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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses a campaign rally in Salem, Ore., May 10, 2016. (Photo by Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty)

Bernie Sanders faces a 'then what' problem

05/19/16 08:53AM

It's safe to say May hasn't gone quite as well as Bernie Sanders and his supporters had hoped. He needed landslide victories in several primaries, and he came up short. After steadily gaining on Hillary Clinton in national Democratic polls for months, the senator has seen his support slip in recent weeks. In Nevada, Sanders' supporters caused a near-riot at the state Democratic convention, based on allegations of party wrongdoing that have struggled to withstand scrutiny.
 
Sanders' candidacy has had some highs and some lows, but all things considered, this hasn't exactly been a month to remember. For his legions of supporters, it's no doubt discouraging.
 
The race for the Democratic nomination, however, still has about a month to go, and the New York Times reports that Team Sanders isn't backing down, delegate arithmetic notwithstanding.
Defiant and determined to transform the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders is opening a two-month phase of his presidential campaign aimed at inflicting a heavy blow on Hillary Clinton in California and amassing enough leverage to advance his agenda at the convention in July -- or even wrest the nomination from her.
It's at this point when Sanders and campaign operation start to run into a "then what?" problem.
 
According to the Times' piece, for example, Team Sanders believes it may yet win the California primary, where polls show him trailing, which might have "a psychological impact" on Democrats. OK, but then what? If the idea is that Democratic insiders will ignore the will of the voters and the delegate count because of one primary result, awarding Sanders the nomination despite his second-place finish, there's no reason to believe such a scenario is plausible.
 
The same article said Team Sanders is willing to hurt Clinton, on purpose, even as the general-election phase gets underway. OK, but then what? There's still no reason to believe this will prompt party officials to override the primary and caucus results.
 
A Sanders supporter told the Times, "We want to have progressive values and socialism on the convention's agenda." OK, but then what? It's not clear how, exactly, one puts "socialism" on the "agenda," but even if that were possible, what happens afterwards?
 
Tad Devine, a top Sanders strategist, told the Washington Post's Greg Sargent yesterday that the Sanders campaign may ask for some changes among convention committee assignments. OK, but then what? What are the practical effects of changing which Democrats sit on which convention committees, and why should a second-place candidate dictate convention committees' membership?
A general view of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, Dec. 30, 2014. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Donald Trump has a plan for the U.S. Supreme Court

05/19/16 08:00AM

Back in February, during one of the Republican debates, Donald Trump was pretty specific about the kind of jurists he'd like to see added to the Supreme Court in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia's passing: Judges Diane Sykes and Bill Pryor, both of whom are far-right Bush/Cheney appointees. Yesterday, however, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee went much further.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday released the names of 11 potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees that he would choose from to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
 
The list, first reported by the Associated Press, includes judges from around the country: Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado and Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas.
Trump's list, released in a written press statement yesterday afternoon, will reportedly be a "guide": the Republican didn't say he would definitely choose from these 11 when nominating Supreme Court justices, but these are the kind of folks he'd consider.
 
And for the right, that's probably reassuring. The future of the judiciary is one of the top considerations for many conservative leaders, and it's been a leading cause for concern among far-right Trump skeptics. Yesterday's announcement was no doubt intended to assuage their fears, making it abundantly clear that Trump has every intention of moving the judiciary to the right by releasing a list of 11 very conservative jurists.
 
Of course, at the same time, the developments should also serve as a reminder to the left: those hoping that Trump might lean towards moderation when nominating judges are obviously mistaken. Trump expects to name as many as five justices to the Supreme Court, and the consequences would be felt by Americans for at least a generation, if not more.
 
But as much of the political world considers Trump's list and its potential impact, there's one name in particular that's worth paying attention to.
Trump's sister recuses self from bridge case

Trump's sister recuses self from bridge case

05/18/16 09:59PM

Rachel Maddow reports that Donald Trump's sister, U.S. Third Circuit Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, will not be available to hear the case of whether to release the names of unindicted co-conspirators in the New Jersey bridge case, a list that may include Governor Christie. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 5.18.16

05/18/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Nigeria: "One of the schoolgirls whose abduction triggered the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has been located after more than two years in captivity, activists and military officials said Wednesday."
 
* I still think it's a mistake to assume the economy is growing too quickly: "The Federal Reserve sent a sharp, simple message to financial markets on Wednesday: Pay attention. The Fed is thinking seriously about raising its benchmark interest rate at its next meeting, in June."
 
* A notable shift: "The Obama administration on Tuesday announced an easing of some U.S. economic sanctions on Burma, a move designed to foster greater trade ties with the once-isolated Southeast Asian nation that is undergoing a fitful democratic transition."
 
* Kansas: "A federal court judge ordered Kansas officials Tuesday to register thousands of people to vote in federal elections who had applications derailed for not showing documentation of citizenship when registering at one of the state's motor vehicle offices."
 
* The South Carolina Legislature "passed a bill Tuesday prohibiting abortion after 19 weeks, becoming the 17th state to pass the restrictive ban. The legislation will now head to Gov. Nikki Haley's desk. The Republican said in March she will almost certainly sign it, but wants to look at the details once it reaches her."
 
* That's quite a delay: "High-speed rail is turning out to be a slow-speed proposition. The first segment of California's first-in-the-nation bullet-train project, currently scheduled for completion in 2018, will not be done until the end of 2022, according to a contract revision the Obama administration quietly approved this morning."
 
* It was like a hearing, except it wasn't: "The image was stark: Nine Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee dutifully listened to witnesses shower praise on a Supreme Court nominee, while half of the dais -- the GOP side -- remained completely empty. The nominee, Merrick Garland, wasn't there -- nor is he expected to appear before the Senate anytime soon. Because they're in the minority, Democrats can't call a hearing, so they couldn't use the official Judiciary room. They had makeshift paper nameplates, and a senator not on the Judiciary Committee even got to sit in and ask a question."
Acting U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning takes his seat as he arrives at his confirmation hearing Jan. 21, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

New Army Secretary emblematic of Obama-era progress

05/18/16 04:55PM

When President Obama nominated Eric Fanning as the next Secretary of the Army last fall, his qualifications were obvious. The Washington Post noted that Fanning "has been a specialist on national security issues for more than two decades and has played a key role overseeing some of the Pentagon's biggest shipbuilding and fighter jet programs."
 
But in one specific way, this wasn't just another nominee: Fanning, if confirmed, would be the first openly gay leader of any U.S. military service.
 
For some, his sexual orientation was an automatic disqualifier. For Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the fact that the administration was considering a plan to house dangerous people in a maximum-security prison in Kansas meant Fanning's nomination had to be put on hold for months. (How the senator's paranoia related to the Army post was never entirely clear.)
 
But yesterday, Fanning cleared the hurdles in his way and earned Senate confirmation through a voice vote.
A slate of senators from both parties joined in the praise for Fanning. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, tweeted that Fanning's selection is "an historic moment for #LGBT servicemembers," while Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, tweeted that he "appreciated (Fanning's) recognition of Alaska's strategic importance & need for larger @USArmy."
 
Fanning served as the Army secretary's principal adviser on management and operation of the service. He was undersecretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015, and for half a year was the acting secretary of the Air Force.
Any time there's a breakthrough like this, it's heartening, but it's worth pausing to appreciate just how extraordinary the progress has been in recent years.
 
When President Obama took office, gay and lesbian soldiers were prohibited from serving openly, transgender Americans were banned altogether, and women were excluded from combat units. Now, as Obama gets ready to leave office, DADT a thing of the past; there's no prohibition on transgender Americans serving in uniform; the Pentagon has made women eligible for combat roles; and the Secretary of the Army is an openly gay man.
 
Fanning was confirmed -- without a single vote of opposition -- in a Republican-led Senate.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, May 5, 2016. (Photo by Chris Tilley/Reuters)

The media's latest Trump 'narrative' is plainly wrong

05/18/16 12:45PM

Some of the political media establishment has apparently settled on a new "narrative": Donald Trump will appeal to Democrats by breaking with Republican orthodoxy and endorsing some progressive goals. It might be a compelling thesis, if it were in any way true.
 
The Washington Post got the ball rolling last week with a provocative, attention-getting headline: "How Donald Trump is running to the left of Hillary Clinton." As proof, the article noted, among other things, Trump's "America First" foreign policy, and his willingness to shift "to the left on the minimum wage and tax policy."
 
The problem, of course, is much of this is factually incorrect. Given its historical underpinnings, there's nothing liberal about Trump's "America First" vision, and the media hype surrounding Trump's purported shifts on the minimum wage and tax policy turned out to be completely wrong. The Post's entire thesis struggled under scrutiny.
 
And yet, there it was again in the New York Times yesterday.
On a range of issues, Mr. Trump seems to be taking a page from the Sanders playbook, expressing a willingness to increase the minimum wage, suggesting that the wealthy may pay higher taxes than under his original proposal, attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left on national security and Wall Street, and making clear that his opposition to free trade will be a centerpiece of his general election campaign.
 
As Mr. Trump lays the groundwork for his likely showdown with Mrs. Clinton, he is staking out a series of populist positions that could help him woo working-class Democrats in November.
Again, if these observations were rooted in fact, the thesis might have merit, but it's important not to fall for shallow hype and bogus narratives. Trump did not endorse a minimum-wage hike; he actually said there shouldn't be a federal minimum wage at all. He did not call for higher taxes on the wealthy; he proposed literally the exact opposite.
 
And far from "attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left on ... Wall Street," a few hours after the Times article was published, Trump insisted he would repeal Dodd-Frank reforms -- which represents an attack from the right, not the left.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.18.16

05/18/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Bernie Sanders issued a written statement yesterday responding to the unrest at the Nevada Democratic convention over the weekend. The statement made no apology for his supporters' behavior; it blamed party officials for the near-riot; and it seemed intent on stoking the existing fires.
 
* Sanders himself, who has not commented publicly on the unrest at the Nevada Democratic Convention over the weekend, was asked directly about the controversy yesterday. He not only refused to answer, he literally walked away from reporters in the middle of the question.
 
* The Sanders campaign operation, meanwhile, is shrinking. Politico reported that a "handful of high-level staffers have left Bernie Sanders' campaign in recent days, including his director of technology and three of the four members of his original senior leadership team in California."
 
* In New Hampshire, a WBUR poll shows Hillary Clinton with a small lead over Donald Trump in the Granite State, 44% to 42%.
 
* The same poll found Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) leading incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race, 48% to 46%.
 
* In Arizona, PPP found Trump leading Clinton by just two points, 40% to 38%, with third-party candidates in the mix. If Trump chose former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) as his running mate, his lead over Clinton disappears. (Arizona has voted Republican in 15 of the last 16 presidential races.)
 
* A Democratic superdelegate switched his allegiance yesterday, but it wasn't the change Sanders was hoping for. Emmett Hansen II, the Democratic National Committeeman for the U.S. Virgin Islands, was supporting the Vermont senator, but he's now backing Clinton.

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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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