Welcome to the sixth installment of the weekly suggestions for Democrats who are likely to appear on this weekend's chat shows. Previous installments can be seen at the new Talking Points archive on my site.
Before we get to the talking points themselves, attention must be paid to the worst and the best Democrats from last week. For balance, we initiate the "Most Impressive Democrat of the Week" (otherwise known as the "Golden Backbone Award") -- although I honestly can't promise I will be handing this award out every week. The rule shall be: if no Democrat impresses me, then no award for that week shall be given.
Senator Chris Dodd wins the inaugural MIDOTW award for showing how Democrats are supposed to behave. He has tossed down the gauntlet on the wiretapping bill working its way through the Senate, and will put a "hold" on any bill which comes out of committee that provides amnesty for telecommunications companies which have broken wiretapping laws in the past by cooperating with Big Brother and just meekly handing over data without a warrant to compel them.
Well done Senator Dodd! The first ever Golden Backbone is yours in a landslide!
[Congratulate Dodd on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
There were quite a few contenders for this prize this week. The first was the few Democrats in the House who voted with Bush on the SCHIP veto override vote. Finishing out the week was Senate Majority Doormat... oh, sorry, "Leader" Harry Reid, who (in response to Chris Dodd's "hold" threat) was rumored to be thinking about ignoring Dodd's hold and bringing the bill to the floor anyway. While such backstabbing behavior would almost guarantee a win for MDDOTW, it has not happened yet, and I haven't even seen a solid quote from Reid on the issue yet. So if rumors prove to be true, there will be a MDDOTW award in Reid's future, but for now I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.
In between these two was yet another example of Democrats taking perfectly good political leverage against the White House and just throwing it away unused. Senator Charles Schumer, who sits on the Judiciary Committee announced before the hearing had even begun that President Bush's nominee for Attorney General Mukasey was a shoo-in to be approved by the Senate. Aiding and abetting in this display of jellyfishitude was Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who also publicly agreed that Mukasey would likely have no trouble being confirmed. Both these statements earn a tie for the shame and infamy of this week's MDDOTW award.
You don't start a political showdown by telling the other side they've already won! How many times do I have to say this? If you signal: "It doesn't matter what your answers are in your hearing, you're golden," then the nominee hears: "Don't even bother answering our questions, just demur and obfuscate to your heart's content."
OK, with that out of the way, onward to this week's list.
Democratic Talking Points
Volume 6 (10/19/07)
Bush walked right into this one. He got the "kiss of death" question during this week's press conference: "Are you still relevant?" The reason this is the kiss of death in Washington is that if the question is even asked, you're already toast.
Democrats should pick up on this, and keep using it until Inaugural Day 2009. "Well, our lame duck president," "Bush is a lame duck and should realize it and join with congressional Democrats to get some things done before he leaves office," "Is Bush a lame duck? Well, if it quacks like a duck...."
Republicans are already on the attack with this one, and it needs to be forcefully met with a counterattack. "Bush is playing politics with children's health," "Republicans say they want bipartisanship, but when we try to work with them we find all they really want to do is play politics," "Republicans can play politics by obstructing Democrats, but they will pay the price at the polls next year as a direct result."
Show me the language
The House's inability to override Bush's veto on the SCHIP bill is going to be a big subject of conversation this week. To counter Republican spin and lies, challenge interviewers or Republicans on their talking points. "$83,000 a year? That's ridiculous. Please show me the language where this bill says that." "This bill insures illegal immigrants? Show me the language in this bill which approves that."
Republicans, all the way up to President Bush, have been basically lying about what the bill actually does, and they need to be called on these distortions of reality -- strongly. "Show me the language!"
"After all, you can just go to an emergency room."
[This item is a repeat from a previous Friday Talking Points column.]
"To show you how oblivious Bush is to the health care crisis in this country, let me read you what he said recently: 'No one goes without health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.' The ignorance and indifference this shows is just stunning. I guess Jim Hightower was right when he said 'George Bush was born on third base thinking he had hit a triple.' "
Seriously, that quote from Bush should be tattooed on the brain of every Democrat who appears this weekend. That quote should be repeated so often we all get sick of hearing it. Over and over and over again. It shows the massive gap between how Bush sees health insurance, and how normal Americans do.
Smearing children, or throwing mud at children, or even the politics of personal destruction
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to be ferociously attacked this weekend. A staffer of his sent a few emails out smearing the Democrats' spokeschild for SCHIP as being too rich to deserve health insurance. The only problem is, they got all their facts wrong. They quickly sent out emails disavowing the attack, but the damage had already been done. McConnell was quoted publicly saying his office had nothing to do with the smear job, but later it was proven that the emails did indeed come from his office.
This one's so easy, the text just writes itself. All quotes need to be delivered in high dudgeon mode: "Republicans can't argue their position on SCHIP because it is indefensible, so instead they did what they always do -- attack the messenger. Only in this case, the messenger was a 12 year old boy. This shows once again that Republicans have no new ideas except their tired old politics of personal destruction. Senator McConnell should be ashamed of himself."
Culture of death
Susan Orr is President Bush's new appointee to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, who oversees family planning issues. The problem is, she's a rabid anti-women's-health-rights ideologue straight from Family Research Council. Here's a quote from her: "It's not about choice. It's not about health care. It's about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death."
Again, this one write itself. "President Bush has shown once again that he is more interested in making points with the extreme right wing of his party than with health care. His appointee to distribute public health funds for education on family planning has been quoted saying contraceptives somehow contribute to the 'culture of death' (whatever that is). Bush needs to reconsider this appointment and name someone who is not a proven ideologue and who actually cares about women's reproductive health.
World War III
Not content with the hyperbole he used to build up to the Iraq war ("the smoking gun may come in the form of a mushroom cloud"), Bush outdid himself during his press conference, by stating that America may need to attack Iran in order to prevent World War III. This is terrifying on many levels, and needs to be spotlighted by any Democrat who wants to stop Bush's march to war against Iran (before he leaves office).
"You know, I'm just like any other American, I get awfully nervous when the President of the United States talks casually about 'World War III' in any context. Attacking Iran may well start World War III, but Bush seems to somehow think that if we don't attack Iran it will start a world war. The president needs to study some history before making rash statements like this in public."
[Thanks to CWCunningham, our resident cartoonist, for coming up with the snazzy graphics. The column's still a work in progress, but it's getting there slowly....]
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post
-- Chris Weigant