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In this handout provided by the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with members of his national security team to discuss developments in the Boston bombings investigation, in the Situation Room of the White House on April 19, 2013 in...

The re-emergence of the 'intelligence briefings' attack

10/01/14 08:00AM

In September 2012, near the height of the presidential campaign, Dick Cheney, Marc Thiessen, and a handful of other Republican voices briefly focused on a new line of attack against President Obama: the president, they claimed, was routinely "skipping" intelligence briefings related to national security. It wasn't true -- Obama receives written briefings every day, and there are no in-person briefings to skip -- and the criticisms soon faded.
 
Until this week, when the right decided to bring it back.
President Obama has received a face-to-face intelligence briefing 42% of the days he's been in office, a conservative watchdog group said Tuesday.
 
The group, the Government Accountability Institute, issued a similar report in 2012, finding that Obama had such in-person briefings 42% of the days during his first term.
Right on cue, Rush Limbaugh, right-wing blogs, and Fox News pounced. The cast of "Fox & Friends," focusing on the 42% figure, asked viewers, "Is that good enough for the globe that your national security interests are in the low 40s?"
 
Even by conservative standards, this doesn't make any sense at all. The right really ought to be embarrassed by such nonsense -- especially since they rolled out this same silliness two years ago, when it was proven to be ridiculous.
 
But since some folks have apparently forgotten the basics, let's set the record straight again.

New NATO chief and other headlines

10/01/14 07:53AM

NATO gets a new chief--one Putin may approve of. (AP)

Airstrikes launched amid intelligence gaps. (AP)

ISIS seizes weapons after overrunning an Iraqi base. (NBC News)

California enacts first-of-its-kind gun restriction. (USA Today)

Scott Brown missed all border security hearings in Senate, records suggest. (Washington Post)

Even though Congress is in recess, there is a House subcommittee hearing today on a U.S. Marine being held in Mexico. (U-T San Diego)

Hong Kong stages huge democracy protests on National Day. (BBC)

You absolutely must click to see this Vine of Rep. Jim McDermott (in a yellow jumpsuit) doing a Bruce Lee move. (NY Times)

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Ebola diagnosis confirmed as first in US

Ebola diagnosis confirmed as first in US

09/30/14 10:22PM

Dr. Robert Bristow, director of disaster medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, talks with Rachel Maddow about the CDC confirmation of the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. and how health authorities will respond. watch

Leakers go public with Secret Service chaos

Leakers go public with Secret Service chaos

09/30/14 09:57PM

Carol Leonnig, national reporter for the Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about the growing list of Secret Service embarrassments coming to public light as inside sources leak details to journalists and legislators. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.30.14

09/30/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Ebola: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the first patient to accidentally carry Ebola to the United States has been diagnosed at a hospital in Dallas. Four other people with Ebola -- all medical volunteers working in West Africa -- have been evacuated to the U.S. for treatment but this is the first case in a traveler. The patient's at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas."
 
* Nigeria: "With quick and coordinated action by some of its top doctors, Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, appears to have contained its first Ebola outbreak, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday."
 
* Hong Kong: "A midnight deadline imposed by pro-democracy protesters came and went Tuesday without Hong Kong's leader responding to their demands -- but members of the mostly student-led 'Umbrella Revolution' movement vowed to stay as long as it takes."
 
* ISIS, Part I: "Kurdish fighters opened offensives against Islamic State militants in several parts of northern Iraq on Tuesday, seizing control of a border crossing with Syria that has been a major conduit for the insurgents, officials said."
 
* ISIS, Part II: The White House has acknowledged for the first time that strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.
 
* Bipartisan dissatisfaction: "Secret Service Director Julia Pierson took a beating from nearly 20 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lawmakers who traveled back to Washington for Tuesday's rare, three-and-a-half hour recess hearing."
 
* Learning more details: "The man who jumped over the White House fence and sprinted through the main floor of the mansion could have gotten even farther had it not been for an off-duty Secret Service agent who was coincidentally in the house and leaving for the night."
 
* Oklahoma: "An Oklahoma man was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the beheading of a co-worker, but federal officials said they had found no links between him and Islamic extremist groups that have beheaded several Western hostages in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks."
 
* This really is deeply crazy: "Much of the Affordable Care Act must be defunded and millions of Americans must lose their health insurance, according to an opinion issued Tuesday by Judge Ronald A. White, an Oklahoma federal judge appointed to the bench by George W. Bush.... To date, nine federal judges have considered this question of whether much of the law should be defunded. Only three -- all of whom are Republicans -- have agreed that it should be."
 
* Wow: "The new Living Planet Index report from the World Wildlife Fund opens with a jaw-dropping statistic: we've killed roughly half of the world's non-human vertebrate animal population since 1970."
Former Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney delivers remarks during the second day of the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 15, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Even now, Romney just can't help himself

09/30/14 04:47PM

The Mitt's Mendacity project ran its course a couple of years ago, and it will not return. But just for old times' sake, let's pause to note that the poor guy is still truth-challenged.
 
Romney, who seems to spend a little too much time thinking about ways to condemn the president who defeated him, has run into trouble once more, this time in an interview with Mark Leibovich. The twice-defeated candidate is apparently still thinking about the "47 percent" video that helped drag down his candidacy.
"I was talking to one of my political advisers," Romney continued, "and I said: 'If I had to do this again, I'd insist that you literally had a camera on me at all times" -- essentially employing his own tracker, as opposition researchers call them. "I want to be reminded that this is not off the cuff." This, as he saw it, was what got him in trouble at that Boca Raton fund-raiser, when Romney told the crowd he was writing off the 47 percent of the electorate that supported Obama (a.k.a. "those people"; "victims" who take no "personal responsibility"). Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.
 
"My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man," Romney said. "If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man." I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the "47 percent" line by a ranting supporter.
No, that's a new one. It's also patently false.
 
Since David Corn first helped shine a light on the infamous "47 percent" video, in which Romney told a group of wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans are lazy parasites, the Republican has struggled to come up with a coherent response. Initially, Romney actually endorsed the sentiments on the video and said they reflected his core beliefs.
 
He later changed his mind, saying his remarks were "completely wrong" and the result of misspeaking. Later still, Romney switched gears again and said the comments were taken out of context. Now he's come up with an entirely new explanation: Romney's not responsible for what Romney said; some guy in the audience deserves the blame.
 
Ironically, in the video itself, Romney says of struggling Americans, "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility." Funny, he doesn't seem to be a big fan of personal responsibility, either.
 
The facts here are obvious and easily checked.
An American flag flies from the rucksack of soldier outside a homecoming ceremony on Fort Knox on Thursday, February 27, 2014 in Fort Knox, Ky.

Afghanistan, U.S. sign security agreement

09/30/14 03:50PM

I'm not sure why this isn't a bigger story this afternoon.
Afghanistan and the United States signed a long-awaited security pact in Kabul Tuesday, allowing Washington to leave a contingent of troops in the country beyond 2014. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the Bilateral Security Agreement on behalf of the White House, opposite Afghanistan's national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar.
 
The deal follows the inauguration Monday of new president Ashraf Ghani, after a protracted election process that lasted six months.
Hamid Karzai has famously balked for quite a while at such an agreement, but Ghani clearly does not share those concerns.
 
"This is a turning point in our relations with world," Ghani said at the signing ceremony. "There are common threats and we need to have common partnership to fight it. We have the will to bring about peace and stability to this country."
 
In a statement issued by the White House, the Obama administration added, "After nearly two years of hard work by negotiating teams on both sides, earlier today in Kabul the United States and the new Afghan Government of National Unity signed a Bilateral Security Agreement." The legal framework, the statement added, will help cover, among other things, "critical missions after 2014."
 
OK, but how much after 2014?
John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Jeb Hensarling

Running from, not on, a policy agenda

09/30/14 12:50PM

It was 20 years ago this week that House Republican leaders, eager to make the case for a GOP takeover of Congress, presented the public with an agenda called the "Contract with America." Republicans knew at the time that the then-Democratic president wasn't popular, and the GOP was likely to make big gains in the midterms, but the party wanted to make the case for fairly specific proposals that Republicans would work on if elected.
 
In popular lore, the platform helped propel the GOP into the majority, though I think much of this is overstated -- most Americans weren't familiar with the "Contract" by Election Day 1994. Still, it was an era in which Republicans saw value in crafting and presenting policy ideas.
 
That era is long gone. NBC's First Read did a nice job this morning noting that as far as the current crop of congressional Republicans are concerned, running on a non-existent policy platform isn't a problem.
In their midterm messaging, Republican say they want to repeal the federal health-care law, but replace it with what? They want to "secure" the border, but how do you accomplish that (and at what cost)? And they want to take the fight to ISIS in the Middle East, but aren't leaving the campaign trail to vote on authorizing U.S. military force there. [...]
 
As Lou Zickar of the Ripon Society, a moderate GOP group, put it: The 1994 Contract with America "is a moment worth remembering because it was also a time when the GOP loudly and proudly proclaimed not what they stood against, but what they stood for."
For their part, GOP officials routinely say they have at least some priorities. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), for example, sat down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos the other day, and the host asked what congressional Republicans intend to do with their power.
 
"We have focused like a laser for the last three and a half years on jobs and the economy," the Speaker who tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act several dozen times for no reason said. "Over 40 [jobs] bills sitting in the U.S. Senate. Let's start with those bills."
 
I hate to sound picky, but (a) there really aren't over 40 jobs bills, no matter how many times Boehner falsely claims otherwise; and (b) for a Speaker who has literally no major legislative accomplishments after nearly four years on the job, this is a rather pathetic basis for an election-year platform.
 
Indeed, it only reinforces the degree to which Republicans have become a post-policy party, lacking any real regard for governing or substance.
 
But wait, my friends on the right will say, aren't Republicans going to win anyway? And if so, doesn't this prove it doesn't much matter?

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.30.14

09/30/14 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:
 
* Massachusetts' gubernatorial race has suddenly become one of the nation's most competitive. A new Suffolk poll shows Martha Coakley (D) and Charlie Baker (R) tied at 43% each, while a Western New England University poll shows Baker up by one, 44% to 43%.
 
* A new statewide poll in Michigan shows its gubernatorial race every bit as close, with incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder (R) up by one over Rep. Mark Schauer (D), 41% to 40%.
 
* The same poll shows Rep. Gary Peters (D) leading Terri Lynn Land (R) in Michigan's U.S. Senate race by double digits, 48% to 38%.
 
* And speaking of Land, NPR reported this morning that Land, despite being just 35 days from the election, literally hasn't made any public appearances in the last seven days (thanks to Ron Chusid for the heads-up).
 
* NARAL Pro-Choice America is launching a six-figure direct-mail campaign this week, targeting three incumbent Republican governors: Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Florida's Rick Scott, and Kansas' Sam Brownback. The message: these governors are "obsessed with outlawing abortion" instead of focusing on jobs and the economy.
 
* In a year featuring several three-way contests, let's not forget about the U.S. Senate race in South Dakota, where a new statewide poll shows Mike Rounds (R) leading Rick Weiland (D) by 13 points, 39% to 26%, because former Sen. Larry Pressler, who was a Republican but is now running as an independent, has 24% support. [Update: math corrected.]

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