Friday Talking Points -- Games the Whole Family Can Play

Since we devoted last week's column to Eric Holder's record, we've got two weeks worth of stuff to cover today, so we're going to have to whip through things in a whirlwind fashion. But we have included not just one... not just two... but three reader-participation contests in this week's edition, for those who want to join in the fun in the comments. Ready for all that? Buckle up, then, here we go.

We got some good economic news, as it was revealed that the American economy grew a whopping 4.6 percent in the last quarter, and the unemployment rate went down to 5.9 percent. This probably won't make much of an impact in the midterms, but both represent continuing good news on the economic front.

The head of the Secret Service abruptly resigned, after she got grilled by Congress over several disconcerting lapses which happened on her watch. She fell on her sword immediately, to her credit, rather than drawing the story out day after day.

The air war continues against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which incidentally brings us to our first contest. Rather than "the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq," why isn't there a catchy name for this new war? All the Pentagon could come up with was "Operation Inherent Resolve," which led Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post to suggest an impressive fifty of his own ideas for a war moniker. Can you do better (in quality, if not in quantity)? What would you suggest we call this new war? My only idea is the rather snarky "Operation Here We Go Again," so let's hear your ideas in the comments.

Also worth mentioning from Huffington Post was a great article from Bob Cesca to remind us all of what Republican blowhards were saying on the subject of criticizing the president during wartime, from a few years back when a different man sat in the Oval Office's chair. A handy reference, when listening to Republicans these days. Another handy reference (and a more serious one) for wartime comes from the Washington Post, which ran a fantastic collection of nine ways to look at the mind-boggling "friend or enemy" complexities in the Middle East.

President Obama is getting a good response from the public in the polling on the war, which proves that even in a "war-weary public" there is still a "rally 'round the president" effect.

The Republican stance on the war can politely be called "incoherent." And that's me bending over backwards to be polite, mind you. For instance, Senate candidate Scott Brown has the answer to defeat the Islamic State -- seal America's southern border! No, really, that's his answer. Marco Rubio is very annoyed at President Obama's war plan, and has his own ideas about what to do:

To confront the Islamic State terrorists, we need a sustained air campaign targeting their leadership, sources of income and supply routes, wherever they exist. We must increase our efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria to fight the terrorist group. And we must arm and support forces in Iraq confronting it, including responsible Iraqi partners and the Kurds. In addition, we must persuade nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it.

The keener-eyed reader will immediately notice that Rubio's plan is exactly what President Obama is already doing. One hundred percent the same. In other words, Rubio is annoyed at Obama for doing exactly what Rubio would do. "Incoherent" only begins to define such a stance.

Doug Lamborn, Republican House member from Colorado, does have a different idea about what should happen, but that certainly doesn't make it a better idea. His plan? "A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, 'Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let's have a resignation.'" That's right, he wants a mass resignation of America's generals, in the middle of a war. Lamborn calls on them to "go out in a blaze of glory."

Now, for just one tiny moment, let's imagine that, say, Nancy Pelosi had suggested such a thing, back in 2003 or so. Let's all imagine what the Republican response would have been, shall we? Think the words "treasonous" or "aiding the enemy" or "traitor" would have been used? Yeah, me too.

In the world of politics, the midterm congressional elections loom over us, and the polling took a turn in the direction of Republicans in some key states this week. There was some good polling news for Democrats from Michigan, though, so things are still in flux. In Kansas, a judge ruled that the Democrat who dropped out of the Senate race will not appear on the ballot, which makes a defeat of Republican Pat Roberts a lot more possible.

Which brings us to our second contest. Sarah Palin was back in the news, first for her family getting into a public brawl (you just can't make this stuff up, folks!), and then for winging in to Kansas in an effort to salvage Pat Roberts with Tea Party voters. Palin, in an appearance, coined a new "Palinism" that we are still scratching our heads over. Here's the full quote, as Palin compares Roberts to Independent candidate Greg Orman:

He's not wishy-washy on the fence like you know who, the other guy. I am so thankful because we need those with that stiff spine, with the principles that are so invicted [sic] within them, that they take a side.

"Invicted"? Um... what? Now, I have previously (gasp!) actually defended Sarah Palin when the point she was trying to make was misunderstood by pretty much everyone, but I have to admit, I have no freakin' idea what she meant to say here. Any guesses? The closest I could even come up with was "invested" but that doesn't really work. So our second contest is: What Was Sarah Really Trying To Say? Good luck. Serious answers and funny ones will both be appreciated.

In other news from outer space (how's that for a segue?), America is apparently keeping old nuclear weapons around because we might need them to shoot down asteroids. That's so cool they could make a movie about it... oh, wait.

And finally, our third contest for you to enjoy (got those entries in for the first two yet?). Because a Republican organization is actually (again, can't make this up) running a campaign designed to get everyone to think warm and fuzzy thoughts about Republicans. No, really. The ad campaign is called "Republicans Are People, Too," and features such thoughts as:

"Republicans read the New York Times"

"Republicans have tattoos and beards"

"Republicans enjoy gourmet cooking"

and, most amusingly:

"Republicans have feelings"

Awww... isn't that cute? They have feelings, the poor dears. Let's try to add to their list, shall we? How about "Republicans have mighty thin skins," for starters? Or maybe "Republicans can dish it out, but sure can't take it thrown back at them." Or perhaps "Republicans are totally OK not caring about you," to capture the full flavor of Republicanism. The possibilities are endless, folks, so please let me know what you'd add to the touchy-feely Republican ad campaign. Points will be awarded for snark, points for originality, and points for accuracy. A game the whole family can play!


In what we believe is a first, we're handing out an Honorable Mention specifically for not getting mentioned. Chad Taylor used to be the Democratic candidate for Senate in Kansas, but then he withdrew to give the Independent candidate a real shot at defeating Senator Pat Roberts. The Republicans took the matter to court, in an attempt to force the Democrats to field a candidate. They lost. So Chad Taylor won his battle not to be mentioned in the race, which was indeed impressive.

While not partisan in any way, we also feel that the students in Denver who are vocally protesting their school board's attempt to censor American history deserve our applause. The idiots on the board are trying to scrub American history of any ugly stuff, and leave only pro-USA rah-rah cheerleading instead. What is especially ironic is that they wanted to get rid of teaching the students about civil disobedience, which the students promptly began doing. Way to go, Denver students! Stand up for your right to know the truth!

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to Nancy Pelosi. Earlier this week, I wrote a lengthy screed against cowardly members of Congress who are just fine with not voting on America's involvement in another war. I chastised them for not wanting to do their duty. John Boehner tried to weakly put it all on President Obama, by saying he'd be happy to call Congress back if the president would just send him something to vote on.

Nancy Pelosi responded, this week. From her remarks:

If you want to define an authorization, which defines, to use the word again, the authority that you're giving the president, you don't wait for the president to write it. Congress writes it, because we are asserting our willingness to vote for a plan of action.

She then said Congress should indeed vote before the election, while she continued to school Boehner on what is actually in the Constitution:

I think we should have stayed to do it. I think we should be getting ready to do it. I think it has to spring from Congress. Congress has to vote on it, and define how we would limit the power of the president, or not. But it's our decision, it's not the president's decision.

Why is it that those who claim to revere the Constitution seem also to be the ones who have never actually read it? I'm just asking.

For taking the position that Congress should return for a war vote, and for calling out Boehner's cowardice in not holding one, Nancy Pelosi is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


We don't have a category for "Most Embarrassed Democrat," but if we did, House member Earl Blumenauer would surely have won it this week, for the brief post which appeared on his Facebook page... on the subject of Dawson's Creek. "It was a post made accidentally" on his page, it was explained. Still, it's pretty funny to see Dawson's Creek commentary (in this day and age) on anyone's Facebook page.

Humor aside, we have a "rest of the story" award, for an incident which already won two MDDOTW awards. Virginia state Senator Phillip Puckett was convinced to step down from his seat -- which swung the balance of power in the state senate -- by essentially getting bribes in the form of cushy jobs for both himself and his daughter from the Republicans. For this disgraceful action, Puckett won Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week in volumes [308] and [310] of this column.

That's the backstory. What was revealed this week is that the office of Virginia's Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe also extended a blatant quid pro quo bribe to Puckett. This offer was -- incredibly -- made not just over the phone, but on voice mail. From the transcript of what McAuliffe's chief of staff had to say to Puckett:

I know there was a lot of frustration with your daughter, not, you know, getting a judgeship or something. If there's something that we can do for her, I mean, you know, we have a couple of big agencies here that we still need agency heads. We could potentially, potentially, subject to approval of the governor and so forth, you know, the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy could be available. We would be very eager to accommodate her, if, if that would be helpful in keeping you in the Senate. We, we would basically do anything. We just need you really, we need you for the rest of your term and beyond, but in the immediate future, we need you to help us get this Medicaid deal through and I think we've got a way to do it.

His begging ultimately did no good, as Puckett took the Republicans up on their (better) offer of getting his daughter a judgeship and himself a seat on the state's tobacco commission. But for making such a blatant offer in the first place -- and, in the second place, for leaving it recorded on voice mail -- the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week goes to Paul Reagan, chief of staff to Governor Terry McAuliffe. For shame, guys. For shame.

[Contact Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe's Chief of Staff, Paul Reagan, on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 322 (10/4/14)

For some reason, these get a little titillating towards the end. Hey, I don't make the news, I just comment on it. As always, these talking points are offered up for the use of all Democrats, whether being interviewed on a Sunday talk show or just around the water cooler with your coworkers. Use responsibly, as they say.


   Tell the good news

Democrats need to get over their fears of talking up the economy.

"The economy is starting to recover, folks. The recovery isn't complete, but things have looked very good over the past few months. The American economy grew at 4.6 percent last quarter, and I defy you to find an economist that wouldn't call 4.6 percent growth very good news indeed. Unemployment is down below six percent for the first time since 2008. In fact, this is the longest period of continued monthly job growth since we started keeping these statistics. We are averaging well over 200,000 jobs created each month, which is also very good news. The American economy is coming back, folks!"


   Stop voter suppression!

This one was a clear victory for Democrats, obviously.

"A federal judge just ruled that North Carolina Republicans did indeed want nothing more than to suppress the votes from people they didn't like. By enacting restrictions on voting that, in the judge's words, eliminated 'voting mechanisms successful in fostering minority participation,' what would have happened in the election was 'minority voters will be disproportionately adversely affected.' Over and over again, in state after state, Republicans are trying to make it a lot harder for minorities to vote. And then they wonder why few minorities would ever consider voting Republican. It's not that hard to figure out, really. One party fights for their right to vote, and the other one fights to make it more difficult."


   About that voter fraud problem...

This one is downright hilarious.

"Why is it that whenever I hear of voter fraud actually being committed -- you know, real voter fraud, not the fantasy voter fraud Republicans are terrified of -- it always seems to be a Republican doing it? Leslie Rutledge is running for attorney general in Arkansas, but she just got removed from the voting rolls because she is registered to vote in multiple states. Because she is no longer eligible to vote in Arkansas, state law seems to say she cannot run for public office. I'm waiting to hear all those Republicans who decry voter fraud to denounce Rutledge, but I'm not exactly holding my breath, if you know what I mean."


   Here's an idea -- why don't you quit?

This one deserves more attention than it has so far gotten.

"House Republican Doug Lamborn recently said in an interview that he has been talking to Pentagon generals behind the scenes in an effort to get them all to hand in their resignations, because Lamborn doesn't like President Obama's foreign policy. This is nothing short of disgusting. Lamborn wants to play politics not just with our country's foreign policy, but with America's military as well. Assumably, the generals all told Lamborn to go pound sand, because I haven't noticed any high-profile resignations, have you? I know what Republicans would have said if Democrats had tried to pull such a trick back when George W. Bush was in office, and their words would not have been kind. I've got an even better idea for Doug Lamborn -- why don't you quit your job? Why not resign yourself if you feel that strongly about it? Or are you too chicken for that, and only like to play politics with other people's careers? You should resign in disgrace, Mr. Lamborn, for trying to undermine America's military in the midst of a war."


   Open mouth, insert foot

Scott Brown shows us all how not to woo women voters.

"Republicans insist that they are not fighting any sort of War On Women, but Scott Brown has taken Republican cluelessness to a new level, up in New Hampshire. On an appearance on Fox News (of all places), the host asked Brown about his voting record on women's issues, quoting his opponent in the Senate race, Senator Jeanne Shaheen: 'He doesn't stand up for women's reproductive rights and economic security. He co-sponsored legislation to let employers deny women coverage for birth control or even mammograms. He had two opportunities to vote for equal pay laws and both times he voted no.' When asked to respond, Brown said: "Well unfortunately, I'm talking about issues that people care about.' He used the 'things that people care about' line twice, in fact. When asked how Republicans would close the gender wage gap, he responded: 'Well, I'll leave that to the political pundits.' Scott Brown -- obviously -- is a mental lightweight who is completely unfit for the job he's running for. Republicans -- obviously -- don't care about women's issues. That's why more and more women are bolting the party and voting Democratic. It's not rocket science, Scott."


   Yet more proof

Always interesting to see a campaign go down in flames, right before an election.

"I see that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's re-election campaign seems to be having some problems. Back when Corbett was the state's attorney general, hundreds of emails were exchanged by at least eight of his underlings, including the state police commissioner and the state's department of environmental protection. These emails included photographs, ethnic slurs and other derogatory language, and subject lines such as 'Bikini Wax Job.' I guess Corbett was running his office on those famous Republican family values, eh? Nothing like exchanging hundreds of porn emails to get women voters behind your campaign! I'd say the governor's going to be looking for work, come November."


   So broke, they're selling sex toys

This one is just too funny.

"Kansas is broke, big time. They are broke because Governor Sam Brownback decided to run the state on pure conservative economic principles -- which, predictably, failed miserably. Brownback is in a race to hold onto his job, and he tried to make a big deal out of the fact that his opponent had once gone to a strip club. Puritanism goes over big in Kansas, right? But the news now is that Kansas is having a massive auction of some property seized for back taxes. Thousands of sex toys and porn are being sold to the highest bidder, because Kansas is so desperate for money. It's always funny to see someone hoist on their own petard, isn't it? Brownback doesn't look so puritanically pure now, does he? I'd advise anyone purchasing sex toys or porn from the state of Kansas to wash them off before using, since they must arrive absolutely dripping with hypocrisy."


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