to expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices, but they're not expected to move anywhere any time soon, since President Biden has formed a commission to study court reform and most Democrats (including Nancy Pelosi) will be content to wait and see what they recommend.

That's about it for the week. One last interesting note -- Cindy McCain (John's widow) is going to get a choice ambassadorship in Western Europe, which she certainly fully deserves seeing as how she may have been a critical factor in convincing Arizona voters to vote for Joe Biden.

We're going to hand out a group award this week, to all the Democrats in the Maryland legislature. They scored a big victory this week, which coincidentally happened the week of the Derek Chauvin trial. Here's the full story:

Maryland's Democrat-controlled legislature on Saturday moved to pass a sweeping police reform package that repealed the state's police bill of rights, becoming the first state in the nation to do so and overriding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's vetoes in the process.

The state's police bill of rights covered due process for officers accused of misconduct. Advocates for repeal have called it "one of the most extreme in the nation." The new law will also give more oversight power to civilians.

Another one of the bills Hogan vetoed will require "certain" no-knock warrants to be approved by both a supervisor and the State's Attorney and be between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., barring "exigent circumstances."

One of the new laws will also require officers to use force only if it is "necessary and proportional."

The move, a win for police reform advocates, comes amid a national reckoning with policing after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last year. Many states have considered police reform in wake of Floyd's death.

"Maryland is leading the country in transforming our broken policing system," Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat, wrote in a tweet Saturday. "Now, for the first time in our nation's history, the rights of officers will not be held above the rights of individuals, and policing in Maryland will be transparent and citizen-centered."

This is how meaningful police reform happens. It is not merely a slogan to vaguely support (or not), it represents tangible change in how the police are allowed to operate. Cops and police departments and the towns, cities, and counties that employ them all need to be held accountable and liable when abuses happen. The more multimillion-dollar judgments against municipalities are handed down, the more such entities will think long and hard about what they allow their officers to do.

The threat of lawsuits is a powerful one in America. In fact, if each police officer had to carry liability insurance for his or her official conduct (paid for by their employer), a lot of these problems would self-correct over time. If insurance rates went up for one particular officer because he got sued repeatedly, then eventually no police department anywhere would hire him -- it'd just be too expensive for them to do so, when they could hire a more-professional officer without paying extra in insurance premiums. This may not be a perfect scheme to fix things, but one thing for certain is that awarding all cops blanket immunity for their actions just has not worked. We've tried that, so it is now time to try something else.

Maryland Democrats, this week, led the way. Which is why we are awarding all the ones in the state legislature that made this happen -- over their Republican governor's veto -- this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

We're hoping other state legislators (especially in states blue enough for this to actually succeed) are taking note.

[Congratulate Maryland state Democrats individually, if you live there, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

Andrew Yang caused a bit of a stir this week, for not disengaging with an overbearing idiot quite fast enough. Here's the story (and the video):

In the video, someone asks the mayoral front-runner whether a man, "while he's f---ing b----es, can he keep his Timbs on?" -- a reference to Timberland boots. Yang said, "I think it's purely up to your partner."

The man continued by asking Yang whether he "choke[s] b----es," to which Yang laughed and backed away, appearing to gesture with his hand that the conversation was over.

"I think most New Yorkers know that I try to be friendly to people, and in this case someone wanted a video and I thought I'd be friendly," Yang told reporters Thursday when asked about the clip. "But then he said something that was plainly inappropriate that I didn't find funny at all and so I walked away and ended the interaction as quickly as possible. You know, obviously I don't think that's appropriate."

Yang was indeed trying to banter with the guy and be lighthearted, but he really should have realized earlier that this wasn't exactly the mayoral look he's striving for (Yang is running to be mayor of New York City). But he did finally realize it was time to bail, so we're only going to give him a (Dis-)Honorable Mention. He's still fairly new to politics, so he's still working on developing his radar to spot "stop the interview/video" opportunities quickly enough, obviously.

Instead, we are giving this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to President Joe Biden. Biden has chosen political timidity over fulfilling an explicit campaign promise, and it's a fairly important one. Here's the story:

President Biden has decided not to lift the cap on refugees for the current fiscal year from the level set by the Trump administration, according to a senior administration official, abandoning a previous proposal to Congress to allow a more refugees to come to the United States and instantly angering human rights advocates.

Biden plans to keep the refugee cap at 15,000, according to the official. That figure is a historic low set by then-President Donald Trump last fall. Earlier this year, Biden had proposed to Congress lifting the cap to 62,500. He has pledged to raise it to 125,000 for the following fiscal year, which begins in October.

Other media outlets reported that Biden knew full well how much heat he would get from Republicans if he made this move right now -- a move he not only promised but actually proposed to Congress. They're already using the situation on the southern border to make as much political noise as possible, and this would just hand them another weapon to do so. Meaning Biden's reluctance to take a bold stand here is understandable.

But it's certainly nothing to be admired. Biden knows Trump's number is far too low. He wants to change it. But he's afraid of doing so now, because he would draw a lot of political heat. That is not a quality in a leader to be proud of (to put it mildly), which is why Joe Biden is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

Biden's been around Washington long enough to have learned one very hard lesson: it is never "the perfect time" to talk about immigration policy. There's always a "crisis" happening somewhere. That's part of why the DREAM kids are still waiting for a permanent solution. So it's not a very positive sign for movement on this key issue.

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

Volume 614 (4/16/21)

A mixed bag this week. Oh, it didn't really fit anywhere else, but we at least have to tip our hat to the pranksters in Albany who manipulated one of those "artfully light up windows on a skyscraper" displays last week to taunt their own governor's failings. The display, which faces the governor's office, had spelled out: "NY TOUGH," but with only minimal changes this was turned into: "NY TOUCH," a rather snarky commentary on Andrew Cuomo's handsiness. Whoever made this happen, we have to say we were pretty amused by it!

But in any case, let's get to our suggested talking points for Democrats to use this week, shall we?

K.K.K. caucus?

Hit every Republican hard, on this one.

"I see there's a new caucus in the House of Representatives. Some of the Republicans decided to form what they're calling the 'America First Caucus,' which heavily supports, and I quote from their founding document, 'uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions,' as well as 'the progeny of European architecture... stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power, and a source of freedom.' I mean, they're not even trying to hide any of this any more. They are explicitly promoting White supremacy, right in the halls of the United States Congress. I suppose we shouldn't have expected anything different, since they also supported overthrowing a certified presidential election by violence -- a mob carrying Confederate flags, mind you. I call on every Republican who is disgusted by such naked appeals to White nationalism and White supremacy to denounce the America First Caucus and all Republicans who join it -- or, at the very least, be honest and call it the 'Aryan Caucus' or the 'K.K.K. Caucus,' or perhaps the 'Caucasian Caucus' -- that last one has a nice ring to it, right?"

Who cares?

This one is already gaining some traction.

"Republicans in Congress are complaining loudly that some of the things included in President Biden's American Jobs Plan are 'not infrastructure.' You know what my response is? It's the same response any average voter would give them -- Who cares? Who cares what you call it? Who cares what parliamentary pigeonhole you think it belongs in? Are you for the ideas, or are you against them? Tell us your objection to making home health care affordable for millions of Americans. If you're against things like that, then argue on the merits of each part of the proposal. Just saying it's not infrastructure therefore you somehow cannot vote for it in an infrastructure bill is exactly what voters hate about politicians, because it is just one more excuse for not getting anything done, ever. Joe Biden is tired of that kind of thinking. And so are a majority of the voters. You know what they want to see? Results. Not hair-splitting tantrums."

Recovery is well underway

Democrats shouldn't ever stop reminding everyone how well things are going.

"I see that this week's jobless filings are lower than they have been at any point since last March, when the pandemic began. Overall unemployment continues to drop as well. We still have millions of jobs to regain, but the recovery is well on its way. With more and more Americans getting vaccinated, the speed of the recovery will only increase over the summer. We're not out of the woods yet, but boy are we headed in the right direction! The Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan to allow all this to happen, and President Biden has been doing a stellar job on vaccine delivery. We are trusting that the voters will remember who voted for this recovery, and who voted against it, next year at the ballot box."

Polls show it, too

This one is always worth pointing out.

"Republicans have, for the past few years, chosen to stand for just about nothing. Their party doesn't even have an official platform or agenda anymore. It's a personality cult, plain and simple. Meanwhile, Democrats are getting things done that the people want to see accomplished. Don't believe me? Look at the polls. Biden's job approval averages in the mid-50s, when Donald Trump never even rose above 50 percent for a single day. Some polls put Biden up to 60 percent approval. Voters agree with the Democrats that the following things do qualify as necessary infrastructure investments: schools, 70 percent agree... replacing lead pipes, 78 percent... broadband, 68 percent... manufacturing, 69 percent... housing, 69 percent. On gun safety measures, 83 percent of the public wants to see universal background checks. Other reforms such as banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, mandatory waiting periods, and barring people with mental illness from gun ownership all poll between 64 percent and 83 percent. President Biden is right -- https://t.co/rNsV3pUIOO" target="_blank">there is bipartisan agreement on all kinds of issues Democrats are trying to pass. Republican politicians are falling more and more out of touch with their own voters. That's not exactly a winning strategy, folks."

Truly free speech

It's not just political donations, anymore, Mitch....

"Republicans seem horrified that the same corporations they bestowed free speech rights upon would ever have the temerity to actually use that political free speech to advocate for anything positive. It's not just all about tax cuts anymore, as more and more corporations are finding out what it truly means to be good citizens. It means standing up against naked attempts to rig elections and suppress minority votes. It means standing up for civil rights -- for everybody. Now that corporations are actually doing so, Republicans want to punish them. This week, however, a group of 100 corporate CEOs held a virtual meeting to determine what their next steps will be, politically, to show their disapproval for what Republican legislatures are doing across this country. This has to be seen as a real warning shot across the GOP's bow -- either stop trying to undermine democracy, or all those lovely campaign contributions are about to disappear entirely. We'll see whether the GOP gets this message or not."

Trump who?

As the Trump sets slowly in the Everglades...

"Last weekend, Donald Trump gave a speech to a bunch of Republican donors. And it was barely even a story. He threw out his prepared speech (because of course he did) and just ad-libbed an hour-long rant about how put upon he is and how nobody likes him anymore. He called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a, quote, dumb son of a bitch, unquote, and the astonishing thing was how little anybody even noticed. Trump is yesterday's news... even for most Republicans. The media has finally come out of its fugue state and realized they just don't have to pay attention to him anymore. So it's like: 'Trump gave a speech? Trump who?' -- a welcome development indeed."

Get your Fauci ouchie!

An important message.

"If it hasn't already happened where you live, within days any adult or child 16 years or older will be able to get the first of their vaccine shots. This is the final crucial push to reach herd immunity for everyone -- we're still at just under 40 percent of the population vaccinated, so we've still got a ways to go. Democrats would really encourage everyone to go out and get your 'Fauci ouchie' as soon as is possible. Especially Democratic voters -- we're going to need you next year, so we definitely want you to stay healthy and not die from COVID in the meantime. The best way to get safe is to get your shots, everyone!"

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

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