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10/10/2014 09:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Is There Anybody Out There?

I address this desperate attempt at communication to any remaining survivors in America of the apocalyptic scourge that is Ebola. Is there anybody still out there? Because, according to my television for the past few weeks, the death rates have been climbing so high that hundreds of millions of Americans should be pushing up the daisies by now. So, with full sorrow for the uncounted lives lost over the past few weeks, I humbly wonder whether anyone is left on the internet to read this lonely missive.

What's that? There's only been one death? No... wait, that can't be right....

The American news media, already a shadow of its former self, has discovered once again that there is simply no reason not to operate in full-blown panic mode, all the time. Instead of "the apocalyptic scourge that is Ebola," we have "the scourge that is media hyperventilating over Ebola in apocalyptic tones." Panic draws eyeballs to the screen. Panic sells. This spills over into the world of politics on an even more primitive level, one that harkens back to Machiavelli: "fear works." It is easier for politicians to get the populace to fear than it is to love. 'Twas always thus.

In a week filled with pearl-clutching, there will always be one Republican who stands above the pack in fear-mongering. This week, that dubious prize goes to the executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, who tweeted the following suggestions for a rational response to Ebola:

People with Ebola in the US need to be humanely put down immediately.

The protocol for a positive Ebola test should be immediate humane execution and sanitization of the whole area. That will save lives.

Ready for the delicious irony? This is a guy who calls himself pro-life. This is one small step away from Monty Python's famous "Bring out your dead" sketch, in fact. Nothing like "compassionate conservatism," is there?

Phyllis Schlafly, who is apparently still around, was quick to identify the real problem:

Obama doesn't want America to believe that we're exceptional. He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That's his attitude.

Other Republicans were quick to jump on board a conspiracy theory making the rounds in Rightwingistan: that ISIS fighters are already streaming across America's southern border. Haven't heard this one? Here"s Tom Cotton, Republican running for the Senate in Arkansas:

The problem is with Mark Pryor and Barack Obama refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and refusing to secure our border. I'll change that when I'm in the United States Senate. And I would add, it's not just an immigration problem. We now know that it's a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they're willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.

Here"s Duncan Hunter, House member from California, who has a list right there in his hand of ten ISIS fighters who have already been detained at the border:

If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border -- it's that simple. They caught them at the border, therefore we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them then you know there's going to be dozens more that did not get caught by the border patrol. ISIS doesn't have a navy, they don't have an air force, they don't have nuclear weapons. The only way that ISIS is going to harm Americans is by coming through the southern border -- which they already have.

This led the Department of Homeland Security to try to interject some reality into this dark world of paranoid Republican fantasy, by issuing a complete denial:

The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground. DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.

But, you know, that doesn't mean Republicans can't go out and campaign on the non-existent threat. Hey, it's a free country, right? Salon had some fun with this, plus the three other "Be afraid! Be very afraid!" themes that seem to be the sum total of the Republican Party's campaign playbook:

You don't have to use all four. It's more like ordering a combo platter at a restaurant: mix-and-match a plate of two or three different items out of a possible total of four.

You can say that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that Ebola-stricken Africans are trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that Ebola-stricken ISIS members are trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter; that Ebola-stricken Africans are trying to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter, etc. All of these things are happening, or they're not, but they could.

President Obama, most generously, is too incompetent to stop any of these things from happening; more likely, he wants them to happen and is abetting their happening, since his end-game is and has always been destruction of the country from the inside.

We don't think that any Republican Senate candidate has threaded the needle between all four yet -- as in, "Ebola-stricken Africans are teaming up with ISIS in Mexico, crossing the porous border, and marching to Washington to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter." Has any candidate said this yet? If not, first one one [sic] wins a combo platter at Sizzler.

You know what might help in this crisis-to-end-all-crises? Having a Surgeon General in office. President Obama nominated someone for the job last November, but his confirmation has been blocked ever since. For purely ideological reasons. This needs a little more attention from the media, especially considering their absolute obsession with Ebola right now.

In non-Ebola news, the midterm Senate campaigns are heating up. Here's a quick rundown with some links, as we enter the final month of campaigning:

Democrats down in the polls in Alaska, but maybe this won't matter.

Republicans have pretty much given up on their chances in Michigan (they've pulled all their last-minute campaign ad money out, a pretty clear sign that they're toast).

Colorado is still close. So is Iowa, but Republicans appear to be holding an edge here.

South Dakota, of all places, is looking interesting, as the Republican is down in the polls in a three-way race. Will Rick Weiland or the independent in the race have a chance? Stay tuned.

Democrats just increased their chances of stealing Georgia away, as a David Perdue gaffe is getting a lot of attention -- Romney "47 percent" style attention. Some intrepid opposition researcher dug up Perdue replying in a court deposition, when asked about his experience with outsourcing jobs: "Yeah, I spent most of my career doing that." When this came to light and he was asked about how he'd defend this statement, he promptly doubled down: "Defend it? I'm proud of it."

In Kansas, the news continues to be bad for Republicans.

North Carolina got some bad news as the courts upheld voter-suppression laws, but again, this might not matter as much as you think, because of the backlash.

And in New Hampshire, Scott Brown's chances of winning were already fading, but now he's actually trying to position himself as a champion pro-choice candidate, despite voting for "big government" inserting itself into the conversation between a woman and her doctor. Good luck with that, Scott. He's not the only one trying to lay very low indeed on the front lines of the War On Women, it's worth noting.

In non-Senate election news, the New York Times just endorsed all three recreational marijuana ballot initiatives this year (Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC), which continues their bold editorial stand on the subject. Oh, and there's a great Carl Sagan letter making the rounds, with some very intelligent questions he wanted to ask decades ago (it's well worth reading, even today). In other Drug War news, the D.E.A. stole a woman's identity and created a fake Facebook page to troll for drug dealers, back in 2010. Good to know what our taxpayer dollars are funding, isn't it?

This is running insanely long already (as usual), but we've got two more odds and ends that we just have to toss out there. The first is the news that NBC News offered Jon Stewart pretty much any amount of money he wanted if he would only be the new host of Meet The Press. An inside source described it as: "They were ready to back the Brinks truck up." Stewart, obviously, passed up such a tempting offer, but it sure is fun to picture him hosting the show, isn't it?

And in our "Department Of Perhaps-Unintended Irony," the Washington Post, after the Nationals lost to the San Francisco Giants, ran one of the funniest sports articles we've ever read, written in full-on "Mad Libs" fashion. Fill-in-the-blanks, and you've got a ready-made column for each time a Washington team disappoints its fans by not going all the way. What was even funnier to us, however, was that even in such a masterful work of satire, it was never admitted that the sports writers in Washington bear a large part of the blame for lifting fans' hopes up so sky-high each and every year (at the beginning of the season) -- there was precisely zero self-reflection on the part of the media. The funniest thing of all? Whether by intent or possibly (to be fair) through automated "link this story to that" software at the Post site, the suggested Post video which appeared right after the satirical article's text ended was titled: "Why this season will be different for the Capitals." Too, too funny!

 

Attorney General Eric Holder was vindicated in a big way this week, when a report from the (non-partisan) General Accounting Office proved that states with voter-suppression laws actually do suppress minority voting. That's right -- laws passed by Republicans to make it harder for poor and minority people to vote do precisely that. This was a busy week for voting laws, as court decisions (including one tossing out a new Texas law where the judge called it nothing more than a "poll tax") were announced. Holder has indeed championed this cause during his time in office, and he wrote a pretty good statement of his position after the report came out, for which he deserves at least an Honorable Mention.

But this week we're giving out a collective Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to everyone who has ever worked for marriage equality. Gay rights activists and their supporters gained an important milestone this week, as the Supreme Court refused to review the string of pro-marriage-equality rulings that have happened in the past year and a half. The milestone, properly stated, is: "Marriage equality for all across this great land should now be seen as inevitable."

Some of us have been saying this for a while, but this week was the time when pretty much everyone agreed on America's new reality. Even most Republicans (well, except Ted Cruz) just don"t want to talk about it anymore, because all they can see is solid defeat, across the landscape. Republican politicians have gone from breathing fire on the campaign trail on the issue just a few short years ago to now hoping the subject doesn't even come up.

That is a stunning victory for marriage egalitarians. This used to be a successful wedge issue Republicans used around election time to divide Democrats. Now it is exactly the opposite.

So for everyone who worked to achieve this goal -- and for everyone who still has work to do (just because it is politically inevitable doesn't mean more legal work has to be done) -- give yourselves a large pat on the back, and accept our virtual Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award for your efforts. This has been the biggest shift in American political opinion on civil rights in the last half century. It didn't happen overnight, and it took a lot of hard work, but complete victory is only a few court opinions away from becoming reality.

 

There was another disturbing report of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration meddling where they really shouldn't have been. This time around, they got caught scrubbing some language from a report on the effects of fracking, to make it seem more friendly. This was supposed to be a scientific report, untainted by politics. This is the second example of such meddling in the past few months, which makes for a disturbing trend and earns Cuomo a (Dis-)Honorable Mention.

There was a salacious green-card-marriage-for-money story out of Oregon, but we don't consider it fair game because the woman involved is not an elected official or even married to one.

Instead, we're giving out the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award as a follow-up to an earlier story (which earned him his second MDDOTW award, back in FTP [313]).

Senator John Walsh of Montana was caught earlier in a plagiarism scandal from his college days. As a result, he was forced to end his bid to get elected (he had initially been appointed after Max Baucus became ambassador to China), in shame.

This week, the other shoe dropped, as the Army War College announced it was revoking his master's degree (the heart of the plagiarism scandal).

See, kids? When schools tell you "it's going to become part of your permanent record," it turns out they are right. For the shame Walsh has brought on the office, we think he deserves a third Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Contact Senator John Walsh on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

 

Volume 323 (10/10/14)

President Obama raised some eyebrows a short time ago, when he said in a speech that while he would not be on the ballot, his policies would. The inside-the-Beltway crowd swooned over the statement, which they all instantly agreed would hurt Democrats.

One Democratic senator -- although, in fairness, she's not up for re-election -- showed precisely how to respond to the critics. Barbara Boxer wrote a full-throated defense of Obama's statement, which is well worth reading in full.

I mention this up front, because our first four talking points are taken directly from her article. These are well-crafted talking points any Democrat could be using right now, and we heartily applaud Boxer for showing the rest of them how it's supposed to be done. The last three of this week's talking points are our own, but we had to stick Boxer's four right up front, just because.

 

   Raise the minimum wage

These were all presented under the introduction: "Here's what is really on [the] ballot this November:"

Raising the Minimum Wage. The ability of 28 million American workers to get a raise is on the ballot. Democrats are committed to helping to lift millions of workers and their families out of poverty. But time and time again, Republicans have blocked an increase in the federal minimum wage.

 

   Reduce student loan debt

Notice in each of these, Boxer points out the obstructionism of Republicans on issues which are wildly popular with the public.

Reducing Student Loan Debt. Easing the crushing burden of student loan debt for young people and their families is on the ballot. Democrats want to pass a bill to help borrowers refinance their loans at lower rates. And again and again, Republicans have blocked giving middle-class Americans a fair shot at an affordable college education.

 

   Equal pay now!

The last sentence of this should be memorized as a refrain, for any Democratic candidate running for just about any race.

Equal Pay for Women. The ability of women to earn equal pay for equal work is on the ballot. Democrats want to pass legislation to help close the wage gap that costs women more than $400,000 over the course of their careers. Republicans have blocked it time and time again.

 

   A woman and her doctor

Point out which side of the fight you and your opponent are on, in clear terms.

Access to Affordable Birth Control. The ability of women to access affordable birth control -- without having to ask their boss' permission -- is on the ballot. Democrats believe women and families should be able to make their own decisions about their health care. Republicans have blocked us again and again, and would rather to give that power to corporate CEOs.

 

   More economic good news

The economy is not getting worse. It is getting better. So say so!

"The numbers were just released for the past year, and the federal deficit has now fallen to 486 million dollars -- that is down almost two-thirds from its high a few years ago, and is the fastest fall in the deficit in American history. The deficit fell 28.5 percent last year alone. The unemployment rate has fallen under President Obama from a high of 10 percent to 5.9 percent -- a stunning achievement which added over 10 million jobs to the economy. For 55 straight months -- another all-time record -- the economy has added jobs. That's over four and a half years. The stock market is at record highs. While the economic gains haven't reached everybody, the future is looking brighter because the economic indicators all show a solid trendline of improvement. Republicans want you to think the economy is getting worse and worse, but they are just flat-out wrong about that. I don't know about them, but personally I'm betting on a brighter future for America than their doom-and-gloom."

 

   Break the law, pay the price

This is another success story that Democrats have been completely unable to get out to the public.

"Democrats created the first federal agency to help consumers fight against abuses by big banks -- with zero help from Republicans. Republicans fought against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau every step of the way, and they'd defund it tomorrow if they got control of the Senate. Republicans hate the agency because it stands up for average people and not for Wall Street. Just this week it announced that it was not only penalizing a bank that broke the law in handling mortgages, but it was halting any future mortgage business for that bank, until it can prove it is ready to follow the law. This is what Democrats are fighting for -- government taking the little guy's side once in a while. And this is what Republicans are fighting tooth and nail against. The difference could not be clearer."

 

   Every race is important!

A perfect bad example.

"Democrats need to take every election as seriously as Republicans have been for a long time now. No race is unimportant, no matter how small. Midterms matter, and down-ballot races can cause big headaches when Democrats don't get out the vote. You want an example? In Colorado, where students are protesting the censorship of the American history they learn, a state school board member recently chimed in with the following, and I quote: As an example, I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn't our students be provided that viewpoint? Unquote. The answer to that question is: 'No!' Our students should not be taught slavery ended 'voluntarily,' because that is not history and is not true -- that is, in fact, utter hogwash. I guess when you want to scrub negativity from American history, you end up not learning about the Civil War, or something. Every election matters, folks -- from school board elections up. Midterms matter. Now get out there and make sure everyone you know goes to vote this year!"

 

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Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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