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Marco Rubio

Rubio eyes 'permanent U.S. troop presence' in Middle East

09/24/14 08:51AM

President Obama recently summarized his vision for a military offensive against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The administration's entire approach was packaged in four sentences:
 
"To confront the Islamic State terrorists, we need a sustained air campaign targeting their leadership, sources of income and supply routes, wherever they exist. We must increase our efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria to fight the terrorist group. And we must arm and support forces in Iraq confronting it, including responsible Iraqi partners and the Kurds. In addition, we must persuade nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it."
 
Wait, did I say that was President Obama's summary of his policy? I meant this was an op-ed from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in which the far-right senator condemned "the president's failed isolationist policies."
 
Rubio has been going out of his way to position himself as a leading, hawkish voice on foreign policy, though his efforts have occasionally been awkward, as evidenced by the senator urging Obama to follow the exact same course Obama himself had already presented to the nation two days earlier.
 
This continued yesterday when the Florida Republican talked to Fox News' Neil Cavuto about developments in the Middle East.
CAVUTO: If you ever became president -- if you ever had the interest, Senator -- would you advocate a permanent U.S. troop presence in the region? Permanent?
 
RUBIO: Absolutely. Absolutely.... [I]f the U.S. had a presence [in Iraq], we would have more leverage over how Maliki conducted his affairs. You would have had a more stable region, but also a place where you could conduct operations against other threats in the region.
All available evidence pointed in the exact opposite direction. Kevin Drum called Rubio's comments "crazy," explaining, "We had troops in Iraq for a decade. During that time, which spanned two different US presidents, we had virtually no success at getting Nouri al-Maliki to form an inclusive government that didn't gratuitously piss off Sunnis as a routine element of policy. Hell, Maliki didn't even take advantage of the Sunni Awakening.... If that didn't do the trick, along with a hundred thousand American troops and near-daily calls with President Bush, what possible hope is there that a small residual force would have had any leverage at all?"
 
I think that's exactly right, though I'd add that Obama's approach actually used the possibility of military intervention as leverage to help show Maliki the door. It's not just that Rubio's approach is mistaken, it's also that his approach is based on assumptions that have the basic details backwards.
A man jogs past the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30, 2013.

Congress content to sit on the sidelines

09/24/14 08:00AM

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), arguably more than any other senator, has invested considerable time and energy urging Congress to do its duty. As a U.S. military offensive gets underway in Syria, President Obama has received no real authorization from lawmakers, and the Virginia Democrat knows the system isn't supposed to work this way.
 
"The president shouldn't be doing this without Congress," Kaine said yesterday, adding, "Congress shouldn't be allowing it to happen without Congress."
 
It's that latter part that stands out. In recent years, congressional Republicans have been almost hysterical about presidential overreach, condemning the White House for alleged abuses that leave Congress out of the policymaking process. In nearly every instance, their evidence has fallen somewhere between baseless and ridiculous.
 
And yet, here's a legitimate example of Obama ignoring Congress when he shouldn't, and those same Republicans who pretended to care about this institutional dynamic are sitting on their hands, perfectly content to ignore their constitutional responsibilities in the name of political convenience.
The United States has begun a bombing campaign in Syria, but don't bet on Congress returning to Washington to vote on a new war authorization anytime soon.
 
Shortly after airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria started, some lawmakers started pushing again for an authorization vote. But so far, leaders aren't gearing up to bring their members back to town.
Asked to explain why Congress is satisfied doing nothing, House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office told Roll Call, "As the Speaker has said, he thinks it would be good for the country to have a new authorization for the use of military force covering our actions against ISIL, but traditionally such an authorization is requested and written by the commander-in-chief -- and President Obama has not done that."
 
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) added that Obama "should seek a new congressional authorization."
 
Republicans may not fully appreciate just how extraordinary this approach to governing really is.

Obama at the U.N. and other headlines

09/24/14 07:24AM

Pres. Obama addresses the U.N. today and chairs a Security Council meeting. (NBC News)

Terror fears spurred the expansion of the Syria airstrikes. (Wall Street Journal)

Tensions flare in Ferguson, MO overnight. (KSDK)

Conservative lawmakers plot to oust John Boehner. (The Hill)

Why Justice Ginsburg isn't planning to retire any time soon. (Elle Magazine)

Scott Brown loses Cosmo's support. (NY Times)

India's first Mars probe makes historic arrival. (Space.com)

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Congress unmoved to work as war deepens

Congress unmoved to work as war deepens

09/23/14 11:05PM

Rachel Maddow reports that the breach of the White House may cause some House members to take a break from their second vacation to hold a hearing on the Secret Service, but so far Congress is not making and moves to debate the war now spreading to Syria. watch

Military technology extends human capability

Military technology stretches human capability

09/23/14 10:46PM

Rachel Maddow shares video of the mid-air refueling of a U.S. military fighting jet and points out the immense difficulty of the task and its distance from average human, civilian experience, even if it is commonplace in the theater of war. watch

Shroud remains over parts of Syria mission

Shroud remains over parts of Syria mission

09/23/14 10:44PM

Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer, talks with Rachel Maddow about which countries are working with the U.S. against ISIS, what weaponry they bring, and how Monday night's operations in Syria were carried out. watch

Bombings risk uniting radicals in Syria

Bombings risk uniting radicals in Syria

09/23/14 10:43PM

Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about the risk that bombing radicals in Syria could give the impression the U.S. is working with Bashar al-Assad and unite radical factions. watch

Ahead on the 9/23/14 Maddow show

09/23/14 06:12PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, live from Turkey
  • Courtney Kube, NBC News National Security producer
  • James Stavridis, retired U.S. Navy Admiral, former head of U.S. European Command and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe during the war in Afghanistan

Check out a preview of tonight's show after the jump

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.23.14

09/23/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* ISIS: "President Obama on Tuesday hailed the American-led coalition that conducted airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State, declaring, 'We're going to do what is necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group.'"
 
* More on this tomorrow: "The U.S. military was responding to what it saw as an imminent threat when it conducted airstrikes Monday night against the Khorasan terror group -- part of a bombing campaign that also targeted the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."
 
* Ukraine: "Moscow will curtail Ukraine's access to vital Russian markets if Kiev implements any part of a trade agreement with the European Union, President Vladimir Putin warned in a letter, toughening his stance on a deal at the center of East-West tensions."
 
* Israel: "Israeli forces early Tuesday killed the two men they suspected of abducting and murdering three Israeli teenagers from the occupied West Bank in June, according to a military spokesman, closing a crucial chapter in what became the bloodiest period of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades."
 
* Ebola outbreak: "The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, already ghastly, could get worse by orders of magnitude, killing hundreds of thousands of people and embedding itself in the human population for years to come, according to two worst-case scenarios from scientists studying the historic outbreak."
 
* Gun violence in Alabama: "A man wearing his work uniform started shooting at his former colleagues inside a UPS sorting facility in Alabama a day after he was fired from the company, killing a supervisor and another employee before committing suicide, police said Tuesday."
 
* This seems like a big deal that won't get enough attention: "President Clinton, in his 1994 address to the United Nations General Assembly, called for the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines.... Today, the Obama Administration is announcing new policy changes that bring the United States closer to that goal. Specifically, the United States is aligning our APL policy outside the Korean Peninsula with the key requirements of the Ottawa Convention, the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of APL, which more than 160 countries have joined, including all of our NATO Allies."
 
Louisiana: "Less than 20 days after a federal judge found Louisiana's ban on same-sex couples' marriages to be constitutional, a state court judge in Lafayette Parish disagreed in a 23-page opinion that recognized the marriage of two women who married in California -- and ordered officials to allow other, unmarried same-sex couples to marry in the state."
 
* Get registered: "Today has been designated National Voter Registration Day by a variety of organizations that are holding cooperative registration events around the country today. But it's also a good time to make the argument that voting is a right, not a privilege."
 
* Basically useless: "Several years and $25 billion later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey says that nearly half of the Iraqi army is too heavily populated with Shiite fighters to credibly confront ISIS."
United Stated President Barack Obama addresses the Climate Summit, at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Photo by Richard Drew/AP.

'We have to answer the call'

09/23/14 04:52PM

If you missed President Obama's speech today at the United National Climate Change Summit, it's worth your time. It wasn't Obama's longest speech -- it clocked in at about 12 minutes -- but it showed the president really stepping up on the issue of leadership and global warming.
 
Obliquely referencing the weekend's enormous demonstrations, which too much of the political world chose to ignore, Obama said, "The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call."
"In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about. [...]
 
"Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation -- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass."
There was a time in the recent past in which the world might scoff at such rhetoric from a U.S. leader, but Obama actually has a compelling story to tell about his efforts. Congress, often dominated by climate deniers and those who refuse to consider action, may be content with inaction, but away from Capitol Hill, the United States has taken constructive steps the president pointed to with some pride.
 
This includes real investments in clean energy, strides in renewables, and vastly improved energy and fuel efficiency. "[A]ll told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades -- proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth," he told world leaders. "Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more."

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