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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.18.15

11/18/15 05:30PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Nigeria: "A night-time explosion blamed on Boko Haram extremists killed 32 people and wounded 80 Tuesday at a truck stop in northeastern Nigeria, an emergency official said."
* On the other hand: "Boko Haram has lost significant ground in northern Nigeria, according to some of the region’s top officials and international security experts, dealing a setback to a group that for years has menaced the nation with murder, abductions and other violence."
* France: "French police hunting the suspected ringleader behind the Paris massacre raided another terrorist cell Wednesday which was plotting a fresh strike -- but it was not immediately clear if they got their man."
* This won't help the U.S. look any better: "While American politicians compete in the wake of the Paris terror attacks to see who can most hysterically denounce the possibility of accepting Syrian refugees, French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that his country will follow through on its pre-attack commitment to take in 30,000 Syrians fleeing that country's conflict."
* Syria: "Despite heavy French bombardment of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa this week, damage to the extremist group appears to be minimal, according to analysts and Syrian activists."
* I'm starting to think Republican senators don't care about the climate crisis: "The Senate voted on Tuesday to block President Obama’s tough new climate change regulations, hoping to undermine his negotiating authority before a major international climate summit meeting in Paris this month."
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colo., Oct. 28, 2015. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Kasich eyes new agency for 'Judeo-Christian' values

11/18/15 04:13PM

Presidential candidates are eager to demonstrate their capacity for international leadership, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) may not have fully thought through his new idea. NBC News reported last night:
As part of a broad national security plan to defeat ISIS, Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich proposed creating a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values around the world.
The new agency, which he hasn’t yet named, would promote a Jewish- and Christian-based belief system to four regions of the world: China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.
According to a report in the Toledo Blade, the struggling Republican presidential hopeful argued, “U.S. Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering opponents' propaganda and disinformation. I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share."
In fairness to Kasich, it's not entirely clear where's he going with this. I've seen some reports suggesting the governor intends to use the government to push some kind of religio-political message on people who may not want to hear it, though given the wording of the quote, Kasich seems to envision some kind of taxpayer-financed agency pushing generic pro-Western propaganda -- which in Kasich's mind, is effectively synonymous with promotion of "Judeo-Christian" values.
Or maybe he meant something else entirely. It's sometimes hard to tell with him.
Whatever the intended message, Kasich's idea raises some questions. For example, why does he make a distinction between Iran and the Middle East? What would a Kasich White House say to China when Beijing says it doesn't really appreciate the United States pushing "Judeo-Christian Western values" in its country?
An instructor shows the proper way to hold a hand gun at an National Rifle Association virtual shooting booth during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Can guns be part of the national security conversation?

11/18/15 12:53PM

Of the 745,000 refugees resettled in the United States since September 11th, zero Syrians have faced charges related to terrorism. But at a Capitol Hill press conference yesterday, that's not the angle Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wanted to emphasize.
"I would just mention a case a few years ago in my state," the Republican leader said. "There was a person from Iraq who came into the U.S. as a refugee, vetted, who ended up being arrested for plotting a terrorist attack... So the ability to vet people coming from that part of the world is really quite limited."
McConnell's argument isn't altogether fair. The Iraqi refugee in Kentucky actually tried to take advantage of lax American gun laws to send weapons to Iraq, not launch an attack in the U.S. -- a detail the senator neglected to mention. For that matter, pointing to one guy out of 745,000 is hardly proof of an unreliable vetting process.
But the more interesting part came in response to a reporter's question.
Q: There's been a certain amount of resurgence in interest over a bill that's been floating around here about whether people on terror watch lists should be able to legally buy guns in this country. Should they be able to?
MCCONNELL: [Shrugs shoulders.]
Q: On the FBI terror watch list?
MCCONNELL: Yeah, I'm not particularly familiar with that.
Told that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) have pushed legislation on this -- the measure was introduced nine months ago -- McConnell added, "I'm not familiar with the legislation, so I'll pass on it."
Perhaps now would be a good time for the Senate Majority Leader to get up to speed on this, because if we're going to have a debate about counter-terrorism and national security, we might also want to chat about potential terrorists having easy access in the United States to all kinds of deadly weapons.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.18.15

11/18/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In New Hampshire, a new WBUR poll shows Donald Trump leading in the first primary state with 22% in the race for the Republican nomination. Ben Carson and Marco Rubio are tied for second with 11%, followed by Ted Cruz at 8%. The poll was conducted after Friday night's terrorist violence in Paris.
* Hillary Clinton yesterday picked up an endorsement from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the nation's largest and most politically influential unions. Note, SEIU backed Barack Obama in the 2008 primary, which helped him enormously.
* At a campaign stop in South Carolina yesterday, Jeb Bush said, “It’s like the crabs in the, you know, whatever -- the crabs in the boiling water." After being corrected by a local voter, he added, "The frogs. You think it’s warm, and it feels pretty good and then it feels like you’re in a whirlpool -- you know, a Jacuzzi or something.” Bush concluded, “And then you’re dead. That’s how this works.” Good to know.
* A Ted Cruz super PAC is launching a radio ad this week targeting Marco Rubio, and highlighting his co-authorship of  an “amnesty scheme” backed by President Obama.
* A new poll from Florida Atlantic University shows Trump with a big lead over his GOP rivals in the Sunshine State, topping the first with 36%. Rubio is second in his own home state with 18%, followed by Carson at 15%. Ted Cruz is fourth with 10%, while Jeb Bush is right behind him at 9%.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at a campaign town hall meeting in Franklin, N.H., Nov. 13, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Jeb Bush would back refugees who 'prove' they're Christian

11/18/15 11:20AM

Jeb Bush has tried to seize on the Paris attacks as a key campaign issue, which is proving to be easier said than done. Yesterday, for example, the former governor became the first competitive Republican presidential hopeful to say Syrian refugees should be welcome on American soil, only to reverse course a few hours later.
Making matters considerably worse, the GOP candidate also tried to shed additional light on his idea of evaluating refugees based on the popularity of their religious beliefs. Bush continues to draw a distinction between Christian refugees (whom he wants to help) and Muslim refugees (whom he prefers to ignore), and as the New York Times reported, his defense for this posture didn't do him any favors.
Asked how he would identify Christian Syrian families to ensure that they receive a special focus, Mr. Bush did not offer a clear answer, but said the onus would be on the refuges to demonstrate their religion.
“You’re a Christian -- I mean, you can prove you’re a Christian,” he said. “You can’t prove it, then, you know, you err on the side of caution.”
I honestly have no idea what this means, though the idea of U.S. officials subjecting refugees to some kind of religious test in which they'd be asked to "prove" their Christianity isn't unique to Jeb Bush. Rupert Murdoch, for example, raised the prospect this week of supporting refugees who are "proven Christians." Laura Ingraham added on Monday that she'd be "happy" to welcome "some" refugees, if "we can verifiably say are Christians."
Yes, "verifiably."
Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum Sept. 18, 2015 in Greenville, SC. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty)

Chris Christie and 'the abject failure of leadership'

11/18/15 10:46AM

Gov. Chris Christie wrote a letter to President Obama yesterday, noting that a couple of months ago, a young man in New Jersey "pled guilty to charges of conspiring to provide material support and resources to ISIS." The Republican governor added that the man plotted with three other men. Therefore, Christie said, the White House should halt plans "to accept more Syrian refugees" into the United States.
Even for him, this was genuinely bizarre. The New Jersey man Christie referenced wasn't a Syrian refugee. Neither was anyone else involved in the plot. In the post-9/11 era, not a single Syrian refugee has ever been charged in the United States with having anything to do with terrorism, making Christie's argument a rather comical example of a non-sequitur.
In fact, the incident the governor mentioned didn't stop Christie from recently supporting a policy welcoming Syrian refugees.
But that was before the political winds changed -- and before the governor started talking about his fear of orphan toddlers. The Washington Post's Dan Drezner, a center-right observer, called Christie out yesterday for his "abject failure of leadership."
There’s a word for someone who reacts to seemingly scary situations by getting even more frightened. I believe that word is “wimp.” Which means that, based on his rhetoric, Christie might be a presidential contender also-ran, but he is a major league wimp.
Drezner's point is more than fair, though part of me wonders if something even more alarming is happening here.
Charles Koch and Dr. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, speak during an interview at the Freedom Partners Summit on Aug. 3, 2015 in Dana Point, CA. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/The Washington Post/Getty)

Charles Koch's curious case for 'less money in politics'

11/18/15 10:00AM

The Koch brothers' campaign investments were back in the news yesterday, with the Huffington Post pointing to an annual tax filing posted Tuesday on the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce website, reporting that the "main arm of the political network operated by billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch raised $126 million in 2014 and distributed millions to more than 20 other groups active in last year's midterm elections."
By any fair metric, when one political network, operating outside the major parties, can put $126 million to use in a midterm election cycle, the impact is bound to be significant. At the same time, of course, this raises legitimate concerns about a small number of powerful, wealthy donors having far too much influence over who wins elections -- and who doesn't.
Yahoo News sat down with Charles Koch this week and asked him a good question. Pay particular attention to the billionaire's answer.
Q: Campaigns have become so expensive now, Charles. Is there too much money in politics and is it because rich people are putting too much money into politics?
KOCH: No, it's because of corporate welfare. It's -- why are 6 out of the 10 most prosperous counties around Washington, DC? The estimates are there over $5 trillion out of a $15 trillion economy that goes to corporate welfare including a trillion and a half in the tax code. So that's the problem with the money. And so, the more money, the better to change that and get the politics out of people's lives. That's what we're trying to do: put some money in so there's less money in politics.
I listened to this a few times, trying to fully appreciate Koch's argument. Asked about the outsized influence of mega-donors, one of the Koch brothers argued that when he and his network "put some money" into campaign politics, the end result should be "less money in politics."
It seems as if Koch agrees that less money in politics is a worthwhile goal, except when he's the one influencing American elections with his checkbook.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal waves to the crowd during Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Economic Growth Summit on June 2, 2015, at the Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center at Walt Disney World. (Photo by Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS/Getty)

Bobby Jindal exits stage right

11/18/15 09:20AM

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) had a plan. As recently as a month ago, the struggling Republican presidential hopeful told the Washington Post he would "win Iowa," at which point the race would "change" and many of his GOP rivals would "drop out."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced late Tuesday he would suspend his presidential campaign after failing to get traction in the crowded Republican primary field.
In a statement announcing his exit from the race, Jindal said running has “been an honor, but this is not my time.”
Jindal is the third Republican to drop out of the race before voting began, joining Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Jindal's departure shrinks the GOP field to a mere 14 candidates.
Ordinarily when a candidate withdraws, there's some chatter about where his or her support may go, but in the case of the Louisiana governor, there's no real point. National polling showed the governor with support below 1% and Jindal struggled for months to raise money.
Why did the Louisianan struggle to connect? It's rarely just one thing that dooms a candidate, though in Jindal's case, it probably didn't help that he's been an awful and woefully unpopular governor.
But I suspect that wasn't the principal problem for the governor. Consider the bigger picture as it relates to experienced candidates trying to appeal to the rabid GOP base.
President Barack Obama speaks at Rutgers Newark University Center for Law and Justice in Newark, N.J., Nov. 2, 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Obama offers GOP a lesson in what 'tough' actually means

11/18/15 08:41AM

President Obama has heard the Republican reactions to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, and it seems safe to say he's unimpressed.
“When candidates say we shouldn’t admit 3-year old-orphans, that’s political posturing,” Obama said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila -- making a veiled reference to GOP candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “When people say we should have a religious test, and only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted, that’s offensive, and contrary to American values.”
He added, taking another jab: “These are the same folks often times that say they’re so tough that just talking to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or staring down ISIL (ISIS) or using some additional rhetoric will solve the problem -- but apparently they’re scared of widows and 3-year-old orphans.”
Obama added, "At first they were worried about the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they're worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn't sound very tough to me."
And while these comments were no doubt emotionally satisfying for those who've grown tired of watching Republicans try to exploit fear and ignorance to advance their own demagogic agenda, the president's comments were also constructive on a specific front.
"We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don't make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks," Obama said. "I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate. They’ve been playing on fear to score political points or to advance their campaigns and it’s irresponsible. It needs to stop because the world is watching."
This wasn't just empty rhetoric. The point about ISIS "recruitment tools" is of particular importance because it offers American political leaders a timely reminder: if you're making things easier for ISIS, you're doing it wrong.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during the Sunshine Summit conference being held at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Nov. 13, 2015 in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Carson advisers fret over his foreign-policy ignorance

11/18/15 08:00AM

A presidential candidate's personal advisers can occasionally offer insights no one else has. They see White House hopefuls in unguarded and unscripted moments, giving the advisers a unique perspective.
It was of interest in 2012, for example, when Mitt Romney's advisers conceded the campaign had invested so little energy in focusing on national security that even they were "uncertain what camp he would fall into, and are uncertain themselves about how he would govern.”
But the New York Times reported late yesterday on an even more striking example. Ben Carson's advisers conceded that "intense tutoring" for the retired right-wing neurosurgeon has so far had "little effect" on the candidate's preparedness on matters of foreign affairs.
“Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,” Duane R. Clarridge, a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security, said in an interview. He also said Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so “we can make him smart.”
The article highlighted Carson's recent appearance on "Fox News Sunday," where he was asked to identify a country he would reach out to join an anti-ISIS coalition. The Republican candidate, despite multiple opportunities, couldn't name one.
“He’s been briefed on it so many times,” Carson aide Armstrong Williams told the Times. “I guess he just froze.”
Nothing says "presidential preparedness" like "I guess he just froze."

Deadly raid near Paris and other headlines

11/18/15 07:16AM

2 dead, 7 arrested in raid targeting Paris attack mastermind. (AP)

Cellphone reportedly found near Bataclan venue. (NBC News)

2 Air France flights diverted after threats; nothing found. (Washington Post)

In the rise of ISIS, no single missed key but many strands of blame. (New York Times)

Ben Carson is struggling to grasp foreign policy, advisers say. (New York Times) 

Justice Department will investigate Minneapolis police shooting of unarmed man. (New York Times)

Salt Lake City elects first openly gay mayor. (Salt Lake Tribune)

First same-sex marriage ceremony held in Ireland. (New York Times)

read more


About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.



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