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Ahead on the 10/29/14 Maddow show

10/29/14 08:02PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Bill Nemitz, columnist for the Portland Press Herald
  • Dr. Stephanie Teal, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine 

Check out what we've got planned for tonight's show after the jump
read more

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 10.29.14

10/29/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* White House: "President Barack Obama repeated his message that America needs to support those treating the Ebola outbreak in Africa, saying 'the world owes them a debt of gratitude' -- even as authorities in Maine weighed whether to enforce a quarantine on a nurse there."
* Liberia: "World Health Organization officials on Wednesday said they see 'glimmers of hope' in Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic, with strong evidence that the rate of new cases is declining for the first time since the crisis began."
* Kaci Hickox: "The nurse who was quarantined after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa has given the State of Maine until Thursday to let her move freely, setting up what could be a test case of whether state quarantines are legal."
* Pentagon: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered Wednesday that all U.S. troops who deploy to West Africa as part of the force assisting in the Ebola virus crisis be put in quarantine-like monitoring for 21 days, even though none are expected to treat patients directly."
* The end of QE3: "An upbeat Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that the economic recovery was chugging along and that it would end its latest-bond buying campaign on schedule at the end of the month. The Fed, in a statement issued after a two-day meeting of its policy-making committee, said the bond-buying program had served its purpose by contributing to stronger job growth."
* What happened to the Antares rocket? "Authorities on Wednesday started investigating what caused an unmanned U.S. supply rocket to explode in a fireball moments after liftoff from a Virginia launch pad, destroying supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station."
* ISIS: "Watching the news, you could be forgiven for thinking that ISIS is an unstoppable juggernaut, sweeping Iraq and Syria in an unending, unstoppable, terrible blitzkrieg. But you'd be wrong. The truth is that ISIS's momentum is stalled: in both Iraq and Syria, the group is being beaten back at key points."
* Ferguson: "Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the need for 'wholesale change' in the Ferguson, Missouri, police department was 'pretty clear.'"
* The twists and turns of a bizarre story: "The investigator who led the Department of Homeland Security's internal review of the Secret Service's 2012 prostitution scandal quietly resigned in August after he was implicated in his own incident involving a prostitute, according to current and former department officials."
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice waves as she arrives to address the third session of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Aug. 29, 2012.

Condoleezza Rice praises Ernst's foreign policy vision

10/29/14 04:55PM

Despite her Beltway reputation, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has "surprisingly partisan" political tendencies. As longtime readers may recall, Rice has a reputation for relative high-mindedness, especially when compared to some of her former Bush/Cheney colleagues, but she's a more aggressive Republican than is generally appreciated.
Today, for example, Rice threw her support to one of the nation's most right-wing U.S. Senate candidates: Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst.
"Joni Ernst has dedicated her life to the service of others, bravely leading troops in Iraq and safely bringing them home to Iowa. Now Iowans have an opportunity to make her the first female combat veteran to ever serve in the U.S. Senate," Rice said in a statement released by Ernst's campaign.
"We need more leaders, like Joni, who understand America's role abroad and the threats posed against us," she added.
That's certainly a nice sentiment, but the notion that Joni Ernst has an admirable understanding of America's role abroad is tough to take seriously.
It's Ernst, after all, who recently argued that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction -- reality be damned -- based on secret evidence that Ernst has "reason to believe," but can't explain.
I can see why such nonsense might endear the far-right candidate to a veteran of the Bush/Cheney team, but it doesn't exactly reflect someone with sound judgment on international affairs.
For that matter, Ernst also argued in a recent debate that "there's no sense" in having members of Congress meet their obligations under the Constitution when it comes to authorizing the use of military force abroad.
And, then, of course, there are Ernst fears about the Agenda 21 conspiracy.
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks during a news conference about New York's first case of Ebola, in New York on Oct. 24, 2014. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Chris Christie's search for scientific backup

10/29/14 04:32PM

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) handling of the Kaci Hickox incident, and the Ebola threat in general, has drawn quite a bit of criticism, but the Republican governor believes he has a trump card. In several recent interviews, Christie has emphasized that his policy obviously has some merit, since it's been endorsed by Dr. Bruce Beutler, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 2011.
A local report out of the Garden State today noted Beutler's thinking on the subject (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).
"I favor it, because it's not entirely clear that they can't transmit the disease," Beutler said.... "It may not be absolutely true that those without symptoms can't transmit the disease, because we don't have the numbers to back that up," said Beutler, "It could be people develop significant viremia [where viruses enter the bloodstream and gain access to the rest of the body], and become able to transmit the disease before they have a fever, even. People may have said that without symptoms you can't transmit Ebola. I'm not sure about that being 100 percent true. There's a lot of variation with viruses."
In fact, in a study published online in late September by the New England Journal of Medicine and backed by the World Health Organization, 3,343 confirmed and 667 probable cases of Ebola were analyzed, and nearly 13 percent of the time, those infected with Ebola exhibited no fever at all.
As it turns out, that may not be quite right. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine has actually said largely the opposite. As we noted yesterday, the NEJM, arguably the nation's premier medical journal took the unusual step of intervening in a political debate, questioning the value of Christie's policy, and specifically concluding, "an asymptomatic health care worker returning from treating patients with Ebola, even if he or she were infected, would not be contagious."
But about that "nearly 13 percent" figure?

Boehner outraged by U.S. criticism of Netanyahu

10/29/14 02:36PM

Obama administration officials' frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently reached the breaking point. One senior U.S. official called the Israeli leader "a chickens**t" because "the only thing he's interested in is protecting himself from political defeat."
House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) is outraged -- not by Netanyahu's antics straining U.S./Israeli ties, but because of the anonymous criticism of the prime minister.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday said that profanity-laced attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from senior Obama administration officials were an implicit reflection of President Obama's views, adding that the official who called Netanyahu "chickens---" should be fired. [...]
Boehner said that the administration officials should be dismissed. "The president sets the tone for his administration. He either condones the profanity and disrespect used by the most senior members of his administration, or he does not," Boehner said.
"It is time for him to get his house in order and tell the people that can't muster professionalism that it is time to move on," Boehner added.
Of course, in 2008, it was none other than John Boehner who condemned then-candidate Obama as "chickens**t" over some votes in the Illinois state legislature.
You see, John Boehner sets the tone for John Boehner, and he either condones the profanity and disrespect Boehner uses, or he does not. Perhaps it's time for Boehner to tell Boehner that if he can't muster professionalism then it may be time to move on.
Indeed, this really just scratches the surface of the Speaker's latest nonsense.
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow testified in court in Boston, Mass. on June 4, 2009.

Taking 'manifest destiny' to a whole new level

10/29/14 12:46PM

There's no point in getting too worked up about every nutty idea from every random Fox News contributor. That's especially true of far-right psychiatrist Keith Ablow. But when Jon Chait thinks he's identified "the craziest idea ever proposed by a Fox News personality," it's worth pausing to take a closer look.
Jessica Torres explained this morning exactly what Ablow had in mind.
Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow wrote that "it's time for an American jihad" to, forcibly if need be, convert every nation's government into a reflection of the U.S. government.
In an October 28 op-ed, Ablow wrote that America's history "proves our manifest destiny not only to preserve our borders and safety and national character at home, but to spread around the world our love of individual freedom and insist on its reflection in every government."
There's no reason to believe Ablow was kidding.  Under the "jihad" the Fox News contributor envisions, the United States would commit itself to the belief "that if every nation on earth were governed by freely elected leaders and by our Constitution, the world would be a far better place."
Even our allies -- he mentions France, Italy, Sweden, Argentina, Brazil, and Germany, seemingly at random -- would be urged to "adopt laws similar to our own." Americans should seek to become policymakers in foreign countries, Ablow argues, and Americans "might even fund" these foreign campaigns.
In the 19th century, Americans had a spirited debate about "manifest destiny" on a continental scale, but Ablow apparently sees no need to stop where the oceans start. Rather, he's describing "manifest destiny" on a global scale.
"[W]herever leaders and movements appear that seek to trample upon the human spirit, we have a God-given right to intervene," he argued in all seriousness.
When Ablow touted his thesis on Fox this morning, Brian Kilmeade said his provocative thesis deserves to be discussed. Ablow replied, "What's to discuss?" Apparently, the merits of an "American jihad" are just that obvious.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.29.14

10/29/14 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:
* In Maine's gubernatorial race, Independent Eliot Cutler called a press conference this morning to announce he's not dropping out of the race he's now certain to lose. "As we enter the closing days of this campaign, I ask my supporters simply to vote their consciences," he said.
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, the latest Loras College Poll shows Bruce Braley (D) up by one point, while the new Quinnipiac poll shows Joni Ernst (R) up by four points.
* Though several recent polls showed Michelle Nunn (D) taking the lead in Georgia's U.S. Senate race, two new polls show David Perdue (R) out in front. The latest SurveyUSA poll shows Perdue up by three points, while a Monmouth poll shows the far-right candidate leading by eight.
* On a related note, the Monmouth survey, which seems like an outlier, also shows Gov. Nathan Deal (R) leading Jason Carter (D), 48% to 42%.
* In Colorado's gubernatorial race, Quinnipiac shows Bob Beauprez (R) with a surprisingly comfortable lead over incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), 45% to 40%. Last week, Quinnipiac had Hickenlooper up by one.
* On a related note, Beauprez is running an attack ad highlighting the murder of former Colorado Dept. of Corrections Chief Tom Clements, which the former congressman inexplicably blames on the governor. Clements' family wants Beauprez to take down the ad.
US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 30, 2013.

Netanyahu causes 'crisis' in U.S.-Israel relations

10/29/14 11:38AM

The conventional wisdom in recent years is that relations between the United States and Israel are at an all-time low, but I've generally been skeptical of the assumptions.
In the Reagan era, for example, Israel vehemently opposed the sale of American weapons to Saudi Arabia, but Reagan did it anyway. Gene Healy over the summer noted that Reagan also "backed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights."
Haaretz's Chemi Shalev put it this way, "[I]f Obama treated Israel like Reagan did, he'd be impeached."
But reading Jeffrey Goldberg's new piece on the "crisis in U.S.-Israel relations," I'm starting to think the conventional wisdom might be correct after all. The article begins with a senior Obama administration official blasting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "a chickens**t."
This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. The relationship between these two administrations -- dual guarantors of the putatively "unbreakable" bond between the U.S. and Israel -- is now the worst it's ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.
The fault for this breakdown in relations can be assigned in good part to the junior partner in the relationship, Netanyahu, and in particular, to the behavior of his cabinet.
"The good thing about Netanyahu is that he's scared to launch wars," the U.S. official told Goldberg. "The bad thing about him is that he won't do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he's interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He's not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he's not [Ariel] Sharon, he's certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He's got no guts."
This doesn't exactly come as a shock, of course -- Netanyahu's reputation as a petty political operator exists for a reason -- but the vigor of the U.S. officials' comments reinforce just how much damage Netanyahu has done. If the prime minister's goal was to alienate the White House, he's succeeded brilliantly.
Charles Poole, 70, checks in upon arriving to cast his ballot at a polling site during early voting in Atlanta, Ga. on May 16, 2014.

Voter-fraud crusader just can't help himself

10/29/14 11:10AM

Back in 2007, when the Bush/Cheney administration was eager to give Hans von Spakovsky a six-year term on the Federal Elections Commission, Dahlia Lithwick offered some advice to the Senate: "Do not vote for this guy."
Lithwick's piece was a rather brutal takedown, making the case that von Spakovsky "was one of the generals in a years-long campaign to use what we now know to be bogus claims of runaway 'vote fraud' in America to suppress minority votes." She added, "[E]ven a brief poke at his resume shows a man who has dedicated his professional career to a single objective: turning a partisan myth about voters who cast multiple ballots under fake names (always for Democrats!) into a national snipe hunt for vote fraud." Hans von Spakovsky, Lithwick concluded, "symbolizes contempt for what it means to cast a vote."
Alas, the Republican's persistence has not waned. This week, the Wall Street Journal published a piece from von Spakovsky under the headline, "Here Comes the 2014 Voter Fraud."
What is the likelihood that your vote won't count? That your vote will, in effect, be canceled or stolen as a consequence of mistakes by election officials or fraudulent votes cast by campaign workers or ineligible voters like felons and noncitizens?
Unfortunately, we can't know. But one thing is almost certain: Voter fraud will occur.
Actually, we can know, and what's certain is that the scourge of voter fraud is largely imaginary.
As we discussed in August, the most comprehensive investigation to date into every "specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix" -- research that included "general, primary, special, and municipal elections" -- identified 31 different fraud incidents out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. That's  a fraud rate of about 0.00002%.
Hans von Spakovsky, however, says he has a study, too.
President Barack Obama makes a statement about Ebola after a conference call with USAID workers in West Africa Oct. 28, 2014 prior to his departure from the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Playing the Ebola blame game badly

10/29/14 10:17AM

A couple of days ago, as Kaci Hickox was on her way home to Maine, Fox News' Greta Van Susteren had the same reaction to the nurse's ordeal that many Americans probably had. Van Susteren said on Twitter that Hickox "is not a terrorist, she's a nurse." Instead of being thanked for helping treat Ebola patients, the host added, Hickox "was treated like a criminal."
Van Susteren concluded, "I blame President Obama."
It seemed like an odd conclusion. In fact, I initially thought it might be a typo. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), ignoring guidance from scientists and public-health professionals, forced Hickox into mandatory quarantine, detaining the nurse in a tent with no heat or running water, despite the fact that Hickox was asymptomatic. It was the Obama White House that urged Christie administration officials to change course, and fortunately for the detained nurse, the governor soon after agreed to release her.
So why blame Obama? Van Susteren discussed U.S. policy in addressing the public health threat with former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) -- no, really -- and elaborated on the argument.
"I don't even know if this is politics. I think it's more "asleep at the wheel." In some ways, I don't blame the governors for trying to just do something about it because, look, last March, the World Health Organization warned about Ebola. They did it again in August. And, you know, it does require leadership to set some sort of standard. This is the problem."
In other words, Van Susteren was outraged by Christie's treatment of Hickox, which is Obama's fault because the White House didn't tell Christie not to mistreat people -- or at least establish guidelines to prevent Christie from mistreating people.
This seems to come up periodically, and I think the effects on public perceptions is real. When Republicans killed background checks for gun purchases after the Sandy Hook massacre, many in the media, including Maureen Dowd, blamed Obama. When Republicans killed comprehensive immigration reform, despite broad public support, many in the media, including Ron Fournier, blamed Obama. And when Chris Christie forces a healthy nurse into a tent, this apparently is the president's fault, too.
No wonder Republicans are poised to have a good year despite a track record of failure -- the more they're responsible for wrongdoing, the less accountability they face. Indeed, it creates an awkward political dynamic in which Republicans can act irresponsibly, confident in the knowledge that the president will be blamed for the GOP's conduct.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at Empire Bucket, a manufacturing facility on Sept. 29, 2014 in Hudson, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty)

Walker runs on pay equity after scrapping pay-equity law

10/29/14 09:17AM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) seems to understand he can't run from his record on women's issues, so he might as well try to carefully run on his record. Of course, that's easier said than done.
Earlier this month, for example, the Republican incumbent ran an ad touting his support for legislation to "increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options." Walker carefully avoided the details: the Wisconsin governor supports imposing regulations that close women's health clinics while forcing women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds.
This week, with the campaign nearly over, Team Walker is shifting its attention to pay equity. Laura Bassett reported yesterday:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) released an ad on Tuesday in which his female lieutenant governor applauds his support for equal pay for women -- just two years after the governor signed a bill repealing the state's equal pay law. 
"Under Scott Walker, workplace discrimination will always be illegal for any reason," Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch says in the ad. "Mary Burke wants to create more opportunities to sue. We want to create more opportunities for women to succeed."
This is one of those cases in which the message and the messenger are both badly flawed.
When the Walker campaign complains about "creating more opportunities to sue," they're effectively blasting a legal recourse for women who've faced discrimination in the workplace. 
Indeed, the point of an ad like this is to paper over the governor's controversial history on the issue Team Walker should probably avoid bringing up.
McConnell departs after his news conference following the weekly Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

McConnell trips on Social Security approaching finish line

10/29/14 08:38AM

A variety of adjectives come to mind when describing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but "undisciplined" isn't one of them. It's why it came as something of a surprise last week when the longtime incumbent, unprompted, reminded voters of his support for George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security out of existence.
Ironically, the Kentucky Republican was looking for an example of his bipartisan outreach, and the first thing that came to mind was his effort to find Democrats willing to replace the Social Security system with private accounts.
Alison Lundergan Grimes and her allies were only too pleased to take advantage -- if McConnell wants to spend the final week of the campaign talking about his work trying to kill Social Security, Democrats don't mind at all. Indeed, the Senate Majority PAC launched this hard-hitting ad in Kentucky late last week.
Greg Sargent reported yesterday that McConnell's campaign team has pushed local stations not to run the commercial. The Republican push isn't going well.
The McConnell campaign is trying to get TV stations to stop running the ad. I've checked in with Kentucky stations, and most declined to reveal their plans for the spot, though an official at one -- Fox affiliate WDRB -- told me: "We reinstated the spot, finding the assertions factual." A spokesman for Senate Majority PAC told me the ad is still airing "on every station we bought on."
The dust-up shows that Democrats are pushing hard to make Social Security privatization a sleeper issue in the last days of the Kentucky Senate race.
It does, indeed. And by fighting to kill the ad, the GOP campaign only helps draw attention to the spot McConnell doesn't want voters to see.
Making matters slightly worse, when Kentucky Joe Sonka asked McConnell whether voters should expect the senator to push Social Security privatization after the midterms, McConnell replied, "I'm not announcing what the agenda would be in advance," suggesting the senator is confused about the point of a political campaign.
Yesterday, the 30-year incumbent found changing the subject isn't as easy as he'd like.
Voters cast their ballots at a polling site for Georgia's primary election, May 20, 2014, in Atlanta, Ga.

Georgia court sides with state in voter-registration case

10/29/14 08:00AM

We've kept a close eye on developments in Georgia, home to very competitive U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, where civil-rights groups believe state officials are slow-walking tens of thousands of voter-registration forms. A lawsuit was filed on Friday, Oct. 10, with voting-rights advocates looking for a court order on processing pending forms.
As the Associated Press reported, with time running out, state officials appear to have prevailed.
Days before the midterm elections, a state judge declined Tuesday to act in a dispute over 56,000 voter registration applications in one of the nation's most politically charged states. [...]
Fulton County Judge Christopher Brasher ruled Tuesday that the plaintiffs failed to prove that election authorities haven't followed the law, even if the would-be voters have yet to show up on the state's official list of eligible electors.
Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and authorities in several majority Democratic counties say they are still processing the applications. And they've argued that any citizen can cast a provisional ballot, a contention the plaintiffs mock as insufficient.
The civil-rights groups responsible for the case are, not surprisingly, considering an appeal, though with Election Day now just six days away, time is obviously limited.
For those who haven't followed the controversy, voter-suppression efforts have been problematic in Georgia. Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), Georgia’s top elections official, was recorded over the summer expressing concern, for example, about Democrats “registering all these minority voters that are out there.” Kemp also subpoenaed the New Georgia Project, which happens to be the driving force behind the state’s largest voter-registration campaign, for reasons that appear quite dubious.
But it’s these voter-registration materials that may ultimately matter most.