Friday Talking Points [126] -- We'd Like Our Gulf Back

The mainstream media, led by the intrepid White House press corps, closely followed by the inside-the-Beltway punditocracy, has declared what must happen for the oil to stop flowing into the Gulf of Mexico: President Obama needs to get angry at the oil.

I wish I were kidding, but sadly, I am not. This is the number one topic fluttering around the field of so-called conventional wisdom these days: Obama's not mad enough.

Salon has the full rundown on this, which I find I cannot improve upon:

Here are three questions CBS White House correspondent Chip Reid asked at yesterday's White House press briefing:

"You said earlier that the President is enraged. Is he enraged at BP specifically?"

"Frustration and rage are very different emotions, though. I haven't -- have we really seen rage from the President on this? I think most people would say no."

"Can you describe it? Does he yell and scream? What does he do?"

Important questions! Is the president more frustrated, or mad? Doesn't he know that the oil will stop spilling into the Gulf if he just gets madder??

The article also has a list of links to other prominent "journalists" who have jumped on board the "Obama should get angry" bandwagon, in case you'd like more of the same idiocy. I feel kind of sorry for Chip, as he used to have a shred of integrity, back when he was just a "poll numbers guy" during the 2008 election season. Then he joined the White House press corps, and it's like he's had some sort of lobotomy or something. Maybe it's a prerequisite for the job, or something.


OK, let's have a quick review. Two presidents ago, the press loved to mock Bill Clinton for doing his "I feel your pain" shtick so well. One president ago, the press loved to mock George W. Bush for his cowboy swagger and shoot-from-the-hip attitude. Now that we elected a guy who was famous during his campaign for being "No Drama Obama," the press wants some sort of combination of Bush and Clinton instead. You just can't keep these guys happy, apparently!

Of course, if Obama were to take the media's bait and get really and visibly annoyed, then the press would probably gleefully rush to drag out the tired old stereotype of the "angry black man" -- which Obama has so far masterfully avoided. And if he got angry enough to push aside the laws which clearly state that BP is responsible for cleaning up the mess, and somehow "nationalize" the cleanup, or even put BP into receivership, then Republicans would immediately start screaming that Obama wanted to take over the oil industry, and it was all a secret plot by socialist Democrats to end everyone's freedom. Oh, and that there would be a death panel waiting for you the next time you tried to fill up your car.

Now, please note I'm not defending Obama's actions so far in the Gulf. Obama is notoriously slow to start in general, and a case can certainly be made that he wasn't out in front of the scope of the disaster as fast as he should have been. That argument, in fact, would be a much better use of the press corps' time, but they have gone down a dark alleyway of silliness instead of making that case.

I have to admit, I'm writing this before seeing what Obama had to say about the spill in his visit to the region today. So perhaps Obama got really angry and his righteous wrath caused all the oil underground to reconsider gushing out and decide instead to stay comfortably in the ground. Or, perhaps, Obama got so seriously enraged that he shot laser beams from his eyes which burned up all the oil floating around in the Gulf (wouldn't that make for a great video clip?). Because, as everyone knows (just ask any White House press corps member), if Obama would just for the love of all that's holy yell and scream at the oil, then it would all go away.

Sheesh. It's getting so that I am even welcoming the endless "blown ump call blows perfect game" baseball stories (which have been legion this week), just for a change of subject.


Because Congress wasn't doing much this week (insert your own joke here), no prominent Democrats really shone or dimmed this week in any significant way. Israel boarded some boats, with loss of life, and American politicians emitted various spin (both ways) on the subject, but I can't really see the American/Israeli diplomatic situation changing much as a result, so we were left with some relative unknowns when it came to handing out awards this week.

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saw an impressive rise in his poll numbers this week, this wasn't due to anything Reid actually did. For the first time in a very long time, Reid is actually up in the polls. The Senate Majority Leader, up until now, has been seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators facing an election this year, and Republicans have been drooling over not just gaining his seat, but also of deposing a sitting Majority Leader.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the candidates fighting for the GOP nomination are engaged in a contest of who can exhibit the craziest behavior on the campaign trail. This wackaloonfest, where three candidates are vying to seem more Tea-Party-ish than the next guy or gal, has radically improved Reid's chances of holding on to his seat this November. So much so that Reid is now leading each of them in head-to-head polls. But, like I said, this wasn't due to Harry doing anything particularly impressive this week.

Instead, our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who won a Democratic primary race for governor this week. Sparks absolutely obliterated (by 30 points) Representative Artur Davis, who was trying to become Alabama's first African-American governor. Davis, however, was running on his opposition to Barack Obama's health plans, and his general independence from the White House.

This didn't go over very well. As one Democratic pollster put it, after the race: "The shocking story is that Democratic voters in Democratic primaries vote for the Democrats. To be frank, that's what is going on here. Democrats are voting for Democrats and you can't become a Democrat-lite and hope to win."

Who'd-a thunk it? Gosh darn it, maybe we should get this message out to a few other folks, what do you say?

For an impressive 30-point victory in the primary, Ron Sparks is this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. We wish him good luck in his general election campaign.

[It is our policy not to link to candidates' campaign sites, for ethical reasons. But you can congratulate Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks via his official state contact page, to let him know you appreciate his victory. But don't try to call him up this Monday, because the state has a holiday for Jefferson Davis' birthday (you just can't make this stuff up).]


This one is pretty parochial and obscure, but simply cannot be beat for sheer disappointment (and amusement). From the Associated Press wire report:

A former state senator who was captured on video stuffing bribe money into her sweater and bra pleaded guilty Thursday in a federal corruption case that could send her to prison for up to four years.

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, a Boston Democrat who was once a rising political star, entered the pleas to eight counts of attempted extortion at a hearing in U.S. District Court just weeks before her trial was set to begin.

Wilkerson was arrested in October 2008 and accused of taking $23,500 in bribes to help get a liquor license for a nightclub and an undercover agent posing as a businessman who wanted to develop state property.

Without further comment (none is really necessary, we feel), we hereby award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Massachusetts state senator Dianne Wilkerson. Next time, Dianne, at least bring a purse.

Well, it looks like we just couldn't resist commenting, after all. In fact, we're going to let our favorite corrupt politician with a Boston accent -- Mayor "Diamond" Joe Quimby, from The Simpsons -- have the last say (spoken after Quimby accepts a bribe from a gangster):

"Thank you, Fat Tony. However, in the future, I would prefer a nondescript briefcase to the sack with a dollar sign on it."

[Dianne Wilkerson likely doesn't have a publicly-available contact page at this point. Probably just as well.]


Volume 126 (6/4/10)

OK, just as an experiment, I'm going to take the mainstream media's bait. This week, instead of generic suggestions for use by Democrats, I am offering a few specific suggestions for Obama to show some anger.

In other words, if he takes the shiny, shiny media bait, here's what I would like to hear from him (the media will be happy with any "anger" since they've already made Obama's "anger" the key issue, therefore they will be guaranteed to run any angry clip Obama feeds them).

Here are my six suggestions (our final talking point is a bit off subject, just because) for President Obama to have at the ready, in case he wants to get all enraged on Chip Reid any time soon.


   We'd like our Gulf back.

BP's chairman showed the world a few days ago why you should not do live television interviews when you are obviously suffering from sleep depravation. In other words, he showed a little frustration of his own (dare I say "anger"?), when he uttered a line he had to quickly apologize for. This is a prime target for any politician to hit, in other words.

"I saw BP's chairman on television saying, quote, I'd like my life back, unquote. You know what my reaction was to hearing this? My first thought was that there are eleven people who quite literally would like their lives back, and I bet their families would prefer they had their lives back as well. My second reaction was a broader one, that I think any American could have been thinking -- you'd like your life back, Mister BP Chairman? Well, we'd like our Gulf back. And until we get it back, your life is going to be consumed with how to fix the problem you caused."


   All the PR in the world...

BP's chairman was also in the news, because he's hired lots of folks to help BP (and him personally) clean up their image with the public.

"I heard BP's chairman is spending millions of dollars on an advertising blitz to convince the public that he's really a nice guy and everything. But you know what? All the media damage control in the world isn't going to help him now. Until every drop of oil is removed from the Gulf and from the beaches and marshes, and until everyone affected by this catastrophe is compensated, and every dollar is paid for by BP, all the PR in the world isn't going to change his or his company's image. I'd suggest he spend the money on the cleanup, personally."


   We're all "environmental extremists" now

Republicans have been using this as a club for a very long time, and Democrats have never quite woken up to the fact that the vast majority of America actually enjoys "the environment," and wants the government to protect it.

"Every time Democrats try to strengthen environmental laws, Republicans loudly complain about, quote, environmental extremism, unquote. They want everyone to think that anyone who is for adequate environmental protections is just some tree-hugging idealist who doesn't understand the way the world really works. Well, sometimes the world doesn't work the way it's supposed to. And you end up with an environmental disaster. This is why Democrats want the government to force companies to plan for worst-case scenarios -- because sometimes the worst case happens. I want to ask any Republican politician who has ever uttered the term 'environmental extremist' if they think that the shrimp fisherman, the tourists, and all the Gulf Coast residents who are mad as heck right now are 'environmental extremists' or tree-huggers. I've got news for Republicans -- we're all 'environmental extremists' right now."


   Defining "deregulation"

Yet another core issue Democrats rarely fight back on, and usually just cede to the Republicans. Spell it out, in no uncertain terms.

"This is the end result of a favorite talking point of Republicans -- deregulation. Deregulation means getting rid of regulations. Republicans, for three decades, have championed the cause of deregulation, and keep telling us that if the big, bad government would just get out of the way of private business, then everything will be hunky-dory. What this ignores is that the regulations Republicans love to gut are things like safety laws and contingency planning. So the lesson people need to hear right now is that too much deregulation is indeed a bad thing, because corporations are only truly concerned about their bottom line and their shareholders. Government regulations are put in place to protect the rest of us from corporate cost-cutting, corner-cutting and other forms of greed and risk."


   This is what "small government" means

I seem to be on a roll here with refuting -- as strongly as possible -- the entire Republican political philosophy, so I might as well take on the elephant in the room (so to speak).

"Republicans have been trying, for years, to get government so small that you can 'drown it in a bathtub' -- yes, that's the actual phrase they love to use. The problem with this type of thinking is that when things go bad, there will be nothing left for you to turn to when disaster strikes. Strange how I haven't heard a whole lot of talk about 'small government' from any of the Republican politicians from Gulf states these days. Instead what I hear is 'Help us!' Well, of course we'll help. That's one of the main reasons we have a robust government. And when the next disaster comes, whether it's a hurricane or a volcano erupting, we will be there to help as well. Rather than talking about drowning government in a bathtub, let's see what we can do to clean up all the drowned oil out there."


   Free market failure

OK, this is the last one of these attacks on the fundamental pillars of Republicanism, I promise, and then we'll move on to something a little lighter to end on.

"Republicans have also been telling us for years and years that the free market always does everything better and cheaper than the federal government. Some of these same Republicans are now demanding that government has let them down, even though the laws passed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill clearly spell out that the private company that causes the disaster be the one to clean it up. I guess all that faith in free market solutions to every possible problem doesn't actually work, when put to the test, eh? Maybe we should think about this the next time Republicans invite oil executives to use lobbyists to deregulate everything in sight. A true free-market libertarian would say that the federal government shouldn't even be involved in the cleanup effort, and should just step back and let the wonders of the free market freely work. Well, sometimes that just isn't good enough, which should serve as a lesson to all of us. Putting too much faith in the free market's ability to solve every problem can have disastrous results at times."


   Rand Paul's bum Rush

Speaking of the free market, and those who worship it, Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul apparently hasn't learned a basic lesson about the free enterprise system he is supposed to be championing: you have to pay for stuff.

Even songs. And you have to get the artist's permission to use the song in a political campaign. The Canadian rock band Rush is suing Paul to get him to cease and desist using their work at his rallies. This seems to be a perennial problem with Republicans -- not paying or asking permission for songs they like. It's almost as if someone needed to sit them down and explain the free market or something.

News reports noted that the song in question (or at least one of them) is Rush's "The Spirit Of Radio," which was written about music and radio. But nobody so far has pointed out the thick, thick irony of the actual lyrics to this song, so I thought I'd close on this note. Someone should really play the song for Rand, and point out to him the parts about honesty and integrity. And that "almost free" is not "free."

Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength

Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

All this machinery making modern music

Can still be open hearted

Not so coldly charted

It's really just a question of your honesty, yeah

Your honesty

One likes to believe in the freedom of music

But glittering prizes and endless compromises

Shatter the illusion of integrity


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