This column is dedicated to the idea that Democrats can learn to use talking points as effectively as Republicans often do. This idea annoys many who feel that Democrats using talking points is degrading, and stoops to Republican tactics; a position I don't agree with, but still respect. But sometimes even I have to take Democrats to task for not backing up such talking points with action, or at the very least a plan of action.
And I have to do so now with a brilliant talking point that Barack Obama has been using quite frequently: "There is something wrong when Warren Buffet pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary." This is true (Buffet himself was the originator of the line), and it is an excellent talking point. It uses an example most people can relate to -- the patent unfairness of a billionaire making his money buying and selling stocks who pays a lower tax rate than his secretary does, for actually working for her money.
But there's a reason that unfairness exists, and Obama refuses to come out in favor of fixing it. When you make all your money trading stocks, you pay "capital gains" taxes on the money you make as a result. When you work for a living, you pay "income" taxes on your salary. Capital gains taxes are taxed at a much, much lower rate than income taxes. This is part of the Republicans' whole "tax cuts for the rich" scheme. The only way to make it fair is to tax both at the same rate. But Obama doesn't mention a word of this on his "Issues" page at his website, or at least not that I could find. He does talk about actually cutting taxes on some capital gains, though, which would make the problem worse.
My position is that if you're going to use such a great talking point, you can't be silent on what you'd do to fix the problem.
[Since it is so close to primary day for many, to be fair I will now take a swipe at Hillary Clinton.]
The Clinton campaign is miffed at an Obama ad, which (stylistically) looks a lot like the "Harry and Louise" ads which eviscerated Hillarycare support back in the 90s. I tend to somewhat agree with the Clinton folks on this one, but my answer to their complaint is: "So what?"
Hillary, remember, is running at least partly on the "I know how to beat Republican smear attacks, I've been there before" theme. But if she is the Democratic nominee, there will be Republican ads against her health care plan -- and guess what? -- they'll probably remember how effective those Harry and Louise ads were the first time around. Which means she should be expecting ads like this. And have her own ads ready to fight back. Instead of whining about it to the press. Remember, it wasn't so long ago the Clinton side was arguing "Obama's got to be tested by fire now, because the Republicans will be ten times worse on him." It seems she should take that advice to heart.
Most impressive news tidbit this week was that Al Franken is now polling above the Republican he's trying to unseat in the Senate. Go Al!
This week was tough to decide. Hillary Clinton is actually using her Senate position to fight back against President Bush in a very important way -- over permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. To be fair, Obama has joined her as a co-sponsor in this effort. Bush, hours before his State of the Union address, quietly issued a signing statement which said (among other nefarious things) that he was going to ignore the law he just signed which forbids him to spend any money on permanent bases in Iraq. Now, the Republicans have been taunting Democrats for over a year now with "just cut off the money for Iraq if you want to end it," and they finally manage to do so over one small part of the war effort, and Bush is going to flat-out ignore it. Which is why Hillary and Barack's efforts are impressive indeed.
But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award has to go to someone who has been waiting in the wings to get this trophy -- Senator Chris Dodd. This past week, he once again led the charge to stop Harry Reid, George Bush, and the Senate Republicans from giving telecommunications companies immunity for breaking the law in the FISA revision bill. He was actually supported (in the end) by Clinton and Obama, but he deserves the credit, and this week's MIDOTW award, for his tireless efforts to protect the Constitution.
Congratulations, Senator Dodd!
[Congratulate Senator Dodd on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
I don't know how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces himself in the mirror each morning to shave.
Harry Reid's actions on the FISA revision bill have crossed the line from "disappointing" to "disgusting."
Earlier, Reid, discussing the FISA bill:
[I]f people think they are going to talk this to death, we are going to be in here all night. This is not something we are going to have a silent filibuster on. If someone wants to filibuster this bill, they are going to do it in the openness of the Senate.
This was a clear message to Dodd -- I'm going to make you actually filibuster.
But no! Reid's office then emailed a blogger at DailyKos that he was actually talking about making Republicans filibuster.
Today, as Glenn Greenwald reports, Reid has agreed to rules for the next round of the FISA bill debate. They amount to: we'll have straight 51-vote majority votes on all proposals which some Democrats want (but probably don't have the 51 votes to pass). But for any Democratic proposals which might gain a 51-vote majority, Reid will allow Republicans to block such measures with a 60-vote cloture vote. In other words, he's letting Republicans off the hook as far as forcing them to filibuster.
Which means that all along, he was threatening Chris Dodd -- a member of his own party -- with a punishment (actually having to filibuster) that he refuses to impose on the Republicans. Which wins him Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.
Why is this man still Majority Leader?
[Contact Senator Reid at: (202) 224-3542 (he has no email available for non-constituents) to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 17 (2/1/08)
The first two talking points this week are for the benefit of the Democratic presidential candidates. First, John McCain.
McCain's biggest strength is his stance on the "surge." But Democrats need to start attacking him on his larger views of the war. Fortunately, McCain himself is providing plenty of quotes which make it easy to do so.
"John McCain is apparently fine with waging a '100-year' war in Iraq. Is that what America wants? 100 years of war in Iraq? I don't think so, and if you don't think so, then vote for me. If you really want 100 more years of the Iraq war, feel free to vote for John McCain."
Next up, Mitt Romney.
This one is so easy, it writes itself.
"Republicans have gone from warning the country about a flip-flopper from Massachusetts taking over the White House to giving their nomination to -- you guessed it -- a flip-flopper from Massachusetts. How times have changed! Mitt Romney has changed his mind on pretty much every issue available, which started at exactly the same time he decided to run for president. When you come to the Democratic convention this year, don't forget to bring your flip-flops to wave in the air every time Governor Flip-Flop's name is mentioned!"
President Bush was breathing some fire in his speech this week about the irresponsibility of earmarks in the budget. This is a huge opportunity for Democrats to make some political hay by setting the record straight.
"We welcome President Bush's newfound position on earmarks. The Republican Congress' budgets had record amounts of earmarks in them over the past six or seven years, and President Bush never once complained about any of them or threatened to veto a single appropriations bill over the practice. This is how we got the 'bridge to nowhere' added to the budget. Since Democrats took over Congress, we cut earmarks by 25% in a single year, and look forward to continuing this trend as we undo the damage Bush and the Republicans have done to America's budget."
Stimulus for who?
The Senate Democrats have actually been doing a fair job of fighting to expand the stimulus package from what Bush and the House agreed upon, in order to include more people who really need the money (and who would spend it back into the economy almost immediately, which is the whole point of this stimulus plan in the first place).
Although he won the MDDOTW award this week, I have to quote Harry Reid's words on the subject here, as they're the best I've seen yet:
I can give you their own [the Republicans'] speech on unemployment compensation, on food stamps. They don't believe in them, O.K.? So there was no way to agree when they don't believe that food stamps are important, when they believe that if you extend unemployment benefits it only keeps people from looking for a job, which is a little hard to comprehend. So the answer is, we tried to work something out with them and we weren't able to do that.
President Bush doesn't care about the poor, the sick, or rural America
President Bush released his budget proposal, and it's got some deep cuts in some very worthy programs (not a surprise). His specific cuts are easy targets for Democrats to point out.
"President Bush wants to cut money for Heath and Human Services. He wants to cut Medicare and Medicaid. He wants to cut money for children's hospitals. He wants to cut money for health care in rural areas by 87 percent. He would cut funds for the CDC, infectious disease detection, and -- most disgustingly -- Bush would cut a program to treat and monitor first-responders from September 11th by a disgraceful 77 percent. America has a clear choice. Bush and the Republicans don't think any of these things are worth funding. Democrats do. Democrats care, and Republicans don't. It's just that simple."
Bush's streak on adding jobs to the economy just came to an end. Right after he bragged about it during the State of the Union speech.
"Republicans are so out of touch with what is going on in the economy these days that they actually applauded Bush bragging about his dismal record on job growth. Days later, we find out that we actually lost jobs last month. We need a Democrat in the White House to rebuild America's economy once again."
Finally, beginning next Wednesday, we can lay to rest all of the silly names for the big primary day, and just start calling it "Super Tuesday."
The problem was, when all the states crowded to the front of the line this year, that there already was a date known as "Super Tuesday," but it happened later in the calendar. So people started coming up with inane names for the new day: "Super Duper Tuesday," "Tsunami Tuesday," and "Mega Tuesday." But after this year, the first Tuesday in February will be known as "Super Tuesday" and everyone can forget about the original day with that name (and also retire Super Duper Tsunami Mega Tuesday, or whatever).
I applaud this move, because it makes it easier to type. Just "Super Tuesday." Whew!
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com