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U.S. President Barack Obama announces executive actions on U.S. immigration policy during a nationally televised address from the White House in Washington, November 20, 2014. (Photo by Jim Bourg/Pool/Reuters)

This Week in God, 11.22.14

11/22/14 08:49AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a curious reaction from the right to President Obama quoting Christian scripture in his national address on immigration policy this week.
If you missed it, referencing Exodus 23:9, told Americans, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too."
In an interesting twist, conservatives who generally push for more mixing of religion and politics, and who complain that the president isn't more overtly religious all the time, began complaining after Obama's speech about the Biblical reference. Emily Arrowood noted yesterday:
The hosts of Fox & Friends were incensed that President Obama quoted scripture in a primetime address detailing his upcoming executive action on immigration, challenging him to a "scripture-showdown" and claiming it's "repugnant" for Obama to "lecture us on Christian faith." [...]
According to [co-host Elisabeth] Hasselbeck, Obama used the Bible to guilt people into supporting his executive action, and that's "not what the scholars behind the Bible would interpret as proper use, perhaps."
Because no one's ever used Scripture to guilt someone into supporting a position, right?
It was, incidentally, the co-hosts of "Fox & Friends" who also complained just 48 hours earlier that the president doesn't espouse Christian values often enough.
But they weren't the only ones complaining. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) also wasn't happy. "I always thought that Scripture was eternal and unchanging, but apparently, now that Obama is President, Scripture gets rewritten more often than Bill Cosby's Wikipedia entry," Huckabee wrote on his Facebook page.
Fox's Bill O'Reilly also said of Obama, "He is one of the most secular presidents, perhaps the most secular president we have ever had, yet, he invokes scripture in the speech."
For what it's worth, Thomas Jefferson edited his Bible to remove references to Jesus' divinity, so I don't think Obama, who's made countless public references to his Christian faith, is in the running for any Most Secular Presidents awards.
Also from the God Machine this week:
Important veteran suicide bill poised to pass

Important veteran suicide bill poised to pass

11/21/14 10:51PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a little noticed, genuinely bipartisan bill named for a heroic veteran who took his own life, and designed to address the challenges of treating returning war veterans. watch

Friday Night News Dump: What finals? edition

Friday Night News Dump: What finals? edition

11/21/14 09:54PM

Samir Lakhami joins Rachel Maddow for another round of The Friday Night News Dump, pitting his memory of the past week's shows against a series of question for the ultimate goal of a moderately exclusive piece of branded clutter. watch

Tensions high as Ferguson ruling expected

Tensions high as Ferguson ruling expected

11/21/14 09:36PM

Rachel Maddow reports on early notice that an announcement from the grand jury hearing the Michael Brown shooting case in Ferguson may come in the next few days, and the calls for calm and caution in anticipation of renewed protests. watch

Benghazi not a scandal. Shhhhhhhh!

Benghazi not a scandal. Shhhhhhhh!

11/21/14 09:21PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the quietly released news from a Republican-led House committee that after years of investigations and right-wing accusations of conspiracy and worse, no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees was found. watch

Ahead on the 11/21/14 Maddow show

11/21/14 06:06PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Alan Gomez, USA Today immigration reporter
  • James Makawa, former NBC news correspondent who applied for amnesty in 1987

And here's executive producer Cory Gnazzo with what's coming up...

read more

Friday's Mini-Report, 11.21.14

11/21/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* POTUS hits the trail: "President Obama reaffirmed his plan to take executive action to reform the nation's immigration laws but said he will keep working with Congress to reach a legislative solution. 'I will never give up,' Obama said at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas."
* At least for now, the deadline is Monday: "Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, canceled plans to leave the nuclear negotiations [in Geneva] Friday following marathon talks that lasted into the night."
* Signs of hope in Liberia: "The international response to West Africa's Ebola epidemic, coupled with more effective action by local communities, has stopped the exponential spread of the disease in one of the hardest-hit countries, Liberia, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday."
* Terror divisions: "Escalating a war of words between terrorism's old and new schools, an Islamic scholar with al Qaeda's Yemen-based offshoot on Friday accused ISIS of 'planting ... disunity' among the various Islamic extremist factions fighting to topple the Syrian government and rejected the authority of the Iraq- and Syria-based group's self-declared caliphate."
* Ukraine: 'Vice President Biden abruptly canceled a wreath-laying ceremony Friday at a memorial marking Ukraine's pro-Western revolution after an angry crowd gathered to demand justice for those killed in the unrest."
* Ferguson: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has expressed concerns privately to Missouri officials this week about their recent actions in advance of a grand jury's decision in the Michael Brown case."
* Tunisia: "Less than a month after electing a new Parliament, Tunisians will vote Sunday in their first-ever open democratic presidential election, completing a tumultuous democratic transition begun with their revolution nearly four years ago."
* A not-so-lame duck: "The government transferred five low-level Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Eastern Europe on Thursday. Four of the men were Yemenis, and their resettlement was a significant policy change in the Obama administration's effort to close the prison at the naval base in Cuba."
John Boehner

'The House will, in fact, act'

11/21/14 04:55PM

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in July 2013:
"It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), this morning:
"I will say to you, the House will in fact act," he said.
It's worth clarifying the context. Last year, when Boehner vowed that the Republican-led House will "act," he meant he and his colleagues were finally going to do something about the broken immigration system. This morning, when Boehner vowed that the Republican-led House will "act," he meant GOP lawmakers intend to stop President Obama from doing something about the broken immigration system.
The point, however, is that there's a challenge in taking the House Speaker seriously. Last year, he vowed that he and his members will do their job on immigration reform, and then Boehner broke his word. Now the Speaker is vowing to take on the president -- somehow, in some way, in reference to some policy dispute -- and given recent history, one would be forgiven for thinking, "We've heard this talk before."
There's an inherent problem when leaders lack credibility. Remember when Boehner said Republicans wouldn't pass a clean debt-ceiling increase? What the Speaker vowed would happen and what actually happened turned out to be very different things. Remember when Boehner said Republicans wouldn't shut down the government? The same dynamic unfolded.

Of course, there's also the issue of timing.