Friday Talking Points  -- In Non-Charlie-Sheen News...
03-12-2011, 10:17 PM
Friday Talking Points  -- In Non-Charlie-Sheen News...
Last night my local television news led off their broadcast with the first video of the devastation in Japan. An absolutely enormous earthquake had struck off the coast -- an earthquake almost one hundred times as big as the one which hit San Francisco in 1989 (the Richter scale is logarithmic -- the difference between 7.0 and 9.0 is a factor of 100 -- and the Loma Prieta quake was either a 6.9 or a 7.1 while the Japanese quake was either an 8.8 or an 8.9). That is a big quake, folks. Video was streamed live of the four-meter-tall tsunami wave destroying and carrying away everything it touched -- cars, semi trucks, boats, buildings (some of them still on fire). It was a stunning bit of truly breaking news.
And then -- you simply can't make this stuff up -- the anchor uttered the worst segue I think I've ever heard, possibly the worst in all of television news history: "We turn from the live feed of the tsunami in Japan to a police raid on Charlie Sheen's house in Los Angeles...."
Chalk one more up on the "only in America" media chalkboard, I guess. Sigh. Which means, for the second week in a row, I must begin with the all-encompassing statement: "In non-Charlie-Sheen news..."
Democrats and Labor lost their standoff in Wisconsin this week, as the Republicans figured out a legislative loophole and immediately put it to use to end collective bargaining for public-sector union members. By doing so, they lost all claim that this was any sort of "budget crisis," since they had to sever the Union-busting bits off from the actual budget in order to avoid the quorum requirement in their upper legislative house. In effect, the Republicans were admitting, "Nah, it's not about the budget, we just want to crush the Unions."
So far, though, the entire episode has had a catalyzing and energizing effect on the Democratic base. Labor is white-hot with rage, and there are a lot of Democrats outside the borders of the Badger State who have been cheering on the spectacle of tens of thousands of people marching in the streets of Madison (in February, no less) for their rights. This energy (so far, at least) shows no signs of dissipating now that the first battle has been lost -- instead, multiple recall efforts have been launched and at least one television ad run from the state Democratic Party. The bar for recalling politicians in Wisconsin is fairly high, so it's anyone's guess whether any Republicans will actually be tossed out by the voters over the entire episode. But this fight reaches beyond Wisconsin, to many other Rust Belt states -- which are, coincidentally, the states which may determine the next presidential election. Overall, a Union resurgence in political activism in these states is a wonderful thing to see for the Democratic Party as a whole.
There was one episode of delicious irony in all of this, during a town hall meeting held by Republican officeholders, which resulted in the following official statement:
Congressman Sensenbrenner and the Wauwatosa library director repeatedly asked individuals attending last night's Town Hall Meeting to be respectful as other patrons were using the library. After numerous requests for attendees to listen to the individual speaking and be mindful of other library patrons were ignored, the meeting was adjourned.Hoo boy. Republicans complaining about unruly town hall meetings. It is to laugh, no?
Frivolity aside, there was one story which reached conclusion this week which is quite simply a disgrace. The family of the last American veteran from World War I to die, Corporal Frank Buckles, requested that he lie under the U.S. Capitol rotunda as a way of honoring all veterans from an all-but-forgotten war. Congressional leaders refused. Nobody's saying exactly who made this decision, but signs so far point to Speaker John Boehner for derailing this effort. Arlington National Cemetery just announced that he will lie in honor in an Arlington basement chapel, and not under the Capitol Rotunda, as the senators from his state had requested.
This is disgraceful. There ought to be an outcry. Where are the veterans organizations? Where are the "we respect our troops" politicians? Why was this honor refused? Where is the freakin' media, for that matter?
Oh, wait, don't tell me. They're at Charlie Sheen's house, right?
Before we get to this week's award, we have to hand out a retroactive Honorable Mention to Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon. Wyden put together a bill (with Senator Scott Brown, making it bipartisan) which President Obama came out in support of one week ago. I wrote about this bill earlier, if you're interested in all the details, but we wanted to at least acknowledge Wyden's work here, even if we are a bit late.
And, of course, the Wisconsin Democrats and Labor movement deserves an Honorable Mention as well, for their fierce resolve in the entire Madison standoff. This is in addition to handing them the MIDOTW award itself, a few weeks back, we should mention.
But this week, Representative Keith Ellison wins the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, for his testimony before Republican Peter King's hearings into Muslim radicalization. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, broke down in tears when eulogizing an American who died trying to save other Americans in the World Trade Center on 9/11. The American in question was a Muslim, but we have removed that fact from the previous sentence due to the powerful nature of Ellison's closing words:
Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try and help others on 9/11. After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were fully exposed.Ellison's testimony was not only impressive, his emotional moment actually stole the spotlight from the King hearings. King, of course, was doing nothing more than grandstanding by holding the hearings in the first place -- a fact proven when he refused to allow people with hard facts about Muslim radicalism to even testify. King wanted provocative statements on the news, not information of any kind. Which is why the entire "hearing" was nothing more than a media spectacle from start to finish.
And Ellison robbed King of his moment in front of the cameras, because his testimony became the go-to soundbite for the entire media universe. For that fact, and for his testimony itself, Keith Ellison wins the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, hands down.
[Congratulate Representative Keith Ellison on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
Before we get to an admittedly obscure (but also well-deserved) Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, we have to at least hand out a (Dis-)Honorable Mention to Senator Claire McCaskill. No, not for supporting the position of Senator Joe Manchin (see last week's FTP  MDDOTW section for details), but rather for getting caught in a bit of political hypocrisy. McCaskill apparently paid her own family some money for airplane rides -- one of them to an explicitly political event (rather than justifiable travel for her job) -- which would be a violation of Senate ethics rules. McCaskill, to her credit, paid it all back before it became a bigger story.
But the hypocrisy factor is what earns her a mention. Because McCaskill had previously pushed stronger Senate ethics rules for travel expenses. Which puts her transgression on the same level as Republicans who demagogue gays and are later found out to be one, or Democrats who chair tax-writing committees who can't seem to honestly do their own taxes. It's not the action, in other words, it is the fact that you tried to gain political advantage over the issue -- and then got caught with your own hand in the same cookie jar.
But McCaskill's lapse was far eclipsed this week, by a very obscure story about Columbus, a small town in New Mexico very close to the Mexican border. This town, for the record, has a history of cross-border violence, because it is where Pancho Villa launched a cross-border raid almost 100 years ago which led to the United States invading Mexican territory with 10,000 troops (who then couldn't manage to catch the wily Villa).
The news this week from Columbus is just about as shocking as what took place back then, though. From a local news station's report:
Several federal agencies swept through the New Mexico border town of Columbus Thursday morning arresting nearly a dozen people including the mayor, a village councilor and the chief of police who are suspected of smuggling guns into Mexico.None of the stories I could find on the incident, however, listed any political affiliation of the elected officials involved. I finally just went ahead and called up the local library in the town, and was informed that both Espinoza and Gutierrez are, in fact, Democrats.
Which means that this week, there is simply no contest for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. Columbus Mayor Eddie Espinoza and Village Trustee Blas Gutierrez are without question our MDDOTW winners this week. And, we have to say, the allegations of cross-border weapons smuggling indeed hits a new low in the entire history of this award.
[We could not find any public contact information for the elected (and arrested) Democratic public officials of Columbus, sorry.]
Volume 158 (3/11/11)
The Senate this week shot down two budget proposals -- the one the Republican House had passed and a Democratic bill to balance it. Neither got anywhere near 50 votes (much less 60). This will likely be Topic Number One for the next week in Washington, Democrats need to get out front on the issue a bit. So far, they've been doing a fairly good job of doing so.
Because make no mistake about it, this fight is coming. Democrats can either stand on the sidelines and wind up getting steamrolled, or they can put forth some ideas of their own and put the Republicans on the defensive.
This week, we've got four talking points which are actual quotes from Democrats (well, OK, I had to paraphrase one of them...), which is a good sign -- it's always a good sign when I can quote what is already being said rather than coming up with them on my own.
Without further ado, here are this week's talking points, for all Democrats to consider using in the coming week (especially those in office who are about to be interviewed).
Four Hundred Billion Dollars
I keep wishing some politician would stand up and say this out loud. There's a reason the deficit is so big this year.
"Before I begin talking about the deficit, let me throw out a fact. The extension of the Bush tax cuts -- which happened just before the current frenzy of deficit-cutting from the Republicans -- will add four hundred billion dollars to the deficit, just for the first year alone. If Congress had refused to extend the Bush tax cuts, we would have cut the deficit we now face by four hundred billion dollars. Let's all keep this in mind while we talk about how much we can cut the deficit, shall we? Because the first $400 billion does nothing more than pay for the extension of the Bush tax cuts. If you can't cut that $400 billion, it means that Congress will have voted to increase the deficit. It's an inconvenient fact, but there it is. Our deficit would be $400 billion smaller because these tax cuts were absolutely unpaid for. That sort of puts all the rest of the numbers being batted around into some perspective, doesn't it?"
Senator Charles Schumer seems to be leading the way for a new Democratic strategy on the budget -- extend the discussion beyond just discretionary non-security spending.
I'm going to turn over the next two talking points to Schumer, from an article he wrote this week, because he's making a lot of sense [emphasis is in original].
My fellow senators and I are working hard to avert [a government shutdown], but so far, the debate has centered on so-called "domestic discretionary spending" -- basically the 12% or so of the budget that goes to programs other than the military, Social Security, and Medicare.
All parts of the budget
Schumer, part two:
To truly reduce the deficit -- and keep America a great place to live and do business -- we need to scour all parts of the budget that contribute to the deficit, not just the parts of the budget that some of us don't like.
Ten weeks, still no jobs bill in the House
Nancy Pelosi has been pushing this point hard, to her credit, so I'm going to paraphrase a press release from her office to create a talking point. The words and sentiments are Pelosi's, I just changed the sentence order around a bit and made it more conversational in tone.
"I see that, for the tenth week in a row, there are exactly zero jobs bills out of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. This week, there was still no action from the GOP on jobs. Republicans continue to put partisan politics ahead of Americans' top priority – jobs. Overall, Republicans are scheduled to hold 76 hearings this week which fail to answer Americans' question: Where is the Republicans' jobs plan? The Republican answer to jobs has been a "So Be It" spending bill that would cost 700,000 jobs and stall our economic growth. Ten weeks and counting, no GOP jobs bills. Why aren't Republicans taking action on jobs?"
The People's Party
Robert Reich has been pushing a talking point, which is a good one. Get out front and brand the movement which began in Wisconsin. Use "People's Party" more and more, and the media will eventually pick up on it. Read his whole article, it's worth it. Here's the crux of it:
The Tea Party grew out of indignation over the Wall Street bailout -- an indignation shared by the vast majority of Americans. But the Tea Party ended up directing its ire at government rather than at big business and Wall Street. Was this because billionaires Charles and David Koch and their like funneled money to the Tea Party through front organizations like Dick Armey's Freedom Works, and thereby co-opted it?
Romneycare pretty popular
President Obama complimented Mitt Romney recently, which the media reported as some sort of insult. Or something. It's hard to follow their logic, at times, I have to admit. On non-Charlie-Sheen subjects, at least. Obama, or some other enterprising Democrat, should strike this iron once again, while it's still hot.
"For all the smoke and noise on what Republicans call 'Obamacare,' there was an interesting poll out of Massachusetts this week. Mitt Romney's healthcare reform -- which is very similar, and even has the dreaded individual mandate -- is actually pretty popular in the state. A whopping eighty-four percent of the public likes Romneycare, apparently. That's a pretty high approval rating for a plan which isn't all that different than what Democrats passed last year on the national level, don't you think?"
When the TelePrompTer dies
Once again, Arizona governor Jan Brewer shows us that it's not whether you use a TelePrompTer, it's whether you can cope with speaking without one. Brewer famously failed this test a while back, and it looks like she hasn't gotten much better at it.
"I hear a lot of Republicans say snide things about President Obama using a TelePrompTer, but when Obama speaks without one -- as he did today at his press conference -- his intelligence continues to shine through. Republican governor Jan Brewer, on the other hand, just showed us all once again what happens when a politician truly can't handle speaking without one."
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