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Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal picks an unfortunate fight over intelligence

10/31/14 10:12AM

Looking back at the last year or so, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) effort to raise his national profile has run into occasional pitfalls. The far-right governor, for example, has suggested Americans have a guaranteed right under the First Amendment to appear on reality-television shows, while also refusing to say whether he believes in modern biology.
The Louisiana Republican has filed a federal lawsuit in opposition to an education policy he recently endorsed; he said Israel would be safer if Secretary of State John Kerry was "riding a girl's bike or whatever it is in Nantucket"; and he made up a ridiculous argument about Medicaid hurting Americans with disabilities, making it seem as if he doesn't understand the policy.
It's against this backdrop that Jindal is now arguing that President Obama isn't "smart" enough for his tastes.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) attacked President Barack Obama's intelligence on Tuesday, claiming Obama deserves a tuition refund from Harvard since he didn't learn "a darned thing while he was there." [...]
"There's actually one lawsuit I'm happy to endorse. You see we have gotten so used to saying we have a constitutional scholar in the White House, we've gotten so used to saying we have a smart man as president. But I'm beginning to wonder if that's really true," Jindal said, according to video posted by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
As part as part of his indictment against the president's intellect, Jindal insisted that Obama is the "first president ever to occupy the White House who does not believe in American exceptionalism." He made the comments shortly after President Obama told a White House audience, "I'm a firm believer in American exceptionalism" -- an issue he spoke on at some length.
Part of the problem is Jindal's lazy combination of irony and hypocrisy. The Louisiana governor, desperate to rally right-wing support in advance of a likely national campaign, routinely makes comments that can charitably be described as dumb. For Jindal to pick a fight about the president's intellectual acuity is like New Jersey Chris Christie (R) accusing someone of being a bully -- it's a topic probably better left to others.
Image: Obama Nominates Hagel For Defense Secretary, Brennan For CIA Chief

Hagel balks at Obama's Syria strategy? Not really

10/31/14 09:32AM

The headline on The Hill's homepage late yesterday raised the prospect of an important rift within the Obama administration: "Hagel memo criticized WH Syria strategy." The article referenced a CNN report with a similarly striking headline: "Hagel wrote memo to White House criticizing Syria strategy."
Kevin Drum was flipping around the channels yesterday and came upon "a CNN chyron informing me breathlessly that Chuck Hagel had just 'blasted' President Obama's Syria policy."
It all sounds quite serious, doesn't it? If the president's own Defense secretary, during a war, is openly criticizing the administration's Syria policy, that's a pretty important development for U.S. foreign policy.
Except, one gets a different picture by actually reading CNN's piece.
Earlier this month, while on an [sic] trip to Latin America to discuss climate change, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sat down and wrote a highly private, and very blunt memo to National Security Advisor Susan Rice about U.S. policy toward Syria.
It was a detailed analysis, crafted directly by Hagel "expressing concern about overall Syria strategy," a senior U.S. official tells CNN.... The focus of the memo was "we need to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime," the official said.
So, where's the part in which the Pentagon chief "criticized" and "blasted" the White House policy? As it turns out, there really is no such part.
Kevin added, "That's it? Hagel wrote an internal memo suggesting that we should have a 'sharper view' of what to do about Assad? And some sympathetic White House official kinda sorta agreed that Hagel felt we might be in trouble if 'adjustments' aren't made?"
Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at a luncheon at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada March 29, 2014.

The gag rule Kasich doesn't want to talk about

10/31/14 08:50AM

The editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, hosted a meeting recently with the state's gubernatorial candidates: incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich, Democrat Ed FitzGerald, and Green Party Candidate Anita Rios. The discussion got a little ... odd.
FitzGerald, behind in the polls, not surprisingly stayed on the offensive, and noted the Kasich approved a law that restricts what rape-crisis counselors can tell victims. "Why was it important to have a piece of legislation that literally imposed a gag rule on rape crisis counselors?" the challenger asked.
The governor, slumped in his chair and visibly annoyed, decided to pretend that FitzGerald wasn't in the room. Wonkette did a nice job summarizing the scene.
One of the editors prompts him: "Would you like to answer that, governor?"
"Do you have a question?" Kasich responds. The editor then tries to explain the question FitzGerald just asked. As much as the editor understands the question, anyway.
"I assume that it had to do with, uh, there were limits on what they could say about having abortions," the editor says.
Kasich still says nothing, possibly because the reporter made the mistake of mentioning FitzGerald's name while summarizing the question. Once more, Kasich spreads his hands and asks, "I mean, did you have a...?" At which point FitzGerald jumps in and explains to the clueless reporter, "He's trying to pretend he didn't hear me say it, so you need to repeat it."
The discussion, such as it was, continued for a while, with the governor repeatedly saying he's "pro-life," while (a) refusing to answer the question; (b) refusing to acknowledge his rivals were sitting next to him; and (c) refusing to recognize the policy he imposed on his state.
Kasich, the chief executive one of the nation's largest states, did all of this while adopting the mannerisms of a petulant child who's been told to take a time out.
But the story took an even weirder turn when the Cleveland Plain Dealer decided it didn't want voters to see any of this.

Parties confront mixed signals as Election Day nears

10/31/14 08:00AM

At this point in the 2010 midterms, the evidence of a Republican wave was hard to miss. Over the last two weeks of the cycle, literally every national poll showed the GOP leading on the generic congressional ballot, and most showed the Republican advantage in double digits.
Four years later, the GOP is well positioned to have a very good night next Tuesday, but 2014 is clearly not 2010.
Among all registered voters, the Democratic congressional candidate is preferred over the Republican by five points, 45%-40%. But among those who indicate in a series of questions that they are likely to vote, that advantage shrinks to a single point, 43%-42%.
That's from a USA Today poll released yesterday afternoon, showing a plurality of voters actually preferring Democratic candidates, prevailing political winds notwithstanding.
Perhaps it's an outlier? It's possible, though over the last two weeks, eight national polls have published generic-ballot results, and in half of them, Dems had a narrow edge -- including, oddly enough, the Fox News poll. (I pulled those polls together in the above chart.)
How many national polls showed Democrats with any kind of generic-ballot lead at this point four years ago? Zero.
Early-voting data also shows a political landscape that's far from one-sided.
Polls unsettled as Election Day looms

Polls unsettled as Election Day looms

10/30/14 09:32PM

Rachel Maddow points out that unlike past elections when political polls forecast outcomes relatively reliably, many races in the 2014 midterms remain close, with a winner still hard to predict. watch

Ahead on the 10/30/14 Maddow show

10/30/14 08:13PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Andy Mehalshick, WBRE Investigative Team Reporter
  • Gordon Smith, the executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association
  • Steve Kornacki, host of Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC

read more

Thursday's Mini-Report, 10.30.14

10/30/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Kaci Hickox: "The nurse who has been (technically) quarantined in Maine because she treated Ebola patients went for a leisurely bike ride Thursday morning, following through on her vow to ignore the voluntary quarantine order."
* The story isn't over: "Several hours after the bike outing, Gov. Paul LePage said that efforts to negotiate with Hickox had failed. Citing confidentiality laws, he did not specify his next steps. But his office pledged in a statement: 'The governor will exercise the full extent of his authority allowable by law.'"
* Pakistan: "An American drone strike killed at least six militants early Thursday in the South Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan, a senior Pakistani security official said."
* Syria: "More than 1,000 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month, a rate that has so far been unchanged by airstrikes against the Islamic State and efforts by other countries to stem the flow of departures, according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials."
* Israel: "Under heavy pressure and the threat of new Israeli-Palestinian strife, Israel announced on Thursday that it would reopen a contested holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday morning, a day after closing it for the first time in years."
* And speaking of Israel: "Sweden on Thursday became the biggest Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm."
* In still more news about Israel: "Secretary of State John Kerry is condemning remarks from an administration official who labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as 'chickens**t,' calling the comment 'disgraceful' and 'damaging.'"
* Wall Street: "It would be the Wall Street equivalent of a parole violation: Just two years after avoiding prosecution for a variety of crimes, some of the world's biggest banks are suspected of having broken their promises to behave."
President Barack Obama speaks at an event with American health care workers fighting Ebola, Oct. 29, 2014. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

'America has never been defined by fear'

10/30/14 04:53PM

Perhaps the largest chasm in American politics is the gap between President Obama's beliefs and the beliefs his far-right critics ascribe to him.
For six years, Republicans have levied all kinds of creative attacks against the president, but among the most persistent is the one that questions Obama's love of country. The attack on the president's patriotism has been unrelenting -- he rejects "American exceptionalism," conservatives insist. He "doesn't believe that America is a force for good in the world," GOP lawmakers proclaim. Obama sees the United States as "just another country," Republicans declare.
I wonder, though, whether the right paid any attention to the president's forceful remarks yesterday, delivered in front of medical professionals who've helped combat Ebola.
"[W]hen disease or disaster strikes anywhere in the world, the world calls us. And the reason they call us is because of the men and women like the ones who are here today. They respond with skill and professionalism and courage and dedication. And it's because of the determination and skill and dedication and patriotism of folks like this that I'm confident we will contain and ultimately snuff out this outbreak of Ebola -- because that's what we do. 
"A lot of people talk about American exceptionalism. I'm a firm believer in American exceptionalism. You know why I am? It's because of folks like this. It's because we don't run and hide when there's a problem. Because we don't react to our fears, but instead, we respond with commonsense and skill and courage. That's the best of our history -- not fear, not hysteria, not misinformation. We react clearly and firmly, even with others are losing their heads. That's part of the reason why we're effective. That's part of the reason why people look to us."
Obama's remarks, delivered without a teleprompter and largely without notes, was practically a celebration of the United States taking the global lead. After explicitly touting his support for "American exceptionalism" -- twice -- the president said recent progress against Ebola is the direct result of "American leadership."
Republican candidate for the United States Senate Scott Brown speaks at a campaign rally at Gilchrist Metal Fabricating in Hudson, N.H. on Oct. 5, 2014.

When the going gets tough, Scott Brown falls to pieces

10/30/14 04:01PM

In a season in which plenty of politicians are trying to deliberately terrify voters, Republican Scott Brown stands out -- offering a unique combination of demagoguery, cynicism, cowardice, and confusion.
The former senator, hoping to re-join the Senate after his other home state rejected him two years ago, started hitting the panic button in early September, seizing on Americans' fears about Islamic State terrorists to baselessly argue that ISIS may attack through the Mexican border. Brown later added that terrorists with Ebola may also try to infiltrate the Southern U.S. border.
The more anxiety the public feels, the more Scott Brown descends into rambling, fear-based incoherence. If crises reveal a person's true character, recent tumult reveals the New England Republican has the spine of a marshmallow.
Today, however, Dave Weigel reports that Brown's desperate hopes of scaring voters have taken an unintentionally hilarious turn.
In an interview with NH1, Brown rejected the idea that he was running on "fear" -- Ebola, he said, was the "No. 1, 2, and 3" issue on the minds of voters he talked to.
"Carrying diseases doesn't need to be Ebola," said Brown. "but the whooping cough and polio and other types of potential diseases are coming through."
Yes, the often-confused Republican believes polio -- a disease that no longer exists in the Western hemisphere -- may be sneaking into the United States. So New Hampshire should make him a senator again ... so he can tackle an issue he's never shown any interest in ... which he has no working understanding of ... and he can oppose a bipartisan immigration reform bill that strengthens border security.