We're back! Yes, we took last week off (for our nation's birthday), so it's been two weeks since we've taken a look at politics through our own special lens, which (as always) will feature heavy overuse of the editorial "we" (just because we enjoy it so much).
Plenty of stuff happened in the past two weeks in the political world, but we'll get to all of that in a minute, because first we'd like to highlight (pun intended, of course) what is being billed as "the first marijuana television commercial." It's not on the air yet, but Canadian company Crop King Seeds has released this first look at their ad (they do admit that they'll likely have to edit out one bit of profanity before the ad airs). Without further ado, here is their ad (used with full permission, as they would really like the ad to go viral):
The ad is funny and rather memorable, which was obviously two of the goals of the ad. But the hostility shown towards the alcohol marketplace is a little overdone, and could be more effective if more comedic, perhaps. But the spokesman (spokesking?) in the ad falls somewhere on the scale of creepy corporate mascots between Jack from the Jack In The Box ad campaign (fairly benign), and the truly disturbing plastic-faced Burger King from their ad campaign of a few years ago (totally creepy). At the very least, get a better fake beard! Having a mascot for your company who looks like Santa's weed-growing cousin isn't all that bad an idea (it's actually pretty funny!), but maybe do a better casting job for the next ad. Maybe hire an off-season mall Santa with a real snow-white beard? Just a suggestion.
Snarky comments aside, though, if the company's claim of "first marijuana commercial" (made in their press release) is accurate, it will truly be historic when it actually gets on the air. After all, this is a small family-run company, and millions of people who never thought such an ad could even exist may now be about to see such ads -- which is a significant pioneering effort. The core message is a pretty simple one: marijuana is a product in the marketplace -- just like beer and alcohol. It's a normalizing message -- which is precisely what is needed for further public acceptance in general. This ad will likely be followed by other companies' ads -- all competing freely in a marketplace for customers -- which means it does represent a historic turning point.
In other recent weed news, Washington state legalized recreational marijuana sales this week, and the sky did not actually fall. This makes two U.S. states where the black market economy has been brought above-ground -- where it can be fully seen in the light of day (and generate tax revenues). Two more states (Alaska and Oregon, as well as Washington D.C.) may get the chance to vote this year on whether to follow suit. Interestingly, the European Union will now be adding in the black market economy (sex and drugs, mostly) to their total economic statistics (such as calculating their gross national product). The reasoning behind this move is complicated, but essentially boils down to "our nation's economic picture is distorted without counting this economic activity."
Moving on, let's see what Republicans have been up to. The infamous "kissing congressman" has decided to run for re-election after all, which should make at least one House race in Louisiana a lot more interesting. The governor of Maine apparently met eight times with members of a group the F.B.I. considers to be a terrorist organization. In economic idiocy news, the governor of Kansas still believes in the "tax cuts pay for themselves" conservative moonbeams-and-fairy-dust economic theory. He dutifully cut taxes, and thus destroyed the Kansas budget:
Kansas brought in $282 million less in personal income tax revenue than it expected in fiscal 2014, or just 57 percent of what it had planned to collect. Moreover, the state's budget office projects slower growth in both personal income and gross domestic product. And in April, Moody's Investors Services downgraded the state's credit, citing, in part, the revenue loss from the tax cut.
His answer to the problem is, unsurprisingly, "more tax cuts!" Yeah, that'll do the trick!
A bit further west, the Republican running for governor in Colorado is replaying that golden oldie from Mitt Romney's campaign "sneer about the 47 percent." Because that worked so well before, right?
Speaking of past failures, one very large Republican talking point on Benghazi got fully debunked this week. Maybe what we need isn't another round of congressional hearings, but instead Darrell Issa making public all the previous testimony? Seems like a lot of the questions Republicans keep harping on about have already been answered.
There was yet another scandal on the N.S.A. spying uncovered by the Washington Post digging through the Edward Snowden files, but the rest of the media largely yawned.
And finally, the silly news. As we approach August, expect this to become a larger and larger segment, each week. First we have a wonderful word salad from Sarah Palin, writing on why America should get behind impeaching Barack Obama. In quite possibly the most mixed metaphor she's ever managed, Palin wrote:
Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, "no mas."
Um, OK, Sarah... but tell us how you really feel!
And finally, we have the spectacle of Brian Williams actually making a sex joke and a political metaphor, all at once!
Yep, we're getting awfully close to Silly Season, folks.
We don't have a lot to work with this week, and we're not even positive they're Democrats, but we have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out nonetheless.
The first goes to all the people waging a very quiet campaign to infiltrate Hobby Lobby stores and use arts-n-crafts products to spell out "pro-choice." Maybe the campaign will go viral, who knows?
And the second MIDOTW goes to the guy in the Colorado bar who, off-screen, offers a joint to President Obama and asks him "You want a hit of this?" This nameless hero will now be able to truthfully tell his grandchildren one day "I was the first person ever to legally offer a sitting American president a hit off a joint." Obama laughed it off and turned away, but the moment was captured for posterity on video.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there used to be a yearly protest called a "smoke-in" which was held on July 4th right across the street from the White House (for all I know, this event may still happen, I should mention). The thrill of lighting up marijuana where the president could actually look out and see you was enjoyed by thousands, every Independence Day. But even attendees of this festive occasion could never say they'd offered a president a toke.
This sounds amusing (and it is), but there's a more serious point to make. Even with the new Colorado law legalizing recreational marijuana, with a different president we might have had a different response by the federal government. Which might have even included a federal arrest, right there on the spot, by the Secret Service (they've arrested people close to the president for far lesser offenses in the past, after all). Instead, Obama laughed it off and continued working the crowd, but at best this only earns Obama an Honorable Mention award.
The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week however, goes to the nameless man who uttered the immortal words "You want a hit of this?" to a sitting president -- and lived freely to tell the tale.
We have two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week.
The first goes to the Democratic candidate for Senate in Kentucky, who is trying to unseat Mitch McConnell. Alison Lundergan Grimes has at least a good shot at doing so, but her recent television ad was nothing short of a false attack. It showed a retired man who complained that McConnell had voted to raise his Medicare expenses by $6,000. The figure is debatable, but what isn't is that even if the Ryan budget had become law, it wouldn't have affected those who had already retired. The ad's script could have been changed only very slightly to make it accurate, or they could have gotten someone 15 years younger to make the case. But instead the campaign left themselves open to charges of false advertising, earning Grimes a MDDOTW.
The second award goes to none other than President Barack Obama. He tried to take both a high road and a low road -- simultaneously -- this week, and he got a lot of criticism for the obvious disconnect. Much of the criticism was incredibly over-the-top, but it doesn't change the fact of the political disconnect.
Obama refused to travel to the border region of Texas, because he was (according to the White House) concerned about the "optics" -- the president was fully aware of the situation, and didn't need to stage a photo-op, the White House insisted. Well, they might have gotten away with this stance if Obama hadn't had quite so many photo-ops in the other stops along his trip, most notably in Colorado where he was photographed with a guy in a horse-head mask, playing pool with the governor, and (the previously-mentioned) being offered a toke on a joint.
While we really hate to admit it, this allowed people like Sarah Palin to take some cheap shots at Obama. Now, the entire "it's Obama's Katrina" theme is vastly overstating things, but what did Obama expect after his bar trip but snark like this from Palin:
President Obama was absolutely swamped the other night, staving off the munchies at a pizza party in the Mile High city.... Whew. Racking balls, getting buzzed on suds, maybe humming 'Rocky Mountain High' while kicking it in those Rockies, hard choices had to be made -- stripes or solids?
The moral of this story is: when you're taking the moral high road with a "no photo-ops" stance, it would behoove you to not stage a bunch of photo-ops where you look like you're having way too much fun.
For breaking this basic political rule, President Obama also deserves a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.
[Alison Lundergan Grimes is a candidate for office, and it is our policy not to provide contact information to candidate web pages. President Barack Obama can be contacted via the White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 311 (7/11/14)
Which brings us to our weekly talking points. As always, these are offered up for the use of anyone, whether arguing with your relatives at the beach house or being interviewed on Sunday morning political shows. Use responsibly, as the saying goes.
Economy looking up
Democrats have been in a defensive crouch over the economy for too long. Sure, things aren't all hunky-dory, but how many months of good news does it take before Democrats will begin to point it out?
"While the economic recovery has not appeared everywhere, it looks like 2014 will be the year of the rebound. Last month, America actually ran a surplus rather than a deficit. This year's federal budget deficit is actually projected to be almost a billion dollars lower than the one President Obama initially inherited. The unemployment rate is poised to fall below six percent this summer, and we added almost 300,000 jobs last month. The stock market is hitting new highs. I am aware that not everyone has seen these benefits yet, but the trendline should be clear -- things are getting better for the American economy overall."
Obamacare prognosis good
A bunch of new numbers came out on the impact of Obamacare, and they were pretty overwhelmingly positive. So point it out!
"No matter how you measure it, Obamacare seems to be doing just fine. Whether you track the uninsured Americans rate, or the total number of people who have benefited, Obamacare is helping millions of Americans precisely as it was intended to do. Where are all the doom-and-gloom scenarios Republicans warned us about? Is Obamacare a job-killer? No, it is not -- unemployment since October is down, not up. In fact, of the people who gained new insurance through the Obamacare program, the overwhelming amount are actually happy with their new coverage. Even broken down on political lines, an astounding 74 percent of Republicans say they are happy with their Obamacare. Even the anti-Obamacare ads seem to be backfiring, as more people who see the ads sign up for Obamacare. At this point in its implementation, Obamacare's prognosis has to be seen as excellent."
Leadership? Are you kidding me?!?
John Boehner had a little snark eruption the other day, acting as exasperated as he could manage.
"Excuse me, but John Boehner is criticizing Obama on the subject of leadership and taking responsibility? Are you kidding? Let's just quickly review Boehner's leadership of late, shall we? This week the House voted to add 287 billion dollars to the deficit -- without paying for a dime of it -- in tax cuts. Remember the old 'tax cuts pay for themselves' nonsense? Boehner seems to be reviving it. Republicans in the House also tried to quietly get rid of an ethics rule this week that would have allowed them not to have to publicly report lavish vacations given to them and their families -- until they got caught at it and quickly reversed course. There will be no vote this year on any Republican replacement bill for Obamacare, because Republicans haven't been able to agree on a thing -- it's easier to vote to repeal than it is to come up with any replacement. On immigration, the Republican in charge of the effort was just told by Boehner that there would be no vote on any immigration bill this year. If Boehner had allowed the House to vote on the bipartisan Senate bill last year, the Border Patrol would now have doubled in size. The only reason this doubling did not take place is John Boehner and his Republican cohorts in the House. That's not exactly a stunning record of achievement, now is it?"
You have to wonder about all those people who say they love the original Constitution in all its glory, only to chuck it out the window unread when convenient.
"Representative Steve King recently explained why House Republicans are planning on suing the president rather than impeaching him. I quote: 'We have two constitutional tools to bring a president into line. One of them is the power of the purse, which as clearly demonstrated is not an effective tool. The other one is impeachment.' So, let me get this straight. Republicans are all for the original language in the Constitution. The Constitution has two remedies to 'bring a president into line,' neither one of which is 'suing him in court.' So what are Republicans going to do? Sue the president for not adhering to the Constitution in a lawsuit that does not adhere to the Constitution? If the president has committed impeachable crimes, isn't it the duty of House Republicans to impeach him, no matter what they think the Senate will do? After all, that's what the Constitution says. If you bother to read it, that is."
But Obama is following the law
Irony abounds in the debate (if you can even call it that) over the border crisis.
"Let's just review the whole situation. Congress passed a bill that was so uncontentious that it passed unanimously in both houses and which was then signed into law by President George W. Bush. Obama is now following that law, which requires him to give unaccompanied children from Central America their day in immigration court. Republicans are complaining that Obama is ignoring the law, when he is actually following it. Republicans in the House refuse to vote on a bill which passed with a big bipartisan vote in the Senate, which would have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents. House Republicans also refuse to come up with a single bill dealing with any aspect of the immigration problem. They said, when the Senate passed their bill last year, that the House was going to break it up into a number of bills, the first of which would be 'securing the border.' Since that time, they have done nothing. Except, of course, complain that Obama hasn't secured the border on his own (which, if he actually accomplished such a thing, they'd probably sue him over). They won't vote on the Senate bill to double the Border Patrol, they can't come up with their own border security bill, and now they're balking because the president has asked for more money to deal with a crisis situation. They refuse to even vote to change the law that Obama is now following. So tell me again -- exactly who is the problem when it comes to securing the border?"
The cost of under-regulation
I'm betting this one won't get much coverage on the news.
"You know, I hear Republicans talk all the time about all the onerous overregulation that Washington does, and how it slows down business and all the rest of it. Well, let's see how this actually works in reality. We had a business spill 10,000 gallons of a toxic chemical into a river in West Virginia, which contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people and sent over 600 to the hospital. Remember that? Well, the federal fine from OSHA for this negligence were announced this week: a grand total of $11,000. That's the total fine. Please remember this the next time someone says federal regulations are too onerous for companies to meet -- because the penalties for not doing so are quite plainly nothing more than a bad joke."
That district looks familiar!
This one's in the "just for fun" column, obviously. This would look great in a side-by-side comparison on a television news show, but I'm not holding my breath for anyone else to notice it.
"A federal judge just ruled that the redistricting Florida did after the census was illegal. But what's interesting is, when you look at the map of the fifth district of Florida -- one of the ones examined in the suit -- it actually should look familiar to students of history. We now have the English word 'gerrymander' from a political cartoon drawn two centuries ago -- which, amusingly, shows a district very close in shape to the one the judge just ruled on. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?"
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