We've seen some reports this week noting that Donald Trump, who's repeatedly refused to rule out a third-party presidential bid, may no longer have a choice. CNN, for example, said the Republican frontrunner "must rule out a third-party bid before October if he wants to compete in South Carolina's Republican primary, a crucial test in the nominating contest."
Strictly speaking, that may not be entirely right. South Carolina's GOP does, in fact, require Republican presidential hopefuls to sign something akin to a loyalty oath, but the wording is almost comically weak: "I hereby affirm that I generally believe in and intend to support the nominees and platform of the Republican Party in the November 8, 2016 general election."
Could Trump sign the document about his "general beliefs" and then later change his mind? Maybe. Enforcing loyalty oaths is inherently tricky, so it's difficult to say with confidence what would happen if a candidate "intends" to support the party's nominee and then later changes his or her intentions.
Still, while the Republican National Committee has very little influence over Trump's chances, Politicoreported this week that some state parties are starting to see loyalty oaths as a worthwhile tool aimed at the New York developer.
Amid mounting concerns about Donald Trump's candidacy from the GOP establishment, Republican leaders in at least two states have found a way to make life a lot harder for him.
The Virginia and North Carolina parties are in discussions about implementing a new requirement for candidates to qualify for their primary ballots: that they pledge to support the Republican presidential nominee -- and not run as a third-party candidate -- in the general election.
The move probably wouldn't cost Trump support within the party, but that's obviously not the point -- these GOP officials are worried about Trump bolting the party and splitting the right in the general election. They're looking for mechanisms to tie the candidates' hands, forcing them to commit to the party's process.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced his support for the international nuclear agreement with Iran overnight, as did Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). Both members were considered "on the fence" and their endorsements reinforce broad perceptions that the diplomatic solution is likely to prevail.
It's against this backdrop that Slate's Fred Kaplan argues persuasively that some of the deal's high-profile opponents have made a serious strategic blunder.
If current trends hold, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and his stateside lobbyists -- mainly AIPAC -- are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.
It would have been better for Netanyahu -- and for Israel -- had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality.
That's undoubtedly true. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which Netanyahu and his team looked ahead, counted heads, and applied some basic game theory. "Look," the prime minister could have told President Obama privately, "I'll obviously never endorse the deal, but in exchange for some new benefits, I'll scale back the opposition campaign." West Wing officials likely would have been amenable to working something out.
For that matter, if Netanyahu hadn't adopted such an obstinate, unconstructive posture, he could have also worked with the White House during the negotiations, possibly even having some influence over the shape of the outcome.
But the prime minister and his allies chose a different course: first try to kill the talks, then try to kill the deal. For his trouble, Netanyahu is likely to end up with ... nothing.
The policy will apparently move forward anyway, while Netanyahu has undercut Israel's relationship with his country's closest ally.
There is an art to losing well. The prime minister has conducted a clinic on what not to do.
In the wake of this week's shooting in Virginia of two journalists, President Obama mentioned in an interview, "What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism." As a simple matter of arithmetic, Obama's assessment is plainly true.
But Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie wasn't impressed with the factual observation. "I don't know that anybody in America believes that they feel more threatened by this than they feel a threat by ISIS or by other terrorist groups around the world," the New Jersey governor said on Fox News.
It's a curious approach to the debate. For Christie, the president may be right, but the facts don't "feel" true. The governor doesn't know anyone who actually believes the truth -- statistically speaking, reality tells us Americans really are more threatened by gun violence than international terrorism -- and as such, the facts are somehow less important than the perception.
But this was the line that really stood out for me.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) said Thursday that enforcing existing gun laws should take precedence over new legislation, a day after the deadly shooting of two journalists during a live broadcast.
"I'll tell you what I am more scared of, I'm more scared of criminals than I am of guns," the 2016 presidential contender said during an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
That seems like a line that would score well with focus groups, but it doesn't mean much,
Call it a public display of political affection: Sen. Ted Cruz has invited Donald Trump to Washington next month for a rally against the Iran nuclear deal.
The two Republican rivals are set to appear at an event organized by the Tea Party Patriots, the Center for Security Politics, and the Zionist Organization of America, according to the Cruz campaign.
The event is tentatively set for September 9th, which should be shortly before Congress votes on legislation that would, if successful, derail the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
By any modern standard, it's quite unusual for rival candidates, running for the same party nomination at the same time, to team up like this, but in this case, neither Ted Cruz nor Donald Trump has much to lose. The far-right senator, who made the initial invitation to his ostensible foe, obviously wants to woo Trump supporters in the event the GOP frontrunner stumbles, and an event like this will help solidify Cruz's broader goals.
It's also largely the opposite of the strategy Lindsey Graham and Rick Perry tried for a while -- instead of making headlines by getting on Trump's bad side, drawing his ire, Cruz will stay in the spotlight by effectively partnering with the New York developer.
Trump, meanwhile, will get to be in front of the cameras for a big D.C. spectacle. Trump likes being in front of the cameras for big spectacles.
The big winners, however, may be Democratic supporters of the Iran deal.
Rachel Maddow points out that contrary to the frightened objections of some governors, the Obama administration's desire to move prisoners out of Guantanamo does not mean those prisoners would be released into American neighborhoods or "backyards." watch
Rachel Maddow explains that, crazy as it may seem, Russia is bulldozing and incinerating large quantities of imported food in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Western countries for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. watch
Steve Schale, a political strategist and adviser to the Draft Biden 2016 Committee, talks with Rachel Maddow about the considerations being made ahead of a possible 2016 run by Vice President Joe Biden and how the decision affects the Democratic field. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that CNN established its debate rules before the full size of the Republican field was realized and now has the potential to unfairly influence the race, particularly for Carly Fiorina, whose recent polls have improved. watch
Rachel Maddow looks back at the mishandling of the Katrina disaster by the Bush administration and talks with Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League about the pace and obstacles to recovery in New Orleans and what work remains. watch
Biden/Clinton numbers getting more headlines, but Qpiac also has Bernie Sanders beating both Trump and Jeb: http://t.co/4ZeAwRXGyN
* Presumably Monday's rhetoric from the right no longer applies? "United States stock markets on Thursday turned in a second day of strong gains, reversing many of the losses sustained early in the week when global markets tumbled."
* A decade later: "Years after then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama declared 'America failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast', he returns to the city to hail Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts and highlight the region's resilience in the face of massive devastation."
* In related news, Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown, of FEMA notoriety, is still trying to avoid history's blame.
* What a dreadful story: "An abandoned truck 'full of bodies' was found on the side of a highway in eastern Austria on Thursday. Police said the dead were thought to be refugees."
* Guns: "Walmart said on Wednesday that it would no longer sell high-powered rifles in its stores in the United States. The decision followed years of public pressure on the retailer to stop selling some of the most lethal weapons associated with many of the nation’s mass shootings."
* Pakistan's fear of India carries dangerous consequences: "A new report by two American think tanks asserts that Pakistan may be building 20 nuclear warheads annually and could have the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile within a decade."
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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