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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Cleveland Industrial Innovation Center, June 13, 2016, in Cleveland. (Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

International audiences have confidence in one U.S. candidate

06/29/16 12:45PM

It seems like ages ago, but the United States' international reputation took a severe hit during the Bush/Cheney years. As the war in Iraq dragged on, there were anecdotal reports about Americans traveling abroad with Canadian flags sewn onto their belongings, hoping to avoid confrontations with critics of U.S. policies and leaders.
And yet, in recent years, Republicans have invested enormous energy into an odd talking point: President Obama, they insist, has damaged America's global standing. It's not only bizarre because it was George W. Bush who actually hurt our credibility abroad, but also because there is quite a bit of evidence that our standing has improved throughout much of the world under Obama's leadership.
As the Obama era wraps up, however, international observers are keeping an eye on our presidential election, and there's fresh data showing that the world has confidence in one of the American candidates -- but not the other. The Boston Globe reported today:
The world is wary of Donald Trump. Across a wide swath of advanced countries, large numbers of people say they simply don't trust Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
Even in the United States, Trump has struggled to prove his readiness on foreign policy, but those looking in from the outside seem especially skeptical.
Pew polled 15 countries, and literally none of them had confidence that Trump could be relied on "to do the right thing regarding world affairs." The Republican's best numbers were in China, but that's not saying much -- a mere 22% of Chinese respondents said they trusted the GOP candidate.
In 13 or the 15 countries included in the Pew Research Center report, people had more confidence in Russia's Vladimir Putin than Trump.
For Hillary Clinton, the numbers were largely reversed. Though the Democrat fared poorly in China and Greece, in most of the 15 countries surveyed, people said the former Secretary of State could be counted on "to do the right thing regarding world affairs."

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.29.16

06/29/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The new national Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by just two points, 42% to 40%. Looking through the internals, Quinnipiac found Trump doing far better with Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney did, which seems extraordinarily unlikely, and raises questions about the overall results.
* In state polls, CNN reported the results of Ballotpedia's battleground poll, which combined telephone and online respondents, and which showed Clinton with pretty sizable leads in Florida (+14), Iowa (+4), Michigan (+17), North Carolina (+10), Ohio (+9), and Pennsylvania (+14).
* The Clinton campaign announced this morning she'll campaign alongside President Obama in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, July 5. It will be their first joint appearance of the cycle.
* In Arizona's U.S. Senate race, PPP shows incumbent Sen. John McCain (R) leading Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) by only two points, 42% to 40%.
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, PPP shows incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) leading Patty Judge (D) by seven points, 46% to 39%.
* In New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race, PPP shows Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) leading incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) by two points, 44% to 42%.
* In Ohio's U.S. Senate race, PPP shows incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) up by only one over former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), 40% to 39%.
* In Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race, PPP shows former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) with a big lead over incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R), 50% to 37%.
* The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC overseen by the Senate GOP leadership, this week reserved nearly $40 million in airtime in support of Republican Senate candidates. Note, however, which states were part of the buy: New Hampshire, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. The fact that Illinois and Wisconsin aren't on this list, but Missouri is, raised some eyebrows.
U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin (R-Ky), speaks to a gathering at FreePAC Kentucky, Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Ky.

Fight over Medicaid expansion reaches a crossroads

06/29/16 11:20AM

Earlier this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) delivered on a key campaign promise and made his state the 31st in the nation to adopt Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act. So far, the rollout process has been a great success, and hundreds of thousands of low-income Louisianans have been able to receive affordable coverage.
The question now is whether the number of Medicaid-expansion states will grow or shrink.
South Dakota was one of a handful of states considering the policy, but Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) couldn't overcome opposition from his own party.
And then there's Kentucky, which was celebrated as a national model for ACA success, right up until Gov. Matt Bevin (R) was elected. The far-right governor ran on a platform of eliminating Medicaid expansion altogether, though he backed off soon after taking office. Last week, however, as the Courier-Journal in Louisville reported, Bevin laid out some "reforms" that he says are non-negotiable.
A thunderstorm rumbled through Frankfort Wednesday as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin laid out his sweeping proposal to reshape the state's Medicaid plan into one he predicts will encourage responsible health choices and teach Kentuckians the basics of paying for health care.
As he spoke in the crowded Capitol Rotunda, a crack of lightning and boom of thunder reverberated through the marble corridors, prompting Bevin to pause.
"God's weighing in on this," the governor, a conservative Christian, joked. "He agrees with everything I just said."
Well, that's certainly one way of interpreting things, but given the details of his pitch, there's an alternative worth considering.
PHOTOBLOG: People stand near a burnt car at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Benghazi victim's sister: 'I do not blame Hillary Clinton'

06/29/16 10:42AM

Still hoping to exploit the 2012 Benghazi attack as a 2016 campaign issue, Donald Trump declared on Twitter last week: "If you want to know about Hillary Clinton's honesty & judgment, ask the family of Ambassador Stevens."
For Republican conspiracy theorists, that may not be the best idea. The New Yorker's Robin Wright spoke this week with Dr. Anne Stevens, Ambassador Chris Stevens' sister, about whom she holds responsible for the terrorism that claimed his life.
"It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is under-budgeted.
"I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn't a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself."
Dr. Stevens went on to lament the degree to which her brother's death has been "politicized," while also complaining about Congress' reluctance to "focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world."
She added, "With the many issues in the current election, to use that incident—and to use Chris's death as a political point -- is not appropriate.... I know he had a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. He admired her ability to intensely read the issues and understand the whole picture."
It should be interesting to hear Trump and other conspiracy theorists explain why Anne Stevens' perspective doesn't matter.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally in Washington, June 9, 2016. (Photo by Cliff Owen/AP)

Sanders' electoral revolution off to a mixed start

06/29/16 10:01AM

For much of the Democratic presidential primary process, Bernie Sanders focused largely on his own candidacy. The Vermont senator did not, for example, raise money for the national Democratic Party, support any state party, or engage in any party-building efforts. When Rachel asked in March whether he might eventually back any Democratic candidates in any other race, Sanders replied, "We'll see."
In April, however, that changed, and Sanders began extending his support to down-ballot Democrats in specific contests. True to form, the senator preferred progressive allies who didn't necessarily enjoy the party's backing, but the Vermonter nevertheless endorsed and helped raise money for some other candidates.
How are they doing? It's been a mixed bag so far. Nevada's Lucy Flores enjoyed Sanders' enthusiastic backing, but she lost in a Democratic congressional primary two weeks ago by a wide margin. As the Huffington Post reported, Sanders had better luck in New York yesterday, but only in one of the two races he was involved in.
Zephyr Teachout soundly bested organic farmer Will Yandik in New York's 19th Congressional District on Tuesday. Although she received a boost from Sanders' endorsement, Teachout has long been a progressive favorite and was already known statewide after running against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the 2014 Democratic primary.... Teachout will face Republican John Faso in November to replace outgoing Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).
Sanders' candidate didn't fare as well in New York's 24th District. There, Eric Kingson lost to Colleen Deacon, who had the backing of the DCCC and both the state's U.S. senators. Deacon worked for the mayor of Syracuse and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and often stressed her experience as a single mother living on food stamps. She will face incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) in the fall.
Sanders campaigned for Kingson in the Syracuse-area district last week, but it wasn't enough to put him over the top. He lost to Deacon by roughly 16 points.
Sanders-backed congressional candidates still have plenty of other chances of success, however. In the state of Washington, Pramila Jayapal's congressional primary is Aug. 2, and in Florida, Tim Canova's race against DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on Aug. 30.
The United States Supreme Court building is framed by fall foliage Nov. 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Far-right justices warn of 'an ominous sign'

06/29/16 09:24AM

The state of Washington has a law that requires pharmacies to dispense medications, even if individual pharmacists have religious objections. One family-owned pharmacy challenged the law in court, saying it shouldn't be required to sell emergency contraception, which the pharmacy's owners consider immoral.
An appeals court sided with the state, and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, the justices announced they would not hear the case, which has the effect of leaving the lower court's ruling intact.
And while that would ordinarily be the end of the dispute, yesterday offered a bit of a twist. The Supreme Court said it wouldn't hear the appeal out of Washington, but at the same time, Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas released an angry rebuttal, saying they not only wanted to hear this case, they also consider the majority's disinterest in the matter to be "an ominous sign."
MSNBC's Irin Carmon highlighted yesterday's "unusual" statement.
"This case is an ominous sign," Alito wrote in an unusual, 15-page response to the court refusing to hear Stormans v. Wiesman.... "If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead," Alito continued, sounding a lot like a man who foresees a bleak future for his side, "those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern."
No, actually, they almost certainly don't.
A voter steps into a voting booth to mark his ballot at a polling site for the New Hampshire primary, Feb. 9, 2016, in Nashua, N.H. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

Colorado Republicans miss an important opportunity

06/29/16 08:41AM

The 2016 map tends to favor Democrats when it comes to U.S. Senate races: there are 34 races this year, and Republicans have to defend 24 of them, including several in traditionally "blue" states. That said, GOP officials are not without targets of their own.
Arguably the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent is Colorado's Michael Bennet, who eked out a narrow win 2010 after having been appointed to the seat in 2009, and Republicans decided early in this cycle that his seat would be competitive.
All they would need is a candidate.
That turned out to be vastly more difficult than the GOP hoped, especially after many of the top-tier Republican contenders bowed out of consideration. The result was one of the year's strangest primary contests, which, as the Denver Post reported, wrapped up last night in ways Democrats found very encouraging.
Darryl Glenn did it again. With little money and an all-volunteer staff, the county commissioner from El Paso shocked the Republican establishment again Tuesday by clinching the party's nomination for U.S. Senate and earning a chance to unseat Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet in November.
The resounding victory -- called 30 minutes after polls closed -- catapulted Glenn back into the spotlight after he won a surprising victory at the state GOP convention in April. This time, he defeated two self-funded millionaires and a party rising star to emerge with a double-digit victory over his closest competitor in a five-way race.
The article added this gem of a sentence: "The Election Night results capped a bizarre primary that featured a menagerie of chaos from forgery charges and millionaire candidates to an exploding toilet and a Great Dane named Duke."
The Republican establishment had rallied behind Jon Keyser, a far-right former state lawmaker whose campaign struggled with ballot-access issues, and who ended up finishing a distant fourth out of five candidates. Darryl Glenn, however, enjoyed support from Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, and cruised to an easy win.
Winning in November, however, will be vastly more difficult.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks on stage after signing autographs during a campaign stop at The Fox Theatre on June 15, 2016 in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by Branden Camp/Getty)

Donald Trump sees a problem only torture can solve

06/29/16 07:40AM

The latest reports out of Turkey point to an increasing death toll following the terrorist attack at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport, with 41 deaths and more than 230 injuries. U.S. officials, of course, have condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms.
In our presidential election, however, Donald Trump wasn't satisfied with a condemnation.
The presumptive Republican nominee appears to have resisted the urge to say, "Called it!" which tends to be his go-to reaction in response to most major events. Trump did, however, manage to respond to events in Turkey in a deeply unsettling way.
Donald Trump on Tuesday prescribed fighting "fire with fire" when it comes to battling terrorism, seemingly making the case for using similarly brutal tactics as terror groups like ISIS have in the past.
The GOP's presumptive nominee has been outspoken on enhanced interrogation, telling Tuesday's enthusiastic crowd once again that he doesn't think waterboarding is "tough enough" and that it's "peanuts" compared to what terrorists have done in the past.
Trump seemed particularly annoyed that the United States feels the need to act lawfully. "We have laws; they don't have laws," the GOP candidate said last night in Ohio, adding, "Their laws say you can do anything you want and the more vicious you are the better."
From there, Trump transitioned to emphasizing his support for barbarism. "You have to fight fire with fire," he declared. "We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we're dealing with violent people viciously."
Trump added, "Can you imagine [ISIS members] sitting around the table or wherever they're eating their dinner, talking about the Americans don't do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads? They probably think we're weak, we're stupid, we don't know what we're doing, we have no leadership. You know, you have to fight fire with fire."
In a CNN interview, Trump went on to say he intends to "change our law on, you know, the waterboarding thing" in order to "be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis."

Citations for the June 28, 2016 TRMS

06/29/16 12:35AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent
  • Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for the New York Times
  • Congressman Elijah Cummings, ranking Democratic on the House Select Committee on Benghazi

Tonight's links:

read more

ISIS paying increasing attention to Turkey

ISIS paying increasing attention to Turkey

06/28/16 10:14PM

Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the unusual relationship between ISIS and Turkey and the increased hostility by ISIS toward Turkey since the U.S. began launching operations from a Turkish airbase. watch

GOP Benghazi effort consequential, fruitless

GOP Benghazi effort consequential, if fruitless

06/28/16 09:39PM

Rachel Maddow notes that while the Benghazi investigation did not produce the damning evidence against Hillary Clinton Republicans had hoped for (and assumed), it did have political consequences for both parties. watch


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