The first thing worth mentioning is that I’m still running a week behind schedule, due to getting ill at the Democratic National Convention last week. This column, by all rights, really should have run a week ago. Instead, there was no Friday Talking Points column at all, for which we apologize.
The second item of note is that today marks the fifth “birthday” of this column series. September 14, 2007 saw the very first Friday Talking Points column ever (although the name and the column format wouldn’t solidify for a few months). Since then, almost every Friday, we’ve been attempting to provide Democratic talking points for politicians to use to get their point across in a snappy and memorable fashion. How much success we’ve had doing so is open to interpretation, but we’re still here doing it, which tends to indicate that Democrats still have a ways to go to match the Republican ability to keep “on script” during interviews. To put this another way, it’s the old Democratic “herding cats” problem.
Finally, before we get to our review of the best talking points from the Democratic National Convention which you may have missed, we do have to apologize for ignoring the main news story of the week, coming out of the Middle East. We could say that we’re setting an example for politicians (…cough, cough, Mitt Romney, cough…) to wait a decent amount of time before going off half-cocked on a developing situation, but instead we are just way behind on keeping up with the news, so we’re going to resist the urge to “spin” our own backlog into some sort of noble stand. The only thing to say at this point is: defending free speech is easy when everyone agrees with the speech — it’s defending odious and reprehensible speech that is always the harder path. More on this subject next week.
Since we had a hiatus last week, the MIDOTW award really covers the past two weeks this time around.
With that criteria, there is only one possible choice. While Barack Obama gave a good speech during his nominating convention, one man surpassed him in both style and substance. Which is why former president Bill Clinton wins the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, hands down.
Clinton’s speech was masterful, and he does indeed deserve recognition (as Obama later joked) as the “Secretary of Explaining Stuff.” No Democrat does a better job of taking complicated issues and stripping them down to their core — in language just about everyone can relate to. Bill Clinton spoke for almost an hour, and in that time period he devastatingly eviscerated pretty much every Republican talking point from the past four years or so. Item by item, Clinton went through the GOP’s agenda and explained to the American people why it was not only wrong but downright ridiculous.
His best line of the night was an explanation I’ve been long waiting for Democrats to make — how “arithmetic” is the main reason why the Republican Party is so wrongheaded about their budgetary choices. The GOP’s plans just don’t add up, and it took Bill Clinton to make this “Emperor is actually stark naked” point so simply that everyone “got it” immediately. Look for the word “arithmetic” to figure prominently in Democratic talking points for the next decade or so — that’s my guess, anyway.
Any Democratic candidate for office who is having trouble with Republican attack ads now has the perfect blueprint to counter them. All they have to do is examine Clinton’s speech with a microscope, and it will point the direction to logically undermining the Republican nonsense. Bill Clinton, once again, showed everyone else how this sort of thing is done, in a virtuoso performance. The “Big Dog” owned the stage that night, and he was undoubtedly the best speaker of the entire convention.
I know that Bill Clinton’s signature campaign song was “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” but by the end of his speech, the 1970s song running through my mind was “Nobody Does It Better,” I have to say.
For his performance, Bill Clinton is easily the right choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.
[Congratulate President Bill Clinton on his namesake foundation’s contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
We have two very minor Democrats who earned Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards this week, neither of them from the convention. While some speeches did fall a little flat, there were no real disappointments from the convention to report, we are happy to say.
Outside the hall, however, two Democrats more than earned MDDOTW awards. The first was Wendy Rosen, who up until this week had been running for a House seat in Maryland. The problem being, Rosen had voted — in 2006 and in 2008 — both in Maryland and in Florida in the same election.
Now, it goes without saying that during the current atmosphere surrounding “voter fraud” over on the right, Democrats should not be adding fuel to the fire. Especially Democrats who are running for Congress, one might add. Rosen has dropped out of the race, but it is too late to take her name off the ballot. While she did the right thing by withdrawing, she most definitely did the wrong thing by double-voting. Which is why she still earns her Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.
Next up is a story that is downright reprehensible and disgusting. Baltimore County delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. decided to take it upon himself to dictate to the Baltimore Ravens football team what their players could and couldn’t say in public — on the subject of gay marriage. You would think, at first glance, that this is a story about the Democrat complaining of some odious and homophobic thing some football player said, but you would be wrong. In fact, the football player was speaking out for gay marriage (which will be on the ballot in Maryland this year), and the Democrat was trying to threaten the team into silencing him. Yes, you read that right.
From the text of the letter Burns wrote: “I am requesting you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions.” Unbelievable.
Not only did the team step up and do the right thing, issuing a statement that they supported the player’s right “to freedom of speech under the First Amendment,” but others from the football world chimed in as well. The most colorful of these responses was from Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who wrote a letter in response which is an absolute masterpiece of creative (and very foul-mouthed) rhetoric. And I mean that sincerely — it’s worth reading for anyone who appreciates how to use the English language to form “not safe for work” talking points.
For starting the whole tempest, Emmett C. Burns Jr. has more than earned his own Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.
Volume 226 (9/14/12)
I realize this is a week late, but what follows is my final wrapup of the Democratic National Convention. I’ve listed the most memorable talking points from the speeches given during the three day convention in Charlotte that you may have missed.
An important note — there are four important omissions to this list. The four biggest speakers at the convention each gave a stellar speech in their own right, but for two reasons I have not included them below. The first is that the speeches by Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were all the most heavily covered in the media, so you’ve likely already either watched them, or at least heard excerpts. If you haven’t, I heartily encourage you to seek them out and read the transcripts or watch video of each of these speeches, as it will be well worth your time to do so.
The second reason I didn’t include them is because just listing the best parts of all the other speeches took up so much space. I could fill a number of columns just excerpting the four main speakers, but I thought it was worth focusing on some of the other voices at the convention instead. When I had assembled these quotes, I saw that there simply wouldn’t be room for the major speeches — which, as mentioned, you probably have already seen anyway.
Attending the convention in person was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had in my life. From getting lobbied by a cab driver on the situation in Ethiopia to chatting amicably with a Chicago police officer on the “20” convention bus (yes, the 20 route did indeed exist, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary) about the relative effectiveness of street protesters, the entire experience was pretty mindblowing. I should mention I’m not really old enough to remember the 1968 convention in Chicago, but the irony was not lost on me all the same. The cop was a pretty decent guy, I have to say, even while describing running fights with anarchists. Chalk that one up to conversations I never imagined having, I guess.
In any case, I’d like to publicly thank the Democratic National Convention for making it possible for me to attend and for giving me press credentials to access the entire convention — something else that would have been unimaginable for a blogger just a short time in the past.
With that out of the way, here are some of the best talking points — the best turns of phrase — from the Democratic National Convention. All of these are from the “remarks as prepared for delivery” press releases, so they may be slightly different than what was actually said, I should mention. The speakers’ titles and descriptions are as listed in the press releases as well. These snippets are presented in no particular order, although I did save two of my favorites for the end. Enjoy.
Andrew Tobias, Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee
The economy does significantly better under Democrats and so do investors. The stock market is up 58 percent since Barack Obama took office. And listen to this: If you had started in 1925 with $10,000 and invested it in the market only in the 44 years that Republicans held the White House, it would have grown — not counting dividends — to less than $30,000. But to more than $300,000 in the 44 years Democrats held the White House! I favor the party that invests in the future and boosts the middle class and those aspiring to join it. I favor the party under whose leadership $10,000 grows to $300,000 instead of $30,000.
Doug Stern, Cincinnati, Ohio Firefighter
Hello, my name is Doug Stern. I am an Ohio firefighter and an unlikely choice to be addressing you tonight, because for the vast majority of my voting life I have been a Republican. So why am I here?
Well, something happened recently. The Republican Party left people like me. As a member of the middle class, they left me; and they certainly left me as a public employee. Somewhere along the way, being a public employee — someone who works for my community — made me a scapegoat for the GOP. Thank goodness we have leaders like President Obama and Vice President Biden who still believe that public service is an honorable calling. When I go to work, when there is an emergency, I want someone on my crew who has my back, someone who helps me get the job done, someone who is willing to go through hell with me. I expect the same out of my elected leaders.
And that’s what we get with Joe Biden and Barack Obama. From maintaining grant programs so fire departments nationwide have safe staffing and equipment, to supporting our right to have our voices heard on the job through collective bargaining, President Obama has had our backs. President Obama has kept thousands of firefighters, police officers, and first responders on the job. And he’s sent plans to Congress to keep even more of us working. The Republicans must stop obstructing progress and do the right thing for the middle class. They must pass the president’s plan.
Charles E. Schumer, Member of the U.S. Senate, New York
When Mitt Romney says he wants to reform the tax code, hold on to your wallets. We know Mitt Romney never met a tax haven he didn’t like. But his new favorite tax haven is actually not the Cayman Islands — its Paul Ryan’s budget. Under this plan, Mitt Romney’s own taxes would drop to almost zero. But for the middle class, it’s a rip-off. Families with children whose household income is less than $200,000 would see their taxes go up $2,000, on average. That’s not trickle down. That’s a dirty trick.
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Romney and Ryan are campaigning for women’s votes by saying, “Women need our help.” This is coming from two men who are committed to ending insurance coverage for birth control. Who would turn women’s health care decisions over to our bosses. And who won’t even stand up for equal pay for women. As my grandmother back in Texas would have said about any more help from Mitt Romney, “I’m going to have to take in ironing.”
The good news is, we already have a president who’s on our side. President Obama understands women. He trusts women. And on every issue that matters to us, he stands with women. President Obama ensured women’s preventive care — including birth control, too — will be covered by all health care plans, with no co-pay, no matter where we work. Because of President Obama, soon women won’t be denied insurance because we’ve had breast cancer, or survived sexual assault. And we will no longer pay more than men for the same health insurance. Thanks to President Obama, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition! Back in Texas, we say that you dance with them what brung you. President Obama brought women to this dance and we’re staying with him all the way through November!
Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization, NETWORK (one of the “Nuns on the Bus”)
Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.
We agree with our bishops, and that’s why we went on the road: to stand with struggling families and to lift up our Catholic sisters who serve them. Their work to alleviate suffering would be seriously harmed by the Romney-Ryan budget, and that is wrong.
During our journey, I rediscovered a few truths. First, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are correct when they say that each individual should be responsible. But their budget goes astray in not acknowledging that we are responsible not only for ourselves and our immediate families. Rather, our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another.
Sandra Fluke, Attorney and Women’s Rights Activist
Some of you may remember that earlier this year, Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception. In fact, on that panel, they didn’t hear from a single woman, even though they were debating an issue that affects nearly every woman. Because it happened in Congress, people noticed. But it happens all the time. Many women are shut out and silenced. So while I’m honored to be standing at this podium, it easily could have been any one of you. I’m here because I spoke out, and this November, each of us must do the same.
During this campaign, we’ve heard about the two profoundly different futures that could await women — and how one of those futures looks like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past. Warnings of that future are not distractions. They’re not imagined. That future could be real.
In that America, your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won’t stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party. It would be an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don’t want and our doctors say we don’t need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don’t. We know what this America would look like. In a few short months, it’s the America we could be. But it’s not the America we should be. It’s not who we are.
Elizabeth Warren, Candidate for U.S. Senate, Massachusetts
After the financial crisis, President Obama knew that we had to clean up Wall Street. For years, families had been tricked by credit cards, fooled by student loans and cheated on mortgages. I had an idea for a consumer financial protection agency to stop the rip-offs. The big banks sure didn’t like it, and they marshaled one of the biggest lobbying forces on earth to destroy the agency before it ever saw the light of day. American families didn’t have an army of lobbyists on our side, but what we had was a president — President Obama leading the way. And when the lobbyists were closing in for the kill, Barack Obama squared his shoulders, planted his feet, and stood firm. And that’s how we won.
By the way, just a few weeks ago, that little agency caught one of the biggest credit card companies cheating its customers and made it give people back every penny it took, plus millions of dollars in fines. That’s what happens when you have a president on the side of the middle class.
President Obama believes in a level playing field. He believes in a country where nobody gets a free ride or a golden parachute. A country where anyone who has a great idea and rolls up their sleeves has a chance to build a business, and anyone who works hard can build some security and raise a family. President Obama believes in a country where billionaires pay their taxes just like their secretaries do, and — I can’t believe I have to say this in 2012 — a country where women get equal pay for equal work.
He believes in a country where everyone is held accountable. Where no one can steal your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street. President Obama believes in a country where we invest in education, in roads and bridges, in science, and in the future, so we can create new opportunities, so the next kid can make it big, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. That’s what president Obama believes. And that’s how we build the economy of the future. An economy with more jobs and less debt. We root it in fairness. We grow it with opportunity. And we build it together.
I grew up in the Methodist Church and taught Sunday school. One of my favorite passages of scripture is: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40. The passage teaches about God in each of us, that we are bound to each other and called to act. Not to sit, not to wait, but to act — all of us together.
Cristina Saralegui, Journalist, Actress, and Talk Show Host
This election is about many things, but if you want to understand the values of the two candidates, all you have do is think about Benita, the lady who introduced me. Governor Romney calls young people like her “illegal aliens.” President Obama calls them “dreamers.” That is the difference in this election.
Beau Biden, Attorney General of Delaware and Son of Vice President Joe Biden
For me, the most memorable moment of the past four years was not something most Americans saw. It wasn’t even on American soil. It took place in Iraq, at Camp Victory, where I was stationed. It was the Fourth of July, in 2009. My father was there on an unannounced visit to salute our troops. I watched as he led a naturalization ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces for a couple hundred men and women from all branches of our military.
As he led those new Americans through the oath of citizenship, this celebration of democracy in the land of a deposed dictator, I was struck by the strength and diversity of our country. I was reminded why we as a nation are stronger when everybody has a chance to do their part. And I was reminded of everything President Obama and my father have done to guarantee that chance.
I’m a sixth-generation Iowan, an Eagle Scout, and I was raised by my two moms, Jackie and Terry.
People want to know what it’s like having lesbian parents. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m awesome at putting the seat down. Otherwise, we’re like any other family. We eat dinner, we go to church, we have chores. But some people don’t see it that way. When I was 12, watching the 2004 Republican convention, I remember politicians talking about protecting marriage from families like mine.
Now, supporting a view of marriage as between a man and woman isn’t radical. For many people, it’s a matter of faith. We respect that. Watching that convention on TV, though I felt confused, frustrated. Why didn’t they think my family was a real family?
Governor Romney says he’s against same-sex marriage because every child deserves a mother and a father. I think every child deserves a family as loving and committed as mine. Because the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us; that’s what makes a family. Mr. Romney, my family is just as real as yours.
The president has been a champion for women’s rights. The first bill he signed was to make sure women can fight for equal pay for equal work. His commitment to women is about even more than economic rights — it’s about health care, reproductive rights, and our ability to make our own decisions about ourselves, our families, and our future. When it comes to what’s best for women, there is only one candidate in this race who is on our side: Barack Obama.
As a Catholic woman, I take reproductive health seriously, and today, it is under attack. This year alone, more than a dozen states have passed more than 40 restrictions on women’s access to reproductive health care. That’s not the kind of future I want for my daughters or your daughters. Now isn’t the time to roll back the rights we were winning when my father was president. Now is the time to move this country forward.
We’re lucky our president understands the value of American opportunity, because he’s lived it! And he’s fighting to help others achieve it. He’s fighting to make college more affordable! He’s cut taxes for every working American. He’s helping small businesses get loans and has cut their taxes eighteen times. Eighteen times!
That’s important — small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in America. It’s the suburban dad who realizes his neighborhood needs a dry cleaner. It’s the Latina nurse whose block needs a health clinic — and she knows she’s the one to open it! It’s the high school sophomore who is building Facebook’s competitor. They are the entrepreneurs driving the American economy, not Mitt Romney’s outsourcing pioneers. He would raise taxes on middle-class families to cut his own — and mine. That’s not who we are as a nation, and here’s why: The Eva Longoria who worked at Wendy’s flipping burgers — she needed a tax break. But the Eva Longoria who works on movie sets does not.
Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio
Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. “Start a business,” he said. But how? “Borrow money if you have to from your parents,” he told them. Gee, why didn’t I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn’t determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I don’t think Governor Romney meant any harm. I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it.
We know that in our free market economy some will prosper more than others. What we don’t accept is the idea that some folks won’t even get a chance. And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America. In fact, that’s exactly what they’re promising us.
John Kerry, Member of the U.S. Senate, Massachusetts
President Obama kept his promises. He promised to end the war in Iraq — and he has — and our heroes have come home. He promised to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly — and he is — and our heroes there are coming home. He promised to focus like a laser on al-Qaeda — and he has — our forces have eliminated more of its leadership in the last three years than in all the eight years that came before. And after more than ten years without justice for thousands of Americans murdered on 9/11, after Mitt Romney said it would be “naive” to go into Pakistan to pursue the terrorists, it took President Obama, against the advice of many, to give that order to finally rid this earth of Osama bin Laden. Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago.
. . .
It isn’t fair to say Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position. He was against setting a date for withdrawal — then he said it was right — and then he left the impression that maybe it was wrong to leave this soon. He said it was “tragic” to leave Iraq, and then he said it was fine. He said we should’ve intervened in Libya sooner. Then he ran down a hallway to duck reporters’ questions. Then he said the intervention was too aggressive. Then he said the world was a “better place” because the intervention succeeded. Talk about being for it before you were against it!
Mr. Romney — here’s a little advice: Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself!
“President Mitt Romney” — three hypothetical words that mystified and alienated our allies this summer. For Mitt Romney, an overseas trip is what you call it when you trip all over yourself overseas. It wasn’t a goodwill mission — it was a blooper reel.
But a Romney-Ryan foreign policy would be anything but funny. Every president of both parties for 60 years has worked for nuclear arms control — but not Mitt Romney. Republican secretaries of state from Kissinger to Baker, Powell to Rice, President Bush, and 71 United States senators all supported President Obama’s New Start treaty. But not Mitt Romney. He’s even blurted out the preposterous notion that Russia is our “number one geopolitical foe.” Folks: Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska; Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV.
Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts
But we Democrats owe America more than a strong argument for what we are against. We need to be just as strong about what we are for.
The question is: What do we believe? We believe in an economy that grows opportunity out to the middle class and the marginalized, not just up to the well connected. We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman’s decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy and everybody’s decision about whom to marry. We believe that we owe the next generation a better country than we found and that every American has a stake in that. We believe that in times like these we should turn to each other, not on each other. We believe that government has a role to play, not in solving every problem in everybody’s life but in helping people help themselves to the American dream. That’s what Democrats believe.
If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We’re Americans.
We shape our own future. Let’s start by standing up for President Barack Obama.
This is the president who delivered the security of affordable health care to every single American after 90 years of trying. This is the president who brought Osama bin Laden to justice, who ended the war in Iraq and is ending the war in Afghanistan. This is the president who ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” so that love of country, not love of another, determines fitness for military service. Who made equal pay for equal work the law of the land. This is the president who saved the American auto industry from extinction, the American financial industry from self-destruction, and the American economy from depression. Who added over 4.5 million private sector jobs in the last two-plus years, more jobs than George W. Bush added in eight.
The list of accomplishments is long, impressive and barely told — even more so when you consider that congressional Republicans have made obstruction itself the centerpiece of their governing strategy. With a record and a vision like that, I will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office — and neither should you, and neither should you and neither should you.
© 2012 Chris Weigant. This article is reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.