Posted on May 23, 2012 in Countdown


Feltman Leaving Key Post

Yesterday, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East was reported to be stepping down from his post to take on a senior role at the United Nations (potentially as deputy to UN chief Ban Ki-moon). It is unclear when Feltman will step down or who will replace him, but with Hillary Clinton also leaving the administration at the end of this term, it looks like U.S. policy toward the Middle East will undergo a significant change next year, regardless of who wins the election. Well before the spark of the Arab uprisings (but especially since), we’ve been arguing that U.S. Middle East policy needs a fundamental change, so let’s hope it’s going to be – better yet, let’s work to make it – in the right direction.

AIPAC's Combo Delivery

AIPAC delivered a remarkable “one-two punch” in Congress over the past week, passing two pieces of legislation that bolster American military support for Israel (H.R. 4133), and setting “red lines” to facilitate war with Iran (H.Res.568). Want to know if your member of Congress took the position of AAI, APN, and our other friends and voted against the first bill? Just put your zip code into the… oh, never mind, only Ron Paul (R-TX) and John Dingell (D-MI) did! But, hey, at least 11 members voted against the Iran bill, and that counts for something, right? 

Ad Wars

So Obama went after Romney’s record at Bain Capital with a new ad, and no one can figure out if that was ok. Republican Arab American and Romney supporter John Sanunu thinks it is fair game, but Newt Gingrich thinks it’s ill-advised. In what Chris Matthews called a “betrayal” of the President, Newark Mayor and Obama surrogate Cory Booker called attacks on Romney’s Bain Capital record “nauseating” (he did try to walk back his comments, but not before Romney capitalized on them with a counter ad). Meanwhile, a Republican Super PAC’s plan to regurgitate the Jeremiah Wright attacks on Obama was opposed by Romney himself, but—unsurprisingly, given her 2008 statements—Sarah Palin thinks the attacks should go forward (yes, more venom is exactly what this political season needs). Elsewhere, the Obama campaign deconstructed the “BS” (their word, not ours) in an ad released by Karl Rove’s Super PAC. Now, aren’t you glad you’re watching less TV?

The Silliness Won't Go Away

Remember this whole “birther” controversy? It was confined to the fringe and then went away entirely when Obama released his birth certificate, right? You wish! A few days ago, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said he was considering keeping Obama off the ballot in Arizona until Hawaii confirmed the existence of the President’s birth certificate (which, again, he already released). But Bennett assures us he is no birther, saying: "I'm not a birther. I believe the president was born in Hawaii -- or at least I hope he was." Yeah, at the very least, he hopes! You know what else is interesting about Bennett? He is the co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s Arizona Campaign. What’s even more interesting about that? Not long ago, he maintained that it would be inappropriate for a person in his position to endorse a candidate in a partisan election. What besides deeply held conviction can take a man from declaring the inappropriateness of weighing in on partisan issues to suddenly endorsing one candidate while seeking to take his opponent off the ballot?

Making History in Egypt

We take a break from our election news to remind you that the first real presidential election in Egypt’s history is taking place today. Well, it’s actually two days of voting, and none of the 13 candidates are expected to secure the 50% needed to win the election, so a runoff vote between the two top candidates is expected in June, but still… today is the day the lengthy process of electing an Egyptian president begins! 50 million Egyptians are eligible to cast ballots, but no one is sure yet what powers the new president will hold in the country. While it may still take some time for Egypt to sort itself out, we salute Egyptians today on another historic turning point in their transition towards democracy; one that will undoubtedly impact the whole Arab world.

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