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The Rage and the Derp

An amazing little story developing down in Louisiana, one that could tell us a lot about the political salience of the current Syrian refugee hysteria. With his history finally catching up with him, Sen. David Vitter looked like he was heading to near certain defeat in the Louisiana gubernatorial election. His prostitute history got kicked back into the center of the campaign, he got caught having a private eye spy on a prominent Republican sheriff, the polls began to collapse and prominent state Republicans began to abandon him in favor of his Democratic opponent.

The polls still show Vitter clearly behind. But he's latched on to Syrian refugee hysteria as his campaign closing Hail Marry pass. Where it gets really weird and sinister is that this has involved not just scaremongering about refugees in the abstract but Vitter personally sounding the alarm about a specific Syrian refugee who'd been settled in the state and had suddenly gone missing. It turned out that the whole story was bogus: The man in question had been relocated to the Washington DC area through officials channels with all relevant officials notified. But that wasn't before a whole round of Vitter-campaign backed incitement had gotten underway and led to threats against the local branch of Catholic Charities, which overseas refugee resettlement in the area and is actually connected to Vitter's wife. It's quite a story to put it mildly and it shows how quickly political nonsense can escalate into a weird politicking-cum-vigilante incitement that can get someone killed. The election is tomorrow and Catherine Thompson has the story.

The Amazing Trump-Wingnut Policy Conveyor Belt

We've already seen how, in the first weeks of Donald Trump's candidacy, he not only pushed immigration higher on the GOP primary issue list but managed to mainstream a choice of language and policies which had heretofore been the preserve of folks like Louie Gohmert in the House of Representatives. We're now seeing a similar pattern on what we might call the immigration-terror paranoia nexus, where Trump first publicly considers an outrageous idea, rapidly endorses it and then is followed to varying degrees by other candidates. I think this is actually very important. So allow me to explain.

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A Wonderful Moment

During congressional testimony today Rep. Ken Buck (R) of Colorado explained a new dimension of the Syrian refugee question to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez: Benghazi.

Clumsy Boy

Unless you haven't been paying attention to the American political debate for the last half dozen years, you know that Republicans insist that it is a critical part of fighting terrorism that our leaders talk about "Islam" or "radical Islam" or some phrase that includes the word "Islam" to be able to protect ourselves and win our epic battle against the jihadists. There are more and less sophisticated versions of the argument. And usually presidential candidates will carefully go through the motions of explaining that we have no quarrel with Islam but only "radical Islam" or some subset of extremists. But Marco Rubio appeared on This Week last weekend. And it was a good example of why this seeming hyper-caution is actually pretty important and how in particularly clumsy hands or in the hands of someone new to these issues this approach can lead to major problems.

Coming off the last Democratic presidential debate, this issue again got a big airing, with Republicans attacking all the candidates for refusing to invoke the I-word. So George Stephanopoulos played Hillary Clinton's remarks and then asked Rubio to respond. Here's the exchange ...

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How The Hell Did It Come To This?

I had thought the Syrian passport found at the scene of one of the Paris attacks -- and now generally believed to be a fake -- was the spark that lit the anti-Syrian-refugee fire. But upon closer look, the fire had been smoldering in right-wing circles well before the Paris attacks. Tierney Sneed has a tick tock on how the homegrown attacks in Paris turned into an xenophobic inferno in the United States, where interning of Syrian refugees is now being publicly proposed with a straight face.

Return To Sender

Caitlin MacNeal talked to the Tennessee state representative who wants to round up Syrian refugees in his state and ship them back. He claims he was taken out of context in earlier news reports. What he really wants to do, he says, is round up any Syrian refugees Obama shoves down Tennessee's throat going forward and send them back the ICE facility in New Orleans. The Syrian refugees already in Tennessee are safe. Glad we cleared that up.