Jake Sherman, senior congressional reporter for Politico, talks with Melissa Harris-Perry about crisis within the Republican Party to find someone capable of leading the party and the House, and why Paul Ryan is their best, if distant, hope. watch
Melissa Harris-Perry reviews the highlights from the No Labels convention in New Hampshire and the latest poll numbers, and notes the remarkable favorability rating of second-place Republican Ben Carson, despite a recent string of outrageous statements. watch
Melissa Harris-Perry points out the facts that contradict the narrative that the Ferguson protests led to a spike in crime, and questions the argument that the police are afraid of a career-ending YouTube moment. watch
For labor unions and the base of the Democratic Party, TPP is not just one issue among many. It is the issue. Very few Democrats in Congress support the deal, or any free trade deal for that matter. In other words, there was no way Hillary Clinton could ever support it. read more
* A heartbreaking tragedy in Turkey: "Two devastating explosions struck Saturday morning in the heart of Ankara, the Turkish capital, killing at least 95 people who had gathered for a peace rally and heightening tensions just three weeks before snap parliamentary elections."
* Iran: "Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, imprisoned in Tehran for more than 14 months, has been convicted in an espionage trial that ended in August, Iranian state television reported."
* Syria: "Russian warplanes are carrying out more airstrikes in support of Syrian government ground troops as rebels are firing more American antitank weapons, deepening the impression that a proxy war between the United States and Russia is joining the list of interlocking conflicts in Syria."
* Punishing the poor: "A Florida congressman is threatening to strip $104 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget in the latest dispute over public housing tenants who make too much money to qualify for federal subsidies."
* Bergdahl: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Monday that he would call a Senate hearing if accused Army deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl avoids punishment. 'If it comes out that he has no punishment, we’re going to have to have a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee,' said McCain, the committee’s chairman, according to The Boston Herald."
* California has become "the first state to ban schools from using the 'Redskins' team name or mascot Sunday, a move the National Congress of American Indians said should be a 'shining example' for the rest of the country."
Republicans deserve quite a bit of credit for creating political conditions in which the establishment internalizes GOP talking points. The party -- through a combination of repetition, marketing, and effective messaging -- has managed to convince a wide variety of observers to witness current events through a Republican lens. Putting merits aside, it's an impressive display of public-relations acuity.
The dynamic is hard to shake. Whenever President Obama does much of anything, the political establishment's questions are shaped in large part by how Republicans are likely to perceive current events.
Take, for example, President Obama's latest interview with CBS's Steve Kroft, which aired on "60 Minutes" last night. The correspondent pressed the president on developments in Syria -- Kroft even complained at one point that Obama was going into too much detail with lengthy answers -- and even offered tacit support for the Republican view that Russia's Vladimir Putin is leading effectively. From the CBS transcript:
Kroft: You said a year ago that the United States -- America leads. We're the indispensible nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.
Obama: In what way? Let-- let's think about this-- let-- let--
Kroft: Well, he's moved troops into Syria, for one. He's got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II, bombing the people that we are supporting.
Obama: So that's leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia's only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they've had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine--
Kroft: He's challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He's challenging your leadership--
Obama: Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership.
And watching the exchange unfold, it became clear that they do, in fact, have different definitions of leadership.
Bernie Sanders has been cautious in recent months when going after Hillary Clinton, which made it all the more interesting over the weekend when the Vermont senator criticized Clinton's 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq.
The criticism has the benefit of accuracy -- as a senator from New York, Clinton voted with the majority, a decision later described as wrong. Regardless, the criticism at least makes sense, insofar as Sanders, who opposed the war, is looking for advantages in the Democratic presidential primary.
What makes far less sense is for the Republican National Committee to go after Clinton the same way. And yet, the RNC published this striking press release:
On the anniversary of Clinton's Iraq war vote, a closer look at her record shows her failed judgment on a consequential foreign policy issue. [...]
Throughout her career, Clinton has always been wrong on Iraq. Clinton voted to authorize the war in Iraq, which was devastating to her 2008 presidential bid.
The headline on the piece reads, "Wrong At Every Turn."
If there's an annual award for partisan chutzpah, I'd say the RNC has the honor all wrapped up.
It's been well established over many years that Exxon is one of the world's leading voices when it comes to denying the evidence of climate change. What's new, however, are reports that the oil giant has quietly operated for decades on the assumption that the scientific evidence is real.
The L.A. Times had a fascinating piece on this yesterday, which deserves to have an impact on the broader policy discussion.
[In 1990] in the far northern regions of Canada’s Arctic frontier, researchers and engineers at Exxon and Imperial Oil were quietly incorporating climate change projections into the company’s planning and closely studying how to adapt the company’s Arctic operations to a warming planet.
Of particular interest are the efforts of Ken Croasdale, a senior researcher for Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, who reportedly focused considerable effort into "trying to determine how global warming could affect Exxon’s Arctic operations and its bottom line."
Between 1986, when Croasdale took the reins of Imperial’s frontier research team, until 1992, when he left the company, his team of engineers and scientists used the global circulation models developed by the Canadian Climate Centre and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to anticipate how climate change could affect a variety of operations in the Arctic.
These were the same models that -- for the next two decades -- Exxon’s executives publicly dismissed as unreliable and based on uncertain science.
This is no small detail. Based on the L.A. Times' reporting, Exxon accepted the fact that climate change is real. Exxon also put those beliefs into action, basing company decisions on the available science.
But at the same time, Exxon also seems to have denied the very evidence it was acting upon.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Bernie Sanders may be leading in New Hampshire, but at least for now, it's Hillary Clinton who leads in the other early nominating states. A new poll from CNN shows Clinton with a 25-point lead in South Carolina, where she has 49% support to Bernie Sanders' 24%. Vice President Biden is third with 18%.
* On a related note, the same poll shows Clinton in a fairly strong position in Nevada, where she leads Sanders, 50% to 34%. Biden is third with 12%.
* Jeb Bush on Friday told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, "There was a big argument about the Washington Redskins, the Redskins being a pejorative term. I think Washington is a pejorative term, not the Redskins."
* While Ben Carson's Republican presidential campaign took in more than $20 million in the third quarter, his allied super PAC raised $2.9 million over the same period.
* Hillary Clinton met Friday with a group of Black Lives Matter activists in Washington. DeRay McKesson, a movement leader, said, “In the end, I think she heard us."
* As Rachel noted on Friday night's show, Rand Paul is "under increasing pressure from Republicans" -- both in Kentucky and D.C. -- to end his struggling presidential campaign and focus on his re-election to the Senate. A GOP strategist toldPolitico, "Senate Republicans can’t afford to have a competitive race in Kentucky."
* On a related note, Paul recently said about Congress, "I would throw everybody out, myself included. I’m serious.” Then Friday, according to a Washington Post reporter, he added he's "embarrassed" to even be a member of Congress.
If anyone in Congress has a strong incentive to be cautious, it's Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). He's arguably the most vulnerable 2016 incumbent -- polls in Wisconsin show Johnson trailing former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in next year’s rematch -- and as regular readers know, the Republican hasn't done much to help his case lately.
After all, this is the same GOP senator who recently got caught up in an odd fight over the “Lego Movie”; his ridiculous anti-Obamacare lawsuit was laughed out of court; and his defense for signing onto a letter intended to sabotage American foreign policy wasn’t especially coherent.
Johnson also referred during a recent radio interview to “idiot inner-city kids,” though he later said he was being sarcastic.
But if the Wisconsin Republican is scaling back his rhetoric to reflect his odds, he has a funny way of showing it. The Huffington Post reported the other day:
Guns don’t kill people -- media coverage of mass shootings kills people. That's according to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who on Friday cited a common argument against journalists printing the names and other identifying details of shooters.
“Why do we have what we consider copycats of tragedies? Well, a lot of it is because this is plastered all over the news and these mentally ill, these sick people see it,” Johnson said in an interview on WRDN, a Wisconsin radio station. “They want to go out in a blaze of glory. They want to achieve fame.”
It's important to note that Johnson wasn't calling for restrictions on a free press. On the contrary, the senator made the opposite case -- Johnson said policymakers could not "allow" news organizations to cover mass-shootings, but that would be, as he described it, "an incredible infringement on free-speech rights."
But therein lies the rub. As Johnson sees it, news coverage of mass-shootings leads to more mass-shootings, but since we don't want to infringe upon a free press, there's effectively nothing policymakers can do to reduce gun deaths.
A few years ago, shortly before Election Day 2014, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) realized he was struggling with women voters and he worried about whether the gender gap would derail his campaign. Walker responded with a TV ad in which, in the context of the abortion debate, the governor defended leaving these decisions “to a woman and her doctor.”
Substantively, the rhetoric was ridiculous -- it reflected the exact opposite of Walker's policy agenda -- but the Republican candidate saw value in trying to use his rivals' phrasing to make his own far-right policies sound more mainstream.
BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported the other day on a similar tactic adopted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“Again, terrible tragedy what happened in Oregon, but you’re right, every single year unborn in this country are killed legally, through laws that allow that to happen,” Rubio said when radio host Glenn Beck asked him to respond to Hillary Clinton’s comments on the Oregon shooting, which Beck used to pivot to the issue of abortion.
“Look, I recognize this is tough issue and I actually do believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body,” he added. “The problem is that when there’s a pregnancy, there’s another life involved and that life has a right to live. And so, as policymakers we have to choose between two competing rights, and I’ve chosen as a matter of principle to choose life in that debate.”
First, it's a lingering mystery why we still see competitive candidates for the nation's highest office associating themselves with Glenn Beck, chatting about who they see as radical, without appreciating the irony.
Second, it's jarring for Rubio, who's been a consistent far-right voice on issues such as abortion and contraception access, boast that he "actually" does "believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body" -- though he's comfortable pursuing an agenda to curtail and restrict that right.
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson just had quite a week. It was a week in which Americans learned that Carson believes bullet-riddled bodies are preferable to new gun laws; he questioned why victims of a mass-shooting weren't as brave as he imagines himself to be; he told a bizarre story about a robbery he claims to have witnessed; and the GOP topped it off with a fight with the Anti-Defamation League over his Holocaust confusion.
Most candidates for national office would take months to rack up a list like this. Carson did it over the course of five days.
The Associated Press published a piece today highlighting the Republican's "freewheeling approach." I honestly can't think of a more charitable way to characterize a presidential hopeful who makes ridiculous comments for no reason, while facing no real consequences.
But just when it seemed Carson couldn't move any further from reality, he sat down with TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and came up with a brand new fantasy.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been tied to controversial Mideast Muslim leaders since the time they attended school in Moscow, according to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson. [...]
Carson said Putin shares a deep historical tie with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, suggesting he became acquainted with them during their college days in Moscow when Putin was a young KGB operative.
"He has longstanding relationships down there," Carson said. "Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, were both classmates in the class of 1968 at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow where they became acquainted with a young Vladimir Putin."
The Christian Broadcasting Network's report referred to this as a "little known historical fact." The trouble is, it's little known because it's not a historical fact.
Left with no credible alternatives, the entirety of the Republican establishment has asked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to become the next Speaker of the House. They are, quite literally, begging the House Ways & Means Committee chairman to put aside his reservations -- Ryan has repeatedly said he doesn't want the job -- and become the de facto leader of the GOP.
But as TPM noted the other day, for some in the party, even the far-right Wisconsinite just isn't far-right enough.
[W]hile some of the hardliners ... have expressed their support of Ryan, other conservatives are already begin to raise their concerns about Ryan's record. The question is not just whether Ryan would have the votes necessary to win the speakership on the House floor, but also his ability if elected to bring the hardliners in line and avoid shutdowns, debt defaults, and the array of looming government crises.
On Friday, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) both said they're reluctant to back Ryan for Speaker. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) dismissed the very idea of Ryan as the GOP's consensus candidate. "I think that’s more media-driven," Fleming said. "I think that’s you guys [in the media] who keep talking about Paul Ryan."
BuzzFeed's John Stanton told Rachel on the show on Friday that he's not sure Ryan could receive 218 votes for Speaker from his GOP colleagues.
Away from Capitol Hill, far-right media outlets and prominent personalities -- Breitbart.com, Erick Erickson, et al -- have expressed concerns that Ryan just isn't a reliable enough ally to the Republican Party's hard-line base. Even Fox Nation took a not-so-subtle shot at the Wisconsin congressman on Friday.
Ryan's right-wing critics have a list of complaints that's at least rooted in fact -- he was a major proponent of the Wall Street bailout and has expressed support for immigration reform -- though their search for ideological purity arguably says more about them than him.
Defending the Republicans' Benghazi Committee has always been difficult, since the panel was created by GOP partisans for seemingly partisan reasons. Those responsible for leading the select committee, duplicating the work completed by several other committees, said the panel was necessary to answer key questions about the deadly 2012 attack -- but all of those questions have already been answered.
Two weeks ago, the defense became even more difficult when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) admitted that the panel was a taxpayer-financed political exercise, intended to undermine Hillary Clinton. No one was especially surprised, though it raised questions about the committee's continued existence.
And over the weekend, the story took an even more dramatic turn. The New York Timesreported on allegations raised by a former Benghazi Committee investigator, Bradley F. Podliska, a major in the Air Force Reserve.
A former investigator for the Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi plans to file a complaint in federal court next month alleging that he was fired unlawfully in part because his superiors opposed his efforts to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in the Libyan city. Instead, they focused primarily on the role of the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, he said.
Committee Republicans said in a statement that they "vigorously" deny the allegations, and they stand ready "to prove his termination was legal, justified and warranted -- on multiple levels.”
What they will not be able to do, however, is accuse Podliska of partisan motivations -- the active-duty serviceman describes himself as a lifelong conservative Republican. And according to his account, the GOP's Benghazi Committee fired him for focusing on Benghazi, instead of targeting the Democratic presidential candidate.
“My non-partisan investigative work conflicted with the interests of the Republican leadership, who focused their investigation primarily on Secretary Clinton and her aides,” the statement from Podliska said.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the controversial panel, is pushing back aggressively, insisting the allegations are without merit. But there was something the Republican congressman told Fox News yesterday that struck a discordant note.