Posted on July 27, 2015 in Countdown

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Hate Crimes, The Original Domestic Terrorism

This past week, AAI held a briefing with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Brennan Center for Justice on domestic terrorism that specifically focused on hate crimes. Our briefing reflected a view that Attorney General Loretta Lynch accurately summarized when she stated, “hate crimes are the original domestic terrorism.” Our panelists agreed that while it is critical for our government to combat all forms of violence, more needs to be done to address hate crimes, criminal prosecutions, and thousands of unresolved criminal cases. In fact, our panelists noted that one way to  “counter violent extremism” is to prosecute and convict criminals, whether they have committed hate rimes or other acts of violence, including terrorism. As members of Congress seek to tackle the threat posed by domestic terrorism, there are three important recommendations our panelists provided. First, research on domestic terrorism must focus on methodology, as opposed to ideology. Second, conduct better oversight of ineffective programs such as the NSEERS or SPOT programs. Congress should consider calling for a GAO investigation regarding the efficacy of CVE before an office is created. Third, ensure that all levels of law enforcement are provided better hate crimes training. If Congress truly wants to “counter violent extremism” then we must rely on traditional criminal prosecution practices, not politicized research studies.    

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Done Deal, Almost

With the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program, everyone has been elbowing to make sure their opinion is heard—even before they have read the 159 page document. Beyond the noise from Republican presidential candidates hoping to score easy points by jabbing at the deal, many experts have applauded the deal. The Iran Project published a statement from 60 key national security leaders and Iran experts who say the deal is "unprecedented in its importance for preventing acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran." Looking beyond the reflexive dissent and the hyper-focus on Israel, it's important that we all remember this is a great deal for the U.S. and the rest of the world—Iran will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon in the next ten years. The challenge now is incorporating a broader regional security strategy, and following the unanimous United Nations Security Council support, getting the deal through Congress

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Make Room

Palestinian residents in the West Bank town of Susiya are being told to make room for Israeli settlers; in fact, Israeli officials have actually expressed a desire for Susiya’s inhabitants to destroy their own homes (perhaps so Israel can deny having done it?). Both the European Union and the U.S. have already voiced their condemnations, but the bulldozing seems imminent. The State Department stated that destruction of Susiya “would be harmful and provocative.” Not illegal, not disturbingly immoral, but merely “harmful” and “provocative.” Israel maintains that the Palestinians are living in Susiya without a permit; this is despite evidence that Susiya residents have lived on and farmed the land since the 1830s. Already squeezed between two Israeli settlements, Palestinians in Susiya have been blocked from obtaining proper utilities – unlike their Israeli neighbors, who have running water and electricity. Inhabitants of Susiya have already seen their town demolished four times in the last 35 years, let's not let them see their homes destroyed a fifth time. We support the efforts by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and others in Congress to help save Susiya.

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No Space

In any other presidential election, serious front-runner candidates would be prepping their talking points for the first presidential debate, and the American public would be treated to 90 minutes of meaningful discussion of issues and the occasional gaffe. Instead, each candidate in the crowded Republican field is vying to make their voice heard and gain one of the coveted spots in Fox’s televised debate. To qualify, multiple undisclosed national polls must rank the candidate in the top 10. But because the electorate is divided between 17 candidates, it is almost impossible to determine who should get the bottom two or three spots. For candidates polling in the 1%-3% range, even a minor bump from a headline or a flame war with Donald trump can mean the difference between being a viable prime time candidate or having to sit at the kid's table in a separate, smaller debate. Speaking of which, The Donald is now poised to occupy center stage at the debate based on his recent polling. And herein lies the problem: instead of candidates with legitimate governing experience being selected for the debate, a poll-based selection process favors the boorish, loud, and media-savvy candidates. What this serves to do is artificially cut out legitimate candidates and encourages the use of inflammatory rhetoric to secure a spot on the stage.

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5 Candidates, 1 stage

Democratic presidential candidates occupied the same stage for the first cattle call of the democratic race to the nomination. The candidates: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee each spoke at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame fundraising dinner in Cedar Rapids, in front of 1,300 Iowan activists. As the obvious democratic frontrunner, Hillary took the stage to gladly bash Republican candidates and Trump’s hair, but allowed no jabs to go to her fellow running mates who also bleed blue. Sanders, who received the loudest response from the audience, attempted to showcase his appeal to minorities (which he never needed to accomplish in Vermont). Although Sanders’s candidacy is no joke, Hillary still leads the polls by 34 points. O’Malley, who is still in the single digits, has yet to even be a road bump in Clinton’s or Sanders’s race to the White House, but showed his potential as he rattled off his progressive agenda to an excited crowd. Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee (Mr. Metric!) were the least noticeable candidates of the night, but were still received well. With less than 200 days until Election Day, the assumption of Hillary’s nomination will be tested as Sanders and O’Malley bring authenticity-not a household name-into the race. Clinton’s poll numbers and formidable war chest put her far ahead of every other Democratic candidate at the moment.