Friday Talking Points -- Didn't We Fight A War So We Could Ignore This?

[ Posted Friday, May 5th, 2023 – 17:43 UTC ]

President Joe Biden will not be attending the coronation of King Charles III tomorrow, which is entirely appropriate (although he is sending First Lady Dr. Jill Biden instead, out of respect). No U.S. president has ever attended a British coronation, and with good reason -- after all, we fought a whole war just so no American would ever have to show any sort of fealty to any King or Queen of England ever again. But even though Biden won't be there, the two men do share one notable similarity: they both waited all their lives -- decades and decades of it -- for the chance to sit at the head of their country. So it's pretty easy to see they do share how long the wait has been for both of them.

Americans will be inundated with the entire spectacle tomorrow, which we plan on skipping entirely -- both for patriotic reasons and because this sort of thing tends to bore us silly. Also, we always cringe at all the fawning attention the American media shower upon the British royalty just as a general rule, so it's a pretty easy choice not to pay it any attention. Although we did have to laugh at the work of some unnamed British pranksters who wordlessly expressed their own dismissive feelings towards all the hoopla. Here is both the SFW story and the NSFW image, for those who want (in... ahem... a Cockney accent?) a bit of a larf.

Unlike King Charles, of course, President Biden's tenure as head of state is not a lifetime appointment. He's got to run to keep his job next year, a problem Charles will never have. And right now the conundrum Biden's somehow got to solve is how to keep the House Republicans from destroying the American economy just because they feel like it.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen lit a big fire under everyone this week by announcing that (due mainly to the backlog problem at the I.R.S. being solved and tax returns going out faster) the country may actually default on its debt as soon as the first of June. This, quite obviously, doesn't leave a whole lot of time for Congress to solve the problem -- especially when you consider how little overlap there is going to be in May between the Senate and the House of Representatives being in session and Biden also being in Washington. Things are going to have to move at lightning speed, to put it bluntly.

President Biden announced a meeting would be held next week with all four members of the leadership of Congress (Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Republican side and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for the Democrats) in order to begin negotiations. Or not -- according to the White House there will be no negotiations over the debt limit itself, while they are open to negotiating over the actual federal budget. McCarthy has sworn that a "clean" debt hike bill will not pass his House, so obviously they're going to have to figure out some way both can save face, if any compromise is struck.

House Democrats have indicated they are going to move forward with a "discharge petition" which will include a clean debt hike, and they are looking to peel off at least five Republican votes (plus any others they need if there are defections on their side of the aisle). Senate Republicans are wooing Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, because of course they are.

The White House, meanwhile, appears much more open to the various ideas people have had for just ignoring Congress and the debt ceiling altogether -- by either invoking a clause in the 14th Amendment or perhaps minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin. All options are being explored, it appears, which is good news, although any such unilateral move would doubtlessly be challenged in the courts by Republicans -- who would, in effect, be suing to force the American economy to collapse (not a very good look for them, politically).

Biden is doing a pretty good job being out in front of shaping public opinion on the issue, and the White House has focused on two talking points in particular. The first is a dire report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors predicting what a default will do in terms of unemployment (up to 8 million jobs could be lost), the economy (a 6-percent contraction), and the stock market (down by 45 percent). And that's not even mentioning the skyrocketing interest rates for everyone's mortgages and credit cards or the hundreds of billions we'll all be paying in increased interest on the national debt -- all due to an entirely-avoidable Republican default.

The second is to warn of the consequences of the Republican plan, which would mean cutting 22 percent of all discretionary spending. Team Biden picked the best issue possible to shame Republicans into realizing what it is exactly that they're calling for -- veterans. Because the V.A. budget would have to be slashed (along with everything else) if the GOP plan became reality. Biden trolled the Republicans by tweeting out "a little chart" he made "that could help them out," just to get this ball rolling. Vets groups are already up in arms over such potential budget cuts, which would negatively impact medical care for veterans.

This is how you fight Draconian Republican budget hawkery -- by pointing out precisely what such cuts would mean. This is also why Kevin McCarthy hasn't passed a budget blueprint yet and why his debt ceiling plan has no real specifics -- because once Republicans do put their cards on the table, they're going to be forced to defend each and every cut. So far, the White House has been doing an excellent job of fighting back on this front.

In other news, Donald Trump's rape trial is winding down, as both sides rested their respective cases this week. They judge delayed closing arguments until Monday, just on the off chance Trump himself wants to show up and testify. If he doesn't, the case could go to the jury as soon as Monday, so there's that to look forward to next week.

A group of leaders of the Proud Boys was found guilty of sedition this week, and they all face long sentences for preparing for and helping instigate the January 6th insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol. Trump, upon hearing the news of the verdicts, threw a tantrum on social media (because of course he did).

Other Republicans seem to be sensing that Trump could be weakened, as both Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson had some rather pointed things to say this week. Christie is not currently an announced candidate for president, but will be making this decision in "the next two weeks." If he runs, he's going to go full-on anti-Trump. From an interview with Hugh Hewitt, where Christie was asked what he thought of Trump possibly skipping the first Republican debates:

There should be as many [Republican debates] as we can have. They should be as open format as they can be to allow for follow ups, to not allow people to give soundbite-y answers that nobody believes will solve any problems. And anybody who's serious about wanting to be president of the United States should be on the stage for every one of them. And you know, look, they say that presidential campaigns are an X-ray of the soul for the people who are running. Well, those debates are an MRI, because you can't, if the questions are good, pre-scripted answers are not always working. And it's a human interaction, Hugh. And you see how people respond on their feet. And that's very important for any executive, because you know, the presidency is not a scripted exercise. And so that's why I think debates are important, and I think we should participate in them. And to the extent that President Trump doesn't want to participate in them, people should wonder why. And I think it's because he doesn't have a lot of serious answers for the problems that are facing the country right now. All he wants to do is go back and re-prosecute the 2020 election because his feelings are hurt. He's a child in that regard, and he should....

At this point he was interrupted by Hewitt pointing out that Trump was far ahead of the field so it might make sense for him to skip the debates. Christie shot back:

Because this is about letting the American people decide who's best prepared to be president. This is not running for student body president. And if he really cares about the country, and I have deep questions about that, but if he really cares about the country, then he's going to get up there, and he shouldn't be afraid. I'm sorry to see that Donald Trump feels like if he gets on the stage, he's at risk of losing his lead. If, in fact, his ideas are so great, if his leadership is so outstanding, then his lead will only increase if he gets on the stage, not decrease. But obviously, he's afraid. He's afraid to get on the stage against people who are serious. And I'm sorry to see that he's that afraid of it. If he's that afraid of that, how can we count on him to do any better with President Xi than the failures he had in his first term with China? How can we expect him to do any better with Putin than having set the groundwork for the invasion of Ukraine, which his conduct towards Putin certainly helped to establish? This is a guy who seems like he's afraid. And if he's afraid, he has no business being president.

Longshot candidate Vivek Ramaswamy piled on as well, when he was asked what he thought of Trump skipping debates:

The message is just really clear, you know -- cowboy up, get in the saddle. Show us what you got, because if you want to be the leader of this country and the leader of the free world, you've got to show that you can still bring your fastball.

Not to be outdone, Asa Hutchinson, who is also an announced candidate, wrote an article that ripped into Trump on several other fronts. This is notable because Hutchinson has been taking small shots at Trump up until now, but he's never been so forceful about doing so up to this point:

The actions taken by former President Donald Trump demonstrate that he has chosen not to govern by honoring our shared conservative values. Instead, he has undermined the fabric of our democracy by questioning the outcome of the 2020 election and using violent rhetoric to stir protesters on January 6, 2021.

The problem? Once we started down that dark path, we, as Republicans, quickly lowered our standards. However, it's not good enough to occasionally stand on our principles. Rather, our principles should serve as our north star without exception.

As mentioned, this wasn't the only shot Hutchinson took at Trump. The Republicans are going to get exactly what's going to happen tomorrow in Merrie Olde England -- a coronation -- unless the candidates running against Trump for the GOP nomination actually start running against Trump. So it's good to see this sort of thing becoming more common.

Let's see... what else? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined in the chorus of voices urging Senator Dianne Feinstein to step down, and the editorial board of the New York Times came to the same conclusion. Feinstein, however, doesn't sound like she's budging any time soon.

The Supreme Court has sunk even lower in the eyes of most Americans (including even some Republicans), as it was conclusively proven that Clarence Thomas has no ethics to speak of at all and will accept gobs of money from just about anybody while never reporting any of it publicly. John Roberts and the rest of the court seem unconcerned about this and are perfectly fine with the current situation continuing -- where the court has no ethics code and self-polices itself on such issues. To which we say: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

One final note... being one ourselves, we of course fully support the Hollywood writers' strike, and support the Union's efforts to get some fair compensation for the people who work so hard in the industry. But we're also a consumer of late-night television comedy, which meant we were among the first to directly experience what things are going to be like on television until the issue is resolved: a lot of re-runs. And a long weekend of coronation/royals obsession to boot.



Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

The week started off with the annual "nerd prom" or White House Correspondents Dinner, where both the headline comedian and Joe Biden did a good job cracking wise for the press (and all the hangers-on). Best Biden moment of the night was at the end, where he donned "Dark Brandon" aviator shades right before he sat down. For getting a few good jokes off, for not blowing his lines or his timing, and for those shades, President Biden at least deserves an Honorable Mention.

Senator Bernie Sanders also deserves an Honorable Mention for introducing a new minimum wage hike bill that ups the ante to $17 an hour. While $15 an hour has been the rallying cry for a while, nowadays $15 isn't even enough to provide a livable wage, so Bernie has reacted by calling for more. The bill is likely just as doomed as his other efforts on this front, but we do have to note that Bernie is keeping up with the times.

And one more, because we have to say we were pretty impressed with the campaign announcement from Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat who is going to take on Senator Ted Cruz. The video's worth watching, for those interested. "Turning Texas blue" is the seemingly-impossible dream that always seems to remain out of reach, but Ted Cruz is the weakest Republican politician in the state, so perhaps Allred will have a fighting chance (we certainly hope so!).

But this week the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to the Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who was the driving force behind a bill which has now passed the state legislature and is headed to the governor's desk. Here's what the bill will do:

Illinois lawmakers greenlighted a bill Wednesday that says libraries in the state must adopt an anti-book banning policy to receive state funding, in a vote that fissured along party lines.

The measure, spearheaded by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, represents a counter-movement to growing efforts to restrict books on topics such as race, gender and sexuality in schools and libraries across the United States.

The legislation has passed both chambers and now heads to the desk of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he looks forward to signing it.

"This landmark legislation is a triumph for our democracy, a win for First Amendment rights, and most importantly, a great victory for future generations to come," said Giannoulias in a news conference Wednesday after HB 2789 cleared the Senate in a party-line vote.

In order to be eligible for state funding, the bill requires libraries to adopt the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights, which holds that "materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation," and "should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval."

Libraries may also develop an alternative policy prohibiting the practice of banning to receive the funds.

Chicago-area Sen. Laura Murphy, a Democrat and one of the bill’s sponsors, celebrated its passage.

"Our nation's libraries have been under attack for too long -- they are bastions of knowledge and proliferate the spread of ideas," said Murphy in a news release. "Librarians are trained professionals, and we need to trust that they will stock our libraries with appropriate materials -- they were hired for their expertise, and they deserve our respect."

In an ideal world, of course, such a bill would be unnecessary. But we don't live in an ideal world, we live in one where Republicans are trying to force libraries to ban books. They're trying to make it a big political wedge issue, and the article points out that the effort was spurred from a district in suburban Chicago where parents were trying to get Gender Queer: A Memoir yanked off the shelves. So it didn't happen out of the blue.

If Republicans are drawing battle lines, it is incumbent upon Democrats to fight back. So while some might see this new law as unnecessary, it sends a very clear statement of support for libraries and librarians everywhere. Which is an impressive thing to do, and which is why Alexi Giannoulias (and all the Democrats who voted to pass the bill, which didn't get any Republican votes) deserve this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias via his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

First, an update. Florida politician Andrew Gillum -- who narrowly lost a governor's race to Ron DeSantis -- has beaten the rap on the charge of lying to the F.B.I. However, while he was found not guilty on this count, the jury hung on other charges of outright corruption. For which he's going to be tried again -- so he's a long way from being out of the legal woods yet. But we did want to at least update his status here.

President Biden disappointed many Democrats this week by announcing he will be moving 1,500 active-duty troops to the southern border, in anticipation of a wave of border-crossings after the pandemic emergency measure (Title 42) is lifted. This is in addition to 2,500 National Guard troops who are already there. But Biden had to do something, otherwise we would all see photos from next week throughout the 2024 campaign season. We may still -- the troops Biden is sending (due to the Posse Comitatus Act) cannot actually patrol the border or apprehend anyone, instead they will be doing support duties to put more Border Patrol agents in the field. But for now we're only going to hand Biden a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award. As we said, Biden has to be seen as doing something to at least prepare for the anticipated crowds crossing the border next week.

Instead we are reaching down to the state level to hand out two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards. The first goes to a state senator from California, Dave Min, who was arrested this week for driving drunk in Sacramento. Normally this wouldn't have caught our attention except for this one footnote: "Min... is running for the seat held by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter." Porter is vacating her seat in the U.S. House in order to run for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat. And her district (in Orange County) is going to be a battleground race. So anything which lessens Democrats' chances of keeping her seat is a bad thing. But there is this: "Min is not the only Democrat in the race: He's contending against Women for American Values and Ethics founder Joanna Weiss." So there will be at least one other choice on the ballot, at least.

Our second MDDOTW this week goes to the secretary of state up in Oregon. Here's the whole story:

Embattled Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan is resigning over her acceptance of a $10,000-per-month contract with a cannabis company at a time when her office was auditing the state's marijuana program.

Fagan's resignation is effective May 8. Deputy Secretary of State Cheryl Myers will take over the post until a successor is appointed by Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek.

Fagan has come under fire after Willamette Week broke the news about her contract with Veriede Holdings, an affiliate of cannabis chain La Mota, last week.

The Democratic former state lawmaker was elected to the statewide post in 2020. The contract was more lucrative than her annual $77,000 salary. It also included additional bonuses of $30,000 for each license Fagan helped the affiliate of La Mota obtain outside the states of Oregon and New Mexico.

On Monday, Fagan announced that she was canceling her contract with the cannabis company. But she faced a looming ethics investigation and calls for her resignation from Republican lawmakers. Fagan is the state's chief election officer.

"While I am confident that the ethics investigation will show that I followed the state's legal and ethical guidelines in trying to make ends meet for my family, it is clear that my actions have become a distraction from the important and critical work of the Secretary of State's office," Fagan said in a statement. "Protecting our state's democracy and ensuring faith in our elected leaders -- these are the reasons I ran for this office. They are also the reasons I will be submitting my resignation today."

The only thing we've got to say is that at least both of these Democrats did the right thing, in the end. Min owned up to his D.U.I. and accepted responsibility and didn't try to excuse his actions. Fagan announced her resignation. But only after she had been caught essentially accepting kickbacks.

Whether they did the right thing in the end or not, though, we have to say that the two examples of "Democrats behaving badly" were disappointing indeed.

[Contact Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan on her official contact page (while you still can), and California State Senator Dave Min on his official contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 705 (5/5/23)

Another mixed bag this week, starting off with a campaign strategy from Joe Biden that could be a lot more effective than you might think. Because sometimes it is all about how you define your terms, in politics....



Joe Biden released a video announcing his campaign, and then his campaign immediately released his first campaign ad to follow it up. It's a good ad, and it reinforces something that Democrats are reclaiming as their own: effectively using the word "freedom" in politics. Here is how the ad starts:

As the sun rises, we raise the flag. A symbol of all that we hold most dear as Americans. Courage. Opportunity. Democracy. Freedom. For the values and beliefs that built this country and still beat in our hearts.

But they're under attack by an extreme movement that seeks to overturn elections, ban books, and eliminate a woman's right to choose. Joe Biden has made defending our basic freedoms the cause of his presidency. The freedom for women to make their own healthcare decisions. The freedom for our children to be safe from gun violence. The freedom to vote and have your vote counted. For seniors to live with dignity. And to give every American the freedom that comes with a fair shot at building a good life.


   Lowest ever

Biden's going to need the enthusiasm of Black voters, so point historic achievements out at every possible opportunity.

"Not only was this month's overall unemployment number the lowest in over half a century at only 3.4 percent, another milestone was reached as well. Black unemployment now stands at only 4.7 percent, which is the lowest it has ever been recorded. Joe Biden has almost closed the gap between White and Black unemployment -- a gap that used to be severe, with Black workers unemployed at twice the rate of White workers. Now that gap is down to only 1.3 percent -- also the lowest its ever been. Joe Biden has made good on his promise of opening up economic opportunity to all Americans, plain and simple."


   Eight million jobs

The White House ran some numbers, so use them!

"If the extremist MAGA Republicans have their way and destroy the full faith and credit of the American people, economists now estimate that it could cost the economy as many as eight million lost jobs. If the stalemate goes on, the American economy could contract by a disastrous six percent. The stock market could fall by almost half its value. If there is even a short default on our nation's responsibilities to pay its bills, interest rates are going to go through the roof -- and that means all Americans would pay higher credit card rates, mortgage rates, and the U.S. government would wind up paying something like $750 billion in increased interest payments over the next decade. That is the fire that Republicans are playing with. This is not some abstract debate in Washington, this is going to hurt real Americans for a long time to come."


   Shortchanging veterans

Both Biden and the Democrats have been leaning in to this one, for good reason.

"Republicans passed a plan in the House where they finally issued their ransom demands to free the hostage of the full faith and credit of the American people. They were too scared to fill in any details, but what it would mean would be a whopping 22 percent cut to every federal program except the military, Social Security, and Medicare. That means veterans funding would be slashed as well. The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement outlining what these Draconian cuts would mean: 30 million fewer outpatient visits and 81,000 jobs lost in the Veterans Health Administration. Republicans won't admit that they're going to have to make cuts like this for their math to add up. Democrats are fighting for veterans, because they were brave enough to sign up to fight for us. We will not stand for cutting veterans benefits to the bone, but that is exactly what the Republicans are threatening to do."


   Some family values you got there...

Republicans think they've got a dandy wedge issue in what they call "parents' rights," and Democrats really need to go on the offense on this one in a comprehensive way.

"Republicans used to call themselves 'the party of family values,' but that is no longer true (if it ever was). Republicans are busy -- in state after state -- rolling back child labor laws. They want to put all the children to work, plain and simple. They want 14-year-olds to be able to serve alcohol. They want any parent at your school to be able to ban any book they don't like so that your child never even gets to make up their own mind about reading that book. Republicans want teachers only to teach a censored version of history where racism apparently never happened. They want to muzzle teachers from ever mentioning that not every family has a mommy and a daddy. They want trans kids to not exist. They want to drag America backwards to fit their own narrow ideas of what this country means. But all parents have rights. And most parents actually want their children to learn the truth -- both the truth of America now and the truth of how we got here. Republicans are for restricting your child's freedom to learn, while Democrats are fighting hard for them to keep this precious freedom."


   Roberts Court most corrupt in history

The only thing that's going to get anything done is to personalize this one.

"Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts should be ashamed. Because the Roberts Court is going to go down in history as being the most corrupt ever. Americans have gotten used to their politicians being for sale to the highest bidder, but having members of the highest court in the land open to such influence-peddling is more than unseemly, it's disgraceful. No wonder the public's opinion of the court has been dropping like a stone. Clarence Thomas apparently is open to all sorts of people making lavish payments on his behalf, to both him and his family. And John Roberts is fine with it all, it seems. Any other judge in this country would be guilty of breaking ethical laws for what Thomas has been caught doing, but the Supreme Court is the only court which has completely exempted itself from any code of ethics whatsoever. History will not remember this court with honor, because the Roberts Court is the most corrupt in our entire history. You'd think Roberts would care, since it'll be his name everyone remembers, but apparently he doesn't."


   Grifters gotta grift!

The people of Georgia dodged a bullet, obviously.

"It seems Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for Senate that Donald Trump heartily endorsed, took over a half a million dollars that was supposed to have been donated to his campaign and just pocketed it. He moved it all into an account for one of his businesses, and the donor had to beg him to reroute it to the campaign account -- which never got it. There were all kinds of reasons why Walker was patently unfit for the United States Senate, and I am glad a majority of the people of Georgia realized it, but I never thought he'd be an even more blatant grifter than his mentor Donald Trump. But hey, grifters gotta grift, I suppose. Trump must be so proud of him!"

-- Chris Weigant

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


12 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Didn't We Fight A War So We Could Ignore This?”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Another thing King Charles and Biden have in common besides waiting a lifetime to be elevated to the highest office is that they both a very good-looking son who has proven to be a total embarrassment.

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    they both have ...

  3. [3] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Re "Freedom for women to make their own healthcare decisions"

    Reproductive rights can't really be conflated with "healthcare". And if moms have the right to abort their unborn offspring why shouldn't the dads have that right also?

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Because men can't get pregnant.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And if moms have the right to abort their unborn offspring why shouldn't the dads have that right also?

    Do you want me to answer that?

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    C.R. Stucki,

    What's your favourite sex toy?

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Poet [4]

    Women can't either on their own.

    Liz [6]


  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That explains a lot, Stucki, on both counts.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I think we need to take a deep dive around here into the realm of sexual pleasure and reproductive rights. I'm just not sure we're capable of having that sort of discussion with the maturity and compassion it deserves ...

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Most important song for sex awareness:

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Also, it seems ridiculous to have to point out that actually being pregnant is massively different from being the person who got someone else pregnant. It doesn't affect our lives the same way.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


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