* Iran: "The convoy of Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons destined for rebels in Yemen is parked in the north Arabian Sea, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt and a guided missile cruiser, the Normandy, are safely to the northeast, the officials said. The Theodore Roosevelt and seven other American ships arrived in the Arabian Sea on Monday, and U.S. officials said that they could intercept the convoy."
* Yemen: "The Saudi-led airstrike coalition campaign in Yemen is ending after nearly a month of pounding Iran-allied Houthi rebels, according to a statement read on Arabiya TV."
* The scale of the tragedy worsens: "Investigators are just beginning to debrief the few survivors of the wreck: 28 men out of the estimated 850 people who packed onto the migrant vessel. But they have arrested its captain, identified on Tuesday by prosecutors as Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, a Tunisian, on suspicion of multiple homicide."
* It's about time: "Republicans and Democrats in the Senate reached an agreement Tuesday on an anti-human-trafficking bill, clearing the way for a vote on President Barack Obama's nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he expected a vote on Lynch 'in the next day or so.'"
* DEA: "The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to resign soon, according to U.S. officials, following revelations about 'sex parties' involving prostitutes overseas and other misconduct among its agents."
* Baltimore: "The U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation Tuesday in the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man whose spine was allegedly severed while he was in police custody."
Congressional Republicans generally shy away from President Obama's rescue of the American auto industry, and it's easy to understand why: the White House's policy was a striking success. GOP leaders condemned the rescue and told Americans it would fail. The right ended up getting the whole thing backwards.
For that matter, it's become a political loser, too. "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" made it nearly impossible for Mitt Romney to credibly compete in Michigan in 2012, despite his hometown roots, and Terri Lynn Land's opposition to Obama's policy contributed to her miserable failure in Michigan's U.S. Senate race in 2014.
But as the Detroit Newsnoted the other day, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is nevertheless following a familiar GOP script.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said Friday that the $85 billion auto bailout was not the "right way" to handle the troubled sector in 2008 and 2009.
At an appearance in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Florida senator said the rescue of General Motors Co. and then Chrysler Group LLC was not the right position for the federal government to take. "I don't think that was the right way to handle it, but certainly our auto industry is important. Again, it was a problematic approach that the federal government took to doing it....
The Florida Republican then transitioned to his support for conservative tax and regulatory policies.
Six years after the Obama administration's approach to the auto industry was implemented, it's unusual to hear Rubio's complaint. but the real oddity is the way in which the senator is still looking at the issue.
The Affordable Care Act's policy successes have become so obvious, it's become hard not to laugh at critics who stick their heads in the sand and pretend the system is "failing." By every fair measure, the ACA is thriving in ways even optimists didn't expect.
But the successes have consistently come with a caveat: the law still isn't popular. To this extent, the ACA has cultivated a very specific reputation as a policy victory and a political failure.
And for many years, this reputation was largely accurate. Polling has consistently found that Americans broadly support the provisions within the health care reform law, even while saying they oppose the law overall. As Greg Sargent noted this morning, however, it's probably time to revisit old assumptions about the ACA's popularity.
The new Kaiser Family Foundation monthly tracking poll finds that Obamacare has edged ever so gingerly into positive territory: 43 percent of Americans approve of the law, while 42 percent disapprove of it.
That's the first time the law has been in positive territory since the last presidential election. More to the point, it's the first time the law has been in positive territory since implementation of the law began and it suffered hideous roll-out problems, followed by months and months of GOP hyping of every Obamacare horror story Republicans could find (or invent).
The same survey found that only 29% of Americans endorse the Republican line on repealing the law. This is roughly consistent with the latest Bloomberg News poll, which found 35% support full repeal.
The GOP's entire posture is based on a bogus premise: that there's broad public support for scrapping the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. There clearly is not. It leaves Republicans with literally nothing to offer in the debate: no alternative proposal, no repeal strategy, no substantive arguments, and no political advantage over a law that's enjoyed renewed support.
As Hillary Clinton readied her 2016 presidential campaign, the complaints from some of her more liberal critics were hardly surprising. Many on the left feared, for example, that the former senator from New York would be too cozy with Wall Street -- concerns that have fueled interest in Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) agenda.
But Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday on a familiar sight: one week into her candidacy, Clinton is already striking pretty populist tones.
Hillary Clinton is likely months away from offering policy proposals on taxes and financial regulation, but she hinted on Monday that she hopes to get tougher on traders and reexamine the capital gains tax.
Clinton said at a small business roundtable here that she plans to "take a hard look at what is now being done in the trading world, which is just trading for the sake of trading."
These comments came just four days after Clinton tapped Gary Gensler, a "former top federal financial regulator and strong advocate for strict Wall Street rules," to be her campaign's CFO.
Matt Yglesias noted last week, "This is, for Wall Street skeptics, a huge deal: Gensler is the kind of regulator a President Elizabeth Warren would be expected to pick, not a President Clinton. But if Clinton is going to pick the kinds of regulators Warren was going to pick, then the difference between them isn't as large as many thought."
What's more, let's not forget Clinton's comments in Iowa last week, when she complained of the growing wage gap in corporate America, and took aim at the carried-interest loophole that Wall Street loves and benefits from: "[T]here's something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days."
Remember, this is all coming from the candidate who's believed to be too close to the financial industry.
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:
* Charles and David Koch are reportedly partial to Scott Walker's presidential campaign, but they are also prepared to give Jeb Bush a chance to "audition for the brothers' support."
* The fact that the GOP presidential field is already overflowing with candidates apparently isn't dissuading Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who launched a 527 group yesterday. The organization, called "New Day For America," will allow the governor to raise money for travel and related campaign-like expenses.
* Chris Christie was very likely counting on support from Joseph Kyrillos, who chaired the governor's 2009 campaign, but Kyrillos just made a $10,000 donation to Jeb Bush.
* For the third time in three weeks, a high-profile Florida Republican has decided to skip next year's U.S. Senate race. Yesterday, it was Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) who said he'd run for re-election, but not Marco Rubio's Senate seat.
* Jeb Bush, eager to bolster his foreign policy bona fides, will travel to Germany, Poland, and Estonia, in early June. It's probably not a coincidence that all three are NATO members.
A challenge goes out to those who think they've heard every argument against marriage equality: did you hear the one about equal-marriage rights causing 900,000 abortions?
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments next week on same-sex marriage, and as is the case every time a major case reaches the high court, interested parties are busy sending in friends-of-the-court briefs intended to help persuade the justices.
In this case, a group of "scholars" are trying, presumably with a straight face, to connect marriages between same-sex couples to abortion. Here's the pitch: if gay people are allowed to legally marry, straight people will decide marriage no longer has any meaning. This, in turn, will lead to fewer marriages overall, which will then lead to unmarried sex, which will lead to unmarried pregnancies, which will lead to unwanted pregnancies, which will lead to -- you guessed it -- 900,000 abortions.
Dana Milbank talked to Gene Schaerr, perhaps best known for losing the case in Utah over marriage equality, who believes abortion and marriage may "seem unrelated," but they're actually "closely linked in a short and simple causal chain."
[Schaerr] freely acknowledged that he had no cause-and-effect proof when I asked him about it at Heritage on Monday.
"It is still too new to do a rigorous causation analysis using statistical methods," he admitted, saying that he had found only a decline in marriage rates in states that had legalized same-sex marriage (in fact, marriage rates have declined overall). "The brief doesn't even attempt to say conclusively that this reduction in marriage rates has been the result of adopting same-sex marriage," Schaerr said, though there are "theoretical reasons" such causation might occur.
Did I mention that Schaerr used to clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia? He did.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) apparently has an idea as to why Democrats won the last two presidential elections.
"The last two nominees," said Paul, referring to McCain and to Mitt Romney, "I don't remember any tax cuts being part of their programs at all."
I'm afraid that says more about Rand Paul than it does McCain and Romney.
In 2008, two years before the Kentucky Republican joined the Senate, McCain's economic platform was built on a foundation of tax cuts, the bulk of which would have benefited the very wealthy. During the campaign, headlines like these were common: "Tax Cuts at Center of McCain's Economic Plan."
In 2012, two years after Paul joined the Senate, Romney unveiled a plan that would have cut taxes by over $1 trillion, to the overwhelming advantage of the rich.
If Rand Paul doesn't "remember any tax cuts being part of their programs at all," it's not unreasonable to wonder whether he paid any attention whatsoever to current events in 2008 and 2012.
But looking closer at the context, the problem is less with the Republican senator's memory and more with his policy perspective.
In the last presidential election, Mitt Romney positioned himself as the most anti-immigration general-election candidate Americans have seen in a generation. The Republican nominee opposed both comprehensive reform and the Dream Act; he endorsed "self-deportation"; he criticized bilingualism; and he casually threw around words like "amnesty" and "illegals" as staples of his campaign rhetoric.
It was tough to imagine what more Romney could have done to alienate immigrant communities, and the results were predictable: President Obama received over 70% of the Latino vote.
How much worse can Republicans make matters? The party's 2016 candidates can do the one thing Romney didn't: go after legal immigration.
Republicans often rail about undocumented immigrants. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an expected GOP presidential candidate, took it a step further Monday by sounding some critical notes about the number of those who immigrate to the U.S. legally.
"In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying -- the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that's based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages. Because the more I've talked to folks, I've talked to [Alabama Sen. Jeff] Sessions and others out there -- but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today -- is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages. And we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward," Walker said in an interview with Glenn Beck, according to Breitbart News.
The reference to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is important -- the right-wing Alabama lawmaker recently made the case for curtailing legal immigration. For Walker to affiliate himself with Sessions and his allies is evidence of the top-tier presidential hopeful adopting a very conservative posture on one of the cycle's biggest issues.
If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hoped to start a broader discussion on entitlements, it worked. The Republican governor delivered a speech a week ago announcing his support for major "reforms" to social-insurance programs, including a call to raise the retirement age to 69.
Within a few days, many of his national GOP rivals were on board with roughly the same idea: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are all now on record in support of raising the retirement age.
But in an interesting twist, some Republicans have been equally eager to take the opposite side. Take former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), for example:
"I don't know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don't understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is," Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie's proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test.
Huckabee said his response to such proposals is "not just no, it's you-know-what no."
Even Donald Trump, who's apparently flirting with the possibility of a campaign, rejected the idea during a Fox News interview yesterday. "They're attacking Social Security -- the Republicans -- they're attacking Medicare and Medicaid, but they're not saying how to make the country rich again," the television personality said. He added, in reference to GOP plans, "Even Tea Party people don't like it."
And then, of course, there's the likely Democratic nominee these Republicans hope to take on next year.
The conservative Washington Timesreports today that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is gearing up for a presidential campaign, despite the fact that his national ambitions are hampered by his unpopularity in his home state.
In fairness to the far-right governor, he's not the only national candidate with this problem. Much of the Republican presidential field is struggling with the fact that voters in their own states are unimpressed by their records.
But Jindal is the only one who's prepared an amazing argument to explain his unpopularity with his own constituents. Consider his comments over the weekend in New Hampshire at a multi-candidate event:
"[W]hen I was elected to my first term we won in the primaries, something that had never been done before by a non-incumbent. My second election, my re-election, we got the largest percentage of the vote ever, over two-thirds.
"And I'm here to tell you, my popularity has certainly dropped at least 15 to 20 points because we've cut government spending, because we took on the teacher unions.
"But we need that kind of leadership in D.C."
I'm not sure Jindal appreciates how unintentionally funny this argument really is.
Presidential candidates are always eager to earn support from voters, but with nine months remaining until anyone casts a primary ballot, White House hopefuls have a slightly different focus at this stage in the process. As the race gets underway in earnest, the goal isn't just to get public backing, but rather, to get support from a specific group of mega-donors.
Charles G. and David H. Koch, the influential and big-spending conservative donors, appear to have a favorite in the race for the Republican presidential nomination: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee.
According to the New York Times' report, David Koch talked about the Wisconsin governor as if his primary success was simply assumed: "When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination..." he joked.
The article noted two other attendees who said they heard Koch go further, describing the Republican Wisconsinite as the candidate who should get the GOP nomination.
It's worth emphasizing that Koch, following the Times' reporting, issued a written statement, describing Walker as "terrific," but stressing, "I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time."
The statement doesn't necessarily contradict the reporting. It's entirely possible, for example, that the Kochs will remain officially neutral during the nominating process, while also privately acknowledging their preference for Walker while talking to allies behind closed doors.
And if that's the case, it's a major advantage for the far-right governor over his rivals. The Kochs not only carry an enormous wallet, they oversee a large political operation and enjoy broad credibility among conservative activists and donors.
Rachel Maddow points out that Peter Schweitzer, author if the upcoming "Clinton Cash" book, has a history of producing partisan misinformation and wonders why otherwise legitimate news outlets are giving him credulous treatment. watch
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