Posted on December 10, 2015 in Countdown

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The President's Moment

A lot has been made of President Obama’s Sunday evening address from the Oval Office on terrorism and his strategy to defeat the murderous band of thugs called ISIL. The pundits will say what they want, but we say a loud and clear THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT. He used nearly 5 minutes of his 13-minute speech to elevate a desperately needed message of unity, tolerance, and non-discrimination against Muslim and Arabs in the U.S. and across the world. Those precious minutes from the Oval Office were watched live by an amazing 46 million people and have since been watched by untold millions. We hope that people had ears to hear when he said, “It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.”

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Who Got Hit by the Omni-Bus?

It is a wild week here in Washington as Congress rushes to pass the 2016 federal “omnibus” budget. A gargantuan task each year, passing the budget this time around is further complicated by a never-ending list of highly consequential and controversial policy riders concerning key issues like climate change, abortion, financial market regulation, and lots more. Congress has also seized the most immediate opportunity they have to respond legislatively to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks by attempting to insert under-thought and nearly un-debated policy riders into the budget. That includes riders which will suspend the refugee program and create new cyber security and surveillance programs. And changes to the Visa Waiver Program, which already passed the House and are gaining support in the Senate, are rumored to be included in the final budget. We mentioned this Visa Waiver bill last week with skepticism; this week we are outright condemning it because: (read long reason why here) it was passed without debate, it has the potential to discriminate against Arab Americans, American Muslims, and dual nationals; and, it fails to make exceptions for humanitarian workers and journalists who travel to Iraq, Syria, and Sudan. We agree that the Visa Waiver process needs to be examined for potential security weaknesses, but the rushed passage of this bill is not the right answer.

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World Leaders Are Ready to #DumpTrump, All Should Join

The New York Times had a nice round up of how the world sees Donald Trump’s campaign and the U.S. election process, and it ain’t pretty. There’s even a citizen driven petition circulating in the United Kingdom to ban Trump from the country – within hours it passed the necessary bar of 100,000 signatures to elicit an official government response. As of sending this email, the petition stands at 430,000 signatures and growing. We also got a kick out of a small town Florida Mayor banning Trump from his town until “we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps." We’re ready for more of where that is coming from both home and abroad. Republicans need to clean house, but let’s not mince words internationally. It’s high time for businesses across the Arab world and in Muslim majority countries to dump the Trump, too.

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People Actually Like #TheRealDonaldTrump, That’s the Problem

Another week, another unbelievable headline from the Trump campaign. It’s been encouraging to see many Republican voices denounce Trump this time around, and it’s a relief to see many high-profile Democrats successfully make an even bigger point about Trump’s values disqualifying him from serving in our nation’s highest office. But there’s a problem. Trump is still leading in the polls  - - by a lot. We can’t be so naïve to believe that Trump’s devastatingly successful campaign has been built on myths and stuffed ballots. A recent poll shows one-third of Iowa GOP voters support making Islam illegal. Trump’s support is real because his fear-mongering and ridiculous ideas have real resonance with some of the self-identified Republican base. We need the Republican Party to save itself from this mess. And it’s going to take more than denouncing Trump – whether against Mexican immigrants, African Americans, or now Arabs and Muslims, there is a partisan divide on hate developing that has to be challenged head on. Senator Lindsey Graham has been a bright light in that fight, but more must join him.

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Trying & Failing to Avoid a Rigmarole

This week Republican presidential candidates helped carry on Sheldon Adelson’s charade trying to cast GOP Jewish American voters as a single issue constituency which can be wrapped up without much effort. The annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas allowed Ben Carson and Donald Trump to really stand out from the still crowded primary field. The two GOP leaders made a lasting impression on the crowd by mispronouncing Hamas as “hummus” (Carson totally flubbed) and resorting to deplorable stereotypes and outright insults (Trump got jeered). The two GOP leaders are trying to make up for their poor performances - both planned a trip to Israel in the near future, although as of this morning Trump has ‘postponed’ his. Keep in mind, this Sheldon Adelson-convened group is only a fraction of the Republican Jewish American community; candidates weren’t courting a huge number of votes as much as they were continuing to court Adelson’s money. But the purse strings are reportedly still tied, and the rigmarole isn’t likely to be avoided.