Posted on September 11, 2016 in Countdown

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Arab American Candidates Part and Parcel to 2016 Dramatics

The election is 53 days away and statewide primaries are finally all behind us. New Hampshire helped bring the primaries to an end this week and the results from the granite state have put an exclamation mark on the role Arab American candidates are playing this election cycle. There were two Arab Americans on the ballot for critical seats - the political dynasty bearing Chris Sununu won the Republican nomination for Governor of New Hampshire in a heated contest to replace the incumbent Maggie Hassan who is hoping to win a Senate seat to the Democratic count. Richard Ashooh, an Arab American who ran to represent New Hampshire's 1st district, lost the GOP primary by 1% point to the scandal-plagued incumbent Rep. Frank Guinta. With Guinta as the nominee, leading pollsters are predicting that Democrats have a much better shot at winning back the 1st district seat than they would have against Ashooh. But New Hampshire isn't the only state where Arab Americans are dictating national storylines. There's also Democrat Matt Heinz who is trying to oust Republican Martha McSally from her seat representing Arizona's 2nd district. Heinz's race is looking promising for Democrats bid to inch closer to a majority in the House of Representatives - so much so that the DCCC picked Heinz as a race to watch, and fund. In Nevada, Democrat Ruben Kihuen's 4th district race is big enough news to have earned him a speaking role at the Democratic nominating convention. These are big league races that are adding to the multi-term Arab American incumbents also up for election this year, including Rep. Charles Boustany (R, LA-3) who is trying to win a Senate seat after six terms in the House. In a crowded field of 24 that includes David Duke, Boustany is looking to finish as one of the top two to head into the runoff in December.  

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Hillary Faints and Falls in the Polls

On the bright side, this week the Clinton camp got a reprieve from the non-stop focus on her email scandal. On the down side, that break came because concerns over Clinton's health took a scary turn when she collapsed at an event on 9/11. And that episode came on the heels of her lightening rod comments calling Trump's supporters a "basket of deplorables." Those two news items piled on to the underlying email and hacking scandal that continue to fuel accusations of impropriety while she was Secretary of state. We know Clinton has never polled decently on trustworthiness, but polls are now showing just how deeply these scandals have penetrated concerns of the electorate. Nonetheless, it seems to us that the Clinton's campaign is continuing to count their chickens before they hatch. The team's transition planning has ramped up despite the tightening, near even polls (which, we'd note, are now focused on likely voters and therefore a bit more reliable than summer polls). The transition planning may even be redirecting much needed energy away from grass roots get-out-the-vote efforts that are Clinton's best asset and hope. We're seeing progressive groups and leaders expend a lot of energy trying to shape the Clinton transition team, with a few notable defeats already. Surely Clinton can campaign and plan for victory at the same time, but it might not be worth it in the 50% chance she loses in November.

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In the Trump World, Gravity Isn't a Concern

We're left a little dumbstruck by some of Trump's latest reality reversals over the past week. It's difficult to respond to the obviously inaccurate claim that that his rival Hillary Clinton doesn't have any specific policies and he does (just compare their list of issues on their website: Trump here and Clinton here). He also flipped then flopped then flipped again on releasing his medical records - which he ultimately put out a summary of just this morning. Still no tax returns, and still no word about what his secret plan to defeat ISIL might be. We also were concerned about double speak about the role Trump's daughter Ivanka will play if he's elected. On Tuesday, Trump debuted his child care and maternity leave policy that Ivanka had complete ownership over, apparently. Ivanka's highly political, intimately involved role in her father's policy agenda and past hints that she'd even have a cabinet level role. Now that would raise interesting nepotism issues and is a very serious contradiction to the new family plan to have Ivanka and her brothers run the Trump business empire if her father is elected. There are some fatally serious conflicts of interests if Ivanka is going to be a policy wizard while the business is being run in a blind trust, as Trump has explained will happen. It doesn't appear Ivanka and Trump can have it both ways. There's 11 days until the first presidential debate, and we're looking to see if Clinton can find a better way to respond to Trump's gravity-defying claims than us. How can there be a substantive debate if it isn't grounded in reality? But then again, "nonsensical" is a pretty good way to describe this entire year and a half long election cycle.

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One Small Step for U.S.-Russia Cooperation, One Giant Leap for the Syrian People

After months of negotiating, the newest and most hopeful ceasefire agreement appears to be bringing much needed relief to some of the most battered cities and people in Syria. But - and it's a big but – three days into the ceasefire agreement negotiated by the U.S. and Russia, the U.S. and Russia are trading accusations of ceasefire violations by their respective proxies. The U.S. for its part is trying to down play violations on both sides because there is a lot at stake in this painfully and meticulously negotiated cooperation agreement. The U.S. has to deliver an opposition force free of terrorist elements, and Russia has to stop the Assad regime from conducting airstrikes over opposition held areas. And neither has an easy job: Russia's commitment to reigning in Assad was met with a provocative statement by the Syrian ruler exclaiming he will reconquer all of Syria. And the U.S. is dealing with unruly rebels who stalled their commitment to the plan and also wrote a letter to the U.S. voicing concern that the deal was meant to benefit Assad and undermine opposition unity. Despite all of this there has been a significant drop in violence since the ceasefire came into effect. And we sure do hope it holds. With the death toll estimated in excess of 400,000 - - it is time for the killing to stop. We also hope it holds because of what might come next, something Assad and the opposition must also be calculating. The gamble of Syria policy under the next administration - Clinton or Trump - has got to be concerning to the opposition who needs U.S. support and might lose it if they're the ones at fault for ceasefire failure. And Assad needs the U.S. to remain at a distance, which might not be the case if his forces are at fault. It's all of our best hopes, however tenuous it might be.

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U.S. Gifts and Grace for Israel

The news of a successfully negotiated $38billion/year Memorandum of Understanding the U.S. and Israel for has us flummoxed. It seems to us that no matter what Israel does, we keep on doling out the presents. We're willing to consider that $38billion a year might actually be a cap on U.S. support rather than an extraordinary escalation, especially because there is at least one person in Congress already saying that he wished it'd be more. And given that Trump and Clinton both seem more likely to cozy up to Netanyahu way more than President Obama has, this hammered out commitment might just keep things restrained (if you can call $38billion restrained). Let's not forget Clinton's love letter to Netanyahu and Trump's recent support for Netanyahu's APPALLING comments that equated settlement criticism with ethnic cleansing. Yes, the Trump campaign has stood by those remarks, even while some leading American Jewish groups, including the ADL, have critiqued them. Even though we might understand that this deal might be preventing something more egregious down the line, it doesn't make it right. How can it possibly be in the U.S.'s best interest to commit to a 10 year deal with a nation that has proven its intention to illegally annex more and more Palestinian territory? And we're going to enter into a long term agreement with a nation that seems to have no regard for American citizens who are killed by their military in what appears to be an extrajudicial shooting? With Israel, why does bad behavior keep being rewarded?