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Friday Talking Points [121] -- Swampy Muck

06/30/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Boy, Louisiana just can't seem to catch a break, can it? If it isn't Mother Nature walloping it with hurricanes, it's a man-made disaster of enormous proportions about to bury its bayous and waterways under a blanket of foul-smelling muck.

We seem to be in the early days of what some are already cynically wondering might be "Obama's Katrina." It's looking more and more like a lot of valuable time may have been wasted at the very beginning of the disaster, and whether the Coast Guard or British Petroleum is to blame for this is a very open question. Perhaps nobody's to blame, and perhaps the disaster was unavoidable, given the situation. It's still far too early to draw any of these types of conclusions, which isn't stopping anyone from doing so, of course. As of right now, it seems like help is on the way for the region, but may not get there in time, or may be too small to be very effectual. My heart goes out to any Gulf Coast residents who might be affected by this disaster.

Unlike a hurricane, this may not be over any time soon. If they can't get the well shut off, it may be leaking oil for three months while a relief well is drilled. Meaning this story could ooze muck for a very long time to come before it is over.

The White House may not be hurt by a "they did nothing" scandal (as Bush's was with Katrina), but even without that complication, Obama isn't looking very smart right now for deciding to co-opt the "Drill, baby, drill!" issue from Republicans, as a bargaining chip to get his energy policy enacted. The White House has already (unsurprisingly) backed off Obama's plan to drill off of about two-thirds of the Atlantic coastline, at least for the foreseeable future.

For other news from swamps filled with foul-smelling muck, we turn to Wall Street. A demonstration was held there yesterday. Unions got thousands of people marching on Wall Street, which you may not have heard about, because the mainstream media did a great job of almost completely ignoring it. Even though the crowd was much larger than any of the recent Tea Party rallies, it got virtually no press at all. Here's the kicker -- even though Wall Street fat-cats jeered the crowd with shouts of "get a job!" (these are mostly Union people, remember), the media still couldn't be bothered. So much for that old "liberal" media, eh? Maybe they should have been wearing Revolutionary-era hats. Or, perhaps, waving pitchforks and torches -- maybe that would've gotten some more attention. Well, the media will get a second chance to redeem themselves with the immigration rallies planned for this weekend. Which I'm sure they'll also ignore. Sigh.

In another media "willful ignorance" story last week, ABC and the Washington Post did a poll. The Post ran two stories about it, neither one of which mentioned that President Obama's approval rating was higher than any poll since the middle of January. Obama got a 54 percent approval (44 percent disapproval), which is the best number he's posted on any poll in three months. Both stories the Post ran failed to mention this fact. Neither story reported the actual numbers from their own poll, although one article did admit "the president continues to get positive marks on his overall job performance, with, for the first time since the fall, a majority of independents approving." But still, guys, how about the actual numbers next time, especially with a three-month highpoint?

In other news, it seems that the Republicans have settled on their hot-button wedge issue for this year's election. And the winner is... immigration! Sorry, abortion and gay marriage, better luck next time.

Heh.

Seriously, the Republicans, prodded by Arizona, seem ready for open warfare on the immigration front. This is good news for Democrats, for the most part. What will likely happen is there will be a big deal made out of immigration at some point before the election, but no bill will likely pass the Senate as a result. But Democrats will be seen as at least being able to take on the issue, which will help them enormously with Latino voters, who are becoming a more important part of the Democratic coalition with each passing year. This will, hopefully, give a boost to Democratic enthusiasm and turnout for the election. But, more importantly, it will help drive moderates who have been considering voting Republican back to the Democratic side of the aisle.

Because Republicans can be counted on to go completely over the top in terms of rhetoric on immigration, they're just guaranteed to say some monumentally stupid and embarrassing things on the issue. You can bet the farm on it, because it will happen. Indeed, it has already begun happening.

And moderate suburbanites who vote independently like the "nice" side of the Republican Party when they talk about tax cuts and smaller government, but they also tend to recoil from the "nasty" side of the Republican Party when it comes down to meanness and hatred. Because a lot of these voters don't consider themselves bigoted in any way, they are ashamed to support politicians who display bigotry. Moderate Republicans win these folks over in general elections all the time, but when the rhetoric turns vicious, it can drive them away. And they're already coming back to Obama, as the Washington Post admitted.

So, we'll see how the immigration issue plays out, after Arizona shoved it onto the table. So far, Democrats have a mixed record. Harry Reid appeared to want to move immigration to the top of the Senate's list of things to do, but then said later he had been misunderstood, and walked this idea back. Likewise, Obama has said encouraging things about dealing with immigration, but also walked back expectations that anything was going to happen this year. Democrats are timid about jumping in this issue with both feet.

But they may not even have to, if Republicans go bonkers. We'll see, we'll see....

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

This week, the choice for MIDOTW is an easy one. The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week was none other than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. This should come as no surprise to regular readers, as I have written not just one, but two articles this week praising Harry's leadership (which has to be a record of some sort). For my Friday-only readers, this may come as a huge surprise, since Reid is still the all-time champion of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, having won this ignoble prize a whopping seventeen times.

But Harry had a very good week, we have to admit. For years now, Democratic supporters have been yelling at Harry: "Make them filibuster!" Or, in other words: "We want our Mr. Smith Goes To Washington moment!" Forcing Republicans to actually filibuster, instead of just voting on "cloture," would be a great tactic (this argument goes) for exposing Republican obstructionism in all its glory, and doing so would make them think twice about how many times they attempt it in the future.

Well, we didn't quite get that this week. But Reid's tactic was almost as dramatic, and achieved the same result. Reid announced late last week that he had scheduled a vote on moving Chris Dodd's Wall Street reform bill to the Senate floor. A deadline, in other words, to end the perpetual "we're trying to work out a deal" whining from Republicans.

It worked... eventually. The Senate voted Monday, and Harry lost the vote. The Senate voted Tuesday, and Harry lost the vote. The Senate voted Wednesday morning, and Harry lost the vote. Harry then announced he was prepared to pull an all-nighter, and just keep right on voting. The Republicans panicked. Late Wednesday, Harry brought the question up again. The Republicans didn't mount a cloture vote, and the Senate started debate on Dodd's bill on Thursday.

Reid performed this feat because he was negotiating from a position of strength, and -- this time -- he actually acted like it. He knew that every time the Republicans were forced to go on record as opposed to even talking about Wall Street reform was a good day for Democrats, and a good day for the chances of the bill actually passing. To add to Republican misery, Tuesday the Senate had the chairman of Goldman Sachs in to testify.

Sane Republicans know this is not a good issue for them. This is why not only have Republicans in the Senate failed to get any traction with their increasingly-confusing arguments on why we have to halt Wall Street reform in its tracks, but also why there hasn't been any white-hot manufactured rage from the echo chambers of the Right over the issue, either (as there was with health reform, for instance).

This is because Republicans know they're going to lose on this one (most of them will even admit this, on television). Knowing this, Harry Reid kept twisting the knife of a public vote, over and over again, until they cried "Uncle!". Afterward, Republicans bragged that they had "won" (pause for laughter), because they got Dodd to remove a piece of the legislation that Obama didn't even want in it, and because they can offer amendments to the bill on the floor (which they would have been able to do anyway). Everyone else in the universe saw it as a legislative victory for Democrats.

Which it was, of course. Harry Reid not only got what he wanted this week, he did so in rare style. When the final vote tally for this bill is counted, I expect to see quite a few Republicans voting for it, out of sheer terror of future campaign ads against them: "Senator Rightie voted with Wall Street and against Main Street..." (which, they know, are otherwise coming soon to a media market near them).

For starting this legislative boxing match by coming out swinging, instead of cowering in a corner, and for moving things forward in his chamber, Harry Reid is without doubt the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. Well done, Harry!

Congratulate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Senate Democrats showed a very impressive single voice in the whole battle over Wall Street reform last week, voting together as a solid bloc, instead of bickering among themselves (as they are wont to do, at times, being Democrats). Except for one very egregious case, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Berkshire Hathaway).

Nelson, father of the "Cornhusker Kickback," is up to his old tricks. He wanted a very special loophole written into the law for Warren Buffett, who happens to live in Nelson's state. Buffett, of course, is the wealthiest man in Nelson's state. How nice! His very own personal senator!

Nelson, of course, denies this: "To be absolutely clear, I did not vote 'no' because of Berkshire Hathaway. Nor did the fact that I and my wife have owned Berkshire stock for 30-plus years have anything to do with my vote. It has never been an issue. It isn't now."

(Pause for two full minutes, for extended riotous laughter and other assorted shrieks of hilarity.)

Now, Nelson isn't up for re-election until 2012, so Nebraskans (and the rest of us) are just going to have to put up with him until then. And, as I said, in the final vote I'd be willing to bet that enough Republicans get on board with Wall Street reform, so that Nelson's petulance can be safely ignored. But for voting against even starting the debate, in order to work an ugly backroom deal which would not just have enormously benefited his richest constituent, but also benefited both himself and his wife (who own six million dollars of stock), and for once again exemplifying so well what is wrong with our bought-and-paid-for political campaign system, Ben Nelson wins the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award for the eighth time.

For shame, Senator Nelson. For shame.

Contact Senator Ben Nelson on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 121 (4/30/10)

I haven't written about the Arizona immigration issue yet, mostly because I'm still waiting to see how it all plays out. My basic position remains unchanged as a Fourth Amendment supporter -- I don't think the cops should ever be able to pull anyone over without a reason, because it always leads to abuses. I think this about drunk driving checkpoints, immigration checkpoints (which I have been subject to in California, Arizona and New Mexico, driving within about 100 miles of the U.S./Mexican border), or any sort of "checkpoints" at all which have no probable cause. (The only exception I'd make is for a cordon to catch a criminal at large in a known area, because then the cops do indeed have a blanket probable cause).

So you'll forgive me if I just rant, for the first four talking points. Because if we're going to allow cops to stop people and demand papers to prove their legality, just on the way they look, then that's a very rich vein to mine, indeed. And we shouldn't limit ourselves to illegal immigrants, but rather get much more creative in applying this idea, instead.

So the first four of these are purely me ranting. The last few are our usual weekly talking points, for Democrats to use in conversation anywhere.

 

1

   OK, first we kill all the lawyers....

Shakespeare may have been right. Or, at the least, Mark Twain.

You want to profile people? Fine. I would start by remembering Mark Twain's classic line about there being no permanent criminal class in this country... except Congress. Since so many Congressmen are corrupt and have gone to jail for their various crimes, I think we should change D.C. law to allow anyone who looks like they might work for Congress to be pulled over and asked to provide their bank records and tax returns, on demand by the police. I bet you'd stop more crime by doing that then by what Arizona's doing.

 

2

   Drain the swamp

These would be easy to spot, and they do tend to congregate together, making them easy to pick up.

Or how about the crooks on Wall Street? I think the New York City police should be instructed to pull over pretty much anyone who looks like they work in the financial industry, at any time. Any of these people (you can spot them by their shoes, and by their limos, for that matter) should be subject to instant auditing by any cop on the beat, at any time. Since they did more to destroy the American economy than even Al Qaeda, they are dangerous people who simply must be profiled for the good of everyone else, because they're probably doing something criminal even as we speak.

 

3

   All tasseled loafers, up against the wall!

Again, an easy tactical situation since they all work on the same street, for Pete's sake!

Or how about we decide the cops should pull over anyone in Washington who looks like a lobbyist? Just set up checkpoints on all public access points to K Street, and you'd catch a whole bunch in one sweep, I betcha. These people do more harm to America than any other class of people I can think of, and cost American taxpayers billions and billions of dollars by corrupting our politicians. So I think they should be required to produce their firm's bank records at any time, when walking to the Metro, even, because I'm sure we all want to know who is paying these people and why.

 

4

   Stand aside, General, I have to search this suspect.

Once you get started, it becomes quite easy to justify shaking down people for their "papers" just by who they look like they might be, eh?

Or how about going over to Virginia and profiling anyone who looks like they might be a Pentagon contractor? Any military contractor is just bound to be part of some sort of law-breaking (or, at the very least, massive cost overruns) that is robbing billions of dollars from every American taxpayer and their children, too. Why won't someone think of the children? These people are robbing the taxpayers blind, every chance they get, and the only way to put a stop to it is to tell local police to stop them, in order to prevent such massive theft on an almost-uncountable scale.

 

5

   Fighting Wall Street polls well

OK, I'll stop. I promise.

Here's one that is guaranteed to terrify Republicans. And perhaps (just perhaps, mind you) could lead the two political parties into a playground... um... urination duration domination altercation (sorry, but I can't use the common two-word term, because even though its initials are p.c., it just isn't very "P.C."). Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, writing names in the snow....

Republicans are just now realizing that they have painted themselves into a corner. They tried to sell the hilarious "We're for stronger Wall Street reform" hokum, and now they may be trapped by it, because it's actually a very popular idea right now.

We welcome Republican ideas on how to strengthen Chris Dodd's Wall Street reform bill. We would love to strengthen these new regulations to rein in the Wall Street casino mentality. In fact, Democrats have a whole bunch of ideas how to do exactly that, which we'll be introducing as amendments. We invite Republicans to vote for these amendments if they really are for strong reform, and not playing some political doublespeak game. We even welcome Republican amendments with their own plans on how to strengthen these reforms, because if they have some good ideas, we may support them, too. Because Republicans are slowly figuring out that the country is solidly behind our efforts to get the strongest reforms possible out of this debate. And now that Republicans have read how well the issue polls, we would love to have a floor fight over which party can strengthen the bill more than the other party. But we're not even going to consider Republican ideas which weaken the bill, so they're wasting their time on those sort of ideas.

 

6

   Sorry, Charlie

Poor Charlie Crist. He has left the Republican Party, in an attempt to save his own political skin. But, being nice guys, let's offer him a hand in his hour of need, eh?

We think it is sad that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that they have forced out one moderate after another. We think parties should be big tents, and not exclusive clubs where you get kicked out if you disagree with any tiny bit of the party's rigid ideology. Well, all we have to say is that if Charlie Crist makes it to Washington even after being attacked by Republicans, we'll certainly welcome him into the Democratic caucus in the Senate when he gets there. If the Republicans slam the door in his face, our door will still be open, just wanted to let Charlie know that.

 

7

   Chill, baby, chill

OK, I admit, I just couldn't resist this one.

I notice a profound silence coming from all those who have been chanting 'drill, baby, drill,' don't you? If I were in the media, I'd go and interview pretty much anyone who is on the record using this "drill, baby, drill" slogan, right now. Because I notice they've been pretty quiet ever since the oil started spilling off Louisiana's shores. I guess "drill, baby, drill" is now "chill, baby, chill," wouldn't you say?

 

Chris Weigant blogs at:

ChrisWeigant.com

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground

 

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