Latest StoriesRSS

select from

E.g., 10/31/2014
E.g., 10/31/2014
Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal picks an unfortunate fight over intelligence

10/31/14 10:12AM

Looking back at the last year or so, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) effort to raise his national profile has run into occasional pitfalls. The far-right governor, for example, has suggested Americans have a guaranteed right under the First Amendment to appear on reality-television shows, while also refusing to say whether he believes in modern biology.
 
The Louisiana Republican has filed a federal lawsuit in opposition to an education policy he recently endorsed; he said Israel would be safer if Secretary of State John Kerry was "riding a girl's bike or whatever it is in Nantucket"; and he made up a ridiculous argument about Medicaid hurting Americans with disabilities, making it seem as if he doesn't understand the policy.
 
It's against this backdrop that Jindal is now arguing that President Obama isn't "smart" enough for his tastes.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) attacked President Barack Obama's intelligence on Tuesday, claiming Obama deserves a tuition refund from Harvard since he didn't learn "a darned thing while he was there." [...]
 
"There's actually one lawsuit I'm happy to endorse. You see we have gotten so used to saying we have a constitutional scholar in the White House, we've gotten so used to saying we have a smart man as president. But I'm beginning to wonder if that's really true," Jindal said, according to video posted by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
As part as part of his indictment against the president's intellect, Jindal insisted that Obama is the "first president ever to occupy the White House who does not believe in American exceptionalism." He made the comments shortly after President Obama told a White House audience, "I'm a firm believer in American exceptionalism" -- an issue he spoke on at some length.
 
Part of the problem is Jindal's lazy combination of irony and hypocrisy. The Louisiana governor, desperate to rally right-wing support in advance of a likely national campaign, routinely makes comments that can charitably be described as dumb. For Jindal to pick a fight about the president's intellectual acuity is like New Jersey Chris Christie (R) accusing someone of being a bully -- it's a topic probably better left to others.
Image: Obama Nominates Hagel For Defense Secretary, Brennan For CIA Chief

Hagel balks at Obama's Syria strategy? Not really

10/31/14 09:32AM

The headline on The Hill's homepage late yesterday raised the prospect of an important rift within the Obama administration: "Hagel memo criticized WH Syria strategy." The article referenced a CNN report with a similarly striking headline: "Hagel wrote memo to White House criticizing Syria strategy."
 
Kevin Drum was flipping around the channels yesterday and came upon "a CNN chyron informing me breathlessly that Chuck Hagel had just 'blasted' President Obama's Syria policy."
 
It all sounds quite serious, doesn't it? If the president's own Defense secretary, during a war, is openly criticizing the administration's Syria policy, that's a pretty important development for U.S. foreign policy.
 
Except, one gets a different picture by actually reading CNN's piece.
Earlier this month, while on an [sic] trip to Latin America to discuss climate change, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sat down and wrote a highly private, and very blunt memo to National Security Advisor Susan Rice about U.S. policy toward Syria.
 
It was a detailed analysis, crafted directly by Hagel "expressing concern about overall Syria strategy," a senior U.S. official tells CNN.... The focus of the memo was "we need to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime," the official said.
So, where's the part in which the Pentagon chief "criticized" and "blasted" the White House policy? As it turns out, there really is no such part.
 
Kevin added, "That's it? Hagel wrote an internal memo suggesting that we should have a 'sharper view' of what to do about Assad? And some sympathetic White House official kinda sorta agreed that Hagel felt we might be in trouble if 'adjustments' aren't made?"
Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at a luncheon at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada March 29, 2014.

The gag rule Kasich doesn't want to talk about

10/31/14 08:50AM

The editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, hosted a meeting recently with the state's gubernatorial candidates: incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich, Democrat Ed FitzGerald, and Green Party Candidate Anita Rios. The discussion got a little ... odd.
 
FitzGerald, behind in the polls, not surprisingly stayed on the offensive, and noted the Kasich approved a law that restricts what rape-crisis counselors can tell victims. "Why was it important to have a piece of legislation that literally imposed a gag rule on rape crisis counselors?" the challenger asked.
 
The governor, slumped in his chair and visibly annoyed, decided to pretend that FitzGerald wasn't in the room. Wonkette did a nice job summarizing the scene.
One of the editors prompts him: "Would you like to answer that, governor?"
 
"Do you have a question?" Kasich responds. The editor then tries to explain the question FitzGerald just asked. As much as the editor understands the question, anyway.
 
"I assume that it had to do with, uh, there were limits on what they could say about having abortions," the editor says.
 
Kasich still says nothing, possibly because the reporter made the mistake of mentioning FitzGerald's name while summarizing the question. Once more, Kasich spreads his hands and asks, "I mean, did you have a...?" At which point FitzGerald jumps in and explains to the clueless reporter, "He's trying to pretend he didn't hear me say it, so you need to repeat it."
The discussion, such as it was, continued for a while, with the governor repeatedly saying he's "pro-life," while (a) refusing to answer the question; (b) refusing to acknowledge his rivals were sitting next to him; and (c) refusing to recognize the policy he imposed on his state.
 
Kasich, the chief executive one of the nation's largest states, did all of this while adopting the mannerisms of a petulant child who's been told to take a time out.
 
But the story took an even weirder turn when the Cleveland Plain Dealer decided it didn't want voters to see any of this.

Parties confront mixed signals as Election Day nears

10/31/14 08:00AM

At this point in the 2010 midterms, the evidence of a Republican wave was hard to miss. Over the last two weeks of the cycle, literally every national poll showed the GOP leading on the generic congressional ballot, and most showed the Republican advantage in double digits.
 
Four years later, the GOP is well positioned to have a very good night next Tuesday, but 2014 is clearly not 2010.
Among all registered voters, the Democratic congressional candidate is preferred over the Republican by five points, 45%-40%. But among those who indicate in a series of questions that they are likely to vote, that advantage shrinks to a single point, 43%-42%.
That's from a USA Today poll released yesterday afternoon, showing a plurality of voters actually preferring Democratic candidates, prevailing political winds notwithstanding.
 
Perhaps it's an outlier? It's possible, though over the last two weeks, eight national polls have published generic-ballot results, and in half of them, Dems had a narrow edge -- including, oddly enough, the Fox News poll. (I pulled those polls together in the above chart.)
 
How many national polls showed Democrats with any kind of generic-ballot lead at this point four years ago? Zero.
 
Early-voting data also shows a political landscape that's far from one-sided.

Ahead on the 10/30/14 Maddow show

10/30/14 08:13PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Andy Mehalshick, WBRE Investigative Team Reporter
  • Gordon Smith, the executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association
  • Steve Kornacki, host of Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC

read more

Thursday's Mini-Report, 10.30.14

10/30/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Kaci Hickox: "The nurse who has been (technically) quarantined in Maine because she treated Ebola patients went for a leisurely bike ride Thursday morning, following through on her vow to ignore the voluntary quarantine order."
 
* The story isn't over: "Several hours after the bike outing, Gov. Paul LePage said that efforts to negotiate with Hickox had failed. Citing confidentiality laws, he did not specify his next steps. But his office pledged in a statement: 'The governor will exercise the full extent of his authority allowable by law.'"
 
* Pakistan: "An American drone strike killed at least six militants early Thursday in the South Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan, a senior Pakistani security official said."
 
* Syria: "More than 1,000 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month, a rate that has so far been unchanged by airstrikes against the Islamic State and efforts by other countries to stem the flow of departures, according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials."
 
* Israel: "Under heavy pressure and the threat of new Israeli-Palestinian strife, Israel announced on Thursday that it would reopen a contested holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday morning, a day after closing it for the first time in years."
 
* And speaking of Israel: "Sweden on Thursday became the biggest Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm."
 
* In still more news about Israel: "Secretary of State John Kerry is condemning remarks from an administration official who labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as 'chickens**t,' calling the comment 'disgraceful' and 'damaging.'"
 
* Wall Street: "It would be the Wall Street equivalent of a parole violation: Just two years after avoiding prosecution for a variety of crimes, some of the world's biggest banks are suspected of having broken their promises to behave."
President Barack Obama speaks at an event with American health care workers fighting Ebola, Oct. 29, 2014. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

'America has never been defined by fear'

10/30/14 04:53PM

Perhaps the largest chasm in American politics is the gap between President Obama's beliefs and the beliefs his far-right critics ascribe to him.
 
For six years, Republicans have levied all kinds of creative attacks against the president, but among the most persistent is the one that questions Obama's love of country. The attack on the president's patriotism has been unrelenting -- he rejects "American exceptionalism," conservatives insist. He "doesn't believe that America is a force for good in the world," GOP lawmakers proclaim. Obama sees the United States as "just another country," Republicans declare.
 
I wonder, though, whether the right paid any attention to the president's forceful remarks yesterday, delivered in front of medical professionals who've helped combat Ebola.
"[W]hen disease or disaster strikes anywhere in the world, the world calls us. And the reason they call us is because of the men and women like the ones who are here today. They respond with skill and professionalism and courage and dedication. And it's because of the determination and skill and dedication and patriotism of folks like this that I'm confident we will contain and ultimately snuff out this outbreak of Ebola -- because that's what we do. 
 
"A lot of people talk about American exceptionalism. I'm a firm believer in American exceptionalism. You know why I am? It's because of folks like this. It's because we don't run and hide when there's a problem. Because we don't react to our fears, but instead, we respond with commonsense and skill and courage. That's the best of our history -- not fear, not hysteria, not misinformation. We react clearly and firmly, even with others are losing their heads. That's part of the reason why we're effective. That's part of the reason why people look to us."
Obama's remarks, delivered without a teleprompter and largely without notes, was practically a celebration of the United States taking the global lead. After explicitly touting his support for "American exceptionalism" -- twice -- the president said recent progress against Ebola is the direct result of "American leadership."
Republican candidate for the United States Senate Scott Brown speaks at a campaign rally at Gilchrist Metal Fabricating in Hudson, N.H. on Oct. 5, 2014.

When the going gets tough, Scott Brown falls to pieces

10/30/14 04:01PM

In a season in which plenty of politicians are trying to deliberately terrify voters, Republican Scott Brown stands out -- offering a unique combination of demagoguery, cynicism, cowardice, and confusion.
 
The former senator, hoping to re-join the Senate after his other home state rejected him two years ago, started hitting the panic button in early September, seizing on Americans' fears about Islamic State terrorists to baselessly argue that ISIS may attack through the Mexican border. Brown later added that terrorists with Ebola may also try to infiltrate the Southern U.S. border.
 
The more anxiety the public feels, the more Scott Brown descends into rambling, fear-based incoherence. If crises reveal a person's true character, recent tumult reveals the New England Republican has the spine of a marshmallow.
 
Today, however, Dave Weigel reports that Brown's desperate hopes of scaring voters have taken an unintentionally hilarious turn.
In an interview with NH1, Brown rejected the idea that he was running on "fear" -- Ebola, he said, was the "No. 1, 2, and 3" issue on the minds of voters he talked to.
 
"Carrying diseases doesn't need to be Ebola," said Brown. "but the whooping cough and polio and other types of potential diseases are coming through."
Yes, the often-confused Republican believes polio -- a disease that no longer exists in the Western hemisphere -- may be sneaking into the United States. So New Hampshire should make him a senator again ... so he can tackle an issue he's never shown any interest in ... which he has no working understanding of ... and he can oppose a bipartisan immigration reform bill that strengthens border security.
A voter shows his photo identification to an election official at an early voting polling site, in Austin, Texas on Feb. 26, 2014. (Eric Gay/AP)

A poll tax by another name is still a poll tax

10/30/14 12:48PM

For supporters of voting restrictions, opposition to voter-ID laws seems practically inexplicable. After all, they argue, having an ID is a common part of modern American life, and if these laws prevent fraud, the requirements deserve broad support.
 
We know, of course, that the fraud argument is baseless, but it's often overlooked how difficult getting proper identification -- never before necessary to cast a ballot in the United States -- can be in practice. To that end the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU published a report this week on "stories from actual voters" in Texas who are facing disenfranchisement for no good reason. Emily Badger flagged one especially striking example:
Olester McGriff, an African-American man, lives in Dallas. He has voted in several Texas elections. This year when he went to the polls he was unable to vote due to the new photo ID law. Mr. McGriff had a kidney transplant and can no longer drive; his driver's license expired in 2008. He tried to get an ID twice prior to voting. In May, he visited an office in Grand Prairie and was told he could not get an ID because he was outside of Dallas County. In July, he visited an office in Irving and was told they were out of IDs and would have to come back another day.
 
He is unable to get around easily. Mr. McGriff got to the polls during early voting because Susan McMinn, an experienced election volunteer, gave him a ride. He brought with him his expired driver's license, his birth certificate, his voter registration card, and other documentation, but none were sufficient under Texas's new photo ID requirement.
One person was prohibited from voting because his driver's license  "was taken away from him in connection with a DUI." Another Texan discovered he'd need a replacement birth certificate and a new ID, which required a series of procedural steps and a $30 fee he'd struggle to afford.
 
To hear opponents of voting rights tell it, voter-ID laws sound simple and easy. The practical reality is obviously far different -- and in all likelihood, the laws' proponents know this and don't care. Indeed, a federal district court recently concluded that Texas' law was designed specifically to discriminate against minority communities.
 
Under the circumstances, it seems hard to deny that we're talking about a policy of modern-day poll taxes.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.30.14

10/30/14 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 Iowa's U.S. Senate race, BuzzFeed discovered Joni Ernst (R) published several pieces in local newspapers with text "copied word for word" from Republican templates.
 
* In North Carolina's U.S. Senate race, the new Elon University poll shows Sen. Kay Hagan (D) with a four-point lead over Thom Tillis (R), 45% to 41%.
 
* In Colorado's U.S. Senate race, Quinnipiac continues to tell Republicans what they want to hear, this time with a seven-point lead for Rep. Cory Gardner (R) over Sen. Mark Udall (D), 46% to 39%.
 
* Though most recent polling shows Wisconsin's gubernatorial race nearly tied, the last Marquette University Law School Poll shows Gov. Scott Walker (R) with a surprisingly large lead over Mary Burke (D), 50% to 43%.
 
* In Massachusetts' gubernatorial race, the new Suffolk poll shows Charlie Baker (R) leading Martha Coakley (D), 46% to 43%. Given all of the recent data, Baker has to be considered the favorite at this point.
 
* As Rachel talked about on the show last night, Sen. Angus King (I) had endorsed Eliot Cutler's (I) gubernatorial candidacy in Maine this year, but with Cutler now certain to lose, the independent U.S. senator is now urging voters to support Rep. Mike Michaud (D) over incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R).
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, right, embraces Georgia Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue during a campaign event. on Oct. 29, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (David Goldman/AP)

GOP overinvests in 'arrogance' talking point

10/30/14 11:37AM

Benjy Sarlin reported overnight on developments in Georgia's U.S. Senate race, including a curious new complaint from Republican candidate David Perdue about President Obama.
At a rally alongside Romney, Perdue attacked the president for encouraging voters to support his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn.
 
"The arrogance of this guy, coming into Georgia on our radio station in Atlanta and saying you got to elect Michelle Nunn because I need her in Washington to continue my policies to do good for America," Perdue told a crowd of several dozen supporters, referring to a recent interview by the president. "Not on my watch."
Wait, now it's "arrogant" for a president to campaign in support of a candidate he supports? Since when?
 
The president hopes Nunn wins, and he made an appearance in local media to encourage voters to support her. In what sense is this a display of "arrogance"? If Perdue wins and runs for re-election in 2020, and President Ted Cruz encourages Georgians to vote for him, would that be "arrogant," too, or does this only apply to Obama?
 
It seems like this comes up far more often than it should. We talked recently, for example, about the Republican line of criticism that Obama uses first-person pronouns more than they'd like. The complaints turned out to be baseless, at least if one compares this president to his modern predecessors, but it was all part of the GOP line about Obama's alleged "arrogance."

Pages