House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) deserves just a little credit for acknowledging the basic idea that congressional Republicans should have a policy agenda. Sure, it's clearing the lowest possible threshold for a major party that's already in the majority, but the Wisconsin congressman decided to launch a months-long effort to prove that the GOP really could be a 21st-century governing party.
In the end, however, Ryan has proven the opposite.
The Republican Speaker assembled a team of House Republican lawmakers and staffers to craft a multi-part "Better Way" plan. "What you will see with these [proposals] are detailed policy papers," Ryan declared a month ago. "We're not talking about principles here. This is substance."
If only that were true. Part One was Ryan's plan to address poverty, which turned out to be laughable. Part Two was a national-security vision, which was not only ignored, it was contradicted by his party's presumptive presidential nominee. Part Three in the Speaker's agenda was a deregulation plan that was just a warmed over version of stale GOP demands. Part Four was a health care reform plan that was accurately summarized this way: "Speaker Paul Ryan wants to replace 20 million people's health insurance with 37 pages of talking points."
All of which leads to today's tax-reform plan, which might actually be the worst plank yet. The Washington Postreported:
The tax plan would slash rates across the board -- by 20 percent for businesses and 33 percent for individuals, simplify the tax filing process and restructure the international tax code. The plan embraces long-standing Republican principles like cutting rates and eliminating deductions while embracing a business consumption tax that is increasingly popular in conservative think-tank circles.
Though the GOP proposal leaves out details -- such as which specific deductions would be eliminated and how much the plan would cost -- it offers a fuller alternative to the deep rate cuts pitched by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. [emphasis added]
I bolded that section for a reason: Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, the former chairman of the House Budget Committee, and a member of his party's 2012 national ticket, spent months on a tax-reform plan with no price tag.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump was asked this morning whether the United Kingdom would remain the United States' first call when Americans need support. "I don't know, first call or second call," the Republican said. "They'll be a very powerful call."
* Trump's campaign announced yesterday that the Republican candidate has "forgiven more than $50 million in loans he made to finance his presidential bid." This was a key sticking point in fundraising efforts: donors had reason to balk at the idea of making contributions that would end up in Trump's pocket.
* In Illinois, where Sen. Mark Kirk (R) is facing a tough re-election fight, the Republican incumbent has launched a new television ad that stresses his opposition to Trump.
* In North Carolina, a new PPP poll shows Trump leading Hillary Clinton in the state by only two points, 48% to 46%. Clinton would be ahead, but many Bernie Sanders supporters in North Carolina, at least for now, are still balking at the presumptive Democratic nominee.
* The same poll found incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) with a surprisingly modest lead over Deborah Ross in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race, 40% to 37%. Libertarian Sean Haugh is third with 5%.
* In Florida this morning, Senate hopeful Todd Wilcox became the latest Republican to quit the race, throwing his support to Marco Rubio. This isn't necessarily good news for the incumbent: land developer Carlos Beruff is still in the race, and now there's no one left to split the anti-Rubio vote.
Donald Trump had his say in response to the Brexit results, hosting a press conference in Scotland this morning where he spoke at great length about the importance of his golf resort. Soon after, however, Hillary Clinton issued a statement of her own.
"We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made. Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America. We also have to make clear America's steadfast commitment to the special relationship with Britain and the transatlantic alliance with Europe.
"This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans' pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests. It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down."
I've seen some suggestions that Clinton's statement was incomplete because she didn't directly criticize the outcome of yesterday's vote. Perhaps, but let's not forget that as Secretary of State, Clinton learned quite a bit about diplomacy, especially when it comes to our closest allies.
If Clinton wins in November, she's going to have to work closely with British Prime Minister David Cameron's successor, and for her, there's no real upside to declaring, even subtly, "The U.K. just screwed up in a big way."
More interesting, at least to me, was her emphasis on "calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House."
It's a video that made the rounds fairly quickly. A young British woman told ITV News today, "I was really disappointed about the results [of the Brexit referendum] even though I voted to leave. This morning I woke up and the reality did actually hit me. If I had the opportunity to vote again, it would be to stay."
She's not alone. A BBC journalist spoke with voters in Manchester this morning who voted for Brexit, and she found "most" of them woke up this morning thinking, "What have I done?" An editor at the Daily Mailquoted another British voter who said she voted for the U.K. to leave the E.U., but added, "I never thought it would actually happen."
It wasn't long before many started imagining a similar scenario in the United States, the day after our presidential election, with many Americans telling domestic reporters the day after something like, "I voted for Trump (or a third-party candidate) to send a message, but I never thought he'd actually win."
The Washington Post ran a piece arguing that the British results suggest "we've been seriously underestimating Donald Trump's ability to win the presidential election."
When you consider all his controversies and self-inflicted wounds over the past month, combined with how much he's getting outspent on the airwaves in the battleground states, it is actually quite surprising that Trump and Hillary Clinton are so close in the polls. [...]
The British campaign to exit the European Union (known as "Brexit"), like Trump's, was fueled by grievance. Those agitating to cut off formal ties to the continent were less organized and less funded than those who wanted to stay connected, but that deficit didn't matter in the end, because the energy was against the status quo.
The New Republic ran a similar piece, noting the ethno-nationalistic similarities between the two campaigns, fueled by cultural resentment and anti-immigration animus.
"There is a tendency among political and media elites to dismiss such phenomena," the piece noted. "There is an ingrained belief that cooler heads will ultimately prevail, that voters will do 'the right thing,' that things will be as they were before. David Cameron certainly believed this, blithely betting his country's future to win an election. It might be facile to assert that if British voters could vote to leave the European Union, then American voters could vote to put Trump in the Oval Office. But the Brexit is shocking evidence that you can't be too sure."
The thesis is not without some merit, though I'd note one important caveat.
The race for the Democratic nomination ended two weeks ago, but Bernie Sanders has neither conceded nor dropped out. A week ago, his campaign manager went so far as to tell MSNBC the senator is still an "active candidate for president."
It made his comments this morning that much more surprising. During an MSNBC appearance, Nicolle Wallace asked Sanders a straightforward question: "Are you going to vote for Hillary Clinton in November?" The senator replied, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, "Yes."
Sanders added, "I think the issue right here is I'm gonna do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump."
But Sanders also dismissed the idea that he should withdraw from the Democratic race now that Clinton has secured the nomination.
"Why would I want to do that when I want to fight to make sure that we have the best platform that we possibly can, that we win the most delegates that we can?" he said.
Regardless of his reasoning, this appears to be the first time since the end of the Democratic primaries and caucuses that Sanders has said publicly that he will vote for Clinton. He added in a separate interview, "I don't have the votes to become the nominee. I know that, you know that. We're both good at arithmetic."
I can appreciate why these may seem like fairly obvious observations, but let's not forget that there are some ardent Sanders supporters who still believe it's possible that the Vermont senator will win the Democratic nomination. For them, his on-air comments this morning will probably come as something of a surprise.
In fact, talking to Stephen Colbert last night, Sanders further took the wind from the sails of "Bernie or Bust" activists when the senator explained, "My supporters are smart enough to know that we don't want a bigot to become president."
Earlier this month, Donald Trump was asked about the upcoming vote in the U.K. about leaving the European Union. The reporter asked, "And Brexit? Your position?" Trump replied, "Huh?"
"Brexit," the reporter repeated. "Hmm," Trump responded, apparently unfamiliar with the term.
With this exchange in mind, consider what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said on Twitter this morning:
"Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!"
What Trump may not realize, or really even be able to fully understand, is that Scotland is "going wild" because Scottish voters overwhelmingly voted against leaving the E.U. Locally, people aren't celebrating -- because they see this as a disaster.
Trump proceeded to hold a press conference in Scotland, against the backdrop of one of the most important political moments in the modern history of the United Kingdom, where he spoke at great length, and in great detail, about his new golf resort. The Republican candidate boasted about refurbished holes on his course, plumbing, putting greens, and zoning considerations.
Even by the low standards of Donald J. Trump, it was among the most baffling press conferences anyone has ever seen. The entirety of Scotland is reeling; the future of the U.K. and the continent is uncertain; and an American presidential candidate arrived to deliver a testimonial about a country club and how fond he is of the design of a golf course.
Americans who turned in last night, cautiously optimistic that cooler heads would prevail, and British voters would take the more responsible course on the question of "Brexit," woke up to an unsettling surprise.
Britain has voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum that forced the country's prime minister to step down, upended markets and set the stage for a messy untangling with far-reaching implications.
Electoral officials said early Friday that the "Leave" campaign had racked up 17.4 million votes -- compared to 16.1 million backing the status quo. That gave "Leave" 51.9 percent of the ballots against 48.1 percent for "Remain."
The dominoes are already falling quite quickly. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned heavily in support of the U.K. keeping its place in the E.U., is stepping down. Scottish leaders are preparing anew for a referendum on independence, saying Scotland does not want to be removed from the E.U. "against our will." Right-wing parties across Europe are talking about holding "Leave" referenda of their own. Global markets have declined sharply, and Wall Street is poised to have an exceedingly painful day.
For some in the United States, Europe's unraveling may seem like a distant concern, unrelated to the economy on this side of the Atlantic, but as Vox explained, "[T]urmoil in one of our most important trading partners can't be good for the U.S. economy."
Keir Simmons, NBC News correspondent, reports from outside British Parliament on the decision by UK voters to leave the European Union, and the political and economic ramifications that are likely to follow. watch
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate senior editor and legal correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about the pair of rulings handed down by the Supreme Court today and how the lack of a ninth justice is contributing to the court's dysfunction. watch
Rachel Maddow looks back on past gaffes and political embarrassments of Republican presidential candidates visiting the UK, and notes that while Donald Trump's visit to Scotland may be ill advised from a campaign perspective, he may be better off for keeping it strictly business. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on some of the key developments that took place overnight as House Democrats staged a nearly 26-hour protest in Congress to call for a vote on new gun legislation in the wake of the Orlando shooting massacre. watch
* Nearly 26 hours later: "Civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis declared victory Thursday as he and the other Democrats who staged a revolt in the House of Representatives over gun policy reform suspended their nearly 26-hour sit-in in the Capitol. While they failed to get the Republicans to vote on two controversial gun control bills, Lewis said they got the point across to the American people."
* All eyes on the U.K.: "Europe held its breath Thursday as the U.K. began voting in a national referendum on whether or not to quit the European Union, with the outcome predicted to be on a knife-edge after a months-long and bitterly divisive campaign."
* An oil spill "that may have released more than 29,000 gallons of crude into a grassy canyon in Ventura County did not reach the beach or trigger evacuations, Ventura County fire officials said Thursday."
* Germany: "Police shot and killed a masked gunman who took hostages in a German movie theater complex Thursday, officials said. The drama unfolded at the Kinopolis movie complex on a sunny afternoon in the southwestern town of Viernheim."
* Baltimore: "A judge on Thursday acquitted a Baltimore police officer of murder charges in the death of Freddie Gray, a major setback for prosecutors and a sign that the fractured city may not see criminal convictions against any of the cops involved."
* Jordan "sealed its last entry point for Syrian refugees Tuesday after a cross-border suicide attack killed six members of the Jordanian security forces, wounded 14 and exposed the pro-Western kingdom's growing vulnerability to spillover from conflict next door."
* North Korea "launched two medium-range ballistic missiles early Wednesday in defiance of international sanctions."
* June's job numbers should be better than May's: "Fewer Americans filed for jobless benefits in the June 18 week, another sign that the labor market is withstanding choppiness in other segments of the economy. There were 259,000 initial claims, a decline of 18,000 from the prior week. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast 270,000. It marked the 68th week in which claims were lower than 300,000, the longest such streak since 1973."
Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Defense secretary under President George W. Bush, said Wednesday he will vote for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in November.
"I'm a Republican, and there's not any doubt in my mind how I'll vote," Rumsfeld said in an interview with DailyMail.com. He said he agrees with Trump on issues such as reforming NATO and keeping Syrian refugees out of the U.S.
This doesn't come completely out of the blue. In January, the failed Pentagon secretary appeared on NBC's "Today" where he was quick to praise Trump. "I see someone who has touched a nerve in our country," Rumsfeld said, adding that the 2016 candidate has "caused people to respond in a way that most politicians have not been able to do."
But that was on Jan. 25. One wonders if Rumsfeld heard what Trump had to say just three weeks later during a nationally televised debate:
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