Friday Talking Points [Vol. 10]

[ Posted Friday, November 30th, 2007 – 17:07 UTC ]

Welcome back to the weekly roundup of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and (as always) my humble suggestions of things Democrats should say in media interviews this weekend.

Because I've been away for a few weeks, I have to apologize in advance if I've missed something obvious this week (I'm still getting back up to speed on the American political scene). Hopefully I won't have missed too much!

Having said that, let's jump right in....


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

Before we get to this week's MIDOTW award, I have to acknowledge something that happened while I was gone. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used a parliamentary trick over the Thanksgiving holiday to deny President Bush the opportunity to make disastrous recess appointments -- by refusing to actually put the Senate in "recess." Reid thumbed his nose at the rules by having a single Senator show up every few days, to officially keep the Senate "in session." While this is an extremely arcane trick and has the possibility of biting Democrats in the ass in the future (if the political balance between the president's political party and the Senate's is ever reversed); it did have the immediate effect of stopping Bush from making such recess appointments as John Bolton for U.N. Ambassador. And that (as Martha Stewart is wont to say) is a good thing. Well done, Harry Reid! You get the special In Absentia Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend MIDOTW award.

As for this week's top prize, up until today I thought Patrick Leahy was going to win for (finally) getting tough on contempt proceedings for White House officials who have been ignoring subpoenas to appear before the Senate Justice Committee. Leahy has (in my opinion) been dragging this out much too long -- such actions should have been taken last spring -- but better late than never. Then Leahy's all-but-assured nomination for MIDOTW was put in jeopardy by his own fawning words over the late Henry Hyde, the man who led the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

He still probably could have eked out the award anyway were it not for Senator Joe Biden's brave announcement that he will begin the impeachment of President Bush if Bush decides to attack Iran without getting the approval of Congress. Some may dismiss this as a campaign gimmick (Biden is, after all, running for president, and rival Dennis Kucinich has already introduced impeachment articles in the House for Vice President Cheney), but I am taking the good Senator at his word and awarding him Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. The Golden Backbone is yours, Senator Biden, for showing everyone what a Democrat is supposed to sound like. Well done!

[Congratulate Senator Biden on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

I have to say I'm happy to report that it took me quite a while to come up with any nominee at all for this week's MDDOTW award. A refreshing change indeed!

Now, admittedly, this could be because I haven't paid as close attention to things as I should have this week, but I'm hoping that's not the case. Maybe it'll be the start of a trend of Democrats not doing anything disappointing for a while, who knows?

I did come up with two obscure candidates for the award, who will have to share this week's MDDOTW. And, really, their disappointing actions have an enormous silver lining for the Democratic Party at large, so it's hard to condemn them for their actions.

But condemn them I must, since what they allegedly did is indefensible. Richard "Dickie" Scruggs and his son Zach Scruggs have been indicted by a grand jury over bribery charges. Hillary Clinton has had to cancel a planned fundraiser at Dickie's house.

The silver lining? They are brother-in-law and nephew of Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, who just announced his imminent retirement from the Senate. So two corrupt relatives (Democrats, even!) may have done what many have dreamed of for a long time now -- taken Trent Lott down. While this earns them the Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week award, they will be remembered fondly for the fallout from their indictment more than for the indictment itself.

[Contact Trent Lott on his Senate contact page to wish him a fond farewell from public office. But try not to use too much profanity....]

Onward to this week's list of helpful phrases for Democrats.


Friday Talking Points

Volume 10 (11/30/07)


War Is Peace

Karl Rove, whom Newsweek magazine has just hired as a columnist, apparently believes he can just make stuff up and nobody will notice. The only way to confront Rove's laughable revisionism ('Democrats pushed Bush into the Iraq war') is with a few laugh lines of your own. To wit:

"I see Newsweek will now have Karl Rove reporting as a liaison to the Ministry of Truth. Inconvenient historical facts will disappear down the memory hole, and Rove will no doubt helpfully explain to us all the MiniTru version of what 'really happened.' I look forward to his debut columns: 'War is Peace,' 'Freedom is Slavery,' and 'Ignorance is Strength.' "


He's got another think coming

President Bush is very quietly trying an "end run" around Congress by signing an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to facilitate a lasting arrangement (to be negotiated next year) for permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. An arrangement, it should be noted, that will have to be ratified by the Iraqi Parliament, but not (in Bush's opinion) by the U.S. Congress. Democrats need to get out in front of this issue, and nip it in the bud.

"If Bush thinks he's going to commit America to permanent military bases in Iraq without the approval of Congress, he's got another think coming, I can promise you that."



After Republican presidential candidates tried to outdo each other on who could bash immigrants hardest (with the notable exception of Huckabee and McCain), Democrats should only very politely point out to the Republicans how alienating (pun intended) immigrants is just shooting their party in the foot for the foreseeable future. But don't make the point too strongly, or they may wake up to the damage they're doing to themselves.

"Perhaps they should change the name of the party to 'GOOOP' -- 'Get Out Of Our Party.' "


As Chuck Hagel recently said...

Senator Chuck Hagel is a Republican you've just got to love. No fan of Bush, Hagel has provided quotes in the past that are always fun for Democrats to use, and he's outdone himself this week. There are even people seriously suggesting Hagel as a Vice Presidential choice for whoever turns out to be the Democratic nominee for the presidential race.

But for this weekend, every Democrat appearing anywhere on the news should have handy a little index card on it with the following Hagel quotes, for use in oh-so-many situations:

"It's not just Democrats who disagree with President Bush. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said this week to the Council on Foreign Relations that he would give Bush's White House 'the lowest grade of any I've known.' He further said: 'I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen or ever read about. They have failed the country.' This is a Republican speaking, I remind you."


Heckuva job, FEMA!

Some of the phony "reporters" in FEMA's fake news conference have been disciplined -- by being promoted. At the same time, FEMA is quietly moving everyone in Katrina trailers out, but has yet to start testing those trailers for toxic fumes (as they promised they would). There's really only one phrase that fits this, to be worked in to any discussion of FEMA or competence in general in the Bush administration:

"Heck of a job, FEMA!"


Look... here: A personal note to the Biden and Dodd campaigns

While this doesn't really count as a Democratic Talking Point because it is so specific, I didn't know where else to put it. And before anyone criticizes me for singling out these two, rest assured that it's only because I've recently seen the two of them interviewed, and I promise to provide the same service to all the candidates when I notice similar verbal tics.

On the whole, Senator Biden and Senator Dodd give great interviews. They are both intelligent men, they address specifics about issues, and both have an excellent grasp of foreign policy and the challenges America faces in the world ahead. They both have the ability to answer questions thoughtfully and completely, and both just ooze experience with everything they say. If there wasn't so much "star power" in this year's nomination race, Biden and Dodd would doubtlessly be leading the pack by now.

But they both have an annoying verbal habit that they really should address. Just like Valley Girls overuse "like" in any and all sentences, just like hippies overuse "man" in their speaking styles, just like Mayor Diamond Joe Quimby can't stop saying "er... uh..." in the middle of his sentences, Biden and Dodd need to sit down and watch video of themselves, and count the times they use their own "comfort words" while speaking publicly. For Biden, his word-for-all-occasions is: "look." For Dodd, it is: "here." These interjections become noticeable when listening to them speak, and then they cross over into annoying. If you tried to play a drinking game with either one of these (take a drink every time he says...), you would be plastered in no time at all -- even during a short two-and-a-half minute cable news interview.

So please, campaign consultants, try to get these two to stop, for their own benefit. Just some unsolicited advice from the peanut gallery....


Washington Post to feature topless "page 3 girls"!!

I began this week's list with farce, and I will close it the same way. Because just as Karl Rove so richly deserves ridicule for his lame attempt at rewriting history, the Washington Post also richly deserves what is coming to it.

Earlier this week, the Post ran a story (if it can be called such -- it read more like something from the National Enquirer or The Onion) on the "rumors" that Barack Obama was a Muslim which was so monumentally important that they had to run it on their front page. Without actually, you know, calling such rumors by their proper name -- "lies." This was so outrageous, their own in-house political cartoonist (the venerable Tom Toles) had to comment on his own paper's idiocy by running a hilarious cartoon about it.

But what this means is that the Post has set the journalistic standard for rumor as news story, so it's really only fitting that they be repaid in kind:

"Rumor has it the Washington Post is going to convert to tabloid format and start reporting only on Hollywood stars."

"I've heard the rumor that the Washington Post is going to start featuring topless "page 3 girls" the same way the tabloids do in England."

"It's been rumored that the Washington Post is actually a front organization for Al Qaeda and has been feeding them sensitive intelligence, and I believe its publishers and editors need to take a little trip to Guantanamo and find out what waterboarding is all about."

"The Washington Post is owned by Moonies..." oh, wait, that's the other Washington newspaper, sorry.

"I've heard on the web that the Washington Post faked the moon landing."

"I read a blog that said the Washington Post was on the grassy knoll and actually shot Kennedy."

Feel free to add your own, of course.

See you next week!


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


4 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [Vol. 10]”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    OK, just minor comments to your "talking points"... As an aside, I am gabberflasted that you are still using "talking points" since they have been decried and vilified so badly by commentors here.. Or maybe it's just when the "talking points" come from the Right, they are bad.. "Talking points" from the Left...

    Talk about Orwellian, eh??? :D

    Anyways, moving right along...

    1. So, you are quoting from a quote that is quoting from HuffPo??? How ironic is it that the article you quote from ONLY quotes from the HuffPo article with absolutely NO link to what Rove really DID say.
    Why is the Left so afraid of letting us read the actual interview, rather than just depend on THEIR interpretation???

    2. Congressional approval of foreign military bases.
    Here again, we have Congress trying to be armchair generals and micro-manage war and combat.. I miss the "good old days" (mid 2006) when the Dems cried and whined that Bush "wasn't listening to the military generals who KNOW what they are talking about." All of the sudden the Dems in Congress are (still) crying and whining that Bush IS listening to the military generals who (now) **DON'T** know what they are talking about... :^/

    3. The issue is NOT "immigrants"... It's ***ILLEGAL*** immigrants. Regardless of how many times the Left wants to frame the debate as "GOP vs IMMIGRANTS", the American public know better. And the Democrats just make themselves look like idiots.. Because the actual IMMIGRANTS are even MORE against the ILLEGAL immigrants than the GOP is..
    The Democrats will LOSE the Illegal Immigrants battle.. It's best for them if they don't even TRY to address it. Witness's Hillary's HUGE stumble in the debate when this issue came up...

    4. My response would be, "Of course there are Republicans who disagree with Bush.. So what... There are Democrats who disagree with Pelosi and Reid.. Hell, even MURTHA says that the surge is working when Harry Reid still denies it..
    Before the Democrats try to exploit alleged cracks in the ranks of the GOP, they should try to plaster over their OWN cracks.. Which are vastly more obvious....

    5. Any talk of "phony" reporters in FEMA as a way of attacking Bush will undoubtedly bring up the "planted" questions of Senator Clinton's presidential campaign... It's a point that will come back and bite the Dems on the ass...

    6. I can't find fault with this point. I myself, use the word "basically" WAAAY to much when I am talking to make a point... :D

    7. As for this talking point, you had me at "Topless" and "Girls" :D Ironically enough, my wife is in full agreement...
    However, having said that, I am sure that the Obama attacks originated, not from the GOP, but rather from the Clinton campaign..

    Why can't you Dems just play nice and get along?? :D


  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Good to hear from you. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving and all of that.

    I firmly believe that "talking points" is a neutral term, and that they can be used for good or evil, depending on whether they come from me, or from Karl Rove (or even worse, Frank Luntz). So there. A commenter on HuffPost suggested the phrase "humble suggestions of things Democrats should say" from this article, but I feel that's a bit wordy for a title... plus, I like the fact that I'm not "spinning" the title -- it is what it is, and if the concept of "talking points" revolts you, then don't read it! It may not be as snappy as I wanted, but at least the title's honest.

    But to answer your points:

    1. I thought everyone had heard what Rove had to say. OK (grumble) I'll do the research... here's the video, google "Charlie Rose" and "Karl Rove" if you need a transcript:

    2. This isn't micromanaging combat, this is congressional approval for long-term strategic military commitments by the United States. I'm talking about a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Iraq. You can honestly argue that Bush should be able to negotiate this with Maliki -- without having to go through Congress -- but don't try to pass your argument off as "micromanaging." This is "macromanaging" our country's foreign policy, not trying to manage the war itself. I can accept your criticism in some instances, but here you're way off the mark.

    3. I have more to say on this issue, and in particular the Democratic (non) position on it, so look for that in a coming column. And while I wasn't so shocked at Hillary's initial stumble, I was kind of surprised that at the next debate, Obama stumbled just as badly as Hillary had in the first place. But like I said, I'm saving this for fodder for a future column, so you'll just have to wait.

    4. Yeah, but it's such good political hay to be made whenever Hagel opens his mouth on the issue, that I'm surprised Democrats don't jump on it more often. Just from a PR standpoint, you understand -- that whole "talking points" thing again...

    5. I disagree on this one. Every time the term "FEMA" comes up in debate, it provokes a reaction from the public of the "gang who couldn't shoot straight." Hillary's campaign stumbles just don't rise to the same level as Katrina, in other words.

    6. Although I disparage hippies in this comment, I must admit I'm a child of the 70s myself and use "man" way WAY too much in my actual verbally-spoken speech. Of course, I've learned not to type in the same manner... man. If you can dig that, and not freak out on some bummer trip, man. Like, you know what I mean? See my comments in today's column on Obama's freedom from bellbottom photos...

    7. Nah, I think the Washington Post has been taken over by bug-eyed aliens... man. I heard it on the internet, see....


  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Personally, I don't have a problem with "talking points". I believe they are a valuable tool insofar as they take complex issues and break them down into sizable chunks that Joe Q Public can understand.

    I truly believe that talking points, like technology, are completely neutral. Like you said, it's how they are used....

    1. All right, now that I have the text of what Rove said, it's easier to understand. Yea, that's BS. Revisionist history.. It's all the rage of politics..
    My point is basically that somewhere in all the quoted articles there SHOULD have been a link to the actual interview. It made it look like there was something to hide..

    2. Actually, it IS micro-managing the war. If Congress wants final approval over the bases once the negotiations are completed, that's one thing. But it's up to Bush Administration to conduct the negotiations and make the deals. Then Congress can YAY or NAY them..

    3. Illegal Immigration will be THE topic of the 2008 elections. Iraq will fade. And, to be perfectly frank, for all the major candidates on both sides of the aisles, this is their Achilles Heel.. None of the candidates have the cojones to stand up and do what is RIGHT for the country, with regards to the illegal immigrants problem.

    None of them can stand up and say, "If you are in this country illegally, you will be arrested and deported. PERIOD." The candidate who would have the balls to stand and say that would probably get the support of ALL the major immigration groups because, as I said earlier, the LEGAL immigrants are more vocal against illegal immigrants than anyone else.

    It will be interesting to see the candidates dance their way around this issue. See them trying to please everyone and end up pleasing no one..

    4. Point taken.. I am only saying that the best talking point is the one that leaves your opponent slack-jawed on the floor with nothing in the cupboard to respond with. This particular one just cries out for the "ABBOT" defense.. :D

    5. I disagree with your disagree and raise you a whiney riposte.. :D Seriously, though. What was the intent of Clinton's planted questions?? Was it to make sure that all questions were softball? Partially, I am sure. But more importantly, it was designed to allow Clinton to impart the information that she wanted to impart. The same can be said for the FEMA "press conference". Sure FEMA might not have wanted to get sucker punched. But I am also sure that FEMA wanted to impart certain information and they wrongly decided that this was the best way to do it..
    Putting this FEMA bonehead move in the context of Katrina is as unfair as putting Clinton's bonehead move in the context of the Vince Foster & Mr Kathleen Wiley murders...

    6. Basically, I agree with you here. :D

    7. Touche...


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:
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