Ordinarily, when Donald Trump says something unexpected, he's managed to insult some new group of Americans. Last night in North Carolina, however, the Republican presidential hopeful surprised by doing largely the opposite: as NBC News' report noted, Trump "expressed regret and admitted wrong doing -- though it's unclear exactly for what."
"Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing," Trump said. "I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues."
Trump, who's been repeatedly caught making demonstrably false statements, added that he can sometimes be "too honest."
The candidate's comments were scripted in advance and read from a teleprompter.
All of this, to be sure, was unexpected. Especially in light of this week's campaign staff shake-up, Trump seemed likely to be even more combative and inflammatory, insisting this week he doesn't want to change or "pivot."
With this in mind, was last night's apparent contrition evidence of a candidate ready to shift to a general-election mode? I'd recommend caution before buying into the overly convenient narrative.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards talks with Rachel Maddow about how his state is dealing with historic, deadly flooding displacing tens of thousands of people, and how the federal government is assisting in coping with the tragedy as it continues to unfold. watch
Rachel Maddow chases down a viewer tip that Dr. Harold Bornstein, who signed Donald Trump's health evaluation letter, is not a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology, despite signing his name with F.A.C.G., a credential Bornstein says "has no value" anyway. watch
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, talks with Rachel Maddow about the remarkable lead polls show Hillary Clinton has over Donald Trump, and the "rally effect" that has Trump and his supporters convinced the polls are wrong. watch
Rachel Maddow alerts viewers that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been confirmed to participate in a "Commander-in-chief" forum hosting by IAVA and airing on MSNBC Wednesday, September 7th. watch
Rachel Maddow notes the atmosphere of racism that was overseen by Stephen Bannon at Breitbart News, both on its pages and by its staff, before Donald Trump chose to put him in charge of his entire campaign. watch
* Louisiana: "The forecast for Louisiana is for more rain -- and more pain. With the state still swamped by historic flooding that has killed at least 13 people and displaced tens of thousands more, the National Weather Service warned Thursday that heavy rains could produce floods and flash flooding in parts of the state."
* Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said "he's not concerned that President Barack Obama has not yet visited Louisiana to see the flood crisis first hand. 'I'm not complaining in any way about our federal partnership,' Edwards said during a news conference on Thursday."
* Turkey: "A string of bombings, blamed on Kurdish rebels and targeting Turkey's security forces, killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 220 others, officials said Thursday."
* California fire: "[F]or all the devastation that the Blue Cut fire has wreaked, officials have had difficulty determining the damages left by explosive flames that quickly overtook more than 31,000 acres. Damage assessors have been hindered from surveying the destruction due to erratic fire behavior and intense flames that broke through retardants dropped by air crews."
* West Virginia: "The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that police in Huntington, W.Va., responded to 26 heroin overdose cases in a span of four hours on Monday evening. To get a sense of the scale of the outbreak, consider this: Huntington is a small city with a population of about 49,000 people, according to the Census Bureau. An overdose outbreak of similar magnitude in New York City (population 8.4 million) would affect more than 4,400 people."
* Syria: "The United States and Russia will try again to stop Syria's civil war and forge a new counterterrorism partnership when their top diplomats meet next week in Geneva, U.S. officials said Thursday."
* I guess this was probably inevitable: "Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group Inc., two real estate investment trusts that operate prisons for the federal government and other clients, plunged after the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to stop using private correctional facilities."
* Chicago's police superintendent "has recommended that seven officers be fired for lying in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. McDonald's death was captured in a video that contradicted the accounts of officers."
Serious problems with the private-prison industry are not new, but they're not widely known to the public. In general, reports, no matter how striking, are limited to more liberal coverage from the likes of Mother Jones, The Nation, and John Oliver's HBO show.
But officials in the Obama administration have also noticed, and today, the Washington Postreports that the Department of Justice is moving forward with a plan to "end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government."
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or "substantially reduce" the contracts' scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is "reducing -- and ultimately ending -- our use of privately operated prisons."
"They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department's Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security," Yates wrote.
Yates told the Post, "The fact of the matter is that private prisons don't compare favorably to Bureau of Prisons facilities in terms of safety or security or services, and now with the decline in the federal prison population, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to do something about that."
The change comes on the heels of a critical Inspector General's report (pdf), released last week, which found privately run prisons were generally less safe -- for prisoners and staff -- than the federal Bureau of Prisons' facilities.
It's worth noting that the change will be gradual. The Post's report added that the DOJ "would not terminate existing contracts but instead review those that come up for renewal. She said all the contracts would come up for renewal over the next five years."
Of course, between now and then, there will be a change in the White House, though it's worth noting that Hillary Clinton's platform also calls for ending private prisons. From the campaign website: "Hillary believes we should move away from contracting out this core responsibility of the federal government to private corporations. We must not create private industry incentives that may contribute -- or have the appearance of contributing -- to over-incarceration."
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* While Donald Trump's campaign is currently not running television ads anywhere, the Republican ticket will soon air commercials in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. They'll be Trump's first ads of the general election.
* Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), a prominent Trump supporter, yesterday called Hillary Clinton a "lying killer" during a radio interview. She later told BuzzFeed it was "a stumble of the tongue" -- according to Brewer, when she said "lying killer," she was mispronouncing "Hillary Clinton."
* Daniel Akerson, the former CEO of General Motors, has a new op-ed in the Washington Post today, explaining that while he's voted Republican in every election throughout his adult life, he's backing Clinton over Trump this year.
* The RNC's Sean Spicer, defending his work on behalf of Trump's candidacy, told the Washington Post this week, "There are doctors who help people who have done bad things, there are lawyers who defend bad people." That's quite a ringing endorsement, isn't it?
* Bill Clinton was reportedly in Utah recently, meeting with some community leaders and gauging whether the traditional Republican stronghold may be competitive in this year's election.
* Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC, is reportedly scaling back its ad investments, at least for now, in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, confident of Clinton's advantage in these battlegrounds.
* In Indiana's U.S. Senate race, the latest Monmouth University poll shows former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) leading Rep. Jeff Young (R), 48% to 41%.