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Image: Rick Snyder

Questions surround Michigan governor's next move

05/07/15 08:00AM

As recently as Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) sounded very much like he was moving towards the 2016 presidential race. Just one day later, however, Politico reported that the Republican governor had decided to bow out.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will not run for president in 2016, according to two sources familiar with his planning.
Snyder, a Republican who was first elected in 2010, has been traveling across the country in recent weeks but has decided against a White House bid. One source close Snyder said he'd expressed concern about the time commitment needed for a national campaign.
So, that settles that? Oddly enough, no. Late last night, the MLive Media Group that covers Michigan news confirmed with the governor's spokesperson that Snyder "has not made any decisions" about the presidential race, pushing back against the Politico report, which cited unnamed sources.
The governor's press secretary specifically said that when it comes to Snyder's possible national plans, nothing has changed. "On 2016, he's watching the presidential race closely and hoping a common sense problem-solver emerges," press secretary Sara Wurfel said. "He has not made any decisions about entering the field at this time."
What's left is a confusing picture. Just two weeks ago, Snyder traveled to Las Vegas to appear at a Sheldon Adelson event attended by several White House hopefuls. Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who was on hand for the gathering, told reporters afterwards that he spoke with Snyder and came away with the "clear impression" that the Michigan governor "is running" for president.
This week, he went further, telling the Wall Street Journal he sees an opening in the GOP field. Snyder said Americans "need a problem-solver in Washington," adding that when he looks at the current Republican candidates, "I haven't seen one that I would define as a problem-solver."
If the conflicting reports leave you confused about what the governor actually intends to do, you're not alone.

Clinton embraces Super PAC and other headlines

05/07/15 07:55AM

Hillary Clinton embraces a 'Super PAC.' (New York Times)

Rand Paul apparently paid $100,000 for (National Journal)

Tornado outbreak wreaks havoc on several states. (

Mother of Texas gunman sought to keep son from extremism. (Wall Street Journal)

With government up for grabs, Britain votes. (USA Today)

Federal judge dismisses Nebraskan's lawsuit against all homosexuals. (Omaha World-Herald)

Abstinence-only Texas high school hit by chlamydia outbreak. (Huffington Post)
read more

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 5.6.15

05/06/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* More on this on tonight's show: "A tiny North Dakota town was evacuated Wednesday after a train carrying crude oil derailed and several cars burst into flames, local authorities said. It is the latest in a string of explosive oil train derailments that have raised concerns about the large volume of crude moving across America's tracks."
* Diplomacy matters: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Djibouti on Wednesday for talks with the government and to visit a key U.S. military base from where pilots fly missions over Yemen and Somalia."
* Baltimore: "Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has asked the Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department to determine if the department has engaged in a pattern of racially biased policing."
* This wasn't quite as easy as the prime minister would have liked: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday signed an agreement with the far-right Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett to make a coalition government, 90 minutes before a midnight deadline, sources told NBC News."
* Nigeria: "A year ago, a dozen Nigerian troops fighting about 200 Boko Haram militants in the town of Chibok exhausted their ammunition and ran, leaving the road open for the abduction of nearly 300 girls. Today, Nigerian soldiers are rescuing hundreds of kidnapped girls and women from the last forest stronghold of the Islamic insurgents."
* California: "State data released Tuesday painted a stark portrait of the uphill struggle Californians face in achieving a mandated 25% reduction in urban water use, with one official joking grimly that dealing with severe drought was similar to grappling with the five stages of grief."
* Elections may have consequences in Canada: "Conservative governments in Alberta have long had a relatively light hand in regulating the oil industry. Suddenly there's a new, left-leaning NDP government promising to negotiate new climate policies, to increase oil and gas royalties, and to quit lobbying President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. So what will this election mean for those famous oil sands?"
* Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this morning officially rescinded his executive order establishing a state of emergency in Baltimore.
An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.

The popularity of redistributing wealth

05/06/15 03:54PM

For many years, Republicans have tried to win political arguments with carefully worded phrases, crafted to pack a rhetorical punch. Good ideas for the criminal-justice system were fine, just so long as they weren't "soft on crime." It wouldn't matter if a social-insurance program was effective; it mattered whether the right could label is "welfare."
And sound tax policies can be proposed, but if Republicans can reject the idea as "redistribution of wealth," it's a goner. Such a condemnation was effectively a way to dismiss an idea as socialism.
But what if the American mainstream actually likes the idea of redistributing wealth? Gallup published an interesting report along these lines this week.
More than 75 years ago, at the tail end of the Great Depression, the Roper research organization and Fortune magazine asked Americans about "heavy taxes on the rich" as one method of redistributing wealth, and found one-third (35%) agreeing that the government should do this. Gallup began asking this question again in 1998, and found Americans' agreement at 45%.
Since then, Americans' support for this idea has fluctuated, but has reached a high point of 52% in Gallup's most recent two surveys, conducted in April 2013 and April of this year.
Not surprisingly, there are stark differences among various groups. Democrats and independents like the idea of government redistributing wealth with higher taxes on the wealthy, while Republicans don't. Younger Americans like the idea far more than older Americans.
But the broader point is that GOP politicians like to assume that Americans en masse reject the very idea as ridiculous. Clearly, that's not the case -- most of the public actually thinks government redistribution of wealth sounds like a pretty good idea.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wait to speak at the "Exempt America from Obamacare" rally,  on Capitol Hill on Sept. 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.

At the intersection of reproductive choices and discrimination

05/06/15 12:56PM

Under current law, in every state in the union, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That, however, is the floor -- some areas choose to go further.
Irin Carmon recently reported on a new policy in the nation's capital, where policymakers approved a bold new law -- the "D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act" -- which adds "reproductive decision-making to anti-discrimination provisions."
So, for example, an employee in D.C. cannot be fired for being on birth control, using in vitro fertilization, exercising her right to terminate a pregnancy, or getting pregnant outside of marriage. Those are private matters, the D.C. law says, which cannot serve as the basis for a dismissal.
As it turns out, this quickly became the latest twist in the right-to-discriminate debate, and Roll Call reported late last week on congressional Republicans intervening in city law.
In a largely symbolic move, the House voted mostly down party lines late Thursday night to block a District of Columbia bill that D.C. officials say would combat workplace discrimination.
A corps of mainly Republicans passed a joint resolution of disapproval 228-192.... Conservatives argued the act could force employers to violate their religious beliefs.
It was, the article noted, the "first time in nearly 25 years the entire House voted to block a D.C. law."
The ridiculous push from House GOP lawmakers didn't change city policy -- the Senate chose not to act on the matter -- and the local law took effect over the weekend.
But as it turns out, there's a presidential angle to this.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.6.15

05/06/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* It wasn't long ago that New York Republican Dan Donovan was a controversial district attorney in the Eric Garner case. As of last night, he's now Rep.-elect Dan Donovan, poised to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who resigned in disgrace in January.
* In the world of Canadian politics, the election results in Alberta last night were effectively an earthquake. A Canadian friend of mine emailed me this morning to say it's the American equivalent of Bernie Sanders winning in "both Houston and Austin on a platform of raising corporate taxes."
* In Iowa, the new Quinnipiac poll shows Scott Walker leading the Republican presidential field with 21% support, followed by Rand Paul and Marco Rubio with 13% each. The poll shows Jeb Bush running a woeful seventh in Iowa, with just 5%.
* As Rachel mentioned on the show last night, the Democratic National Committee announced its plans yesterday to host six presidential debates beginning in the fall. Though a variety of details need to be worked out, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina will host one each in advance of their primaries and caucuses.
* Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, has already endorsed the DNC schedule.
* Speaking of the former Secretary of State, the latest New York Times/CBS poll found that Americans "now view Mrs. Clinton more favorably and as a stronger leader than they did earlier in the year, despite weeks of scrutiny about her ethics."
* As if Gov. Chris Christie (R) didn't have enough to worry about, the latest Monmouth University poll found that New Jersey Republicans believe Jeb Bush and Scott Walker would both make a better president than their ambitious governor.
Walking through a basement corridor while talking to reporters about a budget deal Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

Paul Ryan still struggling with the basics on poverty

05/06/15 11:20AM

Nearly two years ago, not long after his failed bid for national office, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) appeared on msnbc and told Joe Scarborough, "I'm focused on poverty these days."
It seemed like an odd thing to say. Ryan was, and is, perhaps best known for his far-right budget plan that cuts taxes for the wealthy by hundreds of billions of dollars, while slashing investments in programs that benefit working families. For the Republican congressman to say he's "focused on poverty" was belied by his actual policy agenda, which is brutal towards those actually in poverty.
But Ryan's comment on msnbc wasn't an offhand remark. The Wisconsin lawmaker quickly started convincing the Beltway media that he's now committed to "fighting poverty," en route to inner-city tours, multiple speeches, and a sloppy report on the efficacy of domestic anti-poverty programs.
At a certain level, all of this may seem at least a little encouraging. Too often, much of the GOP is simply inclined to ignore poverty as a chronic national issue, so the congressman's interest is welcome. But as Dylan Matthews explained yesterday, more discouraging is the fact that after years of work on the issue, Paul Ryan still "keeps getting the basic facts wrong."
It doesn't help that the first policy statement he makes is an out-and-out lie: "After a 50-year war on poverty and trillions of dollars spent, we still have the same poverty rates."
This sentence suggests that either Paul Ryan has absolutely no clue how poverty rates work, or he does know and is actively deceiving viewers. First of all, the specific claim in question isn't even technically accurate.... But even that dramatically understates the progress that has been made. The official poverty rate is a travesty of a statistic, and using it at all in this context is irresponsible. It's literally based on food prices in 1955. But more relevantly for these purposes, it excludes the very anti-poverty programs Ryan is talking about.
The full Vox takedown is worth reading in detail, but stepping back, what does it tell us about the seriousness of Ryan's approach to policymaking when he focuses on poverty for years and still doesn't seem to know what he's talking about?
A flag for the Texas Longhorns waves at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Abstinence education still coming up short in Texas

05/06/15 10:40AM

Rick Perry may have been Texas governor for 14 years, but for me, there's always been one brief exchange that summarized so much of his lengthy tenure.
In 2011, the Republican governor sat with Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith who passed along a question from the public. The voter wanted to know, "Why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs, when they don't seem to be working?" The question was well grounded in fact: in the areas of teen pregnancies and teen births, Texas ranked among the worst in the United States.
Perry heard the question, thought for a second, and replied, "Abstinence works."
The reporter pressed on, reminding the governor, "But we have the third-highest teen teen-pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner's point is, it doesn't seem to be working." The governor responded, "It -- it works."
Four years later, the San Antonio Express-News is reporting on a striking number of cases of Chlamydia in a local high school, prompting school officials to organize a meeting "to discuss their sex education program."
Amanda Marcotte, a Texas native, explained the scope of the problem.
The area's repressive attitudes toward sex are illustrated in the school's sex education program, which takes up three days in the fall semester and, of course, is focused on abstinence. Raw Story reports that in 2012, the School Health Advisory Committee recommended a program titled Worth the Wait for that three-day course; the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States pointed out that Worth the Wait discourages condom use by suggesting they're just going to fail you anyway.
The school district's superintendent, Jim T. Rumage, stands by his chlamydia-friendly strategy of telling kids to wait until marriage. "If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can't get this disease," he told the Express-News in a phone interview. That is true! Also true: If you never eat any food, you probably won't get cavities, and so there's no point in manufacturing toothbrushes.
At the state level, meanwhile, the Texas Tribune reported yesterday on the latest the Republican-run state government.
People show their support during a rally for comprehensive immigration reform on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., April 10, 2013.

GOP won't budge on immigrants, military service

05/06/15 10:00AM

As controversial as immigration policy has become as Republican politics shifts further and further to the right, the one area where compromise has appeared possible relates to military service.
Almost exactly a year ago, there was rare, bipartisan support for a proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to serve in the American military. As we discussed at the time, the plan was pretty straightforward: young, undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before they turned 15 would be welcome to enlist. After their service, so long as they're honorably discharged, these immigrants would become legal permanent residents and be eligible to apply for citizenship.
The idea is entirely in line with American traditions -- for generations, many immigrants to the U.S. became citizens by serving in the military -- but House Republicans nevertheless killed the proposal.
A year later, proponents of the idea have considered adding a related policy to this year's defense spending bill (the "National Defense Authorization Act," or "NDAA"). At least that was the idea.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Tuesday shot down a proposal that would move toward allowing some illegal immigrants to serve in the military. [...]
"It would not be accepted by the House. I've got to have a House agreement; they would never agree to putting that on the NDAA," McCain said. "If I put it on the defense bill, what happens in the House? The whole bill crashes.... The defense bill is for defense, not for Dreamers."
Keep in mind, we're talking about an idea that the White House supports, many lawmakers from both parties have endorsed, and would be broadly popular with the American mainstream. But McCain knows House Republicans don't like it, so the senator isn't willing to press the issue.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses VA Consumer Electronics Association during a Leadership Series discussion at the Ritz-Carlton on May 1, 2015 in McLean, Va. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty)

Waiting for the 'Christie comeback' is a bad idea

05/06/15 09:20AM

In one of my favorite "Simpsons" episodes, Lisa becomes a vegetarian and decides to sabotage a barbecue hosted by Homer and Bart. She hijacks their grill and sends lunch on a wild ride, as Homer and Bart chase after it, hoping their food can be salvaged.
When lunch rolls into the street, Homer says, "It's just a little dirty! It's still good, it's still good!" When lunch lands in a river, Homer says, "It's just a little slimy! It's still good, it's still good!" When lunch gets stuck in a dam before water pressure launches it into the sky, Homer says, "It's just a little airborne! It's still good, it's still good!"
Bart, resigned to defeat, tells his father, "It's gone." Homer, crestfallen, replies, "I know."
I think about the scene whenever New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) presidential ambitions come up. As the Republican's odds of national success roll downhill, just like the Simpsons' family barbecue, Christie's admirers say of his campaign's prospects, "It's just a few criminal indictments! It's still good, it's still good!"
As the Garden State's fiscal conditions deteriorate, thy say, "It's just a few debt downgrades! It's still good, it's still good!" As the governor's electoral support collapses, they proclaim, "It's just a few polls! It's still good, it's still good!"
As Simon Maloy noted yesterday, the next "Christie comeback" always seems to be right around the corner -- though it never arrives.
The Christie Comeback! If it feels like we’ve been predicting and discussing Chris Christie’s imminent political rebirth for a long time, that’s because we have. All that’s been missing has been the actual comeback. Christie’s 2016 primary numbers have steadily eroded from their November 2013 high of 15 percent to his current five percent share. His approval rating in New Jersey has also collapsed to a record low 35 percent. The New Jersey economy is stumbling along, Christie’s paths to victory in early primary states remain highly questionable, and even his own state party is starting to turn on him. But when each new “Christie Comeback” flames out, there seems to be a new one ready to step up and take its place.
What's missing is someone to play the role of Bart, conceding, "It's gone."
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Huckabee's rough start

05/06/15 08:40AM

Towards the end of former Gov. Mike Huckabee's campaign kickoff speech yesterday, the Republican boasted, "I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to higher ground."
He then quickly interjected, "Now, rest assured, if you want to give a million dollars, please do it."
Some of the audience laughed and it was no doubt intended to be a lighthearted moment. But Philip Bump noticed that Huckabee's speech appeared to step over "one of the few clear legal boundaries that now exist in the world of money in politics."
"A federal candidate cannot solicit a million dollars, let's start there," said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center when The Post reached him by telephone. "If he's there announcing his candidacy, he cannot ask anybody for a million dollars. The most he can ask is the contribution limit; from a PAC that's $5,000."
Huckabee's campaign, of course, can't take a million-dollar contribution, suggesting that his comment was pointing people to give to a super PAC. Huckabee can ask people to give to the PAC, but only up to the limits stated above. What's more, that PAC has to be independent of Huckabee's campaign. "To the extent that he's implying that the money is given to him or will help him, that undermines the concept of independence," Noble said.
Ordinarily, presidential candidates have to be in the race for a while before they're accused of violating campaign-finance laws. Huckabee managed to raise legal concerns literally in his announcement speech.
And given his track record of deeply sketchy -- and sometimes ugly -- financial appeals, Huckabee has reason to be far more cautious.
But even putting all of this aside, the Arkansas Republican's first-day message was flawed in some fairly dramatic ways.


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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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