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No easy calls in Florida for 2016

No easy calls in Florida for 2016

05/23/16 09:24PM

Marc Caputo, senior political writer at Politico, talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump's apparently lack of organization in Florida and whether Debbie Wasserman Schultz is vulnerable to a primary challenge. watch

Democratic Party shows signs of a détente

Democratic Party shows signs of a détente

05/23/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the tensions within the Democratic Party, not just between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns but also between Sanders and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and how some concessions may be helping to focus the party. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 5.23.16

05/23/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Syria: "More than 120 people were killed in a spate of ISIS suicide attacks on the Syrian coast Monday, according to activists."
 
* Yemen: "A pair of bombings carried out by Islamic State militants killed at least 45 people in Yemen's southern city of Aden on Monday, targeting young men seeking to join the army who gathered at two recruitment centers, security officials said."
 
* A closely watched election: "Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economics professor and former Green Party leader, won Austria's cliffhanger presidential election on Monday, defeating his far-right rival by the slimmest of margins and pledging to unite the divided country."
 
* Baltimore: "One of the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray was found not guilty on all counts in Baltimore on Monday. Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams cleared Officer Edward Nero of charges of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment."
 
* The U.S. Supreme Court today "cleared the way for a new trial for a Georgia man convicted of murder and sentenced to death by an all-white jury, finding that prosecutors intentionally kept blacks off the jury."
 
* Iraqi forces "have begun an assault on Falluja, a city that has been held by the Islamic State longer than any other in Iraq or Syria, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised speech on Monday."
 
* Banking: "A U.S. appeals court on Monday threw out a jury's finding that Bank of America Corp was liable for mortgage fraud leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, voiding a $1.27 billion penalty and dealing the U.S. Department of Justice a major setback."
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 climate concerns are limited to his golf courses

05/23/16 04:43PM

The New York Times reported over the weekend that we're starting to receive "clues" about Donald Trump's views about the climate crisis. Of course, his perspective isn't exactly a secret: the presumptive Republican nominee, like so much of his party, has dismissed the scientific evidence as a "hoax" and "pseudoscience." Trump wasn't hinting when he called climate change "a total con job."
 
In fact, there are all kinds of issues where Trump and Hillary Clinton will strongly disagree in the general election, but arguably the climate debate offers the most striking contrasts: the Democrat has an ambitious plan to address the crisis; the Republican has some poorly written tweets about why he thinks global warming is "bulls**t" when it's cold in January.
 
There is, however, an exception to the issue Trump probably hasn't thought much about. Politico reported that while the Republican candidate says he doesn't believe in climate science, he is also "trying to build a sea wall designed to protect one of his golf courses from 'global warming and its effects.'"
The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare.
 
A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences -- increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century -- as a chief justification for building the structure.
Hmm. It's almost as if Trump isn't concerned about the climate crisis when it puts Americans in jeopardy, but he's quite concerned about it when the crisis threatens one of his golf courses.
 
Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), who lost in a Republican primary a few years ago because he accepted science evidence on climate change, told Politico Trump's position is "diabolical."
 
"Donald Trump is working to ensure his at-risk properties and his company is trying to figure out how to deal with sea level rise. Meanwhile, he's saying things to audiences that he must know are not true," Inglis said, adding, "You have a soft place in your heart for people who are honestly ignorant, but people who are deceitful, that's a different thing."
Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang (R) and President Barack Obama (L) take part in a joint press conference at the International Convention Center in Hanoi on May 23, 2016. (Photo by Luong Thai Linh/AFP/Getty)

Obama arrives in Vietnam, with China in mind

05/23/16 03:50PM

It didn't take long for President Obama to make some news after arriving in Vietnam: he announced this morning that his administration is lifting of a longstanding arms embargo against the country.
 
"The United States is fully lifting the ban on sale of military equipment to Vietnam that's been in place for some 50 years," Obama said. "Sales will need to still meet strict requirements, including those on human rights, but this change ensures Vietnam has access to equipment it needs to defend itself."
 
The president's trip, however, is about more than military sales. As the New York Times reported, the Obama administration scheduled three days of meeting in the hopes of "luring yet another Southeast Asian country away from China's tight embrace."
Mr. Obama's visit is an important step in a complex dance that Vietnam has carried on with China for centuries. Most of Vietnam's illustrious historical figures made their reputations by battling Chinese invaders. The population here is deeply nationalistic and anti-Chinese sentiment is visceral. The American War, as it is known here, is mostly forgotten, particularly since half of the population is under 30.
 
Vietnam relies on China for trade, investment and even the water that feeds the vast Mekong Delta, so the leadership knows it can poke the dragon only so much.
The Times' report added that China infuriated Vietnam in 2014 by building an oil drilling rig right off the Vietnamese coast, which soon after prompted Vietnam to "step up its contacts with the United States."
 
Which works just fine for President Obama, who wants to expand access to Vietnamese ports in the short term, while weakening Chinese influence in the long term.
 
And as we discussed in February, all of this seems to fit nicely into an important pattern.
President Barack Obama arrives to speak at Flint Northwestern High School in Flint, Mich. on May 4, 2016, about the ongoing water crisis. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

President Obama's poll support raises eyebrows

05/23/16 12:52PM

It's funny to think back to the 2014 midterms and what the chattering class was saying after Republican gains. President Obama was "finished," Americans were told. The election results were a stinging rebuke to the White House and its agenda, and unless Democrats wanted to invite the public's fury, Obama would have no choice but to give up on his ambitions and start giving the Republican Congress at least some of what the GOP wanted.
 
The president proceeded to ignore all of these assumptions, pursuing his agenda with the increased enthusiasm of a leader who recognized he needed to make the most of his remaining time in office.
 
If Republicans assumed Obama would face some kind of backlash for governing this way, they're no doubt disappointed with the results. The Washington Post reported over the weekend on the president's vastly improved standing.
When the ball dropped in Times Square on Jan. 1 of this year, more than half of the country disapproved of the job that President Obama was doing, according to Gallup. That boded poorly for the Democrats over the course of the year; presidential approval correlates to both how his party fares in the presidential race (even if he's not on the ticket) but also to the results of Senate races. An unpopular Obama suggested a less popular whoever-was-about-to-win-the-Democratic-nomination.
 
But over the course of the year, Obama's approval numbers changed -- quickly, and a lot. In Gallup's most recent weekly average, Obama is at 51-45 -- the exact opposite of where he was on Jan. 1 and a 12-point swing since then. He's been at 50 percent or higher in every week since March 1, save one.
The Post's analysis was based on Gallup data, but even if we take a broader view and consider the president's average standing across all of the recent polling, Obama not only finds his head above water -- supporters outnumber detractors -- but he's also currently seeing his strongest support in three years.
 
There's no one explanation for this. Some have argued his improved standing is the result of several recent governing successes. Others point to steady economic gains. Many have suggested Americans aren't overjoyed with the president's would-be successors, prompting some voters to say, "You know, maybe that Obama guy isn't so bad after all."
 
Whatever the cause, every Republican -- and every pundit, for that matter -- who said in November 2014 that the president might as well give up on trying to get anything done was mistaken. The more Obama has done in the last quarter of his presidency, the stronger his public support.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.23.16

05/23/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* To the surprise of no one, the National Rifle Association formally endorsed Donald Trump's presidential campaign on Friday.
 
* Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) this morning signed a bill into law replacing the state's caucus system with a more democratic primary system.
 
* In April, Bernie Sanders narrowly outraised Hillary Clinton, but his campaign also spent most of its money, leaving the operation with just $5.8 million cash on hand as of May 1. Clinton, investing far less in the late primaries, had $30.2 million in the bank as May got underway.
 
* Politico published a piece this morning on Trump's alleged connections to organized crime. The piece asked, "Why did Trump get his casino license anyway? Why didn't investigators look any harder? And how deep did his connections to criminals really go?"
 
* Abandoning all subtlety, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) hinted once again last week that he wouldn't mind being asked to run on Trump's GOP ticket as the party's vice presidential nominee.
 
* In a press statement issued this morning, the DSCC said it raised raised $6.1 million in April, outraising the NRSC by $1.9 million. Though the majority party usually fares better in these reports, the Democratic committee has now outraised its Republican counterpart in 14 of the last 16 months.
The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, March 16, 2016. (Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters)

How many justices would a President Trump add to the high court?

05/23/16 11:20AM

A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump said he expects to name "as many as five" justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming years, each of whom would oppose reproductive rights. In remarks to the NRA on Friday, the presumptive Republican nominee used a similar figure.
[Trump] said he expects the next president to appoint between three and five justices to the high court.
The GOP candidate caused quite a stir last week when he released the names of 11 specific, far-right jurists, explaining that they represent the kind of people -- if not literally the exact people -- he'd consider for Supreme Court vacancies. Reviewing the list satisfied conservatives and gave chills to liberals, which was probably the intended goal.
 
But is Trump right about his expectations? If elected, should Americans expect him to nominate a literal court majority by himself?
 
To be sure, five would be an awful lot. Looking back at every president in the last century, only FDR and Eisenhower named that many justices to the high court.
 
But Trump's prediction isn't completely outlandish. Consider a chart we first put together a year ago:
President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House from Marine One, March 29, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Obama admin adds to counter-terrorism record, kills Taliban chief

05/23/16 10:40AM

Among Republicans, it's simply assumed that President Obama and his administration are passive and indifferent when it comes to counter-terrorism. In recent months, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, has said the White House's approach to defeating terrorists is simply "rhetorical," and barely exists in practice. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) added in November, "I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country."
 
And yet, reality keeps getting in the way of ridiculous conservative talking points.
The leader of the Taliban has been killed in a U.S. airstrike, officials in Afghanistan said Sunday, setting up a potential succession showdown in the deeply-divided insurgent group.
 
A statement from the Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security was the first official confirmation of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor's death. It was soon followed by an announcement from Afghanistan's chief executive -- but no acknowledgement from the Taliban.
Earlier this morning, President Obama personally confirmed the Taliban leader's death, calling it "an important milestone" for Afghanistan, and adding that the United States had "removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and coalition forces."
 
This specific airstrike reportedly occurred in southwestern Pakistan, in a province called Baluchistan, which the New York Times described as "the de facto headquarters of the Afghan Taliban."
 
Much of the focus now shifts to the future of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the fact that Mansoor reportedly has no clear successor. But it's also worth pausing to appreciate the recent U.S. record when it comes to counter-terrorism.
McCracken County residents vote at the Lang No. 2 precinct located at Murray State University, Paducah, Ky., Regional Campus, May 17, 2016. (Photo by Ryan Hermens/The Paducah Sun/AP)

Why the latest polls are causing such a stir

05/23/16 10:00AM

For months, much of the political world obsessed over primary and caucus polls, eager to know who the party's presumptive presidential nominees would be. Now that this phase of the process is nearing its end, general-election polls are all the rage -- though they probably shouldn't be.
 
Last week, a New York Times/CBS News poll showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by six (47% to 41%), while a Fox News poll showed Trump ahead by three (45% to 42%). Over the weekend, two more major pollsters added some grist for the mill. First, there's the latest data from NBC News/Wall Street Journal:
Clinton, who remains a heavy favorite to win the Democrat nomination, leads the presumptive GOP nominee 46 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, a difference that is within the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points. In April, Clinton held an 11-point advantage over Trump, 50 percent to 39 percent, and had led him consistently by double digits since December.
And there's the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, which was also released yesterday:
In all, the survey foreshadows a hard-fought, competitive and negative general election. At this point, the two candidates are in a statistical dead heat among registered voters, with Trump favored by 46 percent and Clinton favored by 44 percent. That represents an 11-point shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee since March. Among all adults, Clinton holds a six-point lead (48 percent to 42 percent), down from 18 points in March.
All told, the polling averages compiled by Real Clear Politics show Trump ahead nationally by 0.2%, while the averages compiled by the Huffington Post point to Clinton up by 1.6%. (The latter, for what it's worth, tends to be a bit more comprehensive.)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks past the guns of the USS Iowa after speaking on the battleship in San Pedro, Los Angeles, Calif., United States Sept. 15, 2015. (Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Donald Trump's 'shady' support for veterans

05/23/16 09:20AM

When Democrats make the case that Donald Trump has a controversial background when it comes to veterans' issues, it's not just wishful thinking. The presumptive Republican nominee, for example, has drawn criticism for supporting a privatization plan for veterans' care. His associations with the sketchy Veterans for a Strong America exacerbated the problem.
 
And it certainly didn't help matters when Trump, who avoided military service during the Vietnam War, said he "felt" like he'd served in the military because his parents sent him to a military-themed boarding school as a teenager. The Republican went so far as to boast that his expensive prep school gave him "more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military."
 
Making matters much worse are new questions about Trump and veterans-related fundraising.
 
In January, the New York Republican skipped a debate in Iowa to instead hold a fundraiser for veterans. Trump repeatedly boasted at the time that, thanks to his bold leadership, he's raised $6 million for vets. Trump added that he'd contributed $1 million out of his own pocket.
 
Whatever happened to all of that money? The Washington Post took a closer look.
Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the fundraiser actually netted about $4.5 million, or 75 percent of the total that Trump announced.
 
Lewandowski blamed the shortfall on Trump's own wealthy acquaintances. He said some of them had promised big donations that Trump was counting on when he said he had raised $6 million. But Lewandowski said those donors backed out and gave nothing. [...]
 
Lewandowski also said he did not know whether a $1 million pledge from Trump himself was counted as part of the $4.5 million total. He said Trump has given that amount, but he declined to identify any recipients.
The number of questions, which the campaign does not want to answer, represents a real problem. Exactly how much did Trump raise for veterans? His campaign doesn't know. How much of it has been allocated? His campaign doesn't know that, either. Who were the beneficiaries of Trump's $1 million contribution? The campaign doesn't want to talk about it.
 
I'm trying to imagine how the political world would react if Hillary Clinton and her team tried this.

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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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