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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 8.19.14

08/19/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, just a few minutes ago, published an op-ed from Attorney General Eric Holder: "A message to the people of Ferguson."
* A broken cease-fire: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."
* Ukraine: "Ukrainian forces pushed deeper into territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels on Tuesday, fighting street battles in the besieged city of Luhansk and pressuring the outer defenses of Donetsk in a further blow to the separatists' crumbling virtual state."
* Patience: "It could take months before the officer responsible for the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown is arrested, Capt. Ron Johnson said Tuesday."
* Ferguson: "A funeral and public memorial for Michael Brown will take place Monday morning, according to family attorney Anthony Gray."
* She's not alone: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday joined the chorus of national lawmakers calling for a review of the federal program that transfers military gear to local police, amid ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Mo."
* Iraq: "The last time the United States pushed Iraqis to choose a new prime minister who could unite the country to confront a sectarian civil war was in 2006, and the Iraqis chose Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The result was another civil war. This time, with the country again on the edge of collapse, they have chosen Haider al-Abadi."
* There has to be a story in there somewhere: "President Obama went back to his vacation on Martha's Vineyard Tuesday evening following less than 48 hours in Washington, leaving people puzzled over why he came back in the first place."

Another fatal shooting incident unfolds in St. Louis

08/19/14 04:45PM

As if tensions in the area weren't already running at a dangerously high level, there was another incident this afternoon in St. Louis, not far from last week's shooting in nearby Ferguson. MSNBC's Zachary Roth and Amanda Sakuma reported from the scene.
Two St. Louis policemen shot and killed a 23-year-old black man Tuesday just three miles south of Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of more than a week of violence and protests in the wake of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, being killed by Darren Wilson, a white local police officer on Aug. 9.
According to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, the unidentified male initially entered a convenience store carrying two energy drinks. After exiting, he re-entered and allegedly took a package of pastries without paying for them. When he was confronted by the store's owner he tossed the food into the street and began to walk around "erratically", according to St. Louis police.
Another business owner contacted authorities and when officers arrived the man allegedly pulled a knife out of his waste-band in a threatening manner, and told police, "Shoot me now, kill me now, shoot me."
While many of the details surrounding Michael Brown's death remain unclear, there's quite a bit of information available about today's incident. According to Dotson, the suspect ignored repeated calls to stop and police only fired when the suspect came within a few feet of the officers with a knife.
Though it's unclear if there are any videos of the incident -- the police have urged anyone with cell-phone footage to please come forward -- there were multiple witnesses, including a local alderwoman.
Dotson's press conference, which went into even more detail, is below.
President Barack Obama delivers a statement to provide an update on Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014.

Damned if he does; damned if he doesn't

08/19/14 04:31PM

After President Obama carefully avoided any provocative comments yesterday about developments in Ferguson, many on the left wondered, "Why couldn't he go further?"
And at the same time, in response to the same tepid, cautious comments, many on the right wondered, "Why did he go too far?"
On August 18, Obama delivered remarks on the progress of airstrikes in Iraq and violence in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, who was allegedly shot by a St. Louis County police officer.
On August 19, Rove condemned Obama's remarks on Fox's Happening Now, claiming that the president failed to draw a strict line between the "peaceful protesters" and the "outside agitators" in Ferguson. Rove also accused Obama of creating a "moral equivalency" by placing the police and violent protesters on "the same level," concluding that Obama's statements were "not worthy of the president."
Got that? While many were disappointed that the president was being too careful to avoid anything controversial -- some reporters relied on an old standby, comparing Obama to Spock -- there's Karl Rove, saying the president's comments were too extreme and un-presidential.
Of course, in this case, Rove seems to have condemned remarks he hadn't actually heard.
A supporter holds a sign promoting a movement to raise the minimum wage in San Diego, California, March 12, 2014.

San Diego moves forward on minimum-wage increase

08/19/14 03:11PM

The fight to approve a federal minimum-wage increase is dead, at least this year. Polls show broad public support for an increase, but opposition from congressional Republicans is inflexible: GOP senators have already filibustered a Democratic plan and the GOP-led House has said the idea will not be considered.
But action away from Congress continues.
The San Diego City Council voted Monday to override the mayor's veto of a minimum wage increase -- setting the stage for another high-profile political fight between the Democrat-controlled council versus the Republican mayor and the business establishment.
All six Democrats on the council voted to override the veto by Mayor Kevin Faulconer; the two votes against the override were Republicans. A third Republican on the council was absent.... Under the council action, the minimum wage will increase in stages to $11.50 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017. Statewide, the minimum wage rose to $9 an hour on July 1.
The change is not yet certain. Almost immediately after the vote, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce announced a plan to put the issue on the citywide ballot through a petition drive. According to the L.A. Times report, opponents of the policy will have 30 days to collect 34,000 signatures.
Keep in mind, San Diego is no mid-size city. On the contrary, San Diego is by some measures the nation's eighth-largest city -- with a population over 1.3 million, this municipality is larger than nine states.
In other words, when a city of this size pushes its minimum wage to $11.50, it's a big deal.
President Barack Obama participates in an event on immigration reform in San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 25, 2013.

The politics of executive action on immigration

08/19/14 12:44PM

The question is not whether President Obama is preparing to act on his own on immigration policy; the questions are how far he intends to go and when we'll hear the announcement. Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported yesterday that the White House is working its way through a deliberate process, launched in June after Obama said he had no choice but to work around a do-nothing Congress.
When the president vowed in the Rose Garden in June to "fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own," immigration activists were ready with their list of potential executive actions. They range from giving certain categories of undocumented immigrants temporary "parole in place" status to stay in the United States, to essentially legalizing millions more by expanding a 2012 directive issued by Mr. Obama that grants work permits and deportation deferments to young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.
The requests did not stop there. Cecilia Munoz, Mr. Obama's top immigration adviser and the domestic policy chief, has led meetings attended by White House political aides and lawyers to hear from interest groups, individual companies and business groups about what executive actions they believe the president should take on immigration.
To be sure, under the traditional approach to policymaking, these discussions would also be held on Capitol Hill. But as has become clear, House Republicans will not consider immigration legislation, so the talks have moved to the White House.
It's a reminder that when the legislative branch is paralyzed, it doesn't necessarily stop the policymaking process, so much as it redirects policymaking efforts elsewhere.
Assuming that we'll hear more about the president's plans in the near future, it's not too early to consider the political repercussions.  On the surface, it's tempting to think the fallout will benefit Obama and his Democratic allies -- immigration reform is popular and voters tend to prefer action to inaction.
But for red-state Democrats with the prevailing political winds in their faces, it's not quite that simple.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.19.14

08/19/14 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:
* It's primary day in Alaska and Wyoming today. Arguably the most competitive race in either state is Alaska's U.S. Senate Republican primary.
* In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) was forced to pull his latest campaign ad because its star -- Maikel Duarte-Torres, who gives Scott a hug in the commercial -- was convicted on human smuggling charges four years ago.
* Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will headline Sen. Tom Harkin's (D) annual steak fry next month in Iowa. It will be her first visit to the Hawkeye State since 2008.
* In Montana, Amanda Curtis' (D) U.S. Senate bid already faces long odds, but it doesn't help that she won't be able to use any of the money Sen. John Walsh (D) raised for the campaign. [corrected]
* In Ohio's gubernatorial race, Ed FitzGerald (D) has struggled to close the gap against Gov. John Kasich (R), and today the Democratic nominee shook up his campaign team, replacing both his campaign manager and communications director.
* Former Providence mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci's comeback bid hit another hurdle this week. His pasta-sauce company promises to donate proceeds to a scholarship fund, but there's evidence the company hasn't exactly kept that promise.
A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire in this October 27, 2012. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

GOP slinks away from its Obamacare line

08/19/14 11:46AM

Remember when Republican campaign officials were absolutely certain that running against "Obamacare" would be their first, second, and third priorities in the 2014 midterms? Well, forget it.
Bloomberg News today highlights a woman named Rose Duke, a 44-year-old from Raleigh, who supported Mitt Romney and thought she didn't like the Affordable Care Act. She's changed her mind.
Duke, who lost her flooring business after her husband died last year, says she now has a favorable view of the measure and is angry at her state's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, for refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Duke has a diabetic daughter who was initially denied health-insurance coverage because of the state's swollen Medicaid rolls.
"My child got caught up in the political B.S.," she said. "I had to walk in there and beg them for help," said Duke, who eventually got coverage from Medicaid, the federal-state program for lower-income Americans.
And that, in a nutshell, is the Republican nightmare. GOP policymakers and their allies fought tooth and nail to prevent families from receiving these health care benefits, but now that Americans are enjoying health care security, they're discovering the gap between Republican rhetoric and reality.
And they're realizing that everything the right said about the ACA was wrong. The Republican strategy of counting on the public not knowing any better has always been unsustainable, and slowly but surely, the gambit is crumbling.
It's reached the point at which some GOP campaigns are moving away from health care as a 2014 issue, unwilling to tell people like Rose Duke that Republicans want to take her family's benefits away.
A voter casts her ballot in the primary election in Maryland Heights, Missouri, August 3, 2010.

Missouri GOP leader calls Ferguson voter-registration drive 'disgusting'

08/19/14 11:12AM

Voter participation in Ferguson, Missouri, has been poor of late, with just 12% turnout in the most recent election. As the Rev. Al Sharpton, host of msnbc's "Politics Nation," said at the Greater Grace Church's during Sunday services, "You all have got to start voting and showing up. 12% turnout is an insult to your children."
With this in mind, as we discussed yesterday, some in the community have set up a tent in Ferguson to host a voter-registration drive. As one volunteer put it, "We're trying to make young people understand that this is how to change things."
When I noted this on Twitter yesterday, I was surprised by conservatives complaining about the voter-registration efforts. Apparently, I wildly underestimated how upset the right would be about this., a prominent far-right website, reported this morning, "Republicans are criticizing efforts by liberal organizers to set up voter registration booths at the site where Missouri teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a local police officer."
In an interview with Breitbart News, Missouri RNC executive director Matt Wills expressed outrage about the reports.
"If that's not fanning the political flames, I don't know what is," Wills said, "I think it's not only disgusting but completely inappropriate."
Wills is described by the RNC as the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.
I'll confess, it never occurred to me conservatives would describe a voter-registration drive as "disgusting." It's worth fleshing out how and why some on the right have reached this conclusion.
File Photo: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder holds a news conference about efforts by the Justice Department and the Health and Human Services Department to combat Medicare fraud at the Justice Department May 14, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip...

When Holder will say what Obama will not

08/19/14 10:21AM

President Obama held a brief press conference in the White House yesterday to address two major topics: developments in Iraq, where there's been some noticeable progress, and conditions in Ferguson, Missouri. On the former, the president was focused and specific. On the latter, Obama was vague and cautious.
This almost certainly wasn't an accident. Ezra Klein had a terrific piece yesterday noting many of the reasons the president "won't give the Ferguson speech his supporters want." There's a fair amount to this, much of it having to do with the White House's belief that Obama's remarks on racially-charged conflicts tend to make those problems worse. 
And though Ezra didn't mention it, the president is also likely cautious given that a federal prosecution in this case remains a distinct possibility. Obama knows from experience that saying too much about an ongoing issue can have a detrimental effect on legal proceedings down the road.
But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder often seems willing to say what Obama won't. Take yesterday, for example, when the nation's top federal law-enforcement official made a not-so-subtle jab at local law enforcement in a written statement.
"I realize there is tremendous interest in the facts of the incident that led to Michael Brown's death, but I ask for the public's patience as we conduct this investigation. The selective release of sensitive information that we have seen in this case so far is troubling to me. No matter how others pursue their own separate inquiries, the Justice Department is resolved to preserve the integrity of its investigation. This is a critical step in restoring trust between law enforcement and the community, not just in Ferguson, but beyond."
That was fairly blunt rhetoric under the circumstances, and with Holder traveling to Ferguson tomorrow, one assumes the Attorney General will have some other choice words once on the ground locally.
But it's the degree to which this keeps happening -- Obama staying above the fray while Holder jumps in it -- that's starting to get more attention. Glenn Thrush noted in a lengthy piece in June that the Attorney General "has been willing to say the things Obama couldn't or wouldn't say about race."
The piece added, "Holder himself recently told another African-American friend that he feels part of his job is 'to talk about things the president can't talk about as easily.' Asked to describe Holder's role, one of his former top aides described him as 'Obama's heat shield.'"
Or maybe his "anger translator"?
U.N. chemical weapons experts prepare before collecting samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus' suburb of Zamalka August 29, 2013.

A big win on Syrian chemical weapons

08/19/14 09:31AM

It's been nearly a year since President Obama, poised to launch a military strike in Syria, saw an unexpected breakthrough: the Assad government agreed to give up its chemical weapons and join the international Convention on Chemical Weapons. As we talked about in June, the international framework included an agreement from Russia, arguably Syria's most powerful ally, to help enforce the deal.
For much of the Beltway, this is still characterized as a failure for the Obama administration. It's never been altogether clear to me why that is.
Away from the political chatter, however, efforts have been ongoing to ensure Syrian cooperation with its obligations under the diplomatic framework. As the New York Times reports, the process has gone exceptionally well.
The United States said Monday that it had completed the destruction of the deadliest chemical weapons in Syria's arsenal, a rare foreign policy achievement for President Obama at a time when the Middle East is embroiled in violence and political turmoil.
The announcement comes a year after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used sarin gas to kill more than 1,000 people in a Damascus suburb, crossing what Mr. Obama had called a "red line" that would force the United States to respond. Facing the prospect of an American military intervention, the Syrian government agreed to a deal brokered by the United States and Russia, promising to destroy its chemical weapons program by the middle of this year.
The announcement came ahead of schedule. President Obama said in a statement that the news "advances our collective goal to ensure that the Assad regime cannot use its chemical arsenal against the Syrian people and sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community."
Kate Brannen added, "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Navy Capt. Richard Dromerhauser aboard the U.S. container ship MV Cape Ray Monday morning, Aug. 18, to congratulate his crew on finishing their work weeks ahead of schedule, according to the Pentagon. It was the first time the United States ever attempted to destroy chemical weapons at sea."
This is no small victory.

Watching Ferguson through very different eyes

08/19/14 08:33AM

It's not surprising that much of the country is watching developments unfold in Ferguson, Missouri, with a combination of horror and shock. But the Pew Research Center found that while Americans may be riveted by dramatic scenes near St. Louis, there's no real consensus about the larger role of race as it relates to the crisis.
Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown "raises important issues about race that need to be discussed." Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown's death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that the public overall is divided over whether Brown's shooting raises important issues about race or whether the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
Looking solely at the top-line results offers a misleading summary. Overall, Pew found that 44% believe the case in Ferguson raises important issues about race that require discussion, but nearly as many, 40%, believe race "is getting more attention than it deserves."
And at first blush, that might make it seem as if the public is closely divided. But it's the nature of those divisions that matters most -- 80% of African Americans believe the Brown shooting and subsequent events raises important issues about race, and 50% of Latinos agree, but among white respondents, the numbers are flipped. Indeed, a plurality of whites believes race is getting too much attention, while only 37% take the other side.
We may all be watching the same crisis unfold, but we're not all seeing through the same eyes.
Protesters walk through a cloud of tear gas Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Chaos again grips the streets of Ferguson

08/19/14 08:00AM

Law-enforcement tactics in Ferguson, Missouri, have shifted more than once since last week's shooting of Michael Brown, and last night marked a new posture: the curfew was lifted, but the National Guard was on hand. And for a while, it appeared that protesters, told to keep moving throughout their demonstrations, would see a fairly calm evening in the community.
It did not last. As Trymaine Lee, Amanda Sakuma, and Zachary Roth reported for msnbc, Ferguson was once again confronted with "violence and chaos" overnight.
Police fired tear gas at protesters amid the sound of explosions, shots rang out and armored police trucks sped down Florissant Avenue. At least two people, both males, were shot "in the dark of night," Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said at a press conference. Two guns and a Molotov cocktail were confiscated. There were two fires, one at a local business and another at an unoccupied residence, Johnson said. Police were hit with bottles and rocks. Thirty-one people had been arrested by 2 a.m. CT.
Johnson said police did not fire any bullets at protesters, whom he encouraged to turn out for demonstrations during the day.
"There is a dangerous dynamic in the night," Johnson said, noting that the criminal activity overnight "came from a tiny minority of law-breakers."
Among those arrested last night were Getty Images photographer Scott Olson -- the latest in a series of journalists detained by police -- who was released soon after. As Rachel noted on the show, it was another "rough night" for so many in and around Ferguson, including the First Amendment.
It was last Thursday night when the community saw a peaceful evening, free of tear gas and arrests, but given the developments since, that's starting to look like an aberration in a crisis that isn't getting better. Indeed, no one seems able to say when or how conditions in Ferguson will improve.

Chaotic Night and other headlines

08/19/14 07:47AM

Last night in Ferguson's tense tally: 2 shot, 2 fires, 31 arrested. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

With Ferguson schools closed, campaign raises money to feed kids who aren't getting school lunches. (KSDK)

Holocaust survivor arrested at nonviolent protest in Ferguson. (Riverfront Times)

'Outside agitators' worsening unrest in Ferguson, residents say. (Kansas City Star)

Cities rocked by past unrest offer lessons in what and what not to do. (NY Times)

Joe Miller aims for late surge in today's Alaska Senate primary. (Wall Street Journal)

Why Virginia's Attorney General wants to put same-sex marriages on hold. (Washington Post)

Smithsonian adds LGBT history to museum collection. (AP)

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