From The (Recent) Archives -- Pence? Kaine? Really?

[ Posted Friday, July 22nd, 2016 – 20:42 PDT ]

Program Notes: Before I begin, a few quick program notes are in order. I had promised a second installment of my "Friday Talking Points" retrospective today, but I didn't have time to put it together due to having to scurry around getting ready for our trip to Philadelphia. We've got the cat-sitter/house-sitter lined up, but there's always tons of last-minute stuff, so I just decided to bail on FTP and punt. So I'm re-running a column from only about a week ago, sorry for that (but you can see why it deserves more air time, today). Oh, I also have to admit, I have no idea what I'll be doing next Friday here at, either -- I can't even promise there will be a column at all.

This brings up a larger program note -- the schedule for next week will be absolutely fluid. Posts may appear at any time, in any order. Guest bloggers will be appearing. Multiple posts per day are possible. I may kick things off with a rare weekend post, on Sunday night. There will be no schedule at all -- it'll all be dependent on what is going on, when I have time to actually type and post, and what parties we'll be invited to (heh). But I'll try to post as frequently as circumstances allow.


Originally published on July 14, 2016

Will one of the most exciting primary election seasons ultimately end in sheer boredom? That was my immediate reaction today to hearing the news that Donald Trump is all but set on selecting Mike Pence as his running mate, and that Hillary Clinton's first choice might just be Tim Kaine. After I yawned widely, of course. Pence? Kaine? Really? These are the best two choices for vice president around? Wow.

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Cleveland, Day Four -- Trump's Big Night

[ Posted Thursday, July 21st, 2016 – 23:05 PDT ]

Donald Trump finally stopped talking, so I can now start writing. His speech went on for almost an hour and a half, which was a bit much for me -- especially after an exhausting week of listening to Republicans talk. But that's the end of the evening, so let's go back to the beginning and see how we got here.

A few overall thoughts (none very coherent, at this point) to begin with. First, they seemed to have a lot of musical interludes tonight that were mostly missing from earlier nights (or perhaps I just wasn't paying attention). It seemed like G. E. Smith and his band had the most time on stage of anyone tonight, other than Donald Trump. Their choice of songs was a little eclectic at times, as well.

Like last night, the scheduling was better than the first two nights. There were only a couple of snoozers, and the buildup to hearing Trump speak mostly was pretty smooth. Also, as Gwen Ifill of PBS put it: "The house is full for the first time this week." Everyone showed up to see the big night, instead of the upper decks being almost deserted. A bigger crowd meant a lot better response to almost all the speakers.

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Cleveland, Day Three -- Cruz Refuses!

[ Posted Thursday, July 21st, 2016 – 00:18 PDT ]

Heading into tonight's speechifying, I was convinced that Ted Cruz would emerge afterwards as the heir apparent to the Republican nomination in 2020, should Donald Trump fail to win in November. Now, I'm not so sure.

But before we get to the big story of the night, let's start at the beginning. Today, the realization finally dawned in the Trump camp that they had to do something to stop the bleeding over the plagiarism storyline. A staffer was summarily dragged out who offered to fall on her own sword, and magnanimous Donald pardoned her, saying "everyone makes mistakes." So they likely successfully prevented the story from continuing for another day. But it would have been overshadowed anyway (obviously) by the end of the night.

But again, I'm getting ahead of myself. John Kasich also stirred the pot a bit today, saying he was courted for Trump's veep and that, furthermore, they offered him control over both the domestic and foreign agenda, leaving Trump to... um, play golf? The Trump camp immediately denied the story, which only served to highlight the Trump/Kasich feud even further than Kasich's refusal to set foot in the arena already had.

Tonight, the scheduling finally approached professionalism, I have to say (as an overall comment). There was a slow build throughout the night from all the speakers (and their placement), the minor folks in the first hour, the more prominent in the second hour, and (excepting Callista Gingrich's bizarre appearance), the third and primetime hour was nothing but the A-list -- with no minor-leaguers left hanging at the end of the night after the excitement was over and the crowd had gone home. So there was that, at the very least. To put this another way, tonight's trainwreck did not resemble that of the previous two nights of scheduling idiocy -- it was for an entirely different reason.

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Cleveland, Day Two

[ Posted Tuesday, July 19th, 2016 – 21:47 PDT ]

We are now halfway through the Republican National Convention, and I still have yet to hear a single policy proposal or thing that the Republicans or Donald Trump are for. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not by much.

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Cleveland, Day One

[ Posted Monday, July 18th, 2016 – 22:22 PDT ]

I'm writing this while watching all of Day One of the Republican National Convention. I apologize in advance for the rather stream-of-consciousness nature of the post, but I also caution that you should get used to it, because we are in for two weeks of convention-palooza.

The Republicans went first this year, and it is actually notable that Day One is even happening. For the past two presidential election cycles, Mother Nature intervened and Republicans canceled their first day (in 2008 it was Hurricane Gustav, and in 2012 Hurricane Isaac that pre-empted the start of the GOP convention). Make of that what you will, I suppose.

I turned on the campaign coverage early today just in time to catch the big floor fight among the delegates. Call it the final death throes of the "Never Trump" movement. After being blocked by the rules committee, this was their final protest -- an attempt to get a vote on changing the convention's rules to unbind all the delegates on the first vote. The dissenters thought they had enough votes to at least force a roll call vote on the rules, but after some back-room dealing, the convention chair announced that he had strong-armed several states into dropping their names from the bid -- making it small enough (by the rules) to be ignored.

There was some shouting back and forth between the two camps. At least two states' delegations reportedly walked out in protest. These clips will undoubtedly be shown on the evening news tonight, because it was the best example of how divided the Republican Party still is over the question of supporting Donald Trump. One New Hampshire delegate (a former senator) on the "Never Trump" side later denounced the convention denying them their chance for a vote, claiming the people on the other side "act like fascists. They may not be fascists but they act like fascists." He later called them "people I would refer to as brownshirts." For those unaware, this is not usually the sort of thing heard from the floor of a national convention. To say the least.

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Friday Talking Points [400] -- A Campaign Retrospective, Part 1

[ Posted Friday, July 15th, 2016 – 15:31 PDT ]

We begin today with a warning. Our regularly-scheduled Friday Talking Points are going on hiatus for at least three weeks. Next Friday, we'll be heading to the Democratic National Convention, and the Friday after that we'll be heading back home. For both today and next Friday we're taking a look back (through the lens of our talking points) at the entire 2016 presidential campaign season so far. We have no idea what we're going to do the Friday after that (indeed, we can't even promise that there'll be a column at all on July 29th, at this point). Regular FTP columns will resume the first Friday in August, just in time for the traditional "Silly Season" of American politics.

The next two weeks are going to be all about the conventions, which means there'll be so many talking points discussed during the course of each week that hopefully the lack of a list each Friday won't even be noticed. For now, we can only offer up a do-it-yourself talking point challenge, just for fun. Then we're devoting the rest of the column to taking a look at the past year, for a special reason. Because this will be rather lengthy, we are pre-empting all the other segments of the column to present it.

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Pence? Kaine? Really?

[ Posted Thursday, July 14th, 2016 – 16:18 PDT ]

Will one of the most exciting primary election seasons ultimately end in sheer boredom? That was my immediate reaction today to hearing the news that Donald Trump is all but set on selecting Mike Pence as his running mate, and that Hillary Clinton's first choice might just be Tim Kaine. After I yawned widely, of course. Pence? Kaine? Really? These are the best two choices for vice president around? Wow.

Considering who else is on both candidates' short lists, these would be the most spectacularly mundane selections possible, for both Trump and Clinton. Perhaps that is the point, I will readily concede. Perhaps after all the excitement at the top of the ticket, some boredom will balance things out on both sides of the aisle. In Kaine's case, that isn't even a slur, but rather a self-evaluation -- he appeared on a Sunday morning political chatfest a few weeks back and described himself as "boring."

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Fart Proudly In Philadelphia?

[ Posted Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 – 17:06 PDT ]

In 1781, Benjamin Franklin wrote a satirical letter, purporting to be a proposal for a subject for European scientists to study. Franklin, an amateur scientist himself, was making a snide point about what he considered to be rather frivolous research by the Europeans. The equivalent today would be those American politicians who routinely point out some of the more far-fetched research the federal government now funds. This tongue-in-cheek document is now known by the title "Fart Proudly," although Franklin didn't actually use that phrase in his satirical essay.

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Unified, Mostly

[ Posted Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 – 16:02 PDT ]

Hillary Clinton got her long-awaited endorsement from Bernie Sanders today, in an event designed to unify the Democratic Party base heading into their national convention. Although there are still plenty of "Bernie or Bust" die-hards out there, Democrats had already largely unified behind Clinton, even before Sanders officially endorsed her today. Perhaps this all would have played out differently in a different election year, but Donald Trump is proving to be a powerful unifying force among Democrats -- because his elevation to president is seen as being downright unthinkable by both Bernie and Hillary supporters. Getting behind Hillary may be problematic for some Bernie supporters, but considering the alternative is a big motivating factor for most.

Polling has consistently shown that Democrats have come together much faster and to a greater extent than in 2008, when over 20 percent of Hillary supporters said they'd vote for John McCain rather than Barack Obama. This percentage only dropped down to 14 percent by the time people actually voted. Polling done since the end of the primaries this year shows only eight or nine percent of Sanders supporters saying they'd vote for Donald Trump. A higher percentage of Democrats overall is now fully on board with Clinton than happened in 2008 as well. So the party is indeed unifying around their candidate.

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War On Weed's End In Sight

[ Posted Monday, July 11th, 2016 – 17:51 PDT ]

The end of the federal government's War On Weed is approaching fast. No matter how the details work out, that much seems pretty clear at this point. What began roughly 100 years ago as a racist legislative overreaction to Latino workers' preferred method of relaxing -- and was then ramped up (under Richard Nixon) to punish hippies and minorities and college students -- could once again become sane governmental policy, ending almost a century's institutional demonization of a fairly harmless natural substance. When it happens, it will be the most significant governmental shift on a pointless and endless social "war" since the end of Prohibition. The only remaining questions are how the mechanics of the war's end will work out, and how fast it'll happen. But whether it ends with a bang or a whimper, that end is definitely now in sight.

Consider the following developments (some very recent and some ongoing):

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