Friday Talking Points [16] -- The State Of The Blog

[ Posted Friday, January 25th, 2008 – 16:16 UTC ]

Netizens, fellow bloggers, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and all Americans... I am proud to stand before you and say... the state of the weblog is strong!

Blogging, for instance, means you can put your own comments out there before President Bush gives his final State of the Union speech next Monday. This is a good thing for our blogosphere!

The state of the blog is best when we call things long before the mainstream media wakes up from its eternal slumber to echo what bloggers have been saying for months. Like predicting last May that February 5th will not determine our nominees, and that we may even have open conventions this year.

Of course, we have to admit that there are problems with bold predictions on blogs. Take, if you will, this blog's dismal showing in last Saturday's picks for the primaries -- a lousy 1 for 9! Overall, this blog stands at 2 for 9 on Democratic picks and 8 for 15 Republican picks. But I maintain that this blog giving such laughable picks helps blog-readers everywhere by showing the idiocy of listening to someone else telling you how your state is going to vote -- while also providing some much-needed amusement in the process!

Because even getting things wrong is good for the state of the blog! In this bold tradition, I offer this week's picks for tomorrow's South Carolina Democratic primary. The surprise will be that John Edwards edges out Hillary Clinton for a second-place showing. Barack Obama will be far out in front. So, for amusement purposes only: SC -- 1. Obama, 2. Edwards, 3. Clinton. This will cause much consternation in the Clinton camp, and give Edwards the shot in the arm his campaign needs right now. Then it's on to Florida and Super-Duper-Tsunami-Tuesday!

Yes, the state of attempting to be an oracle for everyone's amusement will be strong for this blog in the coming year.

The state of this blog's awards began last year, in a strong way. In the coming year, we anticipate that the Golden Backbone award (Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week) and the Shameful Cave-In award (Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week) will rise even higher in prominence. To that end, we present this week's winners:


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to John Edwards this week, for once again leading when his fellow candidates Clinton and Obama hesitated. Edwards put out a strong statement of support for Chris Dodd's efforts to block telecom immunity in the FISA bill before the Senate. Now, it could be argued that the award should go to Dodd himself, but as we've said before, we will likely award it to him when (if?) Harry Reid actually forces him to filibuster. But for this week, from the campaign trail, Edwards was most impressive in more ways than one, so he gets this week's MIDOTW. Well done!

Yes, fellow netizens, the state of the MIDOTW award is strong.


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Bill and Hillary Clinton led the list for most of the week when it came to this category. Their shameless misquoting of Barack Obama was on display for all to see, and even if she doesn't come in third in South Carolina, you have to admit it has cost her a great deal of support in the state.

But a late entry proved to be even more disappointing than the Hil-and-Bill show. Senator Jay Rockefeller IV (D-AT&T) becomes the first three-time winner of the embarassing Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, for his recent statements about the FISA bill. Remember, what he's talking about is a victory for President Bush and the Republicans, and against House Democrats and most Democratic Senators. Here is the quote which earned Rocky IV this week's award:

[the telecom companies were] "pushed by the government, compelled by the government, required by the government to do this. And I think in the end, we'll prevail. If people want to be mad, don't be mad at the telecommunications companies, who are restrained from saying anything at all under the State Secrets Act. And they really are. They can't say whether they were involved, they can't go to court, they can't do anything. They're just helpless. And the president was just having his way."

Couldn't have put it better myself. Bush was, indeed, "having his way" with you, Senator Rockefeller. With friends like Jay, who needs enemies? For shame, Senator Rockefeller, for shame.

Of course, this proves how this blog is strong -- very strong -- on exposing these weaknesses to the light of day with the use of the MDDOTW award.

[Contact Senator Rockefeller on his Senate contact page to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 16 (1/25/08)

While the state of the Friday Talking Points is strong, this week's column will be devoted to examining what can only be described as a "pre-emptive strike speech." Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid jointly spoke today (to get out in front of Bush's speech on Monday), which means it is likely a preview of the Democratic response speech to follow Bush's. The idea of pre-emption is a good one overall, I must admit. The speeches they gave are long and detailed, but well worth a read.

I have to say that, not have seen or heard the speeches, just from reading the transcript, that Harry Reid gave a better speech. Now, to be fair, this may have been a result of how they divided the subjects between them. But it's also his use of language, which was far more decisive and far less mushy.

For instance, Reid uses the word "Democrat" frequently -- pointing out that the good things he's talking about accomplishing were Democratic ideas. Pelosi is more passive in her list of things Democrats have gotten done and prefers talking just about "we" without reminding people who "we" refers to. Here's an example -- first Pelosi:

We are making college more affordable for all students to ensure that we have a new generation of innovators.

We began this work by enacting the largest expansion of student aid since the GI Bill in 1944. We cut student loan rates in half and boosted Pell Grants.

This year, we will continue that work through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which will continue to address the rising cost of college and reshape our higher education system.

Then Reid:

Last year, Democrats proposed a simple plan: that every service man and woman must receive a period of rest and training equal to their time abroad. Twelve months deployed, 12 months at home.

Republicans blocked our plan. But we will give them another chance this year to do the right thing.

Last year, Democrats passed the largest-ever increase in veterans' health care funding. We have already made right the terrible living conditions for outpatients at Walter Reed. And we are funding research and treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other serious conditions to make sure our troops are not left to suffer alone.

But we must do more. We will work this year to deliver our troops a new GI Bill that provides 21st century education benefits in gratitude for their service.

We look to the President and Congressional Republicans to join us, not block us.

Pelosi used the "here's an example" motif to talk about the stimulus package just passed. This is the only time in her speech she used a human example, and it bordered on pathos (as they always do):

If there is any doubt of the need for immediate action on our stimulus package to strengthen middle-class families, consider the story of Floreese Feaster of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Floreese works full-time in customer service for a major telecommunications company, yet she worries that her paycheck will not stretch far enough to cover rising gas prices. Floreese's five-year old son even offered to loan her $9 from his piggy bank to help fill up the family car. She turned him down, she said, because she already owed his piggy bank $50.

Americans like Floreese deserve an economy that rewards their hard work, helps them provide for their families, and renews the American dream for their children. That is why the House will act quickly and decisively to put recovery rebates in the hands of hard-working Americans.

Now, rather than one big tug on the heartstrings, this might have played better elsewhere in her speech, or Pelosi should have just scrapped the example and tried it another way:

Democrats are proud to have finally made President Bush realize the true state of the economy, and we're proud we were able to accomplish something quickly. But in doing so, Democrats had to force Bush to drop making his tax breaks for billionaires permanent, and we successfully also insisted on getting money out to the hardest-working Americans of all: those working enough to get a paycheck, but not enough to have to pay income taxes. Bush's plan would have left these people with nothing. Democrats fought to include them. The Republicans were successful in refusing any aid to even harder-hit Americans: those who rely on food stamps to eat, and those whose unemployment insurance is running out during this slump in the economy. The President actually said he'd veto any stimulus package which included these things. Democrats call on him to rethink this position, and add this money in the Senate version.

Pelosi's speech wasn't all bad, though. She hit some historical highpoints on infrastructure, and hit the greening of America theme hard. She could have been more forceful, calling for a Kennedyesque moon-shot type program to rid us from foreign oil dependence, but maybe that sort of thing should come from the presidential campaign speeches anyway.

Pelosi was at her strongest, however, when using Iraq as a monetary yardstick. This point should be hammered home whenever any Democrat anywhere talks about the cost of anything for the next year. Here's how Pelosi put it:

For the cost of one day in Iraq -- $330 million -- we could fund nearly 1,000 NIH research grants to find cures and treatments for the deadliest and most debilitating diseases.

For the cost of about one week in Iraq, we could provide 400,000 young Americans with a scholarship for a full year at a public university.

For the cost of just over one month in Iraq, we could provide health care to 10 million American children for an entire year.

It is not a matter of resources. It is a matter of making the right choice for America.

Reid's speech was much more forceful, and he threw down some important gauntlets. His attempt at emotionalism with a human face didn't really ring true, but then he's always had a problem in this area. But his speech did stir the heartbeat at several points. Here's his overview, at the tail end of his "human example" story:

A boy from Searchlight, a European refugee in Mexico City, and millions of others throughout the world were bound together by faith that in the crosscurrents of a dangerous world America's moral compass would always point due north.

As we await President Bush's final State of the Union address Monday night we know one thing for sure: that cherished faith in America has been greatly diminished and with it, our ability to respond to the critical challenges that threaten our security.

158,000 young Americans rise each morning in the deserts of Iraq to face another day of risk they cannot predict and hatred they did not create.

Osama Bin Laden remains free and the Al Qaeda network grows stronger.

Afghanistan, once hailed as a great success, continues to backslide into violence, extremism, and a rampant drug trade.

The path toward democracy in Pakistan wavers, with billions of American anti-terrorism dollars unaccounted.

And the moral authority of our great nation has suffered grave damage.

And here's just a few examples from his speech:

The most effective way to fight terrorism is to harness all of our power -- military, economic, and moral. When we do, the world will follow our lead once again.

It may take years. But when President Bush delivers his State of the Union address Monday night, he can take the first steps.

He can start by announcing America does not torture.

Democrats call on him to support one standard of interrogation for the entire United States government, to renounce waterboarding, and to finally commit to closing Guantanamo.

. . .

And the sooner we begin investing in renewable fuels, the sooner we can end our reliance on unstable regions and unfriendly governments for their oil.

The next time the leader of an oil nation calls us a menace -- as one did in 2006 -- we should be able to tell him to keep his oil. The day we become energy independent is the day we can.

I would be remiss if I did not briefly mention the debate over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Bill -- FISA.

Democrats have and will always give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to keep us safe without compromising the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

With a temporary law about to expire, Republicans must start working with us on a reasonable solution. That means passing a short-term extension of the current law so that no intelligence activities are interrupted while we work out a better long-term solution.

. . .

When President Bush took office in 2001, every Army division was ready to fight. Today, not a single non-deployed active duty or reserve brigade is considered fully combat ready. That leaves us with practically no strategic reserve for the next unexpected crisis.

. . .

When the President delivers his State of the Union three days from now, we already know what he will say about Iraq.

He'll tell us the war has turned a corner and that victory is in sight. We first heard those words on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in front of a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished' five years ago. We have heard them in every subsequent State of the Union speech.

But five years, nearly 4,000 deaths and half a trillion dollars later, the mission is still not accomplished.

All Americans cheer the reduced violence we are now seeing in parts of Iraq. But President Bush said clearly the purpose of the troop surge was to give the Iraqi government space for political progress.

General Petraeus himself has said that Iraq's problems can only be solved politically, not militarily. But the Iraqi government has done very little with the window we have provided them.

Now, some Republicans are talking about staying in Iraq for 50 or even 100 years while President Bush wants to cut a deal that will guarantee our presence well past his term.

The President is on notice: he cannot do that unilaterally. Any long-term deal must meet the approval of Congress. And the majority of this Congress wants to responsibly end the war so that we can turn to other critical challenges. Like Afghanistan.

. . .

Now, with a diminished focus and inadequate resources in Afghanistan, progress is threatened by exploding violence. The drug trade is running rampant. And today, 2,327 days since 9/11, the world's number-one terrorist -- Osama Bin Laden -- remains free.

. . .

Democrats believe that the age of 'shoot first, talk never' foreign policy cannot end soon enough.

All told, an excellent speech by Reid. He strove to show that Democrats not only have a strong foreign policy, but a better foreign policy. He refused to be backed into the "Democrats are weak on terrorism" corner. And he put forth some important challenges to Bush.

Whoever the Democrats pick to deliver the official "Democratic Response" speech on Monday night, he should use Reid's speechwriter and not Pelosi's.


Too bad they can't just write a blog post, since the state of the blog is so strong that we could point out that Bush's favorite painting isn't (as he thought) a Methodist man of the cloth bringing faith to the American West, but in reality, a horse thief trying to escape a posse! Now, see, that's the sort of thing where being a blogger comes in handy!

Because, in conclusion, I am happy to report that the state of the blog is (you guessed it) strong! And it will continue to grow stronger, until it reaches that shining paycheck on a hill which only syndication could bring! Editors, publishers, and media outlets everywhere, I call on you to respond with a bidding war for the rights to this weekly column! Because that will only serve to make the state of the blog even stronger!

Thank you for your support.


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


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