Having just gotten back from a trip abroad where the news was dominated by the story of a politician facing severe consequences (and the end of his political career) for his sexual misconduct, I opened up the pages of the American news to find... well, pretty much the same thing.
While France digests the criminal trial of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, back home in America John Edwards is also slouching towards a courtroom, in a desperate bid to retain his legal license by beating the rap on campaign finance charges -- and that was the minor political sexual misconduct story of the past week or so.
The major political sexual scandal was a full-blown weenie roast. Or, to be more accurate, a Weiner roast. This is technically not exactly the same thing as a wiener roast, but it certainly is close enough for the late-night comedian in all of us, right? The word "wiener" is an American bastardization of wienerwurst, German for Vienna sausage. The vulgar slang definition came later, of course. Anthony Weiner spells his last name differently, and it probably should properly and Germanically be pronounced as "whiner," but (as previously stated) this is still close enough for everyone in the headline-writing business. Perhaps I'm overexplaining this, which you can chalk up to the fact that I confess to being sensitive about the whole "ei" versus "ie" thing, for obvious reasons (like the fact that when I set up my website I had to register "chriswiegant.com" along with the correct spelling, so that everyone could still find it).
Speaking of blogging, yesterday was my fifth anniversary doing so, after being invited to post on the Huffington Post way back when (you can decide for yourself whether I've gotten any better at it, by reading my first column).
This is a pretty rambling intro to the column this week, for which I apologize. I've been overseas and so haven't done one of these Friday Talking Points columns in three weeks, and if truth be told I am still pretty jetlagged, so today's offering will likely be a bit flaky around the edges. Flakier than normal, I should say.
Speaking of flaky, I see that Newt Gingrich's entire campaign structure just walked out on him. Poor Newtie! It'll be interesting to see if any of the other Republican contenders brings this up in the upcoming second Republican debate next week, won't it? I mean, having your campaign manager quit is one thing, but having over a dozen guys follow him out the door is a whole other ball of wax. Oh, well, maybe Newt will still sell some books -- which increasingly seems to be the real reason he jumped into the campaign in the first place.
Sarah Palin apparently went on a bus ride, for some reason. She delighted the media world by apparently remembering her elementary-school history lesson as Paul Revere shouting out: "Hey British soldiers, the Americans are coming!" Or something. It's always hard to tell exactly what Sarah is trying to say, since her "sentences" are almost impossible to parse. But parsing Sarah is currently the big pastime for people who don't have anything better to do, as the entire internet is preoccupied today with digging through over 24,000 pages of emails which Alaska just released from when Palin was governor. Due to the volume of the document dump, look for funny Palinisms to pop up all weekend long!
Other than Palin and Gingrich, the Republican field of presidential hopefuls is about where it was a few weeks ago. Several people officially jumped in the race, but none of this was any sort of surprise. The Left is eagerly looking forward to Monday night's second televised debate, from New Hampshire, and will likely have monstrous hangovers Tuesday morning after playing drinking games cued to references to God and Ronald Reagan. That's my prediction, anyway.
President Obama tried to point out how well the auto industry bailout worked, but unfortunately for him the unemployment numbers were announced the same day, squashing his intended message with bad news.
Alabama made it illegal to, among other things, give a ride to an illegal immigrant. Republicans seem to be continuing their strategy of "let's demonize and scapegoat the fastest-growing demographic in America," which will doubtlessly pay off handsomely in the politics of the future. For Democrats, that is.
Speaking of immigrants, the full faith and credit of the American government went straight down the tubes in the past few weeks, as thousands of people who applied for the yearly lottery of green cards were first informed they had won a green card slot, and then were informed that they hadn't won and that there would be a second drawing because the computer program screwed up the first. They're now suing, and I don't blame them one tiny bit. This is not the way America should welcome folks who are trying hard to play by the rules and be legal immigrants, folks.
MoveOn.org is apparently now in the business of creating elaborate hoaxes on the internet, for some bizarre reason. I'll admit that political theater is a tricky business to get right, but at some point you have to wonder whether you're crossing some sort of line, don't you?
Speaking of bizarre things on the internet, mutant earless bunnies are making a big splash from the radiation-soaked shores of Japan.
But even mutant earless bunnies weren't the most bizarre story (although not as literally) from the past few weeks. That dubious honor goes to the fact that the federal government is harshly cracking down on -- are you ready for this? -- dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. That's right -- we've now instituted a War On Dancing. More on this later, in the talking points section of today's disjointed jet-lagged program, though. Before we get to that, however, we've got the awards to hand out, so let's get on with it.
This is kind of a default award, I will fully admit. I haven't been diligently paying attention to the news over the past three weeks, so there may be some other worthy Democrat I have missed here. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments, as always.
But we're going to hand out the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week to Leon Panetta, who seems to be breezing through his confirmation hearings in the Senate on his way to being Secretary of Defense. Panetta is the ultimate wonk, and is a pro at this sort of thing, and every news story I've read or heard about his hearings ends with some version of "... and, of course, he will have no problem being confirmed by the Senate." That's a pretty impressive thing to say these days, especially for anyone Barack Obama names to his cabinet.
So, not so much for anything impressive Panetta said during the hearings, but rather for his impressive Washington political heft on both sides of the aisle, Leon Panetta is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.
[Just on general principles, we're not going to link to the C.I.A. here. Instead, we suggest you send your congratulations to the White House contact page.]
Well, this one's a no-brainer, eh?
Representative Anthony Weiner is merely the latest to discover that "private" electronic communications are never quite as private as they seem at the time. Or maybe he violated the "don't drink and tweet" golden rule. Or he just thought that late-night comedians didn't have enough material nowadays. Or something. It's hard to fathom just what he was thinking. Or, more accurately, not thinking -- as this sort of thing has been around so long that the Romans had a phrase to describe it (look it up yourself): Penis erectus non compos mentis.
No matter how you slice the weenie, it adds up to a pretty ugly picture. Several of them, in fact.
Sigh. When will politicians learn?
Weiner had his political career all mapped out: win the mayor's race in New York City, then maybe the governor's office in Albany, and start planning a bid for the presidency in 2020 or 2024 (if you think this is overstating how politicians see their career paths, then you are fooling yourself). This has now all come crashing down. The best Weiner can currently hope for is to retain his House seat (which, believe it or not, may actually be a possibility for him, if the polling is correct). If he manages to do so, however, he will only prolong the steady stream of "wiener" jokes far into the future.
It was disappointing enough to find out the man was sending crotch shots to college women. Even more disappointing was the revelation that his wife is newly pregnant. But what was most disappointing is that he refuses to step down. Sure, he broke no laws. And sure, it's up to his constituents to decide when to fire him. But, having said all of that, Weiner's clinging on to power after the revelations of the past few days is disappointing indeed.
So disappointing, in fact, that there simply wasn't any other competition for this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.
[Contact Representative Anthony Weiner on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions. But we'd advise against "friending" him on any social networking sites to send him your message, because you never know what he's going to send back, do you? Sigh.]
Volume 169 (6/10/11)
Once again, we apologize for the quality of the talking points this week, as they're kind of disjointed and unfocused, with a side order of snark. In other words, through a jetlagged haze darkly. With a little bit of ranting thrown in, just because.
Vitter's still serving, isn't he?
This one is weak, I'll fully admit. I blame it (as with any other weaknesses in this column) on the jetlag. Also on the fact that Anthony Weiner didn't exactly leave other Democrats with a great hand of cards to play.
"I hear the cries coming from the Republicans that Anthony Weiner should step down with amazement, because as far as I know David Vitter is still serving in the Senate. Weiner broke no laws, and yet Vitter was a client of a prostitute -- which as far as I know is illegal everywhere outside of Nevada. Some of the same voices now calling on Weiner to step down were in fact campaign supporters of Vitter -- even after the 'D.C. Madam' news story broke. I'm not sure how they explain this rank hypocrisy when it comes to bedroom activities, myself. I have called on Anthony Weiner to do the right thing and step down, just as I also call on David Vitter to do the same. I haven't heard any Republicans exhibit that kind of moral consistency, though. When it comes to Vitter and Weiner, all I see from the other side is the moral relativism they supposedly abhor."
The lines blur further...
Thankfully, we still have Newt Gingrich to kick around... at least for a few more weeks. Newt's campaign is being exposed for what it likely always was intended to be: a vehicle for him to promote his books and other think-tanky products. Which needs pointing out, and needs some context.
"I thought the lines between show business and politics were getting weaker, but this year's Republican primary race has shown how there simply is no difference between the two whatsoever. It's a revolving door of professional entertainment, political campaigning, shameless self-promotion, and journalistic hype. Consider what we've already had this campaign season: Donald Trump flirted with a presidential campaign in order to negotiate a better contract for his reality television show; Mike Huckabee did much the same thing with his gig on Fox News; Sarah Palin... well... continues being Sarah Palin wherever she goes; and now Newt Gingrich seems to be running an empty shell of a campaign on name recognition alone, in order to get his face on a few televised debates to plug his books. The media, I should mention, fully and completely went along on each one of these rides. The value of all this free promotion is incalculable, which is no doubt why so many Republicans are using politics as merely a way to cash in big time as nothing more than entertainers. I mean, if it were only the isolated incident of Newt, that'd be one thing, but instead it's starting to look like a pattern. Politics is indistinguishable from show business on the Republican side these days. Even Ronald Reagan knew how to separate the two better than this."
A giant, counterproductive waste of money
Want to bet there's one part of the federal budget (outside of the military) which won't be cut by either party in the budget battles to come? This talking point is a fantasy, because the only politician I could conceivably think of today who might actually say it is Ron Paul -- and no one would listen, even if he did say it.
"I noticed that an international report was just issued which summed up the 'War on Drugs' as a gigantic and counterproductive waste of time, money, and lives. This report wasn't written by some sort of Lefty pipe dreamers, but rather an international commission which included a former United Nations Secretary General, and George Shultz who was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State. So how about we end this modern Prohibition and treat it like the medical problem it truly is? The United States can't afford to pour money down an endless hole which produces no tangible results whatsoever. It's time to treat drug abuse differently, and it's time to stop spending money on what clearly doesn't work. Isn't that supposed to be what the Republicans are for? Smaller government, government out of people's personal lives, and ending programs which just don't work? Think of the money we could save!"
Speaking of saving money...
Here's an idea whose time has clearly come.
"Next week, California politicians are going to face two stark choices: pass a budget on time, and put it on the governor's desk... or your paychecks will stop. This new law was passed by a citizen referendum, and this is the first time it will be an issue in the perpetual budget negotiations in the Golden State. I call on all members of the United States Congress to pass a similar law at the federal level. If you don't pass a budget on time each year -- and complete all the appropriations bills necessary -- then you don't get paid until the job is done. And after the job is done, you can't award yourself the back pay retroactively. Any member of the House or Senate who doesn't support this simple concept is quite obviously not fit to serve office because they want to get paid even when they don't do their jobs, which offends me deeply."
Give their green cards back
This is odious. It's already spawning conspiracy theories worldwide. Ones in which the United States of America is the bad guy. And it's easy to see why.
"I call upon the Obama administration to do the right thing for over 22,000 prospective immigrants who are trying to play by America's rules in how they enter the country. These people are not illegal immigrants, they are folks who applied for a green card in the yearly 'lottery' system where legal immigration slots are awarded. They followed the rules, in other words. And they were notified that they had won the chance of a lifetime -- the chance to move to America and get a job and pursue their dreams. But then the government of the United States of America sent them a second letter, dashing those hopes and dreams. Through no fault of their own, they were informed that the computer picked the winners from the first entries received, instead of truly randomly. Therefore, a second draw would be held and most of them likely wouldn't be lucky twice. This is unconscionable. America told these people they could come, and then slammed the door in their face. The number affected is small enough that they could easily be accommodated either in the yearly draw or as a supplement to it. If Congress needs to pass an emergency bill to put this right, then they should do so. If the White House needs to pull some strings and make good on America's promises, then that's what needs to happen. But every American should be ashamed that this happened, and we should all get behind whatever efforts are necessary to make this right. Politicians piously tell illegal immigrants that they should follow the rules, but when we treat those who do follow the rules in such a capricious fashion, it's hard to take such a moral high road."
Chris Christie and New Jersey One
So much for being "man of the people," eh?
"I see that New Jersey's governor finally decided that the taxpayers of his state shouldn't have to pay the expenses of him taking a helicopter ride to his son's baseball game or to a political event. It took Chris Christie a few days of scorn, but he finally decided to reimburse the state for such frivolities. It's hard to be a 'man of the people' when you are escorted in 'New Jersey One' to a Little League game, I guess. At least he finally paid the expenses, but it sure took him a while to realize how fiscally irresponsible he was being with his taxpayers' money, didn't it?"
Where's the Hairspray cast when you need them?
File this one in the "you've got to be freakin' kidding me" file, I guess.
"To protest a recent court decision which made dancing in the Jefferson Memorial a crime, several people showed up a few weeks ago and danced in the Jefferson Memorial. The U.S. Park Police were not amused, and they arrested several people for the crime of dancing. The federal cops used quite a bit of force in doing so, to people who were peacefully dancing -- or, to put it another way, exercising free expression in a public place. Last week, the cops had apparently thought twice, and were much more restrained when another group of protesters showed up and started dancing. They merely cleared the Memorial, rather than using excessive force or arresting anybody. But the whole situation is absurd. If dancing at a memorial is illegal, then why didn't the cops arrest the Rockettes when they danced on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for one of George Bush's inaugurations? Why in the name of freedom would anyone think that silently dancing is any sort of crime in the first place? Where are the outraged Tea Partiers, for that matter? I mean, I thought we had the First Amendment to the Constitution to prevent such tyranny from our government."
[Program Note: Regretfully, this column will not return to our regular weekly schedule for another two weeks. Next week, we'll be away at Netroots Nation, and cannot promise we'll have enough time to post. We apologize for the inconvenience, and we'll see you back here on June 24th.]
-- Chris Weigant