That headline certainly does promise a large amount of schadenfreude over the misfortunes of a certain former vice presidential nominee (and half-term governor of Alaska), doesn't it? Well, that'll all have to wait for the end of this column, where we will be supplanting our normal talking points section with a few choice conservative reviews of Sarah Palin's recent speech in Iowa. But before we dive into this snarktastic dessert of vicious quips, we've first got to get through the meat and potatoes of the politics of the week.
The big news this morning was, of course, Mitt Romney flip-flopping on his presidential ambitions. "Just kidding!" Romney essentially told the world (forcing the Daily Beast to hastily run a retraction of their "Mitt's Running!" story, amusingly enough). Anyone who had been looking forward to Mitt 3.0, out there telling us all how conservatives would solve poverty and the income gap by giving rich people raises is undoubtedly disappointed at the news. I mean, we all could have had so much fun during the campaign doing things like comparing our own houses to Mitt's palatial spread in California, but now that rug has been yanked out from under us all. Oh, the disappointment!
Under the big circus tent that is now the United States Congress, Republicans followed up on their failure to pass a severe abortion bill by unexpectedly yanking their severe border security bill in the House. The bill, which even the infamous Draco would have been impressed with (one assumes), was deemed insufficiently severe by the uber-extremists on the immigration issue within the Republican House. Look for a moat full of alligators to be added to the next bill, in an effort to secure enough votes for passage, we suppose. Conservatives were even openly bragging about killing the bill, which only goes to confirm that they do not care about actual legislation, and consider their jobs to be nothing more than the sheerest of political posturing. Looks like a long two years, folks.
This lurch towards the Tea Party was also noticeable in the umpteenth Benghazi committee, which is now in danger of falling apart through sheer partisanship. John Boehner also came out and promised once again (as he did almost exactly a year ago) that the House would soon be voting -- any day now! -- on a Republican bill to replace the dreaded Obamacare. But if Republicans can't even get behind a severe border security or anti-abortion bill, does anyone truly expect they'll be able to do so on healthcare reform? Especially since they've been promising to do so for approximately six years now?
Let's see... in other silliness, Michelle Obama appeared with her head uncovered in Saudi Arabia, which almost became fodder for another fake "scandal" whipped up by Republicans, except that it was quickly discovered that Laura Bush had previously done the same thing. Thankfully, this non-scandal ended before it really even got going.
In other news, while the media were breathlessly reporting the same big story they break every single winter (to wit: "It Snows In Wintertime! Who Knew?!?"), at risk of their own lives, a man was convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking government secrets to the media. He faces 80 years in federal prison, but the snow was so much more interesting to report on, so you may not have seen this story on your teevee.
There were bales (to coin a phrase) of marijuana news this week, it seemed, so we'll just run through these items quickly. Three ex-Super Bowl champs wrote a heartfelt open letter to the NFL, urging the league to rethink its outdated marijuana policies. Marijuana was the fastest-growing industry in America last year (I commented on this news earlier in the week). Colorado is getting so much tax money from weed that they may be legally forced to refund some of it (prompting one enthusiast to reply: "I don't care if they write me a check, or refund it in my taxes, or just give me a free joint next time I come in. The taxes are too high, and they should give it back"). The Denver airport, however, has banned marijuana-themed souvenirs for tourists from their stores, for reasons that surpass understanding. Jamaica is about to decriminalize marijuana and could move quickly to full legalization, now that the United States isn't throwing its weight around internationally on the subject any more. Perhaps it's time for Obama to pardon Tommy Chong? It would seem appropriate, at this point. And Paul Ollinger of the Huffington Post wrote the funniest article I've seen in a while, with a title that really needs no further explanation: "Apple's $178 Billion in Cash Would Buy SO MUCH WEED." Even the metric he uses in his calculations is hilarious, so check it out.
And finally, I had to ask the question, earlier this week, upon hearing the news that we're ordering new planes for the "Air Force One" fleet: "Will The Obama Library Have A Plane In It?" I mean, Saint Ronnie of Reagan got one just for signing off on some new planes, so Obama's entitled too, right?
OK, enough of such frippery, let's get on with the awards before delightfully ending with the woes of Sarah Palin, shall we?
We had several contenders for this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, which is always a good thing.
House member Adam Schiff introduced an "authorization for the use of military force" bill for the fight against the Islamic State, which is noteworthy because Congress has done precisely nothing on this issue for the past year. Going to war is a serious matter that Congress is supposed to be involved with, but they've completely punted on their constitutional responsibility to do so until now. Whether you think Schiff's bill is the right way to go or not, let's have that debate. We, the people, are supposed to be entitled to a debate on whether we go to war or not. Schiff gets an Honorable Mention for leading the effort to remind Congress of the job it is supposed to be doing.
Tim Ryan, a House Democrat from Ohio, just announced he has switched his opposition to abortion rights. The reason? He talked to some Ohio women. Here's what he found:
These women gave me a better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can become. And while there are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the heavy hand of government must not make this decision for women and families.
Ryan gets an Honorable Mention as well this week, with emphasis on the first word of that phrase.
And our last Honorable Mention this week goes to Senator Dick Durbin who took to the floor of the Senate every day this week to relate the personal stories of the immigrants who came to this country as children, in advance of next month's big immigration fracas. This was a powerful way to take a stand, and we salute Durbin for doing so.
But the winner of our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week goes to Loretta Lynch, the nominee to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. Lynch faced her Senate hearing this week, and by all accounts was incredibly impressive. Even though the Senate is now held by Republicans, pretty much everyone is predicting a smooth path for Lynch to be confirmed in the cabinet-level position. She will become the nation's first African-American woman to hold the highest office at the Justice Department, but that's really not why she earned her MIDOTW award.
Republicans had envisioned the hearings to replace Holder as a way to rake him over the coals one last time, and also as an opportunity to make their own case for President Obama's "lawlessness." It was to be a free-for-all, where every grudge against Holder would be dusted off and laid at the feet of the new nominee. To put it bluntly, the Republicans on the committee utterly failed to achieve these goals. The most quoted soundbite of the hearings was when Lynch was asked whether she was, in fact, Eric Holder or not. When that's the best television that came out of the hearing, the Republicans obviously didn't even clear the low bar they had set for themselves.
In the second day of testimony, other people testified (supposedly about Lynch's fitness for the job), who were invited by members of both parties. Democrats called some law professors and former colleagues of Lynch. Republicans called as their witnesses "a couple of conservative law professors to denounce President Obama's usurpation of democracy -- and some far-right-wing activists to complain about being victimized," as Salon put it. Rather than mount a single cogent argument as to why Lynch might not be qualified, Republicans "called a group of partisan crackpots and grass-roots loons to relitigate moldy pseudo-scandals and complain about nonexistent government persecution."
For emerging completely unscathed from a Senate confirmation process, and in anticipation of her easy victory in the upcoming vote, Loretta Lynch has won her first Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. We sincerely hope the job she does in the future will earn her many more, before she is done.
[We couldn't find a public email contact page for Loretta Lynch, sorry. You'll just have to wait until she's confirmed as Attorney General to congratulate her.]
We have an update on the winner of last week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, before we get to this week's award. New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver won't have his title much longer. He will be either stepping down as speaker or being forcibly chucked out by his own caucus next week. Earlier, he tried to convince his fellow Democrats to install a sort of junta as a temporary speakership (until he could clear his name in the courts and triumphantly return to his high office), but that idea was quickly shot down. Kudos to all the other New York Democrats for standing up to Silver in such a fashion. He's obviously going to be too busy preparing for his upcoming federal court case to be effective as speaker.
In somewhat of a shocker, though, this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is none other than President Barack Obama, who was our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week last week.
Now, we'll admit up front at a bit of personal bias in this decision. Because we remember the days of Rahm Emanuel in the Obama administration, and the insults from that time period have still not fully healed (probably because Emanuel never came close to apologizing for any of them).
Still, Emanuel aside, we have to say that this week exposed a stunning (if admittedly minor) bit of hypocrisy from President Obama. Yesterday, President Obama did two things. The first was he posted his own op-ed piece on the Huffington Post website. In it, he called for essentially the same things he outlined in his State Of The Union speech: a focus on middle-class economics. It's a well-written piece, and it exclusively appeared on the Huffington Post (in something of a journalistic scoop for the site, in fact).
However, on the very same day, according to The Hill, Obama also addressed House Democrats in a private confab they held to discuss upcoming strategy. While speaking about a contentious issue within his own party (trade deals), Obama cautioned Democrats to: "Keep your powder a little dry. Get informed -- not by reading the Huffington Post."
Say what, Mister President? Are you telling your fellow Democrats not to read your own op-ed, or what, exactly?
As I fully admitted, this is a rather personal slur, seeing as how I've been blogging at this site since before I knew how to even spell Barack Obama's name. But seriously, this takes us back to the routine insults from the likes of Rahm, and not in a good way.
So for this very cheap shot, and for the stunning hypocrisy of publishing a Huffington Post blog post, then -- on the very same day -- badmouthing the site within a closed-door meeting of Democrats, President Barack Obama is this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Please, let's not return to the dark days of Rahm, President Obama. Pretty please?
[Contact President Barack Obama via the White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 334 (1/30/15)
OK, as promised we're offering up a very special talking points section this week. Because last week was all about President Obama's State Of The Union address and next week is likely to be quite heavy on promoting the best parts of Obama's upcoming budget proposal, we thought that, instead of our usual efforts to provide Democrats everywhere with effective talking points, we'd just get down and dirty and wallow around in the muck this week.
The muck in question isn't even Democratic muck. It's purely conservative and Republican mudslinging, at a person who used to be put on a pretty tall pedestal in Republicanland: Sarah Palin. In fact, if this section had its own subtitle, this week's might be: "How can we miss you, Sarah, if you won't go away?" [Note: I believe I subconsciously stole this phrase from a country song, but I am indeed too lazy to actually look it up.]
In case you missed the news Palin made this week, an extreme right-winger in Iowa hosted a confab of conservatives (so all the possible presidential contenders could appropriately kiss his ring). Palin showed up, and broadly hinted to the (as she calls it) "lamestream" media that she was actually "seriously interested" in the possibility of launching her own presidential campaign.
Then she spoke to the crowd for 35 minutes.
In a bit of jaw-dropping irony (according to at least one report), Palin's TelePrompTer failed during the speech. Remember how conservatives used to love mocking President Obama's use of this device? Boy, those were the days! Now, even Palin uses this tool of Satan, apparently (instead of reading notes written on her hand, as she used to do). When it failed, she was left to speak off the top of her head. Which never really ends well for Palin.
What followed in the wake of her stream-of-consciousness speech was a huge wave of blistering and scathing criticism -- from conservatives. Within days, Sarah was even picking fights with Bill O'Reilly (of all people), but the damage had already been done to her reputation (among those who still held her in any sort of esteem, I should qualify).
Democrats, for the most part, smartly stayed out of the fracas. The Democratic National Committee did issue a two-word response to Sarah's speech: "Thank you." Minimalist snark at its finest! Ready For Hillary, the shadow campaign organization supporting Clinton, helpfully pointed out that Palin's speech resulted in so much fundraising that Palin (if she ever requested the honor) would qualify to "co-chair the group's national finance council."
One former defender (and promoter) of Palin, William Kristol, reacted (when he was reminded that less than a year ago he had said Palin "might be kind of formidable in a Republican primary") by asking in amazement: "Did I say it that recently?"
Matt Lewis of the Daily Beast offered up a sort of mea culpa for his former support: "In hindsight I regret contributing to the premature deification of Sarah Palin... maybe her early critics saw some fundamental character flaw -- some harbinger of things to come -- that escaped me."
By week's end, the only person still standing up for the beleaguered Palin in any noticeable way was Senator John McCain, who responded to the prospect of a Palin campaign with: "She's very interesting. And I'm sure she'd do great." But then, really, what else could he say? "I sure picked a dimbulb as my running mate, didn't I?"
Because the rush to throw Sarah Palin under the Republican bus was so pronounced this week, we're going to provide just a sampling of what her fellow Republicans were saying in response to her Iowa speech. So as to not be accused of overkill, we've taken all of the following quotes from one single devastating column written for the conservative Washington Examiner by Byron York. Because sometimes, when your opponents are fighting amongst themselves, it's best to just stand back and offer to hold their coats until they're done.
York begins with his own take on Palin's speech, pulling no punches.
[M]ore than a few GOP loyalists came away shaking their heads at the performance of a party star, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose long, rambling, and at times barely coherent speech left some wondering what role she should play in Republican politics as the 2016 race begins in earnest.
York went on to describe the content of the speech itself. Details about her "petty complaining" have been omitted, both for brevity and because they all seem so tawdry.
First, Palin embarked on an extended stream-of-consciousness complaint about media coverage....
It was all quite petty, and yet the complaining took half of Palin's allotted time. She then proceeded to blow through her time limit with a free-association ramble on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the energy industry, her daughter Bristol, Margaret Thatcher, middle-class economics -- "the man can only ride ya when your back is bent" -- women in politics, and much more. It would be hard to say that Palin's 35-minute talk had a theme, but she did hint that she is interested in running, although there are no indications she has taken any actual steps in that direction
York goes on to report some random crowd reactions, all from unnamed "social conservative activists."
"Long and disjointed."
"A weird speech. Terrible. Didn't make any sense."
"There was a certain coarseness to her that wasn't there before."
From Sam Clovis, "conservative Iowa college professor, radio commentator, and sometime political candidate":
"I know she is popular, but it is hard to take her seriously given that performance. Palin was a sad story Saturday. With every speech she gives, she gets worse and worse. If one were playing a political cliche drinking game, no one would have been sober after the first 15 minutes of an interminable ramble. It was really painful."
From a "well-connected Iowa Republican":
"Calling Gov. Palin's remarks bizarre and disjointed would be charitable. Her shelf-life, even with the most conservative voters in our party, seems to be near the end. In a day filled with strong performances from likely candidates ranging from Scott Walker to Ted Cruz, her remarks were a distraction."
From Craig Robinson, Iowa Republican blogger:
"It was a long and incoherent speech. At best, there were a few good one-liners."
York ended his column admitting that these weren't even the worst reactions he heard from the crowd after the speech, before offering up one final (and particularly cruel) twist of the knife.
I'm not comfortable sharing everything I heard about the speech -- it was that bad....
Palin made a guy like Trump look like a serious presidential candidate today. Incredible.
-- Chris Weigant