What a week!
Beginning the week, mere hours after last week's article went to press, was the story of Harry Reid's gaffe on the campaign trail last year. Following closely on this was Rod Blagojevich, cramming his foot so far into his mouth his ankle was no longer visible.
Much of the frenzied activity took place this week behind closed doors (and most decidedly not on C-SPAN), as healthcare reform entered its final negotiating phase. President Obama even decided to get involved, meaning we must be almost at the end of the fight. Ahem.
This fight, I should mention, may be speeded up considerably, due to tanking poll numbers for the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Massachusetts, but we'll get to these pathetic details in a bit.
First Lady Michelle Obama sported a new haircut, which caused swooning and other fits of the vapors among the chattering classes, at least momentarily. She took the time to read Green Eggs And Ham to some children, which (while adorable) will not go down in history as the most memorable reading of this literary masterpiece ever, since that position is held for all time by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, for his interpretive reading on Saturday Night Live years ago, when Theodore Geisel ("Dr. Seuss") passed away. With all due respect to the First Lady, Jesse's stentorian preacher's voice will, in my opinion, simply never be bested in the Green Eggs And Ham category, ever.
But then everything faded into being simply trivial, once the earth shook in Haiti. This was a monstrously large earthquake (the same size as the San Francisco quake of 1989 -- but which shook the ground for twice as long), and the city of Port-au-Prince was flattened.
The Haitians' misery was soon compounded by the arrival of the coiffed American News Anchor brigade of idiocy. For the first night after the quake, we got lots of interviews with white Americans about what they thought about the situation (I wish I were making this up, but sadly, I am not). The second night, we finally got a few interviews with actual Haitians (perhaps the blow-dried folks forgot their French interpreters the first night, who knows?) -- by underlings, mostly. The anchors' attempts at doing actual journalism, rather than the "journalism" they're used to (which consists of reading badly-phrased idiocy in a non-threatening accent) were, in a word, pathetic. Of particular note was Brian Williams of NBC, interviewing what looked like an 8- or 9-year-old child. After ascertaining that his house had collapsed and killed most of his family -- by asking the child "what happened to your house?" -- BriWi's brilliant followup (which he repeated more than once, obviously since he could think of no other question to ask) was to ask the child whether he was "OK" or not. The hook to the story -- again, you simply cannot make this stuff up -- was that "a child can still manage to smile in all of this."
Here's a clue, just for BriWi -- NO!! The kid is NOT OK!! There was a BIG-ASS EARTHQUAKE, BriWi, and that is probably the reason his HOUSE IS NOW TWO-DIMENSIONAL!! This house has HIS DEAD RELATIVES IN IT, so asking him if he is "OK" is probably the STUPIDEST QUESTION YOU COULD POSSIBLY HAVE ASKED. Once again, NO NO NO NO NO!!! The kid is NOT OK.
I'm surprised I have to say this stuff, because apparently television news folks seem to think this is "the story" when the only story here is the monstrous cruelty and asshattedness of American "journalists" today, which is the only possible explanation of Brian Williams' behavior.
Thankfully, Bill Clinton finally hit the airwaves, to provide a scintilla of intelligence to the news reports on Haiti. More on that in a moment.
President Barack Obama was under heavy consideration for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, but unfortunately "the week" is in the wrong place on the calendar.
To his credit, Obama looked downright presidential in his actions this week on hammering out a final healthcare bill. Long meetings have been happening at the White House between House and Senate negotiators, and Obama is by all accounts personally involved in these, shuttling from meeting room to meeting room to encourage everyone's efforts and negotiate final details. He even brought in the unions, to win their support back.
It's been an impressive week of activity for President Obama, and surely would have won him the coveted MIDOTW award, were it to have taken place... oh... say, last September. Or even October. It would have begrudgingly even won him a "Golden Backbone" statuette in November or even possibly December.
But at this point, it all just has a feeling of "too little, too late" about it. Too little -- Obama is working with what came out of the House and the Senate, and either (or both) of those could have been a lot stronger with some earlier White House involvement. Too late -- Democrats are now staring down into the abyss. This abyss has a name on it and it is (oh, the irony!) "Teddy Kennedy's Senate Seat."
Democrats (are you sitting down?) may lose their 60-vote Senate supermajority not this November, but instead next Tuesday when Massachusetts has a special election to fill Kennedy's seat. And the Democratic candidate appears to be in trouble. If she loses, there will be about a ten-day delay before the Republican is seated in the Senate. And that will be the window to get healthcare reform passed.
Now, even making the outrageously optimistic assumption that the House and the Senate leaders can manage to get a bill fully written by the end of today, ten days may not be enough time to get it passed in the House and Senate and onto Obama's desk. In other words, if Democrats lose the Senate seat, healthcare reform could already be dead.
You can bet this is what has led Obama to his furious activity on getting a compromise. Now just imagine for a minute if this had all happened in October, and you can see why Obama qualified for a MIDOTW award, but missed it due to it being about four month's worth of weeks too late.
But the real Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was none other than Bill Clinton. The former president was just about the only intelligent voice on television in the past week on Haiti. And, since pretty much every voice for the past three days on televised news has been speaking about Haiti, that is truly saying something impressive.
Clinton showed off his very best side this week: his sheer wonkiness. Clinton was in a good position to do so, as he has been the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti for a while now. But still, while all around him were losing their heads, Clinton was the one who calmly explained exactly what was in the works, what would take place over the next few days, and what their plans were after the search-and-rescue period had ended and the monumental task of digging out and rebuilding begins.
For his command of the details, for his reasonable answers to some very stupid questions by "journalists," for his emotion in pleading for Americans to dig deep and help the aid efforts, for his all-around projection of statesmanship, Bill Clinton is without a doubt the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. We all like to make fun of the "Big Dog," but in doing so sometimes we forget why most Americans loved Bill Clinton when he was in office -- he's just so downright competent, no matter how big or detailed the task at hand.
Well done, Mister Former President, well done. You've got a big job ahead of you, but you're made a good start on the public relations front so far. In keeping with Clinton's stated wishes, we urge everyone to give what help they can afford to the cause, instead of providing contact information for Clinton himself.
[Donate to the Haitian earthquake relief effort at clintonfoundation.org, which lists a number of good organizations you can donate toward Haitian relief. One hundred percent of donations to Clinton's organization will be spent on Haitian relief.]
A very early contender for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for his gratuitous use of the word "Negro" in support of Barack Obama's candidacy during the presidential race.
This was quickly topped by none other than Rod Blagojevich, who set a whole new bar of crazy this week when he proclaimed he was "blacker than Barack Obama." Blaggy, for those unaware, is of the melanin-deficient type usually known as "white." For this comment from the far reaches of lunacy, Blaggy is awarded a MDDOTW.
But also winning her own MDDOTW this week is Massachusetts Democrat Martha Coakley, who is running in a special election for the departed Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Now, Massachusetts is quite possibly the "bluest" state in the country, on the blue/red Democrat/Republican scale. Its entire congressional delegation is Democratic -- something even California can't claim. Voter registration is something like three-to-one Democrat over Republican. And yet, Coakley might just lose this race to a Tea Party-supported Republican.
This has enormous implications, since if Democrats lose this seat, they will have two options: pass healthcare reform in lightning speed before the Republican is officially seated, or kiss healthcare reform goodbye for (at a casual guess) at least a decade.
Those are not good options.
Coakley, from all reports, ran a terrible campaign, did not do well in the debates, and generally just assumed she'd get the seat in the heavily-Democratic state. Her opponent, on the other hand, has been campaigning like mad all over the state. They are now basically even in the polls. So, for pulling a Hillary-esque "inevitability" campaign, and for putting in danger Democrats' 60-vote supermajority in the Senate ten months earlier than anyone expected, and for her lackluster campaigning, we award Martha Coakley the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Here's hoping next week will go better for Coakley, or we're all going to have to rethink the entire political scene for 2010.
[Rod Blagojevich is out of office, and therefore we have no contact information for him. Martha Coakley is currently a candidate for office, and our rule of thumb here is never to give out candidate information, so as not to fall afoul of campaign finance laws. Besides, Coakley's got enough problems, and probably doesn't need any of our irate messages at this point. Sigh.]
Volume 107 (1/15/10)
The Friday Talking Points are a bit disjointed today, but then it's been a few weeks since we actually put together the traditional list, so we're a bit out of practice.
There is no overarching theme this week, in other words, but rather some random points offered up (as always) to Democrats everywhere, and most especially to those Democrats who are officeholders being interviewed this weekend.
Without further introduction, let's get right to it.
The Fed ran a $45 billion profit
Here's one of those stories which amaze me because it should have been big news, but instead was barely even noticed. Democrats really need to present things in an entirely different light, or else they are going to get buried in the midterms later this year. This is a good example of how to do so.
"I'm surprised I didn't see any reporting on the fact that the Federal Reserve just made a 45 billion dollar profit last year. Contrary to popular belief, and contrary to what television news likes to infer, all that 'bailout' money was simply not just handed to Wall Street as a giveaway. We, as taxpayers, are loaning that money out, not giving it away -- a fact which escapes many. That money is now starting to come back, as was always planned. This, among other things, allowed the Fed to make the highest profit in history, over ten billion dollars larger than any other year posted. This money goes straight into the Treasury, and helps reduce our national debt and the deficit. So why wasn't the story of the Fed's astoundingly good year for the taxpayers bigger news?"
And Bernanke didn't get a multi-million bonus, either
This is really a followup to the previous point.
"And you know what? The Fed just made a profit larger than Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase made last year -- combined -- and for all that talk of how it is absolutely necessary to hand out multi-million dollar bonuses like candy to Wall Street traders or else they will bolt to mythical jobs elsewhere, the man at the head of the Federal Reserve -- Ben Bernanke -- last year made less than $200,000 in salary. With no bonus -- not one thin dime. So it is possible, I guess, to make a bunch of money without paying obscene compensation in order to do so. Maybe we should pass a law stating that no banker can make more than the Fed Chairman, maybe that would help."
Obama rolling up his sleeves
This one is going to have to be more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger, I guess.
"We are pleased to see President Obama truly become engaged in the process of producing a final healthcare reform bill that can pass Congress. The president has rolled up his sleeves, and spent the better part of this week focused on getting House and Senate Democrats to agree on something. While we certainly appreciate the president's recent efforts, at the same time I would urge President Obama to consider, in the next key piece of legislation he proposes, to get involved a little earlier in the process, in the hopes of speeding things up a bit. Now, don't get me wrong, Obama's done some excellent work this week, as evidenced by reaching a compromise the unions can support, for one, but all I'm saying is that this sort of energy would be appreciated a little earlier than the last minute, next time."
Another Republican announces his retirement
Yet again, the mainstream media takes a pass on reporting that there will now be fourteen open seats in the House from retiring Republicans. Much ado was made last week over Democratic retirements, but nary a peep when another Republican steps down.
"I noticed there weren't a lot of headlines over the fourteenth Republican House member to announce he will not be running for re-election. Funny how when a Democrat retires, it is some dire news event, but when Republicans retire, it isn't even mentioned. For those keeping score, this makes fourteen Republicans retiring in the House, to the Democrats' ten, and six Republican senators retiring, to the Democrats' two. Just wanted to mention that, since the news media doesn't seem capable of such basic math."
OK, this one is some grade-A pure spin, I have to admit. Since nobody will know the reality until it happens, it's best to put a brave face on things in the meantime, in the hopes of motivating voters to go vote this Tuesday. Or scare them into it, one or the other. Sigh.
"Democrats fully expect Martha Coakley to win her election next week. We know it's going to be a close race, and we know that it is an important race with national implications. Which is why we're doing everything we can to get Democratic voters to the polls next Tuesday. President Barack Obama is going to appear in support of Coakley this weekend, and I really don't think he'd do that if she was seen as some sort of lost cause by the White House. I'm not saying her election is guaranteed, because every vote is going to count and we need every Democrat to realize the importance of voting in the special election. But we do feel that our efforts will pay off, and the Democratic voter turnout will be a lot bigger than expected."
Reid and race
What with all the other news, this seems to have largely died down. But questions may still be asked this weekend about Harry Reid's comments on Barack Obama's candidacy, so be prepared.
"Harry Reid, no spring chicken himself, regretfully used an old-fashioned term to describe Barack Obama's lack of distinctive accent during the presidential campaign. He has apologized to, as he put it, everyone within the sound of his voice, and Obama himself accepted Reid's apology. But please understand that, aside from an outdated word, what Harry Reid had to say was in no way racist, but rather an honest statement about politics and race in America. It may have been too honest for some, but Reid was merely pointing out a historic fact about African-Americans who have been elected to higher office in America. Just because the subject has to do with race doesn't make every statement a racist statement."
Isn't he in jail yet?
And finally, there's Blagojevich. Fortunately, this one has a snappy answer built in.
"Rod Blagojevich? Isn't he in jail yet? Wow, I'm surprised he isn't behind bars already."
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground