Rick Santorum, Republican candidate for president, debates with Rachel Maddow about the Constitutional role of the Supreme Court in the United State government, and expresses his regret for his now infamous use of "man on dog" in arguing against gay... watch
* South Carolina: "Dylann Roof, the man accused in the mass shooting last month at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on 33 counts, including federal hate crime charges, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced."
* An important detail: "A service member opened fire on the Chattanooga gunman after he crashed the gates of a military reserve center last week, an FBI investigator disclosed on Wednesday."
* Related news: "A Lawyer representing the uncle of Chattanooga gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez says his client has been questioned for five days by the FBI and Jordanian intelligence without access to a lawyer."
* Iran: "The Washington Post appealed to the United Nations on Wednesday to help secure the release of jailed reporter Jason Rezaian, accusing the Iranian government of flagrant human rights violations in a year of 'arbitrary and unlawful' detention of the veteran journalist, company officials said."
* Though nearly all recent polling shows Americans endorsing international nuclear diplomacy with Iran, a Pew Research Center poll found a plurality disapproving of the deal, with Republican taking their cues from party leaders and turning against the agreement.
* Afghanistan: "After suffering setbacks and heavy casualties at the hands of the Taliban in 2014, Afghan security forces came into this year with what Afghan and Western officials acknowledge were relatively modest goals: hang on till the end of the fighting season without major collapses."
* Keep expectations low: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he has 'some significant issues' with the 1,030-page highway bill that was unveiled by Republican leaders in the Senate on Tuesday."
Republican lawmakers in plenty of states have gone after reproductive rights in recent years, but in 2013, North Dakota lawmakers went much further than most. While the trend among conservative policymakers has been to impose abortion bans after 20 weeks of pregnancy, North Dakota passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill -- which banned abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy.
The measure, which would have required some women to terminate unwanted pregnancies before they even knew they're pregnant, was never actually implemented, since a district court judge said the law was unlikely to prevail in the courts.
And on the heels of North Dakota's defeat at the lower court, the state lost again at an appellate court today. Politicoreported:
A federal appeals court has struck down the earliest state ban on abortion in the country, a move that could invite the Supreme Court to weigh in on one of the nation's most controversial social issues in the middle of a presidential election year.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday struck down a 2013 North Dakota law banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, or about six weeks into a pregnancy. The court said the North Dakota law violates Supreme Court precedent establishing that abortion is legal until a fetus is viable outside of the womb, usually about 24 weeks into pregnancy.
When North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) created the law two years ago, he acknowledged that legal fights were inevitable, but he saw the measure as "a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade."
In other words, North Dakota taxpayers were on the hook, financing an experiment of sorts -- the state would create a dubious law, knowing it would likely fail, as a political test. In the unlikely event that the law survived court challenges, policymakers would have successfully curtailed reproductive rights. If the law failed in the courts, North Dakota would have wasted time, money, and energy, which state Republicans were glad to invest in a culture-war cause.
The state can now appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there's no guarantee the justices will want to hear the case, and even many on the right would prefer to see North Dakota quit now, rather than risk setting a new precedent in a case conservatives would almost certainly lose.
Just last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained that he's still waiting for a formal Obama administration plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. In May, the Republican senator, who's occasionally expressed lukewarm support for closing the detention facility, reportedly met with President Obama about the issue, and McCain says he told the president, "Okay, give me a plan. Give me a plan, okay?'
The senator added last week, "I have not heard a word since."
This was familiar rhetoric from McCain, though I've never been entirely clear on what kind of "plan" he's looking for. The plan seems to involve (1) transferring the prisoners; followed by (2) closing the prison.
But it turns out, there's a little more to it than that, and a more detailed blueprint is nearly complete. Timereported this afternoon:
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday confirmed that a plan to "safely and responsibly close" the prison at Guantanamo Bay is currently being drafted by members of the Administration. Earnest said closing the prison is in the national security interest of the United States.
"The administration is, in fact, in the final stages of drafting a plan" to close the prison, Earnest told reporters. "It is a priority of the president. He believes it's in our national security interest to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."
The timing of the remarks matters. The New York Timesreported this morning that the administration's "fitful effort to shut down the prison is collapsing again," in part the result of ongoing Pentagon resistance.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has adopted a strategy that's worked pretty well for him. Slate's Jamelle Bouie summarized it simply as "divide and conquer."
Reporting on the Republican's message in Iowa, Bouie noted earlier this year that Walker delivered an "effective, unwavering, and uncompromising" message to conservative activists. The governor believes he's won statewide office -- twice, in a state President Obama carried twice -- by rallying far-right voters and pushing an unapologetic, aggressively partisan agenda.
It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when the AP reported yesterday that the Walker campaign sees the candidate as a "uniter."
Scott Walker's top adviser said Tuesday that the Republican governor who survived an attempt to recall him from office is running for president as someone who can bring together a polarized electorate.
"I think he is running as a uniter," Walker adviser Rick Wiley said during a luncheon hosted by the political website Wispolitics.com.
As proof, Wiley pointed to Walker's victory in his 2012 recall election. "If he's able to unite this state and win that recall when it was the most polarized state at the time," Wiley argued, "his message works."
It's a bizarre argument. Walker was so polarizing, pushing such a radical agenda, that a big chunk of his constituents tried to force him from office hallway through his first term. The governor held on, but not before drawing the ire of nearly half of Wisconsin.
"See what a uniter he is?" one of Walker's top aides effectively asks.
The funny part of this isn't just how wrong the argument is. There's also the fact that Walker himself is pushing in the exact opposite direction. Consider this Washington Postreport from last week:
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* If you're waiting for Donald Trump to apologize for giving out Lindsey Graham's private cell-phone number, stop. "I did it for fun," Trump told Fox News this morning. Trump added, in reference to Graham, "He calls me names, you have to fight back."
* Though national polling shows Hillary Clinton faring pretty well in hypothetical matchups against leading Republicans, new Quinnipiac polling paints a different picture at the state level. The new results show Clinton trailing Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker in in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia -- three states President Obama won twice.
* Though Scott Walker's presidential campaign is still too new to have real fundraising totals, some affiliated entities, including a super PAC, have reportedly raised $26 million for the Republican Wisconsin governor.
* Speaking of fundraising, Jeb Bush, in his first two weeks as an official candidate, reportedly received contributions from "at least 136 top-tier donors to his brother, former President George W. Bush, signaling that the family's vaunted fundraising network is quickly mobilizing to push a third Bush presidency."
* Scott Walker has apparently scheduled a motorcycle tour of New Hampshire, and he'll be accompanied for part of it by former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), whose Senate bid in the Granite State failed last year.
* A year ago, Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R) political operation in Kentucky called Matt Bevin a "con man" who lies "pathologically." This week, McConnell agreed to hold a fundraiser in support of Bevin's gubernatorial campaign.
Rand Paul huddled with Art Laffer and Steve Moore yesterday ahead of a new push to promote his tax plan.
And before Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich kicked off his national campaign, he chatted with some of the exact same people.
Just after his recent New Hampshire foray, he met in New York with an influential group of fiscal conservatives including the former CNBC host Larry Kudlow, Reaganite economist Arthur Laffer, and the Heritage Foundation's Stephen Moore.
I can appreciate the fact that Art Laffer and Stephen Moore aren't household names, so the fact that they're having conversations with national GOP candidates probably won't raise a lot of eyebrows with the American mainstream. But these chats nevertheless touch on an important point about Republican politics: being discredited is not a barrier to success.
Republican leaders have generally been content to ignore former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democratic presidential hopeful, focusing their energies instead on Hillary Clinton, but that wasn't the case yesterday. The Huffington Post reported:
Republicans are outraged that Democratic presidential contender Martin O'Malley cited actual scientific research in comments about how climate change has contributed to internal conflicts in Syria.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, O'Malley discussed the national security implications of climate change. "One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation state of Syria and the rise of ISIS, was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that nation, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis that created the symptoms -- or rather, the conditions -- of extreme poverty that has now led to the rise of ISIS and this extreme violence," he said.
Republicans and their allies pounced. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called the Democrat's comments "absurd." In conservative media, Fox' Stuart Varney dismissed O'Malley's concerns as "nonsense," while another conservative outlet said the former governor is "saying truly brazenly silly things to get attention."
It's hard to say what role facts and evidence play in a dispute like this, but isn't O'Malley correct?
President Obama's overhaul of U.S. policy towards Cuba has advanced quite quickly, and thus far, without any major missteps. Just this week, in a development that seemed hard to even imagine in the recent past, the two countries restored full diplomatic relations. A foreign policy that had failed for a half-century is finally finished.
And Republican howls notwithstanding, the public is on the White House's side. Consider the latest report from the Pew Research Center:
As the United States and Cuba moved this week to end more than 50 years of diplomatic conflict, public support for re-establishing relations with Cuba has increased. There is equally broad, and growing, support for ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. [...]
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans say they approve of the U.S. re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, up 10 points since January. A similar majority (72%) favors the U.S. ending its trade embargo against Cuba, "which would allow U.S. companies to do business in Cuba and Cuban companies to do business in the U.S."
The results were surprisingly broad, even along partisan lines -- even a 56% majority of self-identified Republican voters agree with Obama's policy, up from 40% earlier this year.
A CBS News poll released this week also found broad public support for the new U.S. policy. A day later, a national Associated Press survey published similar results.
We are, in other words, looking at a national consensus that only excludes Republican presidential candidates.
It didn't get too much attention, but Citibank received some pretty awful news yesterday. The banking powerhouse was accused of pushing dubious credit card services, presented to millions of consumers in unfortunate ways (charging consumers during "free" 30-day trial periods, for example).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which exists thanks to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the Dodd-Frank reform law, noticed the Citibank practices and went after the banking giant, accusing it of "deceptive marketing," "unfair billing," and "other unlawful practices." Yesterday, Citibank cried uncle -- it will pay $700 million to affected consumers, on top of $35 million in penalties.
On the fourth anniversary of the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas-04) have introduced legislation to eliminate it. [...]
"Don't let the name fool you, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does little to protect consumers..." Sen. Cruz stated.
The argument might even seem true, were it not for all of the success the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has had in protecting consumers. Indeed, that's very likely the point of Cruz's new bill -- the CFPB appears to be too effective for many conservatives in cracking down on financial-sector excesses.
But as the Obama administration's Wall Street reforms celebrate another birthday, it's not just the right-wing Texas senator looking to turn back the clock. Yesterday, much of the Republican presidential field emphasized their plans to scrap the Dodd/Frank law altogether.
On July 10, Sandra Bland was pulled over by a Texas state trooper in a routine traffic stop. Three days later she was found dead in a jail cell. We still can't say with confidence how or why Bland died, but new dashcam footage sheds some light on how the tragic series of events began.
Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, had moved to the Houston area from Chicago for a new job at Prairie View A&M University. State trooper Brian Encinia stopped Bland for allegedly changing lanes without signaling, but things escalated quickly after Encinia, for reasons that are unclear, told Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. NBC News reported:
"I don't want to step out of my car," Bland says, adding, "I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself."
"I am going to yank you out of here," Encinia says, moving his body inside her open door.
The situation escalates, and the trooper tells her she's under arrest. "Get out of the car!" he commands. Bland asks why she's being arrested, and then Encinia draws his Taser.
"Get out of the car! I will light you up," he continues, prompting her to exit the vehicle.
Why Bland was taken into custody in the first place still isn't clear -- the trooper claims he was assaulted -- but she was reportedly trying to collect money from family members to get out of jail after the arrest. Soon after, Bland was found dead in her cell, and the autopsy pointed to an apparent suicide, listing her cause of death as "self-inflicted asphyxiation."
People close to Bland, not surprisingly, are skeptical of the official version of events, and her death remains under investigation. Encinia has been placed on administrative duties after the Texas Department of Public Safety found "violations of procedures regarding traffic stops and the department's courtesy policy."
But as many continue to demand answers, new questions are also arising. Among them: was the dashcam footage edited?
As the debate over the international nuclear agreement with Iran intensifies, President Obama addressed the VFW National Convention yesterday, making a point about the Iran deal's critics that too often gets overlooked.
"In the debate over this deal, we're hearing the echoes of some of the same policies and mindset that failed us in the past. Some of the same politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq, and said it would take a few months. And we know the consequences of that choice and what it cost us in blood and treasure.
'So I believe there's a smarter, more responsible way to protect our national security -- and that is what we are doing. Instead of dismissing the rest of the world and going it alone, we've done the hard and patient work of uniting the international community to meet a common threat. Instead of chest-beating that rejects even the idea of talking to our adversaries -- which sometimes sounds good in sound bites, but accomplishes nothing -- we're seeing that strong and principled diplomacy can give hope of actually resolving a problem peacefully."
There can be no doubt that as arguments on Capitol Hill grow louder, opponents of the diplomatic agreement will have a more expensive lobbying campaign. What they'll lack, however, is credibility.
Here's a challenge for everyone involved in the debate: find one prominent voice who wants to kill the Iran deal who was right about the war in Iraq. Just one. It's a strikingly difficult task -- I've been looking for a while and I've come up empty -- which reinforces a broader point.
It's a quaint, almost inconvenient, approach to Beltway arguments, but credibility and accountability should probably count for something in debates like these. When a group of discredited conservatives fail miserably on matters of national security and foreign policy over the course of several years, and literally those same people tell the nation, "Trust us as we try to push the United States closer to yet another war in the Middle East," it's not unreasonable to think Americans should consider their track record.
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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