Time for another round of Democratic talking points, for the benefit of whoever's going to be on this weekend's Sunday morning talk shows (or for any Democrat anywhere in front of a television camera, for that matter).
I must admit it's been kind of a frustrating week. There are a few things Democrats did this week which are just indefensible, in my opinion. They are beyond my power to spin, in other words. So, to follow a cardinal rule ("never give your opponents an opening"), I'm just not going to mention any of them here, I'll just say Congressional Democrats who voted for such nonsense should be ashamed of themselves. You know who you are, and you know what I'm talking about.
Luckily, on one of these issues, Rush Limbaugh has given Democrats a lifeline. After both houses of Congress voted on a non-binding resolution which was carefully worded not to mention MoveOn.org (but which was aimed straight at them), Limbaugh has now provided an avenue of counterattack. On his radio show two days ago, Rush had the following exchange with a caller [Media Matters has the whole exchange up on their site, if you're interested]:
CALLER: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.
LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
CALLER: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.
Got that? Any soldier who serves in a war and then comes home and speaks out against the president's war policy is, according to Rush Limbaugh, a "phony soldier." This from a man who got a deferment from serving in Vietnam because he had a pimple on his rear end.
This is handing Democrats ammunition, on a silver platter. Democrats should immediately introduce their own resolution in both houses which condemns such language strongly, and beat Republicans at their own demagoguery. At the very least, they should use Limbaugh's comments as a blunt instrument this Sunday to show that "Republicans are more interested in protecting Bush's hand-picked Generals than they care about actual front-line soldiers. Mr. Limbaugh's comments are disgusting, offensive to everyone who wears the uniform of the United States, and I call on all Republicans to strongly condemn such remarks, or prove themselves hypocrites by staying silent."
I mean, that one just writes itself. Go back over Republicans' comments from last week and just turn the same language around on them. Force the issue, the same way they did. Democrats can't lose on this one... unless they fail to bring it up, of course.
But this week, other than condemning Rush Limbaugh, the most important thing for Democrats to talk about is health care, so all the talking points this week will be on the subject of the SCHIP legislation, which will soon be on President Bush's desk, and which he has promised to veto.
Again, this is an easy target for Democrats. Bush is on the wrong side of the issue. His own party is deserting him in droves. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), not generally known as a socialist or liberal, recently said "It's unfortunate that the president has chosen to be on what, to me, is clearly the wrong side of this issue." Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), also not known for being a liberal, when asked if Bush was holding the bill hostage, replied "Yes."
The bill passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority, although I was sad to see that Barack Obama and Joseph Biden did not vote. Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd apparently took time off from campaigning to vote, but not Obama and Biden.
However, the bill does not have a veto-proof majority in the House, although dozens of Republicans did vote for it. If Bush vetoes it, a further two dozen or so Republican votes are needed to overturn Bush, so the outcome is not certain. Which means Democrats need to hammer on it this weekend.
The bill itself has only one glaring problem with it, but other than a few Republicans from tobacco states, this argument is largely being ignored by the GOP (for now, at least). I refer to the fact that the money for the expanded program is going to come from taxing cigarettes. Since a higher percentage of lower-income citizens smoke, this is taxing the poor to pay for children's health for the poor. But smokers are such a pariah group politically these days it may not make a difference (image what Republicans would say if it was a tax on alcohol, for instance, since a much higher percentage of Americans drink).
That aside, however, there are all kinds of good arguments to make in support of this bill. So without further ado, here are this Friday's talking points.
Democratic Talking Points
(1) Frame the issue correctly from the get-go:
Insurance company profits
"President Bush obviously cares more about insurance company profits than he does about children's health. We think that's wrong. I guess all that "compassionate conservatism" talk was a lie, huh?"
(2) This one is a generic term to throw around throughout any interview:
The Republican elite and elitist Republicans
"The Republican elite thinks they know best for American families. It is truly astounding how out of touch with average American families elitist Republicans are. They have proven over and over again that they care about money more than they care about this country. Rudy Giuliani made millions giving speeches after 9/11, and he resigned from the 9/11 Commission to have more time to do so. The White House Press Secretary had to 'take out a loan' to live on $168,000 a year salary, and then he quit serving his country at the White House when 'his money ran out.' Elitist Republicans show America time and time again how blind they are to average Americans trying to live their lives -- most of whom would be overjoyed to make $168,000 a year."
(3) Variation on the same theme:
President Bush doesn't care about poor people
"President Bush is the biggest elitist in the bunch, which is probably why he is resisting this bill so strongly. To show you how oblivious Bush is to the health care crisis in this country, let me read you what he said recently: 'No one goes without health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.' The ignorance and indifference this shows is just stunning. I guess Jim Hightower was right when he said 'George Bush was born on third base thinking he had hit a triple.' "
Seriously, that quote from Bush should be tattooed on the brain of every Democrat who appears this weekend. That quote should be repeated so often we all get sick of hearing it. Over and over and over again. It shows the massive gap between how Bush sees health insurance, and how normal Americans do.
(4) Attack the Republican bugaboo head-on:
Ask your parents whether they like Medicare
"Republican elitists are using the scare tactic of saying 'socialized medicine' over and over in an attempt to convince Americans that this bill would be a bad idea. You know what? We already have socialized medicine in this country. It's called Medicare. I challenge voters to ask their parents or grandparents what they think of Medicare. Would they give it up, in order to try to get this wonderful private health insurance the Republicans are promoting? Or would they fight to keep the Medicare coverage they currently have? I defy Republicans, if they think 'socialized medicine' is so evil, to immediately introduce legislation to get rid of Medicare. If they won't do that, then they are flat-out hypocrites."
(5) Hit Republicans where they live:
Republicans obviously don't believe in the free market
"Republicans' answer for just about everything is to 'let the free market decide,' but now they're arguing that letting parents choose -- that's important, not 'forcing parents' but 'letting parents choose' -- whether to sign up with SCHIP or not is going to destroy the free market or some such nonsense. But for years, they've been telling us that the free market will let the best win and the worst lose. So if this plan is as bad as they say, then nobody will sign up for it -- and the free market has won again. But Republican elitists are terrified that the free market would show that this plan is better than private health insurance, so insurance companies will lose profits. I wish they would just come out and say the free market doesn't work, if that's really what they believe."
(6) Another phrase to repeat over and over again:
This is a bi-partisan bill
The word "bipartisan" should be on the lips of every Democrat this weekend. The GOP is going to try to paint this as some Democratic big-spending issue, but Democrats have lots of political cover on this one (for once). "Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley have not only supported this bill strongly, but have also called on the White House to stop its obstructionism on it. 43 state governors, many of them Republicans, are for this bill. As a matter of fact, so many people are for this bill, its hard to find anyone outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who is against it. This is a bi-partisan piece of legislation, and it deserves to be signed by President Bush."
(7) Show Republicans the knife:
If we can't get this bill passed, we will be using it in next year's elections
From the Washington Post article: "Americans United for Change, a group closely allied with the Democratic leadership, will begin airing television ads this week in Kentucky, accusing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of abandoning his state's children." Put all Republicans who vote against this bill on notice -- especially the ones in the House -- that this will be used in a massive advertising campaign throughout next year's election. It's pretty hard to explain why you voted against health care for kids, and Democrats should let every Republican who votes against it know that it will indeed come back to haunt them. Republicans are already terrified at their prospects in 2008, so hammer this point home.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com