Congratulations, America, you managed to avoid a military takeover of the United States and the dictatorial imposition of martial law.
The military exercise Jade Helm 15 generated enough conspiracy theories this year that it garnered mockery on late-night television, commentary from presidential candidates and reaction from the Texas governor. The basic thrust of the concerns: The military was laying the groundwork for martial law -- if not now, then sometime in the future.
The exercise will end quietly Tuesday, however. Carried out in parts of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, it will conclude after two months of operations, said Suzanne Nagl, a spokeswoman for Army Special Operations Command, which oversaw it.
The Washington Post's report added that Nagl does not yet have details on the lessons of the training exercise, but she added that officials at the Army Special Operations Command "believe the exercise overall was a success."
Remarkably, "success" in this case did not mean the confiscation of Americans' guns, as part of some kind of military takeover.
Arguably no presidential candidate has had a rougher year than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). In the spring, the far-right governor was a top-tier contender, the frontrunner in Iowa, and a plausible presidential nominee. Today, the Republican finds his support in free fall, dropping in state and national polls to the low single-digits. By most measures, Walker has slipped from the top to the third tier with incredible speed.
As we discussed the other day, we might expect a precipitous fall like this one in the wake of a scandal or humiliating revelations, but in this case, Walker can’t blame anything but his own weaknesses as a candidate.
Yesterday, however, the Wisconsinite adopted a back-to-basics posture, unveiling a plan focused on Walker's favorite subject: attacking labor unions. Politicoreported:
Scott Walker is doubling down on his anti-union message. But GOP voters don't seem to be listening.
Walker traveled to union-friendly Las Vegas Monday to inveigh against "big-government union bosses." He pledged elimination of the National Labor Relations Board. He promised a national “right to work” law freeing workers from mandatory payments to unions that bargain collectively on their behalf. And he said he’d block President Barack Obama’s proposal to expand overtime eligibility to 5 million new workers.
"Collective bargaining is not a right," Walker said. "It is an expensive entitlement." The governor then pledged "to wreak havoc on Washington."
I'm not sure which is worse, the politics of the candidate's pitch or the policy.
Current funding for the federal government expires two weeks from tomorrow. Between now and then, Congress is only scheduled to be in session, doing actual work, for about a week, which only raises the odds of a shutdown at the end of the month.
For those hoping to see the issue resolved before the deadline, the good news is that GOP leaders have settled on a plan that involves a series of anti-abortion show votes, which wouldn't actually affect public policy in any way, but which are intended to pacify and placate far-right members itching for a fight over Planned Parenthood funding. The bad news is that conservatives, not surprisingly, aren't fond of the approach endorsed by the Republican leadership.
But if GOP leaders hope to persuade their rank-and-file members that a shutdown fight is a political loser for the Republican Party, there's ample evidence to bolster the argument.
A huge majority wants Congress to keep the government open, regardless of whether that means providing funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Monday.
The poll finds that 71 percent of adults say it is more important for Congress to approve a spending bill to keep the government open, compared to 22 percent who say it is more important to eliminate all federal funds for Planned Parenthood.
When congressional Republicans shut down the government two years ago, they genuinely seemed to believe that if far-right lawmakers went on TV and told the public how righteous their agenda was, the public would rally behind the entire shutdown strategy.
It didn't work, but we're nevertheless looking at an eerily similar dynamic. In fact, GOP lawmakers are arguably in a weaker position now -- in part because Republicans are more divided among themselves than they were in 2013, and in part because they're basing the shutdown plan on opposition to Planned Parenthood, which is actually quite popular with the American mainstream.
Rasheen Aldridge, director of Young Activists United, and Ferguson commissioner, talks with Ari Melber about recommendations in the new Ferguson Commission's report to address issues raised by protesters in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown. watch
Katie Packer Gage, Romney 2012 deputy campaign manager, talks with Ari Melber about Carly Fiorina's response to Donald Trump criticizing her appearance, and how Republican candidates like Fiorina and Ben Carson can use Donald Trump's attention-getting statements against him. watch
E.J. Dionne, Jr., columnist for The Washington Post, talks with Ari Melber about Senator Bernie Sanders speaking at Evangelical Liberty University, where he attempted to show the parallels between the progressive values for which he advocates and the Christian values espoused by the religious school students. watch
* Mississippi: "A professor was shot to death at Mississippi’s Delta State University on Monday -- and the campus remained on lockdown as police searched for a 'person of interest' who is also a professor at the school."
* Kentucky: "The man suspected of gunning down a rookie Kentucky state trooper was shot and killed early Monday after a massive manhunt, authorities said."
* Wildfires: "California officials said Monday that 23,000 people have been displaced by two wildfires ravaging the state -- including one believed to be the worst yet in a devastating fire season."
* Afghanistan: "Taliban militants have stormed a jail outside the central Afghan city of Ghazni, killing at least four policemen and freeing more than 350 prisoners."
* Missouri: "The 16-person commission formed after 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson last year has released a wish list of reforms to address the underlying problems exposed by the unarmed teen’s death."
* Political drama in Australia: "Malcolm Turnbull defeated Tony Abbott earlier today in a battle for leadership of the incumbent center-right Liberal Party. He will soon become Australia’s fourth prime minister since 2013. With this momentum, Turnbull will likely call an early election in the next few months, and he should defeat opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten to solidify his hold on the office."
* Given international developments and the refugee crisis, the United States really needs someone to direct the United States Agency for International Development right now. President Obama's highly qualified nominee, Gayle Smith, can't get confirmed, however, because Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is throwing a tantrum -- he doesn't like U.S. foreign policy towards Iran, and is therefore blocking all State Department nominees.
In the spring, Republicans, a variety of reporters, and much of the Beltway establishment was convinced: there was a real "scandal" surrounding Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation's international donors. In time, the allegations crumbled, the controversy evaporated, and the political world lost interest in the story that didn't stand up to scrutiny. There just was no there there.
Over the summer, the same Republicans, many of the same reporters, and much of the Beltway establishment was once again convinced: there was a real "scandal" surrounding Hillary Clinton and her email server management. Given the latest revelations, it's starting to look like deja vu all over again.
The Obama administration told a federal court Wednesday that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was within her legal rights to use of her own email account, to take the messages with her when she left office and to be the one deciding which of those messages are government records that should be returned.
In the most complete legal defense of Mrs. Clinton, Justice Department lawyers insisted they not only have no obligation, but no power, to go back and demand the former top diplomat turn over any documents she hasn't already given -- and neither, they said, can the court order that.
So, let me get this straight. Clinton used a private email server. The State Department said this was allowed. The Justice Department came to the same conclusion. The FBI isn't investigating her.
I know we're supposed to think this is a "scandal," and the coverage has successfully convinced plenty of voters that this "controversy" is evidence of some unnamed nefarious misdeeds, but the rationale for taking this story seriously is looking pretty thin.
Kentucky's Kim Davis, arguably the nation's most infamous county clerk, was let out of jail last week after defying court rulings, her oath of office, and a court order. U.S. District Judge David Bunning specifically ordered the anti-gay clerk, however, that her religious beliefs notwithstanding, she must not "interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”
Would Davis comply with that order? Her right-wing lawyer suggested Davis might not -- a scenario that might put the clerk back in jail -- which made Davis' first day back at work this morning of particular interest. MSNBC's Emma Margolin reported on the latest from Rowan County:
Faced with what she called an "impossible choice" to abide by either a federal court order or her conscience, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis said Monday that she would not give her authority to issue marriage licenses in Rowan County. But, she added, if her deputies felt compelled to act outside of her authority and issue the licenses, she would not stand in the way.
The statement, delivered as the embattled clerk returned to work less than a week after being released from jail, indicated that Davis would not again shut down the marriage licensing functions of her office altogether -- as she had done in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land.
In theory, this may look like the end of the controversy. Under the office's original policy, couples Davis approved of could receive marriage licenses; couples Davis found morally objectionable could not. As of this morning, however, every couple legally eligible to get married can get a license -- Davis won't be the one handing them out, but her subordinates will comply with the law and weddings can continue.
It's been about six months since Oregon flipped the traditional model for voter registration on its head. Though the trend in recent years has shown some Republican state policymakers making registration more difficult in many states, Gov. Kate Brown (D) and the Democratic-led legislature made Oregon the nation's first state with an opt-out, rather than an opt-in, model.
For years, the burden has been on the individual -- if you’re eligible to vote, it’s up to you to take the affirmative steps needed to register. Oregon, however, embraced automatic voter registration, though anyone who wants to withdraw from the system voluntarily is free to do so.
The L.A. Timesreported over the weekend that a neighboring state is moving forward with the same model.
California lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that would automatically register to vote any eligible Californian who gets a driver's license or state identification card -- unless the person opts out. [...]
Nearly 7 million Californians, mostly young people, are eligible, but not registered, to vote. In an effort to boost the number, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced a bill modeled on a new law in Oregon to get more people to the polls.
MSNBC's Zack Roth reported the other day that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has not yet taken a position on the bill, though proponents are cautiously optimistic.
Given California's size and population, this represents a major step forward for the entire idea of automatic voter registration, and there's ample reason to believe the progress will spread. Roth's report added:
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump has said he expects to win the Latino vote, but the latest MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll released Friday shows Latino voters preferring Hillary Clinton by a three-to-one margin, 69% to 22%.
* The latest CBS News/YouGov poll, conducted over the internet, shows Donald Trump with big leads over the Republican field in the first three nominating contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
* The same CBS News/YouGov poll, again conducted entirely online, shows Bernie Sanders with double-digit leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, though Hillary Clinton has a big advantage in South Carolina.
* Scott Walker, hoping to get his faltering presidential campaign back on track, is going after labor unions with a vengeance, formally unveiling a new, national anti-union agenda today.
* In related news, Walker was scheduled to make appearances this weekend in Michigan and California, but those events have been canceled "so that he can instead spend time meeting voters in South Carolina and Iowa."
* In California, a new L.A. Timespoll shows Donald Trump and Ben Carson leading the GOP field with 24% and 18%, respectively, while Clinton leads Sanders in the California, 39% to 23%.
* On a related note, as part of the statewide survey, a 57-year-old Trump supporter told the Times, "I grew up with blacks; I'm cool with them. What I'm not OK with is everywhere you go it's brown people, everywhere you go."
A new MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll was released late Friday showing Hillary Clinton leading each of the top Republican presidential contenders, including a 13-point advantage over Donald Trump, a six-point lead over Marco Rubio, and a four-point lead over Jeb Bush. Vice President Biden, still on the 2016 sidelines, fared even better against each of the GOP contenders.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Clinton with a much more modest advantage over Trump -- 46% to 43% -- though the results are shaped by a series of striking gaps. There's a gender gap (women prefer Clinton; men prefer Trump), a regional gap (Clinton dominates in the Northeast; Trump dominates in the South), and a race gap (white voters prefer Trump, everyone else heavily backs Clinton).
But I was especially struck by the education gap: Clinton has a 26-point advantage among college graduates, while Trump benefits from a nine-point lead among Americans who do not have a degree. Women who went to college back Clinton by a whopping 48 points, 68% to 20%.
As for the state of the race, here's how the Republican field is shaping up, according to the new Post/ABC results:
1. Donald Trump: 33% (up nine points since July)
2. Ben Carson: 20% (up 14 points)
3. Jeb Bush: 8% (down four points)
4. Ted Cruz: 7% (up three points)
4. Marco Rubio: 7% (no change)
6. Rand Paul: 5% (down one point)
7. John Kasich: 3% (up one point)
7. Mike Huckabee: 3% (down five points)
9. Carly Fiorina: 2% (up two points)
9. Scott Walker: 2% (down 11 points)
Note, those results for Walker aren't a typo. His support really is in freefall, at least for now.
Also, Trump and Carson's combined support now stands at 53% -- despite the fact that neither GOP candidate has ever served a day in public office.
When congressional Republicans saw controversial videos about Planned Parenthood over the summer, the party's plan came together quite quickly: GOP lawmakers would accuse the health care group of breaking the law and use this as a pretext for a government-shutdown scheme.
There was just one nagging detail: Planned Parenthood never actually did anything illegal. It didn't sell fetal tissue for a profit; it didn't misuse public resources, and it didn't violate any laws. The Republican plan was based on a foundation of quicksand.
But The Hillreported over the weekend that GOP House members are now shifting to their back-up plan: they no longer care whether Planned Parenthood did anything wrong.
Congressional Republicans say they are determined to shut Planned Parenthood down, regardless of whether it broke any laws.
In more than two months of investigations, members have yet to turn up evidence that Planned Parenthood acted illegally, the same conclusion reached by a half-dozen state investigations. The Department of Justice has so far declined to launch a formal probe.
Several Republicans acknowledged this week that they may never find proof of wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood -- but said it doesn't matter.
“The issue is not whether there’s been a crime committed or not,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas.) said last week. “This issue is whether or not taxpayers should fund Planned Parenthood.”
It reminds me of the witch scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The villagers decide they want to burn a suspected witch, and John Cleese offers proof of her evil ways: “She turned me into a newt!” It’s obvious, of course, that he’s not a newt, leading Cleese to say, “I got better.”
To which the ignorant villagers exclaim, “Burn her anyway!”
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.