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Former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani speaks at the Cisco Connect 2013 conference in Warsaw, Poland, November 26, 2013.

Giuliani falls in ditch, keeps digging

02/20/15 08:00AM

Rudy Giuliani is apparently under an odd impression: the problems he creates by saying dumb things will go away if he just keeps talking. Someone probably ought to tell him he has this backwards.
The New York Republican declared Tuesday night that President Obama doesn't love America or Americans. By Wednesday morning, Giuliani insisted this was not necessarily an attack on the president's patriotism. By mid-day, the clownish former mayor seemed eager to embarrass himself further, insisting, "President Obama didn't live through September 11, I did"
And by last night, Giuliani's descent into farce was complete.
Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York on Thursday defended his assertion that President Obama did not love America, and said that his criticism of Mr. Obama's upbringing should not be considered racist because the president was raised by "a white mother."
He added, "This isn't racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism."
I see. So, by this reasoning, it seems as if Rudy Giuliani as positioned himself as pro-colonialism.
In the same interview with the New York Times, the failed GOP presidential candidate "challenged a reporter to find examples of Mr. Obama expressing love for his country." In other words, by Wednesday night, Giuliani, who tried and failed to hedge on his own ridiculous condemnations, was right back to where he was on Tuesday night.
Bush campaign launch: mistakes are being made

Jeb Bush campaign launch: mistakes are being made

02/19/15 10:56PM

Rachel Maddow points out the blame-avoiding passive voice that seems to be a common trait among Bush politicians, including 2016 hopeful Jeb Bush, and emphasizes the importance of substantive political debates for the nation's health. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 2.19.15

02/19/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* He's right: "Obama blasted the so-called 'war with Islam' on Thursday, his strongest confrontation against critics on his anti-terror rhetoric yet. 'The notion the west is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,' Obama said on the second day of the White House's global summit on countering terrorism. 'All of us have a responsibility to reject it.'"
* A mild rebuke: "White House spokesman Eric Schultz on Thursday dismissed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) comment that President Obama doesn't love America. During the president's flight to Chicago, Schultz told reporters that Giuliani used the same attack during his 'fleeting 2007 run for the presidency.'"
* Eurozone: "Germany on Thursday dismissed Greece's latest effort to resolve the impasse in debt negotiations between Athens and its creditors."
* Superbug? "Nearly 180 patients at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to potentially deadly bacteria from contaminated medical scopes, and two deaths have already been linked to the outbreak."
* Sounds like an idea Leslie Knope would come up with: "President Obama will announce Thursday that the National Park Service will give all fourth graders and their families free admission to national parks and other federal lands for a full year."
* Related news: "President Barack Obama this week plans to name Browns Canyon, in central Colorado, a national monument, a designation that adds a new layer of federal protection to the popular spot for whitewater rafting."
* Texas: "Two women were married in Texas on Thursday under a one-time court order -- the first same-sex marriage in that state. Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant exchanged vows in Austin. The county clerk said that the right to marry applied only to the couple, and was ordered by a state judge, because one of the women has 'severe and immediate health concerns.'"
* Alabama: "The governor of Alabama offered a written apology to the people of India on Tuesday for the severe injuries suffered by an Indian visitor hurled to the ground by a police officer this month."
 Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waits to speak on Jan. 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Walker punts on Giuliani's nonsense, Jindal horns in

02/19/15 04:43PM

Rudy Giuliani is "not questioning" President Obama's patriotism. He simply said to a Republican audience last night, "I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me." The clownish former mayor made the comments at an NYC event for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) -- who was right there near Giuliani while he spouted this garbage.
And at that moment, Walker was presented with a test of sorts. Would the governor do the decent thing and distance himself from Giuliani's little tantrum, or would he do the partisan thing and stay silent?
Walker said nothing during the event or after it, but he had another chance this morning. The Wisconsin Republican chose not to take it.
"The mayor can speak for himself," Walker said on [CNBC's] "Squawk Box." "I'm not going to comment on what the President thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well."
"I'll tell you, I love America," he continued.
Co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin pressed further, asking, "But did you agree with those comments? Were you offended? What was your reaction when you heard them?"
Walker replied, "I'm in New York. I'm used to people saying things that are aggressive out there." He would go no further.
The truth is, had Walker shown just a little more guts, this could have been an opportunity to demonstrate the kind of leadership he should be capable of. It's not like Rudy Giuliani is a party boss with a massive constituency; the former mayor hasn't even won an election in 18 years. Walker could have said something like, "I disagree with the president on nearly everything, but I'm sure he loves his country." He would have looked like a mature, responsible contender for the most powerful office in the world.
But Walker just couldn't muster the courage to take this simple step. A week after "punting" on whether he believes in evolutionary biology, the Wisconsin Republican is left to punt once again.
What kind of leader would Scott Walker be? The kind that talks about leadership without actually demonstrating any.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at a Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit on Feb. 4, 2015.

Why a far-right group considers Jeb Bush 'unelectable'

02/19/15 04:02PM

It's hardly a secret that some on the far-right have concerns about Jeb Bush's presidential campaign. The former Florida governor is obviously very conservative, but he also supports Common Core standards, which the right tends to hate, and has expressed some closer-to-the-mainstream views about immigration reform.
But Ed O'Keefe reports today on a conservative group that's labeled Jeb Bush "unelectable" for an entirely unexpected reason.
ForAmerica, a group founded by longtime conservative commentator L. Brent Bozell, is releasing a short online video on Thursday designed to raise questions about Bush's conservatism. The premise of the film is built around an appearance Bush made in 2013 alongside former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Bush, as chairman of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, awarded the group's Liberty Medal to Clinton during an elaborate ceremony on Independence Mall on Sept. 10, 2013, a day shy of the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead.
Even for the right, this is an odd one. ForAmerica put together a 69-second video showing Jeb Bush presenting Hillary Clinton with an award a year-and-a-half ago. The clip shows the Republican thanking Bill and Hillary Clinton "for your service to our country. We're united by love of country and public service." Simple, generic, non-committal language from a high-profile figure from one high-profile family to another.
The video, however, concludes with the word "unelectable," red and in all caps. And why, pray tell does this rather innocuous exchange disqualify Bush?

Decryptomaddowlogical #106 (and a bonus 106A!)

02/19/15 03:23PM

Ah HA! The benefit of being off for a few days is that I have a half-week's worth of graphics pitches to work from for the rest of the week's clues.

So today we'll do a regular one for last night's show and a bonus for a story from earlier in the week.

In his interview with Rachel last night, Tom Colicchio, renowned chef and new food correspondent for MSNBC, pointed out that environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are also food disasters because of the negative impact they have on the food we eat and the food chain of things we eat. We might say that activists who see the effects of environmental catastrophes on food production as a warning about how we protect our food supply are recognizing a...

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Wal-Mart shopping carts sit outside of a store on Feb. 20, 2014 in San Lorenzo, California.

Wal-Mart makes a move on wages

02/19/15 12:40PM

For years, the vast majority of the American mainstream has endorsed raising the minimum wage. But with Republicans dominating Congress, proponents have had to look for ways around the GOP's unyielding opposition.
The White House, for example, used executive powers to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors. A variety of state and municipal governments have done the same, with some increases coming by way of ballot referenda.
In the private sector, meanwhile, congressional Republicans obviously can't stop major businesses from doing what lawmakers won't do. Gap Inc. announced about a year ago that it would raise its minimum wage to $9 in 2014 -- and $10 this year – across all of its outlets and affiliated brands. A few months later, Ikea made a similar move.
And this morning, Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC this morning that hundreds of thousands of its hourly staff are poised to get a raise of their own.
Wal-Mart said Thursday that hourly workers will earn at least $1.75 above the current federal minimum wage, or $9 per hour starting in April. By next February, they will earn at least $10 per hour.
Projections suggest this will translate to a pay raise for roughly 500,000 hourly employees.
The move doesn't apply to all Wal-Mart employees across the board -- hourly employees are roughly 40% of the company's workforce -- but given the size of the retail behemoth, this will nevertheless mean more money in the pockets of an enormous number of workers who need it.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.19.15

02/19/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has missed "a greater percentage of votes over the course of his career" than any other member of the Senate. Senators who launch presidential campaigns routinely miss a lot of votes, and the public is generally pretty understanding about candidates' poor attendance records. But Rubio keeps missing votes before launching a national bid, which means his bad record is about to get even worse.
* Jeb Bush was in Chicago yesterday, ostensibly to deliver a speech on foreign policy, but while he was there, the Republican raised $4.2 million for his presidential campaign in just two events.
* Speaking of money in politics, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will headline a "luncheon and policy discussion" at the Capitol Hill club right after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's March 3 speech to Congress. Sheldon Adelson has signed on as a co-chair for the fundraiser.
* Vice President Biden was in South Carolina yesterday with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx as part of a "Grow America" tour on infrastructure needs. He said he'll decide about a 2016 presidential race by "the end of the summer."
* Missouri Democrats were eager to recruit a competitive candidate to take on Sen. Roy Blunt (R) next year, and they appear to have landed their top choice: Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) announced this morning he's running for the Senate. Kander is also a former state House member and a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan.
* Why do Republicans in New Hampshire and D.C. seem awfully concerned about Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R) re-election bid next year? Perhaps because Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) has an approval/disapproval rating of 55%/25%.
Voters cast their ballots at a polling site for Georgia's primary election, May 20, 2014, in Atlanta, Ga.

States eyeing new voting restrictions

02/19/15 11:24AM

Just a couple of days after the 2014 midterms, I joked that Americans should expect Republican victors to impose even more voting restrictions in light of the results. Not quite two months into the new year, it seems the offhand comment wasn't funny after all.
The state of Georgia, for example, has already taken steps to put hurdles between voters and the ballot box, and my colleague Zack Roth reported yesterday that Georgia officials aren't done just yet -- there's a new push to curtail early voting in the state.
A legislative committee voted on party lines last week to advance a bill that would shorten Georgia's early voting period to 12 days, from a current maximum of 21 days. It would also bar counties from offering more than four hours of voting on weekends. The state's early voting period was already cut dramatically just four years ago.
The new move comes after a 2014 election in which 44% of voters -- disproportionately minorities -- cast their ballot early. Many counties, responding to popular demand, offered Sunday voting for the first time.
Remember, when Republican officials impose voting restrictions, they usually try to defend the constraints by pointing to "voter fraud." The scourge is largely imaginary, and a thin pretense to keep people from participating in their own democracy, but that's the talking point and the GOP is sticking to it.
But defending efforts to narrow the early-voting window is much harder -- this is completely unrelated to potential fraud. Rather, Georgia Republicans appear eager to make it harder to get to the polls and cast a ballot, just for the sake of doing so.
This would be the second time in recent years state GOP policymakers shortened the early-voting window -- Georgia Republicans did the same thing after the 2010 midterms.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.)

House Republican leader eyes AUMF ... for Iran

02/19/15 11:01AM

For months, members of Congress demanded that the White House write a proposal authorizing military force against ISIS. The demands never really made much sense, in part because the military offensive already started six months ago, and also because the legislative branch was perfectly capable of writing its own legislation. It just didn't want to.
President Obama nevertheless agreed to Congress' demands, presenting lawmakers with a proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Right on cue, many of the Republicans who demanded the draft language condemned the White House, insisting it didn't go nearly far enough in expanding the powers of the executive.
Yesterday, however, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) went just a little further, suggesting on Hugh Hewitt's conservative radio show that he's open to an even more expansive AUMF.
HEWITT: Now Chairman Royce, I am not an expert witness, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn recently, and I did work for Richard Nixon way back in the day on the Real War. And any AUMF that comes out of the Congress ought to be broad and cover every explosion of Islamist extremism, including if Iran goes nuclear. So I want to focus back on that. Do you, personally, I don't know what the committee will do, but would you support giving the President the explicit authority to strike at the Iranian nuclear capacity if they do not abandon it themselves?
ROYCE: I think it is a good idea, and I will tell you, Hugh, that there are two jihads going on. One of them is the ISIS jihad, which you and I are familiar with. The other is something that's not being talked about that much, but that is the jihad that's coming out of Iran... Point to a region, or an area in the Middle East or North Africa, where Iran is not engaged in exporting revolution and terror. And so we shouldn't take our eye off of that reality.
Hewitt called the response "an enormous relief." I had a different reaction.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to guests at a luncheon hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Feb. 18, 2015 in Chicago, Ill.

A failure of substance and style

02/19/15 10:22AM

During Jeb Bush's speech on foreign policy yesterday, Chris Cillizza was quick to praise the Republican. "What Bush is proving," the Washington Post reporter said, is that Jeb "doesn't need much coaching on foreign policy. He knows this stuff cold."
That's one way to look at the former governor's remarks. There is, however, another.
We can start with Bush's clumsy oratory, which was at times legitimately cringe-worthy. Dana Milbank noted the unfortunate family tradition.
When he addressed the Chicago Council on Global Affairs luncheon at the Fairmont, he combined his father's awkward oratory with his brother's mangled syntax and malapropisms.[...]
"As we grow our presence by growing our ability to produce oil and gas," Bush went on, "we also make it possible to lessen the dependency that Russia now has on top of Europe." Russia's dependency on top of Europe? It was, in addition to being backward, a delightful echo of his brother's belief that it is hard "to put food on your family."
Bush said "Iraq" when he meant "Iran." He mispronounced the names of leaders, countries, and groups. He clumsily leaned on the most notorious passive-voice phrase in politics. The Republican at one point said ISIS is comprised of "a fighting force of more than 200,000 battle tested men," which is at odds with all available intelligence on the group, and which even Bush's staff later said was wrong.
At another point in the speech, Jeb declared, "Our military is not a discretionary expense." Military spending is, quite literally, a discretionary expense.
Ari Fleischer told the New York Times yesterday, "Jeb is very much a policy wonk and comes across that way." I heard the speech; this praise is wildly misplaced; he comes across as largely the opposite.