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Friday Talking Points -- Coming Home To Roost

[ Posted Friday, May 12th, 2023 – 16:51 UTC ]

Let's make sure we all get this correct. Donald Trump is now technically not a "convicted rapist." He's not a convicted anything, because the verdict handed down against him this week was in civil (not criminal) court. And the jury balked at declaring that Trump had raped E. Jean Carroll, but they did find Trump liable for sexually attacking her and defaming her publicly. To the tune of $5 million. It only took them about three hours to do so, meaning the case was pretty iron-clad to begin with. So Donald Trump is merely the first ex-president to be found liable of being a sexual predator rather than being an actual convicted rapist.

Legal semantics aside, this week might become known as the point when the first chicken came home to roost for Donald Trump. For once, he didn't skate away scot-free and he wasn't even able to make the case disappear (or be endlessly delayed). That is an achievement on its own. Perhaps it will embolden prosecutors to bring some actual criminal charges against him, who knows?

Of course, this is just another "first" in a very ignoble list for Trump, starting with "first president to be impeached twice." The real question is whether it will make any difference, politically. The career of a normal politician (or even just "a normal human") would be over at this point. There wouldn't be any question about it at all. But this is Donald Trump we are talking about, who seems immune from political gravity and political rules of thumb.

The only way Trump would possibly pay a political price is if his opponents made a big deal out of it, most likely. But so far, the announced candidates for the Republican nomination have largely either been silent, metaphorically shrugged their shoulders, or actually supported Trump. Except for Asa Hutchinson, but then nobody's paying any attention to Asa Hutchinson. Two possible GOP candidates -- Chris Christie and Chris Sununu -- did rip into Trump for various reasons this week, but neither one has announced and neither one is getting a whole lot of media attention.

So much for the vaunted "family values party." So much for the "moral majority" and all of that hooey. So much for "taking responsibility for one's own actions." Those all used to be selling points for Republicans, but those days are long gone. Today's Republican Party has to adjust to any and all depravities coming from Trump, since their one bedrock tenet is: "Trump can do no wrong." As President Joe Biden is fond of saying: "This ain't your father's Republican Party, folks."

One thing we do wonder is how this will all play out in next year's general election. The biggest migration from voting Republican to voting Democratic has been in the suburbs -- suburban women, in particular. If the party nominates a man who has been held liable by a jury for sexual assault, how many of them are going to gladly return to the Republican fold and how many of them are going to continue voting blue? The GOP may never get any of them back until Trump exits the political stage in one fashion or another, and by then it may be too late.

Trump drove a second news cycle this week as well, as he appeared in a CNN town hall meeting the day after the verdict was announced. Trump addressed a crowd of Republican voters and independent voters that lean Republican (a fairly friendly audience, in other words), and CNN got a lot of flak for putting the spectacle on in the first place. The event was the real kickoff of the 2024 presidential campaign, at least on the nation's television screens.

In case anyone had doubts, Trump hasn't changed. Not one iota. He is still just as detached from reality as he ever was, he is still convinced not only that he's never done anything wrong but instead is the greatest U.S. president there ever was, and that life was peachy-keen for everybody when he was in charge of things. Trump still refuses to listen to objective reality, preferring the fantasy world in his head where he lives. He is still just as boorish and crude and ill-informed. He is still full of bluster. He still will shout anybody down without listening to what they are saying at all. And he is still a writhing ball of white-hot grievances. He's got scores to settle, and nobody's going to stand in his way (as far as he is concerned).

Trump spent roughly 70 minutes on CNN lying and lying and lying. He began with The Big Lie, that the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen from him. As usual, he had no new evidence, no old evidence, in fact no evidence whatsoever to back up this claim. He lied about what the Constitution contains, proving once again that he's never taken the time to read it. He lied like a rug about January 6th, and called it a "beautiful day." He lied about the economy, his record, Biden's record, oil production, tax cuts, and a host of other subjects.

Trump not only lied, he likely provided legal evidence which could reappear in court cases against him, on several fronts. He told some whoppers about the Presidential Records Act, what he did with all the classified documents, and what other presidents and vice presidents have done while leaving office. He insisted that Georgia had "owed" him more votes, which is why he made "a perfect phone call" in an attempt to strongarm Georgia state officials into creating them out of thin air. And for good measure, he defamed E. Jean Carroll once again, who is now contemplating filing another lawsuit against him, just for his town hall comments alone. All taken, it was a pretty good night for anyone who might find themselves sitting across from Trump in a court of law in the near future. National security attorney Bradley Moss summed it up in a tweet: "All three ongoing criminal cases got new evidence tonight against Trump. He is confessing on live television."

Trump refused to offer any backing or support for Ukraine against Russia. He refused to even say which side he'd like to see win the war. He quite laughably insisted that he would end the entire war "within 24 hours" because he's such a great negotiator.

The moderator of the event was CNN host Kaitlan Collins, who valiantly tried (and mostly failed) to push back against Trump's loose connection with the truth. "The election was not rigged, Mr. President," she insisted at one point, "You can't keep saying that all night long." But he could, and he did. Trump even called Collins "a nasty person" just for good measure. The crowd ate it up. Or parts of the crowd did. It was interesting to see the few shots where the cameras panned over the crowd, because while perhaps half of them were ready and willing to either laugh or applaud at everything Trump said, the other half sat very stonily with their hands across their chests or in their laps. Even with an audience designed to be as friendly as possible, Trump wasn't wowing everybody.

Beyond the New Hampshire voters present, CNN took a whole lot of grief for hosting the event and for the format, which virtually guaranteed Trump would be able to get away with any lie he felt like uttering. CNN even took some grief from within their own company, even from their own media reporter, who called the whole thing "a spectacle of lies." Michael Fanone, the D.C. police officer who was attacked on January 6th, called Trump "a volcano of bullshit." Others had less-polite things to say about him. Trump is now hawking a new T-shirt for his campaign with his face and the line: "This is TNN," because of course he is.

The big question in all of this is whether the verdict against Trump in the E. Jean Carroll case or his detached-from-reality performance on CNN is going to change anything politically for Trump. And sadly, the answer is: "Probably not." We'll have to wait roughly a week or so to see if any new polling shows some movement, but the safe bet is on it having minimal effect (at least with GOP primary voters). Most of the people running against Trump refuse to make any of it a political issue, which shows their own weaknesses. The only one who is speaking out is at the bottom of the standings. The only two who might have a chance of forcing the issue (due largely to their "in your face" personalities) have not announced their own campaigns yet. As previously mentioned, Chris Christie and Chris Sununu both had some strong words to say about both the verdict and the political positions Trump staked out on CNN, but until they actually declare their candidacies they are merely voices in the wind.

In other "Republicans behaving badly" legal news this week, Representative George Santos was indicted on 13 counts in federal court this week, for using campaign funds for personal use, for lying to Congress (on financial statements), and for scamming the unemployment system out of tens of thousands of dollars while he was still employed. The ultimate irony? He may be convicted on that last scheme by a bill he co-sponsored that is now law. It all looks like his lies are catching up to him a lot quicker than Trump's. At least, one can hope. Maybe it is the start of "chickens coming home to roost" season after all....

Political news was made this week at the White House, as the four congressional leaders (from both parties and both houses) met with President Biden to try and hammer out a deal over raising the debt ceiling and negotiating on the budget. They all met Tuesday, everyone was fairly tight-lipped about the meeting afterwards, and they planned a second meeting for today -- which was postponed at the last minute. This could be good news or bad, depending on which rumor you prefer, but what is leaking out is the possible areas where the two sides could agree. So far, this is fairly limited -- clawing back unspent COVID funds and passing "permitting reform" (which will speed up both fossil fuel drilling projects and green energy installations). The White House and the Democrats are, as expected, demanding that the debt ceiling be raised to a limit which places it beyond the 2024 elections, and they're pushing for limiting any across-the-board budget cuts to the next two years as well. Republicans wanted only a one-year debt ceiling hike and they want the cuts to be in place for 10 years. Republicans also want to add new work requirements to federal programs, which Democrats are not in favor of. But from all the leaks, it does seem like the Republicans have backed down from insisting on repealing large parts of Biden's legislative legacy.

Can the two sides reach an agreement and get it through both houses of Congress by what could be the drop-dead date of the first of June? Stay tuned....

This week saw the official end to one of the last remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic era. What's called "Title 42" ended at the country's borders, which was a program that used the threat of disease to quickly deport people who arrived illegally. However, the expected flood of migrants across the border as a result doesn't seem to have materialized in quite the apocalyptic volume that the media has been hyping (at least, as of this writing). We'll have to see how it plays out on the evening news both tonight and all next week.

One interesting development is that a government Union (the National Association of Government Employees) is now suing Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in order to force her to completely ignore the debt ceiling altogether, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional (under the 14th Amendment). Making this move (unilaterally declaring the debt ceiling unconstitutional) has been considered by at least some Biden advisors and other Democrats, but reportedly Biden himself is not sold on it. The case would have to move with lightning speed through the courts in order to influence what's going to happen before June, but in the long term it might be a way to adjudicate the debt ceiling on its own (so that the next "fiscal cliff" never even happens).

The whole debt ceiling fracas is complicating some other important things Congress is trying to do, most notably the farm bill. Farm bills are sacred to rural districts, which means they are counting on Republicans to deliver for them. However, if the budget discussions include radical cuts in all federal programs, the farmers are going to see their payments slashed. This is not the first time the GOP's grandiose talk of "cutting spending" has crashed into the hard cold political reality that what this always means is somebody's going to get shortchanged in a big way. Which is not exactly going to be music to the farmers' ears.

It didn't get much coverage in the press (because it was such a nothingburger), but this week one of the House committees who is investigating all things Biden held a press event to announce that after all their digging, they still didn't have any evidence of any wrongdoing by Joe Biden. Nor have they yet found that any member of Biden's family or anyone else connected with him has broken any laws. They went fishing, and they caught precisely nothing. Perhaps if the chair of the committee is serious about digging out egregious influence-peddling by relatives of politicians he'll turn his attention to the Trump offspring and their spouses, who seem to have been cashing in hand over fist off Trump's presidency (before, during and after). Maybe that'd be a more productive use of his time?

And finally, some good news to close the week out. Here's the story:

Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday unanimously endorsed making birth control pills available without a prescription, overriding concerns raised by the agency about whether the medication could be used in a safe and effective manner without physician oversight.

The FDA's outside experts expressed confidence, in a 17-0 vote, that consumers could use an oral contraceptive called Opill correctly. They said the benefits of over-the-counter status, such as increased access to contraception, outweighed the risks, including a potential lack of adherence to daily pill-taking that could result in unintended pregnancies.

The move sharply bolsters the likelihood that Opill, made by HRA Pharma, which is owned by the consumer health giant Perrigo, will become the first birth control pill available in the United States without a prescription. The FDA does not have to follow the guidance of its advisers, but a rejection of the OTC application -- especially given the committee's view -- would be awkward for an administration that has repeatedly pledged to protect reproductive rights following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the nationwide right to abortion.

Sounds like good news for women, and an excellent issue to help motivate young voters to support Biden and the Democrats next time around!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Senator Dianne Feinstein has certainly caused some consternation with her long absence in Washington, but this week she made an at least semi-triumphant return and started casting votes again both on the floor of the United States Senate and also in the all-important Judiciary Committee.

For coming back, appearing in person, and doing the minimum required of a United States senator (casting votes), Dianne Feinstein deserves this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Up until now, her return had been in serious question, after suffering a bout of shingles and being absent from D.C. and the Senate floor since February. But her medical team apparently cleared her for the flight and for limited duties, so she'll be on a light schedule for the foreseeable future -- but with the razor-thin margins of majority in Congress, her vote was absolutely necessary and it is heartening indeed to see her back in the saddle again.

We are, as we have mentioned previously, a constituent of Feinstein's. So we feel qualified to judge her performance. And we find that we are just fine with her serving a caretaker role in the Senate until January of 2025 (assuming she can hang on that long). We trust her staff to prop her up and get her to the votes on time and instruct her to vote the correct way (in other words: exactly what was happening anyway, back before the shingles outbreak).

We don't have a problem with Feinstein tacking an extra year or two onto her longstanding legacy as the longest-serving female senator ever. We really don't. Plenty of male senators have gone the same route, and we were only minimally annoyed with them for not stepping down in a timely fashion, so we refuse to adopt a different standard for Feinstein.

The subject of whether the Senate is made up of doddering old people, some of whom are no longer the sharpest knife in the drawer and others who are absolutely decrepit is a much bigger discussion than just Feinstein. But with the conventions and traditions which are in place, we have no problem with another year and a half of Feinstein representing us in the Senate. As long as she casts her votes. It's the lowest bar imaginable for an elected legislator, but as long as Feinstein can still reliably clear it, we can wait until January of 2025 to be represented by someone with a little more vigor.

Feinstein got a standing ovation when she was wheeled into the Judiciary Committee (although the news reports we read didn't specify whether it was a bipartisan standing ovation), and we will add to this applause this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Live long and prosper, Senator Feinstein.

[Congratulate Senator Dianne Feinstein on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We're going to hold this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award in abeyance, since on this particular issue the jury is still out. Next week, we will likely be able to see things a lot more clearly.

The situation at the southern border is (obviously) in the news, as the Title 42 pandemic exclusion was lifted at midnight. What will happen next? One thing sure to happen is that Republicans will make all the political hay they can over the issue, as they always do. They'll use the opportunity to paint Biden as weak on immigration and the border "wide open."

Some Democrats aren't very happy with the moves Biden has made on the border in anticipation either. So Biden will likely be taking incoming from both sides. But as we said, the jury's still out. Can Biden make his own case? Can the administration shape public opinion into supporting immigration reform of one sort or another? Those are open questions, at this point.

The Biden administration had plenty of warning that this was going to happen at some point. The question is whether they did enough to prepare for it. Congress certainly hasn't done much of anything, because both sides are so far apart and both sides find it convenient politically not to strike any sort of compromise.

Biden could have made immigration reform a top priority when he first got into office, that is true. But he wasn't likely to have succeeded even if he had tried, and he had a whole lot of other problems to deal with that were more pressing at the time (such as COVID itself, and saving the economy).

It seems doubtful that any meaningful immigration reform is going to happen any time soon. Some sort of bipartisan measure may make it out of Congress that extends the same sort of exclusion as Title 42 for a number of years, which would leave it up to the president and his administration to use or not use. But such a bill won't pass within the next week, so we're stuck with whatever's going to happen down at the border for the time being.

But, like we said... the jury's still out. We'll give Biden one week and see how things go, while we place the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week statuette back on the shelf for now.


Friday Talking Points

Volume 706 (5/12/23)

Part of Joe Biden's midterm strategy and his re-election strategy is to paint Republicans with the broadest "extremist" brush possible. Fortunately for him, they just keep sinking lower and lower into the primordial ooze.


   It's simple, folks

Two reactions to the CNN town hall were worth quoting.

"House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries summed up Trump supporters perfectly, after his CNN appearance this week: 'One, facts don't matter. Two, hypocrisy is not a constraint to their behavior. And three, they actually believe that shamelessness is a superpower.' Couldn't agree more. But it was Joe Biden's campaign that came up with the best response, speaking to people who aren't Trump supporters. They tweeted out: 'It's simple, folks. Do you want four more years of that?' Because that is the question every Democrat should now be asking voters."


   What if she were your daughter?

Hit Trump on the E. Jean Carroll verdict, and make a pitch to all those suburban moms out there at the same time.

"Would you want your daughter to go through what E. Jean Carroll did with Donald Trump? Would you be comfortable sitting in the same room with someone a jury had unanimously agreed did that? Don't we teach our sons never to do what Trump did? What rational person thinks that just because he is rich and powerful he should be able to get away with that with any woman? What if it had been your daughter?"


   Waiting in the wings

Trump is getting a lot of grief for his Ukraine comments, since the Republican Party still has a core of military/foreign policy hawks left in it.

"Donald Trump refused to call Vladimir Putin a war criminal and he wouldn't even say whether he wanted Ukraine or Russia to win the war. Is there anyone alive who really believes Trump could end the war 'in 24 hours' as he is promising to do? As usual, Trump has no clue what to do, and also as usual, he is reflexively siding with Putin. Chris Christie, who is considering running against Trump for the GOP nomination, was even harsher, saying: 'Donald Trump refused to say tonight that he wanted Ukraine to win the war with Russia. More proof that he continues to be Putin's puppet.' He later repeated the charge that Trump was 'Putin's puppet,' and called Trump a coward as well. And that's from a fellow Republican, mind you."


   More GOP projection

They always seem to be most fanatically against the things they are guilty of, for some reason.

"Texas state representative Bryan Slaton was just forced to resign, because he would have been expelled if he hadn't. Slaton was a champion of the ongoing efforts to label anyone Republicans don't approve of as 'groomers' of children. Slaton railed against 'groomers' on social media. But it turns out he had taken a 19-year-old legislative aide up to his apartment, plied her with enough alcohol to give her double-vision, and then date-raped her. Let that sink in. She was 19 years old -- too young to legally drink, even. And he was leading the crusade to, as one of his political opponents put it, 'fixate the entire state on children's genitals.' It's pretty typical of Republicans to be guilty of the very thing they are crusading against, though, when you really think about it."


   He calls them Americans

Is anything too extreme for Republicans to just blurt out, anymore?

"Republicans are going down a very extremist path on all sorts of issues, and now some of them are almost open supporters of White supremacy. Eric Trump seems to enjoy hanging out with Hitler fanboys, for instance. And Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama just said, in response to being asked whether we should allow White nationalists in the military, and I quote: 'Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.' Is there any racist bridge that is still deemed too far for Republicans? Or are they just flat-out the White Nationalist Party now?"


   The end of the road

This is the end goal of the hardcore forced-birth movement. Point it out -- this is not some hypothetical thing anymore.

"In Missouri, a Republican just introduced a bill that would charge any woman and anyone else involved in any abortion with murder. This would be punishable with up to life in prison. The same legislator made the news last month by voicing his support for children being allowed to legally marry as young as 12 years old. This is the face of today's Republican Party, folks, make no mistake about it. There is no extreme they won't go to -- and try to force the rest of us go to as well."


   Finally! We agree!

In his own words....

"Tucker Carlson was texting with a reporter who asked him if he was going to run for president. Carlson yanked the reporter's chain by agreeing, and stating he'd be announcing soon in New Hampshire. The reporter then asked for a phone call to verify it, before believing such a scoop, to which Carlson replied: 'Totally kidding. Sorry. I can never control myself. I'm fundamentally a dick.' Finally! Something Tucker Carlson and I can agree on... in his own words...."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


8 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Coming Home To Roost”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    You forgot the efforts in Iowa to legalize child labor for 14-year-olds, working 6-hour shifts and getting off at 11 p.m.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I have no problem with the choice for MIDOTW award for this week. Heh.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, what does comprehensive immigration reform even look like, anyways?

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    It provides a better system for dealing with all the different forms of immigration - as they actually are, not as we might wish them to be. It makes legal immigration much easier and more fair to those coming from central and south America, and provides incentives for those who are here illegally to pay and make it right. It also provides rules employers can follow without putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

    That's at least a start.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It's a pretty good start.

    Why do I never hear any pols talking about this. And, I mean Dems ... they never seem to explain what comprehensive immigration reform means in practice. Are they afraid most voters would be against the specifics?

  6. [6] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Elizabeth on [5],
    As an example of how the politics plays out on just one aspect of 'immigration reform' per nypoet's comments: here is an explanation from another political blog site ( for why the Biden administration has not simply appointed, say, 200 new immigration judges to hear the vastly increased number of asylum claims by would-be immigrants on the southern U.S. border:

    " - Congress has to fund those judges, and it has only provided money for 100 judges, not 200.

    " - The administration has to find people who want those jobs, and are qualified to handle them. Thus far, the White House has only been able to fill about 70 of those 100 slots. Needless to say, if you can't come up with 100 people, you can't come up with 200 people.

    " - It takes more than just judges; they need significant support staff. And Congress has been parsimonious in funding those positions.

    " - There's also an infrastructure problem, for lack of a better term. Judges not only require staffing, they also need the tools to do their jobs. And this is another area where Congress hasn't really stepped up. To take one example, because rulings are needed over a vast stretch of territory, many hearings are conducted remotely. But the software the government's been using for this is buggy and prone to breaking."

    After this detailed breakdown of the problem, the analysts pull back to give a larger context:

    "One big problem here is that there are some members of Congress who don't like to spend money on things.
    "Another big problem is that there are some members of Congress who would prefer to complain about immigration, in order to score political points, than to do something to improve the situation.
    "A third big problem is that there are some members of Congress who would be willing to spend money at the border, but think there are more important priorities.
    "A final big problem is that there are some members of Congress who are suspicious of much border spending, as they see it as contributing to an abusive and oppressive system.
    "The presence of these four groups makes it hard to get a substantive immigration bill through Congress." (, 5/13/23)

  7. [7] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    CongressCritter Nehls (R-TX), joined by the usual cast of clowns, introduced a bill attacking a Disney perk.

    DeSantis: Decides fisticuffs with Mickey Mouse is the way to go, gets punched in the face repeatedly.

    MAGATs in Congress: "Hey, hold my beer."

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Thanks, John, for your [6] ... read it last night but have been a bit under the weather this weekend.

    Congress is ostensibly there to represent the people so I'm guessing if there were more public support for the things Congress hasn't been able to pass Re. CIR, then there might be a better chance of passing what needs to get passed.

    Like any policy initiative, it has to be explained and sold to voters before voters can get behind it. What you set out in [6] also has to be explained to voters. Yeah, there is a lot of explaining to be done here, but, what are ya gonna do...

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