We're going to start off with a warning this week: this preamble section is going to be mostly shameless self-promotion and one cheap inside joke. If that sort of egotism bores the pants off you, then you really shouldn't read it at work because walking around with no pants on is likely to get you fired (well, depending on where you work, of course). Ahem. In any case, you have been warned. Skip ahead to the awards sections if you'd like, I won't mind.
We'll start out with the cheap joke, to get it out of the way. I wrote on Wednesday about a question that is becoming more pronounced, if the current polling is to be believed: "If California Legalizes Marijuana, How Will Obama React?" What I didn't include in the article, because I was trying for at least "semi-serious," was the totally-unrelated story which came out the same day. I even refrained from mentioning it when a commenter made a joke about what "joint" sessions of Congress would be like if Proposition 19 passes, I'll have you know. But it's Friday, so our seriousness bar is (as always) quite a bit lower. So here you go: in what has to be a completely unrelated item, the House announced that it has now passed a total of 420 bills that the Senate has failed to act upon. For those who just got the joke, you're welcome.
The comments on Huffington Post to this speculative piece on how the Obama administration will likely react if Proposition 19 passes were very interesting, which has caused me to dig a bit deeper into the issue. I'll be writing a followup article next week, after talking to groups as disparate as the A.C.L.U. (to clear up a few legal points) and a prominent group of "tenthers," or Tenth Amendment enthusiasts. So tune in for that, either next Monday or Wednesday.
But I have to admit, the thing that tickled my ego the most this week was getting featured not once, but twice in the same week by the venerable Andrew Sullivan, who writes the "Daily Dish" blog at The Atlantic. Now, I've always had a lot of respect for Sullivan, because he appears to be somewhat of a political mirror image of what I try to do -- he leans toward conservatism, but he is what I would call "reality-based," in that he is able to admit when the Right makes a mistake or does something stupid. Replace "conservatism" with "liberalism," and "Right" with "Left," in that sentence, and it's pretty much what I strive for.
Sullivan first ran one of my charts from my Monday "Obama Poll Watch" column, which he liked because the graph showed the similarities between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, approval-rating-wise. He also ran excerpts of my Wednesday column on the marijuana question. But I am not yet feeling the love from Sullivan, because he hasn't added me to his blogroll yet.
So I'm calling on my loyal readers to start an "Add Weigant to your blogroll" movement, of course! He's obviously reading my stuff, if he quotes me twice in the same week, so I think it's eminently reasonable to ask that he give his readers the option of checking out my main blog site. I invite anyone with way too much time on their hands to click on either one of the links in the previous paragraph -- and then find Andrew's email address on the page, and drop him a friendly note respectfully asking that he consider adding www.chrisweigant.com to his blogroll list. Maybe together, we can all convince him. Please be polite and respectful if you actually send him a note, though. It's certainly worth a try, since, as I said, I have a lot of respect for him as a pundit. In fact, if he adds my site to his blogroll, I promise I will reciprocate and add his to mine, as blogging etiquette demands.
See, I warned everyone this was going to be just rampant egotism from start to finish here...
But enough of this nonsense, let's get on to the week that was, starting as usual with our weekly awards.
While mostly a slow news week in the political realm, since all the Congresscritters are currently scurrying around on the campaign trail instead of doing the People's Business, President Obama did make some big news with his first meaningful veto this week. I wrote about this in more detail yesterday, but the basic upshot is that Congress quickly passed a law which flew under most folks' radar due to its technical nature, and Obama vetoed it because it may impact the growing foreclosure crisis.
Politically, a very smart move for the president. Not so much for Democrats in Congress, but we'll get to them in a moment. Salon helpfully pointed out, though, that the White House press release announcing the veto was a "dog whistle" to the Left, seeing as how it used the phrase "consumer protection" about as many times as humanly possible. For those unable to hear such ultrasonic messages, what this translates into could be summed up as: "See, Elizabeth Warren is already having an influence on President Obama's economic policy, so can the Left please just get off our backs until the election?" Well, maybe they'd word that a wee bit differently over at the White House Spin Office, but you get the general meaning.
We here at the Friday Talking Points editorial offices can hear these high-pitched messages, and to us, dulcet tones they were (assuming we're reading them correctly). So we're going to award an Honorable Mention this week, to both President Obama and to Elizabeth Warren, in the hopes that this all isn't just rampant election-season pandering, and that Obama will indeed continue in this direction in the future.
But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week goes instead to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for two quotes. The first is prime snarkiness, and likely would have won her the award alone, being as how it was a fairly quiet week. When asked about some nonsense or another emanating from Newt Gingrich's pie-hole, Pelosi brilliantly responded: "Let me just say this: One of these days, in the far future, when I'm not Speaker anymore, I will be irrelevant." Heh. Take that, Newtie.
But the even-better quote Pelosi had was about how she faces an enormous disadvantage over the amount of cash outside groups are spending (or planning to spend) on this election cycle -- listed in the article as $200 million on the Right versus $7 million on the Left. Huffington Post reported Pelosi's response to this challenge:
If Democrats can't match them in spending, said Pelosi, the party would tar Republicans by connecting them to corporate cash. "Of course, they all have euphemistic terms, "For Seniors" or "For Prosperity," or whatever it is, but really it's just cover," she said.
"Whenever you get hit with an overwhelming weight, you have to jujitsu it. So we want to turn it against them... I want to tattoo them right on to the Republican candidate," she said, smacking her hand for emphasis. "Big oil, big banks, big health insurance: We're going to tattoo you with that, so it's like doggy-doo stuck on your shoe. Wherever you go, people will know."
More power to you, Nancy. For showing Democrats how to fight back, and for the best political metaphor of the week, we hereby award the Speaker of the House this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.
[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her official Speaker contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
Well, there's always South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene.
But rather than going for the easy route, instead we're going to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to all the Democrats in the Senate. It'll have to be a group award, since we don't have 59 statuettes lying around to mail out, sorry. Because the bill that Obama just vetoed was hustled through the Senate with unseemly haste, which has raised both eyebrows and suspicions within the Beltway. A technically-obscure bill languishes in the Senate, and then suddenly some banks latch on to it as a possible legal dodge, since they are all facing serious questions about how they process foreclosure paperwork, and the bill magically moves to the floor and passes with "unanimous consent."
That last bit is particularly odious, because it means they cravenly didn't even record a vote on it -- meaning absolutely no one is "on record" as to how they voted. Now, if we were inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, we might excuse this as a common congressional practice designed to save some time (the bill passed the same way, over in the House, a few months' back). But the speed with which this happened, and the fact that the banking lobbyists were all suspiciously suddenly in favor of this obscure law shows in a very concrete fashion exactly what is wrong with Congress. Money talks, in other words. And the Senate acted as nothing more than a puppet in this case, with the strings fully visible.
For this, we are forced (due to the anonymous nature of the "vote") to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to every member of the Senate Democratic caucus. Nice try flying below everyone's radar, guys (and gals), but someone up at the White House knows how to read the fine print (cough, cough... Elizabeth Warren?... cough...).
Try to do a little better when you all come back for the lame duck session, please.
[Contact any Democratic senator you'd like via the official Senate web page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]
Volume 142 (10/8/10)
So, let's see what else is going on. If you should be so inclined (they'd make great Hallowe'en party favors... I'm just saying...), you can now buy your own Christine O'Donnell witch doll. Heh. I just had to sneak that in here somewhere.
In other amusing news from the other side of the aisle, the GOP apparently is bragging about a report which plainly shows that the Democrats' tax policies would lower taxes for average Americans more than the Republican plan. Whoops.
OK, enough poking fun at the other side. We've got Friday Talking Points to deal with, so let's get on with it. Because Nancy Pelosi is this week's MIDOTW award winner, we're going to use this week's Friday Talking Points to highlight the abilities of the Speaker to craft Democratic language in the proper way.
Being on the Pelosi press shop's mailing list means that you get dozens of press releases each and every week. This is entirely appropriate, since she is the most prominent Democrat in the House of Representatives, meaning she should indeed be out front on the issues, showing Democratic leadership. And, for the most part, Pelosi's office does an excellent job framing these issues.
So in honor of Pelosi's twelfth MIDOTW award (putting her second only to Barack Obama, by the way), we're going to take a look at how she is trying to convince Democrats to speak out on the campaign trail this week.
The earmark wedge
Pelosi has identified an issue that is causing quite a bit of friction over on the Right -- earmarks. This is called a "wedge" issue, meaning it can be used as a wedge to drive your opponents into two squabbling camps. And, as such, it's a good one for Democrats to use. Especially since the Democratic record on earmarks is actually a lot better than the Republican record.
In any case, as with all such wedge issues, use it to hammer your opponents into declaring their position -- which is guaranteed to annoy at least part of the Republican base right now.
[Note: all links in these excerpts are from the original text. I did add one indication of "PDF file" to the text, to warn of the type of link, but didn't change anything else. Pelosi also provided, for this first item, a link to the Democratic record on earmark reform.]
Congressional Republicans can't seem to agree on where they stand on earmark reform. First, the Republican "Pledge to America" failed to include earmark reform and throughout the last few weeks, the GOP has continued to dodge and offer vague responses to questions on their position on real earmark reform -- incensing conservatives who have called for a ban on the practice.
For the last four years, Congressional Republicans have offered nothing but rhetoric on earmark reform -- despite their record of quadrupling earmarks [PDF file] when they were in charge. Republicans have stood on the sidelines, as the Democratic-led House has enacted major ethics and accountability reforms.
"Democrats have made huge strides in the past four years by passing rules requiring lawmakers to publish all their special spending requests and to print the earmarks awarded along with each bill's text. The rules also limit the types of earmark requests allowed." [Washington Times, 10/5/10]
Congressional Democrats have cut earmarks in half, banned earmarks for for-profit entities, and dramatically increased disclosure requirements.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Since the unemployment numbers for the past month just came out, it is bound to be a subject this weekend. Pelosi shows Democrats how to speak up on the issue admirably.
Today's jobs report shows our private sector continues to lead our economic recovery. We lost more than 800,000 private sector jobs the last month of the Bush Administration, but America's business owners and entrepreneurs have added more jobs this year than the Bush Administration and its Republican allies did in eight years. Democrats are moving our country forward, and we will and we must do more to strengthen our economy and put people back to work.
The American people face a clear choice: Democrats fighting for the middle class or Republicans standing up for special interests. They know Democrats want to "Make It in America," cut taxes for small business, and create good-paying jobs here at home. Republicans want to protect Wall Street and corporations that ship jobs overseas. Democrats want to cut taxes for the middle class, and Republicans want to give a break to millionaires and billionaires, and blow an even larger hole in our deficit. Democrats will preserve Social Security and Medicare; Republicans promise to privatize and cut benefits.
Democratic tax cuts
From a list of bullet points, two excellent points on Democrats cutting taxes, while Republicans try to stop them. This sort of thing needs to be said as often as possible, since it is so counter-intuitive to the conventional political wisdom.
Congressional Republicans voted against 15 of the 16 small business tax cuts enacted by this Congress.
Congressional Republicans have pledged to raise taxes on more than 110 million American families by repealing the Recovery Act; and they are holding President Obama's middle class tax cuts hostage to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.
Republican tax cuts
From the same list of bullet points [emphasis in original, I should point out], a bit of "contrast and compare" on the Republican record, of late (which feeds back into the jobs issue, as well):
Over the last four years, Republicans have voted 11 times to protect tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas, keep off-shore tax havens for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and other similar tax loopholes. These tax breaks cost American taxpayers more than $60 billion.
Under President Bush, Republicans voted 8 times to expand tax breaks for outsourcing and protect offshore tax havens.
And under Republican control, U.S. multinationals eliminated 1 million American jobs, while adding 2.5 million jobs abroad (1999-2007).
Tax cuts for the rich add to the deficit
These last three items are from the Speaker's own "here's what to say on the Sunday talk shows" release this week -- a practice that she has begun recently which we here at Friday Talking Points can only applaud, since we've been doing the same thing for over three years now. Ahem.
In any case, these are listed as questions, all about "they" -- which equates to "Republicans." The first is an easy question that I still have not heard a single Republican come up with any kind of answer for -- making it one of the best ways to point out Republican hypocrisy in this whole election season: "If you guys are so anxious about the debt, why are you trying to make the problem much worse?"
They [Republicans] will likely defend their support for holding tax cuts for the middle-class hostage in order to provide tax giveaways to millionaires and billionaires, but will they say how they will pay for the $700 billion bill that will be added to the deficit?
The Republican record on tax cuts and jobs
This is a variation on a talking point that Obama has been using of late, which is: "We've created more private sector jobs this year than were created over the entire eight years of George W. Bush." But this version from Pelosi is even better, because it points out that that was the same time period as the oh-so-wonderful Bush tax cuts on the rich. Which is an important connection to make.
Will they explain to the American public why they would return to the exact same failed Bush economic policies that did not create one private sector job over eight years? The American economy lost 630,000 private sector jobs during the Bush Administration despite the Bush tax cuts.
Foreign money in American campaigns
This one is a doozy, and Democrats have been jumping all over it already, but that doesn't mean more can't pile on. The whole kerfluffle revolves around the Chamber of Commerce, who is pouring money into ads against Democrats nationwide to the tune of millions, and who also gets a whole bunch of money from foreign sources -- exactly what Obama was talking about in last year's State of the Union (which a Republican Justice visibly disagreed with). Meaning that the same folks who love outsourcing American jobs overseas are getting foreign money and spending millions on American elections to elect politicians who will support such outsourcing.
This needs to be hammered home. This is one big steaming pile of doggy-doo (to use the Speaker of the House's oh-so-appropriate terminology) that really needs pointing out, because it is certainly stinking up the room.
Will they denounce the potential use of foreign money in election campaigns and call for disclosure of funding sources from the same special interests that support outsourcing of jobs that are leading a multi-million dollar campaign in this election?
-- Chris Weigant