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Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, S.C., Sept. 18, 2015. (Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters)

Scott Walker, from hero to zero in record time, quits 2016 race

09/21/15 05:00PM

As recently as March, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was the nation's #1 Republican presidential contender. As recently as May, the far-right governor wasn't just leading in Iowa, he was also the only candidate with double-digit support.
A month later, in June, Walker kicked off his national campaign to significant fanfare, and it was easy to see him as a top-tier contender for the GOP nomination -- Walker offered a unique combination of establishment credibility, right-wing appeal, and electoral success. There was ample speculation that the fight might very well come down to Walker and Jeb Bush.
That was in June. Today, Walker's done. NBC News' Chuck Todd confirms:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is set to drop out of the presidential race Monday night, a source close to the campaign confirms to NBC News.
He is scheduled to hold a press conference in Madison, Wisconsin, at 6 p.m. ET to announce his exit from the race.
I've seen some comparisons of late between Walker and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who also briefly ran in 2012 before watching his support evaporate.
But the similarities are limited. Yes, they're two bland, Midwestern governors, but Pawlenty never really developed a strong base of support and few ever saw him as a frontrunner.
Walker, on the other hand, was widely seen as a powerhouse, who had put all of the pieces in place to compete over the long haul. It makes the Wisconsinite's three-month flameout that much more extraordinary -- few presidential candidates ever make the transition from hero to zero this quickly.
So what in the world happened?
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner, Sept. 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci/Getty)

Obama and the issue that 'somehow this never gets on the TV'

09/21/15 04:18PM

Just over the last year or so, the right has made a concerted effort to hold President Obama responsible for tensions between law enforcement and minority communities. Republican presidential hopefuls and conservative media outlets have even gone to ugly lengths to blame the White House for incidents involving violence towards police officers.
It appears the president has heard the chatter. It also appears that he doesn't care for it.
Obama delivered remarks over the weekend at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner, and he set aside time to make his opinions clear. From the official transcript:
"I want to repeat -- because somehow this never shows up on Fox News. I want to repeat -- because I’ve said it a lot, unwaveringly, all the time: Our law enforcement officers do outstanding work in an incredibly difficult and dangerous job. They put their lives on the line for our safety. We appreciate them and we love them. That’s why my Task Force on 21st Century Policing made a set of recommendations that I want to see implemented to improve their safety, as well as to make sure that our criminal justice system is being applied fairly. Officers show uncommon bravery in our communities every single day. They deserve our respect. [...]
"So I just want to repeat, because somehow this never gets on the TV: There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly. Do not make this as an either/or proposition. This is a both/and proposition. We want to protect our police officers. We’ll do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they are being treated fairly. I hope I’m making that clear. I hope I’m making that clear."
Seems clear enough to me.
Confetti lie over the floor on the last day of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The perils of a small-tent party

09/21/15 12:55PM

In the last national election cycle, the Republican losses obviously counted, but so too did the way in which they lost. GOP candidates, party officials later acknowledged, were catering to an increasingly narrow part of the population. The Republican Party's base was getting older, whiter, and male-dominated.
GOP strategists were determined to change the party's focus. They failed spectacularly.
Steve Schmidt, who served as Republican Sen. John McCain’s top strategist in the 2008 presidential election, said it’s problematic for the GOP to be seen as intolerant, particularly with moderate voters who help sway the general election.
“Of course it’s worrisome if you have a party that’s perceived as anti-Latino, anti-Asian, anti-gay, intolerant of Muslims,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt's correct that the party's problems are exacerbated by perceptions of intolerance and exclusivity, and this doesn't just alienate Latinos, Asians, Muslims, and the LGBT community. It also has the effect of pushing away white mainstream voters who start to see Republicans as wildly out of step with a diverse, modern nation.
On Friday, for example, President Obama nominated Eric Fanning as the next Secretary of the Army. No one has questioned Fanning's qualifications, but GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee condemned the nomination because Fanning is gay. "It's clear President Obama is more interested in appeasing America's homosexuals than honoring America's heroes," the Republican said, adding, "Homosexuality is not a job qualification. The U.S. military is designed to keep Americans safe and complete combat missions, not conduct social experiments."
It's an "Archie Bunker" posture in a "Modern Family" world.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.21.15

09/21/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Hillary Clinton addressed the refugee crisis in more detail yesterday, telling CBS, “We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and I think the United States has to do more. And I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000, to begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in."
* Jeb Bush told a Republican audience over the weekend that he believes President Obama is an American and a Christian. My fear is this is what passes for GOP moderation in 2015.
* Late last week, Donald Trump's campaign released a position paper called, "Protecting Our Second Amendment Rights Will Make America Great Again." The document calls for vastly expanded gun rights and appears to have been written by leading officials at the NRA.
* Trump also said late last week that he's prepared to spend at least $100 million on his presidential bid.
* Just before the deadline, Rand Paul's political operation gave the Republican Party of Kentucky $250,000 to finance the state GOP's presidential caucus on March 5. To appreciate why this is important, take a look at our coverage from last month.
* The Maine Republican Party announced over the weekend that it will hold its presidential caucus the same day, March 5 (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
* After some poorly worded comments about Latinos last week, John Kasich clarified yesterday, "Look, if I have to be clear about it, I’m just trying to say that in the course of a presidential campaign I’m glad I don’t move so fast that I ignore people and my views on our Hispanic friends across this country have been very positive. They have been impactful in so many ways.”
Rick Santorum, former Republican senator of Pennsylvania, speaks during the South Carolina Freedom Summit in Greenville, S.C. on May 9, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Santorum intends to 'abolish the State Department'

09/21/15 11:20AM

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently announced his belief that the federal Department of Education shouldn't exist, it almost seemed like a cliche. Republican presidential candidates have, for quite a while, talked about scrapping various cabinet agencies, with Commerce and Education nearly always topping the list.
What's far more interesting is when national GOP candidates think outside the box. Ben Carson, for example, recently made the case for eliminating the Department of Veterans Affairs -- a position that did not endear the right-wing neurosurgeon to veterans' advocates.
BuzzFeed, meanwhile, reports that Rick Santorum wants to abolish the State Department.
Santorum made the comment in an interview with radio host Glenn Beck, who told the former senator from Pennsylvania that he was hoping to hear the party’s 2016 contenders call for everyone at the State Department to be fired.
“I have said that,” Santorum replied. “I said that when I ran four years ago — the first thing I’d do is abolish the State Department and start all over.”
The fact that Santorum wants to eliminate the State Department -- created in 1789 as the first U.S. cabinet agency -- is itself foolish. But to appreciate just how ridiculous this position is, consider his misguided reasoning.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to guests gathered for a campaign event at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sep. 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Hillary Clinton sees her first poll bounce in a while

09/21/15 10:46AM

The latest CNN poll of Republican voters found something we haven't seen in months: Donald Trump's GOP support going down, not up. As it turns out, CNN polled Democrats nationally and found something equally interesting: Hillary Clinton's support going up, not down.
Hillary Clinton's lead in the Democratic presidential primary race has grown -- and if Vice President Joe Biden decides to stay out of the race, her numbers would rise even higher, a new CNN/ORC poll shows.
Clinton is backed by 42% of Democratic primary voters nationally, compared to 24% for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 22% for Biden and 1% for former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
That's a marked improvement over an early September CNN/ORC poll that found Clinton leading Sanders, 37% to 27%, with Biden at 20%.
Looking back over the last four months, there had been a consistent trend: Clinton's top-line support among Democrats nationally had steadily gotten smaller, while Sanders' support had grown.
That is, until today's results were released. To appreciate the shift, consider this in chart form:
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) prepares to do a live interview with FOX News in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Rand Paul's risky 'throw everybody out' posture

09/21/15 10:20AM

It's generally wise for candidates to avoid rhetoric they might regret later. Last week, for example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was asked about his strategy for the coming months. “I think we’re putting all our eggs in the basket of Iowa," the GOP presidential candidate said.
The problem should be obvious: if Walker comes up short in Iowa, he's done. The governor is setting his own benchmark for success, which is an inherently risky game to play.
Similarly, Sen. Rand Paul was on "Face the Nation" yesterday, where host John Dickerson asked about voters' "appetite for outsiders." Dickerson asked what the senator believes accounts for these attitudes. The senator replied:
"Well, you know, I ran for office because I was unhappy about Washington and I still am. The more I see of Washington, the more unhappy I am of how thing are dysfunctional and don't work. I'm a huge proponent of term limits. I would throw everybody out, myself included. I'm serious."
You could almost hear Democratic ad-makers, getting ready to make a series of 30-second spots in which Rand Paul declares, on national television, "I would throw everybody out, myself included. I'm serious."
Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina responds to a question at a Fox-sponsored forum in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Caught in a fib, Fiorina refuses to acknowledge misstep

09/21/15 10:00AM

At last week's Republican debate, Carly Fiorina described a Planned Parenthood video showing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’”
There is no such video. It does not exist. This pesky detail has since touched off a striking series of events.
First, the GOP candidate insisted the day after the debate that she "didn’t misspeak," adding, “I have seen those images.” Of course, Fiorina couldn't have seen those images, because there are no such images.
Later, Vox's Sarah Kliff asked the Fiorina campaign to back up her claim with evidence. The Republican staffers tried, but failed, to substantiate the claims. Even the right-wing group that released the videos can't bolster the Republican presidential hopeful.
Yesterday, Fiorina appeared on "Fox News Sunday," where host Chris Wallace tried to lead Fiorina to acknowledge reality. From the Nexis transcript:
WALLACE: First of all, do you acknowledge what every fact checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it? There is no actual footage of the incident that you just mentioned?
FIORINA: No, I don't accept that at all. I've seen the footage. And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact-checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn't exist. They're trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape.
Actually, they're not. The fact-checkers examined Fiorina's claim and concluded that it's the opposite of reality. Offered multiple opportunities to substantiate the claim with evidence, Fiorina and her aides have offered nothing. The authenticity of the tapes is a separate question altogether.
The more the Republican says, "I've seen the footage," the more we're reminded there is no such footage.
Americans can learn a lot about presidential candidates by reviewing their records and proposals, but how they respond to challenges tells us something important, too. In this case, a candidate for national office was caught saying something that was plainly untrue, which in turn created a test of sorts. How would Carly Fiorina defend a lie? What would her defense tell us about her readiness for national office?
George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, George Bush

Jeb leaves 'I'm my own man' behind

09/21/15 09:20AM

One of Jeb Bush's root challenges as a presidential candidate is, rightly or wrongly, his last name. He's the son of an unsuccessful, one-term president, and the brother of a failed, two-term president whose errors and incompetence created disastrous messes we're still cleaning up.

For a while, the former Florida governor tried to overcome the problem by frequently telling voters, "I am my own man." It was, however, a tough sell -- Jeb relied on fundraising appeals written by his high-profile family relatives, and surrounded himself with his family's team of policy advisers and donors.
Over the weekend, Jeb spoke at a conference in Michigan for Republican activists and donors, where he abandoned his previous posture altogether. TPM reported:
Bush said that the U.S. might have a better relationship with Iran, Cuba and Burma, but said that ties with countries in the Middle East and Israel have worsened under the Obama administration. The former governor said that he would improve relations with other countries as president.
"I know how to do this because, yes, I am a Bush," he said, according to CNN. "I happened to see two really good presidents develop relationships with other countries."
The New York Times added that the GOP candidate "said that he considered being related to two presidents to be one of his qualifications."
For one thing, George W. Bush was not a "good president" who "developed relationships with other countries." On the contrary, during the Bush/Cheney era, the United States' reputation, standing, and credibility around the globe faltered terribly. It's President Obama who's helped repair much of the damage.
For another, Jeb Bush's clumsiness on his family legacy is getting a little embarrassing. He can say he's his "own man," or he can say he'd be a good president because of his last name, but when he makes both arguments at the same time, even the most sycophantic Bush supporters are going to notice the contradiction.
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson talks to reporters after speaking during an event at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2015. (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Carson backs religious test for presidency, despite Constitution

09/21/15 08:40AM

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is unambiguously clear: "[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
As of yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson either doesn't know what the Constitution says or he simply doesn't care.
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said he would not support a Muslim as President of the United States. Responding to a question on “Meet the Press,” the retired neurosurgeon said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
He also said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.
It was a bizarre exchange to watch. "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd asked Carson, currently a top-tier GOP contender, if a president's faith matters. "Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is," he replied. "If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem."
Following up, Todd asked, "So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?" Carson replied, "No, I don't, I do not.... I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation."
As a rule, even the most far-right politicians like to pretend Americans should be evaluated on their merits, but Carson is unconcerned with such niceties. As far as the retired neurosurgeon is concerned, there might as well be a sign on the White House door that reads, "No Muslims Need Apply."
Why? Because Ben Carson says so.
Republican U.S. presidential candidates pose for a group photo before the start of the second official Republican presidential candidates debate in Simi Valley, Calif. on Sept. 16, 2015. (Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Trump's polls have only gone in one direction - until now

09/21/15 08:00AM

For much of the summer, the polls in the Republican presidential race have moved in one direction: Donald Trump building on his previous leads, gathering additional support from GOP voters.
But as every financial-firm commercial is required to tell you, past performance is not indicative of future results. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin reported yesterday on an interesting new CNN poll.
The first major national poll since the second GOP debate finds Carly Fiorina surging into a second place and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign in total collapse.
The survey by CNN of 444 registered Republican voters put Donald Trump in first place with 24% support, a drop of 8 points since their last poll, and Fiorina in second place with 15%. Fiorina earned plaudits on the right for her debate performance, which included multiple clashes with Trump, although fact checkers pointed out that she vividly cited footage from a hidden camera video of Planned Parenthood that does not appear to exist.
Here's the latest rundown:
1. Donald Trump: 24% (down eight points from early September)
2. Carly Fiorina: 15% (up 12 points)
3. Ben Carson: 14% (down five points)
4. Marco Rubio: 11% (up eight points)
5. Jeb Bush: 9% (unchanged)
6. Ted Cruz: 6% (down one point)
6. Mike Huckabee: 6% (up one point)
8. Rand Paul: 4% (up one point)
9. Chris Christie: 3% (up one point)
10. John Kasich: 2% (unchanged)
If you're noticing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) absence, you're not alone. The far-right governor is tied for 12th place with -- I kid you not -- less than 1% support.
In fact, in CNN polling, if a candidate's support is .5 or greater, that total is rounded up the next closest percentage point (5.5% becomes 6%; 10.5% becomes 11%, and so on). In Walker's case, his support is listed simply as an asterisk, which means he's registering support below 0.5%, tying him with Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki.
There was a time, not too long ago, that Team Jindal would have been thrilled beyond words to be tied with Scott Walker. That time has long since passed.

Iran's nuclear samples and other headlines

09/21/15 07:57AM

Iran gives samples from military site to nuclear inspectors. (AP)

U.S. soldiers told to ignore sexual abuse of boys by Afghan allies. (New York Times)

Black Lives Matter skipping a 2016 presidential endorsement. (AP)

John Boehner interview: 'Garbage men get used to the smell of bad garbage.' (Politico)

George W. Bush made retroactive NSA 'fix' after hospital room showdown. (New York Times)

Kerry: U.S. to accept 85,000 refugees in 2016, 100,000 in 2017. (AP)

Raising refugee limit won't bring quick resettlement. (Bloomberg Politics)
read more

So, what else are you reading?

09/21/15 02:45AM

Steve Benen and I, with fair but informal regularity, trade notes on the bits of nerdery from which we're drawing pleasure outside of the news-gathering realm. Periodically I threaten to make the exchange public because I'm sure there's a portion of the MaddowBlog readership that would enjoy joining in... read more

Lesser Egyptian Jerboa (Jaculus jaculus)

Week in Geek: Jump Around edition

09/20/15 02:36PM

This week I learned for the first time about the jerboa, a small mammal that's like a mouse crossed with a kangaroo and a velociraptor.

Maybe you already know about the jerboa, maybe you don't. Either way, I think the jerboa is worth reflecting on. How crazy is it to see an animal that looks like a mouse hop around like a kangaroo at light speed whipping its tale this way and that for balance like a velociraptor? Seriously crazy.

Unlike kangaroos, the jerboa lives in the deserts of Africa, Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula. And unlike velociraptors, it isn't extinct. These little guys are small enough to hold in your hand, yet they can jump over six feet.

For more on why researchers are interested in this insane creature, check out this article from Wired</a> (where I first found out about them). And watch one in action trying to outfox a fox in this clip from the BBC.

Here's some more geek from the week:

read more

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on July 18, 2015. (Photo by Nati Harnik/AP)

This Week in God, 9.19.15

09/19/15 08:40AM

First up from the God Machine is a follow-up report on a story we discussed last month, when Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump was asked about his favorite Bible verse.
Trump’s clumsiness on matters of faith has been a point of concern for some voters before, but in an interview with Bloomberg Politics, the GOP candidate was willing to say the Bible is his favorite book, though he refused to say which parts of Scripture are important to him, saying it was "private." (Asked whether he's drawn more to the New or Old Testaments, Trump said, "Both.")
This week, the Republican sat down with the TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, where Trump changed his mind about his willingness to share his favorite parts of the Bible.
In an exclusive interview with The Brody File at his golf course in Southern California, GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump heaps praise on the Bible and refers to the Book of Proverbs when discussing envy.
"There's so many things that you can learn from it (the Bible). Proverbs, the chapter 'never bend to envy.' I've had that thing all of my life where people are bending to envy."
There was some question at first as to what in the world Trump was referring to. The Washington Post noted it "wasn't clear which verse the Republican front-runner was talking about: A search of several of the most-used standard versions of the Bible did not turn up any verse or chapter that urges people not to 'bend to envy.'"
CBN's David Brody reported that a Trump campaign official later clarified that the candidate was referring to Proverbs 24:1-2, which says, “Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.”
Whether Trump connects with Scriptural references to envy because he's been envious of others, or whether he's concerned about others being envious of him, remains open to some interpretation.
Also from the God Machine this week:


About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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