You have to have at least a little bit of pity these days for the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. He seems like one of those guys in a horror flick who keeps trying to convince everyone that the monster isn't real, and that everything can be explained by rational means... right up until the monster unexpectedly (for maximum shock value) rips his head clean off, in graphic 3D. The guy who has persevered in keeping his little group of teenyboppers together and somewhat sane ("If we can just get out to the barn and fire up that Model T/snowmobile/hot air balloon/mine cart/tractor... we can make it out of here to safety!"), who eventually sacrifices himself (in some horrific way) so that the rest of the group of worthless highschoolers can have a chance at survival. You know the guy, right?
Well, Reince is now apparently teetering on the edge of losing it himself. Last week, on one of the Sunday morning shows, Reince vowed that he wasn't anywhere near "pouring Baileys in my cereal," which (as Stephen Colbert pointed out last night) seems awfully specific for something that he's swearing he hasn't even contemplated.
Colbert also helpfully pointed out that "Reince Priebus" is an anagram for "crisp bee urine," which we have to say tops our own favorite alphabetical fun with his name (which we do try to mention whenever his name pops up). Who would have thought that anything could be funnier than the fact that, without vowels, his name becomes: "RNC PR BS" -- which could indeed also be a very foreshortened version of his job description. But there it is. Once you've heard a phrase like "crisp bee urine," it's kind of hard to forget it.
Crisp bee urine aside (which has to join the list of "phrases we never thought we'd type in a million billion years"), Reince certainly does deserve a wee bit of pity these days. He faces two rather grim outcomes for his party's presidential contest: either Donald Trump drags the entire Republican Party down in the November elections, or Ted Cruz drags the entire Republican Party down in the November elections. As Lindsey Graham notably put it a few weeks earlier: "Whether it's death by being shot or poisoning, does it really matter?" This charming metaphor was advanced this week by none other than GOP House member Peter King, who explained what he'd do if Ted Cruz won his party's nomination: "I think I'll take cyanide." And this is what prominent Republicans are saying about their two presidential frontrunners!
The chances of Cruz winning the nomination (and King having to take a lethal poison rather than vote for him in November) got a lot smaller this week, as New York Republicans overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. His victory was (of course) huge. Trump proved once again that his supporters will forgive pretty much anything he says, after he spoke -- in New York, mind you -- of the "tragedy of 7/11." Make your own Slurpee joke, we suppose. By winning the Empire State so handily, Trump is now a lot closer to the goal of 1,237 delegates (although we noted earlier this week that the GOP "magic number" for Trump might be a bit lower than that). The "Stop Trump" or "Never Trump" crowd is now looking at Indiana as its final battleground, since Trump seems poised to have a very good night on the Atlantic seaboard next Tuesday, too.
Trump's victory speech was gushed over by the entire political punditry, because (they all breathlessly noted) Trump didn't call anyone names, and actually referred to "Senator Cruz" (rather than "Lyin' Ted"). "It's Donald Trump 2.0!" the press corps announced (whilst swooning onto their fainting couches). We don't believe this nonsense for a second. Sure, you can teach Trump to speak from prepared remarks (and even use a TelePrompTer); but put him up on a debate stage next to Hillary Clinton and the most likely outcome is a manly resurgence of Trump 1.0, complete with name-calling and misogyny and all the rest of his core persona. He won't be able to help himself -- that's our guess, in any case.
Ted Cruz, not to be outdone on Tuesday, gave what certainly sounded like a "victory" speech, after getting absolutely crushed in New York. After winning not a single delegate and less than 15 percent of the vote, Cruz was out there assuming the mantle of Ronald Reagan -- and even throwing in J.F.K. for good measure. If he ever gets elected president, they'll have to reinforce the foundation of the White House, to assure that bearing the weight of Cruz's massive, massive ego won't do permanent damage to the building.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton also had a good night in New York, but we'll address that further in the awards section. Team Clinton has to be very careful right about now, though, in all their calls for Bernie Sanders to somehow start treating Hillary nicer on the campaign trail -- because while not everyone currently remembers the bitter end of the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, if the cries for Bernie to tone it down continue, the pundits are indeed going to dig up some quotes from Hillary, circa exactly eight years ago. As we've mentioned previously, the one thing Hillary Clinton can never do during the primary season is to call for Bernie Sanders to drop out. After all, he's merely following in her footsteps.
What with all the presidential campaign news as a distraction, Paul Ryan is not in the news nearly as much as he should be. Now, "Paul Ryan" doesn't have nearly enough letters to make funny anagrams, but if you begin with his full name (Paul Davis Ryan), you get a few gems, such as "airy vandal pus," "aid puny larvas," and our favorite by far, "privy sauna lad." We have no idea why that last one seems so fitting, but from now on whenever we see Ryan in the news, we will likely immediately think: "What is the privy sauna lad up to these days?" While we bring up Ryan here in the introduction solely so we can use phrases like "airy vandal pus," we'll have a much more complete rundown of why he's (so far) been just as miserable a failure as John Boehner at getting anything done in the House of Representatives, which will appear later in the talking points section.
To be scrupulously fair to Ryan and Priebus, we ran our own name through the anagram-maker. A few downright oddities popped up ("chewing is art," "hi swinger cat," and "cashew in grit"), as well as one that was completely odious ("hewing racist"), and one we sincerely hope nobody has ever thought after reading these columns ("writing aches"). So make of that what you will, in the interests of fair play.
In non-anagram news, the United Nations is having a historic meeting on drug policy, which was almost completely ignored by the American media. Building up to this meeting, last week we noted the formation of the group "Doctors For Cannabis Regulation," with former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders as a founder, and this week a rather extraordinary letter was released. The Washington Post had the story:
The global war on drugs has proven "disastrous" and "humankind cannot afford a 21st century drug policy as ineffective and counter-productive as the last century's." So say more than 1,000 world leaders, including 27 members of the House of Representatives and six U.S. senators, in a letter to the United Nations ahead of a major international drug summit happening this week.
The letters signatories also include 24 current and former law enforcement officials, 37 members of the clergy, more than 230 health and medical professionals, and a colorful slate of celebrities, athletes and business leaders, including DJ Khaled, Michael Douglas, Tom Brady and Warren Buffett. The two Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have also signed on to the letter.
"The drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights," the letter states. "Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values."
You'd think that sort of thing would be a little more newsworthy (especially with Bernie and Hillary signing on to it), but it fell into the black hole of the rest of the non-coverage of the drug summit from America's broadcast news. Pretty much par for the course, really. Oh, which reminds us, we ran down all the presidential candidates' positions on marijuana policy earlier this week, to coincide with 4/20. Take a look, as there are some surprises there.
Hillary Clinton didn't have as huge a night in New York as Donald Trump, but it was big enough to easily win her the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Hillary outperformed her polling, and beat Bernie Sanders by an impressive 16 points on Tuesday. While Sanders took pretty much all the rural counties, Clinton's strength in the urban areas easily put her on top.
Of course, winning your home state is almost expected in primary politics. If she hadn't won, it would have been very troublesome for the Clinton campaign (Bernie won Vermont by a whopping 72 points, 86-14, for comparison). But even though Bernie had built up a lot of momentum heading into New York, he failed not only to win the state but also to even make the margin close. The Sanders campaign was all ready to argue that it was "almost a tie" if Bernie had gotten within single digits, but they couldn't even make this argument when the votes were counted.
Now, as we said before, Bernie certainly has the right to take his campaign all the way to the end. But after New York, the dream of him somehow emerging with more delegates than Hillary will remain precisely that: a dream. Clinton didn't secure the nomination by winning New York, but she is now clearly the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. In fact, she could lose every single state from this point on and still win the nomination by only picking up a small percentage of the remaining delegates (the Democrats don't have any "winner takes all" states).
That is what her New York win did for her, and that's pretty impressive. Bernie Sanders fell from "longshot" to "no realistic chance" this week. This has saddened many of Bernie's supporters, but it was always the most likely outcome. Bernie Sanders is still going to have a huge influence on the Democratic Party platform and on Hillary Clinton's campaign promises. That's not going to go away. Neither is Bernie.
But by winning New York by such a comfortable margin, Hillary Clinton has now almost wrapped up the Democratic nomination. Next week, she's going to move even closer to that goal, as she's polling well among almost all the states that will vote next Tuesday. She won't get over the "magic number" of delegates for a while, but at this point it is almost a foregone conclusion. For achieving this status in her home state this week, Hillary Clinton is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.
[We have a blanket policy of not providing links to campaign sites, and Hillary Clinton is technically a private citizen at this point, so you'll have to look up her contact information yourself, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
No prominent Democrat seriously annoyed us this week, so there will be no Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award handed out.
We suppose a case could be made to give it to Bernie Sanders, because his New York loss certainly disappointed millions, but this would seem too much like kicking him when he's down, so we refuse to pile on. Bernie himself didn't do anything disappointing, even if the vote count was, to Bernie supporters.
Volume 388 (4/22/16)
And now, as promised, we're going to pile on Paul Ryan, because he certainly does deserve it. We went into detail on this subject yesterday, so if you'd like to see a less-snarky version, you can check that out.
But since it is Friday, we are fully opening the snark spigot. The first five talking points this week all are meant to highlight the fact that Paul Ryan is getting precious little done in the House of Representatives. In fact, the only time he's been in the news media's spotlight of late was when he formally made an announcement turning down a possible desperation move at the Republican convention to nominate him.
Because most of the media has been giving Ryan's failures such a free pass, we thought it was time for some Democrats to start pointing it out -- because the failures are piling up, and it doesn't seem likely that Ryan will be breaking the legislative logjam any time soon. So point it out!
And then at the end of the talking points, we've got two rather amusing statements from the non-Trump Republican candidates, just because.
Ryan not living up to his billing
Paul Ryan's chances of success were always more than a bit dubious, but as time goes on he's proving incapable of making good on any of the things he promised he'd achieve as speaker. Now's a dandy time to shine a spotlight on these failures, in fact.
"Paul Ryan was supposed to be the savior of the Republican Party -- remember that? He was supposed to be the only person with the superhuman skills required to get the House Republicans to agree on anything (other than 'Obamacare bad!' of course). When he took over the speaker's gavel from the ousted John Boehner, he was going to turn things around and get the Tea Partiers on board with a broad new Republican agenda that would be such a shining monument to conservatism that all Republican office-seekers this election would be able to proudly run on a concrete and positive agenda. This agenda was supposed to be so wildly better than the Democrats' ideas that it would serve as a ready-made campaign platform for all Republicans running for office. Oh, and in the midst of all this, the House was going to return to 'regular order' and pass their budget bills on time. So far, not only has none of this happened, it now appears that none of it is likely to happen at any time before the election. Paul Ryan is going to be just as much of a failure as John Boehner, because (as an unnamed Republican admitted to Politico), House Republicans are, and I quote, 'unwhippable and unleadable.' This same Republican also admitted: 'Ryan is as talented as you can be: There's nobody better. But even he can't do anything. Who could?' When even Republicans are admitting things like this, the chance that the House will get anything at all done this year is roughly zero."
Where's your budget, Paul?
So much for regular order....
"Hey, Paul, where's your budget? You were going to usher in a new era of Republicans being fiscally responsible enough to get budgets passed on time, remember? Well, the deadline for the budget framework bill was last week, and you just missed it. You couldn't get the Tea Partiers to agree -- the same exact problem John Boehner repeatedly had. You refused to work across the aisle and bring Democrats on board to pass a budget bill, so you utterly failed to prove to America that Republicans could actually govern in an adult fashion. Now there's talk of -- perhaps -- Republicans passing the budget bill in May. Well, Paul, I'm not exactly holding my breath, if you know what I mean."
Party of politically treacherous ideas?
The whole Washington Post article which provided these quotes and facts is worth reading, to see how low Ryan is now trying to set the bar for his agenda.
"Paul Ryan has been promising for months now that he can prove that the Republican Party is the true 'party of ideas.' He quite accurately noted that while Democrats have a solid agenda for the future of America, Republicans had sunk to nothing more than sheer obstructionism -- the party of 'no.' They were notably against everything President Obama and the Democrats wanted to do, but Republicans didn't seem to be for much of anything anymore. Ryan was going to change all of that, and present to the world the positive Republican agenda for the future. He was going to pass this agenda in a number of bills, to prove the power of all these Republican ideas. Then, because the ideas would be so self-evidently better than the Democratic agenda, Republicans everywhere could use them to run for office on. But now Ryan's dialing expectations back significantly -- not only will none of these agenda items actually be voted on by the House before the election (because to do so would mean explaining them and their consequences in great detail to the American people), but most of them won't even be drafted into bills. The reason? Because to provide all the details would make the agenda 'politically treacherous.' That's a pretty stunning admission of the harm such a Republican agenda would cause -- rather than proudly running on a detailed agenda which passed the House, they are now planning to not provide details because to do so would jeopardize their chances for re-election. So much for being a 'party of ideas,' eh? They're pretty much admitting that the only ideas the Republican Party has are bad ones, in fact."
Whoops! Forgot one...
One rather large issue is conspicuous by its absence from Ryan's wonderful GOP agenda. So point it out!
"Paul Ryan's initial list of what was to be on the grand Republican agenda contained six items: health care, taxes, national security, regulatory reform, poverty and reasserting Congress's constitutional authority. Well, we've been waiting for about six years for Republicans to come up with their plan to replace Obamacare, and not a single bill has ever even made it to the House floor for a vote. Over 50 'repeal Obamacare' votes (and counting), but zero 'replace Obamacare' votes so far. So I'd be surprised to see them even manage to complete the first item on Ryan's list, personally. But what struck me most of all about that agenda list is one rather enormous omission. I guess Ryan believes that immigration policy doesn't need any changes whatsoever, because he's not even going to attempt putting that on the Republican agenda. You know what this omission will mean (even assuming they do get the other six items together at some point)? It will mean that the only strong Republican voice on what to do about immigration policy will either be Ted Cruz or (more likely) Donald Trump. So all those down-ballot Republicans won't have any answer at all about how their immigration policy differs from their party's presidential nominee. That seems pretty short-sighted to me."
Crisis mode no better
Maybe Paul Ryan is utterly failing to do regular business in the House, but surely he'd be effective if there were a true crisis staring him in the face, right? Well, no.
"While pointing out Paul Ryan's utter failure to meet deadlines or make good on any of his vaunted Republican agenda is amusing, for the most part, the next deadline they're about to miss is not going to be funny at all. Puerto Rico is in the midst of a financial crisis, and bills are coming due at the end of this month. The House was expected to pass some sort of legislation dealing with the crisis before this deadline, but due once again to the Tea Partiers (who are going to call any such attempt a "bailout") so far it's looking like this deadline will tragically be missed. House Republicans are, pretty obviously, incapable of governing, even in the midst of a crisis. They are incapable of doing the bare minimum their job requires. They aren't even going to attempt passing any contentious bills before the election, and they're going to blow deadline after deadline in the mean time. We certainly hope the voters take note of this massive incompetence. You can change which Republican wields the speaker's gavel, but unless and until the American people change the actual makeup of the House, little if anything is going to get done."
GOP doesn't like ideas
John Kasich had a shining moment of honesty this week, which just serves to reinforce the rest of these talking points.
"You think I'm being harsh on Paul Ryan? Well, let's take a look at what one of the Republican presidential candidates has to say about the Republicans being the 'party of ideas.' Here is John Kasich, from a recent interview with the Washington Post, on that very subject:"
If you don't have ideas, you got nothing, and frankly my Republican Party doesn't like ideas. They want to be negative against things. We had [Ronald] Reagan, okay? Saint Ron. We had [Jack] Kemp, he was an idea guy. I'd say Paul Ryan is driven mostly by ideas. He likes ideas. But you talk about most of 'em, the party is knee-jerk 'against.' Maybe that's how they were created.
Lying down on the job?
And finally, the most bizarre quote of the week, hands down. Or back down. Or something.
"Can someone please explain to me exactly what Ted Cruz meant in his non-victory victory speech this week, after he massively lost New York state? He went with a very odd (and rather disturbing) metaphor for America, stating: 'America has always been best when she is lying down with her back on the mat and the crowd has given the final count. It is time for us to get up, shake it off and be who we were destined to be.' Um, OK. America is best when she's lying down with her back on the mat? Really? Somehow I don't think many Americans would choose such a metaphor to describe American strengths, but then again most Americans didn't just get shellacked by Donald Trump in yet another state, I suppose."
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank