Welcome back to the weekly talking points for Democrats appearing on television this weekend. Before I begin, I'd like to wish Ted Kennedy a fast and easy recovery from his recent surgery. We need you in the Senate, Teddy! Good health and long life!
Since I have been focusing this column on the SCHIP bill almost exclusively for the past two weeks [Vol. 3 and Vol. 4], I am going to refrain from repeating any of these talking points this week. They're all still valid, so Democrats should check them out to brush up on their SCHIP answers.
I must say, Charles Rangel impressed me last weekend, on CBS' Face The Nation, as he is the first Democrat I've heard yet using the "block grant" argument against the Republican spin on SCHIP. Modesty forbids me to take any credit, but if he is indeed reading these columns I'd like to say, "Well done, Representative Rangel!"
One interesting development in the SCHIP debate is the group Catholics United announcing that they will start advertising in GOP House districts in an attempt to convince staunchly anti-abortion Republicans to reverse their vote on SCHIP. When the Catholic Church uses the term "pro-life," it is completely consistent with their other views -- on the death penalty (for instance), and now on children's health insurance. Many so-called "pro-life" groups are so single-issue (abortion) that they, in essence, ignore what happens after the baby is actually born. Whether any Republicans change their vote remains to be seen, but Nancy Pelosi's decision to postpone the override vote in the House on the SCHIP bill seems to be doing exactly what she intended -- give enough time to make GOP House members sweat from the pressure. It's telling where Catholics United will be making their ad buys, too: on Christian and talk radio.
Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week
Onward to the Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week award. For our second weekly award, sadly, we almost had a tie. Speaker Pelosi's recent remarks at a Washington luncheon with the press were pretty disappointing, but she will have to wait for some future date to be awarded MDDOTW. Because this week, we had Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee show us once again the Democratic strategy for boxing matches with the president. This strategy consists of -- before the bell rings to start the fight -- diving to the canvas, covering your face with your hands, cowering and whimpering "Please don't hurt me." As the New York Times reports:
In the Senate, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, is working with his Republican counterpart, Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, a main proponent of the August plan, to come up with a compromise.
Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for Mr. Rockefeller, said that retroactive immunity for the utilities was "under discussion" but that no final proposal had been developed.
For such a stupefying display of caving in before the fight has even begun, Senator Rockefeller earns the notoriety of being named Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week. Congratulations! Now go hide your head in shame.
Without further ado, here is this week's list of how to frame issues for Democrats appearing on TV.
Democratic Talking Points, Volume 5 (10/12/07)
(1) Steal a GOP fear-phrase:
Amnesty for AT&T
Republicans have pretty successfully demonized the term "amnesty" in the debate over illegal immigration. So turn the sword back on them. Whenever talking about FISA laws, use the term to describe what President Bush is pressuring Congress to grant: "amnesty" for the telecommunications giants. "We Democrats are surprised at Republicans throwing out the rule of law so casually and going along with President Bush's request for amnesty for AT&T and Verizon. We will fight such ex post facto efforts to legalize criminal behavior. We call on Republicans to uphold the rule of law."
(2) This one is a great opportunity to paint Bush as petty and partisan:
Bush was petty to not call Al Gore to congratulate him on winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Salon's War Room column has a great list of winners Bush has called to congratulate on various things, which should be written down on an index card for any Democrat appearing on television this weekend (for easy reference). "George Bush can find the time to personally call the winners of the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup and the NBA championship. He even calls winners of collegiate-level sports contests, and a national spelling bee champion, but he couldn't be bothered to call the winner of one of the most prestigious awards on the planet -- the Nobel Peace Prize. Because Al Gore won the award, President Bush chose to play petty partisan politics and refused to congratulate Vice President Gore on his achievement. This is shameful behavior from the President of the United States of America."
(3) This point should be made forcefully:
I long for the days when "torture" meant "torture."
"I long for the days when the President of the United States could stand before the world and say 'We do not torture,' and have the world believe him -- instead of responding with cruel and mocking laughter. I long for the days when the world could believe such a simple statement of the principles on which this country was founded. I long for the days when a U.S. president could address the United Nations on the subject of human rights without the audience snickering behind their hands at the irony of such castigation from our country. I long for the days when 'We do not torture' meant exactly what it says -- that we do not torture people for any reason whatsoever."
(4) On a related subject:
"I long for the days when the United States was prosecuting war crimes instead of covering them up under the thin legal blanket of 'national security.' The United Nations is reportedly looking into whether war crimes were committed by Blackwater in Iraq. A German citizen was recently denied justice by the U.S. Supreme Court when it refused to hear his accusations that the United States kidnapped him, flew him to a foreign country, and tortured him for months -- before realizing that he was totally and completely innocent. In both instances, it is conceivable that the United States may face charges in front of the World Court, because our own legal system refused to deal with them. I truly long for the days when we were prosecuting Nazis at Nuremburg for crimes against humanity such as torture, instead of being accused of the very same thing."
(5) Fix the underlying Blackwater problem:
Hire the Blackwater-type security forces as Marines
"I think it would make a lot more sense to use Marines to guard embassies and State Department personnel than to contract the job out at exorbitant rates. Give every security guard in Iraq a choice: join the Marines and perform exactly the same duties for a Marine's salary, or else get out of Iraq. Privatizing only makes sense when it saves money, not when it costs more. I think it is war profiteering for America to be paying such guards $445,891 per year -- that's over $1,200 per day -- when the Marines have traditionally performed this service at a much lower cost to the taxpayers. We will expand the Marine Corps as necessary, but we will end such security contractors in Iraq as soon as we can, and save the taxpayers a lot of money by doing so. This will once and for all rein in the abuses of such private security contractors."
(6) This one should be obvious:
Genocide is genocide
I simply cannot improve on Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) talking about the House committee vote on an Armenian genocide resolution on PBS' News Hour last night, so I have pasted his words in here rather than trying to rewrite them:
"One of the worst things that happened to the United States in recent years has been the plummeting globally of our moral authority. This is a significant step in restoring the moral authority of U.S. foreign policy. U.S. foreign policy was strong when it was based on a sound foundation of a moral authority. It's Abu Ghraib and similar episodes which have diminished our standing globally. And the international community is not critical of the fact that the United States calls a genocide a genocide."
(7) This one's easy:
Even the Marines want to get out of Iraq
That's all you need to say about this story. Keep it short and simple: "The Marines want out of Iraq."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com