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Trump seeks to shuffle red/blue map

Trump seeks to shuffle red/blue map

07/18/16 07:16PM

Rachel Maddow notes the significance of the seating arrangement of the delegations on the floor of the Republican National Convention noting that Donald Trump is not following a traditional red-state strategy. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 7.18.16

07/18/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Tune into MSNBC for more: "The floor of the convention erupted in loud protests this afternoon as stop-Trump forces sought to force a roll call vote on the adoption of the rules, which would have ended efforts to deny Trump the GOP nomination."
 
* The backlash begins in Turkey: "Turkey's strongman appears to have come out even stronger thanks to a failed coup d'etat in the key U.S. ally. President Tayyip Erdogan has tightened his grip on power following the unsuccessful attempt to seize power, raising fears he will take advantage of the situation to further crack down on political opponents."
 
* On a related note: "The United States and Europe pressed Turkey on Monday to follow the rule of law and maintain democratic principles despite a crackdown after an attempted coup."
 
* Baltimore: "Despite three acquittals and a hung jury through the first four trials of officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, prosecutors have the prerogative to push forward with the remaining trials. Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams on Monday soundly rejected the Baltimore State's Attorneys Office's case in the latest trial, of Lt. Brian Rice. He cited some of the same holes in the case that he had pointed to in two previous trials in which he found officers not guilty."
 
* Olympics: "The World Anti-Doping Agency's executive board wants the IOC to ban all Russian teams from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. WADA issued a seven-point list of requests after it published a report which confirmed claims of state-backed Russian cheating at the Sochi Olympics and beyond."
 
* Cleveland: "A day after Cleveland's police union head Steve Loomis said that President Barack Obama has 'blood on his hands' after shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Police Chief Calvin Williams said he's confident Obama supports the police. Asked whether he thought Obama had done enough to reassure police officers he had their backs, Williams quickly said 'of course.'"
 
* Herbalife: "The Federal Trade Commission has finally closed its investigation into Herbalife -- the nutritional-supplement company and multilevel-marketing business whose critics have accused it of being a pyramid scheme. That unsavory term is precisely what the FTC is now not accusing Herbalife of being -- but its agreement with the company will force Herbalife to pay a hefty fine and commit to restructuring its business, one in which its products are sold by its 'members.'"

How not to report on the U.S. budget deficit

07/18/16 04:23PM

Polls show that most Americans have no idea that the U.S. budget deficit has shrunk dramatically since President Obama took office. There's more than one reason for the public's confusion, but in some cases, the media isn't helping.
 
Take, for example, this piece today from the conservative Washington Times. The article is pretty straightforward, but the headline is plainly wrong: "Budget deficit nearly doubles during Obama years."
The White House predicted Friday that the federal government's budget deficit for the current fiscal year will hit $600 billion, an increase of $162 billion over last year's and a final sour note on President Obama's watch.
 
While the figure was expected, the increase represents a reversal from previous years, in which budget deficits had steadily declined from the massive $1.4 trillion annual deficit early in Mr. Obama's first term during the recession.
Readers might have noticed the gap between the article and the headline: in Obama's first year, the deficit was $1.4 trillion; in his last year, it's projected to be $600 billion. In what universe does that mean the deficit has "nearly doubled" during the president's tenure?
 
I realize we're dealing with enormous numbers here, but the arithmetic is pretty simple: from the president's first year in office through the most recent fiscal year, the deficit in the Obama era shrunk by $1 trillion. Most Americans have no idea this happened, but it's nevertheless the fastest deficit reduction we've seen in the post WWII era.
 
Yes, the deficit is now projected to increase this year for the first time since this president took office, but it will still be less than half the size of the deficit Obama started with. As the Washington Times should know, "cut in half" and "nearly doubled" aren't the same thing. They're practically opposites.
In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks to reporters near the subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

John McCain blames U.S. for international violence (again)

07/18/16 03:36PM

Last week, a mentally unstable Tunisian man took a refrigerator truck down a beachfront street in Nice, France, killing 84 innocent people, including many children, and wounding 200 others. It was a horrific, gut-wrenching scene, though French investigators said today no links have emerged tying the killer to terrorist networks.
 
But as BuzzFeed reports, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants people to hold President Obama responsible for the actions of the madman.
Arizona Sen. John McCain says President Obama "allowed" the Bastille Day attack in Nice that left at least 84 people dead to happen, blaming his policies towards ISIS for failing "America and the world."
 
"As far as the tragedy in France is concerned, obviously this is an act of mayhem and despicable," the Arizona senator told KTAR's 92.3FM's Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday. "I also have to tell you -- our prayers are with the families, obviously, and the French people -- but I also have to tell you, that as long as we have a leadership in this country -- the president of the United States -- who allowed this to happen, his policies are directly responsible for ISIS and ISIS is responsible for these attacks."
McCain, who cheered when Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq -- as part of an agreement the Bush/Cheney administration reached with Iraq -- went on to whine about the president's decision "to pull everybody out of Iraq."
 
Overlooking the thousands of airstrikes Obama has ordered on ISIS targets, and ISIS's shrinking territory, McCain added that the president has no "willingness to attack this evil."
 
McCain, who's been almost hilariously wrong about nearly every major national security challenge in recent decades, also took this opportunity to also boast, "I predicted everything that has happened."
During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Trump sees himself as a leader, not a reader

07/18/16 01:28PM

There's a memorable scene in "The Simpsons Movie" from 2007 in which President Schwarzenegger is told there's a crisis in Springfield. His aide presents him with five folders, each of which includes a different response. Schwarzenegger can't be bothered to review any of them.
 
"I was elected to lead, not to read," he said before choosing folder #3 without opening it.
 
Four years later, in November 2011, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was pressed to explain his incoherence and alarming ignorance about international affairs. Cain not knowing details isn't important because, as he put it at the time, "We need a leader, not a reader."
 
Now, life is imitating art once more. The Washington Post reported today that Trump doesn't much care for reading, and while he has a variety of magazines on his desk -- each of which has Trump's face on the cover -- the Republican candidate does not have shelves of books in his office or a computer on his desk.
He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions "with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words 'common sense,' because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability."
 
Trump said he is skeptical of experts because "they can't see the forest for the trees." He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: "A lot of people said, 'Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time.'"
The article added that Trump believes he "absorbs the gist of an issue very quickly," leading him to skip past long documents. He also apparently intended to read some presidential biographies -- since he's, you know, running for president -- but decided he didn't have time.
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence taking the stage during a campaign rally at Grant Park Event Center in Westfield, Indiana July 12, 2016. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty)

Donald Trump picked Mike Pence for a specific reason

07/18/16 12:48PM

On Saturday morning, in the New York hotel ballroom where Donald Trump was set to introduce Mike Pence as his running mate, reporters listen to the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" play over the loudspeaker.
 
Either members of the advance team didn't appreciate the irony or they had a sardonic sense of humor.
 
There's ample evidence that Trump wasn't sold on Pence, even after the Indiana governor had accepted the invitation to join the ticket. Similarly, there are plenty of reasons to believe Pence doesn't like or even respect Trump.
 
By Saturday morning, Trump kept saying, over and over again, that Pence was his "first choice" as running mate -- which is precisely the sort of overly defensive thing one says when the claim isn't remotely true.
 
And so, given all of this, coupled with the fact that the presumptive nominee had plenty of other options, why in the world did Trump pick Pence? The presidential hopeful briefly acknowledged the truth during Saturday morning's announcement:
'I think if you look at one of the big reasons that I chose Mike -- and one of the reasons is party unity, I have to be honest. So many people have said party unity. Because I'm an outsider. I want to be an outsider. I think it's one of the reasons I won in landslides. I won in landslides. This wasn't close. This wasn't close...." [emphasis added]
Trump went on to talk quite a bit longer about how impressed he was with his primary victories -- I'm fairly certain he forgot the point of the event during his remarks -- but he nevertheless added a dash of truth in there: Pence is on the ticket for the sake of "party unity."
 
That's not generally the sort of thing a national candidate acknowledges so plainly. As a rule, presidential candidates say they've chosen their running mates because they're ready to take on the responsibilities of president should crisis strike, because they've earned the opportunity through their accomplishments, etc. Trump's candor strips away the pretense.
 
As a New York Times report added, Trump's team reminded him that his running mate would have to "unite the Republican Party." And as it turns out, he's not the first candidate to face such a calculus.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.18.16

07/18/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* In 1964, Democrats put together a classic ad called "Confessions of a Republican," featuring a GOP voter who just couldn't bring himself to vote for an extremist like Barry Goldwater. This morning, the Clinton campaign unveiled a bookend ad, featuring literally the exact same man a half-century later, this time talking about Trump.
 
* On "60 Minutes" last night, Lesley Stahl mentioned in passing that Donald Trump is "not known to be a humble man." Before she could continue, the presidential hopeful interrupted to say, "I think I am, actually humble. I think I'm much more humble than you would understand."
 
* After Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate, he flew home to Indiana, where the governor was greeted by a rather modest group of supporters. The Hoosier delivered brief remarks to a hangar that was reportedly two-thirds empty.
 
* The much-derided Trump/Pence logo has been scrubbed from the campaign's website and no longer appears in campaign materials. It lasted one day.
 
* Hillary Clinton will reportedly announce her running mate this Friday at an event in Florida. The Republican National Convention wraps up the day before.
 
* In Missouri, PPP shows Trump leading Clinton comfortably in the former battleground state, 46% to 36%.
 
* Of far greater interest, however, is Missouri's U.S. Senate race, in which PPP shows incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R) ahead by only three points, 41% to 38%, over Secretary of State Jason Kander (D).
 Indiana Gov. Mike Pence leaves a press conference March 31, 2015 at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty)

Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film

07/18/16 11:20AM

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Donald Trump's newly introduced running mate, is so extreme in his culture-war views that it's hard to know where to start. His outrageous anti-LGBT views? His radical opposition to reproductive rights? The Republican's rejection of climate science and evolution?
 
Perhaps the easiest way to capture Pence's views on social issues is to consider this BuzzFeed report.
When Donald Trump's running mate Mike Pence was a talk radio show host in Indiana, he wrote an op-ed declaring the film Mulan was an attempt by some "mischievous liberal" at Disney to influence the debate over women in the military.
 
The 1999 op-ed ran on a website for Pence's radio program that was uncovered by BuzzFeed News.
"Despite her delicate features and voice, Disney expects us to believe that Mulan's ingenuity and courage were enough to carry her to military success on an equal basis with her cloddish cohorts," Pence wrote. "Obviously, this is Walt Disney's attempt to add childhood expectation to the cultural debate over the role of women in the military."
 
Obviously.
 
Pence added at the time, "I suspect that some mischievous liberal at Disney assumes that Mulan's story will cause a quiet change in the next generation's attitude about women in combat and they just might be right."
 
The moral of the film, he argued, is that women serving in the military is a "bad idea."
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to a question during an interview after a rally in Virginia Beach, Va., July 11, 2016. (Photo by Steve Helber/AP)

Trump's line on Iraq descends into incoherence

07/18/16 10:40AM

In his bizarre speech introducing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) as his running mate on Saturday, Donald Trump boasted about his prognostication skills. "If you look at my calls, I said, don't go into Iraq," he said.
 
It was an odd thing to brag about -- in part because he's lying and in part because Pence, ostensibly the man of the hour, was one of the war's most unrepentant cheerleaders.
 
But that was merely an appetizer before the main course, which came last night on CBS's "60 Minutes." Lesley Stahl reminded Trump that his new running mate supported the war in Iraq, which Trump frequently condemns. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee responded, "I don't care."
 
Asked how he could be indifferent on this given how much he's emphasized the war in his own campaign, Trump added, "It's a long time ago. And he voted that way and they were also misled. A lot of information was given to people." It led to this rather remarkable exchange:
Trump: But I was against the war in Iraq from the beginning.
 
Stahl: Yeah, but you've used that vote of Hillary's that was the same as Governor Pence as the example of her bad judgment.
 
Trump: Many people have, and frankly, I'm one of the few that was right on Iraq.
 
Stahl: Yeah, but what about he--
 
Trump: He's entitled to make a mistake every once in a while.
 
Lesley Stahl: But she's not? OK, come on--
 
Trump: But she's not--
 
Stahl: She's not?
 
Donald Trump: No. She's not.
 
Stahl: Got it.
Even the most mindless, knee-jerk Trump partisans should have trouble defending this one.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets members of the audience during a rally in Portsmouth, N.H., July 12, 2016, where Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. endorsed Clinton for president.

Latest polls raise eyebrows as Republican Convention begins

07/18/16 10:00AM

As the Republican National Convention gets underway, it seems like a good time to take stock of the state of the race with three major national polls, each of which were released yesterday.
 
Hillary Clinton: 46% (unchanged since June)
Donald Trump: 41% (unchanged since June)
 
 
Hillary Clinton: 47% (down from 51% in June)
Donald Trump: 43% (up from 39% in June)
 
 
Hillary Clinton: 49% (up from 47% in June)
Donald Trump: 42% (unchanged since June)
 
And so, on the eve of the Republicans' convention, Clinton's lead is getting smaller in one poll, getting bigger in another, and staying the same in a third. When we talk about the importance of averages, this is why.
 
Note, each of these polls was conducted after FBI Director James Comey condemned Clinton's email server protocols, leading to brutal media coverage of the Democrat. The story is widely seen as having taken a toll on Clinton's support.
Police officers walk among people marching to join hands in a peace rally amid preparations for the arrival of visitors and delegates for the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty)

Cleveland police make an appeal over gun policy

07/18/16 09:20AM

As the Republican National Convention gets underway, local officials and Cleveland law enforcement are doing everything they can to ensure public safety. As we discussed last week, those efforts led to creation of a broad zone around the convention site in which a variety of items have already been banned, including "water guns, toy guns, knives, aerosol cans, rope, [and] tennis balls" among other things.
 
But actual firearms are not on that list for a reason: the law in Ohio protects the right of protesters to carry loaded guns outside the venue. Toy guns are prohibited, but real semi-automatics are fine.
 
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported over the weekend, local police believe it's time for state officials to create a temporary policy to help keep everyone safe.
The head of the Cleveland police patrolmen's union is asking Ohio Gov. John Kasich to suspend the state's open carry laws in Cuyahoga County for the Republican National Convention in the wake of the deaths of three police officers in Louisiana, according to WJW-TV.
 
The station reported Sunday that union president Steve Loomis said he is working with an attorney to draft a request to be sent to Kasich for consideration. Reuters reported Loomis asked the governor to declare a state of emergency, which would allow Kasich to immediately suspend the law.
Loomis told CNN that he did not care "if it's constitutional or not."
 
It didn't take long for Ohio's Republican governor, who helped create the state's open-carry law, to reject the appeal. "Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested," Kasich's office said.
People take over a tank near the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge during clashes with military forces in Istanbul on July 16, 2016. (Photo by Gurkan Ozturk/AFP/Getty)

Blaming Obama for Turkey's attempted coup is bonkers

07/18/16 08:45AM

Friday's attempted coup in Turkey didn't last long, though the brevity doesn't negate its significance. Any time the government of a NATO member faces a military coup, it's of enormous international significance. And even though the effort failed, the repercussions of Friday's events will be felt for quite a while.
 
Closer to home, Republicans did what Republicans do: they tried to think of a way to blame Turkey's attempted coup on President Obama. Here, for example, was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Donald Trump's new running mate, on CBS's "60 Minutes" last night:
"I truly do believe that history teaches that weakness arouses evil and whether it be the horrific attack in France, the inspired attacks here in the United States, the instability in Turkey that led to a coup. I think that is all a result of a foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that has led from behind and that has sent an inexact, unclear message about American resolve."
Pence pushed the same line on Friday night, as did assorted conservative media personalities. Trump himself seemed to clumsily make the case over the weekend.
 
Let's take a moment or two to set the record straight. Turkey is its own country, with its own complex domestic politics, its own internal divisions, and its own long history. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a very controversial figure in his country for a variety of reasons, which have contributed to instability.
 
To think that this has anything to do with the Obama administration and American "weakness" is bonkers. Jenny White, a professor at Stockholm University's Institute for Turkish Studies, explained to Slate over the weekend, "Pretty much every 10 years or so since 1960, there has been a coup through which the military took over and threw out the existing government, either because it was too religious or not seen as capable of running the country. In the case of the 1980 coup, there was a civil war that preceded it."
 
I'll look forward to Republicans explaining how American "weakness" and "unclear resolve" are responsible for this cycle. Will they start with blaming Eisenhower for "leading from behind"?
 
The instinct among conservatives to blame the United States for every international development they don't like is quickly becoming farcical.
Police officers block off a road after a shooting of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,  July 17, 2016. (Photo by Joe Penny/Reuters)

After slayings, Trump sees US as a 'divided crime scene'

07/18/16 08:00AM

Details are still emerging after yesterday's murders in Baton Rouge, where a gunman killed three police officers. As of this morning, it appears the killer acted alone and did not use a 911 call to lure the officers into an ambush.
 
NBC News' report noted overnight, "Law enforcement officials initially believed that two other suspects were at large, but later said the deceased suspect was likely the only shooter."
 
The gut-wrenching murders would be tragic under any circumstances, but the fact that the Baton Rouge slayings come on the heels of last week's police shooting in Dallas only intensifies the scope and scale of the heartbreak.
 
What's more, this violence is unfolding against a political backdrop of a presidential campaign and the start of the Republican National Convention, which kicks off today in Cleveland. Yesterday's shootings prompted a variety of U.S. political leaders to respond in competing ways -- and the differences between them matter.
 
President Obama, for example, condemned the attack, extended his support to the community and law enforcement, and called for unity and calm. Similarly, Hillary Clinton explained that there is "no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities." She called for Americans to "stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities."
 
And there was Donald Trump.
"We grieve for the officers killed in Baton Rouge today. How many law enforcement and people have to die because of a lack of leadership in our country? We demand law and order."
So, let me get this straight. A madman killed three police officers because of national "leadership," which the Republican presidential hopeful believes he can address with a '60s-era slogan and a policy matter he knows nothing about.
 
On Twitter, the GOP candidate added, soon after the president urged Americans to stand together, "President Obama just had a news conference, but he doesn't have a clue. Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse!"
 
I've read this a few times, and I'm still not sure what "divided crime scene" means, exactly. If we elect Trump, is he promising to create a united crime scene?
 
This morning on Fox News, Trump went on to say that he sees something more nefarious coming from the White House: Obama's rhetoric about law enforcement is "OK," Trump said, but the president's body language suggests "there's something going on."

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