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Decryptomaddowlogical #107

02/20/15 03:12PM

As Rachel explained last night, the way Republican-dominated state legislatures nationwide have arranged voting districts, it is often the case that Democrats will have logged a larger number of total votes, but end up with fewer representative legislative seats. This kind of vote tallying that gives Democrats migraines might be called ...

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Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 20, 2012.

GOP's Gowdy eyes new conspiracy-theory panel

02/20/15 12:56PM

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal was not impressed with President Obama's recent video for BuzzFeed. In fact, the video, which been now seen nearly 50 million times, prompted the conservative editorial page to condemn both Obama and "supine and occasionally complicit news media that have seen you through six years of crisis, failure and scandal."
 
"Crisis"? Sure, every president faces crises, and Obama's no different. Some of this president's crises were even created by the WSJ's Republican friends on Capitol Hill. "Failure"? No obvious ones come to mind, except maybe Obama's efforts to get GOP lawmakers to compromise on any issue.
 
But the notion that the Obama presidency has featured "six years of scandal" seems bizarre. David Axelrod boasted this week, accurately, "I'm proud of the fact that basically you have had an administration in this place for six years in which there hasn't been a major scandal. And I think that says a lot about the ethical strictures of this administration."
 
This seemed like a fair thing to brag about, though some congressional Republicans appear to have a very different perspective.
At a Republican Party fundraising breakfast in his district on Wednesday, Representative Trey Gowdy suggested that the congressional GOP needed to investigate the IRS's scrutiny of political groups with the same intensity that it was investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. 
 
"I'm glad that the speaker of the House convened a select committee on Benghazi," said Gowdy, a former prosecutor who chairs that panel. "I think it makes every bit as much sense to convene a select committee on the IRS. Now that we have the Senate, the Senate has tools the House doesn't have in terms of getting e-mails and cooperation. It has nothing to do with politics. Do you really want an IRS targeting you based on your political beliefs?"
Gowdy, the head of the eighth Benghazi committee, went on to tell Dave Weigel that "the same reasons for a select committee exist" in the IRS story as Benghazi, "or maybe even greater." He also complained about "Fast and Furious" and Solyndra because, well, he was apparently on a roll.
 
Remember, Sen. Lindsey Graham said earlier this month he wants to put Gowdy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.20.15

02/20/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* Republican officials in DC are worried about what might happen to Sen. Marco Rubio's (R) Senate seat in Florida if he gives it up for a White House run, so they're reportedly pressuring him to put aside his presidential ambitions, at least for now. No word yet on Rubio's official plans.
 
* Speaking of the junior senator from Florida, Rubio said yesterday that he has "no doubt" that President Obama loves America, but the Republican believes the president's policies "are bad for our nation." See, Scott Walker? It's really not that hard.
 
* After making recent visits to Iowa and South Carolina, Vice President Biden is now headed to New Hampshire. These are, of course, the states hosting the first three presidential nominating contests next year.
 
* Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) still isn't running for president, but she acknowledged yesterday the folks who are trying to lure her into the race. "Americans understand that the game is rigged, and they've had enough of it. They're ready to fight back. They want a Washington that works for them," Warren told a Massachusetts audience, adding, "They want to see some real change, and I think that's what we need to work on."
 
* It may seem difficult to take Ben Carson's presidential ambitions seriously, but the far-right neurosurgeon this week hired Mike Murray, a "direct marketing wizard," to serve as a senior adviser for Carson's national operation.
Students take an exam.

The debate over the existence of public schools

02/20/15 11:31AM

For many years, the mainstream political debate about the minimum wage was between those who wanted to increase the legal floor and those who wanted to leave it alone. But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, a third contingent took shape: GOP policymakers who said the minimum wage simply shouldn't exist.
 
This dynamic comes up quite a bit. We used to debate about how best to shape the Medicare program; now we debate whether to eliminate Medicare and transition seniors to a coupon system in the private market. We used to debate how to strengthen Social Security; now we debate whether to privatize Social Security out of existence.
 
And while we used to debate the best way to help America's system of public schools, we occasionally hear from conservatives who believe it's time to scrap the very idea of public education altogether.
Fox host Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery suggested getting rid of the nation's public schools during a discussion on Thursday's "Outnumbered."
 
Kennedy's comments came during a segment about an Oklahoma bill, approved by a House committee, that seeks to eliminate AP US History. The bill asserts that the current iteration of the course doesn't show "American exceptionalism," instead highlighting "what is bad about America."
The Fox host said, "There really shouldn't be public schools, should there?  I mean we should really go to a system where parents of every stripe have a choice, have a say in the kind of education their kids get because, when we have centralized, bureaucratic education doctrines and dogmas like this, that's exactly what happens."
 
I don't want to overstate this. I'm only vaguely aware of who Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery is, and it'd be a stretch to characterize her an influential figure in Republican politics.
 
But she's not the only one making the anti-public-education argument.
Donald Trump Speaks To GOP Women's Groups

The ritual Trump Primary

02/20/15 10:51AM

After Rudy Giuliani's ridiculous remarks this week, NBC's First Read this morning declared, "[I]t's time to say that he's officially entered Donald Trump territory." That's true, though I thought it was interesting that the First Read crew didn't feel the need to explain what "Donald Trump territory" is.
 
The meaning was obvious enough to go unstated. Trump's most notable contribution to the political discourse is the loathsome "birther" conspiracy theory, which effectively turned the reality-show host into a punch line for a sad joke. Though the political world may have once taken Trump seriously, he discredited himself though his bizarre antics -- and now Giuliani is cultivating a similar reputation for himself.
 
That said, as Politico reported, Trump's buffoonery has apparently not shed his political relevance altogether.
Scott Walker met with Donald Trump in Trump Tower for 45 minutes on Thursday. Trump told POLITICO that Wisconsin's Republican governor requested the meeting, and that it was an "enjoyable" discussion focused on "where the country is going" and "how poorly we're perceived throughout the world." ... A Walker spokeswoman confirmed the meeting.
 
Trump has met with several of the potential 2016 candidates, including a golf outing with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a sit-down with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
Trump went on to hint about his own interest in the 2016 presidential race -- he's not running, but he seems to enjoy pretending -- though the fact that Walker "requested the meeting" with him no doubt helped inflate Trump's ego.
 
What's less clear is why, exactly, this informal Trump Primary exists.
Night falls over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Right enraged by filibuster tactics they once embraced

02/20/15 10:12AM

By the fall of 2013, the Senate Republicans' filibuster abuses had reached a level unseen in American history. The GOP minority declared that it would simply refuse to consider any judicial nominee, no matter how qualified, for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- and they would maintain this position until 2017 at the earliest.
 
Left with no choice, Senate Democrats executed the so-called "nuclear option," restoring the chamber's traditional rules that allowed the Senate majority to confirm federal judges.
 
And at the time, Charles Krauthammer, one of the most influential Republican pundits in the nation, was apoplectic. Less than a week after the change, the columnist said Democrats were responsible for "lawlessness," the "breakdown of political norms," a "disgraceful violation of more than two centuries of precedent," and creating an institution that "effectively has no rules."
 
This morning, Krauthammer adopted an entirely new posture, which just happens to be the exact opposite of the one from November 2013.
I've been radicalized. By Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Goodbye moderation and sweet reason. No more clinging to constitutional and procedural restraint. It's time to go nuclear. [...]
 
[T]here is a way out for the GOP. Go bold. Go nuclear. Abolish the filibuster. Pass the bill and send it to the president.
Krauthammer realizes that he's contradicting himself, but rationalizes the reversal. "Reid went first," he argues. "Time for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to finish the job. Push the button. Abolish the filibuster."
 
It appears Krauthammer has rediscovered his affinity for "lawlessness" and the "breakdown of political norms." This is fine, he insists, because the columnist can blame Democrats: "Abolish the filibuster and challenge the president. And when asked, 'How can you do such a thing?' tell them to ask Harry Reid."
 
Of course, the larger point is that Krauthammer isn't the only Republican thinking along these lines.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks at the Northwest Suburban Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Rolling Meadows, Ill. Feb. 12, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

A national candidate moving in the wrong direction

02/20/15 09:23AM

As 2014 came to a close, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) had to feel pretty good about his political standing. He was the chair of the Republican Governors Association in a cycle in which GOP gubernatorial candidates did surprisingly well; he'd established connections with party activists nationwide; and many of the scandals dogging Christie had faded from front pages.
 
As the Garden State Republican readied his presidential bid, Christie seemed awfully confident that he'd set the stage perfectly. He'd launch his national campaign in early 2015 and present himself as a top-tier contender, well positioned to win.
 
Two months later, Christie appears to be moving backwards.
The complaints have piled up for weeks, dismaying many longtime supporters of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and sending others into the arms of his rivals for the presidential nomination, according to interviews with more than two dozen Republican donors and strategists.
 
As a half-dozen other candidates aggressively raise money and chase endorsements in Iowa and New Hampshire, friends and detractors alike say Mr. Christie's view of his status and pre-eminence within the Republican field is increasingly at odds with the picture outside his inner circle.
 
Policy advisers, donors and even a prominent New Jersey state senator who met his wife through Mr. Christie have all flirted with or committed to rival candidates.
At the national level, the New Jersey governor has seen his 2016 support drop quickly. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Christie's unfavorable numbers outpace his favorable numbers.
 
Even Christie's personal mentor, former Gov. Tom Kean (R), has not yet thrown his support to the governor -- instead offering praise for Jeb Bush.
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. (Photo by Reuters)

ISIS changes Americans' appetite for war

02/20/15 08:44AM

There was a crisis of sorts for U.S. policy towards Syria in the summer of 2013, but I'm convinced much of the political world remembers the events poorly. The Beltway version is that President Obama drew a "red line" but blinked when it came time to follow through.
 
That's not quite what happened. Obama was convinced that Syria had used chemical weapons, and had decided to use force against the Assad government. But before launching strikes, the president turned to Congress to authorize the mission, just as many Republican lawmakers had recommended.
 
Congress balked. Lawmakers said the public, wary after disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, simply had no appetite for yet another combat mission in the Middle East, and many of the same Republicans who demanded the White House get permission for airstrikes soon announced their opposition to the airstrikes. Some even used this as the basis for fundraising. (Obama considered strikes anyway, but instead scored a diplomatic coup by ridding Syria of its chemical weapons.)
 
A year and a half later, Americans' attitudes appear to have shifted. Consider a CBS News poll released this week.
Amid more executions by the militant group ISIS, Americans increasingly see the group as a threat to the U.S. Now, 65 percent of Americans view ISIS as a major threat -- up from 58 percent in October....
 
With concern about ISIS growing, support for the use of U.S. ground troops in the fight against ISIS has risen. For the first time, a majority of Americans (57 percent) favor the U.S. sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS. In October, Americans were divided (47 percent favored and 46 percent opposed), and in September these numbers were reversed (39 percent favored and 55 percent opposed).
There is, of course, a political angle to all of this -- the White House recently sent lawmakers proposed language for an Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIS, effectively trying to get Congress' buy-in for a military offensive that began last August.
 
If lawmakers are sensitive to the prevailing political winds, polls like these probably make it more likely that Congress will at least consider doing their duty when it comes to authorizing force. Indeed, the scope of the AUMF may very well reflect these changing public attitudes, too.
 
But I'm also interesting in what, specifically, led to the public-opinion shift. In 2013, most Americans told Washington, "Don't you dare start another war in the Middle East." And yet, as 2015 gets underway, most Americans are evidently on board, not only with airstrikes, but with boots on the ground.
 
How'd this happen?
Former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani speaks at the Cisco Connect 2013 conference in Warsaw, Poland, November 26, 2013.

Giuliani falls in ditch, keeps digging

02/20/15 08:00AM

Rudy Giuliani is apparently under an odd impression: the problems he creates by saying dumb things will go away if he just keeps talking. Someone probably ought to tell him he has this backwards.
 
The New York Republican declared Tuesday night that President Obama doesn't love America or Americans. By Wednesday morning, Giuliani insisted this was not necessarily an attack on the president's patriotism. By mid-day, the clownish former mayor seemed eager to embarrass himself further, insisting, "President Obama didn't live through September 11, I did"
 
And by last night, Giuliani's descent into farce was complete.
Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York on Thursday defended his assertion that President Obama did not love America, and said that his criticism of Mr. Obama's upbringing should not be considered racist because the president was raised by "a white mother."
He added, "This isn't racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism."
 
I see. So, by this reasoning, it seems as if Rudy Giuliani as positioned himself as pro-colonialism.
 
In the same interview with the New York Times, the failed GOP presidential candidate "challenged a reporter to find examples of Mr. Obama expressing love for his country." In other words, by Wednesday night, Giuliani, who tried and failed to hedge on his own ridiculous condemnations, was right back to where he was on Tuesday night.
Bush campaign launch: mistakes are being made

Jeb Bush campaign launch: mistakes are being made

02/19/15 10:56PM

Rachel Maddow points out the blame-avoiding passive voice that seems to be a common trait among Bush politicians, including 2016 hopeful Jeb Bush, and emphasizes the importance of substantive political debates for the nation's health. watch

Maddow conducts impromptu Democratic primary

Maddow conducts impromptu Democratic primary

02/19/15 09:36PM

Rachel Maddow quickly reviews the replies she has received in asking Democratic politicians whether they might consider a run for president in 2016, which would mean testing Hillary Clinton with a Democratic primary. watch

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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.

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