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Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford looks down while he browses at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market in Mount Pleasant, S.C., May 7, 2013. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)

Why Mark Sanford's loss in South Carolina is so important

06/13/18 09:20AM

About a month before Donald Trump's inauguration, congressional Republicans realized that their party's incoming president could pose problems for the party, but few were willing to say so out loud. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said at the time, "People are naturally reticent to be the first out of the block for fear of Sean Hannity, for fear of Breitbart, for fear of local folks."

The South Carolina Republican nevertheless spoke up from time to time, usually on matters of principle. Sanford, a former governor and a conservative, made clear he wasn't comfortable with Trump's style of leadership, and though he voted with the White House's position most of the time, he broke ranks more than most in his House GOP conference.

And yesterday, that cost Sanford his career.

Sanford had been running an ad buy in recent days that hit back at Arrington's criticism that he hasn't been sufficiently supportive of the president, who won the congressional district by double digits in 2016.

Sanford had previously called the president's steel and aluminum tariffs "an experiment with stupidity," and he suggested that Trump's rhetoric has been divisive and bad for the country.

He is the second House Republican incumbent to lose in a primary this year, following Rep. Robert Pittenger's loss in North Carolina last month.

Sanford lost to state legislator Katie Arrington (R), who received a late presidential endorsement yesterday, and who narrowly defeated the incumbent in the Republican primary. She declared after her victory, "We are the party of President Donald J. Trump."

And while there are a variety of interesting angles to this contest -- including the trouble House Republicans are having nationwide this year -- that one sentence from Arrington summarizes the significance of yesterday's results.

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum, Jan. 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

After Wisconsin's Walker tried to block election, Dems flip a GOP seat

06/13/18 08:40AM

In January, a Democratic candidate won a state Senate special election in a district that Donald Trump won by 17 points, defeating a Republican who enjoyed considerable support from the party and its far-right allies. Three months later, a liberal judge easily won a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time in 23 years.

Against this backdrop, when two state legislative seats became vacant in the Badger State, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) came up with a plan to prevent his party from suffering more setbacks: he simply didn't schedule special elections.

Eric Holder's National Democratic Redistricting Committee filed suit, and a judge ruled in March that the Republican governor had to allow voters to fill the vacancies.

We now know Walker was right to worry. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported overnight:

Wisconsin Democrats came one step closer to gaining control of the state Senate by picking up a seat held by Republicans for more than 40 years, while the GOP held on to an Assembly seat in a pair of special elections Tuesday.

Caleb Frostman topped Rep. Andre Jacque in the 1st Senate District and Jon Plumer defeated Ann Groves Lloyd in the 42nd Assembly District.

Frostman will be the first Democrat to represent the northeast Wisconsin district since the 1970s -- a win Democrats are hailing as more evidence of a so-called blue wave ready to flip more Republican-held seats in elections later this year.

The Democratic victory came in a district Donald Trump won by 17 points during his successful presidential bid.

Or as Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, put it a few months ago, Democrats are "winning elections in places where they shouldn't be."

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Image: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with President Donald Trump

Mission Accomplished, Part II: Trump thinks he's solved the North Korea 'problem'

06/13/18 08:00AM

How happy is Donald Trump with the results of his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un? The negotiations in which the American president made some major and unexpected concessions in exchange for nothing? The meeting in which he inexplicably showered one of the world's most brutal dictators with praise and affection?

So happy that Trump apparently believes he's resolved the entire national security challenge. Consider this pair of tweets from the president this morning.

"Just landed -- a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!

"Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer -- sleep well tonight!"

It's entirely possible that the Republican president is just lying again, assuming much of the public will believe whatever nonsense he peddles, but if Trump genuinely believes the North Korean nuclear threat is over, and the rogue nuclear power is "no longer" a problem, his ignorance may actually be dangerous.

Indeed, it's Mission Accomplished, Part II.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 6.12.18

06/12/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* This is an outcome that will reverberate: "A federal judge on Tuesday approved the blockbuster merger between AT&T and Time Warner, rebuffing the government's effort to block the $85.4 billion deal, in a decision that is expected to unleash a wave of takeovers in corporate America."

* Today's mass shooting: "A man who police say shot an officer before barricading himself in a Florida apartment killed the four children he had been holding hostage before killing himself, police said Monday."

* This took a little too long: "Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump's trade adviser, apologized Tuesday for saying 'there's a special place in hell' for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after Trudeau criticized the new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada."

* I wonder what the House will do: "In a major rebuke to President Donald Trump, the Senate has adopted a measure that would block the administration's deal with Chinese telecom giant ZTE, pitting the president against Congress on what many senators say is an issue of national security."

* This is a case worth watching: "A federal judge on Monday sharply criticized the Justice Department's argument that President Trump's financial interest in his company's hotel in downtown Washington is constitutional, a fresh sign that the judge may soon rule against the president in a historic case that could head to the Supreme Court."

* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) yesterday called "fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) 'a danger to the country' for relaying to the media that he had drafted documents to propose an Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) if President Donald Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un didn't go well."

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Image: US North Korea Summit in Singapore

To sell benefits of North Korea talks, Trump knows the truth isn't enough

06/12/18 04:37PM

The ostensible point of Donald Trump's talks with North Korea's Kim Jong-un was to push the United States' broader goal of denuclearization. On this, the summit in Singapore fell far short: the two leaders agreed to "work toward" denuclearization, but their joint statement was vague, included no commitments, and lacked any kind of tangible roadmap for success.

Even skeptics thought Trump and Kim might agree to something resembling tangible results. They didn't.

But in the American president's mind, the agreement includes commitments that apparently only he can see. Consider this exchange between Trump and ABC News' George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: [North Koreans] have to get rid of all their nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: They have to get rid of, yeah, I think that they will. I really believe that he will. I've gotten to know him well in a short period of time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did [Kim] tell you that?

TRUMP: Yeah, he's de-nuking, I mean he's de-nuking the whole place. It's going to start very quickly. I think he's going to start now.

No, he's not. No one could possibly believe that North Korea is "now" in the process of getting rid of its nuclear program. That's not what Kim Jong-un said; that's not what he and Trump agreed to yesterday; and that doesn't even make sense given everything we know about North Korea's position.

So why in the world did the president say it? There are three possible explanations:

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to U.S. President Donald Trump during the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018.

White House official identifies the Trump Doctrine: 'We're America, Bitch'

06/12/18 12:38PM

I've long been skeptical of the idea that every president is supposed to have a "doctrine." As Paul Waldman put it a few years ago, "Every president should be judged in foreign policy by the decisions he made, not whether you can sum it all up on a catchy bumper sticker."

But much of the political world tends to find this unsatisfying, assuming that every president must have a foreign policy doctrine that summarizes not the only a leader's priorities, but also a prism through we which we should see his or her decisions.

Last year, after Donald Trump launched some missiles at an installation in Syria controlled by Bashar al-Assad, the White House argued that it was part of a new "Trump Doctrine," in which the United States would punish regimes for abuses -- such as using chemical weapons -- without using ground forces.

Except, it quickly became obvious that this did not a doctrine make. Brief airstrikes, amounting to very little, is not the basis for an overarching vision of international affairs.

But the White House hasn't given up on the idea that there really is a Trump Doctrine, even if the president struggles to explain his own foreign policy. The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg spoke to administration officials and heard a few summaries of Trump's foreign policy canon.

One, for example, said the Trump Doctrine is "No Friends, No Enemies," in large part because the president "doesn't believe that the U.S. should be part of any alliance at all." Another pointed to "Permanent destabilization creates American advantage," because Trump apparently believes keeping everyone off-balance necessarily benefits the United States.

But a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking, brought the question into sharper focus, explaining, "The Trump Doctrine is 'We're America, Bitch.' That's the Trump Doctrine."

There's no reason to think the official was kidding.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.12.18

06/12/18 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* It's Primary Day in five states today: Nevada, Virginia, Maine, South Carolina, and North Dakota. One of the things to watch is Maine's experiment in ranked-choice voting (or as some call it, instant-runoff voting).

* Also keep an eye on Rep. Mark Sanford's Republican primary in South Carolina's 1st congressional district. The incumbent's media blitz suggests he's concerned, and Sanford has plenty of intra-party critics who aren't pleased with his occasional criticisms of Donald Trump.

* The next congressional special election is slated for Aug. 7 in Ohio's 12th congressional district, and Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to the area this week to raise money for state Sen. Troy Balderson's (R) bid. This is a district Donald Trump won by 11 points, and since World War II, the district has been represented by a Democrat for exactly one term, in the early '80s.

* On a related note, a Monmouth University poll released yesterday showed Balderson with a roughly 10-point lead over his Democratic rival, Danny O'Connor, a former prosecutor and local official.

* How worried is Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) about her far-right primary rivals in Arizona's U.S. Senate race? The congresswoman last week deleted an online video in which she defended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Her primary isn't until Aug. 28.

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Image: People stand on rocks on the shore during low tide as the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower Panama is seen next to apartment buildings in Panama City

Trump recommends thinking of North Korea 'from a real-estate perspective'

06/12/18 11:20AM

In his post-summit press conference, a reporter asked Donald Trump whether he took notes in order to verify assurances North Korea's Kim Jong-un made behind closed doors. "Well, I don't have to verify because I have one of the great memories of all time," the president replied. "So I don't have to, okay?"

That said, he was willing to discuss some of the topics of conversation with the dictator, including Trump's acknowledgement that he spoke to Kim about beachside real-estate opportunities.

According to the president's version of events, he used an iPad to show Kim a video prepared by the White House about a possible bright future for North Korea, full of economic development. Trump told reporters:

"I told him, 'You may not want this. You may want to do a much smaller version of this. I mean, you're going to do something. But you may want to do a smaller version. You may not want that with the trains and the everything. You know, it's super -- everything the top. And maybe you won't want that.'

"It's going to be up to them. It's going to be up to them. It's going to be up to the people what they want. They may not want that. I can understand that too.

"But that was a version of what could happen, what could take place. As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they're exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, 'Boy, look at the view. Wouldn't that make a great condo behind?' And I explained, I said, 'You know, instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there.' Think of it from a real-estate perspective."

The president apparently added that real-estate values between China and South Korea could be especially lucrative.

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Flattering Trump will apparently get Kim Jong Un everywhere

06/12/18 10:47AM

Donald Trump said over the weekend that he expected to know how his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un would go "within the first minute." That was absurd, of course, but it pointed to one of the president's more glaring flaws: his susceptibility to flattery.

All the brutal dictator would have to do is show up, look Trump in the eye, and tell the president what he wanted to hear, at which point the Republican would be both charmed and impressed.

And by some measures, that's what happened. Trump told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, for example, in reference to Kim, "He said openly, and he said it to a couple of reporters that were with him that he knows, that no other president ever could have done this.... He said no other president could have done this."

Substantively, this is bonkers -- every modern American president could've done this, but none was prepared to give North Korea what it wanted in exchange for nothing -- but Kim apparently understood that flattering Trump creates opportunities with Trump.

Consider this exchange from the president's post-meeting press conference:

Q: What did Kim Jong Un say to you to give you the confidence that, for once in the history of North Korea, they are not cheating the system, and gaming the world, and gaming the people who will have to go in and make sure that they're actually giving up their nuclear arsenal? What did he say to you?

TRUMP: Yeah, I mean, very fair question. He actually mentioned the fact that they proceeded down a path in the past, and, ultimately, as you know, nothing got done. In one case, they took billions of dollars -- during the Clinton regime -- took billions of dollars and nothing happened. That was a terrible thing, and he actually brought it up to me.

And he said we have never gone this far. I don't think they've ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done.

For now, let's put aside Trump referring to Bill Clinton's democratically elected administration as a "regime" -- a word he did not use in reference to North Korea's dictatorship. Instead, consider the peek into the president's narcissism.

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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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