Well, let's see what this week brought us all, shall we?
A satellite is falling out of the sky, but it probably won't hit anybody. Probably. I personally got over this fear by listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "It Came Out Of The Sky" (which I heartily recommend, just on general principles).
A Republican audience booed an American soldier actively serving his country in an overseas war. Well, to be fair to the audience, I'm sure if you asked the ones who booed that they'd respond they were merely booing the soldier's self-professed gayness. But still -- a Republican crowd booed a serving soldier. Way to "support the troops," guys!
Larry Flynt has just offered up to a million bucks for anyone who can prove that they had sex with Rick Perry -- "gay or straight" (either is fine with Flynt). One assumes this offer wouldn't include the Texas governor's wife, since that wouldn't exactly be scandalous. Kidding aside, though, that's a lot of money. And Flynt's record on taking down sexually hypocritical Republicans is well-established (after all, what other pornographer can say he forced a guy about to become Speaker of the House to resign from politics?). Had sex with Rick Perry, anyone? Can you prove it? Call the "hotline" at (323) 951-7911. It could be a lucrative phone call!
Speaking of Republican candidates for president, there was another debate last night. Gary Johnson was actually on the stage. Mitt and Rick said mean things about each other. That about sums that up.
Harry Reid is going to force Congress to do something next week, or the government will (once again) be threatened with a shutdown. This is news not for the shutdown threat (which is becoming so increasingly common it barely qualifies as "news" anymore), but because Congress is in a snit over having to work next week, instead of taking the whole dang week off. This is -- to add some perspective -- less than a month after Congress finished a five-week vacation. Must be nice work (if you can get it), since it involves so very little actual "work."
In other words, it was just another typical week of the follies known as Washington politics.
Are you sitting down? Perhaps you should.
We issue this warning because we are about to do something that we don't believe we've ever done before in the four-year history of this column: we are going to hand out a "Most Impressive" award to a Republican. We'll even call it a very neutral Most Impressive Politician Of The Week, so as not to offend anyone.
The winner of the first-ever MIPOTW is Congressman Phil Roe, who hails from Tennessee. Roe, before becoming a professional politician, was a doctor. He was in the Charlotte airport this week, and saw a man collapse in front of him. So he did what any trained person would do -- he immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation. By doing so, he quite likely saved the man's life.
He did not do so alone (there were others trained in CPR present), and he is characteristically modest about his aid (characteristic because real heroes always insist they are not heroes). You can make a case that the guy would be fine even if Roe had turned away from him. But you know what? None of that matters.
This isn't a political award, mind you. It's a humanitarian award. Phil Roe did what he needed to do and was trained to do. If I collapsed in an airport, I would want this guy around -- and I could care less what his political affiliations are. Which is why we're minting a brand-new Most Impressive Politician Of The Week just for him.
Moving along to Democratic awards, we've got to at least give an Honorable Mention to Harry Reid, for refusing to cave in to the Republican House's disaster aid bill. Some congresscritters are hopping mad that Reid may force them to actually work next week, which is all fine and good as far as we're concerned. I mean, seriously, guys, you normally try to link these weeklong vacations to some sort of holiday, but Columbus Day isn't for weeks. What are you calling this particular jaunt back home to raise campaign cash? "End of September Vacation Week"? Sheesh. Harry Reid has shown himself to be a past master at manipulating Congress by holding their sacred vacations hostage, and we try to applaud him every single time he does so. Increasingly, the last days before one of these way-too-frequent vacations is the only time anything gets done on Capitol Hill.
Elizabeth Warren also deserves an Honorable Mention, but we're going to wait to tell you why until the Talking Points portion of the program.
We'd also like to give Larry Flynt an Honorable Mention, just because.
But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes once again to President Barack Obama. This past Monday, Obama unveiled his ideas for both cutting the deficit and for paying for the American Jobs Act. He "went all in" (in poker terms) on a very simple idea: tax the rich. This idea is wildly popular with the American people, and Obama is right to center his campaign around it, because such a bill is not going to pass this Republican House in a million billion years. Meaning it'll be a dandy campaign issue all of next year, with zero chance that the Republicans will recognize the weakness of their position and pull the political rug out from under Obama by passing what he wants.
Republicans are already complaining about Obama's campaigning. They whine he should be above all that as president. To which we respond: cry us a freakin' river.
It's good to see that Obama has finally realized that standing up and fighting is a good political strategy. It's good to see him as "Campaign Obama" once again. Whether it'll do him any good with the rest of the public remains to be seen, but in the past month Obama has visibly rocked the Republicans back on their heels -- so much so that they're mostly playing defense these days. That is a change for the better, and hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of it in the weeks to come.
For drawing a line in the sand -- complete with a rare Obama veto threat -- and for taking on this issue head-on and full-force, President Obama is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.
[Congratulate President Barack Obama on the White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
This week, we're going to hand out a group award, complete with a call to action. Senator Jeff Merkley won last week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, for coming up with a stunningly good idea -- tell the official congressional "scoring" office (C.B.O.) to look at any deficit-cutting legislation proposed and score it not only on the federal budget, but also on its effect on unemployment and the job market.
To date, only ten Democratic senators have co-signed Merkley's letter. This means that 42 have not. The Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award goes to each and every one of these 42 Democrats who have not yet signed Merkley's letter.
Whatever are they waiting for? Perhaps they need a nudge. If your Democratic senator's signature is not on this letter [PDF download], maybe you should phone them up and ask why.
[You can find contact information for your senators on the Senate's main page, and it only takes a few minutes to call, so why not just go ahead and ring them up?]
Volume 182 (9/23/11)
As was entirely predictable, once Obama stood up for taxing the rich folk a wee bit more, the Republicans fired back with what they think is the biggest weapon in their arsenal for battles like this: screaming "Class warfare!" ad nauseam.
OK, I'll stop feeding into their frame-up by using all the military metaphors, how's that for a start? On a personal level, I would be remiss if I didn't notice that this is one more phrase that may soon be added to the things my initials occasionally stand for (joining "Country/Western" and "conventional wisdom" and... um, well, I guess that's about it).
Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right, class warfaring.
President Obama is well on his way to making this the main issue in next year's campaign (although at times, external events intervene in politics -- so who knows what the race will look like one year from now?). So we're going to devote six-sevenths of this week's talking points to refuting the "CW" claim. We'll even provide a bonus seventh "singing" point right here in the introduction, to make it a clean sweep. Because Huffington Post blogger Rick Horowitz has made the whole thing eminently singable, which is pretty downright funny. From his lyrics (he doesn't say, but I'm assuming to the tune of "That's Amore"):
When you look around and figure that the country's up for sale,
And you fret that K Street cronies have their thumbs on ev'ry scale,
While the worst of Wall Street's schemers never spend an hour in jail:
That's class warfare.
When the riches "trickling down" don't seem to make it to the poor,
And you see the hardship all around, but never see a cure,
If you note the gentle fragrance of a hill of horse manure:
That's class warfare.
Heh. Well done, Rick.
With that as an introduction, let's begin.
I'm a warrior for the middle class
We're going to begin with three excellent examples of how to counter the class warfare argument. The first comes from President Obama himself, from a recent speech he gave in Cincinnati. It is indeed heartening to see the president take on his critics in such a direct fashion, and so far he's been showing other Democrats how to do so. This is just one example.
Now, the Republicans, when I talked about this earlier in the week, they said, well, this is class warfare. You know what, if asking a billionaire to pay their fair share of taxes, to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare, then you know what, I'm a warrior for the middle class. I'm happy to fight for the middle class. I'm happy to fight for working people. Because the only warfare I've seen is the battle against the middle class over the last 10, 15 years.
Nobody in this country got rich on his own
Elizabeth Warren is the other Democrat out there showing the rest of them how this sort of thing is done. I wrote earlier this weekabout a video of Warren's brilliant framing of the issue to a small group of voters, and it is one of the best examples of Democrats who know how to do this sort of thing that I've ever seen.
It's been made into a a graphic image, as well. Here is Warren's answer, in full:
I hear all this, you know: "Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever." No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Exempt from the social contract?
Paul Krugman took a hand at countering the class warfare argument, and probably makes the most solid case on the economics of the issue (his whole column is worth reading). But at the end of it, he sums up his argument nicely:
Republicans claim to be deeply worried by budget deficits. Indeed, Mr. [Paul] Ryan has called the deficit an "existential threat" to America. Yet they are insisting that the wealthy -- who presumably have as much of a stake as everyone else in the nation's future -- should not be called upon to play any role in warding off that existential threat.
Well, that amounts to a demand that a small number of very lucky people be exempted from the social contract that applies to everyone else. And that, in case you're wondering, is what real class warfare looks like.
Do you even know how to read a poll?
This needs to be hammered upon at every possible opportunity. The ideal lead-in would be arguing with a Republican (on some political chatfest, say) who trots out some version of "the American people really want... X."
"You know, the Republicans keep trying to portray the president's deficit-cutting plan as some sort of 'class warfare' or some sort of radical left political position. Nothing could be further from the truth. Republicans are awfully fond of blathering about what, quote, the American people want, unquote. Luckily for the rest of us, there are public opinion polls which actually answer the question of exactly what the American people want. Have you seen any of these polls on this question? Have you? You can pretty much pick any poll at random, and it will tell you that large majorities are in favor of millionaires paying a tiny fraction more in taxes. Democrats are overwhelmingly for the idea. Independents are wild about the idea. Even a majority of Republican voters think it's a good idea. Poll after poll after poll shows exactly the same thing. The president is calling for something that is about as mainstream as any political idea gets in this country. This is not a radical idea. This isn't even a partisan idea among the public. It is solidly within the majority of the American people's mainstream. This is indeed what 'the American people want' and it's there for anyone who knows how to read a poll to see."
Pitchforks and torches? Where?
For a laugh, please see this spoof site, which is selling supplies.
"Do you really think President Obama is calling for 'class warfare'? Really? Warfare? Um, do you mind if I ask if you have one tiny shred of evidence to back up that propagandistic term? One recent instance of a crowd with torches and pitchforks in the United States, demanding redistribution of wealth? One instance of even the most minor class violence taking place, since Obama laid his deficit-cutting plan on the table? I mean, you can call it a 'fight' I suppose, since the wealthy have been fighting against paying their fair share for a few decades now -- and winning that fight, for the most part. I guess seeing that the little guy is fighting back a little bit might be disconcerting to some, but calling it 'warfare' is just laughable. A revolution is not taking place in America. There are no reports of rebellion that I've heard. So please, can you stop with the 'class warfare' nonsense?"
Disrespecting the troops [part 1]
Or, you can take a completely different tack, and get as downright indignant as possible. The best way to deliver this would be in a seriously "pistols at dawn" tone of voice. I'd pay good money to see some Democrat (Jim Webb, perhaps?) say the following to a Republican.
"I find it seriously offensive for you to sit there and accuse the President of the United States and his political party of waging any kind of, quote, warfare, unquote. Since you seem to have forgotten that our country has brave men and women fighting in real warfare overseas, allow me to remind you of this fact. Is this how your party 'supports the troops'? We are at war, Sir. We have troops in the field who are dying. For you to make the accusation that their Commander-in-Chief is waging warfare against your political party is downright obscene, Sir. You and your party's continued use of the term 'class warfare' seriously disrespects the brave men and women who are currently serving their country, and if you were a decent human being, you would immediately offer them all an apology. Sir."
Disrespecting the troops [part 2]
OK, this one is unrelated, but I simply could not pass it by. Ideally, a Democrat would say this immediately after using the previous talking point.
"While I'm on the subject of Republicans disrespecting the troops, what do you have to say to the fact that none of the Republican candidates for president on stage at a debate said the slightest thing when audience members actually openly booed a soldier who is currently serving overseas? That was a complete disgrace, but what was equally disgraceful was that none of the Republicans on the stage offered the slightest word of support for the soldier, or thanked him for his brave service to his country. Does the Republican Party only 'support' troops who fit in with your party's ideology? You really want some sort of political litmus test for which troops are worth supporting and which aren't? 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is history. It's over. You and your party need to get over it, and the next opportunity you get to speak to a man or woman in this country's uniform, you should go over and profusely thank them and shake their hand -- no matter who that soldier is. And if you see anyone disrespecting that uniform, you need to immediately speak up and speak out against the disgrace of booing a serving soldier at a Republican event."
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