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Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter works with his group to promote civics education in New Hampshire schools during a meeting in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009.

Souter warned of a Trump-like candidate in prescient remarks

10/21/16 04:39PM

Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter has maintained a very low public profile since retiring from the bench nearly eight years ago, but Rachel highlighted a 2012 appearance Souter made in New Hampshire, and his remarks on "civic ignorance" are striking in their foresight.
"I don't worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I'm afraid of a foreign invasion. I don't worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some of other places. What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, 'Give me total power and I will solve this problem.'

"That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor, not because he arrested the Roman Senate. He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.

"If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible. If we don't know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it. And the day will come when somebody will come forward and we and the government will in effect say, 'Take the ball and run with it. Do what you have to do.'

"That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night."
Souter couldn't have known about Donald Trump's rise in Republican politics, but that only makes his fears in 2012 that much more prophetic.
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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to a crowd of supporters as she campaigns for the Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the Convention Center, in Phoenix, Ariz., on Oct. 20, 2016. (Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty)

Trump's newest misstep: turning his attention to Michelle Obama

10/21/16 04:01PM

By most measures, President Obama is the second most popular political figure in the country. Who's first? His wife, First Lady Michelle Obama.

For Democratic candidates, that's good news. Not only is Michelle Obama an active campaigner as Election Day draws closer, she's also demonstrated an ability to deliver some of the year's most compelling and poignant addresses.

For some reason, this combination of factors gave Donald Trump a very bad idea, which he put into practice this afternoon.
Donald Trump took a rare swipe at First Lady Michelle Obama Friday, reminding voters of a snide comment she had made about Hillary Clinton eight years ago that he called "vicious."

Mr. Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, criticized Mrs. Obama's frequent campaigning for the Democratic nominee, and quoted a crack she had made during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary contest between Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama.
"We have a president, all he wants to do is campaign. His wife, all she wants to do is campaign. And I see how much his wife likes Hillary," Trump said. "But wasn't she the one that originally started the statement, if you can't take care of your home -- right? -- you can't take care of the White House or the country."

First, it's largely true that the First Lady maintains an active campaign schedule, but that's apparently because she really wants Hillary Clinton to win and Donald Trump to lose. Criticizing her for hitting the campaign trail because she feels passionate about the race hardly seems wise.

Second, Trump apparently wants voters to believe Michelle Obama doesn't really like Clinton, and as proof, the Republican nominee is pointing to a quote from nine years ago: "[I]f you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."

Did Michelle Obama actually say that? Sort of, but the context suggests Trump is trying to deceive.
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Donald Trump introduces Trump University at a press conference in Trump Tower, New York, May 2005. (Photo by Dan Herrick/KPA/ZUMA)

Trump's lawyers to judge: Campaign stuff shouldn't count

10/21/16 03:15PM

As a rule, defense attorneys like their clients to keep a fairly low profile and say very little about the case while the matter is being litigated. For Donald Trump's lawyers, that's a bit of a problem -- because rhetorical restraint isn't really an option under the circumstances.

It's why, as Bloomberg Politics reported, Trump's legal team is taking steps to keep his political rhetoric away from "jurors who are set to decide next month whether he defrauded hundreds of students through his namesake real-estate school."
Lawyers for the mogul in his Trump University case asked a judge to exclude a laundry list of statements made by him and about him including speeches and tweets, saying they're irrelevant and would only "inflame and prejudice" jurors.

"Before trial begins in this case, prospective members of the jury will have the opportunity to cast their vote for president," Trump's lawyers said in a filing late Thursday. "It is in the ballot box where they are free to judge Mr. Trump based on all this and more."
This isn't limited to Trump's rhetoric about Trump University and this specific case. Politico's Josh Gerstein reported, the Republican candidate's attorneys "also want to bar discussion of allegations that Trump may have paid no federal income taxes for as long as two decades, his personal charitable foundation, bankruptcies of various companies he owned or managed, and a series of comments he made alleging that Curiel was irredeemably biased because of his Latino background."

That's quite a list.
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 A general view of the atmosphere at The 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on June 22, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/NATAS/Getty)

For Trump, even the Emmys are rigged against him

10/21/16 12:41PM

There wasn't a lot of laughter during this week's presidential debate, but one moment that drew laughs jumped out at me. Hillary Clinton was noting that anytime there's a conflict that fails to go Donald Trump's way, he reflexively insists it was "rigged" against him.

"He lost the Wisconsin primary; he said the Republican primary was rigged against him," Clinton said. "Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering; he claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him."

At this point, Trump quickly interrupted, not to deny the charge, but to confirm it. "Should have gotten it," the Republican said, referring to the Emmy, and prompting laughter from the audience.

It was a lighthearted moment about a serious subject: Trump has a problem accepting responsibility when things don't go his way. But the exchange did get me thinking: are the Emmys really on Trump's enemies list?

As it turns out, yes. The Washington Post had an interesting report this week, explaining that Trump wanted his former reality show, "The Apprentice," to win an Emmy, and when it didn't, he launched a feud with the Television Academy.
By 2011, Trump had had it. "The Apprentice," coming off its 11th season, hadn't received a nomination in years. He went on YouTube to blast the Emmys, saying "fewer and fewer people" watch the show "and for good reason." The academy awards the wrong shows and people, Trump said, and "it's really not a good operation."

"The public is smart. They know it's a con game. I remember when I was originally nominated, everybody thought that 'The Apprentice' was going to win. It was the hottest thing on television, virtually," Trump said in 2011. "Well, it didn't win. They picked another show that frankly has been nominated many years and it's like, an irrelevant show. I'm not talking about myself. I'm not talking about 'The Apprentice.' I'm just saying the Emmys have a become boring, boring, boring show, totally predictable, and they're picking the wrong people."

Then Trump discovered Twitter, which made it even easier for him to complain about the Emmys
And this doesn't even include his many tweets about the awards.
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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.21.16

10/21/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Jim Murphy, the national political director for Donald Trump's campaign, announced yesterday's "stepping back" from his role in the operation, citing "personal reasons."

* The Al Smith Dinner in New York is supposed to be an opportunity for presidential candidates to show some humor and humility, and somehow, Donald Trump managed to screw it up.

* Twice yesterday, Trump walked away from interviews with local television stations in Ohio because he didn't like the direction of the questions.

* Speaking of Ohio, the latest Suffolk poll found Trump tied with Hillary Clinton in the Buckeye State, with each garnering 45% support in a four-way contest.

* Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, now an MSNBC analyst, said yesterday he will not vote for Trump. Steele is the third former RNC chair to make that announcement this year.

* In Georgia, a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Trump ahead by just two points over Clinton, 44% to 42%. Republicans have won Georgia with relative ease in each of the last five cycles.

* In Virginia, the latest poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Newport University shows Clinton cruising in the commonwealth, leading Trump, 45% to 33%.

* With his popularity on the rise, President Obama has recorded "a remarkable number of personalized television commercials for down-ballot Democrats to air across the country during the next two weeks," helping practically any congressional candidate who asks for his assistance.
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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) walks from a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 22, 2016. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Congressional Republican leaders face an uncertain future

10/21/16 11:20AM

If recent polling is accurate, House Democrats are likely to gain seats in this year's election cycle. That said, they'll need a net gain of 30 seats to reach majority status, and that may well too tough a hurdle to clear with the Republicans' structural advantages.

On the other side of the aisle, House Republicans will be relieved if they can maintain their majority status, but the relief may be short lived -- because the rumblings about a leadership shake-up are getting louder. CNN had this report yesterday:
Rep. Mark Meadows said Thursday the effort to remove Speaker Paul Ryan is "picking up some steam" because many GOP lawmakers and a stream of callers to the North Carolinian's congressional offices are incensed the Wisconsin Republican hasn't embraced fully Donald Trump's candidacy for president. [...]

Meadows, one of the 30-plus members of the ultra-conservative and powerful House Freedom Caucus, said there "will be real discussions after November 8 on who our leadership will be and what that will look like going forward."
This coincides with a report from The Hill, which quoted an unnamed Freedom Caucus member saying it is "a pretty sure bet there will be" a GOP challenger taking on Paul Ryan for the Speaker's gavel.

There's also some pressure from outside Capitol Hill, with prominent voices from Republican media pushing for Ryan's ouster.

To be sure, some of this is premature. We can't say with certainty, for example, that there will still be a House GOP majority in the new year. It's likely, but real intra-party fights will depend on the election results.

That said, I also wouldn't dismiss Mark Meadows' efforts too quickly. The North Carolina Republican hasn't gone into too much detail -- he says the anti-Ryan campaign is "picking up some steam," but what that means in practical terms is unclear -- though Meadows' track record is highly relevant.
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A man crosses the Central Intelligence A

Trump still has no use for U.S. intelligence agencies

10/21/16 10:40AM

A couple of months ago, ahead of his first intelligence briefing as a presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked about whether he'd trust the information he receives. "Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country," the Republican said, adding, in reference to U.S. intelligence agencies, "I won't use them because they've made such bad decisions."

Evidently, this wasn't an off-hand comment. At least when it comes to Russia, Trump simply does not believe American intelligence officials.
Donald Trump continued his extraordinary repudiation of U.S. intelligence agencies Wednesday night when he expressed "doubt" about their conclusion that Russia has been interfering in the U.S. election through a hacking campaign -- even though intelligence officials briefed him on the Russia link in person months ago.

"Our country has no idea," who is doing the hacking, the Republican nominee said during the final presidential debate, after Hillary Clinton challenged him to accept the conclusion of the CIA and other agencies that the Russian government was behind the leaks of internal Democratic emails.

When moderator Chris Wallace pressed Trump on whether he was disputing the assessment from U.S. intelligence officials, he replied, "Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it."
Note, it's not just the agencies Trump distrusts. The Dallas Morning News published a report yesterday noting that the candidate's stance "was particularly inexplicable because in a debate prep session Monday, one of his own national security advisers, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, told Trump that in his judgment ... the hacks were directed by Russia."

McCaul told the newspaper, "I have personally briefed him on that and told him that in my opinion ... this was in fact a nation-state attack by Russia."

So, does Trump just reflexively oppose American intelligence assessments or is this a situation in which the Republican just believes Vladimir Putin's government so implicitly that he literally can't believe any evidence that reflects poorly on his Russian allies?
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off the stage as Republican nominee Donald Trump remains at his podium after their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

'Sometimes a lady needs to be told when she's being nasty'

10/21/16 10:00AM

After the backlash to the "Republican war on women" hurt GOP candidates in 2012, many party officials and strategists insisted Republicans change the way they talk to women and about women. Training sessions, some of which were led by Kellyanne Conway, now Donald Trump's campaign manager, tried to coach GOP candidates on how to avoid costly missteps on gender issues.

It may be time for a refresher course or two.

At this week's presidential debate, Trump, unprompted, interrupted Hillary Clinton to say she's "such a nasty woman." CNN reports that Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) appeared on Alan Colmes' radio show yesterday and defended the remark.
"You know what, she's saying some nasty things," the Texas congressman answered.

Colmes asked again if the comment was appropriate, to which Babin responded, "Well, I'm a genteel Southerner, Alan."

"So that means no?" Colmes asked.

"No, I think sometimes a lady needs to be told when she's being nasty," Babin replied. "I do."
It's almost as if they're trying to lose.
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U.S. Senator John McCain, Immigration - 08/27/2013

GOP senators offer inconsistent support for democratic principles

10/21/16 09:21AM

After Donald Trump balked in this week's debate at accepting the outcome of the presidential election, it was inevitable that many congressional Republicans would be asked for their reactions, and to their credit, many were quick to criticize their party's nominee. But there's another part of their agenda that casts these principles in a less flattering light.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), for example, said it's "imperative" for Trump to say he'll accept the results of the election. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a similar statement, explaining that if Trump loses, "it will not be because the system is 'rigged' but because he failed as a candidate." Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Trump's comments during the debate were "beyond the pale."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, went further than most to defend democratic principles against the criticisms from his party's nominee. This is an excerpt from a longer written statement:
"I didn't like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance. A concession isn't just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader's first responsibility.

"Whatever our differences we owe each other that respect, which we express by defending the democratic values and practices that protect us all.

"I don't know who's going to win the presidential election. I do know that in every previous election, the loser congratulates the winner and calls them, 'my president.' That's not just the Republican way or the Democratic way. It's the American way. This election must not be any different."
Though McCain didn't call out Trump by name, the senator's statement was a welcome rebuke of his party's presidential candidate and his assault on democratic norms.

But as encouraging as McCain's statement was, the Arizona Republican may not fully appreciate the degree to which his message is burdened by inconsistencies.
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Voting booths inside the Early Vote Center, Oct. 5, 2016, in Minneapolis, Minn. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty)

Why Trump's claims about dead voters don't make sense

10/21/16 08:40AM

Most of the time, when Donald Trump says something outlandish and is pressed for evidence, he relies on some combination of his memory, right-wing conspiracy websites, or actual proof he misunderstood. With this in mind, something the Republican nominee said at this week's presidential debate is worth a closer look.
"If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote -- millions, this isn't coming from me, this is coming from Pew Report and other places -- millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote."
At an event in Ohio yesterday, Trump repeated the claim, but added an element of criminality.
"1.8 million people are dead. But they're registered to vote. Some of whom vote even though they're dead, which is really a hard thing to do. But it's easy if fraud is involved, right? So you have 1.8 million people who are dead who are registered to vote. And some of them vote."
And this got me thinking about what, exactly, the Pew Center found in the study Trump is so eager to tout. Did Pew actually issue a report that bolsters some of the GOP candidate's claims?
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to the media on June 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

After taking some shots from Rubio, Obama returns the favor

10/21/16 08:00AM

During his ill-fated presidential campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) based much of his message, especially as the primaries got underway, on the idea that President Obama is trying to destroy the United States on purpose. In effect, the far-right Floridian believed the way to connect with GOP voters was to accuse the sitting president of treason.

Yesterday, Obama traveled to Miami, where the president was able to fire back at Rubio, reminding voters that the senator is supporting Donald Trump's campaign, despite Rubio's previous insistence that Trump is a "con artist" and "dangerous." The Tampa Bay Times reported:
"I'm even more confused by Republican politicians who still support Donald Trump," Obama said. "Marco Rubio is one of those people. How does that work? How can you call him a con artist and dangerous and object to all the controversial things he says and then say, 'But I'm still gonna vote for him?' C'mon, man!"

"C'mon, man," he repeated.

"You know what that is? It is the height of cynicism. That's the sign of somebody who will say anything, do anything, pretend to be anybody, just to get elected. And you know what? If you're willing to be anybody just to be somebody, then you don't have the leadership that Florida needs in the U.S. Senate.... That's why you've got to vote for Patrick Murphy. That's why you've got to vote for Hillary Clinton."
Obama went on to note that Rubio doesn't like to show up for work regularly; the senator abandoned the immigration reform bill that he helped write, just to satisfy his party's anti-immigration base; and continues to inexplicably deny climate change.

"If you see the ocean coming up through the streets how can you deny what is right in front of you?" Obama asked. "I thought he was from Miami."

It's almost as if the president does not think highly of Marco Rubio.

Of course, Obama wasn't just admonishing the far-right senator for the sake of doing so; Rubio is in the middle of a re-election fight in Florida and the senator is doing his part to help the incumbent's opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), prevail.

But as of this week, it appears Obama and party officials aren't exactly on the same page: just as the president was making his case against Rubio in the Sunshine State, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was deciding to effectively give up on the Florida race and direct its resources elsewhere.
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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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