06/22/2012 09:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Morning Phones A-Ringing

For political wonks, this has been a week of waiting. Starting last weekend, we've all been waiting for Mitt Romney to address the issue of Barack Obama's new immigration policy. This waiting has been fruitless, and will continue for some time to come, apparently. Picture a phone ringing endlessly with nobody there to answer it... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The bigger waiting game this week has been at the Supreme Court, where two very important decisions are about to be handed down, on the Affordable Obamacare Act (so to speak), and on the Arizona immigration case. Both cases will impact the elections this year, but it is impossible to say how at this point. Either next Monday or next Thursday, however, we'll have at least a partial answer to this question.

In Congress, the Republicans are in the midst of the unprecedented move of holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress... or the House, at least. They say they're tired of waiting for him to produce every single document they are demanding, and President Obama finally just threw in the towel and used the trump card of executive privilege to derail the fishing expedition.

The Senate actually voted on two bipartisan bills this week, one of which was noticed and one of which was not. The big one was a farm bill which will continue to ensure that Americans pay the highest price on the planet for a food item that they regularly crave -- sugar. The cynic in me hastens to point out that massive and expanding sugar subsidies from the federal government are very important in one particular state: Florida. What a surprise! One of the key states in the presidential election gets special treatment! Anyone wondering why both sugar and corn subsidies will never be realistically reined in need look no further than Florida and Iowa -- two states of monumental importance in the method we use to select our presidents.

Sigh. Maybe that was too cynical. Maybe I should be celebrating that anything got done in the Senate. There was one bill which made it through (with a 95-4 vote!) which did cheer me up, however -- a bill which would end the practice of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being used to finance the national nominating conventions of the two major political parties in America. This year, roughly $35 million was slated to be spent on the Republican and Democratic national conventions, which is ridiculous when you consider that neither candidate is going to use the public financing system that such money is supposed to be a part of (both candidates are confident they'll raise way more money without the constraints public financing would place on them). Since, if the Senate bill passes the House, neither party can expect this convention money any more, my suggestion would be to spend the fund on smaller parties who could really use the help. Just an idea.

And finally, an item I didn't know where else to mention, Jon Soltz has a fantastic article everyone should read which does a masterful job of fighting back on the growing trend of states tightening up their voter laws. Soltz points out that one effect of these laws is going to be disenfranchising active-duty soldiers. You know, the ones out there fighting for their country? Why do Republicans want to deny these brave Americans their basic right to vote? As I said, it is a brilliant article, and an excellent point that needed to be raised, which is why I highly recommend it.


We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, both to Michigan state legislators.

Michigan Republicans were pushing -- once again -- to shove the government between a woman and her doctor. This massive wave of Republican legislators (men, for the most part) attempting to practice medicine without a license continues apace. So much for "small government leaving people alone," eh? Government in the examination room is just fine, as long as the patient is a woman -- this seems to be the new stance the Republicans are taking in state after state.

Two female legislators in Michigan tried to fight back. For their efforts, they were silenced.

Representative Barb Byrum was silenced for speaking about vasectomies. Representative Lisa Brown was silenced for using the following language: "I'm flattered you're all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no."

After being barred from speaking in the statehouse after their statements, these two women brilliantly decided to use political theater to make their point instead. In a very literal meeting of politics and theater, they joined others (including the play's author) in performing The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the statehouse this past Monday.

Best protest sign quoted at the rally: "Vagina. Can't say it? Don't legislate it."

Democrats used to be the champions of this sort of street/political theater. A few years back, the Tea Party got way out in front of any Democratic demonstrating. Occupy Wall Street helped turn things back around, but we have to say the Michigan statehouse-steps production of The Vagina Monologues really takes things to another level.

For staging this event with class and aplomb, both Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum are awarded a Most Impressive Democrat of the Week award. Well done, ladies!

[Congratulate Representative Lisa Brown on her official Web page and Representative Barb Byrum on her official web page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


While we're not exactly fans of Eric Holder here, we also realize when there is simply not enough information about the tug-of-war between Holder and congressional Republicans to start handing out MDDOTW awards.

We will say that the White House hasn't really done a great job of making their own case, and telling their own side of this story.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has a long history of being accused of incompetence. It's certainly hard to see any sort of competence in the Fast and Furious program.

But the golden rule of political scandals is: "It's not the crime, it's the coverup." Republicans are mightily trying to prove some sort of coverup in this case, which they certainly escalated this week (and will escalate even further next week). The White House seems to be making the "it's all a political witch-hunt in an election year" argument, but so far this hasn't been noticeably effective. So while we do feel a blanket sense of disappointment in the White House's inability to effectively defend itself, we simply don't see that it has so far risen to the point where MDDOTW awards are appropriate. The jury's still out on this one, folks.

Instead, we're going to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week to Michele Leonhart, the chief administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, for her extremely disappointing testimony before Congress this week. Pressed on the issue of the harmfulness of marijuana and medical marijuana by Democratic Representatives Jared Polis and Steve Cohen, Leonhart stumbled through her answers attempting to defend what are, basically, indefensible policies.

For this performance, Michele Leonhart is our MDDOTW award winner. Now, to be fair, drug policy is set from the very top -- it wasn't Leonhart's fault that she was forced to defend policies which make no sense. So we're going to provide contact information for the White House today, so you can send your thoughts to the folks who really do decide these things.

[Contact President Obama on the White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his drug policies and Michele Leonhart's testimony.]


Volume 215 (6/22/12)

This week, rather than breaking things down into seven (sound)bite-sized chunks, we're going to indulge in a favorite exercise here: attempting to write our own political ad.

Mitt Romney is, as usual, trying to have everything both ways on the immigration issue. He even gave a speech to a group of Latino leaders, and pretty much refused to say what he'd do on his first day as president, on Obama's new policy for the DREAM Act kids.

Now, hitting Romney for his rightward swing on immigration during the Republican primaries is lots of fun to do, and will indeed reap benefits among certain demographics, but there's a much more core issue here that needs exploiting: Romney's leadership failure.

While Marco Rubio sulks about Obama co-opting his policy idea, Mitt Romney doesn't really have the luxury to do so. Romney's actually been more accessible this week to the press than most weeks, so he was given the chance to respond to Obama's new policy on multiple occasions, and he has so far steadfastly refused to say a word about what he'd do should he be elected to Obama's job.

So separate the policy issue from the leadership question. Because attacking Romney on leadership will bear a lot more fruit than just attacking him on the policy alone (or lack thereof, to be precise). Because leadership is a quality that all voters consider when making up their minds -- not just one or two demographics.

Romney has played the weasel on any number of important policy questions. He is running, to be blunt, as a pig in a poke. Elect him, and soon secret plans to make everything better will sprout in the Oval Office -- you've got to just trust him on that, because he's not saying what any of these magic plans actually are.

It's time to attack the weaseling, instead of each individual policy. Because it is a theme that could run throughout the entire campaign, if the Obama folks are as smart as they're made out to be.

Here is my concept of an ad to start this barrage. Maybe it's not the best, but it certainly makes a point worth making, I think. If you've got your own ad ideas, let me know (as always) in the comments.


It's morning in America... and the phone's ringing, Mitt

[VIDEO: Background black-and-white image of telephone next to a bed. Pan in slowly on phone.]


Last election, a famous ad asked about a phone call at 3:00 A.M.

To be president, you sometimes have to act decisively, even in the middle of the night.

[VIDEO: Cut to footage of Obama at podium, from last Friday's announcement. Or, perhaps, image of Obama speaking in front of students from later in the week.]


President Barack Obama announced a new policy on immigration last week.

[VIDEO: Cut to still image of Romney, with his mouth firmly closed and a grim look on his face, perhaps from one of the debates.]


Mitt Romney has had a full week to respond.

He still hasn't.

[VIDEO: Superimpose a giant question mark over Romney's face.]


Mitt won't say what he'd do should he be elected president. Will he continue Obama's policy? Will he overturn it?

He won't say.

Either Mitt Romney can't make up his mind -- in a full week -- or he does know what he'd do, and he just refuses to tell the American public what that is. Neither choice inspires much confidence.

[VIDEO: Cut to headline images of phrases such as "Romney Promises To Veto DREAM Act" and "Romney: Self-Deportation The Answer." Then cut to video of Romney speaking this week to Latino leaders, and use Mitt's own quote.]


Romney has said before that he would veto the DREAM Act, and that his immigrant policy would be "self-deportation" -- but he won't say now what he'd do about Obama's new policy. Speaking to Latino leaders, Mitt said "when I make a promise to you, I'll keep it"... but then he refused to make any promises.

[VIDEO: Slow montage of President Obama with children, with soldiers, and with graduates.]


President Obama showed leadership. Mitt Romney can't decide whether to follow that leadership. Romney certainly isn't showing any leadership of his own, that's for sure. He's been running for president for five or six years, and he still can't figure out his own position on immigrant children. Or he's hiding it.

[VIDEO: Tight focus on oddly-drawn black-and-white image of Mitt Romney. Camera slowly pans back to show red edge, as image starts to dissolve and fade. By the last line, image is completely gone and camera has panned back to reveal the image was on an Etch A Sketch. Fade to black.]


How long are we supposed to wait, Mitt? How much time do you need to make a policy decision? Is this what Mitt Romney would be like as president, if the phone rang early some morning?

It's 3:00 A.M., Mitt -- do you know what your immigration policy is?

Because we don't.

["I'm a Super PAC with a bazillion dollars to spend, and I approved this ad."]


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