Posted on April 13, 2017 in Countdown

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Trump Speaks, We Listen. But Does Anyone Else?

Coming up on 100 days in office, President Trump has only just started taking his advanced foreign policy lessons this past week. Typical Trump, his answer to every test question seems to be tough talk, now coupled with a very tough walk. The President’s historic saber rattling in Syria (it wasn’t much more than that, tactically speaking) and with his provocations vis a vis North Korea might be scaring Americans and our allies more than its intended targets. In fact, Americans – whether or not they support the strikes in Syria – are just confused. Over seven days, Trump went from accepting Assad to attacking him, from boasting about the strike to having to whine in it’s defense, from confident China would be convinced to help with North Korea, to going it alone. And if we’re confused, we can’t imagine what our friends around the world are thinking. And add to that the dangerous mixed messages being sent by Trump’s advisors. The incoherence is truly frightening; we just hope President Trump is learning fast and preparing some better answers soon.

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In the White House, Staff Is Policy and Policy is Berserk

It’s been a messy week on the world stage, and it’s also been a messy week in the White House. Following the initial Bannon-is-out news, the Bannon-is-really-out news kept getting more interesting. The drama peaked with the weirdest, jaw dropping remarks by the President two days ago that left the Chief Strategist hung out to dry in the much discussed Kushner-Bannon-Priebus war of White House worlds. The drama distracted from the seriously concerning news about deeper Russia-Trump connections, and they were numerous this week. We learned that Jared Kushner fudged his security clearance disclosure forms, that dismissed NSA Gen. Flynn will not receive immunity for testifying before Congress, that Trump campaign aide Carter Page was the subject of a FISA surveillance court warrant, and that Paul Manafort lied about his work for Ukrainian Russophiles. Phew, that’s a lot. And we’re not done observing the mess. It’s no small victory that one of the last Gen. Flynn hold outs on the National Security Council, KT McFarland, is likely being sent to Singapore. But it was Press Secretary Sean Spicer who put the cherry on this disaster-sundae with his absolutely unbelievable gaffe. Not a good week.  

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Track & Stop Anti-Semitism, Just Not This Way

We take particular interest in American public opinion polls that track the attitudes of our community; it’s kind of our thing. The Anti-Defamation League just did a survey, and we really wish they had talked to us first. In an important poll tracking the rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and across the world (yes, anti-Semitic crimes are indisputably on the rise and it’s a serious problem) the ADL specifically singled out the American Muslim community for questioning. Now, we do not want to assume that they were assuming that American Muslims hold the most anti-Semitic views in the U.S., so we’re not assuming that. But we’re concerned why American Muslims were the only group polled for their opinions on an extensive list of highly offensive Jewish stereotypes. We’re also concerned by the broader results and their positioning which seems to suggest that political support for Palestine walks hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism. The findings are unsettling for sure, but there are important questions on boring poll methodology that need to be answered before those results can be instructive. Until then we’re left very worried that this ADL poll only served to use the rise of anti-Semitism to negatively stereotype another community and fuel the misguided distrust of refugees and immigrants from the region.

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Hey United, Flyers Have Rights and They Want ‘Em

We thought we’d take this oversold United Airlines flight opportunity to highlight the literal knock-down, drag-out bad practices that still plague commercial airlines. Despite being updated just this January, perhaps the Department of Transportation needs to issue another update to its laudable Flyers Bill of Rights to include the right to the seat you bought, the right to not be dragged by your wrists down the aisle, and the right to not have your character assassinated in order to justify the airlines bad behavior. The whole incident highlights the obvious and consequential need for airline security and crew staff to be trained much better on a whole number of scores. Clearly the Department of Transportation didn’t force them to, but it turns out their costumers can. It’s an important and promising lesson, and we should use it as we continue to fight rampant profiling in the air.

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One Competitive Race Does Not a Democratic Windfall Make, but Might It?

All of the decidedly anti-Trump Democratic energy that has boosted liberal fundraising, organizing and even podcasting has now proven to have almost enough bite to matter, but not quite. Democrats are triumphantly celebrating the margin in the Kansas special election to replace Representative Mike Pompeo (current CIA Director). Democrat James Thompson lost, and it wasn’t really close, it was just close-r than it should have been. It is remarkable that a Democrat was able to get within seven points in a district that Trump won by 27 points a few short months ago, that’s an indisputably big swing. Despite the loss, the noise mattered apparently. Republicans are reportedly increasingly concerned about the upcoming Georgia 6 special election, and the 2018 map is starting to cause some grief. Whatever this one election may or may not mean, we are keen to watch where all the grass roots energy takes the leaders at the top.