Friday Talking Points -- Unintelligible Yelling

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks as Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks as Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, look on during a Republican presidential primary debate at The University of Houston, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

That title, of course, refers to the most recent Republican debate, where in a fit of frustration the caption writers at CNN just gave up and ran "Unintelligible yelling" as the caption. Yep, that about sums it up, doesn't it?

In two-and-a-half hours of mostly-unintelligible yelling, there was little discussion of anything that hadn't been covered -- multiple times -- in pretty much every single other Republican debate. Oh, sure, there were amusing moments, such as Ben Carson's criteria for picking Supreme Court justices ("The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at"), and the bickering between Donald Trump and the only two candidates with a prayer of ever beating him -- but that's all par for the course. Trump provided a few amusing moments on his own, as when he started with: "It doesn't help if I start saying I'm very pro-Israel," and then finished with: "With that being said, I am totally pro-Israel." But by this point in the process, such blatant contradictions form a core part of Trump's brand, so it was really nothing new.

Marco Rubio played the part of a yappy little attack dog all night long, but only really landed one good blow on Trump (when he turned the "you repeat things" attack back on Trump) for all his heartfelt effort. Today, Trump trumped (sorry, but there's no other word for it) Rubio's news cycle by announcing the endorsement of Chris Christie (the man who originally landed the "you repeat things" blow on Rubio).

Super Tuesday is approaching fast, so the Republican levels of viciousness will likely increase all weekend long. So we've all got that to look forward to.

But while the debate was the most current event on the Republican side, more momentous things happened earlier in the week. Donald Trump absolutely dominated the South Carolina primaries last Saturday, taking all 50 of the 50 delegates up for grabs (even though they were doled out proportionally, not winner-take-all). Trump followed this up with a decisive win in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday night -- reaping the highest percentage of the GOP vote he's yet managed (46 percent). Along the way, Jeb! Bush's campaign was left at the side of the road like an expensive sports car which has hit a large tree -- a smoldering (and pricey) ruin.

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich are all now relying on the same campaign strategy: win your home state, and then when the voters all decide you're the best candidate from that point on, you'll win the nomination! No, really -- that's the plan for all three of them. At this point, it is looking like Ted Cruz and John Kasich may possibly be able to win (respectively) Texas and Ohio, but Marco Rubio is pretty far behind Trump in Florida. Even if Cruz wins Texas, he may not win any of the other Super Tuesday Southern states -- which would effectively end his campaign. Texas has a lot of delegates, but not nearly enough to win the nomination. At this point, the safe bet is that Donald Trump will continue to steamroll his way to victory on the Republican side.

Republicans who have convinced themselves that Trump could never win are now in full-panic mode. Their latest brilliant idea for stopping Trump is to have Cruz and Rubio form a ticket on their own, and band together to take down The Donald. The only problem with this plan would be Cruz and Rubio agreeing on who will be vice president and who will run at the top of the ticket. Can any sane individual picture either one of these men saying to the other: "Well, you're doing better in the polls, so I'll go ahead and stop campaigning to be your veep"? To run for president requires an outsized ego (to state the obvious), meaning neither one of these guys is going to just fold their campaign up at this point, no matter how many party insiders urge them to do so.

Apparently the more-amusing thing to watch on television last night was a hilarious speech by Lindsey Graham (note: this was a lighthearted speech given in fun, to provide the necessary comedic context). In it, Graham surveyed the GOP presidential landscape and concluded: "My party has gone batshit crazy." Nice to hear such honesty! He also neatly summed up the feelings of all his Republican Senate colleagues towards one of the candidates: "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you." Hoo boy! America could have its own Julius Caesar drama -- what a concept!

Other Republicans (or former Republicans) are making similar comparisons. In an extraordinary piece by noted neo-conservative Robert Kagan (which ends with him endorsing Hillary Clinton for president), the "we're living in the time of classic literature" theme is also evident:

A plague has descended on the [Republican] party in the form of the most successful demagogue-charlatan in the history of U.S. politics. The party searches desperately for the cause and the remedy without realizing that, like Oedipus, it is the party itself that brought on this plague. The party's own political crimes are being punished in a bit of cosmic justice fit for a Greek tragedy.

Let's be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party's creation, its Frankenstein monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker.

That's just the beginning -- Kagan goes on to brutally lay bare what brought the Republican Party to such a position, in excruciating detail. I had to check to make sure the article wasn't written by some ultra-liberal commentator at least once, while reading it -- it's that scathing an indictment.

Of course, many Democrats are enjoying the heck out of this whole spectacle. But if Trump is the Republican nominee, he will be able to (as Mitt Romney wasn't) "Etch-A-Sketch" himself into whatever he thinks he needs to be to win the general election. Does anyone really think Trump is "going to be held to account" for any of his current positions? He'll become the master of the pivot, and denounce anyone who points out he's now for something he used to be against a few weeks ago. He's already done so numerous times, and so far he's gotten away with it. There are rumors that Democrats are doing a much better job of opposition research on Trump than any of the Republican candidates, so hopefully that'll help, but anyone now thinking that Trump will be easy for the Democratic nominee to beat is in for a surprise, that's our guess.

Trump's next move is likely to just flat-out state that he's not releasing his tax returns because they're "none of your business." Think he can't get away with this? Mitt Romney only partially released a redacted scant few years of tax returns, and nobody in the press seemed to care. Trump will only be taking this to its logical conclusion. Just as we're never going to see Hillary Clinton's Goldman Sachs speech transcripts, we're also never going to see Trump's tax returns.

The other big drama in Washington is really just beginning -- this one's going to play out all year long, in fact. Barack Obama is going to nominate someone to the Supreme Court, and the Republicans are going to utterly ignore him. Watch for this theme in Democratic campaign ads this fall, folks! Obama already performed one head-fake on the issue, leaking that he might name Republican Brian Sandoval to the high court, but Sandoval himself shot this idea down the next day. As we said, we're going to see this drama play out all year. The best thing that could happen (politically) would be a West Wing moment, where Obama's nominee goes to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee members, and the Republican senators all just leave him or her waiting in the hallway because they're refusing to even shake his or her hand. Bring a television camera along, that'd be our advice!

A few lighthearted campaign items deserve to be mentioned before we move along to our awards. The first is that any fan of Senator Al Franken really needs to check out his "reading mean tweets" video, in support of Hillary Clinton. This is noteworthy because Franken has been awfully buttoned-down as a senator, because of fears that he won't appear serious enough to his constituents. We always thought these fears were overblown, so it is good to see Franken doing a little political comedy once again. Let Al be Al!

From the other side of the Democratic race, you can now buy a marijuana pipe to show your support for Bernie Sanders. No, really! This is entirely fitting, since Sanders has not been afraid to actually use the word "marijuana" on the campaign trail. Stoners are, obviously, feelin' the Bern. Bern one for Bernie!

Speaking of deep space (there's a segue for the ages), apparently there's some rather freaky music to be found on the dark side of the moon. You can't make this stuff up -- although, technically, it's the "far side" of the moon (so both Pink Floyd and Gary Larson can share credit, we suppose). There is no dark side of the moon, really. Ahem.

Here are the transcripts of what the Apollo 10 astronauts had to say about the phenomenon, which could not have been from any Earthly signal (since the moon was blocking all such radio waves at the time).

"It sounds like, you know, outer space-type music."

"You hear that? That whistling sound? Whooooooooo!"

"Well, that sure is weird music!"

. . .

"It's unbelievable! You know?"

"Shall we tell them [Houston] about it?"

"I don't know. We ought to think about it."

And you thought Pink Floyd was spacey!


There was more news from the campaign trail last week than just the unintelligible yelling over on the Republican side, of course. Which is why Hillary Clinton was the unquestionable Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week last week.

Clinton started the week off with a victory in Nevada, picked up the endorsement of Harry Reid a few days later, and will end her week with a landslide win in South Carolina, if all the polls are right. She'll then be able to claim she's won three out of the first four contests, and will have a lot of momentum heading into Super Tuesday next week. If Clinton turns out to be the nominee, Nevada will be seen as a key turning point.

Clinton still has a lot of work to do among Democratic voters, of course. She was confronted by one of these this week, in a protest at a $500-a-seat fundraiser. The protester reminded Clinton of a speech she gave in 1996 about violent crime, where Clinton said:

They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called "superpredators." No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.

Clinton was at first fazed by this complaint, saying: "You know what? Nobody's ever asked me before. You're the first person to ask me and I'm happy to address it." She then went on to ignore the issue for the rest of her speech, since the protester had by then been escorted out by the Secret Service.

Later on, Clinton did recover enough to apologize (somewhat) for her former words in response to a reporter's question:

In that speech, I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families. Looking back, I shouldn't have used those words, and I wouldn't use them today.

But that was really the only flaw in an otherwise admirable week for Clinton. Imagine if Bernie Sanders had edged Clinton out in Nevada -- we'd be having a very different conversation right now about Clinton's chances at becoming the nominee. Perhaps this is unfairly weighting the Nevada results to a level of importance they really shouldn't have, but that's the way politics goes. If Bernie had won, the stories would all be about "Clinton campaign in disarray" and "Clinton getting increasingly desperate." Neither of those headlines appeared, because Bernie didn't win. That was the difference Nevada made.

And after two very close finishes against Bernie in Iowa and Nevada, Clinton seems poised to win big this Saturday. Sanders has all but given up campaigning in South Carolina, a good indicator that the only remaining question is how big a landslide will Hillary achieve.

This race isn't over, not by any means. There's a lot of campaigning to go, and Bernie still does have a possible path to victory (albeit one that got a lot steeper this week). But Hillary owned this week. She was clearly the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, the fourteenth time she's won our illustrious Golden Backbone award.

[Hillary Clinton is technically a private citizen, and we do not provide contact information to political campaigns, so you'll have to look up her campaign site on your own, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


We honestly thought that once Eric Holder left office that he'd never win another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, but we're going to go ahead and give him another one anyway.

In a recently-published interview with the PBS show Frontline, Holder spoke about the insanity of marijuana being classified as one of the most dangerous illegal drugs out there by the federal government. He expressed his support for rescheduling marijuana, which would mean moving it out of the Schedule I category. He certainly sounded supportive of the idea:

You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate. So at a minimum, I think Congress needs to do that. Then I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and what happens in Washington.

Sounds pretty reasonable, so why does it qualify him for the MDDOTW award? Well, because for his entire term in office as Attorney General, Eric Holder could have quite easily fixed the problem on his own. The Attorney General is given the power to reschedule (or even deschedule) any substance with his own signature. That's it. That's all it would have taken.

He didn't.

This makes his support for the idea now especially galling. He could have changed the insanity of marijuana being legally treated the same as heroin. Yes, insanity is the correct word. Here is a partial list of Schedule II drugs (all of which are supposedly less harmful than marijuana, mind you): cocaine, opium, amphetamine, Demerol, methamphetamine, and PCP. Yep, weed's obviously more dangerous than crystal meth and cocaine, right? Insanity -- there's just no other word for this type of thinking.

Eric Holder, during his entire time in office as the head of the Justice Department, tried to punt this political football to Congress. He continues to do so, even while expressing support for the idea today. But Congress does not have to be involved at all. The Justice Department could have acted on its own at any time while Holder was in charge. It failed to. So Eric Holder is just as responsible for marijuana being equated to heroin in federal law as the people who originally made such a boneheaded and anti-scientific decision.

For not admitting his own culpability in preserving an insane status quo in the federal War On Weed, Eric Holder is easily our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week. There was only one reason why he didn't change this insanity when he had the chance to, and that reason is political cowardice. Plain and simple. And that's pretty disappointing indeed. Too little, too late, Mister Holder.

[Eric Holder is also a private citizen now, so you'll have to seek his contact information online to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 380 (2/26/16)

There's no theme to this week's talking points, other than poking lots of fun at the Republican nomination circus. Enjoy, and as always, use responsibly.


   Groundhog debate

It's always February 2nd on the GOP stage.

"Why is it that in pretty much every single Republican presidential debate we only get questions about the same exact topics? Last night, they spent almost an hour talking about immigration. An hour! After they spent a similar amount of time on it in every other Republican debate! The same exact questions get asked, over and over and over. The names of the moderators change, but the questions mysteriously stay the same. Americans actually do care about more issues than just immigration, border security, terrorism, and hearing how much you hate Obamacare, guys. There are all sorts of other issues the candidates could be asked about, in fact. But I guess we'll just keep getting the same Republican debate, over and over again. It's like watching Groundhog Day, really."


   And they love you, Donald!

This one almost doesn't need any punchline.

"After winning the Nevada caucuses, Donald Trump said (and I quote), I love the poorly-educated, unquote. Well, you know what, Donald? It seems they love you right back!"


   Cruz oozing sleaze

It's a good thing people started noticing the way Ted Cruz is running his campaign.

"Ted Cruz was supposed to be the candidate for evangelical Republican voters, but he's losing their support fast. Maybe this is because he has proven to be the sleaziest guy in the Republican race -- which is really saying something, isn't it? He just had to fire a top aide for mistakenly smearing that Marco Rubio doesn't love the Bible. That's pretty low, and evangelical voters have noticed. His campaign looks for all the world like the dirty-tricks campaigns of Richard Nixon, in fact. No wonder even his fellow Republican senators hate him so much. Cruz oozes more sleaze than a used car salesman."



As mentioned earlier, establishment Republicans are getting panicky.

"Have you heard the latest bright idea from the establishment Republicans for saving their party from nominating Donald Trump? It's pure fantasy -- Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are supposed to get together and figure out which one of them should drop out of the race to be the vice-presidential pick of the other. The only possible flaw with this plan is that they both -- obviously -- see themselves at the top of the Republican ticket. It's like the prisoner's dilemma -- dropping out might mean that somebody else has a better chance to beat Trump, but they all see themselves as that somebody. Rubio and Cruz are never in a million, billion years going to form some unity anti-Trump ticket, and anyone who believes this is going to happen is just barking mad."


   Finally, a plan!

Well, sort of....

"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed Congress in 2010. Since that time, Republicans everywhere have been vowing to come up with their own plan to replace the hated Obamacare. They've had over five years and counting. What have they come up with in all of this time? A House bill to rally around? A Senate plan to replace Obamacare? A bill they can pass and put on the president's desk? No, no, and no. In fact, Republicans have just proudly unveiled a 'mission statement' that is only 251 words long and has absolutely zero specifics. Think about that -- it took them over five years to even come up with a two-page hazy framework of a concept. At this rate, it'll take them roughly a century to even get the language of an actual bill together, and another few centuries to bicker over the details. They keep yelling 'repeal and replace Obamacare,' but they have proven for almost six years now that they are absolutely incapable of the second half of that equation. At the rate of 50 words per year, it's going to take them approximately forever to achieve their goal."


   That pesky Constitution

Barack Obama gave an interview this week where he laid out his case for nominating a Supreme Court justice, as the Constitution fully requires him to do. This is an excellent thing to point out to all those Republicans who worship the Constitution:

I recognize the politics are hard for them because the easier thing to do is to give in to the most extreme voices within their party and stand pat and do nothing. But that's not our job. Our job is to fulfill our constitutional duties.... I've got a year to go. I don't think they would approve of me abdicating on my duties as commander-in-chief and to stop doing all the other work that I've got to do!


   Oregon looking pretty good

Whenever liberals argue that conservative governors (of states like Kansas and Louisiana) are a disaster for the state, they should hold up one of their own as an excellent example of what good liberal government looks like.

"Governor Kate Brown of Oregon has done an extraordinary job in her first year in office. During her leadership, Oregon passed the first-in-the-nation automatic voter registration law, an example other states can learn from. Brown also passed a law requiring health insurers to prescribe birth control for a full year, and allowing women to get a birth control prescription from a pharmacist -- two commonsense reforms that benefit all of Oregon's women. Brown called birth control access 'a fundamental right for women.' Brown has also passed gun control background checks, mandatory paid sick leave, and she's 'banned the box' on employment forms. In her spare time, she signed legislation to restrict community college tuition to $50 per term for students who attend right after high school. And she's about to sign one of the most progressive minimum wage bills in the country. This is what good government looks like, and other states should be looking to emulate Oregon under the leadership of Kate Brown."


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