Oregon Sheriff Handling Massacre Fought the White House on Gun Control After Newtown

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 6:33 PM EDT

As the sheriff in Douglas County, Oregon, John Hanlin was front and center following Thursday's shooting at Umpqua Community College, which left 10 dead and 7 others wounded.

Two years ago, Hanlin was one of hundreds of sheriffs around the country to vow to stand against new gun control legislation. In a January 15, 2013, letter to Vice President Joe Biden, he wrote, "Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings."

Read more below:


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An Overwhelming Majority of Americans Still Support Universal Background Checks

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 6:13 PM EDT
Students, staff, and faculty are evacuated from Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, after a mass shooting on October 1, 2015.

Following today's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama wants to see "sensible steps" to prevent gun violence, including expanding background checks to all gun purchases. While Congress has repeatedly punted on that proposal, a large majority of Americans say they are on board with it. According to a poll taken just last week by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, 93 percent of registered voters said they would support universal background checks for all gun buyers—even as nearly half said they oppose stricter gun control laws.


The World Economic Forum Delivers a Report Card on the US Economy

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 3:35 PM EDT

So how's the ol' US of A doing under the free-market-hating presidency of the socialist Barack Obama? Probably badly, I'll bet. Let's see what the World Economic Forum has to say. Their latest set of competitiveness rankings came out today, and among countries with populations over 10 million, the US was....

First. How about that? But it was probably even better before Obama took over, wasn't it? Let's see. In 2009 we ranked #1 among big countries with a score of 5.59. This year we're #1 with a score of 5.61. That's hard to fathom. But there you have it. Our competitiveness in the global free market seems to have improved a bit during Obama's tenure. I wonder if Fox News will bother reporting this?

Shooting at Oregon Community College Leaves 10 Dead, 7 Wounded

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 2:44 PM EDT

Update, 8:15 p.m. EDT: Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin says the fatalities are less than originally reported by the attorney general— there are 10 fatalities and 7 injured. There are still no details on the shooter.

Update, 5:03 p.m. EDT: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown confirms that the shooter was a 20-year-old male. "I know I am joined by my fellow Oregonians and Americans in profound dismay and heartbreak at this tragedy at Umpqua Community College," Brown said.

Update, 4:52 p.m. EDT: Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin confirms that the shooter is dead. "I couldn't be happier [with the officer response today]," Hanlin said.

Hanlin said the scene is still active and being investigated.

Update, 4:08 p.m. EDT: Oregon's attorney general confirms that at least 13 people were killed and 20 people wounded in today's shooting.

In response to the shooting, the White House repeated its call for increased gun control laws. "The issue of sensible steps that can be taken to protect our communities from gun violence continues to be a top priority of this administration," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday.


Multiple media outlets are reporting a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

On MSNBC, Brian Williams interviewed a local firefighter who said he had been on the scene and witnessed "multiple deceased" and "multiple" injured people who were transported for emergency care. He said the campus had been evacuated.


Emergency responders are in the process of clearing buildings at Umpqua Community College now. Students are being escorted now to get off campus. Wayne Crooch building has just been secured.

Posted by Umpqua Community College Mainstream Newspaper on Thursday, October 1, 2015

As news of the shooting first broke, a student tweeted the following:

According to the gun safety coalition Everytown, today's shooting marks the 45th school shooting in 2015 alone.

This is a breaking news post. We will update as more news becomes available.

Let Us Now Praise Authentically Stiff Politicians

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 1:49 PM EDT

Brendan Nyhan thinks we spend too much time yakking about which candidates are "authentic" and which ones aren't. For example:

George W. Bush and Al Gore were both born into powerful political families, but were perceived very differently. Mr. Bush successfully reinvented himself as a down-home Texas ranch owner despite being the son of a president with elite New England roots, while Mr. Gore was widely mocked as a phony who grew up amid wealth and power in Washington, especially when he invoked his childhood work on his family’s Tennessee farm. Again, one simple explanation for the disparate treatment they received is that Mr. Bush was a better political performer.

I would remind everyone that Brad Pitt gets paid millions of dollars for doing a very good job of pretending to be authentically charming. The ability to feign authenticity is called "acting," and it's a lucrative profession if you're good at it.

Was Al Gore authentic? Hillary Clinton? Mitt Romney? Sure. Gore is genuinely sort of wonkish and stiff. Hillary is earnest and cautious around people. Romney is careful and detail-oriented. That's authentically who they are. If they studied up and adopted a hail-fellow-well-met persona, everyone would think they were authentic, but they'd just be pretending.

If you prefer politicians who are bluff and emotional in public, just say so. If you can't stand being around people who natter on about policy and guard their private lives, say so. But cut out the "authentic" nonsense. That's not what this is about.

Watch a Bear Destroy a Woman's Kayak After She Thanks Him for Not Destroying Said Kayak

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 12:43 PM EDT

An expression of gratitude should never be followed by a threat of pepper spray.

YouTube user Mary Maley learned this lesson the hard way after she encountered a black bear during a recent kayaking trip in Alaska.

"Thank you for leaving my kayak alone!" Maley tells the bear in the video.

As the bear saunters toward her, Maley quickly decides to abandon such pleasantries and hauls out the pepper spray, telling the animal, "I'm going to pepper-spray you in the face. That's what I'm going to do with you."

After she does just that, the bear turns around and begins to destroy Maley's kayak, while Maley engages in an increasingly hysterical rant.

"Bear! Bear! Why are you breaking my kayak? Why are you doing that?!" she screamed, her voice rising.

She also points out that it's the end of September and the bear should be asleep. To no one's surprise, the bear seems unimpressed with her hibernation facts and continues playing with her boat.

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As His Rivals Tout Big Fundraising Numbers, O'Malley Vows to Take On Dark Money

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 12:37 PM EDT

As the other Democratic candidates release their third quarter fundraising numbers—$28 million for Hillary Clinton, $26 million for Bernie Sanders—Martin O'Malley has remained mum. But the former Maryland governor has seized the occasion of fundraising disclosures to put forward a campaign finance plan that seeks to rein in runaway political spending.

Like his two main Democratic rivals, O'Malley wants to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that ushered in an era of unlimited political donations, increase disclosure rules, and set up a public campaign financing system. But O'Malley goes further in calling for an overhaul of the Federal Election Commission, the agency that is intended to regulate election spending but is instead so mired in dysfunction that it barely managed to organize its own 40th anniversary party earlier this year. "The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim," the chairwoman of the agency, Ann Ravel, told the New York Times. "People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”

Because of the FEC's structure, with an equal number of Republican and Democratic commissioners, the agency is deadlocked. One of the things that the FEC is supposed to be doing is cracking down on illegal coordination between super-PACs, political nonprofits, and campaigns. As president, O'Malley says, he would push to reorganize the agency so that it is led by one independent administrator "serving a term independent from the president who appoints them." His plan would also increase the FEC's power to punish groups that break campaign finance laws.

O'Malley's plan is unlikely to boost his barely registering poll numbers. If a strong campaign finance reform agenda were the golden ticket to success, then Larry Lessig's single-issue campaign would be atop the polls. (It's not.) But at least O'Malley can tout his plan in two weeks at the first Democratic debate—and find something to promote on a day when his rivals are showing off their big hauls.

Should Democrats All Quit the Benghazi Committee?

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 12:16 PM EDT

Following Rep. Kevin McCarthy's candid boasting about how the House Benghazi committee has been a great tool to take down Hillary Clinton—an admission being furiously rowed back as we speak—Rep. Adam Smith suggested that maybe it was time to call a spade a spade:

The committee is a joke and I think Democrats ought to call it what it is and say we're not going to participate in this anymore. And that's my initial reaction. I'll listen to my leadership on this and perhaps they will again have greater wisdom, but it just has been an embarrassment.

This is a possibility that's long intrigued me, but I can't make up my mind if it would be a good decision. On the plus side, letting Republicans meet all by themselves would pretty dramatically make the point that this is little more than a partisan boondoggle. On the minus side, losing access to the committee's materials would prevent Democrats from fighting back whenever Trey Gowdy or his staffers decide to leak a partial transcript to the New York Times.

Decisions, decisions. Maybe everyone should resign except for Elijah Cummings, who wouldn't actually attend most hearings but would still retain the minority's access to committee materials.

It would be interesting to see what happens if Democrats did this. But I suspect it's the kind of thing that sounds better to a blogger with nothing on the line than it does to the actual Democratic leadership in the House.

Let's All Take a Nice Deep Breath Over Russia's Airstrikes in Syria

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 11:28 AM EDT

One of Josh Marshall's readers says something this morning that I've been meaning to say but haven't gotten around to. It's about the Russian airstrikes in Syria:

First, the actual deployment is very small. In terms of the airwing, it is roughly the equivalent of what the non-U.S. coalition members have flying over Iraq and Syria, keeping in mind that the U.S. is still flying the majority of sorties now. The Russians are armed with non-precision munitions, meaning the likelihood of civilian casualties is high.

....Moreover, anyone who has been following Russia's military modernization program closely over the past five years or so knows that the Russian military is unlikely to be able to sustain this kind of deployment in the long run....This means that over time, the mission is unlikely to accomplish much more than propping up Assad and preventing his collapse, which appeared imminent and explains the rapidity of the deployment.

....When it comes to formulating a U.S. response to this new development, time is the biggest advantage we have. The shine will soon wear off of Putin's move. It looks bold and confident now, but it is actually a bluff and in part a diversionary one at that....The U.S. bargaining position will be much stronger when Putin's gambit is revealed to be the empty bluff it is.

I'd make a broader point. Like clockwork, every time another country hauls out its military—the Egyptian airstrikes in Libya, Jordan's airstrikes against ISIS—American conservatives go wild. Why can't Obama commit to that kind of serious action? But also like clockwork, this routinely ignores the fact that (a) the military action they're admiring is pretty small, and (b) Obama is already doing the same thing on a much bigger scale.

Yes, yes, I know: we should arm the Syrian opposition. Spare me. That empty shibboleth aside, we're already bombing Syria. We're already bombing ISIS in Iraq. We already have thousands of boots on the ground. We've already put together an international coalition. We're doing ten times what Putin is doing and we've been doing it for over a year. If you have serious criticisms of the tactics we're using, fine. But Vladimir Putin is the Donald Trump of world leaders: he gets swooning admiration from conservatives because he knows how to play the media. I sort of admire the bang for the buck he gets on the world stage from his flamboyant gestures, but that's about it. He's entered the Syrian conflict in a small way, four years after it began, and only because he was in danger of losing his last tenuous toehold in the Middle East. And for that he gets 24/7 coverage on Fox and CNN.

Do you know how many military bases the US has in the Middle East? Nearly two dozen. Plus the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Plus a whole bunch of close allies. And we're supposed to be quaking in our boots because Putin hastily upgraded a single aging base in Latakia under pressure from his sole remaining ally? You're kidding, right?

Sanders Posts an Astounding Fundraising Haul, Nearly Matching Clinton

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 11:23 AM EDT

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign brought in $26 million in the third quarter of fundraising—just $2 million less than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. For a candidate who's eschewed super-PACs and high-dollar fundraising, it's kind of an astounding figure. The New York Times's Nick Confessore puts it in perspective:

Mrs. Clinton has relied on the full force and reach of one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in the world, rousing small donors but also investing far more time and energy than Mr. Sanders in courting those who can give the maximum $2,700 for her primary campaign.

Mrs. Clinton attended at least 58 fund-raisers during the last three months, according to her campaign schedules, and sent her husband, former President Bill Clinton, or top aides to others.

Despite all of that, her overall haul was negligible. And Sanders' reliance on small-dollar donors means he can hit them up again and again if he needs to. Consider that on Wednesday, Sanders' presidential campaign also hit its one millionth individual donation—the most, by far, of any 2016 candidate. (By contrast, then-Sen. Barack Obama didn't reach 1 million contributions until February 2008.)

The national polls still point to a comfortable Clinton lead—and an overwhelming advantage with nonwhite voters—but Sanders just guaranteed he'll have plenty of money to get his message out in the first round of primaries and beyond.