Looking back throughout U.S. history, presidential experience has varied quite a bit. Some were governors, some were senators. Many wore the uniform. Some served in an executive-branch cabinet, a few served in the U.S. House. A handful checked more than one of these boxes.
But here's a good trivia question for you: who was the last president to get elected without ever serving in the military or holding public office? It's actually a trick question: it's literally never happened. Every American president has either held office, worn the uniform, or both before getting elected.
This year, however, a few Republicans believe they can buck the historical trend, and that group includes Carly Fiorina, a failed U.S. Senate candidate who had a rough tenure in the private sector. The Washington Postreports today on a Fiorina event in Iowa, where the GOP candidate fielded a question from a veteran who said he was having trouble getting a doctor's appointment through Veterans Affairs.
"Listen to that story," Fiorina said. "How long has [VA] been a problem? Decades. How long have politicians been talking about it? Decades."
Fiorina said she would gather 10 or 12 veterans in a room, including the gentleman from the third row, and ask what they want. Fiorina would then vet this plan via telephone poll, asking Americans to "press one for yes on your smartphone, two for no."
"You know how to solve these problems," she said, "so I'm going to ask you."
It's a curious approach, both to policymaking and presidential leadership. Fiorina apparently believes she can round up a dozen veterans -- who may or may not have an administrative background -- who can resolve years of challenges facing the VA.
Fiorina, at least for now, isn't offering her own solution to VA troubles, other than to rely on veterans with cell phones to vote in a telephone poll on whether they like what 10 or 12 other veterans came up with. (If enough vets press "two for no," are we to assume Fiorina will simply find another dozen servicemen and women and put them in a room until they come up with some other plan for her?)
There are a variety of ways to describe such an effort. A "serious approach to federal policymaking" isn't one of them.
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson, an influential figure among the state's conservatives, shared his preferred immigration policy with his listeners this week, and it raised a few eyebrows. As Mickelson sees it, undocumented immigrants would get 60 days to deport themselves, after which they would automatically become "property of the state" and forced into "compelled labor."
When a listener called in to suggest that this "sounds like slavery," Mickelson responded, on the air, "Well, what's wrong with slavery?"
The comments caused a bit of stir, and I hope you saw Chris Hayes' segment on this last night. But the interesting twist came yesterday, when Mickelson told his listeners.
"Good morning everybody, welcome back to the conversation. I'm Jan Mickelson. We have some open line time between now and the bottom of the hour when The Big Show starts. Tomorrow's program, at a little bit after 9 o'clock [AM CST] we'll be talking with Senator Ted Cruz. He will be out here as a presidential candidate. That should be lots and lots of fun and very, very interesting."
As Media Matters' report noted, this will not be Cruz's first appearance on Mickelson's radio talk show.
Under the normal rules of politics, this might seem crazy. A media figure generated national attention for suggesting immigrants should be enslaved in the United States, which should probably make him politically radioactive, at least for a while.
On the first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a report on monthly U.S. job totals and the nation's unemployment rate. In the most recent report, the rate was 5.3% -- its lowest point in more than seven years, and far from its peak of 10% in 2009.
In Republican circles, this poses a bit of a problem. President Obama and his agenda are supposed to be causing an economic nightmare of historic proportions, with "job creators" crying over their balance sheets when they're not being dragged into the streets for their ritual tar-and-feathering. With job creation improving so much, so quickly, conservatives find themselves looking for new ways to talk about the issue.
For some, conspiracy theories are a convenient crutch -- that rascally White House, the argument goes, must be manipulating the data to fool everyone -- while other Republicans make the case that there's a difference between the unemployment rate and the real unemployment rate.
Consider GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's comments to Time magazine this week:
"We have a real unemployment rate that's probably 21%. It's not 6. It's not 5.2 and 5.5. Our real unemployment rate -- in fact, I saw a chart the other day, our real unemployment -- because you have ninety million people that aren't working. Ninety-three million to be exact. If you start adding it up, our real unemployment rate is 42%."
Note, over the course of a few seconds, Trump said the "real unemployment rate" doubled from 21% to 42%. That escalated quickly.
We're left with two very different sets of numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Labor Department have official data that shows a rate of 5.3%. On the other hand, Donald Trump "saw a chart the other day" and came up with 42%.
I'd ordinarily just shrug this off as Trump being Trump, but with so many conservatives looking for ways to question good news, it's worth pausing to appreciate what they're trying to say.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) traveled to Detroit yesterday, where he delivered remarks on his tax plan -- a key component of his presidential campaign. Bloomberg Politics had a good summary of the Florida Republican's pitch:
Rubio's plan slashes the corporate tax rate and scrap taxes on dividends, estates and capital gains. It also creates a $2,500 child tax credit and replace the standard deduction and personal exemption with a refundable personal credit. It's not clear how the plan, co-authored by Senator Mike Lee and released earlier this year, a Utah Republican, would be paid for. Democrats say it would increase the deficit.
When dealing with tax plans from Republican presidential candidates, it's best to think about the proposals in terms of degrees of radicalism. Sen. Rand Paul's approach to tax policy, for example, is ... how do I put this gently ... not normal. The Kentucky Republican has a plan that would effectively dismantle much of the federal government and its operations.
By this standard, Rubio's approach seems almost moderate. It even expands some middle-class tax credits, which helps reinforce the impression that the plan isn't completely stacked in favor of the wealthy.
That said, the rich would make out like bandits under Rubio's vision of tax policy. The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities published an analysis in March of the Rubio/Lee package, which concluded the plan is "outrageously" tilted "in favor of the country's highest-income people." The "big losers" under the plan, the CBPP added, "would be the working-poor people who feed and bathe the elderly, care for preschoolers, clean offices, and perform other essential tasks. The big winners would be the country's highest-income 400 filers, at a cost of much higher deficits."
It may not be quite as radical as what some of his 2016 rivals are recommending, but Rubio's plan is far to the right of anything proposed by George W. Bush, John McCain, or even Mitt Romney.
But as a matter of politics, the far-right Floridian believes he can overcome these details. In fact, by some measures, Rubio seems to think the substance isn't nearly as important as his biography, which as Jon Chait noted yesterday, is apparently supposed to trump policy.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Republican presidential campaign isn't quite where it wanted to be at this point in the process. The far-right governor entered the race as a top-tier contender, a credible choice for the GOP nomination, and a clear favorite to win the Iowa caucuses.
But as August nears its end, Walker's standing isn't nearly as strong as many expected and his once-dominant position in Iowa has slipped, thanks largely to a certain New York real-estate developer.
Walker could really use some good news. Yesterday, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelreported, he received the opposite.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker still leads the GOP presidential primary field in his home state, but his job approval level has dipped and he trails Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton in a head-to-head matchup here, a new poll from the Marquette University Law School shows.
So far, Walker's presidential run is proving no gift to his standing at home.
The Marquette poll, generally considered the best source for Wisconsin surveys, is a bit of a disaster for Walker. It shows, for example, the governor's approval rating dipping to 39% less than a year after his successful re-election campaign. He leads the GOP's 2016 field, but only 25% of Wisconsin Republicans -- a group that should arguably represent Walker's ardent base -- choose their own governor as their preferred presidential candidate.
All of which leads us to the gut-punch: in a head-to-head match-up against Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, Scott Walker trails by double digits -- 52% to 42% -- in his own state. A PPP poll released in the spring showed Walker trailing Clinton in Wisconsin by nine points, suggesting things aren't getting any better for the governor among the voters who know him best.
As if that weren't quite enough, the Marquette poll shows Jeb Bush more competitive against Clinton -- again, in Wisconsin -- than Walker (Bush only trails by five).
It creates an awkward dynamic for Walker and his national campaign. If a GOP voter asks, "Why should I vote you if you're losing in your own state?" there's no easy answer to the question.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) issued a press release yesterday afternoon with a provocative headline, no doubt intended to raise eyebrows: "Cotton Statement on the Revelation that Iran will be Permitted to Inspect its Own Nuclear Facilities." It quoted the far-right freshman saying:
"Allowing Iran to inspect its own nuclear facilities is reckless and illustrates yet again that this deal is little more than a dangerous list of concessions made by the United States.... This revelation should be the last straw for any undecided Members of Congress. [...]
"Entrusting Iran to verify itself turns what is a bad deal into a farcical one. And the only ones laughing are the ayatollahs."
Well, not the only ones. Anyone who read Cotton's press release who's also aware of reality probably got a chuckle, too.
All of this stems from an Associated Press report from Wednesday that, at least initially, claimed Iran had struck a side deal with the IAEA about Iranians inspecting its own nuclear site. The problem is the AP article turned out to include several key errors -- an issue that became even more alarming when key paragraphs went missing from the AP piece without explanation.
Some news consumers may not remember this, but we saw similar dynamics unfold in 2002 and 2003 -- someone would leak misleading information related to national security to major news outlets; the news outlets would publish mistaken reports; and war proponents would exploit those reports to further an ideological cause.
Referencing the AP's flawed report this week, Borzou Daragahi, a reporter based in the Middle East, said the press is "starting dangerous fires."
Rachel Maddow reports on Maine governor Paul LePage, already facing potential impeachment proceedings, inviting a letter writing campaign calling for his resignation because he says he'll leave if enough people ask him to do so. watch
Col. Jack Jacobs, combat veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the passage of two women through the U.S. Army Ranger course changes the debate about the capability of women in combat roles in the military. watch
Rachel Maddow presents the hypothesis that Jeb Bush is bad at the job of campaigning for president and supports the argument with a litany of gaffes, misstatements and missteps that have kept the Republican candidate from meeting high expectations. watch
Rachel Maddow reports that July 2015 was the hottest month globally ever recorded and sets up all of 2015 to be the hottest year ever as the January through July period is already the hottest in recorded history. watch
Steve Kornacki, host of Up with Steve Kornacki, talks with Rachel Maddow about why Jeb Bush is performing so poorly as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and whether the problem is circumstances or the candidate himself. watch
.@JebBush "Give me another word" than "anchor babies"
* Egypt: "A large bomb exploded early Thursday near a national security building in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo, wounding at least six people including at least one police officer, Egyptian security officials said."
* The Korean Peninsula: "North Korea fired a projectile towards a South Korean loudspeaker that has been blaring anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts -- and South Korea fired back, officials said. Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a statement that the South Korean military responded by firing 'tens' of 155mm artillery rounds."
* Political tumult in Greece: "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday, calling snap elections in his economically embattled nation in a bid to combat dissent within his own party's ranks."
* Missouri: "A black 18-year-old fleeing from officers serving a search warrant at a home in a crime-troubled section of St. Louis was shot and killed Wednesday by police after he pointed a gun at them, the city's police chief said."
* Two brothers from South Boston ambushed and badly beat an older homeless man because he's Hispanic. It's a gut-wrenching story, with an unfortunate political twist: "One of the brothers said he was inspired in part by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump."
* California: "Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by roughly 15 to 20 percent, scientists said Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up."
* On a related note: "For planet Earth, no other month was as hot as this past July in records that date back to the late 1800s, NOAA says. And the globe is well on its way to having its hottest year on record."
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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