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Friday Talking Points -- Utter Foolishness

For decades, smoking pot outside the White House was no more than a (dangerous) lark. The protesters didn't seriously expect to see the laws changed. Now the laws have changed, which means that such protests are a lot more targeted and a lot more important.
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Cannabis Plant
Cannabis Plant

I'm going to start this week's column by apologizing for it, up front. This is because I know it is going to be a weak and wooly-headed column today. I already know this because I myself am getting sick -- I woke up with flu symptoms, complete with the usual weakness and fuzzy thinking. I considered just punting altogether on today's column, but am feeling slightly better now, so I'm going to make the attempt. But it's going to be a pretty poor attempt, I'll warn you of that from the get-go. It will probably not be anywhere near as long as usual, for which some of you might actually be thankful (I do tend to ramble on, every Friday). One last warning -- normally, on such an auspicious date, I have lots of fun writing a piece of satire and then at the end stick in an "April Fools!" But I'm not going to do that today, which I'll explain further in the talking points section.

Normally, I would begin with an overview of the week in politics, but I really don't have the energy to do all the research that entails. Luckily for me, it was a fairly quiet week in the political world, with (for once!) no primaries at all after last Saturday's voting. Next week, all eyes will be on Wisconsin, where Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz seem to be up in the polls. Hopefully by Tuesday I'll be feeling well enough to cover the Badger State primaries.

So while Donald Trump said several outrageous things this week (as usual), and there was plenty of shocked reactions to them (both faux and real), we're going to ignore all of that and instead just present one interesting tidbit of news that may make some headlines tomorrow (or maybe not, considering the type of coverage the subject usually gets from the media.)

Marijuana activists are planning a provocative protest tomorrow -- a big "smoke-in" right across the street from the White House, complete with a 51-foot-long joint. Now, holding White House smoke-ins is actually a very old tradition (reaching back to the late 1960's, in fact), although they normally happen on the Fourth of July. We ran down the full history of this event back in FTP [337], in fact, if anyone's interested. We ended that commentary thusly:

It took a long time, but this week pot smokers finally reached the Promised Land in D.C. Oh, sure, it's just a beginning -- the Smoke-Ins themselves are still illegal in at least two major ways. Public consumption is still illegal, which would seem to cover standing in front of the White House smoking a joint. And Lafayette Park is one of many plots of land within the District which are federal property (where pot smoking is still illegal, by federal law). So if this year's event does happen across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, it'll still be a protest for further change.

But mostly it'll be a celebration of victory. If you believe in an issue strongly enough to blatantly break the law in full view of the leader of the country, eventually at times you can convince enough of you fellow citizens to support your cause. So in the midst of all the other celebrations of D.C.'s new legalization law, I thought it'd be particularly appropriate to fully remember those who let their freak flag fly on our nation's birthday. Right across the street from the White House, no less. Everyone who fires up a legal joint in Washington this week should thank those brave souls who protested without much hope of ever winning the political argument.

Smoking pot across the street from the president's house was always a provocative act. But for a long, long time it was also almost an exercise in futility. Nobody really expected weed to become legal any time soon, to put this another way. So while it was a protest, the thought that it would be successful wasn't really considered realistic, especially back in the 1970s and 1980s.

But now Washington has legalized recreational use of marijuana. So the protest scheduled for tomorrow is a lot more specific and a lot more targeted. As mentioned, smoking a doobie in Lafayette Park is still illegal twice over -- because it is "public consumption" and because the park is federal property, meaning federal laws apply (not D.C. laws). The protesters are fully expecting to be arrested for their cause.

Tomorrow's smoke-in was organized by the same group which successfully got the legalization ballot measure passed in D.C. From the Washington Post article, Adam Eidinger, the chief organizer of the smoke-in, explains why he's protesting:

He said the smoke-in is the most aggressive way he could think of to draw attention to the roughly 5 million marijuana-related arrests since Obama took office. He also thinks that Obama must do more in his remaining time to remove marijuana from the country's list of most-dangerous controlled substances. Without that change, decisions by states to legalize pot could be in jeopardy if a Republican wins the White House, Eidinger said.

"Obama -- he smokes, maybe not now, but he did smoke," Eidinger said. "So for him to oversee an enforcement regime that has arrested 5 million people for marijuana... I'm very motivated because I think it's a discriminatory practice."

. . .

Eidinger supports Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential contest. Sanders wants recreational use of marijuana legalized. But Eidinger wants Obama to begin the process of rescheduling marijuana before he leaves office because he thinks it would provide political cover for the probable Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, to finish the job should she win the presidency in November.

"If Obama really wants to help Hillary, he'll do this -- because people like me, who are strong Bernie supporters, we would feel more comfortable supporting the Democratic candidate if this is underway," Eidinger said.

He's probably right about that. Hillary Clinton almost never utters the word "marijuana" on the campaign trail, and when she does so, the only thing she has so far said she'll support is "more research" into medical marijuana. That's pretty tepid, these days. Which means that even if she wins the election, the best chance to see marijuana moved off of Schedule I might be for Obama to begin the process.

For decades, smoking pot outside the White House was no more than a (dangerous) lark. The protesters didn't seriously expect to see the laws changed. Now the laws have changed -- or at least some of them have. Which means that now such protests are a lot more targeted and a lot more important. If the nation's federal marijuana laws -- which are absolutely antediluvian, still -- are ever going to change, it will be because activists hold some Democratic politicians' feet to the fire (so to speak).

For those interested in attending, Lafayette Park is right across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The smoke-in is scheduled to begin (naturally) at 4:20.

Bernie Sanders just had the best two weeks on the campaign trail he's yet seen. He swept last Saturday's caucuses, which means he has now won six of the last seven primary contests (Alaska, Hawai'i, Idaho, Utah, Washington, and Democrats Abroad) while Hillary Clinton only managed to win in Arizona.

That is impressive. It's even more impressive since many pundits have already written off Bernie's chances entirely -- which sometimes dooms a contender in future primaries. So far, that doesn't seem to be happening to Bernie's campaign. He is actually favored in the next contest as well, if the polls in Wisconsin turn out to be correct. That would be a streak of seven out of eight wins for Bernie.

The delegate math is still daunting, of course. Winning the Democratic nomination might be out of Bernie's grasp. Even so, Sanders continues to ignore the predictions of "Bernie's campaign is dead" that have become a regular drumbeat from the media, and he continues to go out and win state after state. As on the Republican side, the voters are having their say no matter what the inside-the-Beltway crowd thinks.

Bernie Sanders, as he is fond of pointing out, was never supposed to get this far. He was supposed to be some sort of court jester of a candidate, who might goad Hillary Clinton into a few less-timid positions on the issues, but who in the end would largely be ignored by the voters. He is, the media continually remind us, a socialist, after all.

Bernie Sanders has beaten expectations time and time again in the 2016 nominating contests. Whether he is ultimately successful or not, his campaign is already both incredibly impressive and resilient. The pundits can sneer at his message of economic populism all they want, but the voters are paying attention. No matter what happens to Bernie, he has awoken a movement in the Democratic Party which is not going to go away any time soon. People are tired of the platitudes and the "be happy with some legislative crumbs" attitudes from Democratic politicians.

Whether Bernie is the nominee or not, his revolution has already succeeded beyond anyone's prediction. For that, and for his string of recent primary victories, Senator Bernie Sanders is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. A whole lot of people are feeling the Bern, it seems.

[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

After having given the MIDOTW award to Bernie Sanders, we're going to hand the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to prominent Bernie supporter Susan Sarandon.

In a recent interview, Sarandon got herself in some hot water when she was asked what would happen if Bernie lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton. She responded:

I think Bernie would probably encourage people to [support Hillary if he loses] because he doesn't have any ego in this thing. But I think a lot of people are, "Sorry, I just can't bring myself to."

When pressed on what she'd do if the choice came down to voting for Clinton or Donald Trump, Sarandon said:

I don't know. I'm going to see what happens. Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode.... If you think it's pragmatic to shore up the status quo right now, then you're not in touch with the status quo. The status quo is not working.

The most cringeworthy part of this, of course, is the idea that Trump would be better for the country in the end because he would be so bad it would result in Bernie's revolution becoming reality. Also, that "things will really explode," which in a normal year might have been dismissed as hyperbole, but what with the violence from Trump supporters we've already seen is a rather provocative thing to predict.

Now just to be clear -- Sarandon is right in the larger point she's attempting to make. Hillary Clinton shouldn't ever think she's entitled to the automatic support from people who have been backing Bernie, should she beat him for the nomination. She's going to have to earn every one of those votes, should this happen.

But to even suggest that Donald Trump getting elected to the White House would be better than seeing Hillary Clinton beat him is flat-out ridiculous. This line of "things are going to have to get worse before they get better" thinking is a pretty dangerous (and mighty cynical) way of looking at things. On one level, it is no more than schoolyard "I'm taking my bat and ball and going home" whining.

Sarandon is free to do whatever she wants, should her preferred candidate lose the nomination. She can stay home, she can vote for Trump, she can hold her nose and vote for Hillary -- it's entirely her choice. But to suggest that Bernie's revolution will happen quicker if Donald Trump is elected president is making a very dangerous gamble. America is still recovering from the last Republican president, and Dubya is looking like a mental giant now, compared to Trump.

Sarandon is probably right about one thing -- Bernie probably will try to convince his supporters to back Hillary should he lose to her. But she should examine the reasons why he'd do so, because it goes beyond him just not having "any ego in this thing." Bernie's a smart guy, and if he weighs a Trump presidency against a Hillary presidency and concludes that Trump must be beaten, there are probably a lot of reasons why beyond Bernie just being a selfless guy.

For ignoring this from the man she says she supports, and for even suggesting that "things will really explode" is somehow something to look forward to in any way, Susan Sarandon is clearly our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Susan Sarandon is a private citizen, and it is our policy not to provide contact information for people not currently in public office.]

Volume 385 (4/1/16)

As previously mentioned, normally on April Fools' Day it's fun to write a column to freak people out before they realize it's all a prank. We're going to forego this fun, though, because we are in the midst of living through a freakin' April Fools' Year, in the presidential nominating contest. If, last April first, you saw a man pop out of thin air and announce: "I am a time traveler from one year in the future, and I bring you the news that Donald Trump seems likely to become the Republican nominee," who among us would have believed it to even be possible?

This election season, to date, has been one long string of foolish so-called bits of "conventional wisdom" in politics being proven laughably wrong -- over and over again. So rather than attempting to write up some talking points today, instead we're just going to list all of these foolish predictions, in rough chronological order. I should mention that I did absolutely no research whatsoever to come up with this list -- these are all just off the top of my head. If I had the energy, doubtless I could review the past year and find dozens more of these confident predictions which have all been obliterated by actual events.

So, rather than trying to fool everyone this year, instead here is a list of the things which sounded like wisdom when they were first bandied about, but which now look like nothing so much as utter foolishness. Enjoy for now, and hopefully next week I'll be well enough to write a more normal Friday column.

2016 Campaign foolishness (so far)

Everyone knows the election will boil down to Jeb Bush versus Hillary Clinton, so it's likely going to be a really boring primary season.

Jeb Bush's absolute fortune in campaign cash is going to clear the field and convince most Republicans to stay out of the race entirely (before a whopping 17 candidates jumped into the race).

There is no way Donald Trump is serious about running for president -- he's just fooling around, as usual.

Scott Walker will be one of the strongest Republicans in the field, after winning three elections in a blue state (he was actually the second candidate to drop out).

Ben Carson is qualified to be president -- the man's a brain surgeon, after all!

Nobody will ever actually vote for Donald Trump -- his poll numbers are nothing more than name recognition.

Bernie Sanders is a joke -- the man openly admits he's a socialist! This will be the kiss of death, because nobody will vote for a socialist.

Of course Joe Biden is going to get in the race on the Democratic side.

Elizabeth Warren will also jump in the race, too.

Trump's chances of winning a single state are toast, because of what he just said (note: this one should really be copied and pasted repeatedly throughout this entire list, for the sheer number of times all the Beltway pundits convinced themselves it was true).

Hell will freeze over before the Republican establishment will get behind Ted Cruz, because they all hate him so very much.

Jeb Bush will just outlast all the other candidates, because of his unlimited campaign budget.

Donald Trump will never be the GOP frontrunner.

Trump's entire history as a liberal Democrat will be exposed, and once the Republican voters hear it, they'll drop him like a hot potato.

The candidate with the biggest bankroll always wins, because they can swamp all their opponents with campaign ads.

It will be impossible for Hillary Clinton to come out against either the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal or the Keystone XL pipeline, because she supported them while she was in office.

Trump is toast, because of his debate performance (again, this one should really appear multiple times in this list -- rinse and repeat).

Trump will never be the GOP nominee, so they are smart to force him to sign a loyalty oath, so he won't launch a third-party bid after his inevitable defeat at the polls. That'll lock him into supporting the eventual GOP nominee.

All those people who tell pollsters they're supporting Trump won't actually show up and vote for him on primary day.

There are "lanes" in the Republican race, and it'll eventually come down to a Tea Party candidate, a social-conservative candidate, and an establishment candidate.

No modern presidential candidate can run a viable campaign without setting up a super PAC to rake in corporate donations and dark money.

Hillary Clinton is heading for a coronation, because she is so obviously inevitable as the Democratic nominee.

Hillary Clinton will win female Democratic primary voters by a landslide, no matter what age they are.

Bernie Sanders won't get any votes outside of liberal college towns.

Hispanic voters will never vote for Bernie Sanders.

Because of the blackout in the media, Bernie will never be able to get his message out.

Ted Cruz will sweep the South, because of all the evangelical voters there. Nobody else will have a chance, unless Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum catch fire.

[Fill in the blank with a Republican candidate's name] has finally come up with a strategy which will defeat Trump! This will surely work!

Chris Christie will never play second fiddle to anyone else.

Either Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio will easily win Florida, obviously.

Trump picking fights with Fox News is going to bury him, because Republican voters love Fox News so much.

Bernie will only win New Hampshire and his home state of Vermont -- he doesn't have a chance anywhere else.

There is absolutely no way Bernie will win Michigan.

Because Bernie lost Illinois and Ohio, his campaign is essentially over.

Trump's advocacy of violence against protesters will sink him, because America is better than that.

Maybe Paul Ryan will somehow save the Republican Party by being drafted at the convention.

Somehow, the Republicans will manage to steal the nomination away from Trump at the convention, and then go on to beat Hillary Clinton with whomever they do decide on.

Chris Weigant blogs at:

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