The congressional hearing this week on recent incidents involving the Secret Service was alarming, and at times a little frightening. The Q&A and the revelations it produced were striking enough that they contributed to the Secret Service director resigning just one day later.
But watching the hearing unfold, there was one oddly refreshing thing about it: there was nothing overtly political about Congress' concerns. In a typical hearing, Democrats and Republicans are deeply at odds, with their own witnesses and agendas, but this week, both sides expressed sincere concern about the agency, its practices, and its lapses. The lack of partisan cheap shots was a welcome change of pace.
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis criticized the Obama administration Wednesday for its handling of security breaches at the White House, saying the incidents reflect a need to be more serious about national security. [...]
"How on earth can you protect the nation if you can't protect the White House?" Tillis said to the group.
Asked later about his comments, the Republican candidate, behind in the polls against Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), added, "It's just another example of failures in this administration. They need to start getting serious about homeland security and national security."
I just don't know what possesses someone to make remarks like these while seeking important public offices. Who's the intended audience for such nonsense?
The Republican base tends to be older, which has forced the party to get creative when reaching out to younger voters. Earlier this year, for example, the RNC unveiled a pitch to millennials featuring a young man with ill-fitting clothes, awkwardly reading cue cards on energy policy. Last year, a Koch-financed group rolled out ads featuring someone in a creepy Uncle Sam costume with a giant head eager to perform gynecological exams.
But arguably nothing is quite as jaw-dropping as the latest Republican ad campaign targeting young women, which msnbc's Irin Carmon described as the party's "most condescending ad yet."
The College Republican National Committee thinks it has unlocked the key to speaking to young women about pending gubernatorial elections: Make it about pretty wedding dresses. That's how the party is attempting to win over a demographic it has long struggled to attract.
The committee is spending $1 million on digital ads like "Say Yes to the Candidate." Each one show a young woman eagerly browsing wedding dresses, in the mold of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress," and treating each prospective dress as if it were a real-life candidate for office.
As best as I can tell, nearly identical ads have been created for Republican candidates in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Each ad features a young woman named Brittany shopping for a wedding dress, facing pressure from her mother to buy a less appealing Democratic dress, and then celebrating the Republican dress instead.
In the Florida ad, for example, the young woman uses five words never before uttered together in the English language: "The Rick Scott is perfect."
Last month, the Republican message was that politics is like a lingerie party. This month, the Republican message is that politics is like shopping for a wedding dress.
Sometimes. it's hard not to wonder whether Republicans are trying to drive women voters away on purpose.
For the first time since before the start of the Great Recession, initial unemployment filings have dropped below 300,000 for three consecutive weeks.
The number of people applying for new unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to 287,000 in the last week of September, yet another sign that layoffs remain low and the labor market continues to improve.... Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 in the week of Sept. 21 to Sept. 27.
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 4,250 to 294,750, just a hair above an eight-year low. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as a more accurate barometer of labor-market trends.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been below 330,000 in 26 of the last 29 weeks. (We've also been below 300,000 in 7 of the last 11 weeks.)
For Kansas Republicans, most notably Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the last several weeks have been devoted to a specific goal: creating a multi-candidate U.S. Senate race to help improve Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) odds. As of yesterday, those efforts have run their course.
A few weeks ago, when Democrat Chad Taylor announced the termination of his campaign, creating a head-to-head match-up pitting Roberts and Greg Orman (I), Kobach and his party tried to force Taylor to keep his name on the statewide ballot. The ensuing controversy went to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled that Taylor's name must be removed.
And while that seemingly ended the legal fight, Kobach had other ideas: he then demanded that Kansas Democrats pick a replacement candidate. This, too, led to a court fight, and as Dave Helling reported, the Republican litigation again came up short.
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.
The obvious question is, "Won't Kobach and the GOP just appeal this and keep the fight going?" He might try, but with Election Day now just 33 days away, there are some practical and logistical problems: Kansas has to send its ballots to be printed. Indeed, the deadline for completing the ballot was supposed to be yesterday. There was reportedly some chatter that Kobach's office might push it to today, but in either case, there simply isn't time for more pointless legal wrangling and emergency appeals.
Which suggests the process has run its course; Pat Roberts (R) will face Greg Orman (I). This obviously makes Republicans nervous from Wichita to Washington, and new evidence suggests those fears are well grounded.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, talks with Steve Kornacki about how a long string of sexual scandals and security failures have eroded confidence in the competence of the Secret Service. watch
Kasie Hunt, MSNBC political correspondent, talks with Steve Kornacki about apparent good news for Democrats in Kansas, while Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley struggles to overcome an image problem with rural voters. watch
Steve Kornacki reports on diminished Republican emphasis on Obamacare as a campaign issue as the statistics repeatedly show the health care program succeeding both in terms of coverage and cost savings. watch
Steve Kornacki shares the excitement of long-suffering fans of Kansas City sports, who are enjoying the success of their football, soccer, and, as of the wee hours of the morning, baseball team, the Royals. watch
Dr. Seema Yasmin, public health professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, talks with Steve Kornacki about the steps being taken to monitor any spread of Ebola in people exposed to Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. watch
* 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."