Former Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to speak today at a D.C. think tank, delivering remarks intended to condemn the international nuclear agreement with Iran. If an ignominious exchange over the weekend was evidence of his expertise, however, Cheney might want to reschedule, brush up on the details, and rethink his approach.
The underlying challenge for the failed former V.P. is the degree to which his own Iran policy failed spectacularly. Iran didn’t have a meaningful nuclear weapons program until Tehran developed one -- during the Bush/Cheney administration. At the time, in response to Iran's nuclear program, the Bush/Cheney administration did nothing -- except, of course, strengthen Iran's regional power by invading Iraq.
With this in mind, Fox News' Chris Wallace reminded Cheney over the weekend that Iran "went from zero known [nuclear] centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.” The Republican's response was extraordinary.
The Fox News host flashed that data on screen so no one could miss it, and added: “So in fairness, didn’t you leave -- the Bush-Cheney administration -- leave President Obama with a mess?”
“Well, I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney countered. [...] “But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed.
“Well, they may well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney replied.
That's the exact opposite of the truth, as Wallace, to his credit, quickly reminded the former V.P. Iran's nuclear program blossomed, not under President Obama, but during the Bush/Cheney era.
Cheney wants Americans to blame Obama for a mess Cheney created. Indeed, either Cheney doesn't know what happened in Iran on his watch, in which case his ignorance effectively disqualifies him from the debate, or Cheney simply doesn't care about the facts, which renders his misguided opinions meaningless.
It's likely to be pretty slow today, so readers should expect a very light posting schedule. That said, I'll be around in case there's breaking news of interest.
As for the holiday, President Obama's Labor Day message emphasized the federal budget and the prospect of another congressional imposed shutdown; the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr. uses Labor Day to remind the political world, "As long as there are markets, government will have to establish rules determining how they operate"; and the New York Times' editorial board takes the opportunity to discourage the Fed from raising interest rates.
In the past year, low-wage workers have successfully fought for minimum wage increases in states and cities. Congressional Democrats have championed legislation to raise the federal minimum wage and to fight wage theft and abusive worker scheduling. The Labor Department is moving ahead with a much needed new rule to update the nation’s overtime-pay laws.
In the midst of those efforts, it would be a setback for the Fed to act as if the economy is already near full employment. It’s not. The proof is in the paycheck.
First up from the God Machine this week is a lingering question about the religio-political story that's captured much of the nation's attention: the bizarre actions of Kim Davis, the Clerk of Courts in Rowan County, Kentucky.
As you've probably heard, Davis is paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses, but she refuses to provide licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing “God’s authority.” Davis and her lawyers have filed several appeals, all of which lost. This week, after brazenly defying court orders, Davis found herself in jail for contempt of court.
But all week, one thing about this story has bugged me: doesn't Davis have a lawyer? Someone to represent her legal interests? What kind of counsel would go along with Davis' scheme to ignore her oath, the law, a Supreme Court ruling, and court orders?
A report from Right Wing Watch answers this question nicely.
Yesterday, Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, appeared on “Crosstalk” to defend Davis, claiming that she is simply trying to do her job, or at least, her job as she sees it. He even likened her to a Jewish person living under Nazi rule.
That's not a joke, by the way. Staver argued this week, "[W]hat happened in Nazi Germany, what happened there first, they removed the Jews from government public employment, then they stopped patronizing them in their private businesses, then they continued to stigmatize them, then they were the ‘problems,’ then they killed them." He added, "The fact of the matter is, she has a right to this employment and you don’t lose your constitutional liberties just because you are employed by the government.”
A day later, Staver repeated the Nazi analogy: "Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment, then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers. This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.”
Staver's name is probably unfamiliar to much of the American mainstream, but for those who follow the religious right movement closely, he's a familiar figure -- best known for pushing an odd, anti-gay worldview. His group, Liberty Counsel, was created by the late right-wing televangelist Jerry Falwell.
Davis, in other words, appears to be making some poor choices, based in part on dubious legal guidance. Indeed, some in Kentucky's legal community believe Staver and his partners "may have violated their duty to tell her she had no case."
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, talks with Rachel Maddow about how she was able to secure a rare one-on-one interview with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and what she learned from the exchange. watch
Hillary Clinton looks back at her "women's rights are human rights" address in Beijing, China 20 years ago and assesses the progress of women's rights both globally and in the U.S. in the span of those 20 years. watch
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell presses Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on the State Department e-mail questions that have been dogging her campaign, from the specific way in which the mails were processed to why she had only a personal e-mail account in the first place. watch
In an MSNBC exclusive interview with Andrea Mitchell, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton talks about the refugee crisis Europe is dealing with and the challenges of building international coalitions to solve problems, including her role in building a coalition to pressure Iran into making a deal on its nuclear pursuits. watch
Rachel Maddow shows the intensity of the questioning Hillary Clinton endured from Andrea Mitchell on the matter of her private e-mail account by lining up all of the questions in a row in one clip. watch
Rachel Maddow presents part of Andrea Mitchell's exclusive sit-down interview with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who addresses a wide range of subjects from Vice President Joe Biden to the Iran nuclear deal to the effect Donald Trump's campaign is having on American politics. watch
* Quite a sight: "Hundreds of migrants and refugees gave up trying to catch a train Friday and began a desperate 300-mile walk towards Germany as European leaders faced up to a 'defining moment' in the continent-wide crisis."
* On a related note: "Stepping back from a confrontation with asylum-seekers that drew condemnation from throughout Europe, Hungary will use buses to ferry thousands of migrants from Budapest to the border with Austria, a senior government official said Friday."
* A politician in the spotlight: "Call him Europe’s Donald Trump. Hungary’s maverick Prime Minister Viktor Orban is emerging as the straight-talking voice of right-wing Europe, vowing to block a wave of desperate refugees from seeking sanctuary in the region."
* A striking detail: "As Amnesty International recently pointed out, the 'six Gulf countries -- Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain -- have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.'"
* California: "The campus of Sacramento City College was locked down Thursday afternoon as police searched for a gunman who shot three men, killing one, authorities said."
* Dead-enders: "A judge in Marion County, Oregon, is under investigation after he reportedly refused to perform same-sex marriages when it was legalized in the state."
* On Wednesday, nine people were shot and killed in Chicago, nearly all in separate and unrelated incidents: "That marked the most homicides in a single day in Chicago in more than a decade, according to a Tribune analysis of department data."
* Smart move: "Rep. Mia Love, one of the GOP’s rising stars, said she will repay taxpayers more than $1,000 for weekend flights she took to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner last spring."
Donald Trump's first real interview on matters of foreign policy and national security clearly didn't go well. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt pressed the Republican frontrunner on a variety of key issues -- the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, for example -- and the GOP presidential candidate not only struggled, Trump dismissed the questions themselves as "ridiculous."
The second-day question, of course, is whether a candidate's ignorance has any effect on his or her standing. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), talking earlier to CNN, clearly hopes to make Trump's difficulties as consequential as possible.
"If you don't know the answer to these questions, then you are not going to be able to serve as commander and chief," Rubio told CNN in an interview here.
"This should be part of the reason why you are running because you understand the threats that the world is facing, you have deep understanding and you understand what to do about it," Rubio added. "And if someone doesn't, I think it is very concerning."
At face value, there's probably something to this. Even if someone were to give Trump the benefit of the doubt -- maybe he confused the Quds Forces and the Kurds because it was a phone interview and he misheard the host -- major-party presidential candidates should know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah. Heck, anyone who reads news articles once in a while about the Middle East should know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah.
If Rubio wants to make the case that interviews like the Trump-Hewitt exchange point to a candidate who's probably unprepared for national office, it's a credible message.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman will meet with President Obama today, and as Politico put it, the Saudi king will meet with a U.S. leader "with a swagger in his step."
Nearly four months after he skipped President Barack Obama's high-profile Camp David summit, Saudi Arabia's King Salman will arrive at the White House to find a strengthened Obama and less leeway to influence U.S. policy toward Iran.
The elderly Arab monarch's White House visit Friday comes just days after Obama secured the Senate votes he needs for the Iran nuclear deal to survive Congress.
Senate support for the diplomatic solution is still growing -- in addition to the three new endorsements yesterday, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) announced his backing for the policy this morning. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) announced his opposition around the same time, but as a practical matter, his siding with the far-right on the issue won't change the outcome.
Under the circumstances, it's tough to blame the president for having "a swagger in his step," not just because he's overcome the Saudis' skepticism about the international agreement, but also because Obama has had quite a bit of success lately.
Barring any unexpected developments, the successful implementation of the new U.S. policy in Iran is among the most consequential diplomatic success stories in a generation.
But Roll Call's Steven Dennis noted this week that it's not the only issue that's gone President Obama's way lately. Looking back over just the last three months, we see related victories and breakthroughs on Cuba, marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, fast-track trade-promotion authority, and overtime pay, among other things.
It's part of an increasingly successful 2015 for the Obama White House, which also includes a climate deal with China, new environmental safeguards, and net neutrality. If we include late last year -- the period after the midterm elections -- we can add a breakthrough immigration policy and the freeing of some American prisoners in North Korea.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Jeb Bush told ABC yesterday that he will support the Republican Party's presidential nominee, even if it's Donald Trump.
* Vice President Biden conceded yesterday he's unsure "whether my family and I have the emotional energy" for another presidential campaign. "The honest-to-God answer is I just don't know," he said last night.
* At a New Hampshire event yesterday, an attendee to a Jeb Bush event literally fell asleep. Soon after, the Florida Republican tweeted a picture of himself and the voter, saying she'd woken up early yesterday for a 12-hour shift.
* Gallup published new results this morning, showing favorability ratings for the Republican presidential candidates among GOP voters. The news isn't good for Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, once seen as the party's top-tier contenders.
* With Scott Walker's presidential campaign moving in the wrong direction, his allied super PAC is preparing an $8 million investment in South Carolina, home to the third 2016 nominating contest.
* The Iowa Democratic Party is expanding its use of "satellite caucuses," allowing voters to participate in the 2016 nominating process in places such as "factory sites and senior citizen residential facilities." The Iowa Republican Party said it has no similar plans.
* Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) announced yesterday that he'll retire next year after 14 years in Congress. The Minnesota Republican represents a competitive swing district, which President Obama carried twice, and which the DCCC is confident it can pick up in 2016.
Republican presidential candidates often like to talk about the cabinet agencies they're eager to destroy. Just this week, for example, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dismissed the federal Department of Education as unnecessary. In the last presidential election, then-Gov. Rick Perry (R) said he intended to scrap three cabinet agencies, though he famously forgot the third.
But when GOP candidates go after these agencies, they usually stick to departments like Commerce, Education, and occasionally Energy. Ben Carson, a leading 2016 contender, actually has a very different idea in mind. The Military Timesreported:
Presidential hopeful Ben Carson's comments suggesting the Veterans Affairs Department should be eliminated drew quick condemnation from multiple veterans groups, who called the idea short-sighted and ill-informed.
On a national radio show [on Aug. 27], Carson said that the country need to re-examine how it cares for veterans but also how to cut back on government bureaucracy.
The retired neurosurgeon said, "We don't need a Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Affairs should be folded in under the Department of Defense."
As regular readers probably know, plenty of Republican presidential candidates support incorporating a voucher system into the VA, effectively privatizing parts of veterans' care, but Carson is the first national candidate, at least in recent memory, to suggest eliminating the cabinet agency altogether.
John Biedrzyck, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, isn't impressed. "To suggest that disabled veterans could be sent out into the economy with a health savings account card overlooks the fact that civilian health care has waiting lists of their own ... and presupposes that civilian doctors have the same skill sets as VA doctors, who see veterans of every age and malady every day," Biedrzyck said in a statement.
As the Military Times' report added, Paralyzed Veterans of America Deputy Executive Director Sherman Gillums Jr. called Carson's recommendation "a misguided notion born from ignorance of what each department does."
In the event Carson somehow becomes the president, how realistic is the threat that he'll actually scrap the entire agency?
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.