Posted on August 20, 2015 in Countdown

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This Train is Out of Control

Donald Trump put in a relatively tame performance in the first GOP debate. Despite differences Fox News has with Trump as a Republican presidential candidate, they can't argue with the numbers. It's impossible to say for sure, but it is highly likely that the record-breaking 24 million viewers who tuned in were waiting for Trump's trademark off the rails bombast to be on full display. Though they had to wait until after the show. The claws came out post debate as Trump complained about how he was treated, including a disgraceful attack zeroing in on Fox News debate host Megyn Kelly. But, the viewers leapt to Trump's defense. Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, no fan of Trump, rather than respond to disgusting insults against his employees, or Trump's refusal to pledge not to run as an independent against whoever is selected as the Republican nominee—chose to focus on the potential ratings and bury the hatchet. We still have many months ahead in this Presidential race and Ailes appears to consider the potential boon to his network's ratings in reconciling with Trump to be more important than getting back on track and focusing on covering serious presidential candidates discussing issues that will affect Americans. The American people, particularly Republicans, deserve more from the coverage of this Presidential race.


Step Right Up

The Iowa State Fair had everything that Americans love: fried foods, carnival rides and oh yes, the 2016 presidential candidates donning their most casual “country” attire. Republican and Democratic candidates alike could be found among the crowds, riding the rides, and admiring all that the fair had to offer. Engaging the American public is the name of the game at the fairgrounds, which means candidates tried their best to seem like Joe (or Jane) Average -- everyone except for Donald Trump. It’s hard to seem like the everyman when you’re offering free helicopter rides in your TRUMP chopper. Trump, the current GOP frontrunner, leads the polls with 22% support nationally. In a surprising turn of events, Sen. Scott Walker (R-WI), who had been the obvious Republican favorite in Iowa, was relentlessly heckled during his “soapbox” speech and is now placing third in the crucial state’s caucus, preceded in the polls by Trump and Carson, respectively. While Trump took to the sky, Hillary Clinton was found strolling through the fairgrounds with former Iowa senator, Tom Harkin. Although Clinton didn’t take to the “soapbox” like her fellow Democratic candidates, she wasn’t immune to the jeers and cheers of the people of Iowa. Even Hillary had to answer tough questions from the media, many regarding her most recent e-mail controversy. Another thing Clinton wasn’t immune to? The palpable power of fellow Democratic candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders’ “soapbox” speech attracted the largest crowds out of any of the candidates. In an informal polling of fair-goers, however, Hillary still barely leads Sanders, 48% to 46%. So which candidate gets the “First Place Blue Ribbon”? Many suggest that it was Bat Man himself, Donald Trump.


Fiorina’s Stand Against Islamophobia – 14 Years Ago

The runaway winner of the GOP’s pre-debate debate two weeks ago, California businesswoman and presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is under fire for 14 year old remarks she made “praising Muslims” (h/t Michele Bachman for the phraseology). Quite predictably this presidential election cycle has already begun to draw out Islamophobic and bigoted remarks, but non-candidate Michele Bachman’s twitter trolling has been amplified by the opportunistic outlet responsible for the original story. Clearly the exercise of digging up a 14 year old speech must have not left Bachman much time to actually read Fiorina’s remarks. Addressing her thousands of Hewlett-Packard employees in the weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, Fiorina expressed her concern for the safety of her many Muslim and Arab employees in light of the many, many hate crimes that had already targeted Arab Americans and American Muslims in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Fiorina reiterated (with dubious accuracy) the many contributions Islamic civilization has made to the world and to her company specifically. What she said was actually quite admirable in order to calm fears and preserve workplace safety – which is the role any productivity-loving corporate boss should do. We’ve got to give Fiorina props - she also recently doubled down on her post 9/11 concerns. Let’s hope she takes up the battle with Bachman and shuts down the unfounded and unintelligent bigotry that is beginning to become all too regular.


Julian Bond's Legacy

This past weekend, our nation lost one of its great defenders of equality and justice with the passing of Julian Bond. A pillar of the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Bond never left it. As cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Chairman of the NAACP, a professor, and a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Mr. Bond led a career dedicated to advancing justice. But, perhaps more important than his extensive and inspiring resume, was his ability to forge connections between movements for social justice. Alongside his fight for African American civil rights, he advocated for women, marriage equality, DC statehood, and the environment, and was an early and outspoken critic of the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Through his powerful skills of communication, his sharp wit, and willingness to engage with all who approached him, Mr. Bond taught an inclusiveness that sought to break down barriers and expose Americans to what it means to share a common cause and humanity. Mr. Bond recognized a vital truth of our society: “The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others.” All those who continue to better our nation through the fight for equality, and raise one another up in the process, carry on his legacy and teachings. To be sure, his teachings impacted our community with significant lessons. He will be sorely missed. 


No End in Sight?

Following a few notes of hope in recent weeks, with some diplomatic progress on the Syria crisis, we had a rude awakening over the weekend. The Assad regime struck a crowded marketplace in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma killing 100 people and wounding scores more. It is one of the most devastating attacks in the more than four years of the conflict. The Douma airstrikes came amid additional bombings around Damascus. The attacks come just as a ceasefire ends between regime and opposition forces in two other frontlines of the conflict. Negotiations may involve some aspect of the current Syrian regime in an effort to avoid a chaotic post-conflict situation. Of course herein lies the problem.  The White House reiterated its position saying the Douma attacks "underscore that the [Assad] regime has lost legitimacy.” Indeed. Looking for a way forward, we will close by highlighting that despite this week's horrific attacks, the United Nations Security Council pushed ahead and supports a new plan for a political resolution led by special envoy Staffan de Mistura.