Friday Talking Points [167] -- Happy Friday the Thirteenth, Ron!

Ron Paul, apparently, is not a superstitious kind of guy.

Tempting fate, as it were, he announced today that he's running for president once again -- on Friday the thirteenth.

Ron's not the only one making news on this front this particular week, though. I wrote an article on Wednesday looking over the entire Republican field (which is bigger than you might think), and already it's out of date. Newt Gingrich announced his run two days ago, Ron Paul's now officially in, and Mike Huckabee is set to announce his decision tomorrow night (on Fox News, naturally).

In other words, the 2012 race is finally shaping up on the Republican side. There will likely be no nomination race on the Democratic side, since Obama will assumably crush any upstart Democrats who take him on.

One thing worth considering at this point, though, is that we're still a long way off from the 2012 election. And a lot can happen in a year and a half. Pundits who are predicting "the 2012 race will be all about X" (no matter what "X" is) stand a good chance of being wrong. Events have a way of overshadowing carefully crafted campaign plans.

The most interesting speculation I've heard yet for the 2012 election is that we could see both houses of Congress switch hands this year. Democrats have a lot of seats in the Senate to defend, and a very thin margin of control. The House, as always, is more volatile and if Democrats can successfully portray Republicans as overreaching their mandate in radical ways, they could take the House back.

But while contemplating amusing scenarios, a word of caution is necessary, once again. Anything could happen. We have no idea what "Issue Number One" is going to be next November. The Republicans are now getting serious about the presidential race -- much later than expected -- but nobody can predict with any degree of confidence how everything is going to play out. And anyone (in the media, especially) who tells you differently is fooling themselves.


A group of Democrats in Pima County, Arizona are certainly setting an impressive goal for themselves: forming a new state. Pima County is much more liberal than the rest of Arizona, and these guys are tired of being part of such a red state. From the story by Reuters:

Although Baja Arizona [the name of the proposed new state] would be created from just a single county, it would hardly rank as the smallest territory to be granted statehood. Pima County exceeds Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey in land mass and surpasses several other states in population, including Alaska, Montana, Wyoming or the Dakotas, according to the U.S. Census.

Even so, it has to be seen as the longest of long shots. The path to carving a new state out of an old one is daunting, with many high hurdles along the way. The last time it happened, we got West Virginia during the Civil War era. But for setting their sights high and for such a bold move, we've got to at least give the group an Honorable Mention for the attempt.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to fiercely independent Bernie Sanders (we're bending the rules a bit, we realize, since Sanders isn't even officially a Democrat). The Vermont senator not only reintroduced his "millionaires' tax" bill this week, but he is also using his leverage on the Senate Budget Committee to force other Democrats to stake out a better bargaining position in the upcoming battles over how to tame the deficit. As R.J. Eskow explained in the Huffington Post this week:

Today's budget debate is being framed as if the president's proposal is the "left" and the Republican proposal is the "right." Actually, the president's offering a center-right plan and the GOP's offering a radical-right plan. The budget plan that most closely reflects public opinion is the one offered by the House Progressive Caucus, and that's being dismissed as coming from the "loony left" -- even though polls show it represents the real "center" of public opinion.

Smart economists agree that's the best approach. Nevertheless, diffident Dems keep entering these negotiations afraid to represent the public's will or best interests. That has to change.

Sen. Sanders, and now Sen. Conrad, have increased the likelihood of getting a budget that more closely resembles what the public wants and needs. Sen. Sanders had to face down Sen. Conrad and the other Democrats on his Committee for a week. That took guts. He held out for the best possible deal, then compromised and settled.

Like they say: You gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em. By facing down Conrad and the other Democrats on the Committee, he did them a favor. Now they can negotiate from a stronger position. Whatever happens, they'll be able to tell the public that somebody in Washington was looking out for them.

Some of us have been arguing for a long time that the progressive movement is too attached to the Democratic Party leadership, and more of the country's elected Democrats need to join with their House colleagues and negotiate for the public's best interests and voters' preferred policies. Sen. Sanders has shown them the way.

Read the whole article for more details, it's worth it. For the past few years, we have watched Democrats bargaining away their own strongest positions before the horse trading even begins with the Republicans. Somebody's got to teach Democrats how this game is properly played, and this week Bernie Sanders seems to be the best candidate to show such leadership.

For this, Senator Sanders has earned the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Instead of handing out a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week, we're going to semi-rescind the one we handed out last week.

Last Friday, we awarded the MDDOTW to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, because he hadn't made good on his promise to force the Senate to vote on Paul Ryan's budget (which has already passed the Republican House). A week ago, we wrote:

Reid threatened to throw his weight around, and force the vote. Then he didn't do so, in the best week he had to make it happen (to be fair, we will consider rescinding this award, if Harry does force a vote soon). For showing such weakness, and for issuing such an empty threat, Harry Reid is this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

Upon reflection, we decided that this was too harsh and too hasty. After all, the absence of a vote doesn't preclude a future vote. Watching the news this week, we didn't see anything about Reid scheduling a vote, so yesterday we decided to call his office up and ask what was going on. We felt it was only fair to give them a chance to respond, as it were.

A leadership aide in Reid's office assured us that the Majority Leader is indeed planning on holding a vote on the Ryan budget, "before the Memorial Day break" (two weeks from now). The aide went on to explain that Democrats had to get through the debate over oil subsidies, but that the Ryan vote would happen before the end of the month.

This brought to mind the fact that Reid does his best work just before vacation breaks. Think back -- almost every big vote on important legislation has happened right before the Senate takes a few weeks off. The threat of giving up their vacation time is the strongest motivating force in the Senate today, and Reid has always shown he knows how to use this leverage to its fullest extent.

So we're declaring that last week's MDDOTW award is hereby being held in abeyance. If Reid forces the Ryan budget vote, we will rescind it entirely and give him a MIDOTW to make up for it.


Volume 167 (5/13/11)

As promised, we're back to our regular format this week, where we offer up talking points for Democrats everywhere to use in debate. Most especially Democrats who happen to be booked on the Sunday morning political chatfests, but they work equally well for watercooler arguments as well.


   Playing politics?

The first one is from none other than Paul Ryan himself. The Ryan budget is the giant weak spot in the Republican Party right now, and Democrats need to poke this weak spot every chance they get.

"I heard that Paul Ryan told Politico that he thought Harry Reid was, quote, playing politics, unquote, by holding a Senate vote on Ryan's own budget proposal. Ryan introduced his budget in the House and got all but four Republicans to pass it without a single Democratic vote. Why wouldn't Ryan want the Senate to vote on his budget bill? It boggles the mind. What Ryan is apparently saying is that he was never serious about his bill becoming law in the first place -- because if he was, he would welcome a Senate vote on it. By admitting that he was never serious at all about his budget plan, Ryan is also admitting that he has been the one 'playing politics' all along, not Reid."


   Where is the courage of your convictions?

Once you've stuck the rhetorical knife in, twist it.

"When Paul Ryan introduced his budget proposal, he was hailed as being 'brave' and 'bold' and all kinds of other wonderful things by the Republicans. The Ryan budget passed the House, but now Republicans appear to be afraid of holding a vote on it over in the Senate. Why would they fear such a 'brave' and 'bold' Republican budget plan? You'd think they'd be happy to go on record supporting the Ryan budget, so they can return home to their voters and campaign on their wonderful ideas for the budget. Instead, Republican senators appear not to have the courage of their own convictions -- probably because the public has resoundingly rejected the radical ideas contained within the Ryan budget. Republicans are afraid the Ryan budget is going to become a metaphorical boat anchor around their necks, out on the campaign trail. No wonder they're afraid to vote."


   Corporate welfare for oil companies

Democrats are missing a framing opportunity in the midst of the debate over stripping all the tax loopholes the giant oil companies now enjoy. It's a good debate to have, mind you, but it needs a snappy term. Luckily, one already exists.

"Democrats are fighting to end corporate welfare for oil companies, and Republicans are fighting to allow oil companies to avoid paying their fair share of American taxes. Everyone is tightening their belts at this point -- everyone, that is, except the oil companies. They're doing great, and are on their way to making hundreds of billions in pure profit this year, out of your wallet or purse. Democrats think that it's time to end the corporate welfare written into the tax code specifically for the oil companies -- which would lower America's budget deficit by tens of billions of dollars. Republicans are fighting for the oil companies to continue enjoying their corporate welfare, which allows them to avoid paying their fair share."


   Obama's securing the border

The president gave a speech down on the U.S.-Mexican border this week, and he pointed out a few realities which Republicans really don't want to hear. Democrats need to begin echoing these points in earnest.

"Our southern border has never been more secure than under President Obama. Less people are getting through, more people are being sent back, and the border is much more secure than it ever was under George W. Bush or any other recent president. Republicans who can't admit that the border is more secure now than ever will, as the president said in his speech, never be happy with anything short of alligators in a giant moat. Of course, with the price of alligators these days, doing so would explode the deficit [pause for laughter]. Now, the border situation isn't perfect, but it never will be until we devote tens of thousands of men and hundreds of billions of dollars to patrol every single inch of the border 24/7 -- which we quite simply cannot afford and is never going to happen. But give Obama some credit, folks -- he's done a better job of securing the border than anyone else in recent memory."


   No wonder Ensign resigned...

This one is just pure snarkiness, I admit.

"No wonder Nevada's John Ensign resigned his Senate seat. Now that the Ethics Committee has issued its extensive report on Ensign's behavior during and after his affair with a married woman on his staff, Ensign will be facing possible charges from the Justice Department over the illegal things he allegedly did to cover up the affair. Ensign quit the Senate right before the Ethics Committee was to issue this report, and now it's easy to see why he got out when he did. Well, the Senate can't touch him now that he's stepped down, but the Justice Department still can."


   Friday the 13th

Boy, I really am in a snarky mood today. Heh.

"Poll after poll shows how dispirited the Republican voters are about the choices they're being offered for the 2012 presidential nomination race. The more Republican candidates who jump in the race, the lower the Republican voters' enthusiasm seems to get. Newt Gingrich threw his hat in, and Ron Paul entered the race on the auspicious date of Friday the Thirteenth, but still Republican voters aren't showing much love for the field. Perhaps they'll get more excited if Donald Trump announces his presidential bid."


   The ultimate comeback

This one has been rattling around in my brain for a few weeks now. It's childish, I fully admit. But it's also effective. When talking to people who have nothing good to say about President Obama ever (for instance, your uncle or cousin who lives in a red state), from this point on Obama supporters have an ultimate rejoinder to toss into the fray. As I said, it's more like a playground taunt than reasoned political debate, but then even playground taunts occasionally have their uses. So the next time Uncle Zeke gets too annoying, come back with the following:

"Yeah, well, say what you want about Obama, but he got Bin Laden, didn't he?"


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