Posted on May 05, 2016 in Countdown

Click here to subscribe to Countdown, AAI's weekly take on news from Washington, around the country, and abroad.


Trump is the Word

Just like we predicted way back when it was still uncool – the eccentric billionaire businessman is going to be the Republican nominee for president. Oh wait, we predicted the exact opposite – just like everybody else who refused to believe that a candidate with a platform and approach like Donald Trump’s would get millions of votes. But the Trumpocalypse (as the Establishment is likely experiencing it) happened and now Republican Party leaders, candidates, and incumbents are left choosing between the #NeverTrump movement or the #NeverHillary movement. Many have chosen the latter already, including Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee who offered two public tweets offering a flimsy call to unite behind Trump and an equally flimsy thanks to the failed candidates who he would have much preferred. While the GOP has to figure out what’s next for the Party and who will even be at the July convention, Trump has started his much-anticipated “pivot to the General.” But judging by the agenda he set out for his first 100 days in the White House, the pivot in his policies is less of a change and more of an acceleration towards chaos.


Who’s Convention is Contested Now?

After months of speculation about a contested GOP convention in Cleveland, it’s looking and sounding like the Democrats will be the ones with complicated nominating work left to do. Though the math is not adding up to a nomination, the Bernie Sanders campaign is still hard at work beating the likely nominee Hillary Clinton all over the map and actually planning for a contested convention. With a ton of back and forth about what is “good for the Party,” the Sanders convention plan is focused on pushing his progressive agenda items into the Party’s platform and ultimately is convention rules. It remains the case that while Hillary is busy campaigning for her November election, Bernie is busy changing the pathway she’s going to have to take to get there.


Aleppo Is Still Burning

We’re well aware that the State Department’s eternal optimism in the success of negotiated ceasefires is a mandatory part of the job, even in the face of very, very obvious violations (Yemen, Palestine, Ukraine, etc.). But even the State Department is flinching in its rhetoric on the current Syrian ceasefire’s viability. Meant to be ushered in yesterday at day break, the besieged city of Aleppo is reportedly running out of coffins to bury those who have died as fighting continues in the city that is said to be the main battleground of the Syrian war because it is controlled in different sections by rebels, Kurds, and the regime. After a hospital was bombed by the regime last week, #AleppoisBurning began demanding attention on social media and the U.S. State Department line on the ceasefire got more pointed. With possibilities of the ceasefire beginning in Aleppo today, we are hoping to find a reason for the eternal optimism of the State Department to return.


Are Scale & Scope Entering the Counterterrorism Convo?

In an eyebrow raising moment of relief, former National Security Agency Director GenMichael Hayden said that the problem of ISIL recruiting Americans is a much narrower problem than the sensational media narrative might lead us to believe, and a wholly different issue than what Europe is facing. In an interview last week, Gen. Hayden made the important declarative that, “we may have radicalized individuals in the United States, but we do not have radicalized communities.” We won’t take issue with the terribly inappropriate use of the word “radical” in Hayden’s remarks, because his larger point hit on something we’ve been stressing for what feels like forever: America is not Europe; the American experience is why ISIL recruitment in the U.S. barely registers statistically. While even one ISIL recruit is devastating, we appreciate that scale and scope are mentioned when discussing appropriate responses to the threat. If our government took this point seriously, we wouldn’t be moving towards the (failed) European model of “countering violent extremism” that securitizes entire communities which the government believes must be swayed away from the lure of terror. This is not the American experience, and it should not be the American model.


Profiling at the TSA Keeps the Canary Singing

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has never been a beacon of hope in our struggle to roll back the discriminatory national security programs ushered in after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Last week we found one more reason for concern, a TSA whistleblower came forward with troubling claims that the Minneapolis branch has tried to institute new efforts to encourage Somali Americans to seek assistance from the TSA only to then funnel those who reach out into a terrorist screening process. If true, this is yet another profiling scheme that uses community engagement as a pretense for intelligence gathering. We have long held that Arab Americans are the canary in the coal mine on government national security programs; and it’s troubling to think that individuals who want to work with the TSA to address anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry become victims once again by reaching out.