08/24/2012 08:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Stormy Weather

Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem like the Republicans just keep right on raising the bar for craziness right up into the stratosphere? Things that seemed crazy just a few months ago now seem only mildly cuckoo, in the frenzy of stark raving looniness emanating from the right-wing these days.

The truly amusing part of the week, though was the mad dog that did not bark in the night. Now, mankind has been attributing bad weather to angry gods since the beginning of time, pretty much. You could indeed make a rational argument that nature's fury is what caused some of these early religions to spring up. Even today, we have otherwise-well-respected religious spokesmen who are eager to speak to the nation and decipher what is the divine reason for things like hurricanes. That is, when the hurricanes aren't aimed at their big shindig. Haven't heard a peep out of these folks this week in identifying the reason behind Isaac... strange, isn't it?

What's even more astounding, for those who like to unlock the mysteries of coincidence, is where we were exactly four years ago -- heading into the 2008 Republican National Convention. Don't have an image of this in your mind? Here"s one to look at. That's Hurricane Gustav, the second-most-powerful storm of the 2008 hurricane season. Because of the storm, both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney skipped the 2008 Republican National Convention, even through they were president and vice president at the time. Nobody wanted the inevitable comparisons with Katrina, which had arrived almost exactly three years earlier. The Republicans all but canceled "Day One" of their convention as a result.

Fast-forward to today, and we have a timeline: Hurricane Katrina. Three years later, Hurricane Gustav interrupts Republican National Convention. Four years later, Isaac threatens the first days of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Draw your own conclusions.

In other batpoop-crazy news, we have a Republican judge (a judge!) in Lubbock, Texas who is ready and willing to lead his county into seceding from the United States if Barack Obama is re-elected president. He fully expects an armed confrontation, apparently, so he is already fully aware of the Civil War implications of his proposed plan. In fact, he goes even further back in history to explain what he is ready for: "I'm thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy."

You see what I mean? When Mitt Romney stands up and cracks a birther joke, it's almost nostalgic. You sort of smile wistfully and think, "Boy, that takes me back to a time when the craziest thing Republicans were saying was that Barack Obama was born in Kenya."

Because Republicans just keep outdoing themselves on the starkly raving front. So get ready for next week, because hot air has already been clocked at 90 m.p.h. coming out of the Republican Party -- hurricane-force twistedness. And the convention hasn't even begun!


Barack Obama wins at least an Honorable Mention this week for his response to the Todd Akin controversy. Obama's line was the most quotable all week: "Rape is rape."

Senator Claire McCaskill gets at least an Honorable Mention for her good fortune this week. But good luck comes, at times, to those who prepare -- and McCaskill had run ads during the primary to entice Republican voters to hand her Akin as a challenger. That shows foresight, and those ads have certainly now paid off. It is still too early to tell what effect it will all have on Missouri's voters (yes, Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle lost, but Rand Paul won -- I'm just sayin'...). But McCaskill's crafty move in the primaries sure is looking pretty impressive right about now.

But we're going to hand the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to Elizabeth Warren, who is making the best argument all Democratic candidates could be making at this point. Up against Scott Brown, who was very quick to condemn Todd Akin and call for him to drop out of the race, Warren began making her case. It's a great campaign theme, and it could work for a lot of Democrats out there. In a nutshell, what Warren is arguing (paraphrased, this is not an actual quote): "Look, Brown might not be the worst Republican, but he is a Republican, and quite obviously the extremists have taken over the party. If you elect him, he is going to help them pass all sorts of crazy bills. The Republican Party has gone off the deep end, and electing Scott Brown is only going to encourage them to further nonsense in the future."

For not only making this case within her own campaign, but for providing a template for many other Democratic candidates, Elizabeth Warren is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Elizabeth Warren is not currently in office, and our blanket policy is to not link to anyone's campaign site, so you'll have to search the web on your own for her contact information. We apologize for the inconvenience.]


We have two very minor Democrats this week that have earned their Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards.

First up is Kerry Gauthier, a Minnesota state representative, who recently got caught having sex with an 17-year-old boy at a highway rest stop. After first vowing to continue his bid for re-election, Gauthier later decided that withdrawing from the race was the proper thing to do. While he did the right thing by stepping down, he still receives our first MDDOTW this week.

Next we have New York assemblyman Vito Lopez, who was found guilty of some pretty reprehensible sexual harassment charges by the Assembly's Ethics Committee. Lopez has been stripped of his committee assignments, and calls are increasing for him to step down from the Assembly as well. Do the right thing, Vito. Spend some time with your family, and resign. For now, enjoy your MDDOTW award.

[Contact Minnesota Representative Kerry Gauthier on his state contact page, and New York Assemblyman Vito Lopez on his state contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Volume 224 (8/24/12)

We're going to use all the talking points today to address Todd Akin's comments from last week. But before we get to that, we'd like to strongly urge Democrats at a national level to go back and read last week's Medicare talking points. Because, from where I sit, Democrats are blowing this one, big time.

The facts are on their side. The argument is pathetically easy to make. So why aren't Democrats making it? Are they just filled with smug complacency that "the public has always trusted our party more on Medicare, so we don't need to fight back against what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are saying out there"?

This is dangerous, and I can prove it with two words: "Death panels." Remember those? The non-existent thing that Republicans used to scare voters in 2010? Remember how that election turned out, guys and gals?

Ryan and Romney have their talking point honed to perfection. It is ridiculous, but it is being used effectively out there. Here is their take on things: "Barack Obama raided the piggybank of Medicare, to the tune of 716 billion dollars, and he's going to use it to spend on other people to pay for his Obamacare. We are going to fight to put that money back in to Medicare to save it for you."

That's it in a nutshell. You probably recognize it, because Republicans are so much better at sticking to their script. Now, maybe the Obama team has been countering this with a few ads in swing states. I live in California, so I haven't seen any. But the Democrats' main arguments on Medicare (see last week) have not percolated up to the national news. If Obama's running ads, they aren't catching the mainstream media's eye, that's for sure.

Obama had been doing a superb job driving the issues right up until Paul Ryan was selected. They need to realize that American voters might just start believing the nonsense the Romney/Ryan team is peddling on the issue, and they need to get out there and define the issue on their terms. As I said, this is pathetically easy to do.

But we spent all last week on that subject, so let's get to this week. Things are going to get a little edgy, I warn you. Because countering a fool like Todd Akin needs to be done as viscerally as possible.


   Don't say it out loud

When stripped bare, this is the Republican Party position on the issue of rape and abortion. If you omit the "legitimate rape" and "can't get pregnant" nonsense out of what Akin said (we'll get to those in a moment, never fear), the underlying political position is what needs to be addressed.

"Republicans have all been condemning Todd Akin for taking a political position that is part of their party platform. The Republican Party stands for amending the Constitution to ban all abortion forever. No exceptions for rape victims. No exceptions for incest. That is their party's position. Now, Todd Akin exposed his monumental ignorance on basic female physiology and biology, but beyond that what he had to say about rape victims is no different from what his party stands for, and what it would legislatively pass if it had the chance. So the message from the Republican Party to its own political candidates for office is: don't talk about our platform in public. Don't admit what our legislative agenda is. Don't tell the voters what we plan on doing, because you might not get elected. I can't figure out if this is political cowardice or just plain hypocrisy, personally."


   Step down from what, exactly?

If anyone tries to argue back against that first one, that somehow the Republican Party has absolved itself from Akin's sin by calling on him to get out of the Senate race he's in, here's the proper response.

"OK, wait, let me understand what you're saying... so, why, exactly did the Republicans all call for him to get out of the race?" [...pause for answer...] "OK, then why haven't any Republicans called for him to step down from the House committee he sits on that contains the word 'Science' in its name? How many Republicans have called on him to step down from his House seat? None? I certainly haven't heard any. So what Republicans are basically saying is the guy is too embarrassing for a job promotion from House to Senate, but that it's just fine to leave him in the House and let him sit on a science committee. Sounds like nothing more than crass political opportunism to me -- not any sort of principled stand against anything. Republicans are just fine with him staying where he is, they're just afraid of losing an election, that's all. It's nothing but politics -- otherwise there would be calls for him to quit his House seat, or at least strip him of his committee assignments. Haven't heard a single Republican suggest that, yet."


   Rape is rape

But let's not let Akin off the hook for the worst part of his inane statement.

"What exactly is 'legitimate rape' as opposed to any other sort of rape? What is an 'illegitimate rape' for that matter? What do Republicans mean when they try to limit legislation to 'forcible' rape or 'violent' rape? Why this obsession with defining a term that has already been adequately defined? President Obama said it best, this week: rape is rape. Period. And guess what? Women who are raped sometimes get pregnant. It's one of those pesky 'medical facts' -- deal with it. The real questions to ask ignoramuses like Todd Akin are: if your daughter was raped, are you the one who is going to tell her that she must carry the rapist's baby to term? Are you the one who is going to tell her she will see the eyes of her rapist staring back at her from her own child's eyes for the rest of her life? Because that is exactly what you want to condemn tens of thousands of women in America to -- each and every year. So, if your teenage daughter was a rape victim, you'd better be prepared to explain why that is the only option you would leave open to her. Because that is Todd Akin's future for America, and that is the Republican Party's official position as well."


   Rapists' bill of rights

I wrote an article back when Herman Cain was still in the race which addressed the main issue Todd Akin just raised. I ran the article again this Monday, because I really didn't have to change a word of it to fit the Akin situation. The meat of why I wrote this article is a quote from a book by Drew Westen, where he suggested a few ways Democrats might take on this issue, written after Republicans first put it into their party's platform back in 2004. This is really two talking points in one, written by someone who is much better at this sort of thing than I:

"My opponent puts the rights of rapists above the rights of their victims, guaranteeing every rapist the right to choose the mother of his child. What he's proposing is a rapists' bill of rights."

This is the logical entailment of the Republicans' "culture of life." Perhaps the most fundamental right of a woman is to choose whose children she will bear. Yet in the Republican morality tale, if a woman is raped, she must have her rapist's baby. She can give up the child -- who is her own flesh and blood, mingled with the DNA of her rapist -- or she can wake up every morning and see the eyes of her rapist in her child. Those are her two choices. Tell that to the father of a teenage girl in rural Virginia and see how he responds. It is a deeply repugnant, and deeply immoral, position. But its repugnance is only apparent when you make the associative links.

Here is another example:

"My opponent believes that if a sixteen-year-old girl is molested by her father, she should be forced by the government to have his child, and if she doesn't want to, she should be forced by the government to go to the man who raped her and ask for his consent."


   Small government, except for women in doctors' offices

This is the core hypocrisy in the Republican Party stance. Attack it at the root.

"Republicans are for small government, and, quote, getting the government out of people's lives, unquote. Except, that is, for women when they go to their doctor. Then we've got to have the biggest, most intrusive government imaginable. We've got to have the whole legislative and judicial branches of the government right there in the doctors' offices with that woman. Because we certainly don't trust the two of them to make medical decisions together -- we know far better than a woman and her doctor what is right for the woman's medical health. In fact, we've written a whole bunch of laws which dictate precisely what happens in that doctors' office. We mandate what the doctor has to say -- even if it's not medically factual -- we mandate what has to be done, we mandate how long a waiting period must happen, we mandate who must be informed, we even mandate that a doctor -- for no medical reason -- invade a woman's body. This is the Republicans' idea of 'small government'? Really? This is 'not getting between you and your doctor' the way Republicans promised during the Obamacare debate? Really? Why is it that Republicans only seem to care about health care when they are limiting options for women, and dictating medically-unnecessary procedures, and forcing doctors to say and do things precisely as the legislature dictates? So much for all that 'small government' nonsense, eh?"


   War on Women

It's time for this particular slogan to make a comeback.

"Republicans deny that they're waging any kind of 'war on women' but it seems like every time you turn around, they're either passing a new law restricting women's rights or telling women what their exact definition of rape is. Why have Republicans spent so much time legislating women's rights away if it is not some sort of coordinated effort? Republicans can deny it until they're red in the face, but the facts remain. The Republican Party is on record stating that it wants to limit women's reproductive freedom in all cases and in all circumstances. Republicans have even tried to pass laws that would let hospitals stand by and watch women die instead of doing a simple procedure to save that woman's life. The Republican Party wants total control over all American women's reproductive choices -- and will leave them with no choice. That, my friend, is indeed a war on women, whether you feel like admitting it or not."


   Let me guess -- did you get "abstinence-only" training?

OK, that headline isn't really probably fair to Todd Akin, because he is old enough that he probably didn't get much sex ed in school at all when he attended (he was born in 1947). But it's still a point worth making.

"You know what the whole Todd Akin situation says to me? It is the most powerful argument you could make for comprehensive sexual education in schools. The man is profoundly ignorant of basic biology, it seems. Accurate information on sexual health -- and not merely 'abstinence-only' games -- should be given to every child in America so that we never again have to witness the spectacle of a United States Senate candidate who is so wildly misinformed about how women's bodies work that he blathers sheer nonsense about the subject on television. Todd Akin is now the poster child for the need for comprehensive, accurate sexual education in America."


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