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"Radioactive steel is the problem in other parts of the country. A big batch of the hot steel got out of a plant in Mexico and into table legs among other things. Now some of those legs are holding up tables in restaurants. Dennis Murphy tonight on the nation-wide hunt for the hot legs."

Ahead on the 7/10/14 Maddow show

07/10/14 07:31PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Senator Jon Tester of Montana, member of the Appropriations and Homeland Security Committees and was at today's hearing on emergency border spending
  • Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent at The New York Times, author of "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army and a War at the Ends of the Earth"

After the jump, senior producer Cory Gnazzo with what we're working on for tonight:

read more

Thursday's Mini-Report, 7.10.14

07/10/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* A striking development: "Germany's relations with the United States plunged to a low point Thursday, with the government demanding the expulsion of the chief American intelligence official stationed here because, it said, Washington has refused to cooperate with German inquiries into United States intelligence activities."
 
* Israel: "Palestinian deaths from Israel's aerial attacks in Gaza rose sharply on Thursday, while militants there fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, reaching new targets spread across a vast swath of the country."
 
* Afghanistan: "Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday to help resolve the country's disputed presidential election and encourage a smooth transition of power. Kerry plans to meet with both presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani as well as current President Hamid Karzai the State Department said."
 
* CIA: "The battle between the Central Intelligence Agency and their overseers on the Senate Intelligence Committee that began four months ago will not lead to a criminal investigation."
 
* Gun violence: "A 33-year-old man was being held Thursday on six counts of murder after the police said he shot four children and two adults inside a house in a Houston suburb as part of a domestic dispute."
 
* The significance of OMB is generally under-appreciated: "The Senate on Thursday confirmed President Barack Obama's housing chief as the new director of the White House budget office, completing a second-term Cabinet shuffle. In his new job, Shaun Donovan will be responsible for preparing Obama's annual budget request and reviewing proposed agency regulations before they become final."
 
* Insider trading: "The subpoena of a Republican House aide in a federal investigation of insider trading has unnerved some of his colleagues on the Hill -- at least those who are paying attention."
 
* Will his old running mate now "vehemently oppose" him? "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the president's fiercest critics, says President Obama shouldn't be impeached."
A wedding cake with a male couple is seen at a same-sex marraige celebration, July 1 2013.

Colorado judge strikes down ban on gay marriage

07/10/14 04:46PM

Proponents of marriage equality have been on quite a winning streak, which continued yesterday with a state court victory in Colorado.
An Adams County District Court judge on Wednesday declared Colorado's ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, but he immediately stayed his ruling.
 
Judge C. Scott Crabtree pulled no punches in his 49-page ruling, saying the state's voter-approved ban "bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest."
The state judge in this case put a stay on his ruling, leaving the existing state law in place while the appeals process continues. That said, as msnbc's Emma Margolin reported, two county clerks in Colorado have successfully fought to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
On Thursday, a district judge told Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall she could continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because the law forbidding it was "hanging on by a thread." Less than an hour later, Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson announced she would be doing the same.
As for the larger context, let's return to looking at the scope of recent court rulings, because it really is extraordinary.
A burnt out vehicle sits smoldering in flames after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi, Sept. 11, 2012.

Yet another setback for Benghazi conspiracy theorists

07/10/14 03:46PM

In reality, there was no real need to debunk the right's "stand-down" Benghazi conspiracy theory again. The argument was thoroughly discredited a while ago, and though some congressional Republicans occasionally still throw it around, in all likelihood, even they probably don't believe it.
 
But just in case someone -- perhaps, say, a Fox News host, for example -- might still be unsure about whether the theory has merit, let's note the new evidence that confirms the old evidence.
The testimony of nine military officers undermines contentions by Republican lawmakers that a "stand-down order" held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.
 
The "stand-down" theory centers on a Special Operations team of four -- a detachment leader, a medic, a communications expert and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast -- who were stopped from flying from Tripoli to Benghazi after the attacks of Sept. 11-12, 2012, had ended. Instead, they were instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
 
The senior military officer who issued the instruction to "remain in place" and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized. The order was to remain in Tripoli and protect some three dozen embassy personnel rather than fly to Benghazi some 600 miles away after all Americans there would have been evacuated. And the medic is credited with saving the life of an evacuee from the attacks.
In light of this unchallenged evidence, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement, "These transcripts definitively show that Republican attacks against our nation's military servicemembers and former Secretary of State Clinton are completely unfounded and utterly offensive."
 
At this point, it's even less clear why House Republicans want to spend several million dollars -- in taxpayer money -- on an eighth Benghazi committee, going over questions we already know the answers to.
President Barack Obama attends a meeting about the border and immigration with local elected officials and faith leaders at DalFort Fueling in Dallas, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

The limits of presidential photo-ops

07/10/14 12:52PM

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), this week, on a presidential photo-op at the U.S/Mexico border:
"If it's serious enough for him to send a $3.7 billion funding request to us, I would think it would be serious enough for him to take an hour of his time on Air Force One to go down and see for himself what the conditions are," Cornyn told reporters.
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), three years ago, on a presidential photo-op at the U.S/Mexico border (via Chris Moody):
"What Sen. Cornyn is looking for, President Obama cannot deliver with another speech or photo op, and that's presidential leadership. Words matter little when there is no action," said Kevin McLaughlin, a Cornyn spokesman.
I'll confess that this is one of the unexpected political hullabaloos of the week. It's not at all surprising that policymakers in both parties are taking the border crisis and the plight of these poor children seriously, but it was hard to predict that much of the political conversation would focus less on a proposed solution and more on whether or not the president literally, physically makes a symbolic gesture by going to the border itself.
 
Much of the overheated rhetoric has come from the far-right -- Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) inexplicably said the president "disrespects our military" by not going to the border -- but it's not entirely partisan. Some congressional Democrats have added to the criticism.
 
"I hate to use the word 'bizarre,' but ... when he is shown playing pool in Colorado, drinking a beer, and he can't even go 242 miles to the Texas border?" Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told msnbc's Andrea Mitchell yesterday.
 
As best as I can tell, no one in either party has said exactly what they want Obama to do at the border, other than just go there for some undefined period of time before leaving. It appears to be a bipartisan hunger for more political theater, just for the sake of symbolism.
 
President Obama, at least so far, is pursuing a very different approach.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.10.14

07/10/14 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:
 
* Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) may still be the vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but he's "stopped participating" when it comes to helping lead the campaign operation, citing the misjudgments of "Washington insiders."
 
* In New Hampshire, the new WMUR/Granite State Poll shows incumbent Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) leading former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) by 12 points. In April, the same poll found Shaheen up by six, suggesting the race is moving even more in her direction.
 
* The Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity is launching two new attack campaigns, and they're not cheap: $940,000 in Louisiana to go after Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and $920,000 in Arkansas to target Sen. Mark Pryor (D). The expenditures "constitute one of AFP's largest single investments in the 2014 midterm elections."
 
* It wasn't just in January: "Iowa Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst waded back into controversial waters in June when, during a conversation with a conservative radio host, she again discussed impeaching President Barack Obama."
 
* President Obama attended a fundraiser in Colorado last night in support of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), but the senator himself did not attend. Udall was originally supposed to be there, but cited commitments on Capitol Hill to explain his absence.
 
* In Missouri, remember when former Rep. Todd Akin (R) said he was sorry for his "legitimate rape" comments in his Senate campaign? Well, forget it: "Two years after the Missouri Republican's comments on rape, pregnancy and abortion doomed his campaign and fueled a 'war on women' message that carried Democrats to victory in the Senate, one of the few regrets he mentions in a new book is the decision to air a campaign ad apologizing for his remarks."
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 11, 2014.

Democrats aren't done thanking Paul Ryan

07/10/14 11:34AM

A few months ago, following terrific ACA enrollment numbers, the New York Times reported that Democrats were starting to walk with a spring in their step. "Obamacare" was finally succeeding, unemployment was dropping, and for a little icing on the cake, House Republicans were needlessly embracing a right-wing budget plan.
 
"Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
 
Months later, Democrats aren't done thanking Ryan -- which is to say, they're not done using Ryan's far-right blueprint as a cudgel against congressional Republicans who voted for it.
 
In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is putting Rep. Tom Cotton's (R-Ark.) support for the Ryan budget to good use, and polls suggest Pryor may have an edge in his re-election bid. In Montana, appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) has an uphill fight ahead of him, so he's using Rep. Steve Daines' (R-Mont.) vote for the Ryan plan against him.
 
In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is using Rep. Bill Cassidy's (R) support for the Ryan budget as a key part of her campaign, and in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) launched her first critical ad of the cycle, hitting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) for having backed the Ryan budget, including its anti-Medicare provisions.
 
This week, McConnell's campaign team offered a curious response to the criticism.
...McConnell's 2011 vote was on a motion to proceed to consider the Ryan budget. The motion failed on a mostly party-line vote, so there was no Senate vote on the Ryan budget itself. The McConnell campaign said, "There is no way to speculate if [McConnell] would have voted for final passage without having debated amendments."
Oh, I see. After having championed the Ryan budget, McConnell is now rolling out the "Who, me?" defense.
 
It's deeply flawed for one big reason.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen during a meeting with and German chancellor (not seen) in Normandy Barriere hotel in Deauville on June 6, 2014.

So much for Russia 'gaining prestige and influence'

07/10/14 11:06AM

Tea Party favorite Ben Carson wrote an item earlier this year praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and noting how impressed he is with Russia's direction under Putin's leadership. "Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours," the Fox News contributor said.
 
As the European Union considers further sanctions on Russia for its role in the standoff in Ukraine, Russia is broadly unpopular in many countries around the globe and increasingly disliked in Europe and the United States. President Vladimir Putin's leadership also continues to inspire little confidence worldwide, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
 
The former Cold War power's negative global image contradicts Russians' expectations that Putin's actions in Ukraine would improve their country's international reputation.
It also contradicts the line from American conservatives who believe Putin is a great leader and strategic mastermind, positioning Russia as a global leader on the international stage. For all the Republicans inclined to draw hearts on their Putin photos, the Pew Research Center found Russia's reputation deteriorating practically everywhere on the planet.
 
What's more, majorities or pluralities in most of the 44 countries surveyed "say they lack confidence in Putin to do the right thing in world affairs."
 
"Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours"? Um, no.
 
Meanwhile, Putin's foreign policy, such as it is, continues to unravel. Julia Ioffe reports on the striking developments in Ukraine:
 Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014.

Even GOP consumers are satisfied with 'Obamacare'

07/10/14 10:46AM

It can't be easy for the Affordable Care Act's most aggressive critics to see the fight slipping away so quickly. The right's predictions have turned out to be wrong, while the system's successes have turned out to be even better than expected.
 
For those still hoping to see the American health care system crumble, the news this week must be even more discouraging. Margot Sanger-Katz reports, for example, on satisfaction rates among consumers who signed up for coverage through exchange marketplaces.
The survey, from the Commonwealth Fund, a research group, a research group, came to similar conclusions as other surveys about the expansion of health insurance. It found that about 15 percent of adults younger than 65 now lack health insurance, down from 20 percent before the Affordable Care Act rolled out in January.
 
What was more surprising is that people who got the new coverage were generally happy with the product. Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before -- including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year -- were happy with their new coverage.
If this were a sporting event, it'd be a rout. Far-right groups and congressional Republicans did everything they could to discourage Americans from getting health care coverage, and not only did those efforts fail, Republican consumers are happy they ignored their allies' advice. (Brookings reported yesterday that the anti-ACA crusade may have even backfired.)
 
Indeed, these latest results are exceeding expectations. Sanger-Katz talked to the Kaiser Family Foundation Larry Levitt, who said he wasn't sure we'd see such high satisfaction rates so early.
 
Wait, for those hoping to see success, it gets better.

'A tactical decision to let a problem fester for political reasons'

07/10/14 10:06AM

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) has a well-earned reputation for making truly bizarre comments.  Yesterday, however, he broke new ground.
A Republican South Carolina congressman thinks the crisis of undocumented immigrants surging across the border is an invasion similar to the allied invasion of Nazi Europe on D-Day. In a Facebook post, Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina says the surge at border is similar because "invasion takes many forms."
Too often, when far-right voices use World War II as a point of historical comparison, they're comparing liberals to Nazis, so I suppose this is a slight improvement, though it's cold comfort.
 
Nevertheless, Duncan went on to say the child-migrant crisis at the border needs a federal response -- a point on which there's broad agreement. It's unclear, however, what Duncan and his fellow congressional Republicans intend to do about it.
Republicans are sharply divided over how to handle President Obama's $3.7 billion border request. Conservatives on Wednesday balked at the administration's price tag for providing relief to authorities overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of children illegally crossing the border.
 
"I think it's a charade," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a Tea Party favorite who suggested the administration can tackle the crisis without new funding from Congress. Yet with the crisis escalating and Obama passing the ball into Congress's court by asking for legislation, there's an emerging concern that Republicans could suffer a political backlash if they fail to act.
USA Today's editorial board summarized the problem nicely: "Let's call the Republican response what it is: a tactical decision to let a problem fester for political reasons."
Image: Barack Obama, Julian Castro,

Why did the Senate GOP oppose Julian Castro?

07/10/14 09:37AM

As cabinet nominations go, the confirmation process for Julian Castro was exceptionally easy. President Obama nominated him in mid-May; the confirmation hearings were boring and uneventful; and yesterday, the Senate vote to add Castro to the cabinet lacked any sense of drama.
 
Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio and a rising star in the Democratic Party, was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday to become secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
 
The Senate vote was 71-26, according to NBC News.
Looking over the roll call, all 26 "nay" votes came from Senate Republicans. In fact, given that there are 45 GOP members in the chamber, most of the Senate Republicans opposed Castro's nomination. We're not talking about a handful of angry ideologues; we're talking about more than half the caucus.
 
Keep in mind, no one questioned Castro's background or qualifications. There were no controversies or scandals for him to overcome. There were no impassioned speeches about why his nomination should be rejected. There was no other candidate for the position the GOP preferred. This was about as uncontroversial as a cabinet nominee gets.
 
Julian Castro, who's twin brother is a popular congressman, is a young, successful, Latino mayor with a compelling personal backgroundSenate Republicans knew he'd be confirmed, but most of them didn't care. Had these 26 GOP senators defeated the nomination, they almost certainly would have voted against Obama's next choice, too, regardless of merit.
 
Why? Apparently most Senate Republicans voted against Castro because the president wanted to add the mayor to his cabinet. That's the reason. It's emblematic of just what's become of the contemporary Senate.
This image provided Thursday Sept. 1, 2011 by NASA shows NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity using its camera to take this picture showing the rover's arm extended, Aug. 21, 2011.

'There are no coal mines on Mars'

07/10/14 09:09AM

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) recently attended a climate-deniers conference, where he shared an anti-fluoride rant with the event's attendees. Watching his comments, I thought to myself how this represented another small step backwards for Republicans and science -- especially given the fact that Rohrabacher is on the House Science Committee.
 
But if this represented a small step backwards for the GOP and science, this is a bigger step in the wrong direction.
Republican state Sen. Brandon Smith of Kentucky has a new theory on why climate change couldn't possibly be slowly warming the earth's temperature, resulting in legions of effects to the environment and its inhabitants.
 
The reason, according to alternative paper LEO Weekly, seems to be that since Mars and Earth have identical temperatures, Earth's climate cannot possibly be the result of human activity.
 
"As you sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I don't want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that," said the senator in a video posted by the weekly publication. "Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I'm aware of."
As Rebecca Leber noted, it's worth remembering that Brandon Smith just "happens to own a few coal mines."
 
This shouldn't be necessary, but let's go ahead and highlight some of the rather important flaws in his truly awful argument against climate science.

Jobless claims return to near seven-year low

07/10/14 08:35AM

Economists generally expected initial unemployment claims to inch higher in the new Labor Department report. Fortunately, they were mistaken.
The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in the first week of July fell by 11,000 to 304,000, putting initial claims close to a seven-year bottom again and offering more evidence that U.S. hiring has accelerated while the rate of layoffs remains low. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected claims to total 320,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis.
 
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, declined by 3,500 to 311,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. The monthly figure, which is also just a hair above a seven-year low, offers a better look at underlying trends in the labor market.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
 In this photo taken Friday, October 11, 2013, Doug Bearden, Jonathan Branyon and Christine Reno, from left, wave flags and hold an "Impeach Obama" sign

'You don't bring a lawsuit to a gunfight'

07/10/14 08:00AM

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has heard members of his party call for President Obama's impeachment for reasons that are unclear, but yesterday, he made clear that he's not on board.
When asked Wednesday by NBC News what he thought about the failed vice presidential nominee and half-term Alaska governor's demand that Congress remove Obama from office, the Ohio Republican said, "I disagree."
 
Boehner is leading a charge to sue the Obama administration over what he sees as an abuse of executive power, but the speaker has said the lawsuit is not a step toward impeachment.
Got it. The House Speaker is prepared to file a lawsuit against the president for reasons Boehner can't explain, but presidential impeachment isn't part of the House Republican leadership's plan.
 
So, does that put the matter to rest? Not yet, it doesn't.
 
Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) told Fox News, "You don't bring a lawsuit to a gunfight and there's no room for lawyers on our front lines." (One hopes that Palin was speaking metaphorically and that she doesn't actually see political disagreements with the White House as a "gunfight.") The comments came on the heels of a written piece in which the Alaska Republican said conservative voters should "vehemently oppose any politician" who "hesitate[s] in voting for articles of impeachment."
 
What we're left with is the latest wedge dividing the party. It's not yet a litmus test for the right, but four months before the 2014 midterms, it's clear Republicans have found yet another area for intra-party arguing.

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