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Ahead on the 9/9/14 TRMS

09/09/14 07:06PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post
  • Wendy Davis, Texas state senator, Democratic candidate for governor, author of the newly released, "Forgetting to be Afraid"
  • Xeni Jardin, editor, tech culture journalist,

Here's executive producer Cory Gnazzo with a look at what's coming up tonight:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.9.14

09/09/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* I'll never fully understand how the right perceives this as nothing: "The U.S. military says it launched five more airstrikes in support of Iraqi government troops and Sunni tribesmen protecting the Haditha Dam against fighters of the Islamic State group that controls parts of northern and western Iraq."
* Syria: "An explosion killed the leader of one of Syria's most powerful Islamist insurgent groups Ahrar al-Sham on Tuesday, the group said, and an organization that monitors violence in the civil war said at least 28 of its commanders had died."
* Encouraging economic news: "The number of U.S. job openings remained near the highest level in 13 years in July, and companies also stepped up hiring that month to the fastest pace in nearly seven years, two signs the job market is slowly healing."
* Additional sanctions on Russia? "The Obama administration is putting the finishing touches on a new round of sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis."
* Climate crisis: "Levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose at a record-shattering pace last year, a new report shows, a surge that surprised scientists and spurred fears of an accelerated warming of the planet in decades to come."
* Hopefully not the last hearing on the militarization of local police: "Senators blasted the Pentagon on Tuesday for providing police forces with an overabundance of military equipment, which they say laid the groundwork for what unfolded in Ferguson, Mo., last month."
* Republican Bob McDonnell is out at Jerry Falwell's college: "Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has lost his teaching gig at Liberty University. The Christian college announced on Friday they had ditched the disgraced politician after he was convicted on multiple federal corruption charges."
* The cast of "Fox & Friends" argued this morning that domestic violence "is a very serious issue to us." There was reason to believe otherwise yesterday.

'Most of us think we did the right thing in Iraq'

09/09/14 04:52PM

Following up on this morning's report, Dick Cheney was on Capitol Hill once again today, delivering yet another round of advice to congressional Republicans on foreign policy as if he still has credibility on the subject. The failed former vice president was reportedly "greeted with affection," and received standing ovations from the assembled GOP lawmakers.
This seemed to summarize the ridiculousness of the scenario nicely.
Asked if he saw any irony in Cheney coming to talk to Republicans about next steps in Iraq, [New York Rep. Peter King] said firmly, "No, because most of us think we did the right thing in Iraq."
And there it is. Even now, years later, as the world struggles with the consequences of a disastrous war, which the Bush/Cheney team handled in the most incompetent, dishonest, and corrupt ways possible, congressional Republicans look back and think, "Yep, that was a smart move."
If anyone ever wonders why credible debates over foreign policy seem so incredibly difficult right now, look no further than the fact that "most" congressional Republicans consider the worst foreign-policy catastrophe in a generation "the right thing."
Indeed, the Huffington Post's report on GOP reactions to Cheney's remarks -- journalists were not allowed to hear or see the gathering -- were disheartening.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, responded, "What he talked about was we've, Republicans, have had a position on peace through strength. You look at all the Republican presidents we've had back to [Dwight] Eisenhower. You know they all understand, if you're not strong, then you invite aggression. When you invite aggression, you end up with people getting killed.... It's important to be strong, and that's what he talked about."
This will no doubt be disappointing to the pro-weakness contingent of American politics.
I mean, really. If we're "not strong" we "invite aggression"? This is empty, meaningless rhetoric. In the Reagan/Bush era, attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts around the globe reached unprecedented heights, including the deadly assaults in Beirut in 1983. The size of the Pentagon budget and our commitment to presenting a "strong" posture were irrelevant.

Georgia Republican makes the case against Sunday voting

09/09/14 04:06PM

When it comes to Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, some arguments are easier than others. Voter-ID laws, for example, are awful and unnecessary, but on the surface, the right can at least sell the idea in a coherent way by raising the specter of "fraud." It's why polls generally show pretty consistent support for voter-ID measures -- they needlessly disenfranchise many Americans, but most of the public doesn't know that.
But other aspects of the "war on voting" are much harder to defend, even on a rhetorical level. Why, for example, would Republican policymakers oppose voting the Sunday before the election? If most people in the community have the day off, and find Sunday voting convenient, why deny voters that opportunity?
As a rule, GOP officials opposed to Sunday voting have a tough time rationalizing the policy -- though they keep trying to cut off Sunday voting anyway -- but Rick Hasen brings our attention to an interesting report out of Georgia.
Apparently, DeKalb County, home to Atlanta, has extended early voting to include Oct. 26 -- a Sunday -- with a polling station at a popular local shopping mall. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, it led state Sen. Fran Millar (R) to write an angry response.
"How ironic! Michele [sic] Obama comes to town and Chicago politics comes to DeKalb. [...]
"Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election. Per Jim Galloway of the AJC, this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist. Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea -- what a surprise. I'm sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb.
"Is it possible church buses will be used to transport people directly to the mall since the poll will open when the mall opens? If this happens, so much for the accepted principle of separation of church and state."
Hmm. Let's unpack this a bit, because it offers a fascinating perspective.
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., speaks to people demonstrating against the health care bill on the U.S. Capitol steps a day before Congress is set to vote on health care reform on Saturday, March 20, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Kingston gives away the game on Congress' ISIS debate

09/09/14 01:00PM

President Obama will deliver a prime-time address tomorrow night from the White House, speaking to the nation about "the threat posed by ISIL" and presenting "the United States' strategy for degrading and ultimately destroying the terrorist group."
It's part of an ongoing, multi-faceted campaign, which includes airstrikes in Iraq, international coalition building, detailed briefings for members of both the House and Senate, and as of tomorrow, a rare national address from the president.
But while Obama and his team keep quite busy preparing for the next phase of a national-security mission in the Middle East, it's hard not to notice that Congress isn't exactly busy. Will lawmakers make any effort to do their duty and engage in a real debate about U.S. foreign policy?
Democratic leaders in the Senate and Republican leaders in the House want to avoid a public vote to authorize force, fearing the unknown political consequences eight weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 4.
''A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, 'Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,' '' said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. ''It's an election year. A lot of Democrats don't know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don't want to change anything. We like the path we're on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.''
Though Kingston's candor is appreciated, this is still a pretty remarkable thing for a member of Congress to say out loud and on the record.
The quote offers a peek behind the curtain -- quite a few members of Congress are content to simply complain from the sidelines, constitutional obligations notwithstanding.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.9.14

09/09/14 12:04PM

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 the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Republicans lead Democrats on the generic ballot, 47% to 44%, among likely voters. Among registered voters, Democrats lead, 46% to 44%.
* On a related note, the poll shows a big gender gap: Democrats lead by 12 points among women, while Republicans lead by eight points among men.
* Today is the final Primary Day of 2014, with contests in Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. Among the key races to watch: Rep. John Tierney's Democratic primary in Massachusetts.
* Former Sen. Scott Brown (R) was introduced by a supporter at an event yesterday, who shared a story about a local voter who wanted to meet the Republican candidate. The local voter "always thought Scott was kind of a phony from Massachusetts," but now realizes "he's a phony from New Hampshire that just happened to live in Massachusetts for a little while."
* In Michigan's U.S. Senate race, a new PPP survey shows Rep. Gary Peters (D) with a growing lead over Terri Lynn Land (R). The Democrat is now up by seven in this poll, 43% to 36%.
* On a related note, the same poll showed Michigan's gubernatorial race nearly tied, with incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading Mark Schauer (D) by just one point, 43% to 42%.
* The latest Gallup poll puts Congress' approval rating at just 14%. That's "one of the lowest Gallup has recorded in the fall of a midterm election year since Gallup first measured approval of Congress in the current format in 1974."
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Md.

The fury of a staffer scorned?

09/09/14 11:46AM

Back in March, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference and the #4 leader in the chamber, received some good news and some bad news from the House Ethics Committee. The panel, as Zack Roth reported at the time, declined to appoint a special investigative panel "to probe whether a top Republican improperly used official funds to boost her political career," but it didn't drop the case, either.
McMorris Rodgers was accused of improperly co-mingling campaign and official funds and the Ethics Committee was interested enough in the case to recommend subpoenas for two former members of McMorris Rodgers' team.
It's unusual for a member of the House leadership to face ethics allegations like these, but in the months that followed, the McMorris Rodgers controversy largely faded away. That is, until yesterday, when a former staffer for the Washington Republican made an unusually aggressive move. Roll Call reported:
A former communications director for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent reporters a 1,959-word email Monday accusing the Washington Republican of "retribution" in connection with an ethics complaint against her office -- a serious charge that is the latest alleged impropriety in an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation. [...]
In his email, [Todd Winer] alleges the Ethics Committee is now investigating McMorris Rodgers' efforts to "intimidate and punish" him. In fact, Winer says the Washington Republican's staff spread lies about him to the media -- an act that he says rises to "the level of defamation."
It's hard to know exactly what to make of the story. Initial reports suggested Winer was the original source of the ethics complaint against McMorris Rodgers, though the former aide denies this. But as Winer tells it, the congresswoman's office is nevertheless targeting him for "retribution," which in turn has led him to "break [his] silence" and release a memo to the media about McMorris Rodgers alleged misdeeds.
Colorado Republican Congressman Cory Gardner in Denver on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Colorado's Gardner still struggling to move to the left

09/09/14 11:04AM

Rep. Cory Gardner (R), still in the midst of a very competitive U.S. Senate race in Colorado, seems to believe the key to success is pretending he's a liberal.
For example, the far-right congressman, known for his social conservatism on culture-war issues, recently urged voters to overlook his support for "personhood" measures that would ban common forms of birth control, and instead see him as a progressive champion when it comes to contraception access.
Now, Gardner's suddenly an environmentalist, too.
In one of the GOP lawmaker's new television ads, Gardner stands in front of wind turbines and tells voters, "What is a Republican like me doing at a wind farm? Supporting the next generation, that's what." The congressman boasts that he helped "launch our state's green-energy industry," before the ad tells viewers that Gardner is a "new kind of Republican."
There are two main problems with the claim. First, Gardner didn't actually help launch Colorado's green-energy industry.
GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, framed by sunflowers and wind turbines, tells voters in a campaign ad this week that he co-wrote a law to launch Colorado's green-energy economy. He leaves out that the law was repealed five years later, deemed useless for not enabling a single project. [...]
The Clean Energy Development Authority, which was set up by the law, was intended to assist in the financing of clean-energy projects such as improvements to electricity transmission lines.
Second, the notion that Gardner is presenting himself as some kind of champion of progressive environmental policy is pretty silly -- the League of Conservative Voters publishes a scorecard documenting every member's votes on environmental legislation. Gardner's most recent rating: 4%. No one in the Colorado delegation did worse.
Obviously, this is not the record of a "new kind of Republican." But let's not brush past the fact that Gardner feels the need to pretend to be more progressive.