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Friday Talking Points -- Paul Ryan, Democrat?

Has Paul Ryan become so disaffected with Donald Trump that he quietly changed political parties, when no one was looking? We know thejust made a typo, but still, it's fun to think about, right?
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House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. faces reporters at Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2016, following a closed-door caucus a. On the cusp of the Memorial Day weekend, Ryan called the recent remarks of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald as "disgusting" after comparing wait times to receive VA health care to the lines people wait in for rides at Disney theme parks. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. faces reporters at Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2016, following a closed-door caucus a. On the cusp of the Memorial Day weekend, Ryan called the recent remarks of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald as "disgusting" after comparing wait times to receive VA health care to the lines people wait in for rides at Disney theme parks. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Has Paul Ryan become so disaffected with Donald Trump that he quietly changed political parties, when no one was looking? The Washington Post, in an unrelated story, ran a photo of Orrin Hatch standing next to Ryan with the caption (emphasis added):

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), (L), is flanked by House Speaker Ryan (D-WI), (R), while signing the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016, on Capitol Hill May 18, 2016 in Washington, DC

Note that "(D-WI)" in there [the "(R)" which follows it stands for "right," and not "Republican," we should add]. The truly odd thing is that this page hasn't been corrected yet (as of this writing), and it's been up for over a full day.

So when did Paul Ryan secretly become a Democrat? Heh. OK, we know it was just a typo, but still, it's fun to think about, right?

The actual article this amusing photo caption appeared in showed plainly how closed one Republican's mind truly is. A newspaper printed a statement from Hatch that said, in part, "I recently met with Chief Judge Merrick Garland," but that the meeting didn't change his mind on obstructing him in the Senate. The only problem? The meeting hadn't even taken place yet. Orrin Hatch can see the future! Or something. What's really going to be hilarious about the whole Supreme Court nomination fight is when every single Republican who is now blathering on about how the next president deserves to fill the vacancy has to completely flip-flop in a hasty rush to confirm Garland during the lame-duck period -- to deny Hillary Clinton a Supreme Court pick. See, we can predict the future too! We foresee a swamp of hypocrisy awaiting Senate Republicans, which they will fall smack into, the day after the election.

What else? Our introduction is going to be pretty short, since so much of this week's news belongs in the awards section, we should note. Ken Starr, nemesis to Bill Clinton, got a big demotion at his cushy university job this week -- which certainly will put a smile on the face of every Democrat who remembers the 1990s.

It seems even some Republicans are getting seriously annoyed with their fellow party members using the Bible as a political bludgeon, as the House GOP deals with a growing divide within them over the subject of LGBT rights. In a closed-door meeting called by Paul Ryan, freshman Rick Allen of Georgia "read Bible versus calling for the death of homosexuals to argue that a vote in favor of an anti-discrimination amendment was akin to a sin."

Ryan called the meeting in an attempt to deal with the growing number of defections on the issue. Last week a vote was held open on a LGBT amendment so that Republicans could be coaxed into changing their votes. Seven of them still wound up voting for the bill. This week, a similar bill got a whopping 43 Republican votes. The problem for Ryan is obviously getting worse fast. This was the atmosphere for Allen's remarks, which were not exactly welcomed by some Republicans:

Another Republican lawmaker was so upset by Allen's remarks that he stormed out of the room. "A lot of members were clearly uncomfortable and upset," one Republican aide told The Hill.

"It was f---ing ridiculous," an unnamed lawmaker remarked.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent went on record to criticize Allen's stunt.

"I thought the comments were wildly out of bounds and especially inappropriate given that this was supposed to be a prayer," Dent, who was among the 43 Republicans who voted in support of LGBT rights, told The Washington Post. "I believe it's imperative for the Republican Party to make an affirmative statement on nondiscrimination for the LGBT community and deal with religious liberty."

Now maybe they know what it feels like when a sanctimonious politician uses religion as an attack in the political arena. You could almost hear secularists saying "Welcome to the club!" in the background.

In marijuana news, Republican House member Dana Rohrabacher became the first sitting congressman in three decades to admit illegal (by the federal laws he helps legislate) marijuana usage. And, apparently, it worked wonders:

Two weeks ago, Rohrabacher said, he tried a topical wax-based marijuana treatment. That night, it was "the first time in a year and a half that I had a decent night's sleep because the arthritis pain was gone," Rohrabacher said.

To his credit, the very conservative Rohrabacher has been working across the aisle with some Democrats to -- piece by piece -- dismantle the federal War On Weed.

Speaking of the federal War On Weed, statistics show that federal trafficking convictions are way down -- starting (oddly enough) right when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use. Up to 2011, roughly six million people a year were sentenced under federal law, but this has now fallen to below four million. That's still far too many, but the trend is encouraging.

Recreational weed is also now legal within Washington D.C., which is the only explanation we can come up with for some grade-A idiocy in the Daily Caller this week. All Washington was abuzz with the rumor that Barack Obama had settled on a house to move into after he leaves office. The Daily Caller quickly took the opportunity to point out that the house was (gasp!) less than 1,100 feet from the Islamic Center of Washington. Somebody get the smelling salts, because conservatives are all a-swoon!

The Washington Post, helpfully, then turned the Daily Caller's logic on its head, by pointing out all the various (and nefarious) liberal bastions that were within 1,100 feet of the home office of the Daily Caller itself. The list is hilarious, including such gems as "Aljazeera (!!)" and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Why, the Daily Caller is in serious danger of being influenced by the NAACP, the NEA, the AFL-CIO, and the Human Rights Campaign! In fact, also in their neighborhood is (Are you sitting down, Daily Caller staffers? We wouldn't want any swooning injuries, of course...) none other than the American Islamic Congress.

Pass the smelling salts!

While the group isn't technically a Democrat, we're bending the rules for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week, because it's such a great idea.

Billed as the successor to the Occupy Wall Street movement, a new organization was announced this week -- one that could wind up being a lot more effective than a bunch of people occupying a park ever was. The Washington Post had the full story:

Capitalizing on populist anger toward Wall Street, a coalition of more than 20 labor unions and activist groups on Tuesday launched a new campaign to reform the financial industry.

The group, Take On Wall Street, plans to combine the efforts of some of the Democratic Party's biggest traditional backers, from the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO to the Communications Workers of America. The group says it will aim to turn the public's lingering anger at the financial sector into policy initiatives that could change the way that Wall Street works.

Among its biggest targets will be doing away with a law that allows private equity managers to pay lower taxes through something known as the "carried interest loophole." These managers receive a share of profits for any gains they create for their clients, and this income is treated as long-term capital gains and taxed at a lower rate.

. . .

Unlike previous anti-Wall Street campaigns such as Occupy Wall Street, the new group hopes to organize a campaign that will span state houses and as well as the halls of Congress, potentially forecasting a big fight on financial reform in 2017.

"We are going to make this an issue in congressional races. No one will be able to run from this," said Richard L. Trumka, president of the labor union AFL-CIO. People are saying "that they are fed up with Wall Street writing the rules."

In addition to the issue of carried interest, the group expects to galvanize support for breaking up the big banks and reviving a version of the Glass-Steagall Act, which prevented the combination of commercial and investment banks. It is also expected to push for a transaction tax, which would force some Wall Street traders, particularly high-frequency traders, to pay a fee every time they buy or sell a stock or bond.

Their timing couldn't have been better, really. Because that sounds an awful lot like the platform Bernie Sanders is running on. Maybe Take On Wall Street can actually achieve some solid results that neither Occupy Wall Street nor Bernie Sanders has been able to. It certainly could be a great place for Sanders supporters to rally, once Clinton wraps up the nomination in a little over a week.

Sanders aside, though, this sounds like a serious effort to build a populist organization, and the Left has always been lacking in such support organizations to further their agenda. The Right has an infrastructure of think tanks and policy advocacy groups that reaches back decades, so it is indeed good to see someone trying to do the same thing for progressive causes. Take On Wall Street is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, and we wish them well and lots of future success.

[You can support Take On Wall Street by going to their new webpage and signing their petition.]

We certainly had a lot of candidates this week for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. The State Department released their Inspector General's report on Hillary Clinton's private email server, which didn't have any wild new information that wasn't previously known, but was notable for its scathing language. Our guess is it won't help or hurt Clinton much with voters, who have probably already largely made up their minds on what to think about Clinton's emails. The F.B.I. report might do some real damage (whenever it comes out), but the I.G. report didn't seem to have any real bombshell qualities to it.

A Transportation Security Administration top official was forced out of the job, after $90,000 in unjustified bonuses was revealed. But it's not exactly a political job, so we don't think it qualifies for the MDDOTW award. Likewise non-partisan but also very disappointing was the news that the National Park Service is now considering selling off "naming rights" to the highest corporate bidders. This is just flat-out an obscenity, folks. Don't believe me? From the story:

Superintendents could "accept" gifts of $100,000 or up to $5 million with certification, training and other conditions, the policy states. They won't be able to solicit money directly -- that's prohibited for federal employees.

But Reinbold said that "we want superintendents to get more engaged" in the fundraising process, being in the room when outside fundraising groups meet with prospective donors, for example, and acting as experts.

The Park Service is commemorating its 100th year with a $350 million fundraising campaign that for the first time allowed large banners in the parks featuring donors' corporate logos.

Thankfully, some people are fighting back. Because the idea is, once again, an obscenity and an outrage.

"You could use Old Faithful to pitch Viagra," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that's trying to rally the park community to fight the plan. "Or the Lincoln Memorial to plug hemorrhoid cream. Or Victoria's Secret to plug the Statue of Liberty."

Every park-loving citizen should immediately register their own outrage, since this is an idea which must be denounced from the mountaintops, obviously.

But back to politics. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was certainly the "Democratic Lighting Rod Of The Week" this week, as some are pushing for her ouster as Democratic Party chair, partly to smooth things over at the nominating convention. As "one unnamed pro-Clinton Democratic senator" put it: "I don't see how [Debbie Wasserman Schultz] can continue to the election. How can she open the convention? Sanders supporters would go nuts." This same anonymous source also revealed: "There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz's head on."

Ouch. This is in the same week that Bernie Sanders endorsed her opponent (in her House re-election primary). Just to rub salt in the wound, Wasserman Schultz received the unwanted endorsement from Karl Rove's super PAC, as well as the Tea Party Express:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has played a critical role over the past several years in the massive Republican gains we have achieved at the state level, in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the U.S. Senate.

Yikes. All around, it's been a pretty brutal week for Wasserman Schultz.

But there are two better candidates for the MDDOTW award this week, sadly. The first isn't actually a Democratic organization, so reluctantly we've decided not to bend the rules. Even so, the US PIRG organization certainly deserves slamming this week. The group, founded by Ralph Nader to act in the public's best interest (the acronym stands for "Public Interest Research Group"), strongly came out against President Obama's new overtime rules last week. They want an exemption for non-profit groups to force their employees to work over 40 hours a week for low wages, it seems:

Organizations like ours rely on small donations from individuals to pay the bills. We can't expect those individuals to double the amount they donate. Rather, to cover higher staffing costs forced upon us under the rule, we will be forced to hire fewer staff and limit the hours those staff can work -- all while the well-funded special interests that we're up against will simply spend more.

This is nothing more than scaremongering. Public interest groups are always going to be outspent by corporations. It is a sad excuse for overworking the staff. Here's the thing: people are free to volunteer to work for a non-profit, if they so choose. Anyone who does not -- anyone who gets paid for the work -- actually needs that money to live on. Period. So limiting their time to 40 hours a week or else paying them overtime is actually the right thing to do -- especially for an organization that prides itself (from its own mission statement) that it: "stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being." The hypocrisy is pretty ugly on this one, folks.

But we've saved the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week for a man who made a monumentally stupid and insensitive comment this week. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald -- a person who was brought in because the V.A. was in crisis over waiting times, mind you -- replied in an interview: "When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what's important? What's important is: what's your satisfaction with the experience?"

This is beyond cringeworthy. Especially as the article also helpfully points out:

Disney, it turns out, does collect and analyze extensive waiting time data, which it considers core to its overall customer experience. The company has a system that manages the information.

Once again: the previous head of the V.A. had to step down because of the waiting time scandal. Dealing with the scandal was job one for the incoming chief. After failing to adequately do so, to be this dismissive of veterans waiting long periods to see a doctor is insulting (and that's the most polite word we could come up with).

Eric Shinseki had to step down for ignoring the wait times. But even he never insulted the people waiting in such a fashion. It's time for Robert McDonald to step down as well, because he obviously doesn't have his priorities straight.

[Contact Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 393 (5/27/16)

This week, we're devoting all out talking points to Donald Trump. This could, in fact, become a regular occurrence for the next few months. Trump is an absolute peripatetic gold mine of things to ridicule, flitting from one to the next with the greatest of ease. Since he provides so much fodder, at times the best thing to do is just devote all the talking points to him. Which we will now proceed to do.


Going... going... gone!

"Weren't we all, right about now, supposed to be seeing conservatives boldly giving the voters another choice than Donald Trump? Remember that? It was just a few weeks ago that 'Never Trump!' was the rallying cry of establishment Republicans and conservative true-believers, who were (led by the intrepid Bill Kristol) supposed to mount a third-party bid so that conservative voters would have someone they could vote for (while also voting for all the Republicans down the ballot). A few weeks later, and Trump has wrapped up the delegates he needs for the nomination, Republican politicians are falling all over themselves to board the Trump train, and the 'Never Trump!' folks have quietly disappeared, after every single person they begged to run for president turned them down flat. These people obviously couldn't organize their way out of a paper bag -- no wonder Trump thought the Republican establishment was such a pushover!"

Rubio gets on board

Surely there's room for Little Marco?

"I see Marco Rubio suppressed his own bile and is now openly supporting Trump -- after spending months warning America that Trump was a dangerous person to be anywhere near the nuclear launch button. Rubio could even run for re-election in the Senate, now that he's dropped out of the presidential race, but he shows no interest in doing so. Because of this, he would be perfectly positioned to continue to denounce Trump in the strongest terms, since he doesn't have to be worried about what the voters think. Instead, he just stuck his head so far up Trump's rear end that he bumped into Chris Christie. It's really kind of sad to see the death of all self-respect in so many Republicans, isn't it?"

The holdouts feel the heat

Of course, not boarding the Trump train has its own blowback.

"So I guess New Mexico's governor is out of the running for Trump's veep shortlist, eh? Susana Martinez was seen by some as being the perfect demographic choice for any Republican presidential candidate, since she is a Latina woman -- precisely what the party would need to shore up their already dismal support in those two groups. But by not backing Trump (and refusing to show up at a Trump rally in her state), she got badmouthed in a big way. Trump not only said she's 'not doing the job' of governor, he half-jokingly threatened to run for New Mexico governor himself. That's got to be every Republican's nightmare, at this point."


Art imitating life imitating art. Or something.

"I never thought Fox News could be too in the tank for any Republican, but apparently they just managed to do so. They aired a charming show called 'Meet The Trumps' (boy, you just can't make this stuff up, can you?) which was so sycophantic that conservatives were ridiculing it on Twitter. One even likened it to Pravda, which is about as insulting as it gets for anyone who lived through the Cold War. Looks like Fox is totally in the tank for Trump, although even they probably should dial it back a bit if they've reached Pravda-like levels."

How can you tell Trump is lying?

Anyone with half a brain could see that this was never going to happen. That leaves a lot of the mainstream media out, obviously.

"Bernie Sanders trolled Donald Trump this week, challenging him to a one-on-one debate before California's primary. Trump immediately said he'd gladly debate Bernie. Of course, like so many off-the-cuff things Trump says, this turned out to be a big fat lie. First Trump tried to back away from his promise by holding the television networks hostage for $10 million in charity money (for "women's issues," hilariously enough), and then when a few networks actually took a bite of that apple, Trump decided he just wasn't interested in debating Bernie. It's gotten to the point where there are just too many 'Trump Tells Whopper Of A Lie' headlines -- it'd now be easier if the media instead ran the occasional 'Trump Actually Tells Truth!' stories instead."

His lips are moving, that's how!

Add this one to the list of "Things that would have destroyed any normal politician's chances of being elected, but had no effect on Trump whatsoever." Way, way down there at the end (it's a long list!).

"The last time Trump skipped a debate, he also used the 'let's raise money for charity' dodge, when he was supposed to have raised (in his own words) 'six million dollars' for veterans. The Washington Post decided to look into his claims, months later. Turns out Trump didn't raise anywhere near what he said he had (big surprise -- Trump lies about money all the time), and that Trump had never actually donated the one million dollars out of his own pocket that he promised that night. So he used and exploited veterans as political props, and then stiffed them at the end of the night. Any other presidential candidate who did something this odious would be finished, it's worth pointing out. After Trump heard the Post was digging into the story, he called up a veterans group's head late at night and quickly arranged for the million-dollar donation. How low can Trump go, one wonders. Promising but not delivering money to veterans' groups is about as low and despicable an act as can be imagined -- but there's plenty of time left before the election, so he'll most likely manage to go even lower before it's all over."

A hopeful sign

We saved this one for last, because if true it certainly could be a gigantic ray of hope for Democrats.

"There's a story making the rounds that hasn't gotten much attention outside the Beltway, but really deserves to. Donald Trump is apparently very disdainful of the 'ground troops' necessary in any presidential election. He's apparently planning on running his general election campaign much the same way he ran in the primaries -- lots of tweeting, lots of call-in interviews on cable news, but little-to-no actual 'get out the vote' efforts at all. Now, Democrats are already much, much better at this sort of thing than Republicans (see: Obama's two victories), but the news that Trump isn't even interested in attempting a get-out-the-vote ground-troops effort is delightful news indeed for Democrats everywhere. Not only should this provide a landslide for Hillary Clinton, it could mean taking control of the Senate or even -- say it softly -- the House in November, as well. So I'd like to publicly address Donald Trump, and point out to him that get-out-the-vote efforts are not manly and were dreamed up by some elitist liberal Democrat. Probably Rosie O'Donnell, in fact. Therefore, he should denounce the practice and announce he won't spend a thin dime on such wimpiness in his own campaign."

Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

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