For quite a while, an alarmingly large number of congressional Republicans spoke openly about impeaching President Obama. The president's GOP detractors were always a little fuzzy on why Obama needed to be impeached, but far-right lawmakers, egged on by their base and conservative media, nevertheless seemed fond of the idea.
The chatter has since died down -- GOP leaders muzzled members in advance of the 2014 elections, fearful of energizing the Democratic base -- but for some congressional Republicans, if they can't impeach the president, gosh darn it, they're going to try impeaching someone.
About a year ago, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) toyed with the idea of launching an impeachment crusade against then-Attorney General Eric Holder. Around the same time, Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) raised the prospect of impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
It's now apparently Gina McCarthy's turn. The Huffington Post reported yesterday:
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) is looking to remove Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy from office, circulating a resolution calling for McCarthy's impeachment.
In a letter sent to his congressional colleagues Wednesday, Gosar accused McCarthy of perjury, claiming the EPA chief lied to members of Congress during several appearances before House and Senate panels earlier this year.
The far-right congressman's office posted a copy of the resolution online here (pdf).
In a competitive, 17-candidate presidential field, it's genuinely difficult for any contender to reach 30% -- the scale of the competition tends to spread support out more broadly. And yet, here we are.
Donald Trump has become the first Republican presidential candidate to top 30% support in the race for the Republican nomination, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, which finds the businessman pulling well away from the rest of the GOP field.
A variety of political observers -- including, in all candor, me -- keep making assumptions about Trump's polling ceiling, and soon after, the New York developer finds new ways to break through that ceiling and reach new heights.
The new, national CNN poll puts the race for the GOP nomination this way:
1. Donald Trump: 32% (up eight points since mid-August)
2. Ben Carson: 19% (up 10 points)
3. Jeb Bush: 9% (down four points)
4. Ted Cruz: 7% (up two points)
5. Mike Huckabee: 5% (up one point)
5. Scott Walker: 5% (down three points)
From there, every other Republican is below 5%, with Marco Rubio dropping from 8% to 3%, and John Kasich falling from 5% to 2%.
Note, Trump and Carson are not only the sole candidates whose support reached double digits in this poll, their combined support is now 51% -- despite the fact that neither of these GOP candidates has ever served a day in public office.
Also note, as recently as June, Jeb Bush's national support in this poll was 17%. In the months since, his backing has been cut nearly in half.
And while these top-line results are striking, the question that really stood out for me was this:
When the recent controversy involving Planned Parenthood and fetal-tissue donations first erupted, congressional Republicans acted with lightning speed to announce hearings on Capitol Hill. This was a national controversy, GOP lawmakers said, and Congress would demand answers.
And at that point, we had a pretty good idea about how the hearings would unfold. The original plan was to explore the scope of Planned Parenthood's work to ensure that the health care organization was, and is, complying with the law. Most expected a contentious hearing in which Planned Parenthood executives would be called to the Hill; conservative lawmakers would chastise them for a few hours; and there'd be a few criminal allegations with no foundation in reality.
That spectacle, of course, would have done very little to advance the debate, but what actually happened was nevertheless far more ridiculous. MSNBC's Irin Carmon reported on the House's first full day since its lengthy summer break.
The title of the proceedings was “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.”
No one was there from either Planned Parenthood, which was not invited....
That's not a typo. The House held a hearing about Planned Parenthood, but deliberately chose not to have anyone from Planned Parenthood testify. The title of the hearing made clear that the Republican majority on the panel had already made up its mind, so GOP committee members instead invited witnesses to tell Republicans how right they are.
I sincerely expected a four-hour shout-fest, in which the committee hauled Planned Parenthood before the committee and parading them in front of the cameras, complete with dramatic photos of the group's officials being sworn in before testifying. But GOP members skipped all of this, preferring instead to, as Carmon reported, hold several hours' worth of discussion about "what constitutes infanticide, the morality of various abortion procedures, how the line of a viable pregnancy is drawn and by whom, and so on." read more
TV preacher Pat Robertson said on his program yesterday that Kentucky clerk Kim Davis "is not exactly that champion we’d all want to stand up for our beliefs." Ouch.
And yet, we nevertheless have Republican presidential candidates who are fighting, to a surprisingly real degree, for the anti-gay clerk's affections. As Rachel noted on Tuesday's show, Mike Huckabee and his campaign operation went to great lengths to exploit the Davis controversy to advance their ambitions, including hosting a rally outside the Kentucky jail that housed Davis when she defied a court order.
When Ted Cruz showed up and tried to join Huckabee, Davis, her husband, and her lawyer on the stage, a Huckabee staffer literally, physically blocked the Texas senator from participating.
BuzzFeed noted yesterday that the former Arkansas governor acknowledged that Cruz was "Huckablocked."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee admitted Wednesday that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was blocked at his event from appearing on stage at a rally for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis when she was released from jail.
“Well, this was our event,” the former Arkansas governor told NewsMaxTV’s Steve Malzberg Show. “My team put it together. We’re the ones who recruited the people not only to be on the program, but we’re the ones who coordinated the effort. We’re the ones who secured the permits, the staging. We had no idea Ted Cruz was going to show up until the day before and he didn’t call us, he called several other people on the program and asked about it.”
Huckabee added, "The program, of course, was already settled. And I was happy that [Cruz] was able to come and show his support for her, even if it was at the last minute."
That last phrase there, "even if it was at the last minute," really stands out, doesn't it?
On last night's show, Rachel was able to move the ball forward a bit more.
On Capitol Hill yesterday, a bizarre spectacle unfolded, as right-wing activists and speakers gathered to condemn the international nuclear agreement with Iran. Attendees were treated to a parade of strange, angry voices -- Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, and Glenn Beck, among many others -- each of whom expressed their ill-informed foreign-policy disgust.
But while the drama just outside the Capitol building was amazing, the more meaningful drama unfolded inside the building.
As recently as 24 hours ago, the road ahead was simple and straightforward. After receiving the Iran deal in July, Congress had 60 days to vote on a resolution opposing the policy. Under the plan devised by Republican leaders, the GOP-led House would express its disapproval, followed by another vote in the GOP-led Senate. According to the head counts, the effort would fail; U.S. foreign policy would advance; and Republicans could move on to creating some other crisis.
As the Washington Postreported overnight, that plan has now been scrapped.
[I]nside the Capitol, a member revolt forced [House Speaker John Boehner] to revise his plans to hold a vote against the Iran deal this week -- an unexpected showing of the internal GOP acrimony that has some fearing a government shutdown in three weeks.
Republicans have been united against the Iran deal, and a disapproval resolution was expected to pass the House easily. But dissension emerged over tactics, turning the Iran agreement into the latest high-stakes issue to expose sharp divides inside the GOP.
If there's one thing that every Republican in Congress agreed on, it's their opposition to the diplomatic Iran deal. And yet, somehow, GOP lawmakers ended up disagreeing with one another anyway, creating a situation in which Congress may never register its disapproval of the Obama administration's policy.
Let's break down what's likely to happen now, because the scheme House Republicans came up with is a doozy.
Rachel Maddow takes a look at the tribulations of the candidates stuck at the bottom of the latest 2016 primary polls, like Lindsey Graham's poor numbers in his own state, Rick Perry's steady decline, and the absence of any measurable support at all for Lincoln Chafee. watch
Nicolle Wallace, Republican strategist, talks with Rachel Maddow about the challenge the Republican Party faces appealing to moderate Americans when certain candidates' anti-gay or anti-immigrant views get so much attention. watch
Rachel Maddow updates the story of Ted Cruz being blocked from taking the stage at a Kim Davis rally with reactions from the Huckabee camp and confirmation that the person who turned Cruz away is a Huckabee staffer. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that Dr. Ben Carson is drawing larger crowds than any other candidate not named Sanders or Trump, and is the only Republican coming anywhere near Donald Trump in polling figures. watch
Rachel Maddow shares clips from assorted right-wing luminaries at an anti-Iran deal rally in Washington, D.C., and talks with Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill reporter, about how Republican disorder makes it unlikely there will be any actual vote of disapproval of the deal in Congress. watch
* Keep expectations low: "The Kremlin says leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine have had a conference call to discuss the implementation of a peace deal for eastern Ukraine."
* Anti-ISIS coalition: "Australia will launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria within days and resettle an additional 12,000 refugees from the deepening humanitarian and security crisis in the Middle East, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday."
* EU: "Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, called on the bloc on Wednesday to accept 160,000 migrants, imploring leaders not to remain indifferent in the face of one of Europe’s toughest humanitarian challenges in decades."
* Shutdown: "Here are four congressional budget analysts' predictions on how likely it is that the government will shut down. We'll start with the most conservative estimate -- which is still 'well over 50 percent.'"
* New Mexico: "Once an integral part of the Republican Party’s rise to power under Gov. Susana Martinez’s stewardship in this Democratic stronghold, the secretary of state, Dianna Duran, has now been abandoned by her party, threatened with impeachment by her political opponents and called on to resign by one of the state’s leading newspapers."
* Brett O'Donnell fesses up: "A communications strategist who has worked with some of the best-known names in Republican politics -- including several presidential candidates -- has pleaded guilty to lying to congressional ethics investigators about campaign-related coaching he provided to a lawmaker that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars."
The debate over U.S. policy towards Iran has been strikingly consistent for months. As we talked about in July, the Obama administration has made lawmakers' choices abundantly clear: members can allow the international, diplomatic agreement to move forward, or they can push us closer to yet another military conflict in the Middle East.
Republicans and their allies like to call this the “false choice.” U.S. conservatives don’t want a war, they insist, they just want a different diplomatic solution. What might that alternative policy look like? Republicans, at least for now, haven’t the foggiest idea, but they're reluctant to endorse yet another military confrontation in the Middle East.
That is, at least most of them are reluctant to say so publicly. Some, as TPM reported yesterday, are a little more candid.
In a speech slamming President Obama's Iran deal -- which Congress is debating this week -- former Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that only the threat of military action could prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program.
"As soon as President Obama went on Israeli TV and effectively ruled out the option of force, the Iranians knew that they had won," Cheney said, speaking Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute.
Let's pause to note that, in our non-Cheney reality, President Obama never ruled out the use of force. In fact, in reality, President Obama did the opposite. Either Cheney is once again confused by the basics of current events or he's once again deliberately trying to mislead the public.
But the failed former vice president "went on to outline previous circumstances when the U.S. and its allies used force to attack a country's nuclear weapons program."
Cheney added, "Iran will not be convinced to abandon its programs peacefully unless it knows it faces a military action if it refuses to do so." (Let's note for context that officials in the Bush/Cheney administration concluded that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities “would be a bad idea -- and would only make it harder to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future.” Cheney, in other words, couldn't even convince members of his own team to follow his lead.)
Meanwhile, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton offered House Republicans advice on national security last night, and just two weeks ago, Bolton declared, "If the real objective is stopping Iran... preemptive military action is now inescapable."
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have also both offered enthusiastic support when discussing the prospect of a war with Iran.
And in a way, that's probably a good thing -- not as a matter of foreign policy, but as a way of defining the terms of the debate.
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.