Friday Talking Points -- The Debate Debate

Republican-on-Republican fear-mongering is such a treat to enjoy. In this case, establishment Republicans vs. the Tea Party.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

We begin today with some awfully short memories, from both the Right and the Left, on the crossover subjects of presidential debates, television, and Hillary Clinton. It all stems from the news that the Republican National Committee has announced it will not sanction 2016 Republican candidate debates on CNN and NBC, because the two stations are both putting together movies about Hillary Clinton. The RNC feels that this will unacceptably prejudice the networks in the 2016 presidential race, in which Clinton is likely to be a Democratic candidate.

But in all the fulminating (both pro and con) over this decision, both sides seem to be suffering from memory loss -- specifically, the inability to harken back to the 2008 presidential race. On the Right, the hypocrisy stems from their previous support of a Hillary Clinton movie, and on the Left, the hypocrisy stems from not remembering when Democrats pulled out of a debate on Fox News.

We all know the term Citizens United, right? But how many remember that the case stemmed from a negative film titled Hillary: The Movie? At the heart of the court case where the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for money in politics was a film aired on DirecTV that portrayed Clinton in a very unflattering light. The Right, back then, fully supported not only the film, but the film's right to air during the campaign season. It was, they informed us, nothing more than the sacredness of "free speech." Now, the Right seems to be against the idea of Hillary Clinton films during a campaign. Haven't heard a single Republican stand up for the free speech rights of the filmmakers or CNN and NBC lately, have you?

But the Democrats have their own hypocrisy to face, as well. Sure, it's easy to slam the RNC for being afraid of holding debates on channels not to their liking, but it wasn't always the case. In fact, the two sides' positions were reversed, not so long ago. In February of 2007, Harry Reid announced his support for a Democratic presidential debate to be held in Reno (in his home state) to be hosted by Fox News. Here's a quote (all these quotes were taken from the book Bloggers On The Bus by Eric Boehlert, I should mention) from Harry: "This is more great news for Nevada. I'm happy Fox News will be a partner for the August [2008] presidential debate." What followed was an uprising online from the "netroots." By flexing their grassroots muscles, the online Left shamed the Nevada Democratic Party into reversing its stance and (helped by some extraordinarily bad jokes from Roger Ailes at a dinner speech), forced the Democrats to pull out of the debate by early March, 2007. Why allow Fox, after all, to host a debate for a political party they were so hostile towards? Fox pundits reacted by calling the grassroots effort "junior-grade Stalinism" and (from Bill O'Reilly) "propaganda techniques perfected by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of information." Roger Ailes himself bizarrely taunted: "The candidates that can't face Fox can't face Al Qaeda."

But the larger point remains: online bloggers and activists forced the Democrats to cancel a debate scheduled to air on Fox News. The Left cheered this as a victory. So it's a little hard to take seriously denunciations of the RNC's move this week to deny NBC and CNN debates. Once you've set the standard of "we get to choose which stations are friendly enough to us to air our debates," you can't very well turn around and denounce the other side for doing exactly the same thing.

Moving onward, there were a number of odd legal stories in the news last week. When torture victims from Abu Ghraib were denied their right to sue the contractor responsible for the torture, that was one thing. But, disgustingly, the contractor turned around and decided to sue the victims, for daring to sue them in court. That's right, they want $15,000 as "damages" from each of the torture victims. If that wasn't bad enough, the news that sexual assault cases in the military justice system are being dismissed because President Obama said he wanted such cases prosecuted was pretty shocking news as well. One final bit of legal news was a poll which showed that Americans overwhelmingly want to see the head of the National Security Agency prosecuted for perjuring himself in front of Congress on the whole "spying on our own citizens" thing, but I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for that to happen, if you know what I mean. Haven't exactly heard the usual "rule of law" politicians clamoring for this to happen, either -- no surprise there.

To end our weekly wrapup on a more positive note, the police in Seattle, Washington deserve commendation for their tactics on the pro-pot "Hempfest" celebration. They've announced (are you sitting down?) that they'll be handing out Doritos to the crowd, with a message on the packets directing people to a web page titled "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle." How cool is that? A department spokesman truly got into the spirit with the quote which ran in the article: "I think it's going to be a lot of fun. It's meant to be ironic. The idea of police passing out Doritos at a festival that celebrates pot, we're sure, is going to generate some buzz."

Heh. He said "buzz." Heh heh.

Seriously, though, with every passing week marijuana is getting more and more acceptable by the mainstream of political thought in America. Sanjay Gupta not only said he had been wrong about medical marijuana, but actually apologized for his previous stance. And the demographic group of pot smokers which is growing fastest seems to be the Baby Boomer seniors.

While we have plenty of caveats (which were outlined in a column earlier this week) to add, we have to admit that Attorney General Eric Holder certainly took a bold step forward in ending the abuses of the War On Drugs in a speech he gave on Monday.

For the first time since the days of Nancy Reagan, a Democrat publicly stated that parts of the Drug War should be scrapped. This is a big deal, in other words. Holder's main target was the problem of mandatory minimum sentences, which have led the United States to now have 25 percent of the world's prison population, despite being only 5 percent of the world's population.

Holder's speech was followed later in the week by the U.S. Sentencing Commission voting to review all federal drug sentencing guidelines with an eye towards getting rid of the mandatory minimum problem -- showing the impact and reach of Holder's new policy ideas.

Eric Holder still has a long way to go in terms of reviving sanity in Washington on the subject of the War On Drugs, but he has taken a valuable first step on that path. The next step he really needs to take is to announce how the Justice Department is going to react to the states of Colorado and Washington, who are currently implementing legalized recreational marijuana -- and about which, Holder has been mum for the past nine months (and counting).

But for now, for the first step he announced this week, our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to none other than Attorney General Eric Holder. Let's keep moving along this path, Mr. Attorney General, and not just stop at the first step.

[Since he doesn't provide direct contact information, you'll have to congratulate Attorney General Eric Holder via the White House contact page, to let his boss know you appreciate his efforts.]

Sigh. He just won't go away.

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week is really self-explanatory. As the count of accusers grows to 15, the following headline really shoveled the last load of dirt on the political career of the current mayor of San Diego:

"Great-Grandmother Accuses Bob Filner Of Harassment."

There's really not a lot more that needs be said, with a headline like that.

[Contact San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on his official contact page , to let him know what you think of his actions (and, you know, suggest that he immediately resign).]

Volume 269 (8/16/13)

Kind of a mixed bag this week. August is always a slow month, what with everyone being on vacation to escape the Washington miasma.

The establishment GOP strikes back

Republican-on-Republican fear-mongering is such a treat to enjoy. In this case, establishment Republicans versus the Tea Party.

"I see that many Republicans are now arguing -- with their own party -- that a government shutdown over funding Obamacare is not just a bad political move, it could in fact cost them their control of the House of Representatives in 2014. Will Republicans go over the shutdown cliff? Who knows, at this point. But if they do, it's interesting that some of them realize that this would not exactly be popular and would, in fact, cost them a whole lot of votes next year. It'll be interesting to see whether saner heads will prevail among House Republicans next month."

GOP fear-mongering itself (part two)

I wrote about this in much more detail earlier in the week. It's debatable whether Democrats should pile on this one or not, but I thought I'd offer it up anyway.

"Marco Rubio seems to be having a problem convincing the House Republicans to move on the immigration reform bill which passed with a large bipartisan majority in the Senate. He's now threatening them by warning that President Obama will just wave a magic pen and legalize all eleven million undocumented immigrants if his bill doesn't pass. He's telling his fellow Republicans that it would be far better for the bill to pass with all the things he and his fellow Republicans added to it, rather than do nothing and watch Obama give everybody amnesty anyway. I don't know if this will work, but Republicans are usually pretty good at fear-mongering, so hopefully Rubio's argument will be convincing over in the House."

I guess Stalin and Goebbels are OK, when our side does it

It'd be pretty easy to research this one to mine plenty more quotes from the period (February/March 2007).

"When the Democratic party pulled out of a presidential primary debate to be held on Fox News, back in 2007, rightwing commentators went apoplectic. This week, the Republicans announced they won't be having any debates on CNN or NBC. Back then, people on Fox were calling the move, quote, junior-grade Stalinism, unquote, and Bill O'Reilly compared the move to 'propaganda techniques perfected by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of information.' So what, exactly is different now? Are the Republicans now exhibiting the characteristics of Stalin and Goebbels? Or were they just being blowhards, back then?"

Fleeing the sinking ship

This one should really strike fear in Republican hearts, so feel free to point it out as often as possible.

"Republicans lost the African-American vote decades ago, with their Southern Strategy. They lost the gay vote back in all the "marriage protecting" of the 1990s. They've lost the Latino vote in the past few elections. They've been doing their damnedest to drive women away from their party in the past few years, with the ongoing War On Women. But the final nail in the coffin may now be showing itself -- Republicans seem to now be losing one of their last demographic bastions: seniors. A recent poll showed that pretty much across the board, seniors' support of the Republican Party is fading fast. Seems all that talk about cutting entitlements is having a big impact. If I were a Republican, I would be extremely worried about this trend, because if it continues, the Republican Party is never going to win another national election again."

The deficit keeps falling

Obama is (one year late, but still...) about to fulfill a big campaign promise he made. So point it out!

"Republicans are going to return to Congress next month and try to argue that the federal budget is getting worse. In fact, what is happening is the annual budget deficit is coming down at a record rate. This fiscal year's deficit is now on track to do exactly what President Obama promised he would do out on the campaign trail -- halve the federal deficit. He inherited a budget which had a record-high $1.4 trillion deficit when he entered office. If the next few months happen as predicted, the 2013 budget deficit will be less than half that. This is something to keep in mind when Republicans start their usual rending of shirts over the deficit while pushing unpopular austerity measures -- because the deficit is already falling at a record pace."

Let the sun shine in

This one's just a feel-good story, really. Or a monument to wasted time, perhaps.

"I see that the White House is getting outfitted with solar panels. Of course, this isn't the first time solar panels were installed on the building -- because that happened under Jimmy Carter. Let's hope this time that some Republican won't come along later and rip them out in a fit of pique, the way that Ronald Reagan did."

Pass the munchies, man

Give credit where credit is due.

"I think the police department in Seattle deserves recognition this week for their brilliant public relations move. The cops not only participated in the first Hempfest in Seattle since Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use, they did so with a public awareness campaign which pointed people to a website which clearly explained how the new laws will work, and what is allowed and not allowed. But it wasn't just a good idea to spread the word, the real brilliance was in how they went about doing so. They passed out bags of Doritos with the website's information on them. This should be taught in the future as a textbook example of good PR -- how to both have fun with a subject while spreading public awareness as widely as possible. Whoever in the Seattle police force came up with the idea of a 'pass the munchies' campaign deserves a hefty raise."

Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Become a fan of Chris on The Huffington Post

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community