New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) stunned voting-rights advocates this week, arguing that Republican governors should control "voting mechanisms" in order to help the party win the 2016 presidential election.
In remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey governor said, "Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?"
Political scientist Norm Ornstein paraphrased Christie's comments this way: "How can we cheat on vote counts if we don't control the governorships?"
The good news is, the Garden State governor decided to clarify his remarks yesterday. The bad news is, Christie made things worse.
"Everybody read much too much into that," he said. "You know who gets to appoint people, who gets to decide in part what the rules are, I'd much rather have Republican governors counting those votes when we run in 2016 as Republicans than I would have Democrats. There was no specific reference to any laws."
Christie noted that he was specifically talking about electing Republican governors and that it is state legislatures that are passing voter identification requirements.
According to another local account, the governor added, "What I was talking about was, who's going to be in charge of the state when the votes are being counted."
As Rachel noted yesterday, "That's the kind of 'clarification' that makes things worse, not better."
Indeed, taking the two sets of Christie comments together, it's difficult to think of a charitable interpretation.
When it comes to improving the public's understanding of the Ebola threat, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) isn't helping. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is coming up short in even more dramatic fashion.
The trouble started in earnest three weeks ago, when the Republican senator and likely presidential candidate started making appearances on right-wing radio programs, questioning Ebola assessments from the experts, blaming "political correctness," and raising threats that seemed plainly at odds with the facts. Last week, Paul went further, asserting without proof that public officials are deliberately misleading Americans about the virus.
In the face of criticism, the Kentucky lawmaker is undeterred. Paul has since said scientists are wrong about the disease being transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, and yesterday, Rosie Gray reported on the senator's latest efforts to scare the bejesus out of the public.
That Ebola virus can only be transferred through bodily fluids, Paul said, is "the same description that was given for AIDS. But no health workers in this country have gotten AIDS from handling linens."
"They just changed the protocols a day ago," Paul said, seemingly referring to the CDC's tightening of Ebola protocols this week. "They've admitted they were wrong. Obviously they're flying by the seat of their pants."
"If this was a plane full of people who were symptomatic, you'd be at grave risk of getting Ebola," Paul said. "If a plane takes 12 hours, how do you know if people will become symptomatic or not?" he said. There would be grave risk, he said, if "they're vomiting all over you or they're coughing all over you."
There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks about politicians making remarks that may be considered "disqualifying." Some, for example, have said dodging questions about votes in the 2012 presidential election is a deal-breaker for candidates seeking public support.
But at a certain point, it's not unreasonable to wonder whether Rand Paul's very public, very aggressive campaign to convince Americans to ignore public-health experts is itself a disqualifying development for a man who apparently wants to help lead the free world.
With a confirmed case of Ebola in New York City, the relevant officials and agencies, who have prepared extensively for these circumstances, are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing. Some anxiety is understandable, but the public can have confidence in the public-health system.
And while they're at it, Americans should probably ignore a certain Republican congressman from NYC.
Republican Rep. Peter King thinks the doctors are wrong on Ebola, suggesting the deadly virus might have mutated and gone airborne in an interview with Long Island News Radio last week.
"You know my attitude was it's important not to create a panic and it's important not to overreact and the doctors were absolutely certain that this cannot be transmitted and it was not airborne and yet we find out the people who have contracted it were wearing all protective gear," said King.
The Republican lawmaker, who made the comments before learning about the new diagnosis, added, "I think the doctors have been wrong. I don't think it was any conspiracy, I think they have been wrong.... It's time for the doctor's to realize that they were wrong and figure out why they were wrong. Maybe this is a mutated form of the virus."
To understate matters, King isn't helping. First, it's true that some nurses in Dallas became infected while caring for a patient, but the CDC has concluded that a breach in protocol with the protective gear was responsible. This does not mean Ebola is "airborne."
Second, while it's possible for medical professionals to be wrong, there's no evidence whatsoever -- from King or anyone else -- that the doctors have been wrong about Ebola.
The congressman, in other words, is just throwing around reckless opinions, based on nothing but fear, and making bogus assertions that may scare people for no reason. It's the exact opposite of what responsible public figures, communicating with the public, should be doing right now. Peter King has no background in science or medicine, and there's simply no reason for him to tell Americans that doctors "were wrong" about Ebola when the evidence suggests the exact opposite is true.
Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Judge, talks with Rachel Maddow about New York's first case of Ebola and offers advice to health responders as well as New Yorkers who may be concerned about the risks of further transmission in the city. watch
Dr. Jeremy Faust, emergency room physician at The Mount Sinai Hospital, talks with Rachel Maddow about the training of New York City health workers to deal with Ebola and the extensive coordination between city, state, and federal authorities. watch
Dr. Irwin Redlener of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, talks with Rachel Maddow from in front of Bellevue Hospital about why Bellevue is among hospitals specially designated for Ebola cases and describes some of the protocols being followed. watch
Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, talks with Rachel Maddow about the extent to which New York City is prepared to handle an Ebola case and what protocols are being followed. watch
Rachel Maddow reports breaking news that initial tests of a doctor who recently returned from Guinea has tested positive for the Ebola virus after calling medical authorities upon finding he had a fever of 103. watch
Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University
Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University
Dr. Amesh Adalja, Infectious Disease Society
Katy Tur, NBC News correspondent
Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen, George Mason University
After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo has a look at what everyone's working on...
ADDING: After we shot Cory's video there was a lot of breaking news, not the least of which is the positive test for Ebola in New York City, so the video is not quite up to date, but that's all the more reason to tune in!
* Ottawa: "The gunman who terrorized Ottawa with a deadly ambush on a military guard and a shooting inside Parliament acted alone, the Canadian police said on Thursday, but there were new indications that he had hinted of his intentions and may have had collaborators."
* Kevin Vickers: "In Canada, they call the job of sergeant-at-arms 'ceremonial.' But as the Calgary Sun said this morning, anyone who thought it was an 'archaic novelty now understands the man holding the sceptre has a deadly serious job.'"
* ISIS: "Dizzy, vomiting and struggling to breathe, 11 Iraqi police officers were rushed to a government hospital 50 miles north of the capital last month. The diagnosis: poisoning by chlorine gas. The perpetrators, according to the officers: Islamic State extremists."
* More ISIS: "The American military campaign against the Islamic State has begun to cut into the Sunni militant group's substantial oil revenues, the top counterterrorism official at the Treasury Department said on Thursday, but starving its cash flow will be a slow process."
* Nigeria: The Islamist militant movement Boko Haram has once again kidnapped dozens of girls and young women in northeast Nigeria, U.S. counterterrorism officials told NBC News on Thursday. To great skepticism, the Nigerian government announced a truce last week with Boko Haram.... [O]fficials said the abduction Saturday of as many as 60 more girls and young women was believed to have been a direct response to the government's announcement."
* Kim Jong-un is puzzling everyone again: "A series of gestures by the North Korean leader, most dramatically the release this week of an imprisoned American tourist, Jeffrey E. Fowle, has raised hopes that after two and a half years of bellicose rhetoric, punctuated by periodic missile tests, Mr. Kim is groping for some kind of rapprochement with the United States and its allies."
* Good for him: "Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen will contribute 'at least' $100 million to fight the spread of Ebola, he announced Thursday. In a tweet, Allen revealed the new donation amount and urged others to make their own contributions -- big or small."
* South Carolina: "Bobby Harrell, speaker of the S.C. House since 2005, pleaded guilty to six counts of use of campaign funds for personal expenses on Thursday morning and has agreed to resign immediately from his House seat. In a plea hearing at the Richland County courthouse, Harrell was given six one-year prison sentences but all were suspended by circuit court Judge Casey Manning after Harrell, 58, agreed to the following conditions in a written plea agreement:"
* More on this on tonight's show: "Early voting starts Thursday in North Carolina, even as the state has pushed to move early voting sites farther away from college campuses."
* Welcome candor from Labor Secretary Tom Perez: "The U.S. federal wage floor ranks third-lowest -- as a percentage of median wage -- among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a status that Perez said was embarrassing. 'I mean, we suck,' Perez said. 'We really do.'"
But Matt Apuzzo this week highlighted an aspect of Holder's work that's every bit as important: shifting terrorism trials back to American courts.
The news peg, of course, is Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected terrorist accused of launching the 2012 Benghazi attack. The right demanded that the Obama administration deny Khattala a civilian trial and ship him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Holder ignored the Republicans' demands, and this week, Khattala was arraigned -- in open court, in a routine legal proceeding, just as the American justice system is supposed to operate.
Five years ago, the debate over whether terrorists should be prosecuted in criminal courts was so contentious that it made its chief advocate, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., a political liability. Republicans argued that F.B.I. interrogation was not suited to wartime intelligence-gathering. By extension, civilian courtrooms were no place for terrorists, who did not deserve the same rights as common criminals.
But as Mr. Holder prepares to leave office, his success in reversing the Bush administration's emphasis on trying terrorism suspects in secret prisons or at offshore military tribunals may be one of his most significant achievements. While he did not end the debate -- each new arrest brings fresh statements of disapproval from critics -- the Justice Department can now point to a string of courtroom victories that his liberal supporters, as well as many law enforcement officials, believe has reshaped the government's approach to prosecuting terrorism.
"History will remember these years as the time when we resolved one of the most contentious debates in the post-9/11 era: about whether our legal system was equipped to handle national security cases," Mr. Holder said recently in a written response to questions about the issue.
This is one of the A.G.'s most important successes, and it's also one of the areas in which Republicans were completely wrong -- whether they're prepared to admit that or not.