FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points -- SCOTUS Season Continues

[ Posted Friday, June 14th, 2024 – 16:36 UTC ]

Happy Flag Day, everyone!

[We have to begin with a program note here today. We were on vacation last Friday, so this is the first Friday Talking Points column in two weeks. But unfortunately, while flying back home we caught a flu or cold or something on the airplane (not COVID, we tested...). So we're not exactly on top of our game this week, and the column could be a little fuzzy-headed and incoherent. Or "more than usual," we suppose.... In any case, we didn't want to totally punt and leave a three-week gap, so we did what we could with what's been going on over the past week in politics. Hopefully by next week we'll be all better and the quality will improve!]

The biggest political news of the week by far was Hunter Biden being convicted in record time on all three felony gun charges lodged against him. The jury spent only about three hours before returning these verdicts, which completely undercut the narrative Donald Trump has been spouting about how the justice system is "two-tiered" -- by which he means: "weaponized against Republicans while Democrats get a free pass." Kind of hard to make that argument when the president's own son just got convicted of felonies and is facing up to ten years in prison.

President Joe Biden, who is an upstanding and ethical man, immediately announced he would not be pardoning his son or commuting his sentence in any way. As we wrote earlier in the week, this is a fundamental and bedrock difference between Biden and Trump. Trump pardoned plenty of his own buddies and cronies and would do so for a family member in a heartbeat.

Republicans were left without a viable talking point after the verdict. They decided to instead just complain that Hunter hadn't been convicted of a whole bunch of other crimes that they have all convinced themselves he is guilty of (despite finding zero evidence for any of them). That's pretty weak tea, politically.

Of course, from this point on Trump (and the rest of the GOP) is going to try to equate his own 34 felony convictions with those of Joe Biden's son. They're all leaning in hard to the "Biden crime family" theme, which is pretty patently ridiculous. For most voters, this is as laughable as considering a hypothetical "Ned Flanders crime family." But it's all they've got, really.

But the bigger court news came from the Supreme Court, which handed down a few monumental decisions this week (as well as one silly one). The first ruled unanimously (!) against plaintiffs who were trying to get one of the main two medication abortion drugs yanked from the market for all American women. The high court decided that the doctors who sued simply have no legal standing, and they chucked the case out entirely. This doesn't resolve the legal issues the doctors tried to bring up, but it does punt the football for at least another year or two before the Supreme Court will have to deal with the issue again.

Later in the week, the Supreme Court decided that the federal ban on "bump stocks" (which quite correctly equated them to being machine guns) had to go. This was on a more-expected 6-3 vote, as the court continues ensuring that the most lethal firearms are available to the largest number of people. An interesting side note to all this is that Hunter Biden might have a solid chance of winning his case on appeal by arguing that drug addicts shouldn't be prevented from buying or owning guns in the first place -- an argument that just might work with this particular court.

The silly decision from SCOTUS this week was to deny a person who wanted to trademark "Trump So Small" so he could be the only one to sell T-shirts and other products with the slogan on it. The court essentially upheld a rule saying you can't use someone else's name in a trademark without their permission, but even so it was a bit of comic relief in the legal news.

It was revealed this week that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took even more free flights from a Republican billionaire than he had previously 'fessed up to, which is about par for his course. Perhaps he is trying to become known as the "most corrupt Supreme Court justice of all time" or something? Or perhaps (much more likely) he just doesn't care what anyone else thinks of him cashing in on his position.

In lower court news, the trial of Senator Bob Menendez ground forward this week, and things don't look especially good for Menendez. Things look even worse for his wife, whose trial will follow his own, but at this point there appears to be a decent chance that Menendez will be found guilty by the jury whenever the trial concludes.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was held in contempt of Congress by the Republican House this week, and the Justice Department didn't waste any time informing the House that it would not be bringing any charges against Garland (just like no charges were brought for the other two attorneys general over the past two presidents' terms, after also being held in contempt of Congress). Garland, meanwhile, wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post where he condemned threats of violence against the Justice Department and F.B.I. in the strongest possible terms.

Democrats teed up a bill in the Senate that will be featured heavily in campaign advertising this election cycle. After last week's attempt to pass a nationwide guarantee of the right of all women to access birth control failed largely on party lines, this week Chuck Schumer brought up a different women's rights bill -- one that would guarantee the right of all American women to in-vitro fertilization services. Such a federal law would overrule any state "fetal personhood" laws and guarantee that women having problems conceiving could gain the benefit of medical science to have a baby. Equally. Everywhere in America. Once again, the bill failed, mostly on party lines.

Republicans scoffed at the bill, saying it was "unnecessary" and "political grandstanding." Unnecessary? We've already had I.V.F. services be temporarily outlawed in one American state, and there will no doubt be other state supreme courts that rule in similar fashion over the next few years. GOP senators tried to cobble together their own bill in an effort to appear supportive of I.V.F., but it would not have guaranteed anything -- in fact, their effort was nothing short of political grandstanding rather than backing effective legislation.

Abortion rights are gaining in popularity across the country. But I.V.F. rights are already sky-high in popularity -- polls regularly show over 80 percent of the public supports I.V.F. In other words, this is a huge political loser for the GOP, and Democrats aim to point this out with every chance they get. Now that they've got almost all Republican senators on the record voting against guaranteeing I.V.F. rights for all women, this will be a piece of cake for the Democrats to do.

What else? Trump "returned to the scene of the crime" this week, by visiting all his fellow Republicans in Congress. He held meetings (not within the U.S. Capitol, thank goodness) with both the House GOP and the Senate GOP, and rambled on endlessly about all sorts of wacky things. Oh, and Trump is lowering the bar for his upcoming debate performance as low as he possibly can -- he said in an interview this week that he might just "lose the debate on purpose." Um... sure, Donny. When the pundits all say Joe Biden clearly beat you in the first debate, you can just fall back on the idea that you lost on purpose. I'm sure that'll convince a whole lot of folks [insert eye-rolling emoji here...].

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Chuck Schumer deserves at least an Honorable Mention for moving both the contraception rights bill and the I.V.F. rights bill through the Senate recently. As we said, these two will provide ample fodder for campaign ads in pretty much every Senate race where Democrats have a chance. But we had to look beyond Washington this week for our main award.

We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, to two Democratic governors. Both deserve their award for pretty much the same reason -- taking the fight to Donald Trump. In a very visceral way.

The first is Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, who is fed up with Trump running down the country and is making an argument a whole lot of other Democrats should really be making as well:

"I got a message to Donald Trump and all his negativity and his whining," he told MSNBC's Jen Psaki. "Stop shit-talking America. This is the greatest country on Earth, and it's time that we all start acting like it."

. . .

"I think [voters] want to be led by someone who is honest and decent -- someone who's actually on their side, like Joe Biden," he said. "And all they hear from Donald Trump is a whole bunch of whining about this country. I think Donald Trump's gotta quit whining."

This is exactly the right response to Trump running down America constantly, and we sincerely hope the guys in charge of debate prep for Joe Biden have taken note. Because this is exactly what Biden should say when Trump goes into his "nation in decline" riff.

Our second winner is Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, who has taken the lead in ripping into Trump for being a convicted felon. Now, to be fair, Team Biden is doing a pretty good job of this in their statements and whatnot, but Biden himself hasn't been leaning on it in his own remarks. Pritzker, on the other hand, took only 19 minutes after the verdicts were read to respond: "Donald Trump is a racist, a homophobe, a grifter and a threat to this country. He can now add one more title to his list -- a felon." From a story which points out that since the Democrats will be holding their convention in Chicago, Pritzker will likely get a good speaking slot on stage, here's what he's been saying since the verdicts got handed down:

"I can't mince words when it comes to talking about who Donald Trump is," Mr. Pritzker said in an interview on Wednesday. "It's important, I think, for people to really refocus on the idea that: Do they really want a president who is a felon who faces jail time?"

"Donald Trump was convicted of 34 counts by a jury of his peers after being held liable for rape, and the discussion at the water cooler is whether that should be an issue in the presidential race," Mr. Pritzker said on Saturday.

. . .

The former president, Mr. Pritzker said, is an "old man with an orange spray tan who fell asleep at his own trial." The governor added, "He will count on the American people forgetting how awful his presidency was."

That is how to take the fight to Trump, folks. Which is why these two Democratic governors are our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week winners.

[Congratulate Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker on his official contact page, and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro on his official contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We also have two winners for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week.

The first is just jaw-droppingly idiotic, especially when you consider who the guy was trying to defend (and from what):

George Latimer, the Westchester County politician who has launched a primary challenge against incumbent Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., would like to talk about anything but a Facebook post he made in 2021 that compared the fallout over then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo's sexual harassment scandal to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, a Black teenager from Mississippi.

"When Andrew Cuomo was facing his reckoning for sexually harassing women, and you came to his defense, you had the audacity to compare what Cuomo was experiencing to the lynching of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old child who was mutilated, murdered, and lynched," the caller said. "I'd like for you to respond to that."

In the 2021 post, Latimer wrote in response to allegations that then-Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women: "In our world, no matter how heinous the crime committed, we presume innocence until guilt is proven. That standard when we adhere to it, protects you and me. When it is not adhered to, when a mob hangs Emmett Till, the quote, 'justice turns out to be a crime itself.'"

Andrew Cuomo is, quite obviously, in no way like Emmett Till. 'Nuff said.

Our second MDDOTW award goes to Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, in the "too little, too late" category. Wyden has had over three years to investigate all the Trump offspring (and offsprings-in-law) over how they cashed in on Daddy's presidency both during and after he was in office. And yet only now his committee is "increasing their scrutiny of Jared Kushner's business activities"? Here's the story:

Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked [Jared] Kushner's firm, Affinity Partners, for details about its investors on Wednesday, including the $2 billion it received from the Saudi Arabian government's Public Investment Fund in 2021.

"Mr. Kushner's limited track record as an investor, including his nonexistent experience in private equity or hedge funds, raise questions regarding the investment strategy behind the seeding investments and lucrative compensation that Affinity received from the Saudi PIF and other sovereign wealth funds," Wyden wrote.

A panel that screens investments for the Saudi sovereign wealth fund warned against investing with Kushner, given his inexperience in finance, but the full board, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, overruled the panel, The New York Times reported in 2022.

Kushner advised Trump on foreign affairs, guided his administration to embrace Saudi Arabia as an ally, and remained in close contact with the crown prince even after he was implicated in the dismembering of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

That's two billion. With a big ol' "B" at the start of it. With all the frenzy emanating from the House Republicans over the "Biden crime family," the worst (mostly unfounded) accusations are that Biden kin nefariously made a few million here and there. Kind of puts things in a different perspective, doesn't it?

Even the Republican in charge of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, admitted that he thought that Kushner had "crossed the line of ethics" with the Saudi deal. Not that he lifted a finger to have his committee investigate any of it, mind you.

This all would have been a welcome development from the Senate in, say, 2021. Or 2022. Or even 2023. But being connected to the Trumps means that Jared will almost certainly delay any reckoning for any of it beyond the election now. Which is a shame, and it's why Senator Wyden gets this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, for waiting this long to ramp things up.

[Contact George Latimer via his official contact page, and Senator Ron Wyden on his Senate contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 755 (6/14/24)

As mentioned, we are pretty sickly and fuzzy-headed, so these may not be the best talking points ever, but we did what we could....

 

1
   Not on the ballot

This is the most obvious talking point of all, this week.

"Yes, Joe Biden's son was convicted of three felonies, and yes, he might actually have to go to jail because of it. But you know what? Hunter Biden is not running for anything. Donald Trump is. So the two just don't compare in any way. When anyone votes for Trump, they are voting for a convicted felon. This is not true when voting for Joe Biden. Because Hunter Biden is just not on the ballot, folks."

 

2
   What are you even talking about?

This pulled one rug out from under all the whiny Republican complaints.

"I'm sorry... what 'two-tiered justice system' are you even talking about? If the justice system had been 'weaponized' against Republicans in some way -- if Joe Biden were truly the puppetmaster pulling all the strings from behind a curtain, then why on Earth would they have gone after Joe's own son Hunter? That makes no sense at all. Maybe what does make sense is that a jury of their peers convicted both Donald Trump and Hunter Biden of felonies because they were both guilty? That seems like a much more believable concept to me."

 

3
   Because he is a decent ethical guy

Make this contrast, because people need to be reminded.

"President Joe Biden this week reaffirmed that he will not even consider pardoning his son Hunter or commuting his sentence, because to do so would be an abuse of his power. Now let's all imagine for just one second what Donald Trump would do in this situation. We actually don't have to imagine it because so many of Trump's underlings have been charged with crimes -- both while Trump was in office and afterwards. And while he still had the power to do so, Trump pardoned his cronies left and right. As long as they remained loyal, it didn't matter what crimes they had committed, they were just fine with Trump. Joe Biden isn't even going to pardon his own son, because he is actually a decent and moral and ethical person. The choice is pretty obvious, when you get right down to it."

 

4
   They're not done yet

Hammer this one home.

"The Republicans are not content to push for a nationwide abortion ban, and the most Draconian state-level bans that they can pass. They are not content to try to remove abortion pills from the market nationwide. That's not all that's on their 'to-do' list. They'll be coming for your contraceptives next -- on some flimsy pretext that they 'cause abortions,' even though that is scientific bunkum. And we've already seen that they're going to be coming for your in-vitro fertilization as well. It simply doesn't matter to them how many millions of women will be harmed by their moral crusade, they won't rest until they control every woman's reproductive options in the entire country."

 

5
   Right back at you

After Donald Trump called Milwaukee "horrible" in a meeting with his fellow Republicans in Congress this week -- even though the GOP national convention will be held there and even though Wisconsin is a critical swing state -- the mayor of Milwaukee had the best response of all:

If Donald Trump wants to talk about things that he thinks are horrible, all of us lived through his presidency, so right back at you, buddy.

 

6
   We've seen this horror movie before

Adam Parkhomenko wrote a brilliant piece in Los Angeles Magazine this week, which is well worth reading in full. But one of the paragraphs really stuck in our brain, since it is true and explains something in a very relatable way:

Horror movies become less scary each time they are watched, and Americans have viewed the Donald Trump horror show on repeat for nearly a decade. The villain does not change, but the viewer's response calms dramatically. No matter what Trump says or does, Americans have seen this movie before, and we've seen it so many times that what once shook us at our core is now just background noise.

 

7
   Schiff gets a few good ones off

Adam Schiff had an extra-snarky week this week. Maybe he ate his Snark-Os each morning? In any case, in a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee that was designed to continue the Republican weaponization of government against their political enemies (the hearing was to examine Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's successful prosecution of Donald Trump), Adam Schiff used his time to potently remind all the Republicans on the committee of what a jury of his peers had decided. He read the word "guilty" off, 34 times. The video is certainly fun to watch, especially what he has to say afterwards. But even that wasn't the acme of snark this week for Schiff, who responded to Donald Trump visiting congressional Republicans this week with a photo of them all together along with the epic caption:

It's bring your felon to work day.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant