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A "Help Wanted" sign is posted in the window of an automotive service shop on March 8, 2013 in El Cerrito, California.

The fatal flaw in Trump's vision on improving race relations

08/17/17 10:14AM

At Donald Trump's bizarre press conference this week, before defending racist activists, a reporter asked the president if how concerned he is about race relations in America. Trump started by taking another cheap shot at President Obama -- the subject of his ongoing obsession -- before sharing his vision on how race relations can improve.

"I believe that the fact that I brought in -- it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our country, I think that's going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations," Trump said. After a series of related economic claims, he added, "I think that's going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It's jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. And when they have that, you watch how race relations will be."

There are, of course, a couple of glaring problems here. First, job creation since he took office isn't nearly as good as he thinks it is. Second, as the Washington Post noted, Trump's plan for improving race relations is at odds with reality.

Jobs are not magic fairy dust that can cure everything. Racism is a deeper problem than just economics. Even in periods of strong employment and economic growth, the United States and other nations have still experienced ugly flare ups of hate crimes and riots.

“Jobs don't cure the fundamental problems that ail us,” says economist Diane Swonk, who runs DS Economics. [...]

Jobs are not enough to bridge the deep racial divide. In theory, a booming economy should help reduce poverty and inequality, but racial tensions are more than just an inequality problem.

Vox had a related piece yesterday, highlighting a 1998 study that found, throughout American history, there's been no meaningful correlation between the strength of the economy and domestic racial tensions.

Even at face value, Trump's pitch is odd. As the president is quick to remind the public, the current employment rate is at a 16-year low. By his reasoning, this should mean that race relations in the United States are great and getting better.

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The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, Arlington County, Virginia.

Trump, Joint Chiefs have very different responses to Charlottesville

08/17/17 09:22AM

How isolated is Donald Trump in the wake of his public defense of bigoted activists? Even U.S. military leaders are making clear their reactions to violence in Charlottesville are not in line with the president's.

A group of military leaders broke with President Donald Trump and rebuked the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville over the weekend -- a near-historic development for U.S. civil-military relations.

Since Sunday, five U.S. service chiefs -- representing the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and National Guard -- have tweeted their denunciation of the white nationalists whose rally led to the killing of a counter-protester on Saturday. Two police officers covering the rally also died when their helicopter crashed.

At face value, seeing U.S. military leaders denounce racists and their twisted ideas may seem obvious and unremarkable, but the broader context is important. For one thing, service chiefs do not always weigh in publicly in response to national events. On the contrary, their goal is generally to remain as apolitical as possible.

But just as important is the fact that the service chiefs are no doubt aware of the national controversy surrounding Donald Trump's inflammatory reaction to Charlottesville, and the military leaders' condemnations of the racist activists appears intended to put some distance between the brass and the president.

And that's no small development. As the New York Times put it, the services chiefs "did not mention Mr. Trump by name, but their messages were a highly unusual counter to the commander in chief."

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Image: U.S. President Donald Trump walks along the Rose Garden as he returns from a day trip to Atlanta on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S.

Trump's choice in lawyers suggests he doesn't hire 'the best people'

08/17/17 08:41AM

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump assured voters he'd surround himself "only with the best and most serious people." The Republican even wrote about it on Facebook, vowing he "will hire the best people."

Now that Trump's in office, there's plenty of evidence to suggest these promises weren't true -- and I'm not just talking about the president's White House team and cabinet.

Consider, for example, the outside legal team Trump has hired to lead his defense in the Russia scandal. As Rachel noted on the show, the New York Times reported overnight:

President Trump's personal lawyer on Wednesday forwarded an email to conservative journalists, government officials and friends that echoed secessionist Civil War propaganda and declared that the group Black Lives Matter "has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups."

The email forwarded by John Dowd, who is leading the president's legal team, painted the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in glowing terms and equated the South's rebellion to that of the American Revolution against England. Its subject line -- "The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville" -- was a reference to comments Mr. Trump made earlier this week in the aftermath of protests in the Virginia college town.

The ridiculous email told recipients, "You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington, there literally is no difference between the two men."

Trump World really is getting stranger. One would assume that the lawyer overseeing the president's legal defense in the most serious political scandal in at least a generation would be pretty busy. The fact that Dowd is making time to promote a racially inflammatory message, helping spread neo-Confederate propaganda, is truly bizarre.

It's worth emphasizing that the president's chief outside counsel didn't write the contents of the email; he forwarded it to a group of journalists and public officials. The author of the message Dowd apparently liked is a guy named Jerome Almon, who reportedly "runs several websites alleging government conspiracies and arguing that the F.B.I. has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists."

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Image: US President Trump addresses Joint Session of Congress in Washington

Trump censure resolution challenges the GOP to do more than talk

08/17/17 08:00AM

In the wake of Donald Trump's public defense of racist activists, plenty of Republicans have registered their dissatisfaction. They've tweeted, they've criticized, they've wrung their hands and furrowed their brow. They have not, however, been willing to go any further.

Perhaps what they need is an opportunity to do something more meaningful. As Rachel noted on the show last night, three House Democrats -- Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) -- will introduce a congressional censure resolution tomorrow, condemning the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville.

The editorial board of USA Today makes a compelling case that it should pass. The editorial read in part:

Expressing disapproval in 140 characters or fewer is insufficient when the president angrily asserts that there were some "very fine people" among the bigots waving Confederate battle flags and swastika banners; when torch-bearing marchers chanted "Jews will not replace us"; and when police said one Nazi sympathizer rammed a sports car into a crowd, killing an innocent counterprotester. The victim, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was remembered Wednesday at a heartbreaking memorial service.

When these things happen in the United States, and the president blames "both sides," more formal condemnation is necessary. This is a moment of reckoning for members of the Party of Lincoln: Do they want to stand up for American values, or do they want to keep enabling a president whose understanding of right and wrong has slipped dangerously off the rails?

If congressional Republicans choose the former -- and history will be watching -- they should join together with Democrats to censure Trump.

Don't assume the argument will necessarily fall along partisan or ideological lines. Steve Schmidt, a longtime GOP strategist and former aide to John McCain, said on Tuesday's show that congressional Republican leaders "have to censure him, or they risk sliding into a moral abyss with him."

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative Washington Post writer, echoed the sentiment, arguing yesterday, "Any Republican not willing to sign on [to the censure resolution] should be voted out. Period. It's the only litmus test that matters."

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 8.16.17

08/16/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* I hope everyone saw Heather Heyer's mother: "'They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,' said Susan Bro, pointing a defiant finger as her audience gave her a standing ovation."

* Baltimore: "It was 'in the best interest of my city,' Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday, as she explained why she ordered Confederate monuments removed under the cover of darkness, days after violence broke out during a rally against the removal of a similar monument in neighboring Virginia."

* It's almost as if the president is dishonest: "As F.B.I. director, James B. Comey had widespread support from his agents, according to internal survey data released Wednesday that contradicts President Trump's claim that he fired Mr. Comey in part because agents had lost confidence in him."

* Seems important: "That a hacking operation that Washington is convinced was orchestrated by Moscow would obtain malware from a source in Ukraine -- perhaps the Kremlin's most bitter enemy -- sheds considerable light on the Russian security services' modus operandi in what Western intelligence agencies say is their clandestine cyberwar against the United States and Europe."

* Good for them: "Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are now counted among the cacophony of Republican voices speaking out to reject racism in the wake of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one dead."

* The Taliban almost seemed to be trying to flatter Trump: "The Taliban have sent an 'open letter' to President Donald Trump, reiterating their calls for America to leave Afghanistan after 16 years of war. In a long and rambling note in English that was sent to journalists on Tuesday by Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, the insurgents say Trump recognized the errors of his predecessors by seeking a review of the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan."

* North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is ready to remove Confederate monuments from his state.

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Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined by attorneys Paul D. Clement, far left, and Rick Esenberg, second from left, announces that he has filed a lawsuit to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and th

GOP senator ready to 'move beyond' Trump's racially charged comments

08/16/17 04:53PM

In the wake of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) condemned white nationalism as a "completely evil ideology." As the Cap Times reports today, however, the Republican senator is less firm when it comes to Donald Trump's defense of racist activists.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson grew visibly annoyed with questions about President Donald Trump's perceived tolerance of white nationalism, telling reporters on Wednesday he would like to move beyond the issue to focus on things like tax reform and regulatory relief.

"You tell me what he needs to say so we can move beyond this," the Republican senator said when asked by reporters in Madison what the president should say about the violent white nationalist rally that took place in Virginia last weekend.

Asked if he's comfortable with what the president said yesterday, the conservative senator said, "Not entirely, no."

But Johnson's concerns were apparently limited. Talking to reporters this morning, the Republican added, "We can continue to harp on President Trump's reaction to Charlottesville, but from my standpoint, I'm concentrating on finding areas of agreement and doing everything I can under my committee's jurisdiction and what I can do to improve the situation."

Hmm.

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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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