Latest StoriesRSS

select from:

E.g., 7/18/2019
E.g., 7/18/2019
A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest sits on a concrete pedestal at a park named after the confederate cavalryman in Memphis Tenn. (Photo by Adrian Sainz/AP).

Why Tennessee's gov signed a proclamation honoring early KKK leader

07/15/19 10:02AM

Every January in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, state law recognizes two holidays on the same day: one recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King, the other recognizing Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

As the Tennessean reported the other day, their neighbors in the Volunteer State have a related issue of concern.

Gov. Bill Lee has proclaimed Saturday as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, a day of observation to honor the former Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader whose bust is on display in the state Capitol.

Per state law, the Tennessee governor is tasked with issuing proclamations for six separate days of special observation, three of which, including the July 13 Forrest Day, pertain to the Confederacy.

Lee -- and governors who have come before him -- are also required by state law to proclaim Jan. 19 as Robert E. Lee Day, honoring the commander of the Confederate Army, as well as June 3 Confederate Decoration Day, otherwise known as Confederate Memorial Day and the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The state's first-year Republican governor told reporters on Thursday, "I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven't looked at changing that law."

At first blush, the first part of that response may seem like a decent response -- it's tough to blame a governor for following state law -- but it's that second part that stands out.

Tennessee could, for example, change state law and end Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), hardly a champion of progressive values, has encouraged state officials to do exactly that. Indeed, Tennessee Democrats have already tried.

read more

People looking for work stand in line to apply for a job during a job fair at the Miami Dolphins Sun Life stadium in Miami, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Trading one controversial Labor secretary for another

07/15/19 09:20AM

Donald Trump's first choice for Labor secretary was an embarrassing fiasco: Andrew Puzder was forced to withdraw less than a month into the Republican's presidency for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were allegations of domestic violence raised by his ex-wife.

Trump's second choice for Labor secretary fared better -- Alex Acosta managed to get confirmed by the Senate -- though he resigned under a cloud of scandal last week, under pressure over a sweetheart deal he approved for a sexual predator accused of trafficking children.

All of which brings us to Patrick Pizzella, the president's new, acting Labor secretary. As CNBC reported, "Democratic senators and civil rights groups have expressed concern about Pizzella's prior work with disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the late 1990s and early 2000s to hamper worker protections in the Northern Mariana Islands."

Mother Jones added in an updated report from two years ago:

There's lobbying, and then there's working with Jack Abramoff to promote the sweatshop economy on remote Pacific islands. If you want to know about that kind of lobbying, you can ask Patrick Pizzella, President Donald Trump's pick to be deputy labor secretary. Or maybe you can't.

At a July [2017] Senate confirmation hearing, Pizzella said he didn't remember much about the work he did in the late 1990s to help the Northern Mariana Islands.... What Pizzella didn't say was that he helped lead a public relations campaign to rebrand the islands as a paragon of free-market principles. Between 1996 and 2000, emails and billing records reviewed by Mother Jones show that Pizzella and colleagues organized all-expenses-paid trips to the islands for more than 100 members of Congress, their staffers, and conservative thought leaders. When they got back, Pizzella helped them convince colleagues that the Northern Mariana Islands were, as his old boss Abramoff liked to put it, a "laboratory of liberty."

Politico added on Friday that Pizzella is "a polarizing figure beloved by conservatives for his pro-business views and disliked by unions and Democrats for a history of opposing worker protections."

read more


The wrong messenger: Trump targets those who 'speak badly' of the US

07/15/19 08:40AM

Several hours after his racist criticisms of four Democratic congresswomen sparked outrage, Donald Trump returned to the subject last night, insisting that the representatives are worthy of his contempt.

"So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country.... Their disgusting language and the many terrible things they say about the United States must not be allowed to go unchallenged."

Note the use of the phrase "our country," as opposed to "their country" -- as if Trump can claim allegiance to the United States in ways his domestic critics cannot. It's an extension of the Republican's eagerness to define his opponents as The Other.

But that's hardly the only problem.

Stripped of context or relevant details, Trump's pushback might seem vaguely compelling to those who haven't paid much attention: it's hardly ridiculous to think an American president would defend his or her country against those who say "terrible things" about it.

Two fairly obvious problems quickly emerge, however. The first is the dubious premise: Trump is going after Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for allegedly speaking "badly" of the United States, but there's no reason to accept the premise at face value.

These Democratic lawmakers have had plenty of criticisms for the Trump administration and its agenda, but that's not the same thing as criticizing the country itself.

The second is the disconnect between the message and the messenger. Indeed, if Trump wants to talk about American politicians who "speak badly" of the U.S., perhaps we should start the conversation with the president's criticisms of his own country.

Because if anyone lacks the patriotic high ground in this debate, it's Donald J. Trump.

read more

Democratic representative from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during an event with Democratic members of Congress and national organization members to reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 30, 2019.

Why it matters that Trump urged reps to 'go back' where they came from

07/15/19 08:00AM

About a month ago, House Democratic leaders brought a border bill to the floor for a vote, with the hopes that their members would rally behind it. For the most part, Dems backed the proposal and it passed with relative ease. There were, however, a handful of exceptions.

Four first-year progressives -- Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) -- balked at their party's bill, signaling a fissure between the left and the Democratic leadership.

Yesterday morning, "Fox & Friends" aired a segment on the four women lawmakers. Just minutes later, Donald Trump thought it'd be a good idea to share some thoughts on the subject.

"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.

"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough.

"I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"

For many years, "go back to where you came from" was the kind of ugly rhetoric one might expect to hear from the angry drunk at the end of the bar. Now the overt racism has been embraced by the sitting president of the United States.

Indeed, for Trump, it's performative racism. This president's cringe-worthy record on race is not new, but occasionally, the Republican chooses to flaunt it. Subtext becomes text. Dog whistles become bullhorns. His tolerance for subtleties sometimes disappears and his bigotry becomes plain and unapologetic.

From Trump's perspective, hateful and divisive rhetoric helped elevate him to the nation's office, so he sees value in sticking to the same script, confident in his ability to stoke racial divisions in order to hold onto power.

But as demoralizing as it was to see such a display from a sitting American president, it's important to emphasize that the moral rot of Trump's message runs deep.

read more

Friday's Mini-Report, 7.12.19

07/12/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* NDAA: "The House on Friday voted for a measure that would block President Donald Trump from initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval. Lawmakers adopted the amendment from Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in a 251-170 vote with more than two dozen Republicans in support."

* The final vote on this was 402 to 12: "The House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a bill ensuring that a victims compensation fund for the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money."

* This story probably won't get a lot of attention today, but it's one of the most important stories in the world: "Turkey took its first shipment of an advanced Russian missile defense system Friday, ignoring repeated warnings from Washington and fueling concerns about where the country's loyalties lie between the West and Moscow."

* Mueller: "Testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller may be delayed one week as a longer Capitol Hill appearance is negotiated, sources said Friday."

* What a weird series of events: "Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has decided to just do it: Change his mind and welcome Nike with open arms."

* A story to keep an eye on: "An ethics complaint has been filed against Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, over what may be nearly 20 impermissible reimbursements made over the years from his campaign account to some of his House staffers for expenditures they made. At issue isn't what the few thousand dollars in reimbursements bought: food, office supplies and other legitimate campaign-related expenditures."

* My favorite headline of the week: "A Trump tweet complimenting his own tweets is on display at the White House social media summit."

read more

Image: US President Donald J. Trump departs the White House

Trump tends to assume his critics are on someone's payroll

07/12/19 04:36PM

Asked about former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) this morning, Donald Trump launched into a rather long tirade, which culminated in a curious claim:

"[F]or him to be going out and opening his mouth is pretty incredible. But maybe he gets paid for that. Who knows? Maybe he gets paid for that."

Even for this president, this was strange. Ryan spoke to Tim Alberta for the reporter's new book, "American Carnage." The idea that the former House Speaker was perhaps bribed by a journalist to say unflattering things about Trump is absurd.

But the claim is nevertheless familiar because the president makes it fairly regularly. Almost immediately after taking office, for example, Trump was confronted with progressive protests, causing the Republican to lash out at those he condemned as "paid protesters."

Because in his mind, if people didn't like him, it couldn't have been the result of genuine disgust.

In October 2018, as Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination sparked protests, Trump again argued that progressive activists were part of a corrupt ruse. "[L]ook at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others," the president wrote on Twitter. "These are not signs made in the basement from love!"

In March 2019, after Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, testified to Congress about his former boss, the president suggested Cohen was "being paid" by Hillary Clinton.

read more

Image: US President Donald J. Trump departs the White House

Why Team Pence balked at a White House choice for the judiciary

07/12/19 12:40PM

As a rule, the Republicans' judicial pipeline works with remarkable efficiency. Partisan operatives tell Donald Trump whom to nominate; the White House sends the nominees to Capitol Hill, and the Republican-led Senate serves as a rubber stamp. The result, as regular readers know, is a largely successful initiative to move the entire federal judiciary to the right.

But once in a great while, a wrench ends up in the machine.

In a small handful of instances, for example, some GOP senators have balked at Trump nominees -- in one recent case, because Republicans were concerned the jurist wasn't far enough to the right.

Politico reports today, however, on an entirely different dynamic, which would've been tough to predict: Vice President Mike Pence and his team derailed one of the White House's own selections.

The backstory seemed pretty straightforward: the White House carefully nudged aside Judge Michael Kanne, an older conservative on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, telling him that one of his former clerks, Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher, would replace him. The judge agreed, took senior status, and created a vacancy for Donald Trump to fill.

Everything went according to plan, right up until Pence's office balked and scuttled Fisher's nomination.

As solicitor general of Indiana, Fisher had defended Gov. Mike Pence's policies in court, and aides to the now-vice president feared his nomination would dredge up events and information politically damaging to Pence.

In a series of tense conversations with the White House counsel's office, Pence's lawyers, Matt Morgan and Mark Paoletta, and his then chief of staff, Nick Ayers, objected to Fisher's nomination, which died before it ever became a reality. Pence himself was kept apprised of the conversations.

As best as I can tell, this was the first time the vice president's office thwarted a Trump judicial nominee.

read more

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.12.19

07/12/19 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* As Rachel noted at the top of last night's show, the first national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of the 2020 cycle is out, and former Vice President Joe Biden (D) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) lead the field with 26% to 19%, respectively. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are tied for third with 13% each, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the top tier with 7% support.

* Harris yesterday unveiled a plan to end a national rape-kit backlog with new financial assistance to states, which would be required to improve their testing procedures.

* Warren yesterday unveiled her immigration-reform plan, which includes, among other things, the creation of an "Office of New Americans" that would help facilitate integration, including English lessons.

* Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today unveiled her plan for senior citizens. I believe she's the first of the 2020 Democrats to do so.

* In South Carolina, home to an early primary contest, Fox News' new poll found Biden leading Sanders, 35% to 14%. Harris is a close third with 12%, and Warren was the only other candidate to reach 5%.

* While many Republicans would be delighted if Jeff Sessions (R) ran in 2020 to reclaim his old Senate seat, Donald Trump, harboring ill will toward his former attorney general, has signaled his opposition to the idea.

read more