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GOP picks an awkward fight over campaign name-calling

07/27/16 10:40AM

One of the most important U.S. Senate races in the country is in Pennsylvania this year, pitting incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R), the former head of the far-right Club for Growth, against Katie McGinty (D), the former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
 
As Penn Live reported this week, the Democrat used some unfortunate language this week about the Republican.
U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty had a few choice words to describe her Republican opponent at a minimum wage rally Monday during the Democratic National Convention.
 
"I think I might borrow from Chris' speech there," she said, referring to Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton, "in terms of Pat Toomey. He's an a**hole dammit. We know that, I'll tell you."
The comments weren't made on the convention floor, but rather, at a union office in Philadelphia. It was nevertheless caught on video and it didn't take long for the clip to circulate.
 
McGinty quickly backtracked. "I regret the language I used and apologize to Senator Toomey. Our campaign is about moving Pennsylvania forward and we're going to continue to talk about the issues that are important to Pennsylvania families," McGinty said in a statement. The incumbent senator accepted.
 
But Republicans aren't quite prepared to let this one go. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), for example, expressed his disappointment in McGinty yesterday because she used a "vulgarity," and cited this as proof of Democrats being "more focused on insults than solving problems."
 
And it was at this point that I wondered whether Tom Cotton has ever heard of Donald Trump -- the presidential candidate the Arkansas has already endorsed.
History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Trump campaign: No tax returns for you

07/27/16 10:00AM

Since Watergate, every presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, has released his or her tax returns. It's not required by law, but there's a tradition of disclosure that Americans have come to count on: candidates for the nation's highest office are expected to release information related to their personal health and their tax filings.
 
In 2016, Donald Trump will only meet one of the two standards. In December, his campaign released an unintentionally hilarious letter from someone claiming to be Trump's personal physician. But this morning, the GOP candidate's campaign chairman said we can pretty much stop waiting for the tax documents -- because they're not coming, tradition be damned.
A top aide to Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Republican presidential nominee "will not be releasing" his taxes.
 
"Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them," Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort told "CBS This Morning."
As recently as mid-May, Trump said that he'd "like to" disclose the tax documents, "hopefully before the election," but he's waiting for the end of an IRS audit. Manafort's on-air comments this morning, however, suggest there will be no scrutiny of the documents before voters head to the polls.
 
As for the "audit" excuse, the fact remains that this rationale has never made any sense: an IRS audit doesn't preclude someone from sharing their returns.
 
Indeed, as we've discussed before, even Richard Nixon, during his presidency, released his tax materials in the midst of an IRS audit. Trump could, if he wanted to, release these returns whenever he feels like it. For reasons he won't explain, the GOP candidate just doesn't want to.
 
It's as if the campaign has decided to wave a big, unmistakable sign that reads, "We have something to hide."
Omarosa Manigault arrives at the 44th Annual NAACP Image Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Feb. 1, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

RNC dispatches TV personality to tackle foreign policy

07/27/16 09:19AM

Just last week, Donald Trump's campaign made a staffing announcement: going forward, Team Trump's director of African-American Outreach would be Theresa "Omarosa" Manigault. It was an odd move: Manigault isn't a political professional, but rather, she's a television personality known for having been a contestant on some reality shows (including Trump's).
 
This week, the story got a little stranger. TPM reported yesterday:
For their counter-programming for the Democratic convention, Republicans brought in Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on the first season of Donald Trump's television show "The Apprentice," to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's foreign policy views on Tuesday.
This may seem hard to believe, but Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee's communications director and chief strategist, published this message on Twitter yesterday, highlighting the reality-show personality discussing Clinton's "foriegn [sic] policy failures" at an RNC event.
 
Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson asked soon after, "How are Republicans not mortally embarrassed by what's become of their party?" MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin, marveling at Sean Spicer's message, called it "another tweet for the 2016 time capsule."
 
My point, of course, is not to suggest that reality-show contestants can't have worthwhile views on matters of international affairs. Rather, what's striking here is the Republican Party -- which once considered credibility on foreign matter a matter of GOP birthright -- is taking on a former Secretary of State in this presidential election, and the party lacks the kind of credible, experienced, high-profile professionals who can assess Clinton's record on foreign policy in a serious way.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall, July 25, 2016, in Roanoke, Va. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump can't keep his story straight on the minimum wage

07/27/16 08:35AM

A couple of months ago, there was a flurry of reports about Donald Trump running on economic populism, none of which was quite right. Some reporters, no doubt confused by the Republican's clumsy rhetoric, policy incoherence, and propensity for dishonesty, seemed to misunderstand Trump's far-right economic message.
 
And at the center of this confusion was Trump's indiscernible position on the minimum wage. Last night, the Republican presidential nominee talked to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who asked about the issue, and the exchange that followed left everyone more confused than before.
 
The GOP candidate began by stressing, "I'm the one Republican that said in some cases we have to go more than minimum wage -- but what I like is states." That's roughly in line with what Trump has said before: he opposes an increase to the federal minimum, but he's on board with states raising their minimums if they want to. He added last night:
"Let me give you a concept because I think it's a good concept. You go with the states - let the states make the determination because if you take New York it's very expensive to live in New York, they need more than you know seven, eight, nine dollars. So you go with the states and let the states make the determination."
Again, note the emphasis on states. While Democrats push for an increase to the federal minimum, Trump is talking solely about states doing their own thing on wages.
 
When O'Reilly noted "there has to be a federal minimum wage," Trump replied, "There doesn't have to be." Again, this too is consistent with the Republican candidate's previous arguments that the federal minimum wage may not need to exist at all.
 
Trump then added, "I would leave it and raise it somewhat." I haven't the foggiest idea what this means. Vowing to change and not change the same policy in the same sentence is the kind of incoherence that reasonable people should find alarming.
Former President Bill Clinton greets the audience at the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Penn. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Bill Clinton introduces Americans to the real Hillary Clinton

07/27/16 08:00AM

In theory, it's a daunting challenge: introduce millions of people to someone they've already known for years. Bill Clinton took on the challenge anyway at the Democratic National Convention last night, at least in part because he believes many of us don't really know Hillary Clinton, so much as we know a caricature painted by her critics.
 
In Philadelphia, towards the end of the former president's remarks in which he walked his audience through a lifetime of Hillary Clinton's hard work and achievements, Bill Clinton asked how anyone can reconcile her record with what Republicans have said about her. "You can't," he said. "One is real, the other is made up."
"The real one had done more positive change-making before she was 30 than many public officials do in a lifetime in office. The real one, if you saw her friend Betsy Ebeling vote for Illinois today has friends from childhood through Arkansas, where she has not lived in more than 20 years, who have gone all across America at their own expense to fight for the person they know.
 
"The real one has earned the loyalty, the respect and the fervent support of people who have worked with her in every stage of her life, including leaders around the world who know her to be able, straightforward and completely trustworthy.
 
"The real one calls you when you're sick, when your kid's in trouble or when there's a death in the family. The real one repeatedly drew praise from prominent Republicans when she was a senator and secretary of state.
 
"So what's up with it? Well, if you win elections on the theory that government is always bad and will mess up a two-car parade, a real change-maker represents a real threat. So your only option is to create a cartoon, a cartoon alternative, then run against the cartoon. Cartoons are two- dimensional, they're easy to absorb. Life in the real world is complicated and real change is hard."
The point of rhetoric like this is to serve several functions at once. First, obviously, is to paint Clinton in a favorable light and push back against GOP criticism. Second, it creates a contrast: Clinton has devoted her adult life to helping others, which is practically the opposite of Donald Trump's rhetoric. Third, Bill Clinton is no doubt aware of the public's appetite for change, so he positioned Hillary Clinton as someone who's never satisfied with the status quo.
 
At one point, he added, "She's insatiably curious, she's a natural leader, she's a good organizer, and she's the best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life."
 
And finally, the speech was a straightforward case that, despite perceptions, Hillary Clinton is someone who's spent a lifetime earning the respect of those around her. She's a person of warmth and compassion, not a two-dimensional villain.
No historic parallel as Clinton blazes trail

No historic parallel as Clinton blazes trail

07/26/16 11:03PM

Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, discusses the historic parallels (and lack thereof) of the Clintons as an American political family and the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton. watch

Trump ripped at DNC over 9/11 funds

Trump ripped at DNC over 9/11 funds

07/26/16 09:26PM

Lawrence O'Donnell and Republican strategist Steve Schmidt react to the attack on Donald Trump by Congressman Joseph Crowley, who accused Trump of trying to profit off 9/11 by taking advantage recovery fund championed by Hillary Clinton. watch

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