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For Senate, one handbook to rule them all

For Senate, one handbook to rule them all

09/15/14 10:36PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the publication by USA Today of the U.S. Senate handbook, full of the bureaucratic rules that keep the Senate running, from where to acquire office plants to how to select telephone on-hold music. watch

Ahead on the 9/15/14 Maddow show

09/15/14 07:04PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Andrew Bacevich, retired U.S. Army colonel, Boston University professor, author and historian
  • Shira Springer, sports enterprise reporter for the Boston Globe

After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo gives a preview of tonight's show read more

Monday's Mini-Report, 9.15.14

09/15/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Awkward diplomacy: "Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the Obama administration would keep the door open to confidential communications with Iran on the security crisis in Iraq, despite sarcastic criticism from Iran's supreme leader, who said the American plan for bombing Islamic militants, their common enemy, was absurd."
* NATO: "The pledge of 26 foreign ministers in Paris today to combat the self-declared Islamic State with 'all means necessary' gives an important boost to the international efforts to dismantle the militant group that is imposing its will on large parts of Syria and Iraq."
* Climate crisis: "This past August was the warmest since records began in 1881, according to new data released by NASA. The latest readings continue a series of record or near-record breaking months. May of this year was also the warmest in recorded history."
* A White House petition for a proposed "Mike Brown Law," which would requires "all state, county, and local police to wear a camera," received enough signatures to guarantee a formal reply. Roy L. Austin, Jr., the Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, published a response over the weekend.
* Decades later: "Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins stood ramrod straight on Monday as President Obama draped the Medal of Honor around his neck at the White House. It had been nearly five decades since he led Special Forces soldiers through a bloody ordeal that spanned a week in March 1966, but he still wore a crisp Army uniform, and saluted after receiving the nation's top award for combat valor. Adkins, 80, was one of two Vietnam War soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House."
* Look for more on this fun one on tonight's show: "The U.S. Senate has for years lived by a secret book of rules that governs everything from how many sheets of paper and potted plants each Senate office is allotted to when Senators can use taxpayer money to charter planes or boats. The document has never been available to the public -- until now."
* GM: "General Motors Co will pay compensation for 19 deaths linked to a faulty ignition switch, according to the lawyer overseeing the process, more than the 13 deaths the automaker had previously admitted [to] were caused by the now recalled part."
* More on this tomorrow: "No matter what the electorate decides in seven weeks, Obama has already succeeded in his bid to refashion the bench -- and the nuclear option has played a significant role."

'No military action,' except for all the military action

09/15/14 04:56PM

On Fox News this morning, contributor Pete Hegseth pushed for a more expansive U.S. military operation against Islamic State, complaining that our allies are seeing "American ambivalence." It seemed like an odd criticism -- President Obama delivered a national address last week on his strategy to counter ISIS; White House officials have called it a "war"; and administration officials are recruiting international partners for a coalition to confront ISIS.
There's ample room for debate about the plan on its merits, and there are plenty of questions about whether the U.S. plan will work. But "ambivalence" doesn't seem to apply to recent events in any coherent way.
Making matters slightly worse, Brian Powell noted the on-screen graphic at the time. Fox News viewers were told that the United States "has conducted at least 160 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq," and at literally the exact same moment, viewers Fox News were also told there's been "no military action yet against ISIS."
Now, in fairness, every network makes on-screen mistakes from time to time, and I imagine Fox's graphics team probably wishes it could take this one back. It was almost certainly more a mistake than an attempt at deception.
But the cognitive dissonance -- Obama is taking and not taking military action -- nevertheless seems increasingly common on the right.
Russell Pearce speaks before a Senate Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee.

Arizona Republican suggests sterilizing poor women

09/15/14 03:20PM

Russell Pearce has had quite a career in Arizona. The Republican started as a fairly obscure state senator, before his anti-immigrant SB1070 pushed him into the national spotlight, which Pearce parlayed into a promotion as state Senate President.
His shooting star didn't last -- Pearce record and extremist associations undermined his standing, and in 2011, voters pushed him out of office in a recall election.
State Republicans probably should have allowed Pearce to fade from public view, but instead, GOP officials made Pearce the #2 leader in the state party. As Zach Roth reported, that didn't turn out too well, either.
The far-right former lawmaker who helped create Arizona's "papers please" immigration law has resigned as a top official with the state GOP after making comments about sterilizing poor women. [...]
On Saturday, the state Democratic Party highlighted comments Pearce made recently on his radio show. Discussing the state's public assistance programs, Pearce declared: "You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations.... Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."
Just so we're clear, by making Norplant a part of public assistance, Pearce was, fairly explicitly, talking about sterilizing low-income women.
By way of a response, the principal author of Arizona's "papers please" law argued in a written statement that he was referencing "comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author."
Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land talks during a Political Action Committee reception Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at the 2014 Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich.

Terri Lynn Land's 'no-show strategy'

09/15/14 12:45PM

One of the more memorable moments of the 2012 campaign came during the Republican National Convention, when entertainer Clint Eastwood decided to do a routine of sorts with an empty chair. To the great disappointment of the Romney/Ryan campaign, it didn't go well.
Last week in Michigan, however, Rep. Gary Peters (D), his party's U.S. Senate candidate, also appeared alongside an empty chair, and his stunt was far more effective. Peters' point was to highlight the fact that his Republican opponent, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) refuses to accept any debate invitations (thanks to Ron Chusid for the heads-up).
"If a candidate isn't willing, when they are running for office, to stand up and say what they are for, if they were elected, they would completely disappear," Peters told voters.
Ordinarily, when a candidate refuses to debate, it's because he or she has a sizable lead and doesn't want to risk it by standing alongside a weaker rival. But in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land is losing -- and she still won't consider any debate invitations.
Jamison Foser flagged this Detroit News column from Laura Berman, who can't quite figure out Land's "no-show strategy."
Terri Lynn Land's no-show strategy for a U.S. Senate seat is a weird dare to Michigan voters: She's gambling you won't notice her near total disappearance from the campaign trail.
While both Land and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, are bombarding the airwaves with commercials, it's Land who's trying to stay out of sight. Her campaign doesn't advertise public appearances -- if there are any -- and ignores or postpones interview requests from journalists.
Want to see flesh-and-blood Terri?
"I'll let you know if Terri has availability," her press secretary, Heather Swift, emailed me last week, after repeated requests for an interview or notice of upcoming appearances with the former Michigan Secretary of State.
It's one thing to duck debates, but I can't remember the last time I saw a major-party candidate in a competitive statewide race literally hide from the public.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.15.14

09/15/14 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:
* In the latest Pew Research Center poll, Democrats lead Republicans by five (47% to 42%) among registered voters, but Republicans lead Democrats by three (47% to 44%) among likely voters. Dems just don't seem ready to show up in the fall.
* In Georgia's U.S. Senate race, the latest Atlanta Journal Constitution poll shows David Perdue (R) leading Michelle Nunn (D) by four, 45% to 41%, among likely voters. The same poll showed incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal (R) leading Jason Carter (D) by just one point, 43% to 42%.
* In North Carolina, all the recent polling has shown incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D) with a small-but-steady lead over Thom Tillis (R). The latest is a new poll from Elon University, which shows Hagan up by four, 44% to 40%.
* I find it very hard to believe, but a new CNN poll in New Hampshire shows Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) tied with former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), 48% each, among likely voters. The same poll showed the incumbent up by seven among registered voters.
* Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared at the Iowa Steak Fry yesterday, sounding very much like a candidate. "I'm ba-ack!" she told the 7,000 attendees.
* Speaking of Iowa, Politico ran a piece over the weekend noting that "anxiety is rising within Republican ranks" about the U.S. Senate race in the Hawkeye State.
* In Kentucky, Alison Lundergran Grimes (D) has a new TV ad showing her skeet shooting. Taunting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), she says into the camera, "Mitch, that's not how you hold a gun."
File Photo: House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution Chairman Trent Franks (R-AZ) holds a hearing about H.R.3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 8, 2011 in...

No, ISIS is not at our border

09/15/14 11:17AM

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) seems to be pretty excited lately. Two weeks ago, he told Fox News that Islamic State may partner with Iran to receive nuclear weapons and cross the U.S./Mexico border -- which is why President Obama shouldn't play golf.
In reality, Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons; Iran and ISIS are enemies; and how the president chooses to unwind during occasional downtime does not undermine national security.
But as Andrew Kaczynski noted, the right-wing Arizonan isn't done just yet.
Rep. Trent Franks, appearing on E.W. Jackson's radio program over the weekend, appeared to cite a report from a conservative website that has been dismissed by federal law enforcement officials about ISIS operating in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on the border with El Paso.
"It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks," Franks said. "So there's no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I've made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can to. It is something that is real."
Have I mentioned that Franks is currently a member of the House Armed Services Committee? He is.
Let's unpack this a bit, because it really is remarkable for a sitting member of Congress to be this irresponsible in public, especially during a debate over national security.
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Special Council Debo Adegbile talks to reporters outside of the U.S. Supreme Court February 27, 2013.

Left with no options, Debo Adegbile walks away

09/15/14 10:38AM

During the recent crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, the U.S. Department of Justice was eager to intervene, but there was an administrative problem. The DOJ's Civil Rights Division, tasked with leading the investigation into Michael Brown's death, has no permanent chief -- and hasn't had one in over a year.
President Obama nominated a highly qualified civil-rights attorney, Debo Adegbile, but the Senate refused to confirm him. Many hoped the setback was temporary and that Adegbile would yet get another chance, but today, his confirmation journey ended in a formal withdrawal.
A prominent civil rights lawyer whose nomination to a Justice Department post this spring was blocked over his role in efforts to commute the death sentence of a high-profile convicted murderer is joining law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. The selection drew strong opposition from police groups, Republicans and, ultimately, seven Senate Democrats who in March helped block his nomination.
For those who didn't follow the controversy in the spring, Adegbile's nomination ran into trouble because of opposition from the Fraternal Order of Police -- Adegbile worked as part of a legal team on Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.
Conservative media launched an ugly smear campaign, with one Fox News pundit going so far as to call him a "cop killer coddler."
Despite the American principle that attorneys are not to be condemned for the crimes of their clients, the Senate balked. Literally every Republican in the chamber opposed Adegbile's nomination, as did seven Democrats. He needed a simple majority, but couldn't get it.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) characterized the vote as "about the lowest point that I think this Senate has descended into in my 30 years here," and six months later, it's hard to avoid the feeling that Adegbile deserved better than what he received.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul speaks at the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans For Prospertity at the Omni Hotel on August 29, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.

Rand Paul eyes repeal of 'all previous executive orders'

09/15/14 10:03AM

When he's not changing his mind about his core beliefs, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is making odd policy pronouncements. Take his comments on Friday, for example.
During a talk with the New Hampshire chapter of Generation Opportunity (a millennial-focused group best known for using a creepy Uncle Sam mascot to convince people not to enroll in Obamacare) a young man asked Paul if he would repeal any executive orders. "I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders," Paul said, according to Breitbart. He continued:
"Democracy is messy, but you have to build consensus to pass things. But it's also in some ways good, because a lot of laws take away your freedom. So it should be hard to pass a law. And it, frankly, when you do it the proper way, is."
By one account, Paul's vow to repeal all previous executive orders was met with "booming cheers" from his conservative audience.
It's worth noting that executive orders have been issued to advance some worthy causes over the years. The Emancipation Proclamation, for example, was one of Lincoln's executive orders. Truman ended racial discrimination in the military through an executive order. Ford banned political assassinations through an executive order. If Paul really hopes to "repeal all previous executive orders," he'll sweep up some pretty important measures in his large net.
Late Friday, the senator's office walked this back a bit, suggesting Paul was speaking with a rhetorical flourish at the event. "It was not meant to be taken literally," an aide said.
That's fine, though Paul was asked by a NPR affiliate in Kentucky last month whether he would, as president, ever issue an executive order. "Only to undo executive orders," the Republican senator replied.
In a story like this, the point is less about whether his comments Friday were meant to be taken literally and more about why, all of a sudden, presidential executive orders are necessarily a bad thing.