Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was on the Iowa campaign trail yesterday, and shared some thoughts on his vision for combating ISIS. NBC News reported:
...Rubio said he wanted to show the world how ISIS leaders "cry like babies" when captured in hopes of dissuading recruits from joining on to the extremist group.
"I believe we should be carrying out attacks against Sunni leadership nodes, videotaping the whole thing and putting it up on YouTube so that the world can see these people are not invincible," he said. "I want the world to see how these ISIS leaders cry like babies when they're captured. I want the world to see how these ISIS leaders, once captured, begin to sing like canaries if they survive."
He added that he wants young fighters around the world thinking of joining the Islamic State to have "second thoughts" when they see "how easily humiliated they are by Americans."
At a certain level, such a campaign may seem emotionally satisfying, but there's ample reason to believe showing video footage of captured prisoners is strictly prohibited under the Geneva Convention. In March 2013, when Iraqi officials released footage of American prisoners facing interrogation, U.S. officials condemned the tactic as "appalling."
The Florida senator has not yet explained why he believes his preferred tactic would be legal.
As part of the same campaign swing, Rubio added that President Obama's efforts against ISIS are "all symbolic," because the senator believes the president "doesn't want to embroil us in another conflict."
As of last week, U.S. forces, acting on Obama's orders, have launched 6,471 airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Middle East. I'm not sure how Rubio defines "symbolic," but it's not an adjective that comes to mind.
Rich Lowry reported yesterday in National Reviewon the state of the Republican presidential race in Iowa, concluding, "It’s hard to exaggerate how much things have broken [Ted] Cruz’s way."
Just 24 hours later, there's some pretty compelling evidence that this assessment is correct. Here's the new Quinnipiac poll out of the Hawkeye State:
1. Donald Trump: 25% (up from 20% in October)
2. Ted Cruz: 23% (up from 10%)
3. Ben Carson: 18% (down from 28%)
4. Marco Rubio: 13% (unchanged)
No other candidate is above 5%, though it's worth noting that Jeb Bush, who actually had the lead in Iowa in the early summer, is down to just 4% support -- one percentage point lower than Rand Paul.
Nevertheless, it's the top tier that's the most striking. Politico's Glenn Thrush characterized the Quinnipiac poll as the "most important development in the race in months," which may seem a little hyperbolic, but don't dismiss the point too quickly.
In the wake of the terrorist violence in Paris, Republicans saw an opportunity to change the direction of the political conversation. The attacks reminded American voters about national security threats, which GOP officials necessarily see as good news for their party -- since polls have consistently shown the public siding with Republicans on the issue, the party's woeful track record notwithstanding.
But these assumptions may be due for a reevaluation. Consider the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.
A crescendo of tough talk on Syrian refugees and terrorism seems to be elevating the toughest talkers in the GOP primary -- most notably Donald Trump. But among the broader American public, the most trusted person to handle the issue is Hillary Clinton. [...]
By 50 percent to 42 percent, more Americans say they trust Clinton to handle the threat of terrorism than Trump, who leads the Republican field and responded to the Paris terrorist attacks by calling for heightened surveillance of mosques and redoubling his opposition to allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the U.S.
Clinton's eight-point advantage over Trump wasn't unique: the same poll showed the Democratic frontrunner also leading Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush when respondents were asked, "Who would you trust more to handle the threat of terrorism?"
This is obviously just one poll, and we'd need more data before drawing sweeping conclusions, but if the results are accurate, there's a rational explanation. The question, after all, deals with preparedness. Clinton has the most foreign-policy experience of any presidential candidate in a generation, while nearly all of her Republican rivals are either literal or practical amateurs.
It doesn't happen often, but once in a great while, videos that don't exist can cause a stir. In 2008, for example, a variety of far-right activists claimed they saw footage of Michelle Obama referring to white people as "whitey." The video was fictional -- the conservatives who made the claims were lying -- but the chatter surrounding the made-up story grew pretty loud.
More recently, Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina falsely claimed she'd seen an abortion-related video that does not, in reality, exist. Pressed for an explanation, Fiorina simply dug in, stubbornly pretending fiction is fact.
And this week, as Rachel noted on the show last night, we're confronted once more with a high-profile Republican trying to make an offensive point by pointing to footage that exists only in the world of make-believe.
At issue are imaginary reports from 9/11 that Trump believes show "thousands and thousands" of Jersey City residents of Middle Eastern descent cheering when the Twin Towers fell. The Republican frontrunner initially made the claim late last week, but he's now repeated it and defended it several times since -- pointing to news coverage Trump claims to have seen, but which remains entirely imaginary.
[I]n a sign the campaign and Trump himself may be at least a little concerned about the way his comments are perceived, the Donald made an impromptu call to NBC News Monday afternoon. Offering reassurance that he had indeed seen video of the celebrations on television on and “all over the Internet,” Trump said, “I have the world’s greatest memory. It’s one thing everyone agrees on.”
Trump even asked for news organizations to apologize to him for fact-checking his made-up claim. "Many people have tweeted that I am right!" he argued on Twitter, as if this were persuasive.
Making matters slightly worse, Trump's obvious nonsense was also briefly endorsed yesterday afternoon by one of his GOP rivals.
Rachel Maddow reports on developments within the Republican race for the 2016 presidential nomination, the most significant of which is front-runner Donald Trump's insistence on a lie about thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11. watch
Rachel Maddow tells the story of civil rights activist Minoru Yasui, who resisted Japanese-American internment and curfews in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yasui will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday. watch
Rachel Maddow reports breaking news that the U.S. State Department has issued a worldwide travel warning for Americans, citing the threat of terrorism and cautioning Americans against large crowds or crowded places. watch
Ryan Heath, senior European correspondent for Politico, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the city of Brussels has been on lockdown for three days out of fear of a terror attack, with some residents beginning to weary of the precautions. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the whirlwind world tour French President François Hollande is making to meet with five world leaders in four days in an effort to coordinate the war on ISIS in Syria and elsewhere. watch
* Brussels is effectively locked down: "Sweeping overnight raids failed to trap one of Europe's most-wanted men, leaving Belgium's capital essentially on lockdown Monday for a third straight day. Belgian officials said five more raids were carried out on Monday, hours after residents of Brussels were ordered to shelter in place as police searched nearly 20 properties around the European capital overnight."
* Paris: "An explosive belt was found in a suburb south of Paris on Monday, a spokesperson for the city's prosecutor told NBC News."
* New Orleans: "Sixteen people were injured when two groups opened fire on each other during an impromptu gathering of several hundred people to record a music video at a New Orleans playground Sunday night, police said. Ten people were taken to hospitals by ambulance, while six others were later learned to have arrived on their own, police said."
* ISIS: "American warplanes destroyed around 280 of ISIS' oil tanker trucks along the Syria-Iraq border on Monday, U.S. officials told NBC News. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials said that A-10 Warthogs and AC-130 Specter gunships launched 24 precision-guided bombs and strafed the tanker trucks with heavy machine-gun and cannon fire."
* Inversion draws fire: "The Democratic Party’s field of presidential candidates is united in opposition to the massive merger between pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Allergan, which would also include a controversial maneuver known as a tax inversion to reduce the company’s U.S. tax burden."
* Smart move: "The senior senator from one of the states hit hardest by heroin and opioid abuse will call on Monday for Congress to spend $600 million immediately to address and curtail the epidemic. The Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, being introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), would spread money to various government agencies tasked with research, intervention and recovery. It is the most robust legislative response yet to what Shaheen and others deem a 'national public health emergency.'"
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, and delivered a pretty important message to Congress about security threats, though I suspect the Republican majority won't care for it.
"[If] Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watch list, those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country. I'm more worried about them than I am about Syrian refugees to be quite frank with you.
"So if Congress really wants to do something to help the law enforcement community and the American public, let's start getting serious about doing something that they can actually do something about."
At issue is a policy we discussed last week: under current federal law, if you appear on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist, you can't buy a plane ticket, but you can stock up on all the weapons you can get your hands on, often without any background checks. In fact, as the Washington Postreported, between 2004 and 2014, “suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases -- 91 percent of the time -- they succeeded.”
The commissioner of the NYPD isn't worried about widows and orphans from Syria; he's far more interested in Congress keeping firearms out of the hands of suspected terrorists.
But at this point, congressional Republicans appear wholly disinterested in tightening current gun laws, and the NRA has resisted any new restrictions on gun purchases, even if that means allowing people on the terrorist watchlist to buy large quantities of deadly weapons.
The way Bratton framed the issue -- let's focus on a real problem, not a manufactured one -- is exactly the way the White House is thinking about the issue.
It was early last month when Bradley Podliska, a major in the Air Force Reserve and a former Benghazi Committee investigator, dropped a political bombshell: he claimed he was fired from the Republican-led panel because he tried to focus on the 2012 terrorist attack instead, instead of targeting Hillary Clinton.
Podliska, a lifelong conservative Republican, alleged that his "non-partisan investigative work conflicted with the interests of the Republican leadership, who focused their investigation primarily on Secretary Clinton and her aides." The story confirmed the worst fears about the taxpayer-financed witch hunt, launched by GOP-led Congress against a leading Democratic presidential candidate.
A day after the accusations surfaced, Podliska’s lawyers also alleged Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and his team violated government confidentiality rules and federal law when they pushed back publicly against the former investigator's claims.
Gowdy previously said Podliska was terminated partly for mishandling classified information. The suit cites Gowdy’s claim from a press release and an interview with NBC News, and argues it was a damaging line of attack, since allegations of such a “serious crime” have “ended the careers of many professionals in national security-related industries.”
But the charge was totally false, the suit says, because the information Podliska handled was drawn entirely from “sources from the Internet.” Podliska adds that the committee staffer who made the allegation later admitted the material “was not classified.” The committee has not withdrawn the allegation.
Note, Podliska has filed a defamation suit, but he's not seeking any financial damages. Rather, as Melber reported, Podliska is "calling for a statement establishing that Gowdy’s allegation was false, and asking the Court to bar Gowdy from repeating it."
A Black Lives Matter protestor briefly interrupted a Donald Trump campaign event in Alabama over the weekend, and there's video that suggests the African-American protester was punched and kicked by white men at the event.
Asked about the incident, the Republican presidential hopeful responded, "[M]aybe he should have been roughed up."
Soon after, Trump turned to Twitter to share a racially charged image with crime statistics that were entirely incorrect.
It was probably about this point that many Republican insiders and party officials slapped their foreheads, realizing not only that Trump's message is resonating with many GOP voters, but also the fact that they have no idea how to interrupt his rising support.
Republican insiders are, however, eager to try. Politicoreported last week that John Kasich's super PAC is "planning to invest $2.5 million in the most aggressive takedown" of Trump to date. The article added, "Rather than go after Trump for his business dealings or his past support for liberal causes, as some of his opponents have tried to do, the super PAC will paint Trump as someone who would be a deeply ineffective commander-in-chief and ill suited for the demands of the Oval Office."
The Wall Street Journalreported on a related effort from the GOP establishment, which includes "the first attempt to unite donors from rival camps into a single anti-Trump force."
A well-connected GOP operative is planning a “guerrilla campaign” backed by secret donors to “defeat and destroy” the celebrity businessman’s candidacy, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. [...]
The most concerted effort is Trump Card LLC, the self-styled guerrilla campaign being launched by Liz Mair, the former online communications director of the Republican National Committee. “In the absence of our efforts, Trump is exceedingly unlikely to implode or be forced out of the race,” according to the Trump Card memo.
Let's unwrap this a bit, because it's likely to have a significant impact on the Republican race.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.