Welcome back to the weekly roundup of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and (as always) my humble suggestions of things Democrats should say in media interviews this weekend.
Because I've been away for a few weeks, I have to apologize in advance if I've missed something obvious this week (I'm still getting back up to speed on the American political scene). Hopefully I won't have missed too much!
Having said that, let's jump right in....
Before we get to this week's MIDOTW award, I have to acknowledge something that happened while I was gone. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used a parliamentary trick over the Thanksgiving holiday to deny President Bush the opportunity to make disastrous recess appointments -- by refusing to actually put the Senate in "recess." Reid thumbed his nose at the rules by having a single Senator show up every few days, to officially keep the Senate "in session." While this is an extremely arcane trick and has the possibility of biting Democrats in the ass in the future (if the political balance between the president's political party and the Senate's is ever reversed); it did have the immediate effect of stopping Bush from making such recess appointments as John Bolton for U.N. Ambassador. And that (as Martha Stewart is wont to say) is a good thing. Well done, Harry Reid! You get the special In Absentia Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend MIDOTW award.
As for this week's top prize, up until today I thought Patrick Leahy was going to win for (finally) getting tough on contempt proceedings for White House officials who have been ignoring subpoenas to appear before the Senate Justice Committee. Leahy has (in my opinion) been dragging this out much too long -- such actions should have been taken last spring -- but better late than never. Then Leahy's all-but-assured nomination for MIDOTW was put in jeopardy by his own fawning words over the late Henry Hyde, the man who led the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
He still probably could have eked out the award anyway were it not for Senator Joe Biden's brave announcement that he will begin the impeachment of President Bush if Bush decides to attack Iran without getting the approval of Congress. Some may dismiss this as a campaign gimmick (Biden is, after all, running for president, and rival Dennis Kucinich has already introduced impeachment articles in the House for Vice President Cheney), but I am taking the good Senator at his word and awarding him Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. The Golden Backbone is yours, Senator Biden, for showing everyone what a Democrat is supposed to sound like. Well done!
[Congratulate Senator Biden on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
I have to say I'm happy to report that it took me quite a while to come up with any nominee at all for this week's MDDOTW award. A refreshing change indeed!
Now, admittedly, this could be because I haven't paid as close attention to things as I should have this week, but I'm hoping that's not the case. Maybe it'll be the start of a trend of Democrats not doing anything disappointing for a while, who knows?
I did come up with two obscure candidates for the award, who will have to share this week's MDDOTW. And, really, their disappointing actions have an enormous silver lining for the Democratic Party at large, so it's hard to condemn them for their actions.
But condemn them I must, since what they allegedly did is indefensible. Richard "Dickie" Scruggs and his son Zach Scruggs have been indicted by a grand jury over bribery charges. Hillary Clinton has had to cancel a planned fundraiser at Dickie's house.
The silver lining? They are brother-in-law and nephew of Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, who just announced his imminent retirement from the Senate. So two corrupt relatives (Democrats, even!) may have done what many have dreamed of for a long time now -- taken Trent Lott down. While this earns them the Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week award, they will be remembered fondly for the fallout from their indictment more than for the indictment itself.
[Contact Trent Lott on his Senate contact page to wish him a fond farewell from public office. But try not to use too much profanity....]
Onward to this week's list of helpful phrases for Democrats.
Volume 10 (11/30/07)
War Is Peace
Karl Rove, whom Newsweek magazine has just hired as a columnist, apparently believes he can just make stuff up and nobody will notice. The only way to confront Rove's laughable revisionism ('Democrats pushed Bush into the Iraq war') is with a few laugh lines of your own. To wit:
"I see Newsweek will now have Karl Rove reporting as a liaison to the Ministry of Truth. Inconvenient historical facts will disappear down the memory hole, and Rove will no doubt helpfully explain to us all the MiniTru version of what 'really happened.' I look forward to his debut columns: 'War is Peace,' 'Freedom is Slavery,' and 'Ignorance is Strength.' "
He's got another think coming
President Bush is very quietly trying an "end run" around Congress by signing an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to facilitate a lasting arrangement (to be negotiated next year) for permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. An arrangement, it should be noted, that will have to be ratified by the Iraqi Parliament, but not (in Bush's opinion) by the U.S. Congress. Democrats need to get out in front of this issue, and nip it in the bud.
"If Bush thinks he's going to commit America to permanent military bases in Iraq without the approval of Congress, he's got another think coming, I can promise you that."
After Republican presidential candidates tried to outdo each other on who could bash immigrants hardest (with the notable exception of Huckabee and McCain), Democrats should only very politely point out to the Republicans how alienating (pun intended) immigrants is just shooting their party in the foot for the foreseeable future. But don't make the point too strongly, or they may wake up to the damage they're doing to themselves.
"Perhaps they should change the name of the party to 'GOOOP' -- 'Get Out Of Our Party.' "
As Chuck Hagel recently said...
Senator Chuck Hagel is a Republican you've just got to love. No fan of Bush, Hagel has provided quotes in the past that are always fun for Democrats to use, and he's outdone himself this week. There are even people seriously suggesting Hagel as a Vice Presidential choice for whoever turns out to be the Democratic nominee for the presidential race.
But for this weekend, every Democrat appearing anywhere on the news should have handy a little index card on it with the following Hagel quotes, for use in oh-so-many situations:
"It's not just Democrats who disagree with President Bush. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said this week to the Council on Foreign Relations that he would give Bush's White House 'the lowest grade of any I've known.' He further said: 'I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen or ever read about. They have failed the country.' This is a Republican speaking, I remind you."
Heckuva job, FEMA!
Some of the phony "reporters" in FEMA's fake news conference have been disciplined -- by being promoted. At the same time, FEMA is quietly moving everyone in Katrina trailers out, but has yet to start testing those trailers for toxic fumes (as they promised they would). There's really only one phrase that fits this, to be worked in to any discussion of FEMA or competence in general in the Bush administration:
"Heck of a job, FEMA!"
Look... here: A personal note to the Biden and Dodd campaigns
While this doesn't really count as a Democratic Talking Point because it is so specific, I didn't know where else to put it. And before anyone criticizes me for singling out these two, rest assured that it's only because I've recently seen the two of them interviewed, and I promise to provide the same service to all the candidates when I notice similar verbal tics.
On the whole, Senator Biden and Senator Dodd give great interviews. They are both intelligent men, they address specifics about issues, and both have an excellent grasp of foreign policy and the challenges America faces in the world ahead. They both have the ability to answer questions thoughtfully and completely, and both just ooze experience with everything they say. If there wasn't so much "star power" in this year's nomination race, Biden and Dodd would doubtlessly be leading the pack by now.
But they both have an annoying verbal habit that they really should address. Just like Valley Girls overuse "like" in any and all sentences, just like hippies overuse "man" in their speaking styles, just like Mayor Diamond Joe Quimby can't stop saying "er... uh..." in the middle of his sentences, Biden and Dodd need to sit down and watch video of themselves, and count the times they use their own "comfort words" while speaking publicly. For Biden, his word-for-all-occasions is: "look." For Dodd, it is: "here." These interjections become noticeable when listening to them speak, and then they cross over into annoying. If you tried to play a drinking game with either one of these (take a drink every time he says...), you would be plastered in no time at all -- even during a short two-and-a-half minute cable news interview.
So please, campaign consultants, try to get these two to stop, for their own benefit. Just some unsolicited advice from the peanut gallery....
Washington Post to feature topless "page 3 girls"!!
I began this week's list with farce, and I will close it the same way. Because just as Karl Rove so richly deserves ridicule for his lame attempt at rewriting history, the Washington Post also richly deserves what is coming to it.
Earlier this week, the Post ran a story (if it can be called such -- it read more like something from the National Enquirer or The Onion) on the "rumors" that Barack Obama was a Muslim which was so monumentally important that they had to run it on their front page. Without actually, you know, calling such rumors by their proper name -- "lies." This was so outrageous, their own in-house political cartoonist (the venerable Tom Toles) had to comment on his own paper's idiocy by running a hilarious cartoon about it.
But what this means is that the Post has set the journalistic standard for rumor as news story, so it's really only fitting that they be repaid in kind:
"Rumor has it the Washington Post is going to convert to tabloid format and start reporting only on Hollywood stars."
"I've heard the rumor that the Washington Post is going to start featuring topless "page 3 girls" the same way the tabloids do in England."
"It's been rumored that the Washington Post is actually a front organization for Al Qaeda and has been feeding them sensitive intelligence, and I believe its publishers and editors need to take a little trip to Guantanamo and find out what waterboarding is all about."
"The Washington Post is owned by Moonies..." oh, wait, that's the other Washington newspaper, sorry.
"I've heard on the web that the Washington Post faked the moon landing."
"I read a blog that said the Washington Post was on the grassy knoll and actually shot Kennedy."
Feel free to add your own, of course.
See you next week!
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com