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U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton speaks during a televised debate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. on Oct. 14, 2014.

Being Tom Cotton means never having to say you're sorry

03/16/15 09:20AM

A week after  attempting to sabotage American foreign policy and doing real damage to U.S. credibility on the international stage, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sat down with Bob Schieffer yesterday to explain himself. True to form, the right-wing freshman boasted he has "no regrets at all."
 
Of course not. Being Tom Cotton means never having to say you're sorry for undermining your own country's attempts at international diplomacy.
 
At one point, towards the end of the interview, the "Face the Nation" host asked the Arkansas senator about his alternative solution if the talks collapse. Cotton didn't offer any specifics, but he did express concern about Iranian influence in the region.
"[W]e have to stand up to Iran's attempts to drive for regional dominance. They already control Tehran. Increasingly, they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad, and now Sanaa as well."
The fact that Iran maintains influence in other countries with Shia majorities in the region is hardly a new development, but the fact that Cotton is concerned about Iranians "already controlling Tehran" seemed like an odd thing to say. Tehran, of course, is the capital of Iran. In effect, the Republican senator was lamenting Iranian dominance of Iran, concerned that Iranians "control" the capital of their own country.
 
Making matters slightly worse, if Cotton is troubled by Tehran's influence in Baghdad, he should probably know that Iran's dominance is the direct result of the U.S. invasion he supported and participated in. In other words, it was the senator's own preferred foreign policy that created the conditions he now finds so alarming.
 
Which should probably raise some questions about his judgment now.
Loretta Lynch is sworn in during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 28, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

McConnell subjects Lynch to ransom-based governing

03/16/15 08:40AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed last week that the delay over Loretta Lynch's Attorney General nomination would soon end, but his promise lacked specificity. The Republican leader announced Lynch would finally get a vote "next week" -- which is to say, this week -- but for reasons that no one could explain, McConnell wouldn't say which day, exactly.
 
Yesterday, the GOP strategy became clearer. McConnell seems to have kept things vague because he intended to break his word.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there'll be no vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general until Republicans and Democrats resolve a dispute over a human trafficking bill.
 
"If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general," then "we have to finish the human trafficking bill," McConnell said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
The Majority Leader added that he "had hoped" to allow the Senate to vote on Lynch, whose nomination has, by most measures, already waited longer than any other A.G. nomination in American history, but Lynch "will be put off again" unless Democrats agree to pass the human-trafficking bill that stalled last week.
 
McConnell went on to say, "We have to finish the human trafficking bill. The Loretta Lynch nomination comes next."
 
Just so we're clear, there's no procedural concern or rule that must be followed. McConnell could bring Lynch's 128-day wait to an end this morning, and by all appearances, she'd have the votes necessary to be confirmed.
 
But McConnell doesn't want to. Rather, he prefers to stick to the ransom-based model of governing that he and his party have grown overly fond of.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to the media after visiting Integra Biosciences during a campaign stop in Hudson, N.H. on March 13, 2015.

Jeb Bush's email troubles grow more serious

03/16/15 08:00AM

The political world knew that the 2016 presidential race would take shape early this year, but few could have guessed that email access and email security would be one of the dominant issues in the nascent election cycle.
 
Hillary Clinton's private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State has been the subject of enormous interest to the media and Republicans, with former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) helping lead the charge. "For security purposes, you need to be behind a firewall that recognizes the world for what it is, and it's a dangerous world, and security would mean that you couldn't have a private server," the Republican complained last week. "It's a little baffling, to be honest with you, that didn't come up in Secretary Clinton's thought process."
 
It's equally baffling that Bush had no idea how vulnerable he was on the issue he's chosen to complain about.
Jeb Bush used his private e-mail account as Florida governor to discuss security and military issues such as troop deployments to the Middle East and the protection of nuclear plants, according to a review of publicly released records.
 
The e-mails include two series of exchanges involving details of Florida National Guard troop deployments after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the review by The Washington Post found.
The Washington Post's report on the security risks surrounding Jeb Bush conducting official business on his private account coincided with a New York Times article, which noted that it took the former governor more than seven years "to comply fully with a Florida public records statute" on email disclosure.
 
The report quoted a non-partisan expert with the Florida-based First Amendment Foundation who said Bush's disclosure policy was "a technical violation of the law." The governor was required to turn over records pertaining to official business "at the expiration of his or her term of office," and the Republican waited more than seven years to meet these obligations.
 
And while the revelations are themselves noteworthy, what seems especially problematic for Bush is the broader context in which these details appear.

McConnell threatens Lynch delay and other headlines

03/16/15 07:18AM

Mitch McConnell threatens to delay Attorney General confirmation vote. (L.A. Times)

John Boehner expected to announce new House investigation into Hillary Clinton's email practices. (ABC News)

Arrest made in the shootings of 2 police officers in Ferguson, MO. (KSDK)

10 health-care workers return to U.S. after exposure to Ebola. (Wall Street Journal)

Legal duo says Canadian-born Ted Cruz is eligible to seek presidency. (AP)

Boston breaks snowfall record. (Boston Globe)

Kerry: U.S. increasing efforts to pressure Syria's Bashar al-Assad into negotiation. (Washington Post)

CIA cash ended up in coffers of al Qaeda. (New York Times)

Robert Durst of HBO's 'The Jinx' says he 'killed them all.' (New York Times) 

read more

Bill O'Reilly appears on NBC News' "Today" show. (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty)

This Week in God, 3.14.15

03/14/15 09:00AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected group of critics raising concerns about suspect tales from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.
 
As regular readers know, activism in the political sphere from Roman Catholic nuns has become increasingly common in recent years, as evidenced by the Nuns on the Bus tour in 2012, criticizing Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) far-right budget plan.
 
Soon after, Sister Simone Campbell and her group, NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, invited Mitt Romney "to spend a day with Catholic Sisters who work every day to meet the needs of struggling families in their communities." (He declined.)
 
Rachel noted on the show that summer, "I have one thing to say here personally, not as a TV show host here but just as a person who happens to be related to some nuns: don't mess with nuns. It's not a warning. It's not advice. It's not a threat. It's fact that I have learned from personal experience. Ask anybody in my family, if you mess with nuns, you will lose every time. You will always regret messing with nuns."
 
With this in mind, Fox's Bill O'Reilly has faced increased scrutiny recently, claiming that he "saw nuns get shot in the back of the head" while he was in El Salvador in the early 1980s. When evidence made clear that was impossible, O'Reilly said he was referring to photographs he'd seen.
 
This week, some nuns seemed unimpressed by the Fox host's comments, most notably nuns from the Maryknoll Sisters who issued a statement to Brian Stelter.
"Maryknoll Sisters were deeply saddened when our Sisters were killed in El Salvador, and shocked when we learned of Mr. O'Reilly's statement inferring he witnessed their murder," the statement said.
 
"This is, of course, untrue and we hope Mr. O'Reilly will take greater care in the public statements he makes in the future," it added.
 
The Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland also offered a statement, calling for reporters covering the tragedy to do so with a spirit of "integrity and honesty."
As best as I can tell, O'Reilly has not yet responded to the nuns' criticisms. I reached out to Fox News for comment yesterday, but I haven't heard back. I will update this piece if the network responds.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:

Decryptomaddowlogical #116

03/13/15 08:54PM

As the Republican signatories to an open letter to Iran's ayatollah scramble to make excuses for their political-spectacle-run-amok, there is a growing consensus that rather than strengthen America's resolve with tough talk, all they've really managed to do is leave America's global standing ...

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Friday's Mini-Report, 3.13.15

03/13/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* ISIS: "More than 40 Iraqi soldiers were killed after ISIS militants dug a mile-long tunnel under a local army headquarters and planted around 300 explosives under the base, a top regional official told NBC News Friday."
 
* Ferguson: "A manhunt continues in the shooting of two police officers during protests in Ferguson this week, as the nation's eyes are once again trained on this small, beleaguered Midwestern city."
 
* Retired Major Gen. Paul Eaton called the Iran letter from the 47 Senate Republicans as "mutinous" and possibly "illegal." As for Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the ringleader behind the scheme, Eaton added, "What Senator Cotton did is a gross breach of discipline, and especially as a veteran of the Army, he should know better."
 
* More on this on tonight's show: "Russian President Vladimir Putin is in good health, the Kremlin said on Thursday, dismissing rumors that the leader was suffering from an illness after a foreign trip was canceled."
 
* Ebola: "An American healthcare worker infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone [is in] serious condition at the National Institutes of Health, the NIH said Friday. The unidentified patient is the 11th Ebola case treated in the U.S."
 
* VA: "President Barack Obama on Friday will announce new measures to address the healthcare crisis facing veterans at the Phoenix VA medical center where long wait times and falsified records were first discovered."
 
* They're right: "A group of 104 legal scholars and immigration law instructors signed a statement calling the Texas judge's decision that blocked President Barack Obama's immigration executive action 'deeply flawed.'"
 
* Baby steps: "China's emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide fell last year for the first time in more than a decade, offering fresh evidence that efforts to control pollution in the nation of 1.4 billion people are gaining traction."
Sen. Ron Johnson speaks during a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Jan 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Wisconsin's Johnson tries new defense for Iran letter

03/13/15 04:07PM

The letter to Iran from 47 Senate Republicans this week has become an international fiasco, prompting its GOP signatories to come up with creative excuses for their radical antics.
 
The first defense, oddly enough, is that Republicans were simply being "cheeky" with their attempt to sabotage American foreign policy. When that proved unpersuasive, GOP officials tried to blame President Obama for their letter. That seemed pretty silly, which led Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to try blaming a snowstorm in D.C. last week for Republicans failing to think their plan through.
 
Of all of which leads us to the fourth rationale.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Friday said an open letter he signed with 46 other GOP Senators should not have been directed to Iran's ruling regime.
 
"I suppose the only regret is who it's addressed to," Johnson said during a Friday breakfast with Bloomberg staff. "But the content of the letter, the fact that it was an open letter, none whatsoever."
Hmm. So, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee still likes the letter intended to sabotage American foreign policy, but his new excuse is that it was sent to the wrong people. Republicans shouldn't have "addressed" it to Iranian leaders.
 
Of course, if the point of the GOP letter was to push Iranians away from the international nuclear talks, and encourage Iranian officials not to trust the United States or our allies, it's not altogether clear who, exactly, Johnson and his cohorts would have addressed the missive to.
 
Johnson added today that the still-unresolved agreement "rises to the level of a treaty" and the "treaty should come to Congress for an up-or-down vote."
 
It's worth emphasizing that the deal -- if there's a deal -- is not a treaty. If it were, an "up-or-down vote" wouldn't be sufficient, since the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority on all Senate ratification votes. To borrow a phrase, Johnson "may not fully understand our constitutional system."

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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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