The show wasn't great tonight, but it did have some interesting moments. Anyways, here are the things you need to know.
1. Stop Paying Attention to the State of the Union:
Maher and Brazile had a lovefest over President Obama's State of the Union address and began criticizing the Republicans for disagreeing with Obama's policy preferences. It's time we all admit what the SotU is: a speech full of platitudes and partisan cheering sections.
Near the beginning of the panel discussion, Maher trumpeted the fact that 91% of the viewers viewed the speech positively. And he expressed (feigned) disbelief that the Republicans could be so brash as to not applaud on things like raising the minimum wage, universal pre-k education, and gun control regulations.
But State of the Union speeches are designed to be crowd pleasers. If you conduct a survey asking the populace whether they want clean air, free money, and justice and freedom for all, you can ring up 90% margins as well.
The difference between rhetoric and policy execution is the widest it has been in a very long time. Our politicians are too focused on winning reelection than governing, and that's why the vast majority of viewers can approve of Obama's speech and disapprove of his job performance.
2. Ted Cruz is still emblematic of a Republican Party too focused on riling up the base:
When Ted Cruz suggested that Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel could have accepted money from North Korea and Iran, it just created another example where Democrats and progressive/liberals like Brazile and Maher can use as a cheap talking point when talking about the extremism and virulent incoherence of the Republican Party.
Any well managed corporation knows that its employees and affiliates represent the brand. Those who work for the NFL are supposed to "protect the shield". Corporate executives are coached and advised to refrain from making any public statements that are unrelated to the company they're governing. Because when you make a statement that can be twisted, taken out of context, or is just plain stupid, your enemies and competitors will try and make a big deal out of it.
When athletes do stupid things, they lose endorsers. And when people like Cruz, Mourdock, Akin, etc make incendiary and outrageous statements and accusations, they need to be publicly disavowed from the Republican Party. When Meacham suggested that Rove had become a moderate power broker within the GOP, he was absolutely correct.
The GOP needs a PR makeover. And part of that is putting an end to the unforced errors like Mourdock, Akin, Angle, and O'Donnell.
It also means being smart about when to pitch an ideological flag in the ground. The Violence Against Women Act is not the place to test ideological purity. I understand and support the arguments against the Act as matters of Federalism and limited government, but at the same time, it's just a PR nightmare for a male politician to vote against something called the Violence Against Women Act that provides Federal funding and statutes for prosecutions of domestic abuse and rape.
3. Minimum wages are detrimental to the economy and especially to black teenagers:
I thought Donna Brazile could have had a Nixon-to-China teachable moment when Maher brought up the subject about raising the minimum wage. Instead, it turned into a Republican pinata beatdown where the progressives in the panel just hammered the Republicans because they're seen as the party of rich elitists.
The truth is wage floors are devastating to new entrants in the labor market. And they especially hurt teenage and minority employment because a white kid from a middle class family might not want to work at 3 dollars an hour, but a black kid from a working class family might want to. But if you raise the minimum wage to 9, the white kid will be more likely to take an entry level job, and employers still subconsciously discriminate. So the black kid couldn't even offer to take a lower wage to gain employment. He's been priced out of the labor market.
While I was minimum wage employee at my local theater in high school, I hated every minute that I was working. But I also gained a lot of valuable experience. Don't give your bosses a hard time. Know how to please the customer or delegate action to the manager when the customer is being irate and unreasonable. Show up on time. And be courteous, because coworkers who are dicks makes work more miserable than it has to be.
All of those things are valuable experiences and lessons. And you never learn them until you get your first entry level job. If we keep pricing people out of the labor market, they don't contribute to the economy. And they just become liabilities that the government then has to take care of in the form of welfare programs.
It's no secret that black unemployment is vastly higher than white employment. And black teen unemployment is even higher. The minimum wage is a big factor in those numbers. A good Republican counter to the minimum wage hike is an expansion and reformation of the EITC. That is smart governance and it gels well with their "workfare" mantra of self responsibility with a helping hand, not a safety hammock.
4. Jaimie Weistein was on cocaine or methamphetamine:
Just another PR problem for Republicans/libertarians... we need to have better ambassadors to the public, because this guy was just nuts for half the show.