Posted on October 02, 2015 in Countdown

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Who says letter writing is a lost art?

This week eighteen mayors across the United States signed a letter urging President Obama to welcome more refugees into the country. Signatories include mayors of state capitals and major cities, such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Minneapolis. This heartwarming gesture comes one day after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas wrote a letter about refugees, but for different reasons. In his letter to members of Obama’s cabinet, Cruz asked many questions about who will be entering, where they're from, and how they'll be vetted. He believes that Congress has an obligation to “resist this effort” before we “wind up spending taxpayer dollars to import terrorism.” Cruz is convinced that accepting refugees equates to threatening national security, even when the facts show that migrations to the U.S. have boosted economies and provided positive cultural and social impacts to each city, as the mayors recognized. Sen. Cruz was perhaps so wrapped up in fearing imaginary enemies that he forgot he was born in Canada to an immigrant father from Cuba who came to the U.S. to escape Castro’s oppression. Had it not been for the U.S. accepting so many Cuban refugees, Ted Cruz probably would not be a Senator and in a position to so strongly question the American refugee vetting system. Remember when Cuba was a prime enemy of the United States? Now look at Miami, one of America’s most prosperous cities, largely because of the hard-working Cuban Americans and other immigrant communities that have settled there. Syrian refugees are a chance for American cities that have faltered, like Detroit, to thrive again with the “new labor and energy” that refugees bring to a community. Give refugees a chance, Ted.

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POTUS and Putin on Syria

President Obama’s remarks at the UN General Assembly this past week reiterated America’s commitment to “international order” especially in Syria. He said that the United States is willing to work with nations, namely Iran and Russia to resolve the crisis in the region. Putin’s remarks later that day, however, reconfirmed Russia’s support of the Assad regime. With Russian military assistance, Putin says that Assad’s forces are the only ones truly fighting ISIL and other terrorist groups. Russia’s recent airstrikes in Homs, however do not fit this narrative, as ISIL does not have a presence in the city. A U.S. official said that Russia had “no strategic purpose” for yesterday’s airstrikes. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL would continue despite a warning from Russia to stay out of Syrian airspace. Kerry also warned that the fight against ISIL does not equate to American support of the Assad regime. According to Kerry, the U.S. has “grave concerns” when and if Russia strikes areas held by rebels or occupied by civilians. Russia’s latest military actions in Syria begs the question of their real intention for being in Syria—fighting ISIL or securing a strong military presence in the Middle East by supporting the Assad regime?

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The "Untrustables"

With Boehner’s resignation less than a week ago, hardline conservatives are jumping at the opportunity for change. The GOP realizes that Boehner didn’t simply retire; the former Speaker left as he couldn’t muster the support he needed from his own party. There is an obvious divide in the Republican Party with evangelicals, libertarians, conservatives, and tea party members all fighting for the number one and two spots, Speaker and House Majority Leader. A new wave of rigid conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas sees this division as an easy way for Democrats, like Hillary Clinton to nab the Presidential election. Soaring poll numbers for Trump, Carson, and Fiorina in the GOP Presidential race, however, prove that there is growing support for Washington outsiders. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in announcing his candidacy for the Speaker position, aims to “heal the divisions” in the Republican Party. Conservatives in the party are critical saying that McCarthy would be “just another Boehner,” failing to aggressively fight the Obama administration on key issues like immigration and defunding Planned Parenthood. As the week progressed, McCarthy's candidacy for Speaker came under fire. On Wednesday, the would-be Boehner replacement praised the House Select Committee which investigated the 2012 Benghazi attacks for weakening Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, "what are her numbers today, her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable." As a result the speaker-in-waiting got in trouble for politicizing the investigation of an attack that left four Americans dead and suggesting that the investigation was politically motivated. Either way, now many are rightly questioning whether McCarthy is still the right man for the job. 

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To Black Lives, Policy Matters

It’s been a successful – if not controversial – summer for the Black Lives Matter movement, having garnered media attention through collisions with campaigning candidates all across the country. Not sparing either party, or any candidate, BLM has forced a much-needed conversation about racial injustice into stump speeches and routine media interview questions. Seriously, take a look at what all the candidates have said on community policing and civil rights. While campaign season can either help or hurt consensus building around ideas, the movement got a major boost last week off of the campaign trail when progressive poster-child Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made a noteworthy speech giving an unqualified endorsement of the BLM’s policy platform, #CampaignZero. Sen. Warren tied together voting rights, community policing, and economic policy with the larger accusation of institutionalized, structural racism that BLM has made its mission to address. It was an important speech, especially coming from national figure of Sen. Warren's stature and influence on the national stage.