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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:
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin speaks at the National Press Club, Jan. 15, 2014.

Oklahoma can no longer afford irrational Obamacare hatred

05/16/16 12:30PM

In recent years, as the Affordable Care Act has taken root, there are a series of great anecdotes about Americans who thought they hated the reform law, right up until they really needed it. At that point, these consumers tended to effectively say, "Maybe blind hatred for Obamacare wasn't such a good idea after all."
As it turns out, a similar situation has unfolded in many state capitols, where Republican policymakers are certain they want to reject every possible aspect of the ACA, until it dawns on them this posture ends up hurting their state for no reason. The Associated Press turned the spotlight on Oklahoma today:
Despite bitter resistance in Oklahoma for years to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, Republican leaders in this conservative state are now confronting something that alarms them even more: a huge $1.3 billion hole in the budget that threatens to do widespread damage to the state's health care system.
So, in what would be the grandest about-face among rightward leaning states, Oklahoma is now moving toward a plan to expand its Medicaid program to bring in billions of federal dollars from President Obama's new health care system.
This shift has been predicted for years, though it's taking longer than health care advocates had hoped. Just how long can a state like Oklahoma spite itself, on purpose, because it doesn't like the president? What would it take for officials in the Sooner State to succumb to arithmetic?
In this case, Oklahoma's big budget shortfall, and the prospect of closing state-subsidized nursing homes, was enough to start changing Republicans' minds.
Craig Jones, the president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, told the AP, "We are nearing a colossal collapse of our health care system in Oklahoma. We have doctors turning away patients. We have people with mental illnesses who are going without treatment. Hospitals are closing, and this is only going to get worse this summer if the Legislature does not act immediately to turn this around."
Warnings like these appear to have raised eyebrows, even among far-right policymakers.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.16.16

05/16/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was asked about his interest in possibly being Hillary Clinton's running mate. "I love the job I'm doing," he replied. When Jake Tapper said his answer didn't sound "Shermanesque," the Ohio senator conceded the point.
* On a related note, Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) is letting folks know he's "actively considering" a 2018 campaign against Brown.
* In Georgia, the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed Donald Trump leading Clinton in the state by just four points, 45% to 41%. The Republican seems to think that's great news, but given that Georgia has been a red state in each of the last five presidential elections, it's Democrats who feel good about the poll results.
* After trading barbs recently with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Trump has apparently begun referring to the Massachusetts Democrat as "Pocahontas."
* Ted Cruz may be gone from the presidential stage, but he released a new video insisting he has "no regrets," and for some reason boasting, "We sparked a fire and started a movement." As if there were any doubts about the Texas senator's future ambitions, the video concludes, "To be continued."
* Carlos Beruff, a Republican Senate candidate in Florida, reportedly told a Republican group last week, "Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he's an animal, OK -- seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country."
* On a related note, Beruff, competing in a crowded GOP primary, said yesterday that he will not apologize for the comments.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined by attorneys Paul D. Clement, far left, and Rick Esenberg, second from left, announces that he has filed a lawsuit to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and th

Republican senator draws parallel between his campaign, 9/11

05/16/16 11:20AM

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is among this year's most vulnerable incumbents, so it's tempting to assume he'd be extra cautious when making his pitch to voters. If this Politico report is any indication, the Wisconsin Republican is going in the opposite direction.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson on Saturday compared the 2016 election to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying he is "panicked" about this "consequential" year.
Johnson was speaking this weekend at the Wisconsin Republican Party convention in Green Bay, and he made the comments as he was telling those who attended the function the story of Flight 93 -- the airliner that ultimately crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001. The crash occurred after the passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers rather than have the plane continue toward the hijackers' intended target.
According to the Associated Press' account, Johnson told Republicans, "We've all heard Todd Beamer's iconic words 'Let's roll,'" referring to United Flight 93. "How American is that? We have a job to do, let's roll up our shirt sleeves. Let's get it done."
Evidently, the far-right senator sees a parallel between the efforts on 9/11 to stop terrorists and the efforts to help him keep his Senate job for another six years.
"The reason I like telling that story now as we head into the election season is we all know what we need to do," Johnson said. "November 2016 we'll be taking a vote. We'll be encouraging our fellow citizens to take a vote. Now, it may not be life and death, like the vote passengers on United Flight 93 took, but boy is it consequential."
As comparisons go, it's hard to imagine why in the world Johnson would say any of this. Are we to believe the senator believes there's some parallel between his campaign and United Flight 93? What exactly does the Wisconsin Republican believe will happen if he loses?
Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chairman Sheldon Adelson speaks to students at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada in Las Vegas, April 26, 2012.

With Adelson ready to invest in Trump, who's the 'puppet' now?

05/16/16 10:40AM

Now that Donald Trump has abandoned months of boasts about "self-funding," he's going to need some Republican mega-donors to help finance the Republican's general-election campaign. The New York Times reports that one especially notable contributor is already eager to play a role.
The casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson told Donald J. Trump in a private meeting last week that he was willing to contribute more to help elect him than he has to any previous campaign, a sum that could exceed $100 million, according to two Republicans with direct knowledge of Mr. Adelson's commitment.
As significant, Mr. Adelson, a billionaire based in Las Vegas, has decided that he will significantly scale back his giving to congressional Republicans and direct most of his contributions to groups dedicated to Mr. Trump's campaign.
The article noted that it's unclear exactly how Adelson will make his investment, and the casino magnate and his team "are still uncertain about which super PAC to use as their vehicle for the bulk of the contributions."
That said, Trump and Adelson met last week; the candidate said he's "dedicated to protecting Israel's security," and Adelson agreed soon after to spent as much as $100 million to make the former reality-show host the president of the United States.
The punch-line, however, is something Trump said on Twitter in October: "Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to [Sen. Marco Rubio] because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet."
 Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) of the House Select Committee on Benghazi speaks to reporters at a press conference on the findings of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal emails at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

GOP committee's lawyer undercuts Benghazi conspiracy theory

05/16/16 10:02AM

Things have not been going well for the House Republicans' Benghazi committee, which is overseeing an investigation that, as of last week, has now lasted over two years. This morning, things have managed to get worse for the GOP's partisan witch hunt.
As of a couple of weeks ago, the Defense Department started pushing back against the committee Republicans' increasingly outlandish demands. In no uncertain terms, the Pentagon let Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) know the panel's requests have become "unnecessary" and "unproductive." Worse, the DoD believes the partisan committee is guilty of "encouraging speculation" from witnesses, rather than focusing on facts and evidence.
Today, however, the beleaguered committee, whose very existence has become something of a joke, is facing a new round of embarrassing headlines. The Huffington Post reported:
Shortly before the House Benghazi committee ramped up its battles with the Department of Defense in its probe of the 2012 terrorist attack, the committee's own top lawyer admitted at least four times in interviews with military officials that there was no more they could have done on that tragic night.
That's according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post that was sent Sunday to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), from the top Democrats on the Benghazi panel and the House Armed Services Committee, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
Remember, the whole point of the right-wing conspiracy theory is built around the idea that the military could've done more to intervene in Benghazi the night of the September 2012 attack, but it didn't for political reasons. Military leaders, the State Department, and multiple congressional investigations all concluded that the conspiracy theory is wrong, but House Republicans don't care, which is why they created a committee, led by Trey Gowdy, to tell conservatives what they want to hear.
Now, however, there's evidence that Gowdy's former top committee staffer already concluded that the question has been answered truthfully. The Benghazi panel is investigating a conspiracy theory that the committee's lawyer considers bogus.
Confetti on the floor on the last day of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The Republican Party's civil war ends before it starts

05/16/16 09:20AM

Broadly speaking, there are two ways to look at the divisions within the Republican Party about Donald Trump's looming presidential nomination. The first way, embraced by much of the political establishment, is that the GOP is divided in ways unseen in generations. For the first time in modern history, the party has a nominee facing public, unyielding opposition from members of Congress, governors, and former nominees. In 2016, the argument goes, Republicans find themselves with a house divided.
The other way is to note just how small and inconsequential the "Never Trump" faction really is. Sure, there are some notable GOP officials who cannot bring themselves to back the party's inevitable nominee, but three senators, Mitt Romney, and the Bush family do not a civil war make.
Both theses have some merit, but the facts favor the latter. In modern history, Republicans have never seen the kind of divisions they're experiencing now, but as it turns out, that's not saying much -- the GOP generally excels in party discipline, so almost any number of renegades would appear dramatic -- and the size of the GOP's anti-Trump contingent is both small and stagnant.
And yet, the Washington Post reported over the weekend that these forces aren't yet ready to throw in the towel.
These GOP figures are commissioning private polling, lining up major funding sources­ and courting potential contenders, according to interviews with more than a dozen Republicans involved in the discussions. [...]
Those involved concede that an independent campaign at this late stage is probably futile, and they think they have only a couple of weeks to launch a credible bid. But these Republicans -- including commentators William Kristol and Erick Erickson and strategists Mike Murphy, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson -- are so repulsed by the prospect of Trump as commander in chief that they are desperate to take action.
Romney is reportedly playing a direct role in the endeavor, and the Post added that the 2012 Republican nominee has personally reached out to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich about possible candidacies.
It's worth appreciating why this effort is doomed.
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders pose together onstage at the start of the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates' debate in Flint, Mich., March 6, 2016. (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Dems fear chaos at Nevada convention portends July mess

05/16/16 08:40AM

On the surface, the results from the state Democratic convention in Nevada may not seem especially noteworthy. Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the state's caucuses in February, and her supporters prevailed at Saturday's party gathering where delegates to the national convention were chosen. None of this has much of an effect on the overall race.
At least, that's the way it may look on paper. When activists gathered in Las Vegas on Saturday, however, Sanders supporters hoped to take advantage of Nevada's complex process to give him the statewide edge in the delegate count, despite coming in second in February balloting.
The Washington Post published a good overview, explaining just how ugly the developments became.
Prior to the state convention, some Sanders supporters began an effort to shift the convention rules in a way that they viewed as more favorable to their candidate. One of those changes, the Las Vegas Sun reported, was a process for verifying voice votes; another took issue with the state party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, heading up the convention. Supporters at the event circulated petitions to the same end. The scene was set.
The first report from the credentials committee on Saturday morning indicated that Clinton had a slight edge in delegates. Sanders fans voted against that report, per Jon Ralston, and then demanded a recount -- but this was simply a preliminary figure.... That was when the vote to approve the rules as written -- Roberta's Rules versus Robert's Rules, as some Sanders backers dubbed them -- was conducted by voice vote. The motion, seconded by a Sanders supporter, passed -- which is when the room, in Ralston's phrasing, "erupts."
Determining exactly who was in the right and who was in the wrong is surprisingly difficult. Sanders' supporters are absolutely convinced that the process was "rigged" to undermine the senator. Clinton supporters are equally convinced that they followed the rules and Sanders' backers are throwing a tantrum because they came up short. I wasn't there; I know little about the complex Nevada-based rules; and it's tough to tell from reading the local reports which side has the stronger case.
What's far clearer is how unruly the party gathering became. Nevada's Jon Ralston reported that the convention ended with security shutting down the event, followed by pro-Sanders activists rushing the stage, "yelling obscenities," and "throwing chairs."
That's obviously the kind of state convention officials like to avoid, but the larger concern among Democrats is what the mess in Las Vegas portends for the national convention in July.


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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