Inviting Ben Carson to give a high-profile speech at the Republican National Convention may have seemed like a good idea to party officials and organizers. The retired physician may have failed badly as a presidential candidate, but he remains popular with the GOP base, and his speeches tend to be well received.
Sure, Carson has struggled badly at times as a surrogate for Donald Trump's campaign, but how bad could he be in Cleveland? After all, the party would review his prepared remarks in advance.
Of course, that only works out when Carson actually sticks to the script. Last night, he didn't.
Ben Carson went off script during his convention address Tuesday night, linking frequent conservative target Saul Alinsky -- and Lucifer -- to Hillary Clinton.
"One of the things I have learned about Hillary Clinton is that one of her heroes is Saul Alinsky," Carson said.
Alinsky has been a popular target for the right and his ideas have been tied to President Obama and Clinton. Carson said Alinsky acknowledged Lucifer in one of his books.
Straying from his prepared text, Carson posed a hypothetical question to his audience: "This is a nation where every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet says in 'In God We Trust.' So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?"
Let's put aside for now the fact that Alinsky, a '60s-era organizer, is not actually Hillary Clinton's "role model." Let's also look past the right's bizarre preoccupation with the long-deceased radical activist.
Instead let's pause to appreciate what's become of Republican politics in the 21st century. Those who tuned in to watch the Republican National Convention in prime time heard a former presidential candidate play a degrees-of-separation game connecting the Democratic nominee to Lucifer.
Senator Amy Klobuchar talks with Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams about what to expect from next week's Democratic National Convention, how it will differ from the Republican convention and why Bernie Sanders supporters should get behind Hillary Clinton. watch
Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about a new report on the genesis of Melania Trump's convention speech that seems to narrow the source of the questionable passages to Trump's inner circle. watch
Trump himself made a sharp public argument that Christie was guilty in the Bridgegate scandal: https://t.co/hYNWHKMiHS
Rachel Maddow remarks on how the New Jersey bridge investigation has burdened New Jersey governor Chris Christie politically and made him an imperfect vessel for criticism of Hillary Clinton's ethics. watch
Rachel Maddow relays reports that Roger Ailes is negotiating his departure as chairman of Fox News, noting the cataclysmic significance for the Republican Party, particularly as it comes simultaneously with Donald Trump's nomination. watch
NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell talks with the Alaska Republican delegation about the objection they've raised about how their state's votes were recorded, and Nicolle Wallace, Republican strategist, laments the RNC's disorder. watch
Rachel Maddow reports that whether counting the votes reported by the states or the votes recorded by the party, Donald Trump has cleared the threshold required to secure the Republican nomination for president. watch
this is the last moment on earth before donald trump is the nominee of a major party... for president of the united states.
* Oh my: "The highly contagious norovirus appears to have hit the Republican National Convention. A dozen California Republican Party staff members, who arrived last week in Ohio ahead of the state's delegates, have fallen ill with the virus, said Jim Brulte, chairman of the state GOP."
* Turkey: "The Turkish authorities extended their purge of state institutions on Tuesday, suspending more than 15,000 employees of the education ministry for suspected links to a failed military coup last week."
* Tragic violence in Kansas: "A Kansas City, Kan., police captain who was shot Tuesday afternoon has died, authorities announced at a press conference. Capt. Robert Melton was shot at 22nd and Haskell in Kansas City, Kan. and by 2:45 p.m. one person was in custody and police had detained another person."
* Someone wants attention again: "North Korea fired three ballistic missiles on Tuesday which flew between 300-360 miles into the sea off its east coast, South Korea's military said, the latest in a series of provocative moves by the isolated country."
* Climate crisis: "This June has joined every other month of this year so far in setting an all-time monthly record for global temperatures, according to two separate federal science agencies -- though the globe was not as extremely warm last month as it was earlier in the year."
* VW: "Three attorneys general on Tuesday directly challenged Volkswagen's defense over its emissions deception, calling the decision to thwart pollution tests an orchestrated fraud that lasted more than a decade, involved dozens of engineers and managers and reached deep into the company's boardroom."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was willing to acknowledge this morning that Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama. He said, however, this incident wasn't her fault, and if it were up to him, Priebus would "probably" fire the speechwriter.
Just a couple of hours later, however, the RNC apparently switched gears. This BuzzFeed article may seem like a joke, but it's very real.
Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer on Tuesday quoted My Little Pony in a bid to prove Melania Trump's convention speech did not plagiarize First Lady Michelle Obama. [...]
"Melania Trump said, 'The strength of your dreams and willingness to work for them," [Spicer told CNN's Wolf Blitzer]. "Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony said, 'This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dream you can do now.'"
The quote comes from the 2015 My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep?".
Um, OK, but those two excerpts aren't identical. Melania Trump's speech included several phrases that were word-for-word copies of Michelle Obama's speech from eight years ago.
I'm not sure what's more peculiar: watching the Republican National Committee's spokesperson quoting "My Little Pony" on national television or watching him pretend not to understand what "plagiarism" means.
But even putting that aside, the mind-numbing partisan pushback has changed the nature of the controversy. What began as an obvious example of lazy, clumsy plagiarism has suddenly become a story about a Republican test of how effectively they can create their own reality -- and convince the political world to play along.
A spokesperson for Donald Trump, for example, toldThe Hill, "These are values, Republican values by the way, of hard work, determination, family values, dedication and respect, and that's Melania Trump. This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd."
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.