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A flag for the Texas Longhorns waves at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

A Texas test for critics of judicial activism

07/27/15 10:03AM

Last year, Houston's City Council passed one of Texas' most sweeping anti-discrimination measures, extending new protections to the LGBT community in the areas of housing, employment, and city contracts. Almost immediately, conservative activists started collecting petition signatures to force a citywide referendum on the issue.
 
It didn't turn out well -- though it initially looked as though opponents of the law had collected the necessary number of signatures, the city attorney, a local jury, and a local judge all concluded that many of the petition signatures were fraudulent. Anti-gay activists needed more than 17,000 signatures to get the matter onto the ballot, and after counting the legitimate signatures, it was clear that conservatives fell short.
 
Oddly enough, as the NBC affiliate in Houston reported late Friday afternoon, the Texas Supreme Court took matters into its own hands.
The Texas Supreme Court has suspended the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, ruling that the ordinance either be repealed or put before voters.
 
The court states that Houston City Council has 30 days to repeal the ordinance or the issue will be placed on the November ballot.
I realize that Republicans hold all of the seats on the state Supreme Court, but this story is bizarre, even by the standards of the Texas GOP.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina May 9, 2015. (Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters)

Another side of Ted Cruz

07/27/15 09:20AM

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz talked to the New York Times Magazine the other day, and the conversation turned to, of all things, the Texas senator's interest in science fiction. At one point, the newspaper asked, "Do you think there's a big overlap between sci-fi nerds and people interested in policy?"
 
Cruz replied, "Well, I do think that readers of science fiction are interested and attracted to the future. And in many ways, politics is a battle for framing our future." As someone with a deep interest in both, I found this pretty compelling.
 
But from there, the GOP lawmaker noted some of his genre favorites -- as a teenager, he even created "Cruz Enterprises," inspired by "Stark Enterprises" from the Iron Man franchise -- and at the bottom of the Times piece, Cruz listed his top five superheroes:
1. Spider-Man
2. Wolverine
3. Batman
4. Iron Man
5. Rorschach
The first four seem pretty straightforward. In fact, ask 1,000 comics fans for their top five favorite superheroes, and I suspect Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman, and Iron Man would each be near the top.
 
But Rorschach is another story. For those unfamiliar with Alan Moore's Watchmen, Rorschach is a mentally unstable killer. The fictional character lives by a moral code, but he's extremely inflexible when applying that moral code, often in a psychotic sort of way. For Rorschach, there are no gray areas. There are no nuances. There's right, there's wrong, and there's severe punishment for the latter.
 
For a sampling, here's a clip from the movie. Rorschach is the one telling his fellow inmates, "I'm not locked in here with you; you're locked in here with me."
 
Ted Cruz's superhero preferences are obviously his business, but as we get to know the presidential candidates better, beyond just their positions on the major issues, the fact that the far-right senator considers Rorschach one of his favorites seems ... interesting.
Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, announces he will seek the Republican presidential nomination at Hempstead Hall in Hope, Arkansas, U.S., May 5, 2015. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty)

Huckabee reaches new low with ugly Holocaust rhetoric

07/27/15 08:40AM

As the race for the Republican nomination has become more of a circus, many in the party and the media have blamed Donald Trump's over-the-top theatrics and flare for the farcical. Why can't the former reality-show host be more mature and responsible?
 
Why can't he follow the example set by the other candidates -- like Mike Huckabee?
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called the Iran deal "idiotic," and likened it to events of the Holocaust, saying that President Obama will ultimately "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
As Anna Brand's msnbc report noted, Huckabee used the inflammatory language during an interview with a right-wing website, Breitbart News.
 
Note, Huckabee, a former governor and former Fox News host, used to support diplomacy with Iran until talks fell out of favor in far-right circles,
 
The Arkansas Republican was apparently so pleased with his choice of words that he began pushing the same message through social media, saying on Twitter yesterday, in all capital letters, that the international nuclear agreement with Iran "is marching the Israelis to the door of the oven."
 
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called on Huckabee to apologize. "This rhetoric, while commonplace in today's Republican presidential primary, has no place in American politics. Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable," she said in a statement. "Mike Huckabee must apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement."
 
That apology apparently won't happen. Huckabee, no doubt worried about securing his place in the upcoming debates, appears comfortable exploiting Holocaust rhetoric to further his ambitions -- a development that says far more about Huckabee than the merits of international nuclear diplomacy.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally and picnic on July 25, 2015, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

New polling: Trump's inevitable collapse hasn't happened

07/27/15 08:00AM

After Donald Trump went after Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) military service at an Iowa forum last weekend, much of the punditocracy came to a conclusion: this guy's toast. There are some basic lines of political decency that cannot be crossed, and Trump crossed one of them with brazen enthusiasm.
 
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Republican candidate's inevitable collapse: the predictions proved to be wrong. NBC News' Mark Murray reported over the weekend on Trump's improved position in the first two nominating states.
Trump leads the Republican presidential field in New Hampshire, getting support from 21% of potential GOP primary voters. He's followed by Jeb Bush at 14%, Scott Walker at 12% and John Kasich at 7%. Chris Christie and Ben Carson are tied at 6% in the Granite State, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are at 5% each.
 
In Iowa, Walker and Trump are in the Top 2 -- with Walker at 19% among potential Republican caucus-goers and Trump at 17%. They're followed by Bush at 12%, Carson at 8%, Mike Huckabee at 7% and Rand Paul at 5%.
Because of the significance -- or at least, the perceived significance -- of the Trump/McCain controversy, note that these statewide polls were conducted from July 14 to 21, with the Iowa forum comments coming on July 18. Murray added that Trump's standing in Iowa was actually slightly better after his criticisms of the Arizona senator, though his support faltered a bit in New Hampshire.
 
A new poll from CNN, meanwhile, conducted since the McCain comments, also shows Trump leading the Republican field nationally with 18% support, followed by Bush's 15%. More than a fifth of GOP voters, at least for now, actually believe Trump will eventually win the GOP nomination. Only Jeb Bush performed better on this question.

Debate scramble and other headlines

07/27/15 07:51AM

Republicans scramble to make the debate stage. (The Hill)

New polls show Donald Trump running strong in Iowa, New Hampshire. (NBC News)

Billionaire brothers give Ted Cruz Super PAC at $15 million contribution. (CNN)

Hillary Clinton stakes out climate change agenda. (Bloomberg Politics)

Republicans alter script on abortion, seeking to shift debate. (New York Times)

Boy Scouts expected to end ban on gay scout leaders. (USA Today)

Turkey and U.S. agree on a plan to clear ISIS from strip of Syria's north. (New York Times)

Turkish troops target Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. (AP)

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NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away (Photo by NASA/AP).

Week in Geek: Blue marble edition

07/26/15 11:44AM

For the first time since 1972, humans have captured the amazing view of our planet as seen from space in a single photograph.

NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite released its first public image of our home this past week. The satellite was able to see the entire Earth at once because it orbits us at a distance of over a million miles, nearly four times as far away as the Moon. This orbital location has a special name, it's called the "L1 Lagrange Point".

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Pope Francis arrives to his Wednesday's General Audience in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Dec. 3, 2014. (L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO/EPA)

This Week in God, 7.25.15

07/25/15 08:53AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an interesting shift in Americans attitudes towards Pope Francis in advance of his U.S. visit in September. MSNBC's Eric Levitz reported this week on the latest survey results from Gallup.
Americans are losing faith in Pope Francis, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.
 
The Pope's favorability rating in the U.S. has fallen from 76% in early 2014 to 59% today, roughly where it stood at the start of his papacy.
Gallup's report noted that the most striking change dragging down the pope's U.S. support is the changing attitudes of American conservatives. Last year, 72% of conservatives said they had a favorable opinion of Francis, while this year, the number stands at just 45%
 
To put that in perspective, Gallup also noted this month that among Republicans, 49% have a favorable opinion of Donald Trump -- suggesting that on the right, Trump's message is resonating slightly more effectively than the Vatican's.
 
The report added, "This decline may be attributable to the pope's denouncing of 'the idolatry of money' and linking climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality -- all issues that are at odds with many conservatives' beliefs."
 
Though Francis' standing dropped with more than one U.S. group, the decline in support among conservatives was the most significant, and it comes on the heels of high-profile criticism of the pope from prominent Republican figures, including Rush Limbaugh and several leading GOP presidential candidates, each of whom have argued the pope is addressing debates they want him to avoid entirely.
 
Or put another way, after Republican leaders urged Francis to stay on the sidelines of major political/moral disputes, Republican voters soured on the pope.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
Resistance grows to Fox News debate rules

Resistance grows to Fox News debate rules

07/24/15 11:04PM

Rachel Maddow reports on increasing pressure on Fox News to make its Republican primary debate rules more inclusive as Chris Christie buys advertising on Fox News to boost his poll numbers with Republicans nationally to qualify for the Fox News debate. watch

Beltway baffled as Trump's numbers grow

Beltway baffled as Trump's numbers grow

07/24/15 10:42PM

Dan Rather, host of The Big Interview on AXS Tv, talks with Rachel Maddow about how Donald Trump can be doing so well in the polls against all of the Washington, D.C. conventional wisdom about his seriousness and gaffes. watch

Friday Night News Dump: fakin' bacon edition

Friday Night News Dump: fakin' bacon edition

07/24/15 09:53PM

Benny Zelkowicz, cable news viewing titan, pits his power in the weekly Friday Night News Dump challenge for a chance to win a jar of powder that magically tastes like bacon without actually containing bacon (or so the label says). watch

Bacon rub, no bacon

Bacon rub, no bacon

07/24/15 09:38PM

Tricia McKinney, senior planning producer for The Rachel Maddow Show, works with Rachel to select a appropriately random, unwanted item to serve as a suitable prize for this week's Friday Night News Dump. watch

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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