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Pastors from the Las Vegas area pray with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a visit to the International Church of Las Vegas, and International Christian Academy on Oct. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

After Trump, will the religious right movement ever recover?

10/12/16 11:28AM

Harvest Bible Chapel's James MacDonald, a megachurch leader and a member of Donald Trump's evangelical council, could hardly contain his disgust on Saturday after learning about the candidate's 2005 comments about women.

"Mr. Trump's comments released yesterday -- though 10 years ago (he was 60) -- are not just sophomoric or locker room banter," MacDonald wrote in an email. "They are truly the kind of misogynistic trash that reveals a man to be lecherous and worthless -- not the guy who gets politely ignored, but the guy who gets a punch in the head from worthy men who hear him talk that way about women."

So, MacDonald was resigning from his role on Team Trump? The pastor was severing his ties to a man who'd proven himself "lecherous and worthless"? Actually, no. MacDonald was upset, but not enough to withdraw his support for Trump's candidacy.

There's a lot of this going around. A wide variety of Evangelical Christian leaders and power players in the religious right movement have said they weren't pleased with the latest Trump revelations, but they're devoted to the GOP nominee anyway. Indeed, by some measures, the Christian Right's leaders have stuck with Trump in greater numbers than congressional Republicans.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank had a good piece today on the potential consequences:
Trump is creating a lot of wreckage as his campaign founders.... One of Trump's victims is likely to be the religious conservative political movement, as many of its leaders have averted their gaze from Trump's misogyny, hoping ends justify means. [...]

These religious political leaders' continued support of Trump undermines their claims to speak for traditional morality.
I've lost count of how many times the religious right movement's obituary has been written prematurely, but it's nevertheless reasonable to wonder what will become of the Christian Right after 2016.
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History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Team Trump offers a case study in how not to debate tax policy

10/12/16 10:53AM

When it comes to the presidential campaign and taxes, much of the focus has been on controversies surrounding Donald Trump's secret tax returns and the evidence that he's exploited loopholes to lower his federal tax bills to zero. But let's not forget the fact that both of the major-party candidates have unveiled tax policy proposals, which say a great deal about their priorities.

About a month ago, for example, the Republican ticket unveiled a new tax plan -- Trump's third attempt at getting this right -- which quickly fell apart under scrutiny. The numbers didn't add up; the blueprint was demonstrably dishonest and contradictory; and by some independent estimates, the GOP candidate's proposal would actually raise taxes on the middle class while delivering a windfall for the rich.

Yesterday, the Tax Policy Center released a report on Trump's latest plan and gave it a price tag of $7.2 trillion -- more than double the cost of the Bush/Cheney plan. As Vox noted, the same analysis found that the Republican's blueprint "is even more tilted toward the rich than Trump's first plan."

So far, all of this probably seems pretty predictable. The funny part, however, was the written response from the Trump campaign.
"The Clinton Official-led Tax Policy Center has wasted everyone's time with a fraudulent analysis after admitting they had a software bug that prevented them from scoring the plan's economic effects. Moreover, the TPC was privately informed they had modeled the wrong plan -- not ours -- but refused to correct their extremely embarrassing error and model our plan.

"For instance, our plan has explicit safeguards to keep hedge funds from abusing the business rate -- it's Hillary who plans secret benefits for Wall Street, not us. In other words, this article isn't even about the Trump plan -- but about the gross malfeasance of the deeply-biased Tax Policy Center. The Trump plan is revenue neutral, massively cuts middle-class taxes, and has huge benefits for low and middle-income families. The Clinton plan, as released by WikiLeaks, is 'open borders,' Medicare and Social Security cuts, and benefits only for Wall Street."
This was written by Trump's national policy director, Stephen Miller, who is not to be confused with "John Miller," the weird alter-ego Trump came up with for himself so he could pretend to be his own publicist while talking to reporters.
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Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore campaign together at the Miami Dade College - Kendall Campus, Theodore Gibson Center on Oct. 11, 2016 in Miami, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

By focusing on substance, Clinton creates stark campaign contrasts

10/12/16 10:12AM

Yesterday was unusually instructive when it came to learning about the major-party presidential candidates. Donald Trump, for example, declared that he'd removed his "shackles" in the morning; attacked ostensible Republican allies in the afternoon; and wrapped things up with a Fox News interview last night, in which the GOP nominee complained about his opponent infringing on his "territory" during Sunday's debate.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, held an event in Miami alongside Al Gore, but instead of the usual campaign stump speech, the Democratic nominee focused heavily -- and in detail -- on the climate crisis. Grist's Rebecca Leber explained yesterday that voters "finally heard what Clinton sounds like when she digs in on climate."
"Climate change is real. It's urgent. And America can take the lead in the world in addressing it," Clinton said. She focused on the U.S.'s capacity to lead the world in a climate deal and as a clean energy superpower in a speech that mostly rehashed familiar policy territory.

Clinton ran down her existing proposals on infrastructure, rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and more, though she omitted the more controversial subjects, like what to do about pipeline permits, that have dogged her campaign.
The pipeline-permit omission notwithstanding, the remarks were deeply substantive. Clinton's reputation for a wonky attention to detail is well deserved and was on display in Miami.

Soon after, Clinton's campaign unveiled new details of her anti-poverty agenda, including an expansion of the child tax credit, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates would help 14 million families and "lift about 1.5 million people (including about 400,000 children under age 5) above the poverty line."

To be sure, the policy details are a little complicated, but it's an attainable goal and, if implemented, the plan is likely to succeed.

And while that obviously matters, there's also the broader political context to consider.
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Image: Deb Fischer

Under pressure, some of Trump's GOP critics reverse course

10/12/16 09:28AM

After the audio of Donald Trump's 2005 comments were publicly released late last week, a Republican stampede of sorts developed. Scores of Republican officials condemned their party's presidential nominee, many pulled their support for Trump's candidacy, and some even called for a new GOP candidate to lead the party's ticket.

Among those who said Trump should step aside was Darryl Glenn, a far-right Republican Senate candidate in Colorado, facing long odds. "As a father, as a Christian, and as a Republican, I believe that we simply cannot tolerate a nominee who speaks this way about women," Glenn said in a statement on Saturday. He added that Trump should do the "honorable, selfless thing" and "voluntarily step aside." Glenn called it "the only way forward."

Yesterday, Glenn re-endorsed Trump, praising his "contrition" during Sunday's debate. "I think he reset this campaign," Glenn told Fox News.

As Politico noted, the Coloradan isn't the only Republican who's looking at Trump in a new light.
Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer on Tuesday reversed her call for Donald Trump to resign from the GOP ticket, telling a local radio station that it's "not a tough choice" to back him just three days after she urged him to quit.

"I plan to vote for Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence on November 8," she said on Nebraska's KLIN. "I put out a statement ... with regard to Mr. Trump's comments. I felt they were disgusting. I felt they were unacceptable and I never said I was not voting for our Republican ticket."
As recently as Saturday, Fischer didn't just denounce Trump, she was one of several Republican officeholders who said Trump ought to "step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party's nominee."

By yesterday, however, the Nebraska senator had nevertheless changed her mind. Fischer considers Trump's comments about women "unacceptable," though she's nevertheless prepared to accept Trump's presidential candidacy.

"To me it's not a tough choice," Fischer added.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on stage for a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. on Oct. 10, 2016. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

Trump says he's 'the only one' who can protect the U.S.

10/12/16 08:47AM

About a month ago, when Hillary Clinton had pneumonia, it seemed likely that Donald Trump would raise the volume on his questions about his rival's health. That never really happened, though -- the Republican candidate got distracted, focused his energies elsewhere, and by the time Clinton was defeating Trump in the presidential debates, the issue of Clinton's health had largely disappeared.

Desperate to find something to shake up the campaign, Trump's campaign is giving it another try, unveiling a new ad yesterday that shows Clinton coughing and falling ill at a 9/11 event. The commercial specifically tells viewers, "Hillary Clinton doesn't have the fortitude, strength or stamina to lead in our world."

It's an odd line of attack. Literally two days before unveiling an ad going after Clinton's "fortitude," Trump told a presidential debate audience, "I will say this about Hillary, she doesn't quit. She doesn't give up. I respect that.... She's a fighter."

But what I found especially interesting about the Trump campaign's latest commercial was the on-screen text at the end of the spot. In all-capital letters, the ad wraps up with this message:
"Donald Trump will protect you.

"He is the only one who can."
This keeps happening. In his Republican convention speech, Trump boasted, "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.... I am your voice."

A couple of months prior, the Republican declared, "Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you've been looking for for 50 years. I'm the only one."

Two weeks ago, Trump added that voting for him would "make possible every dream you've ever dreamed."

Remember eight years ago when the right accused Barack Obama of having a messianic streak?
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Blake Farenthold

GOP congressman struggles with the limits of his Trump support

10/12/16 08:00AM

One of the driving questions of the 2016 presidential campaign has been directed at Republicans backing Donald Trump: How far would he have to go before you withdrew your support?

Racist rhetoric, as we discovered, wasn't enough for Trump's GOP supporters to give up on his candidacy. Misogyny wasn't either. Criticizing veterans and their families, mocking people with physical disabilities, and praising dictators also did little to undermine Republicans' allegiance to Trump. In January, the candidate himself marveled at the dynamic: "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible."

Late last week, when an audio recording surfaced of Trump bragging about sexual assault, dozens of GOP officials abandoned the Republican presidential candidate, but even in this case, the vast majority of the party's members of Congress and governors stuck with Trump.

So, for these loyal partisans, is there any limit? Is there literally nothing the GOP nominee could say or do to cause them to walk away? On MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes," the host posed a striking hypothetical to Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas). Here's the relevant part of the exchange:
FARENTHOLD: I'm not here to defend Donald Trump. I don't like what he said, but ...

HAYES: If a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that -- if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that, saying "I really like to rape women," you would continue to endorse him.

FARENTHOLD: Again, it would, I — that would be bad, and I would have to consider -- I'd consider it. But again, we're talking about what Donald Trump said 10 years ago as opposed to what Hillary Clinton has done in the past two or three years.
In other words, if the Texas congressman heard Donald Trump boasting about rape, Farenthold would "consider" withdrawing his support, but according to what he said on the air last night, it wouldn't be an automatic deal-breaker.
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 10.11.16

10/11/16 05:32PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Yemen: "The Pentagon vowed Tuesday to deliver payback to whoever fired a pair of missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer off the coast of Yemen. 'We are going to find out who did it and take action accordingly,' said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman. 'Anybody who puts U.S. Navy ships at risk does so at their own peril.'"

* Afghanistan: "Gunmen opened fire on Shiite worshipers at a shrine in the Afghan capital Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 40 others during events marking one of the holiest days for Shiite Muslims, authorities reported."

* Arizona: "Federal prosecutors say they will file criminal contempt-of-court charges against Sheriff Joe Arpaio for disobeying orders to stop his immigration patrols. The announcement in federal court Tuesday sets in motion criminal proceedings against the sheriff just as he seeks a seventh term in office."

* Hurricane Matthew "has left at least 11 dead in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday, pushing the death toll across the Southeast to at least 22 even as the weakening storm still carried dangers of flooding."

* I'll have more on this tomorrow: "A federal appeals panel ruled on Tuesday that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Wall Street watchdog conceived by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is unconstitutional."

* The right thing to say: "The White House on Monday condemned leaked Donald Trump comments about women, saying they amount to sexual assault. 'The president found the tapes as repugnant as most Americans did,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One. 'And I think there has been a pretty clear statement by people all along the ideological spectrum that those statements constituted sexual assault.'"
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Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a news conference at the State House, Jan. 8, 2016, in Augusta, Maine. (Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Maine's LePage wants Trump to show 'authoritarian power'

10/11/16 04:24PM

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) almost went a whole month without generating national headlines for using outrageous rhetoric. Alas, he didn't quite reach the milestone. NBC News reported this afternoon:
Maine Gov. Paul LePage, famous for his controversial statements, said Tuesday morning "we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country" -- while also criticizing President Obama for being what he described as an "autocrat."

"Sometimes I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken," LePage told radio station WVOM, "but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we've had eight years of a president -- he's an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we're slipping into anarchy."
As the Portland Press Herald's report added, the beleaguered governor went on to say he sees himself as a member of the Republican Party "that is different than the people that claim to be Republicans that are out there shooting their mouth off."

Because clearly, if there's one thing that offends Paul LePage, it's people who are "out there shooting their mouth off."

But do take a moment to appreciate just how ridiculous the Maine governor's comments are, because it's rare to see a quote from an elected official that eats its own tail quite as dramatically as this.
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 11, 2014.

With the 'shackles' off, Trump takes aim at Paul Ryan

10/11/16 12:45PM

Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, has made quite an impression on the public -- some are more impressed than others -- but apparently we've been watching a restrained version of Trump's persona, which he no longer has any use for.

"It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me," the Republican presidential nominee declared a couple of hours ago, "and I can now fight for America the way I want to."

Yes, effective this morning, no more Mr. Nice Demagogue. Donald J. Trump will be "shackled" no more. He has a phone and a Twitter account, and he intends to put them to use like never before.

And what's on the mind of this unshackled GOP candidate? Evidently, Trump is eager to take a few shots at House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who announced yesterday he won't defend or campaign with his party's presidential nominee through Election Day. Trump, initiating a tweetstorm of sorts, responded this morning:
"Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!"
Um, a couple of things. Fist, every independent, scientific poll showed Trump losing, not winning, the second debate. Second, Trump spent months insisting he'd rely on the backing of rank-and-file voters and could thrive without the backing of the establishment and GOP leaders. What changed his mind?

Trump added soon after:
"Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty."
Trump complained about Republicans' failure to be "loyal" to him over and over again.

We talked this morning about the Republican Party's brewing civil war, and with the GOP's presidential nominee taking direct aim at the GOP's highest-ranking elected official -- four weeks before Election Day -- this conflict is clearly getting worse.
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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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