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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 8.24.16

08/24/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Earthquake in Amatrice, Italy: "Homes opened up, like dollhouses, revealing shards of life interrupted by the 6.2-magnitude earthquake before dawn Wednesday.... Amatrice, considered among the most beautiful of Italy's historic towns, has survived centuries of war, weather and earthquakes, but never one like this. 'Three quarters of the town is not there anymore,' Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told state broadcaster RAI."
 
* Afghanistan: "Gunmen stormed the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul on Wednesday night, engaging with Afghan special forces who were responding to reports of gunfire and an explosion. A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that the attackers 'got inside the compound,' but there were no immediate reports of casualties or hostages."
 
* Middle East: "Turkish tanks, American warplanes and Syrian rebels joined forces Wednesday in a major cross-border assault into northern Syria that quickly pushed Islamic State forces from a strategic border town, officials from the U.S. and Turkey said."
 
* Indiana: "An Indianapolis homeowner who called police to report an attempted armed robbery at his house was mistaken for the suspect and was shot in the stomach by the responding officer, authorities said."
 
* Federal aid for communities that need a hand: "Officials say 29 projects in nine Appalachian states and in Texas are being funded by nearly $39 million from a federal initiative aimed at stimulating economic development in U.S. communities hard hit by coal industry layoffs. Officials for the Appalachian Regional Commission and other agencies announced the projects Wednesday at a news conference in Huntington."
 
* The worthwhile executive action: "With its time in the White House winding down, the Obama administration plans to add yet another executive order to its list on Wednesday -- one that will bar companies from receiving federal contracts if they recently violated labor laws."
Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters on August 23, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty)

Trump picks a fight with Clinton over ... celebrities?

08/24/16 04:31PM

In the run-up to the Republican National Convention last month, Donald Trump envisioned an all-star lineup, featuring "A-List celebrities" and athletic "champions," all of whom would be eager to celebrate the GOP candidate's nomination.
 
That didn't work out too well. Scott Baio and some underwear model whose name I've forgotten delivered convention speeches, prompting more ridicule than acclaim, but A-listers were nowhere to be found.
 
Soon after, reflecting on the underwhelming lineup in Cleveland, Trump delivered one of the year's most unintentionally hilarious lines: "I wasn't looking for star power [at the convention]; I was looking for policy." No, seriously, that's what he said.
 
A month later, the Republican evidently still has celebrities on his mind.
Donald Trump apparently does not think Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back.
 
Speaking at a rally in Tampa on Wednesday, Trump offered his take on Hillary Clinton's supporters: "The only people enthusiastic about her campaign are Hollywood celebrities, in many cases celebrities that aren't very hot anymore."
Is this really the fight Trump wants to pick? The "hotness" of Clinton's celebrity backers?
Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

Campaign manager believes 'undercover Trump voters' exist

08/24/16 12:50PM

When a presidential campaign is losing, it's difficult for aides to answers questions about the polls. Usually, they try to either point to the calendar ("There's plenty of time for the polls to change, and we're optimistic about breaking through") or they'll downplay the importance of polling itself ("The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day").
 
But occasionally we'll see a more problematic posture: a candidate's supporters will argue that the polls are somehow skewed.
 
Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who's scheduled to be on "The Rachel Maddow Show" this evening, sat down with the U.K.'s Channel 4, which asked about the Republican candidate's current deficit. Conway pointed to "hidden" Trump backers who've been excluded from surveys.
The dozens of recent polls that show Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump both nationally and in battleground states are, according to Conway, "cherry-picked polling numbers that are put out there by media outlets that are also bent on his destruction."
 
"He performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election," she told Channel 4, in comments first flagged by MSNBC. "It's because it's become socially desirable, if you're a college educated person in the United States of America, to say that you're against Donald Trump."
 
"The hidden Trump vote in this country is a very significant proposition," she added.
Asked if Conway, a longtime GOP pollster, has been able to quantify this, she said she has, but wasn't prepared to discuss it publicly. "It's a project we're doing internally," Conway said. "I call it the 'undercover Trump voter,' but it's real."
 
And while anything's possible, it's best to be skeptical about this.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.24.16

08/24/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* On Fox News last night, Donald Trump said of his immigration plans, "There certainly can be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people." Beyond vague statements like these, however, no specific changes have been made to the Republican candidate's platform.
 
* In Missouri, the latest Monmouth University poll shows a surprisingly close presidential race in the Show-Me State, with Trump narrowly leading Hillary Clinton, 44% to 43%. Missouri has voted Republican in each of the last four cycles.
 
* On a related note, that same poll found incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R) ahead by five over Jason Kander (D), 48% to 43%.
 
* As for Missouri's gubernatorial race, Monmouth found state Attorney General Chris Koster (D) with a surprisingly large 11-point advantage over businessman Eric Greitens (R), despite most other recent polling showing a far more competitive contest.
 
* As Rachel noted on the show last night, the latest PPP poll out of Utah, where Clinton recently opened a campaign office, found Trump ahead, 39% to 24%.
 
* Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R) new ad in New Hampshire seems quite similar to an ad Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) ran in North Dakota in 2012.
 
* The Koch network hasn't taken much of an interest in the presidential race, but it's launched a new attack ad in Ohio blasting Clinton and Senate hopeful Ted Strickland (D).
 
* Republicans pounced yesterday when former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), hoping to reclaim his old seat, told reporters his home in Indiana is located on "Canterbury Court," though it's actually found on "Canterbury Square."
 
* Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) isn't just a member of the GOP's #NeverTrump caucus; he's also urging party officials to give up on Trump and invest in congressional races.
Ben Carson watches as Donald Trump takes the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Carson wants scrutiny of 'elderly' candidates (including Trump)

08/24/16 11:00AM

It's a detail that's gone largely overlooked: if this year goes his way, Donald Trump would be the oldest president ever elected in American history. In 1981, Ronald Reagan was just days shy of his 70th birthday when he was inaugurated, but Trump became a septuagenarian earlier this summer.
 
Of course, given that Hillary Clinton is only a couple of years younger than the Republican nominee, few have been inclined to make much of a fuss about this issue. It came as something of a surprise, then, to see Ben Carson on MSNBC this morning, using the e-word.
Both "elderly" major party candidates for President should publicly release their full medical histories, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said on Wednesday morning.
 
"I think that somebody who is running for President of the United States, particularly if they're elderly, and that would include both candidates, should disclose their medical history," Carson, a surrogate for Trump's campaign, said. Trump is 70 years old and Hillary Clinton is 68.
Carson is quite the campaign surrogate, isn't he?
 
For the record, the Clinton campaign released a two-page letter last summer from Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton's personal physician for the last 15 years, summarizing the candidate's medical history, which included "a deep vein thrombosis in 1998 and 2009, seasonal allergies, and a concussion in 2012."
 
The doctor wrote, "Mrs. Clinton is a healthy female with hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, on long-term anticoagulation. She participates in a healthy lifestyle and has had a full medical evaluation, which reveals no evidence of additional medical issues or cardiovascular disease. Her cancer screening evaluations are all negative. She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States."
 
Several months later, the Trump campaign released a much shorter -- and unintentionally hilarious -- letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who said he's been Trump's personal physician since 1980. The doctor insisted the Republican candidate's "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary" and his recent lab tests results were "astonishingly excellent."
 
Bornstein added, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
 
And who is Dr. Harold Bornstein? I'm glad you asked.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory makes remarks concerning House Bill 2 while speaking during a government affairs conference in Raleigh, N.C., May 4, 2016. (Photo by Gerry Broome/AP)

NC's McCrory still struggling to defend controversial HB 2

08/24/16 10:00AM

Four years ago, Republican Pat McCrory cruised to an easy victory in his gubernatorial campaign. This year is proving to be far more difficult.
 
Recent polling suggests the GOP incumbent is in a very tight race against state Attorney General Roy Cooper -- three polls since early July show the Democrat in the lead -- and McCrory is still having to deal with the fallout of his controversial anti-LGBT law, generally known as HB 2.
 
The national blowback to the culture-war measure took a toll on McCrory's political standing, but WRAL in Raleigh reported yesterday that the governor's re-election campaign is defending the policy in a curious new television ad.
The campaign rolled out [an] ad with no announcement or discernable social media push. That ad features a sexual abuse survivor and slams Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory, for not defending House Bill 2, a measure which, among other things, requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding with their birth gender.
 
"At nine, I was molested by a teenager," a woman named Gina Little says in the ad, titled "The Truth About Roy Cooper."
 
"When I found out that President Obama and Roy Cooper want to force school children to share the same locker room, shower and restroom with someone who claims to be the opposite sex, I was horrified," Little says. The ad goes on to praise McCrory's efforts to defend House Bill 2 against a federal lawsuit.
The governor's team has had months to come up with a strong defense for HB 2. If this ad is the best McCrory's aides have come up with, that's not a good sign.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband former president Bill Clinton greet guests at the end of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Oct. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Clinton Foundation story offers smoke, but no fire

08/24/16 09:01AM

The report from the Associated Press yesterday came with a headline designed to raise eyebrows: "More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation." The story's lede leaves no doubt that the AP believes it's uncovered something resembling wrongdoing:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money -- either personally or through companies or groups -- to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
The proportion is considered "extraordinary" because, well, apparently the Associated Press says so.
 
But right off the bat, the first sentence undercuts the provocative headline: "more than half" of those Clinton met with "outside of government" supported her husband's charitable foundation. In other words, to arrive at the controversial figure, the Associated Press had to exclude all kinds of people: State Department officials, diplomats, ambassadors, foreign leaders and officials, White House personnel, military servicemen and women, etc.
 
In other words, after excluding the people any Secretary of State might ordinarily see on a typical day, and looking exclusively at this smaller subset of people Hillary Clinton met with, more than half of them contributed to Bill Clinton's charity.
 
Of course, the implication is that we're looking at some kind of pay-for-play controversy: people hoping to influence the Secretary of State, the argument goes, offered support to the Clinton Foundation, and in turn, they gained access to Hillary Clinton. The controversy, for lack of a better word, is based on the implication that charitable contributions helped some powerful people gain access to the United States' top diplomat.
 
But at least for now, there's no evidence of actual wrongdoing. Even Clinton's critics have not yet pointed to any specific instances of impropriety or ethical lapses. We're looking at a story with smoke, but no fire.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign rally March 7, 2016 in Concord, N.C. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty)

Trump's efforts to shake racist label likely to come up short

08/24/16 08:00AM

There's some truth to the old cliché, "The first step is admitting you have a problem." In Donald Trump's case, the Republican's presidential campaign is burdened by public perceptions that he's overtly racist, and as the election season enters the home stretch, the Washington Post reports that the candidate and his team are "rapidly trying" to improve Trump's bigoted reputation.
Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.
 
Trump is planning trips to urban areas -- with stops at churches, charter schools and small businesses in black and Latino communities -- and is developing an empowerment agenda based on the economy and education, aides said. Under consideration is an early September visit to Detroit, where retired neurosurgeon and former Republican primary rival Ben Carson would guide him on a tour of the impoverished neighborhoods where he grew up.
There's no great mystery as to Team Trump's motivations: racism isn't just morally reprehensible; in presidential politics, it's also an electoral loser. In an increasingly diverse country, Republican candidates will continue to lose national elections unless they improve their standing with racial and ethnic minorities.
 
Recent polling suggests, however, that Trump is on track to do far worse than any modern presidential hopeful with these communities. Thus, the new "strategy."
 
Will it work? Almost certainly not.

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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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