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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 22, 2016. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Marco Rubio's first day as a new candidate wasn't easy

06/23/16 10:07AM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), after swearing up and down for months that he would not seek re-election to the Senate, announced yesterday that he's breaking his promise. But an unexpected Politico report noted that the far-right senator did so in the most Rubio-eque way possible.
Marco Rubio missed a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday morning -- at the same time he was announcing plans to run for reelection.
 
The first-term Republican senator, who was pilloried during his presidential run for his record of missed votes and hearings, skipped a closed hearing on security for sales of military equipment to other nations, according to attendees from both parties.
Meet the new Marco Rubio; he's the same as the old Marco Rubio. For several years, the Floridian has routinely blown off votes, committee hearings, and policy briefings -- he's generally treated his Senate responsibilities as not particularly important -- so it seemed beautifully fitting that Rubio, who could have made his announcement anytime this week, scheduled his remarks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
 
Meanwhile, some of the editorial boards from Florida's largest newspapers didn't exactly welcome Rubio back with open arms. The Miami Herald described the senator's change of heart "hard to believe," adding, "[H]is flip-flop will seem too pat, too orchestrated, too opportunistic to anyone not firmly planted in the Rubio camp."
 
The Tampa Bay Times added, "Rubio's decision gives Florida voters an opportunity to judge his thin record in the Senate, his tortured policy on immigration and his out-of-step positions on Cuba, guns, climate change and other major issues. And where has Rubio been for the past six years? Many communities would need to form a search party to discover that Florida has two members in the Senate. This race should be a reminder that this office cannot be taken for granted."
 
For now, Rubio won't even commit to serving a full term if re-elected. "I'm not going to get into any of these unequivocal pronunciations," the senator said, despite months of unequivocal pronunciations about doing the exact opposite of what he's doing now.
 
It's striking to realize Rubio is effectively saying, "Please give me the job I said I didn't want, and which I might decide to stop doing partway through my term."
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Cleveland Industrial Innovation Center, June 13, 2016, in Cleveland. (Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

GOP's foreign policy old guard prefers Clinton to Trump

06/23/16 09:27AM

It may seem like ancient history, but in the not-too-distant past, the Republican Party took foreign policy seriously. When it came to international affairs, the GOP had several influential "grown-ups" who served in positions of authority.
 
In recent years, however, as the Republican Party has become increasingly radicalized, the GOP's elder statesmen have fallen out of favor. Members of the party's old guard discovered that they agreed with many key Democratic priorities -- the international nuclear agreement with Iran, the New START treaty, etc. -- only to discover that contemporary GOP officials no longer cared what the Republican foreign policy establishment had to say.
 
It's even reached the point at which the party's "grown-ups" are comfortable endorsing a Democratic presidential candidate.
 
Last week, Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush/Cheney administration and a longtime member of the Republican Party's foreign policy establishment, conceded, "If Donald Trump is the nominee, I would vote for Hillary Clinton." Yesterday, as USA Today noted, brought a related surprise.
Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to two Republican presidents, said Wednesday he's backing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.
 
In a statement, Scowcroft said Clinton "brings truly unique experience and perspective to the White House," citing her time as secretary of State, as a U.S. senator and as first lady.
 
"She brings deep expertise in international affairs, and a sophisticated understanding of the world," Scowcroft said. No where in the statement did he allude to Clinton's opponent, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. "I believe Hillary Clinton has the wisdom and experience to lead our country at this critical time," the statement concluded.
Scowcroft served as national security adviser to Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He also held key positions in Richard Nixon's administration and served as chairman of George W. Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
 
As MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell put it yesterday, when Scowcroft endorses Clinton, "you know something is wrong in the GOP world."
Presidential contender Donald Trump gestures to the media on the 17th fairway on the first day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, July 30, 2015. (Photo by Scott Heppell/AP)

Trump's Scottish trip is a bigger mistake than he realizes

06/23/16 08:45AM

There's a fair amount of precedent for presidential candidates traveling abroad ahead of the election. In July 2008, for example, then-Sen. Barack Obama wowed international audiences with a historic visit to Berlin. Almost exactly four years later, in July 2012, Mitt Romney took an overseas trip of his own. (It really didn't go well for the Republican.)
 
So when Donald Trump's campaign said the presumptive GOP nominee would travel to Scotland ahead of the Republican convention, it was only natural to assume Trump was headed abroad to bolster his foreign policy credentials.
 
But as the New York Times reported, the truth is a little more complicated.
His campaign is desperately short of cash. He has struggled to hire staff. Influential Republicans are demanding that he demonstrate he can run a serious general election campaign.
 
But, for reasons that emphasize just how unusual a candidate he is, Donald J. Trump is leaving the campaign trail on Thursday to travel to Scotland to promote a golf course his company purchased on the country's southwestern coast.
This may sound like some sort of joke, but it's quite real. This isn't a situation in which an American presidential hopeful has scheduled meetings with foreign officials, and he's checking in on his business interests while he's there; it's largely the opposite. Trump's Scottish sojourn appears to have practically nothing to do with the office he's seeking.
 
The Times report added that Trump's business interests "still drive his behavior, and his schedule. He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled." The Republican's itinerary "reads like a public relations junket crossed with a golf vacation," complete with "a ceremonial ribbon cutting."
 
Scott W. Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, added, "Everyone knows this is the wrong thing for the nominee to be doing now, and it is amazing this can't be stopped."
 
Wait, it's even more amazing than that.
In this image from video provided by House Television, House Speaker Paul Ryan stands at the podium as he brings the House into session in the night of June 22, 2016, in Washington. (Photo by House Television/AP)

Facing Democratic sit-in, Paul Ryan takes his House and goes home

06/23/16 08:00AM

For those who believe watching Congress is always boring and monotonous, yesterday's developments -- followed by additional drama in the early hours of this morning -- offered powerful proof to the contrary.
Revolt in the House of Representatives turned raucous overnight, with protesting Democrats shouting down Speaker Paul Ryan's attempts to restore order during a gun-control protest that stretched into its 18th hour.
 
Earlier, Republicans branded the move as a publicity stunt before summarily adjourning the chamber until after the Fourth of July.
Note, the GOP-led House was supposed to be in session, doing actual work, today and four days next week ahead of the holiday break. But Republican leaders, unsure what to do about the Democratic sit-in and unwilling to schedule a vote on possible gun reforms, decided they no longer saw any point to sticking around.
 
Exasperated, House Speaker Paul Ryan took his House and went home. What will happen when the chamber reconvenes on July 6 is unclear, but Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who helped lead yesterday's protest, told the Washington Post, "We will continue to fight.... When we come back in July, we'll start all over again."
 
But to fully appreciate the scope of yesterday's drama, it's important to note how Republican leaders tried to end the Democratic protest.
Democrats protest Paul Ryan with song

Democrats protest Paul Ryan with song

06/22/16 10:56PM

House Democrats interrupt Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan by singing We Shall Overcome as the speaker attempts to hold a vote on a matter unrelated to the issue of gun safety, which is what Democrats are calling for. watch

Democratic sit-in draws protesters outside

Democratic sit-in draws protesters outside

06/22/16 09:25PM

Rachel Maddow reports that while House Democrats stage a sit-in on the floor of the House, calling for new gun safety regulations, protesters are gathering outside as well to show their support for the action taking place inside. watch

Democrats hold House floor to demand gun vote

Democrats hold House floor to demand gun vote

06/22/16 09:15PM

Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Katherine Clark talk with Rachel Maddow about the genesis of the idea to stage a sit-in protest on the House floor to demand a vote on gun legislation, and where they see the action taking them. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 6.22.16

06/22/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* This is still ongoing: "Georgia congressman John Lewis deployed a strategy from his days as a civil rights activist and the viral nature of social media to stage a dramatic sit-in Wednesday on the House floor with his fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control."
 
* And it's not limited to House members: several senators, including Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), joined their House colleagues.
 
* President Obama can't join them on the House floor, but it's worth noting that he's extended his support to the House Dems' efforts.
 
* "We are seeing a pickup in growth. There's been a sharp increase in consumer spending," [Fed Chair Janet Yellen] told the House Financial Services Committee. "I'm very hopeful that we will see a pickup in growth." So long as she doesn't raise rates anytime soon, I'll be hopeful, too.
 
* We've seen reports like these before, so keep expectations in check: "The Colombian government and the country's largest rebel group said Wednesday that they had agreed to a cease-fire, clearing a major hurdle in the effort to end one of the world's longest-running conflicts."
 
* That's quite a announcement: "The Justice Department announced Wednesday it had charged a record 301 people with schemes that defrauded government health programs by submitting $900 million in fraudulent health claims."
 
* A serial child molester starts his sentence: "Once two heartbeats from the most powerful office in the land, an ailing Dennis Hastert wheeled himself into a federal penitentiary Wednesday to begin serving a prison sentence for breaking the law while trying to conceal his past sexual abuse of teenage boys."
 
* This is at odds with a lot of conservative predictions: "Rates of marijuana use among Colorado's teenagers are essentially unchanged in the years since the state's voters legalized marijuana in 2012, new survey data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows."
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at Trump Soho Hotel in New York on June 22, 2016. (Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty)

Donald Trump gets lost beneath 'an avalanche of falsehoods'

06/22/16 04:00PM

Donald Trump's campaign, such as it is, has spent the past couple of weeks signaling the Republican's plan for a big anti-Hillary Clinton speech. There wasn't any other real point to the planned address -- there was never any pretense about a specific issue or policy area -- except the presumptive GOP nominee's intention to complain a whole lot about his Democratic rival.
 
And so, Trump did exactly that this morning. Addressing supporters at a Trump hotel in New York -- his campaign will no doubt pay a generous price for use of the venue owned by the candidate -- the Republican candidate relied on his trusted teleprompter to go on the offensive.
Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton "a world class liar" who thinks she is "entitled" to the presidency during a speech attacking his Democratic rival Wednesday.
 
"Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency of the United States," Trump said in a speech at one of his properties in New York. [...]
 
"Her campaign slogan is 'I'm with her,'" Trump said. "You know what my response to that is? I'm with you: the American people."
Right. Because if there's one thing that's obvious about Donald J. Trump, it's that he isn't a narcissist.
 
Most of the attacks were predictable and clumsily delivered, but the most striking thing about this morning's scripted address was its breathtaking dishonesty. In theory, if Clinton were as awful as Trump and Republicans claim, it should be fairly easy to deliver a speech condemning her using facts and real-world evidence.
 
Instead, as Slate's Jamelle Bouie put it, Trump leaned on "an avalanche of falsehoods."
Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Charlie Rangel arrive for a news conference at the DNC where members of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, Feb. 11, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

House Democrats stage dramatic 'sit-in' on chamber floor

06/22/16 12:51PM

When the Senate took up several gun reforms this week, there was a nagging concern hanging over the debate: even if one of these measures passed, the Republican-led House has made clear that the lower chamber will not consider any new firearm restrictions. It was a moot point -- the Senate measures were defeated -- but the fact that no votes are even possible in the House is deeply discouraging to reformers.
 
And so, this morning, House Democrats took a provocative step towards demanding change. NBC News reported:
House Democrats led by Civil Rights veteran Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, are in the midst of a sit-in on the chamber floor to try and force a vote on gun control.
 
"Now is the time for us to find a way to dramatize it, to make it real," Lewis said. "We have to occupy the floor of the House until there is action."
 
Then Lewis and roughly 40 House Democrats sat. They stood briefly to say the Pledge of Allegiance as a couple dozen visitors in the gallery looked on.
There are some pretty dramatic photos available, but Americans hoping to see the dramatic protest on C-SPAN were disappointed. Though House proceedings are normally televised, NBC's report added that this protest was not shown because the House had not formally been gaveled into session.
 
At around 11:30 a.m. (ET), Lewis delivered remarks, explaining, "We have lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people to gun violence.... What has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing." The sit-in began soon after.
 
Roll Call reported, "At about noon, Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas returned to gavel in the House.... Poe said he found that the House was not in a state of order due to the presence of members in the well who were not recognized. He asked members to leave the well. After that, he declared the House in recess subject to the call of the chair. "
 
Keep in mind, the Democrats participating in this protest aren't asking the House to pass anything, but rather, they want a debate and a vote on possible reforms.

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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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