Steve Kornacki points out that both major party candidates have historically high unfavorable ratings, indicating a possible opening for a third party, which is why Libertarians want journalists and pollsters to keep them in mind. watch
Geoff Garin, Clinton 2008 campaign co-chief strategist, talks with Steve Kornacki about how the Clinton campaign came to grips with losing to Barack Obama and how they turned from bitter primary election rivals to avid general election supporters. watch
Seema Mehta, political writer for the Los Angeles Times, talks with Steve Kornacki about how the endorsement of Hillary Clinton by California Governor Jerry Brown fits into the context of the historically bitter rivalry between Brown and the Clintons. watch
* Iraq: "Local ground forces backed by U.S.-led military aircraft launched an operation Monday to storm the ISIS stronghold of Fallujah, officials told NBC News. The advance marks the latest in a series of attempts to dislodge ISIS militants who have controlled Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, for more than two years."
* The State Department today "warned Americans traveling to Europe about risk of terror attacks over the summer.... It pointed to two events in particular -- the Catholic Church's World Youth Day in late July in Poland and the European Soccer Championship, which France will host from June 10-July 10 -- as potential targets."
* Economy: "Consumer spending surged in April by the largest amount in more than six years, led by a big jump in purchases of autos and other durable goods."
* Verizon "reached a series of tentative agreements with unions representing nearly 40,000 striking workers over the holiday weekend, retreating on some of the major points of contention, including pension cuts and greater flexibility to outsource work."
* The wrong choice: "Rodrigo Duterte became the 16th president of the Philippines on Monday when a joint session of Congress declared him winner of a May 9 election, succeeding Benigno Aquino who steps down next month after six years in office."
* Great Barrier Reef: "The worst bleaching event ever seen on the Great Barrier Reef has killed more than a third of corals across wide swaths of the region, scientists announced on Sunday. Those numbers continue a streak of horrifically bad news for the largest living structure on the planet. Just a month ago, researchers said 93 percent of the reef had been affected by the mass bleaching event."
* UNC: "Faced with lawsuits for complying with North Carolina's anti-LGBT law, the University of North Carolina system indicated on Friday it won't enforce House Bill 2."
* The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday "that the state Legislature had failed to equitably fund public schools, once again giving the state until June 30 to fix its financing system or face a court-ordered shutdown of schools."
By some measures, the controversy surrounding "Trump University" is a helpful microcosm of a much broader problem. A group of people, impressed by Donald Trump's purported wealth, rallied behind a high-profile endeavor, only to discover that the rhetoric was hollow and Trump couldn't deliver on his grandiose promises.
Maybe, just maybe, there's a parallel between this and the Republican's presidential campaign.
The difference, of course, is that some of the students who attended the "courses" have a recourse voters lack: they're suing "Trump University." The GOP's presumptive presidential nominee has taken the unorthodox approach of blasting the federal judge in the case while it's still being litigated.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump railed against the judge in the legal battle over Trump University, telling a large crowd Friday in San Diego, "There should be no trial."
"We're in front of a very hostile judge. The judge was appointed by Barack Obama," Trump told a campaign rally on the same day as a hearing was held in San Diego over his online real estate school, which closed in 2010. "I mean frankly, he should recuse himself because he's given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative."
He added that he and his team believe U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel is "Mexican." For the record, Curiel is an American born in Indiana.
Regardless, Trump was apparently in high dudgeon because of the latest developments in the case. The Washington Postreported over the weekend that the federal judge "ordered the release of internal Trump University documents in an ongoing lawsuit against the company, including 'playbooks' that advised sales personnel how to market high-priced courses on getting rich through real estate."
Those materials may very well keep the controversy alive, help the litigants claiming the "university" used deceptive business practices, and raise even more doubts about the way in which Trump conducts his business affairs -- ostensibly the basis for his White House bid.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Bernie Sanders campaign wants to boot former Rep. Barney Frank and Gov. Dannel Malloy from a key Democratic convention committee because of their pro-Hillary Clinton advocacy. The DNC is "compelled to dismiss" Sanders' complaint.
* In New Hampshire's closely watched U.S. Senate race, a new Franklin Pierce University-Boston Heraldpoll shows Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) leading Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) by the narrowest of margins, 48% to 47%.
* The same poll found Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied in the Granite State with 44% each.
* As hard as this is to believe, Tim Canova, taking on DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schutltz in a Democratic primary in Florida, is challenging her from the left, but he's also decided to side with far-right Republicans against the international nuclear agreement with Iran. Sounding very much like a conservative, Canova has told local voters Wasserman Schutltz may have been "duped" by Obama administration officials.
* Bill Kristol claimed over the holiday weekend that there will be an "impressive" independent candidate, who'll have "a strong team and a real chance." Given Kristol's track record, we should probably assume the opposite is true.
* There were some concerns over the weekend that the Wyoming Democratic Convention could see Nevada-like unrest, but by all accounts, it turned out to be a rather placid gathering.
* At a campaign event in California, Donald Trump suggested Hillary Clinton isn't "presidential" because he doesn't like the sound of her voice.
California's Democratic presidential primary is a week from today, and recent polling suggests Hillary Clinton is the favorite, at least for now, over Bernie Sanders. That said, a lot can happen in a week, and the Clinton campaign is showing signs of anxiety, scrapping events elsewhere and scheduling events in the Golden State in order to boost her chances.
The point is less about the overall race for the party's nomination -- unless Sanders wins California by 50 points, a victory in this primary wouldn't change the fight for delegates -- and more about incentives. A win in the nation's largest state would encourage the Vermont senator to keep fighting harder, longer, and more aggressively, even after Democratic voters have had their say.
And with that in mind, the Clinton campaign was no doubt delighted this morning to learn California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has endorsed the Democratic frontrunner, calling her "the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump."
"I have closely watched the primaries and am deeply impressed with how well Bernie Sanders has done. He has driven home the message that the top one percent has unfairly captured way too much of America's wealth, leaving the majority of people far behind. In 1992, I attempted a similar campaign.
"For her part, Hillary Clinton has convincingly made the case that she knows how to get things done and has the tenacity and skill to advance the Democratic agenda. Voters have responded by giving her approximately 3 million more votes -- and hundreds more delegates -- than Sanders. If Clinton were to win only 10 percent of the remaining delegates -- wildly improbable -- she would still exceed the number needed for the nomination. In other words, Clinton's lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown -- by millions of votes -- that they want her as their nominee."
Brown added, "Next January, I want to be sure that it is Hillary Clinton who takes the oath of office, not Donald Trump."
As endorsements go, this one isn't exactly filled with effusive praise -- the California governor's statement focuses largely on pragmatism, arithmetic, and seething hatred for Donald Trump -- but what's striking about this morning's announcement is the fact that it happened at all.
Back in February, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did something no other senator was willing to do at the time: the Alabama Republican endorsed Donald Trump's presidential campaign. And now that the New York Republican is the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Sessions is helping lead the charge, urging others in the GOP to get in line.
The senator toldPolitico, in reference to House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) skepticism, "[O]n some of these issues, Trump is where the Republicans are and if you're going to be a Republican leader you should be supportive of that."
And what about those in the party who believe Trump will struggle to win in November? Sessions told the far-right Daily Caller that those doubters don't fully appreciate the breadth of Trump's appeal.
[Sessions] is predicting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will attract black and Hispanic voters in the general election.
"Donald Trump is going to do better with Hispanics and African Americans, I am convinced, because he's talking about things that will really make their wages go up," Sessions said during a recent interview in his Capitol Hill office with The Daily Caller.
The senator didn't specify what "better" might entail -- he presumably meant stronger support than Mitt Romney received in 2012 -- but it almost certainly doesn't matter. By basing so much of his campaign on racial animus, Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to alienate voters from minority communities.
Romney won 27% of the Latino vote four years ago and 6% of the African-American vote. There is very little evidence to suggest Trump will "do better" than this performance in the fall.
But what struck me as especially interesting about this wasn't just the message, but also the messenger.
It's a problem that Donald Trump has a severely limited understanding of public policy. It's a bigger problem that the presumptive Republican nominee believes his overly simplistic sound-bite solutions will work wonders. Take this USA Todayarticle, for example, on Trump's visit to California late last week.
California suffered one of its driest years in 2015. And last year the state hit its driest four-year period on record.
But Donald Trump isn't sold. The presumptive GOP nominee told supporters in Fresno, Calif., on Friday night that no such dry spell exists.
At the campaign event, the New York Republican vowed, "We're going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they're taking the water and shoving it out to sea."
Trump added that he'd redirect water to Central Valley farmers and ignore concerns about endangered fish. Towards the end of his speech in California, the Republican candidate assured locals, "We're gonna get it done. We're gonna get it done quick. Don't even think about it."
As it turns out, those last five words -- "don't even think about it" -- represented an important request, because when one does think about it, the presidential hopeful's rhetoric starts to sound like gibberish. Indeed, using exceedingly charitable language, BuzzFeed's report noted in response, "It was unclear how exactly Trump would deliver on his water promises."
How very polite. The trouble is, Trump is apparently under the impression that there is no drought -- a belief that's plainly wrong -- which is made worse by the fact that he also believes he can impose a simple solution that wouldn't actually resolve a complex problem.
Slate's Phil Plait gave Trump's remarks a closer look and asked, "Where to even start with something so bizarrely nonsensical?"
It wasn't easy, and it took a little longer than party officials might have liked, but the Libertarian Party held its national convention in Orlando over the weekend and it put together a national ticket designed to succeed -- unintentionally offering an object lesson to its Republican rivals in the process.
MSNBC's Jane C. Timm reported over the weekend on the results.
The Libertarian Party nominated former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld to run for president on Sunday, as the small party attempts to elevate itself into the mainstream during an election that's given it unprecedented opportunity.
The pair -- both two-term governors -- have more executive experience than any other candidate in the race and will offer an alternative to two historically unpopular candidates, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
I can appreciate why the Libertarian Party comes across as an eccentric group of political misfits. At one point during the party's convention, delegates were asked to elect a national party chair, and one of the stated contenders stripped off his clothes and danced in a thong for the cameras. At another point, Johnson, before eventually prevailing, was widely booed for saying he's comfortable with state-issued drivers' licenses.
I wasn't there, but it's not hard to imagine some of the reporters on hand thinking to themselves, "What a bunch of oddballs."
But that's all the more reason to take the results seriously. The Libertarian Party ended up with a ticket featuring a pair of two-term governors. The party considered other assorted figures, none of whom had the kind of background Johnson and Weld brought to the table, but in the end, Libertarians showed a pragmatic streak, choosing the most experienced and credible candidates available. That may have meant compromising a bit, but the Libertarian Party made a conscious decision to nominate a ticket that can appeal to as broad a national electorate as possible.
And then there's the Republican Party, which is nominating a reality-show personality who's never served a day in elected office and doesn't appear to know anything at all about government, politics, or public policy.
Remind me: who are the real misfits in this picture?
On Friday afternoon, Donald Trump's campaign officially announced the presumptive Republican nominee will not debate Bernie Sanders, despite what Trump had said earlier, because it would be "inappropriate" for the GOP candidate to "debate the second place finisher."
And if there's one thing Donald Trump is concerned about, it's avoiding anything that might be perceived as "inappropriate."
But in issuing the candidate's position on the matter, Trump also said what many of the Vermont senator's most ardent supporters fervently believe: the Democratic nominating process is "totally rigged" against Sanders.
Does the senator himself believe this? CBS's John Dickerson asked Sanders for his perspective on "Face the Nation" aired on Sunday, and the candidate's answer seemed quite fair.
"What has upset me, and what I think is -- I wouldn't use the word rigged, because we knew what the words were -- but what is really dumb is that you have closed primaries, like in New York state, where three million people who are Democrats or Republicans could not participate, where you have situation where over 400 superdelegates came on board Clinton's campaign before anybody else was in the race, eight months before the first vote was cast.
"That's not rigged. I think it's just a dumb process which has certainly disadvantaged our campaign."
I suspect the response might have disappointed some Sanders supporters who are heavily invested in the idea that the system has been manipulated, deliberately, by party officials for the express purpose of making it impossible for the senator to prevail, but Sanders' response on Sunday made a fair amount of sense.
It may seem pointless, but it's worth appreciating the difference between a process that's "rigged" and one in which an underdog faces institutional challenges that are difficult to overcome.
For those unfamiliar with the "Rolling Thunder" motorcycle rally, the point of the annual gathering is to raise awareness of prisoners of war and American servicemen and women missing in action. If you tried to find the most out-of-place individual imaginable for this rally, you could do worse than pointing to a New York billionaire who avoided military service and who's publicly mocked POWs, saying last year, "I like people that weren't captured, OK?"
And yet, take a wild guess which high-profile speaker graced Rolling Thunder with his presence this holiday weekend?
Republican Donald Trump told a motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation's military veterans, without backing up his allegation.
"Thousands of people are dying waiting in line to see a doctor. That is not going to happen anymore," Trump told veterans gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the annual Rolling Thunder event, which brings thousands of motorcyclists to Washington each Memorial Day weekend.
The assertion that veterans often receive worse care than undocumented immigrants is demonstrably ridiculous, though that's never stopped Trump before.
The presumptive Republican nominee was also apparently disappointed with the crowd size -- organizers estimated about 5,000 people were in attendance -- arguing that there were 600,000 people who wanted to hear his speech but weren't allowed in.
Trump complained, "I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington monument, right? Unfortunately, they don't allow 'em to come in," without explaining who "they" are or where these 600,000 people were hiding.
Of course, the more Trump avoids King references when talking about his speeches, the better.
Regardless, think about the chutzpah it took for the Republican candidate to claim credibility on the subject of veterans in the first place.
Because it's Memorial Day, MaddowBlog will likely be pretty quiet today, but we'll be back to normal tomorrow. I'll be around if something important breaks, but expect light-to-non-existent posting for the next 24 hours or so.
In the meantime, President Obama's weekly address released Saturday morning was devoted to remembering fallen heroes, and given the holiday, it's a message worth keeping in mind today:
Tonight Mars makes its closest approach to Earth, or rather Earth makes its closest approach to Mars.
Technically Earth is on the inside lane of the Solar System racetrack so we orbit the Sun faster than Mars does - over 50% faster. As a result, Earth and Mars come closest in their respective orbits roughly once every two years (26 months to be exact). However, give their slightly different elliptical orbits and inclinations, not every close approach is equal. Distances between the two planets at this time can vary by over 30 million miles. You may recall the Mars hype from 2003 when the planet was the closest its been in the last 60,000 years. This won't be that close, but it is most definitely still worth checking out.
Tonight Earth will come within 46.8 million miles of the red planet which means if the skies are clear where you are, you are in for a treat! Mars will be at it's highest point in the sky at roughly 35 degrees around midnight in the southern sky. As a bonus, you'll get a glimpse of Saturn just off to the left.
What I love most about seeing Mars is that you can really see how red it is (even from my apartment in New York City). If you have a pair of binoculars or access to telescope, you'll even be able to distinguish some of the more prominent surface features, at the very least its polar caps. Should the skies not cooperate where you are, Mars will be hanging around for the rest of the summer. And it'll only be 26 more months till it happens again.