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E.g., 8/30/2015

U.S. economic growth revised up sharply

08/27/15 09:39AM

Earlier this week, with economic tumult in China rattling global markets, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama. The White House, the GOP insisted, is obviously wrecking the American economy.
 
Yeah, about that....
The U.S. economy grew at a faster 3.7% annual pace in the second quarter, up from the initial estimate of growth at a 2.3% clip, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch predicted gross domestic product would be revised up to 3.3%, but business investment was stronger than expected.
Note, this is a preliminary estimate that will be revised again next month.
 
While nearly all Americans want to see stronger economic growth, this morning's evidence of economic progress may bring unwelcome consequences from the Federal Reserve -- the Fed has long been expected to raise interest rates in the fall, though developments in China have led many to hope Janet Yellen and Co. will delay a rate hike. Today's report, however, may very well reinforce the Fed's original plans.
 
As for the politics, I'll be eager to hear the same Republicans who argued on Monday that Obama is crushing the economy turn around and argue today that the economic is gaining steam thanks to the GOP-led Congress and anticipation of a Republican White House in 2017. That's how this silly game is played, right? Heads I win, tails you lose?
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with reporters as he emerges from the Senate chamber on July 26, 2015. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Cruz hedges on controversial immigration posture

08/27/15 08:43AM

The obvious problem for Republicans watching Donald Trump with dismay is that the New York developer is dominating in practically every poll. The less obvious problem is his influence over the Republican conversation -- and what happens when Trump's rivals try to keep up.
 
The GOP frontrunner, for example, took a fairly bold line on birthright citizenship: just because someone is born on American soil, Trump argued, doesn't make them an American citizen, 14th Amendment be damned. A new litmus test was born -- soon, every Republican was pressed on the same issue.
 
Some struggled more than others. Just ask Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who offered three very different answers over the course of six days.
 
Also note what happened when Fox News' Megyn Kelly asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to weigh in this week. Politico reported:
"What would President Cruz do? Do American citizen children of two illegal immigrants, who are born here, the children, get deported under a President Cruz?" Kelly asked. Donald Trump, she said, "has answered that question explicitly."
 
"Megyn, I get that that's the question you want to ask," Cruz said. "That's also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask."
After some dodges, the host asked, "Why is it so hard? Why don't you just say yes or no?"
 
Rather than answering, the far-right senator retreated to the usual rhetoric: officials "can have a conversation" about this after "we've secured the border."
 
This isn't nearly as good an answer as Cruz thinks it is.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about rural issues at the Des Moines Area Community College on Aug. 26, 2015, in Ankeny, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Clinton email story still lacks a punch line

08/27/15 08:00AM

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton spoke to campaign reporters yesterday and took responsibility for the controversy surrounding his email-server-management issue. She apparently adopted a tone many of her critics wanted to hear.
 
"I know people have raised questions about my email use as secretary of state, and I understand why," the former Secretary of State said. "I get it. So here's what I want the American people to know: My use of personal email was allowed by the State Department. It clearly wasn't the best choice. I should've used two emails: one personal, one for work."
 
She added, "I take responsibility for that decision, and I want to be as transparent as possible, which is why I turned over 55,000 pages, why I've turned over my server, why I've agreed to -- in fact, been asking to -- and have finally gotten a date to testify before a congressional committee in October."
 
The response coincided with an interesting report from the Associated Press, which raised the question of whether the controversy should even exist in the first place.
The transmission of now-classified information across Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email is consistent with a State Department culture in which diplomats routinely sent secret material on unsecured email during the past two administrations, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
 
Clinton's use of a home server makes her case unique and has become an issue in her front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But it's not clear whether the security breach would have been any less had she used department email.
The AP report noted that these practices were ordinary for many years, including in the Bush/Cheney State Department.
 
The AP article quoted Leslie McAdoo, a lawyer who frequently represents government officials and contractors in disputes over security clearances and classified information, saying the slippage of classified information into regular email is "very common, actually."
 
I seriously hope we're not approaching the point at which Clinton critics expect an investigation into hundreds of officials, spanning two administrations, who may have harmlessly sent these emails.
'Troll candidacy' stumps Trump's opponents

'Troll candidacy' stumps Trump's opponents

08/26/15 09:50PM

Frank Rich, writer-at-large for New York Magazine, talks with Rachel Maddow about the tension between Donald Trump and Fox News, and whether Trump and his supporters are exerting a rightward pull on the cable news network. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 8.26.15

08/26/15 05:00PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* What a nightmarish story: "[Franklin County] Sheriff Bill Overton, speaking at a news conference in Moneta, Virginia, said a criminal homicide investigation is ongoing into the deaths of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24, and news photographer Adam Ward, 27. The two journalists were shot and killed while doing a live report Wednesday morning." The shooter is also dead.
 
* Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, while "praying for the victims' families," also insisted today, "We must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer."
 
* Afghanistan: "Two American service members were killed Wednesday in an apparent 'insider' attack by an Afghan soldier at a military base in Afghanistan's southwestern Helmand province, U.S. and Afghan officials reported."
 
* The wild ride continues: "U.S. stocks emphatically ended their six-day losing streak on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones closing up more than 600 points and posting its third-biggest point gain ever."
 
* Arizona: "A judge ruled Wednesday that a hospital assessment that pays for the expansion of the state's Medicaid program was constitutional because it did not require a supermajority vote of the Legislature to be enacted."
 
* Will Republicans continue to treat this as a legitimate news outlet? "Breitbart News reacted to reports that two Virginia journalists were shot to death on-air by a disgruntled former co-worker by publishing an article with the headline, 'Race Murder In Virginia: Black Reporter Suspected Of Executing White Colleagues - On Live Television!'"
 
* Russia: "Russia ordered several internet service providers to block Wikipedia throughout the country after the volunteers who run the user-generated online encyclopedia refused to delete an article -- then abruptly reversed its decision less than 24 hours later."
 
* Politico reported the other day that President Obama referred to opponents of the Iran deal as "crazies." That's not really what happened.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Mobile, Ala., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015.  (Photo by Brynn Anderson/AP)

What if Trump becomes a real presidential candidate?

08/26/15 12:58PM

When Donald Trump kicked off his Republican presidential campaign, he was officially a candidate, but he wasn't a real candidate, at least not in every sense of the word. The New York developer had a skeleton staff, little support in the polls, no field offices, no organization in early nominating states, no endorsements, and no national campaign infrastructure.
 
As of mid-June, Trump was effectively a candidate in name only. He had an escalator, some animosity towards immigrants, and little else. By some accounts, the GOP contender had to pay people to show up at his campaign kick-off.
 
It didn't matter. The former reality-show host quickly found a following, which grew at an unexpected rate. Media attention soon followed. Trump didn't spend much time on the campaign trail -- he's largely forgone the usual candidate-like activities -- but he's nevertheless dominating, at least for now.
 
All of which raises the question: if Trump can rocket to the front of the Republican pack without the backing of a real national campaign, what happens when the GOP candidate starts trying?
 
We're about to find out. Iowa's Sam Clovis, a prominent Republican activist and media figure in Iowa, had served for months as the state chairman of Rick Perry's presidential campaign, until this week, when Clovis gave up on the former Texas governor and joined Team Trump.
 
Rachel noted on the show last night that Clovis isn't the only one, and the Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore took a look this morning at the operation Clovis is going to help lead -- featuring activists one might not expect to see backing Trump.
[Trump's] national campaign chairman, Corey Lewandowski, made his bones with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity outfit (and its predecessor group, Citizens for a Sound Economy). Along with Clovis, Trump yesterday announced another eye-catching hire for his South Carolina campaign: Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, and an unsuccessful challenger to Lindsey Graham last year.
They join Matt Ciepielowski, Trump's New Hampshire director, "another AFP alumnus who spent the 2012 cycle with Youth for Ron Paul."
 
Kilgore's point is that these aides weren't obvious choices for Team Trump, and though they may have been wooed by "Trump's nose-thumbing at the Republican Establishment," they should also probably prepare themselves for the possibility that their candidate will "get bored with politics and bow out before things get serious."
 
In a year like this, anything's possible. But I'm also struck by a related thought: those are actual campaign officials, taking on actual campaign responsibilities.

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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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