Our Fifth Trillion-Dollar Deficit

[ Posted Tuesday, September 17th, 2019 – 17:03 UTC ]

It was little noticed, but last week the U.S. government admitted that this year's budget deficit has already topped the trillion-dollar mark. And the fiscal year won't be over for another month. This will be only the fifth time in American history that the annual deficit has been over a trillion dollars, and the other four years were all in the depths of the Great Recession. We're supposed to have a good economy right now, but we're running a deficit as if we're in some pretty bad times. Of course, all of this proves how both Donald Trump and the Republicans have been lying to the American public all along, and how Democrats can continue to make the rather easy argument that the only time the nation gets its fiscal house in anything resembling good order is when there's a Democrat in the White House.

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Elizabeth Warren Getting More Electable

[ Posted Monday, September 16th, 2019 – 17:08 UTC ]

It seems like Elizabeth Warren is getting more electable by the day. The more voters see of her, the more they seem to like her, and the more they are tending to support her candidacy. This already has supporters of Joe Biden concerned, although it's not quite a two-person race yet. Bernie Sanders still has virtually the same level of support as Warren, as the two have been locked in a race for second place for months now. But Sanders may not have the ability to broaden his base as much as Warren, who is increasingly seen as somewhat of a compromise between the Democratic Socialism Sanders champions and the incrementalism of Biden.

Statistically, according to, Warren won last week's debate. She entered the debate in a strong position, and then improved the most, according to the people polled immediately after watching the debate. On metric after metric, Warren came out in a better position than she had going in, while Biden and Sanders either didn't budge or slipped back a bit. The biggest loser of the debate, according to this polling, was Julián Castro, which isn't all that surprising. Direct attacks on Biden have a way of backfiring, and in Castro's case this backlash was immediate.

Warren is improving on likeability, which is why she seems also to be getting more electable. Of course, "electable" is kind of a fuzzy term, usually meant to indicate how much voters think other voters would support each candidate. Biden's been at the top of the electability heap for a while, but Warren seems to be gaining on him the more voters hear from her.

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Friday Talking Points -- Selenofriggatriskaidekaphobia (Revisited)

[ Posted Friday, September 13th, 2019 – 17:00 UTC ]

We have to begin today with an apology. Five years ago, without knowing any better, we erroneously reported in this space that there would not be another Friday the 13th which coincided with a full moon until 2049. So it was much to our surprise that we heard that this week we all were going to see another one, only five short years after we feverishly coined the word "selenofriggatriskaidekaphobia" to describe those with the very specific neurotic fear (-phobia) of both full moons (seleno-) and Fridays (-frigga-) the 13th (-triskaideka-).

In short, we were lied to. Back in 2014, we read in HuffPost (full disclosure: this was when we were still blogging for them) that there was going to be a Friday the 13th full moon, which is what inspired us to write that earlier bit with the word coinage. In the article, HuffPost reported that another such confluence of events wouldn't happen "for 35 years." We naïvely believed them.

But then this week, we read in HuffPost about tonight's "micromoon," and the article stated that such an event hadn't happened "since 2000." We've since gotten them to revise their article with more-correct information, but now we wonder about their prediction that it won't happen again until 2049. In fact, if it happened next year, it wouldn't surprise us a bit. Hey, then we'd get to use the word selenofriggatriskaidekaphobia again, right? Heh.

Enough looniness, though, let's get on with the show. For once (maybe it's the full moon or something?), we are inclined to just totally ignore President Trump and the continuing saga of his endless buffoonery. Trump was fairly quiet this week, as Sharpiegate moved on to the multiple-investigations stage.

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My Snap Reactions To The Third Democratic Debate

[ Posted Thursday, September 12th, 2019 – 22:48 UTC ]

Finally, everyone on one stage! That was my reaction before the third 2020 Democratic presidential debate even began, because for the first time it's a one-night affair. Unfortunately, at least 11 candidates have already qualified for the next debate, with a few other candidates hovering on the brink of qualification, so it's looking like we're going to have to wait for the fifth debate to see all the frontrunners on the same stage together again.

Overall, I would like to address whichever network hosts the next debate, and make one simple plea: more ad breaks, please. The first such break didn't take place until roughly an hour and twenty minutes in, which is too long for those of us viewers who are guzzling caffeine to stay alert. Hmmph.

Also, I'd like to say I'm becoming less of a fan of the format of multiple debate hosts vying for question time with each other. I think these debates would flow a lot better with a single moderator, or perhaps a team of two (at the most). This isn't a direct criticism of ABC, but rather the whole modern debate format everyone seems to have adopted.

Moving on from technical nitpicking, I do think tonight's debate was the best by far. There was very little odor of desperation from the candidates on stage, which was a notable difference from the previous two debates. The candidates weren't striving so hard for that magic "breakout moment" since each of them had qualified to be in the top ten already. The level of flakiness on the stage was also a lot lower, as almost all of the candidates tonight are definitely ready for prime time. This was different than the previous two debates as well, and it was a welcome improvement.

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The Debate Segment I'd Really Like To See

[ Posted Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 – 17:56 UTC ]

Tomorrow night, ABC will host the third Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle. For the first time, the top 10 candidates will all be on the same stage together. I have no idea what questions will be asked of the candidates, but if it's anything like the past two debates then they'll probably miss the biggest issue that most Democratic voters are looking to see addressed by the potential nominees. No, I'm not speaking of climate change, or healthcare reform, or gun control, or immigration reform, or any of the other single issues the moderators have used to show the (mostly) minor differences between the various candidates' stances. Instead, I'm speaking of the number one priority that Democratic voters have been telling pollsters throughout the entire contest so far is the most important to them: beating Donald Trump. Which is why what I'd like to see tomorrow night is an entire debate segment devoted to how, exactly, each candidate would take on Trump if they become the one who gets the chance to confront him face-to-face on a general election debate stage.

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All Eyes On North Carolina's Ninth District

[ Posted Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 – 15:44 UTC ]

There are two special House elections in North Carolina today. Both of them should be foregone conclusions that nobody but political wonks pay attention to, because both of them are such solid-red districts. But while that is true in one of the special House elections tonight, it definitely isn't true in the other. In North Carolina's third district, the Republican candidate is going to chalk up an easy win, and nobody's going to pay any attention. But in the ninth district, Democrats have a real shot at flipping a district that Donald Trump won by 12 points in 2016. Whether they manage to eke out a victory or not, though, the very closeness of the race is making other Republicans increasingly nervous.

This special election is more special than most, because it is a do-over of the 2018 election that was made necessary by rampant election fraud (not voter fraud, mind you, but widespread election fraud, complete with ballot-tampering and all kinds of dirty tricks). The Republican who ran in 2018 cheated, plain and simple, and still only managed to "win" the race by fewer than 1,000 votes. The election results were thrown out, which is why today's special election is happening. So drawing larger conclusions from this race is probably not all that valid (because the circumstances were so unusual). But it certainly isn't going to stop anyone from doing so.

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A Look At The Field Heading Into The Third Debate

[ Posted Monday, September 9th, 2019 – 18:06 UTC ]

With the third Democratic presidential nomination debate looming, it's time once again to check the polls and see how the field is doing. This week's debate will be hosted by ABC, so we'll all get a chance to see what sorts of questions they'll ask, in the first debate that will feature all the qualified candidates on one stage for only one night.


Campaign News

The Democratic field continues to slowly contract. Since the last horserace column we wrote, three more candidates have thrown in the towel. This time around, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee, and Seth Moulton are the ones making their exit, dropping the entire field down to "only" 20 candidates left. Of the three, Inslee will still be worth watching during the rest of the primary race, because his endorsement is being heavily courted by more than one remaining candidate. Inslee made climate change his signature issue, so having his endorsement would bolster the case for any of the other candidates that they're the most serious about tackling the problem. Sadly, Inslee dropped out before CNN essentially gave him what he had been asking for from the Democratic National Committee -- an entire night devoted to the climate change debate.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Whole Sharpiegate Timeline

[ Posted Friday, September 6th, 2019 – 18:06 UTC ]

This is, without doubt, the stupidest American political scandal, ever. Its incredible dumbassedness absolutely puts to shame any other possible contender for the title (such as, just to cite one example: "Barack Obama wore a tan suit! Everybody flee!"). We have officially devolved into seriously moronic territory, folks.

Because it was so prominent all week, we are also pre-empting the rest of our recap of politics this week to focus like a laser beam on the storm of stupidity.

Last weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted out erroneous information that caused some of the residents of the state of Alabama to panic, thinking that Hurricane Dorian was heading for them. Weather scientists immediately corrected Trump's error, and told the citizens of Alabama not to panic, because the storm wasn't coming anywhere near them.

That should have been the end of it (well, after the president himself issued a correction and an apology, which any other United States president would have responsibly done). Sadly for us all, it was not the end of it, but merely the beginning of a Category 5 presidential tantrum with hurricane-force bluster and hot air.

This only reinforces our belief that what we suggested a few months ago would be the ideal Democratic campaign slogan: "Do you really want four more years of this?!?"

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The Question To Ask Moscow Mitch: WWRRD?

[ Posted Thursday, September 5th, 2019 – 16:21 UTC ]

Mitch McConnell is upset. He's in a tizzy because mean people keep calling him "Moscow Mitch." Mitch does not like this. He does not like it one tiny bit. In fact, Moscow Mitch is in a snit.

I'm sorry if that sounds a little like a very bad Dr. Seuss rhyme, but that's about the size of our political discourse these days, like it or not. And McConnell is doing nothing to elevate things, because he has taken to accusing his detractors of practicing "McCarthyism."

He's wrong about this, of course. McCarthyism originally meant using the political practices wielded by Senator Joe McCarthy, who accused many of either being communists or having communist sympathies without a shred of actual proof of his accusations. The term has now evolved into meaning any unsubstantiated political attack which is indiscriminate and has no basis in fact. Mitch is right that he's being accused of something similar -- being a puppet of Moscow -- to the accusations McCarthy made. But the term just does not apply, because the accusations against him are very specific indeed -- that his inaction on any election security bills in the Senate is giving Russia green light to attempt to attack our election system once again, in 2020. That's about as specific as it gets, and it is backed up by fact. McConnell has been blocking all such bills from the Senate floor, and he has the ultimate power to do so since he is the majority leader. His refusal to act is indeed aiding and abetting Russia, by any interpretation. Hence, Moscow Mitch is an entirely appropriate moniker.

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Biden, Trump, And The Fonz

[ Posted Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 – 16:56 UTC ]

I'm going to begin today's column with an extremely dated pop culture reference, just to warn everyone. The show Happy Days was historic for many reasons, but the only one anyone really remembers today is the contribution of a metaphor for "going on longer than it really should have." When faced with something that fits this description (a television show, a politician, just about any fad, etc.), the go-to phrase has now become "it has jumped the shark." I have no idea how many people who use this phrase saw the original Happy Days episode where Fonzie did actually jump over a shark on water skis, but the phrase now lives independently of its television origin in American idiom. But there's one other Happy Days theme that should worry us all, because the two politicians leading the race for president both seem to be afflicted by it. I speak of the inability of the Fonz to ever use the word "wrong" when applied to himself. He just couldn't say "I was wrong," no matter how hard he tried. This was played as a comedy bit, but while it was funny on television it's not such a laughing matter in the real world of politics.

President Donald Trump, who will almost surely be nominated by the Republican Party for a second term, obviously has the same problem Fonzie did. He cannot ever admit that he was wrong about anything, even when the obvious evidence shows that he was, in fact, incorrect. Since Trump is incorrect about so many things (on an hourly basis, at times), we keep seeing this play out over and over again. Trump will say or tweet something monstrously stupid or laughably wrong, and then when his error is pointed out to him he insists that he was in fact right, and that everyone else and all the contradictory facts and data are what is actually wrong.

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