Mitch McConnell's Fear Of H.R. 1

[ Posted Thursday, January 17th, 2019 – 18:18 PST ]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the time this week to pen an opinion piece in the Washington Post warning of the dire consequences that would happen if the Democratic House's first bill (H.R. 1, or the "For The People Act") ever became law. He calls it the "Democrat [sic] Politician Protection Act." However, he really fails to explain why anything in the act (other than changes to the Federal Election Commission) would specifically help Democrats at the expense of Republicans. Instead, his article reads as nothing short of free-floating angst over the changes Democrats are proposing.

What's really telling is that Mitch felt the need to attack this bill now, when he obviously has other things on his plate to worry about (like reopening the government). That the bill is causing such deep concern in the Republican Party is very good news for Democrats, since the bill itself is such a breathtaking overhaul of elections, ethics rules, and how money influences politics. While not everyone will likely agree on the need for every item contained within it, the chances are that most of it will sound pretty good to most people.

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Pelosi Brilliantly Trolls Trump

[ Posted Wednesday, January 16th, 2019 – 18:30 PST ]

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is trolling President Donald Trump. She just sent him a letter (which she then immediately released to the public, for maximum impact) suggesting that the upcoming State Of The Union speech be either: postponed until the government is open once again, given from the Oval Office on television, or just written down by the White House and sent over to Congress. This is obviously designed to do nothing short of getting under the president's skin, but at the same time it is indeed a real threat, since Pelosi actually does have the power to deny Trump the chance to give his annual speech. Officially, the speaker invites the president and then somewhat later (often mere days before the speech) the House and Senate pass an official invitation which schedules the event. Pelosi has already informally invited Trump to speak on January 29th, but Congress has not yet officially acted. If Pelosi doesn't allow a floor vote, then the official invitation will never happen and the speech will essentially be cancelled. Such is the power of having the majority in the House.

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Why Is Trump Still Allowed On Twitter?

[ Posted Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 – 18:01 PST ]

Today, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning racism and white supremacy. They felt the need to do so because one of its members was recently quoted by a journalist pondering how "white supremacy" had become such a negative term. Tomorrow, the House may vote on censuring Representative Steve King directly. His own Republican caucus has stripped him of all his committee assignments as well.

This is all to the good, of course. Even hinting at supporting white supremacy should be absolutely disqualifying for any American politician, in this day and age. But many are left wondering why King was able to get away with his vitriol for so long. He's got a long history of making what can only be called racist statements, after all. In all this time, Republicans never stripped him of his committee assignments or, for that matter, even acknowledged the racism in their own ranks. The current feigned GOP outrage smacks of too little, too late.

Which brings me to a related subject. Because while King's remarks were pretty blatantly racist, he certainly isn't alone in denigrating people who don't happen to look like him. In fact, the leader of his party does so all the time, and President Donald Trump rarely gets any kind of pushback from those in his party for doing so. So why the double standard?

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What Democrats Are Looking For In A 2020 Nominee

[ Posted Monday, January 14th, 2019 – 18:26 PST ]

Today seems to be another day for speculating about the upcoming Democratic presidential primary race, and (more specifically) answering the question: "What do Democratic voters want to see in a 2020 presidential nominee?" Since there is no real news today on the government shutdown front, I thought I'd join in this speculation. My apologies to those who are in the "It's just too damn early to even think about" camp, in advance. If you're one of those, I'd suggest just skipping today's article altogether.

The easiest and best answer to the question, of course, is: "Someone who can beat Donald Trump." That is going to be the overwhelming and deeply-held consensus among Democratic voters this time around. Trump is seen as such a titanic disaster among the Democratic base that they'll be willing to forgive a lot if they feel their candidate has the best chance of defeating Trump, in other words.

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Friday Talking Points -- Borderline Insanity?

[ Posted Friday, January 11th, 2019 – 19:27 PST ]

If our president is going crazy over a non-existent "emergency" at our southern border, could it be called "borderline insanity"? We're just asking....

Puns aside, we are now one day away from the longest government shutdown in modern history. And that record will indeed be broken, since Congress has decamped for the weekend and no talks are currently underway. So it'll be at least Monday before anything happens, and probably a whole lot longer.

It's hard to overstate the depths to which Donald Trump has driven America into, with his petulant tantrum over his beloved wall. Consider the following: now even some Democrats are quietly wishing for Trump to declare monarchical powers to resolve a national emergency that simply does not exist. The thinking is that this is the only way Trump has left to declare victory, so the entire country can move on and the Democrats can get the government open for business once again. That's what we're left with -- hoping Trump stomps on the Constitution because it seems to be the only avenue left back to some semblance of sanity. Here's a peek into this thinking from the Washington Post:

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The Miles-Wide 2020 Democratic Field

[ Posted Thursday, January 10th, 2019 – 17:55 PST ]

I thought we could all use a break from all the manufactured Trump Shutdown follies today, so instead I am finally giving in and writing the inevitable first (of many) columns on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race. I've largely restrained myself from doing so up until now, even though I could have started in right after the midterm elections last year. But now a few Democrats are more-officially sticking their toe in the 2020 water, so it seemed like a good time to provide an initial overview.

Such an overview is going to have to be from about 30,000 feet up, though, because at this point that's about how high you have to get to fully view the Democratic field, which is already miles-wide. There are so many Democrats either running, thinking about running, rumored to be running, or declining to run right now that it's hard to even get an accurate count of them all. So we're not going to have much time for candidate-by-candidate analysis, rather just a series of long lists of who currently falls into which category. This field, of course, will narrow (at least somewhat) as time goes on, so we'll have plenty of time later for discussions of "lanes" and frontrunners-versus-underdogs and all the rest of the horserace hoopla, never fear. For now, though, we're just going to provide the initial (very long) list.

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No End In Sight

[ Posted Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 – 16:51 PST ]

President Donald Trump held a meeting today with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. It was as pointless as the last few meetings between the three, from all accounts. Reportedly, after Pelosi made her case for opening the government but only extending the budget for the Department of Homeland Security for another month -- to give both sides time to have the border wall fight without penalizing all the federal workers -- Trump asked her point-blank whether she would agree to his wall money in 30 days or not. She said "No," and Trump got up and walked out of the meeting. Which is why the word "pointless" is hard to avoid.

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Snap Reactions To Tonight's Speeches

[ Posted Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 – 20:44 PST ]

President Trump just got done delivering the first primetime Oval Office speech of his presidency, which was followed by a rebuttal from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. The entire experience was an odd one, mostly for the brevity of both speeches, which were planned to be eight minutes each (I did not time them, but they both seemed to fall in that ballpark). So my snap reactions will likewise be abbreviated, meaning this column won't be anywhere near as long as the ones I write after State Of The Union speeches (for instance).

The usual caveat applies -- all direct quotes were hastily jotted down by me, and I could easily have gotten a word or two wrong or out of place, but I do believe I've captured the essence of what was said. Just to be honest, up front. OK, enough of that, let's get to it.


President Trump's speech reactions

Overall impressions were that Trump kind of rushed through his remarks, although he did stay on script for the entire time (I didn't notice any glaring ad-lib moments, in other words). Normally when reading off a TelePrompTer, Trump is much more singsong and his delivery is full of pauses and odd inflections. Tonight these were mostly absent, but they were replaced with the kind of speedy delivery not usually heard from the president. I'm not sure which style works better for him, but the difference from his usual TelePrompTer pace was indeed noticeable. In appearance, Trump seemed rather squinty-eyed, as if the text on the TelePrompTer wasn't big enough for him to easily read.

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The Constipated Eagle

[ Posted Monday, January 7th, 2019 – 17:59 PST ]

There's a saying among government workers that requires a wee bit of bowdlerization for the first paragraph of a family column: "The eagle poops on Fridays." In other words, government paychecks appear at the end of the week. This week, the eagle is metaphorically constipated, and no such "poop" will be forthcoming to hundreds of thousands of government workers. For many of them, this will be the first missed paycheck, while others have already gone a pay period without being paid. The government shutdown is about to get a lot less theoretical and a lot more worrisome for millions, when you take into account their families and the local businesses they support.

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Speaker Pelosi Takes The Helm Once Again

[ Posted Friday, January 4th, 2019 – 19:30 PST ]

Program Note: Our apologies, but due to circumstances beyond our control, there will be no Friday Talking Points column this week. We've been dealing with some behind-the-scenes technical problems with the site (and with our network access to our ISP), and so did not have time to put together a Friday column. We realize it's already been two weeks without one (due to the year-end awards columns), so we do apologize for the delay.

What we would have written about this week would have heavily relied upon two themes: how Democrats are easily winning the talking point battle over "the Trump Shutdown" (see how easy that was to do?), and secondly, how breathtakingly expansive the Democrats' first House bill turned out to be. This was covered in great detail (complete with a link to the full text of the bill) by HuffPost, so anyone feeling the loss of this week's FTP column should check that out for what would have been our prime source material today. Although the bill overreaches in a few instances (proposes things which will likely require constitutional amendments, like forcing the Supreme Court to come up with ethics rules for itself, for instance), it is a very ambitious bill with a lot of very excellent reforms built into it and deserves a whole lot more media attention than it is likely to get this week. A third issue that I would have also brought up in passing is the new effort by Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee to introduce two very interesting constitutional amendments: one to prevent presidents from pardoning themselves and one to abolish the Electoral College. This is a very interesting tactic for a Democrat to take, and I would have voiced support for his efforts. Of course, now that a Friday column proved to be impossible today, I will likely write about all of these issues at some point next week.

What follows below is the article I was working on yesterday when the connectivity problems started. I finished it up last night, and thought it would be a good consolation article to run today if I wasn't able to finish a FTP column. So although there won't be a Friday column today, here at least is the Thursday column you should have gotten yesterday.


Nancy Pelosi can now correctly be called Speaker of the House Pelosi once again. It's been eight years since that has been true, most of which the Republicans spent proving their own slogan: "Government doesn't work -- elect us and we'll prove it!" The speakerships of both John Boehner and Paul Ryan never really accomplished all that much, other than one massive tax cut for billionaires and Wall Street. Almost the entire time the GOP was in control, their entire legislative agenda was halted in its tracks not by Democrats, but by their own intransigent Tea Party members. With all of that as prologue, Nancy Pelosi won't have to do much to outperform the two intervening House speakers.

But of course, she's not setting the bar that low. Far from it. Pelosi has big challenges ahead and a large "to do" list to take care of. Fortunately, Democrats are a lot more politically cohesive right now than the Republicans have been for the past eight years. Progressives are just not stupid enough to become "the Tea Party of the left," content only to stop all legislation that doesn't pass their ultra-purity test. Pelosi already has the support of her caucus in a way that neither Boehner nor Ryan ever really could plausibly claim.

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