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Guidelines suggest 8-10 years for McDonnell

Guidelines suggest 8-10 years for Bob McDonnell

09/05/14 10:58PM

Rachel Maddow uses the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual to look up the potential sentence (pending the judge’s discretion) former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will receive when he and his wife are sentenced in January. watch

Ahead on the 9/5/14 Maddow show

09/05/14 06:01PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, and host of Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC
  • Kathleen Carmody, juror in the Bob McDonnell corruption trial
  • Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor for the Tulsa World newspaper 

Here's executive producer Cory Gnazzo with a Friday night preview:

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Friday's Mini-Report, 9.5.14

09/05/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Whether or not his word choice will make Republicans and the Beltway media happy is unclear: "President Barack Obama vowed Friday to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the militants of ISIS -- an organization that he said was too dangerous to be simply contained."
* Ukraine: "Government forces and the Russian-backed separatist rebels fighting in southeastern Ukraine will observe a cease-fire starting Friday, negotiators from all sides announced at a news conference in Minsk, Belarus."
* NATO leaders "approved plans on Friday for a 4,000-person rapid reaction force to be based in Eastern Europe, and meant to reassure members of the alliance unnerved by events in Ukraine, where Russia has seized and annexed the Crimean peninsula and backed separatist rebels in the east."
* Depending on the circumstances, this could be monumentally important: "The apparent abduction and detention of an Estonian security officer raised tensions between Estonia and Russia just two days after President Barack Obama came to the country and vowed to defend it as a NATO member."
* This was probably less dramatic than it sounds: "A plane chartered by an American-led military coalition that was flying through Iranian airspace landed unexpectedly in Iran on Friday, but the Obama administration said it was a bureaucratic issue that should be settled soon and was not a larger political incident between two countries with a history of hostility."
* As dishonesty goes, this seems pretty brazen: "Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson lied when he said he had received "many" specific requests for the videotape that allegedly shows Michael Brown robbing a convenience store, according to a new report."
* Some priorities are worth investing in: "The W.H.O., the United Nations agency assigned in its constitution to direct international health efforts, tackle epidemics and help in emergencies, has been badly weakened by budget cuts in recent years, hobbling its ability to respond in parts of the world that need it most."
* More on this on tonight's show: "Mitch McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, was facing subpoenas for emails and financial transactions before he resigned last Friday from the helm of Senate Republican leader's reelection effort."
* Did you catch President Obama's speech in Estonia this week? I watched it last night and it's well worth your time.  I don't always agree with David Frum, but I thought it was interesting he called the remarks "the most important speech about European security ... of the post-Cold War era."
U.S. President Barack Obama makes briefs remarks to the news media at the beginning of a cabinet meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the Cabinet Room of the White House, September 12, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. strike kills al Shabab terror leader

09/05/14 04:58PM

It's often amazing to try to reconcile political "narratives" and actual events. For a while now, President Obama's critics on the right have insisted that he isn't aggressive enough on counter-terrorism, seems distracted, and refuses to prioritize national security concerns, especially where suspected terrorists are concerned.
And yet, the narrative keeps running into real-world developments like these.
Ahmed Abdi Godane -- the leader of al Shabab, the Islamic militant organization behind the siege on a mall in Kenya last year -- was killed in a U.S. military strike earlier this week, an al Shabab source told NBC News on Friday.
The Pentagon confirmed the death later in the day.
"Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al Shabab," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. "The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations."
According to the NBC News report, a U.S. security official added, "It's a big win. He was operationally savvy and ideologically driven, with aspirations off the charts."
As msnbc reported last year, Godane, who was also known by his alias Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, had pledged loyalty to the core al Qaeda leadership. Christopher Anzalone, a scholar at George Mason University's Center for Global Islamic Studies, said Godane "has always been very transnational in his outlook."
Obviously not anymore.
So how does the "Obama is conveying weakness on terror!" crowd deal with a successful counter-terrorism mission like this? By all appearances, they address the story by ignoring it -- the developments don't fit into the agreed upon narrative, and therefore don't count.
Barack Obama, Edna Pemberton

Obamacare keeps refusing to fail

09/05/14 04:21PM

As a rule, the Affordable Care Act is only considered front-page news when something has gone wrong. It's why Americans probably haven't heard much about "Obamacare" lately -- all of the news lately has been excellent.
Ezra Klein reports today on President Obama's "signature accomplishment ... succeeding beyond all reasonable expectation."
A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that in seven major cities that have released data on 2015 premiums, the price of the benchmark Obamacare plan -- the second-cheapest silver plan, which the federal government uses to calculate subsidies --  is falling.
Yes, falling.
"Falling" is not a word that people associate with health-insurance premiums. They tend to rise as regularly as the morning sun. And, to be fair, the Kaiser Family Foundation is only looking at 16 cities in 15 states and the District of Columbia, and the drop they record is, on average, a modest 0.8 percent (though this is the same methodology they used in 2014, and to good results). But this data, though preliminary, is the best data we have  -- and it shows that Obamacare is doing a better job holding down costs than anyone seriously predicted, including Kaiser's researchers.
Remember the Republican/media preoccupation with the "death spiral"? We now know, of course, that such speculation was wrong. But just as important, we should also appreciate the extent to which conservatives had it backwards -- the exact opposite of their predictions are coming true.
Paul Krugman joked today that "we're actually seeing the opposite of a death spiral; call it a life spiral. For one thing, the huge surge in enrollments late in the day meant that the risk pool this year is better than insurers expected, and they now expect 2015 to be better still. Also, importantly, big enrollments mean that more insurers are entering the market, increasing competition. And, of course, the better the deal the more people will sign up: success feeds success."
It's against this backdrop that a growing number of Republican governors are finally coming around on Medicaid expansion, as GOP candidates scale back their anti-ACA campaign ads.
And this, in turn, leads to a couple of big-picture questions.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., attends the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Cotton backs hike on minimum wage, but only 'as a citizen'

09/05/14 03:22PM

Voters in Arkansas will vote this fall on a statewide minimum-wage increase, and given the polls, the proposal is expected to pass fairly easily. For months, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has refused to say what he thinks of the ballot measure -- it's a state issue, he's argued, and he's a federal lawmaker.
Under the circumstances, Cotton's evasiveness offered a pretty strong hint: he didn't want to announce his opposition to a popular idea before the election, but the congressman also didn't want to betray his far-right ideology.
So he's trying to thread a needle.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Friday that, as a "citizen," he will vote in favor of a ballot initiative that would gradually raise the minimum wage in Arkansas.
"I'm going to vote for that initiated act as a citizen," Cotton, who is running to unseat Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), said Friday on the Alice Stewart radio show.
The campaign hasn't defined the "as a citizen" qualifier, but in context, I suspect Cotton's trying to draw a distinction between how he'd vote in Congress and how he'd vote at his local Arkansas precinct. The conservative Republican will apparently vote for a wage hike "as a citizen," but he'll vote against minimum-wage increases as a lawmaker.
Whether voters find the distinction satisfying remains to be seen.
That said, let's not miss the larger context: Cotton is in the middle of a tough fight in a Southern red state, and to get ahead, he's going to great lengths to obscure details of his far-right agenda.
The Arkansas Republican isn't just endorsing a statewide minimum-wage increase, he's also trying to position himself as a champion of Medicare's socialized-insurance program. Cotton continues to vehemently oppose the Affordable Care Act, naturally, but when asked about scrapping Medicaid expansion under the ACA, the congressman dodges -- knowing that his position would push many voters away.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) address the Corps of Cadets at the Citadel on November 12, 2013 in Charleston, South Carolina.

A senator divided against himself cannot stand

09/05/14 12:41PM

Republican condemnations of President Obama's counter-terrorism efforts are clearly growing louder, but there's still some disagreements within the GOP itself.
When discussing ISIS and the national-security threat, for example, one prominent Republican senator recently said, "What's going on now, I don't blame on President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution."
Another prominent Republican senator later argued the opposite, writing an op-ed that read, "Our recent foreign policy has allowed radical jihadists to proliferate. Today, there are more terrorists groups than there were before 9/11, most notably ISIS.... [W]hy, after six years, does President Obama lack a strategy to deal with threats like ISIS?"
Wait, actually both quotes came from the same guy. Benjy Sarlin highlighted the contradiction.
After expressing reluctance to intervene against ISIS over the summer, Sen. Rand Paul abruptly shifted gears on Thursday and announced that he supports military action to eliminate the Islamist group. [...]
Paul's hawkish turn comes after months of hedging and skeptical comments regarding U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria. Yet Paul boasted on Thursday that as president he would have committed to a grand plan to eliminate ISIS earlier and more effectively than President Obama.
I haven't the foggiest idea how anyone can take the Kentucky Republican seriously on the issue. Rand Paul seems to have very strong disagreements with Rand Paul, and there's little hope for reconciliation -- one has no use for "interventionists" and the "hawkish members" of his own party; the other is eager to support U.S. military intervention abroad to destroy ISIS.
One has "mixed feelings" about an expansive military operation in the Middle East; the other is outraged by President Obama's cautious approach to pursuing expansive military operation in the Middle East.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.5.14

09/05/14 12:00PM

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:
* In Arkansas' closely watched U.S. Senate race, a new CNN poll has Rep. Tom Cotton (R) with a narrow lead over incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D), 49% to 47%, among likely voters. Oddly enough, the same poll shows Pryor with a big, nine-point advantage among registered voters.
* In Alaska's closely watched U.S. Senate race, Maryland officials are investigating whether Republican Dan Sullivan is receiving a tax break that's only given to those whose principal residence is in Maryland. Sullivan reportedly owns a home in suburban D.C., though he's running for statewide office in Alaska.
* As part of his re-election bid, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) hosted a men-only fundraising event a few months ago. The invitation, obtained by BuzzFeed, told attendees to  "tell the misses not to wait up" because "the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many." Southerland was recently caught misleading voters about his vote on the Violence Against Women Act.
* In California, the latest Field poll shows Gov. Jerry Brown (D) with a sizable lead over his closest challenger, Republican Neel Kashkari, 50% to 34%.
* In the final Boston Globe poll before next week's primaries, gubernatorial hopeful Martha Coakley continues to enjoy a big lead over her Democratic rivals, leading Steve Grossman by 22 points and Don Berwick by 34 points. Some recent polling had showed the Democratic race tightening.