Friday Talking Points [25] -- Place Your Bets On The Democratic Race!

[ Posted Friday, March 28th, 2008 – 15:08 UTC ]

We haven't done a contest here in a while, so I'm going to open the betting window today on the outcome of the Democratic race. To play, just post a comment with the date and the outcome you predict will happen.

As an example, here is my entry: Hillary Clinton does great in Pennsylvania, but loses both North Carolina and Indiana, and drops out the next day.

A few rules: You can't just say "the convention," you have to pick a specific day during the convention. You have to say who wins the nomination, but you don't necessarily have to give details of how they manage to do so if you don't want to, that part is just for fun. All betting will be in quatloos, this column's favorite standard fictional currency. Ties will be broken by a battle to the death in the Triskelion arena... um... or maybe I'll just flip a coin.

Here are some key dates to remember (number of delegates in parentheses):

  • April 22 -- Pennsylvania (188) votes
  • May 3 -- Guam (9) votes
  • May 6 -- North Carolina (134) and Indiana (84) vote
  • May 13 -- West Virginia (39) votes
  • May 20 -- Kentucky (60) and Oregon (65) vote
  • June 1 -- Puerto Rico (63) votes
  • June 3 -- Montana (24) and South Dakota (23) vote
  • August 25, 26, 27, 28 -- Democratic National Convention in Denver

So, step right up and place your bets! I will open the bidding with 100 quatloos on "Barack wins it through default, when Hillary bows out on May 7."

I'll announce the winner after it happens (if nobody gets it dead-on, whoever's closest will win), right here in this column.

Step right up! Lay your money down!!


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

For her response to China's recent actions in Tibet, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wins this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. China cracks down on Tibet, but George Bush doesn't want anything to spoil his fun at the Olympics? Pelsoi's answer was perfect -- fly over and make an appearance in support of the Dalai Lama. Remind everyone that China's going to put on a spectacle for the world this summer, but that there is a deeply dark side to the country as well. For her courage in doing so, she wins this week's MIDOTW.

Well done, Speaker Pelosi!

[Congratulate Nancy Pelosi on her Speaker of the House contact page to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

This being election season, it was a tough choice this week. Sigh.

James Carville almost won, for escalating Bill Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama to (literally) Biblical proportions. But Barack's supporter General McPeak went a little over the top this week, too, when he tried to paint Bill Clinton with the brush of Joe McCarthy. So those kind of cancelled each other out, sad to say.

But the big Democratic donors who sent Nancy Pelosi a letter all but threatening to stop donating to the House Democratic reelection committee if she didn't change her tune on how the superdelegates should vote earn this week's Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week in a group award. Granted, it's their money, but the whole "If I don't get my way, I'm taking my bat and ball and going home" flavor to it left a bad taste in the mouth. After all, their point was that superdelegates (such as Pelosi) should be free to make up their own minds, which means they're allowed to say whatever they feel like about the race in an effort to influence other delegates. Which they're berating her for doing.

Getting Democrats a bigger majority in the House is an important goal for the party as a whole, no matter who gets nominated for the main race. And we're supposed to be on the same team here, folks.

For such tactics, the whole bunch gets the MDDOTW award.


OK, onward to this week's talking points, made available (as always) to Democrats everywhere who might be interviewed by the media this weekend. So without further ado....


Friday Talking Points

Volume 25 (3/28/08)


   Passenger's Bill of Rights

The Supreme Court just gave Democrats a gigantic present, wrapped in a bow. All Democrats have to do is realize it, and open it up -- but they've got to do it quickly. The Court ruled that New York state can't have a "Passenger's Bill of Rights" law different from federal aviation laws, because it's interstate commerce (and therefore the federal government's problem).

This means that Democrats in Congress need to get a bill out right away to change the FAA laws to include the Passenger's Bill of Rights.

Because everybody who flies -- Republican and Democrat -- will support it overwhelmingly, which will conveniently paint the Republicans into a corner. They will have a choice: support it, or face it on the campaign trail this year.

"Democrats believe the flying public should not have to check all their rights with their baggage when they fly. We strongly support the federal Passenger's Bill of Rights, and challenge our opponents to do the same -- or explain why to their voters this fall."


   Outsourcing passports?

The Bush administration is spinning hard to explain why it is necessary to have the key component to the new United States passports (computer chips) made outside the U.S.

This one is just teed up and waiting to be smacked down the fairway.

"Apparently the Bush administration feels that it's OK to outsource the creation of American passports. I guess Bush feels that there aren't any Americans who could be doing this work. But it really isn't that surprising, when you consider how many American companies have moved their jobs overseas during the Bush years. To say nothing of the security implications of having foreign companies making supposedly secure passport components."


   Bush's "normalcy" in Iraq

President Bush recently, about the situation this week in Iraq: "Normalcy is returning back to Iraq." Bush's complete denial of reality needs to be pointed out as often as possible in the next week, since Petraeus and Crocker are due to give their six-month report to Congress early next month. Call it a pre-emptive strike.

"If President Bush can watch the scenes we are seeing on our television screens nightly and say that quote normalcy is returning unquote to the country, then why should any American believe anything he says about Iraq at all? His viewpoint is so divorced from reality it's an embarrassment for this country."


   Are we helping Maliki win Iraq's election?

Reliable reports from Basra are sketchy (at best) at the present time, but one rumor seems to be persisting in both Iraq and in the American media: that weeks after Dick Cheney visited Maliki and pressured him to get their local elections law passed (what I'm predicting will wind up as this year's GOP "October Surprise" in our own elections), Maliki is using the American military to help him squash his own political rivals in Basra. Now that we've started dropping bombs on Basra from American planes, this issue really needs to be addressed. From McClatchy:

A law covering provincial elections went into effect last week after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney strong-armed the presidency council into allowing it to pass. While the Islamic Supreme Council is more powerful than Sadr is in much of the country, Sadr is much more popular among poor Shiites. Provincial elections could undercut the Supreme Council's influence in the south, and many see the government offensive as a move to thwart Sadr's political ambitions.

Great. That's just great. I would laugh if this all weren't so deadly serious.

"Is President Bush making deals with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to use the American military in an internal Iraqi political struggle? I don't think this is what America signed up for in Iraq. The White House needs to provide some answers about our involvement in Basra, and whether it is truly targeting only one Shi'ite militia -- at Maliki's request -- while giving others a free hand."


   We just won't tell you

Here is the entire text of this cheerful Associated Press story:

The Agriculture Department is thinking about holding back the names of retailers where tainted meat went for sale if there is no extreme health risk involved.

That means the requirement that retailers be made public wouldn't apply in recalls deemed less dangerous -- like the 143 million pounds of meat recalled from a Southern California slaughterhouse last month.

The potential change comes as the Agriculture Department works to finalize a two-year-old proposed rule that, as originally drafted, would have made retailers' names public during all meat recalls.

The agency is under pressure from the food industry, which opposes naming retailers during recalls.

Once again, this just writes itself:

"Bush's Department of Agriculture has come up with a novel way of keeping the public safe from tainted meat -- don't let them know about it. Boy, that'll really help solve the problem and let consumers feel good about the meat they buy! Is this where FEMA director Michael Brown wound up working, or what?"


   I guess baseball fans are ready for a new president

The Washington Nationals will open their new season (and their new ballpark) Sunday night at 6:00 P.M., and President Bush will be throwing out the first pitch. The big question for political observers -- will he be cheered, or will boos be audible?

This one is admittedly a cheap shot, and will only work if the cameras actually pick up any booing, but I just couldn't resist.

"Baseball fans have rendered their verdict on Bush's legacy when he threw out the first pitch. The country as a whole obviously wants to move on from the Bush years."


   A cross-shaped hole in the ground

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran their own amusing contest recently, for people to write in their ideas for the design of Bush's Presidential Library, on the back of an envelope. Some of these are serious attempts at architecture, and some are just hilarious. The winning entry was one of the amusing ones.

"A man in Texas was just awarded a prize for the best design of the Bush Library in a contest the Chronicle of Higher Education ran. The winning entry was a cross-shaped hole in the ground, which the public cannot enter, with a White House facade to lend it credibility. I can't think of anything more appropriate, myself."


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


11 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [25] -- Place Your Bets On The Democratic Race!”

  1. [1] 
    spermwhale wrote:

    When the dust settles and the smoke clears; OBAMA!

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    spermwhale -

    Wow, it's like deja vu all over again...

    C'mon, pick a day!

    Heh heh.


  3. [3] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    cross-posting here from your entry on HuffPo:

    Chris - you included the supers in your post for the upcoming races ... I'll give elected delegate counts:

    *** March 29 Texas county conventions give Obama 5 more delegates ( by moving 5 from Clinton) in the estimate than he has now ***

    Pennsylvania delegates (158)
    *Clinton 84
    Obama 74

    *** April 26 - Iowa district conventions give Obama 5 more delegates than now - to 30 (3 from Clinton and 2 from Edwards) ****

    Guam delegates (4)
    Clinton 2
    Obama 2

    North Carolina delegates (115)
    Clinton 49
    *Obama 66

    Indiana delegates (72)
    Clinton 33
    Obama 39

    **** Edwards endorses Obama ****
    **** Superdelegate counts will now favor Obama ****

    West Virginia delegates (28)
    Clinton 29
    Obama 23

    Kentucky delegates (51)
    Clinton 28
    Obama 23

    Oregon delegates (52)
    Clinton 21
    Obama 31

    Puerto Rico delegates (55)
    Clinton 31
    Obama 24

    Montana delegates (16)
    Clinton 7
    Obama 9

    South Dakota delegates (15)
    Clinton 6
    Obama 9

    **** June 4 - Pelosi, Reid and other high level Dems call for Clinton to drop out ****

    **** June 11 - Obama passes 2025 with supers ****

    **** June 14 - Iowa state convention ends with 35 Obama and 10 Clinton ****

    **** June 16 - Clinton drops out ****

    2,025 quatloos

    Something I didn't post over on HuffPo is that once we get into May, there is a primary pretty much every week and if Hillary doesn't drop out by May 7 ... there is no reason for her to do so until after it is all done on June 3. And even then she will wait it out ...

  4. [4] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Oops ... WV should be 17 Clinton, Obama 11

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Thatcher -

    Man, I just love you guys who take the time and effort to cross-post here as well as Huffington Post. Both audiences get to read your comments this way, and I appreciate it! My audience is a bit smaller, but the posts stay visible on the main page a lot longer here, I have to say....

    Your last paragraph was interesting. After checking the calendar, I see your point. But there could be one thing that may force Hillary out in May -- money. If she runs out, she may be forced to pull out before she had intended. But I think you may be right. I've seen a lot of the official punditocracy saying NC and IN will be the true test, with some even going as far as saying if Hillary doesn't win ALL THREE she's going to drop out. I don't know about that, she may stay in if she manages to eke out NC or IN. But if Obama gets them both, the pressure on her to exit is going to become fierce from inside the party.

    But (from your HuffPost followup), I don't really see the point of Edwards endorsing AFTER North Carolina (where he would assumably have the most influence), unless it is to join the bandwagon in order to convince Clinton to drop out.

    The only thing I'm 100% sure of is that almost everyone's prediction will turn out to be wrong.

    Interesting that even over at HuffPost, nobody has taken the "she's going all the way to the convention" bet yet. I still see this as a strong possibility, myself, and I can't believe nobody's ready to put up some major quatloos to back this stance up.

    Anyway, thanks as always for your informed commentary.


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    I can see Clinton going all the way to the Convention. I just don't think she will be able to (money) or be allowed to (forced out).

    So, my prediction is that Obama will have a Cinderella moment in PA and do a LOT better than expected. This will be mostly because of an "October Surprise" (somewhere around 15-20 April) that will nearly devastate Clinton. My guess is that it will have something to do with her tax returns. Anyways, this will allow Obama to almost break even with Clinton in PA. I don't think he will actually beat Clinton in PA, but he could. Within a few days of this dismal showing in PA, Clinton will fold.

    10,000 quatloos on Clinton being forced out between 25-30 April. If I am wrong, I will shave my head, don a black robe and change my name to Galt. I would have my wife die her hair silver and get into that nifty glittery jumpsuit, but I don't think she would go for that.. :D

    but George Bush doesn't want anything to spoil his fun at the Olympics?

    Just can't resist the Bush jab, eh? :D Just remember, it was Pelosi who stated that the US should NOT boycott the olympics...

    Actually, while your choice for Pelosi as MIDOTW is the correct one, I think it should be for telling your MDDOTW winners to take their letter and stuff it..

    1. I was going to make some snide comment. :D But then I actually read the Bill Of Rights you mention and they do not seem out of line. As long as safety isn't compromised, I don't see a problem with it.

    2. This one is just begging to be smacked out of the park by the GOP..
    "Apparently the Democrats are whining and crying about all the companies moving their operations overseas. The obviously have selective memory because it was Bill Clinton's NAFTA that induced the companies to do it.."
    Having said that, I agree that it's crazy to have any part of our passports done overseas.. BUT...
    But, when you consider that all of the computers and technology in the Pentagon have components that are also made overseas, is it really such a big deal?? I believe this is an MOOAMH moment...

    3. To be fair to Bush, the "normalcy" comment came before the recent upsurge in violence.

    4.Non starter.. Only US warplanes are being used and then sparingly..

    5. Can't argue with this one. :D

    6. Yer right.. Cheap shot. :D

    7. Yea, and then we can have an Auschwitz style setup for FDR's Presidential Library or a Jail Cell labeled AMERICANS ONLY for Lincoln's Presidential Library.
    This was a very cheap shot by the mag and the guy in Texas... Very cheap...


  7. [7] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Yeah - I figure this - if she doesn't have a lot of money from March/April - she could drop sooner. But my bet is she would more likely fight on in a tighter campaign format and loaning more money. If she can keep respectable numbers and maybe launch a surprise victory in a small state - she could see a little more cash flow back in. She's already got some staff and volunteers in all the rest of the states - she could just use them.

    But I agree, money is going to be an issue - soon. It is interesting to note that Obama isn't "pushing" raising funds as much this month, yet my junk email account gets at least 1 per day from the Clinton campaign "pleading" for cash.

    As for Edwards - his endorsement after NC is only because the writing is on the wall - not because he will be making a real decision.

  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Since I see they're letting unsavory characters such as yourself (heh) back on HuffPost, I've answered you over there.

    Thatcher -

    I mention the money thing because I think Clinton is vulnerable on this front. She's been more reliant on big donors, and big donors know when to cut their losses. I reallly think that it's her major donors (and not the delegates, superdelegates, or party leaders) who are going to have "The Talk" with her at some point, to let her know it's over.

    But then I've been wrong before this campaign season, so we'll see...


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since I see they're letting unsavory characters such as yourself (heh) back on HuffPost, I've answered you over there.

    Yea, dunno how long it will last.. I am going to try and stay just with your commentary over there. But I couldn't resist a dig at TM for being the irrational and illogical Hillary supporter she is. :D

    I'll pop on over there and see what kind of trouble I can scare up.. :D


  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Sorry to go off topic here..

    But I think it is important that you guys see this. It basically illustrates what I have been saying about the FISA issue all along.

    It also points out quite nicely exactly why you guys are wrong about the issue.

    As an aside, I realize that many of you will attack the messenger (in this case Fox News & Heritage Foundation) rather than try to attack the message. If at all possible, please refrain.

    FISA Foes Fudge the Facts,3566,342851,00.html

    Friday , March 28, 2008
    By Andrew M. Grossman

    It seems pretty simple: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the law that U.S. intelligence experts use to sniff out foreign terrorists. Considering that it became law in 1978 — and that technology has evolved quite a bit in the ensuing three decades — modernizing this essential security tool to fit today’s communications networks should be relatively simple.

    It’s not. Opponents of modernization have dragged out debate on what should be a no-brainer with wild-eyed "Big Brother" scenarios. They have poisoned the debate by using misleading terms such as "warrantless wiretapping" and raising a stink over proposals to give immunity to communications providers that cooperated with the government’s electronic surveillance program.

    Under FISA and other laws, domestic wiretapping — that is, listening in on phone calls — requires a warrant or order from a judge. Modernization doesn’t change that.

    Modernization is really about electronic surveillance — looking at the e-mails, instant messages and other Internet activities of terrorists outside of the U.S.

    The problem is that, unlike with wiretapping, there’s no way to capture all of the Internet traffic of just one individual or group. A terrorist cell might keep e-mails on one server, run a Web message board on another and store bomb-making manuals on a third. These could be in different countries, and they could be accessed from anywhere in the world.

    Because of the way the Internet works, many of these communications, even if they begin and end outside the country, still pass through the U.S. And all that traffic passes through the same pipe as everyone else’s Internet communications. So the only way to get at foreign terrorists’ communications is to tap the entire stream of traffic.

    For modernization opponents, that’s where the story ends. But for our intelligence agencies, that’s just where it begins.

    The often-ignored next step — and the crucial one for Americans’ privacy and the effectiveness of intelligence operations — is "minimization." This is the process of filtering the stream of traffic to remove domestic communications and communications that don’t have any intelligence value.

    Minimization is imperfect — on the Internet, it’s hard to tell where a communication originates or winds up — but it’s the only way to get the job done, given the quantity of Internet traffic. And it protects privacy: Sophisticated algorithms can do a good job of automatically filtering out domestic communications.

    The main issue in modernization is whether FISA, created to oversee domestic surveillance, should apply to this kind of surveillance of foreign communications, many of which just happen to pass through the U.S.

    In a decision last summer, the court that administers FISA ruled that the law does apply. Congress subsequently passed a law overturning that decision. But then that law expired in February, throwing intelligence operations into uncertainty.

    If FISA applies, our intelligence experts will have to obtain approval for foreign electronic surveillance requests to the FISA court, a cumbersome process that can take hundreds of hours per application. Under modernization proposals, intelligence agencies would just have to submit their minimization procedures to the court to make sure that they comply with the law and are tailored to minimize away domestic communications.

    Acknowledging that modernization isn’t really about wiretapping makes clear why immunity is so important. There’s no way for our intelligence experts to capture foreign terrorists’ Internet communications without the cooperation and the expertise of network providers, which are now facing nearly 40 lawsuits for working with the government. Legal liability will chill future cooperation.

    Worse, these companies have no good way to prove their innocence, because doing so would require the disclosure of specific details about how the surveillance system works — details that the government rightly claims are state secrets and won’t allow the communications companies to make public.

    If this debate were really about domestic wiretapping, modernization opponents might have a point about immunity. But it isn’t. It’s just about scoring political points.

    Opponents should look at the facts and acknowledge that modernization is really about foreign electronic communications, not domestic wiretapping. That would be a quick way to break the stalemate in Congress and restore the intelligence authorities the U.S. needs to identify and monitor foreign terrorists.

    Andrew M. Grossman is Senior Legal Policy Analyst in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation (

  11. [11] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Well - Obama didn't pick up 5 from Texas - but he pretty much held his delegate count there from March 4 caucuses. So, by the delegate count (which is how the nominee is decided) - Obama's delegate count from the weekend in Texas shows that when combining the delegate counts in the two-step, Obama wins Texas.

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