Friday Talking Points -- Brain Damage

Karl Rove successfully manipulated the entire news media this week, so we are going to play along today. Rove's specialty is to take what could be considered a reasonable idea, and then twist it beyond recognition while dragging it through the swampiest mud he can dream up. Well, that's admittedly a terrible (and mixed) metaphor, but I think you get the general idea.

This week, Rove spoke out about the non-controversial idea: "Hillary Clinton will likely face scrutiny on her age and health if she runs for president" -- which is true, and would be true for anyone of her age and medical history. The problem was, ol' Karl decided to take a detour through the looney bin. Speaking of what Republicans used to deride as her "Benghazi flu" (the fall Hillary Clinton suffered which put her in the hospital for three days), Rove insinuated:

Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she's wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what's up with that.

Classic Rove, really. Later, he insisted that he never said anything like "Hillary Clinton is brain damaged," which only served to fuel the fires by causing everyone else to start using the term. Karl is a virtuoso at this sort of thing, and he largely succeeded in his real goal.

But we have noticed a lack, in the media, of a reference which really should be quite obvious. And so we aim to rectify this omission, by surrounding our introductory news blurbs this week with the lyrics from the Pink Floyd song "Brain Damage," the penultimate song on their masterpiece album Dark Side Of The Moon. Enjoy!

The lunatic is on the grass

The lunatic is on the grass

Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs

Got to keep the loonies on the path

While Democrats have mostly been disappointed in their eagerness to see Tea Party lunatics win Republican nominations for high office in the primaries this year, California may buck the trend. Tim Donnelly, leading the polls for the Republican side of the governor's race so far, may provide some amusement if he wins the chance to lose massively to the popular Democratic governor this November. Jerry Brown's re-election to a record-breaking fourth term leading the Golden State is not in jeopardy at all, rest assured. So why not have the Republican candidate be a guy who founded a "Minuteman" vigilante border-protection group, compares Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Il, voted against a bill to ban state-run stores from selling Confederate flag items, and is currently on probation for bringing a loaded gun into an airport in his briefcase? His better-funded Republican foe seems to recognize the danger, and has launched a new ad with Donnelly's face pasted over the old anti-John Kerry "windsurfing/flip-flop" ad. So it looks like there'll be plenty of lunacy to watch, at least until the June primary!

Or, if that's not enough for you, you can check out the gubernatorial debate among Idaho Republicans, which may indeed qualify for the looniest film clips of the entire election cycle. In addition to the two "normal" candidates, we also have on the stage a biker and a religious extremist, both seemingly right out of central casting ("Send over two random lunatics to spice up the debate, will you?"). The whole video can be seen on the Idaho Public Television site, in all its loony-tunes splendor.

The lunatic is in the hall

The lunatics are in my hall

The paper holds their folded faces to the floor

And every day the paper boy brings more

Every day the paper boy brings more, indeed. I wrote an article earlier this week about tomb robbing (of all things), but I had no idea a modern example would pop up in the news so quickly. President James A. Garfield's tomb, located in a cemetery in the suburbs of Cleveland, was broken into this week. The thieves ignored a cash donations box, and instead stole some relatively-worthless commemorative spoons from Garfield's inauguration. Amusingly, according to the cemetery's spokeswoman, the burglars also left behind "a broken stained-glass window, a T-shirt, two cigarette butts and, of course, an empty bottle of Fireball cinnamon whiskey."

Even more amusing was the funniest "getting primaried" story of the year. Saira Blair is only 17 years old, and will not be eligible to vote until she turns 18 in July. Nevertheless, the high school senior just won the Republican primary for a seat in West Virginia's legislature, beating out a two-term sitting delegate, Republican Larry Kump. In Blair's words, "I think I'm fully capable of doing the job, and I don't think it's rocket science by any means -- not if you just listen to the people." Definitely a race to watch in November!

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon

And if there is no room upon the hill

And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too

I'll see you on the dark side of the moon

In the "heads exploding" category, we have none other than Rick Santorum, who has apparently traveled to what Republicans consider the dark side of the moon: endorsing a form of single-payer health insurance. Speaking last week, Santorum was addressing the issue of Obamacare's mandate that employers provide birth control in their insurance coverage. Here's what Santorum had to say about it:

It would be less objectionable to me for the government to go out and say we're going to pay for all the pharmacies to stock contraception and give them out free. Am I paying for it indirectly? Yes, through my taxes, but I pay for a lot of things with my taxes that I don't like.

Santorum went on to explain that President Obama wasn't interested in such a simple plan, because Obama was more interested in forcing Christians to "bow to Caesar" instead.

There actually was a plan to do precisely what Santorum is suggesting, but it didn't just stop at birth control coverage. The plan would have removed all the middlemen from the health insurance system, and paid everyone directly from the federal government. It was called "single-payer," remember? Santorum obviously hasn't thought this through, folks. Maybe it was a full moon, or something.

The lunatic is in my head

The lunatic is in my head

You raise the blade, you make the change

You rearrange me 'till I'm sane

You lock the door and throw away the key

There's someone in my head but it's not me.

In the "full frontal lobotomy" category this week we find a police commissioner from New Hampshire who is not afraid to keep the light of his unreconstructed racism under a bushel. Robert Copeland, age 82, is one of three people who make the hiring and firing decisions for the small local police force of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. He loudly stated in a local restaurant that he no longer watches television because he keeps seeing Barack Obama on the screen. Except that's not quite how he identified the leader of our nation. In fact, the words he used were (and I sincerely apologize for even reporting such vile language, but this is a direct quote): "that fucking nigger." When a citizen complained, his written response was:

While I believe the problems associated with minorities in this country are momentous, I am not phobic. My use of derogatory slang in reference to those among them undeserving of respect is no secret. It is the exercise of my 1st Amendment rights. I believe I did use the 'N' word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse [sic]. For this I do not apologize -- he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.

Well, it's good to know the guy has some standards for using two of the vilest words in the English language to describe the President of the United States. One of his fellow commissioners chimed in with "[Copeland] said some harsh words about Mr. Obama, and here we are. This woman, she's blowing it all out of proportion."

Wow. I mean, just... wow.

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear

You shout and no one seems to hear

And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes

I'll see you on the dark side of the moon

To be fair, we conclude this litany of lunacy with a bit of outdated thinking from the Democratic side of the aisle. It's nowhere near as bad as the preceding items, but has to at least be acknowledged. Lanny Davis, ex-Clintonite mover and shaker, has a new plan to combat all the misinformation likely to arise from the House's new Benghazi committee. Davis is going to take a page straight out of the 1990s, and will sit at a table outside the hearing room, passing out printed copies which will "truth squad" the lunacy from the actual committee members. Got that? Printed lists. In 2014. He has been roundly ridiculed for not realizing that there are a whole bunch of new ways to communicate information which didn't exist when Bill Clinton took office, and rightly so.

Speaking of the Big Dog himself, Bill Clinton is in the news for a rather embarrassing comment as well. Seems he didn't get the memo that populism is a big thing in the Democratic Party these days. Speaking to Tim Geithner, who used to be Treasury Secretary, Clinton talked about the populist movement and how they could never be satisfied, even with the human sacrifice of the CEO of Goldman Sachs: "You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again."

Hoo boy. Should his wife run for president, Hillary's biggest challenge is going to be (as always) keeping the Big Dog on a very short chain.

OK, this is running way long, so let's quickly touch on some media news and some marijuana news and then get right to the awards. The Associated Press is apparently laying down new guidelines to try to get everyone in its network to write much shorter stories, because it's not like anyone needs to read anything longer than a few hundred words these days, right? What was amusing was that this was followed the very next day by a story which came over the AP feed -- which has got to be the longest and most extensive and microscopic examination of every single possible candidate for the presidency in 2016 that I have yet seen. I mean, the article is just massive. Even The New Yorker would probably have cut this puppy down by a third. Now, don't get me wrong -- I loved the article and I also loved the "in your face" nature of its length, right after the story on the AP wanting shorter articles. Somebody somewhere within the bowels of the AP obviously responded to the edict: "Shorter stories? Ha! In your dreams! Here are 10,000 words right back atcha!"

In other cheerful media news, Ann Curry was saved by a Boy Scout troop, when she injured herself on a nature hike. No, really! You can't make this stuff up, folks.

In marijuana news, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency is continuing to inspire calls for her resignation, for not getting on board with new Justice Department policies on marijuana. Just this week, she seized a shipment of hemp seeds which were to be used in a hemp (not marijuana, but non-psychoactive hemp) planting program that was just authorized by Congress. She's also against the new sentencing reforms Congress is considering, along with a few other former Drug Warriors. By week's end, however, it seems Eric Holder took her out to the woodshed and had a little talk with her, and she has now dialed her rhetoric down. For the moment, at least. Color us not impressed. She needs to go, period.

And finally, in Colorado -- months after legalizing recreational marijuana sales -- crime rates are still down, showing that the crime wave predicted by those against legalization still has not appeared. Color us not surprised, personally.


Whew! OK, the rest of this will be shorter, I promise.

Earning at least an Honorable Mention this week was none other than Clay Aiken, who is now the Democratic candidate for a North Carolina House seat. He was leading his Democratic rival by a few hundred votes, and a recount was on the horizon, when Aiken's opponent dropped dead. This cleared the way for Aiken, and although he doesn't have much of a prayer in a district that went for Romney by almost 60 percent, we still celebrate his willingness to be a celebrity candidate instead of just sniping at politics from the sidelines (as many celebrities on both sides of the aisle are known to do).

Representative Alan Lowenthal from California also deserves an Honorable Mention for introducing a bill which would provide federal rules for redistricting, to depoliticize the process. He makes an excellent case for his proposal this week in the Huffington Post, if you'd like more details. Redistricting reform has already happened in California, but it happened by ballot initiative. The chances of Lowenthal's "Let The People Draw The Lines Act" actually passing are slim, but we have to at least salute his efforts, since it is such a worthy goal.

But this week's coveted Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senators Tom Udall and Michael Bennet. Udall and Bennet have written a proposed constitutional amendment which would go a long way towards reversing the Supreme Court's insistence that money equals speech in politics. Harry Reid also wins his own MIDOTW, because he is going to throw his support behind the effort and schedule it for "multiple votes" on the Senate floor.

Now, amending the Constitution is difficult. This effort is likely to fail, at least the first time around. The bar for ratification is incredibly high. But that doesn't mean the attempt shouldn't even be made. Reversing such odious Supreme Court decisions as Citizens United (and all the rest of the "corporations are people" decisions) is a worthy cause indeed. Since the Supreme Court has ruled on the matter, the only real way to bring back campaign finance reform is to amend the Constitution itself -- something that does not require the Supreme Court's imprimatur. In fact, we have called for Democrats to push a few such amendments as recently as a few weeks ago, right here in this space. So we feel bound to salute such efforts when they become reality.

For proposing some serious pushback on the idea of "corporate personhood," Senators Tom Udall and Michael Bennet deserve their Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards, and Harry Reid also deserves one for forcing the Senate to vote on the issue in an election year.

[Congratulate Senator Michael Bennet on his Senate contact page, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his Senate contact page, and Senator Tom Udall on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


It certainly will be disappointing if Representative John Conyers doesn't appear on the ballot this year. Conyers is currently the longest-serving House member there is (he was first elected in 1964). But his campaign hit a snafu when a whopping big chunk of the signatures they turned in were ruled invalid. Conyers is now suing to get his name on the ballot, challenging the requirement that signature collectors must be registered voters of the district. But, even if he loses the court fight, we assume he'll probably be re-elected as a write-in candidate anyway (seeing as how he's been there for 50 years, his constituents must like him).

But there was one Democrat who exceeded the word "disappointing" this week, and crossed over into the realm of "downright disgustingly gross." Here is the entire news story (complete with video, if you really want to see it):

Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) is about to learn a valuable lesson: C-SPAN is always watching.

During a House Judiciary Committee meeting last week, the Democrat picked his ear and ate whatever he found there while Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) testified.

We cannot personally recall when a winner of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week made us physically retch before. Seriously, if you've just eaten, do not watch that video. Maybe we should call it the Most Downright Disgustingly Gross Democrat We've Ever Seen award, this week.


[Contact Representative Joe Garcia on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 304 (5/16/14)

We have a somewhat special version of the talking points this week, because six out of seven of these are direct quotes. And, for what we think is the first time ever, one of them is from none other than Newt Gingrich himself.

Now, for all of these to morph into useable Democratic talking points, all you have to do is preface them with something like: "As Newt Gingrich recently said," or: "Don't you agree with the following quote?" We've got two quotes on the Karl Rove/Hillary Clinton "brain damage" controversy, two quotes from Senator Barbara Boxer on the Benghazi hearings, and then three unrelated talking points to finish up with. We saved the best one for last, as usual.


   Exactly what's wrong with American politics

We have to open with Newt Gingrich, just because. Newt answered back a Huffington Post reporter's question asking his reaction to Karl Rove's Clinton comments by writing the following (Note: we suspect, from the number of corrections, that this was transmitted through some form of social media):

[I] am totally opposed and deeply offended by Karl Rove's comments about Secretary Clinton. I have many policy disagreements with Hillary but this kind of personal charge is exactly whats [sic?] wrong with [A]merican politics. [Rove] should apologize and stop discussing her health. [I] was angry when people did this to Reagan in 1980 and I am angry when they do it to her today.


   Bubba shows us how it's done

Bill Clinton weighed in, and reminded us all that he and his wife have had lots of practice in how to respond to right-wing lunacy in the past. He went on to state how sharp Hillary's brain still is and what good health she now enjoys, but not after first making his point in fine Clinton style. When asked about Rove's comments, Bill responded:

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. First they say she faked her concussion; now they say she's auditioning for a part on The Walking Dead!"


   Republicans have only one goal

These next two quotes come from an opinion piece Senator Barbara Boxer wrote this week, on the lunacy of holding more hearings on Benghazi. Her argument is strongest when she starts quoting the facts and figures.

Ever since the tragic attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012 -- which claimed the lives of four Americans and wounded two others -- it has been obvious that the GOP's obsession with Benghazi has never been about getting to the truth of what happened or preventing future attacks against U.S. personnel overseas.

Republicans have only one goal: to turn this tragedy into a scandal. Their relentless campaign to use the events in Benghazi to score cheap political points ahead of the midterm elections is appalling.

Over the last 20 months, the facts and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2012, attacks have received unprecedented scrutiny:

  • 9 different House and Senate committees have already investigated the attacks
  • 13 hearings have been conducted
  • 50 briefings have taken place
  • 25 transcribed interviews have been conducted
  • 8 subpoenas have been issued
  • more than 25,000 pages of documents have been reviewed
  • 6 congressional reports have been released

But, dissatisfied with the results of these exhaustive reviews, the GOP has now decided to create an openly partisan panel with only one goal: to further politicize this tragedy.


   During the Bush administration, there were 166 attacks, which killed 116 people, including 18 Americans

The first paragraph of this should be memorized by every single Democrat, in preparation for the media circus that now looms on the horizon. Seriously, every Democrat should be able to accurately quote these figures at the drop of a hat, in the upcoming months.

Between 1998 and 2013, there were at least 501 significant attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel in 70 countries, which resulted in the deaths of 586 people, including 67 Americans. During the Bush administration, there were 166 attacks, which killed 116 people, including 18 Americans.

Those attacks were all terrible tragedies. The difference is that we never had a political party spend years exploiting them for political gain.

I remember serving in the House back in 1983 when a truck bomb exploded outside the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 American service members. It was the deadliest attack on Marines since Iwo Jima, and it came just six months after 17 Americans were killed in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Tip O'Neill was the House speaker at the time. But rather than launching a partisan witch hunt that focused on President Reagan, the House conducted bipartisan oversight and produced a completely bipartisan report.

Unfortunately, Republicans never intended to conduct a fair review of the facts in the Benghazi attacks. Blinded by their anger at President Obama, they ignore the fact that he called the attacks "acts of terror" the day after they occurred. And in their mad dash to discredit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they never mention that she was the first person to convene an independent investigation of the attacks.


   The Constitution does not give corporations a vote

This one's from Harry Reid, from the prepared text of remarks he planned to make on the Senate floor in support of the constitutional amendment discussed above. He sums things up nicely, in a single paragraph.

The Supreme Court has equated money with speech, so the more money you have, he more speech you get, and the more influence in our democracy. That is wrong. Every American should have the same ability to influence our political system. One American, one vote. That's what the Constitution guarantees. The Constitution does not give corporations a vote. And the Constitution does not give dollar bills a vote.


   Outspent fifteen to one

Here's another handy figure every Democrat should know. Because someone took the time to quantify things. This one is our only talking point this week that isn't a direct quote, we should mention.

"An independent analysis of political advertising money spent gives some insight as to the headwinds the Obamacare system has faced in the public's mind. From 2010, when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed into law until now, the anti-Obamacare side has outspent the pro-Obamacare side to the tune of fifteen-to-one. While $27 million was spent on advertising the benefits of Obamacare, a whopping $418 million was spent on almost 900,000 anti-Obamacare ads -- many of which were misleading if not downright deceitful. Anyone looking at why the public is so massively misinformed as to what Obamacare does and does not do need look no further than the overwhelming ratio of 15-to-1. No wonder it's been such a struggle to get the real facts out!"


   Sulu approves, and so do we

George Takei helped this one go viral. The photo of a message board in front of Christ Lutheran Church shows that at least one minister is an absolute master at coming up with a poignant talking point. Seriously, folks, this one is the best bumpersticker slogan to come along since "We are the 99 percent" from the Occupy folks. It cuts right to the heart of the matter, it is incredibly memorable, and it shows the true spirit of what Christian love is supposed to be all about. The message board said, quite simply:

We support the separation of church and hate.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Become a fan of Chris on Huffington Post

Full archives of FTP columns:

All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank