In the last presidential election, Mitt Romney briefly flirted with a provocative idea. On Veterans' Day, the 2012 Republican nominee said, "Sometimes you wonder, would there be some way to introduce some private sector competition" into veterans' care?
It didn't take long for a spokesperson for Veterans of Foreign Wars to explain the VFW "doesn't support privatization of veterans' health care," and Romney quickly retreated. The former governor was just kicking around a hypothetical scenario, Romney said at the time, not pitching a policy he'd pursue.
Four years later, Republicans are less concerned about a confrontation with veterans and their advocates. In May, Donald Trump floated the idea of pushing VA health care toward privatization, and as the Wall Street Journalreported, the presumptive 2016 nominee went even further yesterday.
Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on Monday said that as president he would press for an extensive overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs, making it a more privatized system of care and giving veterans a direct line to the White House.
During a campaign speech in Virginia Beach, Va., Mr. Trump presented a 10-point plan for the embattled department, calling for greater privatization of veterans' care than presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
As regular readers may recall, this came up a few times during the GOP presidential primaries, with several Republican presidential contenders including at least partial VA privatization plans in their platforms -- Ben Carson went so far as to say, “We don’t need a Department of Veterans Affairs” -- despite the VA’s record of excellence, and the fact that the VA system as a whole "outperforms the rest of the health care system by just about every metric. Surveys also show that veterans give VA hospitals and clinics a higher customer satisfaction than patients give private-sector hospitals."
But if anyone thought the party's national ticket would move away from the idea as the general election drew closer, think again. The one idea almost universally opposed by veterans' advocates is the one idea Trump is most eager to tout.
It was just a few months ago when state policymakers in Utah approved a measure condemning pornography as a "public health crisis." Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a resolution, approved by the GOP-led legislature, calling for new policies to combat the porn scourge.
And at the time, much of the country had a good laugh about this, recognizing that Utah is one of the nation's most conservative states, more likely than most to overreact to a pornography "crisis" that doesn't really exist. But as Yahoo News reported yesterday, Republicans in Utah evidently aren't alone on the issue.
Republican delegates unanimously adopted an amendment to their draft platform Monday morning that called pornography "a public health crisis" and a "public menace" that is destroying lives.
The language went further in its condemnation of porn than the 2012 GOP platform, which condemned child pornography and encouraged the enforcement of obscenity and pornography laws.
The new amendment, which will be added to the national party's 2016 platform, reads, "Pornography, with his harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life [sic] of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children's safety and wellbeing."
Now take a moment to read that exact same quote, only this time, replace "pornography" with "gun violence." The national Republican Party's platform committee unanimously approved the porn measure yesterday; is there any doubt it would have unanimously rejected the same language if it pertained to guns?
The point of a national party's platform is to articulate its core values and priorities. Unfortunately, the RNC platform is doing exactly that.
Rachel Maddow reports on former Senate Evan Bayh's campaign to win back a seat in the Senate after he left to become a lobbyist, and his campaign in the context of Indiana as a swing state and the partisan balance of the Senate. watch
Niki Kelly, political reporter for the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette, talks with Rachel Maddow about the possibility of Indiana Governor Mike Pence being chosen as Donald Trump's running mate and how that could spare him and Indiana Republicans from a difficult gubernatorial race this year. watch
Clay Jenkins, Dallas County judge, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the residents of Dallas are trying to use the tragic shooting deaths of five police officers as an opportunity to improve as a community and not descend into hatred and bitterness. watch
Rachel Maddow contrasts the response to the shooting tragedy in Dallas, from the fear and anger stoked by Republican leader Donald Trump, to the solution-oriented thoughtfulness of Dallas Police Chief David Brown. watch
* Today's mass shooting: "Two court bailiffs were killed Monday afternoon when gunfire rang out at a southwestern Michigan courthouse, authorities said. The gunman was later killed.... A sheriff's deputy was also shot, and a civilian was wounded, he said."
* Weekend protests: "Hundreds of protesters were arrested across the country and 21 cops injured in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Saturday night as demonstrations continued nationwide over police violence. Around 102 protesters were taken into custody in Saint Paul, while more than 100 people were arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police in both cities said."
* Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson "was among more than 100 protesters arrested Saturday night during demonstrations over the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was taken into custody while walking along the side of the Airline Highway with fellow protesters and later charged with 'simple obstruction of highway commerce,' according to court records."
* Iraq: "The U.S. will deploy an additional 560 troops to Iraq within the next few weeks, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday. Carter made the announcement during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, saying the troops will deploy for infrastructure and logistical support at Qayara airfield south of Mosul."
* He probably shouldn't think too much about his legacy: "Theresa May promised to build a 'better Britain' and to make the UK's EU exit a 'success' after she was announced as the new Tory leader and soon-to-be PM. Speaking outside Parliament, Mrs May said she was 'honoured and humbled' to succeed David Cameron, after her only rival in the race withdrew on Monday. Mr Cameron will tender his resignation to the Queen ... on Wednesday."
* Guantanamo's prison population is down to 76 people, 27 of whom have been approved for transfer: "The Obama administration said Monday that it had transferred two longtime detainees from the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Serbia. The announcement came one day after officials disclosed the transfer of a prisoner to Italy, suggesting that all three former detainees left on the same plane."
* North Korea "appeared to have unsuccessfully fired a missile from a submarine Saturday, just a day after Washington and Seoul agreed to deploy an advanced missile-defense system in South Korea to counter Pyongyang's threats."
* Alabama: Michael G. Hubbard, the former speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives who was convicted in a state trial last month on 12 counts of corruption, was sentenced on Friday to four years in prison plus probation and $210,000 in fines.
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."
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.