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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.
Steve Southerland

Florida congressman finds new ways to alienate women

09/15/14 09:15AM

This election season, there are really only a handful of House Republican incumbents who are in real trouble. Freshman Rep. Steve Southerland (R), who narrowly won in his North Florida district in 2012, is one of them.
In a district in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, it seems Southerland would be smart to play it safe and try to avoid alienating key constituencies. And yet, the GOP congressman seems to have a knack for pushing women voters away.
For example, Southerland was recently caught misleading voters about his vote on the Violence Against Women Act. Making matters worse, voters recently learned the conservative lawmaker hosted a men-only fundraising event a few months ago. The invitation, obtained by BuzzFeed, encouraged attendees to "tell the misses not to wait up" because "the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many."
Southerland's opponent, school administrator Gwen Graham (D), criticized the fundraiser, prompting the congressman to make matters just a little worse.
Asked to respond to the Democrats' criticism that he's anti-women, Southerland laughed and said: "I live with five women. That's all I'm saying. I live with five women. Listen: Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?"
He didn't appear to be kidding. In Southerland's mind, a sitting congressman hosting a policy discussion with donors is comparable to women hosting a "lingerie shower."
Just as an aside, I'll confess to having the exact same reaction to this as the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo: "What's a 'lingerie shower?' Most people know what baby showers are. And a few are probably familiar with lingerie shows. To combine the two is kinda creepy." When a reader noted that "lingerie showers" are usually held for brides to be, Caputo added, "And that makes Southerland's comment even less helpful to his cause."
Residents wait in line during lunch hour to cast their early votes in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections in Milwaukee

Wisconsin voting restrictions cleared for 2014 cycle

09/15/14 08:35AM

In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court narrowly endorsed an unnecessary voter-ID law, concluding that "voter fraud" is a legitimate "concern." The ruling specifically pointed to a Republican voter in Milwaukee accused of 13 counts of voter fraud -- none of which, ironically, would have been prevented by a voter-ID law.
It was not, however, the final word on the subject. A parallel case was pending in the federal courts, though as Zack Roth reported, it didn't go the way voting-rights proponents were hoping, either.
A U.S. appeals court has ordered that Wisconsin's voter ID law go into effect immediately, raising the prospect of chaos and confusion at the polls this fall.
A three-judge panel made the ruling after hearing an appeal Friday by the state of Wisconsin. The ID law had been struck down by Judge Lynn Adelman in April, who ruled that it violated the Voting Rights Act's ban on racial discrimination.
"The panel has concluded that the state's probability of success on the merits of this appeal is sufficiently great that the state should be allowed to implement its law, pending further order of this court," the judges wrote.
The three-judge panel on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was comprised on Judges Frank Easterbrook, Diane Sykes, and John Daniel Tinder -- all three were appointed by Republican presidents. Their ruling overturns a district court from the spring that said "no rational person could be worried about" voter fraud at the polls.
The immediacy of the implementation matters, with Wisconsin hosting a very competitive gubernatorial race and a handful of close congressional races. Indeed, Gov. Scott Walker (R), who signed the voter-ID measure into law, is now likely to benefit from blocking voters who may have been likely to vote against him.
Elections law expert Rick Hasen described the 7th Circuit's ruling as "a big, big mistake," adding that he expects "an emergency motion to the Supreme Court."
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a campaign stop at American Legion Post 20 on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Greenwood, S.C.

Lindsey Graham: We may 'all get killed' by ISIS

09/15/14 08:00AM

More so than most, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seems absolutely convinced that Islamic State terrorists pose some kind of existential threat to the United States. It was Graham who, just a few weeks ago, insisted that if Obama "does not go on the offensive against ISIS," presumably in Syria, "they are coming here." The senator added, "[I]f we do get attacked, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages."
Somehow, he's managed to become even less subtle. On "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, guest host John Roberts asked Graham if he has any faith that President Obama's plan against ISIS is going to work. "Not much," the senator replied, adding, "We're fighting a terrorist army, not an organization. It's going to take an army to beat an army. And this idea we'll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy.... It's delusional in the way they approach this."
And then Graham really let loose.
"[T]hey're intending to come here. So, I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety. There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate.
"This is a war we're fighting, it is not a counterterrorism operation! This is not Somalia; this is not Yemen; this is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home."
In case it's not obvious, "rise to the occasion" can be roughly translated to mean "do what Lindsey Graham wants."
The senator concluded, "[I]f they survive our best shot, this is the last best chance, to knock him out, then they will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world. This is not a Sunni versus Sunni problem, this is ISIL versus mankind."
Fox's guest host, slightly taken aback, joked, "Senator Graham unfortunately is not fired up this morning." It was sarcasm, of course -- the South Carolinian's appearance was pretty over the top, even for him.
Graham, whose spectacular errors of fact and judgment during the war in Iraq are well documented, is clearly sincere in his hawkish views, but there is still no reason to believe ISIS poses an imminent threat to the United States -- just as there's no reason to believe ISIS is capable of killing all of us.

ISIS strikes again and other headlines

09/15/14 07:55AM

Pres. Obama condemns ISIS' execution of British aid worker, (Washington Post) and British PM announces response plan. (NY Times)

Arab states willing to join air fight against ISIS in Iraq, U.S. officials say. (Washington Post)

Report: Ray Rice will appeal his suspension. (NY Mag)

The first midterm election votes will be cast this week. (Washington Post)

If the GOP takes the Senate, these will be the new chairmen of the most powerful committees. (Politico)

Court reinstates Wisconsin's voter ID law. (The Hill)

Proposal to split up California fails to make the ballot. (Sacramento Bee)

read more

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters fly near Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in this handout photo dated August 4, 2010.   REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald/Handout

This Week in God, 9.13.14

09/13/14 09:17AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected story involving the U.S. Air Force and the way it's treating one of their own airmen -- who happens to be an atheist (thanks to reader D.R. for the heads-up).
An atheist member of the U.S. Air Force has been told he must swear "so help me God" as part of his military oath or else he will be forced to leave the service, the Air Force Times reports. The airman, who has not been identified by name, is currently serving in the Air Force at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada until the end of his current term of service in November, but was denied reenlistment last month when he refused to sign a sworn oath that included the religious phrase.
Under Department Guidelines, there's a re-enlistment form with a specific written oath. It requires American servicemen and women to, among other things, "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic"; "bear true faith and allegiance to the same"; and "obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me." It concludes, "So help me God."
In the Army and Navy, Americans have the discretion to omit those final four words. The Air Force, however, has a different "interpretation" of Pentagon regulations, and has told the unnamed airman that he will be excluded from military service, regardless of his qualifications, unless he swears an oath to God.
It's worth noting that the U.S. Constitution -- the one the military supports and defends, and which trumps Defense Department regulations and forms -- says quite explicitly that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." To date, the Air Force has found this unpersuasive.
Some notable conservative voices have rushed into the debate to endorse the Air Force's policy. The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer said, "There is no place in the United States military for those who do not believe in the Creator." He added, "A man who doesn't believe in the Creator ... most certainly should not wear the uniform."
One wonders what Fischer might have said to Pat Tillman.
The airman in question is considering a legal challenge to the policy blocking his military service. The Air Force, which has been embroiled in religious controversy before, has asked the Pentagon's general counsel for an official review.
Also from the God Machine this week: