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Republican U.S. presidential candidates pose during a photo opportunity before the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nov. 10, 2015. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Reuters)

GOP offers a lesson on how not to respond to terrorism

11/16/15 08:00AM

About 10 months ago, after terrorists attacked the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, killing 11 people, congressional Republicans quickly began looking for ways to blame American leadership for the violence. It was reflexive; it was immediate; and it was ugly. The GOP reactions were practically a case study in how U.S. officials shouldn't respond to an attack.
Friday night's terrorism in Paris was, by every metric, deadlier and more devastating, offering Americans an opportunity to speak with one voice while extending support to the nation's oldest ally.
It was an opportunity many leading Republicans chose not to take. The New York Times reported over the weekend:
Visions of two Americas emerged from the 2016 presidential field on Saturday, at the Democratic debate and at Republican campaign events, as the candidates sought to project leadership after the Paris attacks and maneuver for political advantage in a rare moment when national security held voters’ attention.
A dark portrait of a vulnerable homeland -- impotent against Islamic State militants, susceptible against undocumented refugees and isolated in a world of fraying alliances -- came into sharp relief as several Republicans seized on the crisis to try to elevate terrorism into a defining issue in the 2016 election.
It's an odd strategic choice, given that the Republican field is dominated by candidates with no meaningful experience in or understanding of foreign affairs, and nearly all of whom continue to think the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was a great idea.
And yet, it was quite a weekend for GOP chest-thumping. Ted Cruz issued a statement suggesting U.S. military strikes against ISIS targets should be less concerned about "civilian casualties." John McCain said the rise of ISIS, an outgrowth of the disastrous war McCain celebrated, should be blamed on President Obama's foreign policy.
My personal favorite was Mike Huckabee's call for the cancellation of the international nuclear agreement with Iran, which is hilariously wrong on all sorts of levels. (Huckabee should probably have someone on his staff who can explain to him that Iran and ISIS are bitter enemies.)
The one reaction nearly every Republican candidate agreed on is a refusal to accept Syrian refugees -- as if the real lesson of the Paris attacks is feeling less sympathy for ISIS's victims. (Some Republicans have argued that some refugees are acceptable, so long as U.S. officials discriminate on the basis of faith.)

France retaliates and other headlines

11/16/15 07:08AM

France strikes ISIS targets in Syria in retaliation for attacks. (New York Times)

Many arrested in raids across France. (BBC)

French police identify the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks. (Washington Post)

Governors of Michigan, Alabama seek to bar Syrian refugees after French attack. (NBC News)

Lebanon arrests nine suspects in connection with Beirut bombings. (Time)

Read the full transcript of the second Democratic debate. (Time)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem on the unending fight for women's rights. (New York Times)

read more

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the Iowa State fairgrounds on Sept. 19, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty)

This Week in God, 11.14.15

11/14/15 08:53AM

First up from the God Machine this week are some remarks from a leading Republican presidential candidate about the necessary religio-political qualifications for the White House.
Ben Carson, you'll recall, caused a controversy a couple of months ago when he argued that Muslim Americans, regardless of any other consideration, should be disqualified from the presidency because of their faith. This week, Ted Cruz approached a similar line, but in reference to a very different minority.
Right Wing Watch reported on the senator's appearance at right-wing pastor Kevin Swanson's "National Religious Liberties Conference" in Iowa, where he reflected on a presidential religious test.
Swanson introduced Cruz by stating that Jesus Christ "is king of the President of the United States whether he will admit it or not and that president should submit to His rule and to His law" before asking Cruz to share his opinion on how important it is for "the President of the United States to fear God."
Cruz, predictably, asserted that fear of God is absolutely vital, declaring that "any president who doesn't begin every day on his knees isn't fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation."
To be sure, Swanson's Iowa event was scandalous for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the pastor's argument that Scripture demands the death penalty for homosexuality.
But it was nevertheless unusual to hear another GOP presidential candidate make the case that an entire group of Americans should be considered "unfit" for national leadership.
It's probably worth noting there are plenty of faith traditions that don't require kneeling as part of worship, though I don't imagine Cruz was being literal. It's more likely the senator was referring to theists vs. atheists -- with the latter being dismissed as unworthy of the Oval Office.
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum added, "[T]he press threw a fit when Ben Carson suggested that Muslims weren't fit to be president. Will they throw a similar fit now that Cruz has suggested atheists are unfit to be president?"
My friend Rob Boston, meanwhile, highlighted the beliefs of many of the nation's Founding Fathers, many of whom would likely be excluded from the presidency under Cruz's test.
Also from the God Machine this week:
Witnesses describe scene outside club

Witnesses describe scene outside club

11/14/15 06:09AM

MSNBC's Richard Lui joins Alex Witt from Paris to describe the latest in Friday's attacks and the security measures being taken at Charles De Gaulle airport. Lui also talks with two individuals who were near the Bataclan venue at the time of the attacks. watch

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.


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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