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.
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-Constitutionpoll 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.) 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 Politicoreport 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?
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 Timesreports 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."
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 Postreported:
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.
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 Postreported 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.
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 Postpublished 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 localreports 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.
Imagine an alternate recent history. Imagine if, on Friday morning, Donald Trump were asked about the times he pretended to be his own publicist when talking to reporters, and he replied, "You know, 'John Miller' and 'John Barron' were jokes that went awry. This was years ago and I was just kidding around."
The proof that Trump created a bizarre alter ego for himself still would have been a story -- if you're pretending to be someone else in order to feed praise about yourself to reporters, you probably have some issues -- but it probably wouldn't have been quite as captivating a story.
Except the Republican candidate just can't help himself. Trump felt compelled to lie reflexively, denying what he's already admitted, and pretending his voice on a recording isn't really his.
The new challenge is coming up with a defense. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, for example, hasn't quite figured out exactly what he wants to say on the subject. CBS's John Dickerson asked Priebus about this yesterday on "Face the Nation."
DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask you about a report that Donald Trump in the 1990s served as his own spokesman under another name. What do you make of that?
PRIEBUS: It's just -- it's a little bit odd, but I will just tell you that I think, of all the things facing this country right now, and after being through this primary for a year, I can assure you that that particular issue is not going to move the electorate.
Maybe, maybe not. Trump has no record of public service, and no real policy platform, so voters are left to evaluate the presumptive Republican nominee on some of his more personal qualities. The fact that he pretended to be his own publicist, making up an alter ego to brag to reporters about his professed greatness in third person, only to lie about it years later, might very well move some of the electorate.
Looking out into space is looking back in time, but we've been looking out into space from Earth for millennia now, so it makes sense that we might see some things change. That's exactly what is currently happening with Tycho's supernova. Tycho Brahe was a Danish astronomer who spend years charting the stars overhead and tracking their motions.
In 1572, he observed a new star in the constellation of Cassiopeia that he hadn't seen before. It stayed visible in the night sky for almost two years and in the beginning it was said to have been as bright as Venus. Tycho studied the star night after night and eventually published his observations and dubbed it "de nova stella", meaning " new star".
We now know this star to be a supernova, called SN1572 and more commonly known as Tycho's supernova, that occurred roughly 8,000 light years away from us. What's left now is a remnant of the original explosion which astronomers on Earth have been observing for centuries. In the last few decades, we've added observations at X-ray wavelengths with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to make the composite image shown above. Even more spectacular though, is this GIF which shows how SN1572 has evolved over the past fifteen years.
Analyzing how the remnant is changing over time has allowed astronomers to estimate the maximum speed of the blast wave at 12 million miles per hour! They were also able to determine that the center of outward motion is offset from the geometric center of the remnant by roughly 10% of the remnant's radius (offset up and to the left). These parameters are important for characterizing the supernova as stated in NASA's press release:
"Understanding the location of the explosion center for Type Ia supernovas is important because it narrows the search region for a surviving companion star. Any surviving companion star would help identify the trigger mechanism for the supernova, showing that the white dwarf pulled material from the companion star until it reached a critical mass and exploded. The lack of a companion star would favor the other main trigger mechanism, where two white dwarfs merge causing the critical mass to be exceeded, leaving no star behind."
First up from the God Machine this week is an over-the-top reaction from the religious right movement to the Obama administration's latest efforts to protect transgender students.
Officials at the Department of Justice and the Department of Education wrote a letter yesterday to every public-school district in the country, urging local officials to allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their chosen gender identity, School districts that ignore the directive may put their federal funding in jeopardy.
“A school’s failure to treat students consistent with their gender identity may create or contribute to a hostile environment in violation of Title IX," the Obama administration wrote, pointing to the 1972 law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in public education.
As Right Wing Watch reported, social conservatives and the religious right movement were apoplectic, with one leading organization recommending impeachment for President Obama in response to the policy.
After claiming that the president is "sacrificing children to advance an evil agenda" and is intentionally causing "social chaos," [Family Research Council President Tony Perkins] told Fox News' Todd Starnes today that Congress should launch impeachment proceedings against the president in retaliation: [...]
"If the president chooses to go forward with this outrageous order -- then congress should begin impeachment proceedings," [the FRC president] said. Perkins said the decree should be "resisted with ever legal and moral instrument we have available to us in this country."
Chances are, congressional Republicans are not going to use this as the basis for presidential impeachment -- in fact, GOP leaders on Capitol Hill were surprisingly quiet yesterday in the wake of the news -- but the response from the religious right was nevertheless a striking reminder: social conservatives may have lost the fight over marriage equality, but they've made transgender bathroom use the new hot-button issue in the culture war.
Rachel Maddow takes a look at Donald Trump's weird history of pretending to be someone else while speaking to the media about himself or on his own behalf, and the return of an embarrassing scandal with the publication of previously unheard audio tapes. watch
Rachel Maddow shares a local Denver reporter's revelation that some of the signatures gathered to put Republican candidate for Senate, Jon Keyser, on the Colorado ballot were forged, putting the Republican Senate majority at risk. watch
Steven Ginsberg, senior politics editor for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about recorded audio of a 1991 phone call in which Donald Trump pretends to be a publicist for himself, a ruse Trump has admitted, but now denies. watch
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