O'Malley's March

[ Posted Thursday, May 28th, 2015 – 17:18 PDT ]

Two things are worth noting here, before I jump in to taking a serious look (as I am doing for all announced presidential candidates from both parties) at the chances Martin O'Malley has of becoming president.

The first is that O'Malley comes with a built-in headline, which you'll notice I am using today. I have to warn you -- you'll be seeing a lot of this headline in the next few days, as the media covers his official entry into the race for the Democratic nomination for president. There's a reason all us pundits are going to be echoing the same headline, and that reason is: "O'Malley's March" is the name of a Celtic rock band that Martin O'Malley is a member of (and, assumably from the band's name, leads). So "O'Malley's march to the nomination" is going to be an early theme, because (after all) what pundit can resist a politician with a built-in headline? I certainly can't, that's for sure.

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Santorum And Pataki Jump In

[ Posted Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 – 17:03 PDT ]

For those of you keeping score at home, the list of official Republican candidates for president is growing by two names this week: Rick Santorum and George Pataki. This brings the official total to eight, as these two join those who have already declared: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Santorum is announcing today and Pataki has scheduled his big announcement for tomorrow.

As with all the other candidates who have officially thrown their hats in the ring, today we will take a serious look at Santorum and Pataki, and attempt to predict what their chances for victory could be. [A side note: tune in to this column tomorrow when we'll be taking a look at Martin O'Malley over on the Democratic side, who is expected to make his own formal announcement over the upcoming weekend. Also, in the Republican on-deck circle are Lindsey Graham (scheduled announcement June 1) and Rick Perry (scheduled for June 4), but we'll get to them next week.]

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The GOP Race At The Bottom

[ Posted Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 – 17:23 PDT ]

Please note that today's headline does not refer to a GOP race "to the bottom," but rather "at the bottom." Examining Republicans racing towards the bottom (however you define that concept) would be an entirely different subject, but what I'm talking about today is what is likely to become the most fierce fighting within the Republican Party's primary campaign -- the race at the very bottom of the polling -- because it will soon have an outsized importance for the overall contest to see which Republican will become the presidential nominee.

The Republican National Committee has (so far) successfully ducked responsibility for what is shaping up to be a very contentious issue: who, exactly, is allowed on stage at the Republican debates. They've essentially passed this baton to Fox News, which will be hosting the first debate of the season (on the sixth of August). Fox recently announced that they'll only allow 10 candidates on their stage, to be determined by an average of the five most recent nationwide polls. This is a lot of candidates, to be sure, but even so, the Republican field is expected to have somewhere around 15 candidates (perhaps as low as 14, but also perhaps even more than 16). This means some are guaranteed to be left out in the cold.

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Happy Memorial Day

[ Posted Monday, May 25th, 2015 – 17:23 PDT ]

This is really just a program note, to state that there will be no column today.

I went looking for a Memorial Day column to re-run today, and found two that are still worth pondering: the first one I think I ever wrote and the one dedicated to all the second-class soldiers and sailors who served in America's military.

That last one is particularly pertinent, since the House Republicans actually voted several times in the past few weeks to make it harder for undocumented young men and women (the "DREAMers") to serve in the American military. We have come pretty far as a society, and the military has at times been at the forefront of the fight for full equality for all (reluctantly, after President Truman ordered the integration of the military), but we've also still got a ways to go.

But I didn't want to get all preachy, really, so I'll just leave the links to the two articles, should you want to read my thoughts on patriotism in general.

Personally, I am enjoying the first Memorial Day in the last decade and a half where American soldiers are not fighting on the front lines somewhere on foreign soil. Yes, we've still got soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but for the first time since the Afghan War began, they are not in direct combat roles, merely advising and training. That is something military families across the land will be celebrating today, as they remember the fallen.

So I'll just say I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day, and leave it at that.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Friday Talking Points [347] -- Spinning Straw (Polls) Into Gold

[ Posted Friday, May 22nd, 2015 – 17:03 PDT ]

It's one of those rare weeks in Washington where Congress deigns to actually do their job and vote on some stuff... before lapsing back into their default status, which is of course: "taking weeks and weeks off, on vacation."

Most of the attention was focused on two big issues this week, authorizing fast-track trade authority and re-authorizing sections of the USA PATRIOT Act. As this is being written, neither one has actually passed the Senate, but it's looking like at least the fast-track bill will probably pass tonight.

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I Miss Craig Ferguson

[ Posted Thursday, May 21st, 2015 – 17:27 PDT ]

You know, today was one of those days when I was typing merrily along, writing a column, and then halfway through it had to research a few things -- and found that my entire premise had crumbled beneath me. Also, I found a few existing columns in other media outlets which said pretty much exactly what I was trying to say. So, suddenly, I didn't give a rat's ass about finishing the article.

You'll have to forgive my language, but it does have a point. After watching some rather uninspired television last night (except for the clip of Drew Barrymore flashing her boobs, of course), the subject of "not giving a rat's ass" lit one of those cartoon light bulbs for me. Which is why I'm running an old column today.

Now, you'll immediately notice that the column below was a complete and utter failure at predicting the future. For this I am eternally disheartened. Would that things had turned out differently -- I would have been much more cheerful, I fully admit. I got it wrong, and I still have an aching void in my life, at 12:35 every weeknight. Also, you'll note that (strangely enough) exactly as mentioned in the article, this week I am actually commenting twice about what's on television, which is a pretty amazing coincidence given the rarity of me devoting columns to pop culture to begin with.

Be that as it all may, I still felt it worthwhile to re-post the following. Because I know I can't be the only one who feels the same way. As Joni Mitchell once sang: "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." And, as she predicted, CBS has paved over the paradise that used to be on at 12:35 every night, and put up a virtual parking lot instead.


I Don't Care Who Is On Before Craig Ferguson

[Originally published April 10, 2014]

To borrow (or, more accurately, "to blatantly steal") a phrase: "It's a great day for America!"

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How Many More Wars?

[ Posted Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 – 17:17 PDT ]

Jeb Bush certainly had a bad week last week, as he struggled to come up with a clear answer to a question he really should have been expecting in the first place. Other Republicans also struggled to admit that the Iraq War was indeed a mistake (which is somewhat understandable, because by doing so they are criticizing a former Republican president). But while the spectacle of Republicans having to admit a big Republican mistake certainly is amusing, there's an even bigger question which so far has remained unasked: "Knowing all the things we've learned in the past decade and a half, what would it take for you to send American troops to fight an overseas war?" This is the real question the voters deserve an answer to. To put it more bluntly: "How many more wars can we expect if you are elected?"

The present situation should be taken as a starting point for this conversation. Already, some Republican candidates have openly called for more American ground troops to be sent back into Iraq to fight the Islamic State. It remains to be seen whether the other candidates will jump aboard this train of thought, in a frenzy of one-upmanship and chest-beating. But all those who criticize President Obama's handling of foreign policy -- which includes the entire Republican presidential field, it almost goes without saying -- should really have to detail precisely what they'd do differently. The voters really do deserve an answer to this question, since these people are running to take Obama's place in the White House.

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Ireland's Historic Marriage Equality Referendum

[ Posted Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 – 17:17 PDT ]

Ireland may be about to make some history. At the end of this week, citizens of the Republic of Ireland will vote to either give same-sex marriages full and equal rights with opposite-sex marriages, or they will vote the idea down and continue the status quo of not allowing gay people to get married. If the referendum passes, Ireland will become the first country to vote for full marriage equality by means of direct referendum in the entire world. The "Yes" vote is currently polling better than 2-to-1 against the "No" vote, so the chances of passage at this point have to be seen as pretty good.

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If You Care About Government Surveillance, Watch 1971 Tonight On PBS

[ Posted Monday, May 18th, 2015 – 14:49 PDT ]

Everyone who cares at all (one way or the other) about government surveillance should watch the documentary 1971 tonight, on the PBS show Independent Lens. Everyone who has an opinion on the Edward Snowden revelations should watch this film. Everyone who has an opinion on the USA PATRIOT Act should tune in. Disturbed by the National Security Agency's actions? Check your local listings for when Independent Lens airs.

I say all this, mind you, before I've even seen the film. Full disclosure: I'm not being paid or compensated for this plug in any way, either. But I know that however the subject matter is handled by the director, it is significant enough and important enough to pay attention to. I rarely strongly recommend a film, sight unseen. In fact, I rarely venture to recommend any film at all (it's not generally what I do). But in the case of 1971, I do so because I already know the story it is going to tell. This story is not only a fascinating piece of American history few today even remember, but it's also very germane to the current public debate about government surveillance.

What happened in the year 1971 that was so important? A burglary. No, not the one at the Watergate -- that was a completely separate event which wouldn't take place until mid-1972. This burglary took place in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in the town of Media, when the local office of the F.B.I. was broken into and all the secret files were stolen (this was 1971, so they were all paper files). The significant ones were then leaked to the media by the burglars (which was the whole point of the burglary). A whopping 40 percent of the secret files covered domestic political surveillance and investigations of political activity (with a 100-to-1 slant towards investigating liberal organizations over conservative ones). Only one percent of the files covered organized crime, by comparison. This shockingly showed the what the priorities of the F.B.I. were, at the time.

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Friday Talking Points [346] -- Is That Your Final Answer, Jeb?

[ Posted Friday, May 15th, 2015 – 17:28 PDT ]

Jeb Bush, is that your final answer? Sure you wouldn't like to phone a friend, or maybe just get the audience's reaction first?

Heh. OK, we fully admit that we didn't come up with that snarky line ourselves. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post took the prize in the "snarky ways to describe Bush's awful week" contest (runner-up: Heather "Digby" Parton for using the old standard "between Iraq and a hard place"). Jeb Bush, in case you haven't heard, spent the entire week coming up with a believable answer to one question. In other words, when that proverbial 3:00 A.M. call comes, we can expect Jebbie to get back to us by next Thursday.

After watching Bush twist in the wind this week, we can't help but wonder if the 2016 Republican nomination race is going to closely resemble the 2008 Democratic nomination fight. Let's see, we've got a candidate who is sure that raising gobs of money is going to scare everybody else off, and who would really be fine with just holding a coronation rather than that whole messy primary elections calendar, and who sees himself as the inevitable candidate. This should sound at least glancingly familiar. Jeb just announced he'll be skipping the Iowa straw poll as well, which only goes to further the image of Bush's disdainful attitude.

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