Friday Talking Points -- Negotiations Paused?

[ Posted Friday, May 19th, 2023 – 17:45 UTC ]

With twelve more days left in the month of May, the debt ceiling follies continue unabated. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy just "paused" the negotiations with President Joe Biden, which was a rather pessimistic note to close out what had otherwise been a rather optimistic week. There is speculation that both sides are using this "pause" merely as a political signal to their respective bases -- to show that they are negotiating hard and not giving away the store. If this is true, negotiations will likely resume at some point this weekend. But it's anyone's guess whether they'll agree even on a framework (much less actual legislative text) any time soon.

The first of June could be the "drop-dead date" (which most in the media have taken to calling the "X-date," but we have to say we prefer the more morbid allusion), where the Treasury runs out of money and has to halt payments and begin defaulting on debts. Twelve days is not a lot of time, considering both the slowness of Congress in normal times as well as the looming Memorial Day multi-week break for Congress.

This weekend -- or very early next week -- is likely the deadline for taking care of all of this without seeing a big negative impact on the financial markets or America's credit rating (or both). The closer we get to the earliest default date that could happen, the more nervous investors are going to become. The last time things got too close to the wire, America suffered a credit rating downgrade for the first time in history -- which, contrary to the stated goal of the Republicans, would increase what we'd have to pay toward our debts in future years, thus ballooning the deficit rather than shrinking it.

But Republicans don't really care. They're not budget-slashing ideologues, they are instead playing this game solely to score political points. They want their pound of flesh from Biden (or, more accurately, his budgets), and they don't care what the consequences are as long as they can end the process boasting that they "made Biden blink." That is the only reason we are going through all of this Kabuki theater, folks.

Tuesday saw a big meeting at the White House with Biden and all the leadership in Congress. Everyone emerged with fairly positive things to say about what had happened. McCarthy told reporters that a deal might be possible by the weekend. Biden announced he was cutting short his upcoming Asian trip, to return to the White House to finalize things, if that was necessary.

On the Democratic side, progressives are becoming worried that Biden seems open to at least beefing up work requirements for federal programs, while on the Republican side the MAGA caucus is becoming worried that McCarthy won't get every single thing they demanded (which is delusional, but that is indeed what they're miffed over). So perhaps today's announced "pause" is more Kabuki for both sides' benefit. It's tough to tell, at this point.

McCarthy's big worry, of course, is that if he does reach a deal and manages to pass it through his House, that he will immediately be challenged with a "no confidence" vote and deposed as speaker. Some Democrats are even quietly discussing what they'd have to do to save McCarthy if this took place, but we'll have to see how that bridge gets crossed when/if we get there.

The other big news from the past week was that there was no news... or, at the very least, no "crisis." This disappointed the news media, who had been eagerly anticipating plugging the "crisis" story for all it was worth, but after Title 42 was lifted at the very end of last week, a surprising thing happened: illegal border crossings went down. They had surged, just prior to the change in policy, but once Title 42 ended migrants suddenly faced much more severe deportations (back to their country of origin rather than just Mexico) and they would also have been faced with being banned from attempting to enter again for five years. Added into all this was a new app for applying for asylum (which from all reports was a big buggy but still seemed to be effective, in that most people considering crossing the border are now using it), and the result was that the surge actually abated. The daily numbers went down -- way down. Republicans pretended this wasn't the case and that their predicted border apocalypse had actually happened, but few were listening outside the rightwing media echo chambers. With the crisis so successfully averted, everyone else moved on. The upshot of it all seemed to be that the Biden administration had prepared for the end of Title 42 a lot better than anyone had expected.

In politics, Democrats had a pretty good night all around this Tuesday, as several states held primaries and special elections. Republicans lost control of two cities -- Jacksonville, Florida (now the 11th-largest city in the country) and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Democrats also retained control of one of the Pennsylvania statehouse chambers as well. These tea leaves will likely be kind of stale by the 2024 presidential election (it's too early to make those predictions, in other words), but it's always good to see Democrats have a good election night.

In presidential campaign news, Republican Tim Scott officially filed paperwork today, but this came as no surprise since he had already announced he was running. Other Republicans who may make some sort of announcement perhaps as soon as next week include Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, and Doug Burgum. You can be forgiven for not knowing who that last one is, as we had never heard of him either (he is the governor of North Dakota), but he may have deluded himself into thinking he actually has a chance of winning the GOP nomination.

Mike Pence got caught plagiarizing an old Donald Trump speech in a speech of his own this week, for those interested in the category of "people who are never going to win the GOP nomination."

Ron DeSantis closed out the Florida legislative session by signing a bunch of bills that one detractor called a "slate of hate" (which seems pretty accurate to us), and in likely-related news a traffic sign in a Florida city was hacked and changed to read: "Kill All Gays." Welcome to anti-woke Florida, everyone! Also related was the news that Disney is no longer going to move over 2,000 office jobs to Florida and will instead keep them all in California. This was a $1 billion development plan that is now not going to happen, so DeSantis can kiss all that tax revenue goodbye.

Donald Trump lost Senator John Cornyn as a supporter this week, when Cornyn told a Texas newspaper: "We need to come up with an alternative. I think President Trump's time has passed him by and what's the most important thing to me is we have a candidate who can actually win." Cornyn added that it "all boils down to electability," and "there's no prize for coming in second." Ouch!

We hate to admit it, but Trump himself is actually making a very savvy political move, even though it isn't been seen that way by the people concerned. Trump is refusing to say whether he'd support a nationwide abortion-banning law, or even the specifics of what abortion restrictions he does support. Trump has slammed DeSantis for signing a 6-week ban into law in Florida, saying it goes too far. Trump, being Trump, tried to spin this as: "many people within the pro-life movement feel that was too hash," when in reality most of the pro-life movement either thinks a 6-week ban is fine or that it doesn't go far enough. Some prominent forced-birth proponents strongly denounced Trump's weaselly answer, stating that they might have to endorse another candidate if that's the tune Trump was going to sing. But heavy-handed attempts at spin aside, Trump is actually being smarter than most of the Republican Party on this issue. Trump realized in the 2022 midterms that extreme positions on abortion were losing the Republican Party a lot of votes, and he's been trying to get the rest of the GOP to be vague about things ever since. Which, as we said (and hate to admit) is actually good politics, since an overwhelming majority of the public agrees that the Republicans have become far too extreme on the issue.

Speaking of Trump, it was a fairly quiet week for his legal woes. No felony charges were filed and Trump was not found liable or convicted of anything -- which for Trump these days is a good week. But every upcoming week won't be as quiet, of course. Trump's lawyers lost a motion they filed to delay possible charges against him in Georgia, and the prosecutor there indicated to the judiciary that calendars should be cleared for the first few weeks in August. Earlier she had indicated that she would be using the criminal grand jury that will be seated in July to present her charges, but only that it might happen somewhere between July 11th and the end of August. This narrows that window down considerably, so mark your calendars everyone!

In other legal news involving Republicans, Representative George Santos was referred to the House Ethics Committee, which is not exactly known for its blazing speed. The alternative was for Kevin McCarthy to allow a vote on expelling him, which he avoided (for now).

And finally, the biggest legal news from Republicanland this week was Rudy Giuliani getting sued by a woman (Noelle Dunphy) who had worked for him, for a whopping $10 million. The filing contains all kinds of lurid accusations of: rape, sexual abuse, harassment, failure to pay a promised salary (to the tune of $1,988,000), and bragging about selling Trump pardons for $2 million a pop.

Here are some choice quotes (from the many, many, many, many, many articles detailing all the revolting accusations -- or you can just read the entire 70-page court filing yourself, if you've got the time and the stomach for it):

  • "[Giuliani] often demanded that she work naked, in a bikini, or in short shorts with an American flag on them that he bought for her."
  • "[Giuliani] took Viagra constantly" and would occasionally "point to his erect penis and tell Dunphy that he could not do any work until 'you take care of this.'"
  • "Giuliani would not take 'no' for an answer."
  • "it became part of Ms. Dunphy's responsibility to fetch his alcohol and make sure he was a 'functioning alcoholic.'"
  • "He also asked Ms. Dunphy if she knew anyone in need of a pardon, telling her that he was selling pardons for $2 million, which he and President Trump would split. He told Ms. Dunphy that she could refer individuals seeking pardons to him, so long as they did not go through 'the normal channels' of the Office of the Pardon Attorney, because correspondence going to that office would be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act."
  • In February of 2019: "Specifically, Giuliani told Ms. Dunphy that Trump's team would claim that there was 'voter fraud' and that Trump had actually won the election," if he lost in 2020.
  • "Throughout the employment and attorney-client relationship, Giuliani forced Ms. Dunphy to perform oral sex on him. He often demanded oral sex while he took phone calls on speaker phone from high-profile friends and clients, including then-President Trump. Giuliani told Ms. Dunphy that he enjoyed engaging in this conduct while on the telephone because it made him 'feel like Bill Clinton.'"
  • [quotes Giuliani as saying:] "Jews want to go through their freaking Passover all the time, man, oh man. Get over the Passover. It was like 3,000 years ago. The Red Sea parted, big deal. It's not the first time that happened."

Um... say what? The Red Sea parted some time before Moses? Seriously? "Functioning alcoholic" indeed....

The absolute creepiest thing in the filing, though, has to be that Rudy told Dunphy: "I think of you as my daughter. Is that weird?" Well, to most people, Rudy....

And here's the real kicker [emphasis added]:

In addition to his sexual demands, Giuliani went on "alcohol-drenched rants that included sexist, racist, and antisemitic remarks," many of which were recorded, according to the filing.

Got that? Recorded. Dunphy says she's got a lot of all of this on tape, in other words.

Which seems as good a place as any to end this week's roundup. Now if you excuse us, we have to go wash our hands a few times, after typing all of that out....


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have two winners of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, but first we also have an Honorable Mention as well.

Three Democratic senators (Ed Markey, Tina Smith, and Elizabeth Warren) joined with four representatives (Cori Bush, Hank Johnson, Jerrold Nadler, and Adam Schiff) to reintroduce a bill which would expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices. This is all tilting at a very large windmill and has zero chance of actual passage (through either house), but we have to applaud them for at least trying.

Our first Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is Representative Jamaal Bowman, for taking the fight directly to Republican extremists, often on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The sub-heading to the story in the New York Times sums it up nicely: "The Democratic congressman has made a habit of brashly confronting Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene, often in public displays meant to attract attention." Which is impressive indeed. People like this need to be challenged, as often as possible.

We also have an MIDOTW award for Donna Deegan, the new mayor-elect of Jacksonville, Florida. She becomes only the second Democrat in the past 30 years to win such a race, and her victory is even sparking Democratic optimism about the chances of at least turning Florida back into a purple state next year, after it's rightward lurch under Ron DeSantis. We're not so sure Deegan's victory is that much of a harbinger of things to come, but winning the most-populous city in Florida is impressive enough for now. It's also a rather large embarrassment for DeSantis, who had endorsed the Republican in the race (which Donald Trump is already making fun of).

For at least inspiring optimism in the Sunshine State and for standing up to extremism in a public way, both Jamaal Bowman and Donna Deegan are this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week winners. Well done!

[Congratulate Representative Jamaal Bowman on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts. Jacksonville Mayor-Elect Donna Deegan is not in office yet so has no public contact page and her campaign website didn't seem to have one either, so we suppose you'll have to wait until she is sworn in to contact her, sorry.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

First, an update. Earlier, Florida's Andrew Gillum won an acquittal in federal court on a charge of lying to the F.B.I. and a hung jury on the other corruption charges filed against him. This week, the feds announced they were dropping all remaining charges rather than attempting a new trial. So he doesn't have anything hanging over his head any more (we had mentioned him in a previous column as a possible Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, depending on what ultimately happened, but he is obviously no longer in the running for this).

It was revealed this week that not only was Senator Dianne Feinstein's bout with shingles a lot more serious than had previously been reported, but also that she seemed to be unaware that she had been absent from the Senate for months while recovering. This led some to question her effectiveness in the Senate, and charges of "elder abuse" were even muttered by others, but for the time being she is still casting votes when necessary, so she's still doing the minimum required (at least).

This week we have a name from the past for our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week -- none other than Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich was a progressive icon quite a while ago, when he ran as an anti-war Democratic presidential candidate back in 2004 and 2008. So perhaps you are wondering what he's been up to lately?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has chosen former Rep. Dennis Kucinich to manage his 2024 presidential campaign, uniting the two famously idiosyncratic political figures in a long-shot attempt to defeat President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary campaign.

Kucinich, known for his own quixotic presidential campaigns, told NBC News he has been friendly with Kennedy for over 30 years, so joining his campaign "was an easy decision."

"We're looking at a campaign that could change America," Kucinich said, calling Kennedy "everything the American people would want in a president and more."

. . .

Kennedy has won praise from far-right figures, including an endorsement from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, but Kucinich said that is merely evidence of his broad populist appeal, not of a darker strain of the candidate's support or collusion with conservatives trying to weaken Biden, as some Democrats have alleged.

"His very choice of me as his campaign manager should put any of those questions at ease," Kucinich said.

. . .

Kucinich bristled when he was asked about Kennedy's activism against vaccination mandates, asking why it was relevant, echoing Kennedy's position that he is not anti-vaccine and suggesting the issue will not be a central part of the campaign.

"He's been an environmental attorney for 40 years, and he raised questions about the safety of some [vaccines]. He's not anti-vaccine," Kucinich said.

All we can say is that Kucinich better get used to fielding that particular question, because, um yeah it is indeed "relevant," and also yeah, it is going to be the first question he will always be asked, from this point on.

Surely there must have been something else for Kucinich to do, if he had wanted a little more political relevancy? This just seems embarrassing, for him. And extremely disappointing as well. Which is why Dennis Kucinich is definitely this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Since he's got a new job, and since we refuse to link to campaign web pages on editorial principles, we do not have contact information for Dennis Kucinich, so you'll have to seek it on your own if you'd like to let him know what you think of his new job.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 707 (5/19/23)

OK, we can't resist, seeing that volume number...

But my heart keeps calling me backwards
As I get on the 707
Ridin' high I got tears in my eyes
You know you got to go through Hell
Before you get to Heaven

-- The Steve Miller Band, "Jet Airliner"

Gratuitous 1970s rock aside, we have our usual talking points to get to, here. The first few build on Joe Biden's campaign theme of Democrats defending freedom against the Republicans who want to strip it all away (which, credit where it is due, were inspired by reading this article from the New York Times), but then the rest of them are just a mixed bag.

Enjoy, and feel free to read while listening to Steve Miller. (Go on, you know you want to hear that whole song now, don't you? Who can resist that "big ol' jet airliner," after all? We know we can't....)


   Medical freedom

This is the most effective one, so lead with it.

"Remember when the Republican Party was for 'big government getting out of the lives of everyday Americans'? That wasn't so long ago. But now they're making Soviet-era commissars blush with the party's move towards state-dictated control of the most personal decisions of people's lives. They want politicians to make medical decisions that Democrats feel are best left to families and their doctors. Democrats stand strong for the freedom to consult with a doctor and follow his or her medical advice. That includes autonomy over women's bodies and it includes parents being able to make whatever medical decisions they think are best for their kids' happiness and well being. Republicans don't want you to have that freedom. They want to stand between you and your doctor, and between you and your child's doctor. Democrats stand strongly for medical freedom -- politics should have no place in the examination room, period."


   Classroom freedom

Democrats need to fight back on this front as well.

"Democrats are for the freedom of speech of both teachers and school librarians. We don't believe that teachers need to be censored, we instead want our children to be exposed to different viewpoints and make up their minds for themselves. Republicans are for dictating what teachers can and cannot say and which books librarians can and cannot offer on their shelves. Enough already! Teachers should be free to teach the honest history of racism and they should be free to admit that gay people actually exist. Republicans believe they should be fired or thrown in jail for teaching the truth. Democrats believe in freedom of speech in education -- because to do otherwise is not education, it is indoctrination."


   Freedom not to get shot at

This one resonates with all parents, everywhere in America.

"Democrats stand for the freedom of schoolchildren to attend classes without worrying that they will be brutally killed by a weapon of war. Republicans fight hard to guarantee that anyone under the sun be allowed to purchase guns which were specifically designed for the battlefield. Democrats think that is crazy and just want this insanity to stop. Gun safety laws that even a majority of gun owners support are blocked by Republicans from ever becoming law. Well, Democrats stand for the freedom of schoolchildren not to be brutally slaughtered by weapons of war in their own classrooms, because we believe that that is a lot more important than an 18-year-old being able to own an AR-15."


   Mickey decides California looks better

Don't mess with The Mouse.

"Florida's governor is on a personal crusade against one of the biggest employers in his state, all because they had the temerity not to support one of his Draconian laws censoring teachers. Remember when Republicans used to be for big business not interfering with private companies? Remember when Republicans championed corporate free speech? Now they're trying to censor that, too. But this comes with an economic price, as Disney just proved to Florida. They had plans for a billion-dollar expansion in Florida, but have just announced they have decided to cancel this project and leave all 2,000-plus jobs in California instead. Fighting a personal vendetta against one company is apparently more important to Ron DeSantis than creating a business atmosphere where companies want to add jobs. That is the price of fighting against freedom, and we wouldn't be at all surprised if other corporations follow Disney's lead here and decide on expanding in some other state -- a state run by Democrats who embrace freedom."


   Crisis? What crisis?

In keeping with starting this segment with a 1970s popular song, that title is taken from a Supertramp album. Credit where credit is due....

"Last week, Republicans were falling all over themselves predicting an apocalyptic crisis at the southern border. But you know what happened when Title 42 was lifted? The number of people coming in went down. In a big way. The Biden administration now has an app people must use to claim asylum and the penalties for not using it and trying to sneak in are severe. It looks like Biden was a lot more prepared for this week than any Republican was willing to admit. Let's all keep this in mind the next time Republicans run around saying the sky is about to fall, shall we?"


   In just one month, Biden beat Trump's whole term

You can just hear him saying in confusion: "Wait, what'd I say?!?"

"Kevin McCarthy just scored another political 'own goal,' in trying to hype the border situation. He tweeted out: 'We caught more people in the month of February on the terrorist watchlist than were caught the entire time of the last administration.' The key word in all of this is, of course, caught. This is a success story, not a failure. McCarthy is actually praising the Biden administration for doing a better job keeping possible terrorists out of America in one month than during the entire time Donald Trump was in charge. If I were Joe Biden, I would thank McCarthy for such a nice compliment!"


   Weenie roast

Hoo boy. You just can't make this stuff up, folks.

"If the American people were polled and they were asked to name the most manly men in politics today, we would bet the farm that two names would be way down in the rankings: Donald Trump Junior and Senator Josh Hawley. They'd be right down there with Tucker Carlson telling guys to go tan their testicles to stay manly, most likely -- in the 'guys you would never look to for manliness advice' group. But it seems Junior has launched a new 'non-woke men's lifestyle magazine' (in his own words), while Hawley has released a book titled Manhood. You know, the same Josh Hawley who was made famous because of the video of him running as fast as he could to escape the mob of people attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, after Hawley had earlier saluted the same crowd. This book is so laughably bad one reviewer asked: 'Why did a man who is probably our leading national pipsqueak decide that promoting manliness was his ticket to political power?' That sounds about right to me."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


9 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Negotiations Paused?”

  1. [1] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Re: TP2, " Teachers should be free to teach the honest history of racism and they should be free to admit that gay people actually exist."

    As a gay man, I am glad that the Democrats are standing with the LGBT+ community in denouncing the "Don't Say Gay" laws. But it is frustrating that the Democrats *aren't* explaining to the public that these are laws against *educators*, not gay, lesbian, nor trans children. The punishments will be levied against teachers, school boards, and, in the end, the taxpayers who fund public education.

    These bills also have the added benefit of demonizing teachers' unions, so it's a "win-win" for the GOP.

  2. [2] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Things are awfully quiet around here. How about doing one on something people care about, like maybe the ultimate debunking of "Russiagate"?

  3. [3] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    And what would that "debunking" be exactly, Stucki?

    Lets see your argument with back up...

    Personally after reading the Mueller report and various other reporting, Russia did in fact interfere heavily with the election. They were much more anti Hillery than pro Trump, though they did like that Trump would likely sow chaos. There was a bit of communication between agents of Russia and the Trump campaign but in the end there was no direct collusion that we know of but that was not due to lack of trying on the part of the Trump campaign. With most criminal law attempting to do something is punished almost as harshly as succeeding...

  4. [4] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    There is absolutely no question about the fact that Trump solicited Russian help in his '16 contest with Hillary. WTF, he did it ON NATIONAL TELEVISION!!!

    But the recently released Special Prosecutor" investigation of the FBI's "Steele Dossier", etc. bullshit proved that there was no actual collusion, no matter how much the orange moron would have liked.

  5. [5] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    The campaign also communicated through back channels.

    According to the NYT, very little new was uncovered by the report and the Steele Dossier was given to the FBI a month or so after it had started the investigation due to another incident rather then triggering it, as Durham admits in his report.

    Do you think attempted collusion should be acceptable as long as it does not succeed?

  6. [6] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    When the 'illegal' "attempted collusion" is done on national television, as Trumps's was, I think law enforcement should be obligated to arrest the culprit before he leaves the stage. Failing to do so implies de-facto approval.

    Or, I presume you're gonna say, "Well, we believe that after the public sinning on national TV, we think he likely sinned again and it was likely covert that time".

    Give me a gawdam break!! The Orange Moron ain't that devious.

  7. [7] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Yes, he said it live on TV but in such a way as it could easily be argued in court that the intent was something else. I would also think any conspiracy would have to be a two way street. Just asking/suggesting action of another party without them implicitly agreeing or doing said action would be hard to prosecute...

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    By my reading there was no attempt by the trump campaign to commit a crime with Russia in 16. There could be no conspiracy because they were too damn incompetent to even try.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If Popadopoulos had cooperated, things would have turned out differently.

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