07/19/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points [38] -- Whiners And Cheeseheads

Welcome back to Friday Talking Points, after a one-week hiatus!

While plenty has happened in the past two weeks which bears close and careful analysis, I'd like to begin by focusing on one event. Barack Obama announced a masterstroke of political tactics last week, and I don't think everyone has appreciated fully what it is going to mean. I say this not as an "Obamamaniac," or as some starry-eyed follower who has been caught up in his "personality cult," but rather as a political observer (with an admitted left-wing bias) applauding a Democratic candidate on a monumentally brilliant decision.

I speak of Obama's acceptance speech. Which will be seen -- live -- by over 80,000 people in the stadium where the Denver Broncos play football.

That is just stunning.

Think about it: could John McCain even raise such an audience in Minnesota for the Republican convention? My humble guess is that McCain would have to bus them in to fill the seats.

I must admit, I had been a bit worried about the convention season, since the Democrats decided to schedule theirs first, meaning that a week later the Republicans may have stolen their spotlight... and (more importantly) the "bump" in the polls which traditionally follows the conventions for both parties. But I am worried no more.

Because America will get the following images in quick succession. First, Barack Obama accepts his party's nomination in front of a teeming throng of people (the biggest crowd to ever see such a speech in America's history) -- and all types of people at that: young people, ethnically diverse people, people from all walks of life, people who look like America -- and he does so on the forty-fifth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. The networks will fall all over themselves drawing the obvious parallels, and my guess is that whatever "roving reporters" they have covering the speech "live" will have to fight to be heard over the roar of the crowd.

The cable news video montage, which will be replayed over and over again will go thusly: King's "I have a dream..." / Obama accepting nomination / eighty thousand people yelling their heads off in absolute joy.

Then, about a week later, John McCain will give his acceptance speech in front of a group of old, white people -- the same old, white people we've seen at every Republican convention for the past three or four decades. And remember, McCain will have to read his speech off of a TelePrompTer -- something he's notoriously bad at doing. And he'll have to follow a speech by (assumably) President Bush, and (if we're really lucky) Vice President Darth Cheney as well.

The only thing Obama has to avoid is getting too Leni-Riefenstahl-ish over the presentation. As long as none of the television talking heads says the words "Nuremberg rally," Obama will be golden.

As I said, I had been a little concerned about the convention season, and thought Obama would balance it with wiping the floor with McCain during a few national debates, but now I think he's got a good shot of gaining an insurmountable lead in the polls following convention season.

One can only hope...


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

There were a few strong candidates for MIDOTW this week, I'm happy to report. Senator Russ Feingold showed (once again) why he should really have run for president this time around, by leading the fight on defeating the new FISA bill. Unfortunately for him (and for us) he wasn't successful, but that doesn't mean he didn't fight the good fight and give it the ol' college try. So Senator Feingold deserves an honorable mention this week for his efforts to protect the Constitution.

Likewise Dennis Kucinich. He has been fighting tooth and nail (against Nancy Pelosi, among other Democrats) to move forward articles of impeachment against George Bush. Due to some backroom deals (and arm-twisting, no doubt), his bill may actually be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee next week. This is indeed progress, but his award will have to wait until it actually happens. But, again, he deserves mention here for his efforts nonetheless.

But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy, for making an appearance on the Senate floor in support of the Medicare bill which went through this week.

Not only did Teddy appear in the midst of chemotherapy for his brain tumor, but his presence meant the deciding vote would be cast in favor of the bill. As if this weren't enough, his vote convinced nine Republican Senators to hastily change their vote at the last minute, to side with the Democrats.

That's pretty impressive, I have to say.

The "Lion of the Senate" appears to have a few more roars left in him. More power to him! Get well soon, Teddy, we need your voice in the Senate now more than ever.

[Congratulate Senator Edward Kennedy on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Sad to say, we also had a few contenders for the prize of Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this time around. First, there was every single Democrat who voted for the FISA overhaul demanded by George Bush. Since you guys can't seem to find a clue with both hands, a flashlight, and a map, allow me to enlighten you: you voted for this abomination the same week that Congress' approval rating dropped to a new low in all of history -- only nine percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. You think maybe the two are somehow related? Nine percent... that's pretty bad. That means you have disgusted not only the Republican opposition, but also virtually your entire political base. Like I said, you think the two might somehow be related to each other?

Runner up this week for MDDOTW was Jesse Jackson, who proved what a nutjob (nutlessjob?) he truly is this week on FOX News. Or maybe not... how many thousands of interviews has Jesse done? Maybe he knew his microphone was on? Who knows... it'll end up helping Obama, that's for sure, but it still was a pretty embarassing thing for a Democrat to be caught saying.

But I can't dump on ol' Jesse too much. Anyone who has read "Green Eggs And Ham" on Saturday Night Live can't be all bad.

And, just as an aside, can we please call it what it is, rather than a "Sister Soulja moment" -- "disavowing black radicals to appear 'safe' to white voters moment," perhaps. I'm just saying... it'd be more honest.

Anyway, even Jesse Jackson couldn't sink to the level of our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, since the (dis)honor goes to... Barack Obama. Here is Obama, back in January (Talking Points Memo has the whole timeline of quotes):

I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.

Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.

The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.

No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people -- not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.

That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens -- and set an example to the world -- that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.

And here he is in June, just before he voted for exactly what he said he was going to support a filibuster in order to block:

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives -- and the liberty -- of the American people.

It's not so much that he voted with Bush. It's that he said he wasn't going to, and then he did. Now, I have been in the trenches for Obama fighting off charges of "flip-flopping" because I think John McCain flips and flops about ten times for every time Obama does, so nobody can accuse me of jumping all over Barack here. But there's just no excuse for giving the opposition some ammo to use against you, especially on a vote where it would not have even mattered which way Obama voted (it would have passed anyway).

So for such flip-flopitude I must in all conscience award the MDDOTW award to Barack Obama this week. For shame, Senator Obama.

[Contact Barack Obama on his Senate contact page to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 38 (7/11/08)

In the continuing battle to get the mainstream media to pay attention to John McCain's inconsistencies, gaffes, and other flip-flops, Steve Benen over at The Carpetbagger Report has done a bang-up job of assembling the ultimate McCain flip-flop list. He is currently up to sixty-one major reversals for McCain -- almost none of them addressed whatsoever in the mainstream media at large. Benen has come up with a new title for McCain as well -- "Jukebox John" -- for changing his tune every few minutes.

Over at Huffington Post, Max Bergmann has an impressive list of idiocies from McCain from the past week alone which is also worth a look.

But there may be some good news on the horizon... or, to put it more accurately, some bad news in the press for McCain. John McCain has relied on "his base" (the media) for lots of feel-good stories because he cultivates a close relationship with the reporters covering his campaign. But that all may be changing. His new campaign head, Steve Schmidt, is of the Karl Rove "the media is the enemy" school of thought, which may signal a sea change in the relationship between the candidate and the (up until now) sycophantic press who is supposed to be covering him. Perhaps the feeling of being jilted will wake a few reporters up enough to actually examine McCain's record.

Hopefully, we'll begin to see signs of this in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled. Onward to this week's talking points, provided (as always) as a courtesy for any Democrat getting interviewed this weekend.




John McCain's campaign co-chairman Phil Gramm has singlehandedly counteracted Obama's perceived blue-collar voter "cling to religion" gaffe in one fell swoop. Obama, and Obama surrogates, should beat this drum as hard as possible in the next few weeks, especially since Gramm is John McCain's top economic advisor, and not some peripheral person to his campaign. And most especially since Graham is apparently standing by his comments.

"John McCain this week labeled Social Security 'an absolute disgrace.' Then John McCain's top economic advisor -- someone you would expect to see on McCain's Cabinet if he gets elected, and who now runs a Swiss bank -- just called the American people 'whiners' for seeing the reality of the Republican economic policies on their pocketbooks. The elitist attitude dripping from their words is just astounding. People in America are hurting because of what George Bush and the Republicans have done to our economy. People are not 'whining,' they are crying for help. These cries obviously fall on the deaf ears of John McCain, and the deaf ears of the man he trusts to give him economic advice. After all, Phil Gramm and John McCain don't have to worry about mortgages, gas prices, or student loans. They are millionaires. The GOP should just change its name to the 'Millionaire Party' -- it certainly would be a lot more honest."



   How many houses do you own, Senator McCain?

There are a number of ways to point out the elitism inherent in John McCain, but the best way is to focus on his own (and his heiress wife's) vast wealth as a way to show voters who he really is.

"No wonder John McCain doesn't 'get it' about the effects of the Bush economic policies on average Americans. It was just reported that his wife spent three quarters of a million dollars -- in just one month -- on her credit cards. This isn't exactly an 'average American family.' I keep wondering why the media doesn't ask very simple questions to show what an out-of-touch elitist John McCain really is -- questions like: 'So how many houses do you and your wife own, Senator McCain?' The average voter would be astonished at the answers to easy questions like that. If, of course, they were ever asked."



   Mental recession?

But Phil Gramm didn't stop at just labeling Americans as "whiners" -- he also told the country that we were in a "mental recession." Here's the quote: "You've heard of mental depression. This is a mental recession. We have sort of become a nation of whiners. ... You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline."

Barack Obama has already jumped on this one, and I can't improve on his words, which should be repeated by Democrats everywhere this weekend:

"I guess what he meant, is that it's a figment of your imagination, these high gas prices. America already has one Dr. Phil. We don't need another one when it comes to the economy. It's not just a figment of your imagination. It's not only in your head."



   Where's John?

John McCain has the worst attendance record in the United States Senate. He is running for president, but the media keeps letting him get away with criticizing Barack Obama's votes on issues, when McCain himself refuses to even show up to vote. It has now been over three months since McCain cast a single vote (his last one was April 8th -- he has now missed over 75 votes in a row). This needs to be pointed out.

"Where's John? Senator McCain has been using his opponent's votes as fodder on the campaign trail, but at least Barack Obama shows up for important votes. John McCain didn't even show up for the vote on the new GI Bill, and then later tried to take credit for it -- even though he opposed it. So the next time you hear John McCain talking about the way Obama just voted, the next question should be: 'Where's John?' If McCain can't even be bothered to take time from fundraising with fat cats to do his duty in the United States Senate, then he shouldn't be given a free pass when it comes to speaking of voting records. I say again: 'Where's John?'"



   Iraqis demanding timetables for U.S. withdrawal.

Iraqi leaders are now signaling in no uncertain terms that they want a timetable for American troops to leave their country. This threatens to derail Bush's efforts to tie the hands of his successor with a new Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that he wanted to sign without the benefit of congressional approval. But apparently Prime Minister Maliki is now looking over his own domestic political landscape and has come to the conclusion that it's time to ask the Americans to go. This paints George Bush and John McCain into the same corner.

"Both George Bush and John McCain have previously said that if the Iraqis were to ask us to leave, then we would, since they are a sovereign country. Now that the Iraqis are apparently ready to do just that, Bush and McCain are scrambling for some way to explain this. It seems that the Iraqis themselves are closer in their thinking to Barack Obama's plan for Iraq than to the 'we'll be there for 100 years' thinking of John McCain. I look forward to McCain 'refining' his plan to accept this 'fact on the ground' in the very near future, as his plan moves closer to what Obama has proposed."



   Is John McCain a cheesehead or not?

John McCain just raised the bar (or lowered it, depending on your outlook) on political pandering. He said, in an interview with a local television station, that when a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he gave his captors false information. He's told this story before, but the problem is he conveniently changed a key part of it in an effort to appeal to local voters. Here's what he said: "When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures, physical pressures on me, I named the starting lineup, defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates."

The only problem is, every other time McCain has told this story, he said it was the Green Bay Packers. The local station he gave this interview to is, naturally, in Pittsburgh.

"John McCain says he is reluctant to talk about his time as a prisoner of war, which is amusing because he brings it up every chance he gets. Just look at his campaign ads. But he just took political exploitation of his POW experience to a new level. In Pittsburgh, he told a POW story and substituted the 'Pittsburgh Steelers' for what he used to say was the 'Green Bay Packers.' Now, I would believe those who say he just had a 'senior moment' on the campaign trail if he had said this in San Diego, or Jacksonville, or Chicago. But he was clearly trying to appeal to local voters with this charmingly false story. How can we believe anything McCain says about his war experiences if he'll lie about details in a cheap effort to get votes? Will McCain stop at nothing in his effort to say anything to get elected? If he were here right now, I'd have to ask him: Sir, are you now or have you ever been a cheesehead?"



   GOP desperately seeking a platform.

The Republican National Committee has apparently discovered the internets. They now have a web page up soliciting ideas for the party platform. I provide this link for informational purposes only, and definitely not to encourage people to rush on over there and add spurious suggestions along the lines of: "Give a full pardon to Voldemort." Ahem.

But while this could be interpreted as an actual grassroots effort, a quick glance at the campaign calendar makes you wonder whether it isn't too little, too late for the RNC.

"It's kind of sad, really, to see that the Republicans are less than two months away from their national convention, and they don't know where they stand as a party, as evidenced by their beginning to solicit ideas for their platform online. Perhaps Americans will visit their online platform ideas page and tell them there are two reasons why they're not going to do very well in this election: their disastrous domestic policies, and their disastrous foreign policies."


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Cross-posted at Democratic Underground