Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Hillary Clinton has been off the campaign trail for a few days, but as Rachel noted at the top of last night's show, she's scheduled to appear at an event in Greensboro, North Carolina, tomorrow night.
* In Ohio, polling averages suggest Clinton has a narrow advantage over Donald Trump, but a new Bloomberg Politics poll shows the Republican ahead by five, 48% to 43%.
* It wasn't easy, but Rep. Frank Guinta (R) managed to narrowly win his Republican primary in New Hampshire yesterday. Though the race was too close to call last night, Guinta's challenger conceded the race this morning.
* The Clinton campaign this morning released a new 30-second ad, contrasting the Clinton Foundation with the Trump Foundation. It's a brief-but-unflattering look at the latter.
* The Democrats' Senate Majority PAC is launching television ads in Indiana this week in support of former Sen. Evan Bayh (D). Though Bayh is generally seen as the favorite, he's been heavily outspent in recent weeks by Republicans.
* In Virginia, the latest PPP poll shows Clinton with a pretty comfortable lead over Trump, 50% to 42%. That eight-point advantage shrinks to six points with the third-party candidates in the mix.
* In Maine, a new Colby College-Boston Globepoll found Clinton with a modest advantage over Trump, 42% to 39%. Note that Democrats have prevailed in Maine -- one of only two states to divide their electoral votes by congressional district -- in each of the last six election cycles.
Just 48 hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released an op-ed arguing that President Obama's record discredits the entire progressive ideology, Americans learned that income growth last year was the fastest on record; poverty rates saw their largest one-year drop since 1968; and the number of Americans without health insurance dropped to the lowest point ever recorded in the United States.
The far-right Speaker's timing could have been better.
As the Washington Post's Matt O'Brien noticed, this wasn't Ryan's only recent trouble with timing.
It's generally a bad idea to say something is a failure right after its biggest success.
That might seem sort of self-evident, but it apparently isn't. Take House Speaker Paul Ryan. He's been trying to recast the election as a contest between Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump, but rather his "Better Way" agenda -- basically tax cuts for the rich, spending cuts for the poor, and deregulation for big business -- and what he says would be President Obama's third term. Now, as part of that, he recently had this to say about the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose job is, well, to protect consumers from financial malfeasance.
"The CFPB," the Speaker said via Twitter, "supposedly exists to protect you, but instead it tries to micromanage your everyday life. That's NOT a #BetterWay."
Right off the bat, the idea that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is trying to "micromanage your everyday life" is plainly silly. The agency has been around five years. Can you think of a single instance in which the CFPB has tried to micromanage any part of your everyday life? What percentage of the public even knows the CFPB exists?
But more to the point, Ryan's complaints about the agency come directly on the heels of one of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's greatest success stories. Late last week, the CFPB reached a record settlement with Wells Fargo after the banking giant was caught allegedly bilking consumers, enrolling Wells Fargo customers in banking services without their permission, then charging them fees for accounts and services they neither sought nor authorized.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did its job, looked out for the public, and scored its biggest victory to date. In response, Paul Ryan condemned the agency and questioned its very existence.
Colin Powell is still a Republican and a veteran of a Republican administration, but he's been quite candid when expressing concerns about what's become of his party. In 2013, for example, the former Secretary of State lamented the "dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party," featuring GOP voices who "look down on minorities."
To bolster his point, Powell added at the time, "The whole 'birther' movement -- why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?"
With this in mind, it hardly comes as a surprise that Powell condemned Donald Trump as a "national disgrace" and "international pariah" in a personal email exchange that was leaked online by hackers. NBC News reports:
Powell, a retired 4-star general and a Republican, confirmed the authenticity of the emails to NBC News. "The hackers have a lot more," he added.
The contents of the emails were first reported by Buzzfeed News. It said the messages had been obtained by the website DCLeaks.com which MSNBC reported is rumored to have ties to Russian intelligence services.
The leaked materials offer an unvarnished look at Powell's perspective, including a 2015 message to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which he described the Republicans' obsession with Benghazi as "a stupid witch hunt."
And while revelations like these are notable given Powell's public profile -- he generally remains a popular national figure -- I'm also curious about the motivations behind the leak.
After nearly two decades on Capitol Hill, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) will leave political office at the end of 2016. The far-right lawmaker lost a gubernatorial race in Louisiana last year -- a contest he was supposed to win -- at least in part because of his prostitution scandal, and in the wake of his defeat, Vitter understandably concluded it was time to walk away.
The race to replace him hasn't generated much national attention, largely because the seat is very likely to remain in Republican hands. That said, there are quite a few top-tier GOP candidates vying to fill Vitter's vacancy, and the race received a significant jolt this week when one of the leading contenders was confronted with alarming allegations. The Washington Postreported:
On Tuesday, journalist Ethan Brown published a book "Murder in the Bayou" detailing the killing of eight prostitutes from 2005 to 2009 in Jefferson Davis Parish. In one of the chapters, Brown alleges that [Rep. Charles Boustany] was involved with the prostitutes (though not the killings). [...]
The book also alleges that a former Boustany aide helped run a hotel frequented by the prostitutes.
Particularly given Vitter's experience with hookers, allegations like these are bound to get some attention in a competitive Senate race.
Boustany, widely seen as a top contender for the seat, said through a spokesperson this week that the claims are "completely false," and the congressman's wife issued a statement of her own, rejecting the allegations and accusing Boustany's rivals of spreading "lies."
At first blush, Donald Trump announced a proposal yesterday in Pennsylvania that might have seemed half-way progressive. But in this case, appearances can be deceiving.
Donald Trump on Tuesday filled in the details of the childcare affordability plan he floated at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland over the summer. He did so with his daughter Ivanka Trump, an energizing force behind the policy, and behind him.
Trump's plan allows for a federal income tax deduction of childcare expenses for up to four children and elderly dependents. It is capped at the average cost of care in the state and is available in single-income households making up to $250,000 and $500,000 in joint-income households. Further, it guarantees six weeks of paid maternity leave, paid out of the unemployment insurance fund, to women whose companies don't provide the benefit.
Given the importance of the issue, it might seem like a step in the right direction to have the Republican presidential nominee unveil a proposal like this one. But the closer one looks at this, the worse Trump's "plan" appears.
There are three broad angles to keep in mind. The first is that the policy details of Trump's plan, to the extent that they exist, are a bit of a joke. The proposal would exclude many families who need help the most; the Trump campaign's numbers don't come close to adding up; and for much of the country, the size of the candidate's recommended tax credit would fall far short.
The second angle to remember is that Trump has some pretty serious credibility problems on this issue given his private-sector record. Many of his own employees, for example, wanted paid maternity leave but didn't receive it. What's more, the Associated Press reported last month that Trump's boasts about providing child-care at his hotels and resorts were wildly misleading: he offered programs that catered to his customers, but not his employees.
Yamiche Alcindor, a reporter with the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump's announcement of a surprise visit to Flint, Michigan, and the less-than-enthusiastic response from Flint to the news of Trump's arrival. watch
Steve Kornacki talks with Rachel Maddow about how much Hillary Clinton is likely to benefit from President Barack Obama campaigning for her given good economic news and high approval ratings but a remaining national divide. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews the latest on when both presidential campaigns intend to provide more medical information, with Clinton planning a second release later this week, and Donald Trump scheduled for an oddly constrained Dr. Oz daytime TV special. watch
* Understandable urgency at the U.N.: "As the United Nations General Assembly converges in New York on Tuesday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is using the gathering of world leaders to rush the 2015 Paris climate change accord into legal force this year, hoping to bind all countries to its strictures for at least the next four years -- regardless of the outcome of the presidential election in the United States."
* On a related note: "Last month the world endured the hottest August ever recorded, according to NASA. It marked the 11th straight month, dating back to October 2015, of record-high monthly temperatures, and pushed 2016 closer to becoming the third straight year of record-setting global warmth. August also tied with July as the hottest of any month ever recorded."
* Germany: "Three Syrians who entered Germany as migrants have been arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic State and may have had links to those who carried out the Paris terrorist attacks last year, the authorities said on Tuesday."
* Confirmation: "The Pentagon said Monday it has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike killed ISIS' second-in-command, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, despite Russia's insistence last month that it was one of its planes that killed him."
* This is worth keeping an eye on: "The Pentagon and intelligence community are expected to recommend soon to President Obama that he break up the joint leadership of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command to create two distinct forces for electronic espionage and cyberwarfare."
* ISIS: "The flow of foreign fighters to the ranks of the Islamic State -- once a mighty current of thousands of radicalized men and women converging on Syrian and Iraqi battlefields from nations across the globe -- has been cut to a trickle this year as the group's territory has shrunk and its ambitions have withered."
Just a couple of days ago, the Washington Examiner published a curious op-ed from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who's convinced that President Obama will be remembered as a leader done in by an ineffective ideology. Obama's "ultimate legacy," the far-right Speaker complained, "will be showing the country that progressivism in practice just doesn't work."
Ryan added, "For all the tax hikes and reckless spending and red tape, America is not better off."
It's hard to overstate how profoundly wrong the Speaker is: by practically every imaginable metric, the country is vastly better off. Take today's news from the Census Bureau, for example.
Americans finally got a raise last year after eight years of stagnating incomes.
The typical U.S. household's income rose 5.2 percent in 2015 to $56,516, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.... The government's annual report on incomes and poverty portrays an economy that is finally starting to benefit a wider range of Americans, roughly six years after the recovery began.
It's been quite a while since Americans saw a report this good on incomes and poverty. Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on Twitter this afternoon, "I usually try to be restrained, but this is unambiguously the best Income, Poverty & Health Insurance report ever."
That probably sounds hyperbolic. It's not. Furman fleshed out the details from the Census Bureau's document and highlighted several key findings, including the fact that income growth last year was the fastest on record (this report dates back roughly a half-century); the income growth was widespread across every income group and racial/ethnic demographic, with Americans at the bottom seeing the largest percentage increase; poverty rates saw their largest one-year drop since 1968; and the number of Americans without health insurance dropped to the lowest point ever recorded in the United States. Even the pay gap between men and women has improved to its lowest level ever.
It's not often we see economic news this encouraging.
It seemed pretty obvious yesterday morning that the political world was prepared to focus almost exclusively on Hillary Clinton's health -- probably for quite a while. The Democratic presidential campaign had acknowledged the candidate's bout with pneumonia; a spokesperson conceded the campaign hadn't handled the issue well; and Donald Trump had spent months raising outlandish questions about Clinton's well being.
The media's interest was intense and there was little doubt that this story was going to dominate the political conversation for a while. And that's when Team Trump decided to ... change the subject.
On Friday, Clinton delivered a speech in which she condemned the Republican candidate for having lifted up "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, [and] Islamaphobic" Americans. Trump and his aides were apparently so outraged, they launched a new television ad highlighting Clinton's criticisms, followed by Trump complaining bitterly yesterday about the Democrat's rhetoric and her reference to the "basket of deplorables" that makes up so much of Trump's right-wing base.
The story quickly followed the exact trajectory one might expect: coverage focused on the fact that Trump really does rely on "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, [and] Islamaphobic" supporters; Trump has made many comments that have been far more offensive towards the American mainstream; and his desperate desire to exploit Clinton's accurate assessment made it seem as if he were defending some of society's most indefensible voices.
Making matters worse, Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), appeared on CNN yesterday, where he was asked about former KKK leader David Duke's support for the Republican ticket. Wolf Blitzer asked if Duke would "fit into that category of deplorables." Pence said he doesn't want Duke's support, but the host pressed the specific detail:
When Blitzer pushed Pence on if he'd call Duke, who is running for the Senate in Louisiana, a "deplorable," Pence answered, "No I'm not in the name calling business..."
It was an answer that delighted David Duke and frustrated Republican officials. Pence nevertheless refused to refer to the former KKK leader as "deplorable" again this morning, which led to another round of headlines.
Remember, this is the debate Team Trump chose -- not questions about Clinton's health, but rather, Clinton's criticisms of Trump's "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, [and] Islamaphobic" backers.
The annual Values Voter Summit has become the year's biggest gathering for the religious right movement, and it's common for speakers to pander to conservative attendees with over-the-top rhetoric.
But even some VVS regulars were surprised by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's (R) remarks. Right Wing Watch highlighted the Republican governor's speech, which seemed to suggest that United States can only survive a Hillary Clinton presidency through bloodshed:
"Somebody asked me yesterday, I did an interview, and they said, 'Do you think it's possible, if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, do you think it's possible that we'll be able to survive? That we would ever be able to recover as a nation? And while there are people who have stood on this stage and said we would not, I would beg to differ.
"But I will tell you this: I do think it would be possible, but at what price? At what price? The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood, of who? The tyrants to be sure, but who else? The patriots.
"Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something, that we through our apathy and our indifference have given away."
In a separate interview, Bevin added, "If we don't step up when we have a chance to engage ideologically, philosophically, politically -- then we will ultimately find ourselves forced to the point that as a people we will be forced to shed the blood of both tyrant and patriots.... [T]hat is why this election matters so, so much."
Bevin later tried to argue that his VVS comments were related to military service terrorist threats, but it's difficult to take this explanation seriously. In both the speech and the interview, the right-wing governor framed his concerns in purely partisan terms.
There's a range of responsible rhetoric in a campaign season, especially from elected officials, and it's not unreasonable to think Bevin's apparent references to violence falls outside that range.
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.