Friday Talking Points -- Past, Present and Future

We've got a lot to cover today (as that headline should evince), but before we begin examining the anniversaries, elections, and politics of the week, I'd like to begin instead by promoting a video.

Yes, this is unusual for me, since I normally favor the written word above multimedia showiness, but this is a noteworthy video of a very special song. The story of the Polish band Taraka, and how their song "Give Ukraine A Helping Hand" became an unofficial anthem of the Ukrainian people's revolution earlier this year (which ran in my Wednesday column, as narrated by the band's manager and producer) is an incredibly heartwarming one, which is why I wanted to draw attention to it here before getting on with the usual weekly snark-fest. The video which accompanies the English version of the song is powerful, and the song itself sends chills down the spine. I urge everyone to take three minutes and give it a listen. You won't easily forget it.

My friends are falling, their memories are always with me

Darkness surrounds us, the stars above us are still clear,

Stand by me, your hopes and dreams will give me courage.

Ukraine is calling, so tell me will you care to hear?

Hear our voices in solitude they sorrow,

In our voices the promise of tomorrow

We made our choices, now bow our heads to pray

As a river, we'll always find our way.


With that out of the way, let's get on to politics back here at home. From the past, we had two important anniversaries this week. Noam Chomsky wrote a few days ago about the anniversary of the Enola Gay dropping the first atomic bomb ("Little Boy") on Hiroshima, Japan, which happened 69 years ago this week. Forty years ago today, President Richard Nixon addressed the nation to announce he would be resigning the presidency the next day (August 9, 1974) -- the only time in American history this has happened. President Barack Obama also took the nation into the past today, as he announced the United States is dropping bombs on Iraq once again. That's a pretty heavy-duty amount of the past to contemplate, in one week.

In the near future, America will be confronted with another slice of the recent past, as a Senate report on torture will soon be released to the public. The document to be made public is a shorter version of their full 6,000-page report, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (whose committee performed the review) is still fighting with the White House and the C.I.A. over what redactions are necessary before its release. Within the next few weeks, this is going to be big, big news.

If the news admits what it is, of course. There has long been a timidity in mainstream media to call torture "torture," which some have been railing against for years. In a surprise pre-emptive move, the New York Times has now announced that it will indeed use the dictionary correctly, and call what is so obviously torture by its proper name, so perhaps other mainstream media will follow their lead, who knows?

In news from the present week, primary season keeps rolling along, and the midterm elections loom on the horizon (we're under 100 days out from election day, folks). This has generated a whole lot of stories this week (although not as many from town halls as you might expect), so we'll just whip through them in shorthand fashion.

For those keeping score at home, the Senate contests now stand at: "Establishment Republicans 6 -- Tea Partiers 0." The guy who posted x-rays of gunshot victims online with "amusing" comments was defeated in the Kansas primary. He wasn't the only extremist to lose a contest this week. Also in the "Whew!" category: Victoria Jackson lost the minor political race she had jumped into.

One Tea Party guy did win a primary in Michigan, and then gave a notable victory speech where, rather than offer up bland words about his opponent, he instead ripped into the guy from the podium. In Mississippi, the Republican Party rejected calls from the Tea Party loser in the Senate race to just overturn the election results and hand him the nomination. Oh, and the guy that had previously made the claim that Thad Cochran had paid for black votes reversed himself and now says that the Tea Partier's campaign actually gave him thousands of dollars to make up the claim.

Further north, Scott Brown was for immigration reform before he was against it (maybe it's a Massachusetts thing?), but it doesn't seem to be helping his prospects much in New Hampshire. Over in Michigan, the Republican Senate candidate seems also to not be ready for prime time, and is running a campaign based on "never talking to reporters, ever." Good luck with that strategy! In nearby Illinois, the Republican candidate for governor is now running on the platform "elect me, I'll shut down the state government!" so we'll just have to wait and see how that one goes, too. In Kansas, governor Sam Brownback is attempting to explain his poor showing in the primary is somehow because people don't like Obama. Um, OK.

There was big election news for Democrats, in the Senate race in Montana, but we'll get to that a bit later.

The most amusing election news of the week was a "gotcha" video shot by a DREAMer -- one of the people Barack Obama has deferred deportation for -- confronting Representative Steve "Calves The Size Of Cantaloupes" King. While King was predictably ruffled by the encounter, the truly amusing thing was Senator Rand Paul, who began the video sitting next to King at a table. When he heard the first question, Paul disappeared so fast you can almost see the cartoon cloud he left behind (he didn't even finish the bite of the burger he had just taken). Paul later attempted to explain his cowardly action, but nobody believed him for a minute.

And finally, the truly ugly election news. Over 60 Texas Republicans signed a brief to a gay marriage lawsuit which states plainly that legalizing gay marriage is going to quickly lead to not just pedophilia, but also polygamy and incest. In other Republican "minority outreach" news, Republican Representative Mo Brooks has decided that Democrats are waging a (are you ready for this?) "War On Whites." Rush Limbaugh is right there on board with him, too (no surprise there, really).

What's depressing is that this wasn't even the ugliest bit of racism from the Republican Party this week. In Oklahoma, an official flyer for a Republican "Bean Feed" get-together not only has at the top of it a cute little dancing bean cartoon -- who is wearing a sombrero -- but it also includes the promise of a discussion about the "things that you may not know about ... the Ku Klux Klan." Sadly, you cannot make this stuff up, folks.

OK, we're already running long this week (so what else is new?), so let's quickly touch upon the marijuana news and then just get on with the rest of the program. The Washington Post pointed out this week that highway deaths are approaching "historic lows" in Colorado in 2014, debunking claims made to the contrary about the effect of legalized recreational marijuana. The Post points out in a separate article that marijuana is actually cheaper than beer in most of America. The New York Times, after running their extensive pro-legalization editorial series, is now being confronted by the fact that they drug test new employees for marijuana. Hopefully a policy change will soon be announced. California's drought is affecting the marijuana crop there, and back in Colorado a prison may be converted into a marijuana shop. Couldn't think of a nicer repurposing, myself. Finally, Washington D.C. has cleared the way for a November ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the Nation's Capital, so that should be an interesting vote to watch (if Congress allows it to happen, of course).

And finally, while Secret Service agents don't often get to make hilariously tongue-in-cheek statements, this week provided a rare exception. After a toddler squeezed through the fence surrounding the White House (and was immediately apprehended by the agents), a spokesman for the Secret Service deadpanned: "We were going to wait until he learned to talk to question him, but in lieu of that he got a timeout and was sent on way with [his] parents." OK, that was funny!


Following many news editorials calling on Senator John Walsh to abandon his election bid to keep the Senate seat he was appointed to (and following his own Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, a few weeks back), he has finally decided to put party ahead of personal ambition and has announced he is out of the race. After damning revelations over plagiarism at the Army War College, Walsh simply wasn't a viable candidate anymore, and he now has finally realized this. What happens next is an interesting process, and I've already called for a "Draft Brian Schweitzer" movement, personally. But whatever the Montana Democratic Party decides to do now, we have to at least (grudgingly) give Walsh an Honorable Mention for stepping out of the race with enough time to put a replacement candidate on the ballot. The plagiarism was the exact opposite of "honorable," we realize, but in the end Walsh did the right thing for his party, in a timely manner.

Senator Barbara Boxer also deserves an Honorable Mention of her own this week, for penning a strongly-worded piece in the Huffington Post, aptly titled "Try Governing For A Change." Well said, Senator Boxer!

Five Democratic House members also deserve Honorable Mentions, for participating in a push to get rid of the Hyde Amendment (which restricts federal dollars for abortions). This is a brave stand to take, and all five deserve recognition: Mike Honda, Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, Louise Slaughter, and Jackie Speier.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week goes to the progressive organization Ultraviolet. The women's rights group is opening a new front against the Republican War On Women, by buying ads in 10 airports around the country to point out to travelers the states' record on women. The one in New Orleans says (for instance):

Louisiana women are paid $.67 to every man's dollar. More than 22 percent of women live in poverty. Louisiana doesn't guarantee ANY paid maternity or sick leave. A recent study ranks Louisiana the WORST state for women.

Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of Ultraviolet, explains further: "We know politicians spend a lot of time in airports, and they're trying to court businesses to set up headquarters in their states. What we're saying is: 'Welcome to Ohio, one of 31 states that allow rapists to sue women for child custody rights. This state treats women badly.'"

For creating this ad campaign, and for backing it with a "six-figure" ad buy at the airports, the group Ultraviolet is eminently worthy of this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award (or "Most Impressive Progressive Organization Of The Week," perhaps?). Democratic organizations and candidates, take note: this is how to fight back in the War On Women.

[Congratulate Ultraviolet on their contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


This one's a pretty easy call, this week.

Illinois state representative LaShawn Ford is unquestionably the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, as he plead guilty to tax fraud in federal court.

Ford was charged with eight felony counts of bank fraud and nine counts of submitting false information to a bank, but these charges will be dropped in a plea agreement. From the story: "According to prosecutors, Ford told the now-failed ShoreBank he would use the money to rehabilitate investment properties, but that he actually used the funds for expenses such as car loans, credit cards, casino payments and his 2006 election campaign."

For shame, Mr. Ford. That's really about all that can be said, as we award him the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. He faces a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the one count he plead guilty to.

[Contact Illinois Representative LaShawn Ford on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 315 (8/8/14)

Past, present, and future -- that's our theme this week! We open with a few updates on the past (ACORN, Benghazi), a look at the present state of Obamacare, and then a look at the future of immigration reform (since it seems to be freaking a lot of people out). Then, at the very end, we have what can only be described as pure unadulterated snark, just for a laugh.

Enough said. Let's get on with the show.


   It's dead already

This one was kind of a "dog that didn't bark in the night," but still should be pointed out, if only for amusement value.

"I notice that for the first time in years, the Republicans writing the budget bills working their way through Congress have finally realized that ACORN doesn't exist any more. Even after the group was destroyed by a smear campaign, year after year Republicans would include in the budget a ban on any money going to ACORN -- even though it had already ceased to exist. This year, they seem to have finally faced the reality and have omitted such language. Maybe in the future, they'll face a lot more reality when attempting to put their budget together, who knows?"


   No there there

Yet another House committee wrapped up a Benghazi investigation, with absolutely nothing to show for it. The ranking Democratic member of the committee, Dutch Ruppersberger, released a statement about the bipartisan report, which is worth excerpting:

This report shows that there was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans. Our investigation found the Intelligence Community warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened, Americans [sic?] which is consistent with testimony that the attacks appeared to be opportunistic. It also found that a mixed group of individuals including those associated with Al-Qaeda, Qadafi loyalists and other Libyan militias participated in the attack. Additionally, the report shows there was no "stand down order" given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, and no American was left behind.

The report also shows that the process used to develop the talking points was flawed, but that the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis. Finally, the report demonstrates that there was no illegal activity or illegal arms sales occurring at U.S. facilities in Benghazi. And there was absolutely no evidence, in documents or testimony, that the Intelligence Community's assessments were politically motivated in any way.


   It works better if you don't fight it

File this under "obviously."

"As more and more data appear on the effects of Obamacare, one fact becomes crystal clear: Obamacare works better in states that try to make it work. In states where the governor and legislature do the necessary things to implement the program, the outcomes are much better. Conversely, in states where conservatives try to sabotage the program in every way they can, Obamacare doesn't work as well. What's disgusting is that in these states, Republican politicians do everything they can to eviscerate the program, and then they brag about how it's not working. Americans in these states deserve better, and the data prove that the only thing stopping them from getting it is Republican politics."


   Mean and nasty

Representative Luis Gutierrez wasn't shy about assigning blame for congressional inaction on immigration reform. Here is his what he recently had to say about it:

Last June, the Senate -- 68 to 32 with ample Republican support, very bipartisan bill -- passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Why can't the House of Representatives do it? They can't do it because they have 20, 25 members who say: "Let's just be mean. Let's be as mean and as nasty as we can with immigrants."


   Flip-flopping at the Washington Post

The Washington Post ran a pearl-clutching editorial this week, ripped from the pages of the Republican Party's talking points. President Obama, the Post fears, could be about to "tear up the Constitution" by acting on his own to defer deportations for millions of people. However, Salon noticed that this didn't exactly square with their former position (to put it mildly).

"I have no idea what the folks at the Washington Post editorial board were thinking this week, when they pre-emptively called on President Obama not to act alone on immigration reform. They used some apocalyptic language in doing so, talking about the president 'tearing up the Constitution.' What's really strange about all this is that Obama is doing nothing more than following the advice of the Washington Post editorial board. Back in March, they ran an editorial calling on Obama to do exactly what they are now denouncing. They said, and I quote: 'The groups pressing Mr. Obama for a policy shift would have him exempt thousands of such immigrants from deportation -- beyond the "Dreamer" youths who have already been granted such protection. It would be a humane and reasonable thing to do.' The Post editorial board went on to say: 'Republicans' refusal to reform a broken system has left the nation without good options.' So, back then, Obama expanding his policy was 'a humane and reasonable thing to do,' but now Obama is about to 'tear up the Constitution' by actually doing it. Make up your minds -- you can't have it both ways!"


   Impeachment follies

Republicans insist that it is actually Democrats who keep bringing up impeachment, but every time I read a quote on the subject, it seems to be coming out of a Republican's mouth. This week, it was Mike Huckabee's turn. Huckabee admits it's never going to be successful, but then ends with "it's an important argument to make" -- meaning Republicans just want to talk about impeachment, without actually doing it? Hey, wait, isn't that what they're accusing Democrats of? Anyway, here's Huckabee on impeachment (a quote to throw in the face of any Republican claiming "it's only Democrats talking about it"):

There's no doubt that [President Obama]'s done plenty of things worthy of impeachment. Now the fact is, we don't have the Senate so, even if you impeached him in the House and it went to trial in the Senate, it would never even get to the floor because Harry Reid has been sitting on 357 pieces of legislation passed by the House Republicans. So, from a governmental standpoint, you're not going to see it accomplished with this Senate. But I think it's an important argument to make that there are number of things that this president has done in the overuse of the executive power, his complete ignoring of the law.


   Humanity is doomed

OK, this one's just for fun. Check out the photo, it is priceless.

"I agree heartily with the Morning Joe television program. Each and every time I see Bill Kristol's face on television, my immediate, gut reaction is exactly the same as theirs: 'Humanity is doomed.' Couldn't have put it better myself."


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