While it certainly was (quoting the Flintstones theme) a "gay old time" in Washington this week, I have already spent the whole week on the subject, so I'm really only going to mention it in passing. I did run a column from last December this week where I predicted the outcome of both cases at the Supreme Court, if you're interested in grading my predictions -- and I might point out that it seems that many other pundits have now come around to this way of thinking, especially after watching the oral arguments.
But while we were all court-watching, there was some other political news happening this week. We start off with an embarrassing item. Now, I'm as big a Star Trek fan as the next guy, but hearing that the I.R.S. spent $60,000 on a Star Trek spoof training video was a bit much even for me. Sure, that's not just "peanuts" when it comes to federal budgeting, it's in fact "one grain of salt on one single peanut." But still, guys, it's like you're painting a target on yourselves (right before tax season, to make it worse) saying: "Oh, please cut our budget... pretty please?!"
The strangest thing to us is if we were asked to list "federal agencies you might expect to make a Star Trek spoof video," the I.R.S. would be way way down on our personal list. I mean, number one would probably be the folks over at N.A.S.A., wouldn't you think?
Moving right along, President Barack Obama did one very smart thing this week. He appointed the first woman to ever head the Secret Service. This was a smart move because the agency quite obviously has some "macho" problems (such as hotel visits from prostitutes, for instance) that need fixing. Naming a woman to head the agency sends a clear signal that it is time for the agency to reform itself and set only the highest standards for their agents, both on and off the job. This is one of the nation's elite law enforcement groups, and we think it's high time for a woman to be in charge of it.
The big news towards the end of the week was "stupid things Republicans say," of course, but we're saving most of that for the "Talking Points" part of the program. The biggest fray was over a Congressman from Alaska who apparently grew up in Central California in a time where bigotry was acceptable. Now, this isn't that damning a thing, since many folks grew up where various strains of bigotry were acceptable in polite society. The big difference is, most of us have realized that such bigotry was, in fact, wrong and demeaning and mean-spirited if not downright evil. Most of us have also realized that using the same terminology that was bandied about by some folks in the past is no longer acceptable in any way shape or form, here in 2013.
Don Young apparently hadn't learned this lesson yet, as evidenced by his casual use of the term "wetbacks" in a radio interview. As I said, I'll address this later, but what we found notable was an article in the Washington Post which charted Young's previous odd and dubious behavior. Which included a line (you just can't make this stuff up, folks) which just begged to be included here in our intro, and which we leave you with as a wrapup for this week: "Young brandished an 18-inch-long walrus penis bone and pounded it into his hand for emphasis."
It was indeed impressive to see a whole passel of office-holding Democrats come out in full support of gay marriage this week, in advance of the Supreme Court's arguments. By doing so, they are all following President Obama's leadership on the issue, after he proved that Democrats can support gay marriage even during a fierce campaign and still win. Of course, some give most of this credit to Joe Biden, and they do indeed have a case. Either way, though, it's heartening to see that the Democratic politicians are catching up to where the voters are leading on the issue.
Bernie Sanders had a pretty good week, getting a vote to protect Social Security through the Senate and introducing a new bill to take on the whole "Too Big To Fail" concept on Wall Street. So we've got to at least give him an Honorable Mention.
But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week goes to Kentucky's governor, Steve Beshear. His legislature passed a "religious freedom" bill whose sole purpose seems to be to give businesses legal cover to be as discriminatory as they feel like being, because of "religion." This seems like a novel new way for Republicans to alienate gay people (and those who support their rights), so this legislative effort will likely soon spread to other red states, if the recent past is any judge.
Beshear, however, vetoed this bill. It didn't matter, and he knew it wouldn't. They had enough votes to override his veto, and they had those votes before he did so. The bill is, quite obviously, a "wedge issue" to pit those who support religious freedom against those who support gay rights. In Kentucky, the safe course was to just sign the bill, and not risk political blowback by vetoing it. Beshear chose to stand up for what he thought was right, even though the only result of doing so was to risk his own political skin.
We have to say, that's pretty impressive. Which is why, for his veto of this bill earns Governor Beshear this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.
[Congratulate Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
We've had a few weeks without many disappointing actions from Democrats. It's been slim pickings here in the MDDOTW category, to put it another way.
This week all of that changed, as an absolute flood of disappointment hove onto the horizon. If we handed out a "Democrat Who Disappointed The Most Other Democrats" award, we would have to hand it to Ashley Judd, who announced that, contrary to breathless reports from pundits on the Left, she will not in fact be running for Mitch McConnell's Kentucky Senate seat.
Unfortunately, Judd aside, we've got some major disappointments to report on. While this one actually happened a while back, we feel that Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter deserves a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award nonetheless. We'll backdate it, how's that? Nutter was upset because a local writer penned a magazine article, from the perspective of a white guy, about the pitfalls about talking about race in the city. Nutter likened the article to "fighting words" and demanded that the local human rights commission do something about it. Free speech, according to Nutter, means not publishing things the mayor doesn't like to read. Way to further a serious conversation about race, Mayor Nutter.
New Jersey assemblyman Joe Cryan learned a lesson a lot of politicians seem to still not have learned: don't send sexual texts and emails unless you are OK with them being exposed to the public on the front page of your local newspaper. Seriously, shouldn't there be some sort of "Politics 101" class that covers this sort of thing by now? "The number one rule of politics is don't talk about sexual affairs online. Period." Sigh. When will they learn?
Speaking of online rants, Alabama state representative Joe Mitchell pretty much takes the cake this week. In response to a constituent who emailed him about gun control, Mitchell (who is black), sent the following in response:
Hey man. Your folk never used all this sheit to protect my folk from your slave-holding, murdering, adulterous, baby-raping, incestuous, snaggle-toothed, backward-a**ed, inbreed, imported criminal-minded kin folk. You can keep sending me stuff like you have however because it helps me explain to my constituents why they should protect that 2nd amendment thing AFTER we finish stocking up on spare parts, munitions and the like.
Bring it. As one of my friends in the Alabama Senate suggested -- "BRING IT!!!!"
Um, way to further race relations yourself, there, Mr. Mitchell. Nothing like accusing a constituent of having relatives who rape babies to get the conversation started, eh?
Surprisingly enough, this wasn't even the most bizarre story of the week. Out in Nevada, the state legislature has expelled a Democratic member who is scaring other lawmakers with his strange behavior. As if this weren't bad enough, now state representative Steven Brooks has been arrested in neighboring California. We're not sure how this story is going to end, but we are sure that it takes the "most bizarre" prize of the week.
We say let's hand out Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week prizes all around! Michael Nutter, Joe Cryan, Joe Mitchell, and Steven Brooks have all done more than enough to merit their MDDOTW awards, we are truly sorry to say.
[Contact Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on his official city contact page, New Jersey Assemblyman Joe Cryan on his official contact page, and Alabama Representative Joe Mitchell on his official contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions. Nevada's Assembly website is pretty badly designed, so all I could come up with was an official page for Assemblyman Steven Brooks, with no contact information. Perhaps they've already taken such information down, who knows?]
Volume 251 (3/29/13)
OK, we've got kind of a mixed bag this week, and we're already running long, so let's just get right to it. The last portion of the program will center on "what Republicans should -- and should not -- do to fix their problems with minorities." Or, to put it another way: "I'll take 'Driving minorities away from our party' for a thousand, Alex!"
This one is truly astounding -- an excellent example of why Americans hold Congress in such low esteem.
"I see that a compromise may happen on background checks for gun purchases between the parties. What I can't understand is that to get this compromise one loophole had to sneak back in. The one loophole everyone is apparently agreeing upon is for gun transfer between family members. Now, a quick review is in order. Where did the Sandy Hook shooter get his guns from? His mother. The Sandy Hook shooting was the reason we're even talking about gun legislation right now, and the compromise both sides can agree upon leaves as the only loophole the way the Sandy Hook shooter got his guns. Brilliant. Simply brilliant. And people wonder why cockroaches are more popular than Congress."
How smart are those dogs?
In all the other Supreme Court news, this one kind of snuck under the radar, but it is truly a win for civil libertarians, and deserves to be pointed out.
"I see that the Supreme Court has ruled that before the police can use a dog on your front porch to check for illegal smells coming from your house, they now have to get a warrant. This is a clear victory for the Fourth Amendment, and is a very commonsense ruling by the Supreme Court. After all, I don't know many dogs who have actually read the Constitution."
OK, the rest of this column, as promised, will be on the subject of how Republicans can drag their own party, kicking and screaming, into the new millennium. We've got a few "how to do things right" examples, and a few "no, that's not quite the way to do it" examples as well. We'll start on a positive note.
"I heard that this week, Bill O'Reilly actually kind-of sort-of came out in favor of gay marriage. I also heard that Rush Limbaugh basically admitted defeat on the issue as well. This should be seen as a good sign, because the quicker the Republicans realize they're on the wrong side of history here, the quicker they'll be able to convince voters that they're not just the party of cranky old men. To Republicans considering how to continue fighting on the gay marriage front, I say: Listen to Bill O. Listen to Rush. That sound you hear is the bugle call to retreat. You can either follow it, or you can continue to fight for what is going to be a very lonely and increasingly-unpopular stance. It's your choice."
Maybe stop calling them "filthy," to start?
Of course, there will always be those few who refuse to answer that bugle call.
"I heard that a member of Michigan's Republican Party leadership posted a pretty vile article this week on the subject of gay rights. Although 21 Republican officeholders have called on Dave Agema to resign, he's standing by his ignorant and disgusting statement. While I certainly applaud those 21 Republicans for attempting to purge their party of bigotry and hatred, I wonder why such a person was put into such a position of responsibility in the first place. The conversation on gay rights has changed. Most of America has realized it. Sadly, Agema has not."
If I'm ever in Rancho Cucamonga...
This is the sort of story which shows that change may come slow, but deserves mention when it does arrive.
"I would like to publicly applaud the owner of a Chick-fil-A in Rancho Cucamonga, California, for handing out free chicken coupons at a pro-gay-marriage rally recently. Even in the corporate world, attitudes are changing, and it is refreshing to see. I welcome the gesture by this franchise owner, and I promise that the next time I'm in Rancho Cucamonga, I will stop and get some chicken at his restaurant."
Not to get all PC... but...
A member of the House from Alaska showed in a painful way that some congresscritters have just been there too long, and have distinctly elderly ideas about what "the good old days" were really all about.
"I was astounded to hear Representative Don Young casually use the term 'wetback' this week in a radio interview, in the year 2013, for Pete's sake. Really, Representative Young? You really have no problem tossing such a term around? Here is 'Exhibit A' in why the Republicans have such a long road to travel on the journey towards convincing Latinos to ever consider voting Republican. It's not 'messaging' so much as it is outdated thinking. I was a bit heartened to see several prominent Republicans in Congress disavow Don Young's use of such a despicable term, but I also notice that nobody seemed to be calling on him to step down. The message is clear: Republicans can hold these sorts of beliefs, as long as they don't say so in public. In the next presidential election, when Latinos vote 75 or even 80 percent for Democrats, maybe Republicans will look back at this week in their search for why this is so."
Literacy tests to be on ballot
This one falls under the heading of "you've got to be kidding," really.
"I see that North Carolina may get a chance to vote on removing the unconstitutional and shameful 'voter literacy test' from their state's foundational law. What with the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court and what with the long and ugly history of hurdles placed in front of minorities to suppress their voting rights, I think it is long past the time when such a change is due. This is a reminder to us all that while we think America has progressed since the Jim Crow era, disturbing remainders still exist. I call upon all citizens of North Carolina to unanimously vote out this holdover from a shameful era in their state's history."
Chris Weigant blogs at:
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