The day of the mass-shooting in Orlando, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) saw a partisan opportunity. In a striking statement, the far-right Texan effectively challenged his foes on the other side of the aisle: "If you're a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder."
Soon after, this became a surprisingly common talking point among Republicans, including Donald Trump. As we talked about the other day, the pitch is ugly but straightforward: a Muslim killed 49 people in a gay nightclub; Republicans are anti-Muslim; therefore LGBT voters should support Republicans.
The trouble is, the house of cards collapses pretty quickly for anyone who pauses to think about the argument. Indeed, to take the pitch seriously, one has to find arguments like this one from Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) persuasive.
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks said on Thursday that the American Muslim community would "kill every homosexual in the United States of America" if it had its way.
Brooks, a Republican, made the comment after being asked on the Matt & Aunie show on WAPI radio about why the left refuses to acknowledge that it is "mainstream Muslim thought" to put homosexuals to death.
As the BuzzFeed report noted, Brooks said on the radio show that Democrats "are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they're trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they're trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America."
Mo Brooks has a deeply unfortunate habit of saying all kindsofbizarrethings, but this one has to be right up there on his Greatest Hits list.
There's a school of thought that says presidential campaigns shouldn't go on the offensive too early. The election season is a marathon, the argument goes, and campaigns that do too much, long before the electorate is fully engaged, risk running low on resources when crunch time hits in the fall.
Hillary Clinton's campaign has no use for these assumptions. NBC News reported yesterday that the Democrat's "first battleground advertising blitz of the general election" has begun.
The TV ad buy -- in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia -- has a price tag of at least $7.3 million. And it uses the TV ad it unveiled on Sunday hitting Trump ("What kind of America do we want to be? Dangerously divided or strong and united?"), as well as two new positive bio spots on Clinton (here and here). [...]
More than anything else, the ad blitz demonstrates Clinton's financial superiority right now. How long will she have the battleground-state airwaves to herself? Remember, the pro-Clinton Super PAC is already on the air in these states. But where's the Trump/GOP cavalry?
The answer, of course, is that this cavalry doesn't exist. On the contrary, as we discussed last week, Trump is falling behind financially -- and disputes the idea that he'll need to catch up.
But what about the long-held assumptions about campaigns wasting money by going on the air too early? Team Clinton doesn't buy it, and they have some recent evidence to back up their plans.
Way back in February, when most congressional Republicans were still hoping Donald Trump's presidential campaign would collapse, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) became only the second federal lawmaker to throw his support behind the controversial candidate.
"We don't need a policy wonk as president," Hunter said at the time. "We need a leader as president.... I don't think Trump wants my endorsement. And that's one reason why I like him."
"I am not a surrogate. I am a congressman. I can't speak for anybody else but me," Hunter told The Hill later Thursday, explaining his comments to the reporters.
"Everybody's asking me to explain all these things that he said," Hunter added. "Some of these things, I don't know what Donald Trump is thinking. ... I don't know where Donald Trump is coming from."
The Hill's report added that Hunter said he was confronted by "like seven reporters" after leaving the House floor yesterday. "I just said, 'Time out. I am a congressman. I am done talking [about Trump].'"
Under the circumstances, that's a curious message. Hunter not only endorsed Trump, the congressman is literally the co-chair of Trump's U.S. House Leadership Committee, serving as a liaison between the presumptive nominee's campaign and Capitol Hill.
In fact, The Hill's report said Hunter took it upon himself to lead Trump's outreach efforts to Congress and currently "feeds national security information to the Trump campaign."
The Washington Post recently described Hunter as one of the six members of Congress Trump trusts most.
When Donald Trump said yesterday that President Obama was "directly responsible" for the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, it was the latest evidence of a candidate who's abandoned any sense of propriety or decency.
Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 club goers.
He said the president is "directly responsible for it because" of his "utter failures" in Iraq.
"Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama's failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave," McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by NBC News.
The senator added, "So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies."
It wasn't long before McCain realized this kind of unhinged rhetoric might be problematic, so the senator soon after issued a follow-up statement saying he "misspoke."
That's probably not the right word. When someone says "Iraq" when they meant "Iran," that's misspeaking. When the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee delivers a 65-word rant blaming the president for a mass murder, that's more than a slip of the tongue.
McCain added, by way of a "clarification," that he was blaming the president's "national security decisions" for the rise of ISIS, "not the president himself."
How gracious of him.
The clumsy walk-back notwithstanding, what's wrong with McCain's argument? Everything.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut talks with Rachel Maddow about his 15-hour filibuster in the Senate for new gun regulations, and his surprise that it actually produced results and has sparked new negotiations with Republicans. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the strain between the RNC and the Trump campaign, and the unfortunate symbolism of an upcoming fundraiser at the former house of failed Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, whose surviving family members are not Trump fans. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on a new Clinton campaign ad marking the anniversary of the Donald Trump campaign, and notes Trump's unusual openness to receiving North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with the provision that he wouldn't be given a state dinner. watch
Rachel Maddow notes that Republicans are having a difficult time maintaining their political stance against regulating guns when such a huge number of Americans, including now some Fox News hosts, support at least some measure of new regulation. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that perhaps the most surprising thing about Senator Chris Murphy's surprise 15-hour filibuster in the Senate is that he actually got the Senate to act on gun legislation. watch
* Orlando: "President Barack Obama arrived in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday to meet with victims' families and first responders in the deadly nightclub shooting the president has decried as 'an act of terror and an act of hate.'"
* England: "British lawmaker Jo Cox has died after being attacked in her district on Thursday, police said. Cox, 41, was known for social-justice campaigns and seen as a rising star in the opposition Labour Party."
* It's going to be tough to walk this back: "Republican Sen. John McCain blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 clubgoers. He said the president is 'directly responsible for it because' of his 'utter failures' in Iraq."
* Stay tuned: "The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a series of competing gun-control measures that will highlight the continuing divide between Democrats and Republicans over how Congress should respond to mass shootings."
* A rare defeat for Big Soda: "Forty times, city or state governments have proposed taxes on sugary soft drinks, failing each time. When, in 2014, liberal Berkeley, Calif., passed such a tax, most people saw it as an aberration. Several measures, including one in New York, never won much support. But Thursday, a measure to tax sweetened drinks passed in Philadelphia, one of the country's largest cities -- and also one of its poorest."
* Good call: "Texas has no case against the federal government and a refugee settlement organization over how Syrian refugees are settled within the state's borders, a federal judge ruled on Thursday."
It seems every time Donald Trump appears ready to break with Republican Party orthodoxy, the story unravels pretty quickly. There were recent reports, for example, that the presumptive GOP nominee would consider tax increases on the wealthy, but those reports turned out to be wrong. Around the same time, some thought Trump had endorsed a minimum-wage increase. He hadn't.
With this recent history in mind, I'd recommend caution when reading reports like this one in the Washington Post.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and some vulnerable GOP lawmakers signaled Wednesday that they are open to changing the nation's gun laws, raising the possibility that the political tide might be shifting on an issue that has sharply divided Americans for years. [...]
Trump's renewed focus on gun laws goes against GOP orthodoxy, which generally considers Second Amendment issues to be settled.
The speculation is, to be sure, rooted in tangible evidence. Trump himself said on Twitter yesterday, "I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns."
But the details matter. Keep in mind, as recently as Monday, Trump said, "I will be meeting with the NRA, which has given me their earliest endorsement in a presidential race, to discuss how to ensure Americans have the means to protect themselves in this age of terror. I will be always defending the Second Amendment."
Given this, when Trump talks about being open to new gun policies, he seems to be looking through a myopic lens: the Republican is open to policies the NRA likes based on a Republican-friendly interpretation of the Second Amendment.
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.