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Republican Sen. Mark Kirk became the second Republican to join dozens of Democratic senators who back homosexuals' right to wed. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/Files)

Mark Kirk eyes 'coffins outside each Democratic office'

02/11/15 12:40PM

As House and Senate Republicans argue among themselves over Homeland Security funding, one lawmaker in particular has gotten so hysterical, it's a little alarming.
 
Just last month, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), like many of his Senate GOP brethren, said his party was making a mistake holding DHS funding hostage. "I think the defunding action leads us to a potential government shutdown scenario, which is a self-inflicted political wound for Republicans," Kirk told Politico in January.
 
But in recent weeks, something apparently changed Kirk's mind. The Illinois Republican saw the House GOP's defunding action as a mistake in January, but he now believes Senate Democrats have to accept it or there will be blood on their hands. Consider what he told National Journal yesterday:
"It's a very dangerous game. If we have a successful terrorist attack -- all the dead Americans from that should be laid at the feet of the Democratic caucus," Kirk said. [...]
 
"In the end, [Democrats] have to defend the country. They have sworn the allegiance to do that. They need to live up to their oaths of office," Kirk said. "In the Democratic mind, politics is everything. I would say to them, politics is not everything. If you don't have a country to defend, what is the purpose of politics?"
Yesterday afternoon, Kirk also told Politico, "The Republicans -- if there is a successful attack during a DHS shutdown -- we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, 'You are responsible for these dead Americans.'"
 
Look, I realize that Republicans are in a bind. Without thinking things through, they launched a ridiculous gambit that was destined to fail, and with time running out, GOP lawmakers are feeling a little desperate.
 
But Mark Kirk's irresponsible hysteria is simply bonkers. Even he couldn't possibly believe his own nonsense.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.11.15

02/11/15 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:
 
* I've heard about plenty of high-dollar fundraisers, but Jeb Bush, who isn't even an announced candidate, is poised to benefit from "an eye-popping $100,000 per-ticket Park Avenue event." Wow.
 
* Plenty of presidential hopefuls will open plenty of field offices in Iowa in the coming months, but as of yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has earned the bragging rights associated with being first.
 
* Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) occasionally suggests he's interested in launching a presidential campaign, but as Benjy Sarlin reports this week, King's larger goal is preventing Republicans like Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz "from taking over the party."
 
* While Sen. Marco Rubio's (R) exact plans are not yet obvious, who might Florida Democrats support in the race for his Senate seat? Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), perhaps best known for defeating Allen West (R) in 2012, is reportedly "seriously considering" the race.
 
* Those of you eagerly waiting on a decision from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) will be glad to know that he won't run for the Republican presidential nomination.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback delivers his State of the State speech to an annual joint session of the House and Senate at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Jan. 15, 2014. (Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP)

Quite a week for anti-gay culture warriors

02/11/15 11:20AM

Anyone tempted to believe Republican officials are slowly giving up on their staunch opposition to gay rights received quite a wake-up call this week. Much of Alabama is defying the federal courts on marriage equality; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) are talking about amending the U.S. Constitution; and in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has decided to roll back LGBT protections for no apparent reason.
 
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported yesterday:
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback rescinded an executive order Tuesday issued during the Sebelius administration that offered protections to state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. [...]
 
Then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, signed the order in 2007 prohibiting discrimination against most state employees on the basis of sexual orientation, The Associated Press reported at the time. The order required agencies under the governor's direct control to ensure they have programs to prevent harassment against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and people who have had surgery for sex changes. It covered 25,000 of the 41,000 state employees.
With a stroke of the pen, Brownback canceled that order yesterday, saying in a statement that he doesn't want to create "additional 'protected classes'" of Kansans worthy of legal protection.
 
Given the far-right governor's track record, this doesn't come as too big of a surprise -- Luke Brinker said it "falls somewhere between 'I can't believe he hadn't done this already' and 'My God, what a monumental ****'" -- though his new executive order does raise some questions.
U.S. Marines arrive to take part in Operation United Assistance on Oct. 9, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. (Photo by John Moore/Getty)

A governmental success story

02/11/15 10:42AM

The political world's interest in the Ebola virus largely withered after the midterm elections came and went, only to disappear altogether once the number of infected Americans dropped to zero. But before the public-health scare disappears entirely from our collective memories, it's worth pausing to appreciate the significance of last night's announcement.
The U.S. military is pulling most of its troops from Ebola-affected Liberia, and more than half of them are already out, the Defense Department said Tuesday night.
 
The troops started moving in last fall, when Ebola cases were spreading out of control. Now, Liberia is managing just a handful of new cases, although health officials caution the epidemic could reignite at any moment.
President Obama last fall deployed 2,800 Defense Department personnel to West Africa. As of yesterday, more than half are already back, and by April, nearly all will have returned. The United States, the administration added, "will continue to fund thousands of civilians -- mostly African nationals -- to continue fighting the virus's spread in West Africa."
 
The shift, the Pentagon said in a statement, is the result of "the success of the U.S. response to the crisis."
 
And while boasts are common in press statements like these, the Defense Department's assessment in this case is entirely accurate. Michael Tomasky's take on this the other day rings true:
The dome of the Capitol is reflected in a puddle in Washington, Feb. 17, 2012.

'This is no way to run a congressional majority'

02/11/15 10:07AM

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out in two weeks, and a painfully obvious solution is already available: Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the White House, already agree on spending levels. If lawmakers sends President Obama a bill funding DHS with the agreed upon spending, he'll sign it and everyone can move on to the next crisis.
 
But far-right GOP lawmakers have decided to make this far more dangerous than it needs to be.
Republicans in Congress have gotten nowhere in trying to block President Barack Obama's orders easing deportations. And John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are in a tug-of-war over who should be first to give up their strategy.
 
Republicans tried to use a House-passed bill funding the Department of Homeland Security to force the president to abandon the immigration action he announced in November. After Democrats blocked the measure three times in the Senate last week, neither Republican leader wants the job of revising the party's approach.
House Republicans passed a DHS spending bill with additional language that destroys the Obama administration's immigration policy. Did they honestly think that was likely to succeed? Probably not, but they don't seem to care. Senate Republicans brought the House bill to the floor three times last week, and as expected, the Senate Democratic minority blocked it with a filibuster each time. Did Republican leaders expect a different outcome each time? Probably not, but like the House leadership, they don't seem to care either.
 
At this point, the GOP-led Senate says it's up to the GOP-led House to pass a bill that can become law, since this far-right gambit is "stuck." House Republicans, meanwhile, say it's up to the Senate to pass a bill, which the lower chamber will consider (and probably defeat for not being right-wing enough).
 
In other words, Senate Republicans are telling House Republicans, "Fix this before it's too late." To which House Republicans respond to Senate Republicans, "No, you fix this before it's too late."
 
All the while, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is off in the corner, arguing that if only everyone would listen to him, everything would be fine.
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee member Sen. Elizabeth Warren on June 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Warren's not-so-subtle shot across Rand Paul's bow

02/11/15 09:22AM

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing yesterday on vaccinations, and as the conservative Washington Times noted, the panel's members delivered "a bipartisan show of unity" on the subject. That's true, though there was a striking exception.
 
Among the witnesses was Dr. Anne Schuchat, a rear admiral for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked Schuchat a series of direct and important questions:
"Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism?"

"Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines cause 'profound mental disorders'?"

"Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines have contributed to the rise in allergies or auto-immune disorders among kids?"

"Are there additives or preservatives in vaccines that can be toxic to kids?"

"Is there any scientific evidence that giving kids their vaccines further apart or spacing them differently is healthier for kids?"

"Is there any scientific evidence that kids can develop immunity to these diseases on their own, simply by eating nutritious foods or being active?"
The answer to all of these questions, not surprisingly, was "No." It prompted the Massachusetts Democrat to add, "All of the credible scientific evidence suggests that modern vaccines are safe, modern vaccines are effective, and modern vaccines are our best chance of protecting our children from diseases that can kill them. Is that right?" Schuchat, of course, agreed.
 
The wording of Warren's questions was not accidental. When she asekd, "Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines cause 'profound mental disorders'?" Warren was effectively quoting Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who said last week, "I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines."
 
And what did the Kentucky Republican think about Warren's not-so-subtle shot?
NRA Convenes For Annual Meeting In Indianapolis

'Are you comfortable with local officials defying a court order?'

02/11/15 08:40AM

As of this morning, the status of marriage equality in Alabama is murkier than it should be. Some counties are honoring federal court rulings, some are not, and some are denying marriage licenses to every couple, regardless of sexual orientation. This dynamic is obviously unsustainable, though it may not last much longer.
 
The trouble, apparently, is confusion among local probate judges, who don't know whether to follow the federal court rulings or an order from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), who instructed them to ignore the rulings. A federal judge set a hearing for tomorrow.
 
In the meantime, I was struck by an interview Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) did on CNN yesterday when asked about the mess in Alabama. Jindal is a staunch social conservative, and a likely presidential candidate eager to curry favor with the religious right, so the Alabama controversy poses a challenge: does he endorse the rule of law, even it leads to same-sex marriages?
 
Anchor Alisyn Camerota asked the governor, "What do you make of what's going on" in Alabama? Jindal hedged, saying, "Let's step back and remember how we got here," and stressing his support for "traditional marriage."
 
So, Camerota pressed further, asking, "But are you comfortable with local county officials defying a federal court order?" Jindal dodged again. The host asked once more, "Are the county officials supposed to be defying a federal court order? Are you comfortable with that?" Jindal eventually said:
"Well, look, we're a nation of laws. That's why I've said I want the Supreme Court not to overturn our law, and that's why, ultimately, if the Supreme Court were to do this, I think the remedy would be a constitutional amendment in the Congress, to tell the courts you can't overturn what the states have decided.
 
"I think that there are a lot of folks who like to look at polls. I think voters, even if they disagree with a candidate on their views on marriage, will respect leaders that say, 'Look, I'm going to take my positions. They're not going to change with the polls. They're not go to evolve because it's politically correct.'"
That's sort of an answer, though the governor couldn't quite bring himself to say local officials have to honor federal court rulings, whether they like the rulings or not.
 
And that got me thinking about litmus tests.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at a Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit on Feb. 4, 2015.

Tech troubles trip up Jeb Bush

02/11/15 08:00AM

Last night, when much of the political world was talking about Brian Williams' suspension and Jon Stewart's departure, Jeb Bush's operation had an announcement of its own: the Republican presidential hopeful has parted ways with the chief technology officer Bush hired the day before.
In the first significant stumble of his nascent campaign, the former Florida governor's Right to Rise PAC announced that newly hired chief technology officer Ethan Czahor, who co-founded Hipster.com, was out of a job over his old inflammatory tweets and blog posts.
 
"The Right to Rise PAC accepted Ethan Czahor's resignation today," Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said in a statement. "While Ethan has apologized for regrettable and insensitive comments, they do not reflect the views of Governor Bush or his organization and it is appropriate for him to step aside. We wish him the best."
I've seen some short tenures, but Czahor was introduced on Monday to a top campaign post and was out of work by Tuesday.
 
The Hipster.com co-founder was responsible for a series of controversial online messages relating to women, gays, and African Americans.
 
All of this came the same day Bush's operation published thousands of emails the governor sent and received during his two terms as Florida governor, posted online in "the spirit of transparency." There was, however, a problem Bush and his team neglected to address: redactions. Within hours of the Republican's website going live, we learned that Bush's PAC had inadvertently published "the email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers" of many Florida residents.
 
To be sure, every presidential candidate and campaign makes mistakes, and one assumes Team Bush will learn from these missteps. But the former governor's problems this week nevertheless matter.

Authorizing military force and other headlines

02/11/15 07:59AM

Pres. Obama is sending his Authorization for Use of Military Force to Congress today. (New York Times)

White House weighs adjusting Afghan exit plan. (Stars and Stripes)

Death of ISIS recruiter complicates efforts to close Guantanamo. (AP)

KS Gov. Brownback rescinds protections for LGBT state employees. (Lawrence Journal World)

Passions high as Vermonters react to gun bill. (Burlington Free Press)

North Carolina man arrest man in homicides of three Muslim students. (Charlotte News Observer)

Barry Goldwater comes to the Capitol's Statuary Hall. (Daily Caller)

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Unsettling rash of injuries among politicians

Unsettling rash of injuries among politicians

02/10/15 09:48PM

Rachel Maddow reports that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will undergo another surgery to try to restore sight in his eye after an exercise accident. Also, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley broke his elbow while exercising. watch

Attack owl gets a name

Attack owl gets a name

02/10/15 09:44PM

Rachel Maddow reports that a poll conducted by the Oregon Statesman Journal newspaper to name the angry owl attacking joggers in Bush's Pasture Park in Salem, Oregon, has decided on the name watch

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