The Rachel Maddow Show Weekdays at 9PM

Rachel Maddow StoriesRSS

select from:

E.g., 10/5/2015
E.g., 10/5/2015
Rep. Trey Gowdy and Rep. Elijah Cummings arrive as the panel holds its first public hearing to investigate the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 17, 2014.

Dems on GOP's Benghazi committee start to play hardball

10/05/15 12:46PM

It's always interesting to see what happens when a charade ends. For quite a while, congressional Republicans tried to keep up appearances, pretending their Benghazi committee was a legitimate, non-partisan search for truth -- a claim no one, anywhere, seriously believed -- but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) accidental candor last week ripped off the mask.
There was brief discussion about whether Democrats would simply quit the taxpayer-funded, anti-Clinton fishing expedition in protest, a move Dems ultimately rejected, but that doesn't mean they plan to sit idly by. The Washington Post reported this morning:
Democrats are taking the unprecedented step of releasing excerpts from a closed-session interview the House Benghazi committee conducted last month with Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, accusing the panel’s Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy (S.C.) of selectively leaking information to damage Clinton in the presidential race.
In a letter sent Monday morning, Democrats on the panel released statements made by Mills from the Sept. 3 interview that paint Clinton in a favorable light. The letter charges Gowdy with failing to provide a fair account of Mills’s interview, alleging that he orchestrated small press leaks designed to produce negative stories about the Democratic presidential front-runner.
In a letter signed by all five Democratic members of the panel, the lawmakers told Gowdy, "It has become obvious that the only way to adequately correct the public record is to release the complete transcript of the Committee’s interview with Ms. Mills.... [W]e plan to begin the process of correcting the public record by releasing the transcript of Ms. Mills’ interview. Since you have indicated your unwillingness to do this in a bipartisan manner, we plan to do so ourselves."
Let's back up for a minute to recap for those unfamiliar with the issue surrounding Mills.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.5.15

10/05/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* To the delight of the DSCC, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) announced this morning she's running for the U.S. Senate next year. The two-term governor will take on incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), setting the stage for one of the cycle's premier races.
* The latest Pew Research poll shows Hillary Clinton maintaining a strong national lead over Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination, 45% to 24%. Vice President Biden is third in the poll with 8%.
* On a related note, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Sanders continuing to lead Clinton in New Hampshire, 48% to 39%, essentially unchanged from a month ago. In Iowa, however, Clinton leads Sanders, 47% to 36%, which is also essentially unchanged since September.
* Clinton received an endorsement over the weekend from the National Education Association, which is the nation’s largest labor union.
* Jeb Bush will reportedly turn to George W. Bush for fundraising help again this month, and there's increasing talk that the former governor hopes to use the former president to give his campaign a boost in South Carolina.
* Carly Fiorina was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard for six years, but "of the 302,000 employees at the company, not one has given a reportable amount to help Fiorina fund her 2016 presidential campaign, according to the campaign’s most recent FEC filings, which lists all donations over $200."
* Speaking of Fiorina's former staffers, some of the people who worked on her failed 2010 Senate campaign claim they're still owed money. The operations director for her Senate campaign told the Washington Post, “People are just upset and angry and throwing her under the bus. If we didn’t win, why do you deserve to get paid?"
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference in the State Dining Room at the White House Oct. 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Obama's case for single-issue voting -- on guns

10/05/15 11:20AM

Two weeks ago, before the mass-shooting in Oregon, Quinnipiac released national poll results on a variety issues, including guns. When respondents were asked, for example, "Do you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers?" the results weren't close: 93% of Americans support the idea.
In fact, while bipartisan consensus seems difficult in these polarized times, this is an issue where Democrats and Republicans are on the same page. According to the Quinnipiac results, 90% of GOP voters support mandatory background checks for all gun buyers, 92% of independents agree, as do 98% of Democrats.
And yet, the idea stands no realistic chance of success in the Republican-led Congress. It won't even get a vote. Elected lawmakers know what the polls say, but they don't care.
Why is that? Mother Jones' Kevin Drum explained the other day, "Most polls don't tell us how deeply people feel. Sure, lots of American think that universal background checks are a good idea, but they don't really care that much."
I think that's generally correct. On issues like background checks, progressives have effectively won half a battle: on key elements of the policy debate, the left has persuaded the vast majority of Americans on the merits of an idea. The second half of the battle is more complicated: making the transition from passive agreement to genuine passion for constructive change.
All of which leads us to something President Obama said on Friday, which was a departure from his previous rhetoric on the subject.
Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters).

Rand Paul facing the question no candidate wants to hear

10/05/15 10:44AM

At an event last week, Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin (R) initially said he'd supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) presidential campaign, but with Walker out, Bevin now likes Ben Carson. A few hours later, the Kentucky Republican switched gears and said he’s actually backing Kentucky’s Rand Paul.
Evidently, Bevin forgot that his third choice is supposed to be his first.
And just a few days later, Bevin stood alongside his home-state ally for a campaign rally that the Lexington Herald-Leader described as "subdued."
About 50 people came out on a rainy Saturday morning to see U.S. Sen. Rand Paul rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin.
Hmm. A month before Kentucky voters choose a new governor, the Republican nominee joined Kentucky's own presidential candidate -- on a weekend -- for a high-profile event. Just 50 people showed up?
The underwhelming turnout also came the same week as Rand Paul's presidential campaign announced it raised about $2.5 million from July to September -- a weak showing and a sharp drop-off from the $7 million the senator raised the quarter before.
Adding insult to injury, on Friday, American Bridge 21st Century, a progressive super PAC, reached out to contacts, letting them know that going forward, the super PAC will focus its attention on Paul as a vulnerable U.S. Senate candidate -- as opposed to a competitive presidential candidate.
There's arguably nothing more insulting than having one's critics decide you're just not that important anymore.
Senator Marco Rubio and then-Governor Jeb Bush attend Mitt Romney victory campaign Rally at Bank United Center on Oct. 31, 2012 in Miami, Fl. (Photo by Vallery Jean/FilmMagic/Getty)

The fight to be the non-amateur GOP nominee

10/05/15 10:00AM

On Thursday night in Iowa, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) hosted an unremarkable campaign event, which became interesting for non-traditional reasons. The action, it turns out, wasn't on the stage, but rather, was in the audience -- a super PAC supporting Jeb Bush sent a tracker to the Rubio event. The senator's aides noticed and kicked the tracker out.
It was a reminder that the rivalry between Bush and Rubio -- two former friends from their days in Florida's state capitol -- has taken a more confrontational turn. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin had a terrific report on this over the weekend.
After a campaign dominated for months by Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s various feuds, a new rivalry is taking center stage that may ultimately have a far bigger impact on the GOP race: Jeb Bush versus Marco Rubio.
Rubio’s message, which has always emphasized his youth and novelty in American politics, is growing more pointed as the campaigns converge. And the sharp end of the rhetorical stick is clearly aimed at a certain unnamed candidate more than the others.
There's really no subtlety to the messaging. As Sarlin's report makes clear, when Rubio takes aim at a certain unnamed candidate, he's taking on Bush.
At first blush, the dynamic might seem odd: there are simmering tensions and an increasingly public feud brewing between the candidates running in fourth and fifth place. What about the presidential hopefuls in slots one through three? Shouldn't they be the principal targets since they're the ones who are winning?
Not necessarily.
Handguns are displayed in the Remington booth during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits on May 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Focusing on guns and mental health means talking about the ACA

10/05/15 09:20AM

In the wake of every mass-shooting -- events that occur with heartbreaking regularity in the United States, but no other industrialized democracy -- political rhetoric tends to follow a predictable trajectory. Democratic officials, in general, raise the prospect of new policies to curtail gun violence.
And Republican officials, in general, decry such efforts as anti-freedom, preferring to focus on practically anything else. For some on the right, mass shootings serve as an excuse to renew conversations about violent entertainment (though plenty of other countries enjoy similar cultural fare without violent consequences). For others, gun massacres are reason to start merging religion and public schools (as if the Second Amendment is inviolate, but the First Amendment is malleable).
But in recent months, a focus on mental health -- which must have tested well with focus groups -- has become one of the GOP's principal talking points. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), the day of the mass-shooting in Oregon last week, urged President Obama to back Cornyn's bill "to address mental health factor in mass violence incidents."
In the Washington Post over the weekend, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack described some provisions of Cornyn's proposal as "helpful and constructive," but highlighted a missing piece of the puzzle.
Cornyn's proposal does not address the most glaring issue in American mental health policy: the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion was always the public health cornerstone of ACA. It remains the single most important measure to expand access to mental health and addiction treatment, serving severely vulnerable populations such as the homeless, addressing the complicated medical and psychiatric difficulties of many young men cycling through our jails and prisons.
I suspect that for many Republicans, the idea of "Obamacare" playing a meaningful role in preventing mass-shootings must sound ridiculous. After all, "Obamacare" is inherently bad, even when it's good, and all of its provisions must be rejected because, well, just because.
But Pollack is entirely correct, and if GOP officials are going to ignore gun-safety measures to focus on mental health, they should probably grow up and reconcile their mental-health rhetoric with their mindless, knee-jerk hostility towards Medicaid expansion through the ACA.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy leaves the House Chamber after the House approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government open, Sept. 30, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

House GOP faces drama in unsettled race for Speaker

10/05/15 08:40AM

Almost immediately after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shocked the political world with his unprecedented resignation announcement, attention turned to his successor. Party leaders, fearing a leadership vacuum, wasted no time in making clear that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was poised to get a promotion.
But with four days remaining until the behind-closed-doors, secret-ballot election, uncertainty reigns.
Last week, McCarthy did himself no favors, accidentally telling the truth about his party's Benghazi scheme and then clumsily trying (and failing) to clean up his mess. But the more Republicans were confronted with doubts about whether the Californian is genuinely up for such an important job, the more they were confronted with the realization that he had no credible rivals for the post.
At least, he didn't. With only a few days left to campaign, the dynamic has changed.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah has thrown a curveball into the race for House speaker, officially announcing on Sunday that he’ll take on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for the high-profile position.
Chaffetz, who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, painted himself as an outsider and argued on “Fox News Sunday” that he can better “bridge the divide” between moderate and far-right GOPers.
To be sure, the odds do not appear to favor the Utah Republican, who has even less experience than the inexperienced McCarthy. Chaffetz, however, has at least chaired a committee -- something McCarthy, incredibly, has never done -- and the Utahan has broader support among social conservatives in the GOP caucus.
In the meantime, the simple realization that McCarthy seems to lack the skills necessary to be a competent and effective House Speaker appears to be dawning on a growing number of party insiders. The fears that started as whispers continue to increase in volume.
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Ariz. (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty)

Latest polls likely to make the GOP establishment sweat

10/05/15 08:00AM

In July, it was fairly common to hear the Republican establishment and much of the media see Donald Trump atop 2016 GOP polling and ask, "Sure he's leading now, but can he sustain this advantage into August?" And then in August, they'd ask, "Sure he's leading now, but can he sustain this advantage into September?" And then in September, they'd ask, "Sure he's leading now, but can he sustain this advantage into October?"
It's October. Here are the latest national results from the Pew Research Center.
1. Donald Trump: 25%
2. Ben Carson: 16%
3. Carly Fiorina: 8%
3. Marco Rubio: 8%
5. Ted Cruz: 6%
6. Jeb Bush: 4%
7. Mike Huckabee: 2%
7. Rand Paul: 2%
The remaining candidates are at 1% or below in the Pew findings. (Note, this is the first survey of the cycle from the Pew Research Center, so I didn't include figures as to whether the candidates' support was increasing or decreasing.)
In addition to Trump's role as the frontrunner -- a role he hasn't relinquished since surging to the top in the early summer -- pay particular attention to Jeb Bush's surprisingly poor showing. It may be an outlier, but if the Florida Republican's national backing has dropped to just 4% -- a number, ironically, Bush has placed great significance in -- it suggests his standing may be reaching the point of no return.
Indeed, though John McCain and Mitt Romney hit rough patches before securing their party's nomination in 2008 and 2012, respectively, neither one ever came close to a 4% floor.
And while national results like these will give much of the GOP establishment heart palpitations, the news is no better at the state level.

Clinton on guns and other headlines

10/05/15 07:52AM

Clinton tacks to Sanders' left with new gun-control push. (New York Magazine)

Oregon gunman's father dismayed by the lack of gun legislation. (New York Times)

Bernie Sanders draws big crowds in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

Koch brothers, other mega donors warm to Carly Fiorina. (Reuters)

Turkish F-16s intercept Russian war plane after airspace violation. (NBC News)

U.S. aims to put more pressure on ISIS in Syria. (New York Times)

Doctors Without Borders says it's leaving Kunduz, Afghanistan after airstrike on hospital. (New York Times)

Nobel Prize week begins with an award in Medicine. (AP)

read more

This Week in God, 10.3.15

10/03/15 07:36AM

First up from the God Machine this week a look at the taxpayer-funded Congressional Prayer Caucus that may seem hard to explain in a country that honors the separation of church and state.
There are, to be sure, all kinds of congressional caucuses. Wikipedia has a list of them, and it totals 246. Some of the names are probably familiar to many Americans -- the Congressional Black Caucus, the Blue Dog Coalition, the Tea Party Caucus, etc. -- but many more are obscure. Ordinarily, most of these semi-formal groups of lawmakers keep a fairly low profile.
But this week, USA Today's Paul Singer highlighted the congressional caucus that exists to "defend the role of (mostly) Christian faith and prayer in the U.S. government."
The caucus was created by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., in 2005, and now includes about 90 members of the House, nearly all Republicans, one U.S. senator and one paid staff member. [...] Like other congressional caucuses, several members kick in shares from their taxpayer-funded office accounts to cover the approximately $50,000 annual salary of the staff member, Amy Vitale, who tracks legislation, drafts letters and generally supports the work of the caucus.
The Prayer Caucus also has an outside non-profit organization that supports its efforts, as are many other caucuses. The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation operates out of a Chesapeake, Va., building Forbes owns that also houses his campaign office. His wife, Shirley Forbes, is one of three unpaid directors of the foundation. The foundation has one paid staff member, executive director Lea Carawan, but operates entirely on private funds.
As odd as this may seem, the Congressional Prayer Caucus, subsidized with public funds, occasionally plays a role akin to an activist group, working to "extend the reach of faith and prayer in public life." In practice, that may mean, as Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) explained, promoting legislation to reflect "American, Christian values," or its efforts may also include national outreach to local officials to "protect" their interpretation of "religious liberty."
The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, meanwhile, has a mission statement that says it intends to create a "movement" to "reverse" a trend that includes "negating the influence that the Christian faith had on establishing the principles upon which our liberties are secured."
As for whether the blurred lines between religion and government are legally problematic, to my knowledge, the constitutionality of the Congressional Prayer Caucus hasn't been tested. It's not clear who would even have standing to bring such a challenge, though it'd likely make for an interesting case.
Also from the God Machine this week:


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.



Latest Book