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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks at a sheet of notes and talking points as he speaks during a rally in Eugene, Ore., May 6, 2016. (Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP)

The enthusiastic embrace of ignorance

05/17/16 08:40AM

President Obama delivered a powerful commencement address at Rutgers University over the weekend, taking some time to celebrate knowledge and intellectual pursuits. "Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science -- these are good things," the president said, implicitly reminding those who may have forgotten. "These are qualities you want in people making policy."
 
He added, "Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It's not cool to not know what you're talking about. That's not 'keeping it real,' or 'telling it like it is.' That's not challenging 'political correctness.' That's just not knowing what you're talking about."
 
Donald Trump heard this and apparently took it personally. The presumptive Republican nominee responded last night with arguably the most important tweet of the 2016 presidential campaign to date:
"'In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.' This is a primary reason that President Obama is the worst president in U.S. history!"
I assumed someone would eventually tell the GOP candidate why this was unintentionally hilarious, prompting him to take it down, but as of this morning, Trump's message remains online.
 
In case it's not blisteringly obvious, candidates for national office generally don't argue publicly that ignorance is a virtue. But Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate, offering an enthusiastic, albeit unconventional, embrace of ignorance.
 
Don't vote for Trump despite his obliviousness, support him because of it. The Know-Nothing Party may have faded into obscurity 150 years ago, but it's apparently making a comeback with a new standard bearer.
An Aedes Aegypti mosquito is seen in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia, Feb. 2, 2016. (Photo by Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters)

Congressional Republicans balk at taking Zika threat seriously

05/17/16 08:00AM

It's been three months since the White House, working in coordination with the CDC and public-health experts, first sent Congress a $1.9 billion emergency budget request to address the Zika virus threat. The Republican majority has spent every week since looking for an excuse to do nothing.
 
The good news is, House GOP leaders unveiled their proposal yesterday to address the emergency. The bad news is, the Republican bill is practically a punch-line to a bad joke. The Hill reported:
House Republicans on Monday introduced a bill to provide $622 million in additional funding to fight the Zika virus this year.
 
The measure is fully paid for, in part by shifting over unspent money that was intended to fight Ebola, the House Appropriations Committee said.  The House is likely to vote on the bill, which would provide a fraction of the $1.9 billion requested by the White House, this week.
Keep in mind, Senate Republicans endorsed a $1.1 billion emergency package last week, which falls far short of what the administration and public-health experts believe is necessary. But the House GOP sees that bill as too generous, so Republicans in the lower chamber cut that total roughly in half.
 
Worse, note the trajectory of the debate. Soon after the White House made the case for the $1.9 billion Zika response, House Republicans said the administration should simply redirect $600 million that had been allocated to combat Ebola. The trouble, of course, is that this money (a) is far short of the $1.9 billion needed, and (b) is still being used to address Ebola in West Africa.
 
That was a month ago. Yesterday, House Republicans, after weeks of careful deliberation and analysis, introduced legislation to push the same discredited idea.
 
In other words, the more serious the Zika threat becomes, the less serious GOP lawmakers are about addressing it.
Trump an irresistible force to Republicans

Trump an irresistible force to Republicans

05/16/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reviews the difficult past few days Donald Trump has had, from pressure about releasing his taxes, to an embarrassing return of an old scandal, to an unflattering profile in the New York Times, and yet his support among Republicans is as strong as ever. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 5.16.16

05/16/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Zubik v. Burwell: "The Supreme Court on Monday sent a case dealing with religious exemptions in Obamacare contraception coverage back to lower courts in an attempt to get the sides to figure out a compromise. The unsigned unanimous order, though not technically a tie, suggested the court could not reach a more definitive majority without a ninth justice."

* Perilous times in Venezuela, "where clashes erupted this week between security forces and demonstrators protesting food shortages, power blackouts and political gridlock, [and which] may be headed toward an all-out popular uprising that could lead to the overthrow of its government this year, senior U.S. intelligence officials said."
 
* Syria: "Al Qaeda's top leadership in Pakistan, badly weakened after a decade of C.I.A. drone strikes, has decided that the terror group's future lies in Syria and has secretly dispatched more than a dozen of its most seasoned veterans there, according to senior American and European intelligence and counterterrorism officials."
 
* Missouri: "[State] lawmakers have passed a sweeping expansion of gun rights in the state, one that would allow people to carry concealed guns without requiring permits and widen their right to stand and fight against perceived threats."
 
* Keep expectations low: "The House on Friday passed legislation to combat heroin and painkiller abuse, setting up potentially tense negotiations with the Senate on an issue lawmakers are eager to show voters they can address ahead of November's election."
 
* Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens voted with the right on voter-ID laws. He now regrets the decision for reasons that are worthy of a broader discussion.
Former President Bill Clinton makes way for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the "Hillary Victory Fund: I'm with Her" benefit concert, March 2, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP)

Hillary Clinton has a job in mind for her husband

05/16/16 05:00PM

Former presidents have taken on all kinds of jobs after leaving office, but the Clintons offer a rather unique set of circumstances. If Hillary Clinton's campaign fares well this year, Bill Clinton will be blazing a trail that, historically speaking, would have been hard to even imagine: a former two term president, back in the White House, taking on the ambiguous duties of a ceremonial office.
 
For the Democratic candidate's campaign, it creates a tricky dynamic. On the one hand, Bill Clinton remains a popular national figure, and Hillary Clinton generally benefits from the association. On the other hand, Bill Clinton is not a candidate, and if Hillary Clinton prevails in November, her husband will have few official responsibilities.
 
What exactly would Bill Clinton do in a Hillary Clinton administration? As the Washington Post reported overnight, the former Secretary of State told a Kentucky audience about some of her plans.
"My husband ... I'm going to put in charge of revitalizing the economy because you know, he knows how to do it," Clinton told supporters in Northern Kentucky. "And especially in places like coal country and inner cities and other parts of our country that have been really left out."
 
Hillary Clinton has long made it clear that she looks to her husband's presidency as a model for how to manage the economy. She often notes the job creation and increases in median household income during his administration.
In a case like this, the details would obviously matter, and at yesterday's event, Clinton didn't get into specifics. At some point soon, however, she probably should.
President Barack Obama attends the commencement ceremony for Rutgers University at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., May 15, 2016. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Obama sends pointed shots across GOP's bow

05/16/16 02:40PM

When President Obama delivered the commencement address at Rutgers University in New Jersey over the weekend, he did not mention any Republicans' names. In fact, over the course of his fairly long address, the word "Republican" did not come up at all.
 
Obama did not, however, leave any doubts as to who he might have been referring to with some of his more pointed jabs.
 
Midway through his remarks, for example, the president turned his attention to the climate crisis, and mercilessly mocked Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.): "A while back, you may have seen a United States senator trotted out a snowball during a floor speech in the middle of winter as 'proof' that the world was not warming." After the audience laughed at the far-right senator's antics, Obama added, "[I]t's up to you to insist upon and shape an informed debate. Imagine if Benjamin Franklin had seen that senator with the snowball, what he would think. Imagine if your 5th grade science teacher had seen that. He'd get a D -- and he's a senator!"
 
But his most forceful rhetoric was reserved for the GOP's presumptive nominee.
Although he didn't mention Donald Trump by name, President Obama used his commencement address at Rutgers University on Sunday to make his most forceful case yet against the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee. [...]
 
Obama took on the premise of Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.... He slammed Trump's call for a border wall.... He criticized the presumptive GOP nominee's Muslim ban.... He ripped into Trump's command of the facts.... And he highlighted Trump's lack of political experience in politics.
Subtle, it wasn't.
 
The speech is worth checking out in its entirety, but this portion stood out for me:

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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