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06/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Friday Talking Points [35] -- Tim Russert Memorial Edition

Friday Talking Points returns, after a one-week absence!

[I was on vacation last week, which is why I had no time for FTP, but I did have something ready for you anyway -- an interview with Minnesota Democratic(-Farmer-Labor) Senate candidate Al Franken. Sorry for the blatant plug, but unfortunately, due to time differences, I think it appeared a wee bit too early for my normal crowd to even notice it last week. Anyway, that's why there was an interruption in FTP service, for the record. By an interesting quirk of fate, I was only about two blocks away from where Hillary Clinton gave her concession speech last Saturday, but I didn't attend as I was instead in a museum and missed it. Well, OK, it was the International Spy Museum, and I was checking out the James Bond car, but still....]

While this week's awards and talking points section largely focuses on what Congress has been up to rather than the presidential campaign, I did want to say it's very heartening to see Barack Obama set up a website to counter the smears that are being circulated about him. These slime-jobs are only going to get worse as the summer progresses, so it's a good thing to see Obama moving to cut them off at their knees. Sure, the people who get these forwarded email attacks probably won't see his site, but the media will have a one-stop shop to refute such attacks, instead of just blindly repeating them on the air (as some of them have been doing).

This is, after all, Swift Boat season. And John Kerry showed us all what happens when you ignore this sort of thing for too long.

But enough of the campaign. Behind the scenes, Congress has been a busy beehive this week.

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

It's always a good sign when there are more than a few contenders for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. This was one of those weeks.

It started out with Bill Nelsen, Democratic Senator from Florida, offering up a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and have the nationwide popular vote elect our presidents from now on. But I've featured him already this week, so he won't be too upset that he was edged out for the MIDOTW this week.

There were also a few committee chairmen in Congress out there fighting the good fight. Henry Waxman is threatening the E.P.A. with contempt of Congress for (once again) not producing documents. Dianne Feinstein is /www.nytimes.com/2008/06/11/washington/11detain.html?em&ex=1213329600&en=42dcca38badb3166&ei=5087%0A">digging through Bush's torture mess in the Senate, as is William Delahunt in the House.

But this week's award goes instead to Representative Dennis Kucinich, for not only introducing -- but spending two nights reading in full on the House floor -- 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush.

Impeachment and removal of either Bush or Cheney, it should be pointed out, is just not going to happen -- unless they're caught in a conspiracy to give Bin Laden free money and the U.S. nuclear codes. Short of that, it's just not a realistic goal. The votes to convict in the Senate do not exist, and Nancy Pelosi over in the House isn't even going to let it get that far.

So Kucinich is shouldering a lance and tilting at the windmill of impeachment, for which he has been loudly mocked.

But Kucinich feels it is his duty to bring articles of impeachment forward, and that such duty should be above short-term political consequences. Even though his effort is doomed to failure, Representative Kucinich wins Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, for doing his duty under the Constitution as he sees it.

[Congratulate Dennis Kucinich via his House contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

I have to say also that it's always a good week when I have no candidate for Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Nobody seriously annoyed me this week, so they're all off the hook for another seven days.

I will launch a pre-emptive finger-wagging, though (since I've got a spare MDDOTW award, just waiting to go), to anyone on the left (bloggers included) who can't resist the urge to be disrespectful of Tim Russert's memory right now. Tim was someone who, when alive, invited plenty of criticism (from the left and the right) over his journalistic tactics and demeanor. I'm sure that I lobbed a few of these criticisms myself, at times.

But there's no denying that he has been an icon of the punditry for a long time now. His taking the helm of Meet The Press happened so long ago, it's hard to even remember the show without him. And say what you will about the show, it is the longest-running show in television history. That's pretty impressive, even if I did disagree with him at times ... and at other times yelled at him on my television screen. I (of course) am such a small fry that I never met the man, nor even dreamed of appearing on his show, I should add.

All I'm saying is have a little respect. I'm sure Tim is right now arguing with Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates about his press pass ... "Look, St. Pete, I've got a taped interview from 32 A.D. showing you were clearly on the side of journalistic entry to heaven... let's watch, and then I'd like to hear your response..."

Requiescat in Pace, Tim Russert.

[NBC News has a comment board up to remember Tim Russert.]

Friday Talking Points

Volume 35 (6/13/08)

1

   We didn't expect Republicans to give up quite so early

Good news from the upcoming Senate races for the Democrats. In one state (Arkansas), the GOP is just not fielding a candidate against Mark Pryor. And in another (Massachusetts), they tried to field a candidate, but when the deadline came to turn in signatures to get on the ballot, the guy they chose to run against John Kerry was 30 signatures short out of 10,000. More good news from the Senate campaign trail -- Talking Points Memo is now reporting that the Republicans are just giving up hope on two other seats that might have been close (Virginia, New Mexico). This means not only that Virginia will have two Democratic Senators next year, but that the Democrats start the election season with four all-but-guaranteed victories.

Democrats should resist the urge to gloat and do an end-zone dance in public, however, as that would be too unseemly (ahem). "More in sadness than in outright JOYFUL GLEE" should be the tone here...

"We looked forward to having a serious debate over the difference between Democratic and Republican Senatorial candidates this fall, but it now seems the GOP has given up on challenging us in four states. We urge voters everywhere to take notice that Republicans are already conceding states -- very early in the process -- and ask why they should even consider voting GOP if the party has publicly given up on them."

 

2

   Maybe if they didn't hire guys with sticky fingers...

The national Republican campaign committee to get GOP candidates elected to the House has sheepishly come out and admit what everyone has suspected for a while now -- the guy they hired as their treasurer absconded with a whopping $725,000.

This one just writes itself.

"The Republicans in the House can't even manage to audit their own campaign committee, and were bilked out of almost three-quarter of a million dollars by the guy they trusted as their treasurer. If this is how they handle their own campaign contributions, why would anyone vote to put them in power of the nation's budget? Vote for fiscal responsibility this November. Vote Democratic."

 

3

   Republicans love oil companies

Californian Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has been out front in the fights in the Senate over what to do about oil companies. Once again, Democrats tried to do something about a problem, and Republicans obstructed them from doing so. That is exactly what needs to be said about the situation. Because it's really not such a big leap to tie the entire Republican Party to the oil companies, especially when there are two oil men currently in the White House.

Boxer does so admirably, and I cannot improve on her words (her whole piece is worth reading):

Today, at gas stations across the nation, the American people are paying the price for a failed energy policy.

But faced this week with the opportunity to actually do something to address high gas prices, invest in alternatives and move toward energy independence, Republicans in the Senate once again chose the path of obstruction, just as they did with historic global warming legislation last week.

Over the last eight years, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their Republican allies in Congress have fallen over themselves to give oil companies huge tax breaks. They have repeatedly blocked meaningful progress toward energy independence and they have shown no interest in taking on the unchecked speculation that has created extreme volatility in energy markets and pushed oil and gas prices upward.

. . .

I believe that that it's time for lawmakers to decide whose side they are on. Are they on the side of big special interests, or do they stand with the American people and an energy policy that we -- and the world -- can live with?

 

4

   Bush just doesn't care

Democrats passed a bill in the House to extend unemployment benefits, usually not all that contentious an issue in tough economic times. They even convinced almost 50 House Republicans to vote for it. Bush, astoundingly enough, as indicated he's going to veto it, because the economy just isn't bad enough yet to warrant it.

Seriously. That's his position. It's just too darn generous a bill to those who have not been able to find work for the past six months.

Once again, Bush hands Democrats an issue on a silver platter, which will help them enormously with the public -- if they can only see it and use it.

To her credit, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quick to pounce on this one:

Today, the House voted to help 3.8 million Americans who are out of work in large part because of the disastrous economic policies of this White House and its allies in Washington.

. . .

All Americans are feeling real, serious, and deep economic pain. Yet President Bush has issued a veto threat against this legislation -- despite the fact that it will help 3.8 million Americans and in fact, the entire economy.

I urge the President to reconsider his veto threat and stand with hard-working Americans, just as he did in 2002.

 

5

   Like Ron Paul? Maybe you should vote for Bob Barr...

Ron Paul has officially dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for president. I know, I know, you're thinking "didn't that already happen months ago?" But even though the mainstream media has largely ignored his quixotic campaign after McCain got to the magic delegate number, his supporters are still out there and they're not exactly enchanted with John McCain. So why not strike while this particular iron is hot? Build a media narrative to counter the one McCain has been feeding by his overtures to disaffected Hillary Clinton voters. Make the Republicans sweat a bit -- especially when they remember how fervent Ron Paul's supporters are, and also how easy it was for him to raise money on "the internets" (which, to a large extent, mystifies Republican candidates).

Now, Democrats probably won't convince the Ron Paul crowd to vote for Obama, but they could convince them to stay home, or perhaps vote Libertarian (Bob Barr). And, especially in the South and Mountain West, this could shave a few points off McCain's total. A vote for Barr is a vote for Obama, in essence. The beauty of this is that you don't even have to prove such support exists, as long as you successfully feed into Republican fears, by re-framing the issue. For instance, when asked about "Clinton supporters for McCain," answer with:

"Well, you also have to look at a certain segment of the Republican Party who is not exactly thrilled about their nominee. Ron Paul raised a lot of money earlier in the race online, and he has now told his supporters to back Libertarian candidates. And everybody knows the Ron Paul crowd is just as fervent as the Hillary-or-Nobody crowd. So you've got to wonder how many Ron Paul supporters are going to vote for Bob Barr, the Libertarian nominee... or just stay home. Because in a handful of states, this could be crucial to the outcome of the race."

 

6

   What does John McCain really believe?

So far, I've resisted commenting on the Vice Presidential race, but I have to give Wes Clark credit for being a good attack dog on John McCain this past week. First was a Huffington Post interview where he led a full frontal attack on McCain's military and national security experience. Then he went further, on MSNBC's Morning Joe program (as reported by the "War Room" column on Salon). Anyone thinking of convincing Barack Obama they'd be the best candidate for Vice President should take heed of how Clark talks about McCain:

Clark referred to McCain's "personal courage," but said, "On the other hand, he's changed his position on torture ... So what does John McCain really believe? Who is he? ... Is he just a guy who wants to be president and he'll say what's necessary to get the job?"

 

7

   Zombies? Rotting corpses?

Since it is Friday the 13th and all, and since Washington, D.C. has already had a power blackout today, here is the most unbelievable quote of the week. Any Democrat appearing on television should write this on a 3x5 card and have it ready, just in case you get a chance to slip it into the conversation.

The man being quoted is Larry Hunter, who was one of the economic brains behind Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America." Pretty sterling conservative credentials for a Republican, you've got to admit. From an article about conservatives for Obama, or "Obamacons," in The New Republic, Hunter had this to say about the Republican Party:

And, what's more important, he [Larry Hunter] views the Republican Party as a "dead, rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of Weekend at Bernie's, handcuffed to a corpse." Unless the Republican Party is thoroughly purged of its current leadership, Hunter fears that it "will pollute the political environment to toxic levels and create an epidemic that could damage the country for generations to come."

 

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

 

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