Maddow Blog

The Trump Fantastic (#trumpstyle)

#trippingthetrumpfantastic | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 January 2016, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Olivier Doulier/Pool/Getty Images)

“Usually, even the laziest of partisans aren’t quite so ridiculous when dealing with the legislative branch’s oversight role over the executive branch.”

Steve Benen

Something goes here about striking decay. And something unfortunate about how that sounds about right. No, really: In what universe?

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A Reason for the Raising of the Wrist

We should probably take a moment to raise a glass to the one and only Steve Benen, oft-quoted at This Is, and celebrating twelve years as a professional blogger today. (It’s still today on the west coast, Steve.)

There’s a phrase we didn’t know would work out, back then: professional blogger.

"And on a personal note, I started blogging exactly 12 years ago today, making me an old-timer in this medium. No matter how long you’ve been reading, thanks for all the support and encouragement." (Steve Benen, msnbc, 23 February 2015)

Five questions Steve will never have to answer: (more…)

Why Mitt Will Run for President … Or Not … NYT Magazine Edition

Mark Leibovich, dreaming of Willard.

With a war on, one might expect the news media to give this kind of attention to whip counts, but apparently that’s something wonky that needs to be reserved for more politically specialized discussions of current events. After all, what proportion of voters actually know what a whip count is?

Of much greater fascination, perhaps because it is something journalists can pretend is simple and human and episodic like reality television, is pressing Mitt Romney to run for president. Leibovich tries his spin for the New York Times Magazine, opening with a picturesque description of the Romneys at home—nine paragraphs about tchtchke, geese pooping on the lawn, and the troubles of being rich and having more stuff than anyone actually needs.

Then comes four paragraphs on the troubles of being rich and losing a presidential election, and while it’s true that everyone has their troubles, and privilege doesn’t mean a person is without worry, and, sure, there must be a “human story” in Mitt Romney, somewhere, they are really bad paragraphs setting up the inevitable:

Romney, for his part, is noticeably playing along. He recently told a radio host that he was not planning on running for president but allowed that “circumstances can change.” A recent column by the conservative pundit Byron York noted that Romney had kept in close contact with many of his advisers and aides. As we spoke, Romney compared the barrage of 2016-related questions to a scene in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” After Jim Carrey’s character is flatly rejected by Lauren Holly, she tells him that there’s a one-in-a-million chance she would change her mind. “So,” Romney told me, embodying the character, “Jim Carrey says, ‘You’re telling me there’s a chance.’ “

This was the obvious opening for me to ask if there was a chance. Romney’s response was decidedly meta—”I have nothing to add to the story”—but he then fell into the practiced political parlance of nondenial. “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

As deftly as Romney plays the self-deprecating bridesmaid, he is open about his dread of becoming irrelevant. After his father, George Romney, a three-term Michigan governor, lost the state’s primary in 1968, he struggled to get meetings. “I remember my dad becoming quite frustrated,” Romney said. “He used to say that Washington is the fastest place to go from ‘Who’s Who’ to ‘Who’s That?’ ” In the saturated media landscape of today, the son has been luckier. “I have been able to get on TV, get key interviews, get op-eds published,” Romney said. When I showed up in Wolfeboro, as Romney led me to the living room, he made sure we were on the record. “You have a tape recorder? Notebook?” he asked me as he was describing the potential mold problems of New Hampshire storage. He wanted to make sure I got this.

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A Quote: Palin on … er … ah … Something

NRA Stand and Fight rally with Sarah Palin. The National Rifle Association annual convention at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 2014. The exhibit hall contained over nine acres of guns and gun products and the convention was attended by over 60,000 people. (Mark Peterson/Redux)

“We believe, wait, I thought fast food joints, don’t you guys think that they’re like of the devil or something? Liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would dare work at a fast food joint that you just don’t believe in, I thought you, I dunno, wanted to send them to purgatory or something. So they all go vegan. And wages and picket lines. I dunno, they’re not often discussed in purgatory are they? I dunno, why are you even worried about fast food wages?

“Well, we believe, an America where minimum wage jobs, they’re not lifetime gigs, they’re stepping stones to sustainable wages. It teaches work ethic.”

Sarah Palin

Over at msnbc, Steve Benen humbly offers this “transcript, as best as I could put this word salad together”.

And it is an admirable effort. Still, though, a note to Mr. Benen: Can we all please agree that “word salad” is officially “ptomaine”?

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Benen, Steve. “Palin discovers that humor is hard”. msnbc. 11 August 2014.

A Fairly Impressive (Republican) Wreck

Louisiana State Rep. Lenar Whitney (R-53)

“But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday. It’s tough to decide which party’s worst nightmare she would be.”

David Wasserman

It is not, by the logic of conventional wisdom, a good thing when the candidate actually frightens the Cook Political Report editor, but down Lou’siana way perhaps the Palin of the South and voters in Terrebonne Parish see it differently.

And let us be clear—”Palin of the South” is not an insult, regardless of however hilarious or horrifying or redundant others might find the phrase.

Sigh.

David Wasserman explains, for the Washington Post:

As a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, I’ve personally interviewed over 300 congressional candidates over the course of seven years, both to get to know them and evaluate their chances of winning. I’ve been impressed by just as many Republicans as Democrats, and underwhelmed by equal numbers, too. Most are accustomed to tough questions.

But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday. It’s tough to decide which party’s worst nightmare she would be.

Then again, as bad reviews go, that one is pretty impressive.

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A Different Disgrace Out of Mississippi

The Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

“It’s as if you gave me a car, I took off the wheels and refused to put gas in the tank, and then blamed you when the car doesn’t go anywhere. In this case, Bryant is blocking the law’s full implementation and whining that the law isn’t working effectively. Under the circumstances, shouldn’t the governor be bragging? He is, after all, getting the results he set out to achieve.”

Steve Benen

There is not, really, anything to add, except perhaps to remind for those inclined toward disbelief that this is, after all, Missouri, where they have a nasty tendency toward self-destructive blatancy such as skipping the pretense about patient health and crowing that they are trying to violate the constitution, or explaining the need for the return of coat-hanger abortions.

It’s an interesting trick, isn’t it? Bryant has done as much as he can to sabotage the ACA in Mississippi, and by standing in the way of Medicaid expansion, among other things, the governor has largely succeeded in hurting his state on purpose. As “Obamacare” sharply reduces the uninsured rate elsewhere, Mississippi is being left behind, by its governor’s design.

And so he’s blaming the White House.

In other words, no matter how stupid Gov. Phil Bryant might sound in trying to blame his successes on the president in order to denounce Obama for their damaging effects, it is, after all, Mississippi. When conservatives remind you of “Middle America” and “family values”, these are the “values” they are invoking.

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Benen, Steve. “Chutzpah Watch, Mississippi edition”. msnbc. 29 July 2014.

—————. “Mississippi lawmaker: Coat hanger abortions might come back. ‘But hey …'”. msnbc. 6 September 2013.

The Temptation of Saint Ronald Magnus

To the one, it’s hard to figure how Republicans could be any more disrespectful to a dead president. To the other, they’re Republicans. Steve Benen of msnbc explains:

Saint Ronald MagnusThis over-the-top Reagan worship isn’t just wrong; it’s ironic. In 1983, some of the prominent conservative media voices of the day actually complained bitterly that Reagan’s response was wholly inadequate.

George Will – yes, that George Will – called the Reagan White House’s arguments “pathetic” at the time, insisting, “It’s time for [Reagan] to act.”

The president responded publicly with rhetoric that made the president sound rather helpless. “Short of going to war, what would they have us do?” Reagan said. “I know that some of our critics have sounded off that somehow we haven’t exacted enough vengeance. Well, vengeance isn’t the name of the game in this.”

You know, just something to keep in mind as you hear our conservative neighbors regaling the myths of Saint Ronald Magnus when history just isn’t good enough.

I mean, the guy’s dead. Come on. Then again, there really isn’t any guarantee that the late president would have had any clue what people were droning on about. Still, though, lying about a dead man? I suppose that’s something to remember, as well, when conservatives preach about “values”.

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Benen, Steve. “Sometimes, ‘What Would Reagan Do?’ is the wrong question”. msnbc. July 21, 2014.

Something, Something, Something, Benghazi

Benghazi burns, 11 September 2012

There really is nothing new about the idea that American politics is something akin to a cross between professional wrestling and late-night comedy, but Republicans of late have set their own standards for Conservatives Gone Wild. Steve Benen compiled a top ten list of strange Republican reactions to the news of a Special Operations Forces raid that captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, allegedly the ringleader of the 2012 attack against the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. No, really, a top ten list.

4. Obama should put Ahmed Abu Khattala in Guantanamo. This gem, pushed by Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, argues that the terrorist suspect shouldn’t be tried in courts with a great track record for convicting and imprisoning terrorists. (Wasn’t McCain the guy who, in 2008, said the United States needs to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay? Does McCain even remember his own position?) Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, after hearing about McCain’s and Graham’s appeal, was quoted as saying,”Oh for God’s sake ….” which seems like the appropriate reaction.

Yes, really. And, well, yes, there certainly is idiocy on the list exceeding a U.S. Senator announcing that he has no faith in the United States and their people. Book tour IRS? Something about golf? Not good enough? Not fast enough? Maybe President Obama should have taken a note from his predecessor’s book and announced, six months after the attack, “I truly am not that concerned about him. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.” After all, when Bush decided he was not concerned about catching Osama bin Laden …?

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Benen, Steve. “‘Good news … I guess'”. msnbc. 17 June 2014.

A Memo to Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Rick Perry

To: Gov. Rick Perry, State of Texas

re: A brief word of advice

It’s over, Governor. Your side lost. Get used to it.

The Texas Republican Party this month adopted a platform supporting access to “reparative therapy” for gays and lesbians, a widely discredited process intended to change sexual orientation. In response to an audience question about it Wednesday night, Perry said he did not know whether the therapy worked.

Commonwealth Club interviewer Greg Dalton then asked him whether he believes homosexuality is a disorder.

“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”

(Baker)

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Beyond Silly

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Steve Benen brings a setup certain to evoke an exasperated groan:

Former Sen. Bill Frist’s tenure as Senate Majority Leader is perhaps best known for an unfortunate misstep. In 2005, the Tennessee Republican weighed in on the controversy surrounding Terri Schiavo, declaring that he, as a heart surgeon, could make a reliable medical diagnosis about the brain-damaged woman by watching a brief video filmed by the patient’s family.

Yeah, we know. The punch line for that will suck regardless of what it actually says:

Coburn talked to CNN’s Dana Bash late yesterday, telling her that he’s convinced that Bergdahl “had been drugged … either with an anti-psychotic or hypnotic drug.” The Oklahoma Republican said his diagnosis is “obviously” true and was “easy” to make.

Coburn added that it’s “not at all” possible that Bergdahl was sick. The released prisoner’s “physical health,” the senator told Bash, “is fine.”

Just to drive the point home, the far-right Oklahoman, an obstetrician gynecologist by trade, went on to argue, “I’m speaking as a doctor, yeah.”

It seems the sort of plot twist that is also a bit of an extraneous twist of the knife. A prisoner of war has been released, and the president’s opponents will say all manner of ridiculous things, including the proposition that Sgt. Bergdahl ought to be convicted without trial in order to justify criticisms of securing his release. It was one thing when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) undertook his usual acrobatics and contortions, but what happened next really was rather undignified.

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