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Donald Trump and his wife Melania are applauded before a dinner hosted by the Sarasota Republican Party honoring him as Statesman of the Year in Sarasota, Fla., August 26, 2012. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Reuters)

Hiring 'the best people' shouldn't be this difficult

05/12/16 10:40AM

Donald Trump likes to boast about his ability to hire extraordinary employees. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin joked a couple of months ago, "Donald Trump brags that as president he will hire the best people, the greatest people. They'll be so great, you'll be sick of great people."
 
If only Trump's claims were in any way true. In the private sector, the New York Republican struggled to hire the best people, but as a presidential candidate, he's surrounded himself with a rather woeful team.
 
And the problem is arguably getting worse. Politico reported yesterday:
Donald Trump's campaign has enlisted influential conservative economists to revise his tax package and make it more politically palatable by slashing the $10 trillion sticker price. [...]
 
[T]he campaign last month contacted at least two prominent conservative economists -- Larry Kudlow, the CNBC television host, and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and a longtime Wall Street Journal writer -- to spearhead an effort to update the package.
I realize that Kudlow and Moore probably aren't household names, but if these are the folks Team Trump is turning to, it's a reminder as to just how bad the campaign is at choosing "the best people" for key tasks.
 
Under a "Send in the Clowns" headline, the New York Times' Paul Krugman seemed gobsmacked yesterday by the campaign's selection.
A laptop in use. (Photo by TEK/Science Photo Library/Corbis)

Turning back the clock on data-based campaigning

05/12/16 10:04AM

President Obama's national campaigns benefited from all kinds of advantages -- including the quality of the candidate himself -- but one of the most important and revolutionary tools was Team Obama's data team. Never before has a campaign operation used data so effectively to target voters, raise money, mobilize supporters, and gauge public attitudes.
 
No one on Obama's data team became a household name, but in the world of analytics and data management, these folks not only became sought-after stars, they were also responsible for creating a new industry, effectively from scratch. After seeing what was possible in Obama's operation, parties, candidates, campaign committees, and related national entities starting looking at the importance of data in a whole new way.
 
Even the much derided RNC "Growth and Opportunity Project" -- generally known as the Republicans' post-2012 autopsy -- specifically said the RNC needed to be "more sophisticated in how we employ data across all campaign and Party functions."
 
As it turns out, the Republicans' 2016 nominee disagrees. The Associated Press reported yesterday:
Donald Trump, GOP nomination virtually in hand, is planning a general election campaign that banks heavily on his personal appeal and trademark rallies while spurning the kind of sophisticated data operation that was a centerpiece of Barack Obama's winning White House runs.
 
"I've always felt it was overrated," Trump said in an interview Tuesday. "Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine. And I think the same is true with me." [...] The businessman said he'll spend "limited" money on data operations to identify and track potential voters and to model various turnout scenarios that could give him the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.
Democrats couldn't have been more pleased. Nick Gourevitch, a Democratic pollster, noted yesterday how happy he was to "wake up and read that the GOP is unilaterally disarming itself from the political data wars."
 
New York's Ed Kilgore joked this morning, "You can almost hear Trump taunt data geeks as bozos whose computers (or 'data-processing machines' as he called them in the interview mocking the idea) are loaded with nothing but video games."
Former Vice President Dan Quayle is interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her "Opening Bell With Maria Bartiromo" program on the Fox Business Network, in New York, Thursday, July 24, 2014.

Dan Quayle defines 'qualified' in an unusual way

05/12/16 09:24AM

As the presidential general election takes shape, and Republican leaders struggle to come to terms with their presumptive nominee, we've heard quite a bit from those who ran on the GOP ticket in recent years. They're far from unanimous: Dick Cheney, for example, publicly supports Donald Trump, but George W. Bush does not. Sarah Palin supports Trump, but Mitt Romney does not.
 
Has anyone heard from Dan Quayle? Oh wait, there he is now.
Hillary Clinton may be a more qualified presidential candidate than Donald Trump "on paper," former Vice President Dan Quayle said Thursday. But Trump is more qualified in another respect, the Indiana Republican suggested.
 
"He's more qualified in the sense that the American people, I think, want an outsider," Quayle said in an interview with NBC's "Today," remarking that he would support him as the Republican Party's nominee. "And they want an outsider this time. She's not an outsider, so if you're looking for an outsider, no, she's not qualified, and he is."
It sounds as if the former vice president is arguing that if we take the word "qualified," and change its meaning so that it's unrelated to qualifications, then Trump is fully capable and ready to lead -- even more so than the Democratic frontrunner.
 
Sure, we could use the actual definition of "qualified," but evidently, Dan Quayle prefers not to.
Former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani waits to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security hearing at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on Sep. 8, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)

Rudy Giuliani eyed for controversial GOP 'commission'

05/12/16 08:40AM

As recently as December, Donald Trump announced support for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Asked last week whether he stands by one of his most outrageous proposals, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee reiterated his support for the idea – twice.
 
Yesterday, however, as Rachel noted on last night's show, Trump told Fox News the proposed ban was "only a suggestion," adding, "It hasn't been called for yet." I'm not altogether sure what that means -- it has been "called for," by Trump himself -- but this is apparently Trump's way of making his more outlandish ideas sound more palatable.
 
Nevertheless, Trump is moving forward with ideas as to how best to implement his "suggestion." The AP reported yesterday:
Donald Trump says he may set up a commission to study his immigration policies and his proposed ban on foreign Muslims entering the U.S. The man he may ask to lead the commission is the former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who's called Trump's idea of a Muslim ban unconstitutional. [...]
 
He says a commission would examine all those issues, as well as the question of letting in Syrian refugees, and it would be "possibly headed" by Giuliani, the mayor when New York was attacked on 9/11.
Soon after, the New York Times reported that the former mayor seems to be on board with the plan. "I think the idea of studying how we can best deal with radical Islam, and try to figure how to distinguish between all the good people who are Muslims and the bad ones, is a good idea," Giuliani told reporters yesterday.
 
Well, that's certainly one way to look at it.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, May 5, 2016. (Photo by Chris Tilley/Reuters)

Why Donald Trump's tax-return defense isn't working

05/12/16 08:00AM

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump suggested to the Associated Press this week that he may be the first major-party nominee in the post-Watergate era not to release his tax returns. That's touched off a fairly serious controversy, for which the candidate has no credible defense.
 
The presumptive Republican nominee spoke to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren last night about his position, arguing that he'd "like to" disclose the tax documents, "hopefully before the election," but he's waiting for the end of an IRS audit. The problem with this excuse is that it doesn't make sense: an IRS audit doesn't preclude someone from sharing their returns.
 
Indeed, as Rachel noted on the show last night, even Richard Nixon, during his presidency, released his tax materials in the midst of an IRS audit. Trump could, if he wanted to, release these returns whenever he feels like it. For reasons he won't explain, the GOP candidate just doesn't want to.
 
But my favorite twist in this story was this quote from a prominent Trump ally. Politico reported:
Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier who recently backed Trump, told Fox News that the real estate mogul's reluctance is due to "the complication of the return, the fact that he's under an audit, he feels that he doesn't want to give out that information to the general public and have a whole nightmare situation with opposition research trying to pick holes through the return."
Note, Scaramucci, a prominent Republican fundraiser, just this week signed on as an official member of Trump's national finance committee. He's not, in other words, just some outside observer; Scaramucci is a new member of Team Trump.
 
And his defense for keeping tax returns hidden from the public is cringe-worthy. The complexity of the documents is irrelevant, as is the IRS audit. As for the notion that opposition researchers might uncover embarrassing information in Trump's tax materials, that, almost by definition, is the worst of all possible defenses.
 
In effect, it's like saying, "I have to keep the documents hidden because the truth might make me look bad."
Trump already squirming on primary principles

Trump already squirming on primary principles

05/11/16 08:59PM

Rachel Maddow notes that no sooner has Donald Trump eliminated the competition for the Republican presidential nomination, than he has begun to soften his stance on familiar campaign refrains: calling his Muslim ban "just a suggestion," planning fundraisers instead of "self-funding," and even making up excuses to avoid... watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 5.11.16

05/11/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Iraq: "A car bomb ripped through a commercial area in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 63 people in an attack that was swiftly claimed by ISIS. Two other bombings in the Iraqi capital later killed 28 others, authorities said. The initial blast occurred in a crowded outdoor market in the predominantly Shiite district of Sadr City and also wounded 85 people."
 
* Texas: "A 2013 fertilizer plant blast in Texas that killed 15 people and leveled hundreds of homes was caused by a 'criminal act,' federal officials said Wednesday. The findings were revealed in a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation into the origin of the deadly fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. on April 17, 2013, in the rural town of West."
 
* Brazil: "After a chaotic couple of days, Brazil's Senate votes Wednesday on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, who is charged with using state funds to fill budget gaps."
 
* Tom Cotton loses this round: "The Senate on Wednesday rejected a Republican amendment that had renewed tensions over the Iran nuclear deal and threatened to derail chamber leaders' efforts to pass spending bills this year."
 
* In geo-political terms, there are few places on the planet as interesting as these waters: "A U.S. warship sailed within 12 miles of one China's largest artificial islands Tuesday, part of a continuing effort by the Pentagon to demonstrate that the United States remains undeterred by the rapid Chinese military buildup in the South China Sea."
 
* Zika: "Brazilian researchers studying the Zika virus say they've found evidence it may have evolved into a new form that's more likely to damage brain cells and cause birth defects."
 
* That's a lot of money: "U.S. multinational companies are saving $100 billion a year by shifting their profits overseas to lower their tax bills, according to a study released Tuesday that found that corporate tax-dodging is a bigger problem than previously estimated."
In this May 19, 2006 file photo, Ted Nugent performs during the opening ceremony of the National Rifle Association annual convention in Milwaukee.

NRA's Ted Nugent sparks yet another ugly controversy

05/11/16 04:02PM

About four years ago at this time, Ted Nugent, a musician, reality-show personality, and National Rifle Association board member, was doing his best to help Mitt Romney get elected. Appearing at the NRA's national convention, Nugent said, "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year.... We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions?"
 
He went on to say, "It isn't the enemy that ruined America. It's good people who bent over and let the enemy in. If the coyote's in your living room pissing on your couch, it's not the coyote's fault. It's your fault for not shooting him."
 
The comments, not surprisingly, generated a Secret Service investigation.
 
Four years later, Nugent has a new target, but he appears to have learned very little. Media Matters noted this week:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who will deliver a speech at the NRA's annual meeting this month, shared a fake video that depicts Hillary Clinton being graphically murdered by Bernie Sanders with a handgun during a presidential debate.
 
In a May 10 post on his Facebook page, Nugent shared a video with the descriptions "Bernie Sanders destroys Hillary Clinton in debate on Vermont gun laws" and "Bernie Sanders absolutely killed Hillary over this issue."
The video takes footage from a recent debate between Clinton and Sanders, but it's manipulated to show Sanders shooting Clinton in the chest -- complete with an animated blood spurt.
 
Just to be clear, Nugent does not appear to have created the video, but he helped disseminate it through social media, and he endorsed it with his own poorly written message: "I got your guncontrol right here bitch!"
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts on May 2, 2016 in Carmel, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Trump prepared to keep tax returns hidden from public

05/11/16 12:42PM

In the modern era, major-party presidential nominees are expected to make certain disclosures, just as a matter of course. Candidates for the nation's highest office are expected to release information related to their personal health and public scrutiny of candidates' tax returns is a given.
 
In December, Donald Trump more or less met the first of these two tests. His campaign released an unintentionally hilarious letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who claimed he's been Trump's personal physician since 1980. The physician insisted the Republican candidate's "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary" and his recent lab tests results were "astonishingly excellent." Bornstein added, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
 
And what of this fine physical specimen's tax returns? The Associated Press reported this morning:
Despite pressure, the billionaire also doesn't expect to release his tax returns before November, citing an ongoing audit of his finances. He said he will release them after the audit ends. But he said that he wouldn't overrule his lawyers and instruct them to release his returns if the audit hasn't concluded by November.
 
"There's nothing to learn from them," Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. He also has said he doesn't believe voters are interested.
I can't speak to what voters may or may not find interesting, but if the AP report is correct, it appears Trump will be the first major-party nominee in the modern era to simply refuse to disclose his tax returns. Mitt Romney spent months delaying disclosure and making excuses, but in his 2012 race, even he eventually released his 2011 returns and a topline summary, including his effective tax rate, for the previous 20 years.
 
Trump, in contrast, is prepared to move forward with no disclosure in this area at all, prompting all kinds of questions about what, exactly, the Republican may be hiding from the public. Is he far less wealthy than he claims to be? Has most of his income come by way of television, rather than the purported success of his business?

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.11.16

05/11/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* In a bit of a surprise, Donald Trump now says he'd be delighted if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stayed on as chairman of the Republican National Convention.
 
* On a related note, Trump told the Associated Press that he's narrowed his list of possible running mates to "five or six people." He didn't rule out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was tapped this week to head Trump's transition planning.
 
* As for the process of narrowing this list of "five or six people" to one, the vetting process for Team Trump will reportedly be led by Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager.
 
* Reports that Ben Carson would lead the VP search committee were incorrect: the former candidate reportedly left the vetting team this week.
 
* Though Oregon is expected to be one of Bernie Sanders' strongest states in the closing weeks of the Democratic presidential race, a new statewide poll actually shows Clinton leading the senator in Oregon, 48% to 33%. It's hard to know whether or not this is an outlier, since there have been so few other polls in the state.
 
* Though ostensibly still neutral, Vice President Biden said yesterday that he's "confident" Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee, adding, "and I feel confident she'll be the next president."

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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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