• Links for the 3/9 TRMS

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  • Ahead on the 3/9 Maddow show

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    Tonight's guests include:

    Melissa Harris-Perry, host of “Melissa Harris-Perry” on MSNBC and professor of political science at Tulane University

    Ezra Klein, columnist for The Washington Post and Bloomberg and MSNBC policy analyst

    While watching the video preview, take a listen to tonight's soundtrack. (Just make sure the ad below plays out entirely before starting the video)

    Executive producer Bill Wolff shares a preview of tonight's show:

  • Friday's Mini-Report

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    Today's edition of quick hits:

    * Diplomacy in Afghanistan: "Seeking to break an impasse on a broader strategic arrangement, the United States agreed Friday to greatly accelerate its transfer of imprisoned insurgents to Afghan government control, but will retain a veto over which ones can be released."

    * Syria: "The top United Nations relief official offered a somber view on Friday of the aid crisis caused by the uprising in Syria, saying she had witnessed horrific destruction during her two-day visit there and had encountered resistance by the government to accept her emergency aid proposal, in which U.N. relief workers would gain unrestricted access to stricken areas."

    * Shutting down Japan's nuclear industry: "All but two of Japan's 54 commercial reactors have gone offline since the nuclear disaster a year ago, after the earthquake and tsunami, and it is not clear when they can be restarted."

    * Has Rush Limbaugh's loss of advertisers done real damage? Consider his "dead air" problem.

    * Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) push for judicial confirmations can't come soon enough.

    * Remember former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)? She's apparently still around, saying very strange things on national television.

    * Chris Hughes' new role atop The New Republic strikes me as very encouraging.

    * As a scandal forces South Carolina's lieutenant governor to resign, it's worth taking stock and acknowledging just how many controversies have plagued the state's political leaders.

    * And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has another clip to add to his list of heated confrontations with voters. This time, he got into a shouting match with a law school student, who is also a former Navy SEAL, whom Christie called an "idiot." (Update: here's a more detailed account of what transpired between the governor and the student, named William Brown.)

    Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

  • Romney struggles with improved economy

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    Associated Press

    The Republican National Committee had some trouble this morning responding to the new U.S. job figures. So, too, did the party's likely presidential nominee.

    The former Massachusetts governor ignored reporters' questions about the report, and did not address it in his remarks, leveling his usual criticisms at the president instead.

    "Don't forget by the way that this President, how many months ago was it, 37 months ago, told us that if he could borrow $787 billion, almost $1 trillion, he would keep unemployment below 8 percent. It has not been below 8 percent since. This president has not succeeded, this president has failed, and that's the reason we're going to get rid of him in 2012," [Mitt Romney] said to a standing ovation.

    There are a few interesting angles to consider here. The first is that Romney's refusal to even acknowledge the new job numbers suggests he has a problem. Romney has already said, more than once, that he believes the economy has improved since President Obama took office, and whether the Republican candidate ignores reporters' questions or not, the facts are hard to dispute.

    Second, Romney likes to throw around that claim about "he would keep unemployment below 8 percent," but it's just not true. Repeating a lie does not make it more accurate.

    And third, if we're really going to have a conversation about who "has failed" at job creation, we should probably talk less about the guy who prevented an economic collapse, and more about the governor whose record on job creation was something of a fiasco -- during Romney's tenure, Massachusetts' job creation was "one of the worst in the country," ranking 47th out of 50 states in job growth.

  • Dick Armey, RINO

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    There may be no clearer evidence of the hysteria in Republican politics than stories like these.

    Getty Images

    With his voting record, Armey would be attacked by FreedomWorks in 2012.

    FreedomWorks for America, the super PAC for former Rep. Dick Armey's (R-TX) FreedomWorks USA, just released new radio and TV ads urging the defeat of longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The spots are the latest in a series of attacks by the group against the six-term senator, who is facing a challenge from the right in this year's renomination process.

    The new commercials note that Hatch "voted 16 times" to raise the debt limit.

    The ad is accurate; Hatch did cast those votes. But as ThinkProgress' Josh Israel noted, FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey, a former Republican House leader, also cast the exact same votes at the exact same time. Armey, a right-wing Texan, even delivered an impassioned plea to his congressional colleagues in 2002, telling them voting to raise the debt ceiling was "good for America."

    Are the folks who FreedomWorks' attack ads offended by their own boss' voting record?

    The larger point is that Republicans who served in Congress as recently as the Bush/Cheney era, developing reputations as consistent far-right stalwarts, are suddenly Republicans In Name Only. There's no mystery here -- as the GOP sprints past the right-wing cliff, even Dick Armey's conservative outfit no longer has any use for Republicans with Dick Armey's voting record.

    The debt-ceiling issue is actually quite illustrative. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, Mitt Romney condemned Rick Santorum for his debt-ceiling votes at an event in Ohio, while standing alongside Sen. Rob Portman (R) -- who not only voted repeatedly to raise the debt limit, but was also Bush's OMB director, demanding routine debt-ceiling increases from Congress. Indeed, most of Romney's supporters agreed with the line that all Republicans accepted for decades -- the debt limit had to be increased regularly to protect the integrity of the full faith and credit of the United States.

    Former Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana cast votes to raise the debt ceiling, and now he's the president of the Club for Growth -- which condemns Republicans for voting to raise the debt ceiling.

    Even Ronald Reagan ("Ronaldus Magnus," according to the RNC) raised the debt ceiling 18 times, and he enjoys demi-god status in the party.

    As recently as four or five years ago, it was entirely common to find Republicans -- conservative Republicans, respected by the GOP base -- who supported individual health care mandates, a cap-and-trade plan, the DREAM Act, contraception access, Planned Parenthood funding, and routine increases to the debt ceiling. In 2012, these same Republicans are (a) an endangered species; (b) facing defeat in a GOP primary; or (c) Democrats.

  • The Week in Geek: Potpourri edition

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    Close your eyes and imagine the tectonic plates shifting. Seismometers in California even "heard" it.

    Speaking of Japan and earthquakes, Japanese engineers have designed an "airbag" for houses to isolate them from seismic activity. Be sure to watch the video to the end for a whole lotta shaking goin' on.

    PIGS IN SPACE! Take your Angry Birds addiction to a whole new level...or should I say orbit?

    Competitive paper airplane throwing is apparently a thing and this guy is really good at it.

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  • Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. IX

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    Getty Images

    There's often a gap between Romney's rhetoric and reality.

    There may come a point at which the issue of Mitt Romney's propensity for falsehoods reaches some kind of critical mass. In fact, we may have already reached that point.

    David Bernstein argued persuasively this week, "I think we've seen, over the past couple of months, an important tipping point where much of the national political media now recognizes ... that, in the Romney campaign, they are dealing with something unlike the normal spin and hyperbole. They are realizing that Romney and his campaign simply cannot be trusted, in any way, about anything.

    I thought of Bernstein's piece on Tuesday when MSNBC's "Morning Joe" did two segments on Romney lying, rather blatantly, about his record on health care. It came the day before Rick Santorum also began targeting Romney as someone willing to "not tell the truth" to win.

    Once a candidate earns a reputation for being shamelessly dishonest, it's awfully tough to reclaim a degree of credibility. And with that, here's this week's installment of Romney's biggest falsehoods of the week.

    1. Commenting on his health care reform law in Massachusetts, Romney told voters in Ohio this week, "Early on, we were asked if what you did in Massachusetts should be something you'd have the federal government do? I said no from the very beginning. No. This is designed for our state and our circumstance."

    He was lying.

    2. Romney said of President Obama and veterans' health care, "He's going after TRICARE. Saying, 'Ok, we're going to raise the co-pays. We're going to cut the benefits.' Why is it we go after military families?"

    This isn't even remotely accurate.

    3. Romney said of Obama this week, "He gave a speech the other day at his State of the Union address. He didn't even mention the deficit or the debt."

    Obama mentioned the deficit and the debt six times in his State of the Union address.

    4. Pretending to understand U.S. policy in Iran, Romney said Obama "failed" to place sanctions on Iran.

    That's the opposite of reality.

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  • Santorum advance guy on how it's done

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    AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

    Wednesday in Mississippi

    As recently as mid-February, Rick Santorum reportedly had no paid advance staff. He would appear to have one now in Mississippi, or at least an advance person. Since late February, Chris Godbey has been showing up in the Mississippi press as Santorum's state political director, with promises of a couple of local campaign offices and an intensive effort ahead of Tuesday's vote.

    Godbey is a seasoned political manager whose resume includes running state campaigns and a brief stint as a field team leader with the conservative Media Research Center this year. On LinkedIn, Godbey describes his work:

    • Coordinate daily activities with the National Field Coordinator at MRC headquarters
    • Arrive in region 3-7 days ahead of national press
    • Take receipt of MRC collateral and distribute to members of local tea party and conservative groups
    • Arrange for a presence of activists on site where media attention will be focused
    • Collect pictures and video of activists hold MRC signs and collateral
    • Develop a national grassroots presence for MRC and affiliates

    The early crowds in Mississippi look good for Santorum. He's tied with Newt Gingrich for second in the latest Rasmussen survey, but another report said he drew an audience twice the size of Gingrich's.

    (H/t James Carter. Image: Rick Santorum in Mississippi on Wednesday/Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

  • 'A Platform to Revitalize America'

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    When Bill Clinton left the White House just 12 years ago, the federal budget deficit was quite literally gone, and the nation was running a surplus for the first time in a generation. After Republicans approved two massive tax breaks, expanded Medicare, put two wars on the national credit card, and crashed the economy, the fiscal mess Clinton had cleaned up was back.

    We've seen some modest progress on this front, but even under the most optimistic of scenarios, a balanced budget is nowhere in sight.

    Associated Press

    The three supporters of the "Platform to Revitalize America."

    That is, unless we adopt a new plan from three far-right senators, who've mapped out a way to get us back to 2001 figures in a hurry.

    Members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus on Thursday announced a plan to balance the budget in five years, cutting spending by nearly $11 trillion compared to President Obama's budget.

    The plan, dubbed "A Platform to Revitalize America," is a wish list of conservative policies, none of which have any chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or being signed into law by a liberal Democratic president.

    The ambitious blueprint would achieve a $111 billion surplus in fiscal year 2017.

    "The whole point here is to show we can reasonably balance the budget within a five-year period," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), one of the sponsors of the plan.

    Well, "reasonably" is a subjective term.

    The plan, also endorsed by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), would produce a surplus by 2017 by effectively repealing most of the 20th century.

    The "Platform to Revitalize America" has it all figured out: Medicare would be privatized out of existence; Social Security eligibility would be restricted; while Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, food stamps, and child nutrition programs would all be gutted through state block grants.

    The federal departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development would also all be eliminated. Pentagon spending, by the way, would not be touched.

    See how easy it is to balance the federal budget in hardly any time at all?

  • Friday's campaign round-up

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    Getty Images

    Gingrich intends to stick around for a long while.

    Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:

    * With comments that will delight the Mitt Romney campaign, Newt Gingrich told an Alabama radio station this morning, "I'm going to be all the way to Tampa. There's no question in my mind."

    * On a related note, Romney told an Alabama radio station yesterday that campaigning in Alabama and Mississippi represents "a bit of an away game" for the former Massachusetts governor.

    * Romney also picked up a key Mississippi endorsement yesterday, getting the support of Gov. Phil Bryant (R).

    * In Nebraska, Chuck Hassebrook (D) ended his U.S. Senate bid yesterday, standing aside for former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D), who surprised many by jumping into the race last week.

    * The Republican National Committee raised a healthy $11.3 million in February, thanks in large part to the return of major donors. The Democratic National Committee has not yet released its monthly figures.

    * Republicans can probably cross Maine off their list of possible swing states --- PPP shows President Obama leading Romney in the Pine Tree State by 23 points.

    * If the Republican presidential nominating race is still underway in June, it appears Romney has the edge in California's GOP primary.

    * And for whatever reason, the Romney campaign continues to utilize Donald Trump in robocalls. Trump spokesman Michael Cohen said yesterday, "Voters across the United States should expect a call from Donald Trump praising Mitt Romney."

  • Inhofe refutes climate science with scripture

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    Associated Press

    Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a leading opponent of climate science, appeared on a Christian radio talk show this week to present an odd argument: the far-right senator's interpretation of Scripture helps bolster his hostility towards scientific data.

    In particular, Inhofe told Voice of Christian Youth America's Vic Eliason about his favorite Biblical citation included in his new anti-climate book, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future."

    "[T]he Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that 'as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.' My point is, God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."

    Obviously, the senator's spiritual beliefs are his business, but even a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis does not refute climate science. No one is arguing that temperature variation and seasons will simply disappear as a consequence of global warming.

    Rather, the point is that we're currently pumping about 90 million tons of carbon emissions into the air every day. This creates the conditions that lead to global warming, and the seriousness of the crisis continues to get worse. There's nothing in Scripture that tells us the evidence is wrong.

    Incidentally, if Republicans claim the Senate majority in the 2012 elections, Inhofe will be the chairman of the Senate committee on the environment. That he believes the Bible debunks all of climate science is not exactly encouraging.

    Update: Inhofe will be a guest on The Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday. Don't miss it.

  • But are the grits the right height?

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    Campaigning in Mississippi yesterday, Mitt Romney did his very best to convince local Republicans they can relate to a patrician millionaire from Massachusetts, perhaps best known for supporting a government health care mandate and getting rich through mass layoffs.

    "I am learning to say y'all and I like grits," he said. "Strange things are happening to me."

    Strange, indeed.

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