HUFFPOST HILL - Dope Versus Pope

Donald Trump got in a fight with the Pope, since it would be P.C. to go soft on the Vicar of Christ on Earth. Marco Rubio didn't show up for work when he was in the Florida legislature, either, which demonstrates the kind of consistency we need in a president. And Barack Obama is about to be the first president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge, not counting Bill Clinton's lost weekend in '97. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, February 18th, 2016:

TODAY'S DUMB OUTRAGE - Nolan McCaskill reports that the furor over President Obama skipping Antonin Scalia's funeral is kinda dumb, since "people close to the Scalia family said Obama was making the right choice and that the Friday ceremony at the Supreme Court was the better place for Obama to pay his respects." [Politico]

WATCH CORRUPTION UNFOLD IN REAL TIME! Come on, congressman, you're supposed to at least pretend you aren't owned by lobbyists. Zach Carter and Ben Walsh: "Good lawmakers borrow, great lawmakers steal. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) is a great lawmaker. At a House Financial Services Committee hearing last week on new rules intended to rein in abusive forms of payday lending, Scott couldn't seem to stop praising the industry, using language that sounded, well, bizarre….And then Scott gave away the game. 'They've all received positive feedback from our borrowers,' Scott said. As a member of Congress, David Scott doesn't have any borrowers. But Richard Hunt, the top lobbyist for the Consumer Bankers Association, represents plenty of companies that do. Scott, it turns out, was basically reading from 2013 testimony that Hunt gave to the Senate without disclosing his source." [HuffPost]

OBAMA NEEDS A NEW CHE T-SHIRT - Finally, the real reason why Obama threw out Cold War restrictions against Cuba: He wanted to go on a Caribbean vacation. Sam Levine: "Obama will travel to the island March 21-22 with first lady Michelle Obama. The president's visit comes more than a year after he ordered the United States to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba." [HuffPost]

DEMS PLAN FAILING STRATEGY TO PUSH SCOTUS VOTE - What about the past six years makes Senate Democrats think this will work? Michael McAuliff: "Republicans certainly have the power to do nothing, and the minority party Democrats can't really do much about that under the rules of the Senate, even though the Constitution says the Senate is supposed to offer the president advice and consent on nominations. That leaves Democrats with one option: Make the case to the public. And there are many ways to do that." G'luck, guys. [HuffPost]

Denying Obama's legitimacy as president maybe is a bit racist, says Congressional Black Caucus chairman.

PRECONCEIVED BIASES REMAIN MOST POWERFUL FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE - Guess what? People's opinions about whether Obama is allowed to nominate someone for the Supreme Court vary by their political affiliations! Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus, Jennifer De Pinto and Sarah Dutton: "Views are highly partisan: 82 percent of Republicans would like to see the next president appoint Justice Scalia's replacement, while 77 percent of Democrats want President Obama to make that appointment." [CBS News]

Senate Republican obstructionism, now brought to you by rich people.

CHUCK SCHUMER'S MOUTH CAUSES PROBLEMS - Democrats' strategy of occupying the moral high ground over the Supreme Court confirmation process is undercut a bit by one of their Senate leaders having given a speech a while back advocating the opposite. Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan: "Today, the heir apparent to lead the Senate Democrats is spearheading the charge against Republicans for pre-emptively blocking President Barack Obama from replacing the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But in 2007, while in the majority and salivating over the prospect of a Democratic president being elected, Schumer delivered a speech to the American Constitution Society that is now Republicans’ go-to line when deflecting criticism over obstruction." [Politico]

Does somebody keep forwarding you this newsletter? Get your own copy. It's free! Sign up here. Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

AMAZING (DIS)GRACE - If Donald Trump gets hit by lightning anytime soon, we'll know why. On his way home from Mexico, Pope Francis made the pretty banal observation that being cruel to hundreds of millions of people isn't exactly what Jesus would do, giving Trump the opening he'd been waiting for to attack a beloved holy man. Ben Jacobs: "At a press conference during a trip to Mexico, the pope said of Trump: 'A person who thinks only about building walls ... and not of building bridges, is not Christian.' Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event in South Carolina, telling a packed room at a golf course resort: 'For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.' The Republican frontrunner continued: 'No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith.'" [The Guardian]

The pope also sort of said Catholic women may be allowed to use birth control if they're at risk for the Zika virus, which is a way bigger deal than the Trump thing.

TRUMP ENVISIONS SELF AS LOSER - In addition to his remarks, Trump also put out a statement that describes the Vatican being attacked by ISIS in a future in which Trump is not president. "I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened." Weird. [DonaldJTrump.com]

TRUMP IS A YUGE LIAR - Not that it matters because his supporters seem to like that he's full of crap, but Donald Trump is full of crap. He keeps saying he's got a terrific plan to make prescription drugs cheaper and save $300 billion a year. There's just one problem (okay, there are lots of problems, but this is one of them). Glenn Kessler: "In fact, depending on the source you consult, total annual spending on prescription drugs in the United States is between $298 billion a year to $423 billion. So that would mean Trump is claiming that he can eliminate virtually any cost to prescription drugs. It would suddenly be free! [WashPost]

Also, the Trump Tower in Chicago is a literal garbage fire.

WELL, THIS IS ODD - Somebody paid for robocalls in Spanish to South Carolina voters criticizing Marco Rubio over immigration and praising Ted Cruz. Now, who would have the motive to do something like that? Igor Bobic: "In the recording, a woman speaking in Spanish accuses Rubio, who on Wednesday picked up the coveted endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), of supporting 'amnesty' in contrast to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is described in the call as opposing the idea. 'Ted Cruz knows that those of us who followed the rules are tired of taking a back seat to those who cut in line,' the woman says in Spanish on the recording. The speaker emphasizes three phrases in particular -- 'Marco Rubio,' 'amnesty' and 'illegally.'" [HuffPost]

And somebody apparently faked a photo of Rubio shaking hands with Obama. Now, who would have the motive to do something like that?

HILLARY EXPRESSES HUMAN EMOTION ON CAMERA - The Clinton campaign has a new TV spot out, and it features the former secretary of State and a little girl who's scared of her parents being deported. Elise Foley: "Clinton seems emotional, too. She asks the girl, whose name is not provided, to come over and puts her arm around her. 'I'm going to do everything I can so you don't have to be scared, and you don't have to worry about what happens to your mom or your dad or somebody else in your family,' the Democratic hopeful says. She goes on to tell the 10-year-old that she's 'being very brave. And you have to be brave for them too, because they want you to be happy, they want you to be successful, they don't want you to worry too much.' 'Let me do the worrying. I'll do all the worrying, is that a deal?' she says. 'I'll do the worrying; I'll do everything I can to help, OK?'" [HuffPost]

SANDERS SEEMS TO HAVE A BLACK VOTERS PROBLEM - Mackenzie Israel-Trummel and Ariela Schachter: "Our new research confirms what many Sanders supporters have feared: Black voters have substantially more favorable feelings about his opponent, Hillary Clinton." [WashPost]

And that's why Clinton and Sanders are scouring Nevada and South Carolina for nonwhite voters right now.

MARCO RUBIO'S LONG RECORD OF DISLIKING THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS - It's widely known that Sen. Marco Rubio doesn't like doing senator stuff, but did you know he also didn't like doing Florida legislature stuff when he was a member of that institution? Manuel Roig-Franzia: "A spot on the Select Committee on Security was a mark of prominence in Tallahassee….It was little surprise that Marco Rubio, a promising and charismatic young lawmaker from Miami, secured a coveted position on the committee. Rubio did not give the job the attention that legislative leaders expected. He skipped nearly half of the meetings over the first five months of the panel’s existence, more than any of his colleagues, according to Florida legislature records." [WashPost]

Team Rubio is really excited about losing South Carolina in a less-embarrassing fashion than he lost other states.

BIG OIL GREASES TEXAN - Oil companies are throwing money at Ted Cruz, partly because Jeb Bush is such a huge disappointment. "Cruz leads all presidential candidates in contributions from employees of oil and natural gas companies through the end of 2015, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. His coffers have been boosted by scores of smaller gifts and $25 million to super-PACs that back his campaign from two sources: energy investor Toby Neugebauer and Dan and Farris Wilks, brothers who made their fortune in the fracking boom." [Bloomberg News]

This cool graphic charts all the money rich people are wasting on this election

VOTERS REPELLED BY STENCH OF FAILURE - Jeb! isn't changing many minds in South Carolina. Tarini Parti: "John Massie, 72-year-old, retired, undecided voter also brought up electability after hearing Bush in Aiken. 'I think Gov. Bush is a good candidate, but I don’t think he’s electable because of his last name. I think we need to choose someone who can win. I think he’s unfortunately dug himself a in a hole that he can’t get out of. His only hope is a brokered convention, and all bets are off then anyway.' [Buzzfeed]

DELANEY DOWNER - Some Flint residents might be getting their hopes up about a water lawsuit, but sovereign immunity is a real toughie. "Hundreds of Flint residents on Tuesday packed into a ballroom at the University of Michigan-Flint, hoping to receive answers from a legal team representing potentially thousands of plaintiffs in several lawsuits filed over the water crisis in Flint, where financial damages may exceed $1bn." [The Guardian]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Enjoy hating the selfie-crazed beachgoers whose vanity and stupity killed a rare dolphin.

REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS PREFER DIFFERENT #BRANDS - Guess which side likes Sonic and which side likes Chipotle? Tim Higgins: "Traditionally, consumer data have been used by campaigns to better understand where they should invest their ad dollars, or which potential voters and donors they should have volunteers cold-call. Increasingly, candidates are also using the sentiment to figure out how to present themselves to voters." [Bloomberg News]


- There's a pair of 104-year-old twin sisters in France, which is just darling.

- Watch Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)read mean tweets from Trump supporters.

- Here are some photos of guinea pigs wearing little outfits.



@daveweigel: Based on leaked internals I've seen, this could hurt Pope Francis in key Super Tuesday states.

@mollyesque: It's 2 days before the SC GOP primary & Donald Trump is in a catfight w the Pope, just as I predicted a year ago.

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com) or Arthur Delaney (arthur@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e