Posted on May 07, 2015 in Countdown

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We're Back and Thank You

We didn't forget about you but were just incredibly busy with our Gibran Gala and Leadership Days, last week. We love our community and thank all those who joined us to commemorate AAI's 30th anniversary at our Gala. Over 700 guests attended the Gala, and we could not have done any of it without you. Thank you so much for being with us last week to celebrate our heritage, our achievements, and to reflect on the progress that has been made, and the work that still needs to be done. We also want to thank all of our wonderful awardees Salma Hayek PinaultLawrence WrightJohn Sexton and Michael Baroody for their leadership and for embodying the spirit and tradition of the Arab American poet Kahlil Gibran.

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Ambassador Susan Rice Addresses Our Community

The Obama Administration has from the beginning approached its Middle East policy with greater nuance than its predecessors. A few months after he was sworn in for his first term, President Barack Obama delivered a momentous speech in Cairo which sought to forge a stronger relationship with Muslim majority countries in the region in the context of a post-9/11 United States which was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Less than two years later we saw the obliteration of long ossified regimes throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Now, with a year and a half left in the White House, the Obama Administration—as all administrations before it—is faced with determining what legacy it will leave. National Security Advisor Susan Rice covered some of the Middle East policy priorities for the remainder of this Administration's term in her keynote address to Arab Americans at our Gala last week. Amb. Rice stressed the administration's commitment to an "independent, viable, and contiguous Palestinian state" and stated that the "occupation must end." Notably, Amb. Rice also called for accelerated efforts to rebuild Gaza, and to connect the isolated territory economically to the West Bank, Israel, and global markets. These commitments are welcomed and they must be supported by concrete measures to actually change policy on the ground. In a year where the Israeli Prime Minister repeatedly insulted the White House, it would be refreshing to have the Oval Office couple its aspirational statements in support of the Palestinian people with actions that impose something resembling consequences for the Israeli government.

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We are Baltimore

The death of Freddie Gray and the unfolding protests in Baltimore have once again focused the nation on racial injustice and police brutality. Although policing reforms are much needed, they alone will not placate the outraged protestors, or fix the systemic alienation of the African American community. The Arab American community knows all too well that major constitutional and practical shortcomings result from the government’s tendency to use law enforcement programs to correct and improve community “engagement” initiatives. Improved or increased law enforcement does not a happy community make. The deeply rooted racial injustice that seems to inspire government policing “solutions” only undermines efforts to integrate the same communities into the health, wealth, and security of our nation. We are with the people of Baltimore, demanding that the government doesn’t deal with us as problem children that must be policed.

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All In

You can call it the 'Sheldon Adelson Primary' or the suck-up fest, if you like. Either way, the annual parade of Republican presidential hopefuls in front of Adelson took place during the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) at the Adelson-owned Venetian hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and two forthcoming prospective candidates, former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, spoke before more than 800 members of the RJC to earn the financial support of Adelson, while South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham auditioned for Adelson’s patronage behind closed doors. Predictably, the speakers used the opportunity to heap unbridled praise and support on Israel, criticize President Obama, and verbally attack the most likely individual to win the 2016 Democratic nomination, Hilary Clinton.  For GOP presidential hopefuls, courting Sheldon Adelson and members of the RJC is a rite of passage. Last year, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and John Kasich of Ohio attended the RJC spring meeting. It is not a coincidence that over the last two years 6 GOP presidential candidates have traveled out to Sin City in hopes of getting one of the richest men in the world to bankroll their campaign.

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I'll Raise, Three More

This week saw the entrance of three new, unproven, and underdog GOP presidential candidates. The new faces include Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon with a compelling personal story who first gained popularity for comparing ObamaCare to slavery, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who finished second in the 2008 GOP presidential nomination fight, and Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive. All three candidates share core characteristics that set them on a trajectory to stumble their way through the nomination process. First, all of their campaigns will face serious funding issues. Second, they will need to make their names known to the wider American public. Third, each will need to demonstrate to the broader GOP party that they can pose a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. Individually, Carson will need to prove that he and his team can handle the intensity of a national campaign, Huckabee will need to move beyond his core base of evangelical Christians because the general public will not exactly connect with comments like the Supreme Court “cannot overturn the laws of nature or of nature’s God,” and Fiorina needs to show that she is not merely a pawn in a larger GOP strategy to get women voters and challenge Hilary Clinton on a gender basis. If Sheldon Adelson is not willing to go all-in on these candidates then that may be a reliable litmus test of how serious we should take their campaigns.

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