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Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is reflected in a mirror as he departs after speaking to the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce in Salem, N.H. May 21, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Why Jeb Bush's line on Alzheimer's matters

05/27/15 11:35AM

Like most Republican presidential candidates, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) tends to emphasize his support for cutting spending on most domestic priorities. But as NBC News reported yesterday, there are apparently exceptions to Bush's preferred approach.
Presidential candidate Jeb Bush says that the nation should increase funding to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease and should speed up the approval process for medications to treat it.
 
The GOP presidential hopeful, who spoke last week about his mother-in-law's struggle with the disease, proposed the ideas to NBC News Special Anchor Maria Shriver during an email exchange.
Bush specifically said, "We need to increase funding to find a cure. We need to reform FDA [regulations] to accelerate the approval process for drug and device approval at a much lower cost. We need to find more community based solutions for care."
 
The former governor also tied his policy position to his own personal, family experiences. "My sister-in-law and husband are the caregivers for my now 95-year old mother-in-law," Bush added. "Columba helps all the time. She is a blessing from God."
 
To be sure, there's nothing wrong with this. Endorsing increased funding and related steps in the campaign against Alzheimer's is a perfectly reasonable position to take.
 
But in Bush's case, there are some notable angles to keep in mind. The Tampa Bay Times' Adam C. Smith, for example, noted that the Florida Republican's current position is likely to annoy the state lawmakers in both parties who "recall Bush vetoing their budget items targeting Alzheimer's research and care while at the same time approving tax cuts often mainly for the benefit of specific businesses or wealthier Floridians."
 
Smith noted several key measures, including Bush vetoing funding in 2003 for daycare centers in Boynton Beach serving 100 adults with Alzheimer's Disease, and then in 2004 also vetoing funding for an construction of outpatient treatment centers connected with the University of South Florida's Alzheimer's Research Institute.
 
At the time, the Republican governor called it a "want," not a "need."
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., Feb. 27, 2015. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Rick Perry to GOP senators: Go home, run for governor

05/27/15 10:49AM

Republican senators running for president don't exactly have history on their side. The party has only elected one sitting senator to the White House -- Warren Harding, whose two-year term did not go well -- and only a handful have even won their party's nomination.
 
What's interesting now, with four sitting GOP senators (and one former senator) in the national mix, is how eager Republican governors are to keep the historical pattern alive.
 
On Friday, for example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) told the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that the candidates "in Washington" are all "fighting the good fight," but "they haven't won a whole lot of victories." The message wasn't subtle: Cruz, Rubio, Rand Paul, et al, are fine, but they don't have any real accomplishments (unlike, say, Scott Walker).
 
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was even less guarded when making a similar point.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry has a message for three of the current Republican White House hopefuls: Run for governor before you run for president. Speaking about Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, all three U.S. senators, Perry said in an interview last week with THE WEEKLY STANDARD that he's hearing from GOP voters that they want executive experience.
 
"I've had more than one individual say, 'You know what, if you want to be the president of the United States, you ought to go back to your home state and be the governor and get that executive experience before you go lead this country,'" said Perry.
At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Perry added, "Leadership's not just a speech on the Senate floor; it's a record of action."
Image: U.S. Senator Rubio addresses the final session of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa

What Marco Rubio sees as 'a real and present danger'

05/27/15 10:08AM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has invested considerable energy in creating a specific political "brand": he's the young one in the Republican presidential field, offering a fresh, modern perspective, untethered to old assumptions and stale, 20th-century ideas.
 
It would be a far more compelling pitch if there weren't such a chasm between the message and the messenger. Consider, for example, the Republican senator's latest interview with radical TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Rubio warned that gay marriage represents "a real and present danger" to America because gay rights advocates are bent on labeling any anti-gay messages, including those from churches, as "hate speech."
It stands to reason that when a GOP presidential candidate sits down for an interview with a televangelist's outlet, he or she is going to take some pretty hard lines in the hopes of impressing the religious right movement. But I'll admit to being a little surprised by just how far Rubio was willing to go with CBN.
 
"We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech, because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater," Rubio argued with a straight face.
 
"So what's the next step after that? After they're done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech. And that's a real and present danger."
 
No, actually, it's not. In fact, it's rather alarming to hear a leading candidate for national office share such paranoia out loud and on camera.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker fields questions from Bruce Rastetter at the Iowa Ag Summit on March 7, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Walker defends state-mandated, medically unnecessary ultrasounds

05/27/15 09:24AM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) isn't the only far-right policymaker to push state-mandated, medically unnecessary ultrasounds. He is, however, arguably the most deliberately obtuse when it comes to understanding why the policy might be controversial.
 
Right Wing Watch reported yesterday on Walker's latest interview with conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch, and the governor's curious defense for his policy.
Walker told Loesch that criticism he received about the ultrasound bill was merely an attack from the "gotcha" media, and that he was in fact just trying to provide women with "a cool thing."
 
"The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea," he said. "Most people I talked to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are, so that's a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds. It's just a cool thing out there."
 
"We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child," he said.
Willful ignorance is an amazing thing.
 
This has been going on for quite a while -- long enough for the far-right governor to get a clue about the subject. In 2013, for example, Walker defended his policy by defending ultrasounds themselves. "I don't have any problem with ultrasound," he told reporters. "I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine."
 
A year later, Walker said the ultrasound policy simply provided "information." Now he thinks it's a "gotcha" story from the media, which suggests he doesn't know what those words mean, either.
 
It's hard to say with confidence whether the Wisconsin Republican is pretending to be dumb for political expedience or whether he's genuinely confused, but either way, it's probably worth setting the record straight.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks during a town hall meeting at the Loins Club hall with area residents, on May 11, 2015, in Londonderry, N.H. (Photo by Jim Cole/AP)

Rand Paul's new book draws fire on its first day

05/27/15 08:44AM

There's nothing unusual about a sitting senator writing a book. About a third of the current Senate includes published authors, who've written books on policy, fiction, history, and even children's literature.
 
But has there ever been a senator quite as prolific as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)? In 2011, his first year in elected office, Paul authored, The Tea Party Goes to Washington. A year later, the Republican wrote an updated version of the book called, Not Politics As Usual, and then also released, Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds.
 
This week, Paul released his latest book, Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America, and in the fall, the senator's publisher said yet another Paul book, Our Presidents & Their Prayers: Proclamations of Faith by America's Leaders, will hit bookshelves.
 
It's astounding, isn't it? Rand Paul has time to be a U.S. senator, tend to constituent needs, attend committee hearings, participate in debates, maintain a high public profile, appear in media, travel, prepare a presidential campaign, and still churn out one book after another. A cynic might question whether the Kentucky lawmaker is actually writing any of them.
 
Of course, as BuzzFeed noticed, just because the Republican is releasing books doesn't mean the books tell the truth.
The publisher behind Rand Paul's new book will update future editions to correct a mistake: The book misstates the number of people killed in the Benghazi attack. [...]
 
"I believe judgment day for Benghazi is also at hand," writes Paul. "When the secretary of state answers a question concerning the murders of six Americans, including an American ambassador, by saying, 'What difference, at this point, does it make?' I think that's a pretty clear indication that it's time for that person to go."
This is actually two glaring errors at once. As Paul -- or his possible ghost writer -- should know, four Americans were murdered in Libya. What's more, Hillary Clinton did not say, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" in reference to the slayings.
 
Wait, it gets worse.

Putting 'one person, one vote' on the line

05/27/15 08:00AM

Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court have already undermined some important pillars of modern American life. Is the "one-person, one-vote" principle next? The answer, as of yesterday, is maybe.
 
The high court announced yesterday that the justices will hear arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. As Adam Liptak summarized:
The case, a challenge to voting districts for the Texas Senate, was brought by two voters, Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger. They are represented by the Project on Fair Representation, the small conservative advocacy group that successfully mounted the earlier challenge to the Voting Rights Act. It is also behind a pending challenge to affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin.
 
In the new case, the challengers said their voting power had been diluted. "There are voters or potential voters in Texas whose Senate votes are worth approximately one and one-half times that of appellants," their brief said.
Under the status quo, legislative districts are based on total populations: the Census counts the number of people and lines are drawn accordingly.
 
But some conservatives want a more restrictive model. Counting everyone, they argue, ends up including people who can't vote -- noncitizens, ex-felons, and those under the age of 18 -- which skews district lines. It's better, the right insists, to look exclusively at the number of eligible and/or registered voters.
 
And why are they pushing this change? Because, as elections-law expert Rick Hasen explained yesterday, "A ruling that states may not draw legislative district lines taking total population into account will benefit rural voters over urban voters, and that will benefit Republicans over Democrats."

Death penalty showdown and other headlines

05/27/15 07:49AM

Nebraska's showdown over the repeal of the death penalty happens today. (Omaha World Herald)

Hackers stole personal info of 104,000 taxpayers: IRS. (Washington Post)

Hillary Clinton makes her first campaign trip to South Carolina today. (The State)

Texas House passes watered-down campus carry bill. (Houston Chronicle)

Multiple ISIS suicide attacks kill 17 troops in Iraq's Anbar. (AP)

FIFA officials arrested over alleged corruption in soccer. (NBC News)

Military bans Big Macs, other treats, at Guantanamo legal meetings. (Miami Herald)

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American journalist begins 'trial' in Iran

American journalist begins 'trial' in Iran

05/26/15 10:29PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the arrest of Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, in Iran on what were eventually revealed to be espionage charges. The trial, shrouded in secrecy, began Tuesday and adjourned with no word of when it will resume. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 5.26.15

05/26/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* After their will to fight was questioned, Iraqi forces have something to prove: "Iraq has launched a military campaign to drive ISIS militants out of Anbar province, senior security officials said Tuesday."
 
* Republican judges on the 5th Circuit, doing exactly what's expected of them: "An appeals court on Tuesday rejected the Obama administration's request to lift the temporary freeze placed on the president's sweeping executive actions on immigration."
 
* Cleveland: "The Department of Justice has reached a settlement with the city of Cleveland over what federal authorities have described as a pattern of excessive use of force and unconstitutional, biased policing."
 
* Related news: "A Cleveland police officer has been found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the killing of two unarmed passengers whose car hood he mounted, sending a barrage of bullets into their windshield."
 
* Deadly storms: "Tornadoes and dangerous thunderstorms continued to race across the south-central U.S. after menacing Texas and Oklahoma on Monday with historic flooding that sent rescuers searching for 12 people still missing, including at least three young children."
 
* Will the votes be there for an override? "Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska vetoed a bill on Tuesday to abolish the death penalty in the state, testing the strength of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said they would try to override his decision."
 
* Fast-track cleared the Senate. Clearing the House will be harder.
"Obamacare"  supporter Margot Smith (L) of California pleads her case with legislation opponents Judy Burel (2nd R) and Janis Haddon, both of Georgia, at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 28, 2012.

A moment of GOP candor on 'Obamacare'

05/26/15 04:22PM

In the political debate surrounding the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court, there are effectively two competing factions: those who acknowledge that the litigation is hopelessly insane, and those who know the case is hopelessly insane but pretend otherwise for the sake of appearances.
 
Once in a while, even a congressional Republican is willing to stand in support of reality.
 
At issue in the case is whether half of a sentence, buried within the law and removed from context, should be used to tear down the American health care system and strip millions of families of their health security. The New York Times set out to determine how that half of a sentence wound up in the law, and reporter Robert Pear talked to "more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law." Not one of them endorsed the argument put forward by the plaintiffs.
"I don't ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies," said Olympia J. Snowe, a former Republican senator from Maine who helped write the Finance Committee version of the bill.
 
"It was never part of our conversations at any point," said Ms. Snowe, who voted against the final version of the Senate bill. "Why would we have wanted to deny people subsidies? It was not their fault if their state did not set up an exchange."
Right. As Charles Gaba has noted, this is precisely how every member of the House, every member of the Senate, every congressional staffer, every White House staffer, everyone at HHS, everyone at the IRS, everyone at Treasury, everyone at the Justice Department, everyone at the Congressional Budget Office, every journalist covering the debate, every governor, every state legislator, every insurance company, and every hospital interpreted the law.
 
Though Snowe is too polite to say so explicitly, she's effectively acknowledged that the case her party is pushing to take coverage from millions of families is based entirely on a lie.
 
It's not just Snowe, either.
In this Oct. 24, 2012 file photo, former Chief Justice Roy Moore poses for a photo in his Montgomery, Ala., office. (Photo by Dave Martin/AP)

Roy Moore wants Ruth Bader Ginsburg impeached

05/26/15 03:18PM

The U.S. Supreme Court probably won't rule on marriage equality until the end of June, and when it does, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to side in support of equal-marriage rights.
 
For the right, this will be deeply annoying -- not just because of conservative opposition to marriage equality in general, but also because much of the right believes Ginsburg shouldn't be able to participate in the case at all. Right Wing Watch had this report this afternoon:
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore spoke with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Friday about his belief that states should "resist" a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, saying that Congress and the states should simply defy a court decision they disagree with by stating "that there is no right to redefine marriage" in the U.S. Constitution.
 
"We have justices on the Supreme Court right now who have actually performed same-sex marriages, Ginsburg and Kagan," Moore continued. "Congress should do something about this."
Such as? Moore raised the prospect of impeachment proceedings.
 
Perkins concluded, in reference to Ginsburg, "This is undermining the rule of law in our country and ushers in an age of chaos."
 
Oh, please.
Voting booths are illuminated by sunlight as voters cast their ballots at a polling place on Nov. 6, 2012. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)

A missed opportunity on voting rights

05/26/15 12:41PM

Hillary Clinton told a group of Iowans that she "totally disagrees" with the idea of permanently stripping ex-felons of their voting rights. "I think if you've done your time, so to speak, and you've made your commitment to go forward you should be able to vote and you should be able to be judged on the same basis. You ought to get a second chance."
 
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) chided Clinton's position, insisting he'd endorsed the policy first, which turned out to be completely wrong. (Clinton sponsored legislation on this in 2005, when Paul was still creating a self-accreditation body for his ophthalmology practice.)
 
But the fact that there would even be a dispute over who endorsed the idea first is itself evidence of progress -- it suggested the proposal had reached a level of mainstream credibility. Alas, as msnbc's Zack Roth reported, the progress was less evident in Maryland.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland vetoed a bill Friday that would have restored voting rights to around 40,000 former felons. [...]
 
Currently, over 63,000 Marylanders are disenfranchised because of past felonies, according to numbers compiled by The Sentencing Project. Around 65% of them are African-American.
The details, of course, matter. Maryland already helps restore voting rights for ex-felons eventually, but they're required to complete parole and a probationary period. Newly passed state legislation intended to expedite the process and restore voting rights faster -- once an otherwise eligible Maryland resident has completed his or her sentence, he or she would once again immediately be eligible to participate in elections.
 
According to Maryland's new Republican governor, that's too quick.

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