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Friday Talking Points [19] -- A "Rare Uprising" Of Democrats

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It's been a busy week for Democrats, with a lot to cover. There has been good news and bad, but on the whole I'd have to judge the week a success for Democrats in general. Led by what the Washington Post reports as a "rare uprising" of House Democrats. But before I get to that, I'd like to offer one observation from the campaign trail.

With the Democratic campaign heating up, both Hillary and Barack are currently wooing John Edwards' endorsement. Rumors have been flying about who Edwards is leaning towards, and some have even suggested that his window of time to endorse is closing. I disagree -- I think Edwards is truly trying to figure out which candidate is going to further his campaign's ideas. I think all the rumors are just the media acting like gossipy teenagers (once again).

The reason I say this is because unlike most other endorsements, Edwards seems to actually be testing both candidates. He is reportedly torn over which candidate will address his issues better, and has been talking to both sides. But here's the amazing thing worth noting: he has actually gotten both candidates to change their rhetoric in their speeches.

The media have been unable to put two and two together. There have been plenty of stories in the past two weeks about how both Hillary and Barack have added more "populist" appeals to their speeches. This is dissected as an attempt to appeal to Ohio voters, or as pressuring the other candidate on perceived weaknesses, and even as "attacking" the other candidate's credentials for helping the middle class and the poor. The Edwards endorsement is seen as a completely separate story.

I don't think it is. I think that what John Edwards said to both candidates was some version of the following: "You know my signature issues. I am concerned with both of you that you have not addressed my concerns forcefully enough during your campaigns. I am going to be watching both of you for one week (or two weeks, or whatever), and at the end of that time whichever of you has convinced me that you will further my causes will get my endorsement. And be warned that if these things disappear from your speeches afterwards, I will withdraw this endorsement. I am serious about this, and I will be watching carefully."

If this is the case (and not just my own imagining), then my respect for Edwards will grow. And his influence on Democratic politics and the presidential race will continue to be relevant as a result. Because the problems are real, and getting the two candidates to address them (when they'd really rather talk about other things) is a good thing indeed.

Nancy Pelosi wins this one hands down. In one day, she refused to knuckle under to Bush's fearmongering, upheld Congress' oversight powers by citing two Bush toadies for contempt (for ignoring their subpoenas), and by doing so annoyed the Republicans so much they left the House floor in a huff. That's a pretty good day!

The whole story is in that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier. It could easily have been titled "House Democrats Grow A Pair," or "House Democrats Rediscover Their Spines."

Senate Democrats also defied Bush this week in passing a bill that would force the CIA to only use interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual (which specifically forbids all the forms of torture that the CIA is currently allowed to use), so they deserve a special mention for this bold vote (Bush says he's going to veto it, no surprise there).

But the week really belonged to Pelosi. She earned more than just this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week "Golden Spine" award, she also earned some hope that in an election year against a very unpopular president we can expect more of this sort of thing in the future. Well done, Speaker Pelosi! Encore! Encore!

[Congratulate Nancy Pelosi on her Senate contact page to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

Harry Reid tried to get in on the fun by issuing strong statements on FISA as well, but he's just hoping we didn't notice that it was his Senate that passed the bill that Bush is arguing for. So I will not deign to repeat Harry's comments on the House action, because I simply do not believe him.

Why is this man still Senate Majority Leader? Anyone?

But he doesn't win MDDOTW this week, because it is a 21-way tie for the Senate Democrats who voted for the bill, or voted against stripping out the telecom amnesty. This week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award goes equally to all of them.

Here are the senators who earned this award by their votes. There were three important votes (stripping immunity out of the bill, the cloture vote, and the vote to pass the bill itself) and these senators voted with Bush and the Republicans on at least one of them:

Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, Thomas Carper, Robert Casey, Kent Conrad, Dianne Feinstein, Daniel Inouye, Tim Johnson, Herb Kohl, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Claire McCaskill, Barbara Mikulski, Bill Nelson, Benjamin Nelson, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Ken Salazar, Debbie Stabenow, Jim Webb, Sheldon Whitehouse.

It's also worth mentioning that Barack Obama voted against Bush on the first two votes, and skipped the third (they all happened on the same day). Hillary Clinton skipped all three votes.

[Contact these senators on their Senate's websites to let them know what you think of their actions.]

Volume 19 (2/15/08)

Fearmongering

Salon's Glenn Greenwald has been closely following the FISA standoff for weeks now, and his most recent article has all sorts of details on the subject, if you haven't been following it that closely. Don't feel bad if you haven't, the mainstream media has largely been ignoring the subject as well, preferring to bring us the most recent shocking, earth-shattering, news-breaking update on the fact that it snowed somewhere (Memo to all mainstream media: It's called "winter." Get over it.).

For once, not only have the Democrats acted decisively, but they're also out there strongly defending what they did. This, hopefully, will become a trend. So this week's number one talking point comes from actual Democrats making actual arguments -- and doing a pretty good job of it:

If our nation is left vulnerable in the coming months, it will not be because we don't have enough domestic spying powers. It will be because your Administration has not done enough to defeat terrorist organizations -- including al-Qaeda -- that have gained strength since 9/11.

. . .

I, for one, do not intend to back down -- not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.

We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.

-- Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), in a letter to Bush

We have seen what happens when the president uses fearmongering to stampede Congress into making bad decisions. That's why we went to war in Iraq.

-- Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

I think the American public understands we can have both protection of our country and protection of civil rights at the same time. I don't think fear will change that.

-- Pat Murray (D-WA)

And, finally (I saved the best for last):

Roosevelt said we have nothing to fear but fear itself. President Bush has been telling the American people we have nothing to offer but fear.

-- Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

The Iraqi Parliament and the House GOP

The House Republicans walked off the floor of the House yesterday in protest over voting on contempt citations against White House officials who ignored congressional subpoenas. This little hissy fit was caught on camera, complete with video of them walking down the outside steps of the Capitol (with girlish giggling in the background audio).

This one is so easy, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

"Instead of the Iraqi Parliament learning from America how a democracy is supposed to work, it seems the House Republicans have stolen a tactic from the Iraqi Parliament instead -- when you don't like what's going on, just pick up your ball and glove and leave. They say we're being 'frivolous' by upholding the Constitution's checks and balances. Well, someone ought to explain to them in small words what their oath of office actually says. We will welcome the Republicans back to the House, after they've had a nap and aren't so cranky. And we will continue to uphold our duties as one of the three branches of the American government."

McCain flip-flops on torture

John McCain voted against limiting all United States government agencies from using any interrogation technique not found in the Army Field Manual, even though he was strongly for this concept last year (when passing a law forcing the Pentagon to do just that). There are plenty of quotes from him back then supporting the concept that need to be dug up, to point out this monstrous flip-flop by the so-called "straight talking" McCain. In fact, we need to dig even deeper into McCain's past (but while doing so, being very careful to offer it as faint praise and false sympathy).

"When John McCain was tortured into signing a confession that he had committed war crimes by the North Vietnamese, I did not think any less of him. This is what torture does -- it breaks down humanity to the point of saying or signing anything, just to make the torture stop. If I were tortured, I would surely sign such a document myself. This is why America prides itself on not torturing people to obtain false confessions. John McCain used to understand that concept, and has even sponsored laws in the past which affirm this bedrock belief. Now that he's running for president, it seems he's OK with allowing the CIA to use techniques which have been called 'torture' all the way back to the Spanish Inquisition where they were invented. It's sad to see McCain changing his position on this, in an effort to get votes."

Third Term

Whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for president, they both are beginning to start their general campaign rhetoric. This is appropriate, since (barring a Huckabee miracle) John McCain will be the Republican nominee. Which means he's a fair target now. While there are many ways to attack McCain, there's an easy one that ties him firmly to the Bush policies he's been so willing to embrace. This one should be used over and over and over again, until everyone in America has heard it at least three times.

"Voters are going to be faced with a choice this November. Do they want the disastrous Bush policies continued with more-of-the-same John McCain, or do they want a new direction for America? Does anyone really want a third term of George W. Bush?"

Poor John McCain

This is another one where false sympathy comes into play. Rush Limbaugh and others of his ilk have been downright vicious to John McCain ever since it looked like he was going to be the Republican nominee. So maybe McCain needs a shoulder to cry on.

"We're actually amazed at what is happening in the Republican Party. While Democrats haven't even begun the general election campaign, it seems that the loudest attacks on John McCain are coming from well-known conservatives within his own party. We truly feel sorry that John McCain is now having to put up with the relentless noise of the right-wing echo chamber that Democrats deal with on a daily basis. We offer him our condolences."

Heck of a job, FEMA

FEMA just this week announced that they had decided that all those trailers used to house Katrina victims were actually filled with poisonous fumes. While this should have been good news, it sadly was not. Because the agency took years to admit it. During that time, they denied there was a problem, refused to test the trailers, and even reportedly hushed up one government scientist who was trying to raise the alarm. Finally they were forced to test the trailers, and found out that they are basically unhealthy for humans to live in.

But they're still going to use the trailers to house the victims of the recent tornados, even though they now know the trailers are toxic.

"I look forward to the next president putting FEMA in the hands of someone whose most recent employment wasn't with the Keystone Kops. Heck of a job, FEMA."

My Funny Valentine

And finally, happy Valentine's Day from the Democratic National Committee. I swear, I hadn't seen this when I wrote the above item, but because the DNC folks did such a good job on this video, they get the final talking point item of the week. Great execution, DNC!

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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