No matter what someone may think about Donald Trump, it's hard to deny his limitless self-confidence. Put aside what the Republican presidential candidate is saying, focusing on how he's saying it, and we see a White House hopeful who exudes self-assuredness.
If you're turned off by bluster, it's obnoxious. If you find bluster reassuring, it's infectious. Right about now, nearly a third of national Republican primary voters find themselves in the latter camp.
But in very rare occasions, Trump's veneer fades. The Washington Postreported overnight:
Donald Trump, leading in the polls and riding a wave of momentum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, just hit a speed bump named Hugh Hewitt.
The conservative radio host peppered Trump with a host of foreign policy questions in a Thursday interview that produced some uncomfortable moments for the real estate mogul, who appeared upset at the line of questioning.
Hewitt, a prominent figure in conservative media and one of the moderators of an upcoming GOP debate, posted the transcript and it's not a pretty sight. Trump, eager to sound like he knew what he was talking about, tried to fake his way through parts of the interview, but that only seemed to make matters worse.
Note, for example, when the host asked about the Quds Forces, and Trump responded by talking about the Kurds. The candidate added that he'll know the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas "when it's appropriate," suggesting it's not appropriate to know the difference now.
At one point, Trump insisted, "I mean, you know, when you're asking me about who's running this, this this, that's not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin." (He often seems preoccupied with spinning heads. It's a little alarming.)
Towards the end of the interview, the GOP frontrunner called the line of questioning "ridiculous" -- four times -- and this morning, Trump told MSNBC that Hewitt is a "third-rate radio announcer."
The broader question is whether an embarrassing moment like this represents an important setback for the candidate. Recent history offers some guidance.
The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 173,000 jobs in August, a little below expectations. The overall unemployment rate ticked lower to 5.1%, which is the lowest point since April 2008, more than seven years ago.
This is one of those job reports that looks a little discouraging at first blush, but the details paints a more encouraging picture. The revisions, for example, also point in a fairly encouraging direction: June's job totals were revised up, from 231,000 to 245,000, while July's numbers were also revised up, from 215,000 to 245,000. Combined, that's an additional 44,000 previously unreported jobs. The same report also showed a decent increase in wages.
Even the drop in the jobless rate is for the right reasons. As the New York Times' Neil Irwin noted, the latest drop is the result of fewer unemployed Americans, more employed Americans, a slightly higher employment-to population rate.
Overall, the U.S. has added 2.92 million jobs over the last 12 months, which is excellent. August was the 59th consecutive month of positive job growth -- the best stretch since 1939 -- and the 66th consecutive month in which we've seen private-sector job growth, which is the longest on record.
When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) condemns President Obama -- a frequent occurrence -- the far-right national candidate often emphasizes the rule of law. Cruz doesn't just think the president is wrong; he thinks Obama is a tyrannical dictator who flouts legal norms.
"The pattern we've seen under President Obama, disregarding the law, is really one of the most troubling aspects of this presidency," Cruz said last year. "When he disagrees with the law ... he simply refuses to comply with it." The Republican senator added that the president is "lawless."
But that was in 2014. In 2015, Cruz sees Kentucky clerk Kim Davis ignoring court orders, ignoring Supreme Court rulings, and ignoring her oath of office -- and the GOP presidential candidate sees her as some kind of hero. In a written statement released late yesterday:
"Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny. Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. This is wrong. This is not America.
"I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally. I stand with every American that the Obama Administration is trying to force to choose between honoring his or her faith or complying with a lawless court opinion."
Cruz's statement went on to argue, "Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office. That is the consequence of their position. Or, if Christians do serve in public office, they must disregard their religious faith–or be sent to jail."
He added that Davis should face no consequences for brazenly defying federal court orders she doesn't like.
I'm not sure what's worse: the possibility that Cruz actually believes this nonsense or the fact that Cruz expects Americans to take his arguments seriously.
Rachel Maddow tries to understand why Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, with so much of his identity based on his outsiderness, and so much support independent of the Republican Party, and so much leverage over the party given that support and his money, would see any advantage in signing the party allegiance pledge that was plainly designed... watch
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, celebrated basketball player and author of the forthcoming novel, Mycroft Holmes, talks with Rachel Maddow about his feud with Donald Trump, why he thinks Trump's campaign is doomed to failure, and whether there is not enough substance in modern politics. watch
Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, talks with Rachel Maddow about how Donald Trump is losing his spontaneity and becoming a regular politician who gives predictable stump speeches, although his campaign materials remain unconventional. watch
"Wisconsin's private sector job growth during Walker's first term was 5.7%, compared with 9.3% growth nationwide" http://t.co/GmZOi3iqW8
* Migrant crisis: "Desperate migrants poured into the Keleti train station in Budapest on Thursday morning but were prevented from traveling to Germany as Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, said that the migration crisis was a 'German problem' and that Europe had a moral duty to tell migrants not to come."
* Related news: "The toddler whose lifeless body on a Mediterranean beach sent shock waves around the world has a name: Aylan Kurdi. Images were published Wednesday of a drowned child -- soaked red shirt, blue bottoms and tiny velcro-strap shoes -- whose body washed up on the beach in the Turkish resort of Bodrum.
* Guatemala: "Just hours after tendering his resignation as president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina entered a packed courtroom on Thursday to hear accusations of corruption against him, in a dramatic validation of months of street demonstrations over a fraud scandal that has rocked the country."
* Charleston massacre: "A South Carolina prosecutor says she will seek the death penalty for a white man charged with killing nine black churchgoers. Prosecutors filed court papers Thursday saying they would pursue the death penalty against 21-year-old Dylann Roof. The documents cited factors including the fact that more than two people were killed, and that others' lives were put at risk."
* Virginia: "A Portsmouth, Virginia, police officer was indicted on a first-degree murder charge Thursday in the shooting death of an 18-year-old man during a struggle at a Walmart store in April."
* Not helpful: "South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joined the growing chorus of Republicans critical of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement on Wednesday. The rising Republican star said 'black lives do matter,' during an address on race at the National Press Club in Washington, but said the popular protest movement detracts from the push for racial equality, because activists within it 'yell and scream' too much."
* Here's hoping policy results matter to policymakers: "Lifting a ban on spending city money on needle exchanges for intravenous drug users prevented 120 new cases of HIV in two years in Washington, according to a new study that researchers hope can help other communities deal with a surge in addicts shooting up."
New Jersey Democrat Sen. Cory Booker said he would support the Iran nuclear accord on Thursday, splitting with his state's senior senator over the contentious deal. [...]
Also on Thursday, Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota backed the Iran agreement, bringing support for the deal up to 37 senators.
Arguably no member of Congress in either chamber faced as much pressure as Booker, with many of his key backers pushing him -- aggressively -- to oppose the U.S. policy. The fact that he bucked the pressure is worthy of real praise; it couldn't have been easy for him to do the right thing.
As for the larger context, remember, the magic number was 34 -- with 34 votes in the Senate, the White House is assured that the policy will advance because Congress won't have the votes to override a presidential veto.
Now proponents of the diplomatic agreement have a new threshold in mind: 41.
Federal judges really don't like it when people ignore court orders and claim the law doesn't apply to them.
A federal judge has ordered a Kentucky clerk to jail after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, was found in contempt of court on Thursday morning.... Davis, in tears, said on the stand that she could not comply with the judge's order. U.S. Marshals later took her into custody.
As she was being led out of the courtroom, the clerk said, "Thank you, judge."
Davis, if you're just joining us, is paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses, but she refuses to provide licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing "God's authority." Davis and her lawyers have filed several appeals, all of which lost.
She could, of course, find some other job -- one that doesn't pit her professional responsibilities against her spiritual beliefs -- but she refuses to do so. As we talked about yesterday, Davis feels entitled to keep her job and refuse to do her job at the same time.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, apparently didn't find this persuasive.
Republican Party insiders do not want Donald Trump to win their party's presidential nomination, but they can imagine an even worse scenario: Trump coming up short in the GOP primaries and then running on a third-party ticket.
For a few months, the New York developer has made no secret of his willingness to consider a third-party campaign, even toying with the idea at the recent GOP debate on Fox News. The chatter has led to quite a bit of consternation among party officials, some of whom have even begun exploring possible constraints to force Trump's hand.
As of this morning, however, the need for Republican handwringing appears to be over. Politicoreported:
A close associate tells POLITICO that Donald Trump plans to sign a loyalty pledge Thursday that would bind him to endorse the Republican nominee, and would preclude a third-party run. Trump made the stunning decision, which he has long resisted, to avoid complications in getting listed on primary ballots, and to take away an attack line in the next debate, the associate said.
I should note that Trump's decision has not yet been confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, though multiple news organizations, including the Washington Post and Bloomberg Politics, are reporting the same thing.
It's an unexpected development. Trump has gone out of his way to position himself as the candidate who isn't, and can never be, pushed around, but this appears to be an important exception. Republican officials have taken every step they can think of to corral Trump into committing to the party's nominating process, and by this reasoning, the frontrunner appears to have cried, "Uncle."
Indeed, it's a move that comes with a series of risks.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump criticized Jeb Bush yesterday for occasionally speaking Spanish at campaign events. "I like Jeb," Trump said in an interview with a far-right website. "He's a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States."
* I was under the impression that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wasn't interested in running for national office next year, but if you missed last night's show, the senator's comments last night were unexpectedly interesting.
* According to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, Trump's favorability rating among white voters is 48%. His favorability rating among African Americans and Latinos is 15%.
* North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley (R) has admitted to cheating on his wife, but he apparently won't let that get in the way of his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.
* Martin O'Malley's Democratic presidential campaign has struggled of late in Iowa, and his allied super PAC has decided to lay off 38 organizers in the state.
* In Oregon, failed Senate candidate Monica Wehby (R) recently expressed an interest in running for governor, but yesterday, the Republican announced she isn't running after all.
One need not be a political expert to see that Donald Trump and Jeb Bush don't like each other much. But for the most part, the two prominent Republican presidential candidates have been jabbing one another above the belt.
As Team Jeb gets increasingly antsy, that's slowly starting to change.
Last week, for example, Bush's campaign manager soon turned his attention to Trump's sister. Yesterday, as Time's Zeke Miller reported, the confrontation became even more personal.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is escalating his all-out campaign against GOP front-runner Donald Trump with a new ad campaign and quiz on social media designed to highlight Bush's conservative credentials in contrast with the businessman's past embrace of the Democratic Party. [...]
In a strikingly personal attack, the quiz asks voters whether they would prefer a candidate who "is a germophobe when it comes to shaking hands," a reference to Trump's documented phobia, Bush, meanwhile is cast as a candidate who "strives to shake every hand everywhere."
The exact wording reads, "Would you rather support a candidate who strives to shake every hand everywhere or is a germophobe when it comes to shaking hands?"
As a rule, these online gimmicks generally don't serve much of a point, other than to help campaigns collect email addresses and build an online database, while helping get some of a campaign's message out.
But therein lies the point: Team Jeb apparently wants voters to know that Trump, among his other idiosyncrasies, is concerned about handshakes and germs.
Former President George W. Bush recently expressed confidence that his brother "will elevate the discourse" during the campaign. How's that working out?
Those hoping to kill the international nuclear agreement with Iran have faced a variety of obstacles, but one in particular has proven hard to overcome: their own track record.
Just as there are a variety of Republicans and their allies pushing for an armed confrontation with Iran now, many of these same people were cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago. Indeed, many have tried to find even one person who was right about Iraq in 2002 and 2003 who also now opposes the diplomatic solution with Iran. So far, no names have popped up.
But as MSNBC's Zack Roth reported, Dick Cheney doesn't much care. The failed former vice president has a new book in which he not only condemns President Obama's foreign policy, but he tries to defend his own tarnished legacy -- especially on the subject of Iraq.
At one stage, [Dick and Liz Cheney] write that "history will be the ultimate judge of our decision to liberate Iraq." But just two pages later, as if unable to resist re-engaging the issue, they describe the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as a "grave threat to the United States" before concluding: "We were right to invade and remove him from power."
They even insist that U.S. troops "were in fact greeted as liberators," just as Dick Cheney predicted before the invasion -- a quote that Bush administration critics have frequently hung around his neck.
Cheney, promoting the book, was asked yesterday why anyone should listen to him on Iran given his record on Iraq. "Because I was right about Iraq," Cheney responded.
Like it or not, there's ample reason to believe such transparent nonsense actually matters.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.
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