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(L to R) President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired United States Marine Corps general James Mattis after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, Nov. 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, N.J. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Why Trump's Pentagon pick may prove to be deeply controversial

12/02/16 11:20AM

Some key posts in Donald Trump's cabinet have not been filled, but the president-elect has made a decision regarding the Pentagon, choosing retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as the nation's next Defense Secretary.
Trump made a surprise announcement of the expected appointment during a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday night, as the crowd cheered wildly. "We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense," Trump said theatrically. [...]

Mattis' confirmation by the Senate is not assured. Only three years out of uniform, he would also need a Congressional waiver for a 1947 law that requires a seven year wait.
No one has questioned Mattis' decorated military service, and by all accounts, the retired general enjoys the respect and admiration of those who've worked with him. A variety of Trump cabinet nominees have drawn criticism for being ridiculous, but there's no chance of Mattis facing that kind of pushback from anyone.

His nomination, however, does raise some institutional questions that aren't easy to answer.

Civilian control of the military is a bedrock principle of the American system of government. Indeed, liberal democracies the world over have recognized the importance of this basic idea. It's precisely why current U.S. law prevents retired military service to be out of uniform for at least seven years before taking a post like this one -- and Mattis only retired from active duty three years ago.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, has already announced her opposition making an exception to federal law for Trump's pick. "While I deeply respect General Mattis's service, I will oppose a waiver," the New York Democrat said. "Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and I will not vote for an exception to this rule."
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US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

Taking one step closer to having women register for the draft

12/02/16 10:39AM

Exactly one year ago tomorrow, the Obama administration took the historic step of opening all combat jobs to women. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the time, "We cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country's talents and skills."

The decision, however, kicked off a debate we've been keeping an eye on for a while: if there are no gender-related restrictions on combat service, why is the selective-service system limited to young men? The top uniformed leaders from the Army and Marine Corps have already made the case that there's no reason to treat young women differently when it comes registering for a draft.

Politicians aren't so sure, and the politics of the debate isn't cutting neatly along partisan lines. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, has endorsed equal treatment, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made his opposition to the idea part of his presidential campaign.

Late yesterday, NBC News reported that the White House and the Pentagon also endorsed changing the status quo.
"While Secretary [Ash] Carter strongly supports our all-volunteer approach and does not advocate returning to a draft, as he has said in the past, he thinks it makes sense for women to register for selective service just as men must," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement to NBC News. [...]

A spokesman for Obama's National Security Council Ned Price echoed the sentiment in a statement to USA TODAY on Thursday, saying "As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports -- as a logical next step -- women registering for the Selective Service."
Just so we're clear, there is no meaningful effort underway to reinstate the draft. This is solely a discussion about the selective service registration process, and whether or not to change the system to treat men and women equally.
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Image: The dome of the U.S. Capitol is reflected on the first day of the 113th Congress in Washington

House Science Committee keeps embarrassing itself

12/02/16 10:01AM

American politics is filled with cringe-worthy personalities and developments, but among the most dramatic embarrassments is the Republican-run House Science Committee. Take yesterday, for example.
The House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Twitter account retweeted a Breitbart News article that is unscientific and steeped in opinion on Thursday.

The article claims the science behind global warming is "in its final death rattle."
"Thanks [sic] what's now recognized as an unusually strong El Nino, global temperatures were driven to sufficiently high levels to revive the alarmist narrative -- after an unhelpful pause period of nearly 20 years -- that the world had got hotter than ever before," Breitbart's article, written by a climate denier, told readers.

Most sensible adults would recognize this as nonsense. The GOP-led House Science Committee thought it was insightful and worth sharing to a broader audience.

The committee is led by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a favorite of Big Oil, who is both a notorious climate denier and an occasional contributor to Breitbart News -- a right-wing website formerly run by Steven Bannon, who'll soon serve as the chief strategist to the president of the United States.

The broader problem is that the House Science Committee keeps finding new ways to make itself the punchline of a national joke. When ExxonMobil, for example, was accused of covering up its climate-change awareness for years, Science Committee Republicans stepped up to protect the oil giant.

It's part of a lengthy House Science Committee campaign to combat any public effort to address the climate crisis.
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Voting booths are set up for early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Counting the documented cases of voter fraud in 2016

12/02/16 09:23AM

Donald Trump doesn't appear to be comfortable with the fact that he lost the popular vote. I suppose it's hard to blame him: the president-elect is taking office with the knowledge that Americans were given a choice between two major-party candidates, and he came in second.

To make himself feel better, Trump recently declared that it only looks like he lost the popular vote -- which the Republican believes he secretly won "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Trump, of course, was brazenly lying, and neither he nor his aides have been able to substantiate the claim in anyway.

Nevertheless, folks like Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the RNC's Sean Spicer have dutifully stuck to Trump's script, pretending that the fraud claims have merit, even though reality points in a very different direction.

Nearly all of the fact-checking pieces have thoroughly documented that the fraud claims are ridiculously untrue, but were there any documented cases of fraud? We know the "millions" claim is absurd, but was the total number of fraudulent votes literally zero? The Washington Post did some digging:
We combed through the news-aggregation system Nexis to find demonstrated cases of absentee or in-person voter fraud -- which is to say, examples of people getting caught casting a ballot that they shouldn't -- during this election. This excludes examples of voter registration fraud -- the filing of fraudulent voter registration information. Those aren't votes cast -- and given that organizations often provide incentives for employees to register as many people as possible, registration fraud cases (while still rare) are more common.
The Post's research found a grand total of four documented instances of voters attempted to cast fraudulent votes. Not four percent, literally four individuals.

And most of them were Republicans.
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Unemployment rate drops to lowest point in more than 9 years

12/02/16 08:46AM

The penultimate jobs report of the Obama era offered a timely reminder that the nation's Democratic president is handing off a healthy economy to his Republican successor.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, continues to improve, dropping from 4.9% to 4.6%. It's the 14th consecutive month the rate has been at 5% or lower -- and the lowest jobless rate Americans have seen since August 2007.

As for the revisions: September's job totals were revised up, from 191,000 to 208,000, while October's were revised down, from 161,000 to 142,000. Combined, that's a net loss of 2,000.

Over the last 12 months, the overall economy has created 2.25 million new jobs, which is a pretty healthy number. And with one month remaining in 2016, the U.S. remains on track to create over 2 million new jobs this calendar year. What's more, November was the 74th consecutive month of positive job growth, which is the longest on record.

Remember, as far as Republicans are concerned, results like these were completely impossible. For the right, the combination of the Affordable Care Act, higher taxes, and assorted regulations would stifle job growth and push the economy into a recession, but the exact opposite happened. Nevertheless, Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers believe they'll "get the economy moving" by undoing the policies that pushed the unemployment rate to a nine-year low. Now that Republicans are poised to take complete control over federal policymaking, we'll see how that works out.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at the KI Convention Center on Oct. 17, 2016 in Green Bay, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Self-indulgent Trump embraces the permanent campaign

12/02/16 08:00AM

Donald Trump had been scheduled to give testimony this week in the "Trump University" fraud case, though the case was settled before the president-elect had to suffer this indignity. But a few weeks ago, the Republican's attorneys said the whole case should be delayed -- because Trump was far too busy to play any role in the proceedings.

And at first blush, that made some sense. Ordinarily, a president-elect has to maintain a rather grueling schedule, choosing a cabinet, attending security briefings, staffing his White House, speaking to international leaders, preparing a policy agenda, and even preparing for his inauguration. Every hour of every day counts.

But Trump isn't ordinary, and he isn't spending his time the way presidents-elect usually do. Trump, for example, is offered daily intelligence briefings from U.S. national security agencies, but he skips most of them. And instead of turning his attention to the enormous responsibilities that will soon fall on his shoulders, Trump yesterday made time for some self-indulgent celebrations of himself and his recent campaign.
[T]alking about trade and the outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing jobs, Trump broke free from his self-described "action plan to make America great again," and began what turned into a seven-minute monologue on his viewing of the election night returns.

He scoffed, talking about the Rust Belt and Midwest states, at the suggestions that his campaign wouldn't be able to "break the blue wall."

"We didn't break it!" Trump said. "We shattered that sucker."
He talked about the "fun" of fighting Hillary Clinton; he took a few shots at Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) for not supporting his campaign; and he took time to ridicule conservative independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin. We heard "lock her up" chants, which Trump greeted with a grin; we heard repeated whining about journalists and news organizations; and we even heard mockery of a protester.

If it seemed as if Trump was returning to campaign mode yesterday, there's a good reason. Indeed, the problem is that Trump never actually left campaign mode.
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Trump trades stick for carrots for jobs stunt

Trump trades stick for carrots for jobs stunt

12/01/16 09:24PM

Rachel Maddow reports on Donald Trump's publicity event at a Carrier manufacturing plant in Indiana after he used tax benefits and not the tax penalties he threatened on the campaign trail to convince the company to keep some jobs in the U.S. that had previously been planned for export to Mexico. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 12.1.16

12/01/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Tennessee: "Three more people have died in the ferocious wildfire that erupted across Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park, authorities said Thursday, raising the death toll to 10 as officials continue to assess the damage."

* A bit of a surprise out of France: "French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday he would not seek a second term in office in the presidential election in 2017, an unprecedented move that leaves the way open for other left-wing candidates. It is the first time in decades that an incumbent French president has not sought re-election. Hollande is the most unpopular president on record."

* A bigger surprise out of California: "Gov. Jerry Brown has tapped House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to be the next attorney general of California. He will succeed Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November."

* This is an important effort worth watching: "A Republican senator and a Democratic senator have joined forces to try to protect DREAMers and shield them from deportation as concerns mount that President-elect Donald Trump could repeal President Barack Obama's executive action to protect them."

* Putin intends to play Trump like a fiddle: "After a wave of euphoria among Russia's political elite over the victory of Donald J. Trump, President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday gave a more measured response in his annual address to the nation, calling for cooperation but expressing misgivings over some of Mr. Trump's statements about nuclear weapons."
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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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