Friday Talking Points -- Another Fun Week In Trumpland

[ Posted Friday, April 12th, 2019 – 17:20 UTC ]

Welcome back! Our Friday Talking Points column has been on a forced hiatus for the past month, due to a rather severe bout with the flu. But while we're up and running once again, we're still not at 100 percent, so we're going to foreshorten our usual weekly roundup introduction this week. Instead of attempting the monumental task of getting back up to date with a month's worth of craziness from Washington, we're going to just write a generic introduction that should be able to stand in for just about any week in the Donald Trump era. Call it a "Mad Lib" fill-in-the-blank do-it-yourself rundown. Everyone ready? Then here we go....


Generic Weekly News Roundup

President Donald Trump embarrassed himself today by claiming [TOTAL LIE], and then following up on Twitter with [INSANE CONSPIRACY THEORY]. Both were immediately disproven by [WIDELY AVAILABLE AND INDISPUTABLE FACTS]. When asked for comment, the White House merely stated that "the president's words speak for themselves." Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway was quoted blaming [ANYONE BUT TRUMP] for the whole fracas.

Earlier, Trump had fanned the political flames by tweeting [HATE-FILLED RANT], which once again clearly violates the Twitter rules of conduct; but when contacted about it, the head of Twitter stated: "We're going to interpret his tweet as [TOTAL HORSE MANURE RATIONALIZATION] rather than being savagely directed at [VULNERABLE MINORITY]."

Trump was also in the news this week for firing [HIGH-RANKING ADVISOR], which he claimed was due to [TOTALLY MADE-UP AND CAPRICIOUS REASON]. Multiple White House sources report, however, that the real reason was that [HIGH-RANKING ADVISOR] refused to violate numerous federal laws when directed to by Trump, which sent him into a rage.

The Trump administration made some foreign policy news as well, by insulting the leader of [FORMER CLOSE U.S. ALLY] and declaring America would be pulling out of [LONG-STANDING INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT] because, as Trump put it, "We don't need all these dirty foreigners telling us what to do. America First!"

Senate Republicans reacted to all of these crises by [HIDING THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND], after Mitch McConnell further distanced himself from Trump's actions by claiming: "Trump? Trump who? I hardly know the guy...."

House Democrats, meanwhile, have launched their [VERY HIGH ORDINAL NUMBER] investigation into Trump administration wrongdoing, issuing subpoenas to [ALL AND SUNDRY]. "We're going to get to the bottom of the [BLATANT LAWBREAKING BY TRUMP AND HIS MINIONS] scandal," promised Adam Schiff.

In the 2020 Democratic nomination race, [LIST OF THREE MORE DEMOCRATS YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF] are all jumping into the race, bringing the new total number of candidates to an all-time high of [NUMBER NORTH OF 20]. The new hopefuls declared that they definitely saw a path to the nomination, as long as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have heart attacks sometime real soon now.

In the current field, Senator Elizabeth Warren released [WILDLY POPULAR AND DETAILED POLICY IDEA], but the media completely ignored it because it was so intently focused on [LATEST SHINY-OBJECT NON-STORY FROM CAMPAIGN TRAIL]. And also because they had to have time to run the [LATEST ADORABLE CAMPAIGN VIDEO] from [CURRENT MEDIA DARLING CANDIDATE], thirty or forty times each hour. "[CURRENT MEDIA DARLING CANDIDATE] has really locked up the [CAT-LOVERS / DOG-LOVERS / ROCK FANS / STAR WARS FANS / YOUTH ACTIVIST / SENIOR CITIZENS] vote, with this new video clip," said every cable news anchor, simultaneously.


Sigh. When you write it all out like that, you really have to wonder whether to laugh or cry, don't you?

But that'll have to mostly do for this week's rundown, since covering the entire month of our untimely absence is a hill too steep for us to climb right now. But as always, we do have a smattering of news that didn't really fit anywhere else but seems worthy enough to mention before we get on with the awards.

First a few random notes from the campaign trail. Bernie Sanders has committed to releasing ten years of his tax returns by Monday (tax day), so his detractors will have to latch on to something else to complain about, we suppose.

Michael Avenatti, who at one point considered running for president, got hit with three dozen federal charges this week, which is on top of the other state charges he's already facing. He apparently played pretty fast and loose with his clients' money, and it's now coming back to bite him on the hindquarters. This is a tangential story, since he declined to run, but imagine if he was actively campaigning right now -- it would be a whole different matter then.

Since Avenatti isn't running, the "most bizarre Democratic candidate" award has to go to Mike Gravel, who recently jumped into the race. Or, more accurately, his Twitter account is what appears to be running, after being taken over (with Gravel's permission) by some snarky youngsters who seem bent on tearing down all the other Democrats in the race. Here's just one example of what Mike Gravel's Twitter account has been up to of late:

if you want a vision of the future under Cory Booker, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever. and every once in a while it stops for an inspirational lecture on how we should never stop dreaming

But that's not even the weirdest Twitter story this week. Julian Assange was unceremoniously hauled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and will now begin a very long process of fighting extradition to the United States. This came after the Ecuadorians had just had enough of Assange treating their embassy badly, from all reports. But the question on some reporters' minds was what would happen to Assange's cat? He had his own Twitter following (as "Embassy Cat") and has reportedly been transferred to an Assange family member for the duration -- "until they can be reunited in freedom." So everyone can rest assured that the "Wee Kitty Leaks" cat is doing fine.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

From the campaign trail, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is moving up significantly in the early polling, after receiving a wave of media attention over the past few weeks. But on substance alone, we have to award both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Honorable Mention awards this week, for making solid policy proposals in the midst of the campaign.

Sanders filed this year's version of his Medicare For All bill, which four other Democratic senators running for president signed onto. That's an impressive achievement, and shows the growing appeal of the idea in the Democratic caucus. Warren announced a new tax idea which would institute an alternative minimum tax for corporations who make over $100 million a year. She announced this plan the same week it was revealed that 60 of America's largest corporations -- including Amazon, Netflix, Chevron, Eli Lilly, Delta Airlines, General Motors, IBM, and Goodyear -- all paid zero taxes under the new Trump tax code. Some even got huge rebates. This is precisely what people mean when they say the tax system is rigged, and it is precisely what Warren's new idea would address.

The Democratic National Committee deserves an Honorable Mention award as well, for launching a nuts-and-bolts effort to defeat Donald Trump. Trump is planning on running on the slogan: "Promises made, promises kept," so it is important to push back on this rather faulty argument. From the story:

Responding to criticism that Democrats were too focused on Trump's temperament and personal attributes during Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, the party's main organizing arm says it's making a major expansion of its opposition research team that will be "hyper-focused" on the impact of Trump's policies on local communities. A team of several dozen staffers have compiled an archive of thousands of documents obtained through local news and Freedom of Information Act requests that will be used to spotlight promises Trump made during visits to specific communities -- and to "put a human face" on what's happened since then.

Trump's lies during his 2016 campaign can only come back to haunt him if Democrats bother to point them out, so this should hopefully pay some solid dividends in next year's general election.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Here's why, in a nutshell:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at a ceremony next month, the Kennedy Library Foundation announced Sunday.

The California Democrat is being recognized for leading "with strength, integrity and grace under pressure -- using her power to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens," former ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the foundation's honorary president, said in a statement.

"She is the most important woman in American political history and is a true Profile in Courage," Kennedy said.

. . .

Pelosi called the award "a powerful testament to the extraordinary legacy and leadership of President Kennedy."

"At President Kennedy's inauguration, I was blessed to hear him speak of ‘the energy, the faith, the devotion... that will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world,'" Pelosi said in a statement. "It is inspiring that the award itself is a lantern, a manifestation of that light."

While it may cause Hillary Clinton to gnash her teeth in envy, Nancy Pelosi is indeed now "the most important woman in American political history." She is more than deserving of the Kennedy Profile In Courage award, to which we're going to add our own humble Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, as well.

[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We have two news items from the upcoming Maine Senate race to take on Susan Collins this week, one of which rises to the level of a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award.

Senator Joe Manchin for some reason decided to weigh in on the race, even though no Democratic opponent has even emerged yet. The West Virginia senator stated unequivocal support for his Republican colleague, saying: "If she wanted me to, I would campaign for Susan Collins. For America to lose somebody like Susan Collins would an absolute shame. I feel that strongly about her."

In other news from the race, Susan Rice disappointed many by announcing that after consideration and consultation with her family, she was going to take a pass on challenging Collins next year. Even though she and her family have strong Maine roots, she would have had to fight off the image of being a carpetbagger, something that matters a whole lot to Mainers. But many national Democrats had been excited at the prospect of Rice running.

Former White House Counsel to Barack Obama Greg Craig faced a federal indictment this week, but it had nothing to do with his tenure at the White House (unlike, say, Michael Flynn). Craig had joined a lobbying operation with Paul Manafort years after leaving the White House, which is what got him into so much trouble (this is a continuation of the fallout from Manafort's illegal lobbying and fraud). Nevertheless, Craig certainly deserves at least a (Dis-)Honorable Mention for joining up with Manafort in the first place.

But our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is Representative John Lewis, who spearheaded the effort to pass a bill this week which will make it illegal for the I.R.S. to develop its own free tax-filing software so that millions of American taxpayers could easily and quickly do their taxes each year.

Now, this story is a somewhat convoluted one, but at its heart it represents the worst of Washington -- special-interest money trumping any concern for average Americans. Software companies who already have tax-preparation software lobbied hard to bar the I.R.S. from competing with them, and House Democrats rolled over and let them, plain and simple.

The underlying bill is actually full of good ideas to reform the I.R.S., including limiting the use of private debt collectors, which made the choice of whether to vote for it or not a tough one. Progressive Democrats led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez initially fought against the bill, though, because of the provision which protects services like TurboTax from competition from a free I.R.S. filing service. Eventually, the progressives were talked into supporting the bill, but they're still not happy about it. Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Katie Hill were both reportedly convinced by John Lewis:

[Representative John] Lewis, one of the authors of the sweeping IRS bill, worked quickly to tamp down the revolt. He met with two progressives who seemed ready to try to sink the legislation -- [Representative Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), both first elected last November. And he not only persuaded them to let the bill pass on a voice vote, he actually got them to speak in support of it.

"We talked, and explained the bill, and in the end, they supported it," Lewis told HuffPost Wednesday.

"Sometimes you just have to talk to people," he said.

Lewis said he told them that the Senate could work on the free-filing issue, though he stopped short of making a firm commitment on the matter.

"It's going to be left up to the Senate to do it," Lewis said. "We're not going to dictate what to do or not to do."

Lewis, in his conversations with Ocasio-Cortez and Hill, stressed aspects of the bill that Democrats like. It contains language preventing the IRS from referring debts from some lower-income taxpayers to debt collectors. And it includes provisions to improve IRS customer service, address identity theft and authorize grants for nonprofits to provide free tax-filing assistance to low-income people.

The progressives aren't going to let this bill become the final word, though:

Ocasio-Cortez said Wednesday that Lewis took seriously the concerns she and Hill raised, and she anticipates working with him on separate legislation addressing the electronic filing issue.

She and Hill "are certainly planning to draft that legislation," Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPost.

Floor speeches by the two new lawmakers made clear that, while they were supporting the legislation, they took issue with the electronic tax-filing provisions.

"Long-term, we should be looking at a solution where everyday people do not necessarily have to spend hours every year preparing tax returns when the majority of Americans have relatively simple and straightforward returns," Ocasio-Cortez said in her speech.

Hill noted some of the bill's positives before calling out the language prohibiting the IRS from making available electronic tax filing software of its own.

"In this freshman class, I and many of my colleagues were sent to reject corporate influence and stand up for people," Hill said. "This puts us in a difficult spot."

But she added that "the rest of this bill is too important" to try to block its passage over the electronic filing issue.

Another freshman, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), said she is planning to work with her colleagues on that legislation.

"This is not a done deal," she said of the dispute over electronic filing.

However, in an ideal world, they wouldn't have to go back and fix this odious corporate giveaway. The argument Lewis made was, in effect, a complete abdication of his own responsibility: "Don't worry, maybe the Senate will fix it." Obviously, the Senate wouldn't have to fix it if the House did their job correctly in the first place.

Again, this is precisely what voters hate about Washington and the way lobbyists continue to rig the system against the average person. For being at the forefront of such a disgraceful capitulation to lobbyists, John Lewis is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Contact Representative John Lewis on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 523 (4/12/19)

OK, we admit we're a little rusty in the talking points creation game, but we're going to do our best. They kind of range all over the map, but they end with one bit of Democratic trolling which should put a smile on everyone's face, so there's that. Without further ado, let's just get right to it, shall we?


   Making out like bandits

Just business as usual, really.

"It was revealed this week that 60 of America's top corporations paid absolutely nothing in taxes this year, after the Trump tax cuts showered them with goodies. That's right -- a long list of companies including Amazon, Netflix, Chevron, Eli Lilly, Delta Airlines, General Motors, IBM, and Goodyear all paid exactly zero dollars in taxes, after making billions of dollars in profits. Some even got money back, meaning their tax rate was below zero. Remember when the Republicans swore up and down that their tax cuts were designed to help the average guy and not the fatcats? Well, it turns out they were lying, just like they always do on this subject. In actual fact, their tax cuts hit average Americans hard while at the same time allowing corporate giants to rake in billions while paying nothing at all to the U.S. Treasury. Because that's what Republicans really care about -- allowing Wall Street to make out like bandits while sticking it to everyone else."


   Show us your taxes!

This needs to be a constant refrain throughout the entire presidential campaign.

"Donald Trump needs to show us his taxes, and he needs to do so right now. The I.R.S. is currently defying federal law by not releasing Trump's tax returns even though a House committee has demanded them in accordance with federal law. When will we finally get to see what Trump is so desperately hiding? He's obviously terrified of something contained within his taxes becoming public, and he'll go to any length to conceal whatever it is from the voters before the election. But federal law is clear and unequivocal. So let the court fight begin, because the sooner we all get to see Trump's taxes, the sooner we'll find out just what sort of con he's been running on the American people."


   A Trump resigns

This didn't get nearly enough notice in the media.

"Donald Trump's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, had to resign her federal judgeship this year because an investigation had been launched into the Trump family's rampant tax fraud going back decades. Barry herself appears to have benefited from these schemes, first reported by the New York Times. When she found out an investigation had been opened into the affair by a judicial conduct council, she dodged the scrutiny by just resigning her seat as a federal appellate judge. So while she probably won't be the last, Maryanne Trump Barry has become the first Trump family member to resign a federal post in disgrace after her past tax avoidance came to light."


   Full? Then why hire immigrants?

Another Trump slogan that needs to get smacked down.

"Donald Trump has a new slogan he's been using in the discussions about what to do about the border -- he says 'our country is full,' and therefore can't take any more immigrants, period. But he's never explained why, if the country is so full, his own businesses rely so heavily on an immigrant workforce. He abuses the visa system to get maids for his hotels, and he outright looks the other way to hire plenty of illegal immigrants on his golf courses, so I guess the country isn't all that full at all. If he still needs to use lots of immigrant laborers then you'd think he'd realize that there are some jobs that Americans just won't do."


   Maybe Attila The Hun?

Trump continues to purge one of his own cabinet departments, apparently because they kept insisting on following federal law rather than follow Trump's instructions to the contrary.

"Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to walk the plank this week, after the former head of the Department of Homeland Security apparently refused to be even more cruel to immigrants than she has been during her whole tenure. Nielsen is not exactly a profile in courage, and will be remembered for putting small children in cages and ripping them from their parents' arms at the direction of Trump. And then lying about it all to Congress, of course. But not even tear-gassing mothers and children was enough for Trump, who finally followed the advice of his senior aide Stephen 'Darth' Miller. Trump then fired a whole bunch of others who had been annoying Miller, leaving no one in charge right at the height of what he calls a 'national emergency' at the border. One has to wonder who exactly will meet Miller's high standards for cruelty to be offered Nielsen's former job now -- perhaps we'll see Homeland Security Secretary Attila The Hun next?"


   Cain wasn't able

There's all sorts of amusing ways to make fun of this one.

"It's heartening to see that at least four Republican senators still have enough backbone to realize that Herman Cain wasn't exactly the most qualified guy to be named to the Federal Reserve this week. With their opposition, it now seems likely that Cain will withdraw from consideration rather than face an embarrassing spectacle of Senate hearings. Maybe he'll go back to 'Ubecki-becki-becki-becki-stan-stan' or something. Or, to get biblical, one might say that Cain wasn't able, and leave it at that."


   George Conway trolls again

This last one isn't so much of a talking point as it is just downright funny Trump trolling from a master at the game. George Conway, husband of Kellyanne, has changed his Twitter mini-bio. It used to just say "Lawyer." But he's updated it to the following:

George Conway

Lawyer. Windmill cancer survivor.

-- Chris Weigant


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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground