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Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Donald Trump on the stage  in the Republican presidential primary debate, Aug. 6, 2015. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

This Week in God, 10.24.15

10/24/15 08:29AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an alarming quote from the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, who thinks it may be possible for the United States government to close houses of worship, the First Amendment notwithstanding.
Mother Jones reported this week on Donald Trump exploring the limits of his anti-ISIS strategy, when he raised the possibility of unprecedented action.
In an interview on Fox Business, host Stuart Varney asked Trump whether, if elected president, he would follow the anti-ISIS lead of the British government, which has revoked the passports of people who traveled to fight alongside extremists, and has planned to close mosques that are "used to host extremist meetings or speakers."
"I would do that, absolutely, I think it's great," Trump responded. Varney pressed Trump on whether he even could close a mosque, citing religious freedom as a possible roadblock.
Trump conceded he wasn't sure, but he was open to the possibility. "It depends, if the mosque is, you know, loaded for bear, I don't know," the GOP candidate said during the on-air interview. "You're going to have to certainly look at it."
An official for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a written statement, explaining, "Donald Trump's apparent willingness to close down American mosques that he deems 'extreme' is totally incompatible with the Constitution and our nation's cherished principles of religious freedom."
CAIR's statement has the benefit of accuracy, though Trump was not without supporters. American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer told his audience this week that the First Amendment only protects Christians -- a constitutional interpretation with no foundation in reality -- which in Fischer's mind means a Trump administration "can constitutionally close down mosques in the United States of America.”
First, reality and constitutional law appear to point in a very different direction. Second, when this election cycle eventually ends, and we take stock of the degree to which some candidates relied on anti-Islam messages to advance their ambitions, keep this incident in mind.
Also from the God Machine this week:
Clinton sees value in (some) investigations

Hillary Clinton sees value in (some) investigations

10/23/15 10:05PM

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton talks with Rachel Maddow about the importance of investigations into attacks on U.S. installations abroad, both to honor those lost in the attacks and to learn how to avoid future attacks, but laments that the current House Select Committee on Benghazi is not serving that goal. watch

Could Syria go the way of Libya?

Could Syria go the way of Libya?

10/23/15 09:28PM

Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether Syria runs the risk of following the chaotic model of Libya if Bashar al-Assad is deposed. watch

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviews Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Oct. 23, 2015. (Photo by Ilya Savenok/MSNBC)

Hillary Clinton: 'I want to build on' Obama-era progress

10/23/15 06:19PM

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton sat down with Rachel Maddow today for her first interview since yesterday's 11-hour hearing with the House Republicans' Benghazi Committee. Rachel asked the question on the minds of many: "What does a person do after 11 hours of testimony? You're the only human being I know of on Earth who has done 11 straight hours. What did you do after?"
Clinton laughed and responded, "Well, I had my whole team come over to my house and we sat around eating Indian food and drinking wine and beer. That's what we did. It was great."
Asked if she's jealous of Vice President Biden, whose decision to skip the 2016 race means he won't have to endure the difficulties of a national campaign, Clinton joked, "That's a good question!" Speaking more generally about the Obama/Biden era, the former Secretary of State said something that struck me as important:
"I want to build on the progress that they are leaving behind. I feel very strongly about that. I want to go further, but I think the real point of this election is whether or not the Republicans are going to be able to turn the clock back and rip away the progress that has been made. So I want to support what the president and the vice president have accomplished."
This dovetails in striking ways with the comments Clinton made during last week's debate. Confronted with concerns about representing "Obama's third term," the leading 2016 Democrat didn't shrink from the last seven years, and Clinton still isn't. Biden said this week, "Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record," and there's every reason to believe Hillary Clinton intends to do exactly that.

Friday's Mini-Report, 10.23.15

10/23/15 04:33PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Terrifying: "Hurricane Patricia became the strongest storm ever measured on the planet early Friday, with experts warning it could trigger 40-foot waves along southwestern Mexico and 'life-threatening' flash flooding."
* Iraq: "Friday morning, the Pentagon released the name of the first American serviceman to die in battle in the latest round of U.S. military involvement in Iraq: Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, age 39, killed during a raid by Kurdish and American commandos on an Islamic State prison near the town of Hawija that reportedly freed 70 hostages who were soon to be summarily executed."
* Another school shooting: "One person was fatally shot and two others were wounded in a dispute over a dice game on the campus of Tennessee State University in Nashville late Thursday, police said."
* The resignation won't negate the criminal charges: "New Mexico's embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who in late August was indicted on dozens of criminal charges, has resigned, an email attributed to a top staffer in her office says."
* ISIS: "FBI Director James Comey said Friday that federal authorities have an estimated 900 active investigations pending against suspected Islamic State-inspired operatives across the country."
* Bad news for Chris Christie, Part I: "The New Jersey Senate voted on Thursday to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a gun control bill, the first time state lawmakers had mustered enough votes in more than 50 attempts at undoing one of his vetoes."
* Bad news for Chris Christie, Part II: "The health care worker who sharply criticized being quarantined at a New Jersey hospital last year because she had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa said in a lawsuit filed Thursday that Gov. Chris Christie and the state health department illegally held her against her will."
Mitt Romney

Romney wants credit for Obamacare

10/23/15 03:30PM

Given the Affordable Care Act's striking successes, it's not surprising that its champions would look for some credit for bringing health security to millions of families. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and plenty of other Democrats have reason to be proud of one of this generation's greatest policy breakthroughs.
It is a little jarring, though, seeing a Republican look for credit, too. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin reported this afternoon:
In a surprising move, Mitt Romney seemingly took credit on Friday for inspiring the Affordable Care Act -- after famously running as the 2012 Republican nominee on a platform of repealing the law.
Romney championed and signed a comprehensive health care law in Massachusetts when he was governor. Known as “Romneycare,” it had strong similarities with Obamacare, including a mandate to purchase insurance, but he had long resisted comparisons between the two. In a Boston Globe obituary of Staples founder and longtime Romney backer Thomas Stemberg, however, the former Republican nominee finally embraced the connection.
“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney told the Boston Globe. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”
And as a factual matter, there's certainly some truth to that. Romney approved a state-based law that served as an effective blueprint for President Obama's federal model. The two-time failed Republican presidential candidate has a point when he says "Romneycare" helped pave the way for "Obamacare."
But that doesn't make his new boast any less jarring. Romney wants credit for one of the president's signature accomplishments -- which Romney was committed to tearing down just a few years ago?
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson bows his head in prayer before speaking at a town hall meeting, Oct. 2, 2015, in Ankeny, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Carson thrives because of, not in spite of, bizarre rhetoric

10/23/15 02:19PM

For much of the summer, Donald Trump dominated Republican presidential polls everywhere, and Iowa was no different. The New York developer may not seem like a natural fit for Hawkeye State conservatives, but statewide surveys consistently showed Trump leading the GOP field.
This week, however, he's been replaced. A Quinnipiac poll in Iowa, released yesterday, showed retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson leading Trump, 28% to 20%, a big swing from early September, when Quinnipiac showed Trump ahead in Iowa by six points.
Today, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll offers very similar results, with Carson leading Trump in the Hawkeye State, 28% to 19%. In August, the same poll showed Trump up by five.
But this line in the DMR's report on the poll results stood out for me:
Even Carson’s most controversial comments -- about Muslims, Hitler and slavery -- are attractive to likely Republican caucusgoers.
This isn't a conclusion drawn through inference; the poll actually asked Iowa Republicans for their thoughts on some of Carson's ... shall we say ... eccentricities.


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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.



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