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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 11.25.14

11/25/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* From 700 troops to 2,200: "Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri ordered more National Guard troops into the embattled city of Ferguson on Tuesday to keep order on the second night after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager."
* More out of Ferguson: "Lawyers for [Michael Brown's] family harshly criticized the grand jury process and the handling of the case by county prosecutor Robert McCulloch, saying McCulloch had a 'symbiotic relationship' with local police that had tainted his impartiality. "
* White House: "President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder met Tuesday to talk over how to respond to the riots in Ferguson, and  Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the White House, said Holder will  be visiting more cities and communities to discuss 'best practices' as well as 'identifying challenges we still have to work with.'"
* ISIS: "Islamic State activists on Twitter are using the Ferguson protests to encourage its supporters to carry out attacks in the United States."
* Ohio: "Surveillance video is 'very clear on what took place' at a Cleveland playground when a rookie police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old boy brandishing a fake gun, police said Monday. Tamir Rice was shot twice in the torso Saturday afternoon and died at a hospital Sunday morning."
* Iran: "The day after a deadline for concluding a nuclear agreement was extended for seven months, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivered his first remarks on the negotiations, saying that the West had failed to bring Iran 'to its knees.'"
* Nigeria: "Two suicide bombers, at least one of them a woman, blew themselves up on Tuesday at a crowded market in this northeast Nigerian city, killing dozens of shoppers and merchants including some who witnesses said were decapitated by the explosions."
* Important: "France suspended the delivery of a warship to Russia on Tuesday, after months of speculation about what would be the biggest arms sale ever by a NATO country to the Kremlin."
* And speaking of countries tired of Putin's antics: "Wedged hard against Russia's northwestern border, peaceable Finland has long gone out of its way to avoid prodding the nuclear-armed bear next door. But now the bear is provoking Finland, repeatedly guiding military planes into Finnish airspace and deploying submarines and helicopters to chase after Finnish research vessels in international waters."
Image: Peter King

Peter King's most over-the-top suggestion ever

11/25/14 03:22PM

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has developed a reputation for making unusual recommendations, but Politico reports today on the Republican congressman's most over-the-top suggestion ever.
Rep. Peter King has a suggestion for the White House in dealing with the latest developments in Ferguson -- invite Officer Darren Wilson over.
"I think it would be very helpful if President Obama went and met with the police officer, or invited him to the White House and said, 'You've gone through four months of smear and slander, and the least we can do is tell you that it's unfortunate that it happened and thank you for doing your job,'" the New York Republican told Fox Business on Tuesday.
I found this extremely hard to believe, but there really is a video of King making these exact comments.
In the same interview, the New York Republican complained about President Obama's comments last night. King said he'd hoped the president would have said "one good word about Officer Wilson, who has gone through all this."
Just so we're clear, King didn't seem to be kidding.
Indeed, the Long Island lawmaker has done a remarkable job in recent months, offering his unique perspective on a whole range of issues:
Two men stand on the plaza of the U.S. Capitol Building as storm clouds fill the sky, June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The right selectively sees political norms as important

11/25/14 12:48PM

The Republican argument against President Obama's executive actions on immigration has generally focused on process: they shy away from the policy argument, instead insisting that the White House went about creating this policy in an offensive, and potentially unconstitutional, way.
To put it mildly, the GOP's pitch hasn't gone well, with the constitutional argument unraveling altogether. But what about the notion of political norms? Perhaps Obama's actions were technically legal, but they exceeded what's generally acceptable under American traditions?
We talked briefly last week about the Republican abandonment of political norms, including during the debt-ceiling crisis in 2011, but Brian Beutler fleshed this out in persuasive detail yesterday.
[T]he big glaring exception in all this, and the one that really underscores the argument that an abiding concern for traditions doesn't really drive conservative opposition to Obama's deportation relief, is the weaponization of the debt limit.
There, the precedent, and the danger to the constitutional order, was actually quite clear. Republicans in 2011 (and again, to less effect, in 2013) attempted to leverage their control over half of the legislature, to impose their substantive preferences on a Democratic president and the majority party in the Senate by using the threat economic calamity as a bargaining chip. To borrow from the right today, we had a situation in which the speaker of the House tried to usurp the Senate's agenda-setting power and the president's plenary power to determine which laws to sign and which to veto, by laying out an unprecedented choice between a right-wing vision without popular support, and default on the national debt.
The gambit had no place in the American tradition. At least since the Civil War, the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis was the first time a major U.S. political party abandoned the policymaking process, declaring that it would crash the American economy on purpose unless its demands were met. It was effectively an example of political violence, and though Republicans broke no laws, their tactic was a striking betrayal of American norms.
At the time, few on the right raised any concerns at all about process or lawmakers' willingness to act outside political traditions -- conservatives weighed policy and electoral considerations, but little else.
And there's no reason to stop there.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.25.14

11/25/14 12:00PM

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 two weeks remaining in Louisiana's U.S. Senate runoff, the Senate's only two African-American members were both in the Pelican State over the weekend, backing their allies. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was in Louisiana campaigning in support of incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), while Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was there to back Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). The runoff is Dec. 6.
* The finalists to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention have been reduced to just three cities: New York, Philadelphia, and Columbus, Ohio. Two other cities, Phoenix and Birmingham, were removed from consideration yesterday.
* We learned last week about Republican campaigns using coded tweets to distribute poll results to allies, apparently to circumvent election laws. Yesterday, the American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that the National Republican Congressional Committee, the American Action Network and American Crossroads "broke federal rules that prohibit coordination between campaign committees and outside groups."
* To the surprise of no one, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) will take the reins at the Republican Governors Association, succeeding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Haslam benefited from the fact that none of the other GOP governors seemed to want the job.
* In Arizona yesterday, "The attorney for Rep. Ron Barber's (D-Az.) campaign on Monday filed a lawsuit with a federal district court seeking to force two counties in Arizona to count the 133 ballots the campaign says were legally cast but have been erroneously disqualified."
Activists rally for immigration reform in front of the U.S. Capitol, Oct. 23, 2013.

'This is the most unified we have seen Latino public opinion'

11/25/14 11:15AM

Just a week after the 2014 midterms, a Pew Research Center report found that nearly half of Latinos (47%) said there probably won't be much of a difference between President Obama and congressional Republicans when it comes to immigration policy.
Quite a bit has changed over the last two weeks. Adrian Carrasquillo reported yesterday on new survey data that shows "Latino voters have Obama's back again."
That's according to a new poll by Latino Decisions, for and Mi Familia Vota, the first of Latino voters since Obama announced sweeping executive actions, given to BuzzFeed News ahead of its announcement on Monday.
The poll found that 89% of Latino voters support Obama's decision to give temporary legal status to nearly five million undocumented immigrants. That level of support surprised Latino Decisions co-founder Matt Barreto, who noted the figure is higher than initial support of the president's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected undocumented youth brought to the country as children from deportation and allowed them to receive work permits.
"This is the most unified we have seen Latino public opinion on any issue," Barreto told BuzzFeed News. "DACA registered 84%, this is even higher. The White House was smart to put this step to protect parents -- almost nobody in the Latino community is going to say they don't support a policy to keep parents and children together."
The poll was conducted Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of last week. President Obama unveiled his new policy on Thursday night.
Of particular interest was the partisan breakdown.
A picture shows the damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on Sept. 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed.

When even 'definitive' isn't enough for the House GOP

11/25/14 10:46AM

Towards the end of the House Intelligence Committee's report on the 2012 attack in Benghazi, the document notes that the panel's findings were the result of two years of "intensive investigation," which included careful review of thousands of pages of materials, 20 events and hearings, and extensive interviews.
"The report," the Republican-led Committee concluded, "is therefore meant to serve as the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans."
And yet, even now, the House Republican leadership just doesn't care.
House Speaker John A. Boehner announced Monday he will re-appoint Rep. Trey Gowdy as chairman of the Select Committee on the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya in the 114th Congress.
"On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Libya. Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night -- and why," Boehner said in a statement.
To date, Boehner, who didn't want the Select Committee in the first place, has failed to identify even one of these questions that has not already been answered.
Several Senate Republicans don't care, either.
Senate Republican leaders are under pressure from GOP lawmakers with presidential ambitions to join the House in investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), three young rising conservative stars who are weighing 2016 bids, say the Senate should participate in a joint investigation with the House.
This really is getting embarrassing.
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, Arlington County, Virginia.

Lieberman won't replace Hagel, but who will?

11/25/14 10:00AM

Effective trolling of political rivals is a fine art, requiring a delicate touch. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) apparently prefers a more ham-fisted approach.
Sen. Ted Cruz has an idea for a new Defense secretary that the incoming Senate Armed Services chairman would love.
The Texas Republican on Monday floated the name of former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, to replace Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon.
In a statement, the right-wing Texan argued, "One strong option would be former Senator Joe Lieberman, a member of the President's own party with deep experience and unshakable commitment to the security of the United States. I urge the President to give him full and fair consideration for this critical position."
To be sure, the Senate Armed Services, which will consider President Obama's next nominee, will be chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who would certainly be thrilled to confirm Lieberman. But given that Lieberman disagrees with the White House and the Democratic mainstream on practically every possible aspect of foreign policy and national security, I'm fairly certain the president would sooner pick me to lead the Defense Department than the Connecticut independent.
But if Lieberman won't make the short list, who will? Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) always seems to find his name under consideration when posts like these open up, but the Democratic senator sounded "emphatic" yesterday when he said he isn't interested in the post.
And though Obama is always capable of surprising people -- Loretta Lynch's A.G. nomination was not widely predicted -- there are two names who appear to be the leading contenders to lead the Pentagon.

Economic growth reaches 11-year high

11/25/14 09:07AM

About a month ago, Americans received some unexpectedly good news on the economic front: preliminary estimates showed the gross domestic product exceeding expectations in the third quarter (July through September), with GDP at 3.5%. This morning, that number was revised -- and now looks even better.
The economy expanded even faster in the third quarter than previously reported, offering fresh evidence that the U.S. entered the final months of 2014 on an accelerated track. Gross domestic product rose by a 3.9% annual pace in the period running from the beginning of July to the end of September, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.
Factoring in growth from the second quarter (April through June), we've seen growth of 4.2% over the last six months -- the strongest in 11 years. What's more, this is the first time since before the 2008 crash that we've seen growth above 3% in four of the last five quarters.
Though the final GDP tally will still be revised once more, all of the news looks very good at this point, including improved consumer spending and business investment.
As for the politics of this, one wonders how Republicans will explain the data.
Law enforcement officers, including a sniper perched atop an armored vehicle, watch as demonstrators protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo.

Debate fades on militarization of law enforcement

11/25/14 08:37AM

After delivering remarks last night from the White House, President Obama fielded some questions from reporters and made a comment that stood out for me. "[T]he vast majority of the community [in Ferguson] has been working very hard to try to make sure that this becomes an opportunity for us to seize the moment and turn this into a positive situation," he said.
It sounded like a nice-but-unrealistic goal. Years of systemic problems contributed to these crisis conditions, and the idea of turning the Michael Brown tragedy into something constructive is hard to fathom.
That said, over the summer, there was a fair amount of interest in one specific area: the militarization of local law enforcement. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) chaired a Senate hearing in September, and reforms to the Pentagon's "1033" program were endorsed by some Republicans, including Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). In the House, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) drafted legislation.
So what happened? Part of the problem is the political world's short attention span. Congress was interested in local law enforcement having military equipment for policing, right up until it was time for a debate on whether President Obama was soft on Ebola Terrorists in Mexico.
But as Evan McMorris-Santoro reported, other considerations also played a factor.
Police groups rallied around 1033, scaring off many potential supporters, according to staff involved with moving the issue forward on the Hill. Police lobbyists argue that the equipment provided by 1033 keeps officers safe and keeps them prepared to deal with terrorist attacks and other threats.
"We got a lot of pushback we got from law enforcement," said one Republican staffer involved in the militarization debate. The police lobby spread "misunderstanding" about the congressional efforts, which were by this point generally united in banning only the deadly equipment from 1033 while leaving the rest of the program largely in place.
The calendar moved into election season, and members grew skittish about putting controversial votes on the floor. "Everybody kind of hit the pause button," the staffer said.
And after a few months, an extended pause looks an awful lot like a stop.
A protester stands with his hands on his head as a cloud of tear gas approaches after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014. (Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Violence grips Ferguson following grand-jury announcement

11/25/14 08:00AM

One hundred and seven days after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, the nation learned last night that the officer will face no charges.
Violence broke out in the streets here Monday evening following news that a St. Louis County grand jury did not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Demonstrations that began peacefully in the wake of the announcement took a nasty turn as looters plundered local stores and protesters flipped cars and set buildings and police vehicles ablaze.
County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury's decision around 9:30 pm ET in a lengthy statement at the Justice Center in Clayton, the county seat. He said that while it was undeniable that Wilson had shot and killed Brown in an altercation on August 9, the grand jury "determined that no probable cause exists" to indict the white officer in the killing. "It doesn't lessen the tragedy that it was a justifiable use of self-defense," McCulloch added.
The scope of the ensuing violence is still coming into focus this morning, though there were many reports of fires, looting, gunfire, and clashes, with law enforcement using flares and ultimately tear gas.
President Obama made a rare evening address from the White House last night, joining Brown's parents in calling for peaceful protests. "Michael Brown's parents have lost more than anyone," the president said. "We should be honoring their wishes."
Obama added, "We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I've witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America's capacity for change. But what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up."
The public also had its first opportunity to review extensive public documents examined by the grand jury before it made its decision.
Around the same time, Wilson issued a statement through his attorneys. It thanked supporters, but made no reference to Brown or his family.

What's next in Ferguson and other headlines

11/25/14 07:38AM

Here's why Michael Brown was killed, according to Darren Wilson. (NY Magazine)

What's next? Ferguson officer not out of the woods yet. (NBC News)

Missouri Governor orders additional guardsmen to Ferguson. (KSDK)

Congressional Black Caucus slams grand jury decision on Ferguson. (BuzzFeed)

Thousands rally across the U.S. after Ferguson decision. (AP)

Inside Sec. Hagel's sudden firing. (Daily Beast)

Rep. Trey Gowdy reappointed to lead House Benghazi inquiry. (NY Times)

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