In April, President Obama stunned much of the political world with a striking announcement: 8 million Americans had enrolled through an exchange marketplace for health care coverage, well ahead of earlier projections. After a couple of months in which the Affordable Care Act didn't work, the enrollment figures were powerful evidence of a remarkable success story.
Republicans, slightly stunned, scrambled to come up with a new complaint. The White House, they argued, "cooked the books." The 8 million may sound impressive, GOP officials argued, but no one should take it seriously because we don't know how many consumers will pay their premiums. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said as many as a third of these Americans don't really count towards the overall tally.
In May, congressional Republicans were so invested in this talking point, they even released a painfully ridiculous "report" that was thoroughly discredited soon after its publication -- the GOP lawmakers were exposed as having publishing fraudulent claims.
The conservative talking points look even worse now.
The Obama administration said Thursday that 7.3 million people who bought private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act had paid their premiums and were still enrolled.
Marilyn B. Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, disclosed the latest count at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In other words, a little over 91% of the 8 million consumers who enrolled through an ACA exchange marketplace ended up getting insurance and paying for it. Everything Republicans claimed and predicted about this figure turned out to be wrong -- which is a sentence I feel like I've typed quite a few times when it comes to Republicans and "Obamacare."
Of course, 7.3 million isn't exactly 8 million, and 91% isn't 100%. Is this cause for concern for those hoping to see the American system succeed?
On the one hand, the United States is in the midst of a political campaign season. On the other hand, the United States is also in the midst of an aggressive military campaign against Islamic State terrorists. There's apparently an ugly point at which the two intersect.
Evan McMorris-Santoro reported this week that the White House has made a conscious decision: "President Obama will not tout his war on ISIS on the campaign trail." Polls generally show support for the president's approach, but there's no appetite to even try to exploit this for partisan gain.
[The National Republican Congressional Committee] airing TV ads on the issue, questioning whether Democrats are tough enough on terrorists (see here, here and here). It's 2002-2004 all over again! Here we are, six weeks from Election Day and the GOP is potentially going to close with a message on national security -- not on health care or the economy. Who would have thunk it 6 months ago?
To say this is getting ugly in a hurry is to understate matters. It arguably started in late August when Sen. Tom Udall's (D) Republican challenger in New Mexico featured footage of an ISIS beheading video in a campaign ad, but Republicans have only grown more aggressive since.
The Washington Postreported overnight that when it comes to U.S. efforts to combat Islamic State terrorists, President Obama and military leaders aren't necessarily on the same page.
Flashes of disagreement over how to fight the Islamic State are mounting between President Obama and U.S. military leaders, the latest sign of strain in what often has been an awkward and uneasy relationship.
Even as the administration has received congressional backing for its strategy, with the Senate voting Thursday to approve a plan to arm and train Syrian rebels, a series of military leaders have criticized the president's approach against the Islamic State militant group.
It's hard to say with confidence just how widespread the disagreements really are. For that matter, even among those military leaders voicing disagreement, there's a variety of opinions.
For his part, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday that Pentagon leaders are in "full alignment" and in "complete agreement with every component of the president's strategy."
And that's fine, but let's not forget that it's not really their call. Pentagon leaders don't actually have to be in "complete agreement with every component of the president's strategy."
NBC's First Read noted yesterday, "Remember the battle cry of some Democrats during some of the darkest days of the Iraq war -- that Bush and Cheney were not listening to the commanders? Well, given where all the military leadership is on this strategy, it is now Obama, the Democrat, who is open to criticism that he is not listening to his commanders."
But there's no reason to necessarily see that as "criticism."
Among the many recent controversies surrounding the National Football League is the case of Adrian Peterson, who was recently indicted for beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, which the player characterized as a form of discipline. A new NBC/Marist poll gauged public attitudes on this and related issues, and some of the results were unexpected.
For example, the poll asked respondents, "Do you think it is right or wrong for parents to discipline their children by striking them -- either with a paddle, switch, or belt?" Overall, 60% consider it wrong, while only 34% believe it's right. But like Judd Legum, I found the demographic differences amazing.
Every group of Americans, regardless of age, race, gender, education, marital status, or income felt largely the same way: striking children, respondents said, is wrong. But note what happens when the results are broken up by region:
It turns out, Southerners were literally the only group in the entire poll in which a majority of respondents said striking children is appropriate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed disgusted, and perhaps a little hysterical, this week when condemning President Obama for targeting Islamic State terrorists without U.S. ground troops. "It's going to take an army to beat an army," Graham told Fox News, adding, "I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety.... This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home."
It was of interest, then, when Amanda Terkel reported that the South Carolina Republican, as recently as a few months ago, had effectively argued the opposite. "I don't think we need boots on the ground," Graham told Fox News on June 10. "I don't think that is an option worth consideration."
Now that President Obama agrees with Lindsey Graham I, Lindsey Graham II is outraged.
But as it turns out, the South Carolinian isn't alone. This week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been in high dudgeon, demanding a more expansive U.S. military operation against ISIS in Syria, though a Democratic source alerted me overnight to comments McCain made to msnbc's Andrea Mitchell on June 13.
"I think you have to explain to the American people what kind of a threat that an ISIS takeover of Iraq would pose to the United States of America. Can you imagine a caliphate or a center of violent Muslim extremism dedicated to attacking the United States, the consequences of that? That has to be explained to the American people.
"I would also explain to the American people that I do not envision a scenario where ground combat troops are on the ground."
A few moments later, McCain added, "I would not commit to putting Americans boots on the ground."
This sounds awfully similar to what the president is saying now, to McCain's great consternation.
In Kansas' amazing U.S. Senate race, the stage was set for the Kansas Supreme Court to have the final say. Chad Taylor (D) terminated his campaign weeks ago and wants off the ballot; brazenly partisan Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) hopes to boost incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) by forcing Taylor to stay on the ballot.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Democratic Senate candidate's name be removed from the ballot ahead of November's election. [...]
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach ... ruled that Taylor couldn’t withdraw his name from the ballot, citing a state law that requires candidates to be “incapable” of serving if they wish to withdraw from a race. The court settled the matter Thursday.
“[Kobach] shall not include Taylor’s name on any ballots for the office of United States Senate for the general election on November 4, 2014,” Judge Michael J. Malone wrote to conclude his ruling.
The entirety of the ruling, which featured no dissent, is online here (pdf). There is no additional appeal.
The panic within GOP circles is understandable. Polls show Roberts, an unpopular, longtime incumbent, with a vastly better chance of success if his opposition is divided between Taylor and Independent Greg Orman. With Taylor out, Orman is fairly well positioned to win the seat.
But the story isn't done just yet. Secretary of State Kobach, who said the matter had to be resolved by last night in order to prepare state ballots, magically discovered* late yesterday that he could extend the deadline another eight days. To what end? As the Republican official sees it, Kansas Democrats can now be required to choose a replacement candidate to take Taylor's slot on the ballot.
Kobach really isn't making much of an effort to conceal his partisan agenda here. That said, this latest maneuver probably won't work, either.
Dave Helling, political reporter for the Kansas City Star, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Kansas Supreme Court ruling against Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach to allow Democrat Chad Taylor off the senate ballot. watch
New Jersey state representative John Wisniewski talks with Rachel Maddow about a leak from a federal source to WNBC that the federal investigation of New Jersey traffic lane closures has turned up no wrongdoing by Governor Chris Christie. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the Senate's passage of expanding the training of Syrian rebels, and points out the abject dereliction by Congress to give itself more months off without addressing the war on ISIS while the U.S. military continues the fight. watch
House just announced they're taking off tomorrow, and the whole rest of Sept. And all of Oct. And the first half of Nov. Now *that's* a job.