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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.16.16

09/16/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* The latest national Fox News poll shows Hillary Clinton narrowly leading Donald Trump in a four-way contest, 41% to 40%, while Trump narrowly leads Clinton in a head-to-head match-up, 46% to 45%.
 
* On the heels of a CNN poll that showed Trump ahead in Ohio, the latest Suffolk poll also found the Republican ahead in the Buckeye State, 42% to 39%, over Clinton.
 
* Georgia continues to appear surprisingly competitive, with the latest Fox 5 Opinion Savvy poll showing Trump ahead by only four, 46% to 42%, in this Southern "red" state.
 
* Oddly enough, Clinton is arguably doing better in Georgia than Iowa: the latest Monmouth University poll shows Trump with a surprisingly comfortable lead in the Hawkeye State, 45% to 37%, over Clinton in a four-way contest.
 
* On a related note, the same poll has Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) cruising past former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D) in Iowa's U.S. Senate race, 56% to 39%.
 
* Donald Trump Jr. initially defended his unfortunate Holocaust reference yesterday, but he said this morning it was "a poor choice of words, perhaps."
 
* Donald Trump Sr., meanwhile, complained yesterday that he disapproves of CNN's Anderson Cooper moderating one of the presidential debates. Cooper is scheduled to moderate the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 9.

Trump's FDA plan should raise concerns for Americans who eat food

09/16/16 11:00AM

It's long since faded from the public debate, but as the Bush/Cheney era neared its end, the American public was confronted with some major food-safety controversies. As regular readers may recall, after consumers purchased, among other things, tomatoes with salmonella and spinach with E. coli, Rick Perlstein coined the phrase "E. coli conservatism" in response to lax governmental regulations.
 
Those policies didn't last. In 2010, President Obama and the Democratic-led Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the nation's food-safety system, expanding the FDA's ability to recall tainted foods, increase inspections, demand accountability from food companies, and oversee farming. It was the biggest effort on food safety in more than 70 years, all in the hopes of preventing unsafe food from reaching consumers' tables.
 
Congressional Republicans have pushed for years to scale back those food safeguards, and as of yesterday, Donald Trump made clear he intends to do exactly that if elected.
In a fact sheet Thursday, the campaign highlighted a number of "specific regulations to be eliminated" under the GOP nominee's economic plan, including what they called the "FDA Food Police."
 
Of particular interest, the Trump campaign complained about FDA rules on issues such as inspections of food facilities, the temperatures at which food is stored safely, and "farm and food production hygiene."
In other words, under a Trump administration, federal officials would oversee food safety from the perspective that, when it comes to food production, there's too much focus right now on safety and hygiene.
 
The good news is, if you don't eat food, you have nothing to worry about. Everyone else, however, should probably take note.

Cruz, Beck accuse Obama of 'giving away the Internet'

09/16/16 10:00AM

Glenn Beck warned his audience yesterday that President Obama is "giving away the Internet," quite possibly as part of some kind of plot involving George Soros. (Don't ask me to explain; Beck's theories are generally incomprehensible to me.)
 
As it happens, Beck's concerns aren't just coming out of nowhere. As Bloomberg Politics reported this week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a prominent Beck ally, is on a "crusade" over Internet governance and domain names.
The Texas Republican senator's latest crusade is to block an Obama administration plan to give up U.S. oversight of domain names to international supervision, warning in a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday that could be a threat to freedom. He warned against giving power to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers [ICANN], a private non-profit group based in Los Angeles.
 
"Imagine an internet run like China or Russia, that punish and incarcerate those who engage in political dissent," Cruz said. Earlier on the Senate floor, Cruz said he didn't want "to tell our children and our children's children what it was once like when the internet wasn't censored, wasn't in the control of the foreign governments."
This isn't just some passing area of interest for the right-wing Texan: Congress has until the end of the month to pass a spending bill that would prevent a government shutdown, and Cruz is considering a plan to add a provision to the bill blocking the ICANN policy -- even if means making a shutdown more likely.
 
"Can Ted Cruz and Republicans dream up an any more obscure and irrelevant issue to stop the business of the American government?" Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked this week?
 
Even putting this aside for a moment, it's also worth pausing to appreciate the fact that the White House isn't putting the Internet "in the control of the foreign governments."
The crowd reacts as hecklers are escorted out during a speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally on Sept. 12, 2016 at U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty)

The debate over 'deplorables' is going off the rails

09/16/16 09:20AM

It was a week ago tonight when Hillary Clinton appeared in New York and took aim at Donald Trump's radicalized base. To be "grossly generalistic," she said, "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables.'"
 
More specifically, Clinton lamented the fact that so much of Trump's core support is "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, [and] Islamaphobic" -- an assessment that's stood up pretty well to further scrutiny.
 
Nevertheless, the Republican has been a little obsessed with the line this week, even ignoring other potential issues that could help his campaign to focus on Clinton's criticism of Trump's most offensive backers. The GOP candidate complained about this again yesterday to the Washington Post, comparing it to Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent" comments, despite the fact that the comparison doesn't really make any sense.
 
In a speech unveiling his latest economic plan in New York yesterday, Trump once again turned to the issue foremost on his mind.
"The hardworking people [Clinton] calls 'deplorable' are the most admirable people I know: they are cops and soldiers, teachers and firefighters, young and old, moms and dads, blacks, whites and Latinos -- but above everything else, they are all American. They love their families, they love their country, and they want a better future."
I wonder if Trump and the aides who write his remarks have really thought this through. The way the Republican nominee is framing this, Clinton has criticized racists, misogynists, and other bigots, while Trump describes these racists, misogynists, and bigots as "the most admirable people" he knows.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Elizabeth Warren has an interesting question for the FBI

09/16/16 08:40AM

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Boston Globe reported yesterday, is "turning the tables on the FBI." Her latest idea is actually quite clever and worth paying attention to.
The Massachusetts senator sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey Thursday demanding he release notes and other documents the bureau has on its investigations into individuals accused of contributing to the devastating 2008 financial crisis.
 
Her argument: The FBI broke its longstanding practice of keeping its investigation notes private when it released dozens of pages of documents related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state. The FBI did so, Warren notes, claiming it was in the "public interest" to be more transparent in that particular case.
In her letter, which is available online here (pdf), Warren makes the compelling case that if Secretary Clinton's email server "was of sufficient 'interest' to establish a new FBI standard of transparency, then surely the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis should be subject to the same level of transparency."
 
The senator clearly has a point. Traditionally, once the bureau wraps up an inquiry, federal law enforcement officials don't share investigatory details about the case. In the matter of Clinton's emails, the FBI concluded that the former Secretary of State shouldn't face charges, but it also broke with traditional bureau practices and released internal materials related to its investigation.
 
For Warren, there's no reason to hold financial institutions accused of wrongdoing to an easier, more permissive standard than Hillary Clinton. If the Democratic presidential candidate's email server protocols were a matter of such pressing national significance that the FBI's investigatory details were released, isn't the 2008 crash of greater importance?
 
Of course, the Massachusetts Democrat's letter is based on the assumption that at least some people at Wall Street banks were accused of potentially criminal wrongdoing. Is that true? According to the Globe's report, "Warren's latest salvo in this battle was sparked by the release earlier this year of new documents from the federal panel convened to investigate the causes of the crisis. Warren said her staff found that nine individuals were referred to the Department of Justice because the panel found evidence of possible serious violation of federal laws."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion with African American business and civic leaders, Sept. 2, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pa. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

With bizarre statement, Trump's birther beliefs reclaim spotlight

09/16/16 08:00AM

Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said this week that the Republican presidential hopeful now believes President Obama was born in the United States. That would obviously be a dramatic shift: the GOP candidate for years relished his role as one of the nation's leading "birthers," peddling the racist conspiracy theory throughout much of the president's first term.
 
Given a chance to confirm his campaign manager's assessment yesterday, however, Trump demurred. As Rachel noted on the show last night, the candidate spoke to the Washington Post's Robert Costa, and the Republican once again was unwilling to say the president is a native-born American. "I'll answer that question at the right time," Trump said. "I just don't want to answer it yet."
 
In a curious twist, Jason Miller, Trump's senior communications advisor, published an online statement late last night, saying in print what the candidate refused to say to the Washington Post hours earlier.
"Hillary Clinton's campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joe admits that it was Clinton's henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump.
 
"In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama's birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States."
The statement is plainly ridiculous, combining delusion and dishonesty in ways that should alarm fair-minded observers.
 
According to the Trump campaign, for example, the racist conspiracy theory was "first raised" by Hillary Clinton. That's a lie, which has been discredited many times.

Thursday's Mini-Report, 9.15.16

09/15/16 05:31PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Police in Columbus, Ohio, are "investigating how a 13-year-old boy wanted for questioning Wednesday night in an armed robbery ended up fatally shot by an officer. The child -- later identified by Columbus police as Tyree King -- had 'pulled a gun from his waistband' when officers attempted to take him and another male into custody, the Columbus Division of Police said in a statement. As the encounter unfolded, an officer shot King 'multiple times.'"
 
* Hillary Clinton returned to the campaign trail this afternoon, speaking at a rally in North Carolina. When she walked onto the stage, James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" played on the loudspeakers.
 
* President Obama today established "the first national marine monument in the Atlantic, declaring nearly 5,000 square miles off the New England coastline a fully protected area. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will protect 4,913 square miles that encompass three deep sea canyons and four underwater mountains."
 
* When it comes to U.S. policy in Syria, the Pentagon's mistrust of Russia is causing a rift between the State Department and the Defense Department.
 
* I was on a plane the other day and a flight attendant was concerned about passengers bringing these on board: "The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of 1 million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones Thursday, calling the devices 'serious fire and burn hazards.'"
 
* Flint: "The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday that would provide emergency funding to help fix the drinking water infrastructure in Flint and other communities with contaminated systems. The Senate's vote was 95-3 for the $9.4 billion water projects bill containing the provisions that could benefit Flint."
 
* The Virginia Supreme Court today "refused to find Gov. Terry McAuliffe in contempt of court over his efforts to restore voting rights to felons."
In this Oct. 16, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney exchange views during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Imagine Romney's first term was nearing its end right now

09/15/16 12:59PM

We couldn't have known at the time how important the quote would turn out to be. About six months before Election Day 2012, Mitt Romney sat down with Mark Halperin, who asked, "Would you like to be more specific about what the unemployment rate would be like at the end of your first year?"
 
The Republican nominee conceded he couldn't "predict precisely," but Romney added, "I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the polices that we put in place, we can get the unemployment rate down to 6%, perhaps a little lower."
 
At the time, the unemployment rate was 8.2%. Now, as we near what would have been the end of Romney's first term if he'd won, the unemployment rate is 4.9% -- far better than the GOP candidate's projection for his own success.
 
I thought of this today reading Vox's Ezra Klein's counterfactual about 2016 politics if the 2012 election had gone the other way, specifically in light of the latest Census Bureau data.
Here's a thought experiment. What if Mitt Romney had won in 2012? What if it was his economy that was seeing sub-5 percent unemployment, falling poverty, and the largest median wage gains since the Census Bureau began keeping records?
 
There would be parades in the streets. President Romney would be hailed as the second coming of Ronald Reagan -- or maybe even better! Progressivism would be discredited. The fundamental wisdom of conservatism would be affirmed.
Is there any doubt that Ezra's correct?
 
This is usually the point at which conservative readers email to remind me it's folly to believe the president is responsible for the direction of the planet's largest economy. It's a perfectly fair argument.
 
But let's not dismiss the political circumstances too quickly.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.15.16

09/15/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* As promised, the Clinton campaign yesterday released more comprehensive information pertaining to Hillary Clinton's and Tim Kaine's health, and posted the content online.
 
* On a related note, Donald Trump took a similar step this morning, releasing another document from his gastroenterologist, Dr. Harold Bornstein, with additional results from his recent physical exam.
 
* The New York Times published some relevant details about the date of Donald Trump's improper campaign contribution to Florida A.G. Pam Bondi (R), which predates the report about her interest in possible charges against "Trump University."
 
* For the first time in a century, the Union Leader, New Hampshire's largest newspaper, is not endorsing a Republican presidential candidate. Instead the conservative paper has thrown its backing to Libertarian Gary Johnson.
 
* On a related note, Johnson, a former Republican governor, will be the first third-party candidate in 20 years to appear on the presidential ballot in all 50 states.
 
* In CNN's latest polling, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) both enjoy double-digit advantages over their Democratic rivals.
 
* Speaking of closely watched Senate races, the new Monmouth University poll in Nevada shows Rep. Joe Heck (R) up by three over former state A.G. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), 46% to 43%.

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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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