Rachel Maddow reports that the Family Research Council lists seven Republican presidential candidates as participants in an event hosted by radical pastor Rick Scarborough, whose claims include that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality. watch
Rachel Maddow replays a portion of her interview with Hillary Clinton in which Clinton criticized Michigan governor Rick Snyder for not asking for federal help in dealing with Flint's ruined water supply. Hours later, Snyder did just that. watch
Robert Costa, national political reporter for the Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about the big Republican donors coming to grips with the idea of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz winning the presidential nomination and trying to figure what that means for them. watch
* A lot of action about Flint today: "The White House said Friday that emergency management officials and President Barack Obama will 'consider expeditiously' Gov. Rick Snyder's request for financial aid and other help in Genesee County as a result of the Flint water crisis but that nearly $100-million plea could still face some thorny legal issues under federal law."
* Related news: "Michigan's top prosecutor launched an investigation Friday into the Flint water crisis to see if any laws were broken -- as the local sheriff declared that 'people lied to us.'"
* Wall Street: "Plunging oil prices pounded U.S. stock markets again on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing down nearly 400 points, or more than 2 percent, and the other indices taking similar beatings."
* Big news on coal: "The Obama administration announced on Friday a halt to new coal mining leases on public lands as it considers an overhaul of the program that could lead to increased costs for energy companies and a slowdown in extraction."
* More on this on tonight's show: "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear an appeal from Robert McDonnell, the former Virginia governor convicted of corruption."
* Good move: "The White House will announce Friday that President Obama is appointing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, his Cabinet's longest-serving member, to lead a new interagency effort focused on addressing rural America's struggle with heroin and opioid abuse as well as other pressing problems."
* Really, Russia? "In a bid to defend what they deem traditional values, lawmakers in Russia next week will consider the country's most aggressive anti-gay legislation in recent memory: a ban on public displays of affection among gays that could punish couples for kissing or even holding hands on the street with a fine or a two-week jail sentence."
It was unexpectedly convenient to have the State of the Union address and a Republican presidential debate occur in the same week, scheduled just 48 hours apart. The bookends offered the public an opportunity, not just to hear two competing visions, but also to confront two entirely different versions of reality.
Because anyone who listened to President Obama on Tuesday night, and then the GOP presidential candidates on Thursday night, might find it hard to believe they all live in the same country at the same time.
The president made an impassioned case that Americans have reason to stand tall. We have the strongest economy on the planet, the strongest military in the history of the planet, and an unrivaled position as a global superpower. Job growth is strong, our enemies are on the run, our civil rights are a model for the world, and our insured rate is the best it's ever been.
Obama has heard the naysayers, but he believes we'd be wise to ignore their campaign to exploit anxiety to advance their own partisan or ideological goals. We can aim higher -- we can even cure cancer! -- and make the future our own.
That was Tuesday night. Just two days later, the Republican Party's national candidates were simply flabbergasted, baffled by the president's optimism. Jeb Bush, apparently unaware of the state of the nation when his brother left the White House, insisted, "[T]he idea that somehow we're better off today than the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated president of the United States is totally an alternative universe."
And in a way, there's some truth to that: the president and the Republican presidential field don't seem to occupy the same place on the space-time continuum. Obama thinks the American dream is alive and well; the GOP thinks it's dead. The president wants the public to feel hopeful; Republicans want Americans to feel existential dread. "Alternative universes" isn't a bad summary, all things considered.
The trouble is, Obama's the one who seems to live in the same reality as the rest of the public.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), after nearly two decades on Capitol Hill, has been called a lot of things, but Roll Callreported this week on the one label he considers "offensive."
Real estate mogul Donald Trump has been the front-runner for months, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who touts himself as a political outsider even though he is a sitting lawmaker. Cruz regularly refers to congressional leadership and other politicians as "the Washington cartel."
Thune said he resents that characterization. "Well, I'm personally very offended to be called the establishment," he said.
Note, he's not just offended; he's very offended.
For those unfamiliar with Thune, let's note some of the basic details of his c.v. He's currently the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the #3 position in the GOP leadership. The South Dakota senator, in his 12th year in the chamber after three terms in the House, is also the chairman of the Commerce Committee and the former chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
I hate to break this to the senator, but it's hard to get more "establishment" than John Thune.
But the fact that the GOP lawmaker would make a point to distance himself from the "establishment'" he helps lead says a great deal about the state of Republican politics in 2016.
For much of 2015, one of the most commonly uttered words in Republican circles was "panic," as in, "irritation is giving way to panic" among GOP insiders "as it becomes increasingly plausible" that Donald Trump might win the Republicans' presidential nomination.
[H]ave we finally reached the last stage, acceptance? Now none of this means that Trump is going to win the GOP presidential nomination. But it does mean that he's become much more acceptable to Republicans than we ever thought possible; that he's indelibly shaped the GOP contest in his own image; and that he's in firm control of this GOP race.
I feel like this is the first week of the entire cycle in which I've seen and heard a growing number of Republicans reach this point. National Review's Rich Lowry noted this week, for example, that from his conversations, the GOP establishment's mood on Trump is "moving from fear/loathing to resignation/rationalization." (MSNBC's Chris Hayes added soon after that he's heard the same thing.)
Jon Chait flagged examples of others making similar comments. The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis quoted a Republican source saying, "On the ground? Everyone literally is getting resigned to Trump as nominee." Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary in the Bush/Cheney White House, said he now gives Trump a 60% of winning the party's nomination.
Slate's Jamelle Bouie added this morning, "[I]nstead of brushing Trump aside, Republican elites are learning to love the Donald and accept him as a potential nominee, or at least a candidate they can work with."
Try to imagine commentary like this from, say, August. It would have been almost unfathomable.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Does Hillary Clinton feel the need to choose a male running mate to balance the ticket if she's the Democratic nominee? She told Rachel on the show last night, "Absolutely not."
* Donald Trump's campaign unveiled its second television ad this morning, and despite all the hype about a new kind of advertising, the spot simply features the candidate telling a crowd he's going to "make America great again."
* Former Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), who briefly served as an appointed senator in 2009, endorsed Bernie Sanders late yesterday at an event in New Hampshire. Kirk is the first senator -- former or current -- to throw his support to the Vermont independent.
* The Rubio campaign released a video this week featuring praise from Glenn Beck. The controversial host, who supports Ted Cruz, did not give his permission to Team Rubio, and Beck yesterday referred to the senator's move as "a little slimy."
* During last night's kids-table debate for under-performing candidates, Carly Fiorina went after Hillary Clinton's personal life, boasting, "[U]nlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband." Soon after, the Republican talked to MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Five times Fiorina was asked whether she believed the Clintons' have a real marriage. Five times she would not give a straight answer.
* While attempting to praise South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said the governor is "an immigrant." Haley was born in South Carolina.
* As if Ben Carson's presidential campaign weren't in enough trouble, he lost yet another staffer yesterday when finance chairman Dean Parker resigned.
Sometimes, a poll's top-line results only tell part of an important story. Take, for example, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journalpoll, released late yesterday, just a few hours before the latest Republican debate.
1. Donald Trump: 33% (up from 27% in an NBC poll from early December)
2. Ted Cruz: 20% (down from 22%)
3. Marco Rubio: 13% (down from 15%)
4. Ben Carson: 12% (up from 11%)
5. Jeb Bush: 5% (down from 7%)
5. Chris Christie: 5% (up from 3%)
The remaining candidates were each at 3% support or lower.
Trump's 33% is the highest support any Republican has had in any NBC/WSJ poll this cycle, and on a related note, his 13-point lead over his next closest competitor is the largest advantage any GOP frontrunner has had in this poll in the 2016 cycle.
In other words, at the national level, Trump is actually gaining strength. Indeed, the report on the survey's findings added, "Maybe the most striking finding in this NBC/WSJ poll is the growing GOP acceptance of Trump. Back in March, only 23 percent of Republican primary voters said they could see themselves supporting the real-estate mogul. Now that number stands at 65 percent."
Looking ahead, the Republican field is all but certain to narrow, creating an opportunity for a very different dynamic, though the party establishment shouldn't get its hopes up just yet.
The worst thing about trying to analyze a Republican debate is the challenge of looking past the candidates' brazen dishonesty. If the GOP presidential hopefuls were disqualified for deliberate deceptions, the event would end quite quickly and there just wouldn't be much to cover.
And so we're left in the awkward position of evaluating candidates' debate performances with a cloud hanging overhead. As ridiculous as this may sound, pundits are left to wonder, "Aside from all the lying, how did the candidates do?"
Donald Trump lied about tariffs. Jeb Bush lied about whether Americans are better off than they were when President Obama took office. Marco Rubio lied about Benghazi, ISIS, Hillary Clinton, and the Affordable Care Act.
And then there's Chris Christie. Vox's Dylan Matthews noted this morning that the New Jersey was "just consistently, repeatedly, brazenly lying."
Now Christie says, "I didn't support Sonia Sotomayor." Here is a direct quote from Christie in 2009: "I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination."
Christie says, "I never wrote a check to Planned Parenthood." Here's Christie quoted in 1994: "I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution and that should be the goal of any such agency, to find private donations. It's also no secret that I am pro-choice." (Christie, for his part, now claims this was a misquote.)
South Carolina senator and onetime GOP presidential candidate Lindsey Graham will endorse Jeb Bush Friday, backing the former Florida governor despite flagging poll numbers nationwide and in key primary states.
"His endorsement is very meaningful and along with it come a lot of friends and supporters of his," Bush said in an appearance on FOX News, which first broke the story of the nod.
This doesn't come as too big of a surprise. The New York Timesreported a couple of weeks ago on the Bush's campaign's six-point plan to save his candidacy, and the fourth point was, "Woo Lindsey Graham."
The article noted, "Throughout the campaign, Mr. Bush had made a point of texting Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina weekly, just to check in. On the morning Mr. Graham dropped out of the race for president, Mr. Bush was ready with the hard sell. Mr. Bush immediately sent him a message, and the two men spoke on the phone later that day, when Mr. Bush made his pitch -- that he was the best prepared to be commander in chief and the most qualified on Mr. Graham's main issue, national security."
The hard sell apparently paid off. What's less clear is how much of a difference it will make.
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.