Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Last week, Donald Trump's campaign scheduled an event for today in which the Republican candidate would receive an endorsement from 100 or so African-American pastors. Yesterday, Team Trump canceled the event after some of the pastors involved said they are not, in fact, supporting the GOP presidential hopeful.
* Ben Carson toured a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan over the weekend, and told reporters soon after that he didn't "detect any great desire" among the refugees "to come to the United States." Note, it's hard to say with certainty what Carson saw -- journalists were prohibited from joining the Republican on his tour.
* After picking up an endorsement from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) yesterday, Hillary Clinton unveiled a $275 billion infrastructure plan, including a $25 billion investment in support a national Strategic Infrastructure Bank. The campaign said the package would be paid for through business tax reform, though Clinton aides were vague about the specific details.
* Donald Trump last week drew fire for apparently mockingNew York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who was born with deformities in his hands and lower arms. Trump later claimed he doesn't remember meeting Kovaleski or knowing anything about the journalist's disability.
* On a related note, Trump reiterated yesterday that he will not back off his discredited claim about American Muslims cheering on 9/11 when the Twin Towers fell. He insisted on "Meet the Press" yesterday that his bogus claims are true, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
About a month ago, Ted Cruz was campaigning in Iowa, where a voter asked the Texas senator about the Supreme Court.
"One more liberal justice and our right to keep and bear arms is taken away from us by an activist court," Cruz said. "One more liberal justice and they begin sandblasting and bulldozing veterans memorials throughout this country. One more liberal justice and we lose our sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Court."
None of these dire warnings were rooted in reality in any way, but they were nevertheless a reminder of the significance of the high court as a 2016 campaign issue. MSNBC's Irin Carmon explained late last week that Republicans, arguably more than Democrats, are acting as if the Supreme Court itself is "essentially on the ballot."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has said, "The stakes are too high and the issue too important to simply cede the will of the people to five unaccountable justices." Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has long complained of politicians who would "allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it."
For Republicans running for president, the Supreme Court itself is essentially on the ballot. Democrats? Not so much. [...] Democrats have shown little of the intensity or emphasis shown by the Republicans. That isn't lost on the liberal activists who are focused on the judiciary and outraged by many of the Supreme Court's recent decisions.
To be sure, Election Day is over 11 months away, and we can't yet say with certainty which issues will ultimately define the cycle. Democrats are no doubt aware of the court's future -- at a Hillary Clinton event in Massachusetts over the weekend, a speaker reminded the audience, "We are one justice away..." -- and the party may yet turn the spotlight on the rare opportunity at the heart of next year's election.
But it's not unreasonable to think Democrats have good reasons to focus on the court with the same zeal as their Republican counterparts.
Marco Rubio was in Iowa last week, telling an audience the day before Thanksgiving that ISIS has created a dynamic in which we "find ourselves today in a clash of civilizations" between the "civilized world" and "radical animals."
The Guardian reported that an attendee at the Cedar Rapids forum was concerned about the senator's rhetoric, arguing that phrases like "war of civilizations" was a mischaracterization that might "inflame Islamophobia." The voter described ISIS as "a fanatical splinter group that is obviously quite dangerous, but it's not a war of civilizations, it's a war against a particular group."
Rubio responded by sticking to his sound-bite script.
"This is not a geopolitical conflict. This is not a conflict between ISIS because they want us out of the Middle East," Rubio said. "This is a civilizational conflict -- not with Islam -- with radical Islam, particularly their interpretation of radical Islam." [...]
"This is not an anti-Muslim.... Radical jihad is a view of civilization that we must reject and defeat for what it is. Either they win, or we do."
The audience, according to The Guardian's report, "erupted" in applause, which is probably why Rubio keeps using rhetoric like this.
The problem, however, is that the concerned voter was correct and the senator was not.
About a month ago, New York's Jon Chait questioned whether Ben Carson is running a Republican presidential campaign or a "clever marketing scam." I don't imagine the candidate or his supporters appreciated the argument, though questions about Carson's political operation are hardly unfounded. The L.A. Timespublished a doozy of a report over the weekend.
Before he entered the race for the White House, Ben Carson signed on to a campaign to raise money to fight Obamacare. When Juanita McMillon saw his name, she was eager to get out her checkbook.
"I think he is sincere, and I think he is honest, and I think he is exactly what we need," said McMillon, 80, from the small town of De Kalb in northeast Texas. She gave $350.
Her money went to the American Legacy PAC, an organization with ties to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. With Carson as the face of its Save Our Healthcare campaign, American Legacy raised close to $6 million in 2014 -- and spent nearly all of it paying the consultants and firms that raised the money. Just 2% was donated to Republican candidates and committees, financial reports show.
The whole point of a political action committee -- any political action committee, really -- is to create an entity that raises funds to be distributed to allied and like-minded candidates. But Carson's venture, like so many similar entities in conservative politics, raised several million dollars, nearly all of which went to the consultants who created the operation, rather than candidates for public office.
This is, alas, incredibly common on the right. Tea Party PACs, in particular, have proliferated in recent years, raising tens of millions of dollars, which regularly line the pockets of the people who created the committees. As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted in early October, "a good deal of conservative politics is an elaborate scam for cash."
But Carson and "American Legacy" aren't just some random scam PAC, exploiting Carson's credibility for big bucks. This is a very different kind of story.
Americans were confronted last week with two competing stories, which, when combined, painted a rather disjointed picture. The first story was the Republican campaign to block Syrian refugees' access to American soil, fearing a possible, albeit highly unrealistic, security threat posed by anyone from the Middle East.
The second story relates to a series of events, including white American men shooting at Black Lives Matter protesters in Minnesota, white American men stalking a Texas house of worship while carrying weapons, and a white American man shooting 12 people, three of them fatally, at a medical office in Colorado Springs.
The distance between the two serves as a timely reminder of a fact that too often goes overlooked: when confronted with the "terrorist" threat, many instinctively think of foreign enemies and Middle Eastern fanatics. And while it's unwise to turn a blind eye to threats posed by ISIS, al Qaeda, and its ilk, it's also important to re-examine those assumptions and recognize a domestic threat that has nothing to do with a stereotypical caricature.
ThisHuffington Post report ran just three days before Friday's murders.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) recently praised U.S. security officials for keeping the country safe in the years since the 9/11 attacks, but also highlighted the threats posed by white men who carry out mass shootings. [...]
"I think most of us recognize that we're concerned but we also know that we trust the FBI and our security forces to do this right," Brown told WAKR radio last week. "Since the beginning of the Bush administration when we were attacked, Sept. 11, we've not had any major terrorist attack in this country. We've had individual crazy people; normally, they look more like me than they look like Middle Easterners. They are generally white males, who have shot up people in movie theaters and schools. Those are terrorist attacks; they're just different kinds of terrorists."
This caused a bit of a stir -- it's not every day that a sitting U.S. senator talks about terrorists "generally" being white men -- but Brown's point seemed all the more important in light of Friday's violence in Colorado.
For most of 2015, major news organizations and prominent pundits have insisted that Chris Christie's "comeback" is going to begin at any moment. There's been scant evidence that the New Jersey governor is anything but a third-tier 2016 contender, but media chatter about his inevitable resurgence has been constant for months.
As of yesterday, those championing the "comeback" meme have some fresh grist for the mill.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won the coveted endorsement from the New Hampshire Union-Leader, the state's biggest newspaper and an important voice in the state's primary.
It's a boost in a critical state for Christie where he is spending a considerable amount of time and resources.
The editorial board for the conservative New Hampshire paper touted Christie's credibility on matters of national security -- an issue the governor generally seems to know very little about -- and made no mention of the New Jersey Republican's damaging scandals, his unpopularity among his own constituents, or his assorted governing failures.
These details notwithstanding, most of the GOP field sought support from the Union-Leader, an influential outlet among Granite State Republicans, and Team Christie is no doubt delighted to pick up the sought after endorsement.
There is, however, a nagging question that the governor might find more discouraging: how have previous Republicans endorsed by the Union-Leader fared over the years?
On Friday afternoon, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, killing three people, including a police officer and an Iraq war veteran, and shooting nine others, during an hours-long assault. The accused was taken into custody and is being held without bond.
There is, of course, no shortage of relevant angles surrounding the latest mass shooting, which came less than a month after an unrelated shooting spree in the same area. The role of the far-right campaign against the health care organization, the degree to which this constituted domestic terrorism, and how this fits into the broader "war on women" all matter a great deal.
But as an electoral matter, I was eager over the holiday weekend to see how presidential candidates would respond -- or in many instances, not respond -- to the deadly violence in Colorado. After all, it seems likely that if the shooter were a Muslim radical responsible for politically motivated violence on American soil, White House aspirants would likely have quite a bit to say.
And yet, as the Washington Postnoted over the weekend, some Republican candidates chose to remain silent following Friday's slayings.
The Republican presidential field, which for much of the year has been full-throated in its denunciations of Planned Parenthood, has been nearly silent about the shooting in Colorado at one of its facilities that left a police officer and two others dead.
In contrast, all three of the leading Democratic contenders quickly issued statements in support of Planned Parenthood.
Indeed, the partisan distinction was striking. Fairly quickly after Friday's crisis was resolved, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley each issued statements condemning the attack and standing in support of the gunman's targets. By Saturday morning, President Obama and the Democratic National Committee had issued statements of their own.
The sizable GOP field, meanwhile, chose a slower, quieter path:
First up from the God Machine this week is a look at some unsettling developments in Irving, Texas, where an anti-Muslim social-media post is raising serious concerns about the intentions of local right-wing activists.
Irving, a Dallas suburb, recently made international headlines when a local Muslim high-school student was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school. Now, however, an even more striking incident has put the community back in the spotlight. TPM noted this week:
The leader of a group of armed anti-Muslim protesters in Texas posted the addresses of dozens of local Muslims and "Muslim sympathizer(s)" to Facebook on Tuesday.
David Wright III was behind an armed protest Saturday outside of a mosque in Irving, Texas by a group calling itself the "Bureau on American Islamic Relations," according to The Dallas Morning News.
Wright prefaced the list of addresses, which appeared to be copied over from a city document, by writing that those named "stood up for Sharia tribunals."
To the extent that reality matters, none of the listed individuals "stood up for Sharia tribunals."
It wasn’t altogether clear what the unofficial "Bureau on American Islamic Relations" and its allies intended to do with the list, though a dozen or so members of the group held an armed protest against the “Islamization of America” outside the Irving Islamic Center last weekend.
The Dallas Morning Newsreported on Thanksgiving, however, that the list of “Muslim names and addresses has been removed from the armed group’s page, and BAIR spokesman David Wright’s personal Facebook page is either down or blocked.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings talked to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes this week and denounced the "Bureau on American Islamic Relations" effort. “We have got a great Muslim community, have met with many imams and really the whole faith-based community is lifting our Muslim brothers and sisters up in this time,” the mayor said. Rawlings added that the right-wing activists are “out there in the fringe” and just “a blip on the screen.”
A counter-rally in support of respect and diversity is scheduled for today.
Happy Thanksgiving from MaddowBlog. We're grateful for your support and hope you enjoy the holiday.
In terms of the schedule, we're off today and tomorrow, though I'll be around in the event there's important breaking news. For "This Week in God" readers, note that I fully intend to have a new installment on Saturday morning.
Rachel Maddow reports on the how four Republican candidates will be given free ad time on some NBC networks to make up for the time Donald Trump spent on the air recently as the host of Saturday Night Live. watch
Rachel Maddow reveals that the annual tradition of a U.S. president pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey is surprisingly recent and began with President Ronald Reagan trying to make a joke to avoid a tough question from the press about issuing pardons in the Iran-Contra scandal. watch
Jamie Kalven, the journalist who uncovered Laquan McDonald's autopsy report, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the official narrative of the police shooting was so different from the facts shown on video for so long. watch