Breaking news! Rick Perry drops out of presidential race!
This news broke after almost all of this column was written, so we're just going to add this bit at the top to snarkily wish Rick Perry well in his future endeavors. I must admit I got it wrong when I predicted a few weeks ago that Perry would stay in the race longer than Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal. But that doesn't mean we can't have some fun betting who will drop out next! With Perry gone already, I predict that Gilmore will be next, seeing as how he didn't even make it onto next week's CNN kid's table debate. Place your bets in the comments -- who will be the next to fall?
One thing worth pointing out as Perry exits is that he was really the first Republican candidate to directly attack Donald Trump. Both Perry and Graham lit into Trump after his disgraceful comments about John McCain's military service. It did neither of them any good in the polls -- and, in fact, was roughly where Perry began his big slide downwards. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned for the other candidates? Time will tell. OK, with the breaking news out of the way, let's resume our regular column, shall we?
CNN has just announced the lineup for next week's Republican candidates' debates, so we'll start with that. On the adult stage, there will be 11 candidates, since they had to bend the rules enough to let Carly Fiorina face off (yes, that was a pun) against Donald Trump. Appearing next to these two will be Ben Carson, Jeb! Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, and Chris Christie. Relegated to the "kids' table" debate held earlier (to allow for their nap times, one supposes) will be Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham. Not appearing because he didn't qualify: Jim Gilmore. Appearing in spirit, and guaranteed to be mentioned by all: Saint Ronald of Reagan, whose plane they'll be debating under (for mystical and magical Republican reasons unfathomable to non-believers).
Speaking of getting blocked from a stage, an amusing thing happened this week out on the Republican campaign trail which few noticed. Ted Cruz seems to be running what might be called a "limpet mine campaign," since his favorite tactic now is to attach himself to other people's events. This week alone, Cruz showed up at a Trump rally in Washington and tried to horn in on Mike Huckabee exploiting the anti-marriage-equality clerk in Tennessee. Maybe he's just applying Black Lives Matter's tactics of grabbing other people's microphones? In any case, the Huckster wasn't having any of it. Huckabee would be the only one appearing on stage to make political hay out of the event, dammit! His staffers reportedly physically blocked Ted Cruz from taking the stage, so that Huckabee could be the lone Republican presidential candidate standing next to the woman. I guess the moral of the story is that Ted Cruz should stick to shadowing Donald Trump, who doesn't seem to care about Cruz appearing at his events (and, really, why should he?).
Trump was in the news "bigly" (as he would put it) this week, for metaphorically smacking Carly Fiorina in the face. He stopped short of using the word "ugly" or anything even more colorful (you just know he was thinking of a choice putdown but decided to dial it back), but made his feelings pretty transparent: America simply could not stand to see Carly Fiorina's face on their televisions for the next four years. Will this tank his support, even among Republican women? Not likely! In fact, Trump's polling dominance continues to grow, as he heads north of 30 percent. Only Ben Carson is over 10 percent anymore, and the other fifteen Republicans are all flailing wildly in the single digits.
Flailing especially hard this week was Bobby Jindal. Jindal, languishing somewhere below one percent in the polls, decided it was time to come out swinging at Trump. He put out a fairly hilarious ad comparing Trump's love of "winning" to Charlie Sheen, back when he was freaking out about "Winning!" and tiger blood and all the rest of it. Pretty funny, Bobby, but you'll still be at the kiddy table debate, sorry. Jindal did have one other choice thing to say about Trump, but it's so good we're saving it for the talking points.
Also flailing (although not quite as badly as Jindal) is Jeb! Bush. Bush seems to think that running for president means having to put out position papers on subjects like taxes. How quaint! In this Era Of Trump it's debatable whether such things matter or not any more, but nonetheless Jeb! released his tax plan anyway. It's got something in it to annoy pretty much everyone, which could also be said of his entire campaign, now that we think about it. Jeb! would end the "carried interest loophole" -- which translates, in Republicanese, to "raising capital gains taxes on the job-creators," so it'll likely go over like a lead balloon with Republican voters. It also adds over three trillion dollars to the deficit over the next decade, giving fiscal conservatives something to howl about. Oh, and it also would conveniently cut Jeb!'s own taxes by 25 percent. As we said, something for everyone to hate!
One thing worth mentioning is that the stars do seem to be possibly aligning in the political world to actually get rid of the carried-interest loophole that hedge fund managers use to pay half the taxes they should. Democrats (those worthy of the name, at least) have always pushed to close this loophole for good, but now two prominent Republican presidential candidates -- Bush and Trump -- have both called for the same thing that Bill de Blasio is currently championing. This loophole isn't going away tomorrow or anything, but it is indeed interesting to see some Republicans coming around on the issue, that's for sure.
Over on the Democratic side of the race, Joe Biden made an emotional appearance on last night's Stephen Colbert show. He is obviously still grieving over the loss of his son Beau, but the interesting thing was how people reacted today. Some point to Biden's appearance as evidence he's about to jump into the presidential race, and some say exactly the opposite, that it meant Biden will not run. We'll all have to wait another few weeks, most likely, to see who is right.
Hillary Clinton has got to be more than a little bit concerned over the state of her polling, in both Iowa and New Hampshire. In July, Clinton had 52 percent in Iowa to Bernie Sanders's 33 percent, but now Bernie's at 41 percent while Hillary has fallen to 40 percent. Sanders also now has roughly a 10-point lead over her in New Hampshire (seen in several polls). Bernie Sanders could win the first two contests in the primary race -- which would be a major achievement. Sanders is also expanding his campaign to the South and other places holding early primaries, so it seems likely he'll be competitive beyond just Iowa and New Hampshire.
Of course, the one-on-one dynamic on the Democratic side would be shaken up if Biden throws his hat in the ring. It's hard to predict what a Biden candidacy would do to the polling for Clinton and Sanders. Early indications are that Biden would pull from both candidates about equally, which wouldn't really give either Clinton or Sanders an edge from Biden getting in. But we'll see -- Biden's polling is still pretty impressive for a guy who hasn't even decided whether he's running or not.
In other news, President Obama had a pretty good week, as Congress is not going to send him a bill overturning the Iran nuclear deal. Obama would have vetoed it anyway, but now he won't even have to do that. Republicans in Congress proved, once again, that they are the gang who can't shoot straight, as John Boehner was almost held captive by the Tea Partiers (also, once again). This does not bode well for the upcoming budget fight, where the radicals are already threatening another government shutdown. September's going to be a frantic month in Congress, that's for sure.
Obama also announced this week that America would take in 10,000 more Syrian refugees (to date, we've taken in an underwhelming 1,500). Still a drop in the bucket, seeing as how Germany is taking in 800,000 this year alone.
And finally, after winning a religious equality battle in Oklahoma, the Satanic Temple now wants to put up a statue of Baphomet on public grounds in Arkansas. If the Ten Commandments are allowed, then a Satanic statue must also be allowed -- that's equal treatment under the law. It sounds silly, but these sorts of cases are the natural extension of religion inserting itself into what should be secular government. To put it another way: if Christmas is celebrated on public property, then you can't stop a Festivus pole from going up, too.
This week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is none other than the governor of California, Jerry Brown.
Now, those readers living in California know that Brown had a mixed week. The legislature wrapped up business without moving on several agenda items Brown wanted (including an aggressive plan to cut vehicle emissions in half). A "right to die" bill did make it through, although it's unclear whether Brown will sign it or not (it would make California the fifth state to approve legal medical suicide).
Legislation aside, however, Brown earns our MIDOTW award for taking on not only Ben Carson but the whole "show me the evidence" nonsense from the right on climate change. Here's the story:
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) mailed Carson a copy of the synthesis report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), along with a letter asking Carson to utilize his "considerable intelligence" to review the material. The IPCC is the scientific body created by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization to provide regular assessments of the state of climate science for policymakers.
Brown's letter came after Carson asked to see the science demonstrating climate change was caused by human activity during a visit to California earlier this week.
"I know there a lot of people who say 'overwhelming science,' but then when you ask them to show the overwhelming science, they never can show it," Carson told The San Francisco Chronicle. "There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused."
"Gimme a break," Carson added.
Brown said the flash drive contained the "overwhelming science" Carson wanted.
That is simply beautiful! Ask and ye shall receive, and all of that.
With such a simple and effective response, Brown definitely scored a point politically against Ben Carson and all the rest of the stick-your-head-in-the-sand Republicans. For handling it with both class and humor, Jerry Brown is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.
[Congratulate Governor Jerry Brown on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
More in sadness than in anger, we have to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award to Martin O'Malley.
O'Malley had a plan. He was going to be the anti-Hillary in the Democratic race. It would soon develop into a two-way contest, and if Clinton stumbled even a little bit, he'd be the safe alternative for Democrats to nominate.
This has not, in fact, happened.
Instead, O'Malley is regulated to the "Is he still running?" category, along with Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, and now Lawrence Lessig. Bernie Sanders caught fire, and presents a solid alternative to Clinton -- something the O'Malley campaign just didn't see coming. You've got to feel a little bit sorry for O'Malley, especially since all the buzz started about Biden's possible entry into the race. "Hey, guys?" you can see O'Malley saying, "I'm right here, guys -- the safe alternative to Clinton you're looking for!"
Instead, O'Malley released the most bizarre fundraising effort ever. Here's the story:
Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley sought Thursday to turn his low standing with Wall Street executives into an asset, sending out a fundraising appeal that featured a video of him playing guitar on the streets of New York's financial district.
The video, shot Wednesday by Independent Journal Review, shows the former Maryland governor, clad in jeans and a black T-shirt, singing "This Land is Your Land" on Wall Street as some passersby wind up taking selfies with him and throwing change into his open guitar case.
Over the course of an hour, O'Malley, who's had a side career as the frontman of a Celtic rock band, is said to have collected $1.74, plus one pack of Gummy Bears from someone without change.
"Donate to my campaign today and show Wall Street we can do better," O'Malley says in the fundraising pitch. "We will elect a candidate who will hold them accountable. We'll do better than gummy bears."
Wow, that's just... wow. O'Malley is reduced to begging for gummy bears on the streets? A buck-seventy-four in an hour? That's just sad.
So for all the millions of O'Malley voters who have never materialized, we have to say that Martin O'Malley was the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week. Maybe we should all send him gummy bears, or something.
[Martin O'Malley does not currently hold political office, and our policy is never to link to campaign websites, so you'll have to search his contact info out on your own to let him know what you think of his fundraising efforts.]
Volume 361 (9/11/15)
Obviously, I had to hastily rewrite one of these at the last minute. The rest are pretty standard fare, split between pointing out the idiocy of the GOP candidates and the idiocy of the GOP Congress. With a look backwards thrown in at the end, just for nostalgic reasons.
A game the whole family can play
Bye-bye, Rick! Let's have some fun picking who will be next to collapse....
"This time around, it seems that Rick Perry won't even have the chance to have an 'oops' moment at a national Republican debate, as he becomes the first Republican to drop out of the 2016 presidential race. Of course, it was inevitable with so many people running that a lot of them aren't even going to make it to the first primary. So who do you think will be next to go? My money's on Jim Gilmore, but I'm wondering if George Pataki might be a safer bet. So who would you bet on for the next Republican to take the exit ramp?"
Give us those papers you don't have!
Republicans in Congress, led (as always) by the Tea Partiers, devolved into farce this week.
"I see the House Republicans -- and a few senators running for president -- are now demanding an impossibility. Because they were so inept at voting against Obama's Iran nuclear deal, they tried to create their own reality to distract their own constituents. The clock hasn't started, they insist, on when Congress must vote on the Iran deal, because the White House has not provided them with the side deals Iran and the I.A.E.A. struck -- papers the White House does not have. Once again: they cannot provide what they do not have. This reality seems to have escaped congressional Republicans, but in the rest of the world the Iran deal is now complete. It'll take Republicans a while to realize it, but thankfully that won't matter to those of us who live in the real world."
Trump faces off with Fiorina next week. Should be fun for all!
"Can you actually imagine what would happen if Donald Trump became president? Faces he deemed not suitable for television would not appear -- we'd have only beautiful women, as defined by Trump. President Trump will save us all from ugliness ever appearing on our screens again! Think it's impossible? Yet Donald Trump's poll numbers continue to climb, no matter what comes out of his mouth. There is simply no ceiling yet to his mounting support within the party. He's now polling over 30 percent, and my guess is that if he gets above 35 percent and sustains it, he may well become unstoppable for the Republican nomination. It'll sure make for an entertaining campaign season, that's for sure! Can't wait to see the debates next week, when Fiorina takes him on in person."
Jindal gets off a good one
As promised, here is what Bobby Jindal had to say about Trump's religious knowledge. This is perfect for any Democrat to use, just preface with "...as Bobby Jindal said about Trump:"
Donald Trump has never read the Bible. The reason I know he has not read the Bible is that he's not in the Bible.
Don't deficits matter?
Jeb! is already getting heat on this one from his own party. So go ahead and rub it in!
"Jeb Bush's tax plan would explode deficits to the tune of 3.4 trillion dollars over ten years. Even if you use the magical pixie-dust-infused Republican math they've adopted, Bush's plan still adds over a trillion dollars to the debt. So I guess Jeb's following Dick Cheney's view that 'deficits don't matter.' I can remember when the Republican Party used to be against deficit spending, so I really wonder whether Jeb's plan is going to gain much support even in the GOP."
Pot, meet kettle
McConnell always sounds kind of whiney, but this week he was at his whiniest.
"Mitch McConnell used to believe that matters with a high level of controversy, quote, always require 60 votes, unquote. That's from back when he was in the minority in the Senate, of course. This week, he changed his tune, whining about the 'artificial limits on passage' caused by filibusters. McConnell complained 'the Senate should not hide behind procedural obfuscation to shield the president or our individual views.' Boy, that's rich! Sure is different when your own tactics are used against you, isn't it, Mitch?"
Another crazy heard from
Here's a blast from the past -- and it's not even from Sarah Palin!
"I guess Michele Bachmann is feeling a little left out these days. After all, the craziness she used to dish up on a regular basis now actually seems pretty mild in comparison to this year's Republican nomination race. Bachmann tried to get back in the game by chiming in on the Iran nuclear deal, insisting that 'bombing Iranian nuclear facilities' is the way to go. She then got downright Orwellian, stating that dropping these bombs 'is called peace, that's not called war.' Doesn't that take you back? Remember when she was livening up the Republican campaign trail with such pearls of wisdom? But in the Trump Era, she almost makes you nostalgic for an earlier time when such craziness would actually get you noticed."
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Become a fan of Chris on Huffington Post
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank