When Jeb Bush's national campaign was in its earliest stages, the former governor and his team were well aware of the challenges associated with running as the brother of a failed, recent president. The task at hand was simple: come up with a way to carry the burden effectively.
Earlier this year, the preferred solution was a clumsy form of denial. Asked in February about some of former President George W. Bush's catastrophic decisions, Jeb Bush declared, "I won't talk about the past." Two months later, the Florida Republican was asked whether his brother made any mistakes at all in the area of foreign policy. "I'm not going to get into that," he replied.
It seemed like an unsustainable posture, and it was. Team Jeb needed a less-evasive, more-substantive strategy, which apparently meant throwing the "I am my own man" mantra out the window.
Last week, for example, the former governor tried -- and failed -- to blame the Iraq disaster on the Obama administration, as if his brother wasn't responsible for one of the most costly foreign-policy calamities in American history. Since then, as MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin helped document, Jeb's only made matters worse.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that his brother's successful overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein "turned out to be a pretty good deal" on Thursday while speaking at the APPS National Security Forum in Davenport, Iowa.
Paul Waldman responded in a Washington Post piece, "The idea that removing Hussein 'turned out to be a pretty good deal' is so deranged that it boggles the mind. Imagine if his brother had said to the country in 2003, 'Let me offer you this deal: We'll take out Saddam, and it'll only cost us 4,000 American lives, tens of thousands more Americans gravely wounded in body and spirit, around $2 trillion, a worldwide surge in anti-Americanism, and years of chaos in the Middle East. Whaddya say? Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?'"
For the record, note that for Bush, the international nuclear agreement is a bad deal, but the catastrophic war in Iraq was a "pretty good deal."
Since then, Jeb has bragged about the advice he receives on international affairs from Paul Wolfowitz, and the candidate even went so far as to boast that the "mission was accomplished" when it came to Iraq's security in late 2008.
It's a rather extraordinary evolution. Six months after practically declaring 2001 to 2008 off-limits, Jeb is now practically bragging that he, backed by his Bush/Cheney team of foreign-policy advisers, intends to create a third term for George W. Bush's foreign policy.
The politics of this is bizarre, but it's not the only relevant angle.
It was just a couple of weeks ago when Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump first raised the prospect of mass deportations for millions of immigrants already in the United States. The GOP candidate quickly joined what the Washington Post's Greg Sargent calls the "Cattle Car Caucus."
At the time, Trump made no effort to explain how, exactly, he intends to identify, detain, and deport roughly 11 million people, or how he intends to pay for such a massive undertaking. "Politicians aren't going to find them because they have no clue," Trump said. "We will find them, we will get them out."
As MSNBC's Anna Brand noted, Trump is now going into a little more detail on the issue that's helped propel him to the front of the Republican pack.
Donald Trump on Sunday released his detailed immigration reform plan, encompassing the sentiment he expressed in an interview on "Meet the Press" that aired just an hour earlier: Undocumented immigrants "have to go."
Watching the interview yesterday, the exchange pointed to an apparent contradiction. "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd asked the GOP candidate, "You're going to split up families. You're going to deport children?"
"No, no," Trump responded. "We're going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together."
Todd followed up, "But you're going to kick them out?" To which Trump replied, simply, "They have to go."
If this seems like a policy mess, there's a good reason for that. There are many undocumented immigrants, for example, whose children are American citizens, born in the United States. Deporting every immigrant who entered the country illegally, in practical terms, would mean separating parents from their own children.
Except under the Trump plan, the Republican doesn't want to do that. That leads to some alarming possibilities.
First up from the God Machine this week is an unusual theological argument against the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
As anyone who's followed the debate at all knows, Republicans have made a variety of arguments against the diplomatic deal, nearly all of them related to national security. But as Right Wing Watch reported this week, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) went in a more unusual direction, arguing that President Obama is ushering in the End Times, and the nuclear agreement is evidence of the arrival of the Last Days.
Bachmann claimed that the unanimous UN Security Council vote to approve the agreement was "the most important national security event of my lifetime" because it fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 12:3 that all the nations of the world will unite against Israel, "with the United States leading that charge." She added that God and "heaven's armies" will use groups like AIPAC to defeat the deal in Congress and in doing so "prove to the world His power and His strength." [...]
Bachmann told listeners that they should feel "encouraged" by the fact that they are living in the End Times, explaining that these dark times are actually the best time to be alive since that means the world will soon come to an end.
The right-wing former lawmaker, just four years removed from her presidential campaign, added that she's "extremely excited" because "I think that we are about to see the strong right arm of the Holy God show to the world and prove to the world, His power and His strength. He is the Lord of Heaven's armies."
To date, she's the only Republican that I'm aware of who's publicly framed the debate over the Iran deal in terms of the End of Days. Whether any of Bachmann's former colleagues follow her lead remains to be seen.
Rachel Maddow points out that Donald Trump's well know history of flamboyant style and confidence has not kept him from becoming the Republican frontrunner for the 2016 nomination for the presidency. watch
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We got news today from Gilbert, Arizona, an extended suburb of Phoenix. Last fall, the Tea Party majority on the Gilbert school board voted to remove mentions of abortion from the high school honors biology textbooks. They planned to do it by blacking out the text with Sharpies, perhaps, or by ripping out the pages entirely:
"The cheapest, least disruptive way to solve the problem is to remove the page," said board member Daryl Colvin.
The board acted at the urging of the same group that backed gay discrimination bills in Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana, the Alliance Defending Freedom. Based in Arizona, the Alliance insisted that Gilbert's biology books were out of compliance with an Arizona law requiring school districts to present childbirth and adoption as preferable to abortion. But soon after the Tea Party majority decided to censor the biology books, voters in very conservative Gilbert decided to replace them with a new majority. Shortly afterward, the outgoing board reversed course and decided against going ahead with ripping pages out of biology textbooks.
From the beginning, superintendent Christina Kishimoto had warned her bosses on the board that removing information from the books would only send kids to the Internet to find out what they were missing. With the new majority taking over, Kishimoto told us late last year she would have a team of biology teachers go over the books this summer and likely put together two or three pages of information that they would include in an envelope glued to the inside back cover.
Last night, though, a local viewer emailed us Gilbert's solution, and it turns out to be much smaller than expected.
Katy Tur, NBC News Correspondent, reports on Donald Trump's first campaign event since the Republican debate, and Richard Winger, publisher and editor of Ballot Access News talks with Ari Melber about whether a third party run is a real option for Trump. watch
Rachel Maddow looks back at the tenacity with which Hillary Clinton fought for the Democratic nomination in 2008, just one of many examples of the steadfast determination she has demonstrated through her political career. watch
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