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Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) leaves after a press briefing on July 31, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Boehner laments 'knuckleheads' within House GOP

09/17/14 11:27AM

Once in a while, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sounds like a man who isn't entirely fond of his ostensible followers.
Speaker John Boehner said that he's got a "few knuckleheads" to deal with, and that's largely why the Republican majority in the House looks good on paper but doesn't always pan out with votes.
 
"On any given day, 16 of my members decide they're going to go this way, and all of the sudden, I have nothing," he said, describing the reality of his "paper majority" in the House, The Hill reported. "You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference."
According to the report in the conservative Washington Times, Boehner went on say, "Dealing with Democrats is one thing. Dealing with the knuckleheads is another."
 
Whether he finds one easier to deal with than the other was unclear.
 
These comments come just five months after the Ohio Republican publicly mocked his own members over their reluctance to work on immigration reform.
 
"Here's the attitude: 'Oh, don't make me do this. Oh, this is too hard," Boehner said, in a tone deriding House Republicans as if they were sniveling children. He added, "We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems, and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to."
 
Remember, this was the Republican Speaker referring to Republican House members. Now Boehner is also willing to concede an unknown number of his members are "knuckleheads," too.
 
The candor is certainly welcome, though the larger point is how understandable the Speaker's dissatisfaction is.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses the 20th International AIDS Conference at The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 23, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.

Bill Clinton's unsurprising candor on Netanyahu

09/17/14 10:51AM

For reasons that aren't altogether clear, this seems to have caused quite a stir yesterday.
Former President Bill Clinton says he agrees that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "not the guy" for a peace deal.
 
A C-SPAN video -- first reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz -- shows the 42nd president at Sen. Tom Harkin's Iowa steak fry Sunday speaking with an individual along a rope line.
As the Politico report noted, an unidentified voter told the former president, "Netanyahu himself said that he does not want peace. If we don't force him to make peace, we will not have peace." Clinton said he agreed, and talked a bit about his own efforts with Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin.
 
"But Netanyahu is not the guy," the man in the rope line added. "I agree with that," Clinton replied, before adding some context and detail to previous negotiations.
 
Soon after, RedState published an item citing this as evidence that Hillary Clinton is not "pro-Israel." The Weekly Standard also wasn't pleased.
 
And yet, nothing Clinton said seems the least bit surprising. Netanyahu has made no secret that he's not interested in negotiating a two-state solution, so it stands to reason Netanyahu "is not the guy" to reach such an agreement.
 
Steve M. noted that Clinton has never been especially fond of Netanyahu, dating back to some confrontations in the 1990s. As recently as 2011, Foreign Policy reported, "Who's to blame for the continued failure of the Middle East peace process? Former President Bill Clinton said today that it is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- whose government moved the goalposts upon taking power, and whose rise represents a key reason there has been no Israeli-Palestinian peace deal."
 
So why all the fuss yesterday about something we already knew?
Rand Paul

Rand Paul isn't done with executive orders

09/17/14 10:08AM

I didn't have any intention to return to Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) latest flap, but the senator keeps talking about it in a way that warrants a little follow up.
 
The story started on Friday, when the Kentucky Republican talked about what he'd do if elected president: "I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders." Paul's comments were reportedly met with "booming cheers" from his conservative audience.
 
Of course, the declaration didn't make a lot of sense. Presidents since George Washington have made thousands of executive orders -- many of them, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, of great national significance -- and the notion that Rand Paul wants to repeal all of them seemed ridiculous.
 
Soon after, the senator's office walked back his comments, suggesting Paul was speaking with a rhetorical flourish at the event. "It was not meant to be taken literally," an aide said, seemingly ending the controversy.
 
The aide, however, might want to have a chat with Paul himself, who sounded fairly sincere about the idea the day after his office tried to downplay the senator's remarks. Scott Conroy asked Paul directly about the idea of repealing every executive order ever issued in American history.
"It's a nice idea," Paul said. "You would obviously have to look at all of the executive orders to see that there's not something in there. But the thing is, you could sunset them all and really repeal them all, and then you could start over. And if there are any ones that are good, you could reinstitute things or ask Congress to reinstitute things that need to be done." 
 
But did that mean Paul would be OK with nixing -- temporarily, at least -- President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation? Or what about President Truman's order to desegregate the military? 
 
Paul's eyes widened a bit, as if to confirm that he hadn't quite thought it completely through.
Imagine that.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins gestures during a news conference to discuss Wednesday's shooting, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Religious right leader ties U.S. 'secularism' to Islamic State

09/17/14 09:26AM

For much of the post-9/11 era, there's been a strain of thought on the right that holds American liberalism responsible for Middle Eastern terrorism. This was generally applied to al Qaeda, but yesterday, Tony Perkins, head of a powerful religious right group called the Family Research Council, used the same reasoning when talking about Islamic State.
The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins said today that the separation of church and state in the United States has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremist groups like ISIS, arguing in his radio commentary that ISIS has "filled the void left by secularism."
 
According to Perkins, American ISIS militants wouldn't have left the country to fight for the group if only the government had promoted Christianity over other faiths.
Right Wing Watch published an audio clip of Perkins' minute-long commentary, which was about as offensive as you might imagine.
 
"Radical secularism that has driven the defining characteristics of our Western culture, our Judeo-Christian heritage, from our schools, our entertainment and even our government has left in its place a void, a vacuum," Perkins argued. "And we should know from experience that a vacuum will be filled by something. Without a creedal vision that a society can unify around, the people, the nation, will perish. Unless we are content to allow ISIS or some other radical belief system to fill the void left by secularism, we must rediscover America's founding, Christ-centered vision."
 
It's certainly a curious perspective. As Perkins sees it, to counter violent religious extremists, the United States should do more to merge religion and government -- which, ironically, is similar to the approach embraced by our enemy.
 
While I suspect most of the American mainstream has no use for such nonsense, it's worth noting that Perkins' argument, however odd, is surprisingly common in conservative circles.
A vehicle and surrounding buildings smoldering after they were set on fire inside the US mission compound in Benghazi, September 11, 2012.

When interest in Benghazi spins out of control

09/17/14 08:40AM

It was probably only a matter of time. A Fox News personality yesterday noted the ongoing controversies surrounding the National Football League and suggested Americans should demand "that same transparency" about Benghazi.
 
Yes, we've reached the point at which Fox News can at least try to connect anything and everything to the 2012 attack that left four Americans dead in Libya.
 
Then again, given the latest report from Media Matters, the comments hardly come as a surprise.
Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks. Nearly 500 segments focused on a set of Obama administration talking points used in September 2012 interviews; more than 100 linked the attacks to a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run; and dozens of segments compared the attacks and the administration response to the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals. The network hosted Republican members of Congress to discuss Benghazi nearly 30 times more frequently than Democrats.
The total of 1,098 evening segments -- an average of about 13 segments per week, every week, for 20 months -- would arguably have been higher, but Media Matters didn't include Megyn Kelly's program, which wasn't on the air for part of the study.
 
Ed Kilgore noted in response to the numbers, "Short of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings, I'm not sure we've seen anything quite like it in modern electronic media."
 
I think that's right, though there are a couple of ways to look at this. The first takeaway is simple: "Good lord, that's a lot of coverage for one network on one story." At a certain point, phrases like "unhealthy obsession" probably have to enter into the conversation.
 
But that's not the only takeaway. Indeed, I might even offer a tepid defense of sorts.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during The Family Leadership Summit, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.

The GOP's 'not a scientist' meme keeps spreading

09/17/14 08:00AM

Maybe a memo went out to Republicans, telling them how to respond to questions about science.
 
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, was asked how old he thinks the planet is. "I'm not a scientist, man," he replied. Gov. Rick Scott (R) was asked what he intended to do about the climate crisis threatening Florida. "I'm not a scientist," he responded. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked about the climate deniers in his conference. "I'm not qualified to debate the science," he replied.
 
And now we have another member of the chorus.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal dodged three questions on Tuesday about whether he personally believes the theory of evolution explains the presence of complex life on Earth.
 
"The reality is I'm not an evolutionary biologist," the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential hopeful told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but Jindal was a biology major at an Ivy League university before becoming a Rhodes Scholar. The notion that the Louisiana Republican has doubts about evolutionary biology is very hard to believe.
 
Which raises the related question of why in the world Republicans keep using this ridiculous response when asked easy questions.
 
Jindal actually finds himself in an awkward position. The governor is probably aware of the fact that Republican voters have become increasingly hostile towards modern biology in recent years, and as the Louisianan prepares a national campaign, he can't deliberately alienate his own party's far-right base.
 
If he says he accepts biology, Jindal might lose some support from conservatives, If the governor says he rejects modern science, Jindal would come across as a bit of a loon. And so, he's left with a pathetic dodge: "I'm not an evolutionary biologist."
 
As political spin goes, this entire tack -- not just from Jindal, but from his entire party -- is unsustainable.

Addressing the troops and other headlines

09/17/14 07:57AM

Pres. Obama to address troops on his anti-ISIS strategy today. (BBC)

In Iowa, attacks on Republican Ernst change dynamics of tight Senate race. (Washington Post)

House Select Committee on Benghazi holds its first public hearing today. (AP)

Here is the witness list. (The Hill)

Manhunt underway in Pennsylvania for armed suspect described as an "anti-government survivalist". (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Minnesota Vikings 'deactivate' Adrian Peterson indefinitely. (USA Today)

Meet the 2014 MacArthur "Geniuses". (NPR)

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Will the new plan to train Syrian rebels differ from the CIA's program?

09/17/14 02:10AM

Partial transcript from the 9/17/14 TRMS:

Rachel Maddow: The United States government is already arming and training the rebels in Syria. That's supposedly what the big debate is about in Congress right now, and the big vote in Congress this week. Instead of voting on the actual war they are going to vote on this little piece of it. But this little piece of it is already hapening. It's the CIA doing it.

And like everything the CIA does, it's a covert action and so they don't want to talk about it really. But it's not a secret really, it's already happening. It's already happening. There are already efforts under way, for months now, to arm and train those rebels. The debate in Congress is just to ramp that up and expand it and make it less covert.

If that's the case, shouldn't we know if what we've done already is working? I mean, if we've been doing this already for months has it been successful? And if it hasn't been successful, presumably, shouldn't we wonder why we would do more of it?

If it has been successful, then why are we starting out own war now out of apparent desperation? And so fast that it can't even wait for Congress to vote?

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Ahead on the 9/16/14 Maddow show

09/16/14 06:18PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Nancy Youssef, National Security correspondent, McClatchy newspapers
  • Dave Helling, political reporter for the Kansas City Star

After the jump, a preview of tonight's show from executive producer Cory Gnazzo:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.16.14

09/16/14 05:33PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Afghanistan: "Two Americans were among seven people killed in a massive car bomb near the U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital Tuesday, a U.S. military official said. One of the U.S. citizens was a service member, the other a civilian, the official said."
 
* Ebola response: "The United States will intervene to help confront the global threat posed by the recent Ebola outbreak, President Barack Obama said during a speech announcing a new effort to assist the West African countries that have been overwhelmed by the spread of the deadly virus.... In what he said is the largest international response in the history of the CDC, Obama made public his plans to increase U.S. aid to combat Ebola by sending thousands of personnel and millions of dollars to West Africa to avoid a humanitarian disaster."
 
* Dempsey tackles a hypothetical: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, offering a more expansive view of the American role in the ground war than that of President Obama."
 
* Capitol Hill: "Despite lingering reservations on both sides of the aisle, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats is coming together behind proposals to arm Syrian rebels and fund the government beyond Sept. 30."
 
* The child poverty rate in the United States saw its "largest one-year drop since 1966." That's pretty amazing.
 
* Ferguson: "A judge has given the grand jury considering whether to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson. Mo., police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an extension of 60 days to make a decision. The jury must decide by Jan. 7 whether Officer Wilson will be criminally charged in Mr. Brown's death."
 
* Pennsylvania: "A manhunt is under way Tuesday for an anti-cop 'survivalist' with mass-murder fantasies who is wanted in last week's deadly ambush of Pennsylvania state police barracks, authorities said. Arrest warrants have been issued for Eric Matthew Frein, 31, of Canadensis, Pa., for the Friday night shooting that killed one trooper and left another critically wounded."
 
* Good: "President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to announce a campus sexual assault awareness campaign from the White House Friday, with a special focus on engaging men in the fight against a largely hidden problem."
 
* "Obsession" is the only word that seems to apply: "Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks."

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