In April, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was asked about anti-gay discrimination, which the right-wing senator dismissed as a relatively trivial concern. Cotton told CNN he thinks "it's important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities. In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay."
It was an odd argument. Not only does it compare the United States to a Middle Eastern theocracy on the issue of civil rights, but Cotton's suggestion is that so long as gay people aren't being executed, the LGBT community shouldn't complain about public discrimination.
On the campaign trail yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered a similar message in his home state. The Washington Postreported:
...Texas's junior U.S. senator -- visiting Beaumont to meet privately with county officials and others -- got in a light sparring round with reporters, mainly working on his attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton and defending his views on same-sex marriage.
"Is there something about the left -- and I am going to put the media in this category -- that is obsessed with sex?" Cruz asked after fielding multiple questions on gay rights. "ISIS is executing homosexuals -- you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals -- that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic."
The far-right senator then started complaining bitterly about msnbc, for reasons that weren't entirely clear.
Let's unwrap Cruz's little tantrum, because I think this is important in the context of the 2016 race.
It's hardly a secret that the Affordable Care Act has plenty of fierce critics, but once in a while, we're confronted with amazing anecdotes about consumers who thought they hated "Obamacare," right up until they needed it.
Last year, for example, we were introduced to a Philadelphia-area man who was convinced he wanted no part of the ACA, based on coverage he'd seen on Fox News. But when the man ran into health trouble, a friend convinced him to give "Obamacare" a try, and he soon after had life-saving valve-replacement heart surgery. Had he not changed his mind, the man later said, he "probably would have ended up falling over dead."
There are plenty of similar examples elsewhere, but Luis Lang seems to be a special case. The South Carolina man gained quite a bit of notoriety online after Lang refused to get health insurance, discovered he'd suffered several mini-strokes, began to lose his eyesight, and found himself unable to work.
Lang, at least initially, blamed the Affordable Care Act for his troubles. Though that obviously didn't make any sense, the lifelong Republican ignored enrollment deadlines, but assumed the system would help him in the event of a crisis.
Lang may have benefited from Medicaid expansion, but he lives in South Carolina -- which means his Republican-led state government is willing to leave him and people like him behind. Lang eventually turned to a crowdfunding campaign, urging volunteer donors to help him raise money to pay the surgery he needs but can't afford.
In an interesting twist, ThinkProgress' Tara Culp-Ressler reported this week that Lang has learned a lot from his ordeal -- and he's even walking away from the GOP.
"Now that I'm looking at what each party represents, my wife and I are both saying -- hey, we're not Republicans!" Lang said. He added that, though he's not a political person by nature and has never voted solely along party lines, he wants to rip up his voter registration card on national television so Americans will have proof that he's making the switch.
If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, perhaps a Democrat is a Republican who needs medical care.
If last year's midterm elections were defined by anything, it was fear. In the closing weeks of the cycle, Republicans did everything they could to scare the bejesus out of voters, telling Americans to be terrified of ISIS terrorists, Ebola, and quite possibly ISIS terrorists with Ebola.
The politics of fear prevailed and Republican candidates had a terrific year at the ballot box. It's a lesson Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may be taking a little too seriously.
The New Republic's Jeet Heer explained yesterday the degree to which Rubio "wants to scare Americans into voting for him."
[Monday], Marco Rubio announced the new theme of his campaign: "The fundamental problem we have in America is that nothing matters if we aren't safe." According to Rubio, "The world has never been more dangerous than it is today," which means "the economic stuff" has to take a backseat to national security. [...]
This black-and-white language negates the possibility that security is one value among others, that it needs to be balanced against competing values such as liberty or peace. It's hard to imagine cruder appeals to fear. And by appealing to fear in the name of security, they only ensure they'll get less of what they say they want.
Part of the challenge for Rubio is overcoming his general distaste for policy depth, especially in areas of national security. The Florida Republican has a great affinity for catchphrases and over-simplified principles, which frequently generate applause from far-right audiences feasting on red meat, but which often makes it seem as if the senator has no idea what he's talking about.
Last week, for example, Rubio declared "our strategy" on national security should mirror Liam Neeson's catchphrase in the film "Taken": "We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you."
Soon after, the candidate's team unveiled the "Rubio Doctrine," described by Charles Pierce as "three banalities strung together in such a way as to sound profound and to say nothing."
If a national campaign for the White House were an elaborate test to identify which candidate is best as sloganeering, Rubio would have an excellent chance at success. But there is -- or at least should be -- a little more to it.
To the delight of reformers, Hillary Clinton has made campaign-finance concerns an important part of her national message. Right out of the gate, the Democratic frontrunner made this one of her top policy priorities, telling an audience just a few days after launching her candidacy that she's committed to getting "unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment."
At an event this week, she added, "I will do everything I can to appoint Supreme Court justices who protect the right to vote and do not protect the right of billionaires to buy elections."
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank appreciates the message, but explained today that he's troubled by the messenger. The headline reads, "Hillary Clinton's hypocrisy."
Nice sentiments, to be sure, but the fact that she was unveiling her Citizens United litmus test with party fat cats at an exclusive soiree (four days later, she mentioned it to voters in Iowa) tells you all you need to know about Clinton's awkward -- and often hypocritical -- relationship with campaign-finance reform.
Even as she denounces super PACs, she's counting on two of them, Priorities USA Action and Correct the Record, to support her candidacy -- a necessary evil, her campaign says.... Then there's the matter of her plans to continue President Obama's policy of opting out of the public-finance system; Obama's abandonment of the system did as much as the Citizens United ruling to destroy the post-Watergate fixes.
I can appreciate why reform-minded observers find the status quo so unseemly. The lengths candidates must go -- in both parties -- to raise ridiculous amounts of money is a national embarrassment that undermines public confidence in the entire political system. A healthy democracy can't expect to function this way indefinitely.
But to accuse Clinton of "hypocrisy" isn't fair and isn't supported by the facts.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has spent a fair amount of time looking for a signature issue that would help him stand out in the Republican presidential race. After the recent Indiana debacle, the far-right governor found the cause he was looking for: above all others, Jindal would champion right-to-discriminate measures.
The governor, who wraps up his second term this year, recently began pushing a "Marriage and Conscience Act," which was intended to prevent "adverse action" against anyone who opposes same-sex marriage for religious reasons. The more Louisiana business leaders urged Jindal to change course, the more the GOP governor thumbed his nose at "job creators," as if their opposition made him appear more populist.
He had it all figured out: his state's civil rights laws would be a mess, but Jindal would have a trump card he could use to impress right-wing primary and caucus voters. Members of the Republican-led state legislature, however, aren't running for president, and they recently decided not to pass the "Marriage and Conscience Act."
Yesterday, as msnbc's Rachel Kleinman reported, Jindal decided to bypass the legislature and issue an executive order.
One day after launching an exploratory committee to help him decide whether to seek the GOP's presidential nomination in 2016, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order enforcing so-called "religious freedom" protections in the Bayou State. Hours earlier, state lawmakers killed a law that would have mandated similar provisions.
"In Louisiana, the state should not be able to take adverse action against a person for their belief in traditional marriage," Jindal said in a written statement Tuesday. "That's why I'm issuing an Executive Order to prevent the state from discriminating against people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman."
The Times Picayunequoted a joint statement from Equality Louisiana, an LGBT rights group, and Louisiana Progress Action. Referencing the governor's ambitions, it read, "In the end, his extreme ideology is only making the state a worse place for those of us who actually plan to live here past his last day in office."
A political and legal fight is likely to ensue, but I'm curious about the larger context: does the right now see Jindal as some kind of lawless dictator?
Rachel Maddow reviews the home state popularity problems of 2016 presidential aspirants like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, that make national office seem less likely. watch
Rachel Maddow shares reporting that the U.S. attorney investigation into the spilling of toxic coal ash by Duke Energy likely extends to North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources. watch
Paul Hammel, Lincoln bureau chief of the Omaha World-Herald, talks with Rachel Maddow about the surprising momentum behind a bill to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska, even as the governor seeks to acquire new execution drugs. watch
Rachel Maddow reports breaking news of an oil pipeline rupture at Refugio Beach near Santa Barbara, California that has created an oil slick along 4 miles of coast and threatens popular El Capitan State Beach. watch
"...only making the state a worse place for those of us who actually plan to live here past his last day in office" http://t.co/COtqAWHiGR
* The investigation in Waco continues: "Among the many unanswered questions surrounding the deadly shootout between cops and Texas biker gangs is who fired the fatal shots."
* Afghanistan: "A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed car outside a key government building in central Kabul on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least five people, wounding scores of others and spreading even more fear in the already rattled Afghan capital."
* $15: "The Los Angeles City Council tentatively agreed Tuesday to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 per hour, joining a trend sweeping cities across the country as elected leaders seek to address stagnating pay for workers on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder."
* Nigeria: "Hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram have been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers describe as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residents and possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants in Nigeria."
* Bees matter: "President Obama is intervening on the bee's behalf as its habitat dwindles. On Tuesday, the Obama administration will announce the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a bureaucratic title for a plan to save the bee, other small winged animals and their breeding grounds."
* Espionage: "The Obama administration on Tuesday announced the arrest of a Chinese professor and the indictment of five other Chinese citizens in what it contended was a decade-long scheme to steal microelectronics designs from Silicon Valley companies."
* Stunning allegations: "Let the donor beware: A federal lawsuit alleges four cancer charities have scammed consumers out of more than $187 million."
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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