Friday Talking Points -- Not Funny Anymore

It's not funny anymore -- it's getting closer and closer to becoming reality. Donald Trump, leader of the Republican Party. Deal with it, everyone.
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FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Columbus, Ohio. While the White House condemns Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, President Barack Obama may only have himself to blame if a President Trump ever tries to put his plan into action. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Columbus, Ohio. While the White House condemns Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, President Barack Obama may only have himself to blame if a President Trump ever tries to put his plan into action. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon, File)

Hillary Clinton is right. Last night, on Seth Meyers's late-night show, Clinton had this to say about Donald Trump's candidacy: "I no longer think he is funny." Earlier in the week, the Huffington Post announced that it was un-banishing Trump from the "Entertainment" section and would now properly cover him under "Politics." Arianna and Hillary are correct -- what started out as a hilarious joke is no longer even the slightest bit funny anymore.

Donald Trump has the best chance of becoming the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land. Actual voting begins in two months. So far, nothing he's said -- no matter how outlandish or outrageous -- has had any negative impact on his support. His poll numbers defy political gravity. So far, no attacks against him have worked, and the GOP candidates attacking him have actually gone down in the polls as a result.

Still, many within the confines of the Beltway cling desperately to the "magic implosion" theory, which might be summed up as: "Somehow Trump must implode. He has to, dammit!" Such magical thinking was on display this week from Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, who wrote an entire article stating (based on not much more than one Iowa poll, and moonbeams) that Ted Cruz is "in the catbird seat" and the best-positioned to win the Republican nomination. This entire article almost completely ignores Donald Trump and his polling lead. It's a stunning display of head-in-the-sand thinking. It essentially starts with the premise "of course Trump won't win," and then takes off for the wild blue yonder from there.

Trump, in pretty much every recent poll, has over twice the support of his nearest competitor. Twice! This is slowly sinking in to the Republican establishment, but they still can't seem to come to grips with the most probable conclusion. They are worried that Trump will break off and mount a third-party campaign -- blithely assuming that he'll lose the Republican nomination (if he wins, he won't need a third party). At worst, the party elders are worried that Trump will force a brokered convention by winning a lot of delegates, but not enough to give him the nomination. That's their worst-case scenario, even though the obvious questions should now be: "Will the Republican Party itself split after Donald Trump secures the nomination? Will Bush/Cruz/Rubio/whomever launch their own third-party bid, and carry the Republican Party establishment with them? Will they stalk out of their own convention in Dixiecrat fashion?"

None of this is much fun for Republicans, one assumes, but they've truly brought this on themselves. Trump isn't so much making radically new suggestions, what he is actually doing is taking conservative Republican dogma to its obvious conclusion. Trump disdains the standard "dog-whistle" language, but his proposals are pretty close to what the party as a whole believes. This didn't happen overnight, and it was aided and abetted by the same people who are now wringing their hands over Trump.

It's not funny anymore -- it's getting closer and closer to becoming reality. Donald Trump, leader of the Republican Party. Deal with it, everyone.

Here's a quick measure of the truth of that claim: the week's political news is now divided -- and pretty equally -- into Trump news and non-Trump news. The big Trump news this week was, obviously, his brilliant plan to stop everyone at the border who is entering America, ask them: "Are you a Muslim?" and then not let in anyone who answers: "Yes." No, seriously, that is indeed how Trump would implement his new "temporary hold" on Muslims entering America. Jeb! Bush, in an earlier bit of idiocy, had suggested that only Christians from the Middle East be allowed entry -- and, when pressed on how this would be implemented had only this to say: "You can tell when someone's a Christian." It's like Trump and Bush think it'd be a good idea for people to have to wear their religious symbols on their clothing, because we all know how well that worked out the last time around, right?

Most of the political news is similar -- other politicians reacting to what Trump has said. This, to us, still qualifies as "Trump news," we should mention. Ben Carson (remember him?) is desperately watching his poll numbers sink like a stone, so he tried to get on board the Trump train by threatening that if Trump leaves the Republicans for a third-party run, Carson might also bolt the party. Now wouldn't that be fun? Ben Carson on the Christian Soldiers Party ticket, Trump on the Make America Great Party ticket, and a Republican (to be named later) -- all facing off against the Democratic nominee. That would certainly be an election for the ages, to put it mildly.

Of course, watching Republicans twist in the wind trying to come up with a way to denounce Trump without offending his followers is pure schadenfreude for Democrats. Even the Republicans who spoke out against Trump's "bar the Muslims at the door" concept couldn't quite bring themselves to say they wouldn't eventually support him if he became the party's nominee. So what you get is: "Trump is wrong, he's un-American, he should be denounced by all... and if he wins enough primary states, I will support him 100 percent!" We've only heard of one national-level Republican (House member Reid Ribble from Wisconsin) clearly state an anti-Trump position: "My first oath is to the Constitution of the United States. Donald Trump has taken positions contrary to that document, so I could not support him and uphold my oath." Bravo, Representative Ribble! Must be lonely out there, eh?

Next week we'll get another round of debates from both parties, and the Republican one may be the last chance any candidate has of doing serious damage to Trump's poll numbers. So the sparks may fly! While the field of plausible Republican candidates is really down to four (as I argued earlier this week), some are still including Bush in with the frontrunners Trump, Cruz, Carson, and Marco Rubio. Even just those five would make for a more-focused evening, but it's looking like three other candidates will somehow also be included in primetime: Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul likely won't make the cut. Personally, we think it's time to tighten the rules even more, and just have the top five candidates on the stage, but then we're not in charge of the rules.

In non-election news, there's a battle going on in Iraq to retake Ramadi from the Islamic State. The Iraqi government forces (together with some militias) are steadily taking ground within the city itself, and America is even reportedly considering offering helicopter ground support to help flush the Islamic State fighters out of the rest of the city. This is a big deal, as if successful it will be the biggest defeat the Islamic State has yet suffered on the ground.

This is one of the few magical seasons of the year when Congress actually does the work they were supposed to be doing for all those many, many, many weeks they took off on vacation on the taxpayer's dime. A budget bill was supposed to be passed by today, but has been punted into the middle of next week. This is Speaker Paul Ryan's first big test, and so far it looks like he's shepherding the process along the way things used to work -- both sides offer up their ideas, then draw lines in the sand over certain items from the other's agenda. A whole lot of horsetrading will take place before next Wednesday, so keep an eye on what will be in the final bill, early next week. In the midst of all this, Nancy Pelosi managed to force a vote on restricting those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns, for political purposes (she lost the vote, of course). Watch for Democratic ads to feature this vote in next year's congressional races.

Up north, it is looking more and more like Canada is going to just go ahead and legalize recreational marijuana for all its adult citizens next year, fulfilling a campaign pledge from the new prime minister. Maybe weed flowing into America from our northern neighbor will prompt Donald Trump to build another "big, beautiful wall" across the Canadian border? One can only imagine.

President Barack Obama, in the primetime Oval Office speech he gave last weekend, called on Congress to do their job and pass a war bill for Syria and Iraq. Congress has been eager to criticize the president's war plans, but very reluctant to actually weigh in themselves on the issue of how America should be conducting this war. This is shameful. It is an abdication of duty by Congress. If they won't get their own act together, then how can any member of Congress criticize what Obama is doing?

This issue cuts across party lines. Democrats don't want to vote on an Islamic State war bill (technically an "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" or AUMF) because many of them were burned badly on their previous vote on the Iraq War (see: Clinton, Hillary). Republicans don't want to vote on a bill because they don't want to authorize anything President Obama does (good, bad, or indifferent). This is pathetic, on both sides.

We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, one to Representative Peter Welch and one to Senator Tim Kaine, both from Virginia. They, together with Republican counterparts Scott Rigell and Jeff Flake, have introduced an AUMF bill in both houses of Congress. For all the tough talk about what to do about the Islamic State threat, this is what Congress is constitutionally supposed to be doing. A fact more journalists should be aware of, we might add.

These bills have bipartisan sponsors. They are identical, which means that if the bill passes both houses it will arrive on President Obama's desk. Unfortunately, the bills are likely to go nowhere, because as the article points out: "Congressional leaders are still ignoring calls for a war authorization vote."

Still, for attempting to goad Congress into doing its most important national security job, as is its duty, Welch and Kaine should be applauded. Which is why both of them are getting the last MIDOTW award of 2015. More power to them. No matter what each congressman thinks of the current war effort, Congress should spell out specific instructions for how they'd like to see the war prosecuted. Anything short is dereliction of duty.

[Congratulate Representative Peter Welch on his House contact page, and Senator Tim Kaine on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

President Obama's Oval Office speech seemed to disappoint many, but we thought it did exactly what it was intended to do -- calm the public's fears down to realistic levels. Of course, the Obama speech was soon pushed aside after Trump unveiled his "ban the Muslims" idea, but we just can't say we were disappointed by Obama's speech, personally.

Instead, our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is a man who hasn't graced these pages in over 100 issues (he got his fifth MDDOTW way back in FTP [222]).

Rahm Emanuel, now the mayor of Chicago, seems politically doomed, one way or another. His administration was responsible for trying to bury -- going so far as to fight the public release of it in court -- the damning video of a cop shooting an African-American who was in no way threatening the cop. Rahm got away with this coverup for over a year -- and during that period, he successfully won re-election. It goes without saying that if the video had been released in a timely manner Rahm might not have gotten as many votes.

Now, we're not aware of any proof that Rahm himself was directing this coverup attempt or anything. Still, he is the mayor and what with the court case he must have at least been aware of what was going on. He has since fired the head of the Chicago police force, and gave a very emotional speech this week (choking up about the Utopia he'd like to see Chicago become), but none of that appears to be enough, at this point.

A recent poll put Rahm's job approval rating among city residents at a dismal 18 percent. A majority -- 51 percent -- now think Rahm Emanuel should resign. With numbers like that, Rahm's exit is almost certain. He may try to hang on and fight his way back, but at this point the more likely scenario is that he reluctantly steps down -- the only real question left is how long it'll be before he realizes it's his only remaining viable option.

We have to admit we're no fans of Rahm Emanuel, because we vividly remember his scathing disdain for the progressive media and the progressive base of his own party, while he was serving as President Obama's most-powerful aide. So we're not exactly shedding tears over Rahm's political fate or his political legacy. In fact, our feelings towards the mayor might best be expressed as: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Rahm." And, meanwhile, here's another MDDOTW award, as you get ready to leave.

[Contact Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel via the city's official webpage, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 372 (12/11/15)

Some program notes are in order before we begin. This will be the final FTP column of the year, as we enter our winter hiatus until January 8th. Instead, next week we'll present part one of our yearly awards column, with the bestest and the worstest of everything from 2015. So there's that to look forward to! Seeing as how Christmas (and New Year's Day) falls on a Friday, and seeing as how we tried writing Friday holiday columns once and then swore never to do it again, there will be no column at all for the last two Fridays of the year. Happy holidays, everyone, and allow us to mention once again that it is also our holiday pledge drive season! Because of the Friday holidays, part two of our year-end awards column will run the Wednesday before Christmas, December 23rd. Got all that? Next week, awards part one. Following Wednesday, awards part two. Christmas and New Year's Day, no column. See you back here January 8th!

OK, enough of that, let's get on with the show. Today's theme is, of course: "Donald Trump's candidacy is not funny anymore." Or maybe: "We're through the looking glass now." Or a Wizard Of Oz theme, perhaps? "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

However you put it, we're in for a whirlwind of a campaign, that's for sure. Things are almost guaranteed to get even crazier, at this point.

A radicalized Christian terrorist

Before we get to all the Trump news, we first have to point out one glaring double-standard in the media.

"When are members of the media going to call the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooter what he truly is? After his outbursts in his first court appearance, there is simply no further doubt that he is nothing more than a Christian terrorist. He used murderous violence because his religious sensibilities were offended. That is religious terrorism, which needs to be pointed out in no uncertain terms. In fact, I would go farther, and ask why the media is not feverishly investigating where he was radicalized and what organizations radicalized him to commit his act of terror. To call this anything less is an insult to the victims."

White supremacists for Trump!

OK, on with the Donald-bashing.

"I see that white supremacist groups are enjoying a bonanza of attention as a result of Donald Trump's campaign. One of the major online white supremacist sites even had to upgrade their servers because the traffic was spiking so high every time Trump came out with another xenophobic policy proposal. At this point, it looks like Trump has locked in the white supremacist vote, folks!"

Please turn out the lights

An oldie but a goodie... guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of any sane Republicans!

"I hear that not only is the Republican Party worried that Donald Trump might just bolt and launch a third-party bid, but that Ben Carson is now saying he might just leave as well. Two third-party runs from the right would be extraordinary. One wonders whether this idea will catch on among all the Republicans running for their party's nomination. If everyone bolts and forms their own party, perhaps they'll need a sign at the exit door: 'Will the last Republican to leave please turn out the lights.' I'd bet the last one in the room would be Lindsey Graham, what do you think?"

Condemning Trump condemnation

An excellent example of why Republicans are quaking in their boots over having to react to Donald Trump these days.

"The state Republican Party chair in New Hampshire shows why more Republicans aren't standing up to Donald Trump when he goes too far. She put out a forceful statement condemning Trump this week, stating: 'There are some issues that transcend politics. While my position (as party chairwoman) is certainly political, I am an American first. There should never be a day in the United States of America when people are excluded based solely on their race or religion. It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American.' Immediately after she took this strong stand, other Republicans called for her resignation. One in particular spoke approvingly of 'the situation in World War II, when we put the Japanese in camps,' and went on to say his party's state leader 'should resign as chairman of the Republican Party and run for chairman of the Democratic Party.' This backlash is precisely why so many Republican officeholders are so terrified of going on the record saying anything bad about Trump."

Can't buy me love

Bush's campaign woes are mounting fast.

"You know, there's a saying in the advertising world about how if the dogs won't eat the dogfood it doesn't matter how well you advertise it -- the product will fail. This seems to be the perfect metaphor for the Jeb Bush campaign, doesn't it? His super PAC has now spent a whopping 50 million dollars on ads, and in the latest national poll Bush was only pulling a laughable three percent. His polling average isn't much better these days, at 3.6 percent. And with all that money spent, if you type in to your browser, you will be automatically redirected to Donald Trump's campaign site -- because the Bush team forgot to spend 10 bucks registering the name. If I was a Bush donor, I'd be pretty upset about the return on investment Bush has so far managed."

Bush's lawyers can still deliver the snark

Somewhere in Bush's campaign there is a bright spark, it seems.

"Jeb Bush and Donald Trump are having a battle of lawyers' letters, it seems. Trump's lawyer sent a threatening note warning about slandering The Donald, and Bush's lawyers shot back by filing a complaint that the Trump lawyer was illegally working for the Trump campaign. Some of this letter was pretty amusing, such as: 'Just as your client is attempting to quickly learn the basics of foreign policy, we wish you personally the best in your attempts to learn election law.' The funniest line was probably: 'Should your client actually be elected Commander-in-Chief, will you be the one writing the cease and desist letters to Vladimir Putin, or will that be handled by outside counsel?' Obviously there's somebody working for Bush with a snarky sense of humor -- one wonders why the author of this letter wouldn't be more effective at helping the super PAC guys write some better ads, in fact."


And, finally, the best putdown of the week.

"Donald Trump isn't too popular in Great Britain these days, it seems. Not only is there a petition (with hundreds of thousands of signatures on it) for Parliament to ban him from the country as a hatemonger, he is also being widely compared to Voldemort. Which brought the following response from J. K. Rowling: 'How horrible. Voldemort was nowhere near as bad.' It didn't stop the jokes about Trump's hair being one of his horcruxes, though."

Chris Weigant blogs at:

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