02/26/2011 03:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Friday Talking Points [156] -- Fighting on Several Fronts

Well, that was a busy week, wasn't it?

We've got so much to cover this week, we're going to have to move pretty quickly here. In international news, North Africa and the Middle East are still seething. The American news media, however, are (I actually heard this phrase being used by someone with a blowdried haircut the other night on television) experiencing "revolution fatigue." Seriously. They're bored with the whole storyline. Another dictator fell? Crowds of unarmed people being machine-gunned? Yawn. Don't we have an Oscars story we could run, instead?


Right now, of course, the main story is Libya, but other countries Americans cannot locate on world maps are also clamoring for change. Including, very inconveniently, Iraq -- where crowds of unarmed protesters have been shot at with live ammunition. But dead protesters in our forcibly-imposed democracy in the region is just so not according to the media's storyline, meaning it didn't get much coverage.

In domestic protesting news, the standoff in Wisconsin continues. The unions seem to be making progress in other states towards making Republicans back off their orgy of union-busting legislation, but the governor of Wisconsin is not backing down one inch. Both sides of this battle see Madison as the front line of a much wider fight, and so it has taken on symbolic meaning in terms of which side blinks first. At this point, nobody can predict the outcome, so I'm not even going to try doing so.

As an aside, I am putting out a call to all members of the Grammar Police. Which spelling is more acceptable -- "protester" or "protestor"? I had been using "protester" pretty consistently, but the word's been popping up so frequently in the past few weeks that I've noticed some very respectable publications going with "protestor," so now I have to wonder. Are both equally acceptable? Let me know what you think in the comments. I do know the answer to one spelling question this week, though. The correct answer as to how to spell the name of the Libyan leader currently under siege is: "there is no correct English spelling," since Arabic is a phonetic language and therefore anything which, when pronounced out loud, sounds like his Arabic name is just as "correct" as any other spelling. So there.

How did we get onto spelling? Like I said, we've got a lot to cover here, so let's move on from such distractions, shall we?

Speaking of distractions, another week has gone by, and still not one single idea from Republicans on how to create jobs. Lots of ideas on attacking abortion, lots of ideas on how to cut money for things like the Border Patrol and keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, but absolutely no time for creating jobs. Guess Republicans have their priorities straight, eh? Well, no... no they don't. But we'll get to all of that later, in the talking points segment of our program.

Of course, some Democrats are prone to getting distracted as well. Harry Reid refused to force the Senate to work this week, even though a government shutdown looms next week, so that he could travel home to Nevada to meddle in state affairs by calling for an end to the state's legalized prostitution. Seriously, Harry, this was more important than working to avoid a government shutdown? Sigh.

The only good thing (perhaps) from Congress taking yet another of its week-long vacations is that this is the first chance all those Tea Party Republicans will have to hear from the folks back home. Some of them are finding out that "earmarks" and "bringing home the bacon" is actually quite a bit more popular than they had thought -- when it translates directly into jobs in their districts (or jobs lost). It'll be interesting to see if any of them change their attitude at all when they return.

Because Congress -- both Republican and Democratic -- failed to do their basic job of passing a budget for the past few months, we will now have a fourth budget battle next week, added to the already-packed schedule of three giant showdowns over spending to take place over the next few months. This will be a largely-symbolic battle over a very short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government up and running for a few weeks while Congress hashes out the final budget resolution to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year. The other two upcoming battles (raising the debt ceiling, and passing a 2012 budget) are going to be even bigger, so even though the first two are smaller potatoes, they are going to set the stage for the more important fights to follow. Which is why the first of these fights -- over a resolution to keep the money flowing for only a few weeks -- is going to be important. Not fiscally important so much (one way or another, it's only a few weeks we're talking about) as politically important. On the Republican side, we have the frothing-at-the-mouth Tea Party Republicans, and on the Democratic side we have... sigh... Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Well, we'll see how it all plays out, won't we?

But that's news for next week. This week, we learned that the United States military may have let loose the dogs of psychological warfare upon... United States senators? A story in the magazine Rolling Stone is making some very large waves, because if true this is not only illegal but also disgusting. Some very big names (John McCain, Joe Lieberman) were among those reportedly targeted. This story hasn't gotten much traction in the news media so far, but that could change over time due to the explosive nature of the allegations.

President Obama made big news on gay rights as his Attorney General announced the Justice Department would no longer defend a key provision of the Defense Of Marriage Act in court. Now, this may not be as big a deal as either side is making it out to be. The law will still be "enforced" but not "defended in court," which is confusing, to put it mildly. And it is not "unprecedented" as opponents claim, because other presidents have done exactly the same thing. It may be a power struggle between the governmental branches, but it is hardly a precedent-setting thing for Obama to do.

Obama does seem to be reaching out to certain parts of the Democratic base of late, especially the gay rights community (the White House just announced today that they had hired not only the first male social secretary, but the first who is openly gay, as well). I personally chalk this movement up to the fact that Rahm Emanuel is no longer running the White House ship, and heartily look forward to more movement in this direction as the 2012 elections approach.

One troubling piece of news for Obama, however, is the price of oil steadily rising as Libya burns. The sad fact is that most Americans simply don't pay that much attention to politics. Almost one-forth of Americans in a recent poll wrongly answered that last year's healthcare law "had already been repealed." Which goes to show how uninformed the American public truly is (only 52 percent got the question right) on things political. But everyone notices the price at the pump. And if gasoline hits $4.00 (or $4.50, or even $5.00) a gallon this summer, then they're going to want to blame someone. Rightly or wrongly, this usually falls on whoever is currently in the Oval Office. But that's looking pretty far in the future, and we've already got enough to cover this week, so let's move on to the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week and the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards, before we get to this week's Democratic talking points.

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