I started blogging over two years ago. That is to say, right about the time the 2008 presidential campaign began.
OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I actually started writing in order to have some tiny influence on the 2006 election, after I wrote the book "How Democrats Can Take Back Congress." But soon after the 2006 Democratic sweep of both houses of Congress, the presidential race began in earnest. Almost two years ago.
And now we find ourselves a few weeks out from Election Day, and things are looking pretty good for Democrats everywhere. It's been an exhausting campaign, and I don't think anyone can argue that the Grateful Dead lyric I used as this week's title is inaccurate. It has been a long and strange journey indeed.
Which brings up a point of sadness for left-leaning pundits everywhere to acknowledge. Since George W. Bush's approval rating is now lower than Nixon's, I feel it is appropriate to misquote Tricky Dick himself. Because, soon, we won't have George Bush to kick around any more.
It's the end of an era, indeed. So I'd like to start with a little gratuitous Bush-bashing, just for old times' sake.
Now, Bush-bashing was once the sole province of the far, far, far left. Then, slowly, it became more mainstream. Katrina's aftermath opened the floodgates, so to speak. And now we find that even staunch conservatives have gotten in on the fun. John LeBoutillier, who bills himself on his blog "Boot's Blasts" as "noted conservative, former Congressman" and also "author of Harvard Hates America" let fly a blast from both barrels that is worth reading if for no other reason than its sheer scope and breadth of condemnation of our sitting President. Due to its length, I can only quote the best of his bullet points here, but I encourage you to read the rest of it.
In 1999 and 2000 the Bush political operation seized control of the Republican Party and bought off the conservative movement. They put up George W. Bush as the new 'savior' -- their One -- the "son of Reagan" they called him -- they orchestrated that spectacle of every local politician from all over the country traipsing down to Austin to "beg" Governor Bush to run for President and he was elected as the new conservative hero.
But his presidency has been anything but conservative. In fact, it has been the most incompetent, dis-honest and un-conservative administration -- ever!
Just look at these few items which, if done by a Democrat, would have brought calls from us on the Right not only to impeach but to imprison for life:
. . .
- Lied, distorted and cherry picked US intelligence to scare the Hell out of a nervous American people after 9/11 to justify a pre-emptive invasion of a country that had not attacked us.
- And then lied to create a link between Saddam and Bin Laden so as to justify this invasion -- when the real reason was a take-over of American foreign policy by neo-cons and payback by G.W. Bush's because Sadaam [sic] had "tried to kill my Dad!" as he told member of Congress when he lobbied them for their vote for the resolution authorizing force.
- Blustering and boasting and bragging at every turn about how we might bomb or attack or invade any country who dared to disagree with us.
- Destroyed the good opinion of America around the globe. We have gone from the Shining City on a Hill to a despised, bullying regime.
- Expanded the scope and power of the federal government at every turn. Blew off Congress and tried to turn the Executive into a power unto himself -- using 'signing statements' to undo legislation.
Wow. And this is what conservatives are now saying about Bush, I remind you.
Because this train is leaving the station for good, I have to jump on board and indulge in a little Bush-bashery myself here. This extraordinary story comes from the Tennessean.
Jake Speck was the talk of the White House on Monday.
The 2000 Christ Presbyterian Academy graduate was among the cast members of Broadway's Jersey Boys who were invited to perform in the East Room at a dinner for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Hosted by the Bushes, the dinner had a guest list that included the Cheneys, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Rudy Giuliani and more than one Supreme Court justice.
During soundcheck, one of the Bushes' dogs, a very friendly looking Scottish terrier named Miss Beazley, entered the room.
"So I went up to her and put my hand by her mouth," Jake, 27, says. "She barked and chomped right down on my finger. It started bleeding a little bit. It wasn't that big of a deal."
Alarmed White House staffers took Jake to the president's doctor for a close examination, and a few hours later, Jake received a handwritten note of apology from Laura Bush, who had asked her aides repeatedly about his condition.
When the cast entered the Blue Room for a private meeting with the president, President Bush said, "Which one of you is the one the dog bit?"
"I was like, 'That's me,'" Jake said. "He apologized profusely and said he was very embarrassed and [jokingly] had all of her teeth pulled out, so don't worry about it because it wouldn't happen again.
"It was the story of the night."
Even Richard Nixon never threatened to pull out Checkers' teeth, that I know of. And this is the guy America wanted to sit down and have a beer with?
OK, that was fun, but we've got other things to take care of here. First, the awards, and then a special edition of Friday Talking Points, because after almost two solid years of the campaign trail, we all could use a laugh.
I was going to award the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for calling the House back into session after the election in order to pass an economic stimulus package... but when you read her statement and other news articles, you find that she is not explicitly calling for a special "lame duck" session, she is merely implying it. So, until she actually steps up to the plate and calls such a special session, her award will have to wait.
This week, instead, the MIDOTW goes to Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Full disclosure -- Senator Brown (back when he was Congressman Brown) was the only Democrat in Congress to read and fully endorse my previously-mentioned book, even though I sent every one of them a copy. But you really can't accuse me of improper influence, since this is my 52nd column and this is the first time I've awarded the MIDOTW to him.
Senator Brown gets the award (in keeping with our "we could all use a laugh" week theme) for a speech he gave at an Obama rally last week. From an article in Politico which covered Brown's speech:
Ohio is a key swing state, and Brown told the crowd that if they voted and made sure their friends and neighbors did the same, they could go home after the polls close, "sit down in a big, comfortable chair -- maybe you bought a big, wide, wide flat-screen TV so you can watch election returns and you can see, when you see these election returns on these wide screens, you can see people's sweat, you can see tears a little better, all that."
At about 11:30 pm, he told the crowd, they should switch over to Fox News, the network on which the right-leaning O'Reilly hosts a top-rated talk/news show.
A chorus of boos erupted from the crowd. Fox, of course, is vilified by many Democrats, who believe it favors Republicans. Obama himself has gone after the network at times.
"No, no, bear with me here," Brown shouted, as boos continued raining down. "No, no, you'll want to do this. You don't like Fox, but sometimes Fox has gotta do the right thing, so you're gonna watch Fox," he continued.
"About quarter till 12 on election night, it's gonna be Bill O'Reilly sitting there with Sean Hannity," he said, drawing another cascade of jeers from the crowd at the mention of another popular conservative Fox host.
"No, no wait a sec, this is gonna be too much fun. You're not gonna be booing 'cause you know what's coming next. So Hannity -- they're going through all these numbers and Barack's won California, New York and Illinois and Michigan and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and all these others. And, you know McCain wins Utah or something," Brown said, drawing appreciative laughs and claps from the energized crowd.
"Then Hannity's sitting there next to O'Reilly, and they're looking at each other, and O'Reilly says, 'You gonna do it?' And Hannity says, 'No.' So O'Reilly â€“ sweat's coming, tears are coming down his cheeks -- you can see 'em on your flat screen. And O'Reilly says, 'Well, Ohio went for Barack Obama. He's gonna be president of the United States!"
Heh heh. Well done, Senator Brown! You have earned your Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award on the strength of your wit alone.
[Congratulate Senator Sherrod Brown on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
We have a tie this week for Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, which is always a little depressing. But since I found it hard to weigh the relative disappointment from these two, I decided to just give them both an award this week.
First up is Representative Tim Mahoney from Florida. From, in fact, the same House district that Mark Foley ("paging Mark Foley... paging Mark Foley...") was ousted two years ago. Tim Mahoney just publicly admitted that he not only cheated on his wife and then had to pay over $100,000 in a desperate attempt to cover it up, but that he actually cheated on his mistress as well.
What is it about the Florida 16th congressional district -- something in the water down there, or what?
Mahoney, from polls taken after the story broke, looks like he is headed for defeat. Thus handing the district back to the Republicans. For which he earns a MDDOTW award.
Sharing this dishonor this week was Representative John Lewis of Georgia, for his broadside against John McCain this week where he compared the Republican campaign to George Wallace. Now, Lewis may feel he had a point to make, and his "civil rights leader" credentials cannot be questioned, but the entire episode just shoved the whole racial issue squarely back into the spotlight in Barack Obama's campaign. Exactly where Obama does not want it to be. Obama has avoided making race a centerpiece of his campaign, but it seems every so often one of his supporters didn't get that memo. For the latest kerfluffle, Lewis is awarded his own MDDOTW award.
Volume 52 (10/17/08)
This week we take a pause from our usual array of talking points for Democrats. The presidential campaign has gone on for so long (and Democrats, if truth be told, don't seem to need any help these days getting their message out to the voters) that I thought we all could use a dose of humor.
Last night, the two candidates appeared together for what is likely to be the last time before the election. No, it wasn't a fourth debate you somehow didn't hear about, it was a comedy "roast" evening, put on in honor of Al Smith. Smith was New York's governor for four terms and ran for president himself, back in the day. The dinner in his honor is put on to benefit Catholic charities, and is a traditional place for candidates to let their hair down and crack a few jokes right before the election.
McCain got off a number of funny lines, I have to admit, but Obama was in such rare form that I thought everyone would enjoy reading his full remarks. So I leave you this week with the words of Barack "Steve" Obama, from the Alfred E. Smith Foundation Memorial Dinner.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you to Al and to Your Eminence, to Governor Patterson and Mayor Bloomberg, to Senator and Mrs. McCain, to my wonderful colleague, Senator Clinton and Schumer, to all the distinguished guests.
There is no other crowd in the America that I'd rather be palling around with right now.
I'm sorry he couldn't be here. I do send regards to my running mate, Joe Biden, or as Senator McCain noted, he now actually likes to be called Joe the Senator.
I was thrilled to get this invitation, and I feel right at home here, because it's often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.
But I have to say tonight's venue isn't really what I'm used to. I was originally told we'd be able to move this outdoors to Yankee stadium. And can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek columns that I requested?
I do love the Waldorf Astoria, though. You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian Tea Room. It is an honor to be here with Al Smith. I obviously never knew your great-grandfather, but from everything that Senator McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before prohibition. So wonderful stories.
The mayor of this great city, Michael Bloomberg, is here. The mayor recently announced some news -- made some news by announcing he's going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, "You can do that?"
The president's better half, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is also here. I'm glad to see you made it, Hillary. I'm glad to see that you made it, because I heard Chuck Schumer actually try to tell you that we really did move this event to Yankee Stadium.
But I'll tell you all from personal experience Hillary Clinton is one of the toughest and most formidable presidential candidates in history. She has broken barriers. She's inspired millions. She is the -- she is the primary reason I have all this gray in my hair now.
I am also glad to see that Senator Schumer is here, and I see that he's brought some of his loved ones. Those would be the people with the cameras and the notebooks in the back of the room.
Of course, I am especially honored to be here tonight with my distinguished opponent, Senator John McCain. I think it is a tribute to American democracy that, with two weeks left in a hard-fought election, the two of us could come together and sit down at the same dinner table without preconditions.
Recently, one of John wants top advisors told the "Daily News" that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain's going to lose, so tonight I'd like to talk about the economy.
Given all that's happened these past few weeks on Wall Street, it feels like an odd time to be dressed up in white tie, but I must say I got a great deal. I rented the whole outfit from the Treasury Department at a very good price. Looking around tonight at all the gourmet food and champagne, it's clear that no expenses were spared. It's like an executive sales meeting at AIG.
But I don't need to tell any of you that it's been a scary time on the stock market with people losing their investments, their entire fortunes. It's gotten so bad Bloomberg now has to take the subway.
And while the collapse of the housing market has been tough on every single homeowner, I think we all need to recognize that this crisis has been eight times harder on John McCain.
We have been debating a lot of these economic issues over the course of the campaign, but lately things have been getting a bit tougher. In the last few weeks John has been out on the campaign trail and asked the question, "Who is Barack Obama?" I have to admit I was a little surprised by this question. The answer is right there on my Facebook page.
But look, I don't want to be coy about this. We're a couple weeks from an important election. Americans have a big choice to make and, if anybody feels like they don't know me by now, let me try to give you some answers. Who is Barack Obama? Contrary to the rumors that you've heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-el to save the planet earth.
Many of you -- many of you know that I got my name Barack from my father. What you may not know is Barack is actually Swahili for "that one." And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president.
If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome.
One other thing: I have never, not once, put lipstick on a pig. Or a pit bull, or myself. Rudy Giuliani, that's one for you. I mean, who would have thought that a cross-dressing mayor from New York City would have a tough time winning the Republican nomination? It's shocking.
That was a tough primary you had there, John. Anyway -- anyway, that's who I really am. But in the spirit of full disclosure, there are a few October surprises you'll be finding out about in the coming weeks. First of all, my middle name, it's not what you think. It's actually Steve. That's right. Barack Steve Obama.
Here's another revelation. John McCain is onto something. There was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd. I've got to be honest. These guys were serious dead beats. They were low lives. They were unrepentant. No good punks. That's right, I've been a member of the United States Senate.
Come to think of it, John, I swear I saw you at one of our meetings. But I know Senator McCain agrees that some of the rumors out there are getting a bit crazy. I mean, Rupert the other day, Fox News actually accused me of fathering two African-American children in wedlock.
By the way, John, I'm just curious, is Fox News included in the media, because I'm always hearing about this love. Just curious.
Then at one of these campaign rallies someone in the crowd started yelling "Nobama," announcing to everyone in the room that I shouldn't be the Democratic nominee because there were far more qualified candidates. I really wish Joe Biden hadn't done that.
But at least, we've moved past the days when the main criticism coming from the McCain campaign was that I'm some kind of celebrity. I have to admit that that really hurt. I got so angry about it, I punched a paparazzi in the face on my way out of Spago's. I'm serious. I even spilled my soy chai latte all over my Tshi-tzu. It was really embarrassing.
But, in all seriousness, I'm so glad that I could make it tonight, and I'm honored to be among such wonderful public servants. I want to especially say a word of thanks to Senator McCain. We are in the midst of a tough battle right now, and American politics at the presidential level is always tough.
But I've said before, and I think it bears repeating that there are very few of us who have served this country with the same dedication and honor and distinction as Senator McCain. And I'm glad to be sharing the stage with him tonight as I am during the course of this nomination.
And before I close, I'd like to recognize one such servant who's not with us here tonight but who was mentioned earlier, and that's our good friend, Tim Russert. And I know that Luke and Maureen are here. And I know that Tim enjoyed these dinners very much, and I also know how much he would have enjoyed covering this election. And I know that John and I would have been quaking in our boots preparing for our appearances on "Meet the Press." And his absence is not just a personal loss for so many who knew him and loved him but a profound loss for the country. And we continue to miss him very much.
You know, the fact that each -- each October in the closing weeks of a hard-fought campaign, people of all political persuasions can come to this dinner and share a meal in honor of the work of this foundation underscores the reality that, no matter what differences or divisions or arguments we are having right now, we ultimately belong to something bigger and more lasting than a political party. We belong to a community. We share a country. We are all children of God.
And in this country there are millions of fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters, who need us very much, especially now. We are being battered by a very serious economic storm, and for many Americans it's only deepened the quiet storms they've been struggling through for years.
Beyond the walls of this hotel on the streets of one of the greatest cities in the wealthiest nation on earth, there are men and women and children who have fallen on hard times and hard luck, who can't find work on even a job that pays enough to keep a roof over their heads, and some are hanging on just by a thread.
The scripture says God creates us for works of service. We are blessed to have so many organizations like this one in the Catholic diocese that perform these acts of God every day. But each of us also have that responsibility. Each of us has that obligation, especially now.
So no matter who we are or what we do, what I believe is each of us in this room asks for and hopes for and prays for, enough strength and wisdom to do good and to seek justice and play our small part in building a more hopeful and compassionate world for the generations that will follow.
Before Al Smith was a candidate who made history, he was a man who made a difference, a man who fought for many years to give Americans nothing more than a fair shake and a chance to succeed. And he touched the lives of hundreds of thousands, of millions as a result. Simply put, he helped people. And that's a distinction we can all aspire to and we can all achieve. Young or old, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican or independent.
And I have no doubt that if we come together at this moment of crisis with this goal in mind, America will meet this challenge and weather this storm. And in the words of Al Smith, walk once more in eternal sunshine.
Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you.
Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post
-- Chris Weigant