Friday Talking Points -- New Speaker's Speaking Problem

Kevin McCarthy is not worthy. Of using the English language correctly, among other things. Amusingly, though, this will likely not stop him from becoming the next speaker of the House. And if his past is any prologue, hearing the speaker speak should provide all sorts of amusement for the rest of us. It may not be the return of the garbled George W. Bush era of mangled English, but it could be close.

Without getting into the fallout of his recent announcement that Republicans had indeed convened the Benghazi committee to politically take Hillary Clinton down a few pegs, his statement led up to a key pronouncement: "She's untrustable." Um... "untrustable"? Is that anything like "non-trustally-minded"? Or maybe "distrustacious"? How about "untrustalicious"? I mean, the English language is flexible, so if the poetry muse strikes, why not come up with something even more hilarious to the late-night comics, such as perhaps "atrustadonkadonk"? Hillary Clinton might not be trustworthy, but Kevin McCarthy is just plain not worthy of being anybody's "speaker," really.

Think this is too strong a statement? Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has been capturing McCarthy's mangled oratory for a while, now. Here is McCarthy speaking last year, on a charter-school bill: "This is a great strength of a change making an equalizer inside for economy throughout." O-o-o-kay. Got it. I think.

Here's Milbank again, recording some of the more amusing gaffes from a speech McCarthy was recently giving off of prepared notes (in other words not ad-libbed, or anything):

In McCarthy's Monday address, Russia's hybrid warfare became "high-bred warfare," and restrictions on U.S. energy shipments became "the band on America." He spoke of the "beth path forward to safety and security"; he asserted that Syria's regime uses chemical weapons "to the very day"; he argued that the Soviet Union collapsed "because of America's leadership and America resolve." And he memorably rephrased the famous question asked of Republican presidential candidates: "Would you have gone to war if you knew what you knew now?"

From earlier in the article came these gems:

McCarthy called for "an effective politically strategy to match the military strategy," and he lamented that "we have isolated Israel while bolding places like Iran." He blamed President Obama's White House for "putting us in tough decisions for the future," but he voiced hope that a "safe zone would create a stem the flow of refugees." And he scolded the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to assist returning servicemen "who fought to the death in Ramadi."

Hoo boy. Can't wait to see who gets to play him on Saturday Night Live.

Speaking of SNL, and speaking of mangling lines, and also speaking of Hillary Clinton (that's what's known as a triple-segue, folks), Hillary will reportedly be doing a cameo tomorrow night in the "cold open" sketch, to kick off another season of Saturday Night Live. Speaking for SNL fans everywhere, I hope she's had some training in how to deliver the opening line, which she muffed last time (which we pointed out way back in FTP [22]) in what could almost be described as Rainier Wolfcastle fashion ("Up and at them"...). For the love of all that's holy, won't someone on Team Hillary please get her to practice saying "it's" instead of "it is" to open the show? We'll see... tomorrow night... live from New York.

Clinton is already having a pretty good week, thanks to the aforementioned McCarthy. During an interview, McCarthy flat-out admitted that the entire Benghazi investigation (which has now gone on longer than any congressional investigation in history -- including Watergate) was nothing more than a cheap political stunt to inflict as much political damage on Clinton as humanly possible. Here's his quote:

Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.

This confirms what Clinton's been saying all along, that the entire exercise is nothing more than a personal and political vendetta against her. Benghazi has already been investigated seven or eight times, and no wrongdoing has been found by each and every investigation. And yet, House Republicans are investigating again, because they can. Clinton will be appearing before the House committee to answer questions later this month, and that task just got a whole lot easier after McCarthy's "Kinsley gaffe" (defined as: "accidentally speaking the truth in Washington").

In other congressional-vendetta-hearing news, the head of Planned Parenthood acquitted herself well against the combined wrath of Republicans busily creating campaign quotes, trying to outdo each other as to how rude they could be towards the witness. Nothing much came of it, because Planned Parenthood is not breaking any laws, as multiple state investigations have shown. The entire exercise was supposed to be part and parcel of a government shutdown showdown over Planned Parenthood funding, but due to John Boehner resigning, this was postponed until the Christmas shopping season. So we've all got that to look forward to, ten weeks from now.

There was yet another shooting rampage on a college campus this week, but since this has become almost a regular event -- and since absolutely nothing will be done about it politically -- it seems pointless to rehash all the arguments. President Obama gave a statement expressing his frustration and anger over the lack of political will to change anything, but that too is (sadly) becoming almost a regular event.

In marijuana news, California may soon have five competing ballot initiatives on legalizing recreational marijuana, including the one everyone's been waiting for from a coalition of marijuana reform organizations. The other four will likely not gain the signatures needed to actually get on the ballot, so the coalition's proposed ballot initiative will likely be the one to watch. In Oregon, legal recreational marijuana sales have now begun, making it the third state to do so (Alaska and Washington D.C. have also passed legalization laws, but have not started legal sales yet).

More interestingly, a South Dakota tribe has just announced that they will soon be selling legal recreational marijuana at their casino. I wrote about this upcoming phenomenon earlier this year, pointing out that over 100 tribes had expressed interest in selling marijuana on tribal lands. This includes -- as is the case in South Dakota -- tribes which are located in states which have not legalized recreational marijuana's use. This is all the result of a surprising decision by the Justice Department last year which cleared the way for federally-recognized tribes to sell marijuana in the same way Colorado, Washington, and Oregon now do -- without fear of federal reprisals.

So far, except for D.C., all the states to legalize have been far to the west of the Mississippi River. Marijuana tourism is therefore a major undertaking for the tens of millions of people who live on the East Coast. Even South Dakota isn't all that much closer than Colorado, and it isn't exactly an airline hub -- meaning it wouldn't be any cheaper to travel to, for most folks. But if a few East Coast tribes start legal marijuana sales, they are almost guaranteed an enormous windfall due to the relative ease of getting there (at least until the practice becomes so common that legal marijuana is a short drive away for just about everybody). This could drive the legalization movement a lot faster than many expect, as the East Coast states start eyeing how much money is being made (and could be made, through taxation) on the reservations. It will indeed be interesting to see how this all develops.


Before we get to the main award, we have to give Senator Elizabeth Warren an Honorable Mention for taking down a corporate shill at a liberal think tank. Robert Lutan took a bunch of money from a corporate client, wrote a report criticizing one of Warren's consumer protection rules which targeted the financial services industry, so Warren called him out on it. He apparently did the report on his own time, but also tried to give insinuate it had the imprimatur of the Brookings Institution. By week's end, he was gone from Brookings. Let this be a lesson to all think-tankers: take corporate bribes at your own risk!

But our real Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was, once again, Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has had to work hard to get his message out, because he's been almost entirely blacked-out of any mention on broadcast television's evening news shows. I wrote about this earlier this week, but the basic statistics are: Total time ABC, CBS, and NBC have devoted to covering the presidential campaign so far -- 504 minutes. Total time devoted to Donald Trump's campaign: 145 minutes. Total time for Hillary Clinton (not even including coverage about the email scandal, which clocked in at an additional 83 minutes): 82 minutes. Total time for Jeb Bush: 43 minutes. Total time for Bernie Sanders: 8 minutes. That's a pretty stark assessment of how seriously the media has taken Bernie's campaign so far.

Meanwhile, Bernie just set a new record for how early any presidential candidate has gotten over one million donations. Barack Obama famously had huge online donor support, but he didn't reach this point until February of 2008 -- a full four months after the mark Bernie has now set. Bernie's getting tiny donations, but he's getting a whole lot of them. He doesn't do much formal fundraising, and even when he does he charges sums like $100 to attend, rather than thousands and thousands of dollars. This gives Bernie a big advantage, actually, because while other candidates quickly max donors out (there's a limit to how much individuals can give to a campaign), Bernie can keep going back to his supporters for more small donations -- which is effective because he's got so many of them.

The truly stunning news wasn't how many donations Bernie has received -- which, by the way, can be described as "more donations than any other candidate in the race, from either party" -- but rather his fundraising total for the third quarter. While Hillary Clinton raised $28 million, Bernie Sanders was right behind at $26 million. Hillary, however, has been burning through her money rather quickly, while Bernie has kept most of his in the bank for now, which means that they're pretty close to even when it comes to cash on hand.

This is unbelievably impressive, especially for a candidate who only garnered a little more than 1.5 percent of the available broadcast television news time so far. Bernie Sanders was supposed to be some sort of quixotic or gadfly campaign, which got ultra-lefties excited but wouldn't have any sort of wide support or staying power. It was supposed to be a quaint little political science experiment by a goofy guy from Vermont -- in other words, the second coming of Howard Dean. But so far, Bernie has exceeded expectations on just about every level imaginable. He draws the biggest crowds of any presidential candidate (bigger than Trump's, even), he has gotten more donations than any other candidate, and he is drawing even with Hillary Clinton not only in the polls but now also in the fundraising. Clinton may continue to ignore Sanders, but our guess is that the mainstream media won't be able to do so for much longer.

This week, the choice for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award is pretty obvious. Bernie Sanders campaign has defied all odds so far, and it looks like it will continue to do so for some time to come. More and more people are "feeling the Bern" these days, it appears.

[We do not link to campaign sites as a general rule, but you can congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


We have to say we're a little disappointed in Vice President Joe Biden's ongoing game of "Will he or won't he?" Earlier this year, Biden said he'd make the decision whether to run for president or not "by the end of the summer." This then became "by the end of September." Everyone assumed he'd have to announce before the deadline for entry into the first debate, but CNN now says he's welcome on stage even if he announces earlier the same day. Now the timeline has stretched to "maybe by late October." But the waiting game is counterproductive, whether you want to see Biden run or not. If he's going to run, he's got to get going -- the first caucus is now only four months away. If he isn't going to run, then he's got to clear the field for a two-person race between Clinton and Sanders. Either way, the time has come to make up your mind, Joe.

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who just announced he'll be stepping down before the end of Obama's term in office.

Arne Duncan has been a massive disappointment for many -- most of them teachers and others who care about the education issue. Want to know why Arne Duncan is so disappointing? Ask a teacher. His support of dubious federal schemes (charter schools being the most prominently odious) has earned him nothing but scorn from teachers across America, most of whom would have liked to see him retire long before now.

A few years back, I ran a column (with a scathing cartoon, even!) from a guest author, Joshua L. Eisenstein, Ph.D., who laid out a pretty stunning case against Duncan and the Obama Education Department in general. So if you're unsure why we're giving Arne Duncan a parting MDDOTW award, check that link out.

If the universe were just, Duncan would have to stay after school for a few years, writing a bazillion times on a chalkboard: "Charter schools do no better than traditional schools, they just destroy teachers' unions," but we'll have to settle for seeing the door hit his rear on the way out.

[Contact Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the official Department of Education contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 364 (10/2/15)

Rather a mixed bunch, this week. While most of these can be used by just about anyone, we'd really like to see the fifth one used in a broadcast television interview of a Democratic officeholder, because public shaming is precisely what is called for to change this particular situation.


   Avoid all shutdowns!

This falls into the category of "makes too much sense to ever happen," probably.

"I see we averted another government shutdown, but we'll be facing another one of these self-inflicted crises again right before Christmas. Representative Alan Grayson has a great idea which would end this nonsense forever, but so far this fantastic idea has gone precisely nowhere. Grayson's bill -- H.R.1776 -- would free America from ever having to pay the price for Republican tantrums in Congress. Congress could pass budget bills the same way they do now, whether before, during, or after a fiscal deadline. But if they failed to meet the deadline, the entire federal budget would continue to be funded under whatever previous amounts were already in place. That's it -- one simple change. No budget in place? Well then, federal spending continues on autopilot. It wouldn't change a thing -- Congress could still pass a new budget whenever they got around to actually doing their jobs -- but in the meantime, the money would still be there for the government to continue to operate. Hate all these budget dramas? Call your representative or senator, and demand they support Grayson's bill."


   This is progress?

Just to put what happened into perspective....

"So we just averted another shutdown, and everyone in Congress seems to be patting themselves on the back for a job well done. This is preposterous! Getting a stopgap bill through took the resignation of the speaker of the House, and it only bought us another 10 weeks before we face yet another shutdown threat from the vocal minority in the Republican Party. This is progress? This is a job well done? A speaker of the House throwing himself on his sword just to gain two and a half months? None of the issues have actually been resolved, and we're going to have a huge budget fight right in the middle of the holiday season. Boy, Congress should really be proud of itself!"


   Living in glass houses

Nothing like the sanctimonious being shown to have feet of clay, is there?

"I see that Indiana House Majority Leader Jud McMillin has just resigned, making him the most recent in a long line of Republicans who live in glass houses while chucking stones at others with abandon. This is a guy who cosponsored Indiana's 'religious freedom' law so that all people who get sanctimonious about how they revere marriage can legally discriminate against others. But apparently McMillin didn't revere his own marriage very much. It seems a sexually-explicit video of McMillin and a woman who was not in fact his legal wife was blasted out to everyone on his 'contacts' list. He later claimed his phone 'was stolen in Canada' and was out of his control 'for about 24 hours.' Salon amusingly called this the 'Canadian girlfriend stole my phone' defense, but it didn't work for McMillin. Once again, a Republican who crusaded to 'protect the institution of marriage' has announced that he will now have to 'spend more time with his family' as he makes his hypocritical exit from public life."


   That's an awfully big cat, Kevin

I'm sure the Clinton campaign will have some prime snark about this one.

"Kevin McCarthy, the man who will likely become the next speaker of the House, just let a rather large cat out of the bag. He admitted on national television that the entire Benghazi investigation was nothing more than a partisan pre-emptive attack on Hillary Clinton's political prospects. He actually sounds proud of the fact that he's been wasting taxpayer money on this witchhunt, even after six or seven other investigations found precisely nothing. Anyone with half a brain could see that this was the real reason behind launching yet another investigation -- attacking Hillary's polling numbers, as McCarthy just boasted. But while everyone knew this was the case, Republicans were never supposed to actually come out and admit the truth in such blunt language. This wasn't some fluffy little kitten McCarthy just let out of the bag -- it was more like a saber-toothed tiger. If this is what we can expect from McCarthy, then I look forward to hearing him interviewed in the future, on all kinds of issues."


   The Rodney Dangerfield of candidates

I admit I already used this line in an earlier column this week.

"Bernie Sanders is the Rodney Dangerfield of presidential candidates, because he don't get no respect from the media. He's running a close second nationally to Hillary Clinton, he's ahead of her in the polls from Iowa and New Hampshire, and he just announced he raised pretty much the same amount of money she did in the previous quarter. Sanders draws bigger crowds than anyone in the field from either party, and his poll numbers among Democrats are better than the polling of every Republican candidate among their own party's voters -- with the exception of Donald Trump. And yet, out of 504 minutes -- that's almost eight and a half hours total -- of broadcast network coverage of the presidential campaign to date, precisely eight minutes have been devoted to Bernie's campaign. That's pathetic. As Rodney Dangerfield would say, Bernie don't get no respect."


   Reverse Robin Hood tax policy still popular among GOP

Donald Trump released his tax plan this week. It bore certain similarities to all the other Republican candidates' tax plans.

"Donald Trump has now released his tax plan, and just like Jeb Bush's and all the other Republican candidates (who have bothered to come up with any plan at all), it will solve income inequality by showering larger and larger tax breaks upon the wealthy. That's right, folks, the way to combat inequality in America is to give the rich folks more and more money -- that's obviously going to solve the problem, right? I mean, it's worked so well in the past...."


   Vote for Santa Claus!

And finally, a historic candidacy from the far north.

"I see that Santa Claus is running for city council in North Pole, Alaska. Boy, the jokes just write themselves on that one. I mean, you just can't make this stuff up, folks. After all, who would vote against a man who knew whether you'd been naughty or nice?"


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