Rachel Maddow relays stories of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid that demonstrate his steadfast, combative nature. Reid announced today that he will retire and not run for reelection next year, leaving a vacancy Democrats will be challenged to fill. watch
Dr. Gerald Surya, senior aviation medical examiner, talks with Rachel Maddow about how pilots are evaluated for fitness -including mental fitness- to fly planes, and what stopgaps exist to catch problems when pilots do not honestly self-report issues. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on some stumbles by Republican 2016 contenders, but none more than Indiana governor Mike Pence, who signed a law legalizing discrimination against gay people, incurring the wrath of state businesses that now face likely boycotts. watch
* The latest out of Germany: "Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot believed to have crashed his jet into the French Alps on purpose, apparently hid an illness from his employer, investigators said on Friday."
* Yemen: "Forces aligned with the Iranian-backed Houthi movement continued their advance into areas of southern Yemen on Friday as Saudi Arabia conducted a second day of airstrikes intended to stop them."
* Seriously, no rush: "Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, said on Friday that the Fed planned to raise interest rates more slowly than during past recoveries because of the unusually fragile condition of the American economy."
* It looks like a done deal: "But by mid-afternoon, [Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid] had endorsed New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, no. 3 in the current hierarchy, as his chosen successor -- and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin's office made it clear that the Illinois senator would also back his colleague and former Capitol Hill roommate."
* Reid was doing a live interview with Nevada Public Radio this morning when President Obama called in to extend his best wishes. It was a sweet moment.
* This ought to be interesting: "France's foreign minister said Friday his country will propose a U.N. Security Council resolution in the coming weeks that could present a framework for negotiations toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
* New ethics controversy: "The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it has opened an investigation into Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) regarding allegations that he improperly used his office to help his wife lobby Congress on behalf of the Humane Society."
Just a month ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was asked how he'd confront terrorist threats as president. The Republican governor quickly turned to his political fights against union members in his home state. "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," Walker said.
The governor took some heat for seemingly comparing union members to ISIS, which missed the point, and wasn't even true. What mattered about the response is that, in Walker's mind, union-busting in Wisconsin was preparation for combating ISIS and global terrorism.
The ridiculousness of the governor's answer raised concerns among powerful Republican players -- if this is his response to an obvious question in the midst of crises abroad, Walker may not have a mature understanding of what international leadership requires.
His answer to a similar question this week won't help matters. The Capital Times in Madison reports today:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout as a teen, has taken that motto seriously. His Eagle Scout status has him so prepared, he indicated this week, he's ready to serve as commander in chief of the U.S. military.
The issue came up at a Chamber of Commerce event in Arizona this week, where Hugh Hewitt asked the governor, "Does the prospect of being commander in chief daunt you? Because the world that you describe when you're talking about safety is going to require a commitment to American men and women abroad, obviously at some point. How do you think about that?"
Walker replied, "That's an appropriate question." And things went downhill from there.
As recently as last fall, Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) opposition to marriage equality was less than definite. "I believe in old-fashioned traditional marriage," he told CNN in an interview, "but I don't really think the government needs to be too involved in this and I think the Republican Party can have people on both sides of the issue."
Asked if he might shift from his position against equal-marriage rights, Paul, quite literally, shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, "Who knows?"
That was October 2014, and the Kentucky Republican has moved sharply to the right ever since. He told Fox News earlier this month that marriages between same-sex couples "offend" him "and a lot of other people." This week, as Right Wing Watch reports, the GOP senator went even further.
In a video posted yesterday by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Rand Paul addressed "a group of pastors and religious leaders at a private prayer breakfast" in Washington D.C. on Thursday about the need for "revival" in America complete with "tent revivals" full of people demanding reform.
He suggested during the event that the debate about legalizing same-sex marriage is the result of a "moral crisis" in the country.
That's not an exaggeration. Paul talked to CBN and the video shows him telling social conservatives, "[T]here's a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage."
It's a striking argument -- not only is Rand Paul opposed to marriage equality, he believes the debate itself shouldn't exist and is the result of a "moral crisis" in the United States.
He added, "We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, 'Reform or see what's going to happen if we don't reform.'"
I can't help but wonder if the senator realizes the degree to which he's abandoned what made him "interesting" to the political world.
Everyone had a good laugh the other day when an official from Florida Gov. Rick Scott's (R) administration tried to get through a legislative hearing on emergency preparedness without using the words "climate change." But before the story fades from view, it's worth pausing to appreciate the substantive question behind the humor.
At issue is a FEMA requirement that states develop a "climate-change plan" in order to receive preparedness dollars. This became literally laughable in the Florida example -- Scott's chief of emergency management said the state will eventually have a hazard-mitigation plan with "language to that effect."
But let's back up a minute. FEMA is requiring states come up with a "climate-change plan"? The conservative Washington Timesreported this week that new guidelines pose a potential challenge to climate deniers in gubernatorial offices.
The rules say that states' risk assessments must include "consideration of changing environmental or climate conditions that may affect and influence the long-term vulnerability from hazards in the state."
The policy, which goes into effect in March 2016, doesn't affect federal money for relief after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster. But states seeking disaster preparedness money from Washington will be required to assess how climate change threatens their communities, a requirement that wasn't included in FEMA's 2008 guidelines.
That's an important detail. If a natural disaster strikes in your area, FEMA is on the way whether your state government accepts scientific evidence or not. These new rules, however, apply to disaster-preparedness resources -- if states want funds to better prepare for natural disasters, the Obama administration expects those states to incorporate the effects of the climate crisis into those plans.
Or in FEMA's more bureaucratic language, "The risk assessment must provide a summary of the probability of future hazard events. Probability must include considerations of changing future conditions, including the effects of long-term changes in weather patterns and climate."
You might guess some of the governors who aren't happy about this.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* It's only been a few hours since Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced his retirement, but all of the early buzz about his possible successor is focused on Catherine Cortez Masto (D), the former Nevada Attorney General.
* The latest Suffolk poll in New Hampshire shows Jeb Bush leading the Republican presidential field with 19% support, followed by Scott Walker at 14%. Donald Trump, believe it or not, is fourth in the poll, leading Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio.
* Rick Perry is running hard in Iowa and will release a new online ad today that "stresses his commitment to spending time in Iowa and features cameos of Iowans he's talked to this year."
* Hillary Clinton is making frequent use of social media this week, using Twitter to celebrate the ACA's fifth anniversary a few days ago, and sending another message yesterday condemning Indiana's new right-to-discriminate law.
* Common Core critics on the far-right will probably not like the fact that Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education is offering a course on the benefits of the curriculum.
For much of 2013 and 2014, Republicans were on a quest to discover "Obamacare victims." GOP officials were convinced the Affordable Care Act was wreaking havoc on families' lives, and Republicans everywhere were hunting for horror stories.
In nearly every instance, those stories fell apart in the face of routine scrutiny, and most of the "victims" were actually far better off with the ACA than without it. One of the more notable examples arose early last year when Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the House Republican Conference chair, used her party's official response to the State of the Union to introduce America to "Bette in Spokane."
For much of the fight over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans condemned the very idea of government putting itself between patients and their physicians. The charge never made much sense as it relates to "Obamacare," but for GOP policymakers, the principle was all the same: keep politics out of exam rooms.
They never meant a word of it.
In Kansas a couple of years ago, Republican state lawmakers approved a proposal called the "Women's Right to Know Act," which, among other things, required doctors to tell abortion patients that there's a link between breast cancer and terminating pregnancies. In reality, the National Cancer Institute insists there is no link, but GOP policymakers in Kansas didn't care. In effect, they mandated state-endorsed lying.
Doctors in Arizona might soon be required to tell women that abortions can be "reversed." As the Washington Post reports, the Arizona legislature just passed a bill that is the latest in state-based attempts to ban women from using their own health insurance to pay for abortion. What makes this bill especially Orwellian is this attempt to force doctors to put the stamp of medical authority on the fantastical belief that women en masse are regretting their abortions hours after getting them and are miraculously getting them reversed through heroic interventions by Christian doctors. [...]
Forcing doctors to "inform" patients about an intervention that isn't medically useful and isn't really in demand serves no other purpose but to inject anti-choice histrionics into what is already a stressful situation for many patients. You should be able to get through an abortion without having to indulge a right-wing delusion.
Evidently, Republicans in Arizona's legislature don't find this persuasive.
Jeb Bush's mother is helping him raise money for his super PAC. Jeb Bush's brother is helping him raise money for his super PAC. And now Jeb Bush's father is getting in on the game.
Ahead of a fundraiser he's attending Thursday evening in Houston, former President George H.W. Bush has penned a letter to potential donors asking them to give "even $25" to a super-PAC supporting his son, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
In the two-page letter obtained by Bloomberg Politics, the former president says his son, who is considering his own presidential campaign, "stands out for his refreshing and complete lack of interest in negative attacks."
Putting aside the fact that the former governor launches negative attacks against President Obama on a daily basis, it seems Jeb Bush is running out of famous relatives -- though I suppose there's nothing stopping Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Jeb's son, from joining the fun.
"I love the fact that we have a united family," Jeb Bush told Fox News Radio yesterday.
To be sure, there's nothing illegal or untoward about candidates relying on their immediate family members for campaign help -- though few have families this powerful -- and the Florida Republican has focused most of his energies of late on filling his campaign coffers.
But as we discussed the other day, there's another angle to all of this that's more politically problematic.
On practically all the major issues, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), an unannounced presidential candidate, has adopted a doctrinaire, far-right posture. No one would look at the Republican governor's agenda and call him a "moderate."
But Walker has evolved on some issues in ways that may make some GOP voters nervous. Over the course of a long career -- Walker became a political candidate at age 22 and has spent half his life in public office -- the Wisconsinite has shifted his stances on issues like energy policy, education, and even gun safety.
But immigration remains the most problematic of them all. This Wall Street Journalreport yesterday caused quite a stir.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans this month that he backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, a position at odds with his previous public statements on the matter.
Mr. Walker's remarks, which were confirmed by three people present, vary from the call he has made for "no amnesty" -- a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn't be awarded legal status or citizenship.
The governor's aides vehemently deny the accuracy of the WSJ piece and insist his position has not changed. As best as I can tell, there's no tangible evidence to clear this up. Some Republican attendees said Walker endorsed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; the governor denies it. Who's right? It's hard to say.
It's easy to say, however, that Walker, even before yesterday's report, has struggled to bring clarity to his position on immigration.