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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviews Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Oct. 23, 2015. (Photo by Ilya Savenok/MSNBC)

Hillary Clinton: 'I want to build on' Obama-era progress

10/23/15 06:19PM

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton sat down with Rachel Maddow today for her first interview since yesterday's 11-hour hearing with the House Republicans' Benghazi Committee. Rachel asked the question on the minds of many: "What does a person do after 11 hours of testimony? You're the only human being I know of on Earth who has done 11 straight hours. What did you do after?"
Clinton laughed and responded, "Well, I had my whole team come over to my house and we sat around eating Indian food and drinking wine and beer. That's what we did. It was great."
Asked if she's jealous of Vice President Biden, whose decision to skip the 2016 race means he won't have to endure the difficulties of a national campaign, Clinton joked, "That's a good question!" Speaking more generally about the Obama/Biden era, the former Secretary of State said something that struck me as important:
"I want to build on the progress that they are leaving behind. I feel very strongly about that. I want to go further, but I think the real point of this election is whether or not the Republicans are going to be able to turn the clock back and rip away the progress that has been made. So I want to support what the president and the vice president have accomplished."
This dovetails in striking ways with the comments Clinton made during last week's debate. Confronted with concerns about representing "Obama's third term," the leading 2016 Democrat didn't shrink from the last seven years, and Clinton still isn't. Biden said this week, "Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record," and there's every reason to believe Hillary Clinton intends to do exactly that.

Friday's Mini-Report, 10.23.15

10/23/15 04:33PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Terrifying: "Hurricane Patricia became the strongest storm ever measured on the planet early Friday, with experts warning it could trigger 40-foot waves along southwestern Mexico and 'life-threatening' flash flooding."
* Iraq: "Friday morning, the Pentagon released the name of the first American serviceman to die in battle in the latest round of U.S. military involvement in Iraq: Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, age 39, killed during a raid by Kurdish and American commandos on an Islamic State prison near the town of Hawija that reportedly freed 70 hostages who were soon to be summarily executed."
* Another school shooting: "One person was fatally shot and two others were wounded in a dispute over a dice game on the campus of Tennessee State University in Nashville late Thursday, police said."
* The resignation won't negate the criminal charges: "New Mexico's embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who in late August was indicted on dozens of criminal charges, has resigned, an email attributed to a top staffer in her office says."
* ISIS: "FBI Director James Comey said Friday that federal authorities have an estimated 900 active investigations pending against suspected Islamic State-inspired operatives across the country."
* Bad news for Chris Christie, Part I: "The New Jersey Senate voted on Thursday to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a gun control bill, the first time state lawmakers had mustered enough votes in more than 50 attempts at undoing one of his vetoes."
* Bad news for Chris Christie, Part II: "The health care worker who sharply criticized being quarantined at a New Jersey hospital last year because she had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa said in a lawsuit filed Thursday that Gov. Chris Christie and the state health department illegally held her against her will."
Mitt Romney

Romney wants credit for Obamacare

10/23/15 03:30PM

Given the Affordable Care Act's striking successes, it's not surprising that its champions would look for some credit for bringing health security to millions of families. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and plenty of other Democrats have reason to be proud of one of this generation's greatest policy breakthroughs.
It is a little jarring, though, seeing a Republican look for credit, too. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin reported this afternoon:
In a surprising move, Mitt Romney seemingly took credit on Friday for inspiring the Affordable Care Act -- after famously running as the 2012 Republican nominee on a platform of repealing the law.
Romney championed and signed a comprehensive health care law in Massachusetts when he was governor. Known as “Romneycare,” it had strong similarities with Obamacare, including a mandate to purchase insurance, but he had long resisted comparisons between the two. In a Boston Globe obituary of Staples founder and longtime Romney backer Thomas Stemberg, however, the former Republican nominee finally embraced the connection.
“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney told the Boston Globe. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”
And as a factual matter, there's certainly some truth to that. Romney approved a state-based law that served as an effective blueprint for President Obama's federal model. The two-time failed Republican presidential candidate has a point when he says "Romneycare" helped pave the way for "Obamacare."
But that doesn't make his new boast any less jarring. Romney wants credit for one of the president's signature accomplishments -- which Romney was committed to tearing down just a few years ago?
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson bows his head in prayer before speaking at a town hall meeting, Oct. 2, 2015, in Ankeny, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Carson thrives because of, not in spite of, bizarre rhetoric

10/23/15 02:19PM

For much of the summer, Donald Trump dominated Republican presidential polls everywhere, and Iowa was no different. The New York developer may not seem like a natural fit for Hawkeye State conservatives, but statewide surveys consistently showed Trump leading the GOP field.
This week, however, he's been replaced. A Quinnipiac poll in Iowa, released yesterday, showed retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson leading Trump, 28% to 20%, a big swing from early September, when Quinnipiac showed Trump ahead in Iowa by six points.
Today, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll offers very similar results, with Carson leading Trump in the Hawkeye State, 28% to 19%. In August, the same poll showed Trump up by five.
But this line in the DMR's report on the poll results stood out for me:
Even Carson’s most controversial comments -- about Muslims, Hitler and slavery -- are attractive to likely Republican caucusgoers.
This isn't a conclusion drawn through inference; the poll actually asked Iowa Republicans for their thoughts on some of Carson's ... shall we say ... eccentricities.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign town hall meeting in Keene, NH., Oct. 16, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

'The best 10-day stretch Clinton could have asked for'

10/23/15 12:57PM

Every presidential campaign is going to have ups and downs, and peaks and valleys, usually for reasons that the candidate and his/her team can't control. About a month ago, for example, Hillary Clinton's fortunes appeared to be taking a turn for the worse.
Her poll support was dwindling; there was increased chatter surrounding Vice President Biden; Bernie Sanders was being cheered by massive crowds; and the political world, for reasons that have never been entirely clear to me, was fascinated with Clinton's email server management.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver explained that Clinton was “stuck in a poll-deflating feedback loop,” in which the national press hammered her for some perceived weakness, which caused her to lose public support, which produced weaker poll numbers, which caused the national press to hammer her again, starting the cycle anew.
But that was last month. This month, offers a very different take on Clinton's candidacy. NBC News' First Read had a good piece this morning:
She came. She saw. She -- take your pick -- conquered/thrived/survived. As a matter of pure political theater, yesterday's Benghazi committee hearing was a victory for Hillary Clinton and an overwhelming defeat for House Republicans. And perhaps more importantly, it caps off the best 10-day stretch Clinton could have asked for. [...]
At the beginning of this month, we told you how important October was going to be for Clinton's presidential bid after her summer struggles: If she doesn't end up as the nominee, we'll be able to trace it back to the events in October. Conversely, if she DOES end up the nominee, it will be because of what happened in October. And so -- with the reminder that anything can happen in politics -- we think we have our answer to our October question.
Consider this list of recent developments:

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.23.15

10/23/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* A month ago, Quinnipiac showed Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton in Iowa by one point, 41% to 40%. Today, Quinnipiac has Clinton leading Sanders by 11 points, 51% to 40%.
* Speaking of Iowa, the new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll shows Ben Carson with a nine-point lead over Donald Trump among Hawkeye State Republicans, 28% to 19%. It's the second poll in as many days that shows Carson leading the field in Iowa.
* Team Jeb appears to have some financial concerns: "Jeb Bush ... is implementing an across-the-board pay cut for his struggling campaign, removing some senior staff from the payroll, and canceling some fundraisers."
* A super PAC supporting Trump is shutting down "after questions arose about whether the strategist who is running it had direct ties to the campaign."
* Speaking of Trump, the GOP frontrunner retweeted something rude about Iowa on his Twitter feed yesterday. The New York developer quickly blamed an intern.
* Despite the rhetoric about the Republicans' Benghazi Committee being non-political, Marco Rubio used yesterday's hearing to try to recruit supporters for his presidential campaign.
* The latest statewide poll in Louisiana's gubernatorial race shows John Bel Edwards (D) ahead with 41%, while three Republicans split the GOP vote.
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (L) and ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) argue while Hillary Clinton testifies October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Let the Benghazi Boycott begin?

10/23/15 11:20AM

When Republicans created the Benghazi Committee, and shaped it to be as brazenly partisan and political as possible, there was considerable talk in Democratic circles about simply refusing to participate in the charade. House Dems eventually decided it would be worthwhile to have some role in the process, so the boycott chatter was waved off.
More recently, when Republicans began to admit that the entire exercise is a taxpayer-funded election scheme, the discussion began anew, but again, Democrats decided to stick around for a while longer.
But after yesterday's 11-hour spectacle, do Dems on the committee intend to remain on the panel indefinitely? Rachel asked Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) about this last night. The California Democrat, who also happens to be the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, conceded he was glad to have been on the dais for Hillary Clinton's testimony, but he added that the future is murky.
MADDOW: Now that this has happened, Chairman Gowdy was asked by reporters as he was leaving the committee room if he could identify a single new piece of information that he learned from today`s hearing. He could not name one. Now that that has happened and this is behind you and you saw how it went, what about that question of whether or not Democrats should continue to participate? Is this still an open question for you guys?
SCHIFF: Well, I think it is an open question. And part of the reason why it`s still open is the Republicans haven`t given us any idea what happens tomorrow. In other words, everything`s been building up to today.  They don`t -- they haven`t told us. My guess is they don`t even know themselves where they want to go from here.
I'd guess the same thing. In fact, it's why I find it hard to imagine how anyone, anywhere, will be able to justify the committee's continued existence with a straight face.

House Republican backs investigation into Tea Party PACs

10/23/15 10:44AM

In recent years, prominent Republican figures like Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich have used their name, mailing lists, and credibility with Republican donors to create lucrative and ethically dubious operations. In many instances, they've sent out highly "questionable," spam-like messages that appear to be scams.
But these kinds of efforts aren't limited to former candidates. The New York Times reports today on equally alarming phenomenon involving far-right outfits.
The petitions that started surfacing online over a year ago were as incendiary as they were urgent, begging recipients to sign up to “Boot Boehner,” “Dump McConnell,” “Drop a Truth-Bomb on Kevin McCarthy” and “Fire Paul Ryan.”
The calls to oust Republican leaders in Congress did not come from Democrats. They came from conservative websites and bloggers who have helped stoke a grass-roots rebellion to make Congress more conservative, a fevered continuation of the six-year Tea Party movement.
But these politically charged appeals to conservatives around the country were often accompanied by a solicitation for money, and the ultimate beneficiaries, records suggest, are the consultants who created the campaigns rather than the causes they are promoting.
The article highlighted a variety of entities -- the Tea Party Leadership Fund, the Madison Project, the Tea Party Patriots, et al -- that have "turned the attack on the Republican leadership into a fund-raising tool."

And while it's hardly unusual for political action committees and similar groups looking for donors to advance a cause, the Times reported that "many of these petition drives have a history of spending most of the money they raise on consulting firms, as opposed to using it to support political candidates, a stark contrast to how most PACs function."

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, went so far as to say, “There needs to be an investigation into these groups. Where does the money go?”
Democratic presidential candidate, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, Aug. 14, 2015, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (Photo Charlie Riedel/AP)

Chafee withdraws, Democratic field shrinks

10/23/15 10:03AM

There was a moment in last week's debate for Democratic presidential candidates in which Lincoln Chafee was asked about his 1999 vote on Wall Street reforms, in which he voted for the very policies he now opposes. "The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote," he replied. "I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office, it was my very first vote."
Anderson Cooper wasn't altogether impressed: "Are you saying you didn’t know what you were voting for? ... What does that say about you that you’re casting a vote for something you weren’t really sure about?"
Chafee replied, "I think you’re being a little rough."
It was a rather brutal exchange, which would have had a greater impact were it not for the fact that Chafee wasn't a competitive candidate. Indeed, as of this morning, he's no longer a candidate at all.
Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee pulled out of the 2016 presidential race after failing to gain any traction in the Democratic primary field.
Chafee announced his plans at a Democratic women’s event in Washington Friday morning. “As you know I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace. But after much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today,” he said.
At last week's debate, there were five candidates on the stage. As of this morning, only three of them are still in the race, following former Sen. Jim Webb's withdrawal earlier this week.
President Barack Obama speaks before vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

A rare sight: President Obama uses his veto pen

10/23/15 09:22AM

Congress' ability to legislate effectively has meant far fewer bill-signing ceremonies for President Obama, but it's also led to very few presidential vetoes -- Obama can't reject bills if lawmakers don't send bills to his desk for consideration.
In fact, as of today, Obama has used his veto pen just five times in his entire presidency (and the first two hardly count since they were technical in nature). When was the last time a president vetoed so few measures? Warren Harding served just two years in the White House in the early 1920s -- and he vetoed six bills.
When was the last time a two-term president vetoed so few bills? We have to go all the way back to James Monroe, who left office in 1825 -- nearly two centuries ago -- having only used his veto pen once.
With this in mind, when Obama dusts off the veto box in his desk, it's worth taking a closer look.
President Barack Obama has vetoed a sweeping $612 billion defense policy bill in a rebuke to congressional Republicans.
Obama says the bill does a number of good things, but falls woefully short in other areas. He says it “resorts to gimmicks.”
Congressional Republicans, nearly all of whom have voted against previous versions of the military spending package -- called the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA -- quickly reached for the fainting couch, expressing faux-outrage that the rascally, war-time president would have the audacity to reject their bill for the troops.
The problem, of course, is that reality tells us that Obama is entirely correct.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives for a House Republican caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Paul Ryan hedges on conditions, agrees to run for Speaker

10/23/15 08:40AM

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said, firmly and repeatedly, that he did not want to be Speaker of the House. Offered multiple opportunity, the Wisconsin congressman demurred -- he simply did not want the job.
That is, until yesterday, when the Republican succumbed to intra-party pressure and officially changed his mind.
Rep. Paul Ryan announced Thursday that he will seek to replace Rep. John Boehner as speaker of the House.
The 2012 Republican nominee for vice president reversed his previous position that he wasn’t interested in the job after intense public pressure from the Republican caucus, which deemed him the lone consensus candidate for the role. After repeatedly saying he didn’t want the the job, which is third in line to the presidency, the Wisconsin lawmaker appeared to hedge this week, presenting a series of conditions under which he would run with an emphasis on party unity.
By all appearances, Ryan is a very safe bet to succeed John Boehner, locking up support on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon from each of the House GOP's major factions. Barring any unexpected developments, the Wisconsinite will overcome token opposition and officially take the gavel next week.
It's the "series of conditions," however, that are worth pausing to appreciate, because what Paul Ryan said earlier this week isn't quite the same as what he's saying now.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gets up from the table during a break in her testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, on Capitol Hill in Washington Oct. 22, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The left and right can agree: Benghazi Comm. Republicans blew it

10/23/15 08:00AM

So much of American politics is a Rorschach test. Different people can look at the same event -- a speech, a debate, even a policy outcome -- and come away with entirely different perspectives, shaped almost entirely by ideological leanings. Politics, like art, is often in the eye of the beholder.
And with this in mind, as yesterday's 11-hour Benghazi Committee hearing with Hillary Clinton unfolded, it was hard not to wonder: were conservatives pleased with this ridiculous spectacle? Center-left observers were practically unanimous in their condemnations of the cringe-worthy witch hunt, but was the right impressed? Were there Republicans watching this nonsense unfold, delighted by their side's "victory" over the Democratic witness they love to hate?
Actually, no. In this case, there was no Rorschach test. Nearly everyone who saw this ignominious display -- left, right, and center -- agreed that congressional Republicans had an opportunity to advance their cause, but they blew it. Bloomberg Politics reported:
To hear Republicans tell it, a series of unfortunate events culminated in a rough day Thursday for the House Benghazi committee, leaving conservatives to wonder if they've lost their most potent political weapon against Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. [...]
Among House Republicans, there were no high-fives: A half-dozen lawmakers surveyed offered a muted response when asked about the hearing on Thursday afternoon. Many conservative commentators were unimpressed, if not angry with the proceedings.
At one point, during Rep. Mike Pompeo's (R-Kan.) attempt to badger Clinton, John Podhoretz, a prominent conservative writer and former Republican speechwriter, said on Twitter, "Why doesn't Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now -- if he goes on like this he'll practically get her elected."
It was that kind of day for Republicans.

Carson tops Trump in Iowa again and other headlines

10/23/15 07:58AM

Carson tops Trump in a second Iowa poll. (Des Moines Register)

Ben Carson begins first t.v. ads in key states. (NBC News)

Clinton regains lead in Iowa poll. (Bloomberg Politics)

Lincoln Chafee to address the future of his campaign today. (New York Times)

Documents: Arizona tried to illegally import execution drug. (AP)

NJ lawmakers override a Chris Christie veto for the first time--on a gun bill. (NJ.com)

Probe faults EPA for mine spill. (AP)

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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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