* The latest from Oregon: "State police said they believed there was only one shooter, who they said 'is no longer a threat.'"
* Syria: "The United States and Russia will begin talks Thursday morning aimed at calming tensions between their opposing military operations in Syria, two senior defense officials told NBC News. The 'very high-level' discussions will begin at 11 a.m. ET, one official said."
* Related news: "In a second day of raids in Syria, Russian warplanes carried out a new round of airstrikes on Thursday that once again -- contrary to Moscow’s assertions -- appeared for the most part to be targeting not the Islamic State but a rival insurgent coalition."
* Afghanistan: "Afghan government forces rallied on Thursday for the first time in four days against Taliban fighters who had taken the city of Kunduz, engaging in heavy fighting near the city center, residents and government officials said. By nightfall, however, witnesses said the battle for the city was still undecided."
* Rough crowd: "People booed and hissed at House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) on Thursday as she defended her party's ongoing Benghazi probe and its connection to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton."
* A dramatic mistake: "The Secret Service apologized Wednesday to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a prominent critic of the agency, for violating federal privacy law by improperly accessing sensitive personal information about him dozens of times in little more than a single week."
* The Atlantic Coast is on alert: "East Coast states are alerting residents to prepare as potentially historic rainfall and flooding is set to wreak havoc into the weekend -- whether or not Hurricane Joaquin, which was upgraded to an 'extremely dangerous' Category 4 storm on Thursday afternoon, makes U.S. landfall."
It was early last year when Republicans decided Russian President Vladimir Putin was an autocrat worthy of their gushing affections. In March 2014, Rudy Giuliani (R) said of Putin, “That’s what you call a leader.” The same month, Mike Rogers, at the time the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed his own admiration: “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don’t think it’s even close. They’ve been running circles around us.”
At one point last summer, a Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted to see Putin serve as “head of the United States,” at least for a little while.
By late last year, however, Republicans were no longer drawing hearts on their pictures of Putin. Russia's economy was deteriorating quickly; Putin was isolated on the international stage; Russia's standing and credibility around the world was in tatters; and the sanctions President Obama helped impose on Russia were making a real difference.
Suddenly, the U.S. conservatives who'd enrolled in the Putin fan-club fell quiet, realizing that their contempt for the American president led them to praise the wrong foreign leader.
One day after President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin made little headway in their standoff over Syria at their first formal meeting in more than two years, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is agreeing with Putin on his backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad. [...]
"I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, [Putin's] getting an 'A' and our president is not doing so well," he said.
Jennifer Rubin, a conservative voice at the Washington Post, added this morning, "In taking this action just days after meeting with President Obama, Putin is delivering one more finger in the eye of a president whom he continues to out-wit and out-muscle."
Yes, we've apparently reached the point again at which Republicans once more see Putin as some kind of strategic mastermind.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* All of the details on third-quarter fundraising aren't yet available, but initial accounts tell us Hillary Clinton raised $28 million, just above Bernie Sanders' $26 million. These totals, which do not include super PAC fundraising, should cause some trepidation with Vice President Biden and his team.
* On a related note, we don't yet know how the 15 Republican candidates fared, but Ben Carson's campaign was quick to note last night that he raised "at least $20.2 million" in the third quarter, which is a strong showing.
* The Clinton campaign wasted no time in creating an online video yesterday, highlighting House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) comments admitting the Benghazi committee is a partisan election exercise.
* Jeb Bush announced yesterday that he's comfortable with the name of Washington's NFL team. "I don’t find it offensive," he said. "Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.” Team owner Dan Snyder has contributed $100,000 to Jeb's super PAC.
* In Kentucky's gubernatorial race, now just a month away, the new Bluegrass Poll shows Jack Conway (D) with a five-point lead over Matt Bevin (R), 42% to 37%. Independent Drew Curtis is third with 7%.
* On a related note, Bevin appeared in a debate yesterday and expressed support for Ben Carson's presidential campaign. A few hours later, he switched gears and said he's backing Kentucky's Rand Paul.
* In Colorado, Republicans desperately wanted to recruit Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler (R) to run against Sen. Michael Bennet (D) next year, but Brauchler officially withdrew from consideration yesterday.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, making his second White House bid, has noticed the polls showing amateurs leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination. And in a conversation yesterday with the Washington Examiner, Huckabee doesn't sound especially pleased with the response the inexperienced candidates are receiving.
"I mean, I can't imagine somebody would allow a doctor to do surgery on them who had zero experience and, in fact, had never been to medical school," Huckabee said. "I can't imagine that somebody would let them pilot the airplane they're in if they've never been in the cockpit, but have played some video games and that's their only experience."
"If you look at all the ways in which one qualifies for any job in this country, this would be the first time in history that people would say, 'Yeah, we're looking to hire you for a job, but the more capable, experienced and competent you are, the less we're likely to hire you. We want to hire someone who has never ever done this job, who has never done anything like this job, is completely unprepared for what they're about to take place. We want a true, honest to God amateur stepping into the Oval Office and being the leader of the free world,'" Huckabee continued. "Think about how irrational that is put in that context."
Well sure, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound good.
Republican voters will have the final say on the matter, but Huckabee's frustrations are rooted in reality. In fact, his complaints led me to make a chart.
Rachel Maddow helps viewers get to know Republican House Majority Leader and expected next-Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, and reports on the political damage he has done to his own party with his admission that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is a political device for attacking Hillary Clinton to hurt her chances for the presidency... watch
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson has, at times, seemed a little preoccupied with Nazis. When the GOP candidate, for example, equated modern American life with Nazi Germany, it was evidence of a far-right candidate who was a few steps shy of the mainstream.
But Carson isn't changing his focus. Yesterday, the retired neurosurgeon was in New Hampshire, once again raising the prospect of a Nazi-like reign over the United States. “If you go back and look at the history of the world, tyranny and despotism and how it starts, it has a lot to do with control of thought and control of speech,” Carson said.
Asked whom he sees as a modern-day equivalent of Hitler, the Republican candidate replied, “I’m not going to go into that. I think the example is pretty clear.”
In reality, isn't not "clear" at all what in the world this guy is talking about. In fact, Carson's comments sound like those of someone on the furthest fringes of public life, not a candidate for major national office.
But Carson nevertheless continues to impress the far-right, to the point that Roll Callreports that one congressional Republican sees him as a possible Speaker of the House.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Republican who is one of nine founding members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, said at a campaign event Sunday he’d be open to supporting an outsider for speaker when the House meets to vote for a new leader Oct. 8.
“I would go bold, you don’t have to be a member of Congress to be the speaker of the House. I would support someone like Dr. Carson or somebody like that, I think that would be good,” DeSantis said, referring to Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon and presidential candidate who has seen a boost in polls in recent weeks.
A spokesperson for DeSantis added that the Florida congressman was "just throwing out ideas," and has "not yet made any commitments in regards to the upcoming leadership elections.”
It was arguably the most important moment in this week's congressional hearing on Planned Parenthood. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight panel, was slowly building his case against the health care organization, leading Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards towards his grand finale: a chart that purports to show the number of prevention services provided by the health care group steadily declining, while the number of abortions steadily increasing.
Chaffetz even boasted that his devastating evidence came "straight from [Planned Parenthood's] annual reports."
Unfortunately for the Utah Republican, Chaffetz's evidence ended up embarrassing him, not his target. The chart's data had been manipulated in a deceptive way, and it had come from an avid anti-abortion group, not Planned Parenthood's annual reports. His winning argument was a disaster, which left the chairman momentarily speechless. The GOP lawmaker eventually concluded he would "get to the bottom" of this.
[CNN host Wolf Blitzer] asked Chaffetz about a chart from anti-abortion group Americans United For Life that the congressman used during the hearing. The chart reflects the number of abortions and cancer screenings provided by Planned Parenthood between 2006 and 2013. But the lines on the chart make it seem like the organization performs more abortions than cancer screening if one cannot see the numbers.
Chaffetz said he did not believe the chart was misleading. "I stand by the numbers. I can understand where people would say the arrows went different directions, but the numbers are accurate. And that’s what we were trying to portray," he told Blitzer.
I can appreciate why the Republican chairman was disappointed by how his hearing turned out. He did, after all, expect to make a powerful case against Planned Parenthood, which obviously didn't happen. On the contrary, Chaffetz's show trial even disappointed his allies.
But he really shouldn't "stand by" a stunt that went horribly awry.
Stories about Hillary Clinton's email server management, which has somehow become one of the most important political developments of 2015, tend to follow a certain trajectory. First, we're confronted with a startling, provocative headline about new revelations that, at first blush, seem important. This is followed by a round of commentary about the lingering significance of an elusive, hard-to-identify "scandal."
Finally, we discover that those startling, provocative headlines weren't entirely true, and that the revelations aren't especially controversial at all. Then a few days go by, at which point the cycle begins anew.
Last night, for example, the AP's headline seemed design to sound an alarm: "Emails: Russia-linked hackers tried to access Clinton server."
Russia-linked hackers tried at least five times to pry into Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email account while she was secretary of state, emails released Wednesday show. It is unclear if she clicked on any attachment and exposed her account.
Clinton received the infected emails, disguised as speeding tickets from New York, over four hours early the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The emails instructed recipients to print the attached tickets. Opening the attachment would have allowed hackers to take over control of a victim's computer.
Security researchers who analyzed the malicious software in September 2011 said that infected computers would transmit information from victims to at least three server computers overseas, including one in Russia.
The lead story on Politico overnight featured a similar, top-of-the-page headline: "Hackers targeted Hillary Clinton's email account; Virus in spam attack traced to Russia."
There's just one problem with the breathless coverage: we're talking about an email account that received some spam. That's it. That's the story. The coverage of the 2016 presidential race has reached the point at which major news organizations consider it very important that Hillary Clinton received some of the same generic phishing spam that everyone gets all the time.
Chiding the AP's overwrought report, MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin joked, "This is a scary headline for what seems to be, 'Email account got spam.'"
With just hours to spare, Congress approved a funding bill that will prevent a government shutdown -- at least until December. President Obama signed the legislation, the White House said late Wednesday.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon passed a short-term spending plan by a 277-151 vote margin. The bill, however, only keeps the government funded until Dec. 11, around the time when the Treasury Department is expected to hit the debt ceiling and run out of borrowing authority.
With this Republican-led Congress, the bar has been lowered for what constitutes "successful governing," but there's no reason anyone should see yesterday's developments as a meaningful accomplishment. As recently as last week, the odds of another GOP-imposed shutdown were quite high, and lawmakers managed to avoid a disaster with mere hours to spare.
The only thing that prevented a shutdown in this case was the unexpected resignation of Congress' most powerful member -- the one whose members were prepared to ignore his pleas.
In case it's not obvious, 21st-century superpowers aren't supposed to operate this way.
But before we turn our attention to December, when the threat of a shutdown will be real once more, last night's House vote is worth considering in detail. At first blush, the outcome appears one-sided -- the stop-gap spending measure needed 218 votes to pass, and it ended up with 277.
What matters, however, is how those 277 votes came together -- because under the rules Republicans usually play by, this bill shouldn't have even reached the floor.
It's been about a day since the political world was confronted with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) unexpected candor: the Republican's taxpayer-financed Benghazi committee, he acknowledged, is all about the GOP's "strategy to fight and win" against Hillary Clinton. It's not, in other words, about investigating an attack that left four Americans dead.
The response to the likely House Speaker's confession was swift and severe. Consider, for example, what Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), a member of the Select Committee on Benghazi, told Rachel on the show last night.
"[T]he committee is a joke and I think Democrats ought to call it what it is and say we`re not going to participate in this anymore.
"And that's my initial reaction -- I`ll listen to my leadership on this and perhaps they will again have greater wisdom -- but it just has been an embarrassment."
It's no idle threat. In light of Kevin McCarthy, the likely next Speaker of the House, admitting what Democrats have long feared, there's a very real possibility that Dems on the panel may decide to simply walk away from a process that's been corrupted. If the committee is now nothing more than a taxpayer-funded election tool, some Democrats no longer see the point in participating in a farce.
Indeed, Smith isn't the only one with these concerns. Yesterday, other Democratic committee members, including Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), called on the Benghazi panel to disband, though they have not yet indicated whether they're prepared to resign in protest.
Dan Moynihan, 9/11 first responder, talks with Rachel Maddow about the effort he and other advocates are exerting to convince Congress to reauthorize the Zadroga Act to provide health benefits for 9/11 first responders who continue to suffer deadly ailments as a result of their exposure to conditions at Ground Zero. Seven first responders have... watch
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.