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Governor Scott Walker (R-WS) speaks to Republican organizing meeting in Concord, N.H., March 14, 2015. (Photo by Dominick Reuter/Reuters)

Walker's 'unbearably silly' approach to China

08/25/15 08:40AM

More than one presidential candidate has struggled with foreign policy this year, but few have had as much trouble as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). In March, the far-right governor, recognizing his troubles, arranged for a "crash course" in international affairs.
 
If yesterday was any indication, the tutorials really aren't going well. The Washington Post reported:
Angry anti-China rhetoric from U.S. politicians escalated Monday as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) called on President Obama to cancel Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the White House next month. [...]
 
"Why would we be giving one of our highest things a president can do -- and that is a state dinner for Xi Jinping, the head of China -- at a time when all of these problems are pending out there?" Scott Walker told reporters following a visit to the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg, S.C., on Monday afternoon.
As the governor sees it, China would "actually respect" us more if President Obama snubbed the Chinese leader. Let that thought roll around in your head for a moment.
 
In a written statement, Walker also said there are a series of major Chinese issues of great concern to the United States -- the economy, currency manipulation, cyber-security, militarization of the South China Sea, human rights, etc. -- and the Wisconsin Republican seems to think the best way to address these issues is for the White House to withdraw its invitation to the Chinese leader.
 
"We need to see some backbone from President Obama on U.S.-China relations," Walker added.
 
Maybe the governor who's afraid of his own positions on immigration should steer clear of backbone" rhetoric.
 
Dan Drezner, a center-right foreign-policy scholar and Washington Post contributor, called Walker's argument "unbearably silly," which is both fair and the kind of label presidential candidates should try to avoid.
Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks to the press at the 4th of July Parade in Merrimack, N.H. (Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty)

Jeb makes 'anchor babies' mess even worse

08/25/15 08:00AM

A few years ago, a center-right group called the Hispanic Leadership Network, hoping to help Republicans win Latino votes, gave GOP officials and candidates some advice: it's time to change the party's rhetoric.
 
"When talking about immigrants: Do use 'undocumented immigrant' when referring to those here without documentation," the group advised. "Don't use the word 'illegals' or 'aliens.' Don't use the term 'anchor baby.'"
 
Jeb Bush was not only active in the group, he even helped chair it for a while. Nevertheless, the Republican presidential hopeful ignored the advice last week, and somehow managed to make matters worse late yesterday. MSNBC's Amanda Sakuma reported:
Bush said that he used the term ["anchor baby"] specifically to refer to fraud -- sometimes called "birth tourism" -- in a "specific, targeted kind of case" involving mothers who travel to the United States only to win citizenship for their unborn children. "Frankly, it's more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children in that organized effort taking advantage of a noble concept which is birthright citizenship," Bush told reporters at a bustling Mexican restaurant just miles from the U.S. border. [...]
 
"And by the way, I think we need to take a step back and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something," he said.
Part of the problem here is that Bush simply isn't telling the truth. We've heard the recording -- when the Florida Republican used the term "anchor babies" last week, he wasn't talking about Asians and "birth tourism." He very specifically referred to Mexico, border enforcement, and "our relationship with our third largest trading partner."
 
There may be a way for Bush to get out of this self-imposed mess, but demonstrable dishonesty won't help.

Citations for the August 24, 2015 TRMS

08/25/15 12:12AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Alan Krueger, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, now a professor at Princeton University
  • Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for The Washington Post

Tonight's links:

read more

FBI raid adds layer to Paul family scandal

FBI raid adds new layer to Paul family scandal

08/24/15 09:50PM

Rachel Maddow reports on an FBI raid on a house in Virginia in connection with a peculiar burglary, and the fascinating story connecting the raid to federal indictments of members of the political operation Rand Paul inherited from his father's campaign. watch

Rand Paul given way to run for two offices

Rand Paul given way to run for two offices

08/24/15 09:43PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the Kentucky Republican Party's decision over the weekend to pay for a new state party caucus instead of its usual primary in order to allow Rand Paul to run for both the presidency and re-election to his Senate seat. watch

Rick Perry loses his Iowa chairman

Rick Perry loses his Iowa chairman

08/24/15 09:22PM

Rachel Maddow reports on a new sign of struggle in the Rick Perry campaign as its Iowa chairman has decided it's time to move on amid financial trouble that has left many campaign workers unpaid. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 8.24.15

08/24/15 05:31PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Don't panic: "The stock market whipped between nauseating drops and roaring comebacks on Monday in a historic day of turbulence."
 
* France: "Three Americans who helped thwart an attack by an AK-47-toting gunman on a high-speed train received France's highest honor on Monday."
 
* On a related note: "President Barack Obama paused from his Martha's Vineyard vacation on Saturday to make a round of phone calls following the attack on a train headed to Paris the night before. Mr. Obama called French President Francois Hollande and the three Americans who stopped a gunman aboard the train after he allegedly fired shots."
 
* Korean Peninsula: "North and South Korea reached agreement early on Tuesday to end a standoff involving an exchange of artillery fire that had pushed the divided peninsula into a state of heightened military tension."
 
* Louisiana: "A Louisiana state trooper died Monday after authorities say he was shot in the head and then taunted when he stopped to provide aid to a man whose truck was stuck in a ditch."
 
* The state of Washington: "The massive fire burning in north-central Washington is now the largest in state history. The Okanogan Complex of wildfires has surpassed last year's Carlton Complex blazes, fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said Monday morning."
 
* Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) enthusiastically endorsed the international nuclear agreement with Iran over the weekend, making it that much more difficult for Republicans to kill the U.S.-backed policy.
 
* This morning, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) announced her support, as well, further increasing the odds of success.
 
* According to a former Mossad chief, expecting Iran to cheat on the nuclear deal isn't a reason to oppose the agreement -- it's the exact opposite.
 
* Lawrence Summers has a message for the Federal Reserve: under the circumstances, this is "no time for an interest rate hike." He's absolutely right.
A Planned Parenthood location is seen on Aug. 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)

Planned Parenthood faring far better than its critics

08/24/15 04:39PM

As of a couple of weeks ago, state officials in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota had investigated local affiliates of Planned Parenthood to ensure that the health care group was operating within the law. The organization passed every test.
 
Officials in Pennsylvania have now completed their own review, and much to the right's disappointment, Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the Keystone State as well. In fact, the state reported that fetal-tissue donation is perfectly legal in the state, but Planned Parenthood doesn't even do that.
 
At this point, the group keeps facing investigations, and its critics keep turning up nothing. One of Planned Parenthood's most aggressive foes, however, seems to be the subject of its own controversy.
The anti-abortion-rights group targeting Planned Parenthood is acknowledging that its most recent video used an image of a stillborn baby that was made to look like an aborted fetus.
 
The Center for Medical Progress posted a new link on its video late Thursday, adding that one of the images was actually a baby named Walter Fretz, born prematurely at 19 weeks.
That's a problem. The Center for Medical Progress has been accused repeatedly of relying on deceptive editing. But exploiting stillbirth images seems even more offensive.
 
Eric Ferrero, vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, "These anti-abortion extremists apparently violated multiple laws to perpetrate this fraud. They weren't documenting wrongdoing -- they set out to create wrongdoing and catch it on tape, and when they couldn't even do that, they edited videos to try to mislead and deceive the public."
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney listens as his wife Lynne Cheney speaks about her book "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered" May 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

If Cheney wants a conversation about Iran...

08/24/15 04:10PM

Even most Republicans will concede that the GOP campaign to derail the international nuclear agreement with Iran is going poorly, and barring any major developments, the diplomatic deal will move forward over the objections of far-right lawmakers.
 
But Politico reports that one die-hard critic still has something to say.
Dick Cheney will speak out against the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran during a speech next month at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. [...]
 
Cheney will speak on Sept. 8 -- just a week ahead of the Sept. 17 deadline for Congress to vote on the deal's authorization.
The White House hasn't officially said anything in response, but I have to assume officials in the West Wing are delighted to see the failed former V.P. take the lead in condemning the agreement. It makes it that much easier to deliver a simple message to congressional Democrats: when it comes to national security in the Middle East, and the prospect of yet another war, do you want to partner with Dick Cheney or with President Obama?
 
But even putting all of the political wrangling aside, what the former vice president just doesn't seem to appreciate is the role he played in creating the mess that the president is cleaning up.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Mobile, Ala. on Aug. 21, 2015. (Photo by Brynn Anderson/AP)

Are the rules of politics being rewritten?

08/24/15 12:45PM

Larry Sabato, a prominent political scientist, recently co-published a piece on Donald Trump's electoral prospects. which helped summarize the basis for widespread skepticism about the Republican's chances.
...If Trump is nominated, then everything we think we know about presidential nominations is wrong.
 
History has shown that presidential nominations tend to follow a certain set of "rules."
This was no throwaway line. The rules are supposed to matter and they tend to be reliable for a reason.
 
For several weeks, a wide variety of political observers have noted Trump's rise to Republican dominance with a combination of laughter, despair, and bemusement, but few actually see the New York developer as a competitive candidate for national office.
 
Sure, the GOP's base can have its summer fling -- the latest in a series of fleeting infatuations -- but as these same observers have said many times, the very idea of a former reality-show host actually becoming a serious contender for a major party's presidential nomination is ridiculous.
 
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver and Harry Enten recently made projections on who's likely to prevail in the race for the GOP nomination. Silver gave Trump a 2% chance. His FiveThirtyEight colleague saw that as far too generous -- Eaten put Trump's chances at -10%.
 
I can appreciate why some may see such predictions as absurd. If Trump has big leads in every poll, and his "ideas," for lack of a better word, are suddenly driving the Republican conversation, how can anyone be so dismissive of Trump's chances?
 
The answer has to do with those "rules." Political science, based largely on careful scrutiny of previous elections, tells us quite a bit about what's probable. And in this case, everything we know about the process tells us that competitive, top-tier candidates need considerable support from the party establishment, coupled with a top-notch field operation, all built around a competent, hard-working candidate, who has some modicum of relevant experience, and who enjoys broad, sustainable appeal.
 
In other words, political science suggests the Trump Show will soon end. We're witnessing a fun amusement-park ride -- keep your hands and feet inside the Trump Chopper at all times -- but it will stop long before Americans actually start casting votes and/or participating in caucuses.
 
But what if the rules are wrong? Or more to the point, what if the rules are being rewritten?

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.24.15

08/24/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* There's still nothing concrete to report, but there's increasing chatter about Vice President Biden's interest in the presidential race. Among other things, he had a private meeting with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) over the weekend, for reasons unknown.
 
* Ben Carson was asked yesterday whether he'd consider running as Donald Trump's V.P. nominee. He didn't rule it out, telling CNN, "All things are possible, but it is much too early to begin such conversations."
 
* Chris Christie's new campaign ad suggests President Obama bears responsibility for heroin abuses. The confused governor may not understand this, but in reality, the "heroin epidemic actually began nearly two decades before Obama took office."
 
* On a related note, Christie campaigned at the Iowa State Fair the other day, but his soap-box appearance was interrupted by protesters angered over the governor veto "of a controversial pig crate bill."
 
* A University of Texas survey of GOP voters in the Lone Star State shows Donald Trump in the statewide lead with 24% support. He's followed by Texas' Ted Cruz, who's second with 16%. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is tied for seventh place with just 4%.
 
* With Sen. David Vitter (R) still the frontrunner in Louisiana's 2015 gubernatorial race, the race to replace him is taking shape. Rep. John Fleming (R) has long made clear he's running, and now Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy (D) is gearing up to run as well.
Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker greets guests at The Family Leadership Summit at Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Walker on Black Lives Matter: 'Who knows who that is?'

08/24/15 11:28AM

A few presidential candidates have met with activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, as evidenced by Hillary Clinton's discussion last week. Any chance Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) might be willing to do the same?
 
As the Capital Times in Madison reported the other day, the GOP presidential candidate seems reluctant, and to bolster his case, Walker compared Black Lives Matter's decentralized structure to the Tea Party.
"I'm going to meet with voters ... Who knows who that is?" Walker said in response to a Daily Mail reporter in New Hampshire who asked whether he would meet with the representatives of the group. "I'm going to talk to American voters, period. It's the same way as saying, you're going to meet with the tea party. Who is the tea party? There's hundreds of thousands of people out there."
 
Asked again whether he would sit down with representatives of the movement if they requested a meeting, Walker said, "That's a ridiculous question. I'm going to talk to voters. That's just a ridiculous question."
To clarify, when Walker said, "Who knows who that is?" he wasn't saying he's unaware of the movement. Rather, the governor is arguing, accurately, that Black Lives Matter has no hierarchical structure. There's no official, or even semi-official, "leader" of the movement, so it's not as if a campaign can simply pick up the phone and arrange a meeting with Black Lives Matter's top representatives.
 
I don't even have a problem with the analogy, per se. The Tea Party "movement," if one wants to call it that, is also loosely organized. Like Occupy and BLM, it has prominent activists associated with a cause, but there's no formality to the leadership structure. There's no executive director or chairperson of the board.
 
But there's a flaw in Walker's defense. The Republican candidate thinks it's "ridiculous" to even ask if he's prepared to sit down with Black Lives Matter activists, because it's decentralized like the Tea Party.
 
If Walker genuinely believed that, however, why has the governor made such an effort to cozy up to the Tea Party?
William Kristol

Kristol floats Justice Alito for 2016 GOP nomination

08/24/15 10:47AM

Before the presidential campaign began in earnest, one of the more common phrases associated with the Republican field was "deep bench." The sports metaphor, repeated ad nauseum, was intended to convey a specific point about GOP politics: the far-right party is stacked with presidential-level talent, cultivated over several years.
 
According to the narrative, the result is the largest and most impressive presidential field in at least a generation, featuring 10 governors and four high-profile U.S. senators.
 
Oddly enough, no one seems to be talking about the party's "deep bench" anymore. At least for now, the dominant Republican candidate is a former reality-show host, who enjoys big leads in the polls. He's followed by an uninspiring and painfully rusty former governor, who happens to be the brother and son of unsuccessful presidents, and a retired neurosurgeon who has a bad habit of comparing the United States to Nazi Germany.
 
It's led to an unexpected dynamic: despite 17 Republicans vying for the Republican nomination, some in the party have begun to ask whether there might be better choices out there. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol published this new column over the weekend:
Shouldn't Republicans be open to doing what Democrats are now considering? That is: Welcoming into the race, even drafting into the race if need be, one or two new and potentially superior candidates? After all, if a new candidate or new candidates didn't take off, the party would be no worse off, and someone from the current field would prevail. If the October surprise candidate caught fire, it would be all the better for the GOP--whether he ultimately prevailed or forced one of the existing candidates to up his game.
 
Who could such a mysterious dark horse be?
Don't worry, Kristol, one of the Beltway's highest-profile media Republicans, has some suggestions.

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