Friday Talking Points [418] -- President-Shaming Might Just Work

President-Elect Donald Trump continues to assemble his Cabinet of Deplorables.

OK, that’s a rather unusual title, but you’ll have to wait until the talking points part of the program for us to address it. Call it “the lesson to be learned from the Carrier jobs and Donald Trump,” or the silver lining that just might be an effective tool for Democrats in the near future. First, though, we’ve got to get through the news of the week and handing out our weekly awards.

President-Elect Donald Trump continues to assemble his Cabinet of Deplorables (to coin a phrase), nominating people who are either actively hostile to each department’s basic purpose in life, or laughably unqualified for any such important position.

The worst examples from that first category were Trump’s pick to head the E.P.A. (a man who is currently suing the E.P.A.) and his choice of a fast-food executive to head the Labor Department (who not only will fight against minimum wage increases, but also says he likes to see “beautiful women in bikinis eating burgers”). We have to say, when Barack Obama stuffed his cabinet with Wall Street types, at least progressives were bright enough to realize they had just been sold out in a major way, but so far it seems that the blue-class Trump base hasn’t figured out how much Trump is laughing at them and their concerns. Drain the swamp? Hardly ― Trump is concentrating on making that swamp deeper and stinkier than ever.

In the “laughably unqualified” category, we have Ben Carson ― a man whose spokesperson had clearly stated was not qualified to run a federal department mere weeks ago ― being named to run Housing and Urban Development. Because Carson is the only person Trump knows who has ever interacted with poor people, apparently. Then we have Linda McMahon, chief of a professional wrestling organization, who was just named to lead the Small Business Administration, for some inexplicable reason. McMahon has been desperately trying to enter politics for a while now (ask someone from Connecticut, they’ll tell you), and we can’t help but wonder how incensed two other Republican corporate political wannabes are right now. Both Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman must be mad enough to chew nails, but at least they’re smart enough not to spew bile on Twitter or anything. Heh.

Although Trump named some highly questionable people to his cabinet this week, as we were writing this we heard the nation heave a collective and noticeable sigh of relief. Since this was an odd thing to hear while typing, we quickly checked our news feed and saw that Rudy Giuliani has taken himself out of the running for secretary of State. Whew! We breathed our own audible sigh of relief after reading this, that’s for sure. Now all we have to worry about is John Bolton getting the nod (shudder).

It was also announced this week that Donald Trump will continue to be executive producer of the reality television show The Apprentice, because why not? He’s already setting up his cabinet to be an extended version of the show, so this might just make perfect sense.

Republicans in Congress have shown precisely zero enthusiasm for holding Donald Trump not just to the same standard as Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, but to any sort of standard at all. Not only are they yawning over the massive potential for Trump to have conflicts of interest while in office, they’re also quite willing to defend any insane rant Trump tweets, no matter how indefensible. So it looks like Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party is now fully complete.

Trump picked a fight this week with a Union leader, because the guy correctly said that Trump lied about how many Carrier jobs he had saved. After being attacked personally by Trump on Twitter, Chuck Jones shot back in the Washington Post, writing:

Now our office is getting phone calls and emails from people who are mad that I called Trump on his dishonesty. One man left five messages (though when I called him back and told him who I was, he hung up the phone). Some people have suggested that Trump didn’t mean to lie, he just got the numbers wrong. But I know that’s not true. On the campaign trail, Trump made perfectly clear how excellent a negotiator he is. I have negotiated hundreds of contracts. I know that if I’m going to have a fighting chance, I better damn well know the numbers.

More on this later in the program, down in the talking points. For now: when is Trump going to learn that taking on individuals on Twitter isn’t going to help him? Perhaps never. [If you want to push back on Twitter yourself, don’t forget the #ImWithChuck hashtag.]

Over on the other side of the aisle, we’re starting to see some signs of life from Senate Democrats. A bipartisan bill has been introduced by Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham to protect the DACA (or DREAMer) kids from the incoming administration’s wrath, but this is just an opening move in this chess game (the real fight will happen in the next Senate).

A group of Democrats is staging a short government shutdown protest in the hopes of goading Donald Trump to take his own party on. The first sticking point happened because the House Republicans breathtakingly removed a “Buy American” provision in the bill written to (finally!) send some federal aid to help Flint, Michigan fix its water system. The Senate passed a version of the bill with the “Buy American” (steel, to be specific) idea in it, but the House removed it. Since Trump swore he’d do precisely this (buy American steel to rebuild the country), Democrats are hopeful he’ll weigh in on their side.

The second sticking point is even more targeted towards large groups of blue-collar workers Trump promised to help: coal miners. Tens of thousands of coal miners are about to lose their health care. If nothing is done, they will lose it at the start of January. Democrats want at least one more year funded. Republicans counteroffered with a measly few months. So coal-state Democrats (yes, they do exist) in the Senate are forcing the issue, in the hopes that Trump will notice and crack down on his fellow Republicans.

We’ll see how this all plays out this weekend (it may be nothing more than a very short term publicity stunt), but it at least has the chance of grabbing Trump’s attention. At least, if the evening news covers it (which is not assured by any means).

The most hopeful signs of life from Senate Democrats, though, came from an interview with incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. The question since the election has been whether Democrats should try to obstruct everything Trump does (because this actually worked wonders for Republicans during President Obama’s time in office, at least in terms of winning congressional seats), or should just roll over and go along to get along, calling themselves “centrists” in the hopes of winning over voters (note: this tactic never actually works, but Democrats have tried it in the past many times). Instead of taking this route, Chuck Schumer is strongly saying Democrats will indeed stand up for what all Democrats are supposed to believe in:

[Incoming Minority Leader] Schumer, though close to Wall Street for much of his career, is wholeheartedly embracing the party’s [Bernie] Sanders-Elizabeth Warren populism. This means Schumer, and the Democrats, are ready to fight.

Conventional wisdom says Schumer will be pulled in a moderate and conciliatory posture by the 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2018 in states that Trump won (two of them, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, have been wooed by Trump as possible Cabinet secretaries). He’ll be pulled the other way by Warren and Sanders, who represent the party’s energy.

But Schumer correctly views this as a false choice. The best way to protect endangered incumbents is to let the Warren wing lead.

. . .

If Democrats are to have any hope in 2018, they’ll need to reclaim the populism Trump stole in 2016. Schumer embraces this. “If you want to appeal to the manufacturing worker in Scranton, the college student in Los Angeles and the single mom making minimum wage in Harlem, one economic message will work,” he said. “We just didn’t have it” in 2016.

Schumer pledges to keep his focus almost entirely on the economy. When Republicans hold votes on energy and social issues that divide Democrats, he figures he’ll have enough votes to filibuster even if endangered incumbents split off. “We’re going to have five, six sharp-edged [policies] that can be described in five words,” Schumer said. “That economic message” ― college affordability, infrastructure spending, taxing the rich ― “unites our caucus.”

This bodes extremely well for the future, if Schumer delivers. Imagine if Hillary Clinton’s entire campaign advertising budget had been spent on ads showcasing small business owners who had been stiffed by Donald Trump, just for instance.

Democrats win when they actually stand up and loudly proclaim what they’re fighting for. Democrats win when they back policies that actually help Main Street. Schumer’s actions next year are going to be closely watched by Democrats ― since he’ll be the highest-ranking and most-influential Democrat in Washington next year ― so it is indeed good to hear him starting from this basic position. Which also gives us a rather optimistic note to end this week’s roundup on.


We have a few Honorable Mentions to hand out this week, before we get to the big award.

First, we know this is more of a non-partisan issue, but we have to recognize the Standing Rock Sioux for their success in their months-long protest against an oil pipeline which would have threatened the tribe’s source of water. Protest movements rarely work, and heading into last weekend it looked like a serious showdown was going to happen Monday, as law enforcement was gearing up to evict the protest. They had already used water cannons against protesters ― in sub-freezing weather, mind you ― so it was pretty easy to tell the good guys from the bad in this faceoff. But the Army Corps of Engineers acted before the showdown, handing the Standing Rock Sioux a solid victory in their fight. So while not actually a partisan group of Democrats, we feel the Standing Rock Sioux deserve at least an Honorable Mention for their protest’s success.

Secondly, as just mentioned, Chuck Schumer is sending some very positive signals that Senate Democrats are not simply going to roll over and let Trump and the GOP have everything they want. For taking such an early stand, Schumer is worthy of at least an Honorable Mention this week.

And our final Honorable Mention awards are for outgoing (retiring) Senate Democrats Barbara Boxer (of California), Barbara Mikulski (of Maryland), and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (of Nevada). They all gave their swansong speeches on the Senate floor this week, and we have to say we’re going to miss all of them. Mikulski has previous won the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week three times, Boxer a total of seven times, and Reid a very impressive 19 times. Reid is currently tied with Nancy Pelosi on the all-time winners list, behind only Hillary Clinton (22 wins) and Barack Obama (56 wins). That’s a pretty impressive record to leave behind.

But this week’s Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is another Democrat stepping down from both the Senate (where he currently presides) and from the vice-presidency. Joe Biden has been on a farewell tour this week, not only being lionized on the Senate floor by Democrats and Republicans alike, but also appearing on Stephen Colbert’s late-night show, where he displayed the basic humanity that has earned him such bipartisan respect. Earlier in the week, he joked to a reporter that he might just run for president in 2020, because “what the Hell, man.” Seth Myers, another late-night television host, hilariously responded that “we already elected What The Hell Man,” while showing a picture of Donald Trump.

Biden deserves the MIDOTW award not only for the sadness millions will feel seeing him leave office, but also for a very important legislative victory on his way out. Congress just passed a bill which funds Biden’s “cancer moonshot” initiative to the tune of $1.8 billion ― almost twice what Biden said he was hoping for. Not only did they pass the bill, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell renamed the bill for Biden’s son Beau, whose death was the inspiration for the whole effort.

There are plenty of politicians in Washington who engender hatred from enormous portions of the American public. Some even inspire hatred among their own party’s base. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is an old-school senator who reminds us all that the Senate used to be a lot better behaved than the hotheads in the House. They used to, in fact, take an institutional pride in being above rancid partisan bickering. Not so much anymore, but even now it is heartening to see people from both sides of the aisle offer up praise for Joe Biden’s basic humanity.

We’re going to miss you when you’re gone, Joe. Although we thought you’d make a great consensus candidate to head the Democratic National Committee next year, if rumors are true, this isn’t going to happen. Even so, you’ll be in the public eye with the cancer moonshot, so at least we’ll be hearing from you on occasion. But we will miss your down-home style (gaffes and all) and your constant reminders that the Democrats used to be the party of working-class blue-collar households.

Which is why this week’s Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is outgoing Vice President Joe Biden.

[Congratulate Vice President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


While California Democrats bid a fond farewell to staunchly-progressive outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer, we will still have to put up with our DINO (Democrat In Name Only) Senator Dianne Feinstein. Think that’s too strong? Check out today’s editorial from the San Jose Mercury News, which explains how Feinstein is helping Republicans gut environmental protections (the issue is a complicated battle over water from the Northern California delta, endangered species, and Central Valley farmers who want to pump the water no matter the consequences):

[Senator Barbara] Boxer worked two years on a comprehensive, bipartisan water infrastructure bill authorizing a wide range of projects, including $120 million to fix the disastrous water system in Flint, Michigan, and $500 million for crucial California desalination, recycling and water storage projects.

It was expected to sail through Congress until [Senator Dianne] Feinstein joined forces with the Central Valley’s powerful Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, to attach a rider that Boxer aptly describes as a poison pill.

The last-minute, 80-page document negotiated behind closed doors allows maximum pumping of water from the Delta to the Central Valley and eliminates important congressional oversight over building dams in California. It would dramatically roll back Endangered Species Act protections, perhaps paving the way for its repeal or wholesale gutting.

Feinstein argues her rider will stave off worse legislation from a Trump administration. Maybe. But as one of the Senate’s most powerful Democrats, she would be well-positioned to filibuster those attempts ― if she wanted to.

Got that? We’re going to weaken the E.P.A. so that Trump won’t even have to. That’s pathetic.

Feinstein, fresh off co-chairing the losing effort to kill marijuana legalization in California, decided to negotiate in secret to give Republicans a free pass to attack the E.P.A. and the Endangered Species Act. Still think “DINO” is hyperbole?

Dianne Feinstein is widely expected not to run for another term when her current stint ends in 2018. We join millions of California Democrats in saying this cannot come soon enough. Perhaps we’ll get her retirement announcement in the next few months, in fact.

For now, though, we are awarding this week’s Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to DiFi ― her 14th such award, placing her in sole possession of third place on our all-time list of shame.

[Contact Senator Dianne Feinstein on her Senate contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions.]


Volume 418 (12/9/16)

This week we’re going to begin what will doubtlessly be a recurring feature. There’s a lesson to be learned from the whole Carrier/jobs story, and that lesson is that Trump is susceptible to manipulation due to what the news media is saying about his broken promises. This effort needs to be pushed by Democrats, who can bring up such stories and demand the media cover them. The mainstream media just loves confrontation, and they also love it when their stories “actually make a difference.” So it shouldn’t be too hard to get them to follow up in this effort, to do I would label “president-shaming.”

If Trump wants to be seen as a “winner” (which he most definitely does), then feed into that by pointing out where he’s falling short of his stated promises. This could spur him to ignore everything else on his desk and dig into the problem immediately, in the hopes of getting some media praise (which he so obviously lives to hear).

Boiled down, this means presenting issues through a “put up or shut up” filter. If Trump’s serious, then let’s see him do something! If he isn’t, then he should just shut up about it. Use the Carrier deal to prod him ― “if he could save Carrier jobs, then why can’t he...” is a good opening for any of these efforts.

President-shaming might be the most effective way to lobby Trump to get anything done. Strange but true ― but then we’re already deep across the border to Strange But True Land with Trump’s election, right? So here are my initial efforts in president-shaming, a process that we fully expect to become a regular portion of our talking points for the next four years.


   Buy American (part 1)

This is the easiest shot to take, this week.

“When Donald Trump was campaigning, he said the following: ‘We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort: Buy American and hire American. Whether it is producing steel, building cars or curing disease, we want the next generation of innovation and production to happen right here in America and right here in Ohio, right?’ That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? However, even though the Senate passed a water bill to fix the problems in Flint, Michigan with a strong requirement that they do so using American steel, the House Republicans bizarrely stripped this out of the draft they voted on. So, Mr. Trump, are you going to live up to your promises? Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans had a strong ‘Buy American’ requirement in the bill, but your own Republicans in the House decided that wasn’t necessary. We’re waiting to see whether Donald Trump puts up or shuts up on his promise to the American steel industry.”


   Buy American (part 2)

An easy follow-up also suggests itself.

“Since we’re on the subject, when are all those products with the Trump name on them going to start being made in America? How can any blue-collar worker believe Trump is going to save American manufacturing jobs when he refuses to manufacture his own products here ― even though there are plenty of factories who would be more than willing to do so? When will his own voters demand he put up or shut up on his own product lines being made in America? After all, if Donald Trump won’t make his goods here in the U.S.A., why should any other industry do so?”


   Coal miners need some help, too

Once again, a rather obvious one to goad Trump with.

“Donald Trump campaigned as being the best friend coal miners have ever had. He won a lot of their votes by promising them he’d care for them when in office. OK, fine ― but now that Republicans want to play politics with their health care, where is Mr. Trump? Democrats are fighting hard to get another year of health care for coal miners who were promised such health care but are now on the brink of losing it. Republicans want to string them along with only a few months’ guaranteed health care, but Democrats are fighting hard for another full year’s benefits. Which party is standing with coal miners, and which party doesn’t care about them at all? It’s pretty easy to see. The big question is whether Donald Trump will reject the partisan games being played in Congress and stand with Democrats on the side of coal miners. After promising to stand strong with them, Trump faces a big test of whether he meant it or whether he was lying to them all along.”


   Tell the truth!

Will Trump go down in history as being the Twitter President? Time will tell....

“Mr. Trump, you need to realize that when you lie people are now going to care about it a lot more than they did when you were campaigning. When you announced you had saved Carrier jobs from moving to Mexico, you blatantly misstated the numbers of jobs that had been saved. You claimed credit for over 300 jobs that were never in jeopardy of outsourcing. You also made it sound like all the Indiana jobs had been saved. Neither was true, but when a Union leader pointed this out, you personally attacked him on Twitter. He was only telling the truth, though ― that only (at best) about 800 jobs would be spared from outsourcing, while 550 people would still be permanently laid off because their jobs were still going to Mexico. While every job saved will mean a very thankful end of the year for that family, you need to tell the truth about the number of jobs saved and the number that weren’t saved. And you need to stop attacking a guy who has been fighting to save those jobs for years, as well.”


   Somebody take his Twitter account away, please

For the love of sanity, won’t someone pry Trump’s tiny hands away from his Twitter account?

“The New York Times has helpfully put together a list of the 289 people Trump has sent nasty tweets to (or about). Chuck Jones, the Union leader in Indiana, is merely the most recent to be added to this enormous (and growing!) list. However, once Trump is sworn into office, such thinned-skin and vindictive tweets could cause an international incident, or perhaps tank the stock market. One would like to hope that as president, Donald Trump would forego the pleasures of getting in twitter wars with each citizen who has the temerity to not publicly praise Trump. For the sake of our country’s future, can’t someone in the White House staff bar Trump from personally sending out a tweetstorm every time he feels put-upon? For his own good, someone needs to take away Donald Trump’s Twitter access, or that list of Trump Twitter targets is soon going to number in the thousands.”


   Put up or shut up on the DREAMers

Every time Trump backtracks (for the better), Democrats need to hold his feet to the fire, immediately.

“I heard Trump now thinks that maybe all those DREAMer kids shouldn’t be summarily deported (as he indeed had promised to do during his campaign). There is bipartisan legislation now being proposed in the Senate that would protect these people for another few years, cosponsored by Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham. But we have yet to hear whether Trump will support this effort. So, Mr. Trump, how about sending out a tweet in support of the Bridge Act? It’s easy to tell some reporter you’re rethinking your policy stance, but when legislation appears, you’ve got to show your support as well. Put up or shut up on helping the DREAMers out, Donald!”


   What if they gave a concert but nobody sang?

This one is just too, too funny.

“I hear that the Trump inauguration folks are getting rather desperate to hire someone ― anyone ― to perform at his swearing-in. It seems that just Ted Nugent and Kid Rock aren’t going to be sufficiently impressive, so they’ve been making the rounds offering to, quote, ‘pay anything’ ― even millions of dollars ― to chart-topping musicians. So far, they haven’t found a single performer willing to take them up on their generous offer. So I guess we’d all better start looking forward to a nice long version of ‘Wango Tango’ during Trump’s inauguration, eh?”

Chris Weigant


All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant