Friday Talking Points -- A Slow Sort Of Week

[ Posted Friday, February 23rd, 2024 – 18:08 UTC ]

Because this week had a federal holiday at the start of it, Congress is off on vacation for two entire weeks. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

It's not as if they don't have anything to do, either. When they return, the Senate will hold the first impeachment trial for a sitting cabinet member ever (although "trial" may be overstating it, since it may be over before it even begins, with a simple vote to dismiss the nonsensical articles of impeachment the House finally was able to pass), the House will be under pressure to pass some sort of military aid for Ukraine before their soldiers are reduced to fighting with pointy sticks, and Congress will be staring at yet another government-shutdown deadline at the end of the week. Those are just the big things on the congressional plate, mind you. But after all their hard work (at not getting anything done on time), they all needed two weeks of relaxation, obviously.

However, one thing Congress likely won't be doing any time soon is impeaching President Joe Biden. This feverish effort has been ongoing ever since Republicans took control of the House, but it has yet to bear any fruit whatsoever. They thought they had a smoking gun, but (not to mix explosive metaphors or anything) this blew up in their faces last week when a confidential informant to the F.B.I. was arrested and indicted for making the whole thing up. Lying about a politician isn't a crime... unless you tell those lies to the F.B.I., that is. Which he did. Which has left the GOP's impeachment investigation in tatters, since his tall tale of Joe and Hunter Biden being paid $5 million each by a Ukrainian energy company was the centerpiece of their entire effort. Now it is looking more like the center ring in their clown circus. After touting the informant's lie for months, Republicans are now wiping the egg off their faces, and slowly coming to the realization that they're never going to have enough votes to impeach Biden within their own caucus. All their investigating was a gigantic waste of time, to put it another way. Which is what the Republican House does best, of course -- waste time.

Primary season is also about to heat up once again, as South Carolina's Republicans will be voting in their primary tomorrow, followed by Michigan voting next Tuesday. This will mark the logical end of Nikki Haley's campaign, although she swears up and down that she's not going to back down until every single primary has been held. This is the standard sort of thing for any candidate to say, right up until she doesn't say it anymore. Who, after all, is going to vote for a candidate that comes out and admits: "Well, we're going to pack it all in next week, but hey, vote for me before that happens!"? Haley could actually follow through on her bold promise and stay in the race -- hoping desperately for a lightning bolt to come out of the blue and strike Donald Trump down -- but even if she does it's going to be increasingly pathetic to watch her deny the hard cold reality of losing. Tomorrow's contest is in her home state after all, and pretty much every poll shows Trump with a 2-to-1 lead over her (up by roughly 30 points). No matter what the actual margin turns out to be tomorrow night, Trump is coasting towards another win.

The interesting thing about Haley, at this point, is that she appears to have a very "I've got nothing to lose" attitude now. She (gasp!) has finally been hitting Donald Trump hard out on the campaign trail, a tactic that might have been more interesting if she had tried it a few months earlier. She hasn't gone quite as far as some "never Trumper" Republicans (this week New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu optimistically stated: "It won't be [Trump's] party forever, right? It just won't. At some point, Donald Trump won't be here forever. Let me put it a different way: assholes come and go, but America is here to stay."), but Haley does seem to have woken up and suddenly realized she is running against Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. From the past week:

In interviews, on social media and on the stump, the former U.N. ambassador has repeatedly seized on the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to launch a fusillade against former President Donald Trump.

[Nikki] Haley jabbed Trump for taking three days to acknowledge Navalny's death and then for failing to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for it. She's cast her former boss as "weak in the knees" when it comes to Russia. She's slammed him for criticizing NATO at a time when many in the West see Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a threat to European stability. And at a Wednesday afternoon rally on the Georgia border, Haley unleashed some of her most pointed criticism yet of Trump's relationship with Putin.

"Trump is siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents," Haley said. "Trump sided with an evil man over our allies who stood with us on 9/11. Think about what that told them."

Trump, true to form, finally did issue a statement on Navalny's death and (because of course he did) he managed to make it all about himself. He later doubled down on his narcissism (with his usual tenuous grasp of how the English language is used), talking about his own $355 million judgment against him by saying: "It is a form of Navalny." Everything, to Trump, is always all about Trump.

Republicans then dutifully backed up Trump's megalomania, by refusing to condemn his equating the American judicial system with a murderous dictator, because of course they did. The Republican Party is now the Party Of Putin, plain and simple. Credulous gadfly Tucker Carlson, fresh from his fawning "useful idiot" interview with Putin, reacted to Navalny's death with breathtaking indifference, saying: "I have spent my life talking to people who run countries, in various countries, and have concluded the following: That every leader kills people, including my leader. Every leader kills people, some kill more than others. Leadership requires killing people, sorry, that's why I wouldn't want to be a leader." Um, OK. Sure. Interesting worldview you got there, Tucker....

Democrats were not shy about expressing their disgust:

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said it was "absolutely appalling" that Donald Trump would compare himself to the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

"Donald Trump's hero, Vladimir Putin, is responsible for the death of Alexei Navalny... who was a champion of freedom and human rights, and he opposed the filthy, bloody imperialist invasion of Ukraine, which Donald Trump is, at best, very soft on," Raskin said Wednesday on CNN.

"In fact, he's Putin's biggest ally in the United States and is responsible for now the pro-Putin sentiment within the GOP," he added. "So to compare himself to Navalny is sickening."

Trump made some other political news, by (tentatively, at least) supporting a national 16-week ban on abortion. He also took the time to badmouth mail-in voting once again, undermining the Republican Party's desperate attempt to convince their voters to vote early. Trump also took the time this week to channel his inner Al Bundy and hawk the most garishly gaudy sneakers one could imagine at a convention of sneaker enthusiasts (where he was audibly booed by the crowd). Step right up, folks! For the low, low price of just under $400, you too can look like a complete idiot!

Trump's legal problems continue, but most of it was on the back burner this week. But he did promise us all a rather refreshingly-honest thing if he gets a second term, as he mangled his words in yet another speech: "We're going to take over Washington, D.C. We're going to federalize. We're going to have very powerful crime, and you're going to be proud of it again." Um, sure... because you haven't done enough "very powerful crime" yet? And we're going to be proud of it? Hoo boy.

A few "friends of Trump" had their own problems, as Mike "The Pillow Guy" Lindell lost an appeal and will now have to fork over the $5 million he promised to anyone who could prove his conspiracy theories about election fraud were wrong. One guy did precisely that, and now Mike's gotta pay up. Meanwhile, Peter Navarro could soon be facing more contempt of court charges (in addition to the ones he's already been sentenced to prison for).

There was some amusing legal news as well this week, as George Santos sued Jimmy Kimmel for fooling him. Santos offered his services on a website where celebrities who need some cash do little videos to wish people a happy birthday (or whatever) for a price, and Kimmel trolled him with some fake identities and then used the clips on his late-night comedy show. Santos was not amused -- how dare someone defraud him with a fake identity! Kimmel immediately mocked the suit as "the most preposterous lawsuit of all time," which sounds about right, to us.

In other legal comedy, John Oliver made an amusing public offer to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: step down from the court immediately (or, as he put it: "All you have to do in return is sign the contract and get the fuck off the Supreme Court") and Oliver will pay Thomas a million bucks a year for the rest of his life. Plus a multi-million-dollar luxury bus to boot! That's a tempting offer for a jurist who loves enjoying the finer things in life (as long as someone else is paying for them, of course!). Oliver gave Thomas 30 days to take him up on the offer so... fingers crossed!

And we'll end with an amazing coincidence from the annals of American law. On Presidents' Day, the Washington Post ran an interesting story someone successfully dug out of the military archives. It seems Joe Biden's great-great-grandfather received a pardon from none other than Abraham Lincoln, which wiped away a court-martial conviction for getting in a fight with another Union soldier. The other big holiday story was the release of this year's historians' rankings of America's president, where Biden ranked 14th-best and Trump came in dead last -- which sounded about right, to us.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

It was a fairly quiet week in Washington, since Congress is off having fun rather than doing their jobs.

But President Joe Biden made some news with yet another round of student debt forgiveness. After his sweeping plan to forgive student loan debt were hobbled by the Supreme Court, Biden has been working at the problem in a piecemeal fashion, and this week's announcement added to his totals.

Biden is sending notices out to certain students informing them their loans have been forgiven. When you add it all up, almost four million students have now had a whopping $138 billion in loans forgiven. This is not as sweeping as Biden's original plan, but it ain't exactly peanuts either.

Biden hasn't gotten the political credit he should have for his efforts to make students' lives better, so we sincerely hope that both he and anyone speaking for him out on the campaign trail hits this point as often as possible.

This week, over 150,000 students will see a total of $1.2 billion in debt forgiven. It is hard to overstate what a difference this makes in these young people's lives -- many of whom simply cannot afford both paying off their loans and living a decent life.

So for the four million students that Biden has helped so far, and in specific for the 150,000 of them helped this week alone, Joe Biden is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

[Congratulate President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Yet again (it being a slow week in politics) we find ourselves without any Democrat disappointing us in any major way. So we're just going to put the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week statuette back on the shelf until next time.


Friday Talking Points

Volume 741 (2/23/24)

This week was a momentous one in the legal world, and to reflect the seriousness of what the supreme court of Alabama just decided we could not be contained in discrete talking points, so instead we wrote a rant on the subject.

Republicans need to squirm over the inevitable consequences of their extremism, and the only way to do that is to stand up and loudly point this extremism out, every chance you get.


Freedom from religion

This is what the end of the road looks like, folks. The anti-abortion extremists have looked forward to this for years, but the rest of us are just getting our first glimpse at the plans they have to revamp the legal system to conform with their own personal religious beliefs. The Alabama supreme court just ruled that frozen embryos -- consisting of a few cells, invisible to the naked eye -- are "people." This is what the forced-birthers have meant all along when they say: "life begins at conception." Once a sperm cell has met with an egg cell, legally (as far as they are concerned) that is a human being, and as such is entitled to all the protections of the law other human beings get. This is an awfully simplistic way of looking at things, but then that's the hallmark of extremism and always has been.

Republican politicians are now panicking, because they know full well the public at large simply does not accept this simplistic religious viewpoint. A poll conducted by none other than Kellyanne Conway (who is about as MAGA as a person can get) showed that in-vitro fertilization (I.V.F.) has the support of 86 percent of the public, including 78 percent support among self-identified "pro-life advocates" and 83 percent of evangelical Christians. The strict "life begins at conception" notion is not very popular, obviously.

But this is the logical and inevitable end of the anti-abortion road. If a fertilized egg is a human life with constitutional rights, then killing that life in any way is exactly the same, in legal terms, as murder. Some states have gone further down this road than others already -- in some states, killing a pregnant woman results in not one charge of murder but two. The anti-abortion extremists see everything through this unforgiving lens. Any abortion, for any reason (even to save the life of the mother) is murder, plain and simple. Therefore all abortion should be outlawed. And disposing of unwanted excess embryos in an I.V.F. clinic is no different to them, either.

Republicans in Alabama are desperately trying to come up with some new law that will solve this problem, but this may in fact be impossible. After all, their highest court has already ruled on the basic issue of personhood. They're proposing that the law view embryos not as "life" or "a baby" (as they define it) until it is actually implanted in a woman's uterus. This could avoid the problem of excess embryo disposal, but would still leave a host of other legal problems for women trying desperately to conceive. And the high court has already ruled specifically on the issue of frozen embryos that are still in vitro (and not yet in vivo). So any law the Alabama legislature passes that attempts to paper over the difference seems doomed to be struck down by the very same court, using exactly the same reasoning.

This is what you get when you empower judges and legislators -- many of them men -- to make the most personal and intimate decisions imaginable about a woman's reproductive system. This is what happens when the government interferes with the medical profession for purely religious reasons.

We've already seen how extreme the moralists can get over abortion. In some states, women with life-threatening complications during their pregnancies now have to wait until they approach death to get the medical care they need -- which is absolutely inhumane. Forcing a woman to go through pain and suffering for no medical reason is barbaric, plain and simple. But that's what is happening today in many states in America. Even spontaneous miscarriages are treated as suspect, since (according to the forced-birthers' definition) a crime might have been committed.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade has already created two Americas. In one, a woman has full human rights and is able to make medical decisions with her doctors without governmental interference. She can decide to terminate a pregnancy or carry it to term or have embryos created outside her body without politicians and judges having any say in the matter. This is full reproductive freedom, but it no longer exists everywhere in the country. In the other America, judges and politicians get to make those decisions for women. Reproductive freedom does not exist. Women are considered second-class citizens, who must be guided by the state rather than being free to make their own decisions about their bodies.

This is the end of the theocratic anti-abortion road. If "life begins at conception" then every embryo must be carried to term no matter what. Even if it has serious genetic deformities. Even if the woman doesn't want to carry it to term. Even if the woman already successfully has the child or children she wants from a medical treatment -- all the other embryos created by that treatment must be given the same opportunity. "Draconian" doesn't even begin to cover how extreme this way of thinking truly is.

Republicans finally packed the Supreme Court with ideologues and caught the anti-abortion car they've been chasing for decades -- and now they have no idea what to do with it. It was easy to spout the forced-birth dogma when it was only a theoretical goal to strive for, but now that it has become reality they are faced with the inevitable consequences of treating medical matters as religious matters. Republicans are currently falling all over themselves to show their support for I.V.F., but none of them have any answer to the legal conundrum they now find themselves in. If the highest court rules that any embryo is a legal person, then it doesn't matter what laws they propose to pass because none of them will change that basic legal ruling.

Sooner or later this will affect abortion laws directly as well. How can there be "exceptions" for rape and incest when the product of such crimes is a person? That's adding a murder (by their definition) to the rape or incest, and thus it needs to be illegal. How can abortions be allowed up to any number of weeks when it legally doesn't matter how big the embryo is? Murder (by their definition) will still be murder, so the only possible logical position to take is that all abortions must be banned at zero weeks.

If a microscopic cluster of six or eight cells is legally a person, then it will lead to all kinds of other legal headaches as well. What's to stop a couple undergoing I.V.F. from claiming 15 or 20 frozen "dependents" on their taxes, after all? If a child is a child is a child, as the court ruled, then having all those "children" should mean big tax breaks, right? This is only one of many such legal absurdities which the court's decision will give rise to.

And the extremists are not done yet, either. They want to impose their religious beliefs on contraception as well. If an egg is fertilized but is prevented from implanting itself in the uterine wall, then as far as they are concerned that is exactly the same thing as having an abortion. Meaning passing anti-contraception laws is going to be their next goal. Make no mistake about it, folks.

Our country is facing a choice. The choice is between having religion dictate morality for everyone or keeping politicians and judges out of the examination room and giving women the freedom to make their own decisions about reproduction. And if Republicans get their way, it soon won't be a matter of "Well, I don't live in Alabama, so it doesn't affect me," but rather a nationwide legal system that puts the rights of six cells above the rights of a full-grown woman.

There is only one way to stop them at the moment, and that is to vote all the self-anointed moralists out of office. If a politician doesn't support full reproductive rights for all women in every way then they need to be replaced with politicians who do. Roe v. Wade must be codified into federal law at the national level to prevent states from injecting religion into a matter of basic constitutional rights for all women.

Vote for freedom. Vote against the extremists. Vote for women's rights. Vote for personal reproductive decisions to be made between a woman and her doctor, period. Because if you don't, sooner or later you'll find yourself living in a society where religion dictates what you can and cannot do with your own body. Alabama just showed us where this road can lead, so we need to show the politicians that voters simply do not agree with them forcing their religion upon everyone.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


17 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- A Slow Sort Of Week”

  1. [1] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    The strict "life begins at conception" notion is not very popular, obviously.

    Well, that is only true when not discussing abortion.

    I like the challenge to those who claim “life begins at conception” that goes:

    “You stumble across a doctor's office that is engulfed in flames. A nurse runs out carrying a child and says that there might be more still in there. You rush in, knowing that you only have seconds before the roof will come raining down. You find a toddler sitting next to a large cooler containing 1000 frozen embryos. You cannot carry both…it’s either the cooler full of embryos or the toddler. Who do you save?”

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Ask every Republican candidate, "Do you believe that life begins at conception?" and watch them sweat and try to talk the question away.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    No need to be so theoretical about it. Ask, "do you think every single woman who is six weeks pregnant and doesn't want to be should be forced by the government to give birth against their will? Yes or no?"

  4. [4] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Haley could actually follow through on her bold promise and stay in the race -- hoping desperately for a lightning bolt to come out of the blue and strike Donald Trump down -- but even if she does it's going to be increasingly pathetic to watch her deny the hard cold reality of losing.
    Haley has good reason to keep in the race even after tomorrow's inevitable humiliation.The hope for a bolt from the blue is a longshot, but it isn't simply desperation. Trump, at his age, could be hit by a medical bolt from the blue (as could Biden, obviously). He could even more possibly be hit by a legal bolt from the blue, such as a conviction that carries a prison sentence.

  5. [5] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Re: 'All their investigating was a gigantic waste of time, to put it another way.'

    Well, yes, that's obvious. But then, so was "Bengazi!". And yet it served its purpose in undermining Hillary with a large minority of American voters.

    The GOP learned the lesson that repeating a lie often enough will make some people believe it.

    We can't rewrite history, but one has to wonder how things might be different had Obama being more outraged at "Bengazi!" and more vocally defended Hillary.

  6. [6] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    I agree Biden deserves this week's MIDOW, but for a different reason. President Biden pounced immediately on the Alabama court's retrograde ruling on IVF.
    'Ahead of a speech Trump is scheduled to give Thursday evening to conservative Christian broadcasters in Nashville, Tennessee, the Biden campaign has gone aggressively on the offensive, accusing the former president of being responsible for current reproductive rights restrictions across the South and elsewhere.

    “Tonight Donald Trump will come face to face with the horrific reality he created: speaking in a state that has banned abortion entirely with no exceptions for rape or incest,” Kevin Munoz, spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, said in a statement.'

  7. [7] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    andygaus [4]:

    The 'calculus' of Gov Haley really depends more on the continued flow of contributions. There have been many articles about the Koch brothers and others who are betting Haley. If the $$$ continue to roll in after SC, there's little reason for her to drop out, especially since she seems to have *finally* written off the 'Trump base voter'.
    IMO Haley already has her eye on 2028. She is triangulating her future:
    * hopeful that another Trump loss - and we can expect a 4th cycle of'down ballot' damage - will convince the GOP 'establishment' to move on from Trump, once and for all; and,
    * convinced that in 4 years, Trump will, if still alive, be too old and incoherent to run again.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    The Alabama supreme court just ruled that frozen embryos -- consisting of a few cells, invisible to the naked eye -- are "people."

    Alrighty then, Imma have approximately 25 of my eggs fertilized, give my "people" names, have them issued social security numbers, include my "dependents" on my federal income tax return and never pay federal taxes again... but not before I move to Birmingham, Alabama. Roll tide!

    ^^^^^ How to put an end to that bullshit ^^^^^

    In other news:

    * A grain of sand is a pearl.
    * Pencil "lead" is a diamond.
    * The oak tree in my backyard is a "resolute desk," although obviously a reproduction. :)

  9. [9] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    This news may have come too late on Friday for Chris to know, but Tish James deserves at least *another* honorable mention for MIDOW:
    'The verdict is a win for New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who campaigned on investigating the NRA’s not-for-profit status. It is the latest blow to the powerful group, which in recent years has been beset by financial troubles and dwindling membership. LaPierre, its longtime face, announced his resignation on the eve of the trial.'

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Haley could actually follow through on her bold promise and stay in the race -- hoping desperately for a lightning bolt to come out of the blue and strike Donald Trump down -- but even if she does it's going to be increasingly pathetic to watch her deny the hard cold reality of losing.

    Well, she doesn't strike me as being in denial about who will be the Republican nominee. She's not staying in this primary race to win and it's hardly pathetic to see her standing up to Trump and keeping that discussion alive right up to the end. Who knows what sort of impact she is having or will have when it comes to actual votes in the Biden versus Trump contest.

    What would be pathetic to watch would be Trump with no opposition, whatsoever, on his steady march to the nomination.

    I, for one, hope to see Nicci Haley stay in until the bitter end - as an irritant to Trump and as a wake-up call to Team Biden.

  11. [11] 
    dsws wrote:

    I have a prediction: if Trump is medically considered to be alive at the time of the convention, he will be the nominee -- even if he's in prison.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Shocking. Positively shocking.

  13. [13] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Haley's staying in also draws needed campaign funds away from Trump the longer she remains in the race. Her campaign outraised his last month. Of course, that might be because his PACs are diverting funds people believe they are giving to his re-election campaign and sending it to his legal defense accounts.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    Not that it would matter to them, but is that legal?

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  16. [16] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    It is legal because of the fine print in almost all fund raising requests. It might not be easy to locate, but somewhere on their web page where you make your donation is legalese describing how money given to them MAY BE used. So while they are giving to something named “Trump Campaign” the fine print might say that 100% will go somewhere else. Sadly, that's always been the problem with nonprofits. The Police Benevolent Fund famously did this. 95% of all donations went somewhere other than to the families of fallen officers. So if you gave $1000 dollars believing you were helping the fallen officers' families, what you actually did was give $50 to those families while helping to pay for the summer home of the PBF’s executives.

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i hope the PBA didn't do that with my donations back when i gave annually.

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