03/16/2012 09:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Seamus, That's the Dog, Was Outside

Sometimes I'm just astonished at the inability of political campaigns to do a simple web search. Case in point: the story about Mitt Romney's dog Seamus.

That's a good Irish name (pronounced: "shay-muss"), but I already wrote my St. Patrick's Day column yesterday, so I'm going to just skip right over that aspect of the situation.

Instead, what flabbergasts me is that in the whole Seamus-as-political-football fracas, nobody has yet bothered to dig out the Pink Floyd song of the same name.

This is an incredible oversight, due to the song itself. It's experimental, as are many Pink Floyd songs, but not in the way that you'd think. For them, it was a rare venture into the realm of the blues. That's right -- the blues. Or maybe even bluegrass. The only way you'd know it was Pink Floyd is actually the synthesized dog howls in the background of the song. It's a short song, and the lyrics are close enough to the "Mitt tying his dog on the roof of the car" story for someone to use against him:

I was in the kitchen,

Seamus, that's the dog, was outside.

Well, I was in the kitchen,

Seamus, my old hound, was outside.

Well, you know the sun was sinkin' slowly,

But my old hound dog sat right down and cried.

That's the whole song. To me, it seems like an easy and obvious fit in this particular political dogfight. Dog lovers have been ripping Mitt for months on the subject, and David Letterman has been telling the story in graphic and extended detail pretty much every single night on his show -- for the past month or so. Now, even Rick Santorum's campaign has realized that this might be some tasty dog food to serve up on the campaign trail.

So I'm just offering a gratuitous hint to these folks: get a copy of Pink Floyd's "Seamus" and blast it over the loudspeakers as a backdrop. Oh, sure, Pink Floyd will probably quickly disavow the use of their song and demand it not be used in such a fashion. Which makes the entire song a news item, of course. Viola! You have made your point!

Just a suggestion, folks....

Moving right along, we're going to very quickly do a primary pick for the weekend. I didn't have such a good Tuesday this week, having bet on Newt Gingrich in both states in the Deep South, so I only got 2-for-4 right, leaving my rolling total for calling this year's Republican primaries so far at:

Total correct 2012 primary picks so far: 35 for 54 -- 65 percent.

There are two contests this weekend, but we're going to ignore Missouri, because we just made a new rule that states are only allowed to get called once in an election season, and we already did so weeks ago for their "beauty contest" vote. Seriously, states, get it together. Two votes in one primary season? What a waste of everyone's time!

Which leaves us only Puerto Rico. Rick Santorum visited the island this week, and immediately showed his utter ignorance of the Constitution and federal law by informing the Puerto Rican people that they'd better make English their official language or they'd never become an actual state. Going on this tidbit of information alone, we're going to predict Mitt Romney wins Puerto Rico over the weekend.

OK, with that out of the way, let's move along to the awards.


In keeping with our doggy theme today, we have to applaud Vice President Joe Biden, who has been unleashed to perform the traditional vice-presidential role in the 2012 campaign: "attack dog." Biden gave a speech this week to a very friendly audience of autoworkers, where he named names and otherwise sunk his teeth into the Republican opposition. For doing such an admirable job this early in the race, Biden deserves at least an Honorable Mention this week.

President Obama gave a pretty good campaign speech himself this week, but we have to give the president his own Honorable Mention for the joke he made while welcoming British Prime Minister David Cameron to the White House:

It's now been 200 years since the British came here, to the White House -- under somewhat different circumstances. (Laughter.) They made quite an impression. (Laughter.) They really lit up the place. (Laughter.) But we moved on. (Laughter.) And today, like so many presidents and prime ministers before us, we meet to reaffirm one of the greatest alliances the world has ever known.

It's not often you hear a good "War of 1812" joke these days, we have to say. Heh.

Garry Trudeau is worthy of an Honorable Mention this week, but ironically it's not for comedy (as with Obama), instead it is for scathing social commentary. More on this later at the end of the column, but check out this week's Doonesbury strips if you haven't already seen them (some newspapers ran alternate strips due to the subject matter of abortion).

But our real Most Impressive Democrat of the Week this week is Senator Chuck Schumer, who is apparently behind the effort to bring the Violence Against Women Act up for a vote. VAWA, as it is known, used to be a bipartisan issue. Democrats have added language to strengthen the law, which Republicans seem to be objecting to (new provisions extend protection to immigrants as well as gay and transgendered people).

This is exactly the right thing to be doing, at exactly the right time. Republicans are whining that the whole exercise is meant to make them look bad. They have a point, but that is how the game of politics is played. The Republican overreach on their war on women needs some pushback from Democrats. Democrats can't just be against all the new Republican laws against women's rights, they also have to be for positive legislation on the issue. VAWA is perfect.

For realizing this, and for pushing the issue at precisely the right time to shame Republicans into supporting it, Chuck Schumer is our Most Impressive Democrat of the Week.

[Congratulate Senator Charles Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


We really didn't notice anyone major who was a disappointment on the Democratic side of things this week. So we were all prepared just not to hand out a Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week award at all.

But then the news came that Rod Blagojevich finally went to jail. Meaning we can award one last MDDOTW to him as he begins his over-a-decade stay at taxpayer expense. At this point, that's really all we need to say about Blaggy. Except to get snarky in the contact line, of course.

[Contact Rod Blagojevich via the official federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator site, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 202 (3/16/12)

While the Republican primary circus continues apace, we'd prefer not to get too wrapped up in it here this week, instead offering a variety of talking points for Democrats to use (mostly) outside the confines of what the Republicans are saying and doing.

Which means it's kind of a mixed bag this week. Enjoy!

   Back... in time

I hadn't noticed this when writing last week's column, but it still deserves featuring. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm wrote a Huffington Post column which was a prime example of how to frame things correctly, a lesson every Democratic office-seeker should pay attention to. Both in the title of this brilliant article and in the first two paragraphs, Granholm wraps the entire opposition up in a nice neat package, and ties a bow on it. Every Democrat should work the key phrase into all available opportunities, for the entire 2012 campaign. In Granholm's words:

One of the battle cries of the far right is this: "We want to take our country back." Maybe you dismissed that as meaning, back from the Democrats. But you notice, they don't say, "we want to take our government back." They say... "our country."

And based on the evidence pouring out of state legislatures, that is what the Republican revolution of 2010 has set out to do -- take the country back -- back in time. Back to those golden days before civil rights and gender equality. It was so much easier back then, wasn't it?

   Linking Iran and gas prices

These two subjects are treated separately by the Republican candidates for president, and so far the media has mostly let them get away with it. Which means it is high time for Democrats to make this linkage evident.

"I hear the Republican candidates out on the campaign trail constantly beating the drums for war with Iran -- or at the very least, for bombing Iran. But what I've never seen is a reporter ask any of them is what they think the price of gas in America is going to be the day after such an attack? I've seen experts predicting anywhere from six to 10 dollars a gallon, myself. The recent steep rise in prices here happened exactly the same time that all the Republicans started beating the war drums with Iran -- and yet, this fact never seems to get mentioned. So, to all the Republican candidates: What will American consumers have to pay at the pump -- and for how long -- as a result of your plans for Iran? The American people deserve to know, so why aren't you being honest with them?"

   Speculation at the pump

The price of gas is going to hurt President Obama and (by extension) Democrats all summer long. So far, the White House has been trying to get out in front of the issue, but they need some backup from fellow Democrats. One helpful thing to point out is the speculation on Wall Street.

"Wall Street speculation is also a large part of the high prices consumers are paying at the pump right now. This is what the Republicans call 'the free market' -- where speculators are 'free' to make you pay 75 cents more for a gallon of gas, just because they can. This is why Democrats are for regulating such markets, because laissez-faire free markets can run wild, at times. The next time Republicans talk about 'freeing' Wall Street up to play such games with the American economy, think about the 'freedom' you get to pay more at the pump to line the pockets of speculators."

   No budget? No pay!

I wrote a whole article about this earlier in the week, highlighting the effort to pass the "No Budget, No Pay Act" which would stop all congressional paychecks if a federal budget weren't in place when the fiscal year begins.

What I neglected to do in the article was to give credit to No Labels, the group behind this legislative effort. No Labels has been promoting a whole range of practical solutions to the problem of gridlock in Washington, and they have links on their No budget, No pay page to see how many senators and representatives have signed on to co-sponsor the bills.

So here is a suggestion not for Democratic officeholders or professional politicians, but rather for you. It is your own talking point, in other words, to use on them. I strongly encourage everyone to get the phone number of your own House member, and your own two members of the Senate, and make three phone calls next week. Here's my suggested text (the Senate bill number is "S.1981" and the House bill number is "H.R.3643"):

"My name is [name] and I am your constituent. I am calling to urge you to support [bill number], the No Budget, No Pay Act. If you can't pass a budget by the deadline, then I, as your ultimate employer, feel I will have to cut your pay until you do your job. I will be watching to see if you co-sponsor this bill, and if you do not, I will remember that in the voting booth this November. Thank you."

If they've already co-sponsored it, then call them anyway and thank them for their support! This bill can only become law by the power of the public to shame Congress into passing it. Which means we all have to do our part.

   Rick Santorum should read the Constitution

OK, I just can't let the week go by without at least one cheap shot at a Republican candidate. I tried, but I just couldn't make it to the end, sorry.

"Rick Santorum, in Puerto Rico, recently said the following, and I quote: Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law. And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawai'i but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language. Unquote. It's simply astounding to me how many Republicans say they revere the United States Constitution, but they never seem to get around to actually reading it. There is no 'English-only' provision in the Constitution, and there is no federal law which requires such for statehood. You'd think a man running for the highest office in the land would take the few minutes it requires to read our founding document, but I guess Rick's been too busy -- for his entire life -- to do so."

   How can you be against VAWA?

The Violence Against Women Act is moving through the Senate right now so you can make a political point. Don't miss the opportunity to do so.

"Republicans in the Senate seem to be about to filibuster the Violence Against Women Act, because they don't like the fact that we've included protections for Native Americans, immigrants, and lesbians. Now, debating comprehensive immigration reform or the question of gay marriage is one thing, but I just can't understand why any Republican could be against a law to stop violence against any woman in America, period. Republicans scoff at Democrats when we say they're waging a war on women, but it's hard to draw any other conclusion when they prefer to play political games rather than actually defend women against violence. How on Earth could they be against that?"

   Doonesbury gets it right

[This last one is not technically a talking point per se, but can easily be made into one.]

The relevance of the comic strip Doonesbury is a favorite debate on the left, especially among those of a certain age. But this week, Garry Trudeau knocked it out of the park. The week's storyline has revolved around a woman in Texas attempting to get an abortion, and the obstacles which have been thrown in her path by GOP legislators. Each one has been absolutely scathing, and everyone should take the time to read the whole week's installation at

Anyone doubting that Doonesbury can still be relevant needs to at least check out yesterday's strip, in which the doctor about to perform a transvaginal ultrasound (with "a 10" shaming wand") that the woman does not want, begins by saying...

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