Fresh off his latest odd debate performance, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson traveled to Virginia yesterday, where he spoke to a crowd of nearly 12,000 at Liberty University, an evangelical school founded by the late Jerry Falwell.
And while the bulk of Carson's remarks were about his background, faith, and vision, the retired right-wing neurosurgeon also reportedly took aim at, of all things, Bernie Sanders' higher-ed plan. The Hillreported yesterday:
“If people are not well informed, they just [listen to] unscrupulous politicians and news media and off the people go in the completely wrong direction, listening to all kinds of propaganda and inculcating that into their way of thinking,” the GOP White House hopeful said.
“It becomes easy to swallow things. If you don’t understand our financial situation and someone comes along and says, ‘free college for everybody,’ they’ll say, ‘oh how wonderful,’ and have no idea they’re talking about hastening the destruction of the nation.”
First, I'm not sure Carson should be giving lectures on the importance of people being "well informed."
Second, Sanders' plan, while ambitious, would cost about $75 billion per year over the course of the next decade, which in turn would make college tuition effectively free (the way we already make K-12 education free).
If implemented, American students would be able to graduate without crushing debts, bringing them in line with young adults in many other advanced democracies.
One may see this as worthwhile or not, but a $75 billion investment in higher-ed would not "destroy" anything.
In early December 2007, about a month before the Iowa caucuses, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was still a top-tier candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In some surveys, he was even the frontrunner. There was, however, a small problem with his candidacy: as actual voting drew closer, rank-and-file Republicans were just starting to learn about his positions on the issues.
His rivals subtly let GOP voters know, "By the way, Giuliani is pro-choice and supports marriage equality," and the mayor's candidacy collapsed soon after. Republicans thought they loved Giuliani, right up until they realized how much they disagreed with him on a major issue the GOP base took seriously.
Eight years later, to put it mildly, it'd be a stretch to equate Giuliani with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- the former held several centrist positions, while the latter is extremely conservative on almost everything. But like Giuliani, Rubio has been at odds with his party over an issue the GOP base considers important, and like Giuliani, the Florida senator's rivals are starting to remind Republicans about this as the early nominating contests draw close.
The issue, of course, is Rubio's partnership with liberal Democrats on an immigration reform package that conservatives consider "amnesty." Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, said over the weekend, "It was a Rubio-Schumer bill. So, he does have to explain it."
As MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin reported last night, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who's been waiting for the clear Republican establishment candidate to emerge, is hitting even harder.
“It is not complicated that on the seminal fight over amnesty in Congress, the Gang of Eight bill that was the brainchild of Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama, that would have granted amnesty to 12 million people here illegally, that I stood with the American people and led the fight to defeat it in the United States Congress,” Cruz said.
He added that nominating a clear “amnesty” opponent was essential to Republican chances for victory, since conservatives won’t turn out for a candidate they view as weak on the issue.
“In my view, if Republicans nominate for president a candidate who supports amnesty," Cruz added, 'we will have given up one of the major distinctions with Hillary Clinton and we will lose the general election -- that is a path to losing."
In fairness to Rubio, it's worth emphasizing that he dramatically flip-flopped on the immigration issue, betrayed his former allies, and now rejects the very proposals he helped write just two years ago. Maybe that will satisfy Republican voters, maybe not.
But his Texas rival is starting to draw the contrast with greater clarity: Rubio partnered with the left on immigration, while Cruz battled the left on immigration.
Rachel Maddow reports on two separate oil trail derailments on two consecutive days this weekend in Wisconsin, one of which was carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota where its path took it in very close proximity to live nuclear missile silos. watch
Shawn Boburg, reporter for the Bergen Record, talks with Rachel Maddow about what can be gleaned from newly filed defense papers in the case of the New Jersey bridge lane closures, and the implications for Governor Chris Christie. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the newly release documents from the defense teams of two indicted Chris Christie administration officials, which reveal some new intrigue, like a stolen hard drive, lots of dramatic redactions, and a clear indication that Christie will play a key role. watch
Steve Kornacki, MSNBC political correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about John Kasich's history in the Republican Party and how the failures of George W. Bush have made the party less patient with moderates and pragmatists or anyone seen as a compromise to conservative principles. watch
* Veterans Day: "President Obama focused his Veterans Day remarks on the growing ranks of former troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now searching for new ways to serve their country at home."
* Missouri: "A 19-year-old white male was arrested Wednesday by University of Missouri police for posting threats to the racially roiled campus on social media, authorities said."
* I think the White House has a very different perspective: "Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan warned President Barack Obama on Tuesday against attempting to use an executive order to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."
* Related news: "As Congress awaits the administration’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay, Democrats are suggesting it might not be a bad thing if President Obama shutters the facility unilaterally. While Democratic leaders are being careful not to implore Obama directly to cut Congress out of his decision-making process, they are giving the president ample political cover to use executive authority to shutter the controversial detention facility."
* Myanmar: "Myanmar’s military establishment on Wednesday acknowledged the victory of the country’s democracy movement led by the Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, raising hopes for a peaceful transfer of power after five decades of military domination."
* I can see the congressional hearings now: "The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans' health care and other issues racked the agency."
* Ratings: "More than 13 million people watched Tuesday night's Republican debate on the Fox Business Network, according to Nielsen figures provided by the network. The prime-time debate drew 13.5 million viewers, making it the highest-rated program in the network's eight-year history. That's just shy of the 14 million for the CNBC debate Oct. 28."
Towards the end of last night's debate for the Republican presidential candidates, Maria Bartiromo noted Hillary Clinton's background before asking Marco Rubio, "Why should the American people trust you to lead this country, even though she has been so much closer to the office?"
The Washington Post's Dave Weigel noted moments later, "You couldn't have written that Rubio question to be any nicer if you were introducing him at a fundraiser." The New York Timeshelped capture the larger context:
Mr. Rubio was not only able to avoid being drawn into the contentious immigration debate, but also repeatedly received questions that allowed him to answer with versions of his stump speech. Even he seemed unable to believe his good fortune when he was asked to make his case against Mrs. Clinton. He chuckled for a moment before unspooling a well-rehearsed argument: why he can prosecute a “generational” case against her.
That reference to Rubio chuckling was quite serious. A Washington Postpiece noted this morning, "Marco Rubio got lobbed softballs so soft that he could not help but LAUGH at one of them. Literally!" [emphasis in the original]
Perhaps there's something to be said for grading candidates on a curve. It's a bit like college football, when the strength of the schedule is taken into consideration.
Sure, the senator effortlessly recites canned, carefully scripted mini-speeches, without any real regard for their connection to the question, which invariably earns overly enthusiastic praise. But it probably helps when the questions -- which were so tilted in Rubio's favor that he couldn't help but laugh -- practically invite him to recite portions of the stump speech he delivers literally every day.
What's more, Salon's Simon Maloy, who compared the Q&A for Rubio to tee-ball, highlighted "the questions Rubio wasn’t asked."
About half-way through last night's debate for the Republican presidential candidates, Ben Carson was asked about President Obama's decision to deploy a limited number of U.S. troops to Syria, while keeping 10,000 Americans in Afghanistan. For a split second, I thought to myself, "Wait, that's not a fair question. Carson couldn't possibly be expected to have a coherent opinion on the subject."
But the second quickly faded and I remembered that Carson is a presidential candidate. He's supposed to be able to speak intelligently about this and a wide range of other issues.
And in this case, Carson seemed lost, leading to a lengthy, meandering response that can charitably be described as word salad.
"Well, putting the special ops people in there is better than not having them there, because they -- that's why they're called special ops, they're actually able to guide some of the other things that we're doing there.
"And what we have to recognize is that Putin is trying to really spread his influence throughout the Middle East. This is going to be his base. And we have to oppose him there in an effective way.
"We also must recognize that it's a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.
"What we've been doing so far is very ineffective, but we can't give up ground right there. But we have to look at this on a much more global scale. We're talking about global jihadists. And their desire is to destroy us and to destroy our way of life. So we have to be saying, how do we make them look like losers? Because that's the way that they're able to gather a lot of influence."
Carson went on (and on) from there, blissfully unaware of the fact that the Chinese have not, in fact, deployed troops to Syria, and making terrorists "look like losers" isn't quite as straightforward as he'd like to believe.
At the end of his bizarre answer, the audience clapped, though it wasn't clear to me if attendees were just being polite to a confused candidate who seemed wholly out of his depth.
It was a subtle shot between two leading presidential candidates, which most of the audience probably missed. In last night's debate for the Republican presidential candidates, largely out of the blue, Ted Cruz boasted about the costly federal programs he's eager to eliminate.
"Among them are corporate welfare, like sugar subsidies. Let's take that as an example. Sugar subsidies. Sugar farmers farm under roughly 0.2% of the farmland in America, and yet they give 40% of the lobbying money.
"That sort of corporate welfare is why we're bankrupting our kids, and grandkids. I would end those subsidies to pay for defending this nation."
Cruz didn't mention any specific names, but it was a hint of a intra-party fight that's on the horizon.
In this case, Cruz and Jeb Bush are ready to phase out federal sugar subsidies, which many economic conservatives -- and liberals, for that matter -- see as "crony capitalism."
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