The Republican line on Charles and David Koch, better known as the Koch brothers, has always been a little tricky. As we discussed in June, GOP politicians certainly welcome the massive amounts of campaign cash the Kochs are willing to spend, but as the Kochs have become better known, Republicans have also struggled to defend the idea that voters should support candidates backed by controversial billionaires.
Earlier in the summer, Dan Sullivan, Alaska's Republican Senate hopeful, was asked whether he would benefit from the Kochs' support. Sullivan "paused for 25 seconds" before dodging the question.
But away from the cameras and notepads, Republicans tend to be a little more forthcoming about their wealthy benefactors. Sam Stein reported overnight:
Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.
Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of "third party" money -- an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd.
The presence of Gardner and Cotton was previously reported by The Nation magazine, though it is unclear if Cotton ever confirmed his appearance. Ernst's attendance had not previously been reported.
Iowa's Ernst, in particular, said it was the Kochs and their allies that "really started my trajectory" towards the U.S. Senate, adding, "And this is the thing that we are going to take back -- that it started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network."
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 Pew Research Center poll shows Democrats leading Republicans on the generic congressional ballot by five, 47% to 42%. The margin is slightly higher than most other recent national polls.
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, the new PPP survey shows Rep. Bruce Braley (D) up by one over state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), 41% to 40%, in a multi-candidate race. In a head-to-head match-up without third-party candidates, the two are tied in the poll at 42% each.
* In Arkansas' U.S. Senate race, Sen. Mark Pryor's (D) campaign launched a provocative new ad this week that plays on public fears of the Ebola virus -- it reminds voters that Rep. Tom Cotton (R) voted to "cut billions from our nation's medical disaster and emergency programs." The far-right congressman was one of only 29 lawmakers to cast the vote.
* In Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealerreports that Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald's campaign is starting to lower expectations about its chances and take steps to help protect Democrats down-ballot. FitzGerald is running against incumbent Gov. John Kasich (R).
* President Obama was in North Carolina yesterday, where Sen. Kay Hagan (D), facing a tough re-election fight, was willing to be seen with the president, despite speculation she wouldn't.
* Miami Republican David Rivera, the scandal-plagued former congressman, tried to launch a misguided comeback bid this year, but it came to an abrupt halt yesterday with a primary defeat.
Last week, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol was, as he put it, "appalled." Following the release of the ISIS video on James Foley's murder, the Republican pundit said the Obama administration was doing "nothing" to target the terrorist group.
It was an odd thing to say -- President Obama had already ordered dozens of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS targets by the time Kristol made the remarks, suggesting he either wasn't keeping up on current events or has a curious definition of "nothing."
Yesterday, while talking to Laura Ingraham, Kristol did it again.
Kristol was talking about the Islamic State, the militant group which is also commonly called ISIS. He scoffed at people who worried that bombing ISIS might cause new problems in the Middle East.
"Someone said, 'we can't just bomb,'" he said, speaking about an ABC panel he was on. "You know, why don't we just [bomb?] We know where ISIS is. What's the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don't think there's much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there. We could kill a lot of very bad guys!"
It honestly seems as if the conservative commentator has no idea the U.S. military has completed 93 separate airstrikes against ISIS targets, most of them in and around Mosul. What's more, the Pentagon has completed more than 1,000 aerial sorties over Iraq in this mission to target ISIS. Most of them are surveillance flights, but nearly 100 of them have been airstrikes thus far.
All of this has unfolded just since Aug. 8. In other words, the Obama administration has been "bombing them, at least for a few weeks." Why doesn't Kristol know that?
American history has been in the news a bit lately, with the Republican National Committee denouncing Advanced Placement history curricula for high-school students and Rush Limbaugh writing a book that "tells the story of a fictional history teacher named Rush Revere, who travels back in time to experience the pilgrims' journey to America and their first Thanksgiving in the New World."
But Andrew Kaczynski reported yesterday on right-wing pastor Jody Hice, who'll soon replace Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) in Congress, and who knows a lot less about history than he pretends to know.
Hice represents an anti-gay viewpoint based on pseudo-science and seriously outdated myths about gay Americans. He also really loves freedom. He calls himself a "constitutional conservative" and LOVES the Founding Fathers. [...]
"I have one plan: the Constitution. If we were following this document we wouldn't have the problems that we're facing today," Hice has said.
Hice also loves to naturally share Founding Fathers quotes. Unfortunately, many of them are fake.
Kaczynski's list is surprisingly long. Jody Hice posted fake quotes -- which he apparently believed to be real -- from Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Quincy Adams. There may have been others, but after highlighting nine quotes that Hice promoted, all of which turned out to be wrong, Kaczynski apparently got tired and stopped looking. And I can't blame him.
Of course, the common theme from all of the fake historical quotes was predictable: the Founding Fathers, the argument goes, agreed with contemporary far-right, anti-government views. The fake quotes were made up for a reason: modern conservatives call themselves "constitutional conservatives" because they're convinced they -- and they alone -- carry the mantle of America's historic traditions. Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin may be gone, but their legacy lives on in 21st century Republican politics.
Tea Partiers don't dress up in tri-corner hats because they're making a fashion statement. They see themselves as the inheritors of the Founding Fathers' legacy.
Of course, in reality, this is nonsense, which is probably why guys like Hice feel the need to promote historic quotes that are entirely made-up.
By any fair measure, it'd be tough to characterize Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) as somehow moderate. The Club for Growth lists Coffman as having an 82% lifetime rating, while Heritage Action puts the Colorado Republican to the right of most House Republicans.
But the conservative congressman is facing a tough re-election fight against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), and as such Coffman is now striking "a decidedly Democratic tone."
[His new] 30-second spot highlights Coffman's service as a Marine, his work to protect victims of sexual assault in the military, and his efforts two decades ago as a state legislator to prevent health insurers from discriminating on the basis of gender.
The ad also says he "bucked his own party to help pass the Violence Against Women Act." His support for the bill's reauthorization in 2013, with just 32 other House Republicans, won him plaudits from Planned Parenthood, a group that gave him a 0 percent rating on its most recent scorecard.
"It's nice to know someone has our back," a woman says at the end of the ad. "That's Mike Coffman."
Mike Coffman up until recently supported "Personhood" measures that would ban abortion and many popular forms of contraception. He also celebrated the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling. But now that he's worried about getting re-elected, all of this is behind him?
The larger significance of this is how common these moves have become.
The usual pattern is hard to miss: the Obama administration announces a policy, which is immediately followed by Republicans condemning the policy. Rinse, lather, repeat.
But last week, in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the White House unveiled a new compromise measure that would extend contraception access to a very specific group of Americans: employees at "closely held" companies run by religious conservatives who oppose some or all forms of birth control.
Given fierce GOP opposition to President Obama's contraception policies, and the broad Republican support for the Hobby Lobby ruling, it was reasonable to expect quite a few strong reactions to the White House's latest policy, right? Wrong. The Hill ran a good report overnight.
Republican Senate candidates are staying silent on President Obama's latest changes to the birth control coverage mandate even as the policy catches flak from the religious right.
Top GOP hopefuls haven't weighed in on the issue since Friday, when the administration announced new measures meant to accommodate religious groups and businesses that object to their insurance covering birth control.
Republican Senate candidates failed to jump on the announcement that day, and a dozen campaigns reached individually this week all declined to comment.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but it's probably safe to say Republicans realize they're out of step with the American mainstream when it comes to birth control, and the issue has left the GOP terrified.
GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill this issue "could spoil an entire Senate campaign." He added that Republicans recognize that they "shouldn't be discussing birth control right now unless they can be on offense."
The DSCC's Justin Barasky responded, "What Republican candidates haven't been silent on is their unabashed support for laws that block women's access to common forms of birth control and allow employers to decide whether or not birth control should be covered as part of their health insurance."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee "did not respond to a request for comment. " Imagine that.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R), his party's U.S. Senate hopeful in Arkansas, has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, vowing to destroy the system if given an opportunity. The far-right congressman even went so far as to argue that some Arkansans, because of "Obamacare," could "face triple-digit increases in the cost of their health care premiums."
As of yesterday, that's not quite what happened. The Arkansas News Bureau reported:
Insurance policies sold through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace are projected to see a net aggregate decrease of 2 percent in premium costs for 2015, Gov. Mike Beebe's office announced Tuesday.
Beebe's office said the projection includes policies offered through the so-called private option, which uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for Arkansans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Premiums under the private option are projected to decrease slightly but remain essentially flat.
For much of the recent debate about health care policy, the argument about premiums has been based on two sets of expectations. ACA detractors predicted premiums would "skyrocket," while ACA proponents suggested modest increases, consistent with trends that existed before the Affordable Care Act became law.
But for the second time in as many weeks -- Connecticut last week and Arkansas yesterday -- we're actually seeing some projections of modest premium decreases. Obviously, Cotton's rhetoric about "triple-digit increases" looks pretty silly now.
Is it any wonder the political debate, especially in Arkansas, has gone so topsy turvy?
From time to time in recent years, Republicans and conservative pundits have celebrated Russian President Vladimir Putin as their kind of leader. The more reckless and autocratic the Russian president became, the more conservative lawmakers and their allies lauded Putin as some kind of heroic genius.
Yesterday on Fox News, however, Republican affection for Putin went just a little further.
Media Matters posted the video of a hard-to-watch Fox segment in which co-host Greg Gutfeld launched an unhinged tirade about the ISIS threat: "Obama should get his head out of his golf bag or get out of town..... If our president isn't up to it, then find someone who is. Maybe it's better if he stays on the course, for good." (Gutfeld didn't mention the 93 airstrikes Obama ordered on ISIS targets over the last two weeks.)
Noting British plans to address citizens who leave the U.K. to become terrorists, Gutfeld then asked Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle about whether measures can be implemented "without so-called violating their civil liberties." Guilfoyle responded:
"Guess what, I don't care. And in fact, I hope we violate a lot of their civil liberties. [...]
"I mean, can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu and like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States? I don't know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right."
I won't pretend to understand this perspective because I have no idea why anyone would look at Vladimir Putin as someone who should be "head of the United States."
But Guilfoyle's appeal seems predicated on some bizarre assumptions. The first is the notion that a bold, get-tough leader -- apparently someone in the mold of Netanyahu or Putin -- could simply use military force, deploy troops, and wipe out ISIS ... somehow. This shouldn't be necessary, but it might be worth noting that counter-terrorism and a coherent national-security policy doesn't work this way. It's not like a U.S. president could wake up, decide to eliminate ISIS, make an order, and watch it happen.
Indeed, as the Fox hosts might recall, the Bush/Cheney team thought it could invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the process, wipe out al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other foes. How'd that work out?
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent President Obama a written warning yesterday: use executive actions to address problems in our immigration system and it will "close the door" to congressional Republicans tackling the issue "for the foreseeable future."
For many involved in the debate, Rubio's threat rang hollow. As the White House already realizes, Republicans refuse to work on immigration anyway.
But while the Florida Republican's warning drew chuckles among stakeholders yesterday, Peter Hamby's report on a Rubio appearance in South Carolina this week was far less amusing. The conservative senator was in the Palmetto State to campaign alongside far-right Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), but was interrupted at an event by Dream Act kids.
For an ambitious Republican looking to prove his conservative bona fides and rub out the stain of working with Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, the interruption was something of a gift. A plugged-in Republican operative turned to a reporter and observed dryly, "I couldn't think of a better way to make Rubio look good in South Carolina."
The audience of nearly 1,200 conservatives jeered the protestors as Rubio waited for them to be escorted out of the Anderson Civic Center, scolding them in the process.
"We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws," Rubio said. "You're doing harm to your own cause because you don't have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States."
According to the CNN report, not only did the audience cheer Rubio on, one attendee "angrily stalked" the Dream Act kids out of the building, clutching a cane "as if it were a baseball bat."
Greg Sargent called it a "seminal moment," which it definitely was. Two years ago, when Rubio was still an enthusiastic supporter of his own plan for comprehensive immigration reform, the senator was interrupted by young Dreamers, and instead of scolding them, the Floridian was gracious and sympathetic in response.
Rubio circa 2012 didn't fully appreciate the anti-immigration animus that drives so much of contemporary Republican politics. The 2014 version of Rubio better understands the demands of the GOP's far-right base and has no qualms about pandering in advance of a likely national campaign.
Rachel Maddow looks at some of the risks inherent in U.S. actions in Syria and Iraq in pursuit of ISIS and implores Congress to fulfil its constitutional role and help devise U.S. policy and debate the authorization of force. watch
Senator Tim Kaine, member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, talks with Rachel Maddow about why he hopes Congress takes up the debate over whether to authorize President Obama to use military force in pursuit of ISIS. watch
Hannah Rappleye, NBC News Investigative Unit reporter, walks Rachel Maddow through the strange story of a Victor White III, whose death in the back of a police car was ruled a suicide despite being shot in the chest while he was handcuffed behind his... watch