FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points [453] -- Deal? Or No Deal?

[ Posted Friday, September 15th, 2017 – 17:27 PDT ]

As is true during most weeks of the Trump administration, a whole lot happened in the political world last week. But most of it was completely overshadowed by the game of "Deal, or no deal?" that Trump was playing. For the second week in a row, President Donald Trump shocked the leadership of his own party by sitting down and (quite literally) breaking bread with Democrats. Yes, Donnie had Chuck and Nancy over for dinner, and Washington hasn't been quite the same since.

Much was reportedly discussed in this meeting, including areas where the Democratic agenda and the Trump agenda might overlap such as infrastructure spending. On taxes, Trump apparently agreed with Democrats that any tax cut bill should not lower taxes on the wealthy -- a rather stunning admission, if true. But none of that made much news. The headline item was a deal (a possible deal?... a framework of a deal?... a discussion about a deal?... a deal to make a deal?... nobody really knows, at this point) over what to do about two sticky subjects: the people covered under DACA, and border security.

According to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Trump agreed to support the DREAM Act, which is where this whole political fight began. When Congress proved unable to pass the original DREAM Act, President Barack Obama acted on his own with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump spokesman Jeff Sessions recently announced that the DACA program would be ending in six months. Trump maintained that he didn't want the DACA kids to be deported, rather he was forcing Congress to act to rectify the situation. So Pelosi and Schumer took him up on the challenge and persuaded him to support the DREAM Act.

Also according to Chuck and Nancy, Trump would agree that funding for the border wall with Mexico would not be included in this bill, and that while both sides agreed to disagree, they'd have this fight later, most likely in the budget negotiations at the end of the year. In return for the DREAM Act, Trump and the Republicans would get a big boost in border security financing in the form of funds that could be used for technology, Border Patrol agents, infrastructure, etc. -- but no wall money.

According to Donald Trump, what was agreed to in the deal (or whatever you want to call it) was... um... well, it's hard to say. Trump contradicted himself multiple times in the 24-hour period after the dinner, so at this point nobody's really sure what Trump thinks happened. From the initial Washington Post report on the deal:

"We're working on a plan for DACA," Trump said as he left the White House on Thursday for a trip to survey hurricane damage in Florida.

Trump said that he and Congress are "fairly close" to a deal and that Republican leaders Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are "very much on board" with a deal that would address DACA. The agreement must include "massive border security," Trump said in response to shouted questions about whether he had reached a deal on the terms Schumer and Pelosi had described.

"The wall will come later" he said, apparently confirming a central element of the Democrats' account.

Later, however, he was tweeting like mad in all directions, so who knows what will come of it all? His most jaw-dropping tweets on the matter to date were apparently an effort to talk his supporters around to his (new) position:

Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!.....

...They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own - brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security

Um, yeah -- really! The "anybody" who wants "to throw out" all these magnificent people would be President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, from the previous week. Sessions can't be happy about this newly-developing situation, but Trump seems more than OK with his new compassionate stance on this group of immigrants.

The real question on everyone's mind inside the Beltway, however, is whether Trump's own supporters are going to desert him over the issue or not. Call it the "shoot someone on Fifth Avenue" test. So far, there's been a lot of white-hot reaction from the usual reactionary crowd on the right, but it remains to be seen whether this anger will sustain itself and actually cause Trump supporters to ditch him for good.

Breitbart, now run again by Steve Bannon, reacted with the headline: "AMNESTY DON," leaving no question where they stand. Ann Coulter -- author of a book titled In Trump We Trust -- tweeted: "At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?" Steve King, the hardest of the hardliners, tweeted: "If AP is correct, Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair," later adding: "No promise is credible." There were even reports of Trump supporters posting videos on social media showing them burning their "Make America Great Again" hats.

Ouch.

It is too early to see whether this will be reflected in Trump's polling or not. By next week, we should begin to see if any real trend away from the president by his staunch supporters develops or not. But so far, the signs don't look especially good for Trump.

Signs look even worse for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (remember them?), who were completely shut out of this discussion altogether. One reporter even asked Ryan in a press conference this week: "Have you asked the president to at least check with you before he makes an agreement with Democrats?" Because no matter what Trump is doing, he certainly is succeeding in marginalizing his party's own congressional leadership.

Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer was caught in an overheard-in-a-high-school-hallway kind of moment, when a hot mic captured him saying (about Trump): "He likes us. He likes me, anyway." Schumer went on to a better, less gushing analysis, which wasn't as widely reported: "Here's what I told him: 'Mr. President, you're much better off if you do one step right, and one step left. If you just step in one direction, you’re boxed.' He gets that."

But you'll forgive us if we hesitate to go overboard in proclaiming this a New Era Of Trump. Many pundits jumped on the "Trump is the first independent president!" bandwagon, which is laughably premature. No deal has been cut, please remember, and nobody knows what might be in such a deal when it does get inked. Some of this optimism from the left was completely unrealistic, such as the suggestion that Trump is now ripe for an "only Nixon could go to China" moment where he throws his support behind Bernie Sanders's "Medicare For All" bill (more on that in a moment). This is getting way too far out in front of what is really going on, folks. We'll see what the reaction from his base continues to be, and we'll see how Trump responds in the next week or so before even slightly buying into all this glee, personally.

Moving right along, let's whip through everything else that happened this week very quickly, as this is getting way too long already.

Trump visited Florida to see Hurricane Irma's devastation and do the required "handing a sandwich to a survivor" photo op, during which he made a rather bizarre statement: "If you talk about branding, no brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard." Um, nobody was talking about branding, Mister President....

Speaking of Trump's business experience, California seems on the brink of passing a law which would mandate that anyone who appears on the ballot for president must first publicly release their tax returns. It certainly seems like a reasonable criteria, right?

Kid Rock has apparently officially entered the political arena. Or something. Because, at this point, why not?

Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli is now in jail, due to making threats against Hillary Clinton (offering $5,000 for a strand of her hair). So there is some justice in the universe, apparently.

The Cleveland Indians are on a historic winning streak, but nobody seems to be talking about how they still have the most racist team logo in all of professional sports, for some reason.

In international news, North Korea launched another missile, and London suffered another terrorist attack on its Underground.

And finally, NASA (and millions of fans) bid a fond farewell to the Cassini space probe, as it disintegrated early this morning in the atmosphere of Saturn. This was one of the most awe-inspiring and successful missions NASA has ever performed, and they deserve a big round of applause.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

The same week that President Trump was cutting deals (maybe) with Democrats, there was big news from both major Democratic 2016 presidential candidates.

Hillary Clinton released her book Sour Grapes (...oh, excuse us... What Happened is actually the real title), pointing fingers all over the place to explain her loss to Donald Trump. Spoiler alert: it wasn't her fault... really!

Perhaps that is too snarky, but it was hard not to notice the difference in how Clinton has spent her time since last year compared to what Bernie Sanders has been doing. On the very same day that Clinton's book was released, Sanders unveiled his "Medicare For All" bill in the Senate, with 16 cosponsors (and counting), and then made his personal case for it in a New York Times opinion piece. Among those supporting Bernie's bill are many names mentioned as possible 2020 presidential candidates, which is noteworthy.

Will Bernie's bill pass? Probably not. Even if Trump himself backed it (which seems almost impossible), it's doubtful it could make it through a Republican Congress. Bernie also completely punted on including the all-important "How it will be paid for" portion of the bill, making it impossible to accurately measure the feasibility of the whole plan.

But Bernie has successfully shifted the window of the entire debate over single-payer, and that's an impressive accomplishment all on its own. What used to be an academic pie-in-the-sky discussion among radical reformers is now fast becoming the mainstream position of the Democratic Party, and possibly even a big litmus test for base voters.

Eighteen months ago, Hillary Clinton spoke out against even the hope that single-payer healthcare could ever become reality, calling it: "a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass." Fast-forward to now, and potential Democratic presidential candidates are lining up behind the idea. That is a sea-change in attitude, which we've been pointing out all week.

The biggest evidence of this monumental shift in attitude came from a very unexpected quarter:

Eight years ago, as a once-in-a-generation Democratic Senate supermajority debated health-care reform, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) kept their focus narrow. As the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus was focused on passing a reform bill that moderate Republicans could support. At one point, he had single-payer health-care supporters removed from a hearing; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an advocate for Canada-style universal coverage, set up a meeting to tide them over. But he did not expect much from Baucus.

"[Is he open] to single-payer?" Sanders asked rhetorically. "Not in a million years."

His estimate was just 999,993 years off. At a Thursday night forum in his home state, a now-retired Baucus suggested that single-payer health care could pass, and not too long from now.

"My personal view is we've got to start looking at single-payer," Baucus said, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. "I think we should have hearings... we're getting there. It's going to happen."

Thanks for nothing, Max. Some of us still remember that hearing, when nurses and doctors were forcibly removed from the hearing room. Even so, it makes it all the more extraordinary to see even Baucus now admitting the time may soon be coming for single-payer. That's a miniature "Nixon goes to China" moment, right there.

So (to use an appropriate Bernie term), for revolutionizing what is acceptable debate on the issue of single-payer healthcare, Bernie Sanders is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. While we (as always) encourage people to use the contact information below to congratulate Bernie, this week we would also direct people to the offical list of cosponsors for Bernie's "Medicare For All" bill. Take a look at the list, and see if your senators are on it. If they aren't, please feel free to contact them and ask them why not. Pressure from the grassroots is what caused this momentous shift in attitude, so let's all keep up the pressure on the holdouts. Or, if your senators are on the list, perhaps they would like to hear a message of support from you as well.

[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts. Or you can even become your own citizen cosponsor of the bill itself.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

This one, sadly, is also pretty easy this week. Here's the full story:

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (D), facing multiple child sex-abuse allegations dating to the 1970s, will resign Wednesday, saying the damaging claims have become a distraction that threatens to undermine the city government's ability to serve its citizens.

Murray's spokesman, William Lemke, told The Washington Post the resignation takes effect at 5 p.m.

The announcement Tuesday came just hours after the Seattle Times reported new allegations Murray, 62, sexually abused a relative in the mid-70s. That relative, a cousin, was the fifth man to publicly accuse the mayor of sexual assault, the newspaper reported.

Murray continues to deny the accusations, saying his progressive political record and gay-rights advocacy made him a target for those determined to drag him down. His cousin's allegations, Murray told the Times, stem from "bad blood between two estranged wings of the family."

In a written statement issued by the mayor's office, Murray said, "While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our City government to conduct the public's business.... It is best for the city if I step aside. To the people of this special city and to my dedicated staff, I am sorry for this painful situation."

Elected mayor in 2013, Murray dropped his reelection bid in May after the first four men claimed he had sexually abused them years earlier, when they were teenagers. One filed a lawsuit in April, alleging in lurid detail Murray "repeatedly criminally raped and molested" him when he was a homeless 15-year-old in the 1980s.

The other alleged victims chose not to sue.

Now, Murray has not had his day in court, admittedly. But as with any sexual assault case, the weight of the accused person's denials diminishes with each additional accuser. Five men, including his own cousin, have now made such accusations. That makes it very tough to still extend the benefit of the doubt, to state the obvious.

Which means it was a pretty easy call to award Ed Murray this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Ed Murray is now a private citizen, and it is our policy not to provide contact information for those who have left the field of public politics.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 453 (9/15/17)

A mixed bag this week in the talking points. We've even got one at the end that doesn't even really qualify under the definition of "talking points Democrats should be using," but we had to include it just for the laughs.

Everyone ready? Seatbelts buckled? Then here we go....

 

1
   The single-payer revolution

You say you want a revolution...

"Bernie Sanders has championed the issue of single-payer healthcare for a long time now. Up until quite recently, he was a lone voice crying in the wilderness. But due to his presidential campaign, he has singlehandedly raised the profile of single-payer healthcare to the level where it is now being seriously considered by millions of Americans. Bernie's right -- this is not some Utopian vision, it is in fact what most of the industrialized world already has. There is no good reason why America shouldn't join in. Single-payer would save billions upon billions of dollars, it would completely eliminate problems such as 'my current doctor's not on my new insurance company's approved list,' and all the hassles of the 'open enrollment' season. Bernie's bill includes dental and vision coverage, which would make it even better than Canada's system. Bernie Sanders has revolutionized the discussion of single-payer healthcare, and it is heartening to see how many possible future Democratic presidential candidates have already cosponsored his bill. If single-payer healthcare ever does pass Congress, Bernie Sanders will be remembered as the man who pushed for it the hardest."

 

2
   Lowest number ever

This was kind of lost in the single-payer news from Bernie, but it's worth pointing out anyway.

"According to the Census Bureau, the percent of Americans who are uninsured has now dropped to yet another all-time low. Only 8.8 percent of Americans do not currently have health insurance. Republicans can falsely claim that Obamacare has failed until they're blue in the face, but the numbers prove otherwise. Tens of millions of Americans now have health insurance who didn't previously have it. That is a huge success story, folks. The rate of the uninsured has fallen by more than half -- down from 18 percent before Obamacare took effect -- which is a monumental achievement."

 

3
   Confusion reigned

Anther entry in the "best description of Trump administration ever" category.

"Did Donald Trump strike a deal with (as he calls them) Chuck and Nancy? Well, maybe, maybe not. Is there a deal, or is there no deal? It's hard to tell with Trump, who is -- to be as polite as possible -- a bit 'mercurial' in his political stances. If a deal happens which protects the DACA population, with no funding for Trump's border wall, then this week will truly have been a turning point for Trump. If the deal falls apart due to blowback from Trump's own base, then this week will be nothing short of the best 'boy who cried wolf' example of how untrustworthy Trump's word is. From one Washington Post article came the most succinct description of this week -- and quite possibly of Trump's entire presidency: 'Confusion reigned.' When this confusion is ultimately clarified then we'll all have a chance to weigh in on what it means. Until then, your guess is as good as mine as to what's going to happen next."

 

4
   The missing players in the equation

Haven't heard a peep about this, but one would like to hope that some outreach is happening behind the scenes.

"Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi seem to be doing a good job of getting President Trump to support their agenda items, but they should really be expanding their efforts right about now. They should be reaching out to the Republican moderates, such as the so-called 'Tuesday Group,' to discuss what would be acceptable to them and what would not. Democrats are fairly flexible, from all reports, on beefing up border security (but without wall funding), so Republicans should have a chance at influencing that part of any bill that is being drafted on immigration reform. If Democrats can get a few dozen moderate House Republicans to join their effort, then it will be a lot easier to convince Paul Ryan that the bill should get a floor vote. Perhaps we can finally obliterate the 'Hastert Rule' and start getting some truly bipartisan legislation passed. The key to doing this is to get the moderate GOP members on board, which should really be the highest priority right now for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. After all, Trump can support their efforts, but it's going to take GOP votes to pass anything through Congress."

 

5
   No realistic comparison

Trump doubled down (again) on his statements that "both sides" were responsible for the Charlottesville violence. One Republican was not happy.

"The only black Republican senator, Tim Scott, met with President Trump this week to express his feelings towards Trump's reaction to Charlottesville. He initially thought he had gotten through to Trump, but then one day later Trump repeated his 'both sides' false equivalence once again. Scott was blistering in his reply:"

In yesterday's meeting, Senator Scott was very, very clear about the brutal history surrounding the white supremacist movement and their horrific treatment of black and other minority groups.... Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but white supremacists have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There's no realistic comparison. Period.

 

6
   Ted Cruz likes porn!

This one is never, ever going to be forgotten.

"Senator Ted Cruz -- who once pushed a bill which would have banned sex toys, mind you -- apparently likes watching online porn. His official Twitter account sent a 'like' out to a hardcore pornographic film, late in the evening. The 'like' was removed later, and Cruz tried to blame a 'staffing issue,' which really only adds grist to the mill for comedians writing jokes about it. For a man with the most sanctimonious facial expressions in all of Washington, it was downright hilarious watching him desperately insist: 'It wasn't me!' this week. Sure, Ted, sure. Whatever helps you through the night, right?"

 

7
   Dave's not here, man.

Dave? Dave's not here, man.

Sorry, but that appears to be the only stoner joke that Orrin Hatch didn't use this week, which is why we had to include an excerpt from his press release in a list of what is supposed to be Democratic talking points. Hatch was "rolling out" a bill to make medical research of marijuana easier to perform, which is a noble goal. But see if you can count the number of stoner jokes in Hatch's brief statement -- we lost count at nine, personally. Oh, and don't forget to tip your waitress, he'll be here all week. Heh.

It's high time to address research into medical marijuana. Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana. All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I've decided to roll out the MEDS Act. I urge my colleagues to join Senator Schatz and me in our joint effort to help thousands of Americans suffering from a wide-range of diseases and disorders. In a Washington at war with itself, I have high hopes that this bipartisan initiative can be a kumbaya moment for both parties.

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post