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Cornered Cruz chokes on shooting response

Cruz in questionable company, offers bizarre response to shooting

11/30/15 10:39PM

Rachel Maddow outlines the context of the history of threats and attacks on abortion providers and facilities across the United States, and reviews what little is known so far about the Colorado Springs shooter, and singles out Republican senator and presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, for his bizarre, distinctly unpresidential response to the... watch

More threats as anti-abortion talk cranks up

Increased threats correspond to new Planned Parenthood bashing

11/30/15 09:23PM

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, talks with Rachel Maddow about Friday's deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, the security measures clinics are forced to take, and the recent increase in violence and threats as Republicans have amplified anti-abortion extremists' opposition to Planned Parenthood. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 11.30.15

11/30/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Colorado: "The man accused of killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic made his first court appearance Monday, where he was told that he could face the death penalty. Robert Lewis Dear, 57, wore a protective vest and cast his eyes downward as he spoke to the judge via closed circuit TV, while victim's relatives watched from the El Paso County courtroom."
* Maryland: "As many as 80 potential jurors filed into a Baltimore courtroom Monday morning as the first trial in the death of Freddie Gray got underway. Jury selection for Officer William Porter's trial began Monday. When asked by Judge Barry Williams, every juror called said they knew about the Freddie Gray case, were aware of the curfew imposed following the protests and knew about the $6.4 million settlement between the city and Gray's family."
* Pittsburgh: "It began as an ordinary cab ride. But by the time it was over, the Pittsburgh taxi driver -- a 38-year-old Muslim man from Morocco -- had a bullet wound in his upper back and was lucky to be alive, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette."
* Research initiatives like these matter: "President Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are expected to stand with counterparts from more than 20 countries on Monday in announcing the unprecedented efforts, which are aimed at spurring rapid advances in research and development for clean energy, U.S. officials confirmed Sunday."
* Boko Haram: "West Africa's Boko Haram Islamist militant group is expanding and there is only a small window of opportunity to stop it, the top U.N. aid official in Cameroon said on Monday."
* University of Chicago: "A suspect has been arrested after a top-ranked university had to cancel classes due to a threat of gun violence against its campus community. Jabari Dean, 21, was arrested for allegedly threatening to murder University of Chicago students and staff, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced Monday."
* Shutdown Watch: "House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday shrugged off the possibility of a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood, saying Republicans are more focused on preventing terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks."
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Nov. 30, 2015. (Photo by Eric Feferberg/Pool/AP)

Obama: International gathering is an act of defiance, resolve

11/30/15 04:32PM

The Paris Climate Conference, known as COP21 (Conference on Parties), began this morning, and while the gathering has been in the works all year, it's not lost on any of the participants that the French capital suffered a deadly terrorist attack two weeks ago.
And with this in mind, when President Obama spoke at the opening session, he acknowledged the circumstances at the outset:
"President Hollande, Mr. Secretary General, fellow leaders. We have come to Paris to show our resolve.
"We offer our condolences to the people of France for the barbaric attacks on this beautiful city. We stand united in solidarity not only to deliver justice to the terrorist network responsible for those attacks but to protect our people and uphold the enduring values that keep us strong and keep us free. And we salute the people of Paris for insisting this crucial conference go on -- an act of defiance that proves nothing will deter us from building the future we want for our children. What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it?"
It's no small detail. Organizers of the climate conference have noted that COP21 is the largest gathering of international heads of state in the history of, well, the world. That this is occurring just 17 days after Paris was gripped by violence and bloodshed is itself rather extraordinary, and Obama's well justified to celebrate the circumstances.
If terrorists hoped the world would be frightened off by the events of Nov. 13, they failed.
As part of the same remarks, Obama was apparently supposed to be brief. The president, however, wasn't overly concerned about the arbitrary constraints.
Republican presidential candidates John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul take the stage before the Republican presidential debate, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (Photo by Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

As climate talks open, many candidates flunk science test

11/30/15 12:48PM

Officials from around the world began high-level talks in Paris today, as the United Nations climate change conference kicked off a 10-day gathering intended to combat the intensifying climate crisis. President Obama is on hand and delivered a speech to attendees this morning.
The U.S. leader's challenges are obvious. For one thing, there's plenty of international resistance to making any kind of short-term sacrifice to deal with global warming, and given the scope of the crisis, dramatic changes are required. For another, the Obama administration has to deal with the fact that an entire American political party is actively trying to sabotage American officials' efforts at the Paris gathering.
But there's also the fact that the president, who's been laying the groundwork for these talks for quite a while, only has one year remaining in office, and much of the work will have to continue after Obama's successor is elected. Depending on who that successor is, that could be very good news for our environmental future or very bad news.
MSNBC's Tony Dokoupil had an interesting report over the holiday weekend on the candidates' preparedness on the issue.
The Associated Press invited eight climate and biological scientists to grade the scientific accuracy of candidates in both parties. The material included debates, published interviews and tweets. The candidates' names were not known to the reviewers. As an added protection against bias, the scientists were selected by professional scientific societies.
The grades, which ran from 0 to 100, were mostly abysmal. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the strongest and the wrongest, receiving a grade of 6 points for accuracy. All eight evaluators placed Cruz dead last. Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor, wrote of Cruz's statements: "This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner."
Of course, with Cruz, it's often difficult to know whether and when he's playing a political game. Is he actually ignorant or is he saying foolish things he knows to be wrong in the hopes of winning votes from his party's right-wing base?
Regardless, if Cruz fared the worst, who fared the best?

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.30.15

11/30/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Last week, Donald Trump's campaign scheduled an event for today in which the Republican candidate would receive an endorsement from 100 or so African-American pastors. Yesterday, Team Trump canceled the event after some of the pastors involved said they are not, in fact, supporting the GOP presidential hopeful.
* Ben Carson toured a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan over the weekend, and told reporters soon after that he didn't "detect any great desire" among the refugees "to come to the United States." Note, it's hard to say with certainty what Carson saw -- journalists were prohibited from joining the Republican on his tour.
* After picking up an endorsement from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) yesterday, Hillary Clinton unveiled a $275 billion infrastructure plan, including a $25 billion investment to support a national Strategic Infrastructure Bank. The campaign said the package would be paid for through business tax reform, though Clinton aides were vague about the specific details.
* Donald Trump last week drew fire for apparently mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who was born with deformities in his hands and lower arms. Trump later claimed he doesn't remember meeting Kovaleski or knowing anything about the journalist's disability.
* On a related note, Trump reiterated yesterday that he will not back off his discredited claim about American Muslims cheering on 9/11 when the Twin Towers fell. He insisted on "Meet the Press" yesterday that his bogus claims are true, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
A general view of the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Dec. 30, 2014. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Both parties agree: 'We are one justice away'

11/30/15 11:20AM

About a month ago, Ted Cruz was campaigning in Iowa, where a voter asked the Texas senator about the Supreme Court.
"One more liberal justice and our right to keep and bear arms is taken away from us by an activist court," Cruz said. "One more liberal justice and they begin sandblasting and bulldozing veterans memorials throughout this country. One more liberal justice and we lose our sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Court."
None of these dire warnings were rooted in reality in any way, but they were nevertheless a reminder of the significance of the high court as a 2016 campaign issue. MSNBC's Irin Carmon explained late last week that Republicans, arguably more than Democrats, are acting as if the Supreme Court itself is "essentially on the ballot."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has said, "The stakes are too high and the issue too important to simply cede the will of the people to five unaccountable justices." Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has long complained of politicians who would "allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it."
For Republicans running for president, the Supreme Court itself is essentially on the ballot. Democrats? Not so much. [...] Democrats have shown little of the intensity or emphasis shown by the Republicans. That isn't lost on the liberal activists who are focused on the judiciary and outraged by many of the Supreme Court's recent decisions.
To be sure, Election Day is over 11 months away, and we can't yet say with certainty which issues will ultimately define the cycle. Democrats are no doubt aware of the court's future -- at a Hillary Clinton event in Massachusetts over the weekend, a speaker reminded the audience, "We are one justice away..." -- and the party may yet turn the spotlight on the rare opportunity at the heart of next year's election.
But it's not unreasonable to think Democrats have good reasons to focus on the court with the same zeal as their Republican counterparts.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York May 13, 2015. (Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Rubio's mistaken view of a 'clash of civilizations'

11/30/15 10:40AM

Marco Rubio was in Iowa last week, telling an audience the day before Thanksgiving that ISIS has created a dynamic in which we "find ourselves today in a clash of civilizations" between the "civilized world" and "radical animals."
The Guardian reported that an attendee at the Cedar Rapids forum was concerned about the senator's rhetoric, arguing that phrases like "war of civilizations" was a mischaracterization that might "inflame Islamophobia." The voter described ISIS as "a fanatical splinter group that is obviously quite dangerous, but it's not a war of civilizations, it's a war against a particular group."
Rubio responded by sticking to his sound-bite script.
"This is not a geopolitical conflict. This is not a conflict between ISIS because they want us out of the Middle East," Rubio said. "This is a civilizational conflict -- not with Islam -- with radical Islam, particularly their interpretation of radical Islam." [...]
"This is not an anti-Muslim.... Radical jihad is a view of civilization that we must reject and defeat for what it is. Either they win, or we do."
The audience, according to The Guardian's report, "erupted" in applause, which is probably why Rubio keeps using rhetoric like this.
The problem, however, is that the concerned voter was correct and the senator was not.
Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks during a town hall event at Bob Jones University, Nov. 13, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)

Team Carson's dubious operation draws new scrutiny

11/30/15 10:00AM

About a month ago, New York's Jon Chait questioned whether Ben Carson is running a Republican presidential campaign or a "clever marketing scam." I don't imagine the candidate or his supporters appreciated the argument, though questions about Carson's political operation are hardly unfounded. The L.A. Times published a doozy of a report over the weekend.
Before he entered the race for the White House, Ben Carson signed on to a campaign to raise money to fight Obamacare. When Juanita McMillon saw his name, she was eager to get out her checkbook.
"I think he is sincere, and I think he is honest, and I think he is exactly what we need," said McMillon, 80, from the small town of De Kalb in northeast Texas. She gave $350.
Her money went to the American Legacy PAC, an organization with ties to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. With Carson as the face of its Save Our Healthcare campaign, American Legacy raised close to $6 million in 2014 -- and spent nearly all of it paying the consultants and firms that raised the money. Just 2% was donated to Republican candidates and committees, financial reports show.
The whole point of a political action committee -- any political action committee, really -- is to create an entity that raises funds to be distributed to allied and like-minded candidates. But Carson's venture, like so many similar entities in conservative politics, raised several million dollars, nearly all of which went to the consultants who created the operation, rather than candidates for public office.
This is, alas, incredibly common on the right. Tea Party PACs, in particular, have proliferated in recent years, raising tens of millions of dollars, which regularly line the pockets of the people who created the committees. As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted in early October, "a good deal of conservative politics is an elaborate scam for cash."
But Carson and "American Legacy" aren't just some random scam PAC, exploiting Carson's credibility for big bucks. This is a very different kind of story.
The handcuffed suspected gunman at the Planned Parenthood clinic is moved to a police vehicle in Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov. 27, 2015. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

To see terrorist threats, don't just look abroad

11/30/15 09:20AM

Americans were confronted last week with two competing stories, which, when combined, painted a rather disjointed picture. The first story was the Republican campaign to block Syrian refugees' access to American soil, fearing a possible, albeit highly unrealistic, security threat posed by anyone from the Middle East.
The second story relates to a series of events, including white American men shooting at Black Lives Matter protesters in Minnesota, white American men stalking a Texas house of worship while carrying weapons, and a white American man shooting 12 people, three of them fatally, at a medical office in Colorado Springs.
The distance between the two serves as a timely reminder of a fact that too often goes overlooked: when confronted with the "terrorist" threat, many instinctively think of foreign enemies and Middle Eastern fanatics. And while it's unwise to turn a blind eye to threats posed by ISIS, al Qaeda, and its ilk, it's also important to re-examine those assumptions and recognize a domestic threat that has nothing to do with a stereotypical caricature.
This Huffington Post report ran just three days before Friday's murders.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) recently praised U.S. security officials for keeping the country safe in the years since the 9/11 attacks, but also highlighted the threats posed by white men who carry out mass shootings. [...]
"I think most of us recognize that we're concerned but we also know that we trust the FBI and our security forces to do this right," Brown told WAKR radio last week. "Since the beginning of the Bush administration when we were attacked, Sept. 11, we've not had any major terrorist attack in this country. We've had individual crazy people; normally, they look more like me than they look like Middle Easterners. They are generally white males, who have shot up people in movie theaters and schools. Those are terrorist attacks; they're just different kinds of terrorists."
This caused a bit of a stir -- it's not every day that a sitting U.S. senator talks about terrorists "generally" being white men -- but Brown's point seemed all the more important in light of Friday's violence in Colorado.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination at Livingston High School on June 30, 2015 in Livingston Twp., New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty

Christie picks up coveted N.H. endorsement

11/30/15 08:40AM

For most of 2015, major news organizations and prominent pundits have insisted that Chris Christie's "comeback" is going to begin at any moment. There's been scant evidence that the New Jersey governor is anything but a third-tier 2016 contender, but media chatter about his inevitable resurgence has been constant for months.
As of yesterday, those championing the "comeback" meme have some fresh grist for the mill.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won the coveted endorsement from the New Hampshire Union-Leader, the state's biggest newspaper and an important voice in the state's primary.
It's a boost in a critical state for Christie where he is spending a considerable amount of time and resources.
The editorial board for the conservative New Hampshire paper touted Christie's credibility on matters of national security -- an issue the governor generally seems to know very little about -- and made no mention of the New Jersey Republican's damaging scandals, his unpopularity among his own constituents, or his assorted governing failures.
These details notwithstanding, most of the GOP field sought support from the Union-Leader, an influential outlet among Granite State Republicans, and Team Christie is no doubt delighted to pick up the sought after endorsement.
There is, however, a nagging question that the governor might find more discouraging: how have previous Republicans endorsed by the Union-Leader fared over the years?
A suspect is taken into custody outside a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov. 27, 2015. (Photo by Isaiah J. Downing/Reuters)

GOP candidates slow to respond to Colorado mass murder

11/30/15 08:00AM

On Friday afternoon, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, killing three people, including a police officer and an Iraq war veteran, and shooting nine others, during an hours-long assault. The accused was taken into custody and is being held without bond.
There is, of course, no shortage of relevant angles surrounding the latest mass shooting, which came less than a month after an unrelated shooting spree in the same area. The role of the far-right campaign against the health care organization, the degree to which this constituted domestic terrorism, and how this fits into the broader "war on women" all matter a great deal.
But as an electoral matter, I was eager over the holiday weekend to see how presidential candidates would respond -- or in many instances, not respond -- to the deadly violence in Colorado. After all, it seems likely that if the shooter were a Muslim radical responsible for politically motivated violence on American soil, White House aspirants would likely have quite a bit to say.
And yet, as the Washington Post noted over the weekend, some Republican candidates chose to remain silent following Friday's slayings.
The Republican presidential field, which for much of the year has been full-throated in its denunciations of Planned Parenthood, has been nearly silent about the shooting in Colorado at one of its facilities that left a police officer and two others dead.
In contrast, all three of the leading Democratic contenders quickly issued statements in support of Planned Parenthood.
Indeed, the partisan distinction was striking. Fairly quickly after Friday's crisis was resolved, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley each issued statements condemning the attack and standing in support of the gunman's targets. By Saturday morning, President Obama and the Democratic National Committee had issued statements of their own.
The sizable GOP field, meanwhile, chose a slower, quieter path:


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