We took last week off for the holidays, so we've got a lot of ground to cover today. Sadly, this included two terrorist attacks in America, one in Colorado and one in Southern California. The truly sad part is that these mass shootings are becoming so common nowadays that within a few months most people will have forgotten them, as we all focus on fresher, more recent tragedies. Welcome to a very grim "new normal," in other words. Sorry to start off on such a heavy note, but such news is impossible to ignore.
Moving along to more lighthearted fare, the Republican presidential race is still as amusing as ever, with no sign yet that Donald Trump is heading for any sort of inevitable collapse in the polls. In fact, he's actually gaining ground. CNN released a poll this week showing Trump at a whopping 36 percent, a full 20 points higher than his nearest competitor. Most of this rise is coming at the expense of Ben Carson, who seems to be fading fast. Carson is now essentially tied with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in the mid-teens. Even more stunning, Jeb! Bush has dropped to a measly three percent, after his super PAC poured almost $30 million down the advertising rathole. With Carson flailing, this means that in all likelihood the Republican nominee will be either Rubio, Cruz, or Trump. And the most likely scenario is that Donald Trump becomes the Republican standard-bearer. We're officially through the looking glass, folks.
Some Republicans are finally waking up to this reality, and reacting in various amusing ways. Some are openly predicting a Barry Goldwater-sized electoral disaster. Some are beginning to openly call Trump a fascist. John Kasich is running a brutal ad which essentially compares Donald Trump to the Nazis. Lindsey Graham has apparently decided that, since he has no chance of winning the nomination, he might as well just go ahead and say what he feels about Trump. Earlier in the week he was quoted calling Trump a "xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot," and last night Graham told an audience: "I believe Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party's chances to win in an election that we can't afford to lose. You think you're gonna win an election with that kind of garbage?!"
None of it has mattered. Trump can say pretty much anything at this point -- which he's proven time and time again. They that have sown the wind are now reaping the Trump whirlwind. We've said it before, and we'll no doubt say it again -- this couldn't have happened to a nicer political party! In fact, there's only one Republican who is now enjoying himself no matter what happens on the campaign trail -- because Scott Walker has already stopped running (freeing up lots of time for doing much more fun things than dealing with Trump).
In non-Trump campaign news, Ted Cruz jumped to the most bizarre conclusion heard after the Colorado shooting. The shooter, according to Cruz (and based on pure malarkey), was nothing short of a "transgender leftist activist." Cruz also took the time to share his experiences buying rubbers when in college, for some inexplicable reason. Ben Carson, meanwhile, took a quick trip to a refugee camp in the Middle East, and then returned back home to speak to a group of Jewish activists, where he warned of the threat of "hummus," apparently mistaking chickpea purée for Hamas. Lindsey Graham (yes, he's still running, officially) engaged in a bit of truth-telling, knocking other Republican candidates: "If you are going to tell a woman who has been raped that she has to carry the child of the rapist, you're going to lose most Americans. If the Republican nominee won't allow an exception for rape or incest, they will lose." Of course, Republicans voting in primaries probably won't listen to such sage advice.
Things have been pretty quiet on the Democratic side of things, mostly as Democrats everywhere sit back and watch the continuing trainwreck that is the Republican nomination fight. In recent head-to-head polling, Hillary Clinton defeats the entire Republican field. So does Bernie Sanders, and by even wider margins. That's right -- Sanders is more electable than Clinton!
What else? We got another good jobs report today, with 211,000 new jobs created last month. Unemployment stayed stable at five percent. Congress is right now in a frenzy of "doing what they should have been doing during all those vacation weeks they took," but we're going to wait until next week to focus on that circus, personally.
One last interesting note before we get on with the awards (and a very special talking points section) -- immigration is going to be a huge issue next summer, right in the middle of the presidential campaign. This is now virtually assured by the Supreme Court denying the delaying tactics Texas was attempting, in order to push the issue out past the election (into the Supreme Court's next term, in other words). Because of this decision, it's almost certain the case of President Obama's new immigration policy will be decided by June -- which puts it right at the start of the general election campaign. So there's that to look forward to, a half a year from now. OK, that's enough, let's get on with things.
Our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is a Missouri state representative, Stacey Newman.
Her response to the recent shootings is the best we've come across. From the story:
A Missouri lawmaker is introducing a bill that would subject gun buyers in the state to the same kind of restrictions that women face if they choose to have an abortion.
State Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) has pre-filed a bill for the state legislature's 2016 session that would require buyers to wait 72 hours to make a gun purchase, which they would only be able to do at a store at least 120 miles from their home. Women in the state must wait 72 hours before they can get an abortion and the 120-mile restriction is intended to draw attention to the long distances that women must travel to have one.
. . .
The bill would require gun buyers to undergo an evaluation and receive counseling from a physician about the risks associated with owning a gun. Women in Missouri must sign a consent form 72 hours before an abortion, be given a chance to look at an ultrasound of the baby and be informed about potential health hazards of the procedure, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Under Newman's bill, the gun purchaser would be required to tour an emergency trauma center between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on a weekend when firearms victims are present and meet with at least two families affected by gun violence as well as two people who have officiated the funerals of minors who were shot dead.
This bill is pure political grandstanding, we should note, because it's simply not going to pass. However, it is also an excellent piece of political theater, pointing out the hypocrisy of those that call themselves "pro-life." As Newman put it, "If the appetite is for more and more reproductive restrictions, then it makes sense if to apply those to gun purchases."
In Washington, the Senate just voted down two amendments that would have stopped some of the loopholes in the background check system and denied gun purchases to those on the terrorism watch list. Both were also symbolic, to get Republicans on the record opposing them. But in our opinion, Newman's symbolic measure was even more pointed, which is why she's the winner of this week's MIDOTW award. Well done, Representative Newman!
[Congratulate Missouri Representative Stacey Newman on her contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
The level of corruption in Albany, New York is at such a high rate that it's almost tough for a crooked politician to get noticed. Salon had a handy rundown of recent history in New York's capital:
Meanwhile, 30 lawmakers have left office because of criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct since 2000. The Senate's former No. 2 member, Republican Thomas Libous, was sentenced to house arrest last week for lying to the FBI. Ex-Senate Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, currently is on trial for charges that he extorted bribes and jobs for his son.
In just the past five years, one Albany lawmaker was convicted of taking bribes from a carnival promoter. A second entered into a sham marriage in order to become a citizen. A third was accused of harassing female staffers and forcing one to touch cancerous tumors on his neck and armpit.
But even with all that stiff competition, former speaker of the state Assembly Sheldon Silver stood out this week. He was just convicted in federal court of "fraud, extortion, and money-laundering," to the tune of $4 million in illegal bribes and kickbacks -- some extorted from a cancer researcher. Got that? Money that should have gone to curing cancer went into Silver's pocket instead. It's hard to imagine anything sleazier, really.
We gave Silver his first Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award back in January. Now that he's been found guilty, we're taking the opportunity to hand him his second one.
There's a reason why the first-ever Museum Of Political Corruption is being organized in Albany. That reason is that it's hard to even stand out among the fetid swamp of corruption that is New York's capital. But with this verdict, Sheldon Silver managed to do that this week.
[Sheldon Silver is no longer a sitting official, and it's our policy to not provide contact information for private individuals.]
Volume 371 (12/4/15)
Before we begin (and because we didn't know where else to stick it), we have two program notes. The first is that I was interviewed this morning on Talk910, a San Francisco Bay Area radio station, so if you'd like to hear me waffle on about Trump and Carson, check it out (my bit starts about 77 minutes in)! The second is that it is our holiday fundraising season, once again. With all that out of the way, let's move along to the talking points.
We have a very special talking points section this week, because all of them come straight from Republicans. It's our way of offering sympathy to all those in the Republican Party who now stand horrified at the Frankenstein's monster they have created in Donald Trump.
The first four of these come from the extraordinary internal Republican memo leaked this week to the Washington Post. The memo was written by Ward Baker, who has the unenviable job of trying to get Republicans elected (and re-elected) to the Senate. The entire memo consists of advice for candidates on what to do if Trump does become the Republican nominee. One line sums up the thrust of the memo: "Understand the populist points Trump makes and ride that wave."
The next two talking points are from various Republican officials reacting to the prospect of a Trump nomination, especially on how it would affect all the down-ballot races. Remember, all of these talking points are from Republicans. We can afford to do this because Republicans are doing such a great job of bad-mouthing Trump right now that no Democratic help is even necessary. Here's a bonus talking point from the article, by way of example: "If he carries this message into the general election in Ohio, we'll hand this election to Hillary Clinton -- and then try to salvage the rest of the ticket." With Republicans saying stuff like that, all Democrats have to do is repeat such great lines.
Are you a journalist who wants to watch a Republican squirm in fear? Or maybe you just like teasing your Republican friends and relatives? It's easy to do, right now. All you have to do is ask them a very simple and straightforward question: "If Donald Trump becomes the nominee of your party, will you wholeheartedly support him?" Some of the Republican candidates are already getting asked this question, and dodge it though they may, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens if Trump starts actually winning primaries and caucuses. So keep asking the question to every Republican you meet! Over time, the answers should get more and more panicky, that's for sure.
As mentioned, the first four of these are from that Republican senatorial campaign memo. This was the very first bullet point from the memo, and it paints a very grim picture for Republicans.
Trump is a Misguided Missile. Let's face facts. Trump says what's on his mind and that's a problem. Our candidates will have to spend full time defending him or condemning him if that continues. And, that's a place we never, ever want to be.
Once again, this is not parody -- this is straight from the Republican establishment.
Show your Independence. As we know, Trump is subject to farcical fits. You can still obey the "run your own campaign" edict, while still taking Trump to task on outrageous statements where the media won't let you off the hook.
The basic theme of the memo is to become Trump-lite. Agree with Trump on everything while at the same time condemning everything he says -- hey, that shouldn't be too hard, right?
Trump Can Hit The Right Chord. We may not like it, but Trump has connected with voters on issues like trade with China and America's broken borders.... Trump will continue to advance those messages, but you don't have to go along with his more extreme positioning. Instead, you should stake out turf in the same issue zone and offer your own ideas.
A big problem
Houston? Are you there? Hello? Anybody?
Trump and Women. Houston, we have a problem: Donald Trump has said some wacky things about women. Candidates shouldn't go near this ground other than to say that your wife or daughter is offended by what Trump said. We do not want to reengage the "war on women" fight so isolate Trump on this issue by offering a quick condemnation of it.
This comes from "a prominent Republican senator" who chose to remain nameless, quaking in fear over what Trump would say about him or her in retaliation. Senator Nameless was asked about Trump's effect on Senate races in places like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
There is not a bit of confusion among our members that if Donald Trump is the nominee, we're going to get wiped out. Until somebody with A, the money, and B, the incentive to step up comes along, I worry he kind of glides along unmolested.
Tell us how you really feel, Lindsey!
Here's the full quote from Lindsey Graham, also talking about all those down-ballot races.
It would be an utter, complete and total disaster. If you're a xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot, you're going to have a hard time being president of the United States, and you're going to do irreparable damage to the party.
Kasich goes full Godwin
And finally, we close with the text of that ad John Kasich has been airing. The following lines obviously are an homage to a very famous statement made after World War II. It's the most forceful attack on Trump that anyone's yet made, but it likely won't make a bit of difference.
You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims should register with their government, because you're not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says he's going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you're not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says it's okay to rough up black protesters, because you're not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you're not one. But think about this: If he keeps going, and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope there's someone left to help you.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
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Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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