In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Additional reporting by Caitlin MacNeal

Donald Trump wants to create a national registry to track American Muslims. Sen. Marco Rubio is prepared to close “any place where radicals are being inspired," including mosques. Ted Cruz has sponsored a bill in the Senate barring some Muslim refugees – a majority from Syria – and a Democratic mayor in Roanoke used the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s as justification to stop the flow of Syrian refugees to his community.

A terrorist attack 3,828 miles away from Washington has sparked a raw and visceral political reaction across the country to Islam and refugees that hasn't been front and center since 9/11. In the years since, other major attacks have rocked Western countries -- the Madrid commuter rail system (191 dead in 2004), the London Underground (56 dead in 2005), the Boston Marathon (6 dead in 2013) -- but have not spawned the kind of reflexively anti-Muslim and anti-refugee outcry in America that the Paris attacks have.

Why this dramatic of a reaction and why now?

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After Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) gave an impassioned speech on the House floor Wednesday condemning the "xenophobic" backlash against Syrian refugees, a strange thing happened. Russell proceeded to vote for the bill clamping down on Syrian refugees entering the United States, which Russell had just called a "knee-jerk" reaction to the attacks in Paris.

So what happened? Why the change of heart?

In an exclusive interview Friday with TPM, Russell revealed what transpired.

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Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) underdog gubernatorial campaign latched on to growing anti-Syrian refugee sentiment in the final days before Saturday's runoff election.

But in the process, Vitter tapped into rampant paranoia about a "missing" refugee that led to threats being made against a Catholic charity organization in charge of resettling Syrians in Louisiana—one that has a connection to his own wife.

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Donald Trump is using the detainment of eight Syrian refugees on the U.S. border to defend his calls for a "big and beautiful wall" at the border, but the Syrians he is talking about weren't sneaking into the county.

The two Syrian families actually surrendered themselves at a U.S. border checkpoint in Laredo.

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The House will vote Thursday afternoon on the first of what could be many legislative moves geared to curb President Obama's Syrian refugee resettlement program. The legislation, called the America SAFE Act, would require that the heads of federal security agencies personally approve of the background investigations of each refugee admitted and certify that the refugee poses no security threat.

The White House has already vowed to veto the House GOP bill and Democrats are putting together their own alternative. Nevertheless, some Dems are expected to vote with Republicans Thursday, while on the right, conservatives are already clamoring that the bill does not go far enough in targeting Obama's plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States this fiscal year.

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Before the attacks in Paris, Ted Cruz (R-TX) had a different outlook on allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. As recently as February, he wanted the United States to continue accepting them and said he thought it could be done safely.

"We have to continue to be vigilant to make sure those coming are not affiliated with a terrorist, but we can do that," Cruz said in a interview on Fox News that was on his website and was first picked up by the Huffington Post.

Cruz, the son of a Cuban refugee, said in that interview that the United States has "welcomed refugees – the tired huddled masses – that has been the history of the United States. We should continue to do so."

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Simmering anti-refugee sentiment in the U.S. has blown up into full-fledged xenophobic hysteria since Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

The assaults -- conducted largely, it is believed, by French and Belgian nationals -- turned into fodder for Republicans to amp up their attacks on the Obama administration's previously announced plans to accept more Syrian refugees next year.

Even before details of the attackers’ backgrounds had emerged, GOP candidates were screaming that refugees from regions torn by the Islamic State be banned from the United States. Cable news pundits fueled the fire, speculating even before assault was over that the flow of migrants through Europe were connected to attack. By Monday, the backlash to the U.S. long tradition of accepting refugees was in full force and Congress was flirting with the idea of shutting down the government over Obama’s refugee plans.

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The adviser to Ben Carson on national security who blasted him in a New York Times article Tuesday has a curious, intrepid past of his own, including connections to a private spy ring and an indictment in the Iran-Contra affair.

Duane Clarridge deeply embarrassed the Carson campaign when he told the Times that Carson may not be absorbing “one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.” In the era of highly-scripted politics and blind quotes, a campaign adviser’s public disparagement of his own candidate is damning enough. But in Clarridge, Carson has found an adviser whose dubious tales of derring-do over the past 40 years are legendary and sometimes hilarious.

Clarridge has shown a uncanny ability to insinuate himself into scandals, cloak-and-dagger escapades, and assorted murky schemes on the fuzzy line between the real world and the clandestine one. His mere presence as a counselor to Carson is more evidence that the foreign policy neophyte has surrounded himself with an off-beat cadre of advisers.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) may have been mocked for his claim during Saturday’s Democratic debate that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.” But his comment touched upon what has become a focus of research and planning in the defense and intelligence worlds.

For years, those in the national security community has considered climate change threat to American interests here and abroad, and are now exploring how climate change is exacerbating the conditions that lead to civil unrest.

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