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Human crisis overlooked by border protesters

Human crisis overlooked by border protesters

07/15/14 10:53PM

José Díaz-Balart, news anchor for Telemundo and MSNBC host, talks with Steve Kornacki about why the influx of immigrants from Central America should be treated as a humanitarian emergency ill served by political grandstanding. watch

Ahead on the 7/15/14 Maddow show

07/15/14 07:44PM

Tonight's guests:

  • José Díaz-Balart, news anchor for Telemundo and host of the Jose Diaz-Balart show on MSNBC
  • Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democratic senator from Wisconsin and the co-author of the Women's Health Protection Act
  • Dave Helling, columnist for the Kansas City Star

And here's executive producer Bill Wolff with a preview of what we're working on for this groovy Tuesday:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 7.15.14

07/15/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Crisis in Israel: "Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed Tuesday only a few hours after the Israelis had accepted it, as Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets and Israel resumed its airstrikes. The Israeli authorities said a Palestinian attack caused the first Israeli fatality in the eight-day-old military confrontation, in which Israeli bombings have killed nearly 200 Palestinians."
 
* Ukraine: "Accusations of cross-border hostilities between Ukraine and Russia intensified on Tuesday, deepening a shadowy war of real or imagined attacks and sabotage that threatens to draw the two countries into direct conflict."
 
* Related news: "The United States is considering imposing unilateral sanctions on Russia over its threatening moves in Ukraine, a shift in strategy that reflects the Obama administration's frustration with Europe's reluctance to take tougher action against Moscow, according to U.S. and European officials."
 
* Afghanistan: "A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives near a busy market and a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 89 people and wounding more than 40 in one of the deadliest attacks since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion."
 
* Vargas in custody: "Undocumented immigrant and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas could soon face deportation, according to an immigrants' rights group. Border Patrol allegedly arrested the activist in Texas on Tuesday during his attempt to pass through security at McAllen-Miller International Airport, United We Dream said in a statement."
 
* Iran: "After three days of intensive talks with his Iranian counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that 'tangible progress' had been made in negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, and that he would return to Washington to consult with President Obama over whether to extend a Sunday deadline for a final agreement."
 
* Fed: "Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Tuesday joined a chorus of economists downplaying a Commerce Department report that found a 2.9 percent reduction in first quarter GDP growth."
 
* Russia: "A subway train derailed Tuesday deep below Moscow's streets, twisting and mangling crowded rail cars at the height of the morning rush hour. At least 21 people were killed, Russian officials said, and 136 were hospitalized, many with serious injuries."
 
* Net neutrality: "The Federal Communications Commission is giving companies, public interest groups and concerned citizens more time to voice their concerns about the agency's plans to rewrite its net neutrality rules."
Image: Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham

How not to tackle contraception policy

07/15/14 05:07PM

About a week ago, Senate Democrats announced their legislative response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which empowered employers to limit contraception access to women employees. The Dems' bill, called the "Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act," would require insurance plans to cover birth control, just as the ACA intended, though houses of worship would be exempt and religious non-profits would be accommodated.
 
The good news is, for all the kvetching I do about Republicans refusing to govern, there is an actual GOP alternate proposal. The bad news is, the Republican bill is so meaningless, it's rather amazing the Senate minority was even willing to unveil it (thanks to my colleague Kate Osborn for the heads-up).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans plan to put forward a bill that would ensure employers cannot prevent their employees from obtaining contraception.
 
"We plan to introduce legislation this week that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives," McConnell said. "There's no disagreement on that fundamental point."
Perhaps realizing that the entirety of the Senate Republican leadership team is made up exclusively of white Christian men, McConnell recruited Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a loyal party soldier, to help make the case for the GOP plan.
 
"I've been deeply disturbed by the misrepresentations that are being made about what the Hobby Lobby decision means," she said. "There is nothing in the Hobby Lobby ruling that allows a company to stop a woman from getting or filling a prescription for contraception."
 
But it's worth pausing to appreciate exactly what this proposal intends to do. In a word, the goal is to do nothing.
Sen. Joseph McCarthy's (R-Wis) at a March 9, 1950 session of a hearing on  McCarthy's charges of Communist infiltration in the state department. McCarthy, testifying before a senate foreign relations subcommittee, termed the subcommittee a "Tool" of...

Those who see McCarthy comparisons as a compliment

07/15/14 03:22PM

Republican Party officials would be delighted to see Todd Akin quietly go away. Apparently, though, the failed far-right Senate candidate doesn't care -- he just keeps talking. Take Akin's interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for example.
In a 15-minute telephone interview, the Republican Akin compared his downfall in the 2012 Missouri Senate race to that of former Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis., who in the 1950s was discredited after making allegations that many thought overstated Communist influence in the U.S. government.
 
"I use McCarthy as an example of someone who was assassinated by the media, so he had no credibility," Akin said, just as he believes he was politically assassinated by "intentional and dishonest" distortions of what he said about rape and pregnancy in 2012.
Right off the bat, let's note that Akin wasn't "assassinated by the media," so much as the media reported what Akin said publicly, which in turn doomed the former congressman's career. News organizations gave Akin a spotlight; it's not reporters' fault that Missouri voters didn't like what they saw.
 
But more important is this notion that Akin sees himself as a modern Joseph McCarthy. In most circles, that would be considered an ugly insult, but for the far-right Republican, McCarthy comparisons are apparently some kind of compliment.
 
What's especially interesting, though, is just how often this comes up. As we talked about in March, the American mainstream recognized for years the fact that McCarthyism was a dangerous mistake -- and the Senate was right to censure McCarthy in 1954.
 
But as Republican politics moved to the right, the former senator's witch hunt got a second look by many conservatives, and slowly but surely, McCarthy became a GOP hero again.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) speaks during the testimony of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen June 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Issa's new search for 'good theater'

07/15/14 12:49PM

A few years ago, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) pretended to be outraged by President Obama recording campaign messages from the White House. Issa realized there was no legitimate controversy, but the California Republican complained bitterly in order to create, in his words, "good theater."
 
Apparently, Issa, unable to manufacture any real White House "scandals," is ready for some more theater.
The White House is asking Rep. Darrell Issa to withdraw a subpoena of a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and is offering instead to hold a private briefing on activities in the administration's political affairs office.
 
In a letter sent Monday, White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston offered to brief Issa, a California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on the role of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach on Tuesday. That's one day before the office's director, David Simas, is under subpoena to testify on potential violations of the Hatch Act.
Ordinarily, there's a usual pattern to stories like these: Issa raises allegations against Obama administration officials, which the White House dismisses as baseless. But this story is a little different: Issa has subpoenaed Simas, not to respond to any allegations in particular, but because the Oversight Committee chairman just wonders whether a hearing might turn something up.
 
Responding to White House attorneys, who urged Issa to be more responsible, the congressman's office said overnight that the subpoena stands, at least for now. Simas is supposed to appear tomorrow, not because of suspicions of wrongdoing, but apparently because Issa is in the mood for more "theater."

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.15.14

07/15/14 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* In Colorado, a new NBC News/Marist poll shows Sen. Mark Udall (D) leading Rep. Cory Gardner (R) by seven, 48% to 41%, while Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has a six-point advantage over former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), 49% to 43%.
 
* In Michigan, the NBC News/Marist poll found Rep. Gary Peters (D) leading Terri Lynn Land (R) in their U.S. Senate contest, 43% to 37%, while incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leads Mark Schauer (D) by just two, 46% to 44%.
 
* In Mississippi's closely watched Senate race, Public Policy Polling shows Sen. Thad Cochran (R) leading former Rep. Travis Childers (D), 40% to 24%, though if Chris McDaniel somehow ends up with the Republican nomination, Childers would have a one-point lead.
 
* In Ohio, PPP found a very competitive gubernatorial race, with Gov. John Kasich (R) ahead of Ed Fitzgerald (D) by just one point, 45% to 44%.
 
* In Georgia's U.S. Senate race, PPP shows Rep. Jack Kingston with a six-point lead over David Perdue in their Republican primary runoff, but both GOP candidates narrowly trail Michelle Nunn (D) in a hypothetical match-up.
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) speaks during a hearing on implementation of the Affordable Care Act before the House Energy and Commerce Committee October 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Ellmers urges men to bring policy 'down to a woman's level'

07/15/14 11:38AM

In recent years, House Republican leaders have occasionally put Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) out in front to talk about the GOP and women, often with awkward results. Last year, for example, the conservative North Carolinian argued that health insurers should be able to charge women more than men for comparable coverage.
 
Several months later, Ellmers said the Affordable Care Act is evidence of a "war on women" for reasons that were largely incoherent.
 
Late last week, however, a number of conservative women lawmakers, mostly members of the Republican Study Committee, got together to discuss GOP "messaging" when it comes to outreach to women voters. According to the Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow, Ellmers was one of the featured guests, though the congresswoman's remarks were hard to believe.
"Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level," Ellmers said. "Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they've got some pie chart or graph behind them and they're talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that." [...]
 
As for connecting to women specifically, Ellmers drove it home with a line that, had there been liberals in the audience, would have made the news.
 
"We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman's level and what everything that she is balancing in her life -- that's the way to go," Ellmers said.
I haven't seen a video of the comments, and it's likely one won't turn up. As Dave Weigel noted, Ashe Schow was the only journalist who scored a ticket for the event. The Washington Examiner's piece is only report from the last week's gathering.
 
But if the quote is accurate, and this is what Ellmers actually said (and presumably believes), it's the sort of public comment that can do real harm to a politician's career. Indeed, it's an inexplicable line that could make the GOP's outreach to women voters even more difficult. [Update: see Ellmers' response below.]
The Internal Revenue Service building, Washington DC.  
(Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

The misguided, counterproductive campaign against the IRS

07/15/14 10:59AM

Much of the public probably isn't fond of the Internal Revenue Service, and given that the agency is responsible for collecting taxes, it's not too hard to understand why. So perhaps when congressional Republicans go after the IRS, the party isn't especially concerned about a public backlash.
 
But it's important to realize why recent efforts against the IRS are deeply problematic. First up is this change regarding non-profits.
Amid ongoing controversy over its scrutiny of nonprofits, the Internal Revenue Service has decided it will no longer screen approximately 80% of the organizations seeking tax-exempt charitable status each year, a change that will ease the creation of small charities while doing away with a review intended to counter fraud and prevent political and other noncharitable groups from misusing the tax code.
 
Gone are requirements that groups fill out a lengthy form and supply supporting documents; now groups can make a few declarations, pay a modest fee, and become a charitable non-profit.
We know why, of course, such streamlining became politically necessary -- Republicans manufactured a "scandal" involving the IRS allegedly "targeting" conservative non-profits. The controversy was largely a mirage, but the blowback from the right was so intense, the IRS appears to have decided to pull back considerably.
 
Won't this invite abuse, with political groups claiming tax-exempt status that wouldn't otherwise qualify? Of course it will. But with congressional Republicans having successfully badgered the agency, this is the result.
 
"What we'll see is the so-called dark political money that flowed into the (c)(4) world is going to begin to flow into the (c)(3) world," said Marcus Owens, the former director of the exempt-organizations division at the IRS.
 
But in the larger context, this probably isn't the worst news for the IRS this week.

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