Political scandals that matter tend to have clear allegation. Even if the charges prove baseless, controversies of consequence are built on a foundational question. Did Nixon order the break-in? Did Reagan sell weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war? Did Clinton have sexual relations with that woman?
The clarity adds definition. Scandals can grow and expand, but legitimate controversies still have an accusation at their root that people can either confirm or deny, believe or not believe, prove or disprove.
The Hillary Clinton email "scandal" isn't nearly as ... clean. Ask the typical person what the former Secretary of State is accused of, specifically, and you'll probably hear a mishmash of the words "emails" and "servers." Republicans seem excited -- some GOP presidential candidates are talking publicly about Clinton going to jail -- and quite a bit of the media is heavily engaged --- Bob Woodward compared the story to Watergate this week -- but nailing down the root allegation is proving to be surprisingly difficult.
Politicoreported yesterday that there are "accusations swirling that the former Secretary of State put national security secrets at risk by using a private email server." Oh. So the "scandal" is about proper email server management? That's what the political world is worked up about?
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum had a good take on this that rings true.
I'm perfectly willing to believe that Clinton's use of a private server was unwise. It probably was, something that I think even she's acknowledged. And Clinton has certainly provided some dodgy answers about what she did, which naturally raises suspicions that she might have something to hide. [...]
That said, even when I do my best to take off my tribal hat and look at this affair dispassionately, I just don't see anything.... [W]hat exactly is being investigated at this point? If you just want to argue that Clinton showed bad judgment, then go to town. That's a legitimate knock on a presidential candidate. But actual malfeasance? Where is it?
That need not be a rhetorical question. I'm eager to know, too. After months of coverage, the fact that the allegations themselves are ambiguous isn't a good sign about the merits of the "scandal."
Katy Tur, NBC News reporter following the Trump campaign, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Republican candidates converging on New Hampshire but failing to overshadow Donald Trump, whose appeal is undiminished by a lack of specific policy plans. watch
Rachel Maddow celebrates the return of Bad Lip Reading videos to the political realm with their first video of the 2016 campaign, misinterpreted highlights from the first Republican debate that takes an unexpected turn into song. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the identities of the two women who are the first to pass U.S. Army Ranger school and their rejection of any media or special attention, wanting only to be U.S. Army Rangers. watch
Rachel Maddow follows up an earlier report on a fire at the headquarters of the New Rockford Transcript with the happy news that the paper archives of the 130-year-old paper were not destroyed by the fire. watch
Jon Ralston, host of Ralston Live on PBS in Nevada, talks with Rachel Maddow about Martin O'Malley smart political move to align himself with workers protesting at Donald Trump's Las Vegas hotel, and the political power of Las Vegas unions. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on Donald Trump employees pushing back against the Republican frontrunner, and Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley's politically savvy support for a pro-union protest by Trump employees in Las Vegas. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that Donald Trump's boast of 2500 people at a town hall in New Hampshire is much more than the number estimated by the fire marshal at the event and no official count was performed. watch
Turn that frown upside down, America. Rick Perry offers assurances of "an extraordinary amount of dollars": http://t.co/2Li3gvL931
* A huge get for proponents of the Iran deal: "Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, is supporting the Iran nuclear agreement. In a statement released Wednesday, Donnelly, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said only the 'steadfast resolve' of the U.S. and its allies can stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
* Climate agenda: "The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed the first federal regulations requiring the nation's oil and gas industry to cut emissions of methane as part of an expanding and increasingly aggressive effort to combat climate change."
* West Virginia: "One of the last executives charged in a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without clean tap water for days pleaded guilty to federal pollution violations Tuesday. Former Freedom Industries executive Dennis Farrell entered his guilty plea in federal court in Charleston."
* Ohio: "The Ohio Department of Corrections intended to illegally import drugs for executions, according to an FDA letter obtained by BuzzFeed News.... In a June letter, the FDA wrote to Ohio, warning the state that importing the drugs would be illegal."
* Texas: "Two first-degree felony charges against Attorney General Ken Paxton were dismissed Tuesday and replaced with new indictments that clarify the securities fraud allegations.... Special prosecutor Brian Wice said the new indictments were issued to provide greater clarity and to defuse arguments typically made by defense lawyers that charges are ambiguous. The underlying fraud allegations remain unchanged, he said."
* Egypt: "In a significant leap toward harsher authoritarian rule, Egypt has enacted a draconian new anti-terrorism law that sets a sweeping definition for who and what could face a harsh set of punishments, including journalists who don't toe the government line."
As a rule, it's a mistake for most politicians to tell the public what Martin Luther King Jr. would believe if he were alive today. Someone probably ought to let Mike Huckabee know.
Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee believes Martin Luther King, Jr. would be "appalled" by the Black Lives Matter movement -- telling CNN that racism is "more of a sin problem than a skin problem."
During an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday evening, the former Arkansas governor touted the "all lives matter" mantra and said he was troubled that the movement focuses on one ethnicity. Huckabee added that the late civil rights leader would feel the same.
According to the Politico piece, Huckabee said, "When I hear people scream, 'black lives matter,' I think, of course they do.... But all lives matter. It's not that any life matters more than another. That's the whole message that Dr. King tried to present, and I think he'd be appalled by the notion that we're elevating some lives above others."
Let's unwrap this a bit, because Huckabee may not understand the issue nearly as well as he thinks he does.
The Black Lives Matter movement was, at least in part, a response to a series of violent incidents involving police officers killing unarmed African Americans. Part of Dr. King's "whole message" was focused on this issue as it existed a half-century ago. Indeed, In King's most famous speech, he specifically proclaimed, "We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality."
So, right off the bat, Huckabee's notion that MLK might somehow object to, or be uncomfortable with, the Black Lives Matter movement seems dubious.
But more troubling is the degree to which the far-right Republican seems to have no idea why the Black Lives Matter movement exists.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), seen as an on-the-fence Democrat on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, announced his support for the diplomatic deal this morning. His endorsement came on the heels of three Democratic senators announcing yesterday that they're backing the agreement, too.
Republican leaders seem resigned to the fact that they're probably going to lose this fight and the deal will likely be implemented, but the number of GOP lawmakers willing to support the deal still stands at zero.
But away from Capitol Hill, the picture changes. We talked this week about some notable Republican figures who may not have a vote, but who nevertheless back the Iran agreement, including former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Brent Scowcroft, a veteran National Security Advisor to several Republican presidents, who also served as the chairman of George W. Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. A reader reminded me that I neglected to mention former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who's also offered support for the deal.
"What we're really seeing here are the last vestiges of a Reagan/HWBush-era Republican Party that took foreign policy seriously on its merits."
He added that Republicans like Scowcroft and Lugar are better labeled the GOP's "grown-ups."
That's true. It also raises a broader point about the slow disappearance of these "grown-ups" and their declining influence over Republican policymaking, especially in the area of international affairs.
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.
Rachel Maddow LIVE
Speak out! Make your voice heard by tagging your posts #maddow