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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 10.18.16

10/18/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Mosul: "The American ground force commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, said U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have momentum on their side in the battle to drive ISIS out of its Iraq stronghold, the northern city of Mosul."

* Related news: "Iraqi Kurdish forces advancing toward the northern city of Mosul paused Tuesday on the second day of a long-awaited offensive after the Islamic State mounted tough resistance in villages east of the strategic city."

* Syria: "Russian and Syrian troops suspended bombing sorties around Aleppo on Tuesday so aid convoys can reach the besieged Syrian city, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said."

* The criticism has the benefit of being true: "President Obama on Tuesday criticized Donald Trump's 'flattery' of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it an unprecedented development in American politics."

* Pennsylvania: "The mayor of a small Pennsylvania town is resigning after sparking outrage by posting images on his Facebook page comparing President Barack Obama and his family to apes and referencing a noose. The council of the borough of West York, located about 100 miles (160 km) west of Philadelphia, voted unanimously on Monday to accept Mayor Charles Wasko's offer to step down, council President Shawn Mauck said."
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US President Barack Obama speaks at a Hillary for America campaign event, Oct. 14, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Obama offers Trump some good advice: 'Stop whining'

10/18/16 02:27PM

For a guy who enjoys boasting about his "strength" and "toughness," Donald Trump has a bad habit of whining. When the Republican presidential nominee isn't complaining about the nefarious forces he perceives as his enemies (journalists, GOP leaders, microphones, Democrats, members of the "global power structure," et al), Trump is expressing his dissatisfaction with those he sees as uncooperative (pollsters, the Commission on Presidential Debates, Emmy voters, et al).

Reactions to this tend to be a matter of personal taste: Trump's followers seem to relate to his near-constant complaining, while Trump's critics are less impressed. But when the Republican candidate started insisting that the American elections process is "rigged" against him, the complaints raised a different kind of alarm: Trump's misguided rhetoric is arguably dangerous if it baselessly undermines public confidence in the American democratic system.

To their credit, some notable Republican officials, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have pushed back, saying publicly that there's simply no reason to question the integrity of the U.S. voting process. Today, President Obama weighed in on the same subject -- in a rather direct way.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday downplayed Donald Trump's suggestion that November's election is "rigged," and said the GOP presidential nominee needs to toughen up.

"I'd advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and try to go make his case to get votes," Obama said at a White House news conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"If whenever things are going badly for you, you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job," Obama continued. "There are a lot of time things don't go our way or my way ... that's OK, you fight through it."
At the same press conference, the president added, "I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It's unprecedented,"

That happens to be true. As we discussed yesterday, there's simply no precedent for anything like this in the American tradition. Voters have never seen a major-party presidential nominee go to such lengths to undermine confidence in their own country's voting system -- without any proof whatsoever -- intentionally trying to delegitimize an election before it occurs.

But also note how Obama lowered the boom: "It doesn't really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you'd want out of a president."
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University, Oct. 9, 2016, in St. Louis, Mo. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

In 2016, 'basic facts' are the subject of major disagreements

10/18/16 12:37PM

The Pew Research Center published an interesting report last week, noting more than 80% of Americans believe partisans "not only disagree over plans and policies, but also disagree on 'basic facts.'" This was, as the report noted, a widely held belief: "Comparably large shares of registered voters who back Clinton (80%) and Trump (81%) say the two sides are unable to agree on basic facts."

Ironically, one of the only areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans is that the other side lives in its own reality.

Pew's findings were well timed. The day those results were published, Politico published this report:
The latest Marketplace-Edison Research survey shows economic anxiety is up to 36 from 30 a year ago (the scale runs 0-100). But that's not the depressing part of the poll's findings.

It's this: 25 percent of Americans "completely distrust the economic data reported by the federal government, including statistics like the unemployment rate, the number of jobs added, and the amount of consumer spending." Perhaps unsurprisingly, that number soars to 48 percent of Donald Trump supporters compared to just 5 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters.
As discouraging as this is, the results are helpful in understanding why contemporary debates are so frustrating.

A reality-based observer might note, for example, that the unemployment rate has dropped sharply under President Obama. And the budget deficit has shrunk. And border security has tightened as the number of undocumented immigrants entering the United States has declined. And government spending has leveled off. And murder rates are down. And voter fraud hardly ever happens anywhere in the United States.

Many rank-and-file conservatives will, with great sincerity, insist that each of these claims is wrong. These folks are mistaken, of course, and reality-based observers might point to official evidence to prove their point, but that won't work -- because much of the right "completely distrusts" data reported by the federal government.

Indeed, it must be terribly frustrating for conservatives to be stuck in something akin to a state of Cartesian confusion: independent news organizations, citing official data, will routinely tell the public about important developments surrounding, say, job creation. But for much of the right, independent media outlets are corrupt and untrustworthy; official figures from the government are extension of some kind of conspiracy to mislead the public; and they know in their guts that job creation is collapsing, evidence be damned.
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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.18.16

10/18/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, was asked yesterday on MSNBC about her candidate criticizing the appearance of some of the women who accused him of sexual misconduct. "It's not how I would answer the question," Conway conceded.

* Though Team Trump appeared prepared to give up on Virginia as recently as last week, the Republican campaign is apparently now launching a $2 million investment in the commonwealth, despite polls showing Hillary Clinton well ahead.

* After the Clinton campaign released a video criticizing Trump's associations with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Jones responded yesterday by reiterating his belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories. Perhaps most notably, Jones added, "Trump knows about 9/11."

* During a debate in Florida last night, Marco Rubio was pressed on whether or not he'll serve a full six-year term, ruling out an expected presidential campaign in 2020. The incumbent senator's answer wasn't quite as direct as it should have been.

* In North Carolina's closely watched U.S. Senate race, the new CNN poll found incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) ahead by only one point over Deborah Ross (D), 48% to 47%.

* The same poll found Catherine Cortez Masto (D) with a surprisingly healthy seven-point lead over Joe Heck (R) in Nevada's U.S. Senate race, 52% to 45%.

* A guy in California joked over the weekend that he's an Ohio mailman who's been "ripping up absentee ballots that vote for Trump." Conservative media embraced the joke as real, including Rush Limbaugh, who condemned major news organizations for failing to take the story seriously.

* The Republican National Committee has reached out to party officials in Alabama, urging them to volunteer to work in nearby Florida in the election season's closing weeks (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).

* Wendy Day, a prominent figure in the Michigan Republican Party, was ousted from her post yesterday for refusing to support Trump's presidential campaign.
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A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Trump eyes Putin for his post-election transition plans

10/18/16 11:00AM

It's a bizarre set of circumstances. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not at all popular with the American mainstream, appears to be taking steps to intervene in the U.S. presidential election, including stealing and releasing Democratic emails in order to boost Donald Trump. It's against this backdrop that the Republican candidate has repeatedly praised and defended the Russian autocrat.

Given this, it's tempting to assume Trump would try to avoid drawing more attention to his pro-Putin attitudes. But as this New York Times report suggests, Trump apparently can't help himself.
Donald J. Trump suggested on Monday that Hillary Clinton was too "tough" in her language about Russia, and said that if he won the election, he might meet with President Vladimir V. Putin before being sworn in.

Mr. Trump made the remarks in an interview with the conservative radio host Michael Savage, who repeatedly affirmed Mr. Trump's recent claims that the mainstream media was attempting to thwart him.
Trump wasn't subtle about his perspective, complaining that Democrats shouldn't "insult" Putin so frequently, and Hillary Clinton in particular "shouldn't be talking so tough" about Russia.

Looking ahead, as Media Matters' audio clip shows, Trump added, "If I win on Nov. 8, I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration."

The GOP nominee may not fully appreciate just how provocative this is.
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File photo: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) leads a hearing on Benghazi. (Photo by: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Darrell Issa discovers Obama isn't so bad after all

10/18/16 10:10AM

It's no secret that during Bill Clinton's presidency, congressional Republicans were more than a little hostile towards the Democratic White House. GOP lawmakers effectively hunted Clinton for the better part of eight years, launching a seemingly endless stream of investigations, and accusing the Democratic president of all kinds of criminal misdeeds.

But after Clinton left office as a fairly popular national figure, Republicans eventually came to believe he wasn't so bad after all. At an event a couple of years ago, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) looked back fondly at a bygone era. "I started my stint under President Bill Clinton," Salmon said, "and I'm the opposite party and I'd give my right arm to have him back right now."

Salmon, incidentally, voted to remove Bill Clinton from office in 1998, supporting all four articles of impeachment against the then-president.

The estimable Robert Schlesinger calls this "Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome": a condition that leads Republicans, many of whom hated the Democratic president while he was in office, to look back fondly at Bill Clinton's tenure, sometimes even tying themselves to his work.

Will we eventually see "Obama Nostalgia Syndrome," too? By some measures, it's already begun. The Huffington Post published a great report yesterday on Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) facing a surprisingly difficult challenge from Democrat Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel seeking elected office for the first time. How concerned is Issa about his chances? Enough to present himself as a cooperative ally to President Obama.
Issa's confidence is beginning to wane. While he's refused to revoke his endorsement of Trump, he is evidently anxious about being associated with him. New mailers sent out by his campaign showcase Issa's alliance with Obama to pass legislation that established a bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault.
For those who know anything about Issa's record, this is a little hilarious.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 23, 2016. (Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Under fire from the right, Ryan condemns a Democratic dystopia

10/18/16 09:21AM

Donald Trump headlined a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last night, and was introduced by the chair of the state Republican Party. He was interrupted by a chant from several Trump followers: "Paul Ryan sucks."

It was a reminder that Trump has largely succeeded in turning many of his devotees against the Republican Party's top national official -- even in the House Speaker's home state.

For his part, Ryan continues to officially support Trump's candidacy and has not pulled his endorsement of his party's nominee. That said, the congressman has also stopped trying to defend the presidential candidate and goes out of his way not to mention Trump's name in public.

So what does Ryan want to talk about? The Speaker spoke to a group of college Republicans late last week in order to focus on one thing: his disgust for the Democratic governing vision. And while that hardly comes as a surprise -- Ryan is the most far-right Speaker of the modern era -- Slate had an interesting report on what exactly the Wisconsin Republican has to say about the Democratic agenda.
"What vision do Hillary Clinton and her party offer the people? They want what America that doesn't stand out. They want an America that is ordinary. There's a kind of a gloom and greyness to things. In the America they want, the driving force is the state. It is a place where government is taken away from the people, where we are ruled by our betters, a cold and unfeeling bureaucracy that replaces original thinking," continued Ryan, one of whose original thoughts is that Trump should have the ability to launch nuclear bombs wherever and whenever he might feel like.

"It is a place where the government twists the law and the constitution itself to suit its purposes. It is a place where liberty is always under assault, where passion, the very stuff of life is extinguished," said Ryan, who supports a man who has at various times attacked the Sixth Amendment, the First Amendment, and voiced his support for assorted war crimes.
The Speaker added that Clinton "will stop at nothing" to create this dystopian nightmare. He added, "When Hillary Clinton says we are 'stronger together,' what she means is we are stronger if we are all subject to the state."

What I'd love to know is whether or not Paul Ryan has ever actually spoken to a Democrat.
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University on Oct 9, 2016 in St Louis, Mo. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty)

Despite latest polls, Donald Trump still says he's ahead

10/18/16 08:40AM

With three weeks remaining before Election Day, Donald Trump continues to focus on appeals to far-right voters, including an interview yesterday with right-wing radio host Michael Savage. As the Washington Post reported, Trump sounded optimistic about his candidacy's chances.
Trump told Savage that he believes he's actually ahead in the polls, which show him trailing Clinton, and cited "tremendous enthusiasm" and crowd sizes at his rallies as evidence.
Look, when a struggling candidate is asked about the polls, he or she has a standard line that's been repeated for many years: "The only poll that matters is the one done on Election Day." Trump, however, looks at the available data and apparently believes "he's actually ahead in the polls."

That's plainly untrue.
After a bruising week for Donald Trump amid backlash from the release of a lewd 2005 recording and in-fighting among GOP party leaders, Hillary Clinton now holds a 6-point lead over the Republican nominee, according to the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll.

In a four-way match-up, Clinton enjoys 46 percent support this week among likely voters, while Trump drops a single percentage point to 40 percent support. Gary Johnson holds on to 8 percent support and Jill Stein has 4 percent support.
In a head-to-head match-up, the same poll puts Clinton's lead at eight points.

And given the latest survey results, that's actually some of the more encouraging data for the Republican nominee. A CBS News poll released last night found Trump trailing by nine points in a four-way contest and 11 points in a head-to-head race.

Also yesterday, a national Monmouth University poll found Clinton ahead by 12 points in a four-way race and 9 points in a two-way contest.

According to the Huffington Post's polling aggregator, Clinton's average advantage across all polls is now eight points -- her largest lead since shortly after the parties' national conventions.
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Melania Trump, wife of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, walks to the podium at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Trump's wife struggles to defend the indefensible

10/18/16 08:00AM

In recent campaign history, certain myths have taken hold in ways that obscure what actually happened. Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, for example, was already collapsing at the time of his "scream" in Iowa. Mitt Romney's support was already falling in 2012 when the "47 percent" video reached the public.

And Donald Trump's support was already fading when Americans heard his 2005 boasts about sexual assault, so his candidacy's current difficulties cannot solely be blamed on the "grab them by the p***y" audio.

That said, it certainly didn't help. Complicating matters, Trump and his allies still haven't thought of a credible way to explain the recording, though the candidate's wife did her best during a CNN interview yesterday.
Melania Trump defended Donald Trump against allegations that he sexually assaulted women, saying in a rare interview Monday night that her husband was "egged on" to make lewd comments about women that were caught on tape in 2005. [...]

[She dismissed the conversation between Trump and Billy Bush] as "boy talk" and speculated that her husband "was led on -- like, egged on -- from the host to say dirty and bad stuff."
That's not much of a defense. Donald Trump didn't want to brag about sexual misconduct, but he fell sway to the persuasive powers of the host of an entertainment-news show? For all the talk about Trump's persona as a tough guy, he succumbed to pressure from Billy Bush?

Not only is this unpersuasive, it's not even true -- there's nothing on the recording to suggest Trump was reluctant to boast about his exploits.

As for the "boy talk," let's not forget that Trump was 59 at the time of the interview.

Reminded of this detail by Anderson Cooper, Melania Trump responded, "Correct, and sometimes I said I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband."
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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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