So, apparently, Jeb Bush used to think he was Hispanic. At least, that's the box he checked when he registered to vote, a few years back. While immediately created much online amusement (my favorite: "It's pronounced 'Heb' Bush"), it does raise an interesting but tangential question -- and not just for Bush -- in the upcoming presidential primary process: Do Republican ballots in all states require full legal names for candidates?
This question is bigger than it first may seem. Because at least three candidates on the Republican side will be running their campaigns using nothing more than nicknames. And only one of them is even a common nickname for any of their given names. To put this another way, will Republican primary voters be offered the choice between John Ellis Bush, Rafael Edward Cruz, and Piyush Jindal? Those are the legal names of "Jeb," "Ted," and "Bobby," respectively. As noted, "Ted" is the only one of these that is easily-understood (replacing "Edward"). So how will these names actually appear to the voters? Has any one of the three actually changed their full legal name?
You can tell it's been a slow week in politics, when we're wasting paragraphs on such trivia. But that's life here at the meager beginnings of the 2016 campaign trail. It's April, after all, and we've only got two announced candidacies, officially. But by early next week, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul will reportedly be joined by Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio as official presidential candidates, so things are starting to pick up a little bit.
At least we're not as silly as Britain. Yet, that is. I'm sure that, with time, the American press will come up with something just as silly to obsess over, but for the moment Britain's press is castigating their prime minister for being photographed eating a hot dog -- with a knife and fork. Well, OK, we guess it's kind of understandable why scorn would be heaped on a politician so out of touch he couldn't pick up a hot dog, but this follows a previous scandal where a politician was photographed eating a bacon sandwich. We've checked the photos, and while any picture of anyone eating a massive sandwich can be seen as kind of embarrassing, we just can't figure out what is so bad about the bacon sandwich photos. Daintily eating a hot dog -- that's an understandable target of ridicule (imagine if Mitt Romney had been photographed eating a hot dog with utensils, for instance). But the bacon sandwich one was beyond us, sorry. Thankfully, the American "politicians forced to eat foods strange to them" season has not quite begun yet, so we'll all have to wait for Iowa to heat up before our race gets as silly as Britain's currently seems to be.
Moving right along, we have two items from the intersection of politics and prostitution. No, that wasn't a lead-in to campaign finance scandal stories, although it's easy to see how the two could be mistaken. An aide to Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte had to resign hastily this week after getting caught in a prostitution sting. Whoops! Over at the Justice Department, things have gotten so bad that a department-wide memo was necessary to inform employees that consorting with prostitutes -- on or off duty -- was a no-no. This follows the revelation that Drug Enforcement Agency personnel were treated to hookers and lavish presents (of fancy weapons, no less) by drug cartels down in Mexico. Which followed the whole scandal about Secret Service agents having some kinky fun in Colombia, of course. So, if you want to work for the Justice Department, you'll now have to abide by the "no hookers" policy. Fair warning!
Speaking of the Secret Service, it was also in the news several times this week, and not in a good way. First a supervisor was accused of sexually harassing a fellow employee, and then at the end of the week yet another agent was arrested after allegedly kicking in his girlfriend's front door. So it looks like there's a whole lot of cleaning up left to be done before the Secret Service ever regains its position of honor again.
President Obama was away this week, continuing his push to reopen Cuba. The anti-Cuba policy America has been clinging to for the past 50 years is now seen as nothing more than a Cold War hangover by most Americans, and Obama continues to make history and build his legacy by heading down the path to normalized relations with the country.
Of course, there are two Cuban-American Republican candidates for president (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) who can be counted on to make the case against Obama's moves on Cuba, but this hardliner position is losing steam even among Republican voters. Even among Cuban-American voters, if truth be told. Younger Cuban-American voters simply aren't as anti-Castro as their parents and grandparents. So it's got a sort of built-in law of diminishing returns for Republican candidates.
And, to wrap up the week, President Obama was seen visiting a Bob Marley museum in Jamaica, in what has to be a first for any United States president. How cool is that? Ras Tafari!
Even a visit to a Bob Marley museum, however, doesn't elevate Obama to the level of Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, however. He may be eligible next week, depending on how impressive the Americas summit turns out, but that'll have to wait for now.
This week, it wasn't Obama's new Cuba policy that was under attack, but rather Obama's new Iran policy. After John Kerry announced the breakthrough framework agreement, the pushback in Congress reached fever pitch. Republicans hope to entice enough Democrats to vote for a plan to seriously restrict Obama's ability to negotiate, and from what they say they're nearing a veto-proof majority in the Senate.
The White House has been lobbying furiously behind the scenes to convince Democrats that the deal is better than its opponents are making it out to be, and that Obama deserves some elbow room now and that Congress can vote later on the question of relaxing the sanctions.
Senator Barbara Boxer has emerged as the leader of Senate Democrats who are standing with the president. She has been working her colleagues in an effort to get them to vote against the bill, although nobody can yet say how much success she's had.
Still, for having the presidents' back and leading the effort to either modify or kill outright the bill which would tie Obama's hands, Senator Barbara Boxer is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.
[Congratulate Senator Barbara Boxer on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
On the other side of the issue, we have to be somewhat consistent here and award Senator Chuck Schumer the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, for jumping into the fray and vocally supporting the bill to derail the negotiations.
Schumer's announcement was a weighty one, since the main Democrat in opposition to the White House had to step down from his committee position after being federally indicted last week. Since Bob Menendez faded into the background, it left a void on the opposition side.
Chuck Schumer stepped into that void, in a big way. Before he had even been given a classified briefing on the Iran deal from the White House, Schumer announced he'd be supporting the bill. Schumer's stance is indeed a prominent one, since he is widely expected to take over the leadership of the Democratic Party in the Senate when Harry Reid steps down next year. We're not quite sure how "torpedoing a foreign policy deal from a Democratic president" helps Schumer become an effective leader in the Senate after Reid retires, personally.
For leading his fellow Democrats away from President Obama's position, and helping Republicans put together a possible veto-proof majority, Senator Chuck Schumer is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.
[Contact Senator Charles Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 341 (4/10/15)
We've got a mixed bag this week, with no real theme winding through our talking points. In fact, we even got a bit lazy at the end and left the last one open-ended, for you all to participate in, as a sort of mini-contest. As always, these are provided for everyone's fun, to suggest how Democrats should be talking this weekend, whether around the workplace water cooler or being interviewed on a Sunday morning television politics chatfest. Use responsibly!
Ballots instead of bullets
Get out and vote if you want to change things!
"An election just took place in Ferguson, Missouri, and the number of African-Americans on the board running the town will be increasing from one out of six to three out of six. This is only the first election since all the problems boiled over, and not every council seat was up for election. What this shows is that the power of the ballot box is alive and well. Want change? Then you've got to get out and demand change, at the ballot box. That's the way democracy is supposed to work."
2.6 trillion less
Now, while proving a cause-and-effect relationship is a bridge too far, it shouldn't stop anyone from pointing out the facts as they are now known.
"In 2010, the federal government predicted total national health spending for a five-year period beginning in 2014. Now that Obamacare has actually been implemented, it gives us some better data about the changing health care marketplace. What the most recent figures show is that health care spending in this country will actually be $2.6 trillion less than expected during this period. That is a whopping big difference -- that's trillion with a 'T,' folks. Once again, the doom-and-gloom predictions of Obamacare foes have just not come to pass. In fact, the country will be $2.6 trillion better off."
Not going to war with Iran wildly popular
This news might help sway wavering Democrats a bit.
"President Obama's Iran deal is proving to be pretty popular with the general public. When polled, 61 percent approved the deal and 65 percent of voters don't want Congress to block the deal. By roughly a two-to-one margin, the American public support President Obama's negotiations and reject the position that Congress should block his efforts at diplomacy. That's a pretty healthy margin, don't you think?"
Cuba policy popular too
Something else to point out from current polling.
"Obama's policy of opening up Cuba and moving towards normal diplomatic relations is also pretty popular. A clear majority of 59 percent of Americans think it's the right thing to do. This includes 56 percent of all Latinos in America, it's also worth noting. Contrary to the tired old policy Marco Rubio favors -- the one that's failed for 50 years now -- most Americans are looking forward to ending this last vestige of the Cold War."
Out of sight, out of mind
This is just downright Orwellian.
"I see Republicans have a new strategy on climate change -- throw it down the memory hole. Wisconsin is now following Florida in this novel approach to the climate change problem: banning state officials from ever using the term or speaking about the issue. When asked to comment, an ostrich with its head in the sand replied: 'Mmmph-brumph-wumpf' (sadly, his mouth was too full of sand to be intelligible). I mean, you just can't make this stuff up, folks!"
Rand Paul, mansplainer-in-chief
One of the Republican candidates seems to have a problem being interviewed by certain people.
"I see that Rand Paul is, once again, 'mansplaining' things to a female interviewer. Is this really the person we want in the Oval Office? Someone who is this condescending towards any woman who dares to question him? Can you even imagine what a debate between Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton would sound like?"
Make your own "Hispanic Jeb" talking point
We do this every so often, here, just for fun. Put together your own amusing talking point from Jeb Bush's Hispanic gaffe! It's pretty easy to do, you could just finish the sentence "If Jeb Bush is Hispanic, then I'm...." You could go traditional ("...a monkey's uncle") or get creatively specific ("...Queen Isabella of Spain"). Or come up with your own take on it -- I still think "It's pronounced Heb" is the funniest I've heard yet. Post your entries in the comments, as always, and let's see who can come up with the funniest response to Jeb's voter registration! Here we go:
"If Jeb Bush is Hispanic, then I'm...."
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