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Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, announces he will seek the Republican presidential nomination at Hempstead Hall in Hope, Arkansas, U.S., May 5, 2015. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty)

Huckabee reaches new low with ugly Holocaust rhetoric

07/27/15 08:40AM

As the race for the Republican nomination has become more of a circus, many in the party and the media have blamed Donald Trump's over-the-top theatrics and flare for the farcical. Why can't the former reality-show host be more mature and responsible?
Why can't he follow the example set by the other candidates -- like Mike Huckabee?
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called the Iran deal "idiotic," and likened it to events of the Holocaust, saying that President Obama will ultimately "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
As Anna Brand's msnbc report noted, Huckabee used the inflammatory language during an interview with a right-wing website, Breitbart News.
Note, Huckabee, a former governor and former Fox News host, used to support diplomacy with Iran until talks fell out of favor in far-right circles,
The Arkansas Republican was apparently so pleased with his choice of words that he began pushing the same message through social media, saying on Twitter yesterday, in all capital letters, that the international nuclear agreement with Iran "is marching the Israelis to the door of the oven."
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called on Huckabee to apologize. "This rhetoric, while commonplace in today's Republican presidential primary, has no place in American politics. Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable," she said in a statement. "Mike Huckabee must apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement."
That apology apparently won't happen. Huckabee, no doubt worried about securing his place in the upcoming debates, appears comfortable exploiting Holocaust rhetoric to further his ambitions -- a development that says far more about Huckabee than the merits of international nuclear diplomacy.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally and picnic on July 25, 2015, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

New polling: Trump's inevitable collapse hasn't happened

07/27/15 08:00AM

After Donald Trump went after Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) military service at an Iowa forum last weekend, much of the punditocracy came to a conclusion: this guy's toast. There are some basic lines of political decency that cannot be crossed, and Trump crossed one of them with brazen enthusiasm.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Republican candidate's inevitable collapse: the predictions proved to be wrong. NBC News' Mark Murray reported over the weekend on Trump's improved position in the first two nominating states.
Trump leads the Republican presidential field in New Hampshire, getting support from 21% of potential GOP primary voters. He's followed by Jeb Bush at 14%, Scott Walker at 12% and John Kasich at 7%. Chris Christie and Ben Carson are tied at 6% in the Granite State, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are at 5% each.
In Iowa, Walker and Trump are in the Top 2 -- with Walker at 19% among potential Republican caucus-goers and Trump at 17%. They're followed by Bush at 12%, Carson at 8%, Mike Huckabee at 7% and Rand Paul at 5%.
Because of the significance -- or at least, the perceived significance -- of the Trump/McCain controversy, note that these statewide polls were conducted from July 14 to 21, with the Iowa forum comments coming on July 18. Murray added that Trump's standing in Iowa was actually slightly better after his criticisms of the Arizona senator, though his support faltered a bit in New Hampshire.
A new poll from CNN, meanwhile, conducted since the McCain comments, also shows Trump leading the Republican field nationally with 18% support, followed by Bush's 15%. More than a fifth of GOP voters, at least for now, actually believe Trump will eventually win the GOP nomination. Only Jeb Bush performed better on this question.

Debate scramble and other headlines

07/27/15 07:51AM

Republicans scramble to make the debate stage. (The Hill)

New polls show Donald Trump running strong in Iowa, New Hampshire. (NBC News)

Billionaire brothers give Ted Cruz Super PAC at $15 million contribution. (CNN)

Hillary Clinton stakes out climate change agenda. (Bloomberg Politics)

Republicans alter script on abortion, seeking to shift debate. (New York Times)

Boy Scouts expected to end ban on gay scout leaders. (USA Today)

Turkey and U.S. agree on a plan to clear ISIS from strip of Syria's north. (New York Times)

Turkish troops target Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. (AP)

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NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away (Photo by NASA/AP).

Week in Geek: Blue marble edition

07/26/15 11:44AM

For the first time since 1972, humans have captured the amazing view of our planet as seen from space in a single photograph.

NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite released its first public image of our home this past week. The satellite was able to see the entire Earth at once because it orbits us at a distance of over a million miles, nearly four times as far away as the Moon. This orbital location has a special name, it's called the "L1 Lagrange Point".

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Pope Francis arrives to his Wednesday's General Audience in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Dec. 3, 2014. (L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO/EPA)

This Week in God, 7.25.15

07/25/15 08:53AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an interesting shift in Americans attitudes towards Pope Francis in advance of his U.S. visit in September. MSNBC's Eric Levitz reported this week on the latest survey results from Gallup.
Americans are losing faith in Pope Francis, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.
The Pope's favorability rating in the U.S. has fallen from 76% in early 2014 to 59% today, roughly where it stood at the start of his papacy.
Gallup's report noted that the most striking change dragging down the pope's U.S. support is the changing attitudes of American conservatives. Last year, 72% of conservatives said they had a favorable opinion of Francis, while this year, the number stands at just 45%
To put that in perspective, Gallup also noted this month that among Republicans, 49% have a favorable opinion of Donald Trump -- suggesting that on the right, Trump's message is resonating slightly more effectively than the Vatican's.
The report added, "This decline may be attributable to the pope's denouncing of 'the idolatry of money' and linking climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality -- all issues that are at odds with many conservatives' beliefs."
Though Francis' standing dropped with more than one U.S. group, the decline in support among conservatives was the most significant, and it comes on the heels of high-profile criticism of the pope from prominent Republican figures, including Rush Limbaugh and several leading GOP presidential candidates, each of whom have argued the pope is addressing debates they want him to avoid entirely.
Or put another way, after Republican leaders urged Francis to stay on the sidelines of major political/moral disputes, Republican voters soured on the pope.
Also from the God Machine this week:
Resistance grows to Fox News debate rules

Resistance grows to Fox News debate rules

07/24/15 11:04PM

Rachel Maddow reports on increasing pressure on Fox News to make its Republican primary debate rules more inclusive as Chris Christie buys advertising on Fox News to boost his poll numbers with Republicans nationally to qualify for the Fox News debate. watch

Beltway baffled as Trump's numbers grow

Beltway baffled as Trump's numbers grow

07/24/15 10:42PM

Dan Rather, host of The Big Interview on AXS Tv, talks with Rachel Maddow about how Donald Trump can be doing so well in the polls against all of the Washington, D.C. conventional wisdom about his seriousness and gaffes. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 7.24.15

07/24/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* The latest details from Lafayette: "The lone gunman who opened fire at a packed Louisiana movie theater had a history of 'extreme erratic behavior' and was so unstable that his wife removed all of the guns from the home, court documents show."
* As of yesterday, there have been 204 days so far this year. There have also been 203 mass shooting events so far this year.
* Sandra Bland: "Authorities released in full the long-awaited autopsy results for Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old whose death inside a jail here was met with disbelief by her family and members of her fellow activist community. But the report did not include toxicology results, leaving questions unanswered about preliminary reports suggesting Bland consumed a large amount of marijuana shortly before her death."
* A gut-wrenching story out of Oklahoma: "Two teenage brothers were being held on Thursday in the stabbing deaths of their parents and three siblings -- ages 12, 7 and 5 -- in their home in a suburb of Tulsa, Okla., the police said. A fourth sibling, a 13-year-old girl, was taken to a hospital in critical condition, the police said, and a fifth sibling, a 2-year-old girl, was unharmed."
* Perry catches a break: "An appeals court on Friday rejected one of the criminal counts against former Gov. Rick Perry but said he must face the other one in the abuse-of-power case against him."
* Dems have been calling this the Trump Bill: "The House voted Thursday to punish local jurisdictions -- known as 'sanctuary cities' -- that defy federal immigration authorities in order to protect immigrants living illegally in the United States." It passed 241 to 179.
* An incredible streak: "The price of health care has grown more slowly than core consumer prices -- what Americans spend on everything except food and energy -- over the past five years. It's the first time that's happened since record-keeping started in 1959."
New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie speaks with supporters after a town hall event in Sandown

Christie forgets: some Reagan references don't work

07/24/15 04:58PM

Chris Christie's presidential campaign has a new television ad, which may not work quite as well as the Republican governor's team intended. Here's the transcript:
"President Obama gave away the store to the Iranians, to a group of people who since 1979 have been chanting 'death to America.' This was negotiated so badly that you wouldn't let this president buy a car for you at a car dealership.
"Now, he's lying to the American people about how the deal's going to work. I would've walked away from the table. That's what Ronald Reagan did when he walked away from Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.
"And so as president, the top priority is to protect the United States of America, and I'm the only one in this race who's had at least some small part of that responsibility. I'm Chris Christie and I approve this message."
The whole idea behind the ad is odd, in a candidate-focuses-on-his-weakness sort of way. Christie has no meaningful background in foreign policy or national security, and he's struggled at times to understand the basics, so for the governor to pretend this is his area of expertise is jarring.
For that matter, if the scandal-plagued Republican has any evidence of the president "lying to the American people about how the deal's going to work," Christie hasn't shared his proof with anyone.
But that's not the funny part.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during an event on May 11, 2015.

Obama has a response for the 'not tough enough' crowd

07/24/15 04:31PM

The latest report from the Pew Research Center offered generally good news for President Obama -- Democrats' favorability is improving, while Republicans' favorability is sinking -- but there was one trouble area for the White House that stood out.
Just over half of Americans (53%) continue to say that Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy and national security is "not tough enough"; 37% say he handles these matters about right, while just 4% say he is too tough. These attitudes are virtually unchanged since November 2013.
Republicans are far more critical of Obama's approach to foreign policy than Democrats or independents.
Indeed, the partisan split matters. A 53% majority believes the president's approach to national security isn't "tough enough," but that's exaggerated a bit because a whopping 80% of Republicans have convinced themselves this is true. The numbers of Democrats and Independents who agree is significantly smaller.
Still, it's a deeply odd thing for a majority of Americans to believe.  Consider something Obama said this week during his address to the VFW National Convention:
"I've shown I will not hesitate to use force to protect our nation, including from the threat of terrorism. Thanks to the skill of our military and counterintelligence professionals, we've struck major blows against those who threaten us. Osama bin Laden is gone. Anwar Awlaki, a leader of the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen -- gone.  Many of al Qaeda's deputies and their replacements -- gone. Ahmed Abdi Godane -- the leader of the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia -- gone. Abu Anas al-Libi, accused of bombing our embassies in Africa -- captured. Ahmed Abu Khattalah, accused in the attack in Benghazi -- captured. The list goes on. If you target Americans, you will have no safe haven.  We will defend our nation."
As of yesterday, Abu Khalil al-Sudani, the al Qaeda operative "in charge of suicide bombings and operations involving explosives" was killed by U.S. forces, which means he can be added to Obama's "gone" list.
I'm reminded of Jeffrey Goldberg's point from last year: "Obama has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency."
So, what's with the "not tough enough" concerns?
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 14, 2015. (Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The radicalism of Rubio's foreign policy

07/24/15 03:19PM

Earlier this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said of the international nuclear agreement with Iran, "This is not America's deal with Iran. It is Barack Obama's deal with Iran." It wasn't an offhand, impromptu comment made during an interview; the Republican senator actually included the line in a written statement.
Yesterday, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Iran deal, Rubio made a nearly identical argument to Secretary of State John Kerry:
"Secretary Kerry, I do not fault you for trying to engage in diplomacy, and striking a deal for Iran, I don't. I do fault the president for striking a terrible deal with Iran. [...]
"[E]ven if this deal narrowly avoids congressional defeat because we can't get to that veto-proof majority, the Iranian regime and the world should know that this deal is your deal with Iran, meaning your's and this administration's, and the next president is under no legal or moral obligation to live up to it."
Obviously, when the Florida Republican refers to "the next president," Rubio believes he's referring to himself.
The surface-level issue is the concern that the GOP senator is using a serious foreign-policy debate for campaign grandstanding -- Rubio wants far-right activists to see him, not his rivals, as the party's fiercest critic of nuclear diplomacy. All of the top Republicans are talking about their plans to abandon the U.S. commitment in this area, and Rubio sees value in being a top member of the club.
But just below the surface, Rubio's posturing even far more serious.
A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire in this October 27, 2012. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Republicans schedule new 'Obamacare' repeal vote

07/24/15 12:53PM

There's some disagreement about how many times House Republicans have voted to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act. I've seen some estimates of 56 separate votes, though some put the total a little higher.
But let's not forget their friends on the other side of the Capitol. As National Journal reports, Senate Republicans are at least going through the motions to keep their repeal crusade alive, too.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed repealing Obamacare as part of the long-term highway bill currently being considered in the upper chamber.
McConnell's office said Friday that the Senate would vote Sunday on an amendment to the highway legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act. The initial vote, which would cap debate on the repeal amendment, would need 60 votes.
Obviously, this is a ridiculous endeavor. The very idea of repealing an effective health care law is increasingly bizarre, and as Senate GOP leaders realize, there's zero chance of the repeal measure passing. The fact that Mitch McConnell sees this as a necessary part of the debate over highway spending is itself quite sad.
So why in the world is the Republican leader doing this, announcing an ACA repeal vote out of the blue? Apparently because McConnell is looking for an adequate pacifier for his far-right flank and this is the best he could come up with.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.24.15

07/24/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* As the Republican campaign against the women's health group grows louder, Hillary Clinton told a South Carolina audience yesterday that she believes it's "unfortunate that Planned Parenthood has been the object of such a concerted attack for so many years." [Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood.]
* Jeb Bush yesterday called for a ban on all energy subsidies, including the elimination of tax credits for the renewable-energy industry. That probably won't be a popular position in Iowa.
* Speaking of Bush, the former governor complained yesterday about Democrat Martin O'Malley's response to the Black Lives Matter controversy last weekend. "I know in the political context it's a slogan, I guess," Bush said. "Should he have apologized? No. If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn't have apologized to a group that seemed to disagree with it. Gosh."
* In Florida, a new Mason Dixon poll shows Bush with a big lead in his home state, leading the Republican field with 28%. Fellow Floridian Marco Rubio is far behind with 16%, followed by Scott Walker at 13%.
* The Republican National Committee is asking all of the party's presidential candidates to sign a "data agreement" with the party, turning over voter-contact information after the election, helping the RNC build better lists. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is the only Republican who has refused the party's request.
* Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), facing a tough re-election bid, apologized yesterday for referring to "those idiot inner city kids." He said the comment was intended as sarcasm.