In August 2013, long before he was a leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump sat down for an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl for a chat about Trump's racially charged conspiracy theory about President Obama's birthplace.
But the interest wasn't limited to the president. Karl asked, "Ted Cruz, born in Canada, is he eligible to be president of the United States?" Trump responded, "Well, if he was born in Canada, perhaps not. But I'm not sure where he was born."
The ABC reporter tried to clarify, explaining that Cruz really was born in Canada, but the senator is legally a natural-born American citizen. "Look, that will be ironed out," Trump said. "I don't know the circumstances. I heard somebody told me he was born in Canada."
That "somebody" was the journalist sitting a few feet away, who told him the facts a few seconds earlier. The entire conversation was bewildering.
Trump's focus generally shifted away from birther garbage in the months that followed, but in an interview with the Washington Post late yesterday, the GOP frontrunner did his best to put Cruz's birthplace back in the spotlight.
"Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: 'Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?' That'd be a big problem," Trump said when asked about the topic. "It'd be a very precarious one for Republicans because he'd be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don't want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head."
Trump added: "I'd hate to see something like that get in his way. But a lot of people are talking about it and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport."
Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, talks with Rachel Maddow about the parallels between the George Wallace campaign in 1968 and Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, in particular their aggressive posturing against protesters and the media. watch
* Afghanistan: "One U.S. service member died and two others were wounded during operations in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the Pentagon said. The Department of Defense did not name the casualties, saying only that the incident took place near Marjah in Helmand Province."
* Crisis in Flint, Michigan, takes a turn: "Governor Rick Snyder has declared a State of Emergency in Genesee County due to the health and safety issues surrounding the lead in Flint's drinking water."
* In related news: "Flint's contaminated drinking water is now the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Gina Balaya is a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Michigan. She confirmed the investigation today."
* Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: "In the pivotal fourth day of armed occupation on federal land here, militants held tight to a cluster of small buildings behind a blockaded access road as the FBI mulled its next move."
* A changing relationship with Saudi Arabia: "Today, with American oil production surging and the Saudi leadership fractured, the mutual dependency that goes back to the early 1930s, with the first American investment in the kingdom's oil fields, no longer binds the nations as it once did."
* ISIS: "The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said Tuesday that the militants have lost 30 percent of the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria."
* Feel safer? "More guns were sold in December than almost any other month in nearly two decades, continuing a pattern of spikes in sales after terrorist attacks and calls for stricter gun-buying laws, according to federal data released on Monday."
Bernie Sanders delivered a big speech in New York today on Wall Street and the economy -- arguably his signature issue -- and we'll have more on his remarks on tonight's show. But there was one topic the Vermont senator raised that's worth singling out. From the transcript:
"[We] need to give Americans affordable banking options. The reality is that, unbelievably, millions of low-income Americans live in communities where there are no normal banking services. Today, if you live in a low-income community and you need to cash a check or get a loan to pay for a car repair or a medical emergency, where do you go?
"You go to a payday lender who could charge an interest rate of over 300 percent and trap you into a vicious cycle of debt. That is unacceptable.
"We need to stop payday lenders from ripping off millions of Americans. Post offices exist in almost every community in our country. One important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low income communities is to allow the U.S. Postal Service to engage in basic banking services, and that's what I will fight for."
To be sure, as Sanders supporters know, this isn't exactly a new part of his policy platform. But it's a really interesting idea that's worth broader consideration.
There is, not surprisingly, a concerted push in the opposite direction. Rand Paul, for example, argued as recently as November that he'd consider doing away with the Postal Service altogether, even though the Constitution explicitly lists this as a governmental benefit (Art. 1, Sec. 8).
Sanders has a much better idea: let's not only keep post offices, let's also expand the role they can play in a community.
Americans have heard President Obama speak about gun violence many times, often in the wake of a mass shooting, occasionally to make appeals to Congress to be more responsible, and sometimes both.
But today's remarks at the White House were less of an appeal for action and more of a defense of action, since the president is taking a series of executive actions this week that require nothing from a Republican-led Congress that opposes any and all efforts to reform gun laws.
The result was a powerful, and at times emotional, presidential pitch. The Atlantic's James Fallows, himself a presidential speechwriter nearly 40 years ago, wrote this afternoon, "I think the presentation as a whole -- talking about law, balances of rights, the art of the possible, the long process of political change -- will be one of the moments that is remembered and studied from Obama's time in office."
It's worth appreciating what made this morning's remarks so striking.
In the wake of the Bush/Cheney era, the Republican Party, which has long treated credibility on international affairs as something of birthright, suddenly found itself without a clear foreign policy. GOP officials were due for a spirited, substantive intra-party conversation about how they saw the world and the United States' role in it in the 21st century.
That discussion never really happened. Party elders who used to set the party's direction on foreign policy -- Dick Lugar, John Warner, Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, et al -- were politely ignored when they weren't rejected outright. Republicans started defining their agenda by simply rejecting anything President Obama is for, which made much of the GOP base happy, but which does not a foreign policy make.
Nearly eight years after the Bush/Cheney era ended, however, we're starting to see hints of the debate that should have taken place years ago. The Guardian's Sabrina Siddiqui reported yesterday on the Republicans' presidential primary fight and the drive to control the party's direction on foreign policy in the near future.
Marco Rubio on Monday framed the presidential election as a choice that would define America's role on the global stage. In doing so, he took direct aim at both Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state and Republican candidates he called "isolationists".
In response, a spokeswoman for one such opponent, Senator Ted Cruz, called Rubio's stance on foreign policy "incoherent" and "dangerous".
Just on the surface, it's a welcome change of pace when two prominent GOP presidential candidates have a genuine disagreement on something important. Most of the time, the Republican field, despite its enormous size, is annoyingly similar, offering little more than subtle differences over tactics and tone.
But when it comes to international affairs, the simple truth is that Rubio and Cruz offer two very different visions. Their disagreement matters, not just because one of them may be the GOP nominee later this year, but also because the resolution of their argument is likely to set the Republicans' default position in the years to come.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Jeb Bush's campaign conceded yesterday that when the former governor said he received the NRA's "statesman of the year" award, that wasn't actually true.
* At a campaign event this morning, Marco Rubio defended his poor voting record by dismissing Congress' importance. "We're not going to fix America with senators and congressmen," the senator said, in a quote that will probably end up in one of his opponent's campaign commercials sometime soon.
* On a related note, Rubio has been referring to members of Congress as "they," instead of "we," as if the Florida senator hasn't been a member of Congress himself for the last five years.
* Donald Trump's campaign commercial that shows people running at a border features footage from Morocco, not Mexico. One campaign official said this was intentional, though another said it was a mistake.
* Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) will wrap up his long career as a progressive champion in Congress at the end of the year. The 79-year-old lawmaker announced yesterday that his 14th term will be his last.
* Ben Carson told a New York audience yesterday, "[I]n a lot of cities, you know, you can buy a pack of heroin for less than you can buy a pack of cigarettes and it's destroying us." I'm not entirely sure what that means.
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.