Rachel Maddow tells the story of how good timing allowed Ted Cruz to defeat a better-known candidate in a Senate race with an abnormally small turnout, the only election in which Cruz has ever run, and notes that Cruz is likely to be subjected to greater scrutiny after his Wisconsin win. watch
Doug Heye, former RNC communications director, talks with Rachel Maddow about an off-the-record RNC convention rules meeting at which the party and the campaigns began sorting out the possibility of a brokered convention in Cleveland this summer. watch
Senator Bernie Sanders responds to Hillary Clinton's charge that he is not prepared to be president by saying that she is not qualified to serve as president because of her campaign donations and vote on the war in Iraq. watch
* Justice: "A judge today ordered Don Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO, to serve one year in prison and pay a $250,000 fine, the maximum penalty allowed for his conviction for conspiring to violate federal mine safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 miners died in a massive underground explosion."
* Worthwhile reform: "U.S. brokers managing retirement accounts must adhere to tough new standards under an Obama administration rule released Wednesday that aims to protect millions of savers from conflicted investment advice."
* So, he is out of office or not? "Iceland's already fragile coalition government was thrown into further uncertainty on Wednesday after the country's prime minister said he had not formally resigned but had stepped aside for an 'unspecified' period after leaked documents linked him to an offshore company."
* More Panama Papers fallout: "At least three of the seven people on the Chinese Communist Party's most powerful committee, including President Xi Jinping, have relatives who have controlled secretive offshore companies, the organization that has publicized a trove of leaked documents about hidden wealth reported on Wednesday."
* Family values: "San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require six weeks of paid leave for new parents Tuesday, nearly doubling the amount of money new parents will bring in while caring for their newborns."
* A case worth watching: "The Justice Department on Wednesday filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging Halliburton Co.'s planned acquisition of rival Baker Hughes Inc., alleging that the deal would threaten higher prices and reduced innovation in the oil-field services industry."
* In the clear: "The criminal case against former Gov. Rick Perry has been officially dismissed."
About two months ago, shortly before Antonin Scalia's death, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts delivered an interesting speech in Boston about politics and the judiciary. Roberts' argument, at its core, was about partisan rancor and political rancor shaping the public's understanding of the courts in unhelpful ways.
Of particular interest, Roberts noted that the confirmation process has contributed to a broader problem, being "used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees." The Chief Justice said, "When you have a sharply political, divisive hearing process, it increases the danger that whoever comes out of it will be viewed in those terms. If the Democrats and Republicans have been fighting so furiously about whether you're going to be confirmed, it's natural for some member of the public to think, well, you must be identified in a particular way as a result of that process. And that's just not how -- we don't work as Democrats or Republicans."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has never overseen a confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee, went to the Senate floor yesterday to launch a broadside at Roberts, blaming him for the problem. From the senator's official transcript:
"The Chief Justice has it exactly backwards. The confirmation process doesn't make the Justices appear political. The confirmation process has gotten political precisely because the court has drifted from the constitutional text, and rendered decisions based instead on policy preferences.
"In short, the Justices themselves have gotten political. And because the Justices' decisions are often political and transgress their constitutional role, the process becomes more political. In fact, many of my constituents believe, with all due respect, that the Chief Justice is part of this problem."
Grassley, sticking carefully to a prepared text, just kept going and going, blasting justices for "imposing their views, and not interpreting the law." Referring specifically to Roberts, whom Grassley warned not to intervene in the current vacancy fight, the senator added, "He would be well-served to address the reality, not the perception, that too often, there is little difference between the actions of the court and the actions of the political branches. Physician, heal thyself."
A video of the Iowa Republican's speech is available online.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Though the presidential primaries generated the bulk of the attention in Wisconsin last night, voters also elected Rebecca Bradley, a far-right jurist, to a full term on the state Supreme Court.
* Ted Cruz believes that if Republicans nominate "some white knight" at the convention who didn't even seek the office, "the people would quite rightly revolt."
* In Pennsylvania, which will host an important primary on April 26, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Donald Trump leading the Republican field with 39%, followed by Cruz's 30% and John Kasich's 24%. Kasich has long said he sees Pennsylvania as a rare opportunity for him to actually win a primary.
* The same poll found Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders among Pennsylvania Democrats, 50% to 44%. A separate poll released yesterday showed Clinton with a much larger, 22-point lead in the Keystone State.
* Jeff Weaver delivered a curious warning to the Clinton campaign during a CNN interview last night: "Don't destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary's ambitions to become president of the United States."
* Cruz and Trump may not agree on much, but both think they'd be better off if John Kasich exited the Republican presidential race. For his part, the Ohio governor, who's lost every primary and caucus except his home state's contest, suggested it's "mathematically impossible" for Trump or Cruz to win the nomination before the convention, which isn't actually true.
* Trump will reportedly shift gears in the coming weeks, delivering "a series of policy speeches in settings more formal than the freewheeling rallies that have become his political signature."
Last year, Marco Rubio raised a few eyebrows when he argued that if a woman is impregnated by a rapist, the government has the authority to force her to take the pregnancy to term, regardless of her wishes. This week, Ted Cruz made clear he has the same position.
During an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly, the host sought clarification from the Texas senator about this controversial aspect of his platform. From the transcript via Lexis Nexis:
KELLY: [Y]ou don't favor a rape or an incest exception to abortion and for people like me, this may be a problem in getting behind President Ted Cruz. They think you may be too far right on social issues.
CRUZ: Well, listen, let's talk -- you know, when it comes to rape, I've spent a lot of years in law enforcement. I was the solicitor general in the state of Texas and I have handled cases with horrific cases of rape, of people who committed child rape, people -- I went before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued in defense of state laws imposing capital punishment for the very worst child rapists. And when it comes to rape, rape is a horrific crime against the humanity of a person and needs to be punished and punished severely but at the same time, as horrible as that crime is, I don't believe it's the child's fault. And we weep at the crime. We want to do everything we can to prevent the crime on the front end and to punish the criminal, but I don't believe it makes sense to blame the child.
The host responded that people who support exceptions to an abortion ban will argue that Cruz's policy would force women "to go through unspeakable trauma to carry her rapist's baby for nine months." The senator then changed the subject a bit, saying states should debate their own limits on reproductive rights.
When it comes to evaluating Cruz as a general-election contender, the senator is extremely far to the right on most of the major issues of the day, and this is no exception -- some polling suggests 83% of Americans believe women impregnated by a rapist should be legally allowed to terminate that pregnancy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared on Hugh Hewitt's conservative talk-radio show yesterday, and assured the audience that "there will be no hearings and no votes" on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Moments later, however, the Republican leader was eager to boast about all of the things he and his Senate GOP majority have been able to accomplish.
"[Y]ou know, this has been an incredibly productive new Senate majority. The American people, even though they chose divided government by having a Democrat in the White House and Republican House and Senate, we're not saying they didn't want us to do anything. They were saying, 'Why don't you look for things you can agree on and do those?'"
As proof of the Republican Congress' "incredible" productivity, McConnell quickly pointed to the Keystone XL pipeline, which was vetoed by President Obama. The Senate Majority Leader immediately added, "We put the repeal of Obamacare on his desk. We put defund Planned Parenthood on his desk*." Neither became law.
It's occasionally hard to know whether McConnell actually listens to his own talking points. The Kentucky Republican had just said that Congress has been getting things done because voters urged GOP lawmakers "to look for things you can agree on and do those." In his next breath, McConnell pointed to deeply divisive proposals that policymakers didn't agree on and which weren't signed into law.
In fairness, McConnell eventually pointed to some notable bills that actually succeeded, including a highway bill, and bill related to opioid abuse that's stuck in the Republican-led House.
But the senator's boasts got me thinking: has Congress been incredibly productive? Perhaps now is a good time to update an old chart.
Rep. Glenn Grothman, a freshman Republican congressman from Wisconsin, was already well known for his right-wing ideology. The GOP lawmaker, for example, has argued against equal-pay legislation by saying, "You could argue that money is more important for men." He's also criticized sex-ed classes because, as Grothman put it, some gay teachers "would like it if more kids became homosexuals."
Now, however, the Wisconsin Republican is likely to be known for something new. TPM reported this morning:
A Republican congressman on Tuesday night acknowledged that the new law requiring a photo ID to vote in Wisconsin could help Republican candidates at the polls in the general election.
"I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well," Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI), a supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), told Milwaukee television station TMJ4 when asked how either Cruz or Donald Trump could win in November.
The full report from the local NBC affiliate is online here.
This is what some in the business call a Michael Kinsley Moment: making a mistake by accidentally telling the truth.
The line Republicans and proponents of voter-suppression tactics are supposed to take is that voter-ID policies have nothing to do with partisanship or affecting the outcome of elections, and everything to do with the integrity of the voting process. "We're not trying to disenfranchise Democrats," GOP officials say, "that's just the accidental byproduct of our policies."
The argument is obviously untrue, but at least in public, Republicans are supposed to pretend that the talking points have merit.
Except, Grothman forgot to stick to the script. He's not the first.
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.