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Ahead on the 10/1/14 Maddow show

10/01/14 06:20PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly, Democratic congressman from Virginia and member of the Oversight and Government Reform committee 
  • Kasie Hunt, MSNBC Political Correspondent
  • Dr. Seema Yasmin, public health professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and staff writer for the Dallas Morning News

Check out a previous of tonight's show after the jump read more

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 10.1.14

10/01/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Kobach loses again in Kansas: "A three-judge panel in Topeka ruled Wednesday that Kansas Democrats need not nominate a candidate for the 2014 Senate race. The ruling is expected to help independent Senate candidate Greg Orman's campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts."
* A hospital's misstep: "The man in Texas who tested positive for Ebola told hospital officials he had traveled from West Africa when he sought treatment on Friday, but that information was not relayed to everyone treating him at that time, authorities said Wednesday. As a result, the man was diagnosed with a 'low-grade, common viral disease' and sent home that day."
* More on the Ebola case: "A man who flew to Dallas and was later found to have the Ebola virus was identified by senior Liberian government officials on Wednesday as Thomas Eric Duncan, a resident of Monrovia in his mid-40s."
* Hong Kong: "As thousands of protesters continued Wednesday to paralyze large parts of Hong Kong, leaders on both sides of the conflict have begun strategizing with an eye toward the end game."
* I don't think Boehner agrees with this: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said lawmakers should be ready to debate and vote on a measure laying out the U.S. military's authority to wage war against Islamic State when they return to Washington after November's midterm elections."
* Florida: "Michael Dunn, the man who shot and killed African-American teen Jordan Davis, was found guilty of first-degree murder in a retrial on Wednesday. The Florida man made national headlines in November 2012 after he approached a vehicle outside a convenience store that was playing loud rap music."
* Latin America: "President Obama has approved a plan to allow several thousand young children from Central American countries to apply for refugee status in the United States, providing a legal path for some of them to join family members already living in America, White House officials said Tuesday."
* Israel: "President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House on Wednesday, against the backdrop of a radically altered landscape in the Middle East that Mr. Netanyahu said he believed could help revive the moribund peace process with the Palestinians."
* The search for Eric Frein: "State police searching for a man accused of killing a trooper said Tuesday they found two pipe bombs in the Pennsylvania woods during their manhunt that were capable of causing significant damage. The bombs were not deployed, but they were fully functional and had both trip wires and fuses, Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news conference."
Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province

Intel agencies aren't being thrown 'under the bus'

10/01/14 04:46PM

On "60 Minutes" the other day, Steve Kroft asked President Obama whether it was "a complete surprise" that Islamic State militants were able to take control of "so much territory" in Iraq and Syria. The president replied, "[O]ur head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria."
What Obama said was, of course, true -- Clapper really did recently acknowledge that intelligence agencies underestimated what had been taking place in Syria, as well as Iraqi security forces' capacity to engage ISIS fighters. But Republicans and much of the media was nevertheless annoyed with the president's response.
Intelligence officials weren't exactly thrilled, either.
[B]y pointing to the agencies without mentioning any misjudgments of his own, Mr. Obama left intelligence officials bristling about being made into scapegoats and critics complaining that he was trying to avoid responsibility.
The New York Times quoted one unnamed intelligence official who said, "Some of us were pushing the reporting [on ISIS], but the White House just didn't pay attention to it. They were preoccupied with other crises."
Naturally, White House officials deny this, but the broader significance is that the intelligence community is trying to avoid responsibility, while pushing back against the president's suggestion that agencies underestimated ISIS.
Soon after the NYT piece ran, Foreign Policy published a related item, noting U.S. spies were complaining Monday that the president "thrown us under the bus," as one former official put it.
Given the context, I don't think that's what Obama did, exactly, but it raises the larger question of what U.S. intelligence agencies missed when it comes to Islamic State militants.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson (C) arrives to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the White House perimeter breach at the Rayburn House Office Building on Sept. 30, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Pierson resigns as Secret Service director

10/01/14 03:53PM

The writing was on the wall. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, suggested this morning that Secret Service Director Julia Pierson may need to resign to help restore confidence in the agency. Soon after, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed Cummings' concerns.
The beginnings of a political avalanche took shape. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Fox this morning it was time for Pierson's ouster, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) scheduled a press conference for this afternoon in which he would do the same.
Left with no options, and with the Secret Service burdened by a series of frightening missteps, Pierson had no choice but to step down.
Embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned Wednesday following embarrassing missteps that placed the president and the first family at risk, the Department of Homeland Security announced.  [...]
Under Pierson's watch, an armed intruder managed to jump the White House fence and run deep into the building brandishing a knife as ran past a stairwell leading to the first family's private residence... Separately, the president was in an elevator in Atlanta two weeks with an armed security contractor with assault convictions.
According to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Joseph Clancy, a retired special agent and the former head of the Presidential Protective Division, will serve as an interim acting director until Pierson's successor is in place. [Disclosure: Clancy is currently serving as the director of Comcast Corporate Security, and Comcast owns NBC Universal.]
Pierson, who was not in charge for all of the recent controversies -- the 2011 shooting incident, for example, was before her tenure -- took over as director in March 2013.
People wait in line to vote in Wilson, North Carolina, October 18, 2012.

Appeals court blocks some N.C. voting restrictions

10/01/14 02:44PM

Of all the states that imposed new voting restrictions since 2010 -- and there have been so many -- no state was quite as ambitious as North Carolina. As we've discussed before, Republican policymakers in the state, led by Gov. Pat McCrory (R), slashed early voting, placed new limitations on voter-registration drives, made it harder for students to vote (and even register to vote), ended same-day registration during the early voting period, and made it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.
All of these measures, according to the state's own numbers, disproportionately affect African-American voters.
When voting-rights advocates filed suit, trying to block implementation of the new measures, they came up short at the district court. As of this afternoon, however, proponents of voting rights had far more success at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Zach Roth reports this afternoon:
A federal appeals court put a hold Wednesday on two key provisions of North Carolina's sweeping and restrictive voting law, but left other parts in place. [...]
By a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel blocked the law's elimination of same-day voter registration, and its ban on counting out-of-precinct ballots. It green-lighted the law's elimination of a week of early voting, as well as several other provisions, including the elimination of a popular "pre-registration" program for high-school students. Barring a reversal, those planks will be in effect for the state's fall elections, which include a tight U.S. Senate race.
In this 2-1 ruling, the majority included two judges appointed by President Obama.
Ari Berman's report took a closer look at the restrictions that will remain in place, many of which were imposed on North Carolinians for no apparent reason.
So, what happens now?
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses members of the media and volunteers with the state's Republican Party during a stop at the Madison GOP field office in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

Scott Walker has a decision to make

10/01/14 12:32PM

In just about every midterm election cycle, candidates eyeing a presidential campaign down the road have a decision to make: do they commit to serving a full term or not? Candidates who do make that promise effectively remove themselves from national contention -- they're declaring their intentions for the next several years, which won't include a run for the White House.
But candidates who choose not to make that commitment -- tipping their hand about their presidential plans -- run the risk of annoying voters. They're left in a position in which they're essentially telling the public, "I want you to elect me to this office, though if I win, I might soon after run for some different office."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was pretty upfront about his intentions during his re-election bid last year, refusing to commit to a full, four-year term. Plenty of other likely GOP hopefuls -- Cruz, Paul, Jindal, Rubio, Santorum, Jeb Bush -- aren't running for anything this year, and don't have to worry about this at all.
But then there's Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who's made no secret of his national aspirations, even in the midst of a tough re-election fight. Will the Republican governor promise voters to serve all four years if he prevails in November? It's apparently more complicated than it should be. Here's what the Green Bay Press Gazette reported last week:
While Gov. Scott Walker lays out plans for a second term in Madison, he will not promise to serve the entire four years if the 2016 national elections beckon.... [A]mid widespread speculation that he could soon become a candidate for national office, the governor told reporters later he would not make any promises about completing a second term if re-elected.
"I've never made a time commitment anywhere I've been in office," he said. "I've always made promises about what I would do and how I would do it. I'm not going to change now."
That's a perfectly fair position, but it's not what he told msnbc's Kasie Hunt, who asked the governor, "Are you committed to serving a full second term?" Walker replied, "That's my plan."
It is?

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.1.14

10/01/14 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:
* The latest CNN poll shows Democrats leading Republicans among likely voters on the generic congressional ballot, 47% to 45%. The same results show President Obama's approval rating inching just a little higher, to 44%.
* In Iowa's closely watched U.S. Senate race, PPP's latest survey shows Joni Ernst (R) with a two-point lead over Rep. Bruce Braley (D). The margin is unchanged from the PPP's poll in August.
* In Florida's gubernatorial race, the newest Survey USA poll shows former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) with a six-point advantage over incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R), 46% to 40%. That's a bigger lead than most recent surveys in the state, many of which show Scott with a slight edge.
* In a bit of a surprise, Gallup's latest poll in Louisiana found more voters in the state identifying as Democrats, reversing a four-year trend that favored the GOP.
* On the other hand, PPP's latest Louisiana survey shows Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) with a small lead over incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), 48% to 45%. If neither candidate gets 50%, the two will meet again in a December runoff.
Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West at a campaign stop in Boca Raton, Florida October 18, 2012.

How not to respond to the Secret Service's challenges

10/01/14 11:31AM

The recent revelations surrounding the Secret Service have been as stunning as they are frightening. As much as Americans like to think of the Secret Service as the elite professionals when it comes to protecting the nation's leaders, a series of controversies have taken a toll on the agency's reputation.
With that in mind, the Washington Post ran an opinion piece yesterday on recent developments from Dan Emmett, whose c.v. seems quite impressive: he's served in the Secret Service Presidential Protective Division, the CIA National Clandestine Service, and the Marines.
But Emmett's prescription for what ails the Secret Service was unexpected: "While Congress has not declared war on ISIS and al-Qaeda, U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq -- as well as the threats of radical Islamist groups against Americans and our country -- make it clear we are indeed at war. In wartime, we must call on our military forces to assist the Secret Service in protecting the president and White House against attack." He added that "combat troops" could have prevented the recent fence-jumper from entering the White House itself.
But even more striking, Emmett wants to see Julia Pierson, the current Secret Service director, ousted and has someone specific in mind to replace her.
Pierson should be replaced and the next director should come from outside the Secret Service, with the deputy director remaining an agent. In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.
There was no indication that this was intended as humor. Indeed, a Fox News host quickly endorsed the idea this morning.
I'm not sure why the Washington Post published this, presumably on purpose, but it's an unusually horrible idea.
David Koch

AFP not getting better with practice

10/01/14 10:41AM

When a political organization gets caught in an embarrassing misstep, one of the first things to look for is a pattern of behavior. Looking at the story on the merits obviously matters, but so too does the group's record -- an entity's track record speaks to its credibility.
With that in mind, the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity may be developing a reputation that it would prefer to avoid.
We talked yesterday about AFP sending out incorrect voting materials to many North Carolina households, which is apparently serious enough to warrant an investigation from the state board of elections. Zack Roth also reported on a 2011 incident in which AFP "sent out absentee ballot applications for eight Wisconsin state Senate recall elections," giving voters the wrong deadline information.
Reader C.G. emailed me overnight to remind me of yet another incident which I'd forgotten all about. The Charleston Gazette reported in April of this year:
Voters in at least eight West Virginia counties have been mailed "misleading and confusing" material that may make them incorrectly believe they aren't eligible to vote in next month's election, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Tuesday.
The leaflets -- mailed by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation -- warn voters that if they do not update their voter registration, they may lose their right to vote in the upcoming primary election on May 13.... Tuesday was the last day to register to vote for the May 13 primary, and a Tennant spokesman said the mailing could convince people whose voter registrations are perfectly valid that they aren't allowed to vote.
The concerns were well grounded. The AFP mailing told West Virginians, "As a good citizen who values their Constitutional right to vote, we are reminding you to update your voter registration. Updating your registration before the deadline ensures you do not lose your right to vote in the upcoming election."
In reality, most of these voters did not need to update their registration and their voting rights were not at risk. Local officials conceded they received confused calls from the public.
A spokesperson for the conservative group conceded at the time, "There may have been a few mistakes."
You don't say.
Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at a election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

Obama critics search for a foreign policy alternative

10/01/14 10:13AM

Every Saturday morning, President Obama makes a weekly address to the nation, which usually runs a few minutes long and tackles a major subject in the news. It used to be known as the weekly radio address, but in 2009, Obama took the enterprise online.
Of course, in the interest of fair play, the minority party gets its own address, which means Republican officials release their own video every Saturday morning, featuring their own message and messenger. And this week, the GOP put U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in the spotlight.
The North Carolina Republican made a series of odd arguments, but it was his condemnation of the White House's foreign policy that stood out.
"As we look at the crises boiling over across the globe, we see a president who has been leading from behind with a failed foreign policy that has weakened America.
"Iran is getting closer and closer to developing a nuclear weapon. Russia continues to infringe upon the sovereignty of Ukraine. Our ally Israel is being attacked by terrorist groups. And the president still doesn't have a strategy to destroy the terrorist group known as the Islamic State."
The notion that the president doesn't have an ISIS strategy is bizarre given the prime-time address the president made in September in which he outlined his ISIS strategy. How a prominent U.S. Senate candidate in a competitive race missed that is a bit of a mystery. Shouldn't one of his aides have read Tillis' remarks before he said something so foolish in a national address?
What's more, Iran is not getting closer to a nuclear weapon, and while recent events in Ukraine and Israel are alarming, blaming American officials for all discouraging developments in the world is absurd.
But specifics aside, listening to the far-right North Carolinian, Tillis has a problem with Obama's approach to international affairs on a more fundamental level. The candidate is opposed, he said, to a "foreign policy that has weakened America."
And what is it, exactly, about Obama's foreign policy that Tillis finds so offensive? He has absolutely no idea.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.  Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty.

Federal policymakers take an acute interest in the NFL

10/01/14 09:08AM

Policymakers in Washington have taken quite a bit of interest in the National Football League lately, for reasons that have nothing to do with rooting for one team or another. For example, Brian Fung reported on the latest from the FCC.
Federal regulators on Thursday sacked the longstanding sports "blackout" rule that prevents certain games from being shown on TV if attendance to the live event is poor.
In a bipartisan vote, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously agreed to strike down the much-criticized 40-year-old policy. Under the blackout rule, games that failed to sell enough tickets could not be shown on free, over-the-air television in the home team's own local market.
I haven't been interested in sports in a long while, but I know this is good news for fans. Indeed, I grew up in Miami rooting for the Dolphins, who've long had poor attendance. I lost count of how many times I wanted to watch a home game only to discover I couldn't because the game wasn't sold out. (This includes a 1983 playoff game against Seattle, which 10-year-old me was forced to listen to on New Year's Eve on the radio. For goodness sakes, the radio.)
The point of the "blackout" rule, of course, was to boost ticket sales -- if you want to see your local team, go to the game and watch. If it sells out, you can watch it on TV; if not, well, you can still buy a ticket. But given the fact that many Americans can't afford ticket prices, and the NFL is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, yesterday's decision helps the viewing public in an obvious way.
The FCC vote was five to zero.
But let's also note that federal policymakers' interest in pro football suddenly goes well beyond television broadcasts. The league's tax-exempt status is also very much on Washington's mind.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., walks in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Feb. 4, 2014, Washington, D.C. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Roberts still looking for friends in Kansas

10/01/14 08:35AM

Sen. Pat Roberts (R), fighting to salvage his career in Kansas, has sounded the alarm within his party: come rescue me, he's told the GOP, or we're going to lose this seat and possibly a chance at a Senate majority.
And for the most part, Republicans are responding to the call. Notable figures from competing GOP factions -- everyone from Jeb Bush to Sarah Palin -- has made the trek to Kansas, trying to get the unpopular incumbent over the finish line one more time.
But as the Kansas City Star's Dave Helling reported yesterday, there are some within the party who remain reluctant to join the choir.
Former GOP Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Roberts' colleague and friend of more than 30 years, blames his rightward tilt for his struggles.
"There's just disappointment around the state," she said. "They feel they don't know him now."
Asked recently to tape a TV commercial for Roberts, Kassebaum Baker refused.
That's no small development. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, a former three-term senator from Kansas, was a lawmaker who believed in compromise and governing. In recent years, a stark division has emerged within the Kansas GOP -- the far-right vs. the mainstream -- and Kassebaum Baker has long represented the latter.
It makes sense that Roberts would reach out to her, looking for the former senator's support, but the fact that she refused to help the incumbent says a great deal -- about how far Roberts has gone, about the intra-party split, and about moderate Republicans' disappointment with what's happened to their party.
At the same time, however, while Republicans from the governing wing like Kassebaum Baker no longer have any use for Roberts after his shift to the right, Kansas Tea Partiers aren't impressed, either.
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.