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Fan flap flusters Scott while debate waits

Fan flap flusters Rick Scott while debate waits

10/15/14 10:58PM

Rachel Maddow shares video of the most bizarre beginning to a political debate in recent memory as Florida governor, Rick Scott, initially refused to join a debate with former governor Charlie Crist over objections to Crist's use of a fan. watch

At center of Ebola crisis, hard lessons

At center of Ebola crisis, hard-learned lessons

10/15/14 10:57PM

Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Judge, talks with Rachel Maddow about lessons learned at the center of the nation's only cases of Ebola transmission and how Dallas is preparing for the possibility of more cases among the workers who treated Thomas Eric... watch

Moe the otter learns to swim

Moe the otter learns to swim

10/15/14 10:57PM

Rachel Maddow takes a break from dark and disturbing Ebola headlines to appreciate some video of a mother river otter teaching Moe, the river otter pup, how to swim at the Oregon Zoo. watch

Close races raise risks of dirty tricks

Close races raise risks of dirty tricks

10/15/14 10:56PM

Rachel Maddow points out that with less than three weeks to go before the midterm elections, and with some states already early voting, polls are showing statistical ties in several high profile races, increasing the danger of cheating. watch

Ahead on the 10/15/14 Maddow show

10/15/14 07:54PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Dr. Adam Levine, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University and member of the International Medical Corps' Emergency Response Team
  • Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Judge

After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo gives us a look at what's coming...

read more

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 10.15.14

10/15/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Ebola: "A second nurse at a hospital here tested positive for Ebola on Wednesday, the third case of disease confirmed in Dallas in the span of 15 days and the first to heighten fears far beyond the city."
* Related news: "The latest Dallas nurse to contract Ebola boarded a plane in Cleveland two days ago with a slight fever and should not have flown, federal health officials said Wednesday. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that the nurse had a temperature of 99.5 degrees before she got on the plane on Monday."
* Nurses' union: "Nurses responding to Ebola in the United States have been poorly trained and provided with inadequate equipment, the nurses' union National Nurses United (NNU) alleged during a heated conference call on Wednesday."
* Texas: "Hours after officials confirmed that a second health care worker had tested positive for Ebola in Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry said that he would cut his pre-scheduled European trip short and return to his home state tomorrow, his office confirmed to NBC News Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Perry's spokesman said the governor had no plans to return early 'at this point.'"
* ISIS: "Fighters from the Islamic State were mustering with tanks, armored vehicles and heavy weapons on Wednesday near a strategically located rural town about 25 miles west of Baghdad in the embattled province of Anbar, local officials said."
* Wall Street "had for the most part shrugged off a recent slide in global stock markets, viewing the declines as an adjustment that was bound to take place after so many years of uninterrupted gains. That complacent view was upended on Wednesday."
* The final, official tally: "The government says the deficit for the just completed 2014 budget year was $483 billion, the lowest of President Barack Obama's six years in office. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says it's an indication the economy is far healthier than when Obama became president in January 2009. The deficit is at its lowest since 2008. When the deficit is measured against the size of the economy, it's below the average deficits of the past 40 years."
Doctor Vivek Murthy stands among other bystanders during the first day of legal arguments over the Affordable Care Act outside the Supreme Court in Washington March 26, 2012.

A Surgeon General nominee 'tied up in politics'

10/15/14 04:54PM

There's a fair amount of public anxiety about the Ebola virus, and it's important to have U.S. officials communicating clearly and effectively with the public so Americans understand the nature of the problem. That might ordinarily be the job of the U.S. Surgeon General, but as of now, we don't actually have one.
As regular readers may recall, President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to the post nearly a year ago, and at first blush, this seemed like a no-brainer -- Murthy is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He's an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate, so when Obama nominated him for the post, no one questioned his qualifications.
But Murthy, like so many in his field, also sees a connection between gun violence and public health, which meant Republicans and the NRA decided to destroy his nomination. Senate Democrats could have confirmed him anyway, but red-state Dems got election-year jitters, which means. at least for now, Murthy has been temporarily derailed and the Surgeon General's office is empty during a public-health scare.
It's against this backdrop that Fox News' Steve Doocy told his audience something interesting yesterday:
"You would normally think that in something like this, the Surgeon General would be in charge, but right now at this point oddly, the United States of America does not have a Surgeon General. His nomination is tied up in politics."
Well, yes, I suppose that's true, though it only tells part of the story -- and it conveniently obscures Fox News' role in trying to tear Murthy down during the confirmation process.
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Fitchburg, Wis.

Opening a Pandora's Box on campaign coordination

10/15/14 04:27PM

This federal district court ruling hasn't received too much attention over the last 24 hours, which is a shame because its scope is pretty significant.
A federal judge Tuesday blocked enforcement of a Wisconsin election law that's at the center of an investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa granted the request to block the law from the Milwaukee-based group Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates while the conservative group's underlying lawsuit challenging its constitutionality goes forward.
Let's back up for a minute, because there's an important context to all of this.
As regular readers may recall, Wisconsin election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his team have been accused of breaking these laws by directly overseeing how outside groups -- including some allegedly non-partisan non-profits -- spent their campaign resources during the governor's recall campaign.
When Judge Randa, a Republican appointee active in far-right judicial/political circles, first heard the case involving Walker, he ruled in the governor's favor -- not because Walker was innocent, but because the judge believed the law against coordination is effectively impossible to break. For Randa, the law was intended to prevent bribery and explicit corruption, which means so long as politicians are coordinating with groups that agree with them, anything goes.
As Alec MacGillis explained in June, "This is a striking claim, reminiscent of the Supreme Court's recent rulings against limits on campaign contributions -- that limits can only be justified as bars against explicit attempts to bribe politicians to change their stances on issues."
Under Randa's reasoning, it doesn't matter if allegedly non-partisan non-profit groups exert influence over an election, so long as the groups don't exert influence over an elected official.
The consequences of such thinking have the potential to be quite broad.
Ryan speaks at the SALT conference in Las Vegas

Paul Ryan's forceful rejection of climate science

10/15/14 03:53PM

The official Republican line on climate change has spread far and wide: "I'm not a scientist." The poll-tested response threads a needle -- it's intended to avoid straight-up denial of science and evidence, while at the same time, keeping the GOP's far-right base satisfied.
But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has his own take, which not only involves ignoring science, but taking the next step of questioning what the science actually says. Jane C. Timm reported yesterday:
A full 97% of researchers taking a stance on climate change say it's man-made, as do 97-98% of the most frequently-published climate scientists. But according to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, they're all wrong.
When asked during an election debate Monday if he believed humans cause climate change, the former Republican vice presidential nominee joined the growing number of Republicans who refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are influencing the Earth's climate. "I don't know the answer to that question," he said according to the Associated Press. "I don't think science does, either."
Remember, according to much of the Beltway, Paul Ryan, the failed vice presidential candidate, is supposed to be one of his party's most intellectually engaging policy wonks.
According to the AP's report on the debate, the Republican lawmaker went on to say that "we've had climate change forever," adding, "The benefits do not outweigh the costs."
I'll confess, as annoying as "I'm not a scientist" is, it's marginally less ridiculous than Paul Ryan's forceful rejection of reality. He's effectively saying he knows what scientists have found, he's heard the warnings, and he's aware of the potential consequences, but Ryan just doesn't care.
In this Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 photo, a voter casts his ballot at an early voting polling site, in Austin, Texas.

Appeals court revives Texas' voter-ID law

10/15/14 12:40PM

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos not only ruled against Texas' voter-ID law, she did so in a powerful and forceful way. The 147-page opinion reads like a beautiful recitation of history, before concluding that the voting restrictions imposed by Texas Republicans for no reason violates both the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the constitutional prohibition against poll taxes.
Ramos also found "that the law not only had the effect of discriminating against minorities, but was designed to do so."
It did not, however, last long. Zach Roth reported last night:
A U.S. Appeals Court has ruled to put Texas's strict voter ID law back in place for the upcoming election. [...]
A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday afternoon unanimously stayed an order issued Saturday by U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos that had blocked the controversial law.... "Based primarily on the extremely fast-approaching election date, we STAY the district court's judgment pending appeal," Judge Edith Brown Clement, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote. It cited Purcell v. Gonzalez, a 2006 case in which the Supreme Court stopped an Arizona voting law from going into effect close to an election, to avoid causing confusion among voters.
Of course, if the goal was to make the process less confusing, Texas is moving in the wrong direction. Roth added in a separate report that the 5th Circuit may have revived the voter-suppression law, "but while the state was pushing to get the law reinstated, it stopped issuing IDs. It said Wednesday morning that it has started again. The on-again-off-again schedule could add to the hurdles and confusion that voters face in obtaining an ID. And it offers a window into the GOP-controlled state's approach to voting: In a nutshell, critics say, Texas jumped at the chance to stop issuing IDs, even though it was far from clear that a halt was required by law."
What an extraordinary -- and wholly unnecessary -- fiasco in a state where over 600,000 registered voters don't have the kind of ID Texas now expects them to show for the first time in order to cast a ballot. The policy has already caused voting problems in the Lone Star State and those problems are poised to get considerably worse.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.15.14

10/15/14 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:
* Georgia's U.S. Senate race has quickly become one of the nation's premier contests. A new SurveyUSA poll shows Michelle Nunn (D) pulling into the lead over David Perdue (R), 48% to 45%.
* In related news, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee may be moving away from Kentucky, but it's increasingly interested in Georgia, where the DSCC is reserving $1 million in ad time in support of Nunn.
* Also note, the same poll found Georgia's gubernatorial race all tied up, with Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Jason Carter (D) each generating 46% support.
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, Quinnipiac's new poll shows Joni Ernst's (R) lead over Bruce Braley (D) shrinking to just two points, 47% to 45%, down from Ernst's six-point advantage a month ago.
* Colorado may very well be on pace to elect its most right-wing U.S. senator in state history, with a new CNN poll showing Rep. Cory Gardner (R) leading Sen. Mark Udall (D) by four, 50% to 46%.
* In the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Democrats lead Republicans on the generic congressional ballot among all voters, 46% to 42%, but Republicans lead Democrats on the generic ballot among voters who actually intend to show up, 46% to 44%.
* In Maine's gubernatorial race, the latest Bangor Daily News poll shows Rep. Mike Michaud (D) with a six-point lead over Gov. Paul LePage (R), 42% to 36%. Independent Eliot Cutler is third in the poll with 16% support (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, seen here from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, are the backbone of a proposed conservation area announced Friday with a billionaire's pledge to protect 90,000 acres from development.

Colorado A.G. candidate: it's time 'we took back' federal land

10/15/14 11:38AM

About a third of Colorado's 100,000 square miles is national public land, which is managed by the federal government and owned by the people of the United States. It's a pretty familiar dynamic in many Western states, which has a wide variety of national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.
But ThinkProgress reported on a Colorado candidate for state Attorney General who apparently isn't satisfied with the status quo.
In previously unreported comments that were captured on video, Colorado Republican attorney general candidate Cynthia Coffman can be seen telling supporters that she intends to lead a legal fight against the U.S. government to seize America's national forests and public lands for state ownership and control.
The video appears to have been posted publicly by the Independent attorney general candidate David Williams in July. It shows Coffman describing her plan to attend the annual Conference of Western Attorneys General this summer with a "mission" to build support for taking over America's public lands. Coffman says public land "has been taken from us" and that "it is time that the Western attorneys general join together and fought back against the federal government, and we took back that land."
I don't mean to sound picky, but Colorado can't simply "take" federal land because it wants to. That's plainly at odds with the American legal system.
Hunter joked, "Coffman also surely has to know that her proposed remedy of 'taking back' federal land is unconstitutional, though I imagine the remedy is to simply rewrite the offending parts until we get to the desired outcome. Those national parks aren't going to frack themselves, after all."
But the larger question is, what's up with these far-right state A.G. candidates?
Scott Brown works the phone banks at the New Hampshire GOP Salem headquarters on Sept. 17, 2014 in Salem, N.H. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty)

Scott Brown combines ISIS, Ebola, and border security

10/15/14 11:08AM

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was dismissive yesterday of an unfounded concern: Islamic State terrorists using the Ebola virus. In remarks to the Association of the United States Army, Johnson specifically said, "We've seen no specific credible intelligence that [ISIS] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack our homeland."
That's good to hear, of course, but the fact that it was necessary for the DHS secretary to make these comments was itself rather striking.
As a friend reminded me yesterday, we've heard quite a bit about possible threats from ISIS terrorists; and we've heard plenty about the dangers of Ebola; but we've apparently entered a new phase in which ISIS may strike with Ebola.
And where is such talk coming from? Greg Sargent reported yesterday on the latest remarks from former Sen. Scott Brown (R), now running in New Hampshire after losing two years ago in Massachusetts. In this case, the Republican was asked whether he supports travel restrictions on countries in West Africa. Brown replied:
"We need a comprehensive approach and I think that should be part of it. I think it's all connected. For example, we have people coming into our country by legal means bringing in diseases and other potential challenges. Yet we have a border that's so porous that anyone can walk across it. I think it's naive to think that people aren't going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases and/or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist. And yet we do nothing to secure our border."
Brown has dabbled in this before, but I think this was the most direct he's been to date to tie together the disparate threads of terrorism, Ebola, and border security, all at the same time, all in the hopes of exploiting public anxiety to advance his personal ambitions. (North Carolina's Thom Tillis recently pushed a similar tack, though he didn't go for the full trifecta.)
The politics of fear isn't pretty, and as Brown makes clear, it's getting worse. The public can, however, take at least some comfort in the fact that the New England Republican doesn't seem to have any idea what he's talking about.