Friday Talking Points -- Trump Throws His Biggest Hissy Fit Yet

[ Posted Friday, February 15th, 2019 – 18:28 UTC ]

Emergency! Ahh! Everybody run!

Sigh. Well, here we are. Not only has Donald Trump become the first president to order the military to do essentially nothing just to make a political point (see: midterms 2018, border deployment), he has now become the first president to declare a national emergency because he made a political promise he just couldn't keep. He couldn't keep it because -- counter to his own self-portrayal as a dealmaking genius -- Donald Trump is such a terrible dealmaker that he couldn't even get a Republican Congress to give him what he wanted, for two whole years. And if that isn't a national emergency, then what is?

Let's just take a moment to quickly review how we got here. Donald Trump began his presidential campaign warning about the flood of evil brown people who were coming to rape and murder us all in our own beds. He boiled this down into one call-and-response phrase to use at his rallies:

"Build the wall!"

"Who is going to pay for it?"


Once sworn into office, he immediately signed an executive order calling for his wall to be built. This was meaningless, of course, and the wall didn't get built. Trump also, in his first call to Mexico's leader, tried to strongarm him into giving him a bunch of money so he could claim he made good on his campaign promise to make Mexico pay for his wall. The Mexican president essentially laughed at Trump's suggestion. This was about when all talk of having Mexico foot the bill ended, for Trump, who conveniently threw that notion down the memory hole.

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Taking A Look At The Green New Deal

[ Posted Thursday, February 14th, 2019 – 18:09 UTC ]

Freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has unveiled her first legislative effort, the "Green New Deal" resolution. The rollout was a little rocky, with some rookie mistakes made. But putting all that aside, I thought it'd be worthwhile to take a look at the actual text of the resolution itself. It's already being demonized by Republicans in a way not seen since the "death panels" demonization of Obamacare, so it's important to see what is actually in it, rather than the caricature of it that its opponents are already creating.

The actual text of the resolution begins by laying out the problems in some detail. It explains why climate change should be a governmental priority, and offers up the solution that we need to act as decisively as we acted during World War II and the Great Depression. Here's just one representative excerpt to sum the introduction up:

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A New Political Scale For Democrats

[ Posted Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 – 18:00 UTC ]

Do we need new labels to adequately describe the Democratic Party's ever-widening 2020 presidential field -- and, beyond, to more accurately describe the factions currently at play within the party at large? Because when most everyone agrees on the goals but differs mainly on the tactics that should be used to get there (or how fast we should try to get there), this doesn't really fit the old "leftist-versus-centrist" political scale at all anymore.

It's an interesting question to ask, but I hadn't given it much thought until now. I was recently directed by a reader to an interesting New York Times article written by Jamelle Bouie, which made the case for looking at the party through a new political lens. He makes the point that calling some Democrats "liberal" versus those who are "moderate" or "centrist" doesn't really capture the nuances of their very real differences about what direction the country should go in next. Or, to be even more accurate, the differences in how we should go about moving towards goals that most Democrats actually agree upon.

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Trail Of Smears

[ Posted Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 – 17:55 UTC ]

Today I experienced one of those rare times when I had in mind what I wanted to write, and then I read somebody else's article and it made pretty much all the points I was going to make (with some of them made better than I could have). This kind of takes the wind out of one's sails, it should be noted. So what I'm left with is mere commentary around the edges of the issue.

The article I'm referring to was written by Bob Cesca and it appeared in Salon. It was titled "Scandal Double Standard: Democrats Pay The Price For Every Misdeed While The GOP Skates." I encourage everyone to read it in full, because it's worth your time. It covers more than the one "scandal" I was thinking about writing about today, but it does such a good job there that it's worth a long excerpt:

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The Taxman Cometh

[ Posted Monday, February 11th, 2019 – 17:33 UTC ]

Tax filing season is underway, and the process of millions of Americans understanding the brand-new tax code and tax forms has now begun. So far, it doesn't seem to be going particularly well. Stories are appearing in the media about people being shocked and surprised that things have changed. Some will be pleasantly surprised, but they're not the ones the stories have been written about. Because for many, this year's tax season is going to mean they either get a much smaller refund or that they actually owe additional taxes, when they were used to getting an annual refund. This is bad financial news for any family, but it also points out how skewed most people's general thinking is on income taxes.

By this, I am not referring to the ideological or partisan debates over taxes, but rather the practical nuts-and-bolts way we go about paying our income taxes in this country. In other words, Trump supporters and Bernie supporters alike will probably have the same reaction, because most people focus on the wrong thing when thinking about their own taxes.

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Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Big Speech, And A Virginia Meltdown

[ Posted Friday, February 8th, 2019 – 18:52 UTC ]

It's been an eventful week, with Trump's second State Of The Union speech and Virginia politics entering complete free-fall. Democrats in the House began work in earnest this week as well, on both the legislative and investigative fronts. Also, there are now some new Boondocks comics! So the week was anything but dull, although it was a bit disjointed.

President Donald Trump gave his second State Of The Union speech this week, in which he flat-out threatened the United States economy if Democrats had the temerity to investigate him. Here are the two relevant passages, from the transcript:

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Presidential Assment? Har!

[ Posted Thursday, February 7th, 2019 – 17:30 UTC ]

President Donald Trump is not a happy camper. This was plain to see in his morning tweetstorm, where he finally realizes that he did not, in fact, win the 2018 midterm election. There has been a transfer of power in the House of Representatives, and Trump is finally waking up to what this is going to mean for both him personally and for his administration. Most normal politicians would have cottoned onto this basic fact over three months ago, but Trump is anything but normal.

He expressed his shock and anger at the prospect of Democratic-led congressional investigations in typical Trumpian fashion -- in other words, tweeting in all caps: "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!"

In begging to differ with Trump's assessment, I accidentally coined a new word. Here is my dictionary definition of the new term, which I hope everyone will soon start using as many times as necessary:

(1) accusing others of harassment when you are guilty of harassing them.
(2) revealing voluntarily to the world that you are an ass.
[synonym for (2): BECLOWN]

Of course, by changing HARASSMENT to just ASSMENT, we'll have one syllable left over, so allow us to dispense with a few of these, in direct response to Trump's claims of "presidential harassment": HAR HAR HAR!!!

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Virginia Democrats In Free Fall

[ Posted Wednesday, February 6th, 2019 – 18:14 UTC ]

Virginia Democrats seem to be in free fall, dropping fast with a very hard landing soon ahead. At least, that's the way it looks from the outside looking in. The top three political jobs in the state are all now held by men who either dressed up in blackface long ago or have been accused of sexual assault. The situation is now so bad that people are looking at who is third in line to succeed the governor -- and it turns out that the third guy in line happens to be a Republican, which complicates matters even further.

Governor Ralph Northam has yet to resign, five days after an indefensible photo of two men in costume surfaced from his medical school yearbook. The photo is about as awful as you can imagine, since it shows one man in blackface and another wearing Ku Klux Klan robes (complete with pointy hood). About the only way it could have been worse would have been if a noose had been in the photo, really.

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My Snap Reactions To The State Of The Union

[ Posted Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 – 23:21 UTC ]

As usual, what follows are my own snap reactions to President Donald Trump's second State Of The Union speech (he's actually now given three such addresses to Congress, but the first one doesn't technically count as a State Of The Union speech). I write all of this before hearing or reading what other pundits thought, so I won't be influenced by any sort of groupthink about the speech.

My usual caveat: all of the quotes I'm using come from my own hastily-jotted notes taken during the speech, and occasionally I will get a word or two wrong. But I don't think I've ever mischaracterized a quote altogether, as I strive to reproduce the essence of what was said. However, when I check these later against the actual transcript, there are always a few minor mistakes, just to warn everyone in advance.


General impressions

It was said beforehand that Trump practiced this speech more than he had the other two he has given. I'm not sure if this was true or not, but if so it did seem to help. Trump has always been rather stilted (if not robotic) reading someone else's words off a TelePrompTer, and the contrast to how he speaks at rallies was obvious.

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The 2020 Democratic Field Expands

[ Posted Monday, February 4th, 2019 – 17:25 UTC ]

[Program Notes: I have two program notes to begin with today. The first is that hopefully the site is now living on its final destination server, and that this article won't disappear right after I post it (as last Thursday's did). But you never know -- we could experience further gremlins up to perhaps midday tomorrow. We're not out of the woods yet, but hopefully will be by this time tomorrow. Which brings me to my second program note, since tomorrow is the State Of The Union day. As usual, I will watch the speech and make notes, and then write up my snap reactions to both President Trump and Stacey Abrams immediately afterwards. So there will be a new column tomorrow, but it'll be posted late, after the speeches. Oh, and one last note -- since today's column may have technical problems, I chose to write a pretty generic one. Just to warn everyone.]


It has been a few weeks since we last took a look at the ever-expanding 2020 Democratic presidential primary field, so I thought it'd be a good time to update the first article I wrote on the horserace.

To stretch the analogy a bit further, I should point out that this can't even really yet be called a proper "horserace" column, since I'm not ready yet to begin examining the candidates' relative strengths, weaknesses, or viability. Once the field gets a little more settled, we'll have plenty of time for such comparisons later. All I'm doing so far is updating the scorecard with the list of the horses running, before the race really begins. So far, this has mostly meant additions, although we do have one scratched candidate to report already.

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