Political figures who rallied to defend Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy must have known they were taking a risk. Indeed, much of the Republican establishment chose to do the exact opposite precisely because they were afraid to gamble on a man who doesn't recognize the legitimacy of the United States government.
But some prominent GOP officials rolled the dice anyway. Fox News and Glenn Beck celebrated the rancher as a hero, while U.S. senators like Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) cheered Bundy on, calling him a "patriot," even as he declared an ability to ignore laws and court orders he doesn't like.
It's become increasingly difficult to maintain this posture. For one thing, anyone relying on the threat of violence to act above the law hasn't earned the backing of anyone in the American mainstream. For another, some of the basic elements of Bundy's claims now appear to be false.
Making matters considerably worse, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney reports that Bundy spoke with supporters over the weekend about his views on a variety of societal issues.
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
Congratulations, Sean Hannity. You really know how to pick 'em.
After a couple of weeks in which initial unemployment claims hovered at seven-year lows, economists expected the new figures from the Labor Department to be more discouraging. They are, though there's a seasonal catch.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped by 24,000 to a three-week high of 329,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 315,000 in the seven days ended April 19 from a revised 305,000 in the prior week. Claims often rise around Easter because the holiday falls on different dates each year and makes it harder for the government to conduct seasonal adjustments. The average of new claims over the past month rose by 4,750 to 316,750, just one week after falling to a six-and-a-half-year low.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
Four years ago, then-Gov. Joe Manchin (D) was running for the Senate in his home state of West Virginia, where President Obama wasn't especially popular. Republicans thought they'd have a better shot against the popular governor if they tied him to the man in the Oval Office. That proved to be a tricky task.
The GOP could apparently only find one photo of Manchin and Obama together, so they quickly inserted it into an attack ad. But there was a problem: the image was from the late Sen. Robert Byrd's memorial service. The Byrd family condemned the cheap shot, insisting there must still be some lines of decency, even in contemporary politics, after someone dies.
Four years later, it's a lesson the Koch brothers' American for Prosperity temporarily forgot.
President Obama and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall stand together looking dismayed in Americans For Prosperity's latest ad attacking Udall over his vote for Obamacare.
There's a reason for that, though a viewer wouldn't guess it from the picture AFP, an outside group funded by the Kochs, uses in the ad. The image is from a July 2012 appearance Obama made with Udall, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and other state officials at a hospital treating victims of the July 20, 2012, Aurora movie theater shooting.
In the attack ad AFP subsequently pulled, viewers were shown Obama and Udall, side by side, looking heartbroken, as if the Affordable Care Act had left them depressed. The truth was more gut-wrenching: the president and senator were speaking from a hospital in the wake of a mass murder.
AFP simply edited out the parts of the image that might have provided context.
Victims' families were not pleased, calling the AFP's attack ad, among other things, an "utter disgrace."
In recent months, we've grown accustomed to AFP airing ads that struggle when subjected to even casual fact-checking, but yesterday, the conservative group broke new ground.
Rachel Maddow shows how Republicans worked to inflate Ronald Reagan's image to the point that they're stuck canonizing a politician they don't necessarily agree with or else spinning a story not supported by the facts of history. watch
Rachel Maddow explains how a peculiarity in the Alaska state legislative calendar could result in both marijuana legalization and raising the minimum wage being put on the ballot in November, two popular issues likely to boost voter turnout. watch
The nation recently recognized the 50th anniversary of President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, which in turn sparked a related conversation about presidents, breakthrough accomplishments, and whether they're a thing of the past.
Peter Baker asked, for example, whether it's still "even possible for a president to do big things anymore." The usual suspects said President Obama could have more of the landmark legislative victories LBJ achieved if only he schmoozed more, led harder, and bent Congress to his will.
LIke many of us, Norm Ornstein is tired of this, and returned to the subject this week because he felt "compelled to whack this mole once more." I'm glad he did.
I do understand the sentiment here and the frustration over the deep dysfunction that has taken over our politics. It is tempting to believe that a president could overcome the tribalism, polarization, and challenges of the permanent campaign, by doing what other presidents did to overcome their challenges. It is not as if passing legislation and making policy was easy in the old days.
But here is the reality, starting with the Johnson presidency.... [H]is drive for civil rights was aided in 1964 by having the momentum following John F. Kennedy's assassination, and the partnership of Republicans Everett Dirksen and Bill McCullough, detailed beautifully in new books by Clay Risen and Todd Purdum. And Johnson was aided substantially in 1965-66 by having swollen majorities of his own party in both chambers of Congress -- 68 of 100 senators, and 295 House members, more than 2-to-1 margins.
This is very much in line with what we talked about two weeks ago: those who want to know whether presidents can still do big things are making a mistake if they focus solely on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Some of the most important legislative accomplishments of this generation happened between 2009 and 2010, in part because of Obama's leadership, and in part because Congress was eager to govern.
The political process collapsed in 2011, not because the president schmoozed less or forgot how to get things done, but because power changed hands on Capitol Hill.
Ornstein pushed this observation further, in ways journalists -- at National Journal and elsewhere -- need to understand.
No state has worked harder than Kentucky to implement the Affordable Care Act effectively. The results speak for themselves.
The Beshear administration claimed Tuesday that implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky has been an "indisputable success" with more than 413,000 enrolling for coverage before the March deadline.
Gov. Steve Beshear announced the figures in a Capitol press conference, seeking to underscore his long-held contention that the federal law will provide untold health benefits for the commonwealth despite critics who argue otherwise.
Beshear said about 75 percent of applicants in the state's health benefit exchange, called kynect, lacked any insurance and were unable to access needed care or teetered on the edge of bankruptcy before signing up.
The Democratic governor added that ACA detracts are stuck on an "echo chamber," unable to recognize that "this is working -- that's the bottom line."
At the event, Beshear introduced a local woman who had an emergency appendectomy last month, and who would have faced "catastrophic" economic conditions had she not enrolled in Kentucky's insurance marketplace.
Soon after, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a statement complaining about the law anyway because, well, just because.
As for the broader political implications, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind.
Just a few minutes ago, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed sweeping new gun legislation into law, and while it's technically the "Safe Carry Protection Act," NBC News' Gabe Gutierrez noted that many have labeled it the "Guns Everywhere Bill."
One of the most permissive state gun laws in the nation, it will allow licensed owners to carry firearms into more public places than at any time in the past century, including bars and government buildings that don't have security checkpoints.
The law also authorizes school districts to appoint staffers to carry firearms. It allows churches to "opt-in" if they want to allow weapons. Bars could already "opt-in" to allow weapons, but under the new law they must opt out if they want to bar weapons. Permit-holders who accidentally bring a gun to an airport security checkpoint will now be allowed to pick up their weapon and leave with no criminal penalty. (At Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, a record 111 guns were found at TSA screening areas last year.)
Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group co-founded by former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, has called the legislation "the most extreme gun bill in America."
Despite the opposition of gun-safety reformers and Georgia law enforcement, the bill was passed with relative ease. The governor's Democratic challenger, state Sen. Jason Carter, voted for it, too, though he made it slightly less extreme, helping eliminate some provisions, including a measure allowing guns on college campuses.
Frank Rotondo, the executive director of Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, toldThe Guardian, "One of the biggest concerns is it expands stand-your-ground. The way it's written, a felon who is not permitted to have a weapon could use a weapon in defense of his or her home and not be charged for having the weapon."
Oddly enough, a similar bill recently passed the Arizona legislature, though it met a different fate.
A couple of weeks ago, David Corn had a fascinating report on a speech Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered in 2009 -- the year before his election -- in which he condemned Dick Cheney's foreign policy views in unusually strong terms. In fact, Paul seemed to come fairly close to accusing the former Vice President of a corruption on a massive scale, suggesting Cheney used 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq in order to boost Halliburton profits.
It led to some speculation about whether comments like these would ruin Paul's national ambitions, but they didn't necessarily seem like an automatic deal breaker. After all, it's hardly a secret that the senator rejects the neoconservative worldview. In a Republican primary, Cheney bashing won't help, but one can imagine an adept candidate overcoming this.
David Corn's new scoop, however, might be more of a problem.
...Paul hasn't always cast himself as much of a Reagan fan. In fact, when he stumped for his father in 2008 and again when ran for Senate in 2010, Paul often referred to the grand old man of the GOP with a touch of disappointment and criticism. And he routinely made an assertion that might seem like blasphemy to many Republicans: President Jimmy Carter had a better record on fiscal discipline than Reagan.
In a variety of campaign appearances that were captured on video, Paul repeatedly compared Reagan unfavorably to Carter on one of Paul's top policy priorities: government spending.
It's not hard to imagine Republican presidential candidates turning some of these clips into attack ads.