Friday Talking Points -- Republicans Show Their True Colors

[ Posted Friday, January 27th, 2023 – 17:58 UTC ]

President Joe Biden gave a speech this week on the state of the American economy. On his watch, the economy has greatly improved as we all dug ourselves out of the pandemic recession together. So Biden deserves a victory lap. He also used the speech to draw a stark comparison between Democrats responsibly steering the economy and Republicans who apparently are salivating at the prospect of blowing it all up.

Biden pointed to many indicators that the economy is strong, including better-than-expected growth, all-time low unemployment levels, a manufacturing rebound, the fact that wages are now growing faster than inflation, and that inflation itself has been coming down for six straight months. Biden's big infrastructure investments are now being implemented across the country, in thousands of projects that will improve Americans' lives (including a whole bunch of them in red states and red districts). Biden's basic message: things are getting better and better.

So of course the Republicans now want to burn it all down. The big fight in Washington for approximately the next six months is going to be over the debt ceiling. House Republicans seem to think they got elected to hold the American economy hostage to force Draconian budget cuts on a Democratic president (they never scratch this particular itch when a Republican is in the Oval Office, of course). But the American people don't seem to agree -- a recent poll showed that 73 percent of the public did not agree with the House Republicans' priorities in Congress. Not exactly a mandate, is that?

Republicans don't seem to realize that they're picking a fight they're ultimately going to lose. They are going to be the ones the blame lands on, even as they assure themselves that the public will take it all out on Joe Biden. And so far Republicans don't even know what they're demanding, and probably won't be able to agree on much of anything. There's a reason for this, and the reason is that steep spending cuts in government programs are not popular, period. This is why Republicans don't even want to talk about what spending they are targeting -- because no matter what they put forward, it's going to annoy a whole lot of people.

Take just one measure the House worked on this week. It was really nothing more than Republicans venting their spleen on Joe Biden for effectively bringing the price of gasoline down. Yes, you read that right. House Republicans passed a measure that would have forbidden Biden from releasing gas from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which would have had the effect of hiking the price of gas another 40 cents per gallon. That is what Republicans want to do -- make you pay more for a gallon of gas in times of crisis. As we said, that's not exactly a popular position to take. Especially when a whole lot of Republicans ran on bringing the price of gas down, not sending it back up again. It's not just George Santos, there are a whole lot of bald-faced liars in the Republican ranks, it seems.

McCarthy was also forced to tee up a national sales tax of a whopping 30 percent, which would replace income taxes. This would be an enormous benefit to millionaires and billionaires and it would be an enormous hit on pretty much everyone else. Who wants to pay 30 percent more on everything they buy? Anyone?

Grover Norquist, whose credentials as a champion of cutting taxes cannot be questioned by conservatives, reacted to the idea of the 30 percent tax by writing an article for The Atlantic titled: "A National Sales Tax Is A Terrible Idea." Just in case that wasn't clear enough, the subtitle for the article read: "A handful of House Republicans want to force a vote on it. That's just a free gift to Democrats." Tell us what you really think of the idea, Grover!

As we said -- Republicans are much more interested in blowing the economy up rather than actually doing anything to help anyone. They also want to cut Social Security and Medicare, even if they don't come out and admit it.

This is, of course, nothing more than Kevin McCarthy desperately dancing while the MAGA brigade calls the tune. He had to promise them votes on all their pet crazy ideas, and now we're seeing the result. The House GOP can't seem to get it together on much of anything, as they scramble for votes on immigration, the new 30 percent sales tax, budget cuts, or even getting the promised vengeance of kicking Representative Ilhan Omar off her committees. They can't even manage to do mean-spirited things in unison anymore, which is a real measure of how discombobulated the party truly is in the House.

They've even already gotten to the point of begging Biden and the Democrats to save them from their own cluelessness. They're actually suggesting that it should be Biden who should suggest budget cuts to them, instead of the other way around. Which must have been on Biden's mind when he recently called the House Republicans "fiscally demented."

Biden, meanwhile, continues to show American leadership on the world stage, intervening in a stalemate over Ukraine to get some modern tanks to the battlefield in time for the anticipated spring offensive from both sides. Biden freed Germany up to send their own Leopard 2 tanks by promising to send a couple dozen M1 Abrams tanks from America. This defused the tension within NATO, and now the tanks should be on their way soon (from Poland first, most likely).

Biden's drip-drip-drip on the classified documents scandal added another drip this week, but it was completely overshadowed by the news that former Vice President Mike Pence also found some classified documents stored at his own home. This completely took the wind out of the Republicans' sails on the issue, since now any one-sided investigation into Biden's handling of documents will be met with Democratic questions of why they're not also investigating both Donald Trump and Mike Pence as well.

This led to an amusing little meltdown on Fox News, when the Pence news first broke. The on-air personalities (we simply cannot use the term "journalists" to describe them) were downright depressed that they had to report the reality of the situation, when they were having so much fun before the Pence news broke -- and no, that's not an exaggeration, here's an exchange between Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld:

WATTERS: I mean, Pence, seriously. We have this great thing going with Joe...

GUTFELD: Yeah, and he just ruined it!

WATTERS: He did!

GUTFELD: Come on, man!

WATTERS: Now what are we going to do?

So sad.

In other reality-obscuring news, Republicans in Arizona just decided to exempt themselves from their state's open-records law. Seems like they got caught red-handed, so they're going to try to avoid this in the future by burying their own communications:

Arizona Republicans shielded legislators from the state's open-records law this week -- a move that comes months after the release of thousands of documents detailing extensive efforts to undermine Joe Biden's victory here in the 2020 presidential election.

Documents that have surfaced over the past two years include correspondence describing the inner workings of a partisan review of the 2020 election by the Cyber Ninjas, as well as emails by Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, urging lawmakers to overturn President Donald Trump's narrow defeat in the state.

The new rules will greatly limit the public release of lawmakers' communications. State senators will not have to disclose any text messages sent on personal devices, even when dealing with state business. For lawmakers in both the Senate and the House, emails and other documents will be destroyed after 90 days -- in many cases, well before members of the public know to ask for them.

Speaking of folks who worked to overturn the 2020 election results, the chickens are coming home to roost for John Eastman, a California lawyer who was at the center of the fight for Trump to essentially just seize power. The State Bar of California has brought 11 disciplinary charges against Eastman, in an attempt to disbar him. And the charges are pretty serious:

Stephen Gillers, a professor at the New York University School of Law who specializes in legal ethics, called the set of accusations levied at [John] Eastman "scathing."

"[It] charges Eastman with knowingly or through gross negligence failing to support the U.S. and California constitutions, which he took an oath to do," Gillers said. "The allegation that Eastman is guilty of 'moral turpitude' is an attack on his very character, in other words that he is a bad man, not merely a bad lawyer."

The state bar's announcement came after an investigation that lasted nearly a year. [California Bar Chief Trial Counsel George] Cardona's office concluded that Eastman violated Section 6106 of the Business and Professions Code "by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of 'moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.'"

"There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power," Cardona said in a statement. "For California attorneys, adherence to the U.S. and California Constitutions is their highest legal duty."

Eastman, Cardona added, "violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land -- an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy -- for which he must be held accountable."

One would like to think so, at any rate.

Speaking of moral turpitude, let's check in on Donald Trump, shall we?

It was a fairly quiet week on the legal front for Trump, but that may not last much longer. Fulton County (Georgia) District Attorney Fani Willis stated to a judge this week that decisions about whether to charge and prosecute Trump "are imminent." So we'll be watching for any breaking news on this front, and we are positive Donald Trump will also be breathlessly waiting to hear what's going to happen next.

One amusing Trump story ran in the New York Times this week, under the headline: "OMG. Trump Has Started Texting." It seems that since the start of the year, someone taught Donny how to send a text to other people's phones, which he had never managed to do before now. This is a fun article to read, for revelations such as:

The former president has long been constantly on his phone, but only to talk into it -- or, before he was kicked off Twitter, to send streams of tweets. (The former aide who helped set up his Twitter account once told Politico that when Mr. Trump, who initially relied on aides to write his posts, began to tweet on his own, it was akin to the scene in the film

Jurassic Park

when the velociraptors learned to open doors.)

For years, people corresponding with him sent him text messages, which always went unanswered. He was unreachable by email. He sometimes asked aides to send electronic messages to reporters, referring to the missives as "wires," like a telegram.

The article even saves the snarkiest note for last, ending on:

Still unclear is Mr. Trump's position on emojis.

We certainly could suggest a few....

And we'll end on even happier news. Finally, political unity has been achieved in Washington. Democrats and Republicans banded together in common cause -- raking Ticketmaster over the coals in a Senate hearing, for their monstrous SNAFU with Taylor Swift tickets as well as their dominance over event tickets in general. And you can bet all those "Swifties" were paying close attention.

Because it doesn't matter what side of the aisle you are on -- everyone agrees that Ticketmaster sucks. Voila! Nonpartisan unity achieved!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have some Honorable Mention awards to hand out this week, the first two to Representative Ruben Gallego in Arizona and Representative Adam Schiff in California. Both men announced a Senate bid this week, Gallego to challenge Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema for her seat while Schiff joined Katie Porter in running for Dianne Feinstein's seat. We feel that both of these Senate seats would benefit from some fresh new faces so we wish them both the best in their campaigns.

Joe Biden also deserves an Honorable Mention, for protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from mining (full disclosure: we have personally visited this area in northern Minnesota and it is beautiful and well worth protecting).

And one final Honorable Mention goes to House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the chamber. Her daughter, Riley Dowell, had just been arraigned on charges of assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, and vandalizing a historic marker or monument. This all happened during a protest on the Boston Common.

So Clark did precisely the right thing, and showed the country the right way to speak out about these things even when they happen from your own side of the aisle -- or from within your own family. Clark told reporters: "I condemn violence against everyone, whether that is against police or against community members as a result of any person or government entity." This is the difference between Democrats and Republicans these days, when it comes to either tacitly supporting or clearly denouncing political violence of any sort, by anyone. Which you've got to admit is not only principled, but impressive.

But to us, the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had the most effective attacks on the House Republicans' plans of any Democrat. Schumer was out there in front, asking the pointed questions and framing the issue for all other Democrats with skill. Here he is on the Senate floor this week:

The House GOP is threatening spending cuts. Well, what are they? Why the evasion? Why is your conference hiding from the American people? House Republicans: Where are your cards?

He hammered this theme home after meeting with President Biden at the White House a day earlier:

Let's see what their plan is on the debt ceiling. Do they want to cut Social Security? Do they want to cut Medicare? Do they want to cut veterans benefits? Do they want to cut police? Do they want to cut food for needy kids? What's your plan? We don't know if they can even put one together.

And here was Schumer weighing in on the Republican scheme to tax everything everyone buys at 30 percent:

The so-called "Fair Tax Act" is unfair, unconscionable and un-American. It will impose a tax hike that is dramatic on 90 percent of the American people, working families, middle-class folks, seniors, and those who aspire to be part of the middle class, the poor, the sick and the afflicted.

Tell it like it is, Chuck! Don't let the Republicans get away with being vague, hit them on what they would actually do if they had their way. The American people need to see this and understand it, and the only way that is going to happen is if Democrats are relentless in pointing it all out. Schumer took the lead in doing so, right off the starting line, which is why he is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

This didn't exactly disappoint us, but it must have disappointed someone somewhere. The Blue Dog Democrats are in disarray, as their ranks further shrink with every passing election. Which apparently wasn't happening fast enough, so some of them decided what they needed was rebranding. Which didn't go over very well, and let to a split in the already-diminished group.

Here's the story:

Congress' influential Blue Dog Coalition is getting chopped nearly in half after an internal blow-up over whether to rebrand the centrist Democratic group.

Seven of the 15 members expected to join the Blue Dogs this year, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), are departing after a heated disagreement over a potential name change for the moderate bloc. For now that's left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male members -- their smallest roster in nearly three decades of existence. One freshman member remains undecided.

At the core of some of the breakaway Blue Dogs' demands was a rechristening as the Common Sense Coalition that, they argued, would have helped shed the group's reputation as a socially moderate, Southern "boys' club." Blue Dogs have long stood for fiscal responsibility and national security, issues with broad Democratic appeal, but some members felt the name had a negative connotation that kept their colleagues from joining. A majority of other members disagreed, saying they saw no reason to toss out a longstanding legacy.

Those tensions came to a head earlier this month as Blue Dog members met for a lengthy debate over the reboot that culminated in a secret-ballot vote to reject the new name, according to interviews with nearly a dozen people familiar with the situation, on both sides of the dispute. Shortly after that vote, Reps. Ed Case (D-Hawaii); David Scott (D-Ga.); Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.); Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Spanberger and Sherrill all left the group.

Again, this doesn't disappoint us personally -- in fact, the faster this group shrinks the better, as far as we are concerned. But the news must have disappointed some Democrats, so in the interests of fairness we're going to collectively give the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to the Blue Dog Coalition, for being the only group within the Democratic caucus who still insists on perpetuating the whole "Democrats in disarray" storyline.

It was either that, or give it to Joe Manchin again, really.

[We tried to find official contact information for the Blue Dog Coalition and were led to a broken link, so we suggest you use their Twitter page to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 692 (1/27/23)

A very mixed bag this week, with two of our talking points taken from articles in the media which framed the issues better than our humble attempts could have. Enjoy and, as always, use responsibly!


   It's getting better all the time

Joe Biden's been increasingly pointing this out, and as more and more of the infrastructure and other projects are rolled out in the coming months, it'll just become more and more apparent that he's managed to get a whole lot of good things done for America.

"No economic picture is perfect, but what we're experiencing now is pretty darn good, you've got to admit. Growth is up -- and it is much higher than the experts were predicting. Pay is now increasing faster than inflation, so more people have more in their pockets. Inflation has gone down every month for the past six months and looks to continue dropping in 2023. Unemployment is at an all-time low. Jobs are plentiful, and they pay better than they used to. Manufacturing is enjoying a rebound. High-tech chip factories are now on the drawing board for many communities across the country. Gas prices are back down again. The economy has recovered from the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it just keeps getting better and better. You don't hear about this as often as you should on the news, but Joe Biden's been doing a pretty good job steering the economy."


   Our demands

This idea (from a Washington Post article by Paul Waldman) is absolutely brilliant. Instead of falling into the negotiating trap Republicans have laid for Democrats, they should take the initiative and fight back. Go on offense! Change the whole tenor of the conversation!

With their demand for across-the-board domestic spending reductions, Republicans are in effect proposing cuts to education, health care, economic development, clean energy, infrastructure, enforcement of environmental laws and a great deal more. So here are some of our demands:

  • A significant tax increase on the wealthy
  • An increase in the minimum wage, including indexing it to inflation
  • A national paid family leave program
  • A program to extend the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid to the states that have refused to accept it
  • Universal pre-K
  • A permanent expansion of the child tax credit

That could be just the start. Republicans want to negotiate? Then let's negotiate! Democrats will be willing to take half a loaf on some of these items; for instance, they might be able to accept only a modest tax increase for the wealthy, or an increase of the minimum wage to only $11 an hour rather than $15. That seems reasonable, doesn't it?

Think about it this way and it's clear how odd it is that we're even calling the GOP demand a negotiation. The choices are (1) give Republicans all of what they want, or (2) give Republicans only some of what they want, with the hope that if the outcome is No. 2, then they'll be kind enough not to shove the U.S. economy off a cliff.


   What are you going to cut? Say so!

As we said earlier, Chuck Schumer's already doing a great job of this, but it should be the go-to line for any Democrat whenever the subject of the debt ceiling and/or budget cuts comes up.

"So Republicans say they're going to hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage in order to slash the federal budget. But what does that mean? They won't tell us. They are afraid to tell us, because then people would know what they are really trying to do. So I ask all of these budget hawks specifically: Are you going to cut Medicare? How many of your constituents are on Medicare? Are you going to cut military pay or the V.A.? How many of your constituents are veterans? Are you going to cut the Child Tax Credit? How many parents live in your state or district? This is precisely why Republicans are so far refusing to say what they'd cut -- because they know full well that millions of real people are going to be affected. They know that their ideas are going to cause some real pain out there. And they're afraid of people figuring that out. So they just stay silent. So any time a Republican opens his or her mouth to talk about the debt ceiling or the budget or 'spending' or just any of it -- ask them: 'OK, so what would you cut?' Because if they won't tell you that it means that you are not going to like their answer."


   Thirty percent

Zero in on the figure, which they're already trying to lie about.

"Republicans now want to institute a national sales tax on everything you buy. And it's a doozy -- 30 percent. Because that is such a jaw-dropping number, they're even lying about it. By their figures, it's actually a 23 percent tax. But say you go to buy something and it costs $100. When they ring you up, you wind up having to pay $130. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a 30-percent tax. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is obviously trying to pull the wool over your eyes. So how many people support a new 30-percent tax on everything you buy? Anyone? Because that doesn't sound like a very good deal for the American consumer to me."


   Don't forget to add in Pence now, too

This is (so far) the best way we've heard the differences laid out between what Joe Biden (and now Mike Pence as well) did, and what Donald Trump did. It comes from a very deep dive into the whole matter by Bruce Maiman in HuffPost.

If I'm renting a room in your home and decide to move out and I remove things from your home inadvertently but give them back, is that different from intentionally removing things from your home and refusing to return them? So much so that you have to call the police to get them back?

That's the difference between what Biden is dealing with and what Trump did. One person voluntarily notified the National Archives about the documents and arranged for their return; the other person fought the National Archives for months and refused to return anything, even ignoring a subpoena from the Justice Department. The Justice Department was left with no choice but to send the FBI to seize those documents.


   97 percent!

Point out successes when they happen!

"Republicans simply are not serious about wanting to fix the problem at the southern border. They say they want illegal border-crossings to stop, but when Joe Biden does precisely that they sue him in court to stop it. Inside of one month, illegal border crossings from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have dropped by an astounding 97 percent due to a new way for immigrants to apply online rather than attempting to make an illegal entry. You heard that right -- 97 percent of the problem was solved. So of course, 20 Republican states are now suing Biden in federal court to stop the program. Because they have no interest in any real-life solutions, they just love making political hay over the issue instead. The hypocrisy is just astounding, folks. They say they want illegal border crossings to end, Biden does just that, and they sue him in court to stop him."


   They got the "dummy" part right

File this under "you just can't make this stuff up, folks"....

"A newly-elected Republican member of the House decided to pass out a free gift to his fellow members of Congress this week. And nothing could exemplify the House Republicans' strategy more, really. Because what Cory Mills decided to pass out was a '40mm grenade, made for a MK19 grenade launcher.' They even have cute little Republican elephants painted on them. They are, his office assured everyone, inert -- just 'dummy' grenades. But what better gift to kick off the GOP House majority and how they are going to operate than grenades? I mean, it just speaks volumes, really...."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground