Friday Talking Points -- Hillary's Very Good Week

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks  final hour of a marathon test
Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks final hour of a marathon testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Hillary Clinton just had the best week of her campaign yet. Not only did she shine at the Benghazi hearing yesterday, three of her Democratic opponents dropped out of the presidential nomination race. Joe Biden was never actually in the race, but his announcement that he wouldn't run was more significant than Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee ending their campaigns. This leaves Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, and Lawrence Lessig. Of those four, only Sanders and Clinton have any chance at winning the nomination, and Hillary's doing better in the polls than Sanders. So, all in all, a very good week for Hillary Clinton.

Republicans are getting a little worried, as they should. One House member from Alabama is already on the case, though, warming up the all-but-inevitable "Impeach Hillary Clinton Committee." No, really. Here's what Mo Brooks had to say about Hillary Clinton: "She will be a unique president if she is elected by the public next November, because the day she's sworn in is the day that she's subject to impeachment because she has committed high crimes and misdemeanors." Good thing Republicans are planning ahead, eh?

Speaking of Republicans planning ahead, the coronation of Paul Ryan is apparently now officially going to happen. In a hilarious turnabout, Ryan met with the Tea Partiers and issued his own list of demands to them. Shoe's on the other foot now, guys! If you don't like Ryan making take-it-or-leave-it demands of you, perhaps you should think for one tiny minute about how the rest of the country feels when you do it to us.

Ryan does not want to do all that boring fundraising that normally guarantees a hungry politician a job like speaker of the House. He'd rather play with his kids. And who can blame him, really? Take the kids to a football game versus call some plutocrat and beg for a fat check? That's a pretty easy call. Ryan also laughably demanded that the Tea Partiers stop knifing the speaker in the back so often. However, we seriously doubt that the Tea Partiers are going to play nice, sit down, and shut up for very long. It's not really who they are, to state the glaringly obvious.

There was quite a bit of marijuana news in the past week, beginning with Gallup announcing that support for outright legalization is now at 58 percent of all Americans -- the highest it has ever been. [Pause, so you can make a "How high is it?" type of joke....] Kidding aside, that's a pretty astounding amount of the country that wants our current marijuana laws to go the way of Prohibition. Sooner or later the politicians will notice this trend, and stop being weaselly about "supporting medical marijuana" and just come out for full legalization.

Speaking of politicians being weaselly about medical marijuana, we have a Chris Christie update. Of all the candidates running for president, Christie has been most supportive of moving the country backwards in the War On Weed. The questions he's been getting on the issue are getting a lot more specific, pointing out a basic contradiction in his political stance. In a recent town hall in Iowa, someone has asked Christie the exact question I wanted to hear him answer. A veteran asked Christie directly about the issue of marijuana being a federal Schedule I substance, defined as having "no medicinal value." Christie tried to explain that medical marijuana was somehow different because a doctor prescribes it. The questioner pointed out that he was flat-out wrong about that: "But under federal law, a doctor can't write a prescription. They can only recommend. Because it's a Schedule I substance. That's the problem." Christie went on to -- again, wrongly -- state that the president can't change the law, Congress must act. In fact, the attorney general can change the classification just by signing a piece of paper. The more this issue gets raised in questions to politicians, the closer we come to actually admitting that state-level medical marijuana has not changed federal law one bit. Kudos to Shelly Van Winkle for pinning down Chris Christie, who has staked out the most reactionary position of any candidate on marijuana.

One aspect of federal law has changed for the better, and a federal judge just smacked down the Justice Department over its refusal to accept the new reality. Medical marijuana providers -- even in states where it is legal by state law -- are still being persecuted by federal attorneys. Democrat Sam Farr and Republican Dana Rohrabacher put together a bill in the House to ban this abuse of power, by zeroing out the budget for the Justice Department for any resources used to target medical marijuana operations in states where it is legal. Federal judge Charles Breyer just confirmed that this new law means exactly what it says it means and that the Justice Department should just cease and desist trying to reinterpret it to mean something else. So while medical marijuana is still a Schedule I substance and is illegal, the feds now won't be able to do anything about it in states that have changed their own laws. This is not the perfect solution -- the law itself needs to be changed at the federal level -- but this is Congress effectively using the "power of the purse" to temporarily halt such persecution. The Justice Department should not appeal this ruling, but rather they should wholeheartedly embrace the new law.

And finally, we end this introduction with parachuting beavers. Just because.


A case could be made for Elijah Cummings to receive this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Cummings has had the thankless task, for many moons now, of rebutting all the nonsense leaks that have come from the Republicans on the "Committee To Take Down Hillary Clinton," pretty much ever since it started. Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the committee, and he finally had his moment in the spotlight yesterday.

Cummings responded to the new obsession of the Republicans on the committee over Sidney Blumenthal by demanding that Blumenthal's nine hours of testimony before the committee be made public. After all, if Blumenthal is such a bugaboo to Republicans, there must be a reason why and that reason should be found in the questions they asked him and the answers he gave, right? Demonizing Blumenthal doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but then nothing about the Benghazi committee makes a whole lot of sense, so it fits right in, we suppose. Still, the vocal argument Cummings got into with Trey Gowdy was the actual highlight of yesterday's hearing. Cummings has been saying stuff like this for a long time now, but the press has ignored him in favor of blindly reprinting the leaks from the Republicans on the committee. Finally, Cummings got to make his case in a very public way.

Still, even with his impressive performance yesterday, Cummings only gets an Honorable Mention this week. Because there was someone even more impressive in that hearing.

Without doubt, Hillary Clinton was the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Not only did three Democratic challengers fall by the wayside this week, but we finally got polling results which showed that most Democrats thought she won last week's debate. She has reversed her slide in the polls, and is climbing back towards 50 percent support.

And that was all before the Benghazi committee hearing.

Hillary Clinton sat for something like 11 hours before a House committee specifically formed to do her maximum political damage. This is the eighth major Benghazi investigation, for anyone who's keeping count, so Clinton already knew what to expect.

What was billed as the major takedown of the strongest Democratic presidential candidate, however, did not happen as the Republicans had planned. Clinton clearly got the better of the committee members, and provided zero fireworks and zero scandalous revelations. As I had predicted earlier in the week, the focus was all on the questioners, and not Clinton. Very early on, it was obvious that they had no new surprises to reveal, and that for all the noise about emails, there simply was no scandal contained within them. Sidney Blumenthal? That's all you got? Wow -- can we the American taxpayers get our money back? This investigation has dragged on far too long (so that it could schedule hearings during the presidential campaign), and spent far too much money for what we saw on display yesterday.

Hillary rose above it all in spectacular fashion. She never lost her cool, and provided no "gotcha" moments at all. She looked, in a word, presidential. Hillary Clinton was clearly the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week last week.

[As a rule, we do not provide links to campaign sites, so you'll have to search Hillary Clinton's contact information yourself if you'd like to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


In the "too much information" category, we have this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, former Obama aide David Axelrod felt the need to share with us all an interesting fact. Oh, and we warn everyone that the next paragraph contains strong language, so send the kids into the next room before you read it.

Axelrod, in a recent interview about the time he was asked to become an official aide to President Obama, said: "I've spent my whole life setting myself up so I could tell anybody I wanted to go fuck themselves. And I've walked out of campaigns and work situations when I thought that it wasn't right. And I said [to Obama] 'you can't say that to the president of the United States.'" Obama responded, according to Axelrod: "You can tell me to fuck myself, just don't do it in front of anybody else."

That's enough to disappoint people who have an ideal of the way politics is supposed to happen, and those who just don't like profanity. But that's not what disappointed us. It was the last line of the story which won Axelrod this week's MDDOTW: "Axelrod didn't elaborate in the interview whether he ever actually told Obama to go fuck himself in the White House."

C'mon, Dave! If you're going to tell a story like that, you should back it up by answering the real question: did you ever do so? In what particular circumstance? That's more interesting than just having the green light to do so if the need arose.

So not for what he demanded, and not for the language used, but rather for being a tease (what, are we going to have to wait for him to write a memoir to know?), David Axelrod is this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[David Axelrod is now a private citizen, and our longstanding policy is not to provide contact information for those not in public office.]


Volume 367 (10/23/15)

A mixed bag this week, with a few jabs at Jeb! thrown in for good measure. Enjoy, and as always, use responsibly.


   Find Benghazi on a map

This would be a fantastic game to play with any of the Republicans on the committee. Try it yourself to see how well you do!

"I would like to challenge the Republicans on the Benghazi committee to find Benghazi on an unmarked map of the world. The Washington Post has a page up to see how close you can get, and I'd really like to know how far off the members of the Benghazi committee would be. I got within 47 miles when I tried, can the people investigating Benghazi do better?"


   Release the transcript!

This is a handy one to whip out whenever any Republican utters the name "Sidney Blumenthal."

"I'm not sure why Republicans are obsessing over Sidney Blumenthal, but since you seem to be, why not make his testimony public? If Sidney Blumenthal is truly the key to understanding what went on with Benghazi -- which Republicans seem to be making the case for, considering the number of times they brought him up in the hearing -- then why not make the nine hours of him testifying before the committee public? Release the transcript, Chairman Gowdy! Let America see what Blumenthal had to say for himself, or stop bringing him up as some sort of bugaboo. Release the transcript!"


   Either terrorists are responsible, or not

Jake Tapper made an excellent point, in the midst of the fracas between Jeb! Bush and Donald Trump over 9/11. Rather than reframing this as a talking point, instead we're just going to provide the actual questions Tapper asked Jeb! recently (Jeb! didn't answer the question, so his blathering has been omitted for being irrelevant):

Obviously Al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attack of 9/11, but how do you respond to critics who ask, if your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?

. . .

Well that's, that's kind of proving the point of the critics I was just asking about, because you don't want to have your brother bear responsibility for 9/11 and I understand that argument and Al Qaeda's responsible, but why are the terrorists not the ones who are responsible for these attacks in Libya?


   Bush tanks campaign economy

Speaking of Jeb!...

"Jeb Bush's entire campaign was supposed to be built around how he would magically make the American economy grow by leaps and bounds. That was his whole purpose in running. Now it seems that he can't even make his own campaign's economy grow. I hear he's cutting back something like half his staff, and having to economize across the board. So why should we elect him president, again? Because he knows how to make the economy grow? I don't see any proof of that from his campaign, personally."


   Paul Ryan, savior

You could almost visualize the Republicans prostrating themselves while chanting: "We are not worthy!"

"Did Paul Ryan just get elected Pope? I even heard some Republicans were tweeting things like 'we have white smoke' when Ryan announced he'd reluctantly take the job of speaker of the House -- as long as he didn't have to work too hard at it. Ryan is being hailed as the savior of the House Republicans, but my guess is that this honeymoon is going to be pretty darn short. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Ryan eventually quits the job in frustration, just like John Boehner did. Paul Ryan doesn't actually walk on water or anything -- he's still got the job of governing the most ungovernable group of people in Washington. I mean, good luck to him and all, but I'm not exactly expecting miracles."


   Our tax dollars at work

The Justice Department released a report yesterday, which was largely ignored by the media.

"Have you seen the inspector general's report on the Drug Enforcement Agency? It seems that D.E.A. agents who were doing things like hosting prostitutes 'on a regular basis' in government-leased quarters -- and then assaulting one of them as well -- didn't have to worry about their bonuses even after this misconduct came to light. Five of the ten individuals under investigation for soliciting prostitutes received bonuses of thousands of dollars each during the investigation. These agents still work for the D.E.A., after getting slapped on the wrist with letters of reprimand. If Congress has a bunch of spare time to investigate things, the D.E.A. would be a dandy place to start."


   O Canada!

Meanwhile, up north...

"The new Liberal prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has indicated that he's open to legalizing marijuana for all Canadians. This means people could soon be able to drive from Portland, Oregon all the way to Anchorage without having to worry about getting busted for that roach in the ashtray. I applaud Canadians for electing a leader who is showing some common sense on ending the War On Weed. I wish America had people brave enough to take such a stand while running for our highest office, in fact. If Canada legalizes recreational use of marijuana there will be a large chorus of O Canada echoing from all over this country, that's my guess."


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