E.J. Dionne, Jr., columnist for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about how past U.S. presidents have interacted with past popes, and how Pope Francis is re-balancing the values of the Catholic Church, finding American Catholics in a much better position than his predecessors would have seen. watch
Time to invest in a clean energy future—not build a pipeline to carry our continent's dirtiest fuel across the US. I oppose Keystone XL. -H
Rachel Maddow reports on the celebratory reception for the arrival of Pope Francis in the United States at a time when the world feels particularly tense, though the political right-wing in America is not particularly receptive to the pope's model of Christianity. watch
* Abdul Shalabi: "The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it had repatriated a Guantanamo Bay detainee who intelligence analysts had concluded was probably once a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. The United States held the man as a wartime prisoner for more than 13 years, government files show."
* Refugees: "Amid profound disagreements about how to handle Europe’s escalating refugee crisis, European Union leaders forced through a plan Tuesday to distribute asylum seekers across the continent despite dissent from Central European nations."
* They have a perfectly sensible plan. The House is the problem: "Senate Republicans are preparing to introduce as early as Tuesday a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month, according to Senate aides from both parties."
* A good plan for a different Congress: "Leading Senate Democrats unveiled climate change legislation on Tuesday that is expected to go nowhere. The point: Present a united party front on the energy and climate debate. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, authored the bill, which would declare it national U.S. policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent per year."
* Gut wrenching: "The incidents of sexual assault on children described by American service members who served in Afghanistan are sickening. Boys screaming in the night as Afghan police officers attacked them. Three or four Afghan men found lying on the floor of a room at a military base with children between them, presumably for sex play."
* The Kim Davis story isn't over: "Kim Davis went back to work as a Kentucky county clerk last week after a stint in jail and a pledge that she wouldn't interfere with deputies who were issuing wedding licenses to same-sex couples. But in a court motion filed Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union said that she was doing just that."
As political leaders go, Hillary Clinton has always been fairly adept at dodging the questions she doesn't want to answer, but the Keystone XL pipeline has posed a greater challenge than most.
Over the summer, for example, the Democratic candidate said of the project, “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question. This is President Obama’s decision and I’m not going to second-guess him.”
This, of course, wasn't a sustainable posture. Last week, Clinton effectively announced fair warning. “I have been waiting for the administration to make a decision. I thought I owed them that,” Clinton said in New Hampshire. “I can’t wait too much longer. I am putting the White House on notice. I am going to tell you what I think soon.”
Soon, in this case, is today. MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald reported this afternoon:
Clinton made good on the promise she delivered last week to finally take a public position on the pipeline “soon,” on whose fate the Obama administration has dragged its feet deciding.
“I oppose it,” Clinton said in response to a question on the pipeline while campaigning in Iowa Tuesday. “I oppose it because I don’t think, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”
There's no wiggle-room here. If environmental activists were concerned Clinton might hedge, or look for a way to change her mind later, today's comments should put those fears to rest.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) announced last week when Pope Francis delivers remarks to a joint session of Congress, he intends to "boycott." The far-right congressman said it'd be fine if the religious leader addressed moral issues Gosar cares about, but since Francis is likely to reference moral issues the pope cares about, the Arizona Republican isn't interested.
“When the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one,” the congressman wrote.
Similarly, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) -- who, like Gosar, is Roman Catholic -- sat down with Politico this week to flesh out his expectations for the papal address.
"I'm hopeful that Pope Francis will speak to these two issues: One is the church's unfailing and steadfast opposition to abortion, the position that life begins at the moment of conception and it ends at natural death, and the dignity of every human person. That's a position of the Roman Catholic Church that's really unassailable and I'm hopeful that that position will be reiterated from the floor of Congress next week. I'm looking forward to that.
"Second component that is so strong among the Catholic Church is the position of marriage, and it being between a man and a woman."
Or put another way, Steve King is "looking forward" to his church leader telling Steve King how correct Steve King is. The pope, the argument goes, should stay in the GOP's lane: there are moral crises, as defined by Republicans, that warrant Pope Francis' concern. Nothing else need be mentioned.
And what if Francis addresses the climate crisis and/or economic inequality? Those concerns "are less religion and theology and more politics," the right-wing Iowan responded.
Opposition to reproductive rights and blocking equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, King added, "are solid, timeless principles of the Catholic Church and much of the rest of Christianity."
The threats to the natural world, however, are "political."
The federal government is poised to shut down a week from tomorrow, which might lead the typical voter to believe lawmakers are scurrying to find a solution before it's too late. That's not exactly what's happening, at least not yet.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure failed to advance in a 54-42 vote, falling short of the 60 vote threshold needed. [...]
Republican leaders are hoping the vote on the 20-week ban, which comes the same day that Pope Francis arrives in Washington, will give members a chance to register their anti-abortion views without running the risk of a government shutdown.
And that's what makes today's vote interesting. Everyone, on both sides of the political divide, knew that this bill would fail, but Senate GOP leaders proceeded anyway -- so that members could "register" their views. Today, in other words, was less about governing and more about political theater. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hopes a shutdown will be less likely if his far-right members blow off some steam.
The final roll call is online here. Note, three Senate Democrats -- Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) -- voted with the GOP majority, while two Senate Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) -- voted with the Democratic minority.
All four of the Republicans running for president were on hand for today's vote -- all four voted for it -- and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was also there to vote against it.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* While Vice President Biden continues to weigh his options, Hillary Clinton picked up another major union endorsement this morning -- her sixth. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America threw its support to the Democrat, which is significant given its membership base of more than 500,000 people.
* Clinton is also unveiling her proposal today to make prescription medicine more affordable to consumers. The plan is aggressive enough to have forced a drop in drug companies' stock prices yesterday.
* Speaking of policy proposals, Jeb Bush is unveiling his plan today on "regulatory reform," which will include the elimination of environmental safeguards and protections against Wall Street excesses.
* Some Scott Walker loyalists told BuzzFeed that if the race for the Republican nomination is unresolved next summer as the party's national convention gets underway, the Wisconsin governor "could come back and win." (Dear Walker loyalists, it's time to move on.)
* Ted Cruz picked up an endorsement the other day from right-wing Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R). Despite -- or perhaps because of -- Fiore's radicalism, Cruz quickly added her to his Nevada Leadership Team.
* A far-right advocacy group called Advancing Colorado is launching attack ads in the state targeting Sen. Michael Bennet (D). The subject of the ads is Bennet's support for the international nuclear agreement that blocks Iran's nuclear-weapons program.
For news consumers, there's no shortage of political news to digest. Between the presidential race and Pope Francis heading to Capitol Hill, there's never a dull moment.
But let's not forget that a week from tomorrow, congressional Republicans are quite likely to shut down the government -- again.
Late last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who's championed similar showdowns over government funding and the debt ceiling as part of his far-right agenda, told Fox News' Sean Hannity that it's Democrats "who are threatening a shutdown." Rubio's heard the rhetoric that it's Republicans who are engaged in brinkmanship.
“No we’re not,” Rubio said. “We are in support of funding the government fully — just not giving any more money to this one organization that was just caught on video dismembering unborn children! Or, in one case, a child that had already been born alive, as Carly did very well last night, outlining and describing the video.”
Putting aside the fact that Fiorina appears to have been lying -- a detail Rubio really ought to know -- the far-right senator's broader refrain is a familiar one: in every Republican hostage standoff, GOP lawmakers make roughly the same argument. "Meet our demands or we shoot the hostage," the pitch goes. "And if you don't meet our demands, it's your fault if the hostage gets shot."
Bloomberg Politics had a good piece this morning on the familiarity of the rhetoric, noting that we heard the same people saying the same thing in 2013.
And by "same people," I'm being quite literal. Noting Rubio's 2013 rhetoric, Bloomberg Politics noted, "[T]he very same senator made the very same argument to the very same host two years ago, before Republicans tested the theory by shutting down the government for 16 days in an effort to defund another bete noire."
Back in May, Rick Perry did a surprisingly good job identifying the top issue of the 2016 presidential race. “Something I want you all to think about is that the next president of the United States, whoever that individual may be, could choose up to three, maybe even four members of the Supreme Court,” he told a South Carolina audience.
No matter where one stands politically or ideologically, it was an important point. By Inauguration Day 2017, three current Supreme Court justices will be at least 80 years old. The average retirement age for a justice? According to one analysis: 78.7 -- a number that suggests a fourth justice, Justice Stephen Breyer, may also be in the mix. (Breyer will be 78.2 years old on the next Inauguration Day.)
Perry, of course, has left the race, but Politico had an interesting report the other day noting that there's another Republican presidential hopeful who's also focusing quite a bit on the high court.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who argued nine cases before the Supreme Court as solicitor general of Texas, declared on Friday almost every Democratic nominee to the high court has voted as a “radical leftist nutcase.”
And he said that half of Republican-appointed justices are “screaming trainwreck disasters,” specifically naming Earl Warren, the former chief justice who is best known for authoring the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation but who also earned conservatives ire for running an activist court. (Cruz supports the Brown v. Board decision.)
While speaking at a Heritage Action forum, the Texas senator said to applause, “You know, Democrats are batting almost 1.000 when it comes to Supreme Court nominees. Every Supreme Court nominee they put forward votes like a radical leftist nutcase.”
Cruz added, “Republicans, we bat about .500. About half of Republican Supreme Court justices actually honor their oath to defend the Constitution. The other half are screaming trainwreck disasters. Earl Warren was a Republican nominee. Bill Brennan was a Republican nominee. John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Harry Blackmun, who authored Roe vs. Wade was a Republican nominee.”
Over the weekend, MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, whose political perspective I nearly always agree with, said if he had to put money on the race for the Republican nomination, he'd bet on Marco Rubio. Literally one minute later, MSNBC's Chris Hayes, whose views are also usually in line with mine, endorsed Kornacki's argument.
Vox, which has been singing Rubio's praises for quite a while, added yesterday that the Florida senator is the biggest beneficiary of Scott Walker's withdrawal.
To be sure, yesterday was clearly a good day for the far-right senator. From the outset, the political establishment viewed a triumvirate of candidates as the GOP's likely nominee -- Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker -- and now that trio stands as a duo. What's more, the latest CNN poll found only four Republicans reaching double digits: Rubio and the three outsiders who've never served a day in public office.
Is it any wonder Rubio is suddenly the "it" candidate? TPM's Josh Marshall did a nice job summarizing the senator's standing.
...I've never seen Rubio as a very strong candidate. He seems to lack the skills to make it in a national campaign. And his failure with immigration reform -- both in choosing it as his signature issue and in fumbling it after he did -- is telling on a number of levels. But he's made few mistakes in this campaign and he seems to be slowing edging up in the polls.... Put simply, he remains viable and undamaged, even though his campaign to date has been undistinguished.
I have no doubt that the folks who are running Rubio's campaign would use different adjectives. They'd have a more positive gloss. But I strongly suspect they see it in the same basic terms. He's far from on fire. But he's undamaged while his real opponents are either imploding or fizzling. The visuals and numbers show little reason for optimism. But I suspect they believe the structural logic of the contest is encouraging for Rubio and that time is on his side.
And to be sure, that structural logic is compelling. Many observers -- inside the Republican Party and out -- simply assume as a matter of course that the Inexperienced Three will eventually fizzle, leaving a race featuring only a handful of credible contenders. The list will likely include two establishment governors (Jeb Bush and John Kasich) and two very conservative senators (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio).
In this scenario, is this a contest that could elevate Rubio to the GOP nomination? Of course it is.
Jeff King, a leader of the Republican-led state Senate in Kansas, has long been opposed to the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, like most GOP officials in Kansas, King has balked at even allowing a debate over expanding "Obamacare" in the state.
But Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kansas, recently announced it will permanently close its doors on Oct. 10, in large part because the state refuses to consider Medicaid expansion under the ACA. The medical facility is in Jeff King's district -- prompting him to give "Obamacare" a second look.
He told the Lawrence Journal-World last week that if the state could pursue a conservative approach to Medicaid expansion -- along the lines of what Indiana and other "red" states have already embraced -- it would be "something that Kansas needs to strongly consider."
Yesterday, the Topeka Capital-Journalreported on the response from King's ostensible GOP allies.
A southern Kansas hospital’s pending closure, which administrators blame on the state’s reluctance to expand Medicaid, hasn’t been enough to persuade Gov. Sam Brownback to soften his stance on the matter. [...]
Brownback said the hospital closure isn’t because the state won’t expand Medicaid. “They should blame it on Obamacare,” he said.
As a substantive matter, this doesn't make any sense at all. The Affordable Care Act didn't cause the hospital to close; the Affordable Care Act is offering the hospital a lifeline that could keep the facility open. Brownback, who really ought to know better, has the entire story backwards.
The far-right governor, however, ignoring the success of the policy in most of the country, won't consider the easy, obvious solution.
This is going to get worse for Kansas before it gets better.
Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, bolstered by positive media coverage and a well-received debate performance, is getting a boost in the polls. What many Republican insiders want to know, however, is whether she can capitalize on the buzz and sustain her position as a top-tier contender.
Endorsements like these will help answer the question.
Businesswoman Carly Fiorina has received her first endorsement from a member of Congress for her campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a top House Republican, announced Sunday she is supporting the former chief executive's White House bid and is serving as her co-chair in the state.
Jenkins, a certified public accountant, pointed to Fiorina's business experience in her statement of support that was released to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Given Fiorina's record in the private sector, this may not be the best rationale for an endorsement, but the far-right congresswoman made the argument anyway.
To be sure, no one would suggest Jenkins holds so much sway that her support will suddenly change the 2016 race. But endorsements matter -- in recent election cycles, one of the key barometers for identifying the eventual nominee has been establishment endorsements, which have been every bit as important as money and early polling.
With Jenkins' official backing, in other words, comes a degree of credibility. Serious, competitive candidates are supposed to be able earn the support of elected officials in their party. Before yesterday, Fiorina wasn't a member in this club. Now, she is.
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson crossed an important line on Sunday when he said on "Meet the Press" that Muslim Americans, regardless of any other consideration, should be disqualified from the presidency. The comments drew swift rebukes yesterday from the White House, each of the leading Democratic candidates, and even many Republicans.
The retired right-wing neurosurgeon, however, doesn't seem to care. Carson stood by the comment on Sunday night, and reiterated his message last night on his official Facebook page, declaring he "meant exactly what I said.” The GOP contender added, "Those Republicans that take issue with my position are amazing."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations characterized the controversy as significant enough to warrant Carson's withdrawal from the presidential race.
That's obviously not going to happen. On the contrary, the Associated Press reported overnight that Team Carson seems delighted by the uproar.
Carson’s campaign reported strong fundraising and more than 100,000 new Facebook friends in the 24 hours after he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
His campaign manager Barry Bennett told The Associated Press on Monday: “While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20.”
“People in Iowa particularly, are like, ‘Yeah! We’re not going to vote for a Muslim either,’” Bennett said. “I don’t mind the hubbub. It’s not hurting us, that’s for sure.”
And that's arguably every bit as striking as Carson's original sentiment.
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.