Friday Talking Points -- And The Horse You Rode In On!

<p>Democrats -- and not a few Republicans as well -- spent most of this week metaphorically <a href="">dancing on Roy Moore's political grave</a>. To the very end, Moore proved to be a rather cartoonish villain, riding up to the polls on a horse he couldn't even control (named -- you just can't make this stuff up -- "Sassy"). This led to much ribaldry at his expense, after he lost the election Tuesday night, most of which ended with the refrain: "...and the horse you rode in on!"</p>

<p>Doug Jones pulled off a spectacular upset in Alabama's special Senate election, one that will be long remembered by both parties (indeed, even as Scott Brown winning Ted Kennedy's old seat is now remembered... but more on that in a bit). In doing so, Jones placed Donald Trump in the category of "<a href="">three-time loser</a>," since the last three big races Trump inserted himself into all led to crushing defeats for his chosen candidates (Virginia governor, Alabama's GOP primary, and then Tuesday's general election). Say it loud, say it proud: "President LOSER! Sad!"</p>

<p>Republicans are quick to claim that Moore was a special case and that either he (or Steve Bannon, for some) are responsible for such an embarrassing loss, but in reality while the Alabama race was unusual in the extreme, it also continued <a href="">a voting trend</a> that has been building all year. Republicans are beginning to lose the suburbs, and that could signal very big changes to come in next year's midterms. The <em>Washington Post</em> had a <a href="">very nice roundup</a> of the data points which make this case:</p>

<blockquote><p>In Alabama, Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D) flipped or came close on Tuesday in suburban counties that Trump had won around Birmingham and Montgomery.</p>

<p>His victory offers the latest data points for a trendline that stretches back to April, when a special election in Kansas to replace Mike Pompeo -- who gave up his House seat to become CIA director -- was unexpectedly close because of Democratic strength and high turnout in the Wichita suburbs, specifically Sedgwick County.</p>

<p>In Virginia last month, Chesterfield County -- which includes the suburbs around Richmond -- backed a Democratic gubernatorial candidate for the first time since 1961. Several GOP state legislators unexpectedly went down in suburban districts that were not thought to be in play. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) won the district held by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in the D.C. suburbs by 13 points. Four years before, Terry McAuliffe got 60 percent in Fairfax County. Northam pulled 68 percent.</p>

<p>The same night, Democrats flipped two county executive races in the New York suburbs of Westchester and Nassau. They also picked up GOP-held state legislative in the suburbs of Seattle, Tulsa and Atlanta.</p>

<p>These shifts alarm Republicans because many of their most vulnerable House incumbents represent suburban districts around places like Minneapolis and Philadelphia. Many college-educated white women who voted for Trump are swinging away, and traditional Democrats are highly motivated while Republicans are fractured.</p>

<p>"Throughout 2017, there has been a storm brewing in these suburbs, but on Tuesday night it got upgraded to a Category 5," said Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson, who cut his teeth in Virginia politics and worked on Hillary Clinton's campaign last year.</p>

<p>"There have been more than 70 special elections for state and federal legislative seats in 2017 so far.... Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean in 74 percent of these races," Harry Enten tabulates on <em>FiveThirtyEight</em>.</p>

<p>Look to Lee County in Alabama, which is named for Robert E. Lee. "No Democratic presidential candidate has earned more than 45 percent of the vote there since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Trump carried the county by 24 points. And yet on Tuesday, Lee County voted for Jones by 17 points -- a whopping 41 point swing toward Democrats," Matthew Chapman writes on <em>Shareblue</em>.</p></blockquote>

<p>This should all be a very clear lesson for Democrats heading into the midterms: look to the 'burbs for new voters, especially suburban women disgusted with Trump's continuing antics. Already, many voters <a href="">have been bailing on the Republican Party</a>, making for a very favorable landscape for Democrats heading into the midterms.</p>

<p>By week's end, Moore was still refusing to concede the race, leading Democrat David Axelrod to tweet: "Moore doesn't get it. He just got banned from another mall. This one:" with a photo of the Capitol and National Mall in front of it. Funniest tweet we saw all week, personally. Second place would have to be from Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Mitch McConnell, <a href="">who tweeted</a>: "I'd just like to thank Steve Bannon for showing us how to lose the reddest state in the union."</p>

<p>Speaking of child molesters, Dennis Hastert was back in the news, as a federal judge imposed new restrictions on his period of supervised release from prison. Hastert is barred from being alone with minors, possessing pornography, and using "sex-related telephone numbers." Probably all good ideas, knowing Hastert's history.</p>

<p>Which leads us to what has become a regular weekly feature: a rundown of the continuing #MeToo fallout in Washington and in the world of journalism (once again, we aren't even noting the fallout in the sports or entertainment worlds any more, because there are just too damn many to keep up with). So, very quickly:</p>

<p>Republican Representative Blake Farenthold announced he is not going to step down but will also not run for re-election next year. He's not only been accused of sexual harassment (by both men <em>and</em> women on his congressional staff), you might also remember him from that infamous <a href="">ducky pajama party photo</a>. Also revealed: Farenthold once owned the internet domain "" Nothing like good old-fashioned Republican values, eh?</p>

<p>On the Democratic side, a second woman accused Representative Ruben Kihuen of sexual misconduct. More on him in the awards section, though.</p>

<p>Judge Alex Kozinski from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is being investigated after six women (all former staffers) alleged sexual contact or inappropriate comments.</p>

<p>Ironically, a top official at the Office of Congressional Ethics -- you know, the watchdogs for congressional misbehavior -- has been accused of both sexual harassment and physical assault, the latter stemming from a barroom brawl he engaged in on Valentine's Day two years ago. The fight was reportedly started by him harassing and physically assaulting three women at the bar who were not his girlfriend -- during their Valentine's Day date, no less.</p>

<p>In the journalistic world, Ryan Lizza of the <em>New Yorker</em> was fired this week, for "improper sexual conduct." Later in the week, PBS cut all ties with Tavis Smiley for similar allegations.</p>

<p>Tragically, Republican Representative Dan Johnson, after being accused of molesting (if not criminally raping) an underage girl <em>in the basement of his own church</em>, <a href="">committed suicide</a> this week. This is the first such suicide in the sexual misconduct fallout, but it may not wind up being the last.</p>

<p>All of this has also refocused the spotlight on <a href="">Donald Trump's accusers</a>, who held a press conference this week to remind America that their president is also under the same cloud as all the others. This time, maybe people will pay a little more attention. Trump, of course, continues to insist that they're all liars. He even went as far as claiming he "didn't know" or "never met" all of these women, despite photographic evidence and despite the fact that one of them was a contestant on <em>The Apprentice</em>. So it's pretty easy to see who is lying.</p>

<p>Speaking of Trump lies, using a very strict definition, the <em>New York Times</em> decided to compare Trump's blatant and knowing lies to Obama's lies while in office. They counted 103 lies by Trump in his first ten months in office (far fewer than the 1,600-plus the <em>Washington Post</em> continues to tally). During Obama's <em>entire eight-year term</em> the <em>Times</em> only found 18 times he had intentionally lied. So much for false equivalence, eh?</p>

<p>Let's see, what else is going on? Republican Chuck Grassley had apparently <a href="">had enough</a> of Trump's judicial nominees who are either blatantly unqualified or downright repulsive. One nominee became an internet sensation this week when he <a href="">couldn't even answer basic questions</a> -- <em>from a Republican questioner, no less</em> -- about the duties of a federal judge. The discovery of an online post supporting "the original K.K.K." and other odious writings and quotes also led to two of Trump's judicial nominees essentially <a href="">being rejected by the Senate</a>.</p>

<p>After pretty much every economist under the sun -- left, right, and center -- concluded that the GOP tax plan is going to cost a whopping amount of money, it was left to the Treasury Department to come up with their own study showing how the magic of tax cuts paying for themselves would work. They essentially admitted defeat this week, releasing a one-page <a href="">fantasy document</a> which basically just said: "Tax cuts will pay for themselves, period. Now stop bugging us about it." This contradicts the conclusion of (to name but a few) the Tax Policy Center, the Tax Foundation, the Penn-Wharton Budget Model, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Goldman Sachs, and the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (and the Congressional Budget Office, for good measure) -- all of which predict trillion-dollar holes being blown in the deficit and debt.</p>

<p>Paul Ryan is considering stepping down from Congress some time next year, <em>Politico</em> <a href="">reports</a>, although Ryan has publicly denied the reports. But if a Democratic wave is coming, it might behoove him to seek refuge before it hits, so the move would certainly make sense. Some are saying that passing tax cuts might be Ryan's "Boehner meets the Pope" moment, for the wonks among us who remember how the last GOP speaker left.</p>

<p>The Democratic National Committee is now seriously considering <a href="">decreasing the number of superdelegates</a> for their next national convention in 2020. This has been a year-long fight, led by the Bernie Sanders faction, so it'll be interesting to see if any changes are actually adopted by the D.N.C. Also under consideration are changing rules for both caucuses and primaries.</p>

<p>The Federal Communications Commission announced it's going to kill net neutrality, which has already led to a huge backlash. Just another part of the Republican agenda which is <em>wildly</em> unpopular with the voters. A full 83 percent of the public -- including 75 percent of Republicans -- want to see net neutrality continue. So of course the Trump administration is going to chuck the rule out the window.</p>

<p>And speaking of <a href="">monumental stupidity and online backlash</a>, we have to close on a holiday note. Sean Spicer (remember him?) posted on social media this week a photo of what he called "FDRs book of Christmas Carols." Except what the photo actually showed was Roosevelt's personal copy of <em>A Christmas Carol</em>, by Charles Dickens. You may have heard of it -- Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge? Any of that ring a bell, Spicey?</p>



<p align="center"><img src='' alt='Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week' /></p>

<p>Not surprisingly, Senator-Elect Doug Jones of Alabama is unquestioningly our <strong>Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week</strong> this week. We've been writing about the implications of his victory <a href="">all</a> <a href="">week</a> <a href="">long</a>, in fact. It was a stunning and impressive victory in a state nobody thought Democrats would win, even two months ago. But more than celebrating the victory itself, Democrats have been enthused about what could happen next.</p>

<p>Here is some rather delicious food for Democratic thought. In 2008, Barack Obama was elected in a landslide. On December 8, 2009 -- less than a year after he had taken office -- Democrats lost a special election to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate, to Republican Scott Brown. This was shocking, and the very next November Democrats got what Obama called "a shellacking" in the midterm elections, losing six Senate seats to Republicans as well as a whopping 63 House seats. This gave control of the House to the Republicans, and they've kept it ever since (Democrats did manage to hang onto control of the Senate in 2010, but only by a 51-49 margin).</p>

<p>Fast-forward to today. Donald Trump was narrowly elected in 2016. His average job approval rating with the public has never been 50 percent or higher since the day he took office. He actually hit new polling lows this week, bringing his average down to a worst-ever 37 percent as individual polls put him as low as 32 percent. At this point in his own term, Barack Obama had just fallen below 50 percent average job approval for the first time ever -- but still, Obama was 12 points better than where Trump finds himself now.</p>

<p>Trump has now matched Obama in losing a Senate seat that his party really never should have lost. The open question now is whether history will repeat itself and deliver a "shellacking" to Trump in the 2018 midterms. This time next year, we could again be looking forward to seeing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once again.</p>

<p>Winning back the House is nowhere near a longshot anymore. Democrats need to pick up fewer than 25 seats to do so. The truly startling thing is that control of the Senate is now within reach for the Democrats, too. Republicans will be reduced to a razor-thin 51-49 majority starting next year, meaning a net pickup of two seats would also bring us Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. This is still in the realm of longest of longshots for now, but that's better than being absolutely out of the question (where it basically was before this Tuesday).</p>

<p>Democrats have Doug Jones to thank for much of that, for winning his race against all odds. A Democrat just won a state that Donald Trump won a year ago <em>by 28 points</em>. That is seriously impressive. Doug Jones is, without question, the <strong>Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week</strong>. At this point, he's even in strong contention (if the award existed, that is) for <strong>Most Impressive Democrat Of The Year</strong>. So we join millions of others in thanking the voters of Alabama for doing the right thing and electing Doug Jones to the United States Senate. Instead of the accused child molester.</p>

<p>[<em>Senator-Elect Doug Jones does not have an official Senate contact page yet, since he won't be sworn into office until January. So you'll have to wait to congratulate him officially until he is seated, sorry.</em>]</p>


<p align="center"><img src='' alt='Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week' /></p>

<p>Pressure is mounting on Representative Ruben Kihuen (from Nevada) to step down, after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct while he was in office. Nancy Pelosi has now called on Kihuen to step down and an Ethics Committee investigation has been opened into the allegations. So far, Kihuen refuses to do so. For better or worse, Democrats have adopted a zero tolerance policy for such situations, and for them to continue to take this moral high road, Kihuen is going to have to go.</p>

<p>The argument can be made (indeed, many made it about Al Franken) that Democrats are being a wee bit self-destructive by their unforgiving stance that any sexual misconduct allegations merit an immediate end to a political career, but that's the stance they have taken and if they're going to be believable then they have to be consistent.</p>

<p>We are reminded of the atmosphere in the 1990s over a far different (and much more benign) series of accusations made against Democrats in office, which followed the revelation that Zo&euml; Baird (who had been nominated by Bill Clinton to be the first female U.S. Attorney General ever) had broken federal law by employing two illegal aliens, as a nanny and a chauffeur. They had failed to pay proper payroll taxes (by paying the workers "under the counter") and it torpedoed her nomination, which was quickly withdrawn.</p>

<p>A second nomination was also withdrawn, for similar reasons, and the Clinton White House had to institute a new rule: "If you ever knowingly hired an illegal alien, that's a killer. If you hired someone who was legal but didn't pay Social Security taxes, you're probably O.K., but only if you come clean and pay the back taxes." This then became a regular box to check for anyone in political office hoping to be named to an executive branch post.</p>

<p>But the whole "<a href="">Nannygate</a>" frenzy did indeed institute a new standard, one that every politician afterwards had to face. George W. Bush saw a Labor Secretary and Homeland Security Secretary nomination withdrawn after nanny problems surfaced during their vetting process, years later.</p>

<p>We are not equating household employment problems with sexual assault, please note. The two are separate and one is obviously much worse than the other. But we mention Nannygate because of the almost-immediate impact on politicians -- suddenly, there was a new standard that was a deal-breaker. Sexual misconduct of any sort whatsoever is fast becoming the same sort of litmus test. This change, many would say, is long overdue.</p>

<p>This week, for Democrats, Representative Ruben Kihuen is on the hotseat. It's looking less and less likely that he'll survive (especially after the second accuser went public). Which is why he is this week's <strong>Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week</strong> -- both for the allegations, if true, and for refusing to put party ahead of his own personal political ambitions.</p>

<p>[<em>Contact Representative Ruben Kihuen on <a href="">his House contact page</a>, to let him know what you think of his actions.</em>]</p>


<p align="center"><img src='' alt='Friday Talking Points' /></p>

<p align="center"><strong>Volume 465</strong> (12/15/17)</p>

<p>Before we begin, a program note is in order. This will be the last Friday Talking Points column of the year. We will return to regular columns on the fifth of January.</p>

<p>Instead, in this space, we will be running our annual year-end awards columns, for the next two weeks. So there's that to look forward to!</p>

<p>For now, here are our year-end talking points for Democrats to use. We had to limit ourselves this week by not coming up with any of these which directly address the Doug Jones win, because we felt it's easy enough for Democrats to express their sheer glee on this subject on their own and without our help. Instead, we concentrated on Trump's plummeting public approval and the Republicans' Christmas turkey of a tax plan. Enjoy, and we'll see you back here next year!</p>


<p><img src="" alt="1" align="left" /><br /><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Loser! Loser! Loser!</strong><br clear="all" /></p>

<p>Say it three times, and Trump's hairpiece will appear in the mirror....</p>

<p>"Donald Trump is finally beginning to lose the support of his base voters. Maybe it was the fact that he's now a three-time loser when it comes to endorsing Republican candidates? Or maybe they're beginning to realize what a monumental bait-and-switch job the GOP tax plan is, running counter to just about everything Trump promised he'd do on the campaign trail? Trump and the Republican Congress haven't done a single thing for Trump voters all year, and they're about to have to compromise with Democrats if they want to go home for their year-end vacations -- the prospect of which already has some <a href="">burning their 'Make America Great Again' hats</a> in protest. But whatever the reasons may be, Trump's job approval polling is sinking like a stone. Most astonishingly, Trump is even <a href="">losing significant amounts of support</a> from <em>Fox News viewers</em> -- the very base that elected him. As Trump might say: Sad!"</p>


<p><img src="" alt="2" align="left" /><br /><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Trump even enrages <em>USA Today</em></strong><br clear="all" /></p>

<p><em>USA Today</em> is, for the most part, a fairly non-partisan newspaper. For instance, it never even endorses presidential candidates. But this week, Trump's slur against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (that she "would do anything" for donations) was the final straw for <em>USA Today</em>'s editorial board. They penned an <a href="">incredibly scathing editorial</a> in response, which (again) is unusual from a paper that normally tries to remain nonpartisan in outlook.</p>

<blockquote><p>And as is the case with all of Trump's digital provocations, the president's words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment. A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.</p>

<p>. . .</p>

<p>If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump's utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office.</p>

<p>. . .</p>

<p>The nation doesn't seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.</p></blockquote>


<p><img src="" alt="3" align="left" /><br /><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Haste makes stupidity, not waste</strong><br clear="all" /></p>

<p>The GOP tax bill was written rather hastily. Hastily-written legislation is usually a very bad idea.</p>

<p>"In their rush to pass a gigantic Christmas present to corporations and millionaires, Republicans have managed to make a few glaring errors in drafting their bill. As the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> <a href="">helpfully pointed out</a>: 'Some high-income business owners could face marginal tax rates exceeding 100 percent under the Senate's tax bill, far beyond the listed rates in the Republican plan. That means a business owner's next $100 in earnings, under certain circumstances, would require paying more than $100 in additional federal and state taxes.' That's not exactly business-friendly, even in a bill that is supposed to be super-friendly to businesses. These are the kind of mistakes that get made when you cobble a bill together in a back room meeting in the dead of night, folks. I wonder what other charming snafus will emerge from the final bill? Of course, none of the Republicans who vote on it will even bother to read it, so we'll just have to see after it passes which provision is the most horrific -- and whether it was intentional, or not. Making businesses pay a tax rate of <em>over 100 percent</em> is a pretty big lump of coal in their stockings, wouldn't you say?"</p>


<p><img src="" alt="4" align="left" /><br /><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Republican values on full display</strong><br clear="all" /></p>

<p>Republicans truly believe that voters will actually reward them for this turkey of a bill. They could be in for a very rude surprise. Democrats will be enthusiastically campaigning on the tax bill, pointing out the values it exposes within the Republican Party. They've already largely won the war on how the public initially sees the bill, and if they're smart they'll be reinforcing this all next year. Paul Waldman at the <em>Washington Post</em> has <a href="">a great example</a> showing how to properly frame this issue:</p>

<blockquote><p>The first value is the one lying at the heart of all Republican tax policy: The rich are just better than the rest of us. They're more noble, more deserving, more worthy of consideration and help. When Republicans speak of tax "relief," it is the wealthy whose burdens are being lifted. So it is with this cut, which not only has multiple provisions explicitly benefiting the wealthy, like a reduction in the top income tax rate and a doubling of the inheritance tax exemption, but also phases out many of the cuts that benefit those at lower incomes, so that with each passing year its benefits flow more to the top. When you make a choice to eliminate a provision that helps ordinary people so that you can preserve a corporate tax cut, you’re making a statement of values.</p></blockquote>


<p><img src="" alt="5" align="left" /><br /><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Need more proof?</strong><br clear="all" /></p>

<p>The Marco Rubio subplot is instructive, as well.</p>

<p>"Marco Rubio made a tiny splash in the news for threatening to withhold his support for the bill if the child tax credit wasn't boosted more in the final bill. When the House passed their version of the bill, this credit was boosted from $1,000 to $1,600. When the Senate passed their version, it was doubled to $2,000. So what happened in the conference committee? They took the two numbers and decided not to split the difference at all -- because they wanted more money for millionaires. They suggested only $1,100 for poor people. They told Rubio they could not raise the business tax from 20 percent to 21 percent to pay for boosting the child tax credit, because it would somehow kill all the magic growth. Then they turned around and smacked him in the face by deciding to lower the tax rate that millionaires pay by a few percentage points -- and pay for it by raising the business tax from 20 percent to 21 percent. Rubio rebelled, or appeared to. Within a single day, though, he was back on board with only raising the credit to $1,400 for poor people. Republican values could not more starkly be on display. When one of the few crumbs to the poor was up for debate, the Republicans decided to just slash it to the bone. It's like Scrooge McDuck was in charge of the negotiations or something: 'We've got to cut goodies for poor people so we can shovel more money at the wealthiest tax bracket!' The Democratic ads next year are just going to write themselves, folks."</p>


<p><img src="" alt="6" align="left" /><br /><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Less popular than tax hikes!</strong><br clear="all" /></p>

<p>The public really, really, really <a href="">does not like</a> this tax bill. Point this out, and point out why.</p>

<p>"Nancy Pelosi called the Republican tax bill a giant con job and she was right -- the lies they've been telling about it are just laughable when compared to what is actually in the bill. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tells the biggest whoppers, such as: 'there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class,' and 'virtually everybody in the middle class will get... a significant tax cut.' Trump lied his face off when he claimed: 'this is going to cost me a fortune,' when in reality he'll likely <em>save</em> tens of millions on his taxes. The American people are not fooled, though. Poll after poll shows the bill with only 35 percent support or worse -- Reuters and Quinnipiac had it down to only 29 percent support. Only 17 percent of people agree that the bill will primarily help the middle class, while overwhelming majorities see it for what it is -- a giant tax break for the wealthiest. In fact, this bill is so unpopular that past bills which have actually <em>raised taxes</em> have had more public support. That's pretty astonishing when you think about it. The American people have not been fooled by the snow job Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have sold Donald Trump on -- they see this bill for exactly what it is, and they do not like it one bit. Republicans who think voting for this monstrosity are going to help them win re-election next year are downright delusional."</p>


<p><img src="" alt="7" align="left" /><br /><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;You're fired!</strong><br clear="all" /></p>

<p>Oh, the irony....</p>

<p>"Immediately after African-American voters in Alabama absolutely spanked Trump in Tuesday's election, his close friend Omarosa was shown the White House door. So much for Omarosa somehow helping Trump out with African-Americans, eh? Her exit means the White House will now have <a href="">no black senior advisors</a> on the payroll at all, which I'm sure will do nothing but help Trump's minority outreach situation, right?"</p>


<p><em>Chris Weigant blogs at:</em></p>

<p"><a href="" title=""><img src="" alt="" height="29" width="160" /></a></p>

<p><em>Follow Chris on Twitter: </em><a href="">@ChrisWeigant</a></p>

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