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Shroud remains over parts of Syria mission

Shroud remains over parts of Syria mission

09/23/14 10:44PM

Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer, talks with Rachel Maddow about which countries are working with the U.S. against ISIS, what weaponry they bring, and how Monday night's operations in Syria were carried out. watch

Bombings risk uniting radicals in Syria

Bombings risk uniting radicals in Syria

09/23/14 10:43PM

Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about the risk that bombing radicals in Syria could give the impression the U.S. is working with Bashar al-Assad and unite radical factions. watch

Ahead on the 9/23/14 Maddow show

09/23/14 06:12PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, live from Turkey
  • Courtney Kube, NBC News National Security producer
  • James Stavridis, retired U.S. Navy Admiral, former head of U.S. European Command and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe during the war in Afghanistan

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

read more

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.23.14

09/23/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* ISIS: "President Obama on Tuesday hailed the American-led coalition that conducted airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State, declaring, 'We're going to do what is necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group.'"
* More on this tomorrow: "The U.S. military was responding to what it saw as an imminent threat when it conducted airstrikes Monday night against the Khorasan terror group -- part of a bombing campaign that also targeted the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."
* Ukraine: "Moscow will curtail Ukraine's access to vital Russian markets if Kiev implements any part of a trade agreement with the European Union, President Vladimir Putin warned in a letter, toughening his stance on a deal at the center of East-West tensions."
* Israel: "Israeli forces early Tuesday killed the two men they suspected of abducting and murdering three Israeli teenagers from the occupied West Bank in June, according to a military spokesman, closing a crucial chapter in what became the bloodiest period of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades."
* Ebola outbreak: "The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, already ghastly, could get worse by orders of magnitude, killing hundreds of thousands of people and embedding itself in the human population for years to come, according to two worst-case scenarios from scientists studying the historic outbreak."
* Gun violence in Alabama: "A man wearing his work uniform started shooting at his former colleagues inside a UPS sorting facility in Alabama a day after he was fired from the company, killing a supervisor and another employee before committing suicide, police said Tuesday."
* This seems like a big deal that won't get enough attention: "President Clinton, in his 1994 address to the United Nations General Assembly, called for the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines.... Today, the Obama Administration is announcing new policy changes that bring the United States closer to that goal. Specifically, the United States is aligning our APL policy outside the Korean Peninsula with the key requirements of the Ottawa Convention, the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of APL, which more than 160 countries have joined, including all of our NATO Allies."
Louisiana: "Less than 20 days after a federal judge found Louisiana's ban on same-sex couples' marriages to be constitutional, a state court judge in Lafayette Parish disagreed in a 23-page opinion that recognized the marriage of two women who married in California -- and ordered officials to allow other, unmarried same-sex couples to marry in the state."
* Get registered: "Today has been designated National Voter Registration Day by a variety of organizations that are holding cooperative registration events around the country today. But it's also a good time to make the argument that voting is a right, not a privilege."
* Basically useless: "Several years and $25 billion later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey says that nearly half of the Iraqi army is too heavily populated with Shiite fighters to credibly confront ISIS."
United Stated President Barack Obama addresses the Climate Summit, at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Photo by Richard Drew/AP.

'We have to answer the call'

09/23/14 04:52PM

If you missed President Obama's speech today at the United National Climate Change Summit, it's worth your time. It wasn't Obama's longest speech -- it clocked in at about 12 minutes -- but it showed the president really stepping up on the issue of leadership and global warming.
Obliquely referencing the weekend's enormous demonstrations, which too much of the political world chose to ignore, Obama said, "The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call."
"In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about. [...]
"Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation -- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass."
There was a time in the recent past in which the world might scoff at such rhetoric from a U.S. leader, but Obama actually has a compelling story to tell about his efforts. Congress, often dominated by climate deniers and those who refuse to consider action, may be content with inaction, but away from Capitol Hill, the United States has taken constructive steps the president pointed to with some pride.
This includes real investments in clean energy, strides in renewables, and vastly improved energy and fuel efficiency. "[A]ll told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades -- proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth," he told world leaders. "Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more."
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts speaks at an appearance for his Senate re-election campaign Friday, November 8, 2013, in Overland Park, Kansas.

Pat Roberts warns of 'national socialism' in the U.S.

09/23/14 04:07PM

Remember, Sen. Pat Roberts is supposed to be the experienced, mainstream Republican in Kansas.
Incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who is facing an unexpectedly fierce challenge for re-election, warned Monday at a campaign stop that the United States is heading for "national socialism."
It's not clear whether Roberts intended to make a reference to Nazism or simply meant to invoke the run of the mill looming specter of socialism.
Let's pause here to offer a friendly reminder to politicians everywhere: If you don't know what "national socialism" means, don't use it in a sentence.
In this case, Roberts has left his home in Virginia to campaign in Kansas full time, and in remarks captured by American Bridge, the senator argued the "America that we love and cherish and honor will not be the same America for our kids and grandkids."
He added, "We have to change course because our country is heading for national socialism. That's not right. It's changing our culture. It's changing what we're all about."
One interpretation is that the senator believes the United States is heading towards Nazism. The other interpretation is that he believes that the United States -- complete with record-high corporate profits and a soaring stock market -- will soon have a system in which the public controls the means of production.
In other words, Pat Roberts, after spending more than three decades as an elected federal lawmaker, doesn't know what "national socialism" means. At the same time, he doesn't know what "socialism" means, either.
This isn't exactly the senator's finest hour.
What we're watching 9/20

Bill O'Reilly's 'terrible idea' for ISIS

09/23/14 02:54PM

There is no obvious, perfect counter-terrorism strategy in the Middle East that will quickly eliminate the threat posed by the Islamic State, or any other terrorist group for that matter. Policymakers are forced to make difficult choices from a range of complex options. All of this is unfolding on a landscape that changes quickly, and each of which carry unpredictable consequences.
With that in mind, I'm reluctant to dismiss anyone's suggested course as necessarily horrible. That is, except this one, which is just bewildering.
On the September 22 edition of his show, [Fox News' Bill O'Reilly] claimed that the only credible plan to defeat the Islamic State had to include a mercenary force of 25,000 "English-speaking" fighters that would be recruited and trained by the United States. O'Reilly explained that his mercenary army would be comprised of "elite fighters who would be well-paid, well-trained to defeat terrorists all over the world." O'Reilly also detailed how the mercenary force would be trained, recruited, and funded.
For some reason, CBS was impressed enough with O'Reilly's idea that the Fox News host appeared on "CBS This Morning" today where he touted his mercenary approach all over again. "It's going to happen," O'Reilly said this morning. "This anti-terror army is going to happen."
I really doubt that.
In fact, after unveiling his preferred approach, O'Reilly sought an assessment from U.S. Naval War College Professor Tom Nichols. The guest responded, with a polite tone, "Well, Bill, I understand your frustration. I really do. But this is a terrible idea, a terrible idea not just as a practical matter but a moral matter. It's a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security. This is something Americans are going to have to deal for themselves. We're not going to solve this problem by creating an army of Marvel Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy."
My point is not to pick on the Fox host, per se, because I suspect there are other political players who also believe an American-financed, American-trained "anti-terror army" can solve problems like ISIS. But Nichols' description of this as "a terrible idea" is more than fair.
Then-Sen. Scott Brown in Princeton, Mass., on Jan. 17, 2012.

New Hampshire GOP embraces 'personhood' as election nears

09/23/14 12:33PM

Elections in New Hampshire always tend to be interesting, but 2014 is shaping up to be quite a year in the Granite State.  Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is seeking a second term; there's a closely watched U.S. Senate race underway pitting two prominent figures, including former Sen. Scott Brown; there's a very competitive U.S. House race in the 1st district; and Democrats hope to reclaim the state Senate this year.
It's against this backdrop that the state Republican Party made a curious decision about picking a culture-war fight.
The New Hampshire Republican Party toughened its stance on abortion over the weekend, adding support for fetal "personhood" rights into its official party platform.
The party adopted new language at its annual convention on Saturday that pledges to "support pre-born child's fundamental right to life and personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, and implement all Constitutional and legal protections," according to the New Hampshire Journal.
Just so we're clear, personhood measures ban all abortions, IVF treatments, and common forms of hormonal birth control.
In much of the country, Republicans who used to support personhood are running in the opposite direction, hoping to distance themselves from such radicalism, but in New Hampshire, the state party decided to embrace personhood in a formal and official way.
What's more, note that the state GOP didn't do this at an obscure time when voters were unlikely to notice; rather, the New Hampshire Republican Party waited until there were just six weeks remaining until Election Day and then endorsed the right-wing policy.
One of the top Democratic goals for 2014 is getting women, most notably younger women, to care about this year's elections. Sometimes it seems as if GOP officials are trying to do Dems a favor.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.23.14

09/23/14 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:
* As Republicans pull out the stops to rescue Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) career in Kansas, a small army of national GOP figures are headed for Kansas to rally the base. Among them is former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
* We haven't seen much polling out of Alaska lately, so it was of great interest to see PPP show challenger Dan Sullivan (R) with a narrow lead over Sen. Mark Begich (D), 43% to 41%.
* In Alaska's closely watched gubernatorial race, the same PPP poll shows independent Bill Walker inching past incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, 42% to 41%.
* In Iowa's extremely competitive U.S. Senate, the DSCC has invested considerable energy in absentee ballots, and as of yesterday, Democratic officials believe "73 percent of the 23,000 unaffiliated voters who had requested ballots" are likely to support Rep. Bruce Braley (D) over state Sen. Joni Ernst (R).
* Speaking of PPP surveys, the same pollster now shows Rep. Gary Peters (D) leading Terri Lynn Land (R) in Michigan's U.S. Senate race, 47% to 40%.
* The same poll shows Gov. Rick Snyder (R) hanging on against Rep. Mark Schauer (D), 46% to 44%.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition "Road to Majority" policy conference in Washington, June 19, 2014.

Brown, Cruz focus on the wrong ISIS border

09/23/14 11:36AM

When talking about the Islamic State and border issues, there are plenty of boundaries worth discussing. The border between Iraq and Syria has been deemed irrelevant by ISIS terrorists. The border between Syria and Turkey has become one of the most important areas on the planet, both in terms of refugees and in terms of ISIS growth.
But for some Republicans, those aren't the borders that really matter right now.
For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently published a piece on his vision for combating ISIS.
First and foremost, Washington should resolve to make border security a top priority finally, rather than an afterthought, of this plan in light of concerns about potential ISIS activities on our southern border, cited in a Texas Department of Public Safety bulletin reported by Fox News. As long as our border isn't secure, the government is making it far too easy for terrorists to infiltrate our nation.
And as Greg Sargent noted, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), now running in New Hampshire, launched a new, related message this morning.
In the ad, Brown, who is trailing, accuses Shaheen and Obama of being "confused about the nature of the threat" posed by "radical Islamic terrorists" who are "threatening to cause the collapse of our country." He then says we must "secure the border."
I don't think he means the border between Iraq and Syria.
The fact that some Republicans are hard to take seriously on national security does not come as a surprise. The fact that some strange GOP figures want to use a national-security debate to advance their agenda is even less surprising.
But if you're eager to engage in a debate about Islamic State terrorists, and you consider Mexico the nation's "foremost" priority, maybe a career in the Senate isn't for you.