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U.S. & Cuba Formally Restore Diplomatic Relations, Open Embassies (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty).

Obama's Cuba policy enjoys broad, bipartisan backing

07/22/15 10:05AM

President Obama's overhaul of U.S. policy towards Cuba has advanced quite quickly, and thus far, without any major missteps. Just this week, in a development that seemed hard to even imagine in the recent past, the two countries restored full diplomatic relations. A foreign policy that had failed for a half-century is finally finished.
 
And Republican howls notwithstanding, the public is on the White House's side. Consider the latest report from the Pew Research Center:
As the United States and Cuba moved this week to end more than 50 years of diplomatic conflict, public support for re-establishing relations with Cuba has increased. There is equally broad, and growing, support for ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. [...]
 
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans say they approve of the U.S. re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, up 10 points since January. A similar majority (72%) favors the U.S. ending its trade embargo against Cuba, "which would allow U.S. companies to do business in Cuba and Cuban companies to do business in the U.S."
The results were surprisingly broad, even along partisan lines -- even a 56% majority of self-identified Republican voters agree with Obama's policy, up from 40% earlier this year.
 
A CBS News poll released this week also found broad public support for the new U.S. policy. A day later, a national Associated Press survey published similar results.
 
We are, in other words, looking at a national consensus that only excludes Republican presidential candidates.
Morning commuters walk on Wall Street in New York's financial district

GOP vows to free Wall Street of safeguards, accountability

07/22/15 09:41AM

It didn't get too much attention, but Citibank received some pretty awful news yesterday. The banking powerhouse was accused of pushing dubious credit card services, presented to millions of consumers in unfortunate ways (charging consumers during "free" 30-day trial periods, for example).
 
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which exists thanks to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the Dodd-Frank reform law, noticed the Citibank practices and went after the banking giant, accusing it of "deceptive marketing," "unfair billing," and "other unlawful practices." Yesterday, Citibank cried uncle -- it will pay $700 million to affected consumers, on top of $35 million in penalties.
 
A few hours later, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz (R-Texas) issued an interesting press release.
On the fourth anniversary of the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas-04) have introduced legislation to eliminate it. [...]
 
"Don't let the name fool you, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does little to protect consumers..." Sen. Cruz stated.
The argument might even seem true, were it not for all of the success the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has had in protecting consumers. Indeed, that's very likely the point of Cruz's new bill -- the CFPB appears to be too effective for many conservatives in cracking down on financial-sector excesses.
 
But as the Obama administration's Wall Street reforms celebrate another birthday, it's not just the right-wing Texas senator looking to turn back the clock. Yesterday, much of the Republican presidential field emphasized their plans to scrap the Dodd/Frank law altogether.
A still from a police dashcam video showing Sandra Bland's arrest. (Texas Department of Public Safety/YouTube)

Dashcam video sheds new light on Sandra Bland tragedy

07/22/15 08:51AM

On July 10, Sandra Bland was pulled over by a Texas state trooper in a routine traffic stop. Three days later she was found dead in a jail cell. We still can't say with confidence how or why Bland died, but new dashcam footage sheds some light on how the tragic series of events began.
 
Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, had moved to the Houston area from Chicago for a new job at Prairie View A&M University. State trooper Brian Encinia stopped Bland for allegedly changing lanes without signaling, but things escalated quickly after Encinia, for reasons that are unclear, told Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. NBC News reported:
"I don't want to step out of my car," Bland says, adding, "I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself."
 
"I am going to yank you out of here," Encinia says, moving his body inside her open door.
 
The situation escalates, and the trooper tells her she's under arrest. "Get out of the car!" he commands. Bland asks why she's being arrested, and then Encinia draws his Taser.
 
"Get out of the car! I will light you up," he continues, prompting her to exit the vehicle.
Why Bland was taken into custody in the first place still isn't clear -- the trooper claims he was assaulted -- but she was reportedly trying to collect money from family members to get out of jail after the arrest. Soon after, Bland was found dead in her cell, and the autopsy pointed to an apparent suicide, listing her cause of death as "self-inflicted asphyxiation."
 
People close to Bland, not surprisingly, are skeptical of the official version of events, and her death remains under investigation. Encinia has been placed on administrative duties after the Texas Department of Public Safety found "violations of procedures regarding traffic stops and the department's courtesy policy."
 
But as many continue to demand answers, new questions are also arising. Among them:  was the dashcam footage edited?
President Barack Obama speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Obama reminds Iran deal critics: credibility counts

07/22/15 08:00AM

As the debate over the international nuclear agreement with Iran intensifies, President Obama addressed the VFW National Convention yesterday, making a point about the Iran deal's critics that too often gets overlooked.
"In the debate over this deal, we're hearing the echoes of some of the same policies and mindset that failed us in the past. Some of the same politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq, and said it would take a few months. And we know the consequences of that choice and what it cost us in blood and treasure.
 
'So I believe there's a smarter, more responsible way to protect our national security -- and that is what we are doing. Instead of dismissing the rest of the world and going it alone, we've done the hard and patient work of uniting the international community to meet a common threat. Instead of chest-beating that rejects even the idea of talking to our adversaries -- which sometimes sounds good in sound bites, but accomplishes nothing -- we're seeing that strong and principled diplomacy can give hope of actually resolving a problem peacefully."
There can be no doubt that as arguments on Capitol Hill grow louder, opponents of the diplomatic agreement will have a more expensive lobbying campaign. What they'll lack, however, is credibility.
 
Here's a challenge for everyone involved in the debate: find one prominent voice who wants to kill the Iran deal who was right about the war in Iraq. Just one. It's a strikingly difficult task -- I've been looking for a while and I've come up empty -- which reinforces a broader point.
 
It's a quaint, almost inconvenient, approach to Beltway arguments, but credibility and accountability should probably count for something in debates like these. When a group of discredited conservatives fail miserably on matters of national security and foreign policy over the course of several years, and literally those same people tell the nation, "Trust us as we try to push the United States closer to yet another war in the Middle East," it's not unreasonable to think Americans should consider their track record.

Dashcam video questions and other headlines

07/22/15 07:39AM

Sandra Bland death: Texas to look into alleged edits of dashcam video. (NBC News)

Scott Walker tours New Hampshire, guided by Scott Brown. (Wall Street Journal)

After Tennessee shootings, armed citizens guard military recruiters. (AP)

Jurors to weigh whether Colorado theater shooter should die. (AP)

Obama's plan for Guantanamo is seen faltering. (New York Times)

The Washington Post's Jason Rezaian has now spent a full year in an Iranian jail. (Washington Post)

Iranian official: held U.S. citizens were discussed on the sidelines of nuke talks. (AP)

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Rick Santorum joins Rachel Maddow, 7/22

Rick Santorum joins Rachel Maddow, Wednesday 7/22

07/21/15 09:49PM

Steve Kornacki alerts viewers that Rachel Maddow will interview Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Wednesday's show, and shows the closest Maddow has come to interviewing Santorum previously, sneaking a question in another interview. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 7.21.15

07/21/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Honoring four victims: "Flags will fly at half-staff at the White House and on federal grounds through sunset on Saturday to honor the service members killed in the shooting rampage last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Obama administration announced on Tuesday."
 
* Deal? "A bipartisan Senate deal to fund highway and transit projects for three years hit a speed bump on Tuesday when Democrats blocked consideration of the bill to buy more time to read through the details. The deal, struck by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), would provide $47 billion to pay for the extension of the transportation program, which is set to expire at the end of the month if Congress doesn't act."
 
* Another one: "On Tuesday, an anti-abortion group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released the second of what it said will be a series of secretly recorded videos of abortion providers and Planned Parenthood executives." [Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood.]
 
* Illinois: "[A] federal appeals court in Chicago on Tuesday threw out five of 18 counts against convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, vacated his 14-year sentence and ordered him retried on the five counts. While finding five of the counts invalid on technical grounds, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals called the evidence against Blagojevich 'overwhelming' and made clear that the former governor was not entitled to be released from prison in the meantime."
 
* Be alarmed: "Earth dialed the heat up in June, smashing warm temperature records for both the month and the first half of the year. Off-the-charts heat is 'getting to be a monthly thing,' said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June was the fourth month of 2015 that set a record, she said."
 
* ISIS: "The Islamic State uses terror to force obedience and frighten enemies. It has seized territory, destroyed antiquities, slaughtered minorities, forced women into sexual slavery and turned children into killers. But its officials are apparently resistant to bribes, and in that way, at least, it has outdone the corrupt Syrian and Iraqi governments it routed, residents and experts say."

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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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