There is literally nothing unhinged members of Congress can't connect to Benghazi in some wild-eyed way. As hard as this may be to believe, this even includes Syrian refugees.
TPM reported yesterday on an amazing exchange at a congressional hearing.
Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck on Thursday blamed the President's handling of the 2011 terrorist attack in Benghazi for Americans' distrust of Syrian refugees today.
In a back-and-forth with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez, Buck argued that no one should be surprised Americans are deeply concerned about refugees considering the way Obama handled the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks.
Initially, I took this to mean that Buck was conflating terrorists in Libya and refugees from Syria, but that's not it.
Rather, the Colorado Republican was endorsing far-right Benghazi conspiracy theories, which leads him to believe the White House covered up some imaginary scandal, which then leads him to believe Americans don't trust the administration, which then leads Buck to believe Benghazi is indirectly responsible for creating public hostility towards refugees from an entirely different country.
"It is a result of this administration’s lack of credibility that has caused the fear and panic among many of the Americans in this country," Buck said, as if Republican demagoguery is unrelated to irrational public anxiety.
In any democratic political system, the parties are supposed to disagree. They're supposed to fight and argue, denounce their rivals' ideas, and make the case to voters that they know what they're talking about while their opponents are fools.
But what's often exasperating about American politics is the degree to which partisans live in alternate realities. It's one thing to disagree on the merits of ideas; it's something else to disagree on whether objective, quantifiable truths are real.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent yesterday flagged a fascinating result from the latest Bloomberg Politics poll.
Republicans say by 53-38 that the unemployment rate today is worse than when Obama took office. Americans overall say the opposite by 56-34.
In January of 2009, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate rose to around 10 percent by October of 2009, then declined steadily to 5.0 percent last month.
Whether or not the unemployment rate has improved is not a matter of opinion. No matter how one sees the world, a 7.8% rate is higher than a 5% rate. That's equally true for Democrats and Republicans.
But most Republican voters don't believe it. The "reality gap" persists, and it's a problem.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said last night that he would "absolutely" implement a policy of registering Muslim Americans into a government database. Jeb Bush sat down with CNBC this morning and, to his credit, said such a policy would be "just wrong." Politicoreported:
"It’s not a question of toughness. It’s manipulating people's angst and their fears. That’s not strength. That’s weakness," Bush said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"And look, campaigns are important for sure. We’re electing a president, but there are things that are important as it relates to the values that we have as a country that make us special and unique, and we should not and we will never abandon them in the pursuit of this fight. We don't have to. We can protect our freedoms here."
I've seen some praise for Bush saying the right thing this morning, and it's not unfounded. Trump's approach is simply indefensible, and though right-wing activists may find Trump's ideas appealing, the former Florida governor nevertheless denounced dangerous extremism. I'm glad.
But there are two related angles that are worth keeping in mind here. First, let's at least try to set the bar for basic human decency a little higher. Yes, it's a good thing that Jeb Bush opposes the idea of the government forcing an American religious minority into some kind of federal registry, but if this is what passes for Republican "moderation" in 2015, the toxicity of American politics has already reached dangerous levels.
Second, isn't it a little late for Jeb to clumsily claim the moral high ground on this issue?
The Republican presidential candidates' reactions to last week's terrorist violence in Paris has, at various times, been bewildering and depressing. Far-right politicians, eager to exploit fear and bigotry, have spent the week playing on conservatives' worst instincts. It's been about as ugly as American politics can get.
But even in the crowd, Donald Trump has stood out as ... unique.
There's been a gradual evolution to the frontrunner's posture over the course of several days. On Monday, for example, Trump told MSNBC that he would grudgingly have to "strongly consider" using government power to shut down American houses of worship as part of an anti-Muslim agenda. On Tuesday, he went a little further, saying that when it comes to the government closing religious institutions, "We’re going to have no choice."
When Trump sat down with Yahoo News, and a reporter raised the possibility of registering Muslims in a government database or creating special forms of identification for Muslim Americans, Trump responded, “We’re going to have to -- we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely."
There is, of course, a significant difference between failing to answer a specific question directly and making an explicit policy pronouncement -- which is why, as Rachel reported at the top of last night's show, Trump's latest comments are so important.
Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for president, told NBC News on Thursday night that he “would certainly implement” a database system tracking Muslims in the United States.
“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,” Trump said in Newton, Iowa, in between campaign town hall events.
I think most reasonable people should be able to agree we've entered some pretty dangerous territory.
Rachel Maddow reports on the languishing nomination of Adam Szubin as the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, an important position in the fight against ISIS and other terror groups, and yet the Republican-controlled House wastes time on anti-refugee stunt legislation. watch
Rachel Maddow presents an extended version of NBC News' Lester Holt's exclusive interview with the captain of the French assault team that raided the Bataclan club in Paris to kill the terrorists holding concertgoers hostage there. watch
Martin O'Malley, Democratic candidate for president, responds to the anti-ISIS plan that his rival Hillary Clinton presented in a speech today, and presents his own thoughts on how best to address the dangers the United States faces in the world. watch
Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the French intelligence system succeeding in identifying potential terrorists but failed to closely monitor the most dangerous of them to prevent an attack. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews why Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the most notorious, wanted terrorist in France and wonders why authorities weren't paying closer attention to him. Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Francois Heisbourg, French government counter-terrorism adviser, about what accounts for the intelligence failures... watch
Vaughn Hillyard, NBC News campaign embed, talks with Rachel Maddow about his specific questioning of Republican front-runner Donald Trump about his support for the idea of creating a national database of Muslims in the U.S. watch
* Paris: "The Belgian jihadi suspected of being the ringleader of the Paris terrorist attacks was killed during a raid on a suburban apartment, officials said Thursday. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, died during Wednesday’s operation in Saint-Denis, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. He was identified by his fingerprints. His body was riddled with bullets, according to officials."
* The final vote was 289 to 137: "The Republican-led House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that essentially halts Syrian refugees from coming into the United States, despite President Barack Obama’s promise to veto the bill." Here's the roll call.
* An alternative approach: "Senate Democrats, seeking to head off legislation to halt and overhaul a program to take in Syrian and Iraqi refugees, are focusing instead on tightening a program that makes it easier for foreigners to travel to the U.S. without obtaining a visa."
* Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) told Fox News that the State Department is trying to have Florida take in 425 Syrian refugees. The State Department has said Scott appears to have simply made this up and no such request was made.
* Republicans en masse will refuse to consider this evidence: "Barring the unforeseeable, the latest monthly climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a clincher. There can no longer be any meaningful doubt that 2015 will be the Earth’s warmest year on record, at an entirely different level from the previous warmest years."
* West Africa now appears to be free of Ebola: "A baby girl in Guinea, who was the last known Ebola patient in a two-year West African epidemic, has recovered, health officials say."
* In reality, this year's "crime wave" didn't happen: "An analysis of 2015 crime trends in the nation's 30 largest cities shows that reports of rising crime across the country are not supported by the available data."
* Immigration: "More immigrants from Mexico are leaving the United States than coming into the country, according to a report published Thursday by the Pew Research Center, a finding that marks the end of the largest wave of immigration from a single country in American history."
In the most recent debate for the Democratic presidential candidates, CBS's John Dickerson asked Bernie Sanders, "You said you want to rid the planet of ISIS. In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?"
The senator didn't hesitate, "Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you're going to see countries all over the world -- this is what the CIA says -- they're going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops ask you're going to see all kinds of international conflict."
None of this seemed particularly surprising, though apparently the exchange annoyed Republicans. The Hillreported this week:
Top Senate Republicans on Tuesday slammed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s weekend statement that climate change is contributing to global terrorism. [...]
“I get disappointed when people see momentum around an issue and try to attach an unrelated issue to it,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, said. [...] Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, agreed: “I would view that assertion as pretty absurd.”
Some GOP complaining about Sanders' progressive views is inevitable, but the problem with these Republican complaints is that Sanders' argument was rooted in fact.
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.