A bright, shining ray of hope beamed upon the world of political wonkery this week, but then NBC dumped rain all over this parade by issuing denials of the rumor that David Gregory would be replaced as host of Meet The Press. Now, NBC actually has a few intelligent and serious political journalists on its staff who would likely do a pretty good job of hosting the Sunday morning chatfest, but as we've all known all along, Gregory is simply not one of them (neither, for that matter, is Brian Williams). So, like I said, we were all very hopeful when the rumor that NBC was thinking of getting someone with enough brains to ask a followup question to host their flagship MTP program, only to later be disappointed by NBC's denials. But who knows, maybe the rumors are true and the denials are fake. One can always hope.
One sad fact dawned this week in the media world, though. Before there was Futurama, before there were The Simpsons, there was "Life In Hell" -- a weekly comic by Matt Groening that helped a lot of folks cope, all through the Reagan years. Sadly, Groening has announced the comic's 34-year run is now at an end. We heartily agree with the NPR story which highlights a fitting quote from the comic as an epitaph for Binky, Bongo, Akbar and Jeff and all the rest of them, and which also sums up our feelings perfectly: "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, trapping you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."
Now, sadly, the ice weasels cometh for "Life In Hell." We'd like to offer up a moment of silence in loving memory. As we frantically try to pry pieces of the snowmobile off, to use as weapons in the gathering dusk, so to speak.
It was a pretty quiet week in the world of politics, as everyone in Washington took yet another of their week-long vacations. Nice work, if you can get it. Or maybe things were happening and we just didn't notice them, as we were writing not just one, but two columns on American history for Independence Day week. Maybe, not unlike San Diego's fireworks, there was a brief, brilliant moment of illumination, but we were off getting another hot dog and beer, and just completely missed it. It's been that type of week, so it's entirely possible.
Republicans, this week, had some mighty odious things to say about Democrats. So, even on vacation, we had some politics-as-usual. One of these was so despicable that we feel duty-bound to offer up a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week in response. Tammy Duckworth served as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Sadly, she got both her legs blown off in the service of her country, and is now running for the House seat occupied by Joe Walsh, a Republican. Walsh, following his party's grand tradition of mocking the military service of politicians they don't like (while not serving themselves), charged Duckworth with talking too much about her sacrifices for flag, country, and apple pie.
What is it with Republicans -- they think they're the only ones who are allowed to be patriotic, or what? What Walsh did was the opposite of being patriotic, in fact -- denigrating the patriotism of someone who has given far, far more for her country than Joe Walsh is going to manage in his entire life. Walsh even used John McCain as an example of how, precisely, veterans should talk about their service. No word yet from McCain, denouncing Walsh for politicizing the issue in his name, and we're not exactly holding our breaths here waiting for one.
Duckworth's response is worth reading, from a CNN interview she gave after the controversy erupted. Duckworth handled the attack with class, and we look forward to her election to the House of Representatives in November, when she will replace the blithering idiot who holds the seat currently. For being the target of the most disgusting attack on military service since Max Cleland, and for her response, Tammy Duckworth is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.
[By longstanding policy, we do not link to campaign websites here. So you'll have to do your own web search on her name if you'd like to congratulate Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth, or contribute to her campaign.]
Since it was a quiet week, we weren't massively disappointed by any Democrat this week. Again, perhaps while on a trip to the grill or ice chest, we may have missed something, so feel free to offer up candidates for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award in the comments.
Instead, we're just going to hand out a default MDDOTW award this week. This is actually the second award we've given to this faceless entity somewhere deep within the White House, as last summer we also had to cite the same anonymous person in FTP .
President Barack Obama took a miniature road trip this week, and he did so in what I have dubbed "Greyhound One" -- a new concept in presidential conveyances: the presidential bus. Now, while the idea of having a bus for the president to use is certainly a defensible one, what is not is the Darth Vader-esque paint job it currently sports (best described as "black on black, with black trim").
Instead of conceptualizing the presidential bus as a beefier limousine-on-steroids, someone with half an ounce of political sense would instead reconceptualize it as a low-flying Air Force One, instead. A nice white paint job with blue trim, or perhaps a solid "presidential blue" would look one whale of a lot friendlier and stylish, in our humble opinion.
So, to whomever made the initial "what color should we paint the bus" decision, and whomever in the White House is currently responsible for making such decisions has earned themselves a second Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.
Somebody, please stick their hand up in a strategy meeting and get all outside-the-boxey with a suggestion that "perhaps Greyhound One is a little, I don't know... intimidating..." and then send the damn thing into the body shop for a better color scheme. Until that point, we'll just have to keep giving out these default MDDOTW awards every so often, on slow weeks, we suppose.
[Contact the White House on their official contact page, and make the suggestion to "Repaint the bus!" if you agree.]
Volume 217 (7/6/12)
We're getting dangerously close to that time of year known in political circles as "the silly season." Centered around August, when all politicians flee the Washington swamp for not just a week, but a full month-long vacation, this is when craziness rules. The media, bored with waiting around for Romney to announce his vice presidential pick, will latch on to one silly story and hammer it home for all it's worth, in an effort to gin up some ratings. We'll all go along for the ride, as usual.
Maybe I should run a contest, as we get closer to August, where we can all get creative and offer up predictions as to what this year's silly season obsession will be.
For now, we turn to the campaign of Mitt Romney. A few weeks back, this column offered up an avenue of attack on Mitt Romney: his serious lack of leadership skills, and his seeming inability to make any sort of decision on any particular issue, no matter how important or how center-stage the issue becomes. Back in FTP , I wrote:
Romney has played the weasel on any number of important policy questions. He is running, to be blunt, as a pig in a poke. Elect him, and soon secret plans to make everything better will sprout in the Oval Office -- you've got to just trust him on that, because he's not saying what any of these magic plans actually are.
It's time to attack the weaseling, instead of each individual policy. Because it is a theme that could run throughout the entire campaign, if the Obama folks are as smart as they're made out to be.
About the only thing I'd change in that would be to work "At night, the ice weasels come" in there, somewhere. Ahem.
Kidding aside, our blatant attempt to influence the thinking of everyone in the political universe is either paying off, or it's just become so obvious to everyone else now that they're writing about it. The amusing thing is that Romney is not getting attacked from the left on this issue, but from the right. None other than the Wall Street Journal is offering the Romney campaign some mighty strong suggestions, likely because they are afraid of the direction (off into Ditherland) Romney's campaign seems to be taking.
But while it certainly is fun to see conservatives eat their own in such fashion, this is truly a bi-partisan opportunity to slam Romney. Democrats (including every single "Obama surrogate" out there being interviewed on television) really need to start doing a much better job of it. Below, a few suggestions on how they could do so.
Every side of every issue
This should be the main thrust of the attack: Mitt Romney cannot, for the life of him, make up his mind -- about anything.
"Mitt Romney seems to want his cake and eat it too on every single issue. In fact, he doesn't just want his cake, he wants to buy everything in the whole bakery, so he can have a wide range of choices. He'll even buy those "doughnut" things he's just recently learned about. Romney seems terminally incapable of making up his mind. He takes every stance possible on political issues, which is really no stance at all. Being on every side of every issue may have the political benefit of not annoying anyone too much, but is this really the quality Americans are looking for in a president?"
Penalty or tax, Mitt?
Romney's most recent meltdown happened in response to the Supreme Court's decision on Obamacare, of course. This, apparently, was the final straw for the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which slammed Mitt over his campaign, and lack of leadership. So, by all means, help them point it out!
"I see that even the conservative Wall Street Journal is starting to worry about Mitt Romney's absolute inability to make any sort of decision. When Mitt couldn't seem to decide whether the individual mandate in Obamacare was a 'tax' or a 'penalty,' the Wall Street Journal asked, quote, Why make such an unforced error? Because it fits with Mr. Romney's fear of being labeled a flip-flopper, unquote. They went on to say Mitt's campaign, quote, looks confused in addition to being politically dumb, unquote, and expressed their fear that Mitt was 'squandering an historic opportunity' to defeat Obama, and suggested that the campaign team 'ought to be fired for malpractice.' Wow -- with friends like these, eh, Mitt? Even the core of the Republican Party is starting to get very, very worried over Mitt Romney's inability to show the slightest shred of leadership, on any issue, it seems."
Take your pick of issues
Thread it all together. These are just a few -- there are lots of other issues to choose from in the Romney repertoire.
"Mitt Romney never met an issue he didn't want to have it both ways on. He's either flip-flopped or vacillated like a spineless jellyfish on any number of important issues that have popped up. An issue makes the news, and Mitt takes a full week to say anything about it, and when he does it is a meaningless attempt to cover all bases simultaneously. On immigration and the DREAM Act, Mitt won't say what he'll do. Maybe he'll veto it, maybe he'll keep Obama's policy, maybe he won't. On the individual mandate, Mitt still can't figure out whether he wants to call it a penalty or a tax -- complicated by the fact that he championed this idea a few years ago. But the more serious lapses have occurred on foreign policy. When a crisis pops up, Mitt is nowhere to be seen. After the fact, he'll tell you everything Obama did was wrong, but he refuses to say what he'd do when the crisis hits. His entire foreign policy seems to be to ignore those 3:00 A.M. phone calls, and wait for someone else to tell him what to do. Do we really want such a man to lead our country? I think not."
Speaking of taxes, Mitt...
The White House has been pushing this particular talking point this week, and we think it's a pretty good one to hammer Romney with. It's such a simple charge to make.
"What is Mitt Romney hiding? Why won't Mitt release even one year's full tax return? Why won't he release more than two years of summaries? What, exactly, has Mitt's money been doing in Switzerland and the Caribbean and other exotic locales? Mitt won't say. Has he been dodging taxes? Mitt won't prove it, one way or another. Running for president is a job interview with the American people. So far, Mitt Romney is the candidate who has shown up unprepared and refuses to answer all the questions put to him about his finances. We have no idea what Mitt is hiding, and I truly wish more reporters would pressure him about these serious omissions in disclosure."
How many houses, Mitt?
This question was used to devastating effect after we suggested it in the last presidential campaign. John McCain's answer was so unbelievable (that he wasn't quite sure how many houses he owned, but he'd get back to you on that) that it did him some serious political damage. So why not break the question out once again, to show the type of world Mitt Romney has lived in all his life.
"Governor Romney, I have just a simple question for you: how many houses do you own?"
Just wait a while
This one is really perfect, as talking points go, because it is a very common "local" saying in a lot of places in America. Just as pretty much any American city brags about how bad its traffic is (and how insane its drivers are), everyone likes to take pride in their crazy weather patterns. So tell the advance team to do a little research, and then find a location (the Miami Valley in Ohio would be a good place, for instance) where this is a common saying.
"You know, I've heard the saying here in Dayton that 'if you don't like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes, and it'll change.' You folks know what I mean, right? Well, that seems to be the entire campaign Mitt Romney is running. You don't like his stance on any important political issue? Well, just wait a short while, and it'll change. The man's an absolute weathervane for which way the wind is blowing, and as a result he winds up doing a lot of spinning."
And finally, in our own category of "they should be fired for political malpractice" if they don't jump all over this one -- we have a photo opportunity of Mitt Romney sitting on a personal watercraft. Now, the only problem with the photo is that Ann Romney is also in the photo, so perhaps some judicious cropping is called for, but still... it just begs to be turned into an almost-identical ad as the one run eight years ago against John Kerry. You know, the windsurfing ad. Just show Mitt flipping and flopping (use the same visual trick as in the Kerry ad, to hammer the point home), and run pretty much any text you like over it. Call this a do-it-yourself talking point. Punctuate your ad copy with the repeated use of "Flip. Flop." Bonus points for working in an Etch A Sketch at the end. Make your suggestions in the comments, as always.
-- Chris Weigant