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Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) leaves after a press briefing July 31, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Boehner ready to punt on ISIS vote until 2015

09/25/14 10:42AM

It was Aug. 8, seven weeks ago tomorrow, that President Obama launched U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq. It was this week when the president expanded the mission to include strikes on ISIS targets in Syria.
 
And it was last week when Congress decided to give itself another 54 days off, rather than extend legal authority to the Obama administration to conduct this military offensive.
 
Most of us have been working under the assumption that Congress had one of two options: (1) debate the use of force during Congress' post-election, lame-duck session; or (2) return to work before the election to do its duty and meet its constitutional obligations.
 
But in a new interview with Carl Hulse, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) points to Door #3 -- also known as See You Next Year.
[Boehner is increasingly convinced that Congress must hold a full debate on granting President Obama the authority to use military force against terrorists.... But Mr. Boehner believes a post-election, lame-duck session is the wrong time for such a weighty decision.
 
"Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don't think that is the right way to handle this," he said.
 
Mr. Boehner, who is open to a more expansive military campaign to destroy the Islamic State, thinks lawmakers should take up the issue after the new Congress convenes in January. At that time, he said, President Obama should come forward with a proposal for consideration.
Greg Sargent noted in response, "You have to love the idea that this is too 'weighty' a decision to make during the lame duck session, but not 'weighty' enough to vote on before the escalation actually launched, let alone before an election in which voters deserve to know where lawmakers stand on a matter of such great consequence."
 
Indeed, it's difficult to think of a defense for Boehner's new posture.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., walks in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Feb. 4, 2014, Washington, D.C. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

With the pressure on, Roberts struggles

09/25/14 10:02AM

At a campaign event in Kansas this week, Sen. Pat Roberts, the struggling Republican incumbent, seemed eager to throw some red meat to the GOP base. "We have to change course because our country is heading for national socialism," the senator said. "That's not right. It's changing our culture. It's changing what we're all about."
 
It seemed quite likely that Roberts, despite more than three decades in Congress, had no idea that national socialism is Nazism. At the same time, the senator also seemed confused by what "socialism" means.
 
Yesterday, Philip Rucker reported on Roberts' attempts at a clarification. "I believe that the direction [President Obama] is heading the country is more like a European socialistic state, yes. You can't tell me anything that he has not tried to nationalize."
 
Given that the president hasn't actually tried to nationalize any American industry, it seems we're left with a befuddled senator who doesn't know what "nationalize" means, either.
 
But that's not Roberts' biggest problem. Rather, reports like these from today's Topeka Capital-Journal are the sort of thing that puts his career in jeopardy.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts put a signature to documents associated with the mortgage on a Virginia residence that identify the Fairfax County home as "principal residence" of the three-term incumbent Republican. [...]
 
On Wednesday, records surfaced that Roberts signed a Deed of Trust in 1997 and 2003 for property owned in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Franki, that contained text about a principal residence.
 
The documents, which include a series of covenants, required Roberts to attest the couple within 60 days of executing the document "shall continue to occupy the property as borrower's principal residence for at least one year after the date of occupancy."
Wait it gets worse.
2012 Republican National Convention: Day 3

New GOP ad campaign: 'Republicans Have Feelings'

09/25/14 09:20AM

Vinny Minchillo, a Republican campaign strategist based in Texas, isn't the most famous GOP consultant in the country, but he did claim to have "reinvented political advertising" while working for Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign in 2012.
 
But that was two years ago. In 2014, as Danny Vinik discovered, Minchillo is spearheading an entirely different kind of campaign. It's called "Republicans Are People, Too."
RepublicansArePeopleToo.com ... aims to combat the partisan rancor directed at the GOP. In short: to humanize Republicans demonized by the left as women-hating, nature-destroying Fox News addicts. A 97-second video on the site informs viewers that Republicans do things that you may not associate with conservatives. [...]
 
Minchillo is now an executive at Glass House Strategy, a public affairs company that specializes in political campaigns -- although, despite the upcoming midterms, Minchillo is not advising any campaigns at the moment. That, he says, makes it the perfect time to start a grassroots campaign to change the Republican Party's image.
The whole video is posted below, and you'll just have to see it to believe it. The message did not go so far as to say, "Republicans are capable of functioning as well-adjusted human beings," but that seemed to be the general direction of the message.
 
Indeed, for those who can't watch clips online, here's the entire on-screen text: "Did you know? Republicans drive Priuses. Republicans recycle. Republicans listen to Spotify. Republicans put together Ikea furniture. Republicans are white. Republicans are black. Republicans are Hispanic. Republicans are Asian. Republicans read the New York Times in public. Republicans use Macs. Republicans are grandmas, daughters, Moms. Republicans are left handed. Republicans are doctors, welders, teachers. Republicans donate to charity. Republicans enjoy gourmet cooking. Republicans shop at Trader Joe's. Republicans like dogs and cats, probably dogs a little more than cats. Republicans have tattoos and beards. Republicans have feelings. Republicans are people who care. Republicans are people, too."
 
It's almost as if we're seeing a promotional video put together by a group most Americans find repulsive, so its members put something together for YouTube in the hopes of appearing normal.
 
Indeed, let's make this plain: if you're a member of a political party, and you find it necessary to remind the public that your party is capable of human emotion and routine human behavior, then your party may have a very serious problem.

Jobless claims climb, but beat expectations

09/25/14 08:38AM

The figures on initial unemployment claims have reached such an encouraging point that new Labor Department reports can show an increase, but the overall level can remain below a key threshold.
The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose by 12,000 to 293,000, but initial claims continue to hover near an eight-year bottom amid a very low rate of layoffs, new government data showed. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 in the week ended Sept. 20.
 
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 1,250 to 298,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. The monthly figure offers a better look at underlying trends in the jobs market.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
 
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been below 330,000 in 25 of the last 28 weeks. (We've also been below 300,000 in 6 of the last 10 weeks.)
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Fitchburg, Wis.

Court clears way for investigation into Wisconsin's Walker

09/25/14 08:00AM

If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) economic record doesn't undermine his political future, his scandals might.
 
To briefly recap his most notable controversy, Wisconsin election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. There is, however, reason to believe Walker and his team were directly involved in overseeing how outside groups -- including some allegedly non-partisan non-profits -- spent their campaign resources during the governor's recall campaign.
 
For his part, the governor has dismissed the controversy, repeatedly pointing to a court ruling that "didn't buy into the argument that has been presented" by prosecutors. Yesterday, a federal appeals court overruled that lower court.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday removed an injunction halting an investigation into whether the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker illegally coordinated with conservative groups on fund-raising and spending as he sought to overcome a recall effort two years ago.
 
The decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit raised the prospect that prosecutors could eventually resume the investigation even as Mr. Walker, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is engaged in a tight battle for re-election.
Note, this does not necessarily mean that the investigation will be renewed, only that it can continue. A district court put a halt to the entire inquiry, effectively closing the door on the probe. Now, that door is open again, though what happens next remains to be seen.
 
What strikes me as especially important about this, though, is the degree to which it represents a rebuke to a bizarre legal theory about campaign-finance laws.

Lame-duck and other headlines

09/25/14 07:59AM

Boehner says Congress should debate military action, but not in the lame-duck session. (NY Times)

What we know about the Khorasan Group. (NY Times)

France considers expanding airstrikes into Syria. (NBC News)

Deal with Saudis paved way for Syrian airstrikes. (Wall Street Journal)

House GOP leaders rebuffed calls for anti-Obamacare vote from right. (The Hill)

Out-of-state abortion providers ready to treat more Missouri women. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

U.S. man's North Korean prison life: digging, isolation. (AP)

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ISIS fight also a war on radicalization

ISIS fight also a war on radicalization

09/24/14 10:45PM

Mia Bloom, professor at the U. Mass. Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, talks with Rachel Maddow about addressing the threat of lone wolf terrorists and whether the call by ISIS for worldwide attacks is a sign of desperation. watch

Ahead on the 9/24/14 Maddow show

09/24/14 06:53PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Mia Bloom, terrorism and security expert, professor at the University of Massachusetts Center for Terrorism and Security Studies
  • Dexter Filkins, New Yorker contributor, author of "The Forever War"

Here's executive producer Cory Gnazzo with a preview of what's coming:

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