* A huge get for proponents of the Iran deal: "Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, is supporting the Iran nuclear agreement. In a statement released Wednesday, Donnelly, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said only the 'steadfast resolve' of the U.S. and its allies can stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
* Climate agenda: "The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed the first federal regulations requiring the nation's oil and gas industry to cut emissions of methane as part of an expanding and increasingly aggressive effort to combat climate change."
* West Virginia: "One of the last executives charged in a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without clean tap water for days pleaded guilty to federal pollution violations Tuesday. Former Freedom Industries executive Dennis Farrell entered his guilty plea in federal court in Charleston."
* Ohio: "The Ohio Department of Corrections intended to illegally import drugs for executions, according to an FDA letter obtained by BuzzFeed News.... In a June letter, the FDA wrote to Ohio, warning the state that importing the drugs would be illegal."
* Texas: "Two first-degree felony charges against Attorney General Ken Paxton were dismissed Tuesday and replaced with new indictments that clarify the securities fraud allegations.... Special prosecutor Brian Wice said the new indictments were issued to provide greater clarity and to defuse arguments typically made by defense lawyers that charges are ambiguous. The underlying fraud allegations remain unchanged, he said."
* Egypt: "In a significant leap toward harsher authoritarian rule, Egypt has enacted a draconian new anti-terrorism law that sets a sweeping definition for who and what could face a harsh set of punishments, including journalists who don't toe the government line."
As a rule, it's a mistake for most politicians to tell the public what Martin Luther King Jr. would believe if he were alive today. Someone probably ought to let Mike Huckabee know.
Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee believes Martin Luther King, Jr. would be "appalled" by the Black Lives Matter movement -- telling CNN that racism is "more of a sin problem than a skin problem."
During an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday evening, the former Arkansas governor touted the "all lives matter" mantra and said he was troubled that the movement focuses on one ethnicity. Huckabee added that the late civil rights leader would feel the same.
According to the Politico piece, Huckabee said, "When I hear people scream, 'black lives matter,' I think, of course they do.... But all lives matter. It's not that any life matters more than another. That's the whole message that Dr. King tried to present, and I think he'd be appalled by the notion that we're elevating some lives above others."
Let's unwrap this a bit, because Huckabee may not understand the issue nearly as well as he thinks he does.
The Black Lives Matter movement was, at least in part, a response to a series of violent incidents involving police officers killing unarmed African Americans. Part of Dr. King's "whole message" was focused on this issue as it existed a half-century ago. Indeed, In King's most famous speech, he specifically proclaimed, "We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality."
So, right off the bat, Huckabee's notion that MLK might somehow object to, or be uncomfortable with, the Black Lives Matter movement seems dubious.
But more troubling is the degree to which the far-right Republican seems to have no idea why the Black Lives Matter movement exists.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), seen as an on-the-fence Democrat on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, announced his support for the diplomatic deal this morning. His endorsement came on the heels of three Democratic senators announcing yesterday that they're backing the agreement, too.
Republican leaders seem resigned to the fact that they're probably going to lose this fight and the deal will likely be implemented, but the number of GOP lawmakers willing to support the deal still stands at zero.
But away from Capitol Hill, the picture changes. We talked this week about some notable Republican figures who may not have a vote, but who nevertheless back the Iran agreement, including former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Brent Scowcroft, a veteran National Security Advisor to several Republican presidents, who also served as the chairman of George W. Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. A reader reminded me that I neglected to mention former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who's also offered support for the deal.
"What we're really seeing here are the last vestiges of a Reagan/HWBush-era Republican Party that took foreign policy seriously on its merits."
He added that Republicans like Scowcroft and Lugar are better labeled the GOP's "grown-ups."
That's true. It also raises a broader point about the slow disappearance of these "grown-ups" and their declining influence over Republican policymaking, especially in the area of international affairs.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* A new CNN poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders nationally in the race for the Democratic nomination, 48% to 27%. Vice President Biden was included in the poll, and was a distant third with 13%.
* The same poll tested hypothetical general-election match-ups, and found Clinton leading Jeb Bush by 12 points (53% to 41%), Donald Trump by nine points (52% to 43%), Scott Walker by eight points (52% to 44%), and Carly Fiorina by 15 points (55% to 40%). Note, these results covered responses from all Americans -- among registered voters, Clinton also leads each of the GOP candidates, but by slightly smaller margins.
* Both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are comfortable with birthright citizenship. In 2015, supporting the plain text of the 14th Amendment is what passes for "moderation" on an issue.
* Ben Carson, however, is now publicly opposed to birthright citizenship. By my count, he's the ninth Republican presidential candidate to express hostility towards the 14th Amendment principle.
* Planned Parenthood is airing TV ads targeting four incumbent Republican senators: New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte, Ohio's Rob Portman, Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, and Wisconsin's Ron Johnson. (Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but her work has nothing to do with these commercials.)
* Speaking of ads, the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity is reportedly launching a $1.4 million ad buy in Ohio, attacking former Gov. Ted Strickland (D). The Ohio Democrat is considered a strong challenger to Rob Portman in next year's Senate race.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) published a piece for the Huffington Post late last week, making a broad pitch for support from "our nation's young people" and announcing the launch of "Students For Rand." That wouldn't be especially noteworthy, except for the way in which the Republican presidential candidate made his case.
If the Republicans want to be the party of tomorrow, it needs ideas that excite young people. Only a candidate who is a socially tolerant, fiscally responsible and principled leader can reinvigorate the Republican brand. [...]
We must stand for something so powerful and so popular that it brings people together -- whether they lean left, right or find themselves squarely in the middle. My message of liberty, opportunity, and justice is for all has resonated everywhere, especially in the places Republicans are too scared to go.... Government has no business in your business, period.
At face value, that may seem like a pretty compelling message, particularly to younger voters, but there's a problem with the message -- or more accurately, the messenger.
Rand Paul presents himself as "socially tolerant," though he neglected to mention that he opposes both abortion rights and marriage equality. The Kentucky senator also wants to defund Planned Parenthood and is one of the co-sponsors of a far-right bill that would make anti-gay discrimination easier in the wake of the Supreme Court's marriage ruling.
In March, the Republican senator told religious right activists that the debate over marriage rights is itself evidence of a "moral crisis" in the United States. He added at the time, "We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals."
So, the government "has no business in your business," unless you're gay and/or want to exercise your reproductive rights, at which point Rand Paul is certain that your business is the government's business.
These details didn't seem to make it into his Huffington Post piece. Right Wing Watch noted yesterday that this conflict -- pitting libertarian-minded Rand Paul against conservative culture warrior Rand Paul -- pops up quite a bit.
If we're going to talk about politicians struggling with email controversies, perhaps we should turn attention towards Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Carl Hiaasen is wondering whether the Republican is "the worst governor in the history of Florida," and it's worth appreciating why.
The trouble started in earnest with a fairly obscure case: a Tallahassee attorney sued the governor a few years ago in a real-estate dispute. But as the Miami Heraldreported, the underlying controversy grew and ended up mattering quite a bit.
Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to spend $700,000 in taxpayer money to settle seven public records lawsuits alleging he and several members of his staff violated state law when they created email accounts to shield their communications from state public records laws and then withheld the documents. [...]
The settlement, first obtained by the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, is precedent-setting in that it is the first time in state history that a sitting governor and attorney general have been sued successfully for violations of Florida's public records laws. It is also the third legal defeat in recent months for the governor, and the second time he has agreed to use state dollars to end a lawsuit against him.
Each of these details seems slightly worse than the last. It's a problem that Rick Scott and his aides violated state law; it's a bigger problem that they keep losing in court; and it's a bigger problem still that Team Scott is using taxpayer money to resolve the cases.
And given the political world's extraordinary interest in public officials and email accounts, it's probably worth emphasizing that in Scott's case, the governor and his staff "set up a series of private Gmail accounts and used them to conduct public business."
The governor had previously claimed those accounts didn't exist. Those claims weren't true.
But it's the use of public funds that has Carl Hiaasen thinking that Rick Scott is "certainly a prime contender for worst ever, and each new screwing of Floridians pushes him closer to the title."
When the Supreme Court approved marriage equality two months ago, some Republican insiders were quietly thrilled. Party officials realized that Republicans are sharply at odds with the American mainstream on the issue, and the sooner the party could move away from the issue, the better.
Since the ruling effectively ended the debate, it created a convenient partisan opportunity. The New York Timesreported that some Republican strategists privately characterized the high court decisions as "nothing short of a gift from above."
But the gift only works if Republicans accept it and actually move past the issue. ThinkProgress noted yesterday that Republican National Committee members have quietly approved a resolution that endorses the far-right's preferred response to the Supreme Court's decision.
The RNC wants Congress to approve the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). This bill, which the ACLU has called "a Pandora's Box of taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children," would prevent the federal government from acting against businesses and non-profits that discriminate against same-sex married couples. This would mean that government workers could refuse to perform their duties, and businesses and organizations -- including those that operate with support of taxpayer money -- would be free to discriminate. [...]
The RNC resolution specifically references multiple cases when private business owners have faced legal consequences for refusing to serve to same-sex couples in violation of nondiscrimination laws.
The Washington Blade added, "The resolution wasn’t announced or reported anywhere in the press until last week after its passage when the Daily Signal, a conservative publication, published an article on the measure. A RNC official confirmed for the Washington Blade the report was accurate."
The RNC's quiet endorsement of the resolution may actually have a practical effect on Capitol Hill. It's not a binding resolution, but given the larger context, this matters.
A detailed blueprint from the Obama administration on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is, by most accounts, nearly complete. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters a few weeks ago, officials are "in the final stages of drafting a plan."
And as part of the process, Pentagon officials told NBC News last week that military personnel are "assessing sites on U.S. soil that might serve as facilities for Guantanamo Bay detainees."
This included, naturally, a trip last month to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, which houses the American military's only domestic maximum-security prison. As Roll Callreported, this prompted a stern message from some of Kansas' congressional Republicans: don't even think about it.
In an Aug. 14 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, [Sen. Pat Roberts] stressed that Kansas in general -- and Leavenworth, in particular -- are not ideal for a domestic detention facility.
"Fort Leavenworth is neither the ideal nor right location for moving Guantánamo detainees," Roberts wrote to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. "The installation lies right on the Missouri River, providing terrorists with the possibility of covert travel underwater and attempting access to the detention facility."
Additionally, Roberts wrote, the base's boundary line runs parallel to a public railroad.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), whose district includes Leavenworth, called any relocation plan "reckless," adding that she remains committed to keeping terrorists out of Fort Leavenworth.
I'm afraid I have some bad news for the far-right lawmakers:
A few days ago, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump unveiled an actual immigration policy, which included a striking provision: "End birthright citizenship."
As regular readers know, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn't leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States." The principle of birthright citizenship has been upheld by the Supreme Court many times since its enactment following the Civil War.
But Trump has a problem with the constitutional language -- and soon after, roughly half of the GOP presidential field expressed their own opposition to the 14th Amendment's guarantee.
There are all kinds of angles to a story like this -- legal, political, social, and moral -- but it's also hard not to wonder about the practical considerations. If the Constitution says those born in the United States are citizens of the United States, what exactly does Trump intend to do about it? Last night, as Politicoreported, the answer came into sharper focus.
Under the 14th Amendment, [Fox News' Bill O'Reilly] told Trump on "The O'Reilly Factor," mass deportations of so-called birthright citizens cannot happen.
Trump disagreed, and said that "many lawyers are saying that's not the way it is in terms of this."
As ridiculous as this may seem, don't just roll your eyes at this and move on. Trump's wrong, but his argument is poised to become a lot more common.
Indeed, many assumed that Trump envisions a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship. He does not. What Trump actually has in mind is a court fight in which he and his lawyers challenge the legality of constitutional language.
Politico's headline, "Trump to O'Reilly: The 14th Amendment is unconstitutional," is probably excessive, but only a little.
Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker ran into a little trouble last week. He told a national television audience that voters should look past the Trump "media frenzy," go to his campaign website, and pay attention to all the substantive policy details.
To his credit, that changed yesterday. Walker's first real policy rollout of the year brought us the Wisconsin governor's plan to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. There's even something resembling a policy paper available for public review.
Like every other GOP reform plan, Walker's pitch includes all the predictable clichés -- tort reform, high-risk pools, insurance sales across state lines, HSA expansion -- that serve as staples of every Republican scheme. It also includes some (very) modest subsidies, which vary based on age, not income.
But as Jeffrey Young and Jonathan Cohn explained, there's a root challenge the Wisconsin Republican makes no real effort to address.
By scrapping President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul, Walker's plan ... would take away health coverage from some unknowable share of the millions of people who have gained it under Obamacare. It promotes benefits like less regulation and less federal spending on health insurance, as well as cheaper coverage for some young and healthy people. But like all the other Republican "repeal and replace" plans that have appeared in the last few years, Walker's proposal never acknowledges the trade-offs and consequences of these changes.
It's true that Walker's plan is arguably the most detailed "Obamacare" alternative any GOP candidate has produced -- and that includes the 2012 field -- though this isn't necessarily high praise, since we're really just talking about a vague outline with a few more bullet points than the usual bumper-sticker plans health care wonks have been rolling their eyes at for years.
Is the plan any good at providing health security? For some, maybe -- if you're wealthy, healthy, and have no intention of ever seeking medical care, Scott Walker's vision of health care reform would very likely meet your needs quite well.
But for everyone else, this plan is almost dangerously misguided.
Rachel Maddow looks at the latest poll numbers to find that not only is Donald Trump leading Republicans but he's also the number one second choice. Christie and Perry struggle for viability as Walker fails to show prominence expected of him. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on a fire that consumed the headquarters of the New Rockford Transcript, a small town newspaper serving Eddy County in North Dakota since 1883, and emphasizes the importance of local newspapers to America's good health. watch
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