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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.14.16

11/14/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* According to unhinged conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Donald Trump called him personally to thank Jones for his support during the campaign.

* The race for DNC chair will apparently feature a large field of candidates, with Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a top contender for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, eyeing the job. (Note: Rachel is scheduled to speak to another unnamed contender on tonight's show.)

* Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who's arguably the current frontrunner for the DNC chairmanship, has now picked up the support of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

* A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 18 percent of voters -- nearly one in five -- do not consider Trump's victory legitimate.

* On a related note, Gallup found that only 32% of Americans say they're feeling "proud" in the wake of Trump's victory. Eight years ago at this time, 67% Americans described themselves as "proud" -- more than double Trump's total.

* Though it's not generating much attention, there's still one Senate race remaining this cycle: Louisianans will vote in a Dec. 10 runoff in a race that's expected to have low turnout. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D), a former state senator, is facing State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy (R).

* In response to some reader emails, I should probably note that the single-payer ballot initiative in Colorado did not fare well last week.
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off the stage as Republican nominee Donald Trump remains at his podium after their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

The 'mandate' debate looks past Clinton's popular-vote victory

11/14/16 11:20AM

I can appreciate why many find the discussion about the popular vote irrelevant -- and as a practical matter, it is. There's a system in place; candidates were told in advance to play by the rules; and by constitutional mandate, the one who reached the 270 electoral-vote threshold wins the presidency.

But certain democratic principles shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. To hear Donald Trump's team tell it, Americans have not only endorsed his candidacy, they've also given him the authority to pursue his unpopular agenda.
Kellyanne Conway, a key adviser to Donald Trump's transition team, says the general election "was not close" and the president-elect has a "mandate" to carry out the will of the people on issues ranging from Obamacare to national security.

"This election was not close. It was not a squeaker," Mrs. Conway said on "Fox News Sunday." "There is a mandate there."
By one account, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told MSNBC this morning that Trump won a "landslide" victory.

And while there's no denying the legitimacy of Trump's victory, it's this triumphant rhetoric that keeps bringing me back to that pesky popular vote. Americans were given a choice between two major-party candidates, and by all appearances, by the raw metric of simply counting votes, Trump came in second.

Indeed, to borrow Conway's phrasing, it wasn't exactly a "squeaker." The West Coast votes are still being counted, but by some estimates, Clinton may very well end up with a popular-vote advantage of about 2 percentage points.

That's a bigger advantage than JFK in 1960 and Richard Nixon in 1968 -- and they won.
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President-elect Donald Trump, walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

Team Trump still eyeing 'payback' against his critics

11/14/16 10:44AM

The day before the election, the New York Times noted that Donald Trump was privately musing about the ways in which he would "punish his enemies" after the campaign, "including a threat to fund a 'super PAC' with vengeance as its core mission."

And that was when Trump was convinced he would lose, at which point he'd have plenty of free time to plot and scheme against those who slighted him. Now that Americans actually elected the guy, Trump, if retribution remains his focus, will have the power of United States executive branch at his disposal.

At Trump's election-night party last week, one of his prominent campaign aides, Omarosa Manigault, told the Independent Journal Review, "It's so great our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get in to the White House, we know where we stand.... Mr. Trump has a long memory and we're keeping a list."

Yes, that's right, Trump's staffer used "enemies" and "list" in the same thought.

Politico reported the other day, meanwhile, that the president-elect's team has "payback" on its mind, "plotting revenge against those they believe slighted Trump -- and them."
Since Trump's shocking upset victory in Tuesday's presidential election, several people who worked on his team have discussed ways to punish Republicans who were hostile to the New York billionaire's anti-establishment campaign, including blocking them from administration or transition posts, or lucrative consulting work, according to a handful of people involved in the conversations.

They say that Republicans who opposed -- or were seen as insufficiently supportive of -- Trump have had their entreaties rejected by people around the president-elect, some of whom have expressed wonderment that former bitter critics are now asking for jobs, lobbying leads and even Inauguration tickets.
One campaign operative told Politico, "My phone is ringing off the hook with people who were on the outs asking how they can get into Trump world. I'm telling them there is no f---ing way they're getting inside."

None of this comes as too big of a surprise. Mother Jones' David Corn recently reported, "Revenge -- it's a big part of Trump's life.... Why all the insults, bullying, and grudge matches? There is a reason. Trump fervently believes in retaliation.... [He] has said numerous times that he is driven by revenge and that it is a basic tool to use in business. He is obsessed with payback. In speeches and public talks, Trump has repeatedly expressed his fondness for retribution."

I wonder, though, whether this will extend to Hillary Clinton.
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The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013.

Trump isn't giving up on his plans for a border wall

11/14/16 10:04AM

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a prominent Donald Trump surrogate, told NPR last week what Americans should expect from the president-elect when it comes to immigration. "He'll spend a lot of time controlling the border," the Republican said. "He may not spend very much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it. But it was a great campaign device."

In this sense, "campaign device" appears to be some kind of euphemism for "ugly campaign promise the candidate had no intention of keeping." Trump wasn't telling the truth, but he fooled a bunch of unsuspecting voters into believing his vows anyway -- which Gingrich sees as "great."

Of course, on this issue, Trump also relied on a variety of other "campaign devices" his followers took quite seriously, including the creation of a "deportation force," the elimination of protections for Dream Act kids, and the construction of a massive wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Does he intend to keep these promises? CBS's Lesley Stahl asked about immigration during Trump's "60 Minutes" interview, which aired last night.
STAHL: So let's go through very quickly some of the promises you made and tell us if you're going to do what you said or you're going to change it in any way. Are you really going to build a wall?

TRUMP: Yes.

STAHL: They're talking about a fence in the Republican Congress, would you accept a fence?

TRUMP: For certain areas I would, but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate. I'm very good at this, it's called construction.
Well, it's certainly called something, though "construction" may not be the first word that comes to mind.
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Pro-choice activists hold a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 23, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Trump eyes the end of the Roe v. Wade era

11/14/16 09:20AM

On Election Night last week, as the consequences of the results started to set in, it wasn't long before those involved in the reproductive-rights debate started the clock: Roe v. Wade, all of a sudden, seemed to have an expiration date.

Donald Trump, as a candidate, vowed to appoint right-wing justices to the Supreme Court, and with a far-right Republican majority in the Senate, there's every reason to believe they'll succeed in moving the high court even further to the right. There's already one vacancy -- expect that to be filled in early 2017 -- and if one or two of the center-left justices leave the bench for any reason over the next four years, the conservative majority would swell to six or seven members.

The effects of such a move would affect American life in a broad number of ways for a generation, but on "60 Minutes" last night, CBS's Lesley Stahl asked the president-elect about one of the higher-profile issues.
STAHL: During the campaign, you said that you would appoint justices who were against abortion rights. Will you appoint-- are you looking to appoint a justice who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade?

TRUMP: So look, here's what's going to happen-- I'm going to-- I'm pro-life. The judges will be pro-life. They'll be very—

STAHL: But what about overturning this law--

TRUMP: Well, there are a couple of things. They'll be pro-life.... [H]aving to do with abortion if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states and--

STAHL: Yeah, but then some women won't be able to get an abortion?

TRUMP: No, it'll go back to the states.
If it seemed as if the two were talking past one another, it's because they were. Stahl was making the point that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, millions of women would no longer be able to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Trump, overlooking this detail, emphasized that reproductive rights would become a state issue.

They're both correct. If the right rejects the Roe precedent, states would be free to ban abortions, which in turn would curtail reproductive rights for women across much of the country.

Trump added, by way of a defense, that many women will "have to go to another state" in order to have an abortion. Asked if that's an acceptable outcome to him, the president-elect added, "Well, we'll see what happens."
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People line up for taxi across the street from the New York Times head office in New York, Feb. 7, 2013. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

First Amendment faces unusual threats following Trump's win

11/14/16 08:40AM

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn't issue a statement responding to the election results right away. He took a few days to think about it, letting his frustrations simmer over time.

And when Reid did speak, he didn't hold back, calling Donald Trump "a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate." The retiring Nevada Democrat added, "Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans."

Asked about Reid's statement on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager, said the senator "should be very careful about characterizing somebody in a legal sense."

Conway hedged soon after on the precise nature of the threat, but it certainly seemed as if a leading member of the president-elect's team was threatening possible legal action against a senator because the lawmaker publicly criticized Trump. In case it's not obvious, these kinds of intimidation tactics aren't normal in modern American life -- national leaders are not supposed to try to silence detractors with threats of litigation.

It was around this time that Trump himself decided to interrupt his busy transition schedule to complain via Twitter about the New York Times.
"Wow, the @nytimes is losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the 'Trump phenomena.'"
And then again.
"The @nytimes sent a letter to their subscribers apologizing for their BAD coverage of me. I wonder if it will change - doubt it?"
And then again.
"The @nytimes states today that DJT believes 'more countries should acquire nuclear weapons.' How dishonest are they. I never said this!"
Remember, all of this came just five days after Trump shocked the world by actually winning the American presidency.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump makes cringe-worthy moves with top White House hires

11/14/16 08:00AM

In recent history, there have been some striking combinations of powerful White House staffers helping guide their respective presidents. Reagan had Baker and Meese; Obama had Emanuel and Axlerod; Bush had Card and Rove.

And Donald Trump will have Priebus and Bannon.
Donald Trump has named Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, as his White House chief of staff, NBC News has learned.

Trump's transition team confirmed the appointment Sunday afternoon, but sources said that the decision was finalized Saturday night.
Up until now, Priebus' claim to fame is championing a "Growth & Opportunity Project" report, unveiled after his party failed spectacularly after the 2012 elections, which Republican officials completely ignored.  As recently as April, Trump accused Priebus' RNC of creating a presidential nominating system that was deliberately "stacked against" him. The then-candidate added that the RNC "should be ashamed" for creating a process that was a "scam" and a "disgrace."

Now, Priebus will nevertheless be one of the most powerful officials in Washington, D.C.

He'll be partnered with Bannon, the CEO of Trump's campaign, who led an extremist website, notorious for having espoused anti-Semitic and nationalist views.

In a less ridiculous political environment, politicians seeking national office would probably avoid even speaking to a website like Breitbart. Nevertheless, in our current environment, Republicans not only consider Breitbart credible, its former leader will now have a key office in the West Wing, guiding the direction of the president of the United States.

Whether one finds these hires terrifying or not, this is a major announcement for the incoming administration, with multiple angles. Let's unwrap the news a little further:
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Hubble's New Shot of Proxima Centauri

Week in Geek - Stellar neighbors edition

11/13/16 10:22AM

The Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia has just joined the effort of targeted observations of Proxima Centauri.

Parkes is one of several telescopes all focused on our nearest stellar neighbor in hopes of detecting something that might be interpreted as a sign of life, or more specifically an intelligent civilization. These observations are being orchestrated and funded by the Breakthrough Initiative, a collaboration between astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and billionaire Yuri Milner. The organization is designed to be: "a program of scientific and technological exploration, probing the big questions of life in the Universe: Are we alone? Are there habitable worlds in our galactic neighborhood? Can we make the great leap to the stars? And can we think and act together - as one world in the cosmos?" You may have heard about their Starshot project this past April when they announced the plan to design develop a fleet of light sail spacecraft that could reach the Alpha Centauri star system in several decades.

What's so great about Proxima and Alpha Centauri, you ask? The answer is Proxima b, the planet discovered around Proxima Centauri this summer by the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter telescope in La Silla Chile. The Alpha Centauri system is made up of a binary system, Alpha Centauri A and B which are somewhat sun-like stars, and the much smaller Proxima Centauri, which is a red-dwarf star. Together, they are the nearest star system to us and therefore Proxima b is the nearest planet to us outside of the solar system.

The Parkes telescope is part of the Breakthrough Listen project which aims to: survey the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth, scans the center of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane, as well as listen for messages from the 100 closest galaxies to ours. Proxima Centauri is the first of many targets for Parkes, and together with other radio telescope around the globe, it will help to "cover 10 times more of the sky, cover at least 5 times more of the radio spectrum, and do it 100 times faster than previous program."

[Pedantic astronomer note: radio telescopes detect light, not sound, so in my opinion the project should really be called Breakthrough Watch, natch.]

Here's some more geek from the week:

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Trump adviser eager to meet Turkey's demands

Trump adviser eager to meet Turkey's demands

11/11/16 09:10PM

Rachel Maddow reports on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's frantic round-up of tens of thousands of people he accuses of being political opponents, and his demand that the U.S. turn over a dissident living in Pennsylvania - a demand that Donald Trump adviser General Mike Flynn advocates meeting. watch

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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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