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President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 37th Annual Awards Gala in Washington, D.C, Oct. 2, 2014. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Criticism of Obama's pronouns falls apart

10/21/14 09:36AM

As odd as this may seem, President Obama's critics have taken a keen interest in his pronouns: for some on the right, carefully counting the number of times Obama uses the word "I" or "me" tells us something important about the president's arrogance. Or something.
 
This line of attack has been ongoing for years, though Charles Krauthammer, non-practicing psychiatrist, summarized the right's pitch about a month ago: "I mean, count the number of times he uses the word I in any speech, and compare that to any other president.... You know, this is a guy, you look at every one of his speeches, even the way he introduces high officials -- 'I'd like to introduce my secretary of State.' He once referred to 'my intelligence community.' And in one speech, I no longer remember it, 'my military.' For God's sake, he talks like the emperor Napoleon."
 
With this in mind, BuzzFeed put together an interesting research project.
BuzzFeed News analyzed more than 2,000 presidential news conferences since 1929, looking for usage of first-person singular pronouns -- "I," "me," "my," "mine," and "myself." Just 2.5 percent of Obama's total news-conference words fell into this category. Only Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt used them less often. [...]
 
While Obama has shied from the first-person singular, he's leaned heavily on the first-person plural -- "we," "our," "ourselves," and "us." In fact, he's used it more than any president in the dataset.
Hmm. This would suggest Obama is actually the least narcissistic president in the modern era. Krauthammer, who specifically urged the public to "count the number of times he uses the word I in any speech," isn't just throwing around cheap criticism, the far-right pundit actually has the entire line of attack backwards.
 
In fact, this seems like a fine time for a new chart.
John Kasich

GOP governor: Obamacare has made 'real improvements in people's lives'

10/21/14 08:40AM

Once in a great while, a politician will slip and accidentally tell the truth. Take Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), for example, who inadvertently praised the Affordable Care Act.
"Repeal and replace" has been a Republican mantra for nearly as long as Obamacare has been in existence. Yet one of the GOP's rumored 2016 front-runners isn't playing along.
 
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to cruise to reelection this year and then seek the Republican nomination in 2016, recently told the Associated Press that repealing the Affordable Care is "not gonna happen." "The opposition to it was really either political or ideological," he said. "I don't think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people's lives."
You could almost hear Kasich's national ambitions evaporating as the AP article made the rounds.
 
In context, it's hard to tell whether the Ohio Republican was speaking about the Affordable Care Act overall or specifically the part of the law related to Medicaid expansion, which Kasich has long supported. In either case, for a prominent GOP policymaker -- a former Fox News analyst, no less -- to admit out loud that all or part of "Obamacare" is making "real improvements in people's lives" is a striking development. Kasich's assessment, which happens to be true, is a reminder that the right's repeal crusade has already died with a whimper.
 
Of course, Kasich was forced to scramble last night, undoing the political damage done by his candor. The Ohio governor turned to Twitter to say, "As always, my position is that we need to repeal and replace," but the damage was already done. Kasich has already made clear -- in words and deeds -- that he sees no future in repealing the entirety of the federal health care system. Indeed, was fairly explicit on this, telling the AP that the right-wing arguments don't hold water "against real flesh and blood."
Image: Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio vs. scientists, Round III

10/21/14 08:00AM

A couple of years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked how old he thinks the planet is. The senator replied, "I'm not a scientist, man." Earlier this year, the Florida Republican said he rejects the way "scientists are portraying" the climate crisis.
 
And this week, Rubio has found a new way to thumb his nose at scientists.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced on Monday he will introduce legislation banning travel to the U.S. for nationals of Ebola-stricken African countries once Congress returns the week after the Nov. 4 elections.
 
The bill would immediately ban U.S. visas for nationals of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, to be lifted once the Centers for Disease Control certify that the outbreak has been contained. It would also subject other countries where the Ebola outbreak reaches "significant levels," Rubio's office said.
Once introduced, this will be the first Senate legislation mandating a West African travel ban, though a related bill has been announced for the House.
 
In a statement, the conservative senator said he was merely calling for "common sense restrictions on travel" -- though in this case, actual scientific experts are practically unanimous in their belief that travel restrictions would be counterproductive. Rubio is no doubt aware that scientists are urging policymakers to reject his preferred approach, but the Florida Republican apparently doesn't much care.
 
Did I mention that Rubio sits on the Senate committee responsible for overseeing science policy? He does.
 
Of course, Rubio isn't alone in this endeavor, and once he's able to introduce this legislation, it's likely to pick up quite a few co-sponsors.

Fan ban and other headlines

10/21/14 07:59AM

Fans won't be allowed at the Florida gubernatorial debate tonight. (CNN)

Top Alabama Republican indicted on felony corruption charges. (AL.com)

Missouri State Senator arrested in Ferguson, MO during protest. (KSDK)

Ukraine used cluster bombs, evidence indicates. (NY Times)

Michele Bachmann given security detail over ISIS threat. (Politico)

What happened to a Syrian tribe that stood up to ISIS. (Washington Post)

Possible sighting of Pennsylvania fugitive suspected of shooting a State Trooper shuts down a school district. (Allentown Morning Call)

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Late 'churn' in voting rules sows confusion

Late 'churn' in voting rules sows confusion

10/20/14 11:03PM

Emily Schultheis, political reporter for National Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about how early voting can affect the outcome of elections and how restrictions on poll access and last minute voting rule changes will affect voter turnout. watch

US learns lessons on Ebola, though at a cost

US learns lessons on Ebola, though at a cost

10/20/14 11:00PM

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, University of Pennsylvania Chair of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, talks with Rachel Maddow about the important, though difficult, lessons the United States has learned in its brief exposure to Ebola. watch

Ahead on the 10/20/14 Maddow show

10/20/14 07:41PM

Tonight's guest:

  • Emily Schultheis, National Journal Political reporter
  • Dr. Zeke Emanuel, University of Pennsylvania Chair of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and MSNBC Contributor

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

Monday's Mini-Report, 10.20.14

10/20/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Texas: "More than three dozen people who were monitored for the last three weeks for possible contact with the Ebola virus were cleared Monday to return to work or school, leaving 133 others still being watched for symptoms of the disease, Dallas County officials said."
 
* The so-called Ebola Cruise: "In the end, there was never any risk of the Ebola virus aboard what became known as the Ebola Cruise."
 
* Ugh: "In Hazelhurst, Mississippi, a crowd of parents pulled their middle school students from class Friday after learning that the school's principal recently had traveled to attend a family funeral in Zambia, which is in southern Africa and about 3,000 miles from the outbreak in West Africa."
 
* Turkey "will allow Iraqi Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, to cross its border with Syria to help fight militants from the group called the Islamic State who have besieged the Syrian town of Kobani for more than a month, the Turkish foreign minister announced Monday."
 
* Iraq: "Militants unleashed a flurry of deadly attacks against Shiite targets in Iraq on Monday, including a quadruple car bombing near two of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam and a suicide attack inside a mosque, officials said."
 
* Syria: "The cost of turning against the Islamic State was made brutally apparent in the streets of a dusty backwater town in eastern Syria in early August. Over a three-day period, vengeful fighters shelled, beheaded, crucified and shot hundreds of members of the Shaitat tribe after they dared to rise up against the extremists."
 
* Impressive results in Nigeria: "The World Health Organization declared Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, officially free of Ebola infections on Monday, calling the outcome the triumphal result of 'world class epidemiological detective work.'"
 
* Maybe we should do something: "The Earth is getting hotter. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released a new report Monday that showed the planet is on track to have its hottest year on record. The temperatures from January through September of this year tied with the highest period on record, previously reached in 1998."
 
* Try not to be surprised: "If Republicans gain the Senate majority in November, President Barack Obama could face pressure from Congress to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria. 'Frankly, I know of no military expert who believes we are going to defeat ISIS with this present strategy,' Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said at a Pacific Council on International Policy conference on Saturday."
Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans For Prosperity at the Omni Hotel on Aug. 29, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. (Mike Stone/Getty)

Did Peripatetic Perry 'miss the moment'?

10/20/14 04:56PM

Whenever any kind of important national incident unfolds, an odd sort of expectations springs up around President Obama.  A crisis in Ukraine, according to the new, unwritten rules, means the president isn't supposed to golf. A crisis in Israel, the rules now dictate, means no traveling to fundraisers. And so on.
 
But it now seems possible that the rules won't just apply to Obama. Katie Glueck reported the other day on Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) facing similar questions about his travel schedule.
Ebola came to Texas. And Rick Perry went to Europe.
 
Now the Republican governor, a likely presidential contender, is back in Austin and scrambling to avoid a damaging perception problem like the "oops" moment that doomed his first shot at the White House.
On Oct. 12, the governor left for a long-planned trip to Europe, and soon after, two cases of Ebola were confirmed in his home state. After Perry's aides told reporters he didn't intend to cut the trip short, the governor scrapped his schedule and returned to Texas.
 
Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist with deep Texas ties, told Glueck, "Crisis management is actually something Perry has done pretty well in the past. But, in this case when the national spotlight was on Texas, Perry was missing in action. And based on pure politics, this is a situation where he could have taken command and control and looked presidential. He's trying to jump back on stage now, but at the very least, he missed the first act because he was in Europe."
 
McKinnon added that it's "likely" Perry "missed the moment."
 
Actually, it's arguably worse than that. The Politico piece was good, but it overlooked an important detail: this wasn't the first time.
George Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative American newspaper columnist, journalist, and author.

George Will stumbles as an Ebola truther

10/20/14 04:02PM

Science has long been a problem for conservative columnist George Will, as evidenced by his bizarre series of pieces on climate change. But on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, the syndicated writer went further, questioning the science of Ebola, too.
"The problem is, the original assumption was that with great certitude, if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids with someone, because it's not airborne. There are now doctors who are saying, we're not so sure that it can't be in some instances transmitted by airborne. [...]
 
"In fact, there are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious?"
Even Will's fellow panelists -- on Fox, no less -- tried to guide him away from such rhetoric, but the conservative columnist seemed as eager to be an Ebola truther as a climate denier.
 
Pressed for an explanation for saying the exact opposite of scientists, public-health advocates, and subject-matter experts, Will added later in the show, "[T]he University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease, Research and Policy has issued a report saying, quote, there is scientific and epidemiological evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients."
 
Is that true? Well, it's a funny story, actually.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott answers a question during the Rio Grande Valley Gubernatorial Debate in Edinburg, Texas on Sept. 19, 2014. (Gabe Hernandez/The McAllen Monitor/Pool/AP)

Texas' Abbott balks at question on interracial marriage

10/20/14 03:18PM

The Wisconsin attorney general's race was recently roiled by some unexpected comments: Republican Brad Schimel said "he would have reluctantly defended a ban on interracial marriage had he been attorney general in the 1950s."
 
It's not that Schimel supports prohibition against interracial marriage, it's just that he believes a state A.G. has to fight to uphold all state laws, whether the laws have merit or not. "It might be distasteful to me ... but I've got to stay consistent with that," he said. "As the state's lawyer, it's not my job to pick and choose."
 
Democrats blasted Schimel, though it appears the Republicans' gubernatorial nominee in Texas missed the story entirely.
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is vigorously defending Texas' same-sex marriage ban in court, says he's unsure whether he would have defended a similar prohibition on interracial marriage had he been in office 50 years ago.
 
"Right now, if there was a ban on interracial marriage, that's already been ruled unconstitutional," Abbott told the San Antonio Express-News editorial board.  "And all I can do is deal with the issues that are before me ... The job of an attorney general is to represent and defend in court the laws of their client, which is the state Legislature, unless and until a court strikes it down."
Political reporter Peggy Fikac, added, "When I said I wasn't clear if he [Abbott] was saying he would have defended a ban on interracial marriage, he said, 'Actually, the reason why you're uncertain about it is because I didn't answer the question. And I can't go back and answer some hypothetical question like that.'"
 
Why has this question become so difficult?
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) speaks an event on Capitol Hill, Sept. 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Congressman uses Ebola for fundraising pitch

10/20/14 02:06PM

When public fears surrounding the Ebola virus subside, and we're able to reflect on which public officials acted responsibly and which acted poorly, we'll regrettably have ample fodder for the latter category.
 
And near the top of the list will be Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who actually distributed a fundraising letter through the far-right Conservative Action Fund, exploiting public anxiety for cash. Jennifer Haberkorn reported over the weekend:
"I've joined with the Conservative Action Fund and started the Stop Ebola Petition to ensure the safety of Americans and demand Congress end all commercial flights from ebola stricken nations," Broun wrote in a message sent to the group's email list. "Ebola travels fast -- this petition has to travel faster."
 
The email, marked by two black blocks with bright red lettering, is titled "Stop Ebola from reaching you." Its appeal continues, "If you can ... please chip in $5 or $10 to the Conservative Action Fund to help us distribute this petition to literally millions of American citizens."
Let's put aside the fact that a travel ban is a bad idea. While we're at it, let's overlook the minor detail that a "Stop Ebola Petition" will not actually affect public policy in any way.
 
The more pressing question, I'd argue, is about basic propriety. Who sees a deadly virus and growing public fears, and thinks, "You know, this would look great in a fundraising letter"? Who tries to profit off a disease with political nonsense?
 
What's more, note that Broun isn't using Ebola as a way to raise cash for himself -- Broun is leaving Congress this year, following a failed U.S. Senate bid -- but rather as a way to help the Conservative Action Fund, the group founded by Shaun McCutcheon of McCutcheon vs. FEC fame.
 
As unseemly as this is, the broader concern is that anxiety about the virus appears to be bringing out the worst in the Republicans' instincts. The nation faces a real public-health challenge and the public needs officials ready to rise to the occasion, showing that when the going gets tough, they're made of sterner stuff.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.20.14

10/20/14 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, Public Policy Polling's latest survey shows Bruce Braley (D) inching past Joni Ernst (R), 48% to 47%. Nearly all other recent polling shows Ernst with a narrow lead.
 
* Some statewide Democratic candidates are still eager to campaign with President Obama, which was evident yesterday with events in Maryland and Illinois.
 
* Former President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, continues to campaign for Democrats who are less eager to be seen with Obama, as was clear at an event for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in Louisiana yesterday.
 
* It didn't take long for the Florida Democratic Party to create a new ad, poking fun at Gov. Rick Scott (R) for hiding backstage before last week's debate over a small electrical fan.
 
* It seems hard to believe, but a new Suffolk poll in New Hampshire shows Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) with a narrow lead over former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), 49% to 46%.
 
* In Massachusetts' gubernatorial race, Martha Coakley (D) declined to participate in a debate last week against Charlie Baker (R), which apparently had the effect of giving Baker "a full hour on the largest network affiliate in the Springfield broadcast TV market."

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