Friday Talking Points [14]

[ Posted Friday, January 11th, 2008 – 16:01 UTC ]

Time for another fun round of Democratic talking points for the weekend ahead! After a hiatus for the year-end awards, and then a special "all election" edition last week, we return to our regular format to kick off 2008. But before we get to the talking points (including, for the first time ever, a talking point for both Democrats and Republicans to use), I have to address something which happened last week.

Now, you may think me delusional for suggesting this, but perhaps Hillary Clinton's advisers are fans of this column. Maybe she herself was browsing Huffington Post last Friday. You be the judge. The following is the advice I offered Hillary in last week's column:

The whole inevitability thing didn't work out the way it was supposed to. Likewise the electability thing. "Change" may gain ground, now that it's the official buzzword of '08, but the change Clinton really needs to make is in her style. The campaign is now about emotion, and Hillary needs to get back to the point where she was earlier in the contest, when she was actually showing a decent amount of emotion and connecting with her crowds on a personal level. The wonky "I'll be ready on day one," and reciting lists of reasons why she should be nominated needs to change to actually connecting with people emotionally in the final stretch.

Clinton deftly managed to do exactly that. Which brings us to...


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week


Hillary Clinton is the only possible choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Before the votes were counted in New Hampshire, the entire political universe (myself included) was predicting she'd come in second. The only real question was whether Obama would beat her by a double-digit margin or not. Even her own advisors were predicting a second-place finish. Then the voters had their say, and Hillary wound up winning by 2.6 points over Barack.

For this unexpected and impressive victory, Senator Clinton has definitely earned this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Well done, Hillary!


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week


The shenanigans in Congress have taken a back seat in the news to the campaign circus, but it's worth keeping an eye on them because that's usually when the backroom deals go down. This week may be no exception. While the deal is apparently not finalized yet, some unnamed Democrats in Congress are apparently considering passing a one-year extension to the shameful wiretapping law they hustled through last summer (which they had to pass so quickly, because they were all eager to start their monthlong vacation). Here is the key paragraph from the Newsweek article on the subject:

Some Senate Democrats are discussing another alternative: seeking a temporary extension to the current law for a year. The point of this option, as explained by a congressional official who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive deliberations, would be to postpone the whole process of revising the electronic-surveillance law until after the next president is inaugurated. Democrats in favor of such a move believe it would kick the decision down the road until, they hope, the party has control of the White House as well as both houses of Congress -- strengthening the Democrats' hand in writing a surveillance bill much more to their liking.

Let me explain something to these anonymous Democrats (in small words, so they can understand). You don't win elections by refusing to fight. You don't gain seats in Congress by refusing to take a stand. Giving Bush exactly what he wants for another year, in the hopes of having a Democrat in the White House next time around is not a good way to convince the public to vote for you. What happens if a Republican takes the White House? What happens if Republicans win a majority in Congress? Then what will you say to the public? "We were counting on doing something better in the future, so we decided to just punt. Vote for us, and maybe at some unspecified future date we'll actually do the right thing! Hey, you never know! Stranger things have happened, right?"

This is so pathetic it defies description. It's also becoming a trend. Democrats did exactly the same thing on the SCHIP legislation -- extended the current program until after the 2008 elections in the hopes of making it better then. This is not leadership. This is not fighting for what you believe in. This is cowardly behavior. This is helping Republicans get elected on the slogan "Democrats can't get anything done." Pathetic.

So to those unnamed congressional Democrats in the back rooms, trying to cut a deal with Bush in fear of taking any kind of stand at all -- you have richly deserved the infamy of this week's Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week. For shame!


Friday Talking Points

Volume 14 (1/11/08)


   We're paying to be spied upon?

Another news item buried in the avalanche of election stories is the fact that the FBI is paying the telecommunications companies for the warrantless wiretapping they are performing. Or, rather, not paying. Now, I'm no legal expert, but I have never heard of a company providing law enforcement with the information they request -- while at the same time turning a profit by doing so. This is so disgusting it's hard to believe. And in the upcoming debate on revising the FISA laws which allow such wiretapping, this basic fact needs spotlighting.

Michael German, a former FBI agent who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union put it best. This should be repeated whenever the subject comes up:

"It seems the telecoms, who are claiming they were just being 'good patriots' when they allowed the government to spy on us without warrants, are more than willing to pull the plug on national security investigations when the government falls behind on its bills. To put it bluntly, it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when the FBI says the warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail."


   Is Michael Brown in charge of wiretapping now?

The other angle on the unpaid bill scandal is incompetence. The FBI can't even pay the phone bills which (according to them) allow it to wiretap terrorists? Wiretaps were cut off because of unpaid bills? This one is easy to make into a talking point:

"The Bush administration has used the blunt instrument of fear to get laws passed by Congress to allow it to perform these wiretaps. The White House says again and again that if Democrats don't give him the powers that he wants that we're being 'weak on terrorism' and not giving the FBI 'the tools it needs to gather intelligence to stop terrorist attacks.' We now find out that the FBI has lost information because they couldn't pay their bills on time. This astonishing incompetence doesn't exactly fill me with confidence that the Bush administration knows what it is doing when it comes to gathering intelligence on terrorism. I expect President Bush any day to tell the FBI that they're doing a 'heck of a job.'"


   The Party of Ideas versus the Republicans

I offer this one up as a "meta" talking point for all Democrats running for office next year: steal a slogan from the Republicans, and hammer it home.

Re-brand the Democratic Party with the 90s slogan the Republicans used: "The Party of Ideas." On health care, the war, foreign policy, domestic policy, economics, fiscal responsibility, and pretty much any other issue you can name, the Democratic candidates are out there with ideas for how to make America better. The Republicans seem to have no new ideas, and have fallen back on praising Saint Ronald of Reagan whenever they can. Now, some have taken Hillary Clinton to task for wanting to "return to the 90s" but the real issue here is that the Republicans want to take us all the way back to the 1980s.

"The Democratic Party is proving over and over again on the campaign trail that it truly is the Party of Ideas. The Republican Party is sadly trying to take us 30 years into the past instead of coming up with solutions for the future. The overwhelming turnout of Democratic voters compared to the anemic showing of the Republicans already proves that the American public understands this. The voters have a choice: the Party of Ideas versus the tired old Republicans."


   What have the media been doing for the past year?

Because that last one is so devastating for the Republicans, out of the kindness of my heart I offer a talking point here that both sides can use in the presidential race. As the primary season progresses, I am getting mightily annoyed at the media for the following storyline: "The voters now have a chance to find out who Candidate X is, and what he/she stands for, after yesterday's primary vote." Whether they are talking about Obama, McCain, Huckabee, or anyone else, this translates into: "We in the media have not been doing our jobs."

"This campaign has been going on for a full year now -- one of the longest presidential campaigns in memory. The media have had ample time and opportunity to examine each and every candidate, where they stand on the issues, and what they are like as a person. For them to now say 'we've got to take a fresh look' at a candidate at this late date just proves that they have spent the last year absolutely failing to do their jobs. I am getting sick of media reports that seem astonished at this or that aspect of any candidate, when the information has been out there for an entire year now. Voters should be told the truth -- the only reason they're not finding these things out until now is that the media seemingly are too incompetent to have done so, after being given a full year's time."


   We should have bombed Auschwitz? Huh?

President Bush was quoted in Israel as saying that the United States should have bombed Auschwitz during World War II. No, I didn't make that up. Maybe I'm missing something here, but this seems to me to be a rather bizarre statement, and easy to refute.

"I fail to see how bombing the occupants of a death camp would have saved their lives."


   Desperately seeking a legacy

The reviews are coming in from President Bush's trip to the Middle East, and they are all pretty dismissive of his grasping efforts to create some sort of legacy for his administration.

"News reports from the Middle East are almost unanimous: President Bush gives a nice speech, and says pretty words like 'peace' and 'freedom,' but he shows absolutely no inclination to actually do the work needed to achieve these goals. His Middle East trip is rightly seen in the region as nothing more than an extended photo op."


   Pass me a cup of that Kool Aid

And finally, one for the "What are they smoking over there?" file.

Unnamed Republican congressional denizens are optomistically spinning their pipe dream that Bush will leave office with a 45% approval rating. This is so sad and pathetic on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin.

"In their wildest fantasies, the Republicans are hoping upon hope that Bush will leave office with only a slight majority of the American public disapproving of how he has handled the job -- rather than the two-thirds who think that today. Apparently they've just given up all hope that even half the public will approve of him on his last day in office, settling for a 'gentleman's 45%' instead. Even this extremely low bar may be too much for Bush to achieve at this point, it should be noted. If this wasn't so sad for our country, it would be laughable."


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


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