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Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., arrives early to talk with reporters during the Colorado Republican election night party at the Doubletree Hotel in Greenwood Village, Colo., Nov. 2, 2010.

Coffman repackages himself for tough 2014 campaign

08/27/14 10:40AM

By any fair measure, it'd be tough to characterize Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) as somehow moderate. The Club for Growth lists Coffman as having an 82% lifetime rating, while Heritage Action puts the Colorado Republican to the right of most House Republicans.
But the conservative congressman is facing a tough re-election fight against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), and as such Coffman is now striking "a decidedly Democratic tone."
[His new] 30-second spot highlights Coffman's service as a Marine, his work to protect victims of sexual assault in the military, and his efforts two decades ago as a state legislator to prevent health insurers from discriminating on the basis of gender.
The ad also says he "bucked his own party to help pass the Violence Against Women Act." His support for the bill's reauthorization in 2013, with just 32 other House Republicans, won him plaudits from Planned Parenthood, a group that gave him a 0 percent rating on its most recent scorecard.
"It's nice to know someone has our back," a woman says at the end of the ad. "That's Mike Coffman."
Mike Coffman up until recently supported "Personhood" measures that would ban abortion and many popular forms of contraception. He also celebrated the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling. But now that he's worried about getting re-elected, all of this is behind him?
The larger significance of this is how common these moves have become.
Supreme Court - Washington, DC

GOP bites its tongue on contraception

08/27/14 09:56AM

The usual pattern is hard to miss: the Obama administration announces a policy, which is immediately followed by Republicans condemning the policy. Rinse, lather, repeat.
But last week, in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the White House unveiled a new compromise measure that would extend contraception access to a very specific group of Americans: employees at "closely held" companies run by religious conservatives who oppose some or all forms of birth control.
Given fierce GOP opposition to President Obama's contraception policies, and the broad Republican support for the Hobby Lobby ruling, it was reasonable to expect quite a few strong reactions to the White House's latest policy, right? Wrong. The Hill ran a good report overnight.
Republican Senate candidates are staying silent on President Obama's latest changes to the birth control coverage mandate even as the policy catches flak from the religious right.
Top GOP hopefuls haven't weighed in on the issue since Friday, when the administration announced new measures meant to accommodate religious groups and businesses that object to their insurance covering birth control.
Republican Senate candidates failed to jump on the announcement that day, and a dozen campaigns reached individually this week all declined to comment.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but it's probably safe to say Republicans realize they're out of step with the American mainstream when it comes to birth control, and the issue has left the GOP terrified.
GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill this issue "could spoil an entire Senate campaign." He added that Republicans recognize that they "shouldn't be discussing birth control right now unless they can be on offense."
The DSCC's Justin Barasky responded, "What Republican candidates haven't been silent on is their unabashed support for laws that block women's access to common forms of birth control and allow employers to decide whether or not birth control should be covered as part of their health insurance."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee "did not respond to a request for comment. " Imagine that.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., attends the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

ACA makes health care more affordable in Arkansas

08/27/14 09:33AM

Rep. Tom Cotton (R), his party's U.S. Senate hopeful in Arkansas, has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, vowing to destroy the system if given an opportunity. The far-right congressman even went so far as to argue that some Arkansans, because of "Obamacare," could "face triple-digit increases in the cost of their health care premiums."
As of yesterday, that's not quite what happened. The Arkansas News Bureau reported:
Insurance policies sold through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace are projected to see a net aggregate decrease of 2 percent in premium costs for 2015, Gov. Mike Beebe's office announced Tuesday.
Beebe's office said the projection includes policies offered through the so-called private option, which uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for Arkansans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Premiums under the private option are projected to decrease slightly but remain essentially flat.
For much of the recent debate about health care policy, the argument about premiums has been based on two sets of expectations. ACA detractors predicted premiums would "skyrocket," while ACA proponents suggested modest increases, consistent with trends that existed before the Affordable Care Act became law.
But for the second time in as many weeks -- Connecticut last week and Arkansas yesterday -- we're actually seeing some projections of modest premium decreases. Obviously, Cotton's rhetoric about "triple-digit increases" looks pretty silly now.
Is it any wonder the political debate, especially in Arkansas, has gone so topsy turvy?
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives at an event in Moscow, Russia, June 22, 2014.

Those who long for Putin as 'head of the United States'

08/27/14 08:44AM

From time to time in recent years, Republicans and conservative pundits have celebrated Russian President Vladimir Putin as their kind of leader. The more reckless and autocratic the Russian president became, the more conservative lawmakers and their allies lauded Putin as some kind of heroic genius.
Yesterday on Fox News, however, Republican affection for Putin went just a little further.
Media Matters posted the video of a hard-to-watch Fox segment in which co-host Greg Gutfeld launched an unhinged tirade about the ISIS threat: "Obama should get his head out of his golf bag or get out of town..... If our president isn't up to it, then find someone who is. Maybe it's better if he stays on the course, for good." (Gutfeld didn't mention the 93 airstrikes Obama ordered on ISIS targets over the last two weeks.)
Noting British plans to address citizens who leave the U.K. to become terrorists, Gutfeld then asked Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle about whether measures can be implemented "without so-called violating their civil liberties." Guilfoyle responded:
"Guess what, I don't care. And in fact, I hope we violate a lot of their civil liberties. [...]
"I mean, can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu and like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States? I don't know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right."
I won't pretend to understand this perspective because I have no idea why anyone would look at Vladimir Putin as someone who should be "head of the United States."
But Guilfoyle's appeal seems predicated on some bizarre assumptions. The first is the notion that a bold, get-tough leader -- apparently someone in the mold of Netanyahu or Putin -- could simply use military force, deploy troops, and wipe out ISIS ... somehow. This shouldn't be necessary, but it might be worth noting that counter-terrorism and a coherent national-security policy doesn't work this way. It's not like a U.S. president could wake up, decide to eliminate ISIS, make an order, and watch it happen.
Indeed, as the Fox hosts might recall, the Bush/Cheney team thought it could invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the process, wipe out al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other foes. How'd that work out?
Image: Marco Rubio

Rubio moves further right, scolds Dream Act kids

08/27/14 08:00AM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent President Obama a written warning yesterday: use executive actions to address problems in our immigration system and it will "close the door" to congressional Republicans tackling the issue "for the foreseeable future."
For many involved in the debate, Rubio's threat rang hollow. As the White House already realizes, Republicans refuse to work on immigration anyway.
But while the Florida Republican's warning drew chuckles among stakeholders yesterday, Peter Hamby's report on a Rubio appearance in South Carolina this week was far less amusing. The conservative senator was in the Palmetto State to campaign alongside far-right Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), but was interrupted at an event by Dream Act kids.
For an ambitious Republican looking to prove his conservative bona fides and rub out the stain of working with Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, the interruption was something of a gift. A plugged-in Republican operative turned to a reporter and observed dryly, "I couldn't think of a better way to make Rubio look good in South Carolina."
The audience of nearly 1,200 conservatives jeered the protestors as Rubio waited for them to be escorted out of the Anderson Civic Center, scolding them in the process.
"We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws," Rubio said. "You're doing harm to your own cause because you don't have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States."
According to the CNN report, not only did the audience cheer Rubio on, one attendee "angrily stalked" the Dream Act kids out of the building, clutching a cane "as if it were a baseball bat."
Greg Sargent called it a "seminal moment," which it definitely was. Two years ago, when Rubio was still an enthusiastic supporter of his own plan for comprehensive immigration reform, the senator was interrupted by young Dreamers, and instead of scolding them, the Floridian was gracious and sympathetic in response.
Rubio circa 2012 didn't fully appreciate the anti-immigration animus that drives so much of contemporary Republican politics. The 2014 version of Rubio better understands the demands of the GOP's far-right base and has no qualms about pandering in advance of a likely national campaign.
But the shift comes at a cost.

Congress and climate change and other headlines

08/27/14 07:59AM

Pres. Obama seeks a global climate accord in lieu of a treaty. (NY Times)

Ferguson protesters get an hour-long meeting with the U.S. Attorney instead of getting arrested. (Huffington Post)

Arizona House primary race too close to call. (Politico)

Sen. Marco Rubio hints at a government shutdown fight over immigration. (Huffington Post)

L.A. Mayor expected to announce plan for a $13.25 minimum wage. (LA Times)

Who are the Americans fighting alongside Islamic extremists in Syria? (NBC News)

Former hostage Peter Theo Curtis has returned home. (AP)

Civil War officer to receive Medal of Honor. (AP)

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Maddow: 'Imperative' Congress address ISIS

Maddow: 'Imperative' Congress debate ISIS policy

08/26/14 11:18PM

Senator Tim Kaine, member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, talks with Rachel Maddow about why he hopes Congress takes up the debate over whether to authorize President Obama to use military force in pursuit of ISIS. watch

Ahead on the 8/26/14 Maddow show

08/26/14 08:15PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Senator Tim Kaine, Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Hannah Rappleye, Investigative Unit reporter, NBC News

And here's Cory Gnazzo with a look at what's coming up:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 8.26.14

08/26/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Cease fire: "Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years -- but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict."
* Well, this complicates things: "Ukraine said Tuesday its forces detained a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev warned of a possible "Russian-directed counteroffensive" by pro-Moscow separatists, raising tensions between the two countries as their presidents attended a regional summit."
* ISIS: "President Obama on Tuesday vowed to address the threat posed by the 'barbaric terrorists' of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as the administration weighs the possibility of expanding U.S. airstrikes to target militants operating in Syria. Airstrikes are already taking place in Iraq."
* Syria: "The battle in itself seemed tragically normal. Two Syrian opposition groups fought and there were heavy casualties on both sides. Then victorious rebels rifled through the pockets of the dead. One contained about $800 in cash -- and an American passport. Douglas McAuthur McCain, of San Diego, California, was killed over the weekend fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to the Free Syrian Army."
* On a related note: "President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad."
* Congress has some work to do: "The Obama administration must get congressional approval before carrying out airstrikes against Islamist militants in Syria, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday. 'We should certainly authorize this,' Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on MSNBC."
* A lot of the early reporting on this turned out to be wrong: "Investigators found no conclusive proof that delays in medical care caused patient deaths at the Phoenix VA Health Care System."
* Climate: "Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts' over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report."
* Ebola: "That makes five. The first was Guinea. Then, three days later on March 27, the World Health Organization reported that there were 'suspected' cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Months passed before the disease, which has now killed 1,427 people across West Africa, reached Nigeria in early August. Now it's the Democratic Republic of Congo."
* On a related note, much of this isn't rational: "According to a Harvard School of Public Health/SSRS poll, 68 percent of the US population believes Ebola spreads 'easily.' Four in 10 are worried there will be a large outbreak in the United States. And a quarter of Americans are afraid the virus will infect them or someone in their families."

Speaker Boehner, monkeying around

08/26/14 04:46PM

If you heard jokes this morning about House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) releasing a video of himself with a toy monkey, it's worth noting that those jokes were true.
In one of the more unexpected things to come out of Boehner's office in a long while, the Speaker's official blog posted an item of a toy monkey that's apparently become something of an unofficial mascot.
It all started in the fall of 2011, when Speaker Boehner joked in an interview that some days he felt like a windup toy because his jam-packed scheduled kept him so busy. So, as a light-hearted token of appreciation (and a less-than-subtle reminder to not use that metaphor again), Speaker Boehner's staff brought the monkey to the U.S. Capitol.
The Speaker got the joke, and as seen in the video above, the monkey has been eavesdropping and photobombing from the comfort and convenience of his home on the Speaker's coffee table ever since.
In the video, the Speaker says to the camera, "My staff gave it to me.... Every 15 to 30 minutes, they come in and wind me up and I do my thing."
The video also shows Boehner telling some children in his office, pointing to the monkey that mindlessly bangs cymbals together over and over again, "That's what I do all day." In a voice-over, the Speaker adds, apparently in reference to the toy, "This is me."
For what it's worth, I'm not inclined to criticize lighthearted videos like these. Everyone has their diversions -- Speaker Boehner has a toy monkey in his office; I have Monty Python figures in mine -- so there's no judgment here.
But watching the video, a couple of things occurred to me.
The Internal Revenue Service building, Washington DC.  
(Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

The latest IRS 'shocker' isn't very shocking

08/26/14 03:43PM

Remember the IRS "scandal"? It ran out of steam quite a while ago when literally every allegation fell apart, but it appears that some conservatives continue to hold out hope.
A far-right group called Judicial Watch, which continues to pursue the discredited controversy, touted the "discovery" yesterday of computer backups that may uncover missing emails from Lois Lerner. The New York Observer ran an "IRS Shocker" headline, and soon after, all the major far-right blogs had run with the story, as had Fox, Breitbart, Glenn Beck's The Blaze, et al.
I received some emails from conservative readers convinced that this time, after over a year of false starts, the story really will gain traction. There may be, the new argument goes, some heretofore unmentioned back-up tapes of government emails that may have IRS messages, which may include Lerner emails, which may have damning evidence.
[A]n administration official with knowledge of Friday's conversation said Judicial Watch's statement, which runs counter to months of statements from a variety of administration and IRS higher-ups, was off-base. The administration official said Justice Department lawyers had dropped no bombshells last week, and Judicial Watch was mischaracterizing what the government had said.
Kevin Drum's summary rings true.
[B]ackup tapes are routinely recycled and written over, but it's possible that some of the tapes weren't entirely written over. There's a chance that old emails might still be at the tail end of some of the tapes and could be recovered. And who knows: maybe some of them were Lerner's. This is, as you can imagine, (a) the longest of long shots, and (b) a pretty difficult forensic recovery job even if some parts of the backup tapes contain old messages. It's certainly not a jaw-dropping revelation.
And just to add to this line of thought, there's nothing to suggest Lois Lerner's emails are all that interesting anyway.