Today, let's just start with some silliness. It just seems appropriate, somehow. Maybe because it's Friday the 13th? For whatever reason, silliness seems like the place to begin (and end) this week. Because, after this silly start, we're going to end this column with a contest to come up with the best playground taunt to call Donald Trump -- and you can't get much sillier than that!
There was both some sad news and some amusing news from the internet recently, so let's get the sad news out of the way first. There will be no "RSS Boaty McBoatface." The British government announced that after it had held an online contest to name its new polar research vessel, the will of the online voters would be ignored. "Boaty McBoatface" won in a landslide, but the vessel will not be christened the RSS Boaty after all. Instead, in a massively disappointing downgrade, one of the robot probe ships on board the research vessel will get the name instead. Our favorite tidbit from this story: one of the other rejected names was: "RSS It's Bloody Cold Here," which we feel would also have been a great name for a polar research vessel.
The amusing news from the internet this week was the announcement that a new dating site will attempt to match up Americans fleeing their country (after Donald Trump wins the presidency) with lovely (but lonely) Canadians. Its name is "MapleMatch.com," and its slogan is: "Make dating great again." The site also helpfully explains: "Maple Match makes it easy for Americans to find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency." This could become wildly popular, say about mid-November. We hope it won't, of course, but it's good to know someone is paving the way, just in case.
In other silly news, the circus came to Washington D.C. Well, not really -- it was just an overhyped meeting between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, but the media went absolutely bonkers over covering it. This was so over-the-top that the media themselves had to sheepishly cover the story of how ridiculous their own coverage efforts were. Life imitating art, or something.
Pretty much every pundit in the mainstream media got down on their knees and thanked a recent poll which showed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton neck-and-neck in three key swing states this week, because they truly want this gravy train to continue. If the election becomes an absolute blowout for Clinton (something we pondered earlier this week), then it would become boring -- and nobody in the media ever wants to see "boring" in the same sentence as "Donald Trump."
This was pointed out by a man who otherwise seems to be losing his mind this week, former Reagan official Bruce Bartlett (more on his craziness in a moment). In the midst of gleefully applauding the destruction of his own political party, Bartlett took a few interesting shots at the media in general, tweeting: "Until the very last minute the media will maintain that the race for president is close in order to keep people interested," and following it up with: "My guess is that around November 1 the mainstream media will suddenly notice that Trump is nuts and launch an all-out assault on him." It's hard to say he's wrong, really, knowing how the political media normally operates.
In other crazy Republican news, the mills of justice grind slow, but sometimes they grind the right person to dust. That's our conclusion, at any rate, after hearing that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from the bench by a judicial inquiry commission, over his absolute refusal to follow the United States Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage. Moore "flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as the chief administrative officer of Alabama's judicial branch," the commission reported as it levied six charges of violating judicial ethics against him. When the process is complete, Moore could be removed from the bench altogether. Astoundingly, if this happens it will be the second time Moore has had to be kicked out from his post. This is the same guy who insisted on displaying a stone monument to the Ten Commandments, back in 2003. But since the position is an elected one, we fully expect that even after getting booted from office twice, Alabama voters will likely send him right back, at some future point.
Before we move along to our awards and our talking points (complete with our contest to come up with the best anti-Trump playground taunt!), we've got one final silly item to address. Hey, it's been that kind of week.
Budweiser has just announced that they're renaming their beer "America" for the next few months. You just can't make this stuff up, folks! Obviously Trump is beginning to have an influence even outside the world of politics.
Now, personally, we haven't touched a Budweiser in years, since we actually possess taste buds ("this bud's for tasting!"). Budweiser is precisely the beer Canadians think of when they tell the following joke (warning: adult language is an inescapable part of this joke):
"Why is drinking American beer like having sex in a canoe, eh?"
"Because it's fucking close to water."
Taste aside, however, we have another reason for not drinking Budweiser. It was revealed, during the height of the War On Weed in California that Budweiser was underwriting the "Campaign Against Marijuana Planting," to the tune of millions of dollars. They pledged five cents of every dollar made in the state to the CAMP effort, and that's when millions of Californians permanently stopped drinking Budweiser.
Now that they've renamed their product "America," the jokes just write themselves. I mean, really, this is like a bad comedy movie or something. Anyone up for a six-pack of America? Will "tossing your cookies" become "upchucking America"? Will shotgunning America become outlawed, since it could be considered treasonous? Inquiring minds want to know.
With Trump as the Republican Party's nominee, we are all clearly through the looking glass now, folks. Look for more reality to imitate bad satire in the upcoming months, because we predict there'll be a lot more idiocy to come, shortly. But enough silliness, let's get on with our political awards instead.
We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, because we couldn't see downgrading either one to the level of a mere Honorable Mention. Both, in different ways, were worthy of the full MIDOTW, we felt. The first goes to President Barack Obama, for taking another step towards bending the arc of history in the right direction.
It's hard to even remember now, but President Obama actually got a lot of heat in his first term for moving too slowly on the issue of gay rights. It even got to the point where major gay rights donors were threatening to withhold their donations if he didn't start moving faster on their agenda.
Obama, obviously, is going to go down in history as the president who did more for gay rights than any other -- probably before and after his term in office. The end of the road is obviously to add LGBT definitions to federal civil rights laws, so their basic civil rights are just as protected as people of different races, religions, and ethnic origins. That will likely not take place until Congress is Democratic once again, so Obama won't get credit for this final victory, but when you look at how far gay rights have come in the last eight years, it is nothing short of downright astounding.
Obama furthered this legacy this week, making changes in federal regulations to protect transgender people in two major ways. Since the Supreme Court ended the fight over gay marriage, the battlelines have shifted towards transgendered issues. Obama's Justice Department is forcefully challenging reactionary laws in places like North Carolina, and the next fight will likely happen over school bathrooms. This week, Obama aggressively staked out the federal government's position, so there'll be a lot of skirmishes fought during the upcoming election at the local level in school districts across the country. By being pro-active on the issue, Obama is getting out in front of these inevitable political frays, which is why he fully deserves another MIDOTW for his leadership.
However, our second MIDOTW goes to a Democrat who is fighting to get the Obama administration to do the right thing, and live up to the promises of how wonderfully transparent things were supposed to be under Obama.
Former Senator Bob Graham is pushing very hard to get the censored 28 pages of the official government report on 9/11 released to the public. Graham served on the congressional Joint Inquiry committee which looked into the 9/11 attacks, and knows what the 28 pages have to say about Saudi Arabia's possible involvement in either funding or assisting the attackers. Saudi government officials have even been implicated by some, so it is important that the public know about this (since Saudi Arabia is usually described as "America's closest ally in the region").
Graham lays out four unanswered questions in an opinion piece he wrote this week which urges the Obama administration to reveal the 28 pages:
- Should we believe that the 19 hijackers -- most of whom spoke little English, had limited education and had never before visited the United States -- acted alone in perpetrating the sophisticated 9/11 plot?
- Did the hijackers have foreign support? If so, who provided it?
- [C.I.A. Director John] Brennan stated the 28 pages contain information that is "uncorroborated, unvetted" and "inaccurate." What is the investigatory basis for his conclusion?
- Has the 13-year delay in empowering the American people with the information in the 28 pages affected national security, delayed justice to the families of the nearly 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 or undermined the confidence of the American people in their federal government?
These are not questions asked by some conspiracy theorist on the internet. These questions are posed by someone who already knows the answers (but who is sworn to secrecy and cannot publicly reveal them).
Bob Graham is right. The American public deserves to know what is in those 28 pages. American foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia needs examination and re-evaluation, to put it mildly. The only way that is going to happen is if the truth is revealed to the public.
The White House swears it'll make a decision by June. Bob Graham is fighting hard to convince Obama to live up to his campaign promises of transparency. It has been a decade and a half since the attacks happened, and it is high time the American people knew everything his committee discovered. For his ceaseless efforts to make this happen, Bob Graham wins his second Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week (his first was way back in FTP ).
[Congratulate President Barack Obama via the White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts. Bob Graham is a private citizen, and it is our standing policy not to provide contact information for such people, sorry.]
We're not going to hand out a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, instead we're going to create a Most Disappointing Pundit Of The Week award instead. We realize we're going to have to use these new MDPOTW awards very sparingly, because otherwise we'd be handing them out by the dozen, each and every week. But this week in particular was notable for the continuing chorus of "Mea culpa!" echoing through the halls of just about every news organization around, as the reality sinks in that Donald Trump is indeed the 2016 Republican nominee.
The entire mainstream press corps pretty much completely screwed the pooch on covering Donald Trump, right up until about last week. The circus atmosphere (of their own creation) blinded them to the reality, to be blunt.
It's entirely fitting that a fake pundit created specifically to be pure satire has a better record this year than people like Nate Silver, who absolutely refused to believe what his own poll numbers were telling him about Trump for far too long. Carl "The Dig" Diggler, a fictional character created as a parody of horserace "journalists," called 77 out of 87 primary races correctly -- an astounding record of being right 89 percent of the time. Carl was "predicated on being myopic, vain and -- frankly -- wrong," but his predictions turned out to be better than those of most of the professional pundits out there. That, more than anything else, sums up the kind of year it's been. The comedians have been better than journalists in predicting reality. An example of Carl's deep thoughts: "Wisconsinites are mostly a simple people. They eat their three lunches, kiss their often enormous children on their often featureless faces, and go to church so they can pray for the 2 Broke Girls." And yet, Carl was right 89 percent of the time. The whole article on the ruse is worth reading, because it is the most brutally accurate scathing indictment about how everyone else got everything wrong this year that we've yet read.
Back in the real world of punditry, the respected Dana Milbank of the Washington Post ate one of his own columns this week. No, that's not a metaphor -- he physically consumed a page of newsprint. Milbank was making good on a promise he made back in October, when he ran a column titled "Trump Will Lose Or I Will Eat This Column," where he reassured his readers that Trump simply was not going to become the Republican nominee, because he said so. At the same exact time, we were trying to point out the cold fact that Trump was still doing a lot better than anyone else, to anyone who would listen to what the actual data indicated:
The pundit world has been trumpeting the fall of Donald Trump for quite a while now, and in the past few weeks they've been joyously pointing out that Trump's poll numbers have fallen for the first time. What this fails to acknowledge is that Trump is still leading the pack, and still has poll numbers any of the other candidates would kill for.... While most pundits breathlessly await that one gaffe that will take down Donald Trump forever, I'm paying more attention to Carson and Fiorina -- because I think it equally likely that one (or both) of them could implode spectacularly at some point, given their inexperience at politics. The rest of the media is already writing Donald Trump's political obituary, but methinks that's a little premature. He's still leading the race, after all -- just not as comfortably as he used to.
Milbank, to his credit, did actually eat his column. But our very first MDPOTW goes to Ben White at CNBC, who made a similar promise, back in July. From his confident article:
Donald Trump is not going to be the next president of the United States. This reporter is already on record pledging to eat a bag of rusty nails if the real estate tycoon with the high hair manages to snag the GOP nomination, much less takes down likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton next fall.
White had plenty of soothing conventional wisdom for nervous Americans, about how Trump's numbers "would dwindle following the debates." You know, the usual inside-the-Beltway cocktail party chatter:
For those who think Trump has a real shot at winning the nomination, a little history lesson is in order. Republican primary voters often flirt with charismatic, fringe candidates but in the end almost always come home to the next-in-line, establishment figure. Think George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Ben White wins the very first MDPOTW this week, for not following Dana Milbank's brave lead in living up to your promises. In print, White stated that he would "eat a bag of rusty nails." We have yet to see him actually sit down and do so. While we would advise him to at least get a tetanus shot before doing so, we do think it important that anyone calling themselves a journalist should either keep their own promises made in print, or else retire permanently from the job of holding politicians accountable for the promises they make. Put up or shut up, in other words. Milbank put up. Ben White, so far, has not. Maybe this will make him think twice about making such rash predictions in the future, at the very least.
[We're not going to provide Ben White's contact information at CNBC, because he is neither in office nor even a politician. So you'll have to look it up yourself, if you'd like to let him know what you think of his inaction on the promise he made.]
Volume 391 (5/13/16)
As the general election campaign truly gets underway, we've been avoiding directing our talking points at Donald Trump, mostly because this field has been so crowded with Republicans badmouthing their own party's nominee. We couldn't hope to ever reach the scathing levels of what Lindsey Graham has been saying (just as one example). But this week, we have to gear up for what is likely going to be a very long and nasty campaign.
Other than our first talking point, we're devoting the rest to ideas for how to attack Trump. We only included one surreal one, and only one from a fellow Republican. And then in the last one, we're announcing a contest to see who can come up with the best playground taunt for Donald Trump, just because. Hey, we've got six months of this to look forward to, so we're all going to have to pace ourselves.
Too, too funny, Mitch
We had intended to devote all of these to Trump, but this one was just too juicy an opportunity to pass up.
"Mitch McConnell seems to be trying his hand at being a comedian. This week, on the floor of the Senate, he said to his fellow Republican senators, quote:
Some have said because it is an election year, you can't do much. I'd like to remind everyone: We've had a regularly scheduled election in this country every two years since 1788, right on time. I've heard people say, 'Well, we can't do it because we have an election next year.' And people have said, 'We can't do whatever it is because we have an election this year.' It is not an excuse not to do our work.
Unquote. This is either his attempt at comedy or else he is more clueless than he normally looks. Funny how the election is 'not an excuse to not do our work' for everything other than actually doing your job by holding confirmation hearings and a vote on the president's Supreme Court nominee, isn't it? If Mitch McConnell really wants to become a comedian, perhaps he should ask for some tips from Senator Al Franken, because this was a pretty weak attempt at humor -- unless, of course, it was just sheer and blatant hypocrisy."
Bruce Bartlett losing his marbles?
Bruce Bartlett is not the only Republican currently going off the deep end, but he is perhaps the most amusing, these days.
"Now that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president, some Republicans are just flat-out losing it. Bruce Bartlett, a man who once worked for none other than Ronald Reagan, is excited that Trump will be the GOP nominee, because he thinks it will hasten the end of the Republican Party -- a group that Bartlett now refers to as (you'll have to excuse me for this): 'wankers.' Bartlett not only calls Trump 'the surest path to complete and total destruction of the Republican Party as we know it,' but also gleefully tweeted: 'With Cruz out and Trump guaranteed the wanker nomination, Phase 1 of my plan to destroy the wanker party is now complete.' You can almost hear the evil-genius cackling in the background, can't you? Bartlett does have a few good points to make, such as: 'All wankers who oppose Trump should prove they opposed Sarah Palin in 2008 or else they have zero credibility,' as well as: 'If Newt Gingrich is Trump's VP he will be worse than Dick Cheney at filling the president's head with terrible ideas.' But he seems to be strangely eager to see his own party destroyed, don't you think? I mean, while other Republicans may be thinking such things privately, Bartlett is openly predicting: 'Does anyone believe the wankers will come out of their convention more unified? I think not.' Grab hold of your seats, folks, because this rollercoaster ride has just gotten started!"
Get naked to protest Trump!
"Photographer Spencer Tuck, famous for his landscapes filled with nude bodies, is looking for 100 women to pose nude in Cleveland, during the Republican convention this year. The women will all be holding up mirrors in an attempt to shine some light on the Republican convention, which seems entirely fitting. So if you have nothing better to do on July 17, if you're comfortable with your body becoming part of an artistic piece, and if you'd love to make a bold anti-Trump statement, Tuck wants to hear from you! We look forward to seeing the results of what could be the best street theater of the entire convention."
He's not as rich as he says he is
OK, the rest of these are direct talking points for Hillary Clinton (or her surrogates) to consider attacking Trump with. Clinton better have some zingers ready, because she's definitely going to need them during the upcoming brutal campaign season. These are just the first that sprang to mind, really.
"Donald Trump is quite obviously not as rich as he claims. This is really the only reason he is so scared to release a single tax return, because then it would be painfully obvious to all just how much Trump lies about his wealth. Audits don't go back to the beginning of time, so why hasn't he at least released a tax return from before the period he says he's being audited for? I'll tell you -- because he isn't worth ten billion dollars now, he wasn't worth whatever he said he was back then, and he really, really doesn't want the American people to know it. That's why he's so afraid to release a tax return, because it would show people what a complete blowhard he truly is."
Speaking of being afraid...
Fear grips the countryside, over in Republicanland.
"Ever since Donald Trump won Indiana (and the nomination), other Republicans have faced a stark choice. Either swallow their fear and support him, or denounce their own party's nominee. Republicans are caught between being afraid of Donald Trump and being afraid of Trump's voters. Most of them know, deep down, that Trump is not presidential material, but at the same time they envy his fervent support among the GOP base. What we're about to see is a whole lot of Republicans attempting to run with Trump and away from Trump at the same time. I don't ever remember such a bizarre situation, where Republican politicians are essentially afraid of their own voters. Even the Tea Party wasn't this bad, when you think about it."
Establishment paper tiger
This also needs pointing out, just to rub salt in their wounds.
"For a long time, the so-called Establishment Republicans have been a force to be reckoned with in the GOP. The Establishment was to be feared, as it controlled the party's levers of power. But Donald Trump has just proven how toothless they really are. They poured millions of dollars into attempts to stop Trump, to no avail. They were caught flat-footed when he secured the nomination. All they've done is mutter about some mythic third-party conservative candidate, without actually doing any of the groundwork that would have made such a thing possible. Now more and more of them are kowtowing to Trump, in the hopes of being re-elected. It's really pathetic to see the powerlessness of the supposedly omnipotent Republican Establishment laid bare in such brutal fashion. I guess they were nothing more than a paper tiger all along."
OK, as promised, we've saved our contest for last. We were prompted to create this contest by an article about how Team Clinton was test-driving "Dangerous Donald" as a playground taunt to level at Trump. The article expresses some skepticism that this will work, and we tend to agree. So what label can you come up with for Hillary Clinton (and all the Clintonistas) to use for the next six months?
We'll start the suggestions off with a few of our own, to get the playground ball rolling (as it were). Trump has reached into the land of cartoons to come up with "Goofy" as a label for Elizabeth Warren, so we thought "Dopey Donald" might be a good comeback. Of course, this one would have to get tweeted from Warren to be the most effective. Or how about "Dingbat Donald"? The idea is to ridicule Trump, which "Dangerous Donald" doesn't really achieve. Get under his skin. Make him tear his hair out (now that would be worth watching!). The last one we came up with (before we open up the comments for your entries) is a bit long-winded, but it does have a nice 50's rock-n-roll ring to it: Trumpa-Lumpa-Ding-Dong. Can you do better than this? Sure you can! Let everyone know about it in the comments, as always.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank