Since the campaigns of both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama have seemingly taken my advice earlier this week, and are both concentrating on attacking Senator John McCain rather than each other, we have the luxury of getting away from the campaign trail this week and focusing on a few other things -- the biggest of which is the upcoming testimony before Congress by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on the situation in Iraq. More on that in a moment.
But while the two candidates didn't rise to the level of a Most Impressive award, they do deserve to be commended for a week in which they both campaigned respectfully and admirably. Obama was noted early in the week for attacking McCain on the stump, and Clinton followed up later with a new cut of her "3:00 A.M." campaign ad which focused on McCain (and not Obama) this time. Add to this the banter between the campaigns over Barack's bowling ability (Hillary called for a bowl-off to decide the race, on April Fool's Day, and Barack jokingly accepted on a morning news show), which was a welcome lighthearted note from both campaigns. Just last night, Hillary Clinton appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and was charming, personable, and actually pretty funny -- an excellent appearance, all around.
So I have to give both campaigns a big pat on the back for running the kind of campaign people actually like to see this week, instead of endless sniping over he-said/she-said stuff that really turns voters (for both candidates) off in a big way.
Also noteworthy, before we begin, is the fact that people are reacting to last week's Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week (the big Democratic donors who wrote a letter to Nancy Pelosi) -- Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic reports that donations to the DCCC (the group responsible for getting Democrats elected to the House) have been flooding in, in a backlash to the big donors' letter. This is exactly the right response to such bullying, and deserves some praise.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has had a good week all around. She's been standing up for human rights in China, marshalling Democrats to challenge General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker next week on the situation in Iraq, and generally doing a bang-up job of keeping her House in order. But that's not why she wins this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.
Pelosi wins this week's award for something she actually did a few weeks ago, which escaped notice until now. OK, this is an exception to the "of the week" rule, but then the whole story is about an exception, so it's at least somewhat consistent.
Pelosi went toe-to-toe with Defense Secretary Robert Gates just before Easter over the issue of getting a domestic partner of a Congresswoman on a military flight during an official trip to Europe. It all boils down to the definition of "spouse" as well as the overall "don't ask don't tell" policy of the military.
Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin is the only openly gay woman in Congress. She has exchanged vows with her partner, but her home state of Wisconsin does not recognize the relationship. Nancy Pelosi had to personally intervene, and even sign a letter to Gates which authorized an "exception" to the House travel rules in this case.
But Pelosi is not letting it die, she is pressing Gates for a formal policy from the military about domestic partners and spouses, for future travel by members of Congress. For her efforts on behalf of Baldwin, and for standing up to the Pentagon for something she believes in, Nancy Pelosi gets the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Well done!
[Historical column note: this is the 26th installment of this weekly column, meaning it has been roughly a half-year since I started writing it (I've taken a week off here and there). This week Nancy Pelosi becomes the first person to win the award twice in a row, and also the champion of the category, with four awards overall. Other multiple MIDOTW winners: Chris Dodd (3), Hillary Clinton (3), Barack Obama (2), and Joe Biden (2).]
[Congratulate Nancy Pelosi on her Speaker of the House contact page to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
I love weeks like this. There will be no Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week, because everyone has been generally behaving themselves.
Some would nominate Senator Debbie Stabenow's husband, but I don't consider him fair game for a number of reasons. He's not a Democratic officeholder or official, and (to the best of my knowledge) he's never used morality as a bludgeon to gain or hold onto power, so hypocrisy doesn't enter into it either. What I'm saying is, he's just not qualified to win the award, even if what he did was disappointing.
I also considered Joe Biden and Carl Levin for being quoted saying essentially that there's no chance of changing the situation in Iraq until there's a new president in town. Levin's quote: "Until there's either a big enough majority in the Senate or a change in the president's (approach), I don't see a significant improvement situation improvement [sic] in Iraq". This is indeed disappointing, but I'm filing it under "don't shoot the messenger" because while the reality that Bush has succeeded in kicking this particular can down the road for the next guy (or gal), and while it is disappointing to hear Democrats say such things, I believe it to be an accurate picture of the realities involved. So while I am disappointed in the situation, I really can't be all that disappointed in Biden and Levin for pointing it out.
So there will be no MDDOTW award this week. I'm sure if I missed some scandalously disappointing behavior by a Democrat, I'm sure you'll let me know in the comments.
[Historical column note number two: to be fair, here are the multiple MDDOTW winners so far -- Jay "Rocky IV" Rockefeller IV (5-time winner for his insistence on telecommunication amnesty), Dianne Feinstein (3), Pat Leahy (2), Charles Schumer (2), and Harry Reid (2).]
With the awards out of the way, we move on to the Talking Points for the week. The most important event next week in the political world will be the testimony by Petraeus and Crocker over how things are going in Iraq. Early indications are that they will be putting the Bush Rosy Scenario™ spin on things, which means Democratic members of Congress need to start framing the issue now, and they need to be prepared for next Tuesday and Wednesday's questioning.
I've already written a handy guide entitled "Questions For Petraeus" which address what congressional Democrats should ask the two, but there are a few more points to be made -- both inside the committee rooms, and in front of the television cameras. So without further delay, here are this week's Talking Points.
Volume 26 (4/4/08)
The streets of Iraq
This one will only work on Wednesday, and will require some coordination with an aide watching the news for reports of a planned demonstration by Moqtada al-Sadr in the Iraqi city of Najaf. Sadr called the demonstration for the fifth anniversary of the taking of Baghdad, but it will also coincide with the last day of testimony by Petraeus and Crocker. Of course, how the issue is phrased will be determined by events on the ground, but since video of this demonstration will run in the same news cycle as reports of the testimony, some enterprising Democrat should get it into the record as well.
"Do you know, General, what is going on in the streets of Najaf today? Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a million people to march today, and news footage shows he may not have one million, but that he does indeed have the support of a large number of Iraqis. Would you care to comment, sir?"
How many Iraqis deserted the fight?
The New York Times is reporting that during the fight in Basra over 1,000 Iraqi Army and police may have just walked away from the fight. This is a huge number, and needs to be explained in detail by Petraeus, along with all the other questions worth asking.
"Can you explain how what the New York Times calls 'dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders' from the Iraq Army deserted their posts during the recent operation in Basra? Is the Iraq Army ever going to be able to 'stand up' so that American forces can 'stand down,' or is this a hopelessly optimistic goal that will never, in fact, be achieved?"
$1.36 a gallon?!?
Nancy Pelosi, in addition to providing her own extensive list of talking points on Iraq, needs no help from me to perfectly frame this issue. Because it's one that every American can understand immediately. In Pelosi's words:
"Our troops in Iraq are paying about $3.25 a gallon for gas in Iraq, comparable to what we pay here, while the Iraqis are paying $1.36 a gallon. This is a raw deal for the American taxpayer."
Did anybody notice a Cabinet member resigned in disgrace?
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Alphonso Jackson just resigned, so he can spend more time with his defense attorney... ahem... or with his family, as he claims. He is being investigated for not just one but multiple scandals, including an accusation that he refused to award a contract when he found out the contractor wasn't a Bush supporter. You'd think this would be a big story (he was a Cabinet member, after all), but the media largely yawned at the story. Must be Bush fatigue or something.
"I guess the media had better things to do this week than investigate a Bush Cabinet member who resigned under several dark clouds and investigations. Just when the housing crisis in this country is reaching its worst, we find that the man in charge of HUD appears to be about as competent as Bush's former FEMA director. Heckuva job, Alphonso."
Yoo hoo! Memos also ignored by media.
An extraordinary 81-page memo was released this week by the Justice Department (due to an ACLU lawsuit), which was written years ago by John Yoo. Yoo, along with David Addington, are the two most responsible for the Bush administration's Orwellian up-is-down reading of the Constitution. This memo detailed why Bush -- and anyone he directed -- couldn't be held responsible for breaking any laws, since because we're at war the president can do whatever he wants -- ignoring not just any law he wishes, but also whatever parts of the Bill of Rights itself get in the way. The mainstream television media, those puffed-up members of our vaunted Fourth Estate, mostly ignored the story.
"It amazes me that John Yoo is still a professor of law at Berkeley when he so obviously does not understand even the basics of the bedrock of all American law, the Constitution. While I am relieved he does not currently hold a position in Bush's White House, I am concerned what he is teaching to Berkeley students of law now. Berkeley should be publicly called upon to explain why it pays this man to educate future lawyers."
The Bush Legacy begins (part 1)!
I usually eschew "non-scientific polls" since they're usually meaningless, but I just can't resist this one. The History News Network has released a survey of 109 historians, and the numbers are in (it's worth checking out the article to see the amusing charts).
98.2 percent of them judged Bush's presidency a failure. 1.2 percent disagreed. Additionally, 61% judged Bush as the "worst president ever," and a further 35% put him in the bottom ten. Some of these were holding out, waiting to see if Bush could top the disastrous administration of James Buchanan.
This one's easy, but it really needs to be delivered in a "more in sorrow than in amusement" tone of voice to be effective:
"A recent survey of 109 professional historians showed that 98 percent of them thought the Bush presidency will be judged a failure by history. Who am I to argue with the professionals? I just hope we can get through the next ten months without further disasters, until we can put a Democrat in the White House again."
The Bush Legacy begins (part 2)!
Only in San Francisco!
An inventive group which calls itself the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is proposing a ballot initiative for the upcoming election. The initiative, in its entirety, reads:
"Should the City and County of San Francisco rename the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Facility the George W. Bush Sewage Plant?"
While commentary on the important issue of the appropriate way to commemorate George W. Bush's legacy by Democrats will (of course) have to shy away from scatological references ("shit flows downhill" or "up Shit Creek without a paddle"), there are still many ways to do this justice.
"I can think of no more fitting statement on the policies and legacy of George W. Bush than renaming a human waste processing facility after him. My only concern is that it probably should be located either in Midland, Texas, or perhaps in Washington, D.C."
Or, how about something historical instead:
"Lincoln had the so-called 'Seward's Folly' which gave us the state of Alaska. 'Bush's Folly' has instead given us a sewage plant in San Francisco."
See you next week! Same bat time, same bat channel....
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com