Before we begin our weekly talking points, we must sadly offer our condolences to Vice President Joe Biden, whose mother just passed away. No matter what side of the political divide you come from, or what you think of our Vice President, losing your mother is something everyone can sympathize with, so we offer our thoughts to the Biden family in this sad time for them.
Of course, in Washington, the craziness goes on as usual, forcing us once again to pay attention to various bits of lunacy. Topping the list of lunatics this week was a man arrested for jogging naked near the White House. Now, I've got to admit, although "streaking" is a fad we all wish would make a comeback, you've got to hand it to this guy for pulling such a stunt in January in Washington, rather than waiting until at least the cherry blossoms had peeked out. Jogging around The Ellipse naked in January? Brrr!
The media continues its ongoing lunacy, this week hitting their well-used chorus of: "everything is bad news for Democrats, all the time." But we'll get to that a bit later, in the actual talking points.
The final bit of lunacy is the breathlessness which awaits the decision of when to hold the State Of The Union speech, which was earlier rumored to possibly pre-empt the season-opening episode of Lost. This will likely go down in history as the first time the biggest speech the president makes each year had to worry about enraging fans of a television show. This is mostly due to the fact that previous presidents didn't have to worry about such lunacy, and the fact that television used to actually have "seasons," and the "season" started in the fall and went through uninterrupted to spring, after which time re-runs would air until the "season" started again. Nowadays, television has mini-seasons which start and end for no particular reason, at random times during the year, resulting in fewer actual new episodes for viewers. Don't even get me started on that particular lunacy, please.
But we can all breathe a sigh of relief, as the White House is now reassuring everyone that Obama will not pre-empt Lost, but will instead pre-empt the last ten minutes of the Super Bowl.
Heh. Just kidding. Because that really would get some folks annoyed at the president. Hoo boy.
The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was an easy choice. Senator Chris Dodd made an impressive announcement this week, that he would not be seeking re-election this year.
This is good news, because Dodd's chances of winning weren't good, and instead this virtually guarantees Democrats will hold this seat. Dodd, quite plainly, put his party's interests ahead of his own self-interest. And that is a rare thing indeed in politics, even when you are faced with poll numbers which say you're going to lose.
Senator Byron Dorgan decided to step down as well, but Democrats don't have as good a chance in North Dakota of holding on to his seat. Dorgan was faced with the same bad polling news as Dodd, and decided one more run wasn't worth it. To be fair, we'll give him a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week as well.
Because politicians who step down early from a losing race at least give some up-and-comer a shot at winning back the seat. The alternative is to run a campaign everyone knows you are going to lose, and by doing so, give the other party an easy pickup. At least this way, even if Democrats lose, they'll at least have a better shot at winning than if Dorgan had tried to run again. The betting is that Republicans will pick up North Dakota anyway, I have to admit.
But for putting party ahead of ego, we congratulate Senators Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd for winning Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. The award is Dodd's ninth, putting him in third place on the all-time rankings, and Dorgan's third, putting him in a nine-way tie for eighth place.
I almost couldn't think of a Democrat who disappointed me, which is remarkable since we're really covering a three-week period this week (due to ourselves being pre-empted by our own annual McLaughlin Awards columns, of course).
But then Tim Geithner's scandal sprang to mind.
Now, Geithner hasn't been actually convicted of anything, but what leaked out this week was pretty damaging. Geithner, at the New York Federal Reserve, apparently was in the center of some hanky-panky involving AIG and the whole financial collapse last year (before Geithner was named Secretary of the Treasury). Geithner may have told AIG executives to keep quiet about some payments made (after AIG got billions of taxpayer bailout money), so the Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn't find out about them.
This could be a big enough scandal to force Geithner to resign, although for now it seems he (and the White House) is hunkering down and hoping it will blow over.
Whatever comes of it, though, for telling a bailed-out company to essentially lie to a government regulatory agency, Geithner has more than earned Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.
[Secretary Timothy Geithner has no contact info on the Treasury Department webpage, but you can always let the White House know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 106 (1/8/10)
The usual talking point from the media, no matter the subject or circumstance, is how bad things are for Democrats, as I mentioned previously. This week, it reached a crescendo of fantastical proportions, as news headline after news headline screamed: "Democrats retiring -- midterms will be Republican blowout!"
Democrats, as usual, appear befuddled by the whole thing. Democrats need to wake up, and start sounding a little more confident about their chances in the upcoming election. Not to the extent of appearing Pollyannaish, but still, they need to realize that doom-and-gloom can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the political world.
Democrats face the same conundrum that faces teenage boys everywhere -- girls aren't interested in guys who exude self-doubt, they are drawn instead to those who appear self-confident. The electorate, in this twisted metaphor, are the teenage girls (which actually isn't that bad a comparison, considering the fickle nature of both).
So instead of individual talking points this week, I offer up instead one big talking point -- how to talk about the upcoming elections, and Democrats' prospects. This may be seen by some as sheer laziness on my part, which is probably a fair criticism, but in my defense, I am in the process of preparing to upgrade my ChrisWeigant.com website this weekend, and have been swamped with lots of details on this front. Next week, I promise, we'll get back to a regular format here.
So, for Democrats everywhere, especially those about to be interviewed, let's have a little rah-rah go-team talk for a change, because the Republican spin is solidifying in the media's myopic eye, and will soon set as hard as concrete. Democrats need to counter this -- soon -- with some of their own spin. To wit:
"I see the media is obsessed over two Democratic senators announcing their retirement. But what goes completely unmentioned in these stories is the fact that six Republican senators have also announced they're not running.
"Let's do a little math, shall we? Two Democrats out of 58 is a little over three percent. Six Republicans out of forty is fifteen percent. So, the media's focus on three percent of Democrats retiring, while completely ignoring the fifteen percent of Republicans retiring strikes me as a little one-sided in its reporting.
"Over in the House, much has been made over Democratic retirements as well, while ignoring the fact that more Republicans are retiring from House seats than Democrats. This is not exactly 'fair and balanced' reporting, guys.
"In actual fact, the two retirement announcements by Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd were actually good news for Democrats. Before the retirement announcement, people were betting that both of them would lose their seats to Republicans. Net loss to Democrats, two seats, in other words. After the announcement, the smart money is that Democrats will hold onto the Connecticut seat. Net Democratic loss, one seat. By these announcements, Democrats' chances in the Senate actually improved -- but I must have missed all those news stories which examined this fact.
"History shows that a new president's party will lose some seats in Congress in the midterm elections. But we Democrats do not see this as any sort of 'landslide' election, because we fully expect to start 2011 with a majority in both the House and Senate. We simply do not think that it is in the cards for Republicans to take control of either house of Congress this year.
"We've got some mighty good candidates running in some very competitive races, and if we ran the table, we even have an outside chance of picking up a few seats in the Senate. We do face some tough races to hold onto a few of our seats, it is true, but we also have some opportunities in other states of picking up a few seats as well. So I wouldn't be writing the obituary of Democratic control of Congress quite yet, if I were you.
"Democrats have shown in the past year that we are willing to tackle the enormous challenges our country faces at the moment, and offer solid solutions for how to improve America in the future. Republicans have shown that they know how to say the word 'no.' Over and over and over again. It seems to be their entire party platform -- stand in the way of progress, and obstruct everything rational adults know needs doing.
"We don't think voters are ready to go back to the way Republicans ran things when they were in charge. We don't think voters trust Republicans to be fiscally responsible, because when they were in power they refused to even pretend to pay for anything. Democrats have taken the lead in what is called 'pay as you go' legislation -- making sure that things are paid for, and not just heaping on more spending.
"The voters are understandably annoyed over all the bailout money which President Bush had to ask Congress for, after the economy collapsed on his watch due to deregulation. But that money is starting to be paid back, and the taxpayers may even eventually turn a profit on the money, as the economy enters full recovery.
"Democrats are proud to run on our record, and will be making this case to voters everywhere this election season. And we are fairly confident that the voters are going to take a good hard look at both parties, and they're going to see Democrats as the party that gets things done, and Republicans as the party of 'no.'
"If the voters can even figure out who is a Republican and who is not, that is. It seems there is a gigantic intra-party struggle between Republicans and the insurgent Tea Party folks. The Republican Party is moving to a very radical, hard-right fringe position, and we don't see that as a recipe for success in getting elected.
"Americans want to see their government work. Most of them aren't interested in destroying government for some ideologically narrow viewpoint. But that, it seems, is what the Republican Party is offering them this year.
"Which is why I'm actually feeling pretty good about Democrats' chances in the upcoming election. We think we can energize our base, and convince swing voters that we are the ones offering good ideas for moving the country forward. And, with Republicans offering nothing more than a vision of moving this country backwards, we think our chances are actually pretty good this year -- especially since it looks like Republicans will be defending more open seats than Democrats."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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