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Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) arrives to speak at the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland on Feb. 26, 2015. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Jindal's unique spin on his unpopularity

04/21/15 08:40AM

The conservative Washington Times reports today that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is gearing up for a presidential campaign, despite the fact that his national ambitions are hampered by his unpopularity in his home state.
In fairness to the far-right governor, he's not the only national candidate with this problem. Much of the Republican presidential field is struggling with the fact that voters in their own states are unimpressed by their records.
But Jindal is the only one who's prepared an amazing argument to explain his unpopularity with his own constituents. Consider his comments over the weekend in New Hampshire at a multi-candidate event:
"[W]hen I was elected to my first term we won in the primaries, something that had never been done before by a non-incumbent. My second election, my re-election, we got the largest percentage of the vote ever, over two-thirds.
"And I'm here to tell you, my popularity has certainly dropped at least 15 to 20 points because we've cut government spending, because we took on the teacher unions.
"But we need that kind of leadership in D.C."
I'm not sure Jindal appreciates how unintentionally funny this argument really is.
David Koch (Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Koch brothers eye 2016 favorite

04/21/15 08:00AM

Presidential candidates are always eager to earn support from voters, but with nine months remaining until anyone casts a primary ballot, White House hopefuls have a slightly different focus at this stage in the process. As the race gets underway in earnest, the goal isn't just to get public backing, but rather, to get support from a specific group of mega-donors.
And in the world of national Republican politics, the Koch brothers have few rivals.
Charles G. and David H. Koch, the influential and big-spending conservative donors, appear to have a favorite in the race for the Republican presidential nomination: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee.
According to the New York Times' report, David Koch talked about the Wisconsin governor as if his primary success was simply assumed: "When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination..." he joked.
The article noted two other attendees who said they heard Koch go further, describing the Republican Wisconsinite as the candidate who should get the GOP nomination.
It's worth emphasizing that Koch, following the Times' reporting, issued a written statement, describing Walker as "terrific," but stressing, "I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time."
The statement doesn't necessarily contradict the reporting. It's entirely possible, for example,  that the Kochs will remain officially neutral during the nominating process, while also privately acknowledging their preference for Walker while talking to allies behind closed doors.
And if that's the case, it's a major advantage for the far-right governor over his rivals. The Kochs not only carry an enormous wallet, they oversee a large political operation and enjoy broad credibility among conservative activists and donors.

Super PAC scrutiny and other headlines

04/21/15 07:55AM

Scott Walker run could bring scrutiny to his new Super PAC. (New York Times)

Jeb Bush planning to delegate many campaign tasks to his Super PAC. (AP)

Maine lawmaker builds morality clause into bill mandating insurance coverage for fertility treatments. (Washington Post)

Tree planted in memory of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO is cut down within hours. (NBC News)

Pope Francis accepts resignation of U.S. bishop who didn't report abuse. (USA Today)

Captain of capsized migrant boat arrested. (New York Times)

A big hole in the universe. (The Guardian)

read more

US moves to block Iranian ships off Yemen

US moves to block Iranian ships off Yemen

04/20/15 10:29PM

Rachel Maddow shows the consequences of collapsed governments, from a refugee crisis from Libya to war in Yemen. Dion Nissenbaum, Wall Street Journal Pentagon reporter, joins to discuss a U.S. move to intercept Iranian ships in the Gulf of Aden. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 4.20.15

04/20/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Watch this story: "American warships are prepared to intercept a convoy of Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, senior defense and military officials told NBC News on Monday."
* East Africa: "A bomb attack targeting a van carrying workers to a United Nations compound killed nine people on Monday, police said.  Authorities suspect Islamist al Shabaab militants of being behind the blast in Garowe in the Somali region of Puntland, police officer Mohamed Abdi said at the scene. Six bystanders were wounded, he added."
* High court: "The Supreme Court threw out a ruling from last year that upheld Republican-drawn congressional and state legislative districts on Monday, ordering North Carolina's highest court to reconsider its decision that state legislators didn't rely too heavily on race when drawing the district lines."
* Labor Secretary Thomas Perez talked with Greg Sargent today, offering a spirited defense of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama may soon negotiate with "fast-track" authority.
* ISIS: "The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from its branches in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting."
* I'd like to hear more about this: "The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000."
* Michigan: "A suburban Detroit police officer who was seen on dash-cam video dragging a black man from his car before kicking and punching him repeatedly will be charged with two felony counts, a county prosecutor said Monday."
Barack Obama, Dilma Rousseff,

The race for 21st-century primacy

04/20/15 05:13PM

At first blush, it's likely the White House's critics will gravitate to this New York Times piece, headlined, "At Global Economic Gathering, U.S. Primacy Is Seen as Ebbing." But I hope they'll do more than just read the headline.
As world leaders converge here for their semiannual trek to the capital of what is still the world's most powerful economy, concern is rising in many quarters that the United States is retreating from global economic leadership just when it is needed most.
"It's almost handing over legitimacy to the rising powers," Arvind Subramanian, the chief economic adviser to the government of India, said of the United States in an interview on Friday.... Other officials attending the meetings this week, speaking on the condition of anonymity, agreed that the role of the United States around the world was at the top of their concerns.
For Republicans and a variety of lazy pundits, one assumes the reaction to such reports is reflexive : "See? President Obama obviously needs to lead more."
But there's a more meaningful takeaway from reports like these, published to coincide with the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The Times' piece notes that it was the United States that was largely responsible for building the global economic stage after World War II, it was the United States that's directed the stage for generations, but it's now the United States that's struggling to maintain its primacy.
Washington's retreat is not so much by intent, Mr. Subramanian said, but a result of dysfunction and a lack of resources to project economic power the way it once did. Because of tight budgets and competing financial demands, the United States is less able to maintain its economic power, and because of political infighting, it has been unable to formally share it either.
And this is the part that the political world should pay attention to. For all the assumptions on the right about President Obama retreating from the global stage, that's almost entirely backwards -- Republicans are almost exclusively referring to a willingness to fight and prolong wars when they make the complaint. It's the White House, however, that welcome greater international engagement, but faces an intransigent Congress run by a far-right party.
As the world looks for more investment, American lawmakers ask, "How can we spend less?" As China looks to expand its influence, it's the U.S. Congress that asks, "How can we scale back even more?"
Governor Mike Pence (R-IN) holds a press conference March 31, 2015 at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty)

Pence extends needle-exchange program after HIV outbreak

04/20/15 03:49PM

When Indiana state policymakers last month tackled a new right-to-discriminate law, it was an unfortunate move for all kinds of reasons. There were, of course, the obvious problems of sanctioning discrimination and doing lasting damage to the state's reputation, all in the hopes of solving a problem that didn't exist.
But there's also the fact that Indiana policymakers had other issues on their plate that deserved their immediate attention.
An Indiana county at the heart of an H.I.V. outbreak has seen a "significant increase" in the number of cases more than two weeks into a short-term needle exchange program, state health officials said.
There are now 120 confirmed H.I.V. cases and 10 preliminary positive cases tied to Scott County, the Indiana State Department of Health said on Friday. That is up from 106 the previous week.
Health officials who declared an epidemic last month have said that they expect the number of cases to rise as more people are tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent staff members to Indiana last month to help with testing, the Health Department said in a news release.
In late March, Gov. Mike Pence (R), on literally the same day he signed the right-to-discriminate measure into law, approved a temporary needle-exchange program intended to address the public-health emergency in the affected area of Indiana.
This afternoon, the governor, citing the preliminary progress over the last four weeks, extended the program. Note, Indiana law prohibits needle exchanges, but Pence is pursuing the policy anyway through a gubernatorial executive order.
Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Ia., March 7, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Bush ignores right-wing myth, wades into 'death panel' politics

04/20/15 01:01PM

As awful as Republican rhetoric became during the debate over health care reform, the "death panel" talking point continues to stand out as a uniquely stupid allegation. The irony of the attack is that it was one of the more bipartisan elements of the entire reform initiative.
The idea was simple: doctors would be reimbursed through the Affordable Care Act for helping guide seniors through their end-of-life care options. One of the idea's more notable champions was Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) who explained back in 2010 that having advance directives or a living will "empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you."
The right didn't care. A certain former half-term Alaska governor started throwing around the phrase "death panels"; some policymakers who knew better embraced the lie; and the worthwhile idea was quietly scrapped, chalking up a victory for mindless propaganda over sensible policymaking. An Obama administration proposal for "voluntary advance care planning" in 2010 was also pulled in the face of right-wing apoplexy.
Given this history, it's kind of amazing to see the debate come full circle.
Jeb Bush, defending his efforts to keep alive Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman, when he was governor of Florida, suggested on Friday that patients on Medicare should be required to sign advance directives dictating their care if they become incapacitated.
Campaigning in New Hampshire over the weekend, the unannounced candidate was asked about his handling of the Schiavo matter. Bush said, looking back, "I don't think I would change anything." Given his decisions during the controversy, that itself is a striking posture.
But Bush added, "In hindsight, the one thing that I would have loved to have seen was an advance directive where the family would have sorted this out.... I think if we're going to mandate anything from government, it might be that if you're going to take Medicare, you also sign up for an advance directive where you talk about this before you're so disabled."