I'm going to (mostly) resist the urge to take advantage of this column's volume number in order to write a really gross column. Numerically, and inventory-wise, a "gross" is (of course) one dozen dozen. Twelve squared.
But to dwell on this cheap pun would be unseemly, even though there's plenty of "gross" material out there with which to do so, it being less than two weeks before an election. Even unrelated to the election season, there are several items to choose from (Clarence Thomas' wife calling up Anita Hill to magnanimously allow Hill to apologize to her and her husband would probably lead the pack in this category -- followed soon after by the news of Clarence's girlfriend shopping around a book she's writing which pretty much confirms Hill's account of things... seriously, what decade is this?).
Instead of such sophomoric humor, we're going to move right along to the awards portion of the program. One program note before we do so, though -- this column will not appear next week, due to the way the calendar worked out this year. In its place will be our yearly Hallowe'en column, where we expose a frightening (but, hopefully, not too gross) nightmare scenario for Democrats and Republicans. So join us here next week for that, and two weeks from today this column will resume its normal format.
It really falls so far out of the definition of this award that we can't possibly come up with a reason why it would fit, but the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Robert Gates deserve at least a mention here. The Pentagon, quite obviously, is ready for the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy to end. In response to the court ruling in California, where a federal judge issued an order to the Pentagon to halt all enforcement of DADT, the Pentagon sent a memo around this week to their military recruiters, informing them that they should begin tentatively accepting people who want to sign up for the military and also admit they're gay. This lasted about a day, until the Obama administration got a stay on the judge's order so it can appeal the case. But then, right after this happened, Gates announced that the military will now have to get any enforcement of DADT (getting kicked out of the military, in other words) approved by a group of only five people at the top of the Pentagon hierarchy. This is a further message from Gates that the military is getting ready to do away with the policy altogether, as it will make discharging openly gay soldiers a heck of a lot harder for the Pentagon to do. Both of these welcome signs from the Pentagon indicate that they are ready to lead the way on getting rid of DADT, as soon as the politicians get their act together. As I said, it's hard to fit either Gates or the Pentagon into any sort of "Democratic" mold, so we can only give them a hearty "Well done!" in lieu of an actual award.
Also in a nebulous category, we'd like to point out that many Democrats in this election cycle seem to be getting much better at the tactic known as "the attack ad." Now, much like the subject of talking points themselves, some on the Left decry negative advertising per se, no matter who's doing it. We think that's wrong. Attack ads can be effective -- they can work. They also can backfire, to be sure. But across the board, we've seen more effective attack ads from Democrats this time around than anytime in recent memory. From the local ads I see here in California (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer have both put out some very good negative ads), to the ones I become aware of through the media (like this ad run against Ken Buck in Colorado), the Democrats seem to have gotten a lot better at this particular feature of modern campaigning. Which, as stated, we think is a good thing. The big question is whether they'll be effective or not, and we're going to have to wait until the election returns are counted to truly know that. But a generic pat on the back is in order for Democrats actually fighting in a campaign, even with their backs against the wall in terms of voter momentum. Keep up the good work out there!
We'd also like to bestow an Honorable Mention to Bill Clinton, who has been tearing up the campaign trail out there for many Democrats in tight races. I wrote a few weeks ago that Democrats should "Deploy the Bubba," and since then they have done so in a big way. As I wrote back then:
Just to prove we're non-partisan when it comes to using charming nicknames (as even George W. Bush was rumored to be), I'd like to give some advice to Democratic candidates everywhere wondering what they can do to improve their standing with the voters: Deploy the Bubba.
. . .
Bill (1) loves campaigning, and (2) is quite good at it. So why not send him out on the hustings for a few fellow Democrats? President Obama's been out there trying to help out, so it's time for Bill to do the same.
Which, to both his and the Democratic Party's credit, he has been doing ever since.
But we're going to take a break from the campaign season for this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, and hand it to Attorney General Eric Holder. This week, the Justice Department announced it would settle a long-festering lawsuit brought against the Department of Agriculture by Native American farmers, for discrimination which took place from the 1980s onward. The settlement will be worth three-quarters of a billion dollars, and is the right thing to do. This court case was filed under Bill Clinton, and languished during George W. Bush's time in office, but the Obama administration decided early on to work towards a just settlement, instead of delaying or further fighting the case.
As I wrote earlier in the week:
This is exactly why a lot of folks voted for Barack Obama. Instead of fighting this case to the bitter legal end of the road, as two previous administrations had done, Obama and Holder decided to do what was right instead. As we enter the final two weeks of the current campaign season, to me this was a poignant reminder of "change we can believe in," even if it is a minor story which will soon be overwhelmed by wall-to-wall election coverage.
It's a good time of year for it, as well. Because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which is supposed (in the easily-digestible children's version, at least) to be all about Native American farmers absolutely saving the lives of the white newcomers, by teaching them how to grow their own food. In other words, I bet this settlement gets a prominent mention in the White House's official Thanksgiving Day message.
So hats off to both President Barack Obama and this week's MIDOTW award-winner, Attorney General Eric Holder, for an impressive piece of news which most Americans didn't even hear about.
[Congratulate Attorney General Eric Holder via the official White House contact page, to let everyone there know you appreciate his efforts.]
There were some grumbles from the Left this week over one particular attack ad, run by Jack Conway in his Senate battle in Kentucky with Rand Paul. The ad drew pointed attention to an incident (which Rand Paul has no memory of, according to him) which took place while Paul was in college, where he allegedly forced a young woman to, among other things (marijuana use, for one) worship "Aqua Buddha" (which, suspiciously to the Friday Talking Points staff, sounds like it involved some sort of bong or water pipe, but then we do admit we've got a rather fervent imagination, so you should probably ignore this baseless claim). Kentucky has a very religious population, so the "worshipping a false idol" thing is given prominence in the ad.
Did Conway cross a line with this ad? Well, perhaps. What, one wonders, would he have said if it was just a statue of Buddha being worshipped, and not so obviously a college prank gone bad? Doesn't the Constitution mean that a Buddhist should be able to be elected to the Senate from Kentucky? Well, yes. But I'm not exactly holding my breath for that to happen, to put it mildly. What it may all boil down to is: was the ad effective? Did it help or hurt Conway's chances? Paul has been vigorously fighting back ever since the ad ran, which shows he takes the attack pretty seriously. Our guess is that if Conway manages to squeak a victory out over Paul, that all will be forgiven by the Left, in a spasm of political "the ends justify the means" reasoning. In any case, we're taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the whole thing, here.
But, in a surprise move, we're going to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to this week's MIDOTW winner: Attorney General Eric Holder. In a letter to nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.), Holder skated dangerously close to the line of politicizing the Justice Department in an ongoing election -- which is a gigantic no-no, it almost goes without saying -- by decrying California's Proposition 19, which will give the state's voters the chance to weigh in on whether to legalize recreational marijuana or not.
Holder's letter, and other recent statements from the Obama administration, make it plain that they will not be happy if Prop. 19 passes, and that they will fight it with every legal weapon they can bring to bear. The timing of these statements (just before voters get a chance to make their choice) and the political nature of what is being said puts these actions over the line, as far as we're concerned. Now, if you're a retired politician, then endorsing or coming out against such a citizens' initiative is certainly fair game, such as former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders recently throwing her support behind Proposition 19. But when you're the nation's top law enforcement officer, you have a duty to uphold the laws -- but also a duty not to influence their creation.
Attorney General Eric Holder, by threatening get-tough measures should Proposition 19 pass -- in an obvious and naked attempt by the Obama administration to throw its weight behind the political forces opposing the measure -- has more than earned this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. Please, Mister Attorney General, keep out of California's democratic process, as you are supposed to do. At least until after the election is over.
[Contact Attorney General Eric Holder via the official White House contact page, to let everyone there know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 144 (10/22/10)
We're going to try and keep these short this week, all the better for Democrats to remember them, out there on the campaign trail, in debates with opponents, and (as always) in interviews with the press.
We're down to the final stretch of Election 2010. Democrats have been making noticeable improvements in the polls over the past few weeks, but the question remains whether it will be enough to overcome the momentum coming from the other side. At this point, pretty much everything that can be done on the "get out the vote" effort to get Democratic voters to the polls has either been done, or set in motion for Election Day.
Which leaves us free to concentrate on convincing voters in the mushy middle of American politics. These voters, it should be noted, are now the ones who decide elections across the country. Largely suburban in nature, swing voters dislike the extremes of either party, preferring instead to vote for candidates that don't scare them too much (on either side). That's over-generalizing, though, because the very fickle nature of these voters also means that they defy pinning down or lumping together in such a fashion.
In any case, this week we're going to focus on messages which speak not so much to the Democratic base, but towards possibly-still-undecided swing voters who may still be persuadable.
This is just downright despicable. A self-described "conservative Latino activist" was behind an odious ad run in the Nevada Senate race, which was quickly yanked off the air, due to the controversial tag line. Democrats everywhere -- not just in Nevada -- should hold this up as Exhibit A of Republican political ploys, because the message spreads far beyond the Silver State's borders, to Latinos everywhere.
"Republicans have shown their true colors when it comes to the Latino community, as evidenced by the ad run in Nevada which informed Latino voters what their civic duty is, according to conservatives -- and I quote: 'Don't vote.' The depth of cynicism in airing an ad telling Latinos not to vote is just breathtaking. Republicans have done nothing for the Latino community, and the GOP is increasingly terrified that the Latino vote will overwhelmingly be Democratic for some time to come -- so their advice is to not participate in our democratic system of government at all. Latinos everywhere should watch this ad if they're considering voting for Republicans, because this is what they really think about you. That you shouldn't vote."
This one really works best against Tea Party candidates, but since the mainstream Republicans are cowering in fear of the Tea Partiers denouncing them as insufficiently devoted to the cause, it really can be used against just about any Republican this time around. Harry Reid pioneered this in his ads, and has been beating this drum consistently ever since -- which could save a very tight race for him.
"The Tea Party has quite obviously completely taken over the Republican Party, as evidenced by the candidates the GOP is fielding this year, and also as evidenced by the refusal of any Republican to speak out against any of these Tea Party candidates who are not exactly ready for prime time. Which is really the whole problem -- the Tea Party candidates, and by extension, the Republican Party, has become just too extreme for America. Don't take my word for it -- just listen for five minutes to any Tea Partier speak, and you'll see for yourself just how radical and extreme their plans for this country are."
Corporations telling you how to vote
This one seems to be gaining some traction out there. Don't get bogged down in details, just give an overview of the situation.
"Do we as Americans really want corporations telling us how to vote? Republicans sure seem to like it, mostly because the corporate money is out there bashing Democrats. But is it really a good thing for a corporation to anonymously shell out millions of dollars to elect a particular candidate, without letting the public know it is doing so? The corporations are afraid that the public will react to their foray into politics, and that Joe and Jane American is going to start holding them accountable at the cash register, when they choose what products to buy. My advice to American voters is to ignore any ad coming from a group who refuses to tell you who is paying for that ad -- no matter who the ad supports. I don't want corporations telling me how to vote, and I think most voters would agree with me."
Tea Party hypocrisy
This one should be used as a gigantic blunt instrument by all Democrats, from the president on down to the smallest House district. Because the hypocrisy is just lying there -- in stacks of paper three feet high -- waiting to be exploited.
"The Tea Party candidates all say that they're for cutting government spending, but a surprising number of them seem to be all in favor of government spending when it is going into their pockets, or when it is politically convenient for them to do so. From a doctor who says that Medicare and Medicaid payments which pay a huge portion of his salary are just fine with him, to a candidate who thinks unemployment insurance is unconstitutional -- except when his wife is collecting it, of course -- to the many many Republicans who are campaigning on how they voted against the stimulus package but who also wrote multiple letters to beg for some of that stimulus money for their districts and then even had the gall to show up for such projects' ribbon-cutting ceremonies, there is a common thread. This is the absolute hypocrisy of saying: 'stop government spending, except for the government spending which benefits me.' These candidates simply have no credibility whatsoever, and they are counting on the voters being too stupid to see through this enormous contradiction between what these folks say, and what they do. I think the voters are smarter than that. I think they realize rank hypocrisy when they hear and see it."
Not afraid to talk to the press
This one goes back to the school playground, but this type of taunt can work wonders with the public. Most Tea Party candidates have realized that it's better for them to simply not talk to any press that isn't solidly in the Republican corner to begin with (in other words, Fox News). Turn this to your advantage, and point it out every chance you get.
"You know what? I'm not afraid of talking to the press, as my opponent seems to be. Instead of running away from reporters with microphones, I want every voter know that if I am elected I will answer questions from the press because I want to be held accountable. I want the voters to know what I think, and what I believe in. I am not afraid of sitting down with reporters to talk about the issues, because I believe the voters share my values and want to hear what I have to say. My opponent, quite obviously, does not -- he would prefer it if only the 'friendly' press be allowed to ask him anything. I think that is cowardly, and I don't know why anyone would want to hold public office if he is so afraid of letting the public know his views on the important issues of the day."
I've read the Constitution...
This one is only really useable in a debate format, with a Tea Party candidate (cough, cough, Christine O'Donnell, cough...) who obviously lacks a basic understanding of our country's founding document.
"I'm sorry, but I have actually read the Constitution. Have you?"
Notable word coinage
This one's just for fun, I have to admit. I can't see any Democrat publicly saying this, in other words, but it certainly deserved to be mentioned this week. The Jezebel website ran a contest recently to come up with a definition for the term "odonnell" (or perhaps "Odonnell" -- although one has to wonder what happened to that apostrophe?), in honor of none other than Christine O'Donnell herself. The last great political word coinage in this vein was, of course, "santorum" (which you'll have to Google for yourself, sorry). Now, we do wish that Jezebel had provided a few better examples of how to correctly use the term in a sentence, but we are certainly open to suggestion in the comments. Without further ado, here is the new semi-official term for your reading pleasure (so to speak):
Odonnell n. -- An unwelcome and decidedly unsexy thought that pops into an individual's mind while they are masturbating.
-- Chris Weigant