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Friday Talking Points -- The Winnowing Process

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 7/11/2015 Chris Weigant

We're going to begin today with a definition, just because it's amusing to do so.

winnowvb -- 1 : to remove (as chaff from grain) by a current of air; also : to free (as grain) from waste in this manner  2 : to get rid of (something unwanted).

Yes, we have entered the winnowing phase of the Republican presidential primary process, as those two bastions of the liberal media -- Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal -- announce they're downsizing who will be allowed into the next televised debate. They are, by definition, getting rid of something unwanted -- in this case, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee. They are freeing debate-watchers from wasting their time listening to either one. Even the kids' table debate got winnowed, bumping Lindsey Graham and George Pataki off the airwaves entirely. Maybe they can get together with Jim Gilmore in a bar somewhere, and watch it on the teevee. One can only imagine the drinking game they'd come up with.

The Republicans running for president started the week seemingly united against debate rules they didn't like. They wanted the debates baby-proofed, so there would be no sharp corners or electrical outlets threatening the precious candidates. They ended the week with two of the most conservative networks laying down the law, in true "only Nixon could go to China" fashion. What are the candidates going to complain about, after all? The "liberal media" of the freakin' Wall Street Journal and Fox? It is to laugh, no?

Personally, we're glad there will only be eight on the main stage, as we've been pointing out for a while now that there really are only six candidates with any realistic chance, at this stage. It's really hard to argue that Christie and Huckabee don't deserve to be on the stage but that Rand Paul and John Kasich do. All four are mired in the same below-five-percent swamp in the polling, and their trendlines are almost indistinguishable from each other's.

What we'd like to see, at this point, is the debate hosts dropping the whole kids' table debate altogether, since it is such a pointless exercise. Then set a hard bar at an average of four or five percent in the polling for inclusion to the main debate. This would leave the six candidates who have an actual shot at winning the nomination: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb! Bush, and Carly Fiorina. Fiorina's been plummeting in the polls of late, so she'd most likely be the next to go (if Bush didn't beat her to it). With six people on the stage, each would get a comfortable amount of time to make their case to the American people, or those who will be voting in Republican primaries, at any rate. But we do applaud the beginning of the winnowing process, because it's definitely time to start ignoring some of these candidates altogether. If they haven't convinced voters by now that they're worth supporting, it's doubtful they ever will.

Speaking of the winnowing process, a candidate dropped out from the Democratic nomination race, but you can certainly be forgiven for not knowing he was even running in the first place. Lawrence Lessig ended his quixotic campaign this week, after being informed that he wouldn't be invited to the next Democratic debate. Which means the Democratic field is officially down to three, and political writers won't have to add that extra clause: "Oh, and Larry Lessig's pretending to run, too" in all their articles. But the next Democratic debate looks to be shaping up to be a bigger battle than the last one, as the barbs both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are tossing at each other have gotten a lot sharper of late. Oh, and Martin O'Malley's still running (to be Hillary's veep choice), too.

We had an off-off-year election this week, and (as usual) progressives didn't do too well when there isn't a presidential race happening. Hey, that's what you get when your base doesn't bother to vote, right? We have no one to blame but ourselves, folks. There were a few silver linings in the results, including some good news on redistricting (which I wrote about earlier this week). The other good news, for the people of Michigan, is that the two adulterous legislators who were running to get their jobs back were both defeated. So that's something.

What else? We found out that the taxpayers shelled out at least $6.8 million dollars to professional sports teams to pretend they were patriotic. Only in America!

  Most Impressive Democrat of the Week © Provided by The Huffington Post Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

Two senators stood out this week as worthy of at least an Honorable Mention. Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill to give everyone on Social Security a bonus check next year, since there will be no cost of living adjustment. She'd pay for it by cutting the tax break corporations get for shoveling millions at their CEOs. Of course, it'll never pass, but it sure sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?

Bernie Sanders also introduced legislation that is likely doomed to fail, but even so it represents a big step forward in the discussion about how to wind down the federal war on marijuana. Bernie's bill wouldn't just "reschedule" marijuana, it'd completely "deschedule" it -- and hand over responsibility to the federal department that it really should belong in, the folks over at Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Sooner or later, this is what has to logically happen. It's the only thing that makes any sense, now that over half the states have legalized medical marijuana and four have legalized recreational use. The people are leading on the issue, and Bernie Sanders is trying to get the federal government to follow. More power to him, although as we stated, we doubt it'll happen in this legislative session.

But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was President Barack Obama. After an excruciatingly long delay, today Obama announced he had rejected the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all. There were many reasons for doing so (ask any environmentalist, they'll tell you -- in chapter and verse), but the politics were always going to be dicey. Obama waited until the price of gasoline went down before doing so, which is not exactly a profile in courage or anything, but in the end he made the right decision.

Obama's delay also allowed him to announce his decision on the day the unemployment rate officially fell to five percent. This deflates the entire "we need the jobs!" argument, since the pipeline only would have created a handful of permanent positions (instead of the tens of thousands proponents like to claim). It's hard to make the "job-killing" claim when we're at the level that economists call "full employment." The Obama recovery didn't happen as fast as most would have liked, but it has finally brought us to this point. Exactly six years earlier, just after Obama had taken office, we saw the worst of the Great Recession when the rate topped 10 percent. Obama can now accurately claim that he cut the unemployment rate in half during his term in office.

So for both his long-awaited decision on Keystone XL and for hitting a big milestone on unemployment, Barack Obama is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate President Barack Obama via his White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

  Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week © Provided by The Huffington Post Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

We don't have anyone else to go with this week, so we're just going to hand the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Lawrence Lessig. He didn't personally disappoint us, but all the people who ponied up a total of a million bucks to watch him run must be at least a little disappointed in his early exit.

Lessig's campaign seemed to perfectly fit the description of "gadfly." He ran on a promise to pass one legislative package, and then immediately quit the office. Who in their right minds would have actually voted for that? He did back off this claim later, but it made no difference at all. His campaign was nothing more than a political science experiment gone awry, and six months from now nobody will even remember it (and that's being generous -- most people right now aren't even aware he was running).

So for all those donors who amassed Larry's million-dollar campaign chest, we are awarding Lawrence Lessig this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Better luck next time.

[We do not, as a rule, provide links to candidate websites, so you'll have to dig up Lawrence Lessig's contact information yourself if you'd like to let him know what you think of his actions.]

  Friday Talking Points © Provided by The Huffington Post Friday Talking Points

Volume 368 (11/6/15)

This week, the political media turned their microscope upon Ben Carson, and the results so far have been pretty laughable. Carson's not really doing anything differently -- he's been out there saying nutty stuff for the entire campaign, in fact. But now that his poll numbers have topped Trump's, people are paying attention. Pop yourselves some popcorn, because this sideshow ain't over yet -- there are bound to be further revelations of the inner workings of Carson's brain, and it sure promises to be entertaining, from what we've so far learned.

Carson wanted to make news this week by releasing a rap ad (which is pretty awful, by rap standards) -- showing that he was boldly reaching out to both the youth vote and the African-American vote, two groups Republicans traditionally do very poorly in. But alas, the rap ad got buried in the "Did you hear what Ben said about this?" stories this week.

Carson's audience is pretty faith-based, so it'll be interesting to see what happens to his numbers after all the recent revelations. Redemption is big among this crowd, but bald-faced lies are not. So we'll see.

We did limit ourselves to only two talking points on the Ben Carson follies, although we probably could have come up with more. The rest are a mixed bag. As always, use responsibly!

  1 © Provided by The Huffington Post 1

   Full employment

Toot this horn as loud as you can.

"The unemployment rate is down to five percent, a figure most economists call 'full employment.' Six years ago, the rate was at ten percent. We added 271,000 jobs last month, quite a change from when Barack Obama took office and we were losing 800,000 jobs each month. Republicans have been slapping the label 'job-killing' on pretty much everything Obama has done, from the Affordable Care Act to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, but it certainly looks like all that job-killing never actually took place, doesn't it?"

  2 © Provided by The Huffington Post 2

   Makin' stuff up

This one is going to be fun to use, from now on.

"Ben Carson is taking time off from his presidential campaign to sell another one of his books. But while he's doing so, we're finding out that in previous books he pretty much just made a bunch of stuff up. When subjected to examination, it seems several stories he told just don't hold water. At the rate this is going, we're going to find out that he was really nothing more than a dentist, pretty soon."

  3 © Provided by The Huffington Post 3

   Pyramid scheme?

Hoo boy.

"It's not even just the stories he tells, what frightens me about Ben Carson is his downright bizarre beliefs. Have you heard what he thinks about the pyramids? That they weren't built as tombs but rather to store grain, because of his whacky interpretation of the Old Testament? Wow. Part of the job of president is to take expert advice from scientists and then act on it. Carson seems completely incapable of doing so, even on a subject that pretty much every scientist ever agrees upon. That is a truly scary thought, and it's why I think he's absolutely disqualified to be president."

  4 © Provided by The Huffington Post 4

   Anti-monopoly, not anti-weed

This is an important distinction to make, and it's actually a credit to the media because most of them pointed it out explicitly in their coverage (meaning we've come a long way already).

"Some are suggesting that the vote against recreational marijuana in Ohio is some sort of indication that legalization is moving too fast. Nothing could be further from the truth. The voters in Ohio were smart enough to reject ten business operations trying to write themselves a license to print money. This was the wrong way to go -- we don't want legalization to be hijacked by those who just want their own state-sanctioned monopoly or oligopoly. You watch what happens in 2016, when much better legalization initiatives will be on many states' ballots. The voters may want to end the War On Weed, but they also recognize a con job when they see it."

  5 © Provided by The Huffington Post 5

   Call it what it is

Kudos to Pelosi for paving the way on this one.

"Nancy Pelosi named the Democratic members to the committee being formed to demonize Planned Parenthood this week. But she's got a great point -- let's call it what it really is: The Select Committee To Attack Women's Health. That's the entire purpose and mission of the committee, so let's all just be honest when we refer to it from now on, OK?"

  6 © Provided by The Huffington Post 6

   Nice work if you can get it

A favorite subject for ridicule, at least in this column.

"I see the congressional schedules for next year are out, and it seems that the House will only be bothering to show up for work a paltry 111 days out of all of next year. In 2011, they worked for 175 days. In 2015, they managed to work 132 days. Next year? Down to 111 days. That is downright pathetic, folks. We're paying these slackers to show up for work, on average, for only two days out of the week for all of next year. Well, if they only want to work two days out of every five, how about we just cut their salaries by sixty percent? Seems only fair to me."

  7 © Provided by The Huffington Post 7

   Something in the HP water, perhaps?

This is just too, too funny.

"Carly Fiorina, after firing 30,000 people at Hewlett-Packard and leaving in disgrace, ran for the Senate the same year that Meg Whitman also ran for office in California. Both were soundly defeated, but now Meg's got Carly's old job. She's following in Fiorina's footsteps at HP, by announcing that 30,000 more workers needed to be fired. But even Meg Whitman's honest enough to admit that Carly is simply unqualified to be president, saying recently: 'I just think literally having some experience in politics is probably an important criteria for the highest office in the land.' If being the head of Hewlett-Packard is supposed to be such an impressive job, then maybe Carly should take Meg's advice to heart, and just drop out of the race. Her poll numbers are collapsing, so it'd be the perfect time for her to do so."

 

Chris Weigant blogs at:

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