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Cruz embraces radicals with violent message

Ted Cruz embraces religious radicals with violent message

11/24/15 09:51PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the background of Troy Newman, radical anti-abortion activist embraced by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and notes that this is the second recent radical association by Cruz, having just spoken at an event where fellow speaker Kevin Swanson advocated the belief that the Bible justifies the execution of gay... watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 11.24.15

11/24/15 05:30PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* More on this on tonight's show: "A Russian pilot was killed Tuesday while parachuting from his downed plane and so was a Marine dispatched to save him. The doomed pilot was one of two Russians who ejected from their aircraft after it was struck by a Turkish missile, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said in a statement."
* Egypt: "Islamic State militants attacked a hotel in the northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt with explosives and gunfire early on Tuesday, killing at least seven people, including a judge, according to security officials, Egyptian state media and a statement by the group."
* Tunis: "At least 12 people were killed on Tuesday after an explosion tore through a bus full of Tunisian presidential guards in an attack one source said was probably carried out by a bomber detonating his explosives in the vehicle."
* Minnesota: "Two men have been arrested and other suspects are being sought after five people were shot in Minneapolis near a protest over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man. A 23-year-old white man was taken into custody in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Tuesday around 11:20 a.m., Minneapolis police said in a statement, and a 32-year-old Hispanic man was arrested in South Minneapolis at about 12:05 p.m."
* Greece: "A bomb went off outside the offices of a Greek business federation in the heart of Athens early on Tuesday, causing damage but no injuries, the police said. It was the first such attack under the country’s leftist-led government, fueling fears of a possible resurgence of domestic terrorism."
* I hope he's right about Americans' attitudes: "President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the U.S. stands in 'total solidarity' with France in the wake of the deadly terror attacks there and pledged to do more to crush ISIS.... 'This was an attack on our free and open society,' Obama said and stressed 'Americans will not be terrorized.'"
* The State Department last night "issued a worldwide alert three days ahead of Thanksgiving cautioning travelers of 'increased terroristic threats' from ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other groups. The alert expires Feb. 24."
* Chicago: "A Chicago police officer has been charged with murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was killed in a volley of 16 shots on the city’s South Side last October. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, turned himself into authorities on Tuesday morning. It is believed that the charges mark the first time in Chicago history that a police officer has been charged with murder for an on-duty shooting."
* Economy: "The U.S. economy grew at a somewhat faster 2.1% pace in the third quarter instead of 1.5%, revised government figures show."
* This move may benefit as many as 180,000 people: "The outgoing Democratic governor of Kentucky has signed an executive order to restore the right to vote and hold public office to thousands of non-violent felons who've served out their sentences. Gov. Steve Beshear signed the order Tuesday.... Kentucky was one of four states that did not automatically restore voting rights to felons once they completed all the terms of their sentences."
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican Party of Florida's "Sunshine Summit" in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 13, 2015. (Photo by Kevin Kolczynski/Reuters)

Jeb Bush: 'You can tell when someone is a Christian'

11/24/15 04:12PM

It's tempting to give Jeb Bush credit for being far less ridiculous than Donald Trump on, well, pretty much everything. Over the last week, as Trump's radicalism has exceeded any normal boundaries of propriety, the former governor has been willing to call out the New York developer for going too far.
But if Bush is going to claim any credit for taking the high ground, he's going to have to stop dipping his feet in the same waters in which Trump is taking a swim.
Last week, for example, the Florida Republican argued that the United States should reject Syrian refugees for reasons he has not yet explained. Bush later clarified that some refugees might be able to enter the country, but only if they’re members of a religious group he approves of.
“You’re a Christian – I mean, you can prove you’re a Christian,” Jeb inexplicably argued.
BuzzFeed reports today that Bush has done it again.
Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a radio interview Tuesday that “you can tell when someone is a Christian in the Middle East” based on indicators such as their name and birth certificate.
“I can promise you that,” Bush told New Hampshire radio host Jack Heath. “By name, by where they’re born, their birth certificates. There are ample means by which to know this.”
He reportedly added that he supports pressing “the pause button” on welcoming Syrian refugees in order to ensure that refugee screening processes are “proper.” Bush has not, however, pointed to any specific shortcomings in the existing screening program.
Even putting this aside, there are two fairly obvious problems with his approach. First, his "you can tell" assurances notwithstanding, separating people who claim to be Christians from those who really are Christians isn't nearly as simple as Bush chooses to believe. Names and birthplaces offer hints, but what about sincere converts?
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex in Birmingham, Ala., Nov. 21, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Gentry/Reuters)

Torture becoming a key campaign issue for GOP candidates

11/24/15 12:49PM

Over the weekend, Donald Trump was asked whether he'd bring back Bush/Cheney-era torture policies like waterboarding. “I would bring it back, yes,” the Republican said. “I would bring it back. I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they’d do to us, what they’re doing to us, what they did to James Foley when they chopped off his head.”
At an event in Ohio yesterday, Trump went a little further, telling his audience, "Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would -- in a heartbeat." But the GOP frontrunner wasn't done there. The Washington Post reported:
"And I would approve more than that. Don't kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work."
Trump said such techniques are needed to confront terrorists who "chop off our young people's heads" and "build these iron cages, and they'll put 20 people in them and they drop them in the ocean for 15 minutes and pull them up 15 minutes later."
"It works," Trump said over and over again. "Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing."
That last part is obviously the most disgusting. The overwhelming evidence tells us that torturing detainees through waterboarding does not, in fact, "work" in producing valuable intelligence. Simply asserting the opposite, over and over again, doesn't change reality.
But note that Trump isn't overly concerned about the efficacy of illegal intelligence gathering. The Republican frontrunner conceded that even if torture tactics don't "work," he's inclined to commit war crimes anyway because "they deserve it."
And while it's easy to marvel at the sadistic nature of Trump's boasts, there's a larger context to this: he's not the only Republican presidential candidate putting torture on the table as a 2016 campaign issue.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.24.15

11/24/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, a 38% plurality of Republican voters nationwide believe Donald Trump has "the best chance" of winning the general election next year. Ben Carson is second with 22%.
* Rush Limbaugh defended Trump's bogus claims about 9/11 celebrations yesterday, with the radio host telling his audience that the Republican candidate made a good point, "regardless of the specific details."
* The first anti-Trump ad from John Kasich's super PAC was released yesterday, and as NBC News' report explained, it highlights a series of provocative remarks from the New York developer, including his boast that he has a great relationship with "the blacks," the boast that he'd date his daughter if she weren't his daughter, and the time he questioned John McCain's status as a "war hero."
* Mike Huckabee, who apparently is still running for president, said yesterday that President Obama's "new domestic terrorism plan probably requires Americans to memorize Koran verses." Dear Beltway pundits who told the public Huckabee is a great guy: you were wrong.
* In fundraising news, the RNC easily outpaced the DNC in October, $8.7 million to $4.5 million.
* In endorsement news, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio each increased their overall totals by one yesterday, with both Republicans adding one U.S. House member.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

When 'partisan harassment' of Obama goes too far

11/24/15 11:20AM

In the wake of the recent violence in Paris, there's been quite a bit of discussion, in the United States and elsewhere, about officials using every available tool to combat terrorism. One of the least controversial measures involves attacking terrorist networks' finances.
With that in mind, it matters a great deal that President Obama has nominated Adam Szubin to serve as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes. As the Huffington Post reported last week, this specific job "involves tracking terrorists to prevent them from raising money on the black market and elsewhere."
The good news is, Szubin enjoys bipartisan support, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has praised his past work in taking on terrorist financing in previous administrations.
The bad news is, Szubin's nomination has been pending since mid-April -- over 200 days ago -- and the Senate Republican leadership hasn't bothered to bring the nomination to the floor for a vote, despite the fact that he faces no real opposition.
Bloomberg's Jonathan Bernstein noted yesterday that this fits into a pattern of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) instituting a "roadblock" against President Obama's nominations in ways with no modern precedent from either party.
It’s a Senate engaged in pure partisan harassment of Obama, and indifferent to the smooth functioning of government. Agencies can’t function at their best without confirmed presidential picks in place. [...]
We’ll never know what the specific consequences are of not filling crucial positions. For example, if the Treasury Department were fully staffed, would it be able to stop money flowing to terrorists to finance a particular attack? It’s grossly irresponsible of McConnell and his colleagues to keep government from doing what they say it should do: operate efficiently and protect its citizens.
We've seen plenty of examples of Republicans balking at qualified Obama nominees for partisan or ideological reasons, but that doesn't apply in this case, since Szubin doesn't seem to have any actual Senate critics. McConnell hasn't even tried to justify the delay, because "we slow-walk every Obama nominee, regardless of merit" seems ridiculous when spoken aloud.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reaches out to hug a supporter after he spoke at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies on Aug. 29, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP)

Trump thinks anew about 'the deal' with the RNC

11/24/15 10:46AM

For much of the summer, there was a very real possibility that Donald Trump would run for president on a third-party ticket if his Republican campaign faltered. Pressed repeatedly to rule out the independent option, the New Yorker demurred, causing considerable handwringing in GOP circles.
By September, however, the matter appeared to be resolved. Trump signed -- and publicly waved around -- a "loyalty pledge" binding him to the Republican nominating process. The speculation about a third-party run quickly evaporated.
And now it's back. On Sunday, ABC News' George Stephanopoulos noted a Wall Street Journal article about Republican insiders planning to launch a guerrilla campaign against Trump. The host asked the candidate if he'd "reconsider" an independent bid. "Well, we'll see what happens," Trump replied. "It will be very interesting." Moments later, there was this exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're open to an independent run?
TRUMP: Well, I'm going to have to see what happens. I will see what happens. I have to be treated fairly. You know, when I did this, I said I have to be treated fairly. If I'm treated fairly, I'm fine. All I want to do is a level playing field.
Yesterday, the Republican added on Twitter, referring to the Wall Street Journal article Stephanopoulos mentioned, that his party is "getting ready to treat me unfairly." Trump concluded, "That wasn’t the deal!"
The wording mattered. If Trump believes he reached an agreement with Republican Party officials, and the party is now reneging on the deal, then he may very well feel justified in breaking the "loyalty pledge" he signed -- since in his mind, his intra-party partners didn't hold up their end of the bargain.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Md. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Rubio shares anti-ISIS plans, trips over substantive details

11/24/15 10:05AM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was on the Iowa campaign trail yesterday, and shared some thoughts on his vision for combating ISIS. NBC News reported:
...Rubio said he wanted to show the world how ISIS leaders "cry like babies" when captured in hopes of dissuading recruits from joining on to the extremist group.
"I believe we should be carrying out attacks against Sunni leadership nodes, videotaping the whole thing and putting it up on YouTube so that the world can see these people are not invincible," he said. "I want the world to see how these ISIS leaders cry like babies when they're captured. I want the world to see how these ISIS leaders, once captured, begin to sing like canaries if they survive."
He added that he wants young fighters around the world thinking of joining the Islamic State to have "second thoughts" when they see "how easily humiliated they are by Americans."
At a certain level, such a campaign may seem emotionally satisfying, but there's ample reason to believe showing video footage of captured prisoners is strictly prohibited under the Geneva Convention. In March 2013, when Iraqi officials released footage of American prisoners facing interrogation, U.S. officials condemned the tactic as "appalling."
The Florida senator has not yet explained why he believes his preferred tactic would be legal.
As part of the same campaign swing, Rubio added that President Obama's efforts against ISIS are "all symbolic," because the senator believes the president "doesn't want to embroil us in another conflict."
As of last week, U.S. forces, acting on Obama's orders, have launched 6,471 airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Middle East. I'm not sure how Rubio defines "symbolic," but it's not an adjective that comes to mind.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) campaigns in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, at Briar Cliff University, a private Catholic school. (Photo by Jerry Mennenga/ZUMA)

Cruz starts to break through in Iowa

11/24/15 09:20AM

Rich Lowry reported yesterday in National Review on the state of the Republican presidential race in Iowa, concluding, "It’s hard to exaggerate how much things have broken [Ted] Cruz’s way."
Just 24 hours later, there's some pretty compelling evidence that this assessment is correct. Here's the new Quinnipiac poll out of the Hawkeye State:
1. Donald Trump: 25% (up from 20% in October)
2. Ted Cruz: 23% (up from 10%)
3. Ben Carson: 18% (down from 28%)
4. Marco Rubio: 13% (unchanged)
No other candidate is above 5%, though it's worth noting that Jeb Bush, who actually had the lead in Iowa in the early summer, is down to just 4% support -- one percentage point lower than Rand Paul.
Nevertheless, it's the top tier that's the most striking. Politico's Glenn Thrush characterized the Quinnipiac poll as the "most important development in the race in months," which may seem a little hyperbolic, but don't dismiss the point too quickly.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at a campaign event on Nov. 3, 2015 in Coralville, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Voters see Clinton as the most trustworthy on battling terror

11/24/15 08:40AM

In the wake of the terrorist violence in Paris, Republicans saw an opportunity to change the direction of the political conversation. The attacks reminded American voters about national security threats, which GOP officials necessarily see as good news for their party -- since polls have consistently shown the public siding with Republicans on the issue, the party's woeful track record notwithstanding.
But these assumptions may be due for a reevaluation. Consider the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.
A crescendo of tough talk on Syrian refugees and terrorism seems to be elevating the toughest talkers in the GOP primary -- most notably Donald Trump. But among the broader American public, the most trusted person to handle the issue is Hillary Clinton. [...]
By 50 percent to 42 percent, more Americans say they trust Clinton to handle the threat of terrorism than Trump, who leads the Republican field and responded to the Paris terrorist attacks by calling for heightened surveillance of mosques and redoubling his opposition to allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the U.S.
Clinton's eight-point advantage over Trump wasn't unique: the same poll showed the Democratic frontrunner also leading Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush when respondents were asked, "Who would you trust more to handle the threat of terrorism?"
This is obviously just one poll, and we'd need more data before drawing sweeping conclusions, but if the results are accurate, there's a rational explanation. The question, after all, deals with preparedness. Clinton has the most foreign-policy experience of any presidential candidate in a generation, while nearly all of her Republican rivals are either literal or practical amateurs.