Friday Talking Points -- Rebutting GOP Debate Nonsense

This week's talking points are all, essentially, rebuttals to the biggest nonsense espoused on the stage of the fourth Republican debate. It was hard to pick only seven, as there was a bumper crop of nonsense in this particular debate, so forgive us if your favorite didn't make the cut.
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Ted Cruz speaks as Carly Fiorina tries to make a comment during a Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Ted Cruz speaks as Carly Fiorina tries to make a comment during a Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!

Since it's such an auspicious day, perhaps it's time to have a discussion about the increasingly-real possibility that Donald Trump or Ben Carson could actually become the Republican nominee for president next year. It's a scary, scary thing for most to contemplate, but the punditocracy's inside-the-Beltway strategy of just clapping our hands real hard and hoping that Tinkerbell quietly lies down somewhere to die just doesn't seem to be working. Pretty much every pundit under the sun -- from the hard left to the hard right -- has so far written a column this year predicting Trump's imminent political demise. To date, none of them have proven even slightly true. Trump is now challenged for the lead, but he's still polling at roughly the same level of support that he has pretty much ever since he got in the race. Ben Carson has risen to Trump's level in the polling much more than Trump has fallen back. The "Trump (and now, Carson) is going to fade -- it's inevitable" line of thinking is getting more and more divorced from the polling realities. So perhaps it's time to start thinking the unthinkable: either of these two men could actually become the Grand Old Party's nominee for the highest office in the land.

Democrats mostly ponder such an outcome with what might be called orgiastic schadenfreude. Wouldn't it be fitting, they think, for Republicans to torpedo their own chances in such a fashion? What this line of thinking ignores is that should either man win the nomination, he's going to be a lot stronger than you might now think. Winning a nomination means winning a whole lot of votes. Democrats might laugh throughout the primary season, but could stop laughing when the polls for the general election get a lot closer than they expect.

Republicans are already freaking out. Here's a quote from a "veteran operative and fundraiser now advising former governor Jeb Bush," to show the depths of these fears: "If we don't have the right [nominee], we could lose the Senate, and we could face losses in the House. Those are very, very real concerns. If we're not careful and we nominate Trump, we're looking at a race like Barry Goldwater in 1964 or George McGovern in 1972, getting beat up across the board because of our nominee." Pretty apocalyptic stuff, and he's not the only one thinking such dark thoughts on the Republican side.

One way or another, both sides are just beginning to come to grips with the fact that Trump and Carson have -- by an incredibly wide margin -- the best chances of winning the nomination. No other Republican candidate has caught fire with the base in anything close to the love they're now showing Trump and Carson. A sobering thought for all, on this Friday the 13th. Yes, it could happen. No, Trump and Carson's fall is not inevitable. No, Jeb Bush is not going to be president. Deal with it.

In other news from the Republican campaign trail, we have what is possibly the stupidest question ever being debated. Jeb Bush would cheerfully go back in time and kill baby Hitler, while Ben Carson would refuse to abort fetus Hitler. No word on what Marty McFly would do, yet. Stay tuned....

A White House spokesman was rendered utterly speechless when asked about Ben Carson's claim that the Chinese military was a big faction in Syria, which we suppose is a sign of the times. Jaw-dropping idiocy is what passes for "political truth-telling" these days, and being rendered speechless is as good a response as any to such sheer lunacy.

Three Republicans (Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal) campaigned at an event organized by a preacher who wants to just kill all the gay people, and the media didn't even blink. Imagine if a Democratic candidate listened to a preacher who said something controversial... oh, wait a minute... that already happened, didn't it? I don't remember the media ignoring it, back then, do you?

There was a Republican debate this week, which we'll address in more detail in the talking points section, but we do have to point out that Ben Carson is so much better at the whole "word salad" thing than Sarah Palin ever was. Toss a random bunch of key phrases together, and people don't even realize you have not said anything at all!

John Kasich appeared on Stephen Colbert's show (YouTube has the relevant segment), and Colbert forcefully asked a question we've been waiting a long, long time to hear asked of any politician who ever admitted to marijuana use in their past. The question? "How do you think your life would be different -- would you be where you are today -- if you had been caught and arrested for using marijuana back then?" We've been waiting pretty much ever since Bill Clinton tried his whole "didn't inhale" shtick, back in the 1990s, in fact. Kasich absolutely ignored the question, trying to lump marijuana in with heroin, but we certainly applaud Colbert for even asking it.

The times they are a-changing on the entire political issue of marijuana. It used to be treated as a joke -- any politician could use some form of: "Why are you asking me that, what have you been smoking? Hyuck-yuck-yuck!" to skate away from even discussing the issue in any sort of serious way. Now, every Republican candidate for president supports medical marijuana in one form or another. Democrats are about to debate whether rescheduling marijuana down to Schedule II is enough, or whether it should be descheduled altogether -- the most substantive debate on the issue since at least the 1970s. Which is one of the reasons we're looking forward to tomorrow night's debate.

If you're sick of hearing about the presidential race, there is a very different (and fascinating) election happening in Hawai'i which could determine how the native Hawai'ians organize themselves politically.

And finally, some (mostly bad) news from the Secret Service. The non-bad part: they've given Trump the code name "Mogul," which is kind of amusing (he got to pick it from a list of "M-words," apparently, so it's anyone's guess what else was on that list). What is not amusing, however, is the news that a Secret Service agent has been arrested for "[sending] obscene images and texts to someone he thought was a young Delaware girl, sometimes doing it while on duty at the White House.... [Lee Robert] Moore sent naked photos of himself to the undercover officer and asked to meet in person to have sex, according to the complaint." This is a guy who worked gate security for the White House, deciding who to allow into the grounds. What is wrong with this agency? It's seen several changes in leadership, and still seems to be nothing more than a fraternity of sex-obsessed morons. Story after story emerges, and still the culture doesn't seem to change.

Hillary Clinton moved toward the position Bernie Sanders had already staked out on marijuana legal reform this week, but it was a half-measure at best. Clinton is now in favor of moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the controlled substances list, which is indeed long overdue. Bernie, of course, wants it off the schedules altogether, and under the control of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which is where it logically should be. Still, because Hillary's move virtually guarantees the most substantive discussion on changing federal marijuana laws ever to be included in a presidential debate (tomorrow night), she at least deserves an Honorable Mention. Her half-measure will be contrasted with Bernie's full support for descheduling, which is a discussion we've been waiting to hear for a long time.

President Obama came out in support of amending the Civil Rights Act to include gays and lesbians, which is truly the end of the road for the gay rights movement. Marriage was an important step, but knowing you can't be fired or evicted for who you are is much more fundamental. This effort is going to take years, but Obama's support is an important step, so he gets an Honorable Mention as well.

This week, we're going non-partisan, because although (obviously) it will be Democrats who will fight for their goal, the organization itself is not technically a partisan entity. So instead of our usual MIDOTW award, this week we're changing it to the Most Impressive Progressive Of The Week. Our first-ever MIPOTW goes to the Fight For $15 group, which has been instrumental in the fight to raise the minimum wage. Fast food workers across the country demonstrated this week, as they've been doing for years. However, they've been racking up some impressive victories, not least the fact that Democratic presidential candidates are now fully on board with a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all.

Progress happens slowly. Persistence is needed, as well as a whole lot of stamina. The concept of a $15 minimum wage was once seen as a pipe dream, but more and more localities (cities, counties, etc.) are going ahead and passing their own minimum wage increases, because they're tired of waiting for Congress to act.

The more this movement grows, the more potent a political issue it becomes. Which (again, obviously) helps Democrats. More than that, it helps Democrats build a critical mass to actually make it happen. So this week, we salute the Fight For $15 movement with the Most Impressive Progressive Of The Week award, and wish them further political success in the future.

[Congratulate Fight For $15 on their contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

We're not entirely sure he's a Democrat, but since he was appointed by Barack Obama we're going to consider him fair game.

The acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, needs to go. It took years of public pressure for Obama to get rid of his last D.E.A. chief, so hopefully he'll act faster on this one.

Now, we do realize that, for a very long time now, the head of the D.E.A. was expected to -- on a regular basis -- make up bizarre assertions which were backed up by absolutely nothing. I mean, it was part of the job description, almost: "Must be able to pull nonsense out of your butt during a press conference, and then act as if whatever you've just made up is the actual truth." The same went for the "drug czar," the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (who was really nothing more than Chief Propagandist on the subject).

But those days should be in the past. However, the memo apparently hasn't gotten to Chuck. This week, Rosenberg baldly stated that medical marijuana was "a joke."

Medical marijuana is not a joke. In fact, almost half the states allow it to happen legally, and if you add in all the states that have approved some form of marijuana as medicine, it comes out to eighty percent of them.

You know what's a joke? Federal law that states unequivocally that marijuana "has no accepted medical use" in America. That is the joke, and it's not exactly a funny one.

There's a petition to convince Obama to fire Chuck Rosenberg. As of this writing, it had over 56,000 signatures. Feel free to add your name to the list, as we do our part by awarding Rosenberg the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Contact Chuck Rosenberg via the D.E.A.'s contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 369 (11/13/15)

We have a cohesive group of talking points this week, to offer up to all and sundry, whether you're discussing politics around the water cooler or a guest on a political talk show airing on Sunday morning (Sundry morning?).

This week's talking points are all, essentially, rebuttals to the biggest nonsense espoused on the stage of the fourth Republican debate. It was hard to pick only seven, as there was a bumper crop of nonsense in this particular debate, so forgive us if your favorite didn't make the cut. You can always offer up your own talking point for anything we've missed, in the comments. If you're a real glutton for punishment, you can read the entire transcript of the Republican debate to mine more nuggets of lunacy.

Wages are too high

This is one of the Democrats' strongest issues, and Donald Trump just gave them a gift.

"When asked whether America should raise the minimum wage in the Republican debate, pretty much every candidate who responded said they would leave the minimum wage where it is. Except for one. Donald Trump thinks, and I quote, 'wages are too high.' Got that? The federal minimum wage is too high, not too low. I would like to see, in the next debate, all the Republican candidates asked whether they agree with Trump or not -- and whether they'd lower the minimum wage. Perhaps they'll get in a bidding war to see how low a minimum wage they each would support."

Yeah, that's the answer!

It being a debate hosted by Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal, the candidates' tax plans didn't come under a whole lot of scrutiny.

"When asked about the fact that the jobs market does much, much better under Democratic presidents, the Republicans on the stage, as usual, just ignored the facts. Instead, they all advocated tax plans which would blow gigantic, multi-trillion-dollar holes in the federal budget. Even when they use their patented Republican pixie-dust budgeting math, the results still show massive, trillion-dollar additions to the national debt. This, from a party who supposedly cares about such things! But the biggest insanity isn't their deficit problems -- or problems with basic math -- but actually the philosophy behind pretty much every single tax plan discussed. They'd all give enormous tax breaks to the wealthiest of the wealthy, and about the only thing they disagreed upon was whether they would simultaneously raise taxes on the poor or not. Because giving gargantuan tax breaks to the wealthy and then turning around and taxing the poor is obviously the way to fix America's income inequality problem, right?"

Dig a hole straight through the Earth, maybe?

Two unrelated subjects, with one common thread: ignorance.

"I heard Ben Carson inexplicably say, during the Republican debate, that we should be worried because China is intervening militarily in Syria. There are precisely zero facts to back this up, and it even caused absolute speechlessness when a White House press spokesman was asked about it this week. It isn't remotely true, but that didn't stop Carson from making the claim -- and nobody on the stage challenged him on it. Rand Paul did actually point out, later in the debate, that Donald Trump's focus on China when asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was insane because the TPP does not cover China at all and China would actually love to see the TPP go down in flames. This led me to wonder -- about pretty much all the candidates on stage -- whether any of them could actually find China on a map, or not."

Um... what?

As Hunter S. Thompson famously pointed out, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

"Here's Donald Trump's answer as to what we should do about ISIS: 'I said, keep the oil.... We should have kept the oil. And, you know what? We should have given the oil... to the people that lost their arms, their legs, and their families, and their sons, and daughters, because right now, you know who has a lot of that oil? Iran, and ISIS.' So, America's foreign policy should be to finance our soldiers' retirement by invading the Middle East and stealing all their oil? Excuse me? Does Trump think he's running for Roman Emperor or something? Take their oil by force, and give it to the veterans? Wow. And he's leading the Republican pack, followed by a man who would, presumably, fight the Chinese in Syria? Boy, the Republican Party sure ain't what it used to be on foreign policy, folks."

Except for tens of millions, that is....

Trump and Carson weren't the only ones up there telling whoppers, though.

"You can tell Carly Fiorina is lying because her mouth is open and words are coming out. She tried to attack Donald Trump by claiming that meeting Vladimir Putin in a green room wasn't the same as her wonderful meeting with the man -- which she herself has described as taking place in a green room. But her biggest whopper was that Obamacare 'hasn't helped anyone.' That's funny, because the Senate Republicans are now having problems agreeing over a bill they're working on passing (under reconciliation rules) which would totally repeal Obamacare. Seems some Republicans, from states that expanded Medicare under Obamacare, are now worried that taking health insurance away from millions of voters back home -- and replacing it with nothing -- might not be such a great idea, politically. Carly should go talk to some of these Republican senators, who might be able to point to a few million people Obamacare is definitely helping."

Live, from an alternate universe

Seriously, didn't they have wonderful reception from their inter-universal satellite feed?

"I almost expected, when the moderators came back from commercial breaks, to hear them state: 'We bring you back, live, from an alternate reality.' I mean, how else to explain such insane statements being taken at face value? The biggest idiocy of them all was probably asserting that the bank failure and Great Recession was caused by too much government regulation. Are you kidding me? Wall Street tanked because they were over-regulated? That is so jaw-droppingly wrong it boggles the mind. Ben Carson, in trying to answer what he'd do about big banks getting even bigger stated that he wouldn't have allowed it to happen in the first place. Well, excuse me, but a newly-sworn in president simply does not get to go back in time and change things. It's just not an option. You can't go kill baby Hitler, and you can't just wave a magic wand and have reality be different when you take office. I mean, what universe are these people from? The one where Wall Street would have behaved with decorum and fiscal responsibility with less oversight? Sheesh."

What color will the shirts be?

Your papers, please....

"Donald Trump is now saying he'll have a 'deportation force' to round up 11 million people, which he promises to do in two years' time. This raises a few important questions, of course. Will this deportation force be allowed to smash windows, while performing their duties? And what color will their shirts be -- brown or black? Finally, 'deportation force' is kind of a clunky term... maybe it'd sound better in the original German?"

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