* The death toll in Saudi Arabia: "More than 700 people died and at least 800 were injured in a stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage outside the holy city of Mecca on Thursday, Saudi Arabian officials said."
* Yemen: "Suicide bombings at a mosque killed at least 25 people here on Thursday during prayers to commemorate the beginning of Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday, Interior Ministry officials said."
* Capitol Hill: "Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a spending bill that would have averted a government shutdown at the end of the month and cut off funding for embattled women’s health group Planned Parenthood." (Note: the vote wasn't close.)
* Colombia: "Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the FARC rebel group announced a major breakthrough Wednesday in peace talks, bringing the country to the verge of ending one of the world’s longest-running wars. The dramatic announcement came in Havana, where the two sides began formal negotiations in 2012 on ending the 50-year-old conflict."
* Oh, to be a fly on the wall: "President Obama has decided to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in New York next week, if it can be arranged, for their first face-to-face encounter in nearly a year as tension rises over the civil war in Syria, American officials said on Wednesday." Putin requested the meeting, not Obama.
* This week's otherimportant visitor to the nation's capital: "China will get its second state dinner with President Barack Obama when its president, Xi Jinping, visits the White House Friday."
There was an unintentionally funny moment during Pope Francis' address to Congress this morning. He noted that the Golden Rule "reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," prompting Republicans in the audience to prepare for the rhetoric they wanted to hear -- about abortion.
A moment later, however, Francis said, "This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes."
You could almost feel the disappointment from GOP lawmakers.
Nevertheless, one congressional Republican in particular was willing to argue after the remarks that the pope's moral appeal has it backwards. Politicoreported:
GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz said he disagrees with Pope Francis’ call Thursday to abolish the death penalty, calling the use of capital punishment a “recognition of the preciousness of human life.”
In an interview with POLITICO shortly after the pope’s historic address to Congress, the Texas senator said he respects Francis’ views and the Catholic Church’s teachings on the issue, but “as a policy matter, I do not agree.”
Reflecting on his tenure as a prosecutor and state Solicitor General, the far-right senator said, “I spent a number of years in law enforcement dealing with some of the worst criminals, child rapists and murderers, people who’ve committed unspeakable acts. I believe the death penalty is a recognition of the preciousness of human life, that for the most egregious crimes, the ultimate punishment should apply.”
It's hard to overstate just how furious conservatives were in February after hearing President Obama's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. I'll be curious to see how many of them are equally livid with Pope Francis today.
Nearly eight months ago, the president noted that while many faith communities around the world are “inspiring people to lift up one another,” we also see “faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” The president explained that no faith tradition is immune and every religion, including his own, has chapters its adherents are not proud of.
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history," he said. "And lest we [Christians] get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.... So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”
Conservatives, quite content atop their high horse, were disgusted. Just this week, we saw Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) continue to whine about the Prayer Breakfast remarks, pointing the speech as evidence of the president serving as an "apologist for radical Islamic terrorists."
But take a moment to consider what Pope Francis said this morning during his address to Congress.
"Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms."
In U.S. News, Gary Emerling noted, "The pontiff said all religions are susceptible to extremism and violence, just like Obama said in February." I heard it the exact same way.
Eleven House Republican freshmen wrote a letter to their colleagues yesterday, urging them not to shut down the government next week. “[W]e were elected by our constituent’s to be principled, pragmatic leaders," their letter said.
Practically speaking, however, a letter from 11 freshmen doesn't amount to much, especially against a 42-member House Freedom Caucus, which is itching for a fight.
So, what happens now? Current funding expires on Wednesday, which is now just six days away. With this deadline looming, one might assume that lawmakers are scrambling, running from office to office, holding frantic meetings looking for a solution to resolve this mess. But conditions on the Hill aren't nearly that frantic. GOP leaders have an outline of a plan, though no one seems to have any idea whether the plan will work.
Thursday, after the Pope’s address, the Senate will vote on a short-term spending bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. That bill is expected to be filibustered by Democrats, and thus "prove" to conservative hardliners that blocking Planned Parenthood’s funding is, on a practical level, impossible. At least that's the theory.
Then, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] will bring forward a “clean” continuing resolution, which would keep the government open for a few months -- likely through Dec. 11 -- with spending being maintained at essentially its current levels, including the funding for Planned Parenthood. That measure could be passed late this week, or early in the next week, giving the House a few days at most to pass the same legislation itself.
McConnell's strategy is sound. He'll bring up the bill far-right lawmakers want -- a stop-gap spending measure that scraps Planned Parenthood funding -- and then watch it die. McConnell will point to the result and telling his party's hardliners, "See? Your bill can't pass."
He'll then bring up a clean stop-gap bill, which is very likely pass, and which would then go to the House with time to avoid a shutdown.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Hillary Clinton's campaign yesterday issued a summary of her health care ideas, building on the Affordable Care Act as a foundation. Among the provisions are new tax credits to help consumers with the highest out-of-pocket deductibles.
* Speaking of Clinton, she leads Bernie Sanders in a new national Quinnipiac poll, 43% to 25%, and also in a new Fox News poll, 44% to 30%. In both surveys, Vice President Biden is third with 18% support among Democratic voters.
* A new national poll from Bloomberg Politics shows Donald Trump still in the lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination with 21%. Ben Carson is a competitive second with 16%, followed by Jeb Bush's 13% and Carly Fiorina's 11%. Only two other candidates reached 5% in the poll: Marco Rubio at 8% and Ted Cruz at 5%.
* Speaking of polls, Florida Atlantic University published a new statewide poll in Florida, which found Donald Trump leading the pack with 31.5%, followed by Marco Rubio's 19.2%, and Jeb Bush's 11.3%. Ben Carson, who owns a home in Florida, was the only other candidate to reach double digits, coming in fourth with 10.3%.
* As of last night, Trump is now feuding with Fox News, Marco Rubio, and conservative writer Rich Lowry. Who he'll be feuding with tomorrow is anybody's guess.
* Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign picked up its second congressional endorsement yesterday, with Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) throwing her support to the GOP candidate. Oddly enough, Fiorina now has more congressional endorsements than Marco Rubio.
* Apparently looking for more attention, Mike Huckabee said yesterday that President Obama "pretends to be" a Christian.
The Washington Postflagged an interesting new report from Global Strategy Group, a major Democratic public-affairs firm, which conducted surveys over the summer on public attitudes towards government. The results are worth keeping in mind as the 2016 cycle stakes shape.
Asked, for example, what people see as the biggest problem with the federal government, the responses included some surprises:
1. Corrupt (23 percent)
2. Inefficient (18%)
3. Out of touch (17%)
4. Wasteful (14%)
5. Too big (9%)
6. Doesn’t reflect my views (7%)
7. Not transparent (6%)
8. Unresponsive (4%)
9. Not inclusive (2%)
For what it's worth, my list of complaints about the federal government would look quite a bit different, but the results are nevertheless interesting. As the Post's report noted, if the research is accurate, it suggests voter "want to fix government more than shrink it."
Indeed, note the placement of "too big" on the list.
“The Republican argument for smaller government is effective because it is simple and easy to understand, but it doesn’t deal with the root cause of frustration,” Nick Gourevitch, who leads Global Strategy Group’s research practice, told the Post. “Democrats have an opportunity to be the adults in the room, saying ‘we want to fix the thing, make it work, make it more responsive.’”
I don't think it's a coincidence that when Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign in April, she identified as one of her four "pillars" a focus on fixing “our dysfunctional political system and get[ting] unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment."
Congressman Xavier Bacerra talks with Rachel Maddow about the message of support Pope Francis brings for immigrants and their families, and the uplifting feeling that comes when someone with such a powerful global voice speaks on your behalf. watch
I have to wonder, if Carly Fiorina had it to do over again, would she have made the bogus charge against Planned Parenthood in last week's debate? She's been caught telling an obvious falsehood, and her political operation keeps making it worse.
To briefly recap, during the more recent debate, the Republican presidential candidate described a Planned Parenthood video showing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’” That video does not exist. The next day, Fiorina again said she saw the video, which does not exist. Asked to substantiate the claim, Fiorina's campaign staff tried and failed to bolster the candidate's false claim.
A few days later, even a Fox News host tried to get Fiorina to concede "there is no actual footage of the incident" she described. Fiorina nevertheless continued to insist she's "seen the footage," which isn't possible, since there is no such footage.
The Washington Postreported yesterday on the latest unfortunate development.
Other campaigns have climbed down from similar claims about the videos. Fiorina and her allies have done no such thing. Three days after the debate, CARLY for America -- the PAC that legally has to keep its distance from Fiorina's actual campaign -- put together a video that spliced the candidate's answer with different clips. The viewer, hearing about the controversy but unaware of the original videos, might think that Fiorina nailed it.
But she didn't. Splicing together different videos does not make a lie true. A report from The Nation went into more detail:
One of the oddities of the Kim Davis story in Kentucky is the obvious remedy. The Kentucky clerk has a job in which she's supposed to issue marriage licenses, but Davis doesn't want to issue licenses to couples she deems morally inadequate. So why doesn't Davis find some other job in which her responsibilities won't conflict with her religious views?
Indeed, given her public notoriety, if she asked far-right leaders for a paid position somewhere, Davis probably wouldn't have much trouble landing another gig -- one which her conscience would be comfortable with.
Kentucky clerk Kim Davis on Wednesday night explained to Fox News' Megyn Kelly why she has still refused to resign despite numerous failed attempts to receive an accommodation for her religious beliefs.
"If I resign I lose my voice," Davis said. "Why should I have to quit a job that I love, that I’m good at?"
I imagine that was a rhetorical question, but the answer isn't exactly complicated. If you have a job that requires you to do things you consider morally objectionable, you have a choice: meet your professional obligations anyway or find a different job. Davis' argument is that she should continue to be paid to perform duties she refuses to do -- to the point that she's comfortable defying court rulings, her oath of office, and court orders.
As for Davis' belief that she'll lose her "voice" if she gets a different job, I have no idea what that means. She can continue to speak her mind on whatever topics she chooses, whether she's a county clerk or something else entirely. Davis need not receive taxpayer money in order to have a "voice."
Meanwhile, in the courts, the Kentucky clerk continues to strike out. The Lexington Herald-Leaderreported this morning:
The conventional wisdom tells us that Donald Trump's days as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination are numbered. His collapse is imminent. The air will escape this balloon soon. Any minute now. You'll see.
And while it remains entirely possible, if not likely, that Trump's GOP support will eventually evaporate, that day has not yet arrived. Late yesterday, Fox News released the results of its new national poll, taken after last week's debate.
1. Donald Trump: 26% (up one point from last month)
2. Ben Carson: 18% (up six points)
3. Carly Fiorina: 9% (up four points)
3. Marco Rubio: 9% (up five points)
5. Ted Cruz: 8% (down two points)
6. Jeb Bush: 7% (down two points)
7. Chris Christie: 5% (up two points)
8. John Kasich: 4% (unchanged)
9. Mike Huckabee: 3% (down three points)
10. Rand Paul: 2% (down one point)
11. George Pataki: 1% (unchanged)
Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham each had support below 1%.
Note, Trump's 26% is up only slightly, but it's still the best any Republican candidate has fared in any Fox News poll this year. What's more, the fact that Trump's support went up at all is itself something of a surprise -- the same poll found that Fox respondents considered his debate performance the worst of any GOP candidate, though evidently, that didn't matter to his core supporters.
This is obviously just one survey, but the results are largely in line with a new national Quinnipiac poll, which was released this morning:
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