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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reaches out to hug a supporter after he spoke at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies on Aug. 29, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP)

GOP finds the one issue on which Trump is willing to back down

09/03/15 12:56PM

Republican Party insiders do not want Donald Trump to win their party's presidential nomination, but they can imagine an even worse scenario: Trump coming up short in the GOP primaries and then running on a third-party ticket.
 
For a few months, the New York developer has made no secret of his willingness to consider a third-party campaign, even toying with the idea at the recent GOP debate on Fox News. The chatter has led to quite a bit of consternation among party officials, some of whom have even begun exploring possible constraints to force Trump's hand.
 
As of this morning, however, the need for Republican handwringing appears to be over. Politico reported:
A close associate tells POLITICO that Donald Trump plans to sign a loyalty pledge Thursday that would bind him to endorse the Republican nominee, and would preclude a third-party run. Trump made the stunning decision, which he has long resisted, to avoid complications in getting listed on primary ballots, and to take away an attack line in the next debate, the associate said.
I should note that Trump's decision has not yet been confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, though multiple news organizations, including the Washington Post and Bloomberg Politics, are reporting the same thing.
 
It's an unexpected development. Trump has gone out of his way to position himself as the candidate who isn't, and can never be, pushed around, but this appears to be an important exception. Republican officials have taken every step they can think of to corral Trump into committing to the party's nominating process, and by this reasoning, the frontrunner appears to have cried, "Uncle."
 
Indeed, it's a move that comes with a series of risks.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.3.15

09/03/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Donald Trump criticized Jeb Bush yesterday for occasionally speaking Spanish at campaign events. "I like Jeb," Trump said in an interview with a far-right website. "He's a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States."
 
* I was under the impression that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wasn't interested in running for national office next year, but if you missed last night's show, the senator's comments last night were unexpectedly interesting.
 
* According to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, Trump's favorability rating among white voters is 48%. His favorability rating among African Americans and Latinos is 15%.
 
* North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley (R) has admitted to cheating on his wife, but he apparently won't let that get in the way of his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. 
 
* Martin O'Malley's Democratic presidential campaign has struggled of late in Iowa, and his allied super PAC has decided to lay off 38 organizers in the state.
 
* In Oregon, failed Senate candidate Monica Wehby (R) recently expressed an interest in running for governor, but yesterday, the Republican announced she isn't running after all.
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at Republican debate Aug. 6, 2015. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/ AFP/Getty)

Jeb, Trump, and the increasingly personal contest

09/03/15 11:24AM

One need not be a political expert to see that Donald Trump and Jeb Bush don't like each other much. But for the most part, the two prominent Republican presidential candidates have been jabbing one another above the belt.
 
As Team Jeb gets increasingly antsy, that's slowly starting to change.
 
Last week, for example, Bush's campaign manager soon turned his attention to Trump's sister. Yesterday, as Time's Zeke Miller reported, the confrontation became even more personal.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is escalating his all-out campaign against GOP front-runner Donald Trump with a new ad campaign and quiz on social media designed to highlight Bush's conservative credentials in contrast with the businessman's past embrace of the Democratic Party. [...]
 
In a strikingly personal attack, the quiz asks voters whether they would prefer a candidate who "is a germophobe when it comes to shaking hands," a reference to Trump's documented phobia, Bush, meanwhile is cast as a candidate who "strives to shake every hand everywhere."
The exact wording reads, "Would you rather support a candidate who strives to shake every hand everywhere or is a germophobe when it comes to shaking hands?"
 
As a rule, these online gimmicks generally don't serve much of a point, other than to help campaigns collect email addresses and build an online database, while helping get some of a campaign's message out.
 
But therein lies the point: Team Jeb apparently wants voters to know that Trump, among his other idiosyncrasies, is concerned about handshakes and germs.
 
Former President George W. Bush recently expressed confidence that his brother "will elevate the discourse" during the campaign. How's that working out?
Former Vice President Dick Cheney walks out of a Republican Senate luncheon, Nov. 2011.

Cheney is still convinced he was right about Iraq

09/03/15 10:50AM

Those hoping to kill the international nuclear agreement with Iran have faced a variety of obstacles, but one in particular has proven hard to overcome: their own track record.
 
Just as there are a variety of Republicans and their allies pushing for an armed confrontation with Iran now, many of these same people were cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago. Indeed, many have tried to find even one person who was right about Iraq in 2002 and 2003 who also now opposes the diplomatic solution with Iran. So far, no names have popped up.
 
But as MSNBC's Zack Roth reported, Dick Cheney doesn't much care. The failed former vice president has a new book in which he not only condemns President Obama's foreign policy, but he tries to defend his own tarnished legacy -- especially on the subject of Iraq.
At one stage, [Dick and Liz Cheney] write that "history will be the ultimate judge of our decision to liberate Iraq." But just two pages later, as if unable to resist re-engaging the issue, they describe the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as a "grave threat to the United States" before concluding: "We were right to invade and remove him from power."
 
They even insist that U.S. troops "were in fact greeted as liberators," just as Dick Cheney predicted before the invasion -- a quote that Bush administration critics have frequently hung around his neck. 
Cheney, promoting the book, was asked yesterday why anyone should listen to him on Iran given his record on Iraq. "Because I was right about Iraq," Cheney responded.
 
Like it or not, there's ample reason to believe such transparent nonsense actually matters.
Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott responds to a question during a gubernatorial debate against Democrat Charlie Crist on Oct. 10, 2014, in Miramar, Fla. (Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP)

Governor's office scrubs press release on Planned Parenthood

09/03/15 10:09AM

After controversial videos were released a few months ago targeting Planned Parenthood, a variety of states launched investigations of local affiliates. Officials in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania cleared the health care group of any wrongdoing.
 
But in Florida, the story is a little more complicated. In response to the fetal-tissue uproar, Gov. Rick Scott (R) ordered a review of Planned Parenthood's 16 clinics in the state. Politico reported this week that the Republican governor's office wasn't altogether impressed with the findings -- so Scott aides gave the truth a little touch-up.
Gov. Rick Scott's office scrubbed a press release written by his own regulators that found there was no "mishandling of fetal remains" at clinics run by Planned Parenthood and, at the same time, said it would refer doctors who worked at those clinics to the state Board of Medicine for possible disciplinary action.
The point of the investigation was to examine Planned Parenthood's fetal-tissue donations, and as the Politico report noted, Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration prepared a press statement making clear the group did nothing wrong on this front.
 
It was at that point that the governor's office reportedly "deleted information" recommended by state regulators.
A syringe used for intravenous drug use.

Clinton, Paul diverge wildly on addiction issues

09/03/15 09:30AM

It didn't get a whole lot of attention yesterday, but Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled a $10 billion plan to combat substance abuse, and by all appearances, it's a serious approach, prioritized after Clinton heard from voters who emphasized its importance in their own families' lives.
Clinton's plan calls for treating addiction as a public health issue, rather than a law enforcement one, and pledges more resources for treatment and recovery programs. That includes giving all first responders access to naloxone, a drug that can save the lives of people in the midst of an opioid overdose. [...]
 
Clinton also calls for better training for prescribeers, to limit prescriptions to addictive drugs like OxyContin. Clinton's plan would devote $7.5 billion in federal-state partnerships to build up local treatment programs, with a potential federal match of $4 for every $1 a state invests.
The release of the plan coincided with a new Clinton op-ed on the subject published in New Hampshire, and a post on Medium in which the campaign shared personal stories from Americans who've struggled with addiction and substance disorders.
 
A few hours later, another presidential candidate decided to address the same issue.
Rand Paul argued in New Hampshire Wednesday that the heroin epidemic in the United States could be solved in part by putting people back to work.
 
"People always come up to me and say, 'We got heroin problems and all these other problems.' You know what? If you work all day long, you don't have time to do heroin," the Kentucky senator said to applause while holding a meet-and-greet at the Airport Diner in Manchester.
You've got to be kidding me.
President Barack Obama walks toward the White House after landing on the South Lawn on Aug. 25 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Pool/Getty)

GOP candidates blame Obama for police shootings, cite no evidence

09/03/15 08:45AM

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch yesterday "strongly condemned shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Illinois and issued an unequivocal message of support for police." The comments came on the heels of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) arguing that "the entire Obama administration" has shown "hostility [towards] law enforcement."
 
Cruz, of course, backed up his argument by pointing to ... nothing. Soon after, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) appeared on Fox News and said the White House's support for law enforcement has been "ambiguous," which contributes to violence and lawlessness. To support the contention, the scandal-plagued Republican also pointed to ... nothing.
 
Taking an even less subtle approach, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) published a piece on a far-right blog yesterday, reflecting on "a serious problem."
In the last six years under President Obama, we've seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. Instead of hope and change, we've seen racial tensions worsen and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat.
Look, eventually we're going to reach a put-up-or-shut-up moment. We talked yesterday about how offensive it is when politicians exploit the deaths of police officers for partisan gain, but as the number of GOP candidates connecting the White House to the slayings grows, it becomes all the more important for Republican officials to do one specific thing:
 
Back up their ugly claims with some shred of proof.
Obama seeks to burnish environmental record

Obama seeks to burnish environmental record with Alaska trip

09/03/15 08:27AM

Rachel Maddow reports on President Obama restoring the name of the tallest mountain in North America to Denali over the objections of Ohio Republicans, and shares clips of President Obama speaking on climate change in Alaska, working to burnish his environmental record before his time in office runs out. watch

Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens as a couple speaks with her about getting a marriage license at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty)

Political showdown takes shape over Kentucky's Kim Davis

09/03/15 08:00AM

Today will likely be an interesting day for Kentucky's Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who's paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses, but who refuses to provide licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing "God's authority."
 
Yesterday, Davis and her attorneys once again asked a federal court to allow her to ignore the law, effectively seeking a waiver from multiple court orders. Not only is this likely to fail, but the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge David Bunning, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, will reportedly ask Davis today why he shouldn't hold her in contempt.
 
In the meantime, the dispute has gained increasing national notoriety, becoming the new litmus test for Republican presidential candidates. MSNBC's Alex Jaffe reported last night:
The Republican presidential field has started to take positions on Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who's scheduled to appear in court on Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses in the state against the order of a federal judge. [...]
 
A handful of candidates weighed in on Tuesday and Wednesday, but only after they were asked for comment. Candidates who responded so far have done so along predictable lines, with social conservatives expressing outspoken support for Davis, and more moderate-minded candidates dismissing her move.
The more some candidates weighed in, the more others felt compelled to do the same. And at this point, it's clear that a few GOP candidates recognize the importance of the rule of law, while others aren't so sure.

Drowned Syrian boy identified and other headlines

09/03/15 07:48AM

Family of children found on Turkish beach was trying to come to Canada. (Ottawa Citizen)

Kentucky clerk who said 'no' to gay couples won't be alone in court. (New York Times)

Worker who helped Clinton set up email server to take the Fifth at today's Benghazi committee hearing. (AP)

Somebody stole Heritage Foundation emails and donor info. (Politico)

Does Donald Trump cheat at golf? A Washington Post investigation. (Washington Post)

How cities are handling surge in oil trains. (AP)

Harvard allows students to pick new gender pronouns. (Boston Globe)

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Citations for the September 2, 2015 TRMS

09/03/15 01:06AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Steve Clemons, Editor at Large for the Atlantic and an MSNBC Contributor
  • David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary. And now president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee

Tonight's links:

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