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Terror groups compete for notoriety

Terror groups compete for notoriety

11/13/15 09:43PM

Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about the context of the deadly attacks in Paris in the context of the competing interests of Islamic extremist terror organizations and rogue operatives. watch

Breadth of attacks challenge assessment

Breadth of Paris attacks complicates assessment

11/13/15 09:26PM

Laura Haim, White House correspondent for Canal Plus, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the roaming nature of the attacks, some based from cars, created multiple scenes of killing, and make it difficult for authorities to say with specificity a distinct number of attacks. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 11.13.15

11/13/15 05:10PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* More on the deadly violence in Paris on tonight's show: "At least eighteen people were killed in an outbreak of explosions and at least one shootout in Paris Friday, according to police. Police in Paris told NBC News that several people had been shot at a restaurant, around the same time as at least one other incident."
* Afghanistan: "A crucial district in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province is close to falling to the Taliban after three days of heavy fighting left more than 60 Afghan troops dead, government officials said Friday night."
* Syria: "Two people were 'incinerated' in the U.S. airstrike targeting an ISIS terrorist known as 'Jihadi John,' and a military spokesman said Friday officials are 'reasonably certain' he was one of them."
* Iraq: "Kurdish and Yazidi fighters retook Sinjar on Friday morning, on the second day of a major offensive to reclaim this city in northern Iraq, which has been under the brutal domination of the Islamic State for more than 15 months."
* Good move: "A Utah judge reversed his decision to take a baby away from her lesbian foster parents and place her with a heterosexual couple after the ruling led to widespread backlash."
* Pentagon: "Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has fired his top military aide for allegations of 'misconduct,' a highly unusual move prior to a formal investigation into possible misbehavior by the Army general."
* Climate crisis: "The IPCC has estimated that, to stay below 2°C of warming, we'll need to zero out our emissions and start removing between 2 and 10 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year by 2050. For perspective, all of the world's forests and soils put together currently remove just 3.3 gigatons of CO2 each year. So imagine doubling or tripling that. Planting more trees could help, but we'll need sweeping new carbon-removal techniques on top of that."
* An understandable reaction: "White House spokesman Josh Earnest couldn’t help but crack a smile when asked during a Friday press briefing about Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s claim that the Chinese military is involved in Syria. 'Maybe it violates my job description as a spokesperson to be speechless but I think in this case, I am,' Earnest told the assembled reporters, who laughed."
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., heads to the Senate subway following a vote in the Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Cotton connects disability benefits, drug addiction

11/13/15 03:52PM

We've arguably reached the point at which high-profile Republicans should probably stop talking about addiction issues altogether. MSNBC's Aliyah Frumin reported this week on the latest discouraging comments.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is suggesting there is a correlation between those who receive Social Security disability benefits and drug addiction.
During a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Monday, the lawmaker said “It’s hard to say what came first or caused the other -- population decline or increased disability usage [in several Appalachian counties]. Or maybe economic stagnation caused both.” Either way, Cotton argued, there seems to be what he called a “disability tipping point” -- when such benefits become a norm instead of a last-resort safety net program.
With this in mind, the far-right freshman added, “Population continues to fall and a downward spiral kicks in, driving once-thriving communities into further decline. Not only that, but once this kind of spiral begins, communities could begin to suffer other social plagues as well, such as heroin or meth addiction and associated crime.”
At a certain level, I suppose it's a good thing when policymakers take an interest in addiction issues and look for root causes and possible solutions, but the idea of connecting disability benefits and "heroin or meth addiction" is hard to take seriously without evidence.
But just as alarming is the political pattern that's begun to emerge. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently made the case that heroin addiction only afflicts the unemployed. "If you work all day long, you don’t have time to do heroin," he recently told a New Hampshire audience.
Earlier this month, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson argued "political correctness" bears some of the blame for Americans "throwing away all of our values and principles," which in turn creates an addiction epidemic.
Focusing on addiction issues is good. Far-right rhetoric on the issue, however, doesn't seem to be good at all.
John Kasich, left, and Donald Trump, second from right, argue across fellow candidates during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Governors find a hostile 2016 landscape

11/13/15 01:00PM

By the time of the first debate for the Republican presidential field, there were 17 GOP candidates, which was a historic, almost ridiculous, total. But one of qualifications most of the candidates had in common went largely overlooked: 9 of the 17 were current or former governors.
Nine candidates would be a big field under any circumstances, but in this case, just the governors alone -- Bush, Christie, Gilmore, Huckabee, Kasich, Jindal, Pataki, Perry, and Walker -- had enough to field a baseball team. Add Democratic governors to the mix -- O'Malley and Chafee -- and the number swells to 11.
And at a certain level, this is understandable. For many in both parties, it's long been assumed that governors have the edge in the party's nominating contests, in part thanks to history -- Reagan, Carter, Clinton, W. Bush, Romney, et al -- and also because of the nature of the job. Being the chief executive of a state, the theory goes, offers ideal training for being the chief executive in the White House. Governors learn how to manage and respond to crises. They learn how to oversee a massive, bureaucratic team, while working opposite a legislature. They learn how to lead.
How many sitting GOP senators have ever been elected to the White House? Only one. It was Warren Harding, who was elected nearly a century ago. This is hardly accidental -- Americans tend to hate Congress, so they don't necessarily look to Capitol Hill for national leaders.
And yet, here we are. Two of the most experienced candidates of the cycle -- Rick Perry and Scott Walker, both governors -- have already quit (as has Lincoln Chafee). George Pataki and Jim Gilmore were excluded from the debates altogether this week, while Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee were relegated to the kids' table, where they joined Bobby Jindal. Jeb Bush and John Kasich made the prime-time stage, but both are struggling badly. The latter faced booing.
The Washington Post had a piece yesterday noting that this "is not the year of the governor," and pointed to a possible reason why.
So far, this campaign has not really been about policy. It’s been all about personalities.
The bigger issue is that governors are also no longer seen as outsiders. They’ve made compromises, and it is very difficult to stay ideologically pure when you’re leading a state. For example: From a conservative perspective, Walker had a very impressive record of achievements, aided by GOP majorities in both chambers of his state legislature. But many big donors, including the Koch brothers, zeroed in on his support for offering taxpayer help to build a new sports stadium, which Walker did to keep the Milwaukee Bucks from leaving town. That’s part of a governor’s job. But, in this climate, it is apostasy.
I think it's probably fair to say Walker failed for a great number of reasons, most of which extend well beyond his policy record, but the broader point is nevertheless well taken. Governors are struggling in this cycle in ways they traditionally have not.
But a record of compromises isn't a fully satisfying explanation. Governors like Jindal and O'Malley, for example, haven't broken with their party orthodoxy, and both are mired in low single digits in the polls.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.13.15

11/13/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* With only eight days remaining in Louisiana's gubernatorial race, two statewide polls released yesterday show John Bel Edwards (D) leading David Vitter (R) by double digits.
* For his part, Vitter has unveiled a new ad starring one of the guys from the "Duck Dynasty" reality show.
* The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Hillary Clinton's favorability rating improving to 83% among Democrats, well ahead of Bernie Sanders' 54%. Interesting tidbit: Clinton is now more popular among Democratic voters than any Republican candidate is among Republican voters.
* On a related note, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows Clinton leading Sanders nationally, 52% to 33%. That's slightly closer than the 24-point advantage she enjoyed in the same poll last month.
* Add Ben Carson to the list of GOP presidential hopefuls who stand ready to shoot down Russian planes over Syrian skies.
* After largely neglecting South Carolina for much of the year, Marco Rubio's campaign is reportedly ready to start investing more seriously in the first-in-the-South primary.
* In Wyoming, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) announced last night she's retiring at the end of this term, and failed Senate candidate Liz Cheney (R) has already said she's "seriously" looking at the statewide race.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests during a campaign stop at Iowa Central Community College on Nov. 12, 2015 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Trump asks, 'How stupid are the people of Iowa?'

11/13/15 11:20AM

There are arguably four top Republican candidates who are in serious contention for their party's presidential nomination: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. The tensions between them are rising, but the criticisms are increasingly limited to parallel tracks.
Yesterday, for example, half of the quartet -- the two who've actually been in politics for years -- went after each other over immigration. There's little to suggest Cruz and Rubio are interested in targeting Trump and Carson; they're too busy focusing on one another.
At the same time, it seems the Amateur Duo aren't focusing on Cruz and Rubio, so much as they care about each other. Note this report from NBC News' First Read:
It’s easy to have become a little numb to Donald Trump’s theatrics on the trail over the last five months, but his performance last night in Iowa shook them right back into perspective. NBC’s Katy Tur reports that, during a 96-minute speech, Trump compared Ben Carson’s self-described “pathological temper” to a “disease” like child molestation (“If you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, a child molester, there’s no cure for that - there’s only one cure and we don’t want to talk about that cure, that’s the ultimate cure, no there’s two, there’s death and the other thing.”)
Personal attacks are one thing; baselessly comparing an opponent (who is almost universally popular with your own base!) to a child molester is jaw-dropping.
Your mileage may vary, but for me, Trump's comments about Carson's mental health weren't even the most striking part of the New Yorker's 96-minute tirade. At the same Iowa appearance, he claimed to know more about ISIS "than the generals do"; he vowed to "bomb the s---" out of Middle Eastern oil fields; and at one point, he even acted out a scene in which Carson claims to have tried to stab someone as a teenager.
"If I did the stuff he said he did, I wouldn't be here right now. It would have been over. It would have been over. It would have been totally over," Trump said of Carson. "And that's who's in second place. And I don't get it."
Referring to Carson's more incredible claims, Trump added, “How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”
Governor Susana Martinez holds a press conference at her office to address the end of the 2013 Legislative Session on Saturday, March 16, 2013.

GOP governor faces controversy in New Mexico

11/13/15 10:41AM

It's obviously far too early to start talking about presidential running mates, especially given the uncertainty surrounding who'll make the 2016 general-election campaign. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked about his thinking on the subject yesterday, and according to a Reuters report, the senator specifically mentioned New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R).
It's hardly the first time Martinez's name has come up in VP conversation, and it's not hard to understand why. As we've noted before, she’s the nation’s first Latina governor and an effective former prosecutor with a high approval rating in a relatively blue state. On paper, Martinez seems to be a running mate out of central casting.
That said, Rubio's timing could be better. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported last week that the FBI has spent "several months" talking to Republican officials in the state about Martinez's campaign fundraising activities.
One prominent New Mexico Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed being interviewed in recent months by federal agents about funds from Martinez’s campaign, as well as money from her 2011 inauguration committee, going to the governor’s political consultant, Jay McCleskey.
This person also said agents asked questions about different “fundraising vehicles,” such as political action committees, used by Martinez’s political wing, though it was unclear what potential violations federal agents are investigating.
The same paper reported soon after that federal investigators "have subpoenaed records from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department looking into whether the agency performed retaliatory audits on former members of Gov. Susana Martinez’s political team or state officials who ran afoul of her administration, according to a person familiar with the investigation."
Note, this reporting has not been confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, and the FBI, as a rule, does not comment on questions about possible criminal probes.
If the reports are accurate, however, it seems like the sort of development that might have a serious effect on Martinez’s appeal as a candidate for national office.
Obamacare Tax Subsidies Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Republicans struggle badly with ACA repeal plan

11/13/15 10:00AM

You'd think after several dozen votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans would be quite adept at one of their favorite hobbies. After all, practice makes perfect, and GOP lawmakers have all kinds of practice trying to remove "Obamacare" from the books.
All of which brings us to now and the new Republican initiative to repeal the ACA -- yes, they keep wasting time on this -- which is going surprisingly poorly.
For example, congressional Republicans are trying to pursue their goal through the budget reconciliation process, but this week, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said reconciliation is only supposed to be used for bills that decrease the deficit, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the Affordable Care Act would make the deficit vastly larger.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has suggested firing MacDonough and replacing her with a parliamentarian who'll interpret Senate rules in ways Republicans want them to be interpreted.
Making matters slightly worse, The Hill reports that GOP senators are divided among themselves over how to pursue repeal, with "some Republicans are balking at a proposal to repeal the expansion of Medicaid."
“I am very concerned about the 160,000 people who had Medicaid expansion in my state. I have difficulty with that being included,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia.
Sen. John Hoeven (R), who represents North Dakota, where an estimated 19,000 people gained access to Medicaid after Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple decided to broaden the program, said he was unsure about repealing the expansion. [...]
“I respect the decision of our Legislature and our governor on Medicaid expansion,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R) of Montana, which has a Democratic governor. “I’m one who respects their rights and voices.”
One unnamed senator added, “Repealing the Medicaid expansion is not going to be in there because it’s too problematic for many Republicans." The lawmaker added, “I don’t want to stick the state with the bill.”
Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney answers questions during a question-and-answer period following his address to the student body and guests in Starkville, Miss., Jan. 28, 2015. (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Just how severe is the GOP 'panic'?

11/13/15 09:22AM

The rhetoric over the summer from Republican insiders was, if nothing else, consistent. It was just the "silly season," when passive voters were fascinated by passing fads. The campaign developments offered entertainment, but they were hollow and meaningless.
Once summer turned to fall, we'd see the race begin in earnest. The debates would begin; the wheat would be separated from the chaff; and the "silly season" would be little more than an unfortunate memory.
But when August turned to September, the race appeared largely static. Then September turned to October, and little changed. And then October turned to November, and the GOP's top two contenders -- a New York developer and a retired right-wing neurosurgeon -- maintained their leads over the rest of the Republican field.
The Washington Post published a fascinating piece overnight on the signs of "panic" within the Republican establishment.
Less than three months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses, there is growing anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites about the dominance and durability of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and widespread bewilderment over how to defeat them. [...]
The party establishment is paralyzed. Big money is still on the sidelines. No consensus alternative to the outsiders has emerged from the pack of governors and senators running, and there is disagreement about how to prosecute the case against them.
The article added, in all seriousness, that the desperation among "some" in the party establishment has led to renewed talk about drafting Mitt Romney. Friends of the 2012 nominee "have mapped out a strategy for a late entry to pick up delegates and vie for the nomination in a convention fight."
For the record, I'm extremely skeptical of the idea of Romney riding into the race on a white horse in the 11th hour, saving Republicans from their own leading, unimpressive contenders.
But what does it tell us about the state of Republican politics right now that such talk even exists?
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz looks over at rival candidate Marco Rubio before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House of Representatives Chamber, Sept. 24, 2015. (Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

Cruz, Rubio, and the immigration fight the GOP hoped to avoid

11/13/15 08:40AM

When Congress took up a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform package in 2013, lawmakers had overlapping motivations. For most Democrats, the goals were substantive: the broken system needs a solution, and the bipartisan bill would be an effective policy.
And while plenty of Republicans also liked the practical implications -- the legislation's emphasis on border security was a major selling point in the GOP -- there was an undeniable electoral consideration. The party's post-2012 "autopsy" report urged Republicans to pass a reform bill to help get the issue off the table before the 2016 election cycle, in part to deny Democrats a potent weapon, and in part to avoid intra-GOP ugliness during the primaries.
We know, of course, that House Republicans ignored party officials' advice and killed the bipartisan reform compromise. And as of yesterday, the ugliness insiders feared came to fruition.
Two of the top Republican presidential candidates -- Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- spent the day bashing each other over immigration reform, launching a confrontation that was months, if not years, in the making. Cruz eagerly reminded the political world that Rubio partnered with liberal Democrats on a bill most Republicans condemn as "amnesty," while Rubio tried to make the case that the differences between them on immigration are practically non-existent.
At least yesterday, the fight had downsides for both of them. Cruz, an immigration hardliner, was forced to defend his far-right credentials. Rubio, meanwhile, was forced to confront an issue he'd prefer to ignore, all while continuing to move sharply to the right.
It led Bloomberg Politics to emphasize a good point.
[The dispute between Rubio and Cruz] is raising concerns among some party strategists that the high-profile fight could further alienate Latino and Asian-American voters, wrecking the party's chances in a general election where 30 percent of the electorate is projected to be non-white.
“This is disaster on all kinds of different levels,” said John Feehery, a veteran Republican strategist and lobbyist. “I've always been concerned that if we don't get immigration right we have no chance to win this. And right now it doesn't look like we are getting it right or we're going to get it right.”
Given the likelihood that one of these two senators is going to be the Republican nominee, there are a lot of messages party officials would like to hear from them right now. A heated argument over who's further to the right on immigration isn't one of them.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks with members of the media in the spin room after the Republican Presidential Debate on Nov. 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wis. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Carson points to secret info to defend ridiculous claim

11/13/15 08:00AM

When politicians get caught making bogus claims, they have some choices on what to do next. The obvious solution is acknowledging the misstep and setting the record straight. Some, however, try lashing out at fact-checkers and reporters who dare to question them. Others try changing the subject. Occasionally, we'll even see folks pretend they never said what they said.
But the most amusing category belongs to politicians who defend bogus claims by citing secret evidence that only they have access to. As Rachel noted on the show last night, this comes up more often than it should.
Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.), for example, claimed last year to have secret information about ISIS fighters getting caught entering the United States through Mexico, which never happened in reality. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) claimed to have secret evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which is the exact opposite of the truth.
And then there's Ben Carson, who claimed this week that China has deployed troops to Syria, despite the fact that China has not deployed troops to Syria. Yesterday, Armstrong Williams, a top Carson campaign aide, defended the claim by pointing to -- you guessed it -- secret intelligence. Here was the exchange between Williams and MSNBC's Tamron Hall:
HALL:  ...Dr. Carson said that the Chinese were -- are in Syria, which is not accurate.
WILLIAMS:  Well, Tamron, from your perspective and what most people know, maybe that is inaccurate, but from my intelligence and what Dr. Carson`s been told by people on the ground involved in that area of the world, it has been told to him many times over and over that the Chinese are there.  But as far as our intelligence and the briefings that Dr. Carson`s been in, and I`ve certainly been in with him, he`s certainly been told that the Chinese are there.
This isn't even the first time Team Carson has tried to pull this stunt.


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