CNBC's John Harwood sat down yesterday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the two covered quite a bit of ground. Indeed, the Republican leader arguably made some news by noting that his work in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is largely about helping President Obama's successor -- whom McConnell obviously hopes is a Republican.
HARWOOD: President Obama's gotten some grief for not being more sociable with members of Congress. Had he had a bourbon with you once or 10 times, would that make any difference to how you guys actually relate?
MCCONNELL: No. I think it's all good stuff for you all to write. But it has no effect on policy. The reason we haven't done more things together is 'cause we don't agree on much. It's nice to have social occasions, but we don't all hate each other anyway. It wouldn't make any difference. Look, it's a business.
This is clearly not what many political observers want to hear. A few years ago, David Brooks argued that President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would better understand each other's agenda if only the president invited the far-right congressman over for lunch. Schmoozing, Brooks argued, would work wonders.
Soon after, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) advised, "The president's got to start inviting people over for dinner. He's got to play golf with them. He has to pick up the phone and call and say, 'I know we disagree on this, but I just want to say -- I heard it was your wife's birthday or your kid just got into college.' He has to go build friendships."
A wide variety of Beltway media types have also argued repeatedly that Obama's reluctance to schmooze is an impediment to policymaking progress.
But McConnell's comments to John Harwood, satisfying or not, are 100% accurate. Outsiders might like the idea of bipartisan deals being struck by rival policymakers once they get to know each other, but "the reason we haven't done more things together is 'cause we don't agree on much. It's nice to have social occasions, but ... it wouldn't make any difference."
I don't think I've ever agreed with Mitch McConnell more.
A large group of Republican presidential candidates gathered in South Carolina over the weekend for the "Freedom Summit" event, and a CNN correspondent asked much of the field an interesting question: Who do you think is the greatest living president?
"Obviously the greatest president of my lifetime is Ronald Reagan," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
"I'll leave that to the people to decide," said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, which is his guaranteed go-to line for questions he doesn't want to answer. "Certainly the greatest president of recent generations was Ronald Reagan."
"I was a big fan, a very big fan of Ronald Reagan," real estate mogul Donald Trump said.
The problem, of course, is the degree to which the answer doesn't match the question. Reagan can't be the greatest living president because, as a factual matter, Reagan died in June 2004.
No, Republicans, "alive in our hearts" is not an acceptable answer.
There's arguably a small flaw in the question itself: we're dealing with a very small universe of options. There are, after all, only five living presidents.
A few years ago, a Republican senator adopted a foreign policy posture completely at odds with the vision pushed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The senator expressed support for negotiations with Iran, was reluctant to launch military offensives, and endorsed the Obama administration's position on a variety of international issues. As recently as February 2013, this lawmaker's foreign policy included "moderate policies that don't differ too much from those of President Obama."
The problem, of course, is that this was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), before he made the rather radical transition to the hawkish Republican presidential hopeful, who'll give a big speech on foreign policy today at the Council on Foreign Relations. Sahil Kapur had a great report on this for Bloomberg Politics.
In May 2012, Senator Marco Rubio gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York outlining a humble foreign policy. "I don't want to come across as some sort of saber-rattling person," he said, "because I'm not."
Three years later, the Florida Republican will return Wednesday to the venue for the first major foreign policy speech of his presidential campaign, where he is expected to complete a dramatic shift from moderate to ultra-hawk.
The evolution began early in 2014 as Rubio was working to repair his standing with the Republican base for supporting immigration reform. Within a year and a half, he was publicly taunting America's enemies.
The key takeaway from the story isn't the obvious inconsistencies in Rubio's fairly brief record. Highlighting flip-flops is fine, as far as it goes, but far more interesting is the shift in Republican politics that led the young senator to change direction in the first place.
Much of the nation is awaiting word from the Supreme Court on marriage equality, though as msnbc's Emma Margolin reported this week, some are biding their time in unconstructive ways.
In a little over a month, the nation's highest court is expected to answer two burning questions – whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to license same-sex marriages, and whether it requires states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other places. But in Texas, lawmakers are working on their own answers to each: No and no, thank you very much.
In theory, the legal dynamic seems fairly simple: if the Supreme Court's majority rules that states must extend equal-marriage rights to all adults, the dispute is effectively over. Some Republicans will no doubt suggest changing the U.S. Constitution, but marriage equality, depending on the ruling's scope, may be national policy with next month's ruling.
In practice, however, Texas is planning ahead, working on a proposal to circumvent a possible Supreme Court ruling conservatives won't like.
A bill pending in the Republican-run Texas House would prohibit local officials from providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In other words, the Supreme Court might very well tell the nation that marriage equality is the law of the land, but at the same time, Texas would tell its clerks, "Not here it isn't."
If your response to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) bridge scandal is, "Christie's been far too apologetic," I have good news: the governor couldn't agree more.
The governor declared late last that he simplydoesn't want to talk about his scandals anymore. "I'm not proud or happy of what happened," he said, "but I'm going to stop apologizing for it."
Instead, the Garden State Republican is eager to give the political world something new to talk about, unveiling a new economic plan yesterday. The New York Timesreported:
[Christie proposed simplifying] the tax code from six brackets to three, reducing income tax rates, and eliminating the payroll tax for anyone over age 62 or those entering the workforce under age 21. The current top income tax rate would drop to 28 percent from 39 percent under his plan, while the corporate rate would decline to 25 percent from 35 percent.
Those at the lowest end of the wage spectrum would see their rates drop to the single digits from 10 percent, though because of tax credits and deductions they often don't face tax levies anyway.
The governor sketched out his economic vision in a Wall Street Journalop-ed and in a speech yesterday in New Hampshire, where he called President Obama the "worst economic president since Jimmy Carter."
Perhaps the real Christie scandal is the poor guy's inability to remember the George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush presidencies.
Regardless, if the governor believes he can get his national campaign back on track with this economic plan, he may need to brush up on the basics.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was asked yesterday about how he would have approached the invasion of Iraq, given the benefit of hindsight. "Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn't go into Iraq," the Republican senator said. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) offered a similar assessment, telling CNN, "If we knew then what we know now and I was the President of the United States, I wouldn't go to war."
And yet, somehow, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is managing to screw this up so badly, it's shaking confidence in his candidacy. Benjy Sarlin reported for msnbc:
Should the U.S. have invaded Iraq in 2003? It's a natural question for Jeb Bush, whose brother launched the unpopular war and who is now considering running for president while consulting with many of the same advisers. But after 24 hours, two interviews, and one misheard question, Bush's answer is still unclear.
Before we get into the particulars, let's pause to appreciate the broader context. Jeb Bush has had literally years to come up with a coherent position on this issue. His brother launched one of the most disastrous wars in American history; we're still struggling with the consequences; and Republicans are eager to turn the 2016 race into a debate on foreign policy.
The former governor and his massive campaign operation, filled with experienced professionals, must have known some pretty straightforward questions about Iraq were on the way. They've had all kinds of time to craft some talking points and even subject the answers to focus groups to see how Americans might respond.
But despite all of this, Jeb Bush, who hasn't been a candidate for any public office since 2002, still seems woefully unprepared for obvious questions about the biggest foreign policy crisis in a generation. It's as if he saw a sign that said, "Quicksand Ahead," ignored it, and is surprised to find himself sinking.
Rachel Maddow reports on the close proximity of U.S. nuclear missile facilities in North Dakota to rail lines for transporting highly volatile crude oil, and shows U.S. military documents expressing concern about the risk to specific sites. watch
Former Congressman Patrick Murphy, a passenger on Amtrak 188 that experienced a deadly derailment in Philadelphia, describes to Rachel Maddow what the crash felt like and how he and other passengers evacuated from the train after the crash. watch
Rachel Maddow reports breaking news of a northbound Amtrak passenger train en route from Washington, D,.C. to New York, that derailed near Philadelphia. Passenger Janelle Richards, producer for NBC Nightly News, calls in to describe the scene. watch
Leslie Clark, White House correspondent for McClatchy newspapers, talks with Rachel Maddow about the effort to locate and bring home journalist Austin Tice, who has been held captive for 1000 days since being abducted in Syria. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the announcement today by Ismael Ozanne, the Dane County, Wisconsin district attorney, that no charges will be brought against Madison police officer Matthew Kenny in the fatal shooting of unarmed Anthony Robinson, Jr. watch
* The latest from Nepal: "A 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on Tuesday, killing dozens of people and triggering renewed panic on the devastated streets of Kathmandu. The temblor came less than three weeks after 8,000 people died when a 7.8-magnitude quake rocked the Himalayan country on April 25."
* Milwaukee: "Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Tuesday that Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny won't face any criminal charges for killing an unarmed biracial man.... Ozanne's announcement came just over two months after Kenny, who is white, shot 19-year-old [Tony Robinson Jr.] at an apartment house in early March."
* Middle East: "The U.S. military is monitoring another Iranian ship headed towards Yemen. Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren said that the Iran-flagged Iran Shahed is believed to be headed to Yemen. Iranian state media is reporting that the ship is carrying humanitarian cargo, heading to the Yemeni port of Hodaida, and that Iranian warships will escort the ship there."
* Yemen: "Airstrikes targeted Yemen's capital Tuesday just hours ahead of a planned humanitarian cease-fire between a Saudi-led military alliance and Iran-backed rebels who have withstood weeks of relentless attacks."
* Poverty: "President Obama on Tuesday called for liberals and conservatives to break through their decades-long disagreements about how to confront abject poverty in America, but he expressed skepticism that it would happen.... [I]n an hourlong conversation with a liberal professor and a conservative economist, Mr. Obama lamented what he said was a refusal by his Republican adversaries in Washington to put their concern into practice."
* Ohio: "It's been six months since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot down by Cleveland police. And neither his body nor the investigation into his death has been laid to rest. On Tuesday morning, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney stood at a lectern for all of about five minutes and asked the public -- and Rice's family -- for more time to investigate the fatal shooting."
* I assume the right will accuse the White House of manipulating the data: "A flood of tax payments pushed government receipts to an all-time high in April and left the country with the largest monthly budget surplus in seven years. In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Tuesday that the April surplus totaled $156.7 billion, up from a surplus of $106.9 billion a year earlier. It was the largest surplus since April 2008."
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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