Even now, Americans will occasionally hear complaints from the right about President Obama's "socialism" and unyielding hostility towards the free-enterprise system. We're occasionally reminded, however, that if Comrade Barack is trying to destroy Western capitalism, he's not having much luck at it.
The S&P 500 hit its first record in more than a year Monday, a reflection of investors’ bets that the U.S. economy remains a pocket of solidity in a troubled world.
A better-than-expected jobs report Friday was the latest boost to the S&P 500, which has gained more than 16% since falling to a yearly low in February. Stocks have been bolstered by signs of strength in the U.S. economy, a recovery in oil prices and the Federal Reserve’s cautious stance toward raising interest rates.
Note, in early 2009, when the Great Recession was at its most severe, the S&P 500 fell below 700. Today, it closed at an all-time high of over 2,137.
That's right, this index has more than tripled in value in the Obama era, the White House's dastardly socialist agenda notwithstanding. In fact, as we discussed last year, when we look back over the last several generations, Wall Street gains under Obama are far stronger than under Reagan, and rival the bull market of the Clinton era.
In contemporary politics, there are plenty of politicians in both parties whose views on reproductive rights have "evolved" over time. Sometimes the shifts are sincere, sometimes they're a matter of electoral convenience, but whatever the motivation, these changes happen.
They don't, however, generally change literally overnight.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, reportedly a leading contender to become Donald Trump's running mate, was asked on ABC yesterday whether about his views on the controversial issue. "I think women have to be able to choose ... sort of, the right of choice." Flynn said, adding, "They are the ones that have to make the decision because they're the ones that are going to decide to bring up that child or not."
The comments quickly spelled trouble for Flynn's future as a candidate for nation office. Trump may like the retired general, but it's difficult to imagine Republicans tolerating a pro-choice Democrat on the GOP's presidential ticket.
Flynn told Fox News he is a "pro-life Democrat," while describing it as a legal matter.
"This pro-choice issue is a legal issue that should be decided by the courts. I believe in law. If people want to change the law, they should vote so that we can appoint pro-life judges. I believe the law should be changed," Flynn told Fox News.
So to review, yesterday, Flynn believed "women have to be able to choose." Today, Flynn believes it's up to courts to change the law -- ordinarily, Republican candidates believe legislators, not judges, should change the law -- and he's now "pro-life."
I suppose the obvious takeaway is that Flynn really does want to be considered for Trump's vice presidential slot, because otherwise, he wouldn't embarrass himself like this.
After controversy erupted a couple of years ago surrounding the Veterans Administration, Congress created something called the Commission on Care, whose members would write recommendations that would help shape the future of the VA. For conservatives, this created an opportunity to pursue a long-sought goal: privatization of veterans' care.
In April, the Washington Monthly's Paul Glastris wrote a piece for the Boston Globe, noting that several conservative Commission members quietly put together a recommendation calling for full privatization of the VA by 2035, prompting renewed lobbying from prominent veterans' groups, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, strongly opposing the far-right push.
Last week, the veterans' advocates prevailed. Glastris published a report on the end of the fight, at least for now.
On Wednesday, the Commission released its final report. To the surprise of most observers, the commission rejected privatization as the solution. While detailing a host of serious failings with the VA, the report notes that "care delivered by VA is in many ways comparable or better in clinical quality to that generally available in the private sector." It concludes that the new Choice Program was "flawed" in both its design and execution, adding that "the program has aggravated wait times and frustrated veterans, private-sector health care providers participating in networks, and V.H.A. alike."
Rather than wholesale outsourcing, the report recommends addressing issues of access by "standing up integrated veteran-centric, community-based delivery networks," a plan roughly similar to the one Hillary Clinton had called for.
The editorial board of the New York Timesadded, "The V.A. is troubled, no question. But the commission properly stops short of recommending a solution dear to ideologues on the right, which is to dismantle one of the largest bureaucracies in American government -- one with a critically important mission -- and hand the wreckage to the private sector."
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Confirming the rumors, Hillary Clinton's campaign confirmed this morning that Bernie Sanders will join her for an event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, tomorrow morning. It will be their first joint appearance since a debate in mid-April, and the event will probably include an endorsement from the senator.
* One day after telling ABC he's pro-choice, retired Gen. Mike Flynn reportedly told Fox News this morning he's a "pro-life Democrat" who believes current law "should be changed."
* The conservative Washington Times reported yesterday that there's a "95 percent" chance Donald Trump will choose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) for his ticket. Note, if this is true, it'll have to happen quickly: the filing deadline for Indiana's gubernatorial race is Friday, July 15. Indiana's GOP would probably turn to Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who's only been on the job since March. (Pence dropped his previous lieutenant governor, Sue Ellspermann, for reasons that have never really been explained.)
* As of today, of the 54 Republicans in the Senate, 16 of them are skipping the Republican National Convention. An additional six GOP senators remain undecided.
* On a related note, American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC aligned with Democrats, will set up a makeshift "Trump museum" near the Republican National Convention, filled with thousands of articles and clips about the party's presidential nominee. Even an old Trump Institute manual will reportedly be on display.
* Ahead of Trump's campaign event in Virginia Beach today, the Clinton campaign has unveiled a minute-long video highlighting Trump's affection for authoritarian dictators.
* The Congressional Progressive Caucus may be filled with Sanders supporters, but with the Vermont senator poised to end his candidacy, the CPC's political action committee endorsed Clinton this morning.
Early last year, Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) announced his retirement plans, creating an unexpected open U.S. Senate race in Indiana. Almost immediately, Democratic Hoosiers reached out to former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who retired from Capitol Hill in 2010. He thought about it, before bowing out of consideration last summer.
Quite a bit can change in a year. Politicoreported this morning on a major shake-up in Indiana's Senate race.
Democrat Baron Hill is dropping out of the Indiana Senate race and will be replaced as the Democratic nominee by former Sen. Evan Bayh, upending the race in a state Republicans expected to hold easily this fall.
Bayh, who is also a former governor of Indiana, still has approximately $9.3 million in a federal campaign account that has sat nearly dormant since he left the Senate in 2010.
Note, while several news organizations have reported on Bayh's comeback bid, this has not yet been independently confirmed by NBC News. I confirmed with a DSCC source this morning, however, that former Rep. Baron Hill (D) is ending his candidacy.
By all accounts, Hill was an underdog in his upcoming race against Rep. Todd Young (R), but Bayh changes the equation: the Indiana Democrat remains a popular figure in the state, and with over $9 million in the bank, the former senator and governor will have plenty of resources to run a strong campaign.
In a 30-year career in Indiana politics, Bayh, whose father was also a longtime senator, has never lost a race.
Bayh's apparent change of heart, of course, did not occur in a vacuum. A year ago, when he initially decided not to launch a comeback bid, Bayh very likely assumed Republicans were well positioned to excel in 2016. Now, however, the winds have shifted direction, creating an opportunity where one did not previously exist.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but Bayh wouldn't make a move like this -- especially so late in the process -- unless the conditions favored Democrats. In this sense, if the reports are true, we can see Bayh as a weathervane, pointing in a direction Republicans won't like.
When expectations are high, the sting of disappointment is more intense -- and as we've seen in recent years, many Republicans don't handle disappointment well.
The pattern is hard to miss. In 2012, Republicans could have believed the poll showing President Obama favored to win, but they convinced themselves the polls were "skewed" and were crushed when Mitt Romney lost. GOP observers could have listened to legal experts who said the Affordable Care Act would clear Supreme Court scrutiny, but they convinced themselves that "Obamacare" was unconstitutional and were inconsolable when the rulings were issued.
In the case of Hillary Clinton's email protocols, it's the exact same dynamic. Every objective, independent observer tried to explain that there was no realistic chance she'd be indicted, but Republicans, confusing dreams with facts, once again convinced themselves that the Democratic candidate was not only a brazen criminal, but would soon find herself behind bars.
When FBI Director James Comey disappointed them, congressional Republicans quickly threw together a haphazard hearing, which inadvertently had the effect of helping the target of their ire.
Such irrational behavior sometimes feeds on itself, leading to related lapses. As the Washington Postreported, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who'd initially said he'd accept Comey's findings, now wants the FBI to launch a brand new anti-Clinton investigation.
By the end of the day [Thursday], Chaffetz had indeed asked the FBI to probe Clinton again and find out whether she misled Congress. While the just-concluded FBI investigation was requested by the intelligence community's inspector general, a new probe of Clinton would be a product of Congress -- a distinction that carries obvious partisan implications.
That is a risk Republicans are ready to take.
It's generally not a positive development when members of Congress see the FBI as a political tool to be used against partisan rivals, but just as important in this case is that no one seriously believes a federal anti-Clinton "perjury" probe will result in an indictment.
One of the year's more inexplicable political developments came shortly after the mass-shooting in Orlando, when Republicans clumsily made the case that LGBT voters should move towards the GOP. The pitch was a little convoluted.
As Donald Trump tried to explain it, Democratic support for immigration and religious liberty is ultimately bad for the LGBT community, so the Orlando slaying should reshuffle the partisan and ideological deck. The presumptive Republican nominee went so far as to say he's the "better friend" of the "LBGT" [sic] community because of his anti-immigration and anti-Muslim agenda.
There was never any reason to believe this outreach would be effective, but if it caused even a few voters to reconsider old assumptions, congressional Republicans have gone out of their way to bolt a door that probably wasn't accessible in the first place. The Huffington Postreported last week:
For the past two months, GOP lawmakers in the House haven't missed an opportunity to slip anti-LGBT provisions into bills. They passed a National Defense Authorization Act with language to let government contractors fire people for being gay or trans. They tried to pass a 2017 water and energy spending bill with a provision barring the Obama administration from blocking funds to North Carolina over its transgender bathroom law. When Democrats tried twice to strip the anti-LGBT provision from NDAA, Republicans overruled them.
And those are just bills that made it to the House floor. At the committee level, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) recently tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the 2017 legislative branch spending bill to ban trans people who visit the U.S. Capitol or the Library of Congress from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.
As if this weren't quite enough, the House Oversight Committee is scheduled tomorrow to take up the so-called "First Amendment Defense Act," which would allow any entity that receives public funding to discriminate against LGBT Americans on the basis of religion, effectively scrapping President Obama's executive order on the issue.
One might conclude the Republicans' post-Orlando outreach to LGBT voters wasn't altogether sincere.
While GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill push measures intended to make discrimination easier, Republicans writing the party's national platform continue to fight against marriage equality, calling for the "reversal" of the Supreme Court's Obergefell ruling, "whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment."
Bernie Sanders won't be the Democratic Party's presidential candidate this year, but his impact on Democratic politics is hard to miss. The Washington Postreported yesterday on the party's new national platform.
If party platforms matter -- and the jury is out on that -- what happened this weekend in a sweltering Hilton conference room was remarkable. The Democratic Party shifted further to the left in one election than perhaps since 1972, embracing once-unthinkable stances on carbon pricing, police reform, abortion rights, the minimum wage and the war on drugs. It did so with very little ideological resistance and a lot of comity between the supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
"We have produced by far the most progressive platform that this party has seen in multiple generations," said Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D), co-chairman of the platform committee.
It's worth pausing to appreciate the irony: it wasn't long ago that Sanders' campaign team demanded Malloy's ouster, considering him too moderate and too supportive of Clinton to oversee the platform process fairly. And yet, there was the governor, announcing the progressives' victory.
As NBC News reported, the draft platform "still needs to be ratified at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia," though no major changes are expected.
The larger shifts extend beyond the Democratic platform. About a week ago, Clinton announced new provisions in her higher-education plan, which Sanders hailed as "extraordinarily powerful." Late last week, the presumptive Democratic nominee also added some new, progressive policies to her health-care plan, which further delighted Sanders.
The traditional electoral model sets expectations every four years: a presidential candidate will play to his or her base during the primaries, and then deliberately shift towards the center for the general election, trying to appeal to a broader, more ideologically diverse audience. And yet, Hillary Clinton effectively wrapped up the Democratic nomination in late April, and she hasn't changed her direction at all. If anything, Clinton has taken additional steps to bolster her progressive bona fides since securing her 2016 position.
When putting together a list of possible running mates for Donald Trump, it's not hard to rattle off the names of assorted governors and members of Congress. But the Washington Post threw the political world a curve-ball over the weekend, reporting that the presumptive Republican nominee is "slightly bored" with the usual suspects and is "increasingly intrigued by the idea of tapping retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn" for his ticket.
And while this article came as something of a surprise, it's easy to see why the GOP candidate would be enamored with the retired general. Remember, the one person in the world who most impresses Donald J. Trump is, of course, Donald J. Trump. Mike Flynn has a record of military service the presumptive nominee can't match, but Flynn is also a political amateur with literally no experience in elected office, a prominent anti-Muslim voice, a fierce critic of President Obama, and someone who's a little too cozywith Vladimir Putin.
In other words, of all the various vice presidential possibilities, it's hardly surprising that Trump would be drawn to someone who most reminds him of himself.
But before anyone starts making Trump/Flynn posters, it's important to note that the retired general is a registered Democrat, and as ABC News found yesterday, pro-choice.
In an interview on ABC's "This Week," the former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency shared his views on some key social issues, including his pro-choice stance.
"I think women have to be able to choose ... sort of, the right of choice." said Flynn, adding, "They are the ones that have to make the decision because they're the ones that are going to decide to bring up that child or not."
When asked about marriage equality, Flynn didn't answer directly, though he said, "What people do in their private lives, these are not big issues that our country's dealing with" -- an answer that will not satisfy far-right social conservatives who make up much of the Republican base.
Many on the right have said repeatedly in recent weeks they're looking for a vice presidential nominee who can bolster Trump's conservative bona fides. Flynn would do the opposite.
Donald Trump has been called all sorts of things over the course of his controversial presidential campaign, but yesterday was probably the first time anyone, anywhere, said he's positioned to play the role of "racial healer."
CNN's Jake Tapper interviewed Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), a vice presidential contender, and the host noted that he's heard from "a number of Latino-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Native-Americans, Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, all expressing concerns about some of the things Donald Trump has said." The Republican governor insisted most Americans have the same security concerns, regardless of who wins the election.
It led to this amazing exchange.
TAPPER: Respectfully, governor, you didn't answer my question. Do you think Donald Trump has campaigned as a racial healer?
FALLIN: I think he is trying to campaign as a racial healer. I think that has been part of his message....
In case you're curious, the governor said this with a straight face.
This comes on the heels of the Trump campaign issuing a statement on Friday morning, responding to the mass-shooting in Dallas, which read in part, "Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they've lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better."
Questions about racial tensions are inherently difficult and multi-faceted, and Trump has done little to help answer them. But if the presumptive Republican nominee is correct, and tensions have intensified, is Trump prepared to acknowledge his role in the problem?
The International Space Station will soon have a new function: animal tracker. Next summer, an experiment called ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) will be installed on the ISS to track the migration of a range of species on Earth.
Scientists have been tagging and tracking animals with radio transmitters and receivers for decades, but most methods in use are labor intensive, only practical for small numbers of animals, and expensive. Now, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany have devised a way to solve at least two of these problems. They have designed a small radio tag with GPS and its own solar array that can be attached to individual animals that weight as little as a quarter of a pound. These tags will not only record the location of the animal, but also how fast it moves, the temperature of its environment, and even the light it received (sunlight or artificial). Additionally, the tags will be able to transmit their data and not just passively store it.
Jaime Castro, a trainer with the Dallas Police Department, talks with Chris Jansing about his friend, Senior Corporal Lorne Ahrens, a 14-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department and father of two who was killed in Thursday night's sniper attack. watch
First up from the God Machine this week is the long-awaited opening of a religious attraction in Kentucky that's not quite like anything else in the world.
A 510-foot-long, $100 million Noah's ark attraction built by Christians who say the biblical story really happened is ready to open in Kentucky this week. [...]
"I believe this is going to be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era in history," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built the ark.
The media and select supporters were invited to tour the attraction on Tuesday, two days before regular customers could check out the life-sized Noah's Ark for themselves.
To put it mildly, the "Ark Encounter" attraction is not without controversy. As regular readers know, the Christian ministry that built the mammoth structure demanded and received taxpayer subsidies for this project, despite the fact that all employees -- including staff whose responsibilities have nothing to do with religion -- will be required to be Christian and sign a written document professing "Christ as their savior."
Indeed, those hoping to work at "Ark Encounter" must also submit a "creation belief statement" before being hired, which includes endorsing the idea that the planet is roughly 6,000 years old.
The fact that Kentucky taxpayers are subsidizing all of this may seem legally problematic, but a Bush/Cheney-appointed federal judge cleared the way for the public assistance, and Gov. Matt Bevin (R), delighted with the outcome, did not appeal the case that had been litigated by his Democratic predecessor.
There's also the fact that this theme-park attraction isn't just a fun excursion for tourists. The point of "Ark Encounter" is to promote a Christian ministry's worldview, "share the gospel," and encourage visitors to embrace young-earth creationism. This ark's builders genuinely believe the story of Noah is literally true -- complete with dinosaurs on the replica of the mythical boat.
Dan Phelps, the head of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, showed up for the opening on Thursday and told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the boat’s wooden craftsmanship was impressive, but the scientific exhibits, which he called “beyond pseudo-science, more like non-science,” were appalling.
For what it's worth, while the Book of Genesis says Noah relied on tar and gopher wood, "Ark Encounter" was constructed with a team of workers using contemporary tools and materials. If the ministry intended to prove what was possible millennia ago, it may have unintentionally hurt its own theological case.
Judge Clay Jenkins of Dallas County, talks with Joy Reid about how the people of Dallas are coping with yesterday's sniper attack on police officers, and the nature of the relationship between Dallas police and the city's residents. watch
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.