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A man hands out U.S. flags at a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens in Los Angeles

As GOP goes right, Obama eyes big move on immigration

08/13/14 08:00AM

Last week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference, chatted with Reason, a libertarian outlet, about developments on Capitol Hill. Of particular interest, the House GOP leader flatly denied that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has taken the lead on shaping Republican policy on immigration.
 
"He does not -- his position does not reflect the broad view of Republicans," McMorris Rodgers said in reference to King.
 
It was hard to take the argument seriously. Just a week prior, House Republicans ignored their own Speaker and rejected their own party's border bill, prompting GOP leaders to turn the entire issue over to the right-wing Iowan and his allies. King, arguably Congress' most vituperative opponent of immigration, boasted, "The changes brought into this are ones I've developed and advocated for over the past two years. It's like I ordered it off the menu."
 
If that was the turning point, Republicans are now stepping on the gas. Jonathan Weisman reports today that party officials "pressing for conciliation to attract Hispanic and immigrant votes" are obviously losing to their intra-party rivals.
"When you put Raúl Labrador, Steve King and Michele Bachmann together writing an immigration bill, there's damage done, no question," said Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary under President George W. Bush who led the failed war room in 2007 trying to get a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws passed. [...]
 
[O]n Capitol Hill, the Tea Party wing continues to drive the party's agenda.
It's against this backdrop that the National Republican Senatorial Committee hopes to use immigration reform to attack vulnerable Democratic incumbents, including Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.).
 
"It's just another sign that even vulnerable Democrats like Landrieu, Begich, Hagan and Pryor are more loyal to Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama than they are to middle-class men and women struggling in their home states," said NRSC spokesperson Brad Dayspring, effectively arguing that supporting a popular, bipartisan immigration bill is some kind of betrayal -- despite its Republican backers and co-authors.
 
Is it any wonder the White House is prepared to go big without Congress?

Gun sales spike and other headlines

08/13/14 07:59AM

Michael Brown shooting unearths Ferguson's deeper troubles. (MSNBC)

Gun stores in St. Louis area see a spike in sales. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

130 more U.S. military advisers arrive in Northern Iraq. (USA Today)

Iraqi lawmaker who made emotional plea to help Yazidis is injured in crash of relief flight. (NY Times)

Report: White House didn't OK immigrant releases. (AP)

House GOP campaign arm launches fake news sites to attack Democratic candidates. (National Journal)

Chris McDaniel campaign flags his own lawyer's as an irregular vote. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

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Ahead on the 8/12/14 Maddow show

08/12/14 08:15PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and host of Politics Nation on MSNBC
  • B.J. Reyes, political reporter for the Honolulu Star Advertiser

And here's executive producer Bill Wolff with a preview of what's in store:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 8.12.14

08/12/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Iraq: "After two days of defiant speeches and special security units deployed in the Iraqi capital, raising the specter of a coup, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared to back away on Tuesday from his implied threat to use force to stay in power, issuing a statement saying that the army should stay out of politics."
 
* More out of Iraq: "The UN says up to 35,000 refugees have escaped Iraq's Mount Sinjar and are 'exhausted' and 'dehydrated.' The refugees, mostly from the minority Yazidi sect, managed to reach northern Iraq's Kurdistan region through Syria over the past three days."
 
* Ukraine: "An enormous Russian convoy of about 280 trucks carrying humanitarian aid has left Moscow for southeastern Ukraine, Russian television and news agencies reported Tuesday. The Russian aid has been an object of suspicion for Ukraine and its Western allies, which accuse the Kremlin of trying to use it as a stealth method to invade its smaller neighbor with armed forces to support the besieged separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk."
 
* Ferguson: "The parents of slain teen Michael Brown Jr. on Tuesday joined national civil rights leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, to appeal to the community for calm following two nights of clashes with police -- and to demand that authorities release the name of the officer responsible for Saturday's fatal shooting."
 
* President Obama this afternoon issued a written statement on Brown's death. It read in part, "I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding.  We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.  Along with our prayers, that's what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve."
 
* U.S. policy in Syria: "President Obama got angry at lawmakers who suggested in a private meeting that he should have armed the Syrian rebels, calling the criticism 'horses**t.'"
 
* W.H.O.: "The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it has endorsed the use of experimental drugs to help treat victims of the Ebola virus, which more than 1,800 people have contracted in several countries in Africa."
 
* Social Security's finances are pretty stable "thanks in part to the more than 3.1 million people who are working and paying taxes in the U.S. using fake or expired social security numbers. Every year, undocumented immigrants have collectively paid as much as $13 billion into the system while only receiving $1 billion in benefits in return."
 
* Keystone: "Building the Keystone XL pipeline could lead to as much as four times more greenhouse gas emissions than the State Department has estimated for the controversial project, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change that relies on different calculations about oil consumption. "
Televangelist Pat Robertson makes his way to his seat in the bleachers for the  inauguration of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Saturday Jan. 16, 2010.

No one spins a conspiracy theory like TV preacher Pat Robertson

08/12/14 04:49PM

TV preacher Pat Robertson, just as a matter of course, believes the Obama administration is "destroying this nation." The rationale varies -- sometimes it's the president's support for gay rights, sometimes it's abortion, sometimes it's helping Americans receive affordable medical care -- but the common thread is always the same: the radical televangelist thinks the White House is up to no good.
 
But as Right Wing Watch reports today, Robertson had an especially entertaining argument on the subject today.
Is Bob McDonnell the latest Religious Right "victim" of President Obama's purported persecution of conservatives? Today on "The 700 Club," Pat Robertson and Jay Sekulow did their best to paint the former Republican governor of Virginia as the victim of a "political prosecution," decrying his corruption trial as a "political witch hunt" spearheaded by Attorney General Eric Holder.
 
Robertson alleged, without any evidence, that Holder wanted to stop Mitt Romney from tapping McDonnell as his running mate in 2012 and is "behind all of this stuff."
So, let me get this straight. The former Virginia governor, facing all kinds of serious corruption allegations and a mountain of evidence, was the subject of a lengthy investigation from criminal prosecutors. Last year, those prosecutors delayed McDonnell's criminal indictment so as to avoid interfering with the state's gubernatorial race. Eventually, a grand jury agreed to indict.
 
But Robertson and the lead of Robertson's far-right legal group believe that's just a ruse. What's really happening, they assure us, is that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is out to get McDonnell for political reasons.
 
"It is just one more reason why this administration is just destroying this nation," Robertson said.
 
Um, no.
President Barack Obama walks from the Oval Office of the White House to deliver a statement, March 20, 2014.

White House has an economic message to push

08/12/14 04:00PM

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama hosted a White House press conference and most of the questions dealt with international crises. Obama recommended patience.
 
"In my first term, if I had a press conference like this, typically, everybody would want to ask about the economy and how come jobs weren't being created, and how come the housing market is still bad, and why isn't it working," the president reminded reporters. "Well, you know what, what we did worked. And the economy is better. And when I say that we've just had six months of more than 200,000 jobs that hasn't happened in 17 years, that shows you the power of persistence. It shows you that if you stay at it, eventually we make some progress."
 
It was a fair point, but more importantly, it was emblematic of a larger message: the White House would love to focus public attention on the president's economic accomplishments. It's been a while since Obama and his allies have been comfortable enough with the economy to start to point to it as a success story, but the administration believes that point has arrived.
Congressional Democrats returning home to their districts ahead of this fall's midterm elections have been equipped with a 22-page economic report from top White House officials highlighting promising signs of rebound.
 
The memo, obtained by The Hill, is another sign the White House is increasingly eager to draw voters' attention to the president's economic record as Democrats scramble to keep control of the Senate and fight to gain seats in the House.
There's always a risk with a message like this: Americans in a sour mood about the direction of the country don't want to hear policymakers talk about how much the economy is improved. They run the risk of looking out of touch in an election year on the voters' top priority.
 
That said, Democrats -- especially those in the West Wing -- also believe they have a compelling story to tell, and if they don't repeat, voters almost certainly won't hear it.
 
And while no one could possible describe current economic conditions as great, the progress is obvious for those who look. Take this morning's news, for example.

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