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Monday's Mini-Report, 4.27.15

04/27/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Heartbreaking tragedy in Nepal: "Rescuers struggled to reach Nepal's more rural communities on Monday to assess the damage from a devastating earthquake that has left more than 3,800 people dead."
* Unrest in Baltimore turns violent: "Seven officers were reportedly injured when protests turned violent in Baltimore Monday afternoon after a "group of juveniles" faced off with police... [Freddie] Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died on April 19 of what his family's attorney said was a severed spine that allegedly occurred after he was arrested on a weapons charge in Baltimore on April 12."
* There's live msnbc coverage of clashes in Baltimore online here.
* Related news: "A photo editor for a Baltimore newspaper says he was beaten by police at a protest over the death of Freddie Gray. J.M. Giordano, who works at the City Paper, says Baltimore police 'swarmed over' him and hit him repeatedly. A video posted to the newspaper's website Sunday shows at least two police officers in riot gear hitting and kicking Giordano as the person filming screams, 'He's a photographer! He's press!'"
* Oklahoma: "A top sheriff's official resigned on Monday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where an unarmed man was shot and killed earlier this month by a volunteer reserve deputy who says he mistook his gun for his Taser."
* Detroit: "Video obtained by a Detroit television station and published Sunday appeared to show police fist-bumping and imitating a man they'd allegedly beaten during a traffic stop. In the video obtained by WDIV, the Inkster, Michigan police officers appeared to celebrate as they wiped off their hands and uniforms."
* An alarming look at 250 police-involved shootings in Palm Beach, Florida, and the "disturbing" pattern that emerges.
* It took months longer than it should have, but Attorney General Loretta Lynch was sworn in today and officially began her new job.
Tom Cotton (PHoto by Lauren Victoria Burke/AP)

GOP sees Cotton sabotage strategy as 'an educational effort'

04/27/15 04:45PM

It was about a month ago when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) started publicly warning U.S. negotiating partners around the world about climate negotiations.  Foreign nations should "proceed with caution," the Republican senator said, before reaching an agreement with the United States about reducing carbon emissions -- President Obama may say we'll reach our goals, McConnell said, but the world should be skeptical of America's word.
As we talked about at the time, it's become a familiar gambit for GOP senators. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and 46 of his Republican pals also publicly warned a foreign nation not to consider the United States trustworthy in the context of an entirely different set of international diplomatic negotiations.
When McConnell duplicated the strategy on climate, a Sierra Club official said McConnell had effectively "stolen Tom Cotton's playbook for undermining American leadership in the face of international crises."
But it's not just McConnell. The Wall Street Journal reported today:
President Barack Obama and Congress are headed for another power clash on the international stage, as key Senate Republicans challenge his efforts to forge a global pact on climate change.
The White House considers the agreement with nearly 200 nations a historic opportunity to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions world-wide. But some GOP senators view it as executive overreach, and they are quietly considering ways to warn other countries that the president doesn't speak for them and may not be able to deliver on his promises to slash emissions.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation's most aggressive climate deniers and the man Senate Republicans chose to lead the Senate committee on environmental policy, wasn't subtle when describing his sabotage ambitions.
"The Tom Cotton letter was an educational effort," Senator Snowball told the WSJ.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks during a rally to formally announce his presidential campaign at the Galt House hotel in Louisville, Ky., on April 7, 2015. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty)

Rand Paul's drone 'evolution' now complete

04/27/15 04:05PM

Former Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul was not at all pleased with last week's announcement about January's deadly drone strike along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The former Texas congressman said the Americans killed in the strike "were literally assassinated."
And given his history, it's tempting to assume Ron Paul's son, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul, would use similar rhetoric. It was, after all, the Kentucky senator who took to the chamber floor two years ago to speak for nearly 13 hours about his deep skepticism surrounding the U.S. drone policy.
But as it turns out, Rand Paul and Ron Paul, at least publicly, are not on the same page. As Dave Weigel reported this morning, the current GOP presidential candidate made this clear on Fox News this morning.
"I do think that there is a valuable use for drones and as much as I'm seen as an opponent of drones, in military and warfare, they do have some value," Paul said [on "Fox & Friends"]. "I think this is a difficult situation. You have hostages being held; some of them are American. You have people holding hostages; some of them are American. I've been an opponent of using drones about people not in combat. However if you are holding hostages, you kind of are involved in combat. So I look at it the way it is in the United States. If there's a kidnapping in New York, the police don't have to have a warrant to go in."
Had Paul never spoken out about drones before, this would have been a newsless answer, comparable to what other Republican candidates and politicians had been saying. But Paul has a long, dramatic record of pronouncements about drones.
Though Rand Paul seemed likely to be the only Republican to go after the Obama administration's admitted mistake, the Kentucky Republican, after saying very little soon after the revelations last week, is prepared to give the president a pass.
"You really don't get due process or anything like that if you are in a war zone," Paul this morning. "I tend not to want to blame the president for the loss of life here. I think he was trying to do the right thing."
The senator's apparent "evolution" is now complete.
Image: Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Participate In Second Presidential Debate

Bush rejects family tradition, opposes Planned Parenthood

04/27/15 12:40PM

In the 1950s, Prescott Bush (R-Conn.) was elected to the U.S. Senate twice, but he narrowly lost his first bid for statewide office in 1950. At the time, Bush drew criticism from church officials in Connecticut for his support of Planned Parenthood. As Roll Call reported a while ago, Prescott Bush was actually "the treasurer of the family planning group's first national fundraising campaign."
When his son, George H.W. Bush, was in Congress, he was such an enthusiastic supporter of Planned Parenthood's efforts that some of his colleagues gave him an unfortunate nickname: "Rubbers."
As Amanda Terkel reported, Jeb Bush appears to be breaking with family tradition.
Jeb Bush supports efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, according to one of his senior advisers.
Jordan Sekulow is a prominent Christian evangelical attorney and joined the former Florida governor's team last month as a senior adviser. He spoke Saturday at the Faith and Freedom Summit in Iowa, where nine presidential hopefuls appealed to the group of conservatives in attendance. Bush, who is exploring a run and widely expected to jump into the field, skipped the event and sent Sekulow in his stead.
Jeb Bush's surrogate speaker specifically told far-right Iowans, "We have got to defund Planned Parenthood, by the way, and Gov. Bush supports those efforts." [Update: here's the video with the corrected link.]
I guess when it comes to family planning, the former governor really is his "own man."

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.27.15

04/27/15 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:
* Former Gov. Jen Bush reportedly told donors in Miami Beach over the weekend that he believes "his political action committee had raised more money in 100 days than any other modern Republican political operation."
* Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network that the constitutional argument for marriage equality is "ridiculous and absurd."
* Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has not yet made his 2016 plans clear, but Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who is advising Sanders, told msnbc the senator is only "days away from making a decision."
* The Clinton Foundation continues to reject allegations of cronyism for which there is no proof, but it acknowledged yesterday that it made "mistakes" on tax forms. The Foundation's acting CEO, Maura Pally, added, "But we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future."
* Apparently looking for new ways to raise the rhetorical temperature in the presidential race, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told far-right Iowans over the weekend, "There is a liberal fascism that is dedicated to going after believing Christians who follow the Biblical teaching on marriage." He added that "there is no room for Christians in today's Democratic Party."
Former President George W. Bush speaks during an event, May 15, 2012, in Washington, DC.

George W. Bush unironically warns of Middle East 'chaos'

04/27/15 11:29AM

As a rule, all policy proposals should be evaluated on the merits. It's not enough to simply say, "It must be a good idea if so-and-so thinks it's a bad idea" -- such a tack is intellectually lazy, unserious, and best avoided.
There are exceptions to the rule.
Former President George W. Bush said the United States must show that it can follow through on its promises, and argued against the lifting of sanctions against Iran during rare remarks about foreign policy in a meeting with hundreds of Jewish donors [in Las Vegas] Saturday night.
Mr. Bush told the 700 donors attending a closed-door Republican Jewish Coalition spring meeting that he would not criticize President Obama, whose aim to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State he applauded. But the former president nevertheless offered comments that many in the audience viewed as a tacit critique of his successor.
As best as I can tell, there is no video or transcript available of the former president's remarks, so we're relying on attendees' accounts of what Bush said. Word-for-word quotes should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
With that caveat in mind, the Republican reportedly said the international framework on Iran's nuclear policy would be a bad long-term proposition: "You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren. That's how Americans should view the deal."
Left unsaid: if there's one person who knows all about Middle East chaos, it's George W. Bush.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

GOP candidates start a race to the bottom on immigration

04/27/15 10:44AM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) raised a few eyebrows last week when he sat down with Glenn Beck and embraced a new, far-right position on legal immigration. The Republican governor, a former moderate on immigration, took such an extreme position that even some GOP lawmakers in the U.S. Senate thought he'd gone too far.
Maybe it was some kind of trial balloon? Perhaps Walker got ahead of himself and said something to Beck he didn't fully mean?
Apparently not. The unannounced Republican presidential hopeful sat down on Friday with the Quad City Times in Iowa, where he again expressed concerns about legal immigration to the U.S.
In an interview Friday with the Quad-City Times, Walker said it just makes sense to factor in economic conditions when deciding legal immigration levels.
"A couple years ago, when the unemployment rate was at incredibly high levels and labor participation was low, why would we want to flood the market with more workers?" he asked. "So that would be a time when you would have arguably less." ... Walker did not answer directly whether he thinks immigrants are costing Americans jobs. Nor did he say, when asked, whether legal immigrants are pushing down wages in the U.S.
Walker adopted a similar line talking to a group of voters in Iowa the same day, and on Saturday, the governor used his concerns about legal immigration as an applause line
After saying he expects undocumented immigrants to return to their country of origin -- Walker didn't say how that would happen, exactly -- the Wisconsin Republican told a large evangelical audience, "When it comes to legal immigration, the economy should drive things. And the number one priority in that process going forward should be American workers and American wages. When times are rough, the last thing we want to do is flood the market, put more workers in at a time when workers are unemployed, wages are low. We need to make sure we put American workers first."
In other words, it wasn't a trial balloon -- Walker is evidently serious about this.
Rep. Steve King

Colorado Dem takes aim at Iowa's Steve King

04/27/15 10:00AM

Last week, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), usually known for his fierce opposition to immigration, announced a new legislative proposal: the "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act." The point is pretty straightforward: the Iowa Republican wants to stop federal courts from even considering cases related to marriage equality.
If a state has a ban on equal-marriage rights, for example, and someone wanted to challenge the ban in court, under King's proposal, the case would have to be immediately dismissed. Federal courts, the idea goes, would have no jurisdiction, regardless of the merits of the case.
It's a pretty radical approach to the debate, and so long as President Obama is in office, it stands no chance of becoming law. But on Friday, one of King's colleagues responded to the stunt proposal with a stunt of his own.
On the heels of Rep. Steve King's outrageous announcement Wednesday of his "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act," Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) today proposed the "Restrain Steve King from Legislating Act." The bill would prevent Steve King from abusing taxpayer dollars by substituting the judgments of the nation's duly serving judicial branch of government with his own beliefs.
"For too long, Steve King has overstepped his constitutionally nonexistent judicial authority," Polis said. "Mr. King has perverted the Constitution to create rights to things such as discrimination, bullying, and disparate treatment. These efforts to enshrine these appalling values as constitutional rights were not envisioned by the voters, or by King's colleagues who must currently try to restrain his attempts to single-handedly rewrite the nation's founding principles on a bill-by-bill basis.
As best as I can tell, the "Restrain Steve King from Legislating Act" does not exist, at least not yet, though it's hard not to wonder how many co-sponsors it would pick up if Polis filed it with the clerk's office.
Texas State Capital

Texas Republicans denounce Pre-K as 'a Godless environment'

04/27/15 09:20AM

When congressional Republicans ignored President Obama's call for universal Pre-K, it wasn't too big of a surprise. GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill have a variety of policy priorities, most of which focus on slashing public investments, not increasing them. The public seemed to like the White House's idea, but it was quickly forgotten inside the Beltway in the face of Republican indifference.
At the state level, however, some policymakers, including many on the right, nevertheless take the issue at least somewhat seriously. Even in Texas, one of the reddest of the red states, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has made this a priority, telling lawmakers in Austin in February, "We must improve early education."
As the Texas Associated Press reported, there's apparently some disagreement on the issue.
Advisers to Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick described a major bipartisan pre-K initiative as socialist and keeping children in a 'Godless environment' in a letter sent to lawmakers Tuesday.
The letter was a rebuke over a preschool push being led by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, whose office responded by defending its plan while not addressing the criticism. It was written by a "grassroots advisory" board of conservative activists that Patrick, a tea party leader, assembled upon taking office in January.
"We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers' day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade," the letter said.
The lieutenant governor's hand-picked panel went on to compare preschool to programs "historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights."

It's important to emphasize that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) says he didn't know what his advisory board was up to and the panel's condemnation was "unsolicited."
Former Florida Governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, N.H. on April 17, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Just how big will the 2016 field get?

04/27/15 08:40AM

ABC's George Stephanopoulos yesterday asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday about his party's 2016 presidential field and just how big it might get. The Georgia Republican threw out a pretty big number.
STEPHANOPOULOS:  Nine potential Republican candidates at the Faith and Freedom Coalition forum in Iowa last night.  Nine of who knows how many eventual candidates in this race. Let's talk about that now again with our roundtable.  And Mr. Speaker, we were just talking just before we came on air, this field could continue to grow and grow and grow.
GINGRICH:  This is now maybe the most open field in Republican history.  I used to say the most open since 1940, but they've now blown past that. I think we may have 25 candidates.
Stephanopoulos, slightly amazed, responded simply, "25 candidates."
This wasn't supposed to happen. About a month ago, former Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) fundraising operation -- widely characterized as a "shock and awe" campaign -- was seen as so imposing that it was likely to help winnow the Republican field before it even took shape. "Don't bother running," Team Bush signaled to would-be candidates. "We've already cornered the market on campaign finances."
And for a brief while, it may have even had some effect -- prominent Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Bob Corker, Rob Portman, and John Thune considered national campaigns, but ultimately decided against it.
In recent weeks, however, we've learned that the 2016 field is likely to swell to unprecedented numbers. Next week, over the course of about 24 hours, three more GOP candidates -- Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee -- are expected to launch their presidential bids. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) was coy for a while, but he's starting to sound more and more like someone preparing a national campaign. Even Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who was expected to stand aside in 2016, is suddenly moving closer to the 2016 race.
The idea that the Republican field could soon hold a football scrimmage, with 11 candidates on offense and 11 candidates on defense, no longer seems ridiculous.
Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Sen.Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit on April 18, 2015, in Nashua, N.H.

On marriage debate, GOP candidates forget what year it is

04/27/15 08:00AM

The presidential campaign is still taking shape, but we've already seen candidates peppered with some unexpected litmus-test questions on issues like evolutionary biology and vaccinations. But last week's inquiry -- "Would you attend a same-sex wedding?" -- was perhaps the most unexpected yet.
The responses told us a little something about the White House hopefuls' tone, but the question itself was telling -- the debate over marriage equality has advanced so far that Republicans are getting pressed, not on constitutional amendments, but on wedding invitations.
Jon Stewart had a good segment on this the other day, noting, "The national shift makes it a lot less acceptable now for Republican candidates to say the kinds of things that they were saying in the last campaign cycle.... Republicans can no longer dismiss gay marriage out of hand. They must engage the question."
But as encouraging as that shift is, what's especially striking is the degree to which the 2016 GOP field hasn't progressed -- candidates appear stuck in the same old debate, repeating stale, discredited arguments while the nation passes them by. Politico reported on an Iowa event on Saturday featuring nine Republican presidential hopefuls, each trying to curry favor with the 1,000 evangelicals who gathered at the Point of Grace Church in Waukee.
[A] procession of presidential candidates expressed support for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to re-ban gay marriage if the Supreme Court recognizes a right to such unions. [...]
The nuanced answers from many Republican candidates in recent months took a backburner Saturday night, as several of the candidates tried to outdo one another on who could speak out most strongly against a right to gay marriage.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), echoing Rick Santorum's 2011 rhetoric nearly word for word, told the right-wing attendees, "The institution of marriage as between one man and one woman existed even before our laws existed." Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), repeating Rick Scott's 2011 talking points, said an anti-gay constitutional amendment would be "reasonable."
Perhaps my favorite moment came when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) condemned Democrats' "devotion to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states."
I'm certainly not in a position to speak for Democrats, but I'm pretty sure they want marriage to be voluntary, not mandatory.

Help to Nepal and other headlines

04/27/15 07:35AM

U.S. military sending aid to quake-ravaged Nepal. (AP)

Video shows moment of Everest avalanche. (BBC)

Declassified report shows doubts about value of NSA's warrantless spying. (New York Times)

Jeb Bush claims a record fund-raising total. (New York Times)

George W. Bush: I'll stay out of Jeb's way. (Politico)

MI Gov. Rick Snyder could be the next Republican to enter 2016 race. (The Guardian)

After protests, calm sought for Freddie Gray's burial. (Baltimore Sun)

Pres. Obama to send aide to Freddie Gray's funeral. (AP)

Supporters of Senate Iran bill are swatting away amendments. (AP)

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In this Tuesday, May 19, 2009 photo released by NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope is seen from the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Week in Geek: Hubble gotchu edition

04/26/15 02:20PM

On April 24, 1990, just over 25 years ago, Space Shuttle Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center as STS-31 with the Hubble Space Telescope aboard. Current NASA administrator Charles Bolden was the pilot, accompanied by Loren Shriver, Bruce McCandless, Kathryn D. Sullivan and Steven Hawley.

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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, from left, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gather on stage after speak at the Homeschool Iowa's Capitol Day, Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.

This Week in God, 4.25.15

04/25/15 08:59AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an aggressive push from likely Republican presidential candidates to characterize social conservatives as a "victims" of a secular American government.
If this seems like a cyclical problem, it's not your imagination. Four years ago, Newt Gingrich delivered one of my favorite quotes of all time, warning that if conservatives "do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America," his grandchildren might one day live "in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists." The contradiction was apparently lost on him.
Four years later, it's Rick Santorum reading from a similar script. Right Wing Watch reported this week:
Santorum told [the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins] that, for the first time ever in U.S. history, religious liberty is under assault from a new secular theocratic system:
"For the first time in the history of our country, the government is attacking people, prosecuting people, calling for people to be rehabilitated.... We have the state establishing a new religion, a secular state religion.... We have now the secular church that is being imposed on this country and anybody that defects is subject to persecution and prosecution."
For the record, I haven't seen any evidence of any government agency "calling for people to be rehabilitated." The notion of "secular churches" and a "secular religion" also seem misplaced, if not oxymoronic.
Around the same time, a likely Santorum rival for the Republican nomination, Mike Huckabee, also told the Family Research Council that the United States is moving toward "criminalization of Christianity" -- which by any sensible standard, is completely bonkers.
This coincided with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) arguing in a New York Times op-ed that Christians face "discrimination" unless they're allowed to discriminate.
We're dealing with the confluence of a few related storylines: the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on marriage equality on Tuesday; fights over right-to-discriminate laws have dominated national headlines; and the presidential race is beginning in earnest, with leading candidates eagerly embracing the sense of victimization that's common in social conservatism, pandering to the party's religious right base.
The result, evidently, is some over-the-top nonsense about secular churches and making Christianity illegal.
Also from the God Machine this week:


About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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