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Thursday's Mini-Report, 8.27.15

08/27/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Presumably Monday's rhetoric from the right no longer applies? "United States stock markets on Thursday turned in a second day of strong gains, reversing many of the losses sustained early in the week when global markets tumbled."
* A decade later: "Years after then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama declared 'America failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast', he returns to the city to hail Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts and highlight the region's resilience in the face of massive devastation."
* In related news, Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown, of FEMA notoriety, is still trying to avoid history's blame.
* What a dreadful story: "An abandoned truck 'full of bodies' was found on the side of a highway in eastern Austria on Thursday. Police said the dead were thought to be refugees."
* Guns: "Walmart said on Wednesday that it would no longer sell high-powered rifles in its stores in the United States. The decision followed years of public pressure on the retailer to stop selling some of the most lethal weapons associated with many of the nation’s mass shootings."
* Pakistan's fear of India carries dangerous consequences: "A new report by two American think tanks asserts that Pakistan may be building 20 nuclear warheads annually and could have the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile within a decade."
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush in Londonderry, New Hampshire August 19, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

A candidate moving in the wrong direction

08/27/15 04:19PM

When looking at a presidential primary field of 17 candidates, there's no point in applying the usual standards for who's doing well and who's doing poorly. As a practical matter, the criteria comes down to this: if a candidate's support in the polls reaches double digits, he or she is arguably faring pretty well. Those with single-digit support have some work to do.
Keep that in mind when looking at the Quinnipiac poll we mentioned earlier.
Donald Trump leads the crowded Republican pack with 28 percent, up from 20 percent in a July 30 national survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.... Ben Carson has 12 percent, with 7 percent each for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. [...]
"Donald Trump soars; Ben Carson rises; Jeb Bush slips and some GOP hopefuls seem to disappear. Trump proves you don't have to be loved by everyone, just by enough Republicans to lead the GOP pack," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Sure, in a crowded field, when one candidate is cruising well ahead of his rivals, he's inevitably going to get most of the attention. It's the blessing of frontrunner status -- you get the spotlight.
But the number that jumped out at me was 7%. That's where Jeb Bush stands as August nears its end. It's comparable to the 9% showing for the Florida Republican in the most recent Fox News poll.
Given recent history, this is arguably getting far less attention than it probably should be.
Bob Corker

GOP discovers it doesn't like filibusters after all

08/27/15 12:46PM

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) didn't just complain this week about the international nuclear agreement with Iran; he also targeted the nature of the Democratic support for the policy. Apparently, Senate Dems expect the Republican majority to get 60 votes for their plan -- and Cotton thinks that's outrageous.
"Harry Reid wants to deny the American people a voice entirely by blocking an up-or-down vote on this terrible deal," the right-wing freshman complained.
Ah yes, the ol' "up-or-down" vote -- the one thing the majority party loves, until it falls into the minority, at which point it rediscovers the "cooling saucer" metaphor, right up until it reclaims the majority and the cycle begins anew.
Cotton isn't alone, of course. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), upon learning of the likely Democratic filibuster, responded, "Are you kidding me?" Politico reported today:
"Is that where they really want to be? Do they really want to vote to block consideration of ... probably the biggest foreign policy endeavor?" Corker said in an interview. "Do they want to be in a place where they voted to keep from going to the substance [of the Iran debate]?"
Corker may not have fully thought this one through.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.27.15

08/27/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In a new national Quinnipiac poll, Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican field with 28% support, followed by Ben Carson's 12%. Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are tied for third with 7% each, followed by Scott Walker is sixth place with 6%. The news is especially poor for Rand Paul, who's in 11th place in the poll with a woeful 2%.
* The same poll found Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination, 45% to 22%, followed by Vice President Biden with 18%.
* Quinnipiac also found Clinton with modest leads over the top GOP candidates in hypothetical general-election match-ups. Biden enjoyed similar advantages over Republicans.
* Jeb Bush said of Donald Trump yesterday, "This guy is now the front-runner." I don't remember Bush saying this before.
* The Huffington Post reports that Trump has reportedly told "several top Republicans that he will swear off the possibility of an independent bid and commit to running his presidential campaign under the party's banner." It's a story worth keeping a close eye on.
* As Rachel noted on the show last night, Trump is extraordinarily unpopular with Latino voters, and his impersonation of Japanese negotiators will likely help alienate yet another minority group.
* Priorities USA, a Clinton-aligned super PAC, has a tough new ad out this morning on Republican presidential candidates and their anti-immigrant rhetoric. The 30-second spot is reportedly set to air in Colorado, Florida, and Nevada.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage speaks a campaign rally on Nov. 3, 2014, in Portland, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

GOP governor eyes Senate election despite scandals

08/27/15 10:47AM

It's been a strikingly ridiculous year for Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R). He tried to block dozens of legislative measures, before losing at the state Supreme Court and watching the bills become law as a result of his own incompetence. The Tea Party Republican is also mired in an abuse-of-power scandal -- LePage doesn't deny the allegations -- which may lead to his impeachment.
The governor's policies are taking their toll on the state; he's broached the subject of resigning; and Politico recently felt comfortable publishing a piece that asked whether LePage is "playing with a full deck."
It's against this backdrop that the Maine governor is thinking about parlaying his two statewide victories into a U.S. Senate campaign. The Bangor Daily News reported this week:
During an afternoon appearance Tuesday on a conservative talk radio show, Maine's Republican Gov. Paul LePage said he may run for the U.S. Senate in 2018. [...]
LePage said specifically he was thinking about challenging U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent and former two-term governor, because King caucuses with Democrats in Washington.
The governor told radio host Howie Carr this week, "I'm thinking about it very strongly."
Keep in mind, it's entirely possible LePage, who won a second term last year in a three-way race, will have been driven from office in disgrace long before the 2018 election cycle. Indeed, the investigation that may lead to the governor's impeachment is ongoing and moving forward.
Republican presidential hopeful businessman Donald Trump speaks to guests gathered for a rally on July 25, 2015 in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Trump breaks with GOP orthodoxy on taxes

08/27/15 10:14AM

There may be 17 Republican presidential candidates, but that doesn't mean the party is offering broad ideological diversity. On the contrary, the massive GOP field features a legion of White House hopefuls who all say roughly the same thing on roughly the same issues. This is especially true on taxes -- the one issue on which all Republicans have been united.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump began to flesh out his economic vision for America, and it includes raising taxes on the wealthy. 
Trump said during a Wednesday interview on Bloomberg's With All Due Respectthat he would like to change the tax code.
Trump sat down with Bloomberg Politics' Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, and surprisingly enough, he voiced his support for scrapping the carried-interest loophole, which taxes hedge-fund profits at a lower rate than usual income. Eliminating the Wall Street tax break been a priority for many Democrats for quite a while.
Trump went on to complain that multi-millionaires are currently "paying very little tax and I think it's outrageous." After stressing his support for middle-class tax breaks -- the Republican candidate has not yet outlined any specifics -- Trump added, "I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing and it's ridiculous, OK?"
So, Trump's prepared to raise his own taxes? "That's right. That's right. I'm OK with it," he replied. "You've seen my statements, I do very well, I don't mind paying some taxes."
In case it's not obvious, no other GOP candidate is proposing anything like this. On the contrary, most of the field is rushing to sign Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge, vowing never to raise any tax on anyone by any amount at any time.
But Trump is clearly not like other Republicans. The question then becomes whether or not a position like this is going to hurt him.

U.S. economic growth revised up sharply

08/27/15 09:39AM

Earlier this week, with economic tumult in China rattling global markets, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama. The White House, the GOP insisted, is obviously wrecking the American economy.
Yeah, about that....
The U.S. economy grew at a faster 3.7% annual pace in the second quarter, up from the initial estimate of growth at a 2.3% clip, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch predicted gross domestic product would be revised up to 3.3%, but business investment was stronger than expected.
Note, this is a preliminary estimate that will be revised again next month.
While nearly all Americans want to see stronger economic growth, this morning's evidence of economic progress may bring unwelcome consequences from the Federal Reserve -- the Fed has long been expected to raise interest rates in the fall, though developments in China have led many to hope Janet Yellen and Co. will delay a rate hike. Today's report, however, may very well reinforce the Fed's original plans.
As for the politics, I'll be eager to hear the same Republicans who argued on Monday that Obama is crushing the economy turn around and argue today that the economic is gaining steam thanks to the GOP-led Congress and anticipation of a Republican White House in 2017. That's how this silly game is played, right? Heads I win, tails you lose?
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with reporters as he emerges from the Senate chamber on July 26, 2015. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Cruz hedges on controversial immigration posture

08/27/15 08:43AM

The obvious problem for Republicans watching Donald Trump with dismay is that the New York developer is dominating in practically every poll. The less obvious problem is his influence over the Republican conversation -- and what happens when Trump's rivals try to keep up.
The GOP frontrunner, for example, took a fairly bold line on birthright citizenship: just because someone is born on American soil, Trump argued, doesn't make them an American citizen, 14th Amendment be damned. A new litmus test was born -- soon, every Republican was pressed on the same issue.
Some struggled more than others. Just ask Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who offered three very different answers over the course of six days.
Also note what happened when Fox News' Megyn Kelly asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to weigh in this week. Politico reported:
"What would President Cruz do? Do American citizen children of two illegal immigrants, who are born here, the children, get deported under a President Cruz?" Kelly asked. Donald Trump, she said, "has answered that question explicitly."
"Megyn, I get that that's the question you want to ask," Cruz said. "That's also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask."
After some dodges, the host asked, "Why is it so hard? Why don't you just say yes or no?"
Rather than answering, the far-right senator retreated to the usual rhetoric: officials "can have a conversation" about this after "we've secured the border."
This isn't nearly as good an answer as Cruz thinks it is.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about rural issues at the Des Moines Area Community College on Aug. 26, 2015, in Ankeny, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Clinton email story still lacks a punch line

08/27/15 08:00AM

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton spoke to campaign reporters yesterday and took responsibility for the controversy surrounding his email-server-management issue. She apparently adopted a tone many of her critics wanted to hear.
"I know people have raised questions about my email use as secretary of state, and I understand why," the former Secretary of State said. "I get it. So here's what I want the American people to know: My use of personal email was allowed by the State Department. It clearly wasn't the best choice. I should've used two emails: one personal, one for work."
She added, "I take responsibility for that decision, and I want to be as transparent as possible, which is why I turned over 55,000 pages, why I've turned over my server, why I've agreed to -- in fact, been asking to -- and have finally gotten a date to testify before a congressional committee in October."
The response coincided with an interesting report from the Associated Press, which raised the question of whether the controversy should even exist in the first place.
The transmission of now-classified information across Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email is consistent with a State Department culture in which diplomats routinely sent secret material on unsecured email during the past two administrations, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Clinton's use of a home server makes her case unique and has become an issue in her front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But it's not clear whether the security breach would have been any less had she used department email.
The AP report noted that these practices were ordinary for many years, including in the Bush/Cheney State Department.
The AP article quoted Leslie McAdoo, a lawyer who frequently represents government officials and contractors in disputes over security clearances and classified information, saying the slippage of classified information into regular email is "very common, actually."
I seriously hope we're not approaching the point at which Clinton critics expect an investigation into hundreds of officials, spanning two administrations, who may have harmlessly sent these emails.


About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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