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Siberian Express and other headlines

02/19/15 08:00AM

'Siberian Express' brings arctic air and record lows to the U.S. (NBC News)

Britain says it intercepted Russian bombers off its coast. (New York Times)

Clinton Foundation's global network overlaps with family's political base. (Washington Post)

Dems launch Super PAC to gain edge in redistricting. (The Hill)

Rudy Giuliani: President Obama doesn't love America. (Politico)

Maureen McDonnell's attorneys ask judge for leniency at her sentencing tomorrow. (AP)

Pres. Obama to give free National Parks admission to 4th graders for a year. (USA Today)

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Citations for the February 18, 2015 TRMS

02/18/15 11:06PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Linda Sarsour, National Advocacy Director at the National Network for Arab American Communities
  • Tom Colicchio, award-winning chef and MSNBC's food correspondent

Tonight's links: read more

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 2.18.15

02/18/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Ukraine: "Ukrainian forces fought their way out of the embattled town of Debaltseve in the early hours of Wednesday, choosing a risky overnight breakout rather than surrender as they abandoned the town to Russian-backed militants."
* West Virginia: "Cleanup crews began removing the hulks of derailed and burned-out railroad tank cars Tuesday evening, and residents began to get water and electricity back, after a train carrying crude oil derailed, caught fire and exploded in western Fayette County on Monday."
* California: "An explosion and fire ripped through a gasoline processing unit at an Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, California, near Los Angeles on Wednesday, slightly injuring four workers and shattering windows of surrounding buildings, authorities said."
* Secret Service: "President Obama has named his acting director and trusted former detail leader Joseph Clancy as the new permanent leader of the Secret Service, the White House said Wednesday."
* A new governor takes the oath of office in Salem: "Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, saying that "we must restore the public trust," on Wednesday called for tougher ethics laws and the "timely release" of government documents to the public."
* Syria: "The U.S. has decided to provide pickup trucks equipped with machine guns and radios for calling in U.S. airstrikes to some moderate Syrian rebels, defense officials said. But the scope of any bombing hasn't been worked out -- a reflection of the complexities of the battlefield in Syria."
* The right call: "An appeals court has ruled that the birth control coverage required by federal health care reforms does not violate the rights of several religious groups because they can seek reasonable accommodations."
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) speaks at an event in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 1, 2014. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A passive-voice Bush Family tradition

02/18/15 04:03PM

n 1986, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush offered an unsatisfying, passive-voice explanation for the Iran-Contra scandal in which the Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran in order to finance an illegal war on Nicaragua.
"Clearly, mistakes were made," Bush said.
In 2004, then-President George W. Bush offered an eerily similar unsatisfying, passive-voice explanation for the Abu Ghraib scandal, in which U.S. officials tortured detainees at an Iraqi prison:
"It's also important for the people of Iraq to know that in a democracy, everything is not perfect, that mistakes are made," Bush said.
In 2015, former Gov. Jeb Bush offered a practically identical, unsatisfying, passive-voice explanation for his brother's catastrophic war in Iraq, launched under false pretenses, and bungled every step of the way.
"Let's go to Iraq," Bush said during the Q&A at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure."
One family, multiple scandals, one phrase.
I'll have more on Jeb Bush's unsuccessful foray into foreign policy later, but for now, it's important to note why "mistakes were made" is such a ridiculous explanation for failure.
An America's History text book sits on a student's desk in an AP U.S. History class in Colorado. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post/Getty)

An anti-education push gets more aggressive

02/18/15 12:58PM

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) caused a bit of a stir last week when he referred to "the Twitter" and made a series of odd beeping sounds that were intended to mimic online discussion. It suggested the Republican might not be as tech friendly as he likes to believe.
But Bush's comments immediately beforehand were largely overlooked. What he said would "light up the Twitter" was his condemnation of public education systems, which he blasted as "government-run, unionized monopolies."
We rarely hear this kind of talk about other parts of the public sector. For example, Republicans don't usually run around chastising police departments or fire departments as "government-run, unionized monopolies." Conservatives do, however, direct this ire at public education.
It was a reminder that as Republican politics becomes more radicalized, GOP opposition to public education is becoming more obvious. In Wisconsin, for example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) already won a brutal union-busting fight directed at school teachers, and he's now going after higher education.
[A]s he woos supporters around the country for a possible presidential bid, Walker (R) is once again picking a fight against a powerful institution at home -- public universities.
Walker's new budget proposal would slash $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system over the next two years. That's a 13 percent reduction in state funding.
As Rachel noted on the show earlier this week, "To put it in perspective, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison ... says that if she just outright eliminates the school of nursing, and the law school, and the business school, and the pharmacy school, and the school of veterinary medicine, if she outright eliminates all of those schools from the Madison campus, that still would not be enough to make up for what Scott Walker wants to make up from that campus."
Many political observers, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, chalk this up to little more than presidential politics and the governor's efforts to curry favor with the GOP base. But think about that for a minute: Republican politics has reached the point at which candidates benefit when they're seen going after schools, teachers, and universities with a vengeance.
In other words, for the first time in a long while, hostility to education is apparently seen as a plus in GOP circles.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.18.15

02/18/15 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 national CNN poll shows Mike Huckabee leading the Republican presidential field with 16% support, followed by Jeb Bush at 14%, Scott Walker at 11%, and Rand Paul at 10%. No other candidate reaches double digits.
* Also note, in the poll, Bush has seen his support drop sharply, falling from 21% to 14% since a similar poll in January, while Walker has seen his support jump, from 4% to 11%. Chris Christie, who's running sixth overall, has also seen his support fade, dropping from 13% to 7%. Last month's CNN poll included Mitt Romney; this one did not.
The same poll, for what it's worth, shows Hillary Clinton dominating the Democratic field with 61% support. Elizabeth Warren, who doesn't appear to be running, was the only other Dem in double digits in this poll, and she had 10%.
* Just a month into the new Congress, the U.S. House will soon have its third vacancy. Rep. Janice Hahn (D) is giving up her seat to run for an open seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Her California district is heavily Democratic, and the party seems confident of keeping the seat "blue" in a special election.
* According to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll, a 59% majority of New Jersey voters do not believe their sitting governor, Chris Christie, would make a good president.
* Rand Paul's fake Pinterest page devoted to Hillary Clinton, described by some as "sexist, unfunny and painfully lame," has been taken down.
Rand Paul

When Wall Street is right to be nervous

02/18/15 11:29AM

As he moves closer to a national campaign, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) talks quite a bit about the Federal Reserve and monetary policy. That wouldn't be especially noteworthy, were it not for the fact that Rand Paul doesn't seem to have any idea what he's talking about when it comes to the Federal Reserve and monetary policy.
Despite this being one of his signature issues, Paul tends to offer silly conspiracy theories that make "very little sense." It appears the financial industry has noticed, and according to Politico, it's concerned.
...Paul could face a significant challenge if he emerges from Iowa with a legitimate shot at the Republican nomination. Because experts say he gets many of his arguments about the Fed flat wrong. And the establishment wing of the GOP -- backed by piles of Wall Street money -- views Paul's approach to the Fed as dangerous and irresponsible.
"He seems to have a poor understanding of what's actually on the Fed balance sheet and how the bank operates," said James Pethokoukis, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "And if you don't have a firm grip on one of your signature issues, people eventually are going to doubt other things you have to say."
I knew that if I waited long enough, I'd eventually agree with something Pethokoukis had to say.
The irony is, Rand Paul and many of his backers probably wear this anxiety as a badge of honor. Wall Street's affection for Republicans is well established and goes back generations, but Paul and his supporters come from a very different wing of the GOP -- one that assumes they're doing something right if they're making the financial industry nervous.
And while I can appreciate where that sentiment comes from, this isn't a situation in which Wall Street is upset by the prospect of overnight and consumer safeguards. Rather, this is Wall Street feeling nervous because Rand Paul's entire understanding of monetary policy is bonkers.
President George W. Bush (L) smiles at his brother Florida Governor Jeb Bush before making remarks at an event in Sun City Center, Fla., on March 8, 2006. (Photo by Chris Livingston/EPA)

Jeb Bush's dubious new pitch: 'I am my own man'

02/18/15 10:53AM

Two weeks ago, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) delivered a big speech on his economic vision, which was pretty underwhelming. Today in Chicago, the likely Republican presidential candidate moves on to Phase II, fleshing out his perspective on foreign policy.
Bush's speech won't begin for a couple of hours, though advance excerpts suggest we should expect a rather boilerplate set of remarks from the former governor with no background in international affairs. Last week, the Floridian said, "I won't talk about the past.... If I'm in the process of considering the possibility of running, it's not about re-litigating anything in the past," but today he'll apparently spend a fair amount of time condemning the past six years.
But as Kasie Hunt reported, there's one particular phrase that's likely to get a lot of attention today.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will declare "I am my own man" during a national security speech in Chicago on Wednesday, his first major address on world affairs as a presidential candidate in waiting -- and first serious public grappling with the legacies of the Bush presidents who came before.
"My views will often be held up in comparison to theirs – sometimes in contrast to theirs," Bush will say, according to excerpts released by his Right to Rise PAC. "I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man -- and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences."
As a matter of rhetoric, this is arguably predictable. If I were the brother of a failed president, I'd probably be eager to say, "I am my own man" too.
The trouble is, the claim doesn't seem to be true.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Feb. 1, 2015. (Photo by Gali Tibbon/Reuters)

Most Americans balk at Netanyahu/GOP gambit

02/18/15 10:04AM

If all you saw was the headline on the latest Josh Rogin piece, you probably got the wrong idea. It reads, "Poll Shows Americans Want Netanyahu to Speak," though that's not quite what we learned yesterday.
As Rogin's piece explained, something called the Israel Project, a pro-Israel group, commissioned a poll and found that a plurality of Americans want Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver remarks to Congress in order to criticize American foreign policy. So, the poll is good news for Republicans, right?
Not exactly. What the poll found is that 43% of Americans say they agree with this specifically worded sentiment: "[P]eople say Iran is getting closer to building a nuclear weapon. As one of the world's most knowledgeable leaders on the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should address Congress before the March 31st deadline for a political framework with Iran." It's almost as if Fox News' pollster wrote the question.
A new independent poll, with more neutral phrasing, produced very different results.
A large majority of Americans believe that Republican congressional leaders should not have invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the White House, according to a new CNN/ORC survey.
The nationwide poll, released Tuesday, shows 63% of Americans say it was a bad move for congressional leadership to extend the invitation without giving President Barack Obama a heads up that it was coming. Only 33% say it was the right thing to do.
The controversial partnership between Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hasn't even won over GOP voters. This same poll found that only a bare majority (52%) of self-identified Republicans believe the invitation to the Israeli leader was the right thing to do.
The Republican leader has been eager to defend his scheme, but so far, his arguments apparently haven't been too persuasive.

'We cannot kill our way out of this war'

02/18/15 09:24AM

If you generally avoid conservative media, you may not realize that the right has thrown a fit over its latest Villain of the Week. It's not President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Attorney General Eric Holder. Rather, it's U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
On Monday's edition of "Hardball" here on msnbc, Harf talked with host Chris Matthews about ISIS and explained that the United States can't "kill our way out" of the problem.
"We're killing a lot of them, and we're going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians. So are the Jordanians. They're in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need, in the longer term -- medium and longer term -- to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups. [...]
"You're right, there is no easy solution in the long term to preventing and combatting violent extremism, but if we can help countries work at the root causes of this -- what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business? Maybe we can try to chip away at this problem, while at the same time going after the threat, taking on ISIL in Iraq, in Syria, and helping our partners around the world."
The right went from zero to apoplexy in record time. Conservative blogs could hardly contain their outrage, while Fox News spent yesterday playing snippets of Harf's interview, over and over again, as some kind of attempt at mockery.
Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle said Harf believes "we should open up car wash that's in Iraq and Syria and provide jobs to the evil doers, and then these problems will all go away." Fox's Bill O'Reilly called Harf's comments "nonsense." Fox's Brit Hume added, "What [Harf] said was manifestly silly." Fox's Eric Bolling called the State Department official's comments "incomprehensible."
I guess we were due for a manufactured controversy rooted in nothing, and the right pretending to be upset with President Obama's Prayer Breakfast remarks didn't have legs, so we're stuck with Marie Harf leading far-right personalities to reach for the fainting couch.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

John Boehner, tilting at economic windmills

02/18/15 08:44AM

Exactly six years ago yesterday, President Obama signed something called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. Most folks probably know it as the Recovery Act, or even more simply, "the stimulus."
There's plenty of room for discussion about the president's legacy, but if we're creating a list of his most important accomplishments, this law, which rescued the nation from the grips of the Great Recession, has to be near the top.
And so, on its anniversary, Recovery Act proponents may have been inclined to take another victory lap yesterday, though that didn't seem to happen much yesterday, probably because it would seem gratuitous and ungracious. At a moment of great crisis, Republicans were wrong; Obama was right; and there's probably no real benefit to pointing and laughing at one of the GOP's more spectacular recent failures.
What I didn't expect was this message from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
On this day 6 years ago POTUS signed his failed $787 billion "stimulus" into law. Retweet if you agree: Washington spending isn't the answer.
I feel like I'm listening to a Seahawks fan arguing that Seattle really did win the Super Bowl, reality be damned. Retweet if you agree: scoring more points than the other team isn't the answer.
Look, I don't really expect John Boehner, or any other Republican, to own up to their mistakes. It's just too embarrassing. What's the beleaguered Speaker going to say, "With the economy on the brink, my entire party was wrong and Obama was right"? It's unrealistic to expect this kind of candor.
But if you're Boehner, on the sixth anniversary of the economy-saving law, why say anything at all? Why deliberately bring up one of your more colossal failures? (In 2009, the Republican leader's big idea was a five-year spending freeze -- a remedy even David Brooks labeled "just insane.")
Kaili Joy Gray joked, "Yes, Speaker Boehner, you are definitely correct that Obama's "stimulus" plan has made everything worse, except for how everything's better, but that's kind of the same thing, except for how it's the opposite."
Barack Obama, Edna Pemberton

ACA enrollment numbers soar

02/18/15 08:00AM

The Affordable Care Act kicked off its first month of open enrollment in October 2013, and by any fair measure, it was a bit of a disaster. The website didn't work, and by the month's end, only 106,185 consumers signed up for insurance through an exchange.
Republicans not only celebrated, they also openly mocked the system, highlighting a variety of sports venues with more than 106,185 seats. This was all the proof the right needed -- American consumers had no interest in "Obamacare" and the Affordable Care Act itself was "hurtling toward failure."
All of a sudden, the right isn't laughing anymore.
More than 11 million people signed up or renewed for health insurance on the state and federal exchanges this year, the White House announced Tuesday. More than a million people signed up in the last nine days of open enrollment, which ended Sunday, the White House said.
"It's working a little better than we anticipated," President Barack Obama said in video posted on Facebook.
A total of 11.4 million Americans enrolled for coverage through an ACA marketplace, well ahead of the 10.3 million enrollees the Obama administration projected before this year's open-enrollment process began. This total, though impressive, does not include the millions of additional Americans who are now covered through Medicaid expansion or young adults who have insurance through their family's plan thanks to the law's consumer protections.
Of the 11.4 million, 8.6 million received coverage through -- the consumers whose coverage is jeopardized by the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court.

Jeb Bush doctrine and other headlines

02/18/15 08:00AM

Jeb Bush to talk foreign policy in Chicago today. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Poland to pay $262,000 to inmates held at secret CIA prison. (AP)

Rand Paul sets the date. (New York Times)

Obamacare signups top 11 million in second year, White House says. (Huffington Post)

Oklahoma lawmakers question the legality of Advanced Placement courses. (Tulsa World)

Ukraine forces withdraw from strategic town. (New York Times)

Zimbabwe dictator's birthday menu will reportedly include elephant. (NBC News)

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