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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.11.15

11/11/15 05:30PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Veterans Day: "President Obama focused his Veterans Day remarks on the growing ranks of former troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now searching for new ways to serve their country at home."
* Missouri: "A 19-year-old white male was arrested Wednesday by University of Missouri police for posting threats to the racially roiled campus on social media, authorities said."
* I think the White House has a very different perspective: "Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan warned President Barack Obama on Tuesday against attempting to use an executive order to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."
* Related news: "As Congress awaits the administration’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay, Democrats are suggesting it might not be a bad thing if President Obama shutters the facility unilaterally. While Democratic leaders are being careful not to implore Obama directly to cut Congress out of his decision-making process, they are giving the president ample political cover to use executive authority to shutter the controversial detention facility."
* Myanmar: "Myanmar’s military establishment on Wednesday acknowledged the victory of the country’s democracy movement led by the Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, raising hopes for a peaceful transfer of power after five decades of military domination."
* I can see the congressional hearings now: "The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans' health care and other issues racked the agency."
* Ratings: "More than 13 million people watched Tuesday night's Republican debate on the Fox Business Network, according to Nielsen figures provided by the network. The prime-time debate drew 13.5 million viewers, making it the highest-rated program in the network's eight-year history. That's just shy of the 14 million for the CNBC debate Oct. 28."
Presidential candidate Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre Nov. 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Like hitting a ball off a tee

11/11/15 04:16PM

Towards the end of last night's debate for the Republican presidential candidates, Maria Bartiromo noted Hillary Clinton's background before asking Marco Rubio, "Why should the American people trust you to lead this country, even though she has been so much closer to the office?"
The Washington Post's Dave Weigel noted moments later, "You couldn't have written that Rubio question to be any nicer if you were introducing him at a fundraiser." The New York Times helped capture the larger context:
Mr. Rubio was not only able to avoid being drawn into the contentious immigration debate, but also repeatedly received questions that allowed him to answer with versions of his stump speech. Even he seemed unable to believe his good fortune when he was asked to make his case against Mrs. Clinton. He chuckled for a moment before unspooling a well-rehearsed argument: why he can prosecute a “generational” case against her.
That reference to Rubio chuckling was quite serious. A Washington Post piece noted this morning, "Marco Rubio got lobbed softballs so soft that he could not help but LAUGH at one of them. Literally!" [emphasis in the original]
Perhaps there's something to be said for grading candidates on a curve. It's a bit like college football, when the strength of the schedule is taken into consideration.
Sure, the senator effortlessly recites canned, carefully scripted mini-speeches, without any real regard for their connection to the question, which invariably earns overly enthusiastic praiseBut it probably helps when the questions -- which were so tilted in Rubio's favor that he couldn't help but laugh -- practically invite him to recite portions of the stump speech he delivers literally every day.
What's more, Salon's Simon Maloy, who compared the Q&A for Rubio to tee-ball, highlighted "the questions Rubio wasn’t asked."
Presidential candidate Ben Carson pauses during the Star Spangled Banner in the opening of the Republican Presidential Debate at the Milwaukee Theatre Nov. 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Ben Carson's unawareness keeps catching up with him

11/11/15 12:48PM

About half-way through last night's debate for the Republican presidential candidates, Ben Carson was asked about President Obama's decision to deploy a limited number of U.S. troops to Syria, while keeping 10,000 Americans in Afghanistan. For a split second, I thought to myself, "Wait, that's not a fair question. Carson couldn't possibly be expected to have a coherent opinion on the subject."
But the second quickly faded and I remembered that Carson is a presidential candidate. He's supposed to be able to speak intelligently about this and a wide range of other issues.
And in this case, Carson seemed lost, leading to a lengthy, meandering response that can charitably be described as word salad.
"Well, putting the special ops people in there is better than not having them there, because they -- that's why they're called special ops, they're actually able to guide some of the other things that we're doing there.
"And what we have to recognize is that Putin is trying to really spread his influence throughout the Middle East. This is going to be his base. And we have to oppose him there in an effective way.
"We also must recognize that it's a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.
"What we've been doing so far is very ineffective, but we can't give up ground right there. But we have to look at this on a much more global scale. We're talking about global jihadists. And their desire is to destroy us and to destroy our way of life. So we have to be saying, how do we make them look like losers? Because that's the way that they're able to gather a lot of influence."
Carson went on (and on) from there, blissfully unaware of the fact that the Chinese have not, in fact, deployed troops to Syria, and making terrorists "look like losers" isn't quite as straightforward as he'd like to believe.
At the end of his bizarre answer, the audience clapped, though it wasn't clear to me if attendees were just being polite to a confused candidate who seemed wholly out of his depth.
What's more, it wasn't just foreign policy.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.11.15

11/11/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* At last night's debate in Louisiana for the two remaining gubernatorial candidates, John Bel Edwards (D) told David Vitter, “You’re a liar and you’re a cheater.” Ouch.
* Jeb Bush picked up an endorsement this morning from former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the Republicans' 1996 presidential nominee.
* One of Jeb Bush's super PACs launched a new television ad in the first three nominating states yesterday, insisting that leadership is "not about yapping ... it's about doing."
* In related news, Marco Rubio has a new super PAC that's called -- I'm not kidding -- Baby Got PAC. (If you have no idea what this is intended to reference, see here.)
* In still more super-PAC-related news, Chris Christie's America Leads claims it saw a bump in fundraising after the New Jersey governor was excluded from last night's prime-time debate.
* After months of near-total silence on the endorsement front, Marco Rubio picked up another new congressional supporter yesterday afternoon, this time from Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.).
* Of the 15 Republican presidential candidates, only two acknowledge the climate crisis as real -- and both were excluded from participating in either debate last night.
(Francois Nascimbeni/AFP/Getty)

Why sugar matters so much in the 2016 race

11/11/15 11:21AM

It was a subtle shot between two leading presidential candidates, which most of the audience probably missed. In last night's debate for the Republican presidential candidates, largely out of the blue, Ted Cruz boasted about the costly federal programs he's eager to eliminate.
"Among them are corporate welfare, like sugar subsidies. Let's take that as an example. Sugar subsidies. Sugar farmers farm under roughly 0.2% of the farmland in America, and yet they give 40% of the lobbying money.
"That sort of corporate welfare is why we're bankrupting our kids, and grandkids. I would end those subsidies to pay for defending this nation."
Cruz didn't mention any specific names, but it was a hint of a intra-party fight that's on the horizon.
In this case, Cruz and Jeb Bush are ready to phase out federal sugar subsidies, which many economic conservatives -- and liberals, for that matter -- see as "crony capitalism."
But Big Sugar still has one key ally.
Republican presidential candidates appear during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (Photo by Morry Gash/AP)

Wall Street safeguards in jeopardy under GOP agenda

11/11/15 10:51AM

One of the under-appreciated issues of the presidential campaign is the degree to which Republican candidates want to go easy on Wall Street, the big banks, and the financial industry in general. Eight years after the start of the Great Recession, and the crash that caused a global crisis, GOP White House hopefuls genuinely seem to believe Americans are ready to scale back safeguards and layers of accountability.
This was certainly the case in last night's debate. Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted this morning, "In several places, the candidates showed disturbing ignorance of basic facts of the American economy.... [Jeb] Bush attacked Dodd-Frank financial legislation for reducing capital requirements for banks, when the law does the opposite."
Politico's Michael Grunwald went further, noting the fact that the Republican field didn't seem altogether comfortable discussing the issue.
John Kasich, a former Lehman Brothers banker, seemed unaware that FDIC insurance protects ordinary depositors at failing commercial banks.
Ben Carson, asked whether the biggest banks should be broken up, said no, but also that they shouldn’t be allowed to “enlarge themselves at the expense of smaller entities,” then added some word salad about low interest rates and 18th-century entrepreneurship and the cost of soap that did not signal deep knowledge about the banking sector.
Marco Rubio claimed that new government regulations have increased the size of the biggest banks, when in fact new surcharges for the largest institutions are encouraging megabanks to get smaller. It’s true that JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are larger than they were before the crisis, but that’s mostly because they absorbed Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual, Countrywide Financial, Merrill Lynch and Wachovia during the crisis, helping to prevent a financial cataclysm from becoming a financial calamity.
The Washington Post's James Downie added, "Rubio's answer on bank size and regulation may have been the wrongest answer in any debate so far."
The Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law came up several times, but only as a target for condemnation. Carly Fiorina, for example, falsely argued that the government was responsible for the 2008 disaster and she has no use for the public-sector solution: "I think what's interesting about Dodd-Frank is it's a great example of how socialism starts. Socialism starts when government creates a problem, and then government steps in to solve the problem. Government created the problem."
Rubio added, "We need to repeal Dodd-Frank as soon as possible."
Demonstrators prepare signs supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage during May Day demonstrations in New York

Republican candidates take aim at the minimum wage

11/11/15 10:15AM

It was the very first question in last night's debate. Fox's Neil Cavuto noted to Donald Trump that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is moving forward with a plan for a $15 minimum wage for state workers, and the moderator asked the candidate if he's "sympathetic" to protestors demanding a national increase.
"The reason I can't be is we are a country that's being beaten on every front, economically, militarily," Trump replied. "There is nothing we do now to win." He added, "Taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world."
The same question then went to Ben Carson, who said, “People need to be educated on the minimum wage,” before making clear that he needs to be educated on the minimum wage.
It was then Marco Rubio's turn:
"If I thought that raising the minimum wage was the best way to help people increase their pay, I would be all for it, but it isn’t. In the 20th century, it’s a disaster."
First, we're not in the 20th century. Second, the minimum wage is an effective and popular policy, so Rubio may regret condemning it as a "disaster." And third, this is consistent with the senator's previous suggestion that he doesn't necessarily support the existence of a federal minimum wage.
The New Republic's Suzy Khimm added that the debate offered a new twist on the traditional Republican agenda: "Don’t just give the rich a big tax break, but also lower wages for the poor."
Ted Cruz speaks during the Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee, Wis. (Photo by Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

Ted Cruz's memory comes up a little short

11/11/15 09:32AM

On Nov. 9, 2011, in a debate for GOP presidential candidates, Rick Perry declared his intention to scrap three agencies of government, but he could only remember two of them. "Oops," the Texas Republican famously concluded.
On Nov. 10, 2015, in another debate for GOP presidential candidates, Ted Cruz was confronted with a similar situation. The senator was talking about the scope of his budget plan, bragging about his intention to "abolish" the Internal Revenue Service. The Texan added:
"But on top of that, today, we rolled out a spending plan. $500 billion in specific cuts -- five major agencies that I would eliminate: the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and HUD -- and then 25 specific programs.
"Again, that's on our website at tedcruz.org. You want to look at specificity? It's easy for everyone to say, 'Cut spending.' It's much harder and riskier to put out, chapter and verse, specifically the programs you would cut to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids."
If you listened closely to Cruz's list of the five agencies he intends to eliminate, you may have noticed he mentioned the Department of Commerce twice. One of those was supposed to reference the Department of Education.
Now, in fairness to Cruz, this wasn't nearly as excruciating as Perry's "oops" moment, and it's hard to imagine it'll be as damaging. The senator is more rhetorically adept than his former governor, and there was no humiliating delay along the lines of what we saw four years ago. It's funny in the abstract, though at its root, we're left with a candidate who mentioned one cabinet agency when he meant to reference another. Other candidates similarly misspoke last night.
But that's not what bugged me about the mistake.
Republican presidential candidates speak during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre on Nov. 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Both sides of GOP child-care fight miss the mark

11/11/15 08:56AM

The Republican presidential candidates weren't overly eager to go after one another in last night's debate, but there were a few interesting confrontations, most notably between two GOP senators.
The Wall Street Journal's Gerard Baker asked Marco Rubio about his plan to expand child tax credits, to help parents afford childcare, which may carry a price tag of $170 billion a year. "Isn't there a risk you're just adding another expensive entitlement program to an already overburdened federal budget?"
Rubio responded by talking about how great families are, and how important he thinks parents are. "I am proud that I have a pro-family tax code," the senator said, "because the pro-family tax plan I have will strengthen the most important institution in the country: the family." (Just for kicks, read that sentence again and try not to giggle.)
Rand Paul, meanwhile, was unimpressed.
"We have to decide what is conservative and what isn't conservative. Is it fiscally conservative to have a trillion-dollar expenditure? We're not talking about giving people back their tax money. He's talking about giving people money they didn't pay. It's a welfare transfer payment.
"So here's what we have. Is it conservative to have $1 trillion in transfer payments -- a new welfare program that's a refundable tax credit? Add that to Marco's plan for $1 trillion in new military spending, and you get something that looks, to me, not very conservative."
Rubio responded by talking about his belief that "the family is the most important institution in society" and how he wants "the strongest military power in the world." Rand Paul warned of U.S. "bankruptcy." Both pugilists received some applause.
Considering the dispute in a broader context, a casual viewer might have seen this as an argument between a Republican touting a progressive idea -- helping parents afford child care -- and another Republican raising fiscal concerns and ideological questions about the creation of a government "entitlement."
But there's an angle that went completely overlooked.
Republican U.S. presidential candidates pose during a photo opportunity before the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nov. 10, 2015. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Reuters)

Reality takes a beating in latest Republican debate

11/11/15 08:00AM

Early on in last night's debate, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson was asked whether he'd support an increase in the minimum wage. The retired right-wing neurosurgeon began his answer by saying, "People need to be educated on the minimum wage," which quickly became one of the more ironic comments of the evening.
"Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases. It's particularly a problem in the black community. Only 19.8 percent of black teenagers have a job, who are looking for one. You know, and that's because of those high wages. If you lower those wages, that comes down.
"You know, I can remember, as a youngster -- you know, my first job working in a laboratory as a lab assistant, and multiple other jobs. But I would not have gotten those jobs if someone had to pay me a large amount of money."
The assertion that minimum wage increases are always followed by an increase in unemployment is wrong. Carson's claim about unemployment among black teens is even further from the truth. And as for the minimum wage when Carson was younger, in 1975, when he was 24 years old, the minimum wage was $2.10 an hour -- which is $9.29 when adjusted for inflation, more than two dollars above today's wage floor.
It was, alas, that kind of event. There's always considerable chatter about who "wins" or "loses" these debates -- most pundits seem to think Marco Rubio excelled, though I'm starting to think some of them are just using a computer macro to save time -- but there was one clear loser last night: reality.
At another point last night, Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, reminded Carly Fiorina, "In seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you'll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?"
If anything, Baker's numbers were tilted in the GOP's favor, since Obama's totals are dragged down by including the early months of his presidency, when the economy was in free fall. Nevertheless, the point is accurate -- since World War II, more jobs are created under Democratic presidents than Republicans -- prompting Fiorina to reply, "Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats."
She'd just been reminded of the opposite, which made the exchange a little unnerving. I kept waiting for one of the candidates to drop the pretense and declare, "I reject this version of reality and replace it with one I like better."

Authorization for war and other headlines

11/11/15 07:06AM

New war authorization left for dead. (Politico)

Myanmar government promises peaceful transfer of power. (AP)

Bridgegate defendants say critical evidence is being withheld. (NJ.com)

Mizzou police issue advice for reporting 'hateful and/or hurtful' speech. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

A real Missouri 'Concerned Student 1950' speaks, at age 89. (New York Times)

Man convicted in Jewish site killings is sentenced to death. (AP)

Big protest in Kabul, Afghanistan after the beheadings of 7 minority Hazara. (NBC News)

You can watch Shia LaBeouf watch all of his movies in a row. (Washington Post)

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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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