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Ahead on the 9/16/14 Maddow show

09/16/14 06:18PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Nancy Youssef, National Security correspondent, McClatchy newspapers
  • Dave Helling, political reporter for the Kansas City Star

After the jump, a preview of tonight's show from executive producer Cory Gnazzo:

read more

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.16.14

09/16/14 05:33PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Afghanistan: "Two Americans were among seven people killed in a massive car bomb near the U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital Tuesday, a U.S. military official said. One of the U.S. citizens was a service member, the other a civilian, the official said."
 
* Ebola response: "The United States will intervene to help confront the global threat posed by the recent Ebola outbreak, President Barack Obama said during a speech announcing a new effort to assist the West African countries that have been overwhelmed by the spread of the deadly virus.... In what he said is the largest international response in the history of the CDC, Obama made public his plans to increase U.S. aid to combat Ebola by sending thousands of personnel and millions of dollars to West Africa to avoid a humanitarian disaster."
 
* Dempsey tackles a hypothetical: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, offering a more expansive view of the American role in the ground war than that of President Obama."
 
* Capitol Hill: "Despite lingering reservations on both sides of the aisle, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats is coming together behind proposals to arm Syrian rebels and fund the government beyond Sept. 30."
 
* The child poverty rate in the United States saw its "largest one-year drop since 1966." That's pretty amazing.
 
* Ferguson: "A judge has given the grand jury considering whether to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson. Mo., police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an extension of 60 days to make a decision. The jury must decide by Jan. 7 whether Officer Wilson will be criminally charged in Mr. Brown's death."
 
* Pennsylvania: "A manhunt is under way Tuesday for an anti-cop 'survivalist' with mass-murder fantasies who is wanted in last week's deadly ambush of Pennsylvania state police barracks, authorities said. Arrest warrants have been issued for Eric Matthew Frein, 31, of Canadensis, Pa., for the Friday night shooting that killed one trooper and left another critically wounded."
 
* Good: "President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to announce a campus sexual assault awareness campaign from the White House Friday, with a special focus on engaging men in the fight against a largely hidden problem."
 
* "Obsession" is the only word that seems to apply: "Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrives to attend an EU summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on August 30, 2014.

Ukraine ratifies EU pact

09/16/14 05:05PM

The current Ukrainian crisis began in earnest nearly a year ago, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych sided with Russia and rejected an offer for stronger trade and political ties to the European Union. The result was mass protests, Yanukovych fleeing to Russia, and new Ukrainian elections -- followed by a series of Russian steps onto Ukrainian soil, including the annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
 
The reverberations of the crisis have been felt around the globe, and tensions between Russia and the West have reached heights unseen since the Cold War.
 
Which is why today's news seemed especially striking.
Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday ratified a landmark agreement on political association and trade with the European Union, the rejection of which last November by then President Viktor Yanukovich led to his downfall. The agreement won unanimous support from the 355 deputies who took part in the vote.
 
Referring to the deaths of anti-government protesters who came out against Yanukovich's rejection of the pact with the EU and of soldiers killed in fighting separatists since, President Petro Poroshenko said: "No nation has ever paid such a high price to become Europeans."
The Wall Street Journal report added, "Lawmakers broke into the national anthem and cried 'Glory to Ukraine' after approving the EU deal, which President Petro Poroshenko hailed as a first step toward eventual membership in the bloc."
 
All of which leads me back to a question I've been pondering for a while: when Republicans hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strategic mastermind, what in the world were they talking about?
In this May 3, 2010 photo, attorney Kris Kobach poses for a photo in Kansas City, Mo.

A blast from an unpleasant past

09/16/14 04:13PM

In Kansas, Republican officials find themselves in the unusual position of trying to keep a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate on the ballot, even though he's eager to withdraw. Democratic candidate Chad Taylor has tried to drop out of the race against Sen. Pat Roberts (R), leaving the incumbent to take on Independent Greg Orman, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has stood in the way, objecting to Taylor's paperwork. The case went before the Kansas Supreme Court today.
 
But take a look at who's siding with the controversial Republican Secretary of State.
One of the officials at the center of the Bush administration's U.S. attorneys scandal is helping to author briefs for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the lawsuit that could help determine one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.
 
Bradley Schlozman, who stepped down from the Justice Department in 2007 amid controversy and is now an attorney practicing in Wichita, Kansas, is one of the signatories of a new brief from Kobach's office.
Who's Bradley Schlozman? As an msnbc report noted in March, "During the George W. Bush administration, an internal Justice Department report found Bush appointees had attempted to purge the division of liberals, or as one Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman put it, 'adherents of Mao's little red book.' The report found that Schlozman, who had vowed to 'gerrymander' all those 'crazy libs' out of the division, replacing them with Republican loyalists, had violated civil service laws with his hiring practices."
 
Folks who go way back with me may recall that Schlozman was actually at the heart of two separate Bush-era scandals. The first was Schlozman's decision as the former U.S. Attorney for Kansas City, to bring highly dubious indictments against a voter-registration group shortly before the 2006 midterm elections. That one got quite messy.
 
The other was Schlozman's work in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department, where he swore his employment decisions were entirely above-board, and not at all based on political considerations, though ample evidence pointed in the opposite direction. Indeed, Schlozman reportedly took an interest in the partisan "loyalties" of Justice Department attorneys whose work had nothing to do with politics.
 
And now, here he is again, this time trying to give Kris Kobach a hand.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference, March 26, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Graham vs. Graham on 'boots on the ground'

09/16/14 03:40PM

Over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed a little hysterical when talking about the threat posed by Islamic State. Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," the Republican senator was genuinely outraged that President Obama was launching hundreds of airstrikes against ISIS targets without also sending in U.S. troops as part of a ground campaign.
 
"It's going to take an army to beat an army, and this idea we'll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy," Graham said, adding, "It's delusional in the way they approach this.... I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety.... This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home."
 
Jon Stewart responded last night, in reference to the Republican senator, "The poor man lives his entire life trapped in 'The Blair Witch Project.' For God's sakes, I've seen chihuahuas in handbags who are less fretful and shaking."
 
But there's another angle to this that matters. As Amanda Terkel noted, while Graham believes it's a delusional fantasy to believe the U.S. mission can succeed without American troops fighting a ground war, one hawkish Republican senator said the exact opposite earlier this summer.
 
His name is Lindsey Graham.
[A]s recently as June, Graham said that sending U.S. troops to Syria to fight on the ground was a bad idea.
 
"Mr. President, if you are willing to adjust your policies, we will stand with you. If you are willing to sit down with your generals and get some good sound military advice, we will stand with you, because what happens in Iraq and Syria does matter," Graham said in a June 10 interview with Fox News. "I don't think we need boots on the ground. I don't think that is an option worth consideration."
It now appears that if President Obama agrees with Lindsey Graham I, the condemnation from Lindsey Graham II will be fierce.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addresses the Nebraska Republican Convention in Grand Island, Neb., Saturday, July 14, 2012.

Jindal blasts Democratic 'science deniers'

09/16/14 12:35PM

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) rhetoric has been increasingly unnerving of late, but this is one of his sillier contributions to the discourse.
At a breakfast for reporters Tuesday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, the Republican governor attacked President Barack Obama for not fully taking advantage of the United States' fossil fuel and energy resources.
 
"The reality is right now we've got an administration in the Obama administration that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America's energy resources and potential to create good-paying jobs for our economy and for our future," Jindal said. "Right now we've got an administration whose policies are holding our economy hostage."
Right off the bat, it seems the governor may not fully grasp the whole "hostage" metaphor. It generally involves a hostage taker threatening harm unless paid a ransom. When congressional Republicans, for example, said they'd refuse to raise the debt ceiling, push the nation into default, and crash the economy on purpose unless their demands were met, that was "holding our economy hostage."
 
On the other hand, the United States, since Obama has become president, has become the world leader in production of oil and natural gas. What's more, for the first time in a generation, the U.S. is producing more oil than it imports. This really doesn't sound like much of a "hostage" strategy.
 
But more interesting still is the notion of Obama administration officials becoming "science deniers." I'm not sure why a Republican governor -- and likely presidential candidate -- would want to pick this particular fight, but let's go ahead and subject Jindal's rhetoric to a little fact-checking.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.16.14

09/16/14 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:
 
* We talked earlier about Kansas' U.S. Senate race, but let's not overlook Kansas' gubernatorial contest. The new PPP survey shows state Rep. Paul Davis (D) leading incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R), 42% to 38%, which is roughly in line with other recent statewide polls.
 
* As Rachel noted on last night's show, the gubernatorial race in Maine is among the nation's most interesting, featuring another three-way contest. PPP found Rep. Mike Michaud (D) leading incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R), 43% to 42%, while Independent Eliot Cutler is third with 11%. Cutler has vowed not to quit, though if he did, Michaud's lead would grow and LePage's defeat would be far more likely.
 
* Polling in Alaska is tricky, but a new Harstad Strategic Research poll shows incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D) with a five-point lead over Dan Sullivan (R), 45% to 40%.
 
* In New Mexico, a poll last week showed Gov. Susana Martinez (R) with a modest lead over Dave King (D) in her re-election bid, though the latest Albuquerque Journal shows the incumbent cruising to a second term, leading the Democrat by 18 points.
 
* In keeping with the recent pattern, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised the National Republican Senatorial Committee in August, $7.7 million to $6.1 million. Overall, the DSCC has outraised its Republican counterparts this cycle by roughly $29 million.
 
* In Minnesota, Sen. Al Franken (D) continues to look like a pretty safe bet for re-election, with the latest Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll showing him up by 13 points over his Republican challenger, Mike McFadden.
President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 18, 2014.

Another aspect of a presidential legacy: the courts

09/16/14 11:18AM

Legislatively, President Obama's ability to shape his legacy has probably run its course. Oddly enough, the scope and significance of his legislative achievements in his first two years -- economy, health care, Wall Street, education, civil rights -- were greater than most modern presidents have been able to achieve in their entire tenures, but Obama's list will have no new additions.
 
But there are ways for presidents to shape their legacies in ways that have nothing to do with signing ceremonies. The New York Times reported yesterday:
Democrats have reversed the partisan imbalance on the federal appeals courts that long favored conservatives, a little-noticed shift with far-reaching consequences for the law and President Obama's legacy.
 
For the first time in more than a decade, judges appointed by Democratic presidents considerably outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents. The Democrats' advantage has only grown since late last year when they stripped Republicans of their ability to filibuster the president's nominees.
In case it's not obvious, the direction of the federal judiciary can and does have a considerable impact on the direction of the nation. And while the federal appeals courts are trumped by the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land only hears about 10% of the cases appealed to the justices.
 
In other words, the federal Courts of Appeals are often the final word on all kinds of major legal disputes -- and right now, Democratic-appointed jurists are in the majority in all but four of the 13 appellate benches. The day President Obama was sworn in, only the West Coast's 9th Circuit could say this.
 
There's no denying the effect of the so-called "nuclear option" in making this result possible. As Roll Call's report added, Obama "has already succeeded in his bid to refashion the bench — and the nuclear option has played a significant role. He has filled 30 percent of all the seats on the circuit courts of appeal, with a crucial 13 of those 53 judges confirmed since the filibuster was neutered."
 
And since Republicans effectively forced Senate Democrats to go "nuclear," the irony is GOP senators have helped ensure an important aspect of Obama's presidential legacy.
John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Jeb Hensarling

House GOP remains committed to a few good men

09/16/14 10:40AM

When it comes to understanding how House Republicans address the issue of gender diversity, there are a few different ways to evaluate the GOP's performance. We could look at the number of women in the House Republican conference, the number in the House GOP leadership, the diversity among committee chairs, etc. Each tells us something significant -- and in the case of the House majority party, each has been a bit of problem.
 
But Rebecca Leber flagged an angle that I hadn't considered before: committee witnesses.
Women make up about one-fifth of Congress. They are just as poorly represented as witnesses in congressional hearings. According to a study from the Sunlight Foundation, women account for 23 percent of the witnesses of the more than 5,500 witnesses that have testified before House committees in the 113th Congress. Agriculture, Transportation, Armed Services, Financial Services all fared the worst, with fewer than 17 percent women. Education and the Workforce had the best ratio, of 40 percent female.
Naturally, the classic example that comes to mind is the February 2012 incident in which House Republicans held a hearing on contraception access, and the opening panel was made up entirely of men.
 
But this wasn't an isolated incident; it's practically the norm. When Republican-led House committees can choose anyone they wish to offer congressional testimony, men are now outnumbering women by more than a three-to-one margin.
 
Perhaps if there were more women lawmakers in charge of committees, we'd see greater balance, but this has been a problem, too. Let's not forget that after the 2012 elections, House Republican leaders appointed 19 committee chairs for the new Congress, only to discover they'd chosen 19 white men. The party scrambled and found a woman to chair the Rules Committee -- despite the fact that she wasn't actually on the Rules Committee at the time.
 
And maybe there'd be more women serving as committee chairs if Republicans elected more women to the U.S. House, but that too has been an issue.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts talks to the media after making his victory speech at an election watch party, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan.

Roberts falls further behind in Kansas

09/16/14 09:57AM

After Chad Taylor (D) ended his U.S. Senate campaign in Kansas, no one could say with certainty exactly what would happen to the overall dynamic. It looked like bad news for incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who benefited from his opponents split between Taylor and Independent Greg Orman, but we'd need to see more data.
 
And now that data is coming in.
 
The first poll, taken shortly after Taylor's announcement, was a SurveyUSA poll commissioned by local station KSN-TV, and it showed Orman up by one over Roberts, 37% to 36%. This was obviously cause for alarm in Republican circles, but a one-point margin is hardly grounds for panic.
 
These new figures, however, are cause for panic.
Independent Greg Orman leads Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Ks.), 41 percent to 34 percent, according to a poll released to HuffPost by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. Six percent said they'd still vote for Democrat Chad Taylor, who has announced he's leaving the race, but whose name may remain on the ballot pending a lawsuit being heard Tuesday. Another 4 percent opted for libertarian Randall Batson, with the remaining 15 percent undecided.
 
The PPP results find Roberts deeply unpopular, with a -17 net job approval rating among all voters, and only modestly positive numbers even among his Republican base. Orman, in contrast, has a +18 net favorable rating, with Democrats and independents giving him even stronger ratings, and Republicans about evenly split.
A seven-point lead is not insurmountable -- and this is obviously just one poll -- but there is no good news here for Republicans. Roberts is unpopular; Orman is popular. Roberts trails by seven, and that's with the Democrat still getting 6 percent despite no longer running. Those voters are likely to keep shifting to Orman, especially as Taylor fights to get his name off the ballot.
 
Of course, Roberts isn't done yet. The senator has returned to the state he represents -- a novel idea, to be sure -- and Beltway Republicans have dispatched experienced operatives to try and save his career.
 
Their plan is off to a rough start.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker addresses members of the media in Madison, Wis., July 22, 2014.

Wisconsin's Walker, struggling, rolls out new platform

09/16/14 09:08AM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had a plan: win a second term, take advantage of a good year for Republicans, and soon after prepare for a national campaign. The plan is looking a little shaky right now, with polls show him in the midst of a very competitive re-election campaign against Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke.
 
A month ago, the Republican incumbent and his allies tried moving to the left, blasting Burke as an "outsourcing one-percenter."
 
That didn't do much to improve Walker's standing, so the governor is now moving back to the right, promising big tax cuts and drug testing for those receiving public aid in a second term.
With less than two months to go in a tight re-election race, the Republican governor put forward a 62-page plan that sums up the actions of his first term, defends them against the critique of his Democratic rival, former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke, and offers several new proposals.
 
"It's our next wave of the Wisconsin comeback. It's our plan to make sure that everyone who wants a job can find a job," Walker said in a telephone interview.
As a rule, when an incumbent is still scrambling seven weeks before Election Day, looking for a platform while struggling to defend his record, it's not a good sign.
 
Walker, referencing a one-page summary of his agenda, told the AP, "That's our plan of action for the next four years. Tear it off. Hang it up. Put it next to your computer. Put it on your fridge."
 
Part of the trouble is, Walker used similar rhetoric four years ago, when he promised Wisconsin he'd create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his first term -- and said he should be judged according to that standard. Nearly four years later, the governor is less than halfway to his goal, and has yet to explain why he couldn't keep his highest-profile promise.
 
But even putting that aside, the two key tenets of the Republican's new agenda -- tax cuts and drug testing -- probably polled well, but they each come with one big flaw.
A fighter of the ISIL holds a flag and a weapon on a street in Mosul

ISIS targets evolution in Iraqi schools

09/16/14 08:30AM

Islamic State is not just a roving band of lunatics; it strives to be a relatively well organized band of lunatics. When it controls an area, the terrorist group's leaders try to collect taxes and create some semblance of local civic administration, including directing traffic.
 
In other words, ISIS, when it's not indiscriminately killing people, has governing ambitions.
 
And to that end, the Associated Press reported yesterday on ISIS terrorists taking a keen interest in the curricula of schools in Mosul.
The extremist-held Iraqi city of Mosul is set to usher in a new school year. But unlike years past, there will be no art or music. Classes about history, literature and Christianity have been "permanently annulled."
 
The Islamic State group has declared patriotic songs blasphemous and ordered that certain pictures be torn out of textbooks.
This is not the first time. In parts of Syria under ISIS control, the group has banned philosophy and chemistry.
 
In Mosul, ISIS issued a statement nearly two weeks ago, declaring "good news of the establishment of the Islamic State Education Diwan by the caliph who seeks to eliminate ignorance, to spread religious sciences and to fight the decayed curriculum."
 
The AP report added that Islamic State explicitly prohibits lessons on "Charles Darwin's theory of evolution."
 
As it turns out, Iraqi schools weren't teaching evolution anyway, but in the name of "eliminating ignorance," ISIS wants to be absolutely certain that modern biology is banned from science classes. The violent extremists prefer "religious sciences."

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