This week saw some history made in the Trump White House. For the first time (at least in our memory), a White House top aide actually apologized for saying something stupid. So far, being Donald Trump (or being a Trump spokesperson) has meant never having to say you're sorry over any idiocy that gets said or tweeted, but this week saw Sean Spicer being forced to apologize for apparently forgetting about that whole Holocaust thing. While defending Adolf Hitler, on the first day of Passover, no less.
While there were loud cries for Spicer to be fired over the idiocy that came out of his mouth, and while Trump famously doesn't think anyone should ever apologize for anything, it looks like Spicer's job is safe for the time being. This proves that apologizing will not automatically get you fired by Trump, which is why it is such a historic milestone. Perhaps others will learn a lesson from this episode? One can only hope.
Spicer was trying to justify attacking Syria when he came up with this doozy of a statement:
You -- look, we didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You had a -- someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. I think, when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly. I...
Loud protests interrupted him, after which he bizarrely continued:
Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not -- he brought them into, the Holocaust center -- I understand that. But I'm saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent -- into the middle of towns. It was brought to it, so the use of it and I appreciate the clarification and that was not the intent.
Um, "Holocaust center"? Seriously? And this guy is supposed to be the most accomplished communicator in the entire White House? Wow. Spicer tried to both defend his comment and walk it back, later. Later still, he appeared on CNN and gave a much more convincing apology, essentially stating he never should have gone there in the first place.
There was other news in the "Republicans crashing and burning" category this week, of varying permanence. Rumors are swirling inside the Beltway that Steve Bannon may be on the way out of Trump's White House, which would indeed be a wonderful thing if it came to pass. Also wonderful if true is the rumor that Bill O'Reilly's hastily-announced "vacation" from his Fox News show might just become permanent. He's lost something like half of his advertisers so far, so at this point he's kind of a liability. Will Bill-O return at all? Stay tuned!
In the "definitely permanent" subcategory, Republican Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley was forced to resign this week under a cloud of scandal surrounding his extramarital affair with a political aide. Bentley was facing imminent impeachment proceedings as well as criminal charges for misusing campaign funds, and he cut a deal to give back $37,000, perform 100 hours of community service, and to never again run for office. That's pretty permanent, you've got to admit. From the governor's mansion to getting your mug shot taken, all in one week!
Speaking of sleazy, Salon ran an article this week on what Rudy Giuliani's been up to with the tagline: "New Gig Almost Too Sleazy To Be True." Rudy's gone from calling the Obama administration's deal to return $440 million of Iran's funds from U.S. banks "trading with the enemy," to now defending in federal court a Turkish businessman accused of doing exactly that -- trading with the enemy -- in deals with Iran. Lo, how the righteous have fallen, we suppose.
What else? A top Republican lawmaker in North Carolina intelligently killed a bill some of his fellow Republicans had introduced to outlaw all gay marriages (even ones performed in other states). The "Uphold Historical Marriage Act" would have followed the state's embarrassment over the "bathroom bill," so the speaker of the statehouse declared the bill dead on arrival, sparing North Carolina Republicans some more egg on their face.
From the Department of Karma comes word that Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina -- the guy who infamously called out "You lie!" during an Obama State Of The Union speech -- was just roundly heckled at a town hall meeting, complete with a 30-second chant of "You lie!" when he tried to claim he had done everything he could to stop violence against women. The crowd's reaction was entirely justified, since Wilson voted against extending the federal Violence Against Women Act in 2013. Everyone all together now: "Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma Chameleon...."
In other anti-women news, President Trump signed into law the ability of individual states to defund Planned Parenthood. Tellingly, unlike most of his bill signings, Trump did so with no media in the room.
It was hard to find any good news this week, but we'll end on a hopeful note anyway. When Congress returns after their long spring break, they'll have only days to put together a deal to keep the government open for business. This is a short-term budget deal to continue the money flowing for the current budget year. The positive news is that, for once, both political parties seem to be already working together to avoid any threat of a government shutdown. We'll see how it all turns out -- we fully suspect the Tea Partiers will make a last-minute attempt to include all sorts of poison pills in the bill (such as funding Trump's border wall, for instance), but for now the signs that bipartisan compromise might win the day seem to be fairly good.
We've got one special award to hand out and one Honorable Mention this week before we get to our main award.
He's not eligible for our regular awards since he's (1) not a Democrat, and (2) not even an American, but we had to create a special Impressive Foreign Leadership Of The Week award this week for Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of our neighbor to the north, Canada.
This week, legislation was introduced to fully legalize marijuana for recreational uses across all of Canada. This would make it only the second country on the planet to do so (Uruguay already claimed first-ever status, a few years back). What's really impressive about this development, though, isn't that the bill was introduced but rather that the bill was introduced because Trudeau campaigned on it. He promised the voters he'd legalize weed, and now he is following through on his promise.
We consider this an inspirational political tale, and one we sincerely hope Democrats in the U.S. of A. learn from. It is not political suicide to run on legalization. In fact, it drives a segment of one-issue voters to the polls. Sooner or later American politicians will (hopefully) follow in Trudeau's footsteps. One can only hope.
One American politician staged a rather amusing bit of political theater this week, which is why West Virginia Governor Jim Justice deserves an Honorable Mention award. While explaining why he was going to veto the budget his legislature had sent him (in which Republicans refused to raise any taxes and instead would grab $90 million from the state's rainy-day fund), Justice unveiled three props to describe the bill. First up was an empty hamburger bun -- a "nothingburger." Next was a mayonnaise sandwich. Justice unveiled the third while saying: "We all should take ownership for this, but what we have is nothing more than bunch of political bull you-know-what. For that very reason, I'm signing my name on the budget veto, and I hope and pray that the silliness will stop and we'll do the right thing." On top of a pile of papers (the budget bill) was a goodly-size bovine patty. And not the type you'd be interested in seeing fill up that nothingburger, either. Yep, Governor Justice brought some actual bullshit into the conversation on his state's budget. As political theater, it was absolutely priceless.
But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to none other than Bernie Sanders. First came the news that Bernie topped the list of "most popular senators" with a 75 percent approval rating from his constituents in Vermont. Vermont voters are overall pretty happy about their representation in the Senate, because Pat Leahy came in second on this list. At the very bottom? The least popular senator was none other than Mitch McConnell (at 44 percent approval in his home state). Seems about right. Bernie didn't just top this list, though, he's also the most popular politician in the entire country as well, with a nationwide approval rating of 61 percent. Seems that actually standing up for what you believe is quite popular -- who knew?
But Bernie didn't win the MIDOTW award for just being popular, he also has to be at least partially credited with a big win in the leadership category as well. This week, New York state passed a law giving any student (from a family that annually earns less than $125,000) free tuition at state universities. The new program will begin to take effect this fall. While New York legislators (and Governor Andrew Cuomo) deserve a lot of credit for this milestone, does anyone truly believe it would have happened if Sanders hadn't championed the issue during his presidential run?
Bernie was criticized by establishment Democrats (led by Hillary Clinton) during the campaign for being too idealistic. His plans simply weren't practical. They were not sufficiently incremental. They were pie-in-the-sky that sober Democrats were supposed to cynically scoff at.
In reality, most of Bernie's platform was indeed possible, given a sufficient amount of political willpower. New York just proved that in a very big way. Sometimes big political dreams can come true.
So Bernie Sanders -- both the most popular senator in his own state and the most popular politician in all of America -- was at least partially vindicated this week by New York's new free-tuition program. Showing such leadership is what makes you politically popular, and it's also enough to win you another Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.
[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
At times, we hand out the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award not for disappointing personal or political behavior, but rather for disappointing results. This is one of those weeks.
James Thompson bravely ran in a special House seat election in Kansas, to replace a GOP representative who had been tapped to lead the C.I.A. When the votes were counted, Thompson fell seven points short of victory.
This showing was actually pretty impressive for a Democrat, since his margin was 20 points better than Hillary Clinton did in this district only five months ago. This is a pretty reliably-red district that gave Trump 60 percent (and Mitt Romney 62 percent) of their votes. So it is notable indeed that a Republican only squeaked by with a seven-point margin.
This was only the first of five special elections happening since Trump won. Of the others, one is reliably Democratic (in California). This leaves three Republican districts, and Democrats are actually competitive in at least two of them -- a race in Georgia and one in Montana. The Georgia contest will happen next week, which will be watched much more closely than the Kansas election, because Democrats have a better chance for an upset (in Newt Gingrich's old district!).
Thompson did his best, so this week's MDDOTW award doesn't really reflect on him personally. We should also hand out (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards to both the state and the national Democratic Party apparatus, which didn't invest much of any money in this race (the Republicans got scared at the last minute and made a major push, which is when some party resources could have helped Thompson).
Democrats looking for an upset House win as a harbinger of a wave election in 2018 will have to wait at least another week. If Thompson had won, it would have been enormous news for Democrats to tout about the size of the anti-Trump backlash. Because he didn't, though, he sadly wins our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week -- but through no real fault of his own.
[In fact, because we feel that James Thompson ran the best campaign he could given the resources available, we cannot in good conscience urge anyone to express their displeasure to him personally.]
Volume 432 (4/14/17)
The first two of these are bit unusual, since one is a call to action rather than a normal talking point, and the second can only be delivered by one particular Democrat.
While Congress enjoys yet another multi-week vacation (out of the many, many they take each year), we certainly hope that everyone else gets at least some time to relax in spring break fashion. With that in mind (especially for our penultimate talking point this week), let's get started.
This one isn't so much a talking point as a call to action.
"For the next three weekends, I would like to encourage anyone in the D.C. area and beyond to show up at the anti-Trump rallies which have been planned. The resistance to Trump and all he stands for needs to grow in size over time, to build momentum for stopping his radical agenda. Trump's approval ratings are the lowest of any new president since polling began, and we have to drive that message home over and over again. For the next three weeks, protests are planned to very publicly show this disapproval, and anyone with the means to show up and stand up for what they believe should make the effort to show Trump how big the resistance to him is getting."
Want a tax deal? Show us your taxes!
This is actually from an earlier article we wrote this week, and is quite specific. While most of these talking points are constructed for any Democrat to use, this one can only be realistically delivered by Chuck Schumer. Earlier this week, he floated an excellent idea. Now he just needs to make his position unequivocal. So this is what we'd like to hear Schumer say, this weekend:
"You know what? I think every American who is currently filling out their income tax returns deserves to see President Trump's taxes. So I'd like to announce that Senate Democrats will have absolutely no interest in making any deal with Republicans on tax reform -- unless part of that deal is the public release of Trump's tax returns for 2015 and 2014. If we're going to negotiate over how to change America's tax system, then the public deserves to know precisely how each proposed change will personally affect the president. It's only fair, after all, and we don't think this is too much to ask."
Flip-flops in the Oval Office?
Trump seems to be flipping and flopping more than a dying fish, these days. So point it out!
"Donald Trump apparently needs his very own Ministry of Truth to clean up after him. He's been changing his mind on so many issues, it'd actually be hard for him to erase all his previous statements and positions even if he did have an Orwellian department dedicated to fixing the past. Just this week alone, they'd have had to issue some sort of statement to keep everyone informed about Trump's flip-flops: 'China now doubleplusgood. China not manipulating currency, and Trump never said they were. NATO now plusgood, and Trump never said they were plusungood. Janet Yellen now good, and low interest rates now plusgood. Export-Import Bank now plusgood, and Trump never called for it to be abolished on the campaign trail. Also, Trump never said he'd pay off the national debt in four years, because everyone has always known this is impossible to do. Bombing Syria now doubleplusgood idea, and all those Trump tweets calling it doubleplusungood when Obama was in office have gone down the memory hole. And finally, Russia is now doubleplusungood -- indeed, Russia has always been doubleplusungood. Oh, and war with Eastasia has been scheduled for this weekend, just for everyone's information.' Orwell would have felt right at home watching Trump's flip-flops. And remember -- all of these 180-degree shifts have come in the past week alone. Looks like Trump is on track to break more campaign promises in his first 100 days than any U.S. president ever!"
Dogs won't eat the dogfood
Hoo boy. They're not even trying to defend Ryancare....
"Republican House member Greg Walden just got an earful at a town hall meeting this week, and even through he was one of the House leaders who crafted the Ryancare bill to throw 24 million people off their health insurance, it seems he wasn't even interested in trying to defend Ryancare to his constituents. Instead, he tried to convince the crowd that the new Republican plan was good because of all the parts of Obamacare it kept. That's a far cry from where Republicans have stood on 'repeal and replace' for the past seven years, it should be noted. Now that we've seen what people like Walden came up with, the GOP seems to be in a defensive crouch. This led one audience member to tell Walden: 'Why don't you go back to Washington in the spirit of bipartisanship, grow a pair, sit down with Nancy Pelosi and say "Let's fix Obamacare"?' Boy, that's gotta hurt. I wonder if Obamacare covers treatment for that burn...."
Because the first one went so well
Rarely does political thinking enter the realm of "from before Noah's flood," but when it does there's a dandy word to describe it.
"Jeff Sessions seems to be trapped in time and stuck in a bout of what can only be called antediluvian thinking. Not only is he ramping up Trump's promised 'deportation force' but he's also indicated that he's about to launch a whole new War On Drugs. Even though eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use and even though more than half of the states have legal medical marijuana, Sessions is chomping at the bit to shut it all down. Because, you know, the first War On Drugs was such a smashing success. He'd better hurry, though, because when California starts legal recreational sales next year, he's going to need hundreds of thousands of new federal cops to even make an attempt at shutting down a marketplace of 40 million people. Antediluvian seems the right word to use for someone who seems hell-bent on copying King Canute's order for the tide to retreat. Thankfully, Sessions will likely be about as successful in his madcap scheme to lock up every pot smoker in the country as King Canute was at turning back the tide."
The Easter Bunny speaks
Just in case anyone's forgotten already, a little over a month ago photos were dug up of Sean Spicer wearing the Easter Bunny costume for the White House Easter Egg Roll. But, alas, it seems that even with a former Bunny in the press office, Trump might be headed for an embarrassment this Easter weekend.
"Will Trump's first White House Easter Egg Roll be as much of a trainwreck as all the other things he touches? Salon reported this week that it might just be a 'disaster in the making.' Seems that area public schools haven't heard anything from the White House, when they normally get 4,000 tickets to distribute to children. Military families who usually get 3,000 tickets have also not been contacted. Even members of Congress haven't heard a peep about the tickets they normally get. While the event usually is staffed by 1,000 volunteers, this year they're only going to have 200 on hand. They've only ordered half the normal amount of wooden eggs to hand out as souvenirs, even though the company who makes them publicly begged the White House to 'Please reach out,' on Twitter. Team Trump was so late in organizing the event that only one PBS Sesame Street character will attend. Maybe they can get Sean Spicer to dress up as the Easter Bunny again -- maybe that'd help?"
Not that it was ever really in doubt or anything, but with all the palace intrigue in the Trump White House, we now have an official Court Jester to provide some comedic relief.
"Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was in the news this week. On a visit to some public housing in Florida, Carson got stuck in an elevator and had to be rescued by the fire department. Can't wait to see how Saturday Night Live handles this one! After getting rescued, Carson returned to Washington to work on the Trump administration's plans for slashing the safety net's budget. Because, you know, if the elevator had just been allowed to grind to a permanent halt, then the problem never would have happened -- the brain surgeon would have taken the stairs!"
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