When Donald Trump said yesterday that President Obama was "directly responsible" for the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, it was the latest evidence of a candidate who's abandoned any sense of propriety or decency.
Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 club goers.
He said the president is "directly responsible for it because" of his "utter failures" in Iraq.
"Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama's failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave," McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by NBC News.
The senator added, "So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies."
It wasn't long before McCain realized this kind of unhinged rhetoric might be problematic, so the senator soon after issued a follow-up statement saying he "misspoke."
That's probably not the right word. When someone says "Iraq" when they meant "Iran," that's misspeaking. When the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee delivers a 65-word rant blaming the president for a mass murder, that's more than a slip of the tongue.
McCain added, by way of a "clarification," that he was blaming the president's "national security decisions" for the rise of ISIS, "not the president himself."
How gracious of him.
The clumsy walk-back notwithstanding, what's wrong with McCain's argument? Everything.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut talks with Rachel Maddow about his 15-hour filibuster in the Senate for new gun regulations, and his surprise that it actually produced results and has sparked new negotiations with Republicans. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the strain between the RNC and the Trump campaign, and the unfortunate symbolism of an upcoming fundraiser at the former house of failed Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, whose surviving family members are not Trump fans. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on a new Clinton campaign ad marking the anniversary of the Donald Trump campaign, and notes Trump's unusual openness to receiving North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with the provision that he wouldn't be given a state dinner. watch
Rachel Maddow notes that Republicans are having a difficult time maintaining their political stance against regulating guns when such a huge number of Americans, including now some Fox News hosts, support at least some measure of new regulation. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that perhaps the most surprising thing about Senator Chris Murphy's surprise 15-hour filibuster in the Senate is that he actually got the Senate to act on gun legislation. watch
* Orlando: "President Barack Obama arrived in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday to meet with victims' families and first responders in the deadly nightclub shooting the president has decried as 'an act of terror and an act of hate.'"
* England: "British lawmaker Jo Cox has died after being attacked in her district on Thursday, police said. Cox, 41, was known for social-justice campaigns and seen as a rising star in the opposition Labour Party."
* It's going to be tough to walk this back: "Republican Sen. John McCain blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 clubgoers. He said the president is 'directly responsible for it because' of his 'utter failures' in Iraq."
* Stay tuned: "The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a series of competing gun-control measures that will highlight the continuing divide between Democrats and Republicans over how Congress should respond to mass shootings."
* A rare defeat for Big Soda: "Forty times, city or state governments have proposed taxes on sugary soft drinks, failing each time. When, in 2014, liberal Berkeley, Calif., passed such a tax, most people saw it as an aberration. Several measures, including one in New York, never won much support. But Thursday, a measure to tax sweetened drinks passed in Philadelphia, one of the country's largest cities -- and also one of its poorest."
* Good call: "Texas has no case against the federal government and a refugee settlement organization over how Syrian refugees are settled within the state's borders, a federal judge ruled on Thursday."
It seems every time Donald Trump appears ready to break with Republican Party orthodoxy, the story unravels pretty quickly. There were recent reports, for example, that the presumptive GOP nominee would consider tax increases on the wealthy, but those reports turned out to be wrong. Around the same time, some thought Trump had endorsed a minimum-wage increase. He hadn't.
With this recent history in mind, I'd recommend caution when reading reports like this one in the Washington Post.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and some vulnerable GOP lawmakers signaled Wednesday that they are open to changing the nation's gun laws, raising the possibility that the political tide might be shifting on an issue that has sharply divided Americans for years. [...]
Trump's renewed focus on gun laws goes against GOP orthodoxy, which generally considers Second Amendment issues to be settled.
The speculation is, to be sure, rooted in tangible evidence. Trump himself said on Twitter yesterday, "I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns."
But the details matter. Keep in mind, as recently as Monday, Trump said, "I will be meeting with the NRA, which has given me their earliest endorsement in a presidential race, to discuss how to ensure Americans have the means to protect themselves in this age of terror. I will be always defending the Second Amendment."
Given this, when Trump talks about being open to new gun policies, he seems to be looking through a myopic lens: the Republican is open to policies the NRA likes based on a Republican-friendly interpretation of the Second Amendment.
The top-line results of the new CBS News poll may look vaguely encouraging for Republicans -- Donald Trump's deficit against Hillary Clinton is modest -- but the closer one looks, the worse things appear for the GOP and its unpopular candidate.
With the presidential primary season now officially at a close, Hillary Clinton (43 percent) holds a six-point lead over Donald Trump (37 percent) - the same margin she led Trump by a month ago. Most of the interviewing for the poll was conducted before the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida Sunday.
When former New Mexico Governor and current Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is added to the contest, he garners 11 percent of the vote, but the margin between Clinton and Trump changes little. With Johnson's name added, Clinton holds a seven-point lead nationally over Donald Trump, 39 percent to 32 percent.
In this case, Clinton's lead matters, but it's Trump's support that probably matters more. In a head-to-head contest, this poll shows him drawing a meager 37% of the vote. The latest polling from Bloomberg Politics and Fox News also showed his support below 40%.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but that's not at all where a presumptive major-party nominee wants to be after wrapping up the primaries and starting the general election. Indeed, in this CBS News poll, it appears Clinton is still struggling to consolidate Democratic support, but she's maintaining a lead because of Trump's limited national appeal.
National Reviewadded yesterday, "How unusual is it for a presumptive nominee to be polling below 40%? In the last three elections, unheard-of in the polling average, and rare even in individual polls:" In 2012, Mitt Romney "never polled below 41.5%"; John McCain never dipped below 40% in 2008; and in 2004, George W. Bush "never polled below 42.7%."
As of this morning, polling averages put Trump's national support at 38.3%.
The broader question, of course, isn't just what this means for the Republican candidate, but also his party. Bloomberg Politics added this report late yesterday pointing to its latest polling:
It was probably the most honorable moment of Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) congressional career. When the far-right Floridian launched his presidential campaign, he made a bold and meaningful promise to the public: White House or bust. Rubio wouldn't treat a Senate seat as a consolation prize; he'd either win the 2016 presidential election or he'd be out of public office altogether.
After his national campaign failed miserably, Rubio heard the speculation about him possibly breaking his word, and he dismissed the chatter as an irritating distraction. One month ago today, the senator, annoyed by Beltway scuttlebutt, said on Twitter, "I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January."
Yesterday, as the Washington Postreported, Rubio said something very different.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who pledged for months not to seek re-election to the Senate as he waged an ill-fated campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, said Wednesday that he is rethinking that decision and could enter the race as soon as next week. [...]
"Obviously, I take very seriously everything that's going on -- not just Orlando, but in our country," Rubio said. "I enjoy my service here a lot. So I'll go home later this week, and I'll have some time with my family, and then if there's been a change in our status I'll be sure to let everyone know."
The deadline in Florida for declaring a candidacy is June 24, which is a week from tomorrow.
While the senator weighs his options, and decides whether or not to honor the high-profile promise he made just last year, there are some pretty straightforward questions to consider.
The day after the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, Donald Trump suggested to a national television audience that President Obama might be a terrorist sympathizer. Two days later, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was even less subtle, declaring that the president "continues to prioritize our enemy over ... the American people."
In an unexpected twist, Trump yesterday said he has proof to substantiate his ridiculous claims. The Washington Postreported:
Just two days after Donald Trump implied that President Obama sympathized with terrorists, provoking a backlash that included members of his own party, the presumed Republican presidential nominee declared himself "right," based on a published report claiming administration "support" for the Islamic State.
In a post to his Twitter account early Wednesday, Trump said "Media fell all over themselves criticizing what Donald Trump 'may have insinuated'" about Obama. "But he's right," it said, linking to a story published by the conservative website Breitbart News.
The problem, of course, is that Trump is accusing the war-time president of treason based on information he clearly doesn't understand.
As ABC News reported yesterday, Breitbart, a prominent right-wing website, relied on a memo that is "neither secret nor does it demonstrate the administration's support for ISIS or any other policy. Indeed, it's a recently declassified and heavily redacted intelligence field report from August 2012 about the worsening security situation in Iraq.... Breitbart falsely concludes that because the memo mentions that al Qaeda in Iraq (a precursor to ISIS) is fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Obama administration therefore supports ISIS."
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler added, "This is what happens when people with little understanding of policy or context choose to willfully misinterpret documents. This is a relatively unimportant memo, with little information not in newspapers at the time. Rather than showing that the Obama administration is supporting terror groups, the information in the memo demonstrates why the administration was so reluctant to back rebel groups in Syria, often to the annoyance of Republican hawks."
But before just laughing this off as the latest nonsense from a ridiculous candidate, it's worth appreciating what stories like these tell us.
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