FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Temper Tantrum

[ Posted Friday, November 16th, 2018 – 18:43 PST ]

Most Americans, not being political wonks, have largely moved on from the midterm election results. The mainstream media has also largely been ignoring the still-developing story, for two reasons: (1) they really kind of blew it on Election Night, uniformly coming to the wrong conclusion very early in the evening ("the blue wave is not appearing") and so they're now avoiding having to correct their misinterpretation; and (2) there's a recount in Florida again! Woo hoo! Break out the video clips of that poor myopic cross-eyed guy with the magnifying glass -- that's always fun to run, right?

Sigh.

However, one notable person hasn't exactly been ignoring the still-increasing blue wave. From an extraordinary article (titled: "Five Days Of Fury: Inside Trump's Paris Temper, Election Woes And Staff Upheaval") comes the following behind-the-scenes news from President Trump last weekend:


On his flight [to Paris, France] and throughout the weekend, Trump was preoccupied by political developments back in the United States. He watched TV with rapt attention as late-counting votes resulted in the Senate race in Arizona and a number of House contests to slip out of Republican hands, and as recounts got underway in Florida's Senate and gubernatorial races. He also complained about the lack of congressional funding for his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump sent political aides in Washington scrambling to prepare detailed briefings for him on the still-to-be-called races. He aired baseless allegations of voter irregularities on Twitter -- writing from the plane that elections attorney Marc Elias was the Democrats' "best Election stealing lawyer" but that he would send "much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!"

Still, the president told aides he felt disconnected from the action in his suite at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris -- even as he consumed countless hours of television news on the trip.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley had the most quotable lines in the article, including: "He's just a bull carrying his own china shop whenever he travels the world," and: "Trump needs adulation, so heading into the midterms, holding these rallies, he was cheered and it became narcissistic fuel to his engine. After the midterm, it's the sober dawn of the morning."

Actually, it has taken quite a few literal dawns, and it's not even over yet. The still-uncalled races (as of this writing) that everyone is currently focused on come from Florida (governor and Senate) and Georgia (governor). Democrats are likely to lose all three races, although Stacey Abrams is now considering suing to force a re-election. This, it should be noted, is the longest of longshots, so nobody should really get their hopes up too high or anything. However, as of this writing, there are still six races left to be called in the House, as well.

Just for the sake of argument, let's assume the Republicans win all three of the marquee races. Let's also assume that of the six House races still uncalled, the parties who are ahead in each one will win (this will give three to the Democrats and three to the Republicans). So how high was that blue wave? Let's check it out, by the numbers:

 

Minus Two

Democrats will wind up losing a net of two seats in the Senate (assuming Republicans hold on in the runoff election in Mississippi). They lost seats they held in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Florida. However, two Democrats bucked this trend and picked up seats previously held by Republicans, in Nevada and Arizona. This will lead to a 53-47 Senate for the next two years, which is a lot better than it could have turned out. The Democratic Senate map this time around was the worst Democrats had faced since the 1930s, so even just losing two seats is a notable achievement.

 

Plus Seven

Democrats picked up seven governor's seats -- and not every state held a gubernatorial election. Democrats picked up: Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, New Mexico, and Nevada. This still leaves the Republicans with a slight overall edge, but Democrats certainly gained a lot of ground here in a single cycle. There will now be 27 Republican governors and 23 Democratic governors.

 

Plus Thirty-Nine

The best news came from the House, but it's been trickling in so slowly that few have noticed. Democrats needed to pick up 23 seats to regain control of the House of Representatives. They are now on track to pick up a whopping 39 seats. They flipped almost every Republican-held district in New Jersey (missing only one) and will flip six districts in California (leaving the GOP holding fewer than 10 of California's 53 House districts). Democrats, if the current total holds, will now hold every district in Orange County -- a place Ronald Reagan described as: "Where all the good Republicans go to die." This once-GOP-stronghold now doesn't even have a single GOP representative left. Democrats also now hold every House district that touches the Pacific Ocean, except for one in Washington state and the at-large member from Alaska. Democrats picked up two of Iowa's four districts, leaving only one held by a Republican (and a rather odious one, at that). The blue wave in the House was bigger than any midterm election for the Democrats since 1974 -- an election held three months after Nixon resigned over Watergate (when Democrats picked up 49 seats).

 

Plus Three Hundred

But the biggest news is the smallest news. After losing close to 1,000 state legislative seats under Barack Obama, the Democrats definitively turned this trend around by flipping 300 of these seats back to the Democratic column in a single election. The magnitude of this victory alone precludes calling this anything other than a wave election, in fact.

 

No wonder Trump's freaking out. This was a solid repudiation of Trump -- as he himself put it, he was indeed "on the ballot" in every race. And this has led to a stunning and historic rejection of the president's party, almost across the board. House election after House election has gone to the Democrats since Election Night, and there are still six left to call.

Speaking of Trump freaking out, though, he's got all sorts of things to worry about these days. One Washington Post article ran a full list of what's bugging Trump -- and this list was run on Monday, so it doesn't even include later developments:

  • His performance in Europe was panned.
  • The election results get worse for Republicans with each passing day.
  • His great North Korea diplomacy, contrary to the gullible pundits and political spinners, was a bust. (He was snookered.)
  • We now have two major Middle East problems -- Iran and out-of-control Sunni despots who think (not unreasonably) they can lead him around by the nose.
  • He is not winning the trade war, and it may be one of many factors leading to an economic pullback before the 2020 election.
  • Mueller plows ahead, with possibly more indictments (e.g., Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr.). The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (aided by Michael Cohen's cooperation) has its own case(s) to pursue against Trump and/or his helpmates.
  • Obamacare is here to stay. It's more popular than ever, and red America has fallen in love with Medicaid expansion.
  • Trump's finances are no longer protected from scrutiny, nor are his daughter and son-in-law's.

And that only takes us through Monday. But then, Trump had a particularly brutal weekend. He traveled to Paris to (he thought) see another fun military parade. Nobody apparently told him that the occasion was actually the centenary of the end of World War I, which is where Armistice Day originated (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month -- ring a bell?). But he didn't get his big parade, and he bickered with European leaders (even ones who called him up to feed his ego over his non-existent "big victory" in the midterm elections). Trump was originally scheduled to attend a somber ceremony in a gravesite filled with American war dead from the Battle of Belleau Wood, but he cancelled it at the last minute, due to a light rain. He got excoriated on the world's stage for doing so, which didn't help his mood. The Washington Post summed it up with one snarky headline: "Parisians Brave The Rain To Protest Trump" and one rather brilliant bit of satire, Alexandra Petri's spoof article "All Quiet On The Western Trump." But the most scathing takedown of all came from Post columnist Max Boot, who minced not a single word:

The White House explained that bad weather grounded the helicopters that Trump and his entourage were planning to take. Yet somehow bad weather did not prevent French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from attending outdoor ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I that afternoon. Somehow bad weather did not stop Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired general John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, from attending the very ceremony that Trump could not make.

Rather than make the hour-long drive (Aisne-Marne is only 55 miles from Paris), the low-energy president remained behind at the U.S. ambassador's residence. It's not as if he didn't sacrifice anything, however. Odds are that his room didn't have Fox News. So he was probably reduced to watching CNN all afternoon. If the New York dating scene was Trump's personal Vietnam, this was his personal Verdun.

. . .

Trump shows what he really thinks of the troops by using them as political props. He deployed 5,600 troops just before the midterm elections to guard against the supposed threat posed by a few thousand unarmed refugees hundreds of miles from the U.S. border. He even suggested that the troops should commit the war crime of opening fire on migrants who threw rocks.

The Pentagon grandly dubbed this Operation Faithful Patriot and circulated pictures of troops in full "battle rattle" stringing barbed wire, only to quietly drop the ludicrous moniker amid Election Day. Conveniently enough, Trump and his friends at Fox essentially stopped speaking about the caravan once the votes were cast. But, as the New York Times reports, the troops are still in the field, without electricity or hot meals -- or a mission. They will likely spend Thanksgiving away from their families.

Naturally, Trump will not bother to visit them, even though there is no risk in traveling to Texas. He still has not visited U.S. troops deployed to a war zone -- although he has spent 72 days at Mar-a-Lago and 58 days at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club.

Just for good measure, Trump also tweeted out -- on Veterans' Day itself -- that Florida should just stop counting votes -- before the deadline had arrived for overseas military voters to have returned their ballots.

Later in the week, Trump lost another court battle when a judge temporarily gave CNN's Jim Acosta his White House press pass back, signaling that the White House was likely to lose the court battle over the issue. And Trump gave a rather bizarre interview to the Daily Caller, where he trotted out his usual pack of lies. Notably, he made some extra-crazy claims about the election, and how hordes of imaginary people are voting multiple times:

I've seen it, I've had friends talk about it when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It's really a disgrace, what's going on.

Trump also made the downright hilarious claim that buying breakfast cereal required "a voter I.D.," much to the delight of everyone on Twitter:

If you buy a box of cereal -- you have a voter I.D. They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter I.D. But voter I.D. is a very important thing.

A mind is a terrible thing not to ever have had in the first place, to borrow a phrase. But this wasn't even the most brutal Twitter takedown Trump experienced all week, after one of his own petulant post-election tweets:

The White House is running very smoothly and the results for our Nation are obviously very good. We are the envy of the world. But anytime I even think about making changes, the FAKE NEWS MEDIA goes crazy, always seeking to make us look as bad as possible! Very dishonest!

That "We are the envy of the world" was just too hilarious for many people, many of whom pointed out: "You spelled 'laughingstock' wrong."

No wonder Trump's having such a tantrum, after a week like that.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got a whole lot of Democrats to congratulate this week, so let's get on with it without further ado.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already winning hearts and minds on social media, chronicling her amazing voyage in becoming the youngest woman ever to join the House of Representatives. She's been sending out photos of her exploring the Capitol and Library of Congress, as well as mundane things like visiting a laundromat to wash her clothes. It's a fascinating look into the monumental challenge of what to do after the election's won, and she deserves an Honorable Mention for this alone.

However, this wasn't the only social media news about Ocasio-Cortez this week, since she's already been attacked in misogynistic fashion. Eddie Scarry, described as "a conservative writer at the Washington Examiner," felt the need to tweet out a photo of Alexandria -- from behind -- with the caption:

Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I'll tell you something: that jacket and coat don't look like a girl who struggles.

Now, Scarry got so much grief for this tweet that he later deleted it, but few are focusing on the most offensive part of it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be young, but she is definitely not "a girl." This semantic battle was fought a long time ago, in fact (back in the 1960s and 1970s), and anyone who still uses the word "girl" to describe any woman over the age of about 12 deserves all the grief they get. A teenager is a "young woman," and an adult female should never be described as anything other than "a woman." But Scarry didn't get as much pushback on this part of it as he did for the photo itself and his ignorance of fashion choices modern women make. In fact, some of the denunciations on Twitter were downright scathing, with probably the best coming from Jules Suzdaltsev:

Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez and she is showing ZERO signs of SCURVY, appears to be wearing SHOES, and isnt dancing a jig for LOOSE CHANGE.
Doesn't look like a girl who struggles...

But the best response was from Ocasio-Cortez herself, who tweeted in reply:

If I walked into Congress wearing a sack, they would laugh & take a picture of my backside.

If I walk in with my best sale-rack clothes, they laugh & take a picture of my backside.

Dark hates light - that's why you tune it out.

Shine bright & keep it pushing

This leads us to chime in with the only remaining acceptable slang usage of the term these days: "You go, girl!"

Congress is back in session, and two Democrats have wasted no time in acting. Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna (who represents parts of Silicon Valley), coming off the success of their "Stop BEZOS Act" shaming Amazon into upping all their wages to at least $15 an hour, have introduced a new bill. Let's see if you can guess who it is aimed at by its full title: the "Stop Welfare for Any Large Monopoly Amassing Revenue from Taxpayers Act." Bernie followed this announcement up with a rather pithy tweet pointing out a very uncomfortable truth:

Last year, 4 members of the Walton family of Walmart made $12.7 billion in 1 day. It would take a full-time Walmart worker making $11/hr over 653,000 years to make that much. Thursday, @RepRoKhanna and I are introducing legislation to make Walmart pay its workers a living wage.

That's a factoid worth keeping handy to toss about with abandon: an average worker would take 653,000 years to make what the Walton family raked in in one single day. That's a downright geologic time period, when you think about it.

Walmart is pushing back against the Stop WALMART Act, but this isn't really a legislative battle (the bill has zero chance of passing the Senate), but a public relations battle, so we'll see if it works out the way the Amazon one did. Still, Sanders and Khanna both deserve an Honorable Mention for their tireless efforts to shine a spotlight on this stuff.

Speaking of tireless efforts, Stacey Abrams of Georgia certainly isn't giving up without a fight. She has been shining the spotlight of public attention on the various ways Georgia elections officials (led by the man she is running against for governor) have been systematically attempting just about every voter-suppression method they can think of. Abrams, as previously mentioned, is most likely going to lose in the end, but she has almost singlehandedly turned Georgia into (at the very least) a reddish shade of purple. For that alone she deserves an Honorable Mention.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than Senator-Elect Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Sinema was the sole Democrat to pull out a surprise victory in the Senate after the Election Day frenzy was over. Flipping Arizona -- which hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate in over a generation -- is an incredibly impressive feat. Next door, New Mexico has all but completed their journey from being a Republican stronghold to being a solidly-blue state, as Democrats swept the board in the House races (flipping the last GOP-held district) and picked up the governor's seat to boot. Arizona could follow this path as well, which would be a remarkable turnaround from the days of anti-immigrant "show your papers" laws being passed. John McCain's old Senate seat will be up for grabs in 2020, and although the GOP candidate who lost to Sinema may be appointed to the seat in the meantime, Democrats should have an excellent shot at picking up this seat in two years.

Sinema's victory was all the more sweet for being late. Up until early in the week, she was close but still trailing. Three days ago, she was pronounced the winner. This added to the proof of the blue wave, and prevented Republicans from picking up a net plus-three Senate seats. That doesn't sound like much, but it may become crucial in the 2020 Senate races, as Democrats try to regain control of the chamber. This will now be one seat easier to do.

Kyrsten Sinema's win was decisive (she won by almost 40,000 votes) and was well-appreciated by Democrats nationwide. For pulling her race out in the end and for waging what all agree was an excellent campaign, Kyrsten Sinema is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[You'll have to wait to congratulate Senator-Elect Kyrsten Sinema until she gets her new official Senate webpage up and running.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We're going to have to slightly redefine this award, for this week only, because the winner isn't someone who was actually disappointing -- that's too strong a word, really.

So for the first time ever, we're awarding a special Most Ridiculous Democrat Of The Week award to West Virginia's Richard Ojeda. Ojeda is currently a state senator, and he just ran for a U.S. House of Representatives seat last week -- and lost. So he's following up this disappointing result by -- are you sitting down? -- announcing his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Really? Seriously?

This is a world-class level of chutzpah, but that's not exactly something to be proud of. Ojeda couldn't even win a House district, so in his estimation he'd be the best candidate to take on Donald Trump? This level of ridiculousness is simply breathtaking. Which is why we've created our special MRDOTW award, just for him.

[Contact West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his presidential ambitions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 509 (11/16/18)

OK, another mixed bag this week in the talking points. Of course, there is plenty of speculation swirling right now about whether Nancy Pelosi will become the next speaker of the House or not, but even in such turbulent times it's important that Democrats keep focused on what unites the party -- especially when being interviewed on television. So here are our suggestions for talking points for Democrats this week (not one of which has Pelosi's name in it).

 

1
   Rain didn't stop them

Former Secretary of State John Kerry -- a highly-decorated Vietnam War veteran -- had the best response to Trump cowering away from a little rain at a World War I cemetery on the 100th anniversary of the end of the war. Kerry tweeted:

President @realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops? Those veterans the president didn't bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow -- & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn't stop them & it shouldn't have stopped an American president.

 

2
   The disappearing caravan and 10% tax cut

Now you see them, now you don't.

"In the buildup to the midterm election, certain channels of cable television just couldn't shut up about the supposed dangers of the caravan from Central America. According to Media Matters, Fox News spent over 33 full hours on the caravan-is-coming-to-kill-you story before the election, while in the two days after the election they only spent a total of four minutes and 57 seconds talking about it. Donald Trump, meanwhile, was promising all his supporters -- at each and every campaign rally -- that he'd be signing a 10 percent middle-class tax cut any day now. After the election, the White House released a list of their top priorities for Congress to achieve in the lame-duck period, and guess what didn't make the list? That's right -- the magic 10 percent tax cut was nowhere to be seen. It's almost as if Fox and Trump were just outright lying to everyone in a naked effort to scare people into voting, or something."

 

3
   Now you want to play nice?!?

Hypocrisy, thy name is McConnell.

"Mitch McConnell wrote what I am assuming was an attempt at comedy this week, for a major newspaper. In this opinion piece, McConnell has the nerve to lecture the incoming Democratic House to be more bipartisan so they can get some things done together. This wouldn't be half as laughable, of course, if it weren't for just about everything McConnell has ever done as Senate Majority Leader. As plenty of people are now pointing out, on Twitter. Assuming Mitch isn't warming up a new bit for an open-mic night at a comedy club or something, I have two words to help bring Mitch back to reality: Merrick Garland."

 

4
   House Democrats announce first agenda item, media ignores them

Unbelievable. A big question on everyone's mind is: "What will Democrats do when they take control of the House?" So the Democrats answered. And the media yawned. If you haven't heard about the H.R. 1 proposal (the first bill to be introduced next year), you are not alone. We wrote a whole article of our own earlier this week on the subject, for those interested in further details, but here's a quick summary.

"House Democrats have already signaled what their first order of business in the House will be -- the first bill they'll be introducing after taking control next year. This is a far-reaching and ambitious piece of legislation, folks. Here is a quick rundown of what the bill aims to accomplish: Institute a federal requirement for all states to have automatic voter registration. Reinstate and update the Voting Rights Act that got struck down by the Supreme Court. Take away redistricting power from state legislatures and instead hand it to independent commissions. Overturn Citizens United. Make campaign finance more transparent. Make it illegal for presidents to have financial conflicts of interest. Expand anti-bribery laws. Oh, and just for good measure, require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns to the public. All of this may not go as far as some versions of a 'voters' bill of rights' do, but it certainly would be a large number of giant steps in the right direction, you've got to admit."

 

5
   N.R.A. falling on hard times

A bit of schadenfreude to bask in.

"The National Rifle Association is losing the battle and losing the debate. Multiple Democrats just elected to Congress ran explicitly on gun control and against the N.R.A. These candidates won in moderate suburban districts, for the most part. And now news comes that the N.R.A. is facing some hard times. Seems last year their membership revenue declined by $35 million, and this year the group only spent $10 million in the midterm races -- less than half what it spend in 2014 or 2016. Things have even gotten so bad that they have now cut off the free water coolers and coffee at their headquarters to save some money. Staff are reportedly 'freaking out' at this development. Maybe -- just maybe -- mainstream American gun owners are beginning to think twice about the N.R.A.'s extremist viewpoint, what with horrific mass shootings happening so often these days. We can only hope."

 

6
   Not ready for prime time

Speaking of extremist viewpoints....

"The Mississippi Senate race has gone to a runoff election, which will take place in a few weeks. The Democratic candidate is Mike Espy, a black man, running against a woman who was appointed to fill out Thad Cochran's term. This woman, Cindy Hyde-Smith, has been letting her constituents know her own particular viewpoint. One video was released this week showing Hyde-Smith stating that there were 'liberal folks' who, in her words: 'maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little bit more difficult. And I think that's a great idea.' Now, showing naked approval for voter suppression in the Deep South is bad enough, but that wasn't even the worst video of Hyde-Smith from this week. An earlier clip showed her joking -- joking -- that she'd want to 'be on the front row' for a 'public hanging.' In Mississippi. While running against an African-American. I'd bet my bottom dollar that every single black voter who is physically able to will be out to cast their votes when the runoff happens, because, as Espy's communications director put it, Hyde-Smith is nothing short of 'a walking stereotype.'"

 

7
   Sure beats the alternative

Speaking of runoff elections (or the lack thereof)....

"History was made in Maine this week, as Democratic House candidate Jared Golden defeated a sitting Republican incumbent through the means of instant-runoff voting. Maine was the first state to use this system for federal office, and it worked exactly as designed. Rather than the time, hassle, and expense of a runoff election, voters marked their ranked choices for all the candidates on Election Day. Since nobody got a clear majority of the votes cast in the first tally, the election went to a second and third round. But the best thing about the new system was pointed out by Golden himself:"

Using ranked-choice voting, we've determined a clear winner in a more timely manner than Louisiana and other states that hold runoff elections. And I'm going to go out on a limb here: I'm sure I'm not the only one in the state that's glad we used an instant-runoff system instead of holding another election. Who in this state wants to see another campaign commercial wedged in between Thanksgiving and Christmas?

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground