Posted on August 14, 2012 in Countdown

The Man of the Hour

While speaking in Virginia over the weekend, Mitt Romney welcomed “the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan” to the stage. Romney quickly corrected “president” to “vice-president” within 5-minutes, barely beating the constitutional deadline for take-backs. Yes, the Constitution has a 5-minute take-back rule, so do the patriotic thing and quickly take-back the mean things you say to people. Anyway, let’s get back to the Ryan VP pick which, as the Daily Show half-joked, managed to unite Republicans and Democrats in excitement. Why? Because Ryan’s plan to massively slash government programs simultaneously mobilizes the base of both parties, for and against. There are just two problems with this narrative: First, there is a bit of exaggeration in Ryan’s reputation as the ultimate conservative budget hawk. After all, he “voted for the $700 billion bank bailout, the biggest Medicare expansion in U.S. history, [and] a massive highway bill that included the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’.” Second, while JZ Analytics notes that “there is little doubt that Romney's choice of Ryan has excited the Republican base 88% of whom now support the new ticket [now putting Obama and Romney in ‘dead heat’],” things look a little different among Republican strategists behind the scenes. According to Politico, the most common reactions of GOP strategists “ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.” Apparently, things are not as black-and-white as they are in popular headlines.

Who Said McCarthyism Was Bad?

When you note how reminiscent of McCarthyism today’s witch-hunt of Arab Americans and American Muslims serving in government is, you expect proponents of said witch-hunt to allege otherwise. But every now and then, you come across a colorful character who embraces the very charge as a defense. Newt Gingrich is one such character. Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about his defense of Michele Bachmann’s McCarthyite allegations against the loyalties of Huma Abedin, Gingrich responded with “first of all, behind McCarthyism there were real spies.” Blitzer reminded Gingrich that “baseless charges” caused “a lot of people to suffer” under McCarthyism, but Gingrich responded with “but there were a lot of guilty people who wouldn’t have been uncovered.” Wow! So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Gingrich openly rose to the defense of McCarthyism to justify his support of Bachmann’s witch-hunt. Nothing says “I’m against big government” like being in favor of government harassment of innocent people in the hopes of accidentally stumbling across someone who might be guilty.

Consequences of Bigotry

Over the past 11 days, there have been 7 attacks on mosques across the country, in addition to last week’s Sikh temple shooting that left scores dead and wounded. Following that tragic shooting, we joined several dozen organizations in issuing a statement that noted that “the level of hate and violence inflicted on innocent Americans because of their appearance or religious faith is now at a crisis point.” One mosque attack in Illinois came only a few days after Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) was caught on tape saying “Your government is so afraid of offending Islam that right in front of our noses we saw what was happening in Fort Hood and because your government is politically correct, Americans died.” This came in response to an audience member who elicited applause when he said he wanted people in Congress to “stand in the face of the danger of Islam in America without political correctness.” While not every attack can be directly traced back to the bigoted rhetoric of politicians, one certainly shouldn’t miss the connection between the rise in these types of incidents and the increase in mainstream acceptance of this rhetoric. We’re not just talking about people being offended anymore; we’re talking about the safety of real people in America. No joke, we urgently need to put a stop to this bigotry.

Middle East Update: Turbulance in the Air

In a surprising move, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced on Sunday the retirement of the top leadership of the military, including the Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Sami Enan. This marks quite the shift in the struggle for power between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military from just a few months ago, when the military was proscribing Morsy’s power and dismissing the Parliament on the eve of his election. In Syria, as the situation continues to deteriorate, there appear to be increasing calls for foreign military intervention, and the Obama administration appears to be giving mixed signals. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recently floated the idea of a no-fly zone in Syria, while Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that such an action would be “possible,” but isn’t “a top priority” at the moment. Meanwhile, new bills on Syria continue to be introduced in the House and Senate, including this relatively comprehensive one from Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), that includes humanitarian aid, assistance to refugee communities, international coalition-building, and efforts to secure chemical and biological weapons in the event of state collapse. In cheerier news, Libya elected Dr Mohammed Yusuf Magariaf as their new president. At least some things appear to be going well...

AAI at the RNC and DNC

As we head into the conventions in less than two weeks, we look back on how far our community has come in terms of integrating into politics. 30 years ago at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, there were four Arab American delegates. This year, we expect 10 times that number, and several delegates will also be at the Republican National Convention, making our representation at both conventions larger than ever before. Next week, AAI will release two comprehensive web pages with information about the delegates, the issues, and a live stream of our policy forums at both conventions. Yup, we’ll be at both, keeping you up-to-date on the latest news from Tampa and Charlotte through our pages and Twitter feed, so let us be your window into the conventions. Oh, and don’t forget to use the #YallaVote hashtag to chat with us on Twitter during the conventions.

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