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U.S. Republican presidential candidates Senator Ted Cruz and businessman Donald Trump walk onstage as they address a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Finding room to Trump's right on immigration

01/06/16 10:40AM

On some of his signature issues, Donald Trump's position seems to represent the right-wing cliff. When some of his Republican rivals try to find room to the frontrunner's right, strange things happen.
A couple of months ago, for example, when Trump raised the prospect of the U.S. government closing down mosques, Marco Rubio went a little further, suggesting officials may have to start closing cafes and diners, too, "not just mosques." The New Republic's Brian Beutler noted at the time that the Florida senator may have received less attention, but he actually adopted "a policy far more draconian than even Trump's."
Similarly, on immigration, it seems hard to imagine a more conservative posture than Trump's deport-them-all position. But yesterday, Ted Cruz found room to his rival's right on this issue, too.
A man in Iowa asked the Texas senator, "Both you and Donald Trump are really strong on immigration, but he supports deporting all the illegal immigrants. Are you willing to say the same?" Slate's Jim Newell highlighted Cruz's response.
"Absolutely, yes," Cruz says. "We should enforce the law." Here, he seems to leave a little space open for the "self-deportation" that dominates his immigration plan rather than the more forceful mass deportation that Trump supports. Not that immigration activists regard either as particularly humane.
But then, on his own volition, Cruz leapfrogs to Trump's right: "And in fact, look, there's a difference. He's advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that." He then name-checks Congress's two most cherished anti-immigration conservatives, Rep. Steve King and Sen. Jeff Sessions, as collaborators on his immigration plan.
BuzzFeed posted the video of the exchange.
We've reached a striking point in the 2016 race. According to Cruz, Trump's approach to immigration is just too moderate.
 Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., speak at a press conference about their bi-partisan agreement to propose legislation to strengthen background checks to prevent criminals and those with mental illness from buying guns on April 10,...

The wrong gun complaints from senators who know better

01/06/16 10:00AM

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, two unlikely senators -- Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- partnered on a good bill to expand background checks. Despite overwhelming public support, lawmakers, nearly all of whom were Republicans, killed the legislation.
It was a disheartening reminder that policymaking on guns has become practically impossible. No matter how modest the proposal, no matter how popular the idea, no matter how crushing the consequences, GOP lawmakers are even less likely to consider gun-safety reforms than they are to approve tax hikes on millionaires.
President Obama obviously recognizes this political reality, which is why he's focused his efforts on executive actions. Oddly enough, the same senators who should understand as well as anyone why this approach is necessary are the same senators complaining about the president's approach.
Sen. Pat Toomey, who faces a tough reelection race in blue-leaning Pennsylvania, said that while he still needs more information about the president's regulatory moves, "the most appropriate way for handling firearm issues is when Congress and the President work together."
"The President has abused these actions in the past and exceeded the boundaries of the law. This should not be allowed under our constitutional framework," he added in a statement.
For the record, Toomey offered no examples of the president abusing his powers in this area, no examples of the White House exceeding the boundaries of the law, and no evidence of inconsistencies between the administration's policy and the Constitution.
Around the same time, Manchin added, "Instead of taking unilateral executive action, the President should work with Congress and the American people, just as I've always done, to pass the proposals he announced today.... [L]egislation and consensus is the correct approach."
As much as I respect the work Toomey and Manchin have done on this issue, it's hard not to wonder what in the world they're thinking.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Md. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

After North Korea boast, Rubio blames U.S. leaders

01/06/16 09:24AM

South Korea reported a seismic event resembling an earthquake overnight, which North Korea quickly took credit for, claiming it had successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test. As NBC News reported, if the boast is true, it would "mark a huge jump in Kim Jong Un's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal."
But the boast may not be true and some skepticism is in order. NBC report added, "South Korean officials and some experts questioned whether the explosion was indeed a full-fledged test of a hydrogen device." The New York Times added that experts cautioned that North Korea may have "exaggerated its claims, as it did with its three previous nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009 and 2013."
Responsible officials should probably hold off on drawing sweeping conclusions until there's more information, though Marco Rubio has no use for caution. The senator issued a statement overnight, quickly blaming the purported test on the United States.
"I have been warning throughout this campaign that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama has stood idly by. If this test is confirmed, it will be just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama's weakness."
This is a great example of why Rubio shouldn't pretend to be a grown-up on foreign policy. For one thing, North Korea is an isolated, rogue nuclear dictatorship, with whom we have no leverage.
For another, why would a presidential candidate -- or more specifically, an American presidential candidate -- instinctively respond to world events by effectively asking, "How can I blame this on the United States?"
President Barack Obama pauses as he delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence on Jan. 5, 2016 at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

The missing piece from the GOP's anti-Obama pitch on guns

01/06/16 08:42AM

In his remarks yesterday on addressing gun violence, President Obama tried his best to lower the rhetorical temperature. "I'm not on the ballot again; I'm not looking to score some points," he said. "I think we can disagree without impugning other people's motives or without being disagreeable. We don't need to be talking past one another."
It was right around that time that Ted Cruz's presidential campaign posted an "OBAMA WANTS YOUR GUNS" message online, alongside a fake image of the president in a military helmet, which appeared to be designed to resemble a Nazi propaganda poster from World War II.
So much for disagreeing without impugning other people's motives.
Obviously, Cruz wasn't alone. Even before the president spoke, Republican presidential candidates were apoplectic about Obama making modest, incremental changes to current law, which even the NRA concedes would have little practical effect.
Away from the campaign trail, congressional Republicans began making threats about blocking the White House's policy.
Leading Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee and from the party's conservative wing vowed to use the appropriations process to block Obama's executive actions and deny the president the necessary funding to implement some of his proposals.
"What the president has done is unconstitutional and any action Congress can take, we should, including appropriations," said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) a member of the House's Freedom Caucus.
Before the administration's policy was even announced, one GOP lawmaker raised the specter of shutting down the Justice Department over gun policy.
There was, however, one missing element in the Republican's pushback.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with fellow candidate Donald Trump during a Tea Party Patriots rally against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sep. 9, 2015. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg/Getty)

A new kind of Birtherism for the 2016 campaign

01/06/16 08:00AM

In August 2013, long before he was a leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump sat down for an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl for a chat about Trump's racially charged conspiracy theory about President Obama's birthplace.
But the interest wasn't limited to the president. Karl asked, "Ted Cruz, born in Canada, is he eligible to be president of the United States?" Trump responded, "Well, if he was born in Canada, perhaps not. But I'm not sure where he was born."
The ABC reporter tried to clarify, explaining that Cruz really was born in Canada, but the senator is legally a natural-born American citizen. "Look, that will be ironed out," Trump said. "I don't know the circumstances. I heard somebody told me he was born in Canada."
That "somebody" was the journalist sitting a few feet away, who told him the facts a few seconds earlier. The entire conversation was bewildering.
Trump's focus generally shifted away from birther garbage in the months that followed, but in an interview with the Washington Post late yesterday, the GOP frontrunner did his best to put Cruz's birthplace back in the spotlight.
"Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: 'Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?' That'd be a big problem," Trump said when asked about the topic. "It'd be a very precarious one for Republicans because he'd be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don't want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head."
Trump added: "I'd hate to see something like that get in his way. But a lot of people are talking about it and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport."
Oh my.

H-bomb claim and other headlines

01/06/16 07:20AM

North Korea claims it successfully conducted hydrogen bomb test. (NBC News)

H-bomb: more powerful than Hiroshima bomb, fits on missile. (AP)

SC Gov Nikki Haley to give the Republican response to the State of the Union address. (AP)

Rep. Steve Israel, a top House Democrat, won't seek reelection. (New York Times)

Sheriff says steps being taken to end militants' occupation of federal compound. (The Oregonian)

FBI: 18 minutes missing in San Bernardino shooting timeline. (USA Today)

Saudi-Iran feud poses threat to Iraq's effort to combat ISIS. (New York Times)

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Trump's combative style has echoes in history

Trump's combative style has echoes in history

01/05/16 09:23PM

Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, talks with Rachel Maddow about the parallels between the George Wallace campaign in 1968 and Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, in particular their aggressive posturing against protesters and the media. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 1.5.16

01/05/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Afghanistan: "One U.S. service member died and two others were wounded during operations in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the Pentagon said. The Department of Defense did not name the casualties, saying only that the incident took place near Marjah in Helmand Province."
* Crisis in Flint, Michigan, takes a turn: "Governor Rick Snyder has declared a State of Emergency in Genesee County due to the health and safety issues surrounding the lead in Flint's drinking water."
* In related news: "Flint's contaminated drinking water is now the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Gina Balaya is a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Michigan. She confirmed the investigation today."
* Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: "In the pivotal fourth day of armed occupation on federal land here, militants held tight to a cluster of small buildings behind a blockaded access road as the FBI mulled its next move."
* A changing relationship with Saudi Arabia: "Today, with American oil production surging and the Saudi leadership fractured, the mutual dependency that goes back to the early 1930s, with the first American investment in the kingdom's oil fields, no longer binds the nations as it once did."
* ISIS: "The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said Tuesday that the militants have lost 30 percent of the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria."
* Feel safer? "More guns were sold in December than almost any other month in nearly two decades, continuing a pattern of spikes in sales after terrorist attacks and calls for stricter gun-buying laws, according to federal data released on Monday."
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) speaks during a news conference Dec. 23, 2015 in Chicago, Ill. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty)

Bernie Sanders makes the case for banking at post offices

01/05/16 04:23PM

Bernie Sanders delivered a big speech in New York today on Wall Street and the economy -- arguably his signature issue -- and we'll have more on his remarks on tonight's show. But there was one topic the Vermont senator raised that's worth singling out. From the transcript:
"[We] need to give Americans affordable banking options. The reality is that, unbelievably, millions of low-income Americans live in communities where there are no normal banking services. Today, if you live in a low-income community and you need to cash a check or get a loan to pay for a car repair or a medical emergency, where do you go?
"You go to a payday lender who could charge an interest rate of over 300 percent and trap you into a vicious cycle of debt. That is unacceptable.
"We need to stop payday lenders from ripping off millions of Americans. Post offices exist in almost every community in our country. One important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low income communities is to allow the U.S. Postal Service to engage in basic banking services, and that's what I will fight for."
To be sure, as Sanders supporters know, this isn't exactly a new part of his policy platform. But it's a really interesting idea that's worth broader consideration.
There is, not surprisingly, a concerted push in the opposite direction. Rand Paul, for example, argued as recently as November that he'd consider doing away with the Postal Service altogether, even though the Constitution explicitly lists this as a governmental benefit (Art. 1, Sec. 8).
Sanders has a much better idea: let's not only keep post offices, let's also expand the role they can play in a community.


About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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