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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.28.15

07/28/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In New Hampshire, a new Monmouth poll shows Donald Trump with a surprisingly large advantage in the Republican presidential primary, leading Jeb Bush by a two-to-one margin, 24% to 12%. No other candidate reaches double digits, though Scott Walker and John Kasich are tied for third with 7% each.
* Asked about Mike Huckabee's offensive Holocaust rhetoric yesterday, Jeb Bush positioned himself as the grown-up in the GOP field. "The use of that kind of language is just wrong," he told reporters. "This is not the way we're going to win elections and that's not how we're going to solve problems. So, unfortunate remark -- not quite sure why he felt compelled to say it."
* Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker will be in Southern California this week, presenting themselves "to the Koch brothers and hundreds of other wealthy conservatives planning to spend close to $1 billion in the run-up to the 2016 election." Carly Fiorina will also be there, and while Rand Paul was invited, his attendance appears unlikely.
* Who'll be eligible to participate in next week's GOP debate? NBC's First Read team believes John Kasich, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki will fail to make the cut.
* In Florida, a new Mason-Dixon poll shows two wide-open Senate primaries. On the Democratic side, Alan Grayson has a small lead over Patrick Murphy, 33% to 32%, though "undecided" leads them both. On the Republican side, David Jolly appears to have the early edge, though he only has 16% support in the crowded GOP field.
* In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) has an unfortunate habit of giving "plum state positions, including judgeships," to his friends from high school.
Republican Mike Huckabee speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, in this Jan. 24, 2015 file photo. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Huckabee ignores critics after Holocaust uproar

07/28/15 11:35AM

Mike Huckabee's repulsive comments on nuclear diplomacy and the Holocaust were tough to defend, but the far-right Republican candidate told NBC's Matt Lauer  that "Jewish people" liked what he had to say, so there's no real problem here.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says if he was president, he would use the same language when referring to potential deals with Iran -- and that the response from Jewish people to his controversial comments has been "overwhelmingly positive."
"We need to use strong words when people make strong threats against an entire group of people as the Iranians have made toward the Jews," the former Arkansas governor said Tuesday in an interview with Matt Lauer.
Huckabee added, "The response from Jewish people have been overwhelming positive."
Remember, the GOP candidate said President Obama, by working with our allies and partners on an agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, would "take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven."
I really have to hand it to the GOP -- only Republicans could argue that President Obama is both Hitler and Chamberlain at the same time.
Faced with bipartisan criticism yesterday, Huckabee refused to apologize. I'm curious, though, whether he's seen the criticism from Israel. USA Today reported:
In this July 14, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, speaks during a campaign event in Las Vegas. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

Walker puts EPA in the crosshairs

07/28/15 11:05AM

Republican hostility for the Environmental Protection Agency isn't exactly new, but it was nevertheless striking to see a leading Republican presidential candidate explain his plans yesterday to effectively eliminate most of the EPA's responsibilities.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) talked to the conservative Washington Examiner yesterday, and began by talking generally about shifting powers from the federal to the state level on "everything from Medicaid to transportation, workforce development, environmental protection, education." The Republican presidential hopeful then got more specific:
"All 50 states have the equivalent of an Environmental Protection Agency. In my state, it's called the Department of Natural Resources. Other states have different names, but again, I'd shift that power and that money out of Washington and basically just leave in place an umbrella organization that really is limited to mediating interstate conflicts over, say, where a body of water or a piece of land goes through multiple states.
"Other than that, I'd leave those requirements and those responsibilities to the state government, where the people making those decisions have to live with them. And I think that's part of the balance."
Asked if he'd consider eliminating the environmental agency altogether, the Wisconsin governor added he would "essentially take their responsibilities and send them back to the states."
If there was a "dispute" between states -- your neighboring state allows toxic chemicals to be dumped in rivers, for example, but those rivers reach your state -- the EPA in a Walker administration would be able to mediate, if it chooses to.
This probably won't get as much attention as Donald Trump calling Mexican immigrant "rapists," but Walker's vision is every bit as radical. As the AP report on this added:
US President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa on July 28, 2015. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Obama says he 'could win' a theoretical third term

07/28/15 10:26AM

It's surprisingly common to hear two-term U.S. presidents, mid-way through their seventh year, start to talk openly about their desire for a third term. Eisenhower did it, as did Reagan and Clinton.
So perhaps it shouldn't have come as too big a surprise to see President Obama, speaking this morning to the African Union, reflect on his willingness to serve.
"I am in my second term. It has been an extraordinary privilege for me to serve as the president of the United States. I cannot imagine a greater honor or a more interesting job. I love my work, but under our Constitution, I cannot run again. I can't run again.
"I actually think I'm a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win. But I can't. So there's a lot that I'd like to do to keep America moving, but the law is the law, and no one person is above the law, not even the president."
The context, of course, is important. Obama wasn't signaling his disappointment with the 25th Amendment, so much as he was rebuking those African leaders who refuse to relinquish power, regardless of their country's laws or popular will. Listening to the president's speech, there is no doubt Obama's remarks were directed at those presidents who should transfer power to a lawful successor, but who choose not to.
Keep this in mind when you get an all-caps email from your uncle who watches Fox all day, demanding to know whether the White House is going to suspend American elections so Obama can stay in office indefinitely.
But before we move on, the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol whined this morning that it's "embarrassing" to hear "an American president saying this while abroad." Bill, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you.
Image: 114881043

Would the ADA pass today?

07/28/15 09:34AM

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) was on Capitol Hill yesterday for a bipartisan event celebrating this week's 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law, which has done so much to improve the lives of millions of Americans, is "the sort of big bipartisan triumph of yore that now seems unimaginable," the Washington Post's Dana Milbank noted this morning.
This truth did not elude Dole, the 92-year-old war hero now bound to a wheelchair, who's occasionally candid about his disappointment in today's radicalized Republican Party. Referring to the dozens of congressional Republicans who simply refuse to compromise, Dole said yesterday, "I don't know what they are."
But it's against this backdrop that The New Republic's Brian Beutler considered whether the Americans with Disabilities Act would pass in Congress "if it were introduced as new legislation today."
In general, and whether it's true or not, Republicans tend to oppose federal regulation on the grounds that regulation imposes heavy burdens on businesses. In 1990, opponents to the ADA, such as they were, made precisely this argument. And they weren't wrong! Requiring places of business to accommodate disabled people is an obviously worthy undertaking, but it isn't necessarily a cheap or easy thing to do.
It's not that the burdensome-to-business objection is a red herring exactly, but the ADA shows that once upon a time not too long ago, Republicans in Congress were happy to override that objection if they viewed the underlying regulatory goals as particularly worthy. 
Well said. The arguments against the ADA were rooted in fact -- requiring businesses to spend money accommodating the needs of people with disabilities is expensive -- but a quarter of a century ago, Democrats and Republicans agreed that it was a burden worth imposing on the private sector.
In contemporary politics, for purely ideological reasons, GOP lawmakers tend to think any government-imposed burden on business is offensive, if not literally unconstitutional. It's the difference between a center-right party in 1990 and a radicalized party in 2015.
Indeed, the evidence is hard to deny. Consider what happened in 2012.
This photo taken March 22, 2013, shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington.

House Republicans pretend IRS 'scandal' still exists

07/28/15 08:45AM

It's been about two years since Republicans and much of the Beltway media thought it had finally uncovered a real White House "scandal." According to the narrative, the Obama administration used the Internal Revenue Service to "target" conservatives, which represented an outrageous abuse of power.
For about a week, it looked like a serious, proper controversy, worthy of outrage. Soon after, however, the whole thing collapsed -- the tax agency scrutinized liberal, conservative, and non-ideological groups, effectively ending the story. Every allegation, including conspiracy theories about White House involvement, evaporated into nothing. For two years, GOP lawmakers looked for evidence of wrongdoing, and for two years they found no proof to bolster their apoplexy.
It came as a bit of a surprise, then, to see 21 House Republicans hold a press conference late yesterday, trying anew to breathe life into a discredited story. The Washington Post reported:
Twenty-one House Republicans on Monday called for the firing of IRS Commissioner John A. Koskinen after they said he failed to cooperate with their inquiry into the targeting of conservative groups by tax investigators.
Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee made those charges in a 29-page letter to President Obama that follows two years of wrangling with IRS officials over documents and testimony related to the targeting allegations.
At the press conference, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), burdened by a few real and unfortunate scandals of his own, actually argued that the IRS controversy "surpasses Watergate." He didn't appear to be kidding.
Just so we're clear, these House Republicans still haven't uncovered any evidence of official wrongdoing, and they didn't accuse Koskinen of having any role in "targeting" anyone. Rather, the GOP lawmakers are convinced Koskinen hasn't done enough to help them find evidence to substantiate allegations that fell apart two years ago.
Or put another way, they want to fire the IRS guy who replaced the other IRS guy who was fired over a "scandal" that never really existed in the first place.
There is, of course, no reason to believe Koskinen's job is in jeopardy, which is probably why House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) raised the prospect of holding the IRS commissioner in contempt of Congress, because, well, why not? It's been months since House Republicans held an Obama administration official in contempt of Congress, they're arguably overdue.

State faces showdown over church, state

07/28/15 08:00AM

It's been about a month since the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a state-sponsored Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds violates the state Constitution. As regular readers know, it wasn't a close call -- the justices ruled 7-2 that the six-foot-high, stone Christian display is at odds with the law that requires state government to be neutral on matters of religion.
The state Attorney General's office responded by filing an appeal ... to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. If that sounds odd, there's a good reason -- Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt effectively told the justices, "I know you just ruled on this, but I want you to take another look at it."
As the Oklahoman reported late yesterday, this didn't turn out well for state officials.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has rejected a last ditch attempt by the state to keep a Ten Commandments monument next to the Oklahoma Capitol.
Monday, the court turned down a request from the state to reconsider its June 30 ruling calling for removal of the 6-foot granite statue. This sets the stage for it to be taken down within a few weeks, said Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, which filed the lawsuit.
So far, so good. Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution says public funds or property can't be used to benefit or support any "sect, church, denomination, or system of religion," either directly or indirectly. There's no real wiggle room here. Republican lawmakers have threatened to impeach the justices upholding the state Constitution, but the state Supreme Court saw no reason to back down.
The tricky part is what happens next, because it's not altogether clear officials are prepared to follow the law.
Sanders, Trump defy conventional wisdom

Sanders, Trump campaigns defy conventional wisdom

07/27/15 11:03PM

Rachel Maddow note that the Beltway conventional wisdom about the campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have both turned out to be wrong, with neither turning out to be a flash in the pan, and Trump apparently bound by no rules of gaffe. watch

Busted ship delays Shell's Arctic drilling

Busted ship delays Shell's Arctic drilling

07/27/15 09:59PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the icebreaker support ship that is part of Shell Oil's Arctic drilling operation having to return to Oregon for hull repairs, and the activists who hope to help delay the mission as long as possible. watch

War on ISIS ramps up with apocalyptic subtext

Escalating war on ISIS carries apocalyptic subtext

07/27/15 09:39PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the symbolic meaning of the patch of land that the U.S. and NATO allies plan to make into an ISIS-free zone, as NATO holds an extremely rare emergency security meeting. No word from Congress on authorizing this latest escalation. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 7.27.15

07/27/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* The mission against ISIS gets a boost: "Turkey and the United States have agreed in general terms on a plan that envisions American warplanes, Syrian insurgents and Turkish forces working together to sweep Islamic State militants from a 60-mile-long strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border, American and Turkish officials say."
* Complicating matters: "Turkish jets struck camps belonging to Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, authorities said Saturday, the first strike since a 2013 peace deal as Ankara also bombed ISIS positions in Syria."
* An important message: "The US president, Barack Obama, has launched an unprecedented defense of gay rights in Africa, telling Kenya's president that the state has no right to punish people because of 'who they love.'"
* Trouble ahead: "Congress will fall off a fiscal cliff in four days if it fails to come to a consensus on how to fund the nation's transportation infrastructure.  House Republicans are urging the Senate to take up legislation they passed three weeks ago that would extend the Highway Trust Fund for five months, while the upper chamber continues to push forward with a three-year funding fix."
* Louisiana: "The gunman who opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater should not have been allowed to legally buy the gun he used to kill two people and injure nine because of his mental history, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Sunday."
* Alaska: "The staggering 2015 Alaska wildfire season may soon be the state's worst ever, with almost 5 million acres already burned -- an area larger than Connecticut. The pace of the burn has moderated in the last week, but scientists say the fires are just the latest indicator of a climatic transformation that is remaking this state -- its forests, its coasts, its glaciers, and perhaps most of all, the frozen ground beneath -- more than any other in America."
* Boston: "Boston's bid to host the 2024 Olympics is over. The city and the U.S. Olympic Committee severed ties after a board teleconference Monday, USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky told The Associated Press."
* Senate drama, Part I: "The Senate opened Sunday with a reading by the Senate President Pro Tem Orrin G. Hatch of the Senate's rules of decorum, in an apparent rebuke of Sen. Ted Cruz calling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on Friday. And things got more personal from there."
Republican presidential candidate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a campaign stop at the South Carolina Military Museum, Monday, June 8, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)

Felony counts against Rick Perry drop from two to one

07/27/15 04:17PM

It wasn't too long ago that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was indicted on two felony counts, but he couldn't quite remember what the charges against him included. In one instance, the Republican said he'd been charged with "bribery," which wasn't one of the pending accusations.
But before Perry could get straight what he's been charged with, his lawyers have apparently succeeded in knocking down one of the counts. The Texas Tribune reported:
A state appeals court on Friday threw out one of two counts in the indictment against former Gov. Rick Perry, handing his lawyers their first major breakthrough in the nearly yearlong case.
The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin specifically found a problem with a count alleging that Perry coerced a public servant when he threatened to veto state funding for a unit of the Travis County district attorney's office. The court left intact the indictment's other count, which accuses Perry of abusing his power.
The funny part of this was Perry's lawyer, Tony Buzbee, telling reporters on Friday, "The remaining count, we believe to be a class C misdemeanor." He added that the remaining charge is similar to a "traffic violation."
I can appreciate why the GOP presidential candidate's legal team may be eager to downplay the allegations, but while Perry's lawyers "believe" the charge to be a misdemeanor, it is not, in reality, a misdemeanor -- as Rachel noted on the show on Friday, "What's pending against him is a felony charge that carries a potential sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison."


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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