Posted on January 23, 2013 in Countdown

Wow, What a Weekend!

We didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be more excited about the inaugural festivities this weekend than us. We hosted an Arab American inaugural celebration in our office, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Congressman Keith Ellison, and Arab American comedians Dean Obeidallah and Go Remy. But after seeing Joe Biden at the inaugural parade yesterday, we will definitely cede first place for the “most excited award” (not actually an award) to our most gregarious Vice President.  Vice President Biden almost gave his secret service agent a heart attack when he started to literally run laps around the parade (it starts about a minute into the clip), jogging over to onlookers to shake hands. Oh, and in other news, President Obama was sworn in over the weekend and gave an inaugural address in which he laid out a progressive vision for America going forward. A couple of things the president said stood out for us, and we posted them on our Facebook page, so tell us what you think.

The Obama Campaign Reinvented

With the inauguration behind us, you may think the days of Organizing for America were over. Think again. Last week, President Obama announced the re-launch of his campaign apparatus as a new tax exempt group called Organizing for Action (OFA), that will continue to mobilize the 2.2 million volunteers the President collected during his 2012 election. The President and his campaign manager Jim Messina fired up the thousands of Obama staffers at a Staff Inaugural Ball last night, urging them to remain engaged with the campaign through the newly-formed non-profit in order to win the fight on comprehensive immigration reform and gun control. OFA will set up shop in Chicago, but will have chapters all across the country, and it is already raising questions about its overlap with existing party structures like the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). With actionable supporter lists and a proven ability to mobilize voters, OFA will likely be a powerful new political force, and if OFA’s ambitions cause it to butt heads with the existing party leadership, well, that’s just more stuff for us to write about.

Ellison on Drones

We’ve been writing for years about the dangers of the unregulated and ever-expanding use of unmanned aerial drones to assassinate potential “security risks,” and apparently Congress has been listening. Last week, Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) penned an article in the Washington Post about “building a better drone policy.” Warning that “our technological capability has far surpassed our policy,” Ellison called for congressional action to ensure that drone policy is guided by the protection of innocent civilians, independent judicial review, and the collaboration of the international community. Okay, maybe he didn’t get the ideas from Countdown, but adding Ellison’s much-needed voice might do even more to persuade Congress than Countdown has.

Four Firsts

Last week on our website (and on Facebook) people responded with pride and excitement about the news that Arab American Nadeam Elshami was appointed as Nancy Pelosi’s new chief of staff. Elshami is moving into the new post after serving as communications director and senior adviser to the former Speaker of the House. Coming on the heels of some ground-breaking campaigns, which saw Arab American candidates win important offices in California and Michigan, the news has a special uplifting effect. In Michigan, Sam Salamey was sworn-in as the new 19th District Court Judge and Brian Mosallam won an 8-year term as a Michigan State University Trustee. In California, Johnny Khamis became the first-ever Arab American City Council member representing the 10th district of the city of San Jose, California. All three are the first Arab Americans to occupy their respective offices.  ElShami’s high profile move was covered in Capitol Hill newspapers like POLITICO and The Hill, making Elshami’s appointment in the House Minority Leader’s office is a nationally significant one, and so far Michele Bachmann has not alleged any sort of government infiltration. We look forward to bringing you updates on the progress of all four of these extraordinary Arab Americans.

Who’s in Charge Now

Last week, we wrote about a number of important shifts in the leadership of the 113th Congress, including new chairs of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (and the Middle East Subcommittee), and the Homeland Security Committee. But, we know you want more, so we’ve put together an analysis of the incoming leadership of the House and Senate, so you can see who’s chairing all the committees you care about. Granted, some of the positions haven’t been filled yet, but we did the best we could to guess, and will update the document as new information comes in. Stay tuned!

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