Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said last night that he would "absolutely" implement a policy of registering Muslim Americans into a government database. Jeb Bush sat down with CNBC this morning and, to his credit, said such a policy would be "just wrong." Politicoreported:
"It’s not a question of toughness. It’s manipulating people's angst and their fears. That’s not strength. That’s weakness," Bush said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"And look, campaigns are important for sure. We’re electing a president, but there are things that are important as it relates to the values that we have as a country that make us special and unique, and we should not and we will never abandon them in the pursuit of this fight. We don't have to. We can protect our freedoms here."
I've seen some praise for Bush saying the right thing this morning, and it's not unfounded. Trump's approach is simply indefensible, and though right-wing activists may find Trump's ideas appealing, the former Florida governor nevertheless denounced dangerous extremism. I'm glad.
But there are two related angles that are worth keeping in mind here. First, let's at least try to set the bar for basic human decency a little higher. Yes, it's a good thing that Jeb Bush opposes the idea of the government forcing an American religious minority into some kind of federal registry, but if this is what passes for Republican "moderation" in 2015, the toxicity of American politics has already reached dangerous levels.
Second, isn't it a little late for Jeb to clumsily claim the moral high ground on this issue?
The Republican presidential candidates' reactions to last week's terrorist violence in Paris has, at various times, been bewildering and depressing. Far-right politicians, eager to exploit fear and bigotry, have spent the week playing on conservatives' worst instincts. It's been about as ugly as American politics can get.
But even in the crowd, Donald Trump has stood out as ... unique.
There's been a gradual evolution to the frontrunner's posture over the course of several days. On Monday, for example, Trump told MSNBC that he would grudgingly have to "strongly consider" using government power to shut down American houses of worship as part of an anti-Muslim agenda. On Tuesday, he went a little further, saying that when it comes to the government closing religious institutions, "We’re going to have no choice."
When Trump sat down with Yahoo News, and a reporter raised the possibility of registering Muslims in a government database or creating special forms of identification for Muslim Americans, Trump responded, “We’re going to have to -- we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely."
There is, of course, a significant difference between failing to answer a specific question directly and making an explicit policy pronouncement -- which is why, as Rachel reported at the top of last night's show, Trump's latest comments are so important.
Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for president, told NBC News on Thursday night that he “would certainly implement” a database system tracking Muslims in the United States.
“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,” Trump said in Newton, Iowa, in between campaign town hall events.
I think most reasonable people should be able to agree we've entered some pretty dangerous territory.
Rachel Maddow reports on the languishing nomination of Adam Szubin as the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, an important position in the fight against ISIS and other terror groups, and yet the Republican-controlled House wastes time on anti-refugee stunt legislation. watch
Rachel Maddow presents an extended version of NBC News' Lester Holt's exclusive interview with the captain of the French assault team that raided the Bataclan club in Paris to kill the terrorists holding concertgoers hostage there. watch
Martin O'Malley, Democratic candidate for president, responds to the anti-ISIS plan that his rival Hillary Clinton presented in a speech today, and presents his own thoughts on how best to address the dangers the United States faces in the world. watch
Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the French intelligence system succeeding in identifying potential terrorists but failed to closely monitor the most dangerous of them to prevent an attack. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews why Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the most notorious, wanted terrorist in France and wonders why authorities weren't paying closer attention to him. Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Francois Heisbourg, French government counter-terrorism adviser, about what accounts for the intelligence failures... watch
Vaughn Hillyard, NBC News campaign embed, talks with Rachel Maddow about his specific questioning of Republican front-runner Donald Trump about his support for the idea of creating a national database of Muslims in the U.S. watch
* Paris: "The Belgian jihadi suspected of being the ringleader of the Paris terrorist attacks was killed during a raid on a suburban apartment, officials said Thursday. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, died during Wednesday’s operation in Saint-Denis, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. He was identified by his fingerprints. His body was riddled with bullets, according to officials."
* The final vote was 289 to 137: "The Republican-led House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that essentially halts Syrian refugees from coming into the United States, despite President Barack Obama’s promise to veto the bill." Here's the roll call.
* An alternative approach: "Senate Democrats, seeking to head off legislation to halt and overhaul a program to take in Syrian and Iraqi refugees, are focusing instead on tightening a program that makes it easier for foreigners to travel to the U.S. without obtaining a visa."
* Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) told Fox News that the State Department is trying to have Florida take in 425 Syrian refugees. The State Department has said Scott appears to have simply made this up and no such request was made.
* Republicans en masse will refuse to consider this evidence: "Barring the unforeseeable, the latest monthly climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a clincher. There can no longer be any meaningful doubt that 2015 will be the Earth’s warmest year on record, at an entirely different level from the previous warmest years."
* West Africa now appears to be free of Ebola: "A baby girl in Guinea, who was the last known Ebola patient in a two-year West African epidemic, has recovered, health officials say."
* In reality, this year's "crime wave" didn't happen: "An analysis of 2015 crime trends in the nation's 30 largest cities shows that reports of rising crime across the country are not supported by the available data."
* Immigration: "More immigrants from Mexico are leaving the United States than coming into the country, according to a report published Thursday by the Pew Research Center, a finding that marks the end of the largest wave of immigration from a single country in American history."
In the most recent debate for the Democratic presidential candidates, CBS's John Dickerson asked Bernie Sanders, "You said you want to rid the planet of ISIS. In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?"
The senator didn't hesitate, "Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you're going to see countries all over the world -- this is what the CIA says -- they're going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops ask you're going to see all kinds of international conflict."
None of this seemed particularly surprising, though apparently the exchange annoyed Republicans. The Hillreported this week:
Top Senate Republicans on Tuesday slammed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s weekend statement that climate change is contributing to global terrorism. [...]
“I get disappointed when people see momentum around an issue and try to attach an unrelated issue to it,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, said. [...] Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, agreed: “I would view that assertion as pretty absurd.”
Some GOP complaining about Sanders' progressive views is inevitable, but the problem with these Republican complaints is that Sanders' argument was rooted in fact.
The fact that members of Congress feel the need to raise enormous amounts of money isn't new. Sometimes, the question that matters is how lawmakers solicit contributions.
Fundraising in the wake of a terrorist attack, for example, can raise awkward questions about basic propriety. NPR reported yesterday on one vulnerable Senate incumbent who's arguably approaching an ugly line:
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey's campaign manager sent out a fundraising email, based on his opposition to letting Syrian refugees into Pennsylvania.
"Senator Toomey believes nothing is more important than the security of the American people. To that end, he is pushing to suspend the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States until we are able to determine, with full confidence, that there are no security risks among them. ... If you agree with Senator Toomey, that nothing trumps the security of the American people, join the cause here."
The link brings supporters to a "contribute" page.
To be sure, there's fundraising and then there's fundraising. If a statewide office-holder or presidential candidate includes a perfunctory donate "button" on all of his or her websites and mailings that's not quite the same thing as telling prospective donors, "Terrorists killed people, you're afraid of the refugees fleeing the terrorists, so you should send me money."
But that's close to what some politicians are doing this week. The letter from Team Toomey in Pennsylvania was in questionable taste, and so too is the letter Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) sent to supporters yesterday.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The new national PPP poll shows Hillary Clinton expanding on her national lead over Bernie Sanders, and the race now stands at 59% to 26%. The news for Sanders was far better in New Hampshire, where a Fox News poll shows him with a one-point advantage, 45% to 44%.
* Speaking of the Democratic contenders, it's a big day for both candidates, with Clinton speaking this morning about her plans to combat ISIS, and Sanders speaking this afternoon in defense of socialism.
* In Louisiana, where the gubernatorial race is nearly over, a PAC supporting John Bel Edwards (D) has a new ad insisting that Edwards opposes taking in Syrian refugees. The issue has quickly become the centerpiece of David Vitter's (R) pitch.
* Donald Trump has a new, 60-second radio ad in which he assures voters, "I will also quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS. We’ll rebuild our military and make it so strong no one, and I mean no one, will mess with us."
* Social conservatives and the religious right movement was not pleased with Ben Carson recently dismissing the Terri Schiavo matter as "much ado about nothing." In damage-control mode, the Republican said this week, “I am steadfastly opposed to euthanasia. I have spent my entire career protecting life, especially the life of children. I regret that my recent comments about Teri Schiavo have been taken out of context and misinterpreted.”
* Jeb Bush called for the deployment of U.S. ground forces in the Middle East to combat ISIS. He apparently intends to be the third President Bush to send troops into war in the region.
* By some accounts, Martin O’Malley’s Democratic presidential campaign is "perilously close to financial collapse."
* In New Jersey, the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University poll shows Donald Trump leading the GOP field with 31%, followed by Marco Rubio's 18%. Ben Carson is the only other candidate who reached double digits -- he's third with 11% -- while Chris Christie is fourth in his own home state with 9%.
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.