Donald Trump just got thumped by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. There's no denying it. Even Kellyanne Conway can't spin her way out of this one. Three judges unanimously wrote a 29-page opinion explaining why Trump needed to be thumped. This means he can't even whine that it was a "partisan" decision, since these judges were appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents. Even more satisfying is the fact that even if the temporary restraining order which blocked implementation of Trump's Muslim ban is appealed to the Supreme Court, a 4-4 tie vote would just reconfirm the thumping the Ninth Circuit just gave Trump. We certainly hope this turns out to be just the first in a long line of setbacks the court system deals out to Trump, on a regular and continuing basis.
Trump's response to this was an all-caps tantrum on Twitter that included: "SEE YOU IN COURT" -- showing he's a little unclear about the fact that he's already in court, and that the court just ruled against him. This led to an outpouring of amusing comebacks on Twitter, naturally, all of which are fun to read.
Speaking of Twitter mocking Trump, his followers in Portland, Maine were apparently dismayed about all the public protests against Trump, so they decided to stage a pro-Trump rally. Eight people showed up, leading to a classic Huffington Post headline: "World's Saddest Trump Rally Draws Just 8 Supporters." Again, Twitter had a field day with snarky comments such as "1.5 million attend Trump rally" attached to the sad photo showing the reality.
President Donald Trump continues to lie like a rug (which we wrote about in more detail this week), including insisting that his Supreme Court nominee couldn't possibly have complained about his juvenile anti-judge tweets this week, even though White House staff were in the room when the comments were made. Maybe this is part of the ongoing chaos among the White House staff chronicled by Politico this week? Definitely part of the chaos was the continuation of massive leaking from the Trump White House, especially on the subject of how badly Trump is bungling all the calls to foreign leaders. When in the past have conversations like this leaked so badly from the Oval Office? The sheer number of stories written off of these leaks is growing weekly, which is reportedly angering Trump no end. But wait -- wasn't he supposed to hire only the best people? That's what he told everyone, at any rate. Not even three weeks in to his administration, Trump has already reportedly launched an internal investigation to stop his White House from leaking like a sieve.
Let's see, what else is going on? Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post took the whole "alternative facts" idea and ran with it, penning one of the funniest articles we've yet read on the Trump presidency. It begins by offering up a simple explanation:
We are being too uncharitable to the Trump administration.
We have probably made Sean Spicer cry, and that is not what anyone set out to do.
There is a much simpler explanation for the list of Secret Media Terrorism Coverups and the Bowling Green Massacre and the "alternative facts" than this idea that somehow, the Trump administration is making up facts or misleading the American people. Nonsense. They are doing the best they can with the facts they have. They simply have come here from an alternative universe.
It is not their fault that their facts appear to be quite different from what is happening in the universe where most people live. They did not ask to come here. Something went wrong with the timeline, is all. Somebody stepped on a butterfly, and here we are.
Nice Ray Bradbury "A Sound Of Thunder" reference there, we have to say! Everyone should really read the whole article, as it is downright hilarious.
Speaking of alternative universes, Sean Spicer came up with his own new rule for people who speak of military actions under President Trump. Last week, when the news broke of a raid in Yemen in which a U.S. soldier died, Spicer respectfully said:
With respect to Yemen, I think it's hard to ever say something was successful when you lose a life. And so you never want to call something a success, 100 percent, when someone is hurt or killed, and that was the case here.
This week, however, Spicer was singing a different tune:
It's absolutely a success, and I think anyone who would suggest it's not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens. He fought knowing what was at stake in that mission. And anybody who would suggest otherwise doesn't fully appreciate how successful that mission was. I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [does a] disservice to the life of Chief Owens.
So, the new standard is that whenever a U.S. servicemember dies, the mission was automatically a success. Questions about the raid have arisen, but since someone died they should not even be asked, according to Spicer. John McCain, who prompted the second Spicer quote in the first place, shot back with some reality for Spicer:
Many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam, there was an attempt to rescue the POWs. Unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated. But the brave men who took on that mission and risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes. Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive. Mr. Spicer should know that story.
Of course, none of this has prompted McCain to oppose anything Trump is doing in the Senate, but it's at least a positive sign that he'll push back on occasion.
Congressional Democrats are trying to remain relevant, but they've only got limited ways to do so. Senate Democrats staged an all-night protest against Betsy DeVos, but she got confirmed to lead the Department of Education anyway, after Mike Pence made an appearance to break a tie vote. She didn't have such a great first day on the job, though, as she was not only blocked from entering a school by protesters, but also was roundly mocked on Twitter when she tweeted out that she couldn't find the pencils in her new office. Many pointed out that teachers these days have to buy their own supplies, which DeVos might have known if she had ever set foot in a public school before.
The big question in Washington is whether all the anti-Trump energy and protest will amount to anything or not. Will it fizzle and accomplish nothing, or will it turn into the left's version of the Tea Party? It's too early to tell, but signs are encouraging that it's not going away any time soon. Republicans in Congress who have dared to hold town hall meetings are already figuring this out. Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the committee which is supposed to oversee the government, got an earful this week from his constituents, who were angry that he has so far refused to question anything Trump or his minions have done or said. Probably because of this, Chaffetz is now on board with investigating Kellyanne Conway for openly shilling for Ivanka Trump's product line -- a clear violation of ethics rules for federal employees.
Trump, however, is exempt from such rules, which leaves him free to "joke" about destroying a Texas politician's career for attempting to end the blatantly unconstitutional practice of "asset forfeiture" (which should be more correctly called: "highway robbery by police"). Even staunch conservative commenter George Will agrees on this one, but it didn't stop Trump from threatening the career of a politician brave enough to be standing up for the Constitution (in Texas, no less).
In other extra-constitutional news, it seems Mike Flynn and Mike Pence can't quite agree about whether Flynn chatted with some Russian officials about dropping those pesky sanctions before Trump was sworn in. This could get very embarrassing for the Trump administration, so we'll be watching this story develop, that's for sure.
And finally, to end on a hopeful note, Republican House member Dana Rohrabacher introduced a very short (essentially, one-sentence) bill that would flip the legal battle over marijuana on its head and decree that state laws should be more important than federal law, on marijuana. If anyone is in compliance with their state's law, then the federal government should be powerless to do anything about it, in other words. We wrote about this yesterday, when he introduced the bill, and we strongly urge everyone who cares about the issue to check out the full list of cosponsors -- and if your representative isn't on that list, call them up and ask them why not!
This is a pretty easy call, this week. The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who got told to sit down and shut up on the Senate floor this week. By doing so, Mitch McConnell guaranteed that what she had to say got an audience tens of thousands of times larger than she would have gotten if he had just allowed her to speak her piece on the floor.
McConnell may have even given her a dandy slogan to use, should she decide to run for president in 2020: "Nevertheless, she persisted." By the end of the day, there were already T-shirts being sold with this slogan on it, to be worn in defiance of attempts at silencing this powerful progressive voice.
Sometimes people casually toss accusations of being sexist or racist at Republicans with very little proof, but it's hard in this case not to see a whole lot of both. Sexism, because within hours of Warren being voted into silence by Republicans, several male Democratic senators read exactly the same passage on the floor, and McConnell didn't utter a peep of protest. So what was different, other than Warren being a woman?
And, of course, racism was at the heart of the matter, since Warren was attempting to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King (Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow) opposing Jeff Sessions in the 1980s, when he was up for a federal judgeship. Coretta pointed out that Sessions, while in Alabama, abused his authority to target groups whose only "crime" was trying to register elderly black people to vote. That's what Warren was trying to read -- a letter which was already in the Senate record (from when it was originally sent).
McConnell charged Warren with speaking badly of a fellow senator, which is a violation of Senate rules. But this is ridiculous on its face, because the senator in question was being considered for a cabinet post, and Warren spoke in the debate over his confirmation. If no Democrat were allowed to say a negative thing about Sessions, then why even bother having a debate about him? That certainly wouldn't make any sense.
McConnell just looked petty and weak in the whole fracas, and if she does decide to use his "nevertheless, she persisted" line in a campaign, she will indeed have the last laugh. Republicans can deny ever waging a "war on women" in the past (and they often do), but what is becoming more and more evident is that there are millions of women in America who are, at this historic point in time, fully ready to do some fighting back on their own.
If McConnell had just let Warren speak, it is quite likely that few would have noticed anything she said. Don't believe this? Here's a quick quiz: quote any other Democratic senator from the debate on confirming Jeff Sessions. We'll bet no one can. Which is how Warren's speech would have been remembered if McConnell hadn't shot himself in the foot so badly. Because she got told to sit down and shut up, Warren not only gave her speech outside the Senate floor (where more than a million have downloaded it and watched it), but she also got to appear on just about any news show she desired, to fully explain why Coretta Scott King opposed Jeff Sessions, and why she's going to persist in holding his feet to the fire as attorney general. It was a publicity bonanza for Warren, in fact -- a lesson which Mitch McConnell might take to heart the next time he wants to silence a woman in the Senate.
Elizabeth Warren persisted her way right into her twelfth Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award -- for refusing to go quietly into that good night. Well done, Senator Warren!
[Congratulate Senator Elizabeth Warren on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
This one, sadly, is also pretty easy to pick this week.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat to vote to confirm Jeff Sessions this week. There's really no excuse for this, not even: "C'mon, I'm up for re-election next year."
Manchin's vote earns him his fifth Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, but we suspect it won't be his last.
[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his vote.]
Volume 424 (2/10/17)
We start off our talking points segment this week with a call for everyone to try their hand at sloganeering.
We'll start with a premise, which may or may not be true. The mounting wave of discontent and protest at the Trump regime and all that they do and say will grow in strength and commitment until it becomes the "Tea Party of the left." After all, it was outrage that gave birth to the righty Tea Party, so history could be repeating itself across the aisle right now. Time will tell whether this is the case, but we think at this juncture that it's enough of a possibility that it deserves a name.
After all, "Tea Party of the left" is pretty derivative. Second-level derivative, in fact, since the original tea party happened in Boston a long time ago. Then some hothead on cable news called for a new American tea party at just the right time, and people began donning Revolutionary-style hats and waving tea bags around. They quickly came up with an acronym to fit the movement, but it had really already been named before "Taxed Enough Already" was coined.
So what to call the lefty movement? The best we can come up with is also derivative, we fully admit: "Occupy Congress." Unlike other progressive political movements, this one should have one key goal: electing Democrats who "get it" to Congress. That's the only way to usher in real change, so it should be the key focus. But, like we said, we realize this is ripping off the Occupy Wall Street slogan, which might not be a great idea (since Occupy had its moment in the sun, but ultimately fizzled).
So what is your suggestion for naming the growing anti-Trump political wave? The best slogans are short and snappy, please keep in mind. What catchy label should progressive journalists begin using for the spontaneous eruption of discontent and rage that seems to be happening on a weekly (if not daily) basis, in the time of Trump? Please share your suggestion in the comments, and maybe we'll feature some of them next week.
OK, with the sloganeering contest out of the way, let's get to this week's varied crop of talking points for Democrats to use.
Thank you, Mitch McConnell.
"This week, Mitch McConnell did his best imitation of 'father knows best' in the Senate, instructing the lady senator from Massachusetts on the finer points of decorum. Strange how he invokes this rule only when a woman dares speak, isn't it? I mean, he didn't try to shut up Ted Cruz, even when Cruz was in the process of calling Mitch McConnell a liar right to his face, so his standards for what is offensive to other senators seems to be pretty specific. When a man says certain things, it will be allowed -- which McConnell proved the next day, when several male Democrats read exactly the same letter Warren was prevented from reading. Still, Warren should send a thank-you card to McConnell, not only for giving her an enormous platform in the media to get her message out, but for giving her a fantastic campaign slogan to use next time she runs for office. I can't be the only Democrat who is now ready to slap a "Nevertheless, She Persisted" bumpersticker on my car!"
You know, one of those places down there...
Someone, please make it stop!
"It's getting to the point where you know when anyone in the Trump administration is lying because you can see their lips moving. To the Bowling Green massacre -- which happened only in Kellyanne Conway's fevered brain -- we now must add the recent Atlanta terrorist attack. This one happened only in Sean Spicer's tortured imagination. When asked about it, he said he meant the Orlando shooting. Hey, Atlanta, Orlando, they kind of sound the same, right? I mean, with Kellyanne, the networks can eventually just not invite her on their news shows (because she obviously lives in a fantasy world), but Spicer is the main conduit from the White House to the press. Maybe Melissa McCarthy will do another few hilarious Saturday Night Live sketches and force Trump to fire Spicer in sheer embarrassment. Of course, any press secretary is going to have a tough time in the next four years, because most of the worst lies come from Trump himself. Like the crime stats being at a 47-year high, when in fact they're close to a near-low for the past four or five decades. The Trump White House doesn't just use alternative facts, they live in an alternative reality, folks."
We turn over this talking point to Dana Milbank from the Washington Post, who noticed all the boneheaded misspellings in the list Team Trump hastily assembled in a desperate attempt to prove something Trump said was true (when it wasn't even in the same ZIP code as the truth). Every flub in the following (a spoof of a statement from President Trump) was either on this list, or tweeted by Trump at some point, it's worth mentioning:
My Fellow Americans: You may be shoked by my military attak on the Kingdom of Denmakr. You may think it is rediculous and one of the dummer things I have done, and I admit it is unpresidented to bomb a peaceful nation. But my insticts and my judgement say we cannot afford to loose, for it would bring dishoner. And so we do not go gently into that good knight. We send our troops from their baracks until Denmakr’s aggressions are payed for. Only then will Copenhagen rise like the Phoneix. We will not falter, we will not fail -- and we will not chock.
Let's see her eat a Trump steak!
This one deserves all the ridicule you can heap on.
"I see that Kellyanne Conway's new job description includes 'shill for Trump-branded products.' Hey, from what I hear, Ivanka's brand is tanking fast, which is the real reason stores are refusing to carry her foreign-made clothes anymore. But if Ivanka's line goes under, there will still be plenty of things left for Kellyanne to tout in official interviews. They should remake the old Life cereal ad, in fact: 'I don't want to eat the Trump steak... hey, let's get Kellyanne to eat it! Yeah, she'll gobble up anything with Trump's name on it!'"
A really bad yardstick to use
Taken to its logical conclusion....
"Sean Spicer said recently that any suggestion that a military exercise where someone wearing the U.S. uniform dies would do, quote, a disservice, unquote, to that servicemember's life and sacrifice. This is a monumentally stupid yardstick to measure the success or failure of a military battle, as John McCain quickly pointed out. After all, using Spicer's reasoning, the most spectacular and glorious military victory in all of American history would be Pearl Harbor. That's the end result of this way of thinking, Sean. Just because someone dies doesn't mean military success or failure -- if that were true, then the Republicans spent many years dishonoring the four men who died in Benghazi. You can't have it both ways."
Old enough to take for a spin?
OK, admittedly we've recently written why this isn't very likely to happen, but that doesn't make it any less fun to contemplate!
"I'd like to wish the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution a happy fiftieth birthday. I see in a related story that one Democrat in the House has just introduced a bill to make sure a psychiatrist is available in the White House -- you know, just in case any competency issues should pop up. Since the 25th allows for replacing the president if he is incapacitated in any way (including mentally, it's worth pointing out), maybe it would be prudent to prepare for the eventuality. After all, the 25th is now 50 years old, so maybe it's old enough to take it out for a spin, what do you say?"
And finally, just to remind Republicans of all their idiocy for the past eight years.
"According to Politico, George W. Bush had been president for over five months when he first took a day off to play some golf. Barack Obama was only in office for four months when he shot his first presidential game. But for some reason, Republicans went apoplectic at the sight of Obama on the links. We're not saying it had anything to do with his skin color or anything, but while Republicans had been fine with presidents playing golf all the way back to Eisenhower, for some reason Obama golfing drove them bananas. So we're eagerly waiting for them to vigorously denounce Donald Trump -- who only waited two weeks before getting out on the golf course. Surely that will make Republican heads explode, right? Unless it was all just a stupid and thin excuse to attack a sitting president they didn't like, of course. My guess is that the concept of presidential golf got rehabilitated in the Republican Party in the same two-week period, since I haven't heard a peep of complaint yet from them. Strange how that works, isn't it?"
Chris Weigant blogs at:
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Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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