Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had a plan: win a second term, take advantage of a good year for Republicans, and soon after prepare for a national campaign. The plan is looking a little shaky right now, with polls show him in the midst of a very competitive re-election campaign against Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke.
A month ago, the Republican incumbent and his allies tried moving to the left, blasting Burke as an "outsourcing one-percenter."
That didn't do much to improve Walker's standing, so the governor is now moving back to the right, promising big tax cuts and drug testing for those receiving public aid in a second term.
With less than two months to go in a tight re-election race, the Republican governor put forward a 62-page plan that sums up the actions of his first term, defends them against the critique of his Democratic rival, former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke, and offers several new proposals.
"It's our next wave of the Wisconsin comeback. It's our plan to make sure that everyone who wants a job can find a job," Walker said in a telephone interview.
As a rule, when an incumbent is still scrambling seven weeks before Election Day, looking for a platform while struggling to defend his record, it's not a good sign.
Walker, referencing a one-page summary of his agenda, told the AP, "That's our plan of action for the next four years. Tear it off. Hang it up. Put it next to your computer. Put it on your fridge."
Part of the trouble is, Walker used similar rhetoric four years ago, when he promised Wisconsin he'd create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his first term -- and said he should be judged according to that standard. Nearly four years later, the governor is less than halfway to his goal, and has yet to explain why he couldn't keep his highest-profile promise.
But even putting that aside, the two key tenets of the Republican's new agenda -- tax cuts and drug testing -- probably polled well, but they each come with one big flaw.
Islamic State is not just a roving band of lunatics; it strives to be a relatively well organized band of lunatics. When it controls an area, the terrorist group's leaders try to collect taxes and create some semblance of local civic administration, including directing traffic.
In other words, ISIS, when it's not indiscriminately killing people, has governing ambitions.
And to that end, the Associated Press reported yesterday on ISIS terrorists taking a keen interest in the curricula of schools in Mosul.
The extremist-held Iraqi city of Mosul is set to usher in a new school year. But unlike years past, there will be no art or music. Classes about history, literature and Christianity have been "permanently annulled."
The Islamic State group has declared patriotic songs blasphemous and ordered that certain pictures be torn out of textbooks.
This is not the first time. In parts of Syria under ISIS control, the group has banned philosophy and chemistry.
In Mosul, ISIS issued a statement nearly two weeks ago, declaring "good news of the establishment of the Islamic State Education Diwan by the caliph who seeks to eliminate ignorance, to spread religious sciences and to fight the decayed curriculum."
The AP report added that Islamic State explicitly prohibits lessons on "Charles Darwin's theory of evolution."
As it turns out, Iraqi schools weren't teaching evolution anyway, but in the name of "eliminating ignorance," ISIS wants to be absolutely certain that modern biology is banned from science classes. The violent extremists prefer "religious sciences."
Senate Democrats have brought up the Paycheck Fairness Act three times over three Congresses. In each instance, the Senate Republican minority killed the proposal, though last week offered a little something different.
Last Wednesday, on a procedural vote to advance a debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, 19 Senate Republicans broke ranks and voted to end their party's filibuster, which is 19 more GOP votes than the Paycheck Fairness Act has ever received. A sign of possible progress?
Apparently not. As msnbc's Irin Carmon reported last night:
Senate Republicans did it again: They blocked a measure backed by President Barack Obama that would have strengthened equal pay protections for women. Counting procedural votes, it's the fourth time Republicans have voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act since 2012.
The only surprise was that they gave Democrats the political fodder of allowing another vote to proceed on the bill -- and that the GOP did so in a midterm election year when women voters are one major key to obtaining and retaining control of the Senate and House.
The final roll call is online here. Note that while 19 Senate Republicans voted with Democrats on a procedural step last week, literally zero GOP senators supported the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday afternoon.
The apparent contradiction is easy to explain: Republicans voted to extend debate on the bill last week, not because they supported it, but because they were trying to waste time, eating up the clock on the Senate's limited pre-election schedule. If the GOP had killed the measure quickly, it would have meant moving on to something else Republicans don't like, so they dragged out the fight on the Paycheck Fairness Act, simply because they could.
Andrew Bacevich, retired U.S. Army colonel, professor, and historian, talks with Rachel Maddow about why war in America's only answer to problems in the Middle East and what other means of addressing the region are needed. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the publication by USA Today of the U.S. Senate handbook, full of the bureaucratic rules that keep the Senate running, from where to acquire office plants to how to select telephone on-hold music. watch
* Awkward diplomacy: "Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the Obama administration would keep the door open to confidential communications with Iran on the security crisis in Iraq, despite sarcastic criticism from Iran's supreme leader, who said the American plan for bombing Islamic militants, their common enemy, was absurd."
* NATO: "The pledge of 26 foreign ministers in Paris today to combat the self-declared Islamic State with 'all means necessary' gives an important boost to the international efforts to dismantle the militant group that is imposing its will on large parts of Syria and Iraq."
* Climate crisis: "This past August was the warmest since records began in 1881, according to new data released by NASA. The latest readings continue a series of record or near-record breaking months. May of this year was also the warmest in recorded history."
* A White House petition for a proposed "Mike Brown Law," which would requires "all state, county, and local police to wear a camera," received enough signatures to guarantee a formal reply. Roy L. Austin, Jr., the Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, published a response over the weekend.
* Decades later: "Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins stood ramrod straight on Monday as President Obama draped the Medal of Honor around his neck at the White House. It had been nearly five decades since he led Special Forces soldiers through a bloody ordeal that spanned a week in March 1966, but he still wore a crisp Army uniform, and saluted after receiving the nation's top award for combat valor. Adkins, 80, was one of two Vietnam War soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House."
* Look for more on this fun one on tonight's show: "The U.S. Senate has for years lived by a secret book of rules that governs everything from how many sheets of paper and potted plants each Senate office is allotted to when Senators can use taxpayer money to charter planes or boats. The document has never been available to the public -- until now."
* GM: "General Motors Co will pay compensation for 19 deaths linked to a faulty ignition switch, according to the lawyer overseeing the process, more than the 13 deaths the automaker had previously admitted [to] were caused by the now recalled part."
* More on this tomorrow: "No matter what the electorate decides in seven weeks, Obama has already succeeded in his bid to refashion the bench -- and the nuclear option has played a significant role."
On Fox News this morning, contributor Pete Hegseth pushed for a more expansive U.S. military operation against Islamic State, complaining that our allies are seeing "American ambivalence." It seemed like an odd criticism -- President Obama delivered a national address last week on his strategy to counter ISIS; White House officials have called it a "war"; and administration officials are recruiting international partners for a coalition to confront ISIS.
There's ample room for debate about the plan on its merits, and there are plenty of questions about whether the U.S. plan will work. But "ambivalence" doesn't seem to apply to recent events in any coherent way.
Making matters slightly worse, Brian Powell noted the on-screen graphic at the time. Fox News viewers were told that the United States "has conducted at least 160 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq," and at literally the exact same moment, viewers Fox News were also told there's been "no military action yet against ISIS."
Now, in fairness, every network makes on-screen mistakes from time to time, and I imagine Fox's graphics team probably wishes it could take this one back. It was almost certainly more a mistake than an attempt at deception.
But the cognitive dissonance -- Obama is taking and not taking military action -- nevertheless seems increasingly common on the right.
Russell Pearce has had quite a career in Arizona. The Republican started as a fairly obscure state senator, before his anti-immigrant SB1070 pushed him into the national spotlight, which Pearce parlayed into a promotion as state Senate President.
His shooting star didn't last -- Pearce record and extremist associations undermined his standing, and in 2011, voters pushed him out of office in a recall election.
State Republicans probably should have allowed Pearce to fade from public view, but instead, GOP officials made Pearce the #2 leader in the state party. As Zach Roth reported, that didn't turn out too well, either.
The far-right former lawmaker who helped create Arizona's "papers please" immigration law has resigned as a top official with the state GOP after making comments about sterilizing poor women. [...]
On Saturday, the state Democratic Party highlighted comments Pearce made recently on his radio show. Discussing the state's public assistance programs, Pearce declared: "You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations.... Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."
Just so we're clear, by making Norplant a part of public assistance, Pearce was, fairly explicitly, talking about sterilizing low-income women.
By way of a response, the principal author of Arizona's "papers please" law argued in a written statement that he was referencing "comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author."
One of the more memorable moments of the 2012 campaign came during the Republican National Convention, when entertainer Clint Eastwood decided to do a routine of sorts with an empty chair. To the great disappointment of the Romney/Ryan campaign, it didn't go well.
Last week in Michigan, however, Rep. Gary Peters (D), his party's U.S. Senate candidate, also appeared alongside an empty chair, and his stunt was far more effective. Peters' point was to highlight the fact that his Republican opponent, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) refuses to accept any debate invitations (thanks to Ron Chusid for the heads-up).
"If a candidate isn't willing, when they are running for office, to stand up and say what they are for, if they were elected, they would completely disappear," Peters told voters.
Ordinarily, when a candidate refuses to debate, it's because he or she has a sizable lead and doesn't want to risk it by standing alongside a weaker rival. But in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land is losing -- and she still won't consider any debate invitations.
Jamison Foser flagged this Detroit News column from Laura Berman, who can't quite figure out Land's "no-show strategy."
Terri Lynn Land's no-show strategy for a U.S. Senate seat is a weird dare to Michigan voters: She's gambling you won't notice her near total disappearance from the campaign trail.
While both Land and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, are bombarding the airwaves with commercials, it's Land who's trying to stay out of sight. Her campaign doesn't advertise public appearances -- if there are any -- and ignores or postpones interview requests from journalists.
Want to see flesh-and-blood Terri?
"I'll let you know if Terri has availability," her press secretary, Heather Swift, emailed me last week, after repeated requests for an interview or notice of upcoming appearances with the former Michigan Secretary of State.
It's one thing to duck debates, but I can't remember the last time I saw a major-party candidate in a competitive statewide race literally hide from the public.