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Former New York governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate George Pataki listens to a question at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua

GOP turns up the volume on anti-gay rhetoric

07/20/15 08:40AM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) caused a stir last week, arguing that the Boy Scouts shouldn't change its policy banning gay adult leaders. The status quo, Walker said, has "protected children."
 
The Republican presidential candidate walked that back a bit a day later, but on NBC's "Meet the Press," former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), another 2016 White House hopeful, embraced the anti-gay argument without hesitation. ThinkProgress reported:
Meet the Press' Chuck Todd asked Perry, who served as the governor of Texas from 2000 – 2015, whether his views on openly gay scout leaders had changed since 2008, when he wrote that "openly active gays, particularly advocates, present a problem. Because gay activism is central to their lives, it would unavoidably be a topic of conversation within a Scout troop. This would distract from the mission of Scouting; character building, not sex education."
 
Perry said he still stood by that statement. "I believe that scouting would be better off if they didn't have openly gay Scout masters," he said.
The video of the exchange is online here.
 
Also yesterday morning, CNN's Dana Bash asked Walker if he believes sexual orientation is a choice. "I don't know," the Wisconsin Republican replied. "I don't know the answer to that question. So, I'm saying I don't know what the answer to that is."
 
It's worth noting that the governor has spent his adult life in politics, tackling countless debates over social issues. It seems hard to believe Walker still hasn't come to a conclusion about whether he believes sexual orientation is a matter of personal preference -- a debate that was settled in reality many years ago.
 
The bizarre rhetoric from the GOP candidates looks even worse when considered in the larger context. At the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, over the weekend, one Republican leader after another condemned marriage equality, while on Capitol Hill, GOP lawmakers continue to move forward with legislation to push back against the recent Supreme Court ruling. 
 
Away from the political sphere, the American mainstream is increasingly supportive of marriage equality, but the same isn't true of Republican voters -- a new Gallup poll shows GOP voters continue to oppose equal marriage rights by a greater than two-to-one margin.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on July 18, 2015. (Photo by Nati Harnik/AP)

Trump has no regrets after smearing McCain's service

07/20/15 08:00AM

Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made clear how unimpressed he is with Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. The candidate is firing up "the crazies," McCain said, adding that Trump has "galvanized" a "very extreme element" within the Republican Party.
 
As msnbc's Benjy Sarlin reported over the weekend, Trump fired back during an appearance at a major GOP event in Iowa, which in turn may have put his newfound position as a Republican leader in jeopardy,
"He's not a war hero," Trump said during an onstage Q&A at the conservative Family Leadership Summit, an event that features a number of Republican presidential contenders. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, okay?"
 
Perhaps realizing he had gone too far -- even for him -- Trump followed up by saying "perhaps he's a war hero" before repeating his criticism of McCain's academic record in the U.S. Naval Academy over five decades ago.
There are many in the GOP who've been eager to condemn Trump, but who've hesitated, unwilling to risk alienating the candidate's nativist supporters. But Trump's ugly rhetoric about McCain's military service offered Republicans an excuse to go after the candidate with a vengeance.
 
Party officials and candidates quickly -- and at times, ferociously -- denounced Trump and his line of attack. Even the Republican National Committee, which has treated Trump's racist incidents with kid gloves, said in an official statement, "There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably."
 
For his part, Trump, who received multiple deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam -- he cited a foot injury, though he doesn't remember which foot -- talked to ABC's Martha Raddatz yesterday and said he doesn't owe McCain an apology "at all." He struck a similar tone in a new USA Today op-ed.
 
For a variety of pundits, this effectively marked the end of Trump's campaign -- it was the ultimate flame out, the argument goes, for a narcissistic candidate who simply can't control his impulses.
 
And those assumptions may very well prove to be true, but I wouldn't bet on it just yet.

Gunman's family speaks and other headlines

07/20/15 07:27AM

Family spokesman: depression may have led to Tennessee killings. (AP)

FBI checking gunman's phone, computer, trips for connections to ISIS. (USA Today)

Major interstate highway closes after bridge collapse. (USA Today)

Scott Walker to sign Wisconsin's 20-week abortion ban into law today. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Bernie Sanders draws his biggest crowd yet. (Washington Post)

Protesters shut down forum for Democratic presidential candidates. (New York Magazine)

John Kasich's anger management. (Politico)

U.S., Cuba restored full diplomatic ties just after midnight. (AP)

read more

This Week in God, 7.18.15

07/18/15 08:44AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an important legal fight over contraception and the Affordable Care Act -- with the larger trend working in the White House's favor.
 
With the recent Supreme Court ruling on "Obamacare," the most significant challenges to the law's legality have been exhausted, but there are some smaller cases that are pending, including litigation involving access to contraception .MSNBC's Emma Margolin reported this week:
A federal appeals court has ruled against the Colorado-based Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, finding that employees of such religious nonprofits must be able to access contraceptive coverage in line with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
 
Unlike last year's controversial Supreme Court case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which successfully challenged the health care law's birth control mandate in its entirety, this case targeted a federal accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious objections to birth control. All those groups have to do, under the accommodation, is submit a formal objection to including contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans, so that their health insurance issuers or a third-party administrator can provide the coverage directly.
As longtime readers may recall, Colorado's Little Sisters of the Poor wants to provide health care coverage to its non-profit group's employees, but it doesn't want to cover contraception. No problem, the Obama administration said -- the group can fill out some simple paperwork noting a religious objection, at which point a private insurance company can create a separate policy for workers who want access to birth control. The non-profit group wouldn't be involved and wouldn't pay a penny.
 
The nuns filed a federal lawsuit anyway, claiming that the paperwork itself infringes on their religious beliefs.
 
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that "the accommodation scheme relieves Plaintiffs of their obligations under the Mandate and does not substantially burden their religious exercise under RFRA or infringe upon their First Amendment rights."
 
Margolin' msnbc report added, "It is the sixth appeals court to find that the ACA accommodation poses no substantial burden to nonprofit groups' religious beliefs, according to the ACLU." How many appeals courts have ruled against the policy? So far, zero.
 
In other words, the religious right and other conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act continue to go after this accommodation for religious non-profits -- and they keep losing.
 
But that doesn't mean they won't stop trying.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
All 5 Democratic 2016 candidates meet in Iowa

All 5 Democratic 2016 candidates meet in Iowa

07/17/15 10:55PM

Anthony Terrell, reporter for MSNBC, talks with Rachel Maddow about a gathering of the Iowa State Democratic Party at which all five Democratic candidates for the 2016 nomination are speaking, and the rivalry between their respective supporters. watch

Friday Night News Dump: Rainbow Room edition

Friday Night News Dump: Rainbow Room edition

07/17/15 09:52PM

Carlos Pineiro, persistent picker-upper of whatever news is dumped down, joins Rachel Maddow for a test of how well he paid attention to the stories covered on the show this week, for a chance to win prizes worthy of fifth-round white elephant trades. watch

Like Christmas in July!

Like Christmas in July!

07/17/15 09:37PM

Nick Tuths, Rachel Maddow Show producer, presents Rachel with two of the finest examples of office clutter harvested from the TRMS cube farm for consideration as rewards for a winning performance by this week's Friday Night News Dump player. watch

Donald J Trump State Park? Not exactly.

Donald J Trump State Park? Not exactly.

07/17/15 09:00PM

The Rachel Maddow Show takes a road trip to New York's Westchester County to see where road signs for Donald J. Trump State Park actually lead and find a neglected, weed-choked plot of land with dangerously dilapidated structures. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 7.17.15

07/17/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Yesterday's victims have been identified: "The four Marines killed in the rampage in Chattanooga, Tennessee, served a total of five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one was awarded the Purple Heart. The Marine Corps said Friday that their remains were being sent to Dover, Delaware."
 
* The investigation continues: "School administrators at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, where the gunman in Thursday's shooting spree was a student, are working with law enforcement as investigators try to determine what motivated him to attack two military facilities in this city. The shooter, identified as Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, graduated from the university with a degree in electrical engineering in 2012."
 
* Preliminary details emerge: "The attacker who shot four Marines to death in Chattanooga, Tennessee, had at least three guns plus a vest to carry extra ammunition, and he apparently died in a firefight with police, authorities said Friday."
 
* Nigeria: "Nigeria's Islamic extremists chose open-air praying grounds for suicide bombings Friday, one of the holiest days of the Muslim calendar. At least 15 people died as they prepared to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in northeastern Damaturu, said police."
 
* It's a shame someone in his position isn't more credible: "Thursday's massacre of four Marines in Chattanooga, Tenn., appears to have been a terror attack motivated by Islamic extremism, the head of the House Homeland Security Committee said on Friday. Though federal investigators later said there was 'no indication' the shooting was directed by an outside group, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said it had all the hallmarks of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."
 
* Busted: "Michael Grimm, a former New York congressman and FBI agent who once investigated white-collar crime, was sentenced Friday to 8 months in prison for tax evasion by a judge who said his "moral compass' needed adjustment."
 
* The key ally: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is coming to President Obama's aid by vowing to support and aggressively sell the administration's nuclear deal with Iran ahead of a vote in September. Pelosi praised the deal at a news conference on Thursday, calling it the 'best possible option' for 'stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction' in the Middle East. She also suggested that Republican opponents of the deal had not read it."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 30, 2015. (Photo by State Department/Reuters)

Strange bedfellows dominate Iran debate

07/17/15 04:38PM

During the White House press conference this week, ABC News' Jon Karl reminded President Obama that the international nuclear agreement with Iran has some unsavory, if not malicious, proponents.
 
"Does it give you any pause," Karl asked, "to see this deal praised by Syrian dictator Assad as a 'great victory for Iran,' or praised by those in Tehran who still shout 'death to America,' and yet our closest ally in the Middle East calls it 'a mistake of historic proportions'?"
 
This is, of course, a standard Republican argument: if our Middle Eastern foes are on board with the deal, and Israel isn't, almost by definition, the policy must lack merit. As this line of thought goes, there's a debate by proxy underway -- any agreement backed by our enemies and condemned by our friends must be killed.
 
But approaching the debate in such a narrow way cuts both ways -- and doesn't do the right any favors. For example, to say that our friends oppose the deal is absurd -- the U.S. position enjoys the enthusiastic support of our European allies, as well as some in Israel. What about closer to home? The agreement has also received bipartisan praise from American diplomats.
More than 100 former American ambassadors wrote to President Obama on Thursday praising the nuclear deal reached with Iran this week as a "landmark agreement" that could be effective in halting Tehran's development of a nuclear weapon, and urging Congress to support it.
 
"If properly implemented, this comprehensive and rigorously negotiated agreement can be an effective instrument in arresting Iran's nuclear program and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the volatile and vitally important region of the Middle East," said the letter, whose signers include diplomats named by presidents of both parties.
Experts in nuclear policy are even more enthusiastic in their endorsements of the diplomatic agreement. Vox collected reactions from arms-control analysts and "it was really hard to find arms control analysts who seem to be critical of the deal on the non-proliferation merits."
 
Republicans are obviously aligned with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in opposition to the deal, but ironically, they're joined by Iranian hard-liners who were also bitterly disappointed by this week's diplomatic breakthrough. The New York Times reported today:

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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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