Democrats Offer Up "A Better Deal"

[ Posted Monday, July 24th, 2017 – 16:15 PDT ]

It's really tough these days for Democrats to break into the news cycle. Today, for instance, we had the president's son-in-law testifying behind closed doors to a congressional committee, a new White House communications director staring his first full work week, and Senate Republicans desperately trying to figure out what particular bill they're going to bring up for a vote this week on healthcare (the one that kicks 23 million off their insurance, or the one that kicks 32 million off their insurance?). Plus, as always, there is Donald Trump's Twitter account -- which is always good for at least two or three distractions per day. So it's tough to get noticed, with everything else that's going on in Washington. But this maelstrom of Republican chaos isn't likely to get any better any time soon, so Democrats have to forge ahead in their efforts to gain some political attention.

Which is why today, in coordinated fashion, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer both began the rollout of the Democratic Party's 2018 campaign platform. Harking back to the sloganeering of F.D.R., Democrats announced they will be offering "A Better Deal" for Americans. The full title, according to Pelosi, is: "A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future." This was either tweaked at the last minute, or the preparatory leak was wrong, since last Thursday it was reported to be: "A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages." Last-minute change or not, I have to say "a better future" certainly sounds more all-inclusive (and less judgmental) than "better skills."

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Friday Talking Points [446] -- Pardon Me?

[ Posted Friday, July 21st, 2017 – 15:51 PDT ]

We awoke to the breaking news that spinmeister Sean Spicer is out, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is in as White House press secretary. Trump finally found a communications director as well, Anthony "Mooch" Scaramucci, whose main qualification for the job seems to be his world-class standing in the Olympic event entitled "kissing Trump's ass." We personally lost count, during his debut press conference, of how many times he used the phrase "I love Donald Trump" or some variation thereof. Trump, according to Mooch, is a demigod who strides the Earth and can do no wrong, ever, on anything.

Of course, our first reaction to hearing all this news was the same as millions of Americans: "What?!? We're not going to get Melissa McCarthy as Spicey anymore on Saturday Night Live? Who will play Mooch? Who could possibly play such a shameless brown-noser? Maybe... oh, I dunno... Jimmy Fallon?"


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Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages

[ Posted Thursday, July 20th, 2017 – 16:44 PDT ]

Democrats seem to be almost ready to unveil their messaging for the 2018 election cycle. Ever since the disastrous 2016 election, they've been regrouping and trying to figure out a way forward. They did not launch a formal examination of what went wrong last year (unlike Republicans in 2013, there has been no "post-mortem" or "autopsy" document from the Democrats), instead they have focused on tightening up their message to move forward next year. The Washington Post just ran a preview of the Democratic strategizing, and reports that Democrats will be rolling out the whole thing next Monday.

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Jeff Sessions Brings Back Highway Robbery

[ Posted Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 – 17:17 PDT ]

That headline sounds like hyperbole or a metaphor, but sadly it is quite literal. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is bringing back a program which steals money and other valuables from people -- often while they're traveling -- and then refuses to give it back unless the victim sues to get it back in federal court. The costs of bringing a federal case often are more than the value of the property stolen, or "seized" as Sessions would put it. This all takes place even though the victim is never charged with any crime. Meaning the only crime here is the highway robbery by the government, even if they pretty it up with the name "asset forfeiture."

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Giving Thanks For Republican Incompetence

[ Posted Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 – 16:56 PDT ]

Well, that was quick. In less than 24 hours, Mitch McConnell's "repeal and replace Obamacare" bill went down in flames, and then his hastily-constructed Plan C -- the "repeal and delay" idea -- also went down in flames, in spectacular fashion. Without an obvious Plan D on the horizon, this most likely means that the GOP push to repeal Obama's signature legislation is now completely dead in the water, hopefully from now all the way until after the 2018 midterm elections. The finger-pointing among Republicans has already begun, and will likely continue throughout the August congressional break. The real culprit here, though, is nothing short of Republican incompetence. They can spin it all they want, but they're still going to look like the gang who couldn't shoot straight to a significant portion of their own base.

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Is Resisting Trump Enough?

[ Posted Monday, July 17th, 2017 – 16:36 PDT ]

In the most recent Washington Post public opinion poll, only a little over a third of the respondents (36 percent) approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing. This is the lowest rating for any president, roughly six months into the job, since polling began. It's historically dismal, in other words. But while this is good news for the Democratic Party looking towards the midterm 2018 elections, there was one other poll question that should have them at least a little worried. When asked if Democrats "stand for something" or "just stand against Trump," only 37 percent responded that the Democratic Party stood for something. A whopping 52 percent said the party is now solely defined by their opposition to Trump.

Is this a problem, or not? It's hard to say, really, even though at first glance it does seem rather problematic. However, there was no breakdown of responses other than dividing them between registered voters and those not registered. Without a party-line breakdown, it's impossible to say whether this news is good, bad, or even terrible for Democrats.

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Friday Talking Points [445] -- It's Raining Shoes!

[ Posted Friday, July 14th, 2017 – 17:13 PDT ]

In normal political crises, everyone waits for "the other shoe to drop." The Russia/Trump scandal was upgraded earlier this year (by Senator John McCain) to "a centipede, because there are so many shoes left to drop." We thought that was rather clever, at the time. But we've now entered a whole new realm of scandal -- one where it is simply raining shoes down from the sky. Americans can barely go outside before they are clobbered by a falling workboot. Somebody needs to design a much stronger umbrella to protect public safety, and quick!

The most amazing thing about this deluge of footwear is that so many of them have fallen from just one meeting. Donald Trump Junior met with two questionable Russians he thought would be giving him (and Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner) official Russian governmental dirt on Hillary Clinton. He says no such dirt was actually handed over, but at this point there is simply no reason any sane person would believe anything Junior says about this meeting, because he has given so many shifting explanations -- from the initial misleading statement through his most recent -- that newspapers not only have been writing "Timeline Of Don Jr.'s Changing Story" articles, but they've now started updating them almost daily, through the necessity of keeping up. They've even had time to throw in some scathing humor, at this point (such as this Washington Post Junior's timeline article that helpfully gives equivalent statements from Danny Ocean of Ocean's Eleven). At this point, if Junior tried to admit he'd set up the meeting in an attempt to see if a Russian billionaire would adopt him and Ivanka, it wouldn't surprise us in the least. Which is also why more people should be taking Trump's insistence that no dirt was dished during the meeting with a very large grain of salt.

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McConnellcare 2.0 On Life Support Already

[ Posted Thursday, July 13th, 2017 – 16:22 PDT ]

I have to preface this article with the useful phrase "as of this writing," because events are moving quickly in Washington. So, as of this writing, Mitch McConnell has released his new draft of the Republican "repeal and replace Obamacare" bill, and within mere hours two GOP senators said they wouldn't even vote to begin debate on the bill. If McConnell loses one more vote, then this draft will be pronounced as dead as McConnellcare 1.0.

This is before we all see the Congressional Budget Office score of the bill, mind you. And before the fight over the amendment from Ted Cruz, which could (if enacted) send the entire health insurance industry into a death spiral, according to many experts.

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What Is Mitch McConnell Up To?

[ Posted Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 – 17:10 PDT ]

What happens in the Senate in the next month could be pivotal for Republicans. They'll either chalk up some legislative victories or they won't, but either way it could be the moment that defines the political parameters of the 2018 midterm election cycle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to realize this, as he's already (gasp!) said he's cutting the Senate's August recess by a full two weeks -- meaning senators will only have three weeks to play in the sun this year, rather than the usual five. Snarkiness aside, though, you have to wonder what Mitch is really up to with this move. What mischief can a Republican Senate get up to, with an additional two weeks to cook things up?

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Junior's Smoking Gun

[ Posted Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 – 17:13 PDT ]

Donald Trump's story, up until now, has been that "there was no collusion with Russia" during his campaign. That is now -- as the Nixon White House used to say -- no longer an operative statement. The best they can now claim is that while such collusion was attempted, it ultimately wasn't successful. That's pretty weak, though, and with the shifting nature of the story even that may soon become impossible to claim. We'll have to wait and see where the next smoking gun points, before we find out what Trump's next party line will be.

It has been revealed over the past couple of days that Donald Trump Junior actively tried to collude with the Russian government to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. The emails he just released show that beyond a shadow of a doubt. He was offered a meeting with someone supposedly in possession of this dirt, which supposedly came from the Russian government, who was vying for influence with Trump. Junior not only set the meeting up, he also included Jared Kushner and Trump's campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort. No matter what actually took place at that meeting, the intent of all three was crystal clear. Russia was offering opposition research, and Team Trump was not just willing but eager to see what it was.

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