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Congress ducks out as US military fights ISIS

Congress ducks duty as US military engages ISIS

09/18/14 10:23PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the Senate's passage of expanding the training of Syrian rebels, and points out the abject dereliction by Congress to give itself more months off without addressing the war on ISIS while the U.S. military continues the fight. watch

Ahead on the 9/18/14 Maddow show

09/18/14 06:23PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Dave Helling, political reporter for the Kansas City Star
  • Matt Wells, US blogs and networks editor at the Guardian
  • Alastair Jamieson, reporter, editor and homepage producer for NBC News live from Scotland
  • John Wisniewski, New Jersey state representative, New Jersey legislative investigation committee co-chair

Check out a preview of tonight's show from executive producer Cory Gnazzo after the jump:

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 9.18.14

09/18/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Another ISIS video: "ISIS released a propaganda video showing a captive British photojournalist promising to illuminate 'the truth' behind the militants' network and criticizing his government and the United States. John Cantlie, a photographer who worked for Britain's Sunday Times, was taken captive by militants in Syria alongside GlobalPost's James Foley nearly two years ago."
* The future of Scotland: "With the future of the United Kingdom in the balance, Scottish voters streamed to polling booths on Thursday at the culmination of a spirited, emotional and divisive campaign that will determine whether they maintain their union with the rest of Britain or secede."
* Historic address: "Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday called on Congress to provide more help to combat the pro-Russian rebels that have taken over eastern parts of the country, saying the incursion is not just an assault on Ukraine but all of the free world."
* Related news: "Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told reporters following a meeting with President Obama on Thursday he was 'satisfied' with the military assistance offered by the U.S., despite the administration declining his call for lethal aid to Ukraine's military."
* Nigeria: "Boko Haram insurgents have been blamed after at least 13 people died during a shoot-out between police and suspected suicide bombers at a teacher training college in northern Nigeria."
* A good policy working well: "The number of privately-insured women getting no-cost birth control pills has more than quadrupled under Obamacare, new data from the Guttmacher Institute shows. The new research, published in the journal Contraception, shows the percent of privately-insured women who paid nothing for the pill rose from 15 percent in the fall of 2012 up to 67 percent this spring."
* What a strange Beltway story: "President Obama has 'strong confidence' in Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the White House said Thursday after a report suggested that the Florida congresswoman had fallen out of favor with the president and top Democratic lawmakers."
* I wish I could make this stuff up, but it's real: "Obama's arrogance is so apparent, according to Gingrich, that it can even be seen in the way he golfs -- and it will doom the final years of his presidency, in the end."
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks at a meeting of university officials in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 1, 2013.

Cotton forced to fudge facts on Farm Bill

09/18/14 04:51PM

Rep. Tom Cotton (R) looks like he's in decent shape in Arkansas' U.S. Senate race, despite his record and platform, with most recent polling showing him with a slight edge over incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D).
That doesn't mean, however, that Cotton's limited voting record after 20 months in Congress can't trip him up.
The Arkansas Republican, one of the year's most far-right candidates for statewide office, has been pressed to explain all sorts of House votes -- his opposition to disaster relief aid, his vote to privatize Medicare out of existence, etc. -- but it's the Farm Bill that's arguably the most problematic.  Arkansas' farms and state economy rely on this important agricultural legislation, and the fact that Cotton tried to kill it reinforces Pryor's argument: the congressman's agenda is just too extreme for Arkansas.
What's more, Arkansas' House delegation has four Republicans, and the other three voted for the Farm Bill, making Cotton appear that much more extreme and out of step -- even within his own Republican Party, even among GOP lawmakers from the Deep South.
In July, the far-right congressman came up with a defense: he couldn't vote for the Farm Bill, Cotton said, because it should have done more to treat food-stamp recipients as suspected drug addicts.
It was a plainly dumb thing to say, so now Pryor is rolling out a new defense in a television commercial. In it, after noting that his father has a farm, the congressman tells viewers:
"When President Obama hijacked the Farm Bill, and turned it into a food-stamp bill, with billions more in spending, I voted, 'No.'"
By any fair standard, Cotton is simply lying. It's a risky thing to do for a candidate a small lead in the polls and only seven weeks left in the campaign, but apparently, the congressman sees it as a necessary risk.

Nice work if you can get it

09/18/14 02:49PM

The Republican-run U.S. House had a nice, long summer break recently, taking the month of August off, as well as the first week in September.
House members worked four days last week, and another four this week, at which point they apparently decided that they've done enough.
It's official: The House is closing up shop until after the midterm elections.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office announced Thursday there will be no votes on Friday and said the four-day session originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 29 has been canceled, pending Senate approval of the continuing resolution that passed the House Wednesday.
That means lawmakers will be sprinting to the exits -- and the quick trip to the airport -- after the close of business Thursday.
In this case, "close of business Thursday" means this afternoon.
Granted, lawmakers in the lower chamber weren't scheduled for a lot more work days -- they were supposed to show up tomorrow and four days the week of Sept. 29 -- but they've decided not to bother.
And so, over the 14 weeks spanning the beginning of August and the middle of November, House members will work a grand total of eight days -- out of a possible 103. And after today, they'll be away from work for the next 54 days.
I imagine there are many who'll see this and shrug. "If they're not going to do any real work anyway," the argument goes, "they might as well go home."
That's one way to look at it, but there's another way.
Workers prepare the new Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Ebola treatment center on August 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia.

Even a response to Ebola can apparently be politicized

09/18/14 12:56PM

President Obama traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta this week to unveil an ambitious U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, including money, materials, and military and health personnel.
It's one of the most aggressive responses in U.S. history to a disease outbreak. Michele Richinick reported that "as many as 3,000 military personnel will assist in training new health care workers and building treatment clinics in the countries affected by the disease," and some of our financial resources will be used to "construct 17 new treatment centers, each with 100 beds, and 10,000 sets of protective equipment and supplies to help 400,000 families protect themselves from the epidemic that is spreading exponentially."
A day later, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced plans to establish "a new on-the-ground mission in West Africa to coordinate the struggle against Ebola," while the World Bank Group issued a report warning of a "potentially catastrophic blow" to the economies of countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Given all of this, it seems like an odd time for conservative media to start a new round of complaints.
Right-wing media are using President Obama's plan to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as another opportunity to attack him. Conservatives are calling the president a "hypocrite" because he's sending "more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS"; labeling the plan "arrogant" because of problems with; and accusing him of trying to "change the subject" by "fighting a really bad flu bug."
It was former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) who equated the Ebola virus with a "really bad flu bug."
Rush Limbaugh added, "We are sending more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS or other Muslim terrorists.... I didn't know you could shoot a virus. Did you?"

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.18.14

09/18/14 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:
* Why is the Kansas Supreme Court so important right now? Fox News' new poll shows Sen. Pat Roberts (R) leading Greg Orman (I) by two points, 40% to 38%, when Chad Taylor (D) is in the mix. In a head-to-head match-up in the same poll, Orman leads Roberts by six, 48% to 42%.
* Is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) rebounding? A new Marquette University Law School poll shows the incumbent regaining his advantage, leading Mary Burke (D) by three, 49% to 46%.
* In related Wisconsin news, Democratic candidates will be listed first on the ballot, as required by state law because of the 2012 election results, just as Republicans were listed first in 2010 because of the 2010 election results. The difference is, Wisconsin Republicans are outraged and have filed a lawsuit, calling the ballot unfair.
* In North Carolina's U.S. Senate race, Fox News' poll is the latest in a series of recent polls to show Sen. Kay Hagan (D) leading Thom Tillis (R). Fox shows a five-point gap, 41% to 36%.
* Polling in Iowa's U.S. Senate race has been all over the place lately, though Fox News shows Bruce Braley (D) and Joni Ernst (R) tied at 41% each.
* In Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Fox News' poll shows Bill Cassidy (R) cruising past incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), 51% to 38%. The margin is significant: if one candidate tops 50% in November, there won't be a need for a December runoff.
* In Colorado's U.S. Senate race, most recent surveys have shown Sen. Mark Udall (D) with an edge over Rep. Cory Gardner (R), but the new USA Today/Suffolk poll shows Gardner up by one, 43% to 42%. Quinnipiac, which seems to have a heavy GOP lean lately, shows Gardner with an eight-point lead, which isn't close to any other result from any other poll.
* On a related note, the USA Today/Suffolk poll also shows Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) hanging on to a very narrow lead over former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), 43% to 41%.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton begins a discussion for the opening plenary session titled "The Age of Participation" on the first day of the 2014 Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, March

'Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome' strikes again

09/18/14 11:41AM

When Bill Clinton was president, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called him a "jerk" and voted (twice) to throw him out of office. But reflecting on the Clinton era last year, the Utah Republican told reporters, "[I]f it hadn't been for some other difficulties, [Clinton] would go down in history as a pretty darn fine president."
This came to mind yesterday when Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) appeared at an event organized by the No Labels organization -- yes, that No Labels -- and said something similar about the bygone era he still longs for.
"I started my stint under President Bill Clinton," Salmon said, "and I'm the opposite party and I'd give my right arm to have him back right now."
Salmon, of course, voted in favor of four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton.
It's part of a phenomenon Robert Schlesinger calls "Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome."
It's amazing how the idea that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" expresses itself in the weird world of Washington. One of the more entertaining instances is what I call Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome, where Republicans -- especially those who were in Congress in the mid and late 1990s -- yearn for the halcyon days of bipartisan compromise that, in their memory, carried the day during the Clinton presidency.
I actually remember the 1990s a little differently than Republicans who are suddenly celebrating the Clinton presidency. In fact, while I appreciate the fact that the right says nice things about the former Democratic president as a way to condemn the current Democratic president, I tend to think "Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome" is pretty hilarious.