As a rule, American presidential candidates tend to say positive things about U.S. servicemen and women, especially war veterans. But as Politiconoted last night, Donald Trump is trying something a little different.
Donald Trump rang in the Army's 241st birthday in unusual fashion on Tuesday -- by calling attention to theft of government funds by American soldiers in Iraq.
"Iraq, crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money -- millions and millions of dollars -- and handing it out?," Trump said at an evening rally. "I want to know who were the soldiers that had that job, because I think they're living very well right now, whoever they may be."
A campaign spokesperson claimed soon after that Trump was referring to Iraqi soldiers, but that's extremely hard to believe. In reality, it was Americans, not Iraqis, who were distributing millions of dollars, so the defense doesn't make a lot of sense.
It's worth noting that there were allegations -- and some prosecutions -- of U.S. troops accused of skimming, so I suppose there's some truth to Trump's rhetoric. But why take a gratuitous shot like this?
As the Politico report put it, "Trump has painted himself as a champion of soldiers and veterans, and it is unusual for American politicians on the campaign trail to call out members of the military, one of the country's most popular institutions, for their transgressions."
When Donald Trump wrapped up the Republicans' presidential nomination, 2016 polling showed him gaining on -- and in some cases, even surpassing -- Hillary Clinton. The combination of GOP consolidation and Democratic divisions meant a general election landscape that looked very close.
The problem for Republicans is that this dynamic couldn't last. Consider the latest Bloomberg Politics poll released late yesterday.
Democrat Hillary Clinton has opened up a double-digit lead nationally over Republican Donald Trump, whose negatives remain unusually high for a presidential candidate amid early indications that the Orlando terrorist attack has had little direct impact on the 2016 race.
A new Bloomberg Politics national poll shows Clinton leading Trump 49 percent to 37 percent among likely voters in November's election, with 55 percent of those polled saying they could never vote for the real-estate developer and TV personality.
Note, there are multiple factors unfolding at the same time. Clinton is starting to consolidate Democratic backing now that her party's primaries and caucuses are over; Clinton allies have begun hitting the airwaves with effective (and for now, unanswered) ads in battleground states; and Trump has faced intense scrutiny of late over his bigoted antics.
The result is a 12-point lead for the former Secretary of State as the general election gets underway in earnest. (For context, it's worth noting that four years ago at this time, a Bloomberg Politics poll showed President Obama ahead by 13 points. In terms of the national popular vote, he ended up winning by 4 points.)
Complicating matters, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows a whopping 70% of Americans now have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, while only 29% have a favorable view. Both are the worst numbers the Republican has seen this year.
Two weeks ago, Donald Trump escalated his racist attacks against a Latino federal judge, sparking a national controversy and causing widespread Republican heartburn. As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination wrapped up, this is how the presumptive Republican nominee wanted to launch the general-election phase.
But take a moment to consider what we've seen from the GOP candidate since his offensive against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel. At times, it's been dizzying: Trump went after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a rather racially charged way; Trump adopted a self-congratulatory posture about the deadliest mass shooting in American history; Trump said President Obama should resign because he won't use the anti-Muslim phrasing Republicans like to hear; Trump suggested the president might be a terrorist sympathizer; Trump stripped the Washington Post of its press credentials; and Trump delivered a nauseating and brazenly dishonest speech demanding a ban on Muslims entering the country and targeting American Muslims' loyalties.
And really, that's just a sampling -- from the last five days.
Yesterday, after President Obama made Trump's rhetoric look ridiculous, the Republican candidate responded in the most Trump-like fashion possible, telling the Associated Press:
"President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people.
"When I am President, it will always be America First."
The Atlantic's James Fallows noted soon after, "Saying that the Commander in Chief has prioritized the enemy's interests is an accusation of treason.... I am not aware of any previous case, whatsoever, of a national-ticket candidate publicly accusing a president or presidential nominee of a capital offense."
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has an amazing habit of saying some pretty remarkable things. Yesterday, however, the far-right congressman nevertheless managed to surprise.
For those unfamiliar with Sessions' background, in 2014, Sessions became strikingly confused about what a “witch hunt’ is. The year before, Sessions said he believes it’s “immoral” to extend jobless aid to “long-term unemployments [sic].” Around the same time, the congressman said the House should stop worrying about governing and focus exclusively on “messaging.”
Last year, the Texas Republican said he holds President Obama “personally accountable” for murders committed by undocumented immigrants, pointing to imaginary evidence. Sessions then insisted the Affordable Care Act costs Americans $5 million per person. (He was only off by $4,991,000.)
But despite this record, I didn't see this one coming.
Asked on Tuesday afternoon whether the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub changes his opposition to a pro-LGBT bill, House Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) denied the venue had anything to do with the gay community whatsoever. "It was a young person's nightclub, I'm told. And there were some [LGBT people] there, but it was mostly Latinos," told reporters, according to National Journal.
Sessions has stood in firm opposition to the Maloney Amendment, an attachment that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT individuals.
Let's set the record straight: the mass shooting took place at a nightclub called Pulse, which describes itself as "the hottest gay bar in Orlando." The night of the massacre, it was hosting a Latino night, but that doesn't change the fact that the venue caters to an LGBT audience.
For Sessions to pretend otherwise is bizarre. The Texan's office told TPM the published quotes are correct, but "taken out of context without the background information." Sessions' spokesperson said, "What my boss meant to say was that there weren't only gay individuals at the club but people from all walks of life were present."
Perhaps, though that's not what the House Republican said. What's more, the broader legislative context relates to Sessions' opposition to an amendment that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors. The point, in other words, is determining whether the Orlando murders might change Sessions' perspective about preventing employment discrimination.
And it's against this backdrop that the Texas lawmaker said he doesn't necessarily consider the gay nightclub a gay nightclub.
Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post, and Charlie Sykes, conservative talk radio host, talk with Rachel Maddow about the political advantage Donald Trump see in news of terror attacks and how he is being advised on national security. watch
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton talks with Rachel Maddow about Hillary Clinton's resounding primary victory in Washington, D.C., and how the support for statehood for the district by both Democratic candidates helped that cause. watch
Patty Sheehan, the first openly gay Orlando city commissioner, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the city of Orlando has responded to Sunday's devastating gun massacre and the strength members of the community have shown in helping each other deal with the tragedy. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the results of a new Bloomberg poll, which shows Hillary Clinton with a sizable lead over Donald Trump nationally but also shows a preference for Trump's handling of terrorism and national security. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on Republican presidential presumptive nominee Donald Trump's reaction to the gun massacre in Orlando, Florida, and the sharp criticism he incurred from Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. watch
Rachel Maddow notes that while the United States after a mass shooting typically engages in some period of reflection on policies that could prevent future tragedies, the political presence of Donald Trump has changed that process. watch
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.