It was just a few months ago when the Republican Study Committee, a group of far-right House GOP lawmaker, invited former Vice President Dick Cheney to Capitol Hill to complain about President Obama for a while. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), now a member of the House GOP leadership, said at the time, in reference to Cheney, "He's got a lot of credibility when it comes to talking about foreign policy."
I don't think he was kidding.
Apparently, this thinking remains quite pervasive among GOP lawmakers, who keep extending invitations to Cheney, his spectacular failures and incompetence notwithstanding. The Washington Postreported late yesterday:
The leading architect of the Iraq war will be on Capitol Hill for a private chat with House Republicans on Tuesday, just as Congress is grappling again with how involved the United States should be in the region's snowballing unrest.
Yes, as in Dick Cheney, one of the war's most ardent defenders. The former vice president was invited by the GOP's campaign arm to speak at its first weekly conference meeting since Congress's five-week break, a House GOP official confirmed.
It says something important about Republican lawmakers that to better understand international affairs, they not only keep turning to failed former officials, they keep seeking guidance from the same failed former official.
Indeed, this isn't a situation in which was Cheney was just wandering around, looking for someone who'd listen to his mindless condemnations of the president who's cleaning up Cheney's messes, and GOP lawmakers agreed to listen as a courtesy. Rather, Congressional Republicans have gone out of their way to make the former V.P. one of their most sought after instructors.
Just in this Congress, Cheney has been on Capitol Hill advising GOP lawmakers over and over and over again.
It's tempting to start the usual diatribe, highlighting all of Cheney's horrific failures, his spectacular misjudgments, and his propensity for dishonesty on a breathtaking scale. But let's skip that, stipulating that Cheney's tenure in national office was a genuine disaster, the effects of which Americans will be dealing with for many years to come.
Let's instead note how truly remarkable the timing of Cheney's latest invitation to Capitol Hill is.
Back in July, political scientist Norm Ornstein noted that "blocking ambassadors when the world is in turmoil and America's national interest is at stake is simply shameful." At the time, Senate Republicans just didn't care.
The question now, as Rachel explained on last night's show, is whether GOP senators are prepared to be more responsible now that their five-week break is over.
For example, when it comes to addressing ISIS, there are few countries on the planet more important than Turkey. Consider the White House's full-court press.
The Obama administration on Monday began the work of trying to determine exactly what roles the members of its fledgling coalition of countries to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will play, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel huddled with the leaders of the one country the administration has called "absolutely indispensable" to the fight: Turkey.
But after hours of meetings here, there were no announcements of what the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might do. In fact, Turkish officials meeting with Mr. Hagel eschewed the news conferences that usually accompany high-level visits from American officials.
Diplomatic progress with Turkey is critical when it comes to an international response to ISIS, but Senate Republicans have refused to allow the United States to have an ambassador to the country to help with the talks. Obama was forced to dispatch the Bush/Cheney ambassador to Turkey in a temporary capacity because of the immediacy and urgency of the situation.
Note, the problem is not with Obama, who months ago nominated a highly qualified, career foreign-service officer, John Bass, to fill the post. Rather, there's no U.S. ambassador to Turkey right now because of a Republican tantrum.
And it's not just Turkey. The United States wants to help respond to the Ebola crisis in Western Africa, but Republicans won't confirm an ambassador to Sierra Leone. U.S. officials want to address the humanitarian crisis in Central America, but Republicans won't confirm an ambassador to Guatemala. The Department of Homeland Security doesn't even have Senate-confirmed policy chiefs in place to handle terrorism and cybersecurity threats because Republicans haven't allowed votes on pending nominees.
Juliet Macur, sports reporter for the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the newly public video of football player Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé unconscious, and the pressure on the NFL not to look the other way on domestic violence. watch
José Díaz-Balart, host of the José Díaz-Balart show on MSNBC, talks with Rachel Maddow about the frustrated confusion among immigration reform advocates at President Obama's emphatic promise to take action before summer's end and sudden delay... watch
Rachel Maddow explains why Turkey is surely crucial to President Obama's strategy to combat ISIS, and how the urgency of the ISIS situation highlights the failure of Congress to confirm 65 ambassadors - including one to Turkey. watch
* Iraq: "Early Monday, ISIS forces attacked Sunni tribal fighters north of Baghdad, killing at least 17 people. Using an explosive-laden Humvee, apparently captured from the Iraqi Army, the militants assaulted an entrance to the town of Dhuluiya, according to local tribal leaders."
* Some Iraqi political progress: "Iraq swore in a new government on Monday to try to bridge the violence-ravaged country's deep divisions. The late-night vote in parliament got underway after Kurdish lawmakers, who had threatened to boycott, joined from the cafeteria an hour and a half late. But key positions, including the defense and interior chiefs, were left open amid controversy over who would fill the roles."
* Ukraine: "With a fragile truce barely holding in eastern Ukraine, President Petro O. Poroshenko visited the port city of Mariupol on Monday, not far from where Ukrainian forces suffered severe losses in recent days, and declared that his government would never relinquish territory that some separatists claim historically belongs to Russia."
* What will Congress say? "President Obama is pushing congressional leaders to authorize a broad counterterrorism relief fund that could be used to support operations against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Doing so might allow the White House and congressional leaders to avoid a tough vote to either authorize or fund military action before the midterm elections and still achieve the 'buy in' the president has said he wants from Congress."
* Ebola: "The Pentagon will send a 25-bed field hospital to Liberia to help provide medical care for health workers trying to contain the fast spreading Ebola virus that has killed 2,100 people in West Africa."
* This could get ugly: "The presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah once more brought Afghanistan's troubled electoral process to the brink on Monday, insisting that he had won the disputed vote and vowing to reject any government formed on the basis of it."
* Hey, look, bipartisanship: "The bonhomie was flowing between former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Monday morning at an event to announce a new scholarship program run jointly by their presidential centers."
* While President Obama assembles an international coalition to respond to ISIS, Iran's role is well worth watching. Joshua Keating had a good piece explaining why,
* Net neutrality: "The Federal Communications Commission should ban 'fast lanes' on the Internet by regulating broadband companies like traditional phone companies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Monday."
* Overdue: "Democrats are demanding the Obama administration update its policy to allow gay men to donate blood, tissue and organs."
* AnotherNBA owner? "Another basketball team will go up for sale thanks to racist statements. Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson will sell his stake in the team over a 2012 email that included disparaging statements about the team's African-American fans."
We don't usually cover sports stories, but some controversies have a cultural and societal impact that extends well beyond the game. The Ray Rice story, for example, is about far more than one athlete caught on film in an incident of brutal domestic violence.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL and terminated by his team after the celebrity gossip website TMZ released disturbing new footage Monday of the star player striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in February.
This unprecedented move by the NFL and the Ravens comes just weeks after the league instituted a stronger policy to combat domestic abuse by personnel on and off the field.
The public was already aware of the incident, though up until very recently, the available video had previously only shown the aftermath of Rice's assault. The NFL, for example, issued a brief, two-game suspension for the player in July in response to footage of Rice dragging this unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator.
The tepid response from the league drew widespread condemnations and caused the NFL to increase the penalty and overhaul its approach towards players accused of domestic violence.
The newly released video, however, was so shocking that the previous reactions were immediately deemed inadequate all over again. It led Rice's team to cut him this afternoon, an announcement that coincided with the indefinite league suspension.
There's no shortage of questions that still deserve answers. Did the NFL see the entire video sooner than league officials now claim? Why was the initial video not sufficient for a meaningful response from the league and the Ravens? By what justification was the NFL largely indifferent towards domestic violence up until very recently?
And while we're at it, what in the world was Fox News thinking this morning?
In the spring, some national restaurant chains, including Chipotle, Chili's, and Sonic, issued statements on a pressing national issue: going forward, their customers should not bring loaded firearms into their establishments.
As Michele Richinick reports, the list of chains following suit keeps growing.
In a move unlike any other management persuaded by national campaigns to alter their gun policies, the CEO of Panera Bread is asking customers to leave their guns at home. Throughout the past year, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have influenced various corporations to ban armed individuals from entering stores. The companies typically respond promptly to the petitions by asking clients to refrain from possessing firearms while dining or shopping at the various locations across the country.
A spokesperson for the pro-reform gun group said the moms and Panera management had discussed the possibility of a firearms prohibition in the months prior to the CEO's ultimate choice on Monday. But CEO Ronald Shaich proactively adopted new regulations, unprompted by a national campaign against his stores.
In a statement to msnbc, Panera Bread said, "Within our company, we strive to create Panera Warmth. This warmth means bakery-cafes where customers and associates feel comfortable and welcome. To this end, we ask that guns not be brought into this environment unless carried by an authorized law enforcement officer. Panera respects the rights of gun owners, but asks our customers to help preserve the environment we are working to create for our guests and associates."
The new policy applies to all North American locations and takes effect immediately.
The Panera Bread announcement also comes just a month after Target unveiled a policy asking that its "guests not bring firearms to Target -- even in communities where it is permitted by law." Similar no-firearms policies have been announced this year by Costco, Toys "R" Us, Babies "R" Us, Whole Foods Market, and IKEA.
What I continue to find amazing is that these policies have become quite necessary.
It didn't get too much attention at the time, but in mid-August, the Koch brothers' Freedom Partners network quietly made an announcement. The conservative operation had purchased $1.1 million in television time in Michigan, apparently in the hopes of boosting Terri Lynn Land's (R) Senate campaign, but the group "abruptly canceled the ads."
The unspoken message wasn't subtle: the Kochs and their fellow financiers are going to have to start making investment decisions as Election Day draws closer, and if it looks like a race isn't going to go well for Republicans, the conservative benefactors will cut their losses. In Michigan, that apparently means the Kochs don't see Terri Lynn Land prevailing.
The political group linked to the conservative Koch brothers has canceled television ad time reserved in October for the race between Sen. Jeff Merkley and Republican challenger Monica Wehby.
Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis confirmed the decision Friday.
Politico reported Wednesday that Freedom Partners officials acknowledged the possibility of canceling October ads if polling didn't show Wehby making headway.
In fairness, it's worth noting that the Koch brothers' operation still has attack ads on the air in Oregon, going after Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) for a variety of perceived misdeeds, but it's now clear that Freedom Partners no longer sees Wehby as especially viable. As the race enters the final stretch, the Republican won't have the support she was hoping for.
I've seen some Democrats point to this as an encouraging development for their side of the aisle. I'm not so sure.