Friday Talking Points -- As We Wait For The Debate

[ Posted Friday, June 21st, 2024 – 17:41 UTC ]

Maybe it's just us, but this week seemed like a waiting game. Perhaps the midweek holiday had something to do with it, but everything in the political world right now seems to be on hold in anticipation of next Thursday's first presidential debate. The debate is going to be incredibly early in the campaign schedule, but nobody really knows what this will mean until after the dust settles. Who will benefit the most from the earliness of it all? Well, that all depends on how they do, of course.

Conventional wisdom states that an incumbent president almost always does poorly in his first re-election debate. Being president means not only being immersed in the job of running the nation, but also having very few people stridently challenging you on your positions and your decisions. Presidents don't always completely surround themselves with the proverbial "yes men," but even with dissenting voices there is a large measure of respect for the president that simply will not be present in a partisan debate. That's the way the thinking goes, at any rate.

So will President Joe Biden turn in a weak debate performance next week? Or will he rhetorically clobber Donald Trump? Well, we will be tuning in to find out, that's for sure. CNN has announced that the microphones will be muted when each candidate is not supposed to be talking, so this should avoid hearing Trump try to shout all over the hosts and Biden's answers. That is a gigantic relief for anyone who remembers what Trump was like in the first debate held with Biden back in 2020. Of course, Trump may not be able to contain himself and may just try shouting into a dead mic anyway, in an effort to rattle Biden. This could be effective, actually, since if the television audience can barely hear Trump fulminating away in the background but Biden is standing right next to him, it could lead to some disjointed moments. But we'll just have to see -- maybe Trump will follow the rules after all. And then again maybe he won't.

The other significant debate news announced this week was that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. won't be on the stage. He failed to qualify on either of the criteria CNN laid down -- not having enough polls showing him at 15 percent or better and not qualifying for the ballot in enough states to win the Electoral College -- so it'll just be Trump and Biden head-to-head. R.F.K. Jr. is not exactly a happy camper about this situation, but then that was to be expected.

Both Trump and Biden are reportedly doing their own versions of "debate prep," with Team Trump announcing that they are holding "policy discussions" rather than actual mock debates, which is kind of amusing when you consider how little the concept of "policy" drives Trump's campaign. Biden, meanwhile, has sequestered himself up at Camp David with his team, who are spending what appears to be an entire week on prepping the president for verbal combat. But while Biden certainly can defend his record in office and talk about his plans for a second term, one sincerely hopes that a lot of his debate prep will go into how to counter Trump's bombastic nonsense and firehose of lies. Because that is the real challenge, when debating Trump.

Team Trump has apparently realized that they have been setting the bar far too low for expectations of Biden's debate performance. Up until now, Trump's go-to line about Biden is that he "can't string two sentences together," because he is obviously such a doddering old man. But that would be an incredibly low hurdle for Biden to clear, which has seemed to dawn on Team Trump of late. Now they are pushing the notion that Biden will be pumped full of drugs which will somehow transform him into a cogent and potent debate adversary. In other words, Trump is pre-emptively preparing his excuses for why he is going to lose, which is a rather odd thing to do (since it doesn't exactly exude confidence, obviously).

Maybe that's because when Trump has tried exuding confidence lately, he winds up shooting himself in the foot. He loves to brag about a cognitive test he got while he was president, as if it was some sort of test of his I.Q. or something (which it decidedly was not). This week he returned to the subject and (as he is fond of doing) challenged Joe Biden to take such a test. The only problem was that he tried to name-drop the doctor who gave him the test but he got the guy's name wrong. So much for his cognitive superiority, eh?

Also this week, Trump claimed he knew for a fact that Joan Rivers voted for him in 2016. This, despite her being dead for two years before the election. If anyone needs a reminder of how often Trump screws up like this, the folks at MeidasTouch have put together a wonderful tour through a whole bunch of Trumpian "senior moments."

Team Biden has their own new ad out, and it's a direct attack on Trump's new status as a convicted criminal. There was some trepidation on the Biden team as to whether they should lean in on this subject or not, but thankfully they decided to do the right thing and remind everyone of Trump's new status now. Perhaps because more and more people are realizing that maybe electing a convicted felon to the highest office in the land might not be all that great an idea, Joe Biden is doing better in the polls. He even led a Fox News poll for the first time this year, and is now ahead of Trump in the 538 average. So maybe Trump's conviction is slowly sinking in and slowly convincing more and more independents and undecided voters that Biden is indeed the better choice.

The Supreme Court continues to make news, by following up its breathtakingly dangerous ruling tossing out the ban on "bump stocks" with some actual sanity. They just announced that the laws banning domestic abusers from owning guns are indeed constitutional -- in an 8-1 decision. But of course, their biggest cases remain unresolved for now. The next couple of weeks are going to be momentous ones at the high court, that's for sure.

And to close on, Louisiana just passed a law requiring the Ten Commandments be posted in all state classrooms. From the 1980s until now, this was considered completely unconstitutional since it is obviously a government endorsement of one religion over all others, but then again who knows what the current court may decide?


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have a few Honorable Mention awards to hand out, the first of which goes to Chuck Schumer, for continuing to use Senate votes to pressure Republicans and provide campaign-ad fodder for Democrats. This week, after the Supreme Court callously and dangerously decided that "bump stocks" were not, technically, machine guns (and therefore couldn't be banned), Schumer immediately brought up a bill which would indeed ban bump stocks. It was defeated by Republicans forthwith, of course. Look for it in a Democratic Senate campaign ad near you very soon, that's all we can say....

Our second Honorable Mention goes to Yevgeny "Eugene" Vindman, who was a star witness/whistleblower in Donald Trump's first impeachment. For doing his duty to the Constitution, both he and his twin brother suffered blowback from Trump, which essentially ended his military career. But now he's launching a second career, as a politician. This week, Vindman won the Democratic primary in Virginia for an open House seat (the current Democratic representative is stepping down to run for governor). The district is home to a large percentage of military and military contractors and veterans, but the Republicans also nominated a former Army Green Beret, so it should be an interesting contest.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, who this week pardoned 175,000 marijuana convictions, reaching back many decades.

We wrote about this earlier in the week, when it was announced, and we sincerely hope that other Democratic (and even Republican) governors follow Moore's lead on the issue. Maryland isn't the first state to issue blanket pardons for past weed offenses (NORML has a full list -- Maryland was in fact the tenth state to issue such pardons), but Moore's action was significant for how broad it was. This is why over 100,000 people will benefit from the pardons, while in many of the other states with such pardons it only applies to a much smaller population (with the exception of Massachusetts, to be fair, which leads the stats on the issue).

The War On Weed is ending. But this shouldn't just be a matter of changing the laws to reflect reality (and sanity) on marijuana. It should also involve doing what can be done now to correct some of the injustices of the past. Many lives were shattered in the War On Weed -- not from smoking marijuana, but from the steep price society enacted for those who were caught and prosecuted for doing so. Wes Moore took another giant step forward in this effort this week, and for doing so he is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Maryland Governor Wes Moore on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We're not even entirely sure if he qualifies, since he does not actually hold public office himself, but the magnitude of the bombshell was enough for us to decide that George Norcross deserves the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week anyway.

Here is the basic story, for those of you (like us) who had never heard his name before now:

New Jersey's attorney general on Monday charged one of the state's most powerful Democrats and his allies in a sweeping indictment alleging a long-running corruption scheme.

The charges against George Norcross represent another seismic event in New Jersey politics in a year that's already seen a drastic disruption of its notorious boss systems. And George Norcross is often held up as the symbol of a New Jersey political boss. He has long been the subject of scrutiny by law enforcement and a political task force, but has never been charged.

The indictment, brought by Attorney General Matt Platkin, portrays years of extortion and threats. Norcross has run a criminal enterprise for at least the past 12 years, Platkin said, causing hurt to businesses, individuals and "especially -- especially -- to the city of Camden," one of the state's poorest cities.

"The Norcross enterprise manipulated government programs and processes designed to attract development and investment to instead suit their own financial desires," Platkin said at a press conference. "Instead of contributing to the successes of the city of Camden, through a series of criminal acts alleged in the state's case, the Norcross enterprise took the Camden waterfront all for themselves."

In essence, Norcross was the "boss" (to use a very New Jersey term) of a South Jersey Democratic political machine. Like the political machines of yore, it doled out favors to its friends and punished those who didn't play along. There truly has been an (ongoing) political earthquake this year in Jersey politics, at least on the Democratic side. Senator Bob Menendez is in the middle of a corruption trial, the Democratic machine's power to arrange its primary ballots to favor its own hand-picked candidates has been struck down by judges, and now one of the most powerful machine bosses in the state is facing racketeering charges.

Norcross "personally attended the press conference" where the indictment was announced, planting himself in the front row so he could stare down the attorney general. So his trial will likely be a lively one.

Over the past few decades, we have seen the fall of several state Democratic "machines" (in Illinois and in New York most notably), to some degree or another. More and more it is looking like this is the year for dismantling the New Jersey Democratic machine, and this indictment is merely one part of this effort.

Of course, Norcross is innocent until proven guilty, but for now we're going to hand him this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week anyway.

[George Norcross is a private citizen, and it is our longstanding policy not to provide contact information for such persons, sorry.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 756 (6/21/24)

We begin again with a program note, since next week one way or another our Friday column will be devoted pretty much entirely to reviewing the previous evening's debate. We're not sure whether we will use the Friday Talking Points format to do so or whether we will just run a simple debate analysis column, but either way it'll be a "one-subject column," just to warn everyone in advance.

For this week's talking points, we are looking ahead to the debate, so we chose seven talking points as suggestions for President Joe Biden to use on the debate stage. Some of these are general comments on Trump and some are specific to the issues of the campaign. So without further ado, let's get started, shall we?


   Remember COVID?

This first one is to counter Trump trying to paint a rosy-tinted image of his first term in office (which seems almost guaranteed to happen).

"I'm sorry, but you seem to have some selective memory there. For voters contemplating the question: 'Are you better off now than you were four years ago?' I only have one thing to say -- I remember COVID. Four years ago, we were listening to Donald Trump desperately trying to wish the pandemic away and suggesting that people drink bleach and somehow shine sunlight inside of their bodies. He ignored his experts, he downplayed the virus, he kept promising it would all just magically go away, and the worst part was that he showed no national leadership. He forced the states to fight each other over getting critical supplies like masks and ventilators. There were paper towel and toilet paper shortages. There were empty shelves in the stores. He didn't want people to test for the virus because he didn't like the high numbers and figured if fewer people tested the numbers would go down. Donald Trump did not care that tens of thousands of people were dying out there -- all he cared about was how it all impacted him. That was four years ago, folks. And I don't know about you, but I remember."


   He has snapped

This is going to be a central theme for Joe Biden's campaign, so he'll almost certainly use the line at some point.

"When Donald Trump lost in 2020, something snapped in him. He has lost all touch with reality. He is on his own personal crusade for vengeance. Just listen to him -- he is much worse than he ever was in his first term, and he seems to be getting worse and worse with every passing day. After the 2020 election, something just snapped in his mind, and he hasn't been the same since."


   You lost, dude

Hammer this one home too. It will absolutely enrage Trump.

"Look, Donald... you lost, dude. You did not win. The election wasn't stolen from you, what happened is that more people voted for me than for you, period. There was no grand conspiracy, you just lost. You launched over 60 lawsuits and they were all thrown out because there was no evidence to prove your wild conspiracy theories. You just lost. Look at him, folks -- not only is he a loser, he is the biggest sore loser in all of American history. And who likes a sore loser, really? Man up, dude. Admit it. You lost, and you are going to lose again this year."


   What was your doctor's name again?

If Trump tries to brag about his wonderful "cognitive test" (especially if he lies that it was some sort of "intelligence test"), there's an easy putdown Biden should reach for.

"I'm sorry... the last time you brought up this cognitive test, you couldn't remember the name of the doctor who gave it to you. You know -- the White House doctor who we all found out was handing out serious prescription drugs like candy to anyone in your White House who asked him for them? That doctor? What was his name again? Maybe this time you'll get it right...."


   "Everyone" didn't want Roe overturned

This is a lie that Trump has latched onto, because it allows him to portray himself as somehow making everybody happy (which, obviously, is far from true on this issue).

"You know, you keep repeating that lie -- that 'everyone' wanted to see Roe v. Wade overturned and the issue sent back to the states. You have convinced yourself that people on all sides of the issue really wanted that to happen, but it is just not true. It is, in fact, a gigantic lie. The majority of the American people were, in fact, quite happy with Roe being the law of the land. And now millions of women are no longer fully in control of their own bodies. We are fighting back in state after state, but don't delude yourself -- 'everyone' didn't want this to happen. Far from it, in fact."


   But you wouldn't understand what I am talking about

This one has the opportunity for a huge insult, straight to Trump's face.

"You keep saying you'd end the war in Ukraine, but we all know how you'd do that. You'd hand Vladimir Putin everything he wanted. You'd tell Ukraine to give up huge parts of their country to Russia. You know, there's a word for that -- it's called 'appeasement.' And I would insult you by calling you Neville Chamberlain to your face, but I won't -- because you wouldn't even understand what I was talking about, would you? You'd not only go down in history as being Neville Chamberlain all over again, you wouldn't even know why that is an insult."


   Convicted felon

Oh, you just know this one's going to come up!

"I don't think the American people are ready to elect a convicted felon to the highest office in the land. Donald Trump is now officially a criminal -- 34 times over. And he's got 54 more felony charges outstanding as well. If he gets elected, he will use his power to declare himself king and try to make all the other cases against him go away. If he doesn't get elected, however, he's going to have to face a jury of his peers for all those additional counts, which include fomenting the biggest coup attempt in American history. And he's already been convicted once -- not by me, not on my instructions, but instead just like every other criminal in this country -- by a jury of his peers."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


17 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- As We Wait For The Debate”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    The Louisiana Ten Commandments law isn't just unconstitutional because it's an establishment of religion. Because there are different versions of the Ten Commandments, it is establishing a specific version as the legal one.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    is that true? is THIS for example not in accordance with the law?

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    TP#1 - one of the best CW talking points ever! If Biden doesn't say this or similar, then he will have squandered an opportune opportunity.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    TP#3 is pretty darn good, too! That would be really fun to watch ... what the reaction and response would be. Heh.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I think Biden would be very wise not to say much about Ukraine ... it's a mess ... HIS mess. He should probably refrain from anything about NATO, too.

    In fact, I hope there are no questions on foreign policy at all. Which is the last thing I would have thought that I'd ever tap out in a comments section, especially during a Biden presidency. :(

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If I were Biden, I'd stay clear away from TP#7 ... wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot poll, in other words. Not if Biden wants to attract the voters he NEEDS to get.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, speaking of talking points that are focused on the debate, I notice that none of them have to do with economic policy.

    Why is that?

    The economy SHOULD be a Democratic strong suit. No wonder voters think Republicans are better at it. :(

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hey, Chris!

    I just noticed ... we ARE keeping track of the FTP columns. We're now at edition number 756!!

    Any reason why this isn't stated up front and right under the FTP headline like it used to be? I've missed it not being there, you know. :-)

  9. [9] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Will there ever be a single 'talking point' about the climate crisis? This week, more than half of America's population was suffering from extreme heat, which seems to me the perfect opportunity to highlight both Biden's impressive legislative and executive accomplishments -and- the GOP obsession with climate-destroying petroleum.
    ' Around 270 million people in the US will experience temperatures at or above 90 degrees this week as an impressive heat dome parks over the eastern US.

    Hundreds of records could be tied or broken this week. Multiple all-time June high temperature records could fall as the heat rises to levels normally seen only on the hottest July days. Parts of the Midwest to the Northeast could endure the longest heat wave they’ve seen in decades, the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center said.

    Scientists have warned that heat waves will become increasingly severe as the climate crisis intensifies.'

  10. [10] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    This week's MIDOW is the group who created this genius publicity stunt:
    'A group of Cubans protested this Wednesday on a Miami highway in response to a billboard that compares former President Donald Trump, who is also a Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election, with the deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

    The controversy erupted over the billboard's message, which reads: "No to dictators, no to Trump," accompanied by images of Castro and Trump, reported the EFE news agency.'

  11. [11] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    President Biden deserves at least an honorable mention for MIDOW for an important - and merciful - policy change that doesn't seem to be getting much media attention.
    'Under the initiative, the Department of Homeland Security will take action to effectively grant federal protections to some undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens. The new program, known as “parole in place,” will affect an estimated 500,000 spouses of U.S. citizens and 50,000 children under the age of 21, administration officials said. It’s the same immigration policy that has been used for qualifying military families since 2007.'

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Will there ever be a single 'talking point' about the climate crisis? This week, more than half of America's population was suffering from extreme heat...

    INDEED! North of the border, too, in fact.

    I work inside a very old building with notoriously faulty A/C and it's usually pretty stifling in the summer and cold in the winter. But, most of us have learned to withstand it, with fans running everywhere, even if many of our poor customers haven't.

    But, this year, for the first time and before summer even arrived, the iconic Canadian department store, within which the company I work for rents space, has had to close down all this week as temperatures inside have exceeded 27C ... by A LOT and all the entrance doors couldn't even be opened to allow for some airflow because the humidex readings outside are off the usual charts!

    Consequently, quite a large number of staff are on a paid, unscheduled vacation! It has been unbearable for management staff who have had to be in the building for just a few hours each day to prepare for possible re-openings that haven't happened yet. If the ancient A/C system doesn't get fixed we may be closed all summer which is forecast to be hot, humid and long. Ahem.

    So, yeah, I'd like to see some repetitive 'talking points', too ... on how we have passed the era of global warming and entered a new era of "global boiling"!

    ...which seems to me the perfect opportunity to highlight both Biden's impressive legislative and executive accomplishments -and- the GOP obsession with climate-destroying petroleum.

    I'm not sure I'd agree with you a hundred percent on THAT assertion, though ...

    Biden may have passed some superficially impressive legislation but he is leading the way on fossil fuel development - at record levels, both at home and, indeed, globally. He's done more for new fossil fuel development than that other guy who occupied the White House just before him!!!

    Don't the long ago 'agreed upon' Paris Accords seem like a ridiculously quaint set of unattainable ideals that the world has largely sleep-walked through to an essentially unmitigated dawning climate apocalypse!?

    No, Biden can't even talk about how he is the leader - at home or abroad - in fighting climate change.

    Which makes it all the more important for him - not to mention the rest of humanity - to wrestle the economic mantle away from Republicans during the upcoming debates and beyond, no? ;)

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It seems there is only one thing Biden needs to focus on during these debates ... just look competent.

    The only way to look competent is to focus on the issues and all that he has accomplished and all that he intends to get done in his second term. Which is a good opportunity to spend every available moment on making the case for why united government is essential and that voters should consider giving Biden a Democratic house and senate.

    Any time Biden spends on calling Trump a convicted felon or highlighting Trump's lack of character will not only be precious time wasted but may cost him a close election.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    TP#5 - Reproductive rights and the freedom of bodily autonomy

    I think Biden needs to really hammer this point home and is second in importance only to making an effective case for Democratic economic policy (I would refrain from using the term Bidenomics) and against the Republican cult of economic failure.

    Hopefully, his debate prep has been successful in finding an effective way to talk about ALL that the Republican playbook entails, going far beyond the usual abortion rights debate and into the realm of women having the freedom to control what happens to their own bodies without any interference from the legislative or judicial branches of government. After all, isn't that how a Republic is supposed to work!?

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    RE: 4 years ago

    Top news story from June 22, 2020

    Trump 'furious' about 'underwhelming' crowd at Tulsa rally

    (subtext - he didn't give a damn that people might die of COVID or 95 degree heat, only that he didn't get a big crowd for his rally.)

  16. [16] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller [12]:

    I am sorry that you and your coworkers are suffering. THAT is exactly when a 'talking point' about the GOP's long-term denial of 'global warming' is most effective. By November, these record heatwaves will already be a vague memory to most American voters.

  17. [17] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    nypoet22 [15]:
    I may have already suggested it, but if so I will repeat: the Biden campaign should have a "this day in Trump's Presidency. Doubtless in the 4 years he occupied the White House, he did or said something absurdly dangerous or authoritarian, especially in 2020. Many American voters have "moved on" from the pandemic, so a friendly reminder of the real danger Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate (and many states, like FL and TX) is critically important.

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