John Boehner has a song in his heart. That song is "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," which he was heard quoting from as he was busy passing a clean debt ceiling bill in his House. He followed up with another lyric from the tune: "Plenty of sunshine coming my way." Mr. Boehner is, of course, being amusingly ironic. He does not, in fact, have a song in his heart, and he is not looking for beams of sunshine heading his way from his fellow Republicans.
Boehner passed the clean debt ceiling bill with 193 Democratic votes and only 28 Republican votes, after all. He ignored the self-imposed "Hastert Rule," surprisingly early in the legislative fight -- two whole weeks before the crisis was scheduled to hit. He did so because the Tea Party faction in his party informed him that he didn't even have the votes for the usual round of hostage-taking -- Republicans, on their own, couldn't pass any bill. Boehner, realizing the futility of his position, then gave President Obama exactly what he asked for by going ahead and passing a clean bill with mostly Democratic support. Beams of sunshine did not follow, from his fellow Republicans.
The most amusing response was the circulation of bizarre threats via email to House Republicans. The email (with an anonymous sender) told Republicans who voted for the bill to expect outside groups to mobilize against them. One anonymous Republican in the House pointed out that the email addresses it was sent to were closely-guarded official emails of the representatives, and concluded that the sender "[has] got to be another member. Probably one of the crazy ones." That characterization comes from a fellow Republican, mind you.
In the weekly roundup of marijuana news, the farm bill that Obama has now signed did indeed legalize industrial hemp-growing experiments in states that have approved the idea. Eighteen members of Congress signed a letter asking Obama to reschedule marijuana to reflect the reality that it is not, in fact, more dangerous than cocaine or methamphetamine. Rescheduling truly is an idea whose time has come, but it's not going to happen without some political pressure, so it was good to see these Congressmen stepping up to the plate. Check out the letter, and check out the list of who signed it (and then, if your representative isn't on the list, call them up and ask them why not) over at the Huffington Post.
Meanwhile, Representative Steve Cohen has introduced the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act which would remove the restrictions Congress put on the Office of National Drug Control Policy which, in essence, add up to "the O.N.D.C.P. can never, never, never, never say one tiny good thing about marijuana, the end, forever." During last week's epic testimony by the assistant drug czar (see last week's column for a rundown), Cohen asked about this restriction, only to get the answer from the poor sap testifying that he didn't "know the background" of such muzzling. He also was unfamiliar with the name Harry Anslinger, the report Nixon commissioned (and then buried) on marijuana law, how many people had died through marijuana overdoses, and even whether marijuana was more dangerous than heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. Or maybe not -- his entire testimony may have been muzzled by precisely the clause in the O.N.D.C.P.'s budget that Cohen is now trying to remove. Anyone who believes in free speech and who is against tax dollars going to censor scientific facts from being uttered by high government officials should heartily cheer Cohen's legislation.
Marco Rubio, however, is being coy on the subject without the benefit of a legal reason to do so. When asked at an education forum this week whether he had ever smoked the evil weed, he responded:
If I tell you that I haven't, you won't believe me. And if I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say, "Well, I can smoke marijuana because look how he made it."
Not exactly the best non-denial denial ever uttered, but it's definitely better than "I didn't inhale," so you've got to give Rubio at least that, we suppose.
On another subject, a while back the New Yorker pointed out how low the Public Broadcasting System had sunk in terms of sucking up to fatcat donors at the expense of the truth, and this week brings more confirmation that, as Salon put it, the network should now be called the Plutocratic Broadcasting System. From the Pando story which originally broke the news:
On December 18th, the Public Broadcasting Service's flagship station WNET issued a press release announcing the launch of a new two-year news series entitled "The Pension Peril." The series, promoting cuts to public employee pensions, is airing on hundreds of PBS outlets all over the nation. It has been presented as objective news on major PBS programs including the PBS News Hour.
However, neither the WNET press release nor the broadcasted segments explicitly disclosed who is financing the series. Pando has exclusively confirmed that "The Pension Peril" is secretly funded by former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.
So you might think about that the next time pledge drive season comes around (which seems to be roughly every three weeks, these days). Maybe just pick up the phone to your local PBS station and tell them why you won't be donating any money to them, since their editorial policies seem so far from what they should be.
Which brings us to our final item. Plutocrat Tom Perkins, who a few weeks ago compared Americans even suggesting that the wealthiest of the wealthy might pay a wee bit more in taxes to Nazi Germany (Kristallnacht in particular), now believes that money should directly buy government (instead of indirectly, by buying politicians). Here's his new scheme for America:
You don't get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes. But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How's that?
Um... sounds great... if you want a plutocracy, that is.
First of all, a very happy 94th birthday to the League of Women Voters! Here's the basic story:
Ninety-four years ago, on February 14, 1920, pioneering suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters to help ensure that all Americans were given equal access to the ballot box. Within just a few months, Congress would ratify the 19th Amendment, at last granting American women the vote after decades of advocacy.
Our only wish is that the League of Women Voters would reconsider an old decision, and take back control of the presidential debates -- because they were a lot better before the network news folks got involved.
The big marijuana news today is that Attorney General Eric Holder has issued new rules which allow marijuana-based businesses (which are legal in the states they reside in) to freely use banks, just like every other business in America. Up until now, they've been forced to be "cash-only," which causes all sorts of problems. Next up should be allowing these businesses not to have to pay outrageous tax penalties just because Nancy Reagan once got a bee in her bonnet, but one step at a time, folks. Holder deserves at least an Honorable Mention for finally allowing modern banking for these legal businesses.
But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to President Barack Obama. He almost got it by default, really, because it wasn't any overt act Obama took this week which won him the coveted "Golden Backbone."
Obama got precisely the clean debt limit bill he asked for this week, as a direct result of his refusal to deal with hostage-takers in the past. Obama laid down his red line a few years back: Congress could attach no conditions on the full faith and credit of the United States of America. Period. Big budget battles were fine, as long as the American (and world) economy wasn't taken hostage. America would not default on her obligations.
Since then, Obama has held firm. He has not budged one inch from this position. And now Republicans have gotten the message, loud and clear. Instead of dragging the economy through weeks of brinksmanship, John Boehner decided instead to bow to the inevitable and perform the minimum of his duties.
But he did so because Obama didn't blink last time, and wasn't going to blink this time. Boehner knew full well that the public would have blamed Republicans for any showdown, and so he wisely decided to avoid all of that, heading into an election season.
For causing this brief moment of sanity in Congress, President Barack Obama is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. What was really impressive is that he didn't even have to lift a finger to earn it -- because his history and reputation is ultimately what scared the responsible Republicans into acting as they did. Obama was serious, the Republicans knew he was serious, and that's all it took. Impressive indeed.
[Congratulate President Barack Obama via the White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
The former mayor of New Orleans was convicted on 20 out of 21 corruption charges this week, but this disappointment is already pretty far in the past, so we'll just hand Ray Nagin another (Dis-)Honorable Mention and move on.
But our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week was Texas gubernatorial candidate (and darling of women's groups everywhere) Wendy Davis, who significantly waffled on her signature issue this week. Offsetting this disappointment was the news that she supports medical marijuana in Texas, but this wasn't enough to avoid the MDDOTW award.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Davis backed off on the very issue which she rose to prominence -- a 20-week ban on abortion. Here's the story:
Davis said that she could support a 20-week ban if it deferred more to the woman and her doctor, and if it had exceptions for fetal anomalies and the health of the mother. The anti-abortion bill she filibustered last summer included a 20-week ban without those two exceptions and a number of other provisions that threatened to shut down a majority of the abortion clinics in Texas.
The 20-week ban was the "least objectionable" part of that bill, Davis said.
"I would have and could have voted to allow that to go through, if I felt like we had tightly defined the ability for a woman and a doctor to be making this decision together and not have the Legislature get too deep in the weeds of how we would describe when that was appropriate," she said.
This is even though a 20-week ban has already been deemed unconstitutional, the article goes on to point out.
Now, we realize that not everyone is so disappointed. "It's what she has to say to get elected in Texas," is the reasoning. "It is, after all, Texas." This is probably true, but politicians who say things purely for political gain when they may believe the opposite has a name, and that name is "hypocrisy." Another name for it is "lying to the voters," which isn't any better, really.
Either Davis fully believes that a 20-week abortion ban isn't that big a deal, or she is trying to have it both ways so the voters will be muddled enough to elect her. Either one is pretty disappointing, which earns Davis this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. After all, this is her signature issue. It's why most Americans even know her name. And it was supposed to be a key reason for her to run for governor. Making it a pretty big deal for her.
[Contact Texas state senator Wendy Davis on her official contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions (we do not, as a rule, give out contact information to candidate websites).]
Volume 291 (2/14/14)
As usual, we offer up these weekly talking points to Democrats everywhere. We're almost into the midterm campaign season, and Democrats are all back in their districts because all of Congress always agrees to take multi-week vacations for such holidays as Presidents Day.
So, for any Democrat facing a Sunday morning talk show, a town hall meeting, or just shooting the breeze around the water cooler, here's this week's talking points. Enjoy.
Of course, it's a little hard not to spike the football a little bit on this one.
"I see that John Boehner was singing 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' after passing the clean debt ceiling bill President Obama requested, with the help of most Democrats in the House. Since he seemed to be enjoying himself so much -- he was also quoted saying 'Happy, happy, happy' while addressing the press this week, after all -- we Democrats would like to encourage such happiness in the Speaker in the future. We could start by doing exactly the same thing he just did on the debt ceiling to the Senate immigration reform bill, and then we could move on to raising the minimum wage. C'mon, Speaker Boehner, we can put a song in your heart more than once! Whaddya say?"
Obamacare growing stronger by the month
Democrats need to point out the good news, because Republicans certainly aren't.
"The January numbers are out for Obamacare, and they show that 3.3 million people have signed up for health insurance. In fact, the original C.B.O. monthly projection for January was beaten by the number of people who signed up. This is good news, and shows the continuing demand for affordable health care among the American people. The other good news is that Gallup showed how the rate of uninsured Americans has been dropping since the Obamacare open enrollment period started -- which was exactly the point of the law in the first place. Fewer Americans are now uninsured, and we can look forward to that number getting better and better in the future."
Sheer Republican hypocrisy
One of those things that the mainstream media is never going to notice, meaning Democrats have to point it out.
"A few weeks back, Senate Democrats tried to get an extension of unemployment benefits. The bill couldn't increase the deficit, Republicans said, so Democrats found a way to pay for it. Republicans howled that the method used to pay for it was a horrible one, and set a horrible precedent, so they successfully filibustered the bill. This week, these same Republicans voted for a bill to restore some military pay which they had earlier cut, and the bill was paid for in exactly the same way the unemployment extension was paid for. They didn't utter a peep about how evil the method of paying for the bill was, this time around. This is nothing short of sheer hypocrisy -- and shows that Republicans have no problem with such accounting, unless it is used to help out-of-work Americans. Then, it's not acceptable. I think voters are smart enough to see how Republicans set their priorities, don't you?"
Sending the message clearly: you should die
Nothing like sending the wrong message...
"Maine's governor is apparently against saving people's lives. Rather than make a drug overdose antidote widely available to people like first responders, Paul LePage thinks doing so will send the wrong message to the public. This goes back to the fight over needle exchange, really. The message LePage is in favor of sending is: drug addicts deserve to die, and we're going to make sure that happens. Got that? We could save some lives, but we're not going to. In fact, we're going to prevent people from saving lives. Because saving lives sends the wrong message to the public."
Another one bites the dust
This one is related to the next two, but in this case the Republican actually saw the light.
"I see that Gary Miller has announced that he won't be running to get re-elected to his House seat from California. It seems his district is heavily Latino, and he must have realized that the Republican outreach effort to Latino voters has been a dismal failure. Rather than face his own dismal failure at the polls, Miller has wisely decided to just retire and make way for a Democrat to better represent the people of his district. We applaud Miller for bowing to the inevitable. We also wonder how many more of these we will see in the coming years, if Republicans don't change their policies and rhetoric."
Fleeing the GOP
GOP Latino outreach, take one.
"Did you hear that a former state representative in Florida has not just left the Republican Party, but actually posed for a photo ripping up her Republican voter registration? Ana Rivas Logan is going to become a Democrat because, in her words: The GOP of today is not the party I joined; it's not the party of my parents. It's a party that has been radicalized and held hostage by a group of extremists. It's a party that attacks women and minorities -- and one that asked me, and my former Hispanic Republican colleagues in the Florida legislature, to turn on their own people by supporting extreme anti-immigrant policies. It's a party I was no longer proud to be a part of. Unquote. Guess that Republican Latino outreach isn't going so well, eh? We Democrats welcome all Florida Republicans, from Charlie Crist on down, into a party that truly does have a big tent. We can soon turn Florida solid blue if this keeps up...."
Hey, third-worlders, vote for us!
GOP Latino outreach, take two.
"Over in Texas, a Republican gubernatorial candidate just equated Texas' entire Rio Grande Valley region to the third world. That's a direct quote from Greg Abbott. Way to reach out to Latinos, Republicans! I mean, why wouldn't anyone respond to the message 'hey, all you third-worlders, vote for me'? This shows just how far Republicans have to travel before they even realize how degrading and insulting their rhetoric sounds to others. Keep trying to do that Latino outreach Republicans, because you've obviously still got a lot to learn."
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