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E.g., 1/26/2015
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama talk in the gardens between meetings at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Jan. 25, 2015. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Obama advances U.S. goals in India

01/26/15 10:00AM

One of the more common criticisms of President Obama's foreign policy from the right is that he's scaled back U.S. efforts to influence the world, withdrawing America from its traditional leadership post. The Republican whining has always been more ironic than credible, largely because Obama has spent six years doing the exact opposite.
 
For example, consider this New York Times report covering the president's trip to India and his attendance at India's massive, annual Republic Day celebration.
The parade was the visual centerpiece of Mr. Obama's three-day trip, a colorful mélange of modern-day military hardware, soldiers in traditional turbans and costumes riding camels, and a series of floats from myriad states capturing different aspects of India's rich and complicated cultures. The invitation to Mr. Obama to attend in the position of honor was an important diplomatic gesture. [...]
 
Mr. Obama's decision to accept the invitation to be chief guest was seen here as a great tribute to India, heralded by politicians and the news media as a sign of the country's importance on the world stage. An announcer told the crowd that it was "a proud moment for every Indian."
Of course, Obama's diplomatic emphasis -- he's the first sitting president to ever visit India twice during his term -- was about more than symbolic celebrations. As msnbc's Benjy Sarlin reported, Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced "progress on nuclear energy and climate change negotiations during their talks in New Delhi," with the U.S. president declaring a "breakthrough understanding" on the former.
 
What's more, the NYT report added that Obama and Modi "renewed the 10-year defense pact between the two countries on Sunday and agreed to cooperate on aircraft carrier and jet engine technology. They also agreed to work on joint production of small-scale surveillance drones."
 
There's also the broader, geo-political landscape to consider. Clearly, Obama has prioritized improved relations with India, seeing it as an important goal on its own, but there's also a context to remember.
US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 30, 2013.

Unexpected critics pan GOP/Netanyahu gambit

01/26/15 09:15AM

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced last week that he'd invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver remarks to Congress, it quickly became an important international controversy. Not only had Republican lawmakers ignored U.S. protocol, circumventing the executive branch to partner with a foreign head of state, but the GOP had hatched a plot to sabotage American foreign policy, siding with a foreign government over the White House -- just weeks in advance of Israeli elections.
 
Last week, Obama administration officials, the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, and the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman all criticized the Boehner/Netanyahu scheme. Over the weekend, Michael Oren, Netanyahu's former ambassador to the U.S. urged the Israeli leader to cancel. "The behavior over the last few days created the impression of a cynical political move, and it could hurt our attempts to act against Iran," Oren said.
 
Even some Fox News anchors are siding with the White House's position (thanks to reader F.B. for the heads-up).
[T]wo prominent Fox News hosts, Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith, harshly criticized Boehner and Netanyahu on Friday for secretly arranging a Netanyahu speech to Congress that is transparently aimed at undermining President Obama, and set up without the White House's knowledge.
 
The White House, State Department, and many foreign policy observers, including prominent former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, expressed outrage over the move. And, in a sign of just how many lines Boehner and Netanyahu crossed, so did the two Fox News hosts. "I agree 100 percent," Wallace said when Smith read a quote from Indyk criticizing the Boehner-Netanyahu maneuver.
Wallace, hardly an ally of President Obama, noted that Secretary of State John Kerry met on Tuesday with Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, for two hours, and Dermer never mentioned the Boehner/Netanyahu scheme announced a day later. The Fox News host said "this whole thing" is "wicked."
 
Shep Smith went on to say that the Netanyahu administration seems to think that Americans are "just a bunch of complete morons."
Conservatives Gather For Voter Values Summit

Palin sees Obama as 'an overgrown little boy'

01/26/15 08:35AM

Sarah Palin knows a little bit about generating attention for herself. The former half-term Alaska governor surely realized, for example, that when she declared she's "seriously interested" in running for president -- of the United States, no less -- it'd cause a stir.
 
And that's arguably a shame. There's literally nothing to suggest the right-wing personality is serious about a political campaign, and Palin very likely makes comments like these as a sad little ego exercise.
 
But more important was Palin's cringe-worth speech at Rep. Steve King's (R) Iowa Freedom Summit, fairly characterized as a "bizarre improvised rant," in which the Alaska Republican came up with a new condemnation of President Obama.
"An impatient president doesn't just get to trample our Constitution and ignore Congress just because he doesn't get exactly what he wants every time he wants it," Palin said. "It's like an overgrown little boy who's just acting kind of spoiled. And moms, we don't put up with that, do we?"
Republican rhetoric that infantilizes the president is more common than it should be. It's also creepy.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal talks about recent Republican party gains and the road ahead for their party during a press conference at the Republican governors' conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Nov. 19, 2014.

Jindal finds new ways to pander to far-right

01/26/15 08:00AM

Why would Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) spend several days repeating discredited nonsense last week? Because it's apparently working for him. Byron York reported over the weekend:
You know what Bobby Jindal said about Muslim "no-go zones" in Europe, a statement that resulted in Jindal being criticized and mocked by mainstream commentators? It turns out many social conservatives in Iowa really liked it.... [Jindal] not only did not suffer from his remarks but instead benefited from them.
This is, alas, how the game is played in the Republican presidential nominating contest -- say things that aren't true in order to impress activists who don't know better. It's creates an unfortunate set of incentives in which cynical would-be presidents are encouraged to make stuff up, confident that electoral rewards will follow.
 
But for the GOP governor, the question is not how to deal with the fallout of getting caught making ridiculous allegations, but rather, what Jindal can do for an encore. Over the weekend, the dynamic led the governor to turn his attention to marriage equality.
 
The broader context is worth appreciating, because as recently as Tuesday, President Obama noted in his State of the Union address last week, "I've seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country."
 
Jindal must have missed this. Yesterday, he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos what his reaction would be to a court ruling supporting marriage equality:

Drone at the White House and other headlines

01/26/15 07:42AM

Drone lands inside White House grounds. (NBC News)

Somebody prank called the British Prime Minister. (New York Times)

Obama to propose new wilderness protections in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Alaska leaders irate. (Alaska Dispatch News)

Senate GOP may abolish Supreme Court filibusters. (Politico)

Foreign policy divides 2016 hopefuls at Koch forum. (The Hill)

Chris Christie launches a PAC. (AP)

Romney's consideration of candidacy is closely tied to his faith, allies say. (New York Times)

Boko Haram attacks northeastern Nigerian city, scores killed. (AP)

There's a big blizzard about to hit the northeast. (Weather.com)

Watch jumbo asteroid zip past Earth. (National Geographic)

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U.S. President Barack Obama waves at the start of his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 20, 2015. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

This Week in God, 1.24.15

01/24/15 09:04AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected complaint from the religious right about, of all things, President Obama's State of the Union address.
 
At first, I thought conservatives might complain about the way in which the president ended his remarks. While most SOTU addresses conclude with a president saying, "God Bless America," Obama this week wrapped up by saying, "God bless you. God bless this country we love." The subtle shift seemed like the sort of thing conservatives might not like, and as it turns out, some on the right did take note.
 
What I didn't expect was this.
The American Family Association's Sandy Rios enjoys promoting bizarre conspiracy theories to imply that President Obama is a secret Muslim, and [Wednesday] she even managed to find proof of Obama's hidden faith in his State of the Union address.
 
On Rios' radio program ... she did use the opportunity to claim that Obama was spreading Muslim messages in his speech when he used the word "pillar" to describe the foundations of American leadership in the world: "The other thing he said that I caught, he has done this before, you know there are five pillars of Islam, and he used the term 'pillars' again in his speech last night."
According to the Right Wing Watch report, Rios, who seems a little preoccupied with the idea that the Christian president is a secret Muslim, added, "It is just really interesting, language can actually give us some insight, choices of words."
 
It's probably worth noting that the president did use the word "pillar" in his speech, but last week, Mitt Romney used the same word. Former President George W. Bush referenced "pillars" several times when discussing U.S. policy in Iraq, and former President Ronald Reagan referenced "pillars" while promoting government-sponsored religion in public schools.
 
One can only wonder whether the American Family Association, a co-host of Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) "The Response" prayer rally today, sees secret Muslims everywhere.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
Pipe ruptures turn focus to improved safety

Pipe ruptures turn focus to improved safety

01/23/15 11:15PM

North Dakota State Representative Corey Mock talks with Rachel Maddow about considerations being made by the state legislature to improve monitoring of pipelines after a recent rash of ruptures, and how to improve safety without hurting industry. watch

Weekend events seen as start of GOP campaigns

Weekend events seen as start of GOP campaigns

01/23/15 09:10PM

Kasie Hunt, MSNBC political correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about this weekend's Republican events that seem to be kicking off the 2016 GOP presidential campaign season, including the sold out Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Congressman Steve King. watch

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