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Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., leaves his office before a House GOP meeting, Oct. 20, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Paul Ryan stumbles over 'leadership' test

11/19/15 10:00AM

Press a Republican politician on his or her opposition to Syrian refugees, and they'll eventually point to the vetting process that's currently in place. Most GOP lawmakers, governors, and candidates have no interest in endorsing explicit bigotry, instead saying they have concerns about the rigor of the screening process refugees must go through. Some on the right like to pretend the process doesn't even exist.
The trouble comes when pressed for policy details or any kind of substantive analysis. The New York Times reported today:
When pressed, most Republicans could not specify which aspects of the rigorous refugee vetting program that they found inadequate. [House Speaker Paul Ryan's] staff members cited a Bloomberg poll of 1,002 adults released on Wednesday, conducted by Selzer & Company, that found that 53 percent of those surveyed said the resettlement program should be halted.
Of all the domestic coverage I've seen this week about U.S. politicians and their reactions to Paris, this might be my favorite paragraph to date. Republicans know they have a problem with the vetting process, but they have no idea why.
And when House Speaker Paul Ryan -- a celebrated "wonk," according to much of the media -- was asked about his concerns, his office pointed to, of all things, a poll.
In other words, Americans who have no real understanding of the rigorous refugee vetting program are leading elected policymakers, whose job it is to know better. The new Republican Speaker can't identify actual problems with the vetting system, but Ryan can stick his finger in the air, read a poll, put together a meaningless "task force," and tell his party to ride the wave of panic whether it makes sense or not.
Talking to reporters this week about the terrorism in Paris, the Wisconsin lawmaker argued, "It's clear this was an act of war, and that the world needs American leadership."
It is, to be sure, a nice sentiment, but what the Speaker didn't say is what he thinks "American leadership" looks like in this situation. Does it mean Congress voting to authorize a military offensive against ISIS? For the last year and a half, the answer has been no. Does it mean Congress voting this afternoon on an anti-refugee bill, which is exactly what ISIS wants to see? According to Paul Ryan, the answer is yes.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures toward the audience before signing autographs at the conclusion of a campaign event, Nov. 18, 2015, in Worcester, Mass. (Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

Latest polls put Trump in the GOP's driver's seat

11/19/15 09:20AM

In the wake of the terrorist violence in Paris, there was no shortage of pundits who made a specific prediction: the race for the Republican presidential nomination would finally turn away from Donald Trump.
And while the New York developer may yet falter, the latest evidence suggests the attacks have done little to derail the Trump campaign. Here's a new national Bloomberg Politics poll:
1. Donald Trump: 24% (up three points from September)
2. Ben Carson: 20% (up four points)
3. Marco Rubio: 12% (up four points)
4. Ted Cruz: 9% (up four points)
5. Jeb Bush: 6% (down seven points)
And here's the new Fox News poll out of New Hampshire:
1. Donald Trump: 27%
2. Marco Rubio: 13%
3. Ted Cruz: 11%
4. Jeb Bush: 9%
4. Ben Carson: 9%
6. John Kasich: 7%
7. Chris Christie: 6%
While Rubio and Cruz are clearly competitive with double-digit support, note that their combined backing still trails Trump. The poll is roughly in line with the latest WBUR poll, which also surveyed New Hampshire Republicans, and found Trump with double the combined support of Rubio and Carson, his next closest competitors.
Note, all three of these polls were conducted in the days after the Paris attacks. In other words, if the terrorism was going to drive voters away from the inexperienced candidates and into the waiting arms of more establishment candidates, it hasn't happened yet.
On the contrary, by some measures, Trump's support has never been higher than it is right now.
Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan refugees wait in line at dawn for a ferry to Athens after they arrived on the island of Lesbos in a raft from Turkey on Oct. 13, 2015 in Mitilini, Greece. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)

Anti-refugee backlash at local level turns ugly

11/19/15 08:40AM

It's been nearly a week since the terrorist violence in Paris, and too many of the reactions have shown American politics at its worst. Governors, members of Congress, and Republican presidential candidates have been reactionary, prone to mindless panic, resistant to reason, and lashing out wildly in incoherent directions. It's been painful to watch.
At the local level, the picture hasn't been quite as ugly. A wide variety of mayors, for example, have stepped up in recent days with heartening displays of compassion and common sense.
But not all mayors. Consider this report from the Roanoke Times in Virginia.
Citing internment of Japanese following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers on Wednesday called for the region’s governments and nongovernmental agencies to suspend help in relocating Syrian refugees to the Roanoke Valley.
Bowers’ invocation of the World War II-era camps in which thousands of Japanese and Japanese-Americans were imprisoned triggered stern rebukes from fellow council members, Democratic and Republican leaders and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
This may seem like an offensive joke, but the Roanoke mayor was apparently quite serious. "I'm reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis [sic] now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then," Bowers said in a statement.
Unlike most of the high-profile refugee critics, the mayor is a Democrat -- who was promptly removed from Hillary Clinton campaign's Virginia leadership council.
And if there's a contest for Worst Reaction to Paris, David Bowers will obviously be a top contender, but he won't be the only challenger. In Missouri, state Rep. Mike Moon (R) is calling for a special legislative session to stop “the potential Islamization of Missouri.”
In Tennessee, state Rep. Glen Casada (R), the chairman of the state House Republican Caucus, yesterday called for the National Guard to round up recent Syrian refugees who might already be in Tennessee, so they could be forcibly removed -- even if they've done literally nothing wrong.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Sunshine Summit conference being held at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Nov. 13, 2015 in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Cruz to Obama: 'Insult me to my face'

11/19/15 08:00AM

President Obama has heard some of the Republican hysteria about Syrian refugees, and he's clearly unimpressed. "These are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there," the president yesterday. "But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion.
"First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates," Obama added. "Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me."
Evidently, this has hurt Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) feelings.
“Let me suggest something Mr. President: If you want to insult me, you can do it overseas, you can do it in Turkey, you can do it in foreign countries. But I would encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face,” Cruz said. “Let’s have a debate on Syrian refugees right now. We can do it anywhere you want. I’d prefer it in the United States and not overseas where you’re making the insults.”
In context, Cruz's school-yard taunts concluded with the senator calling for some kind of one-on-one debate with the president. "We’ll do it on any station," the Texan added. "I’m sure any one of the TV stations would be glad to host it.”
I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the White House won't make time for a televised conversation with a right-wing presidential candidate who's accused the Obama administration of turning the United States into a state-sponsor of terrorism.
Call it a hunch.
What's more, Cruz is doing more than just posturing and thumping his chest for the cameras. As the Washington Post reported, the senator "introduced a bill Wednesday that would prohibit refugees from any country the State Department has determined is controlled in part by a foreign terrorist organization from entering the United States."
How would blocking victims of terrorism help? Cruz hasn't explained, though it's the sort of move that's likely intended to impress Republican primary voters.
Paris attack bomb maker remains a threat

Paris attack bomb maker remains a threat

11/18/15 10:43PM

Rachel Maddow explains the history behind the ban on certain quantities of liquids on airplanes and points out that while there are many well-known failures of terrorist bombs, the Paris suicide bombs apparently worked, making maker of those bombs a particular threat. watch

Marches banned at Paris climate conference

Marches banned at Paris climate conference

11/18/15 09:38PM

Rachel Maddow reports that while a global climate conference scheduled to be held in Paris will still happen, the major marches expected to be held at the beginning and end of the conference have been banned in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.18.15

11/18/15 05:30PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Nigeria: "A night-time explosion blamed on Boko Haram extremists killed 32 people and wounded 80 Tuesday at a truck stop in northeastern Nigeria, an emergency official said."
* On the other hand: "Boko Haram has lost significant ground in northern Nigeria, according to some of the region’s top officials and international security experts, dealing a setback to a group that for years has menaced the nation with murder, abductions and other violence."
* France: "French police hunting the suspected ringleader behind the Paris massacre raided another terrorist cell Wednesday which was plotting a fresh strike -- but it was not immediately clear if they got their man."
* This won't help the U.S. look any better: "While American politicians compete in the wake of the Paris terror attacks to see who can most hysterically denounce the possibility of accepting Syrian refugees, French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that his country will follow through on its pre-attack commitment to take in 30,000 Syrians fleeing that country's conflict."
* Syria: "Despite heavy French bombardment of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa this week, damage to the extremist group appears to be minimal, according to analysts and Syrian activists."
* I'm starting to think Republican senators don't care about the climate crisis: "The Senate voted on Tuesday to block President Obama’s tough new climate change regulations, hoping to undermine his negotiating authority before a major international climate summit meeting in Paris this month."
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colo., Oct. 28, 2015. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Kasich eyes new agency for 'Judeo-Christian' values

11/18/15 04:13PM

Presidential candidates are eager to demonstrate their capacity for international leadership, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) may not have fully thought through his new idea. NBC News reported last night:
As part of a broad national security plan to defeat ISIS, Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich proposed creating a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values around the world.
The new agency, which he hasn’t yet named, would promote a Jewish- and Christian-based belief system to four regions of the world: China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.
According to a report in the Toledo Blade, the struggling Republican presidential hopeful argued, “U.S. Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering opponents' propaganda and disinformation. I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share."
In fairness to Kasich, it's not entirely clear where's he going with this. I've seen some reports suggesting the governor intends to use the government to push some kind of religio-political message on people who may not want to hear it, though given the wording of the quote, Kasich seems to envision some kind of taxpayer-financed agency pushing generic pro-Western propaganda -- which in Kasich's mind, is effectively synonymous with promotion of "Judeo-Christian" values.
Or maybe he meant something else entirely. It's sometimes hard to tell with him.
Whatever the intended message, Kasich's idea raises some questions. For example, why does he make a distinction between Iran and the Middle East? What would a Kasich White House say to China when Beijing says it doesn't really appreciate the United States pushing "Judeo-Christian Western values" in its country?
An instructor shows the proper way to hold a hand gun at an National Rifle Association virtual shooting booth during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Can guns be part of the national security conversation?

11/18/15 12:53PM

Of the 745,000 refugees resettled in the United States since September 11th, zero Syrians have faced charges related to terrorism. But at a Capitol Hill press conference yesterday, that's not the angle Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wanted to emphasize.
"I would just mention a case a few years ago in my state," the Republican leader said. "There was a person from Iraq who came into the U.S. as a refugee, vetted, who ended up being arrested for plotting a terrorist attack... So the ability to vet people coming from that part of the world is really quite limited."
McConnell's argument isn't altogether fair. The Iraqi refugee in Kentucky actually tried to take advantage of lax American gun laws to send weapons to Iraq, not launch an attack in the U.S. -- a detail the senator neglected to mention. For that matter, pointing to one guy out of 745,000 is hardly proof of an unreliable vetting process.
But the more interesting part came in response to a reporter's question.
Q: There's been a certain amount of resurgence in interest over a bill that's been floating around here about whether people on terror watch lists should be able to legally buy guns in this country. Should they be able to?
MCCONNELL: [Shrugs shoulders.]
Q: On the FBI terror watch list?
MCCONNELL: Yeah, I'm not particularly familiar with that.
Told that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) have pushed legislation on this -- the measure was introduced nine months ago -- McConnell added, "I'm not familiar with the legislation, so I'll pass on it."
Perhaps now would be a good time for the Senate Majority Leader to get up to speed on this, because if we're going to have a debate about counter-terrorism and national security, we might also want to chat about potential terrorists having easy access in the United States to all kinds of deadly weapons.


About The Rachel Maddow Show

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.



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