When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was confronted with new evidence, put together by his House Republicans allies, that Benghazi conspiracy theories are completely wrong, the Republican senator was angrily dismissive. The evidence, he said, must be "crap."
Denial can be a powerful emotional response, can't it? If the right believes President Obama's economic policies have failed, and they're confronted with evidence of a falling unemployment rate, then there must be a conspiracy involving the jobless numbers. If the right believes Benghazi conspiracies are real, and they're confronted with proof to the contrary, then the proof must be rejected.
But on Friday's "All in with Chris Hayes," Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took this to a whole new level.
Brooks, you'll recall, believes President Obama's executive actions on immigration may be criminal acts that could land the president in prison. With this in mind, Chris asked a good question: "When President Reagan granted deferred action from 200,000 people from El Salvador who come here illegally, was he breaking the law in the same way?" It led to this exchange:
BROOKS: I have not examined what Bill Clinton did. This is a very serious manner. The Constitution imposes a heavy burden on us--
HAYES: No, no, no, I'm sorry. President Ronald Reagan. President Ronald Reagan, sir?
BROOKS: I think the individual facts are important, the mental intent of the actor. That case, Bill Clinton, now Barack Obama, those factors are important.
At a certain level, the cognitive dissonance must be disorienting. Republicans are convinced Reagan was a man without flaw. Republicans are then confronted with the fact that Reagan relied on executive actions to change immigration policy when Congress' efforts fell short. That creates a problem: either Reagan took steps the right now finds abhorrent, or Obama's actions are neither shocking nor unprecedented.
What to do? Decide that Ronald Reagan's name is pronounced "Bill Clinton" when it comes to immigration policy.
The substance of a story is what matters, but sometimes, when a story breaks is nearly as important. The Republican-run House Intelligence Committee, for example, waited until late on a Friday afternoon, the week before Thanksgiving, to announce the results of a two-year investigation into the deadly attacks on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
For the right, the findings were simply devastating: all of the Benghazi conspiracy theories, the GOP-led committee found, are completely, demonstrably, and unambiguously wrong. From the Associated Press account:
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
The report, which is available in its entirety here, is an unflinching summary of the available evidence, which utterly destroys everything right-wing conspiracy theorists have been pushing for more than two years about the deadly attack. For conservatives, there's no sugarcoating any of this -- literally every accusation has been debunked. No exceptions.
And for Republicans, who've invested so much in the ugly exploitation of the terrorism for partisan gain, that obviously posed a problem. For House GOP lawmakers, the solution was to release the findings late on a Friday, shortly before a major national holiday, in the hopes the American public wouldn't hear the facts. For the most part, the tactic worked exactly as intended: much of the national media overlooked the findings, which were also largely forgotten on the Sunday shows.
Which is a shame, because this seems like an important accountability moment.
Have you ever wondered about all those famous thought experiments famous scientists come up with? Galileo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Einstein and his trains, Schrodinger and his cats. While we can't yet reenact what Einstein and Schrodinger had in mind, we can test Galileo's idea.
Galileo theorized that objects fall at the same rate (regardless of their mass, size, shape) when they are subject to the same gravitational acceleration (on the Earth, Moon, etc.) and air resistance is negligible (i.e., in a vacuum). Essentially, this means that in these conditions, any two objects will fall at the same velocity and land at the same time. Building an experiment to drop pairs of objects is no big deal, but building one to drop them in a vacuum is.
First up from the God Machine this week is a curious reaction from the right to President Obama quoting Christian scripture in his national address on immigration policy this week.
If you missed it, referencing Exodus 23:9, told Americans, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too."
In an interesting twist, conservatives who generally push for more mixing of religion and politics, and who complain that the president isn't more overtly religious all the time, began complaining after Obama's speech about the Biblical reference. Emily Arrowood noted yesterday:
The hosts of Fox & Friends were incensed that President Obama quoted scripture in a primetime address detailing his upcoming executive action on immigration, challenging him to a "scripture-showdown" and claiming it's "repugnant" for Obama to "lecture us on Christian faith." [...]
According to [co-host Elisabeth] Hasselbeck, Obama used the Bible to guilt people into supporting his executive action, and that's "not what the scholars behind the Bible would interpret as proper use, perhaps."
Because no one's ever used Scripture to guilt someone into supporting a position, right?
It was, incidentally, the co-hosts of "Fox & Friends" who also complained just 48 hours earlier that the president doesn't espouse Christian values often enough.
But they weren't the only ones complaining. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) also wasn't happy. "I always thought that Scripture was eternal and unchanging, but apparently, now that Obama is President, Scripture gets rewritten more often than Bill Cosby's Wikipedia entry," Huckabee wrote on his Facebook page.
Fox's Bill O'Reilly also said of Obama, "He is one of the most secular presidents, perhaps the most secular president we have ever had, yet, he invokes scripture in the speech."
For what it's worth, Thomas Jefferson edited his Bible to remove references to Jesus' divinity, so I don't think Obama, who's made countless public references to his Christian faith, is in the running for any Most Secular Presidents awards.
Rachel Maddow reports on the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a little noticed, genuinely bipartisan bill named for a heroic veteran who took his own life, and designed to address the challenges of treating returning war veterans. watch
Rachel Maddow shows the energetic response President Obama received today talking about immigration reform in front of a live audience instead of just a TV camera, and points out how Obama is staying relevant in the lame duck years of his presidency. watch
* POTUS hits the trail: "President Obama reaffirmed his plan to take executive action to reform the nation's immigration laws but said he will keep working with Congress to reach a legislative solution. 'I will never give up,' Obama said at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas."
* At least for now, the deadline is Monday: "Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, canceled plans to leave the nuclear negotiations [in Geneva] Friday following marathon talks that lasted into the night."
* Signs of hope in Liberia: "The international response to West Africa's Ebola epidemic, coupled with more effective action by local communities, has stopped the exponential spread of the disease in one of the hardest-hit countries, Liberia, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday."
* Terror divisions: "Escalating a war of words between terrorism's old and new schools, an Islamic scholar with al Qaeda's Yemen-based offshoot on Friday accused ISIS of 'planting ... disunity' among the various Islamic extremist factions fighting to topple the Syrian government and rejected the authority of the Iraq- and Syria-based group's self-declared caliphate."
* Ukraine: 'Vice President Biden abruptly canceled a wreath-laying ceremony Friday at a memorial marking Ukraine's pro-Western revolution after an angry crowd gathered to demand justice for those killed in the unrest."
* Ferguson: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has expressed concerns privately to Missouri officials this week about their recent actions in advance of a grand jury's decision in the Michael Brown case."
* Tunisia: "Less than a month after electing a new Parliament, Tunisians will vote Sunday in their first-ever open democratic presidential election, completing a tumultuous democratic transition begun with their revolution nearly four years ago."
* A not-so-lame duck: "The government transferred five low-level Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Eastern Europe on Thursday. Four of the men were Yemenis, and their resettlement was a significant policy change in the Obama administration's effort to close the prison at the naval base in Cuba."
"I will say to you, the House will in fact act," he said.
It's worth clarifying the context. Last year, when Boehner vowed that the Republican-led House will "act," he meant he and his colleagues were finally going to do something about the broken immigration system. This morning, when Boehner vowed that the Republican-led House will "act," he meant GOP lawmakers intend to stop President Obama from doing something about the broken immigration system.
The point, however, is that there's a challenge in taking the House Speaker seriously. Last year, he vowed that he and his members will do their job on immigration reform, and then Boehner broke his word. Now the Speaker is vowing to take on the president -- somehow, in some way, in reference to some policy dispute -- and given recent history, one would be forgiven for thinking, "We've heard this talk before."
There's an inherent problem when leaders lack credibility. Remember when Boehner said Republicans wouldn't pass a clean debt-ceiling increase? What the Speaker vowed would happen and what actually happened turned out to be very different things. Remember when Boehner said Republicans wouldn't shut down the government? The same dynamic unfolded.
The rules as applied to Sarah Palin haven't changed. As we talked about over the summer, the former half-term governor of Alaska remains a deeply silly person whose opinions are not to be taken seriously. When news organizations routinely make a fuss about her random missives, they're lending credence to a former officeholder who doesn't deserve it.
But every now and then, one of Palin's tirades stands out as newsworthy.
The right-wing personality released a new online video today, complaining about President Obama and immigration, offering the usual lines in a style that can charitably be compared to a teenager delivering a report about a book she hasn't read (via Simon Maloy).
But then Palin added this:
"We'll survive this president. The question is (overdramatic pause) can we survive the people who voted for him, twice?"
I don't know, can we?
Look, I realize that Palin holds the president in contempt. It's not entirely clear why, but she's not an Obama fan. I get it.
But this struck me as interesting because Palin seems to be arguing that her most pressing concern about America's future is the president that disgusts her; it's Americans themselves.
It took them long enough. Four months after announcing their intention to sue President Obama, House Republicans finally followed through. But while immigration policy is obviously the hot-button controversy of the day, and the GOP is certain the White House's policy is illegal, the new litigation has nothing to do with immigration. Jane C. Timm reported:
House Republicans on Friday filed a long-anticipated lawsuit against the White House, alleging the Obama administration abused its power by making unilateral changes to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The lawsuit comes just hours after President Obama enacted sweeping changes to the immigration system, enraging conservative lawmakers and setting the stage for an all-out war between the Republican Party and the president over the limits of his executive authority. The legal action threatens not only the president's healthcare overhaul, but could change the power of executive authority forever.
How we got to this point continues to be a story unto itself. As we talked about last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) first announced his plan to sue the president back in June. A month later, the Speaker's office formally unveiled the legislation to authorize the litigation. A month after that, House Republicans agreed to pay a D.C. law firm $500 an hour, in taxpayer money, to handle the case.
Things went downhill from there. Republicans hired a law firm to oversee the litigation, but the firm changed its mind in September and dropped the case. GOP leaders then hired a second firm, only to learn a month later that it dropped the case, too. This week, Republicans hired a new lawyer, George Washington University legal scholar Jonathan Turley, who filed today.
Of course, what really matters is what the case is about and whether it's likely to succeed.