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Friday Talking Points -- Wedgies for All!

When a political party's "wedge" issue turns on them and instead of dividing the other party, begins to divide their own.
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Being a student of the political lexicon, I would like to propose a new definition for an old term -- a term we've all used since roughly the second grade. I refer, of course, to the "wedgie." For those who are astoundingly unaware of what this term literally means, I would refer you to your local second-grader (pick any boy age seven or eight and ask him... and after he rolls around the floor screaming with laughter for awhile, he'll explain and even demonstrate the "wedgie" for you, I'm sure). Ahem.

But I propose a new definition for the wedgie, one in the adult political realm which has nothing to do with underwear (to clarify: the definition has nothing to do with underwear -- the adult political realm often has all too much to do with underwear). My new proposed definition:

Wedgie: When a political party's "wedge" issue turns on them and instead of dividing the other party, begins to divide their own.

Usage: "Boy, the Republicans are really getting a giant wedgie on immigration, aren't they?"

You'll have to forgive my irreverence, but we've been waiting for this fight to be joined for a long time. The immigration bill was supposed to be debated in February, and has been slipping ever since, but we're now finally in the thick of it. Patrick Leahy's Senate committee is voting on proposed amendments to the bill, and they'll be doing so for weeks to come, because there are 300 of them so far (77 by Chuck Grassley alone!).

This has intensified the struggle within the Republican Party between the nativists and the realists who can read demographic data. More on that in a bit. But what's amusing is that the wedge has turned so quickly, in historic terms. Starting in the 1990s, Republicans have scapegoated Latinos mercilessly on the immigration issue, and have won many elections because they have successfully driven a wedge between Democratic voters (in the same way they used "tough on crime" in the 1980s).

Now, however, Latinos have truly come into their own as a political force in American politics, and Republicans are on the brink of losing this entire bloc for another generation or so. Which is why there's a comprehensive immigration bill even being discussed, right now. Unfortunately for those trying to drag the Republican Party into coming to some kind of terms with the new reality, there are still quite a few Republican politicians (and -- more importantly -- a whale of a lot of Republican primary voters) who are still echoing the old party line and will not budge one inch. Listen for the cries of "Amnesty!" to identify them.

And so the wedge turns. Republicans are giving themselves a wedgie. And it couldn't have happened to a more deserving group, could it?

To be scrupulously fair, however, we must also point out that Democrats have their own immigration wedgie in their near future. Sooner or later, an amendment will be proposed to allow gays to sponsor their spouses for immigration. This will be kind of a double-reverse wedgie, as two Democratic goals come into contention. But for this week, it's been mostly Republican-on-Republican infighting.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is making all kinds of sense with the first bill she's introduced as a senator. Here are the facts, in a nutshell. The federal government loans money to students for their education. The interest rate currently charged is 3.4%. If Congress doesn't act, this will go up to 6.8%. The federal government also loans money to large corporate banks. It charges them 0.75% interest. So why should students pay up to 800% more on their loans than giant Wall Street banks?

Senator Warren's bill would fix this disparity, by charging students the exact same rate as we charge the banks. Here's what she had to say about her bill: "As a country, every time we advance money to the big banks at low interest rates, we invest in those banks. We should be making at least that same kind of investment in our students."

This is exactly why Democrats across the land cheered Warren's victory in her Senate race. This is exactly the kind of thing we had all hoped for from Senator Warren. For making her very first bill such a commonsense measure, and for stripping away all the governmental nonsense to make a very salient point, we are happy to award the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to Senator Warren.

[Congratulate Senator Elizabeth Warren on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts, and you can show support for her bill by becoming a citizen co-sponsor of the legislation.]

Well, if we had a "Democrat Who Disappointed The Most Other Democrats" award to hand out, it would have to go to Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who did better in the vote than Obama (in the district) by five percent, but who also still lost a South Carolina special House race to Mark Sanford. Our only consolation is that we now will be able to make Sanford jokes for the next year and a half, my favorite so far being: "Mark Sanford (R-Appalachian Trail)."

Don't like that one? Feel free to make your own. The most historic joke about South Carolina was when it was notably described by one of its own sons as "too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."

Kidding aside, we've got a pretty revolting Democrat in our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week category. The story starts nine years ago, when the mayor of Jersey City, Jerry Healy, got drunk and wound up naked on his front porch, where a photo was snapped of him, wallowing in his own crapulence. As if this weren't bad enough, this week Healy offered an explanation for how the photo happened which just defies comment:

A nude photo of Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy that surfaced years ago is making headlines again following Healy's new explanation behind it. The photo, which shows Healy sitting naked on his front porch, was first published nine years ago. However, in a newspaper interview this weekend, Healy said a group of Hispanic girls drew his attention by making noise outside his home. Then, he said, they touched him and did "filthy" things.

It's rare that a story strikes us speechless here, but this one certainly qualifies. There's nothing in the way of chastisement which can even be offered up, as the story indeed speaks for itself. Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is the mildest way we can put our own feelings towards Healy, in fact.

[Contact Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy on his official city contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 257 (5/10/13)

There's a lot going on in the political world this week, so our talking points will be all over the map. I'm not going to talk about Benghazi, because Bob Cesca already wrote such an excellent article (which adds some much-needed perspective) that there's nothing really more for me to say on the subject.

I got a helpful suggestion a few weeks ago to shorten the talking points themselves, so I tried to do so, as an experiment. I didn't have much in the way of noticeable success, because some of these need some supporting info before getting to the real soundbite, but I did manage to trim a few of them down, so see what you think.

Whoops, there goes another...

A monumental thing happened this week in both Rhode Island and Delaware. The same monumental thing may happen in Illinois next, or perhaps some other heartland state. And it's barely even national news, anymore. While some might be disappointed in this lack of attention, in itself this is actually very good news. The future is coming, folks, faster than many Republicans ever would have believed. And the public largely sees it as ho-hum and almost inevitable, at this point.

"This week, two state legislatures legalized gay marriage, and it barely made the news. That right there is a powerful statement -- it's becoming such a normal thing that even two states voting to legalize gay marriage in the same week barely raises an eyebrow."

War On Women (continued...)

The Republicans just can't help themselves, it seems. The newest battleground in the War On Women is North Carolina, where a bill has been introduced to require a notarized statement from a minor's parent before any STD testing can occur. Boy, that'll solve the whole problem, right?

"I see that North Carolina Republicans want to require not just parental consent, but a notarized signature before a young person can even get tested for a sexually-transmitted disease. I fully expect to see skyrocketing numbers of STDs in North Carolina if Republicans pass this bill. No word yet on whether the teens would have to wear a scarlet letter in public..."

Demote a general or two, and the problem will stop

A pretty horrifying report on sexual assaults in the military came out, mere days after the officer responsible for combating sexual assault in the Air Force was charged with sexually assaulting a woman. Fortunately, there's a very easy way to deal with the problem.

"The military has had years to address sexual assaults within their ranks, and they have utterly failed to do so. Instead of giving the chain of command over an accused soldier, sailor, or airman the power to overturn verdicts for those under their command, I've got a different idea. Let's take the entire legal process out of the hands of any commanders except judge advocates, let's make sexual assault a 'one strike and you automatically get a dishonorable discharge' offense, and for every conviction under any officer's direct command, place a black mark in that officer's record which will interfere with their future military career. Once an officer has five such black marks, automatically demote him or her one grade. I bet the problem would quickly be solved if officers were made responsible for their troops' actions."

Heads should roll

I really hate it when I am forced to agree with Republicans, but on this one they're right. Imagine how the Left would feel if it had happened to their side.

"If the reports are true that IRS agents specifically singled out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny solely because they were Tea Party groups, then I would fully expect some heads to roll. Anyone responsible for doing such a thing should be fired on the spot, and any supervisor even aware of such activities should also be cashiered immediately. The IRS should not be used as a political weapon -- ever, by anyone, for any reason. Period."

Sooner or later, they'll notice

I wrote about this yesterday after reading one lone story about the issue in the Washington Post. Sooner or later the chattering classes inside the Beltway will have to pick up on this idea, likely while noshing on finger food at a cocktail party.

"We've all been expecting a gigantic budgetary showdown over the debt ceiling, but a funny thing happened on the way to that fight -- the budget deficit seems to be getting a lot better. The numbers are so good, in fact, that the debt ceiling may not have to be raised at all until the next fiscal year. I know lots of people are still calling for brutal austerity measures, but it turns out such drastic action wasn't necessary."

It's a think tank and a lobbying shop!

Yes, that subheading was indeed an ancient Saturday Night Live reference. Just to be clear. I've saved the final two talking points for the Republican immigration conundrum. This internecine warfare is going to get a lot more lively in the coming weeks, folks. So pop some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the spectacle!

"I see the Heritage Foundation is under fire, for getting a man who once wrote that Latinos have lower IQs than whites to write a report attempting to show how immigration reform is going to cost society eleventy-gazillion dollars. Or something, I confess I didn't bother to read it. Here are some other people's reactions to Heritage's report, though: 'deeply flawed' says Marco Rubio; not 'serious analysis' says Haley Barbour; 'too much activism... not enough thinking' says Bill Kristol. Former members of Heritage are actually more scathing, calling Heritage 'not really a think tank at all... just a lobbying organization,' and another alum who took his former employer to task: 'The pileup of outlandish Heritage estimates presents a credibility hurdle.' You'll note that each and every one of those quotes is from a Republican or a conservative, not even from Democrats or liberals."

As long as they know their place, they can stay

This one is one of those "you just can't make this stuff up, folks" items. Or to put it another way (in a Monty Pythonesque "upper-class twit" accent, of course): "I say, Jeeves, can you pass me a serviette? My face seems to be covered with egg...."

"Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah has introduced an amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill which would exempt undocumented immigrants working as, quote, 'cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers, governesses, maids, valets, baby sitters, janitors, laundresses, furnacemen, care-takers, handymen, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs of automobiles for family use,' unquote, from prohibitions against 'unlawful employment.' Lee's office tried to explain by saying they didn't want to penalize anyone for giving twenty dollars to the kid down the street to mow the lawn. Funny, I've never heard anyone in a suburban neighborhood saying 'Hey, kid, you want to make twenty bucks? I need an extra footman.' Or valet. Or butler. Maybe things are different in Mike Lee's neighborhood in Utah, who knows? I guess the Downton Abbey set won't have to worry about pesky regulations when hiring 'the help' at substandard wages if Mike Lee has anything to say about it, eh?"

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