THE BLOG
09/19/2014 08:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Congress Briefly Interrupts 3-Month Vacation to 'Work'

Congress followed up their recent five-week vacation with almost two whole weeks of actually doing their jobs, so to reward themselves they're now going to take off on another vacation. Until mid-November. The American people will show their disgust at this pathetic work ethic by returning upwards of 90 percent of them to office, if this year is anything like a typical one. The big question on everyone's mind is whether the Democrats will hold onto control of the Senate, which will mean two years of gridlock with the Republican House, or whether Republicans will gain control of the Senate, which will mean two years of gridlock with both the Tea Party and the president.

Sorry to start off on a negative note, but there is indeed little positive to be seen in the biannual frenzy of congressional campaigning which is about to begin in earnest. There is one bit of comic relief to be found in this midterm dance, and it is coming from an unexpected state: Kansas. The Democratic Senate candidate just won a court case which will keep his name off the ballot. The Republican official in charge of elections, after arguing in this court case that he legally needed to print the ballots starting today, is now saying he's going to wait a week so that the Democrats can call a convention and name a replacement to the ballot. Democrats are not going to do this, however, so like I said we've got at least one more week of amusement from the heartland in store. The "What's the matter with Kansas?" jokes just write themselves, don't they?

Little noticed outside of Baltimore, we just celebrated the bicentennial of our national anthem. I wrote about this earlier in the week, and last weekend the anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore (or the Battle of Fort McHenry) was celebrated in the city, even if the rain put somewhat of a damper on the day.

The coalition against the Islamic State began to come together this week, although (amusingly) both Syria's Assad and Iran tried to join, but were rebuffed. Insert your own witty "enemy of my enemy" quip here.

An act of terrorism happened against a United States congressman, and the suspected perpetrator was quickly arrested. You'd think this sort of thing would attract more media attention, but, sadly, you would be wrong.

The United States Air Force very quietly changed a rule last October, to mandate that anyone enlisting or re-enlisting use the phrase "...so help me God" in their oath. When the matter was noticed and legal action begun, the Air Force last week very quietly reversed their position and brought it back into line with every other branch of the armed services -- meaning the phrase is now optional (as it should be).

A court down in Florida ruled that it was OK for schoolchildren to be given religious books, so the Satanic Temple announced it would be joining in the fun and handing out copies of The Satanic Children's Big Book Of Activities. Hey, fair's fair -- if it's OK for one side of the debate, it has to be OK for everyone, right?

In other church/state news, a teenager in Pennsylvania is facing two years in jail for desecrating a statue of Jesus -- not by physically harming or altering it, mind you, but merely by taking (and publicly posting) a photograph of him in an amusing (to him, obviously) position with the statue. I could have sworn America decided "blasphemy" laws were unconstitutional a long time ago, but I guess I would be wrong. In related "teens posting stupid stuff online which comes back to bite them" news, a 19-year-old Republican candidate for state government in Wisconsin had to withdraw from his race after disgusting and racist comments were uncovered from his past online postings.

Moving back to politics, Hillary Clinton went to a steak fry in Iowa, followed by 200 "journalists" who were there to report on the experience for the rest of the world. Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post has a hilarious write-up, which is well worth a read if you want a chuckle. I had to follow up on his column yesterday, by proclaiming Hillary the perfect Schrödinger's candidate, for those who enjoy a bit of quantum physics with their political commentary.

Republicans have been busy little beavers in Washington, during their two weeks of "work" in the midst of three solid months of vacation, by conducting all the important business of the nation. Ha! Not really -- instead, they found time to vote on a bunch of bills they had already passed, and to also tackle the important issue of the handful of people who have withdrawn federal dollars inside a marijuana shop in Colorado. No really -- that was more important than voting on whether President Obama had the legal authority to start another war or not. You just can't make this stuff up, folks.

The best example of "our tax dollars at work" from last week, though, had to have been the group who attempted to turn in a half-million signatures in support of restoring the Voting Rights Act. The civil rights group thought they'd turn it in to House Speaker John Boehner's office, since he's the one who could make such a thing happen. On Wednesday, during business hours, they could not turn in their signatures, because Boehner's office door was locked and nobody responded to a knock.

Nice work if you can get it, eh?

 

A few weeks ago, this column came out strongly for providing all cops with body cameras to record every interaction they have with the public. At the time, there was a petition on the White House website asking President Obama to come out in favor of the idea. We are happy to report that the White House has now done so. This is an idea whose time has come, and what studies have been done seem to show that members of the public and cops themselves both act a lot better when they know that their actions are being filmed. Seems like a win-win all around, so President Obama deserves at least an Honorable Mention for getting behind the idea.

While not technically a Democratic organization, we are going to bend the rules (as we are wont to do, at times) and hand out an Honorable Mention to the Marijuana Policy Project, for their recent advertising campaign in Colorado. Colorado has already legalized recreational marijuana use, but M.P.P. has now begun an ad campaign to educate people (tourists especially) as to what marijuana will actually do to you. This is most important when it comes to "edibles," or marijuana products that are eaten and not smoked. While many people have had some experience with smoked marijuana (and therefore are able to regulate their dosage), the world of edibles is currently unregulated and unrestrained -- meaning strength varies wildly from one candy bar to another.

Maureen Dowd, a national newspaper columnist, famously took a recent trip to Colorado and bought an edible (candy bar) and ate so much of it she got zonked out of her brain. She then wrote about the experience, which angered many pro-marijuana folks for its one-sided take on the situation. But now M.P.P. is addressing the very real need for educating the public better about edibles with their ad campaign, and they rather obviously poked a little fun at Dowd while doing so.

For taking on the responsibility for this public service education campaign, and for getting in a dig at the Queen of Snark herself while doing so, M.P.P. deserves at least an Honorable Mention.

But we have to give the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week to Harry Reid, who held the fourth vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act right before the midterm campaign got rolling. Republicans blocked it, yet again. This gives Democrats a good talking point to use out on the hustings -- Democrats are trying to guarantee equal pay for women, and Republicans are fighting against the idea. Women voters may be key to the midterm election, and this was an excellent political move by Reid to showcase which party is on whose side in the debate.

For his political acumen in bringing the Paycheck Fairness Act up for a vote right before campaign season, Harry Reid is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

 

Sigh.

We really wish we didn't have to, but it seems Joe Biden deserves another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. On multiple occasions this week, Biden's mouth got him in trouble. First it was using the Shakespearean term "Shylock" (which has blatant anti-Semitic overtones) when speaking about bankers. Biden did quickly apologize for that one, but what really earned him the award came soon after. While speaking to a Democratic women's conference, Biden praised a few members of Congress for working to get things done in the face of divided government. The problem arose when Biden decided to say some kind words about former senator (and Republican) Bob Packwood -- who was disgraced when it came out that he was somewhat of a serial sexual harasser. Packwood was known for groping and kissing women without their consent, in fact.

Right in the midst of the domestic violence problems in the NFL (and elsewhere) is, quite frankly, not the time to say kind words about Bob Packwood. Furthermore, in front of a women's conference is never really the place to say kind words about Bob Packwood, no matter what you may think of his legislative record.

So, for Joe Biden being Joe Biden, he has earned his third Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Think before you speak, Joe. Please?

[Contact Vice President Joe Biden via the White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

 

Volume 320 (9/19/14)

Continuing the theme from the awards section, many of our talking points this week center around the Republican War On Women, and the chasm between what Democrats want to do and what Republicans refuse to accept. In any case, these talking points (as always) are offered up for all Democrats to use, most especially those who are being interviewed on Sunday's political talk shows. Enjoy, and use responsibly.

 

   The doctor is out

This one is just too, too funny.

"A little earlier this year, many Republican pundits were predicting that they had a shot at a Senate seat in Oregon because they had nominated such a stellar candidate. Not only was she a woman (helping them with their War On Women image), but she was a prominent doctor and surgeon. Monica Wehby was supposed to be one of the point people in the fight against the horrors of Obamacare, we were told just a few months ago. Because she was a doctor herself, she would help personalize the issue in a way that Republican consultants never could. Well, it turns out she cribbed most of her health care plan from a Republican consulting group. That's right -- she plagiarized boilerplate anti-Obamacare language from Karl Rove's group, and then offered it up on her website as her own idea. Polling now shows she is quite likely going to lose this race by a healthy margin, and that was before the plagiarism story made the news. We can now confidently say 'the doctor is out' in Oregon."

 

   Knuckleheads!

John Boehner commits Washington gaffe by telling the truth. This is a dandy quote all Democrats should now use, for as long as the Tea Party is still a force within the Republican Party, in fact.

"You may think it partisan of me to state the obvious -- that the Tea Party is nothing more than a group of obstructionists devoted to doing absolutely nothing in Washington. Coming from a Democrat, such a comment might be discounted as partisan rhetoric. So allow me to quote Speaker John Boehner, so that partisanship can't even enter into the equation. This past week, Boehner said, and I quote: 'On any given day, 16 of my members decide they're going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing. You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference. Dealing with Democrats is one thing, dealing with the knuckleheads is another.' Unquote. I propose that the media immediately begin following Boehner's lead, and instead of speaking of Tea Partiers in Congress, use the term 'Knucklehead faction' instead."

 

   War On Women (part 1)

What century do these people think they're living in?

"A Republican House member from Florida recently decided it was a good idea to hold a guys-only fundraiser for his re-election campaign. I guess he thinks that women still only control their husband's household budget, and have no access to any money for such male-oriented things as political campaigns. When the campaign of his challenger, Gwen Graham, called the event 'offensive,' Steve Southerland dug himself a deeper hole by replying: 'Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?' You know, it's pretty easy to see why the Republican Party has such a gigantic and growing problem with women voters. It's because of attitudes like Southerland's and other Republicans who seem not to have gotten the memo that women can now actually vote and they do not appreciate being disrespected in the political arena."

 

   War On Women (part 2)

Or maybe that should read: "Tales from the Stone Age, part 2."

"Out in Arizona, the vice-chair of the state Republican Party was just forced to resign after stating that he'd like to see Medicaid recipients sterilized. On the radio recently, Russell Pearce said the following: 'You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations. Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.' Pearce, in his resignation statement, made a laughable attempt to walk back these remarks: 'This was a mistake. This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates.' So, let me get this straight -- the lefty media is using Pearce's own words to report on Republican values as publicly expressed by a party official, and that is now hurting Republican candidates, which is somehow supposed to be unfair? Do these guys ever listen to themselves? I mean, honestly."

 

   Make it easier by making it more expensive

Ah, but those crafty Republicans think they've got a way to deflect all that "War On Women" stuff. This one is fairly sophisticated (as political ploys go), and it needs to be fought back against by Democrats.

"I see that several Republican Senate candidates have now come out in favor of selling oral birth control 'over the counter,' instead of by prescription. They are desperately trying to get rid of their party's whole 'War On Women' image with this ploy, but what they are actually in favor of is making life more difficult for women, as usual. It sounds like they're for making birth control pills more accessible to all, but in reality they are trying to shift all the costs of birth control from insurance companies to the women's own pocketbooks. Obamacare -- which Republicans are still trying to kill -- mandates insurers pay for birth control costs. But insurers rarely pay for over-the-counter medicine, meaning that women would have to foot the bill themselves rather than the Obamacare guarantee that the insurers pay the costs. I would welcome moving birth control pills to over-the-counter status, as long as the bill doing so also mandated that all the costs would still be paid by women's health insurance. By leaving this part out, Republicans are trying to fool women into thinking that they're for wider access -- when, in fact, they are doing this to make life more expensive for women. But I'm pretty confident that women understand the difference, even if the Republicans think they can fool all of them."

 

   Impeach!

There isn't really even anything partisan about this one, because most Democrats have been just as silent as most Republicans have been.

"I call on the House of Republicans to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against federal judge Mark Fuller, and I further call on every senator to vote in favor of removing him from office. This man was just convicted of beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room, and does not belong on the federal bench. While politicians may decry the problems in professional football, this is a problem in our own backyard which needs immediate action. Domestic abuse is a serious offense that should automatically disqualify someone from a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. While the court he works for has stripped him of his docket, the American taxpayers are still paying his full-time salary, and will for his entire life if Congress does not act. Fuller has made a statement saying he hopes to resume his work on the bench. He should not be allowed this opportunity, and if he does not immediately resign, Congress should exercise its constitutional power and duty by removing him from office."

 

   Barracks humor

And, finally, one that will give everyone a laugh.

"I see that the National Senatorial Committee just sent out an email urging their supporters to 'fire Harry Reid' because he is nothing more than a lackey of a person they identified as 'Barrack Obama.' That's B-A-R-R-A-C-K Obama. It seems that six years into his term in office, the folks trying to get Republicans elected to the Senate still haven't learned how to spell the president's name. Or maybe it was just their attempt at 'barracks humor,' who knows?"

 

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