One of the biggest political stories of the summer is the reception Sen. Bernie Sanders is receiving on the presidential campaign trail. In a 2016 field filled with high-profile candidates, it's the Vermont Independent who's drawing the largest crowds.
This was evident yesterday in Maine, which came on the heels of similarly successful events in Iowa and Wisconsin last week. As Rachel noted on the show last night, Sanders is "having way more retail success on the campaign trail than anyone else in either party -- anyone."
Sanders' early success seems baffling to much of the political world, but let this be a lesson to observers: there are plenty of unapologetic liberals out there who are eager to celebrate Sanders and his vision.
But just away from the spotlight, there's still just one potential trouble area for the Vermonter. A few readers flagged this Facebook item yesterday from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which wasn't pleased with comments Sanders made in an interview on Sunday with CNN's Jake Tapper:
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' characterization here of the National Rifle Association-drafted "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" that he voted for in 2005 is an utter fabrication. The bill has nothing to do with protecting upstanding gun manufacturers and dealers. Instead, it gives NEGLIGENT manufacturers and dealers blanket immunity from civil lawsuits. This law is THE REASON why two parents who lost their daughter in the Aurora shooting had their suit thrown out and are now being ordered to pay more than $200,000 in legal fees to gun companies that armed James Holmes.
It is an immoral law that denies victims and survivors their day in court -- a fundamental democratic right -- and Sanders' position is totally unacceptable. A big thanks to Jake Tapper for holding him accountable.
Sanders hasn't taken much heat from the left since launching his campaign, so it's worth pausing to appreciate what this is all about.
The chief economist at the Heritage Foundation is itself an awkward title -- the Republican think tank has moved away from its pretense of rigorous policy analysis -- but the job belongs to Stephen Moore. Earlier this year, after Moore published a bizarre piece criticizing the Affordable Care Act, Paul Krugman described the conservative as "a guy who has a troubled relationship with facts."
Krugman added at the time, "I don't mean that he's a slick dissembler; I mean that [Moore] seems more or less unable to publish an article without filling it with howlers ... in a way that ends up doing his cause a disservice."
This assessment came to mind last night, reading this New York Timesreport on a bizarre incident involving Moore and a leading Republican presidential candidate.
Last Wednesday, Stephen Moore, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who is an outspoken supporter of an immigration overhaul, described a recent telephone call with Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in which he said Mr. Walker had assured him he had not completely renounced his earlier support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
"'I'm not going nativist, I'm pro-immigration,'" Mr. Walker said, according to Mr. Moore's account of the call to a reporter for The New York Times.
On Sunday, after three days of pressure from Mr. Walker's aides, Mr. Moore said that he had "misspoken" when recounting his call with Mr. Walker -- and that the call had never actually taken place.
This one's a doozy, so let's back up for a moment and consider how we got to this point.
After his xenophobic comments in his campaign kickoff, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has become quite the lightening rod. It's been challenging to keep up with all of the businesses that no longer want anything to do with the controversial candidate, though the list continues to grow -- ESPN broke off its Trump ties yesterday.
Given the circumstances, it's tempting to think the GOP candidate would start to walk back his anti-Mexican rhetoric, for financial reasons if no other, but yesterday, he did the exact opposite. As Bloomberg Politics reported, Trump issued a 900-word statement yesterday afternoon, telling the world how right he was when he accused Mexican immigrants of being drug-carrying rapists.
"I don't see how there is any room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the statement I made on June 16th during my Presidential announcement speech," Trump wrote. [....]
Trump then turns his focus to Mexico. "I have great respect for Mexico and love their people and their peoples' great spirit," he wrote. "The problem is, however, that their leaders are far smarter, more cunning, and better negotiators than ours."
Even when bashing immigrants, Trump remembered how important it is to slam President Obama, too.
The lengthy statement included the relevant excerpt from his campaign kickoff, which Trump followed with, "What can be simpler or more accurately stated?" It was a rhetorical question, of course, though it's probably worth reemphasizing that Trump has no idea what he's talking about.
What's more, as Rachel noted on the show last night, towards the end of the written tirade, Trump argued, "After the speech was made, there were numerous compliments and indeed, many rave 'reviews' -- there was very little criticism. It wasn't until a week after my announcement that people started to totally distort these very easy to understand words. If there was something stated incorrectly, it would have been brought up immediately and with great enthusiasm."
Perhaps Trump wasn't paying close enough attention to the news in mid-June.
Rachel Maddow talks to Frank Rich, writer-at-large for New York Magazine, about the impending republican presidential debate and which candidates from the ever-growing field will make the cut to be included on the debate stage. watch
Rachel Maddow talks to South Carolina State Rep. Todd Rutherford about the day of reckoning for the Confederate Flag in South Carolina, as the legislature took up the issue of whether the flag should be taken down outside the state capitol building. watch
Rachel Maddow talks to AP legal affairs reporter MaryClaire Dale, the reporter who broke the story that Bill Cosby admitted to obtaining quaaludes to give to women for the purpose of having sex with them. watch
* Greece: "Germany maintained a hard line with Athens on Monday after Greek voters rejected Europe's austerity policies in a referendum, intensifying pressure on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to restart bailout talks and opening a rift with European countries that appeared more inclined now to consider softening the push for austerity."
* ISIS: "America's battle against ISIS, dominated thus far by airstrikes and training opposition forces, must also include a battle against the group's 'twisted thinking,' President Obama said Monday. 'This is not simply a military effort,' Obama said in remarks after getting briefed on the anti-ISIS effort at the Pentagon. 'Ideologies are not defeated by guns. They're defeated with better ideas.'"
* Heartbreaking gun violence in Chicago: "Nine people died and 46 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago this Fourth of July weekend. Among those who died was a 7-year-old boy who was shot while watching fireworks in Humboldt Park with his father just before midnight Saturday."
* Keep an eye on this one: "Sometime in the next few weeks, aides expect President Obama to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, he will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century."
* An alarmingly early start for Washington's wildfire season: "Normally soggy Washington -- nicknamed the Evergreen State for good reason and home to the wettest town in the Lower 48 -- has never been hotter or drier at this point in the year, officials say, and the fire season has never begun so early or so fiercely."
* Hmm: "Former attorney general Eric Holder said today that a 'possibility exists' for the Justice Department to cut a deal with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that would allow him to return to the United States from Moscow."
The debate itself is overdue. As msnbc's Joy-Ann Reid reported, 154 years ago, South Carolina troops raised a Confederate flag in Charleston harbor on the day of President Abraham Lincoln's inauguration. A century later, another Confederate flag was "hoisted over the statehouse in a gesture of defiance against federal court-ordered desegregation"
And this morning, South Carolina's state Senate began debate on S. 897 -- a proposal to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds and move it to an interior "relic room for appropriate display."
For those hoping to see the state move forward, the debate may have been contentious, but it was constructive. The Post and Courierreported this afternoon:
Members of the South Carolina Senate have voted 37-3 to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds.
Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, objected to giving the bill automatic third reading, which is usually a procedural vote, on Tuesday. For the bill to be sent to the House, it will need a two-thirds vote.
I'm not an expert in South Carolina's legislature procedures, but as I understand it, the state Senate will reconvene tomorrow for one last vote on the bill. Assuming there are no dramatic changes overnight, that vote will also be lopsided, at which point the bill will move on to the state House, where the margin is expected to be considerably closer.
Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who helped start the political debate, will sign the bill if it reaches her desk.
In the state Senate, the opposition votes came by way of just three Republican members: Lee Bright, Harvey Peeler, and Danny Verdin.
Bright, a former primary rival to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the current state co-chair of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) presidential campaign, did more than just oppose the proposal.
It was just a couple of weeks ago that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) unveiled his flat-tax plan, which is a bit of a mess. The Republican presidential hopeful assembled "an all-star team of the kookiest pseudo-economists in the history of the Republican Party" to help him craft a plan, and he came up with a 14.5% federal rate.
In practical terms, Paul is proposing a multi-trillion-dollar tax overhaul that the country couldn't possibly afford. But in ideological terms, the GOP senator's vision on tax policy is arguably even more outrageous.
BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported today on remarks Paul delivered last week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:
Paul said he believes that "you have to give up some of your liberty to have government," saying he was "for some government."
"I'm for paying some taxes," continued Paul. "But if we tax you at 100% then you've got zero percent liberty. If we tax you at 50% you are half slave, half free. I frankly would like to see you a little freer and a little more money remaining in your communities so you can create jobs. It's a debate we need to have."
Well, maybe. We can have a debate, for example, about the correlation between income-tax cuts and job creation -- which Rand Paul may not understand quite as well as he thinks he does. The senator might want to talk to Sam Brownback in Kansas about whether one leads to the other.
But once presidential candidates start equating taxpayers and slaves, there's a more serious problem.
In January 2014, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) held a lengthy press conference in which he tried to show at least some contrition. After scoffing at his "Bridgegate" scandal for weeks -- he even told reporters they would have to apologize to members of his team -- the Republican governor was confronted with so much evidence of wrongdoing within the Christie administration that he felt compelled to apologize.
A year and a half later, the governor is now a presidential candidate, and he's made the transition from humiliation to self-pity. As he did in May, Christie told Fox News yesterday he wants news organizations to apologize to him over Christie's own scandal.
It's a genuinely bizarre dynamic -- some of Christie's top aides conspired to cripple a community on purpose, abusing their power in the governor's name to a literally criminal degree, and Christie's defense is that he was simply too ignorant to know what was going on around him, creating a scandal that left him "embarrassed and humiliated."
And now he's waiting for journalists to apologize to him, as if Chris Christie were the victim of his own fiasco. The governor appeared on msnbc this morning, and continued to dismiss one of the biggest controversies of his career.
"Nobody cares [about Bridgegate]. They don't care cause here's why. They don't care because there's now been three independent investigations, all of which have said the exact same thing that I said the day after it happened. At some point people just say well after three investigations two of which were run by Democrats ... after a while people just say, 'Okay, I guess he's telling the truth.'"
Continuing to feel sorry for himself, the scandal-plagued governor added, "Instead of just standing up and saying what they should say, which is, 'We're sorry governor, for having jumped to conclusions, we're sorry for not only having accused you, but convicted you,' they say, 'Oh, it's a culture.' ... It wasn't a culture because if it was, there would have been a lot more of these incidents."
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* It only took two-and-a-half weeks, but Jeb Bush said over the weekend that he was offended by Donald Trump's anti-Mexican rhetoric. "To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party," for the former governor said, after ignoring the issue.
* To the delight of the NRSC, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) made it official this morning, kicking off his U.S. Senate campaign in Nevada.
* Ted Cruz announced his fundraising totals overnight, pointing to a $10 million second quarter, which isn't bad given his relatively weak standing in national polls. Cruz's super PAC has also reportedly raised over $37 million, though that's a cumulative total since the start of the year.
* Though it's not the team he intended to run with, Chris Christie has hired a new campaign manager: Ken McKay, a "well-regarded operative who previously has served as chief of staff at the Republican National Committee and as political director of the Republican Governors Association." Maria Comella, a longtime Christie confidante, will serve as his campaign's "chief messaging officer."
* There's no shortage of Nazi-related quotes from this guy: "Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said in February 2012 that "political correctness" has caused Americans to fall 'silent, very much like the people in Nazi Germany were silent.'"
* In New York's 21st district, which the DCCC has its eyes on, retired Army Col. Mike Derrick (D) has announced he'll take on freshman Rep. Elise Stefanik (R) next year. It's one of the state's more competitive districts, which President Obama won twice.
Three weeks ago, Politico published a fairly long, front-page piece with a provocative headline: "Benghazi panel probes Sidney Blumenthal's work for David Brock." At issue, of course, is the House Select Committee on Benghazi, already responsible for one of the longest congressional investigations in congressional history, and its meandering focus.
But the Politico article went further than most, highlighting some news that hadn't been reported elsewhere.
While still secretary of state, Clinton emailed back and forth with Blumenthal about efforts by one of the groups, Media Matters, to neutralize criticism of her handling of the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, sources tell POLITICO.
"Got all this done. Complete refutation on Libya smear," Blumenthal wrote to Clinton in an Oct. 10, 2012, email into which he had pasted links to four Media Matters posts criticizing Fox News and Republicans for politicizing the Benghazi attacks and challenging claims of lax security around the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, according to a source who has reviewed the email exchange. Blumenthal signed off the email to Clinton by suggesting that one of her top aides, Philippe Reines, "can circulate these links," according to the source. Clinton responded: "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH," according to the source.
The emails were not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department.
For the Republican Party's many Benghazi enthusiasts, the report painted a nefarious picture, based on information the State Department had kept under wraps. Indeed, the fact that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded, "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH," raised the prospect of Clinton urging the White House to shape its talking points based on Media Matters' reports -- a revelation that might help explain the GOP-led panel's interest in David Brock.
There was, however, a problem: the Politico report wasn't entirely accurate -- or more to the point, the Politico report was based in part on information leaked to the news outlet that turned out to be untrue.
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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