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Roy Moore

Even in Alabama, public officials aren't 'ministers of God'

07/01/15 10:44AM

Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has long taken a non-traditional view of American law. Moore, sometimes known as the "Ten Commandments Judge," willing to use his public position to advance his religious agenda, has argued repeatedly, for example, that states can ignore federal court rulings whenever they chose.
 
Indeed, in February, Moore caused quite a bit of trouble when he ordered Alabama probate judges to defy the federal courts on marriage equality.
 
That, of course, was before the U.S. Supreme Court brought marriage equality to the entire country in a ruling Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) didn't like but is prepared to follow.
 
As AL.com reported this morning, now it's Moore's lawyer urging the governor to ignore the rule of law.
In harsh words and a lecturing tone, a lawyer who works for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has written a letter seemingly directed at Gov. Robert Bentley rebuking him for saying Alabama will obey the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage legal.
 
While the letter from attorney Win Johnson never calls Bentley by name or title, a spokeswoman for Bentley said the letter was directed at the governor.
Johnson's letter reads, "Public official, what will you do?  Will you stand up for the law of Alabama, for the people, for the weak and vulnerable, for the law of God?  Or will you capitulate?  Will you become complicit in the takeover by the wicked?"
 
Johnson, it's worth noting, is the director of the legal staff of the Administrative Office of Courts, which runs the state's court system, and which is led by Moore.
 
Of particular interest, though, was the point in Johnson's letter when he argued, "Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous."
 
That, right there, seems to be the heart of the problem. Moore and his lawyer are under the impression that the United States is a theocracy. It's this assumption that leads them to believe public officials -- judges, governors, county clerks, et al -- are obligated to follow religious dictates, as defined by Moore and his lawyer's interpretation of Scripture.
 
And though this probably shouldn't be necessary, now might be a good time to remind them that if they're looking for public officials whose job it is to punish the wicked and protect the righteous. Moore and his lawyer are clearly in the wrong country.
Scott Walker speaks to supporters at a barbeque in Greenville, SC, March 19, 2015. (Photo by Jason Miczek/Reuters)

What Scott Walker gets wrong about pay equity

07/01/15 10:11AM

In recent years, conservative opponents of pay-equity measures have come up with a variety of unpersuasive arguments against women receiving equal pay for equal work. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has added his name to an ignominious list.
 
For regular readers, the right's talking points are probably familiar. The executive director of the Texas Republican Party, for example, said women in the workforce would be better compensated if they became "better negotiators." Fox News' Martha MacCallum dismissed the issue altogether last year, declaring, "Many women get paid exactly what they're worth." Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) argued a while back that it's "condescending" towards women to even try to prevent wage discrimination.
 
But the Wisconsin State Journal reported on Walker trying a different tack.
Hillary Clinton's support for legislation that would address a disparity between what men and women earn is a political tactic to "pit one group of Americans versus another," Gov. Scott Walker said last week.
 
Walker's comments were made June 17 on the radio show "Boston Herald Drive" in Boston and published online by the liberal blog Right Wing Watch on Tuesday.
The Right Wing Watch piece, which includes an audio clip, is online here.
 
The radio host asked the unannounced Republican presidential candidate about Clinton's advocacy for pay-equity measures, and Walker responded, "[T]his is sadly something that would make her consistent with the president, and that is I believe that the president and now Hillary Clinton tend to think that politically, they do better if they pit one group of Americans versus another."
 
A campaign spokesperson added soon after that the governor believes Democrats like President Obama and Hillary Clinton are "being divisive on an important issue instead of working to provide solutions for Americans."
US presidential hopeful Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Maryland Republican Party's 25th Annual Red, White & Blue Dinner on June 23, 2015 at the BWI Airport Marriott in Linthicum, Md. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty)

Trump's post-announcement bounce continues

07/01/15 09:35AM

There's some evidence of late that suggests Republican presidential hopefuls get a bump in the polls after their campaign kickoffs. It's a dynamic that makes sense -- when a candidate launches a bid for national office, he or she briefly gets the spotlight and puts his or her best foot forward.
 
When Ted Cruz formally entered the 2016 race, he saw his support grow, before it started to fade. Marco Rubio saw something similar. And with this in mind, it probably shouldn't have been too shocking to see Donald Trump get a bounce in the polls after his highly publicized announcement two weeks ago.
 
But the alarming thing is, at least for now, that bounce hasn't started to come down.
 
Last week, two polls out of New Hampshire -- the nation's first primary state -- found Trump in second place in the crowded GOP field. Polls from Suffolk and CNN each showed Jeb Bush in the lead, with Trump close behind. Both surveys also found that Bush and Trump were the only candidates to generate double-digit support in the Granite State.
 
Nationally, a Fox News poll last week also showed Trump in second place.
 
This week, it's more of the same. Consider the new national CNN poll.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and businessman Donald Trump top the list of GOP presidential contenders following their back-to-back campaign launches in mid-June, and are the only two Republican candidates holding double-digit support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
According to the CNN results, Bush leads the GOP field  with 17%, followed by Trump with 12%, and every other Republican candidate is further back with single-digit backing.
 
What's more, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Trump tied for second in Iowa, while the latest PPP poll shows Trump in second in Michigan.
 
One poll can be dismissed as an outlier or a fluke. Overlooking all of these polls isn't quite so easy.
Surrounded by security personnel, rancher Cliven Bundy, middle, sings the National Anthem outside of Bunkerville while gathering with his supporters to challenge the BLM on April 12, 2014.

Rand Paul, Cliven Bundy are 'in tune with each other'?

07/01/15 08:42AM

A little over a year ago, right-wing rancher Cliven Bundy and some of well-armed friends forced a dangerous confrontation with federal law enforcement. Cooler heads prevailed when the Obama administration, in the interest of public safety, chose not to escalate the situation, and thankfully no one was hurt.
 
But Bundy quickly became a cause celebre in far-right circles, celebrated by Fox News and Republican officials, right up until the rancher's racist views came to light. Conservatives who were cheering Bundy on quickly discovered the problems with celebrating an unhinged activist who claimed to be an expert on "the negro" and who believes black people were "better off as slaves."
 
Soon after, the Nevada affiliate of the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity started scrubbing its online messages offering praise for Bundy and his radical campaign.
 
Given this history, why in the world would Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul choose to spend time with Cliven Bundy? MSNBC's Eric Levitz reported yesterday:
The Kentucky senator met the indebted rancher on Monday, when Paul held a question-and-answer session for "about 50 supporters and activists interested in land rights," in the town of Mesquite, Nevada, the Associated Press reported. [...]
 
"In general, I think we're in tune with each other. I don't think we need to ask Washington, D.C. for this land. It's our land," Bundy told the AP after his meeting with Paul.
Some of the initial reports suggest their "meeting" was fairly innocuous, with Bundy simply attending a Rand Paul event in Nevada. Candidates can't always control who shows up at a gathering open to the public, so it wouldn't necessarily be the senator's fault if Bundy appeared at a campaign Q&A session.
 
But according to Bundy, there's far more to it.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the talksin Vienna, Austria, Nov. 24, 2014.

Diplomacy with Iran enjoys strong support from US public

07/01/15 08:00AM

The good thing about an arbitrary, self-imposed deadline is that it can be moved without consequence. The international diplomatic talks with Iran, for example, were supposed to wrap up yesterday, but negotiators believe they're still making progress so they gave themselves an extension -- the new deadline is next Tuesday, July 7.
 
It's still unclear if an agreement will ultimately come together, and recent posturing from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei hasn't helped. But the process continues to move forward, and just yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency reportedly concluded that Iran is complying with requirements that it reduce its stocks of enriched uranium. Had the IAEA uncovered evidence to the contrary, the talks may have very well unraveled.
 
As for the domestic politics surrounding the nuclear negotiations, Senate Republicans continue to complain bitterly about the diplomatic efforts, though it's clear the public feels differently.
By a 2-to-1 margin, more Americans support the United States and other world powers pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran than oppose it, according to new results from the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
 
Thirty-six percent of respondents say they back the deal, which intends to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon by allowing inspections into the country's nuclear sites in exchange for reducing economic sanctions that are currently in place. By comparison, 17 percent oppose it.
These results are largely unchanged from a similar poll a few months ago.
 
They're also in line with the latest Quinnipiac poll, which found most Americans support the potential agreement. Three other independent polls released since March showed similar public backing for the P5+1 process.
 
We're accustomed to seeing the occasional disconnect between the Beltway and the public, but the differences here are especially striking.

Trade deal leaks and other headlines

07/01/15 07:59AM

Leaked: what's in Obama's trade deal. (Politico)

Greece bailout prospects remain unclear. (Washington Post) 

Another black church in South Carolina burns; cause unknown. (AP) Update: probably not arson. (AP)

The 15 juiciest revelations from Hillary Clinton's emails. (New York Magazine)

FBI investigating 11 attacks on San Francisco-area internet lines. (USA Today)

Myanmar fisherman goes home after 22 years as a slave. (AP)

See the works of art that prisoner Richard Matt allegedly traded with a guard. (NBC News)

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Send it to Rachel!

06/30/15 08:46PM

The Rachel Maddow Show regularly takes advantage of the assistance of our viewers in finding new stories and materials.

Most recently, you'll recall, Rachel talked about an unusual RNC mailer that looked like a voting ballot. That came to our attention by way of a viewer's e-mail. Specifically an e-mail to Rachel@msnbc.com, which is actively staffed and processed daily.

Or perhaps you recall our Owl Warning Sign Challenge? The viewer submissions for that project came in (mostly) through our upload page here.

If you follow the show on Twitter, you already know we have an army of Twitter accounts*. The best one for reaching us with material you want us to see is @MaddowBlog.

And of course there is good old snail mail. To mail an actual, physical, touchable thing to the show, the address is:

The Rachel Maddow Show
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 6.30.15

06/30/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Keep expectations low: "Greece and its European creditors began talking again on Tuesday about how to keep Greece afloat financially, but appeared not to be moving fast enough to prevent the country from missing a debt payment due at the end of the day."
 
* Iran: "Pushing past a Tuesday deadline, world powers and Iran extended negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear agreement by a week as the U.N. nuclear agency prepared to announce Tehran had met a key condition -- significantly reducing its stocks of enriched uranium that could be used for atomic weapons."
 
* Climate policy: "In a jam-packed but complex day for international climate action, Brazil, the United States, and China -- three of the world's top 10 greenhouse gas emitters -- all announced new goals Tuesday. The commitments came in different forms and units, ranging from forest hectares to renewable energy gigawatts -- but collectively appeared to represent a new and major step forward towards addressing climate change and cleaning global energy systems."
 
* This is likely to be a huge case: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a challenge to the way public-sector unions finance their operations. Union officials said a ruling against them would deal a blow to organized labor."
 
* A great week, but not the greatest week: "President Barack Obama said Tuesday that last week -- when he won historic victories on trade, health care and gay rights -- was "gratifying," but he stopped short of calling it his "best week ever," as some pundits have."
 
* I suppose this is how the system is supposed to work: "A county clerk in Arkansas intends to resign from her position because she doesn't believe in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples." If you don't want to issue marriage licenses, it's probably best that you don't keep a job that requires you to issue marriage licenses.
President Barack Obama smiles during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., June 30, 2015. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Obama's place in history becomes even more secure

06/30/15 04:49PM

It was about eight months ago when Paul Krugman, who hasn't always been President Obama's biggest fan, said what many in the political establishment would not. "Obama has emerged," Krugman wrote, "as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history."
 
To be sure, it is a little early to start reflecting on the Obama's place in history, since his presidency still has over a year to go, during which time much can happen. But after last week -- the Affordable Care Act's success at the Supreme Court, the breakthrough on marriage equality, the advances of the administration's trade agenda, the breathtaking eulogy in Charleston -- there's been renewed talk, not just about Obama's rejuvenated presidency, but also about his qualifications for the pantheon of American leaders of historic consequence.
 
My msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin published a thoughtful piece on the Obama legacy over the weekend.
"At the end of the day, we're part of a long-running story," Obama told the New Yorker's David Remnick in one interview. "We just try to get our paragraph right."
 
Now consider what the paragraph version of Obama's presidency looks like as of now, with the key terms for next week's social studies midterm highlighted in bold.
 
"The first black president, President Obama took office amid the Great Recession, stabilized the economy with a stimulus and auto bailout, passed universal health care and Wall Street reform over fierce opposition, and implemented a suite of regulations aimed at combatting climate change. The first president to embrace marriage equality, he presided over the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing it nationwide."
I think Sarlin's right on both counts. First, that's a pretty impressive paragraph that suggets Obama will be remembered as a great and important president.
 
Second, it's also true that when it comes to history, presidencies tend to lose their rough edges -- we look past day-to-day, granular developments as they get further away -- and leaders are remembered based on their most notable achievements.
 
White House scandals can, of course, detract from those accomplishments -- see Iran/Contra and Watergate, for example -- but as we discussed a few weeks ago, even conservatives tend to concede, "President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him. He's chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free."

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