I apologize in advance for the disjointed nature of this week's column. There are a lot of odds and ends to cover, including tomorrow's primary picks, a cartoon, and the usual awards and talking points.
OK, enough of that. Before we get to the awards and the talking points, tomorrow's another primary day, so here are my quick picks for the tomorrow's contests. I'm coming off my first perfect win (I called the Republican race in Michigan correctly), so I'm feeling good. There are three contests tomorrow, Nevada (both parties) and South Carolina (Republicans only).
Nevada is a tough state to call on either side, due to the scarcity of polling data. So I'm free to predict an upset here, at least on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton has had a lead here, but she may have destroyed any good will by the lawsuit brought by her supporters (the teacher's union) against having extra caucuses on the Vegas strip, where Obama supporters (the culinary union) work. This, I predict, is going to leave such a bad impression on the voters that I'm predicting she'll only come in third. Obama got the biggest union's endorsement, but there are still a lot of rank-and-file union voters for Edwards. So, in a very tight race, I'm predicting: 1. Obama, 2. Edwards, 3. Clinton.
The Republican caucusgoers (all twelve of them) are even harder to poll than the Democrats (who are expected to turn out in much larger numbers). I think Romney, who is ahead in what few polls there are, is going to win here (there are a lot of Mormons in Nevada). And I also think John McCain is going to come in a comfortable second. Now, third place is a three-way race between Huckabee, Thompson, and Giuliani, but I'm going to call third for Rudy. Maybe I just feel sorry for him since he hasn't won anything yet. So, when they count all twelve votes, I think it's going to be: 1. Romney, 2. McCain, 3. Giuliani.
The Republican battle for South Carolina is an intense one. Their field already has three "frontrunners," and that doesn't even include Rudy Giuliani, who could make a late showing. In other words, it's chaos over at the GOP. The polls show a very tight race for first between Huckabee and McCain, and a very tight race for third between Romney and Thompson. I'm predicting that the religious vote is going to turn out bigger than the military vote, so I'm going to call this one for Huckabee, with McCain close behind. Third place will go to Romney, and Thompson will likely drop out of the race within days. So: 1. Huckabee, 2. McCain, 3. Romney.
OK, enough of the picks. Onward to today's talking points, whose theme will be "De-Bushification." To get you in the mood, here's a cartoon to enjoy; and then we'll get right into this week's awards.
Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Henry Waxman needs to be congratulated for his tireless efforts digging through the muck of the Bush White House. And now seems to be as good a time as any, when more and more information is coming out on the missing White House emails. After White House spokesman Tony Fratto did his "Missing emails? What missing emails?" routine for the cameras, Waxman immediately called hearings and sent a letter to the White House [PDF download] that asks some pointed and specific questions, after opening with the following:
At today's White House press briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto was asked about allegations that White House e-mails have been lost from White House servers. He stated in response: "we have absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing."
This statement is contrary to information that the White House provided to the Committee staff in a briefing on September 19, 2007. At this briefing, the White House showed staff a chart indicating that there were 473 days for which various entities in the Executive Office of the President had no archived e-mails.
This is only one ongoing Bush scandal among many which Waxman has been investigating, it should be noted. More power to you, Chairman Waxman! For your efforts at uncovering the coverups, you have earned the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.
[Congratulate Congressman Waxman on the committee's contact page (his personal page only allows comments from his constituents) to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
While my initial feeling was to award this to Hillary Clinton's campaign for their "It wasn't us, honestly!" response to the lawsuit in Nevada (to restrict access to caucus sites), there's an even more embarrassing Democrat out there this week.
Representative William Jefferson, the guy who got caught "cold" (sorry, couldn't resist) with $90,000 cash tucked away in his freezer, is now arguing in court to get all evidence of that search suppressed. Now, I'm a firm believer in "innocent until proven guilty" and all that... but seriously, it's a little hard to explain bricks of cash wrapped in tin foil in your freezer. Especially when you're a member of the House of Representatives. Jefferson should do himself -- and the Democratic Party -- a favor, and resign his seat now rather than dragging his embarrassment through the headlines during an election year (he says he's still running for reelection). Do the right thing, Rep. Jefferson. Resign. Otherwise you won't just have earned the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, you will put yourself in the running for most embarrassing of the entire year.
[Contact Rep. Jefferson via his House contact page to let him know what you think he should do (he doesn't seem to have email access, so maybe you should give him a call).]
Volume 15 (1/18/08)
On to the talking points, which this week will all reflect the same theme: "De-Bushification." This is going to be an important term to use throughout the entire election season. Tie every Republican to President Bush -- every time you speak. This also is important to begin using now, because it will get in front of Bush's last State of the Union speech, where he will be trumpeting the recent passage of a "De-Ba'athification" law in Iraq, loudly and often. Democrats need to hit back on this hard, and if they start before his speech, they'll be on offense and not defense.
"We need the voters of America to De-Bushify our government, and elect Democrats into office who are competent rather than ideologues, who can turn our country around, and who obey the rule of law like they are supposed to. Removing the Bush party hacks from positions of importance in our government, so we can get it back to working right again will likely take years, but it has to be done. We think the voters agree, and urge them to De-Bushify every elected office they can, to help us do so. Only through De-Bushification can America hold her head up and proudly state to the world that we are again living up to our country's promise."
The Bush era in Iraq is almost over.
Now, this one is true spin -- trying to explain something that is all but unknowable in the most favorable light possible to you and your party. It may not pass the "smell test" for everyone. It may not be effective. But it certainly is a bold maneuver. And I have to give credit where credit is due, it's from Hillary Clinton, from her interview last week on Meet The Press. Agree with her or not, she's at least showing chutzpah with her take on the matter:
"The surge was certainly explained and rationalized as giving the Iraqi government space and time to make the hard decisions that they needed to make. 2007 was the deadliest year for American troops, and, you know, from my perspective, part of the reason that the Iraqis are doing anything is because they see this election happening and they know they don't have much time, that the blank check that George Bush gave them is about to be torn up.
. . .
I think that the large part of the reason that we're seeing the Iraqi government do anything is because time is running out.
. . .
The point of the surge was to push the Iraqi government to make these tough choices. Now, if we put in 30,000 of our finest young men and women, who are going to go after the bad guys and quell violence in certain parts of Iraq, there's no doubt that can be done. The partnerships that have been created by the tribal sheiks in Anbar province and elsewhere gave us an extra advantage. But that doesn't in any way undermine the basic reality. The point of the surge was to quickly move the Iraqi government and Iraqi people. That is only now beginning to happen, and I believe in large measure because the Iraqi government, they watch us, they listen to us. I know very well that they follow everything that I say. And my commitment to begin withdrawing our troops in January of 2009 is a big factor, as it is with Senator Obama, Senator Edwards, those of us on the Democratic side. It is a big factor in pushing the Iraqi government to finally do what they should have been doing all along."
Revitalizing Iraq's economy... with opium?
Afghanistan is now growing over 90% of the world's opium. Looks like the American Economic Revival Plan for that country is now considered such a success that it's being exported to Iraq. In a disturbing development, more and more farms in Iraq are turning to growing opium to make ends meet (or to fund the insurgents). Swell. Just what the country needed -- a narco-economy.
"It seems the most successful thing the Bush administration has done in Afghanistan -- and now Iraq -- is to guarantee a bumper crop of heroin to the world. How has Bush allowed this to happen in two countries he was supposed to have conquered?"
Housecleaning the federal government
This one (and the next one) are for presidential candidates to use on the campaign trail. Point out again and again that many failures of the Bush administration come from hiring people because they're "good Republicans" or "loyal Bush supporters" -- rather than for their competence.
"The entire federal government is going to need a good housecleaning when a Democrat retakes the White House. I promise to hire people for important jobs because they are qualified to do that job. I promise to have scientists rather than party hacks in charge of scientific agencies. I promise that you will not see the incompetence of FEMA after hurricane Katrina when I am in office. I promise that the Justice Department will be run by people who understand the laws of the United States of America. I promise that when there's a job to fill, I will look for experience and not party loyalty or loyalty to me. America deserves to hire the best people to run the government, instead of hiring by ideology."
My first day in office, I will...
Again, candidates for president need to strongly come out against the horrendous mistakes Bush has made, in very specific terms. The best example of this is a speech by Joe Biden, where he lists all the things Bush is doing which he will not do as president. This taps into a lot of people's outrage over what Bush has done during his term in office, and I'm surprised Democratic candidates haven't made this more of a centerpiece in what they say.
"My first day in office, I will make sure that America does not torture people ever again. In my administration, close allies like Canada will no longer have to warn their diplomats that America is a country that practices torture. I will go through Bush's signing statements and issue my own which state that the White House will follow all laws Congress passes. I will begin withdrawing from Iraq. I will stop warrantless wiretapping on American citizens. My first day in office, I will take seriously the oath I will just have been given -- to uphold the Constitution and all other laws of the United States, so that when I stand up in front of the world and say something like 'America does not torture,' the world will believe me instead of laughing in my face."
Warren Buffet's taxes
Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in America, has been publicly saying for a long time now that it isn't right that he pays a smaller percentage of his income in taxes than his secretary does. Barack Obama seems to have discovered this fact, and he made a point of it in the last debate. True to Obama form, though, he didn't follow through and propose fixing the problem in a detailed way -- by taxing capital gains at the same rate as income taxes. But at least he's admitting that there is a problem, so I guess I should give him credit for that. But this issue needs to be made into a broader point of what taxes the wealthy pay, versus everyone else.
"I think it's wrong that the richest people in this country pay a smaller tax rate than firefighters, police officers, nurses, teachers, and our brave military members. I think that no matter how you make your money, you should be taxed on that money each year the same way as the millions of Americans who work hard for their own income. Allowing people to pay less because they're rich enough to make their whole income buying and selling stocks is just wrong."
Rule of law
Steal the Republican's old slogan, and beat Bush about the head with it, every chance you get. This week's scandal is the missing emails, but this one can be used in all instances where the White House and Bush administration show their utter contempt for following the laws of this country.
"The rule of law means no one is above the law, including President Bush. Just this week we learned that the White House ignored laws on archiving documents and emails for years [replace that sentence with whatever the current scandal is, when necessary]. I firmly believe in the rule of law, and am outraged that the Republicans seem to not care about it at all -- when it's one of their own party in the Oval Office ignoring the laws of this land."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com