Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Though a Quinnipiac poll in Iowa last week showed Bernie Sanders inching past Hillary Clinton, a new PPP survey in the state found Clinton with a 21-point lead in Iowa, 43% to 22%. Vice President Biden was third in the poll with 17%.
* On the national level, a new poll from Bloomberg Politics shows Clinton leading the Democratic field with 33%, followed by Biden's 25% and Sanders' 24%.
* Ben Carson's super PAC said yesterday that it received a "surge of donations" after the Republican said Muslims should be disqualified from the presidency. “We sent out an email to Carson supporters, and we’ve never had an email raise so much money so quickly -- it’s unbelievable," the super PAC's chairman boasted.
* In related news, Carson is now trying to argue that his anti-Muslim comments were misquoted by the media. He's completely wrong.
* Scott Walker's support in the polls was minuscule, but his network of financial supporters was considerable. At this point, it appears Marco Rubio is "set to inherit" about two-thirds of Walker’s “big-donor fundraising apparatus."
* In case Donald Trump's various feuds weren't exasperating enough already, the Republican presidential hopeful is now apparently threatening the Club for Growth.
* Mike Huckabee said this week, “I know that most politicians say we want everyone to vote, I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t want everyone to vote." The GOP candidate said there are "stupid" Americans who should "stay home."
On Monday, Americans learned that Volkswagen orchestrated an international scam, putting 11 million cars on the road designed to deliberately circumvent emissions standards. On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush announced his plans to loosen environmental safeguards to make things easier on polluters.
Yes, once in a while, political and non-political stories intersect in surprisingly interesting ways.
The political salience of the VW scandal is increasingly acute. While Bush was inexplicably arguing that it's time to scrap a variety of environmental regulations, Hillary Clinton was describing the Volkswagen debacle as "outrageous." The Democrat added, "When companies put profits ahead of safety and the environment, there should be consequences."
When U.S. District Judge David Bunning let Kim Davis out of jail two weeks ago, the court order came with some specific instructions. The county clerk was locked up for defying court rulings, her oath of office, and a court order, and if she intended to remain free, Davis could not “interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”
This week, however, the ACLU filed a new court motion insisting the interference is ongoing.
After returning to her job on Sept. 14 as the Rowan County clerk, the filing said, Davis “immediately” began meddling with licenses that the office’s deputy clerk, Brian Mason, was issuing.
She “confiscated all the original forms, and provided a changed form” that didn’t mention Rowan County, the filing said. Nor did the new form mention her name or references to a “deputy clerk.”
Where Mason’s signature would appear, the filing said, there were initials.
Slate's Mark Joseph Stern said yesterday that in light of the new court motion, Davis "may be heading back to jail."
"[I]llegally tampering with marriage licenses -- perhaps with the intent to render them invalid -- seems like a step beyond her initial law-breaking," Stern noted. "Before, Davis was only telling same-sex couples to get married in a different county. Now she is actively sabotaging the legality of their marriage. That level of duplicity must be hard to endorse -- even for those who think one public servant’s anti-gay beliefs should trump a binding Supreme Court ruling."
Donald Trump continued to defend his failure to correct a town hall audience member who said President Obama is a Muslim, arguing in an interview with CBS that it's not clear whether the man who asked the question was a "bigot."
In an interview for "60 Minutes" set to air in full on Sunday, CBS News' Scott Pelley asked Trump what his decision not to call out a supporter who said that Muslims are a "problem in this country" says about the real estate mogul. "Well, he said much more than that. That was part of the statement. He then went onto say other things," Trump responded.
When CBS's Pelley described the man who asked the question as a "bigot," Trump balked.
"You don't know that," the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination said. "I mean, he asked a question. You don't know that he was a bigot."
Hmm. “We’ve got a problem in this country called Muslims,” the man said. “You know our president is one. He’s not even American.” Instead of cutting the man off, Trump allowed the voter to add, “But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: when can we get rid of them?”
I suppose we could have an extended conversation, parsing the nuances of the word "bigot," but I rather doubt Trump would like where the discussion ended up.
A few years ago, then Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) delivered some rather amazing remarks in which he described pillars of modern science -- including evolutionary biology and the big bang -- as quite literally “lies straight from the pit of Hell."
House GOP leaders made Paul Broun a member of the House Science Committee.
As it turns out, the same year, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson delivered remarks that were strikingly similar. BuzzFeed reported yesterday:
In a speech delivered in 2012, Ben Carson said the big bang theory was part of the “fairy tales” pushed by “high-faluting scientists” as a story of creation.
Similarly, Carson, a noted creationist, said he believed the theory of evolution was encouraged by the devil.
I wish I could say that's an exaggerated description, but it's really not. The retired right-wing neurosurgeon, known for his off-the-wall ideas about a great number of issues, called the science surrounding the big bang "ridiculous," and added in reference to evolution, “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary."
In context, "the adversary" appears to refer to Satan.
Just this week, a federal judge sentenced a former owner of a Georgia peanut company "to 28 years in prison for his role in a recent salmonella outbreak." The "cartoonishly evil" scheme to knowingly ship salmonella-tainted products nationwide made hundreds of Americans sick across 46 states and killed nine people.
As this prison sentence was coming down, Volkswagen was admitting that it "rigged U.S. emissions tests so it would appear that its diesel-powered cars were emitting fewer nitrogen oxides, which can contribute to ozone buildup and respiratory illness."
Against this backdrop, Americans are receiving powerful reminders about the importance of regulations, safeguards, and consumer protections. But it's also against this backdrop that Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has made an important declaration: there are simply too many safeguards in place for American consumers.
GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush unveiled a plan Tuesday to roll back a number of controversial regulations from the Obama administration, ranging from environmental rules to financial reform laws.
During campaign events in Iowa, Bush threatened to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) controversial power plant rules, clean water rule, and coal ash rule.
According to the Bush campaign's new policy paper, there's a "regulatory crisis" that Jeb intends to rectify. Elect Bush president and he'll go after Dodd-Frank financial-industry protections, EPA regulations on coal ash and carbon pollution, and even net neutrality rules from the FCC.
While many candidates look for new ways to sound populist, Jeb Bush is running on a counter-intuitive platform: he believes Washington is simply too mean to Wall Street and polluters, and Jeb intends to be their champion.
The top-line results in the latest Public Policy Polling survey suggest Iowa Republicans are largely in line with GOP voters nationally. But that's not what's important in this poll.
PPP found, for example, that only three Republican presidential hopefuls are in double digits in the Hawkeye State: Donald Trump leads with 24%, Ben Carson isn't too far behind with 17%, and Carly Fiorina is a competitive third with 13%.
From there, there's a second tier with "decent levels of support," as the PPP report put it. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are tied for fourth with 8% each, while Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee are tied for sixth place with 6% each.
The top-line results, however, aren't the most interesting result in the poll. Indeed, these results include Scott Walker -- who was in eighth place, for what it's worth -- who ended his campaign before the survey was published.
[Donald Trump is] probably not hurting himself too much with his negativity toward Muslims either -- only 49% of Republicans think the religion of Islam should even be legal in the United States with 30% saying it shouldn't be and 21% not sure. Among Trump voters there is almost even division with 38% thinking Islam should be allowed and 36% that it should not.
Let that sink in for a moment. Many of the same social conservatives who believe Americans' freedom of religion must be protected at all costs also believe that a faith tradition they don't like should be illegal. When these Iowa Republicans view the Constitution, they see a First Amendment that exists for them, not those they find offensive.
After Ben Carson said Muslims should be disqualified for the presidency because of their faith, his campaign manager boasted, “While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20. People in Iowa particularly, are like, ‘Yeah! We’re not going to vote for a Muslim either.’”
Given the PPP findings, it seems Team Carson, as offensive as its posture is, knows its audience.
Samples of some of E.J. Dionne, Jr.'s coverage for the New York Times of Pope John Paul II's travels to Togo, India, and Peru:
August 10, 1985 - POPE VISITS PALACE IN TOGO, THEN A WOMAN'S MUD HUT TOGOVILLE, Togo, Aug. 9— Pope John Paul II, apparently disturbed by his visit to this nation's opulent presidential palace, broke his schedule today to stop at a mud hut and speak with an impoverished woman about her life. ...
As tens of thousands of mainly Hindu, mainly destitute Calcuttans cheered outside, John Paul visited the home for the dying established by Mother Teresa in the heart of this city's slums. ...
February 4, 1985 - POPE BEGS REBELS TO END PERU WAR AYACUCHO, Peru, Feb. 3— Pope John Paul II issued a dramatic plea today to guerrilla fighters in this rugged Andean mountain province to lay down their arms and ''seek the roads of dialogue and not those of violence.'' ...
Rachel Maddow reports on Hillary Clinton stating her opinion for the first time on the Keystone XL pipeline, making her opposition clear and emphasizing the work that needs to be done to improve existing pipeline and rail shipping safety in the United States. watch
E.J. Dionne, Jr., columnist for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about how past U.S. presidents have interacted with past popes, and how Pope Francis is re-balancing the values of the Catholic Church, finding American Catholics in a much better position than his predecessors would have seen. watch
Time to invest in a clean energy future—not build a pipeline to carry our continent's dirtiest fuel across the US. I oppose Keystone XL. -H
Rachel Maddow reports on the celebratory reception for the arrival of Pope Francis in the United States at a time when the world feels particularly tense, though the political right-wing in America is not particularly receptive to the pope's model of Christianity. watch
* Abdul Shalabi: "The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it had repatriated a Guantanamo Bay detainee who intelligence analysts had concluded was probably once a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. The United States held the man as a wartime prisoner for more than 13 years, government files show."
* Refugees: "Amid profound disagreements about how to handle Europe’s escalating refugee crisis, European Union leaders forced through a plan Tuesday to distribute asylum seekers across the continent despite dissent from Central European nations."
* They have a perfectly sensible plan. The House is the problem: "Senate Republicans are preparing to introduce as early as Tuesday a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month, according to Senate aides from both parties."
* A good plan for a different Congress: "Leading Senate Democrats unveiled climate change legislation on Tuesday that is expected to go nowhere. The point: Present a united party front on the energy and climate debate. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, authored the bill, which would declare it national U.S. policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent per year."
* Gut wrenching: "The incidents of sexual assault on children described by American service members who served in Afghanistan are sickening. Boys screaming in the night as Afghan police officers attacked them. Three or four Afghan men found lying on the floor of a room at a military base with children between them, presumably for sex play."
* The Kim Davis story isn't over: "Kim Davis went back to work as a Kentucky county clerk last week after a stint in jail and a pledge that she wouldn't interfere with deputies who were issuing wedding licenses to same-sex couples. But in a court motion filed Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union said that she was doing just that."
As political leaders go, Hillary Clinton has always been fairly adept at dodging the questions she doesn't want to answer, but the Keystone XL pipeline has posed a greater challenge than most.
Over the summer, for example, the Democratic candidate said of the project, “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question. This is President Obama’s decision and I’m not going to second-guess him.”
This, of course, wasn't a sustainable posture. Last week, Clinton effectively announced fair warning. “I have been waiting for the administration to make a decision. I thought I owed them that,” Clinton said in New Hampshire. “I can’t wait too much longer. I am putting the White House on notice. I am going to tell you what I think soon.”
Soon, in this case, is today. MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald reported this afternoon:
Clinton made good on the promise she delivered last week to finally take a public position on the pipeline “soon,” on whose fate the Obama administration has dragged its feet deciding.
“I oppose it,” Clinton said in response to a question on the pipeline while campaigning in Iowa Tuesday. “I oppose it because I don’t think, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”
There's no wiggle-room here. If environmental activists were concerned Clinton might hedge, or look for a way to change her mind later, today's comments should put those fears to rest.
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.