Posted on April 17, 2012 in Countdown

Countdown Vol. 10, No. 44

Gingrich's Impeccable Plan for World Peace

Many have argued that America’s tendency to make unilateral military action decisions and its unwillingness to abide by international rules make the world less stable. Well, Gingrich will put an end to that if he becomes president: “A Gingrich presidency will submit to the United Nations.” Wow, who would’ve thought! Oh, wait, that’s not the whole thing. Here is the full quote: “A Gingrich presidency will submit to the United Nations a treaty that extends the right to bear arms as a human right for every person on the planet because every person on the planet deserves the right to defend themselves from those who would oppress them.” Yes, if only we could send weapons to everyone in war-torn regions and areas plagued by sectarian tensions, we would bring world peace! By the way, does the arming of “every person on the planet” include the “invented” Palestinian people too? That might not sit well with some of Gingrich’s donors.

Islamophobia: Not Just a Problem for Republicans

The anti-Sharia fervor that exploded in the wake of the Park 51 controversy in 2010 is still a potent issue that continues to shape our politics. Though certainly more prominent on the right, pandering to the anti-Muslim sentiment is becoming an increasingly bi-partisan problem. Of course, there are stalwart voices against bigotry, like that of Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie, which continue to stand on principle in the face of pressure from bigots; but not all politicians are as resilient. Last week, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) chose to withdraw from a previously-scheduled speaking engagement with EMERGE, a group that encourages community service among American Muslims. The withdrawal came after her would-be Republican challenger Joe Kaufman allied himself with known Islamophobes and Sharia conspiracy theorists. Capitulating to “the crazies” only emboldens them to drive more hate and division into our politics; and both the Democratic and Republican leaderships should stand more robustly in the face of their influence.

Attack the Message, Not the Messenger; Unless...

As a general rule, political debates should concern themselves with the merits of arguments, not the identity of those making the arguments. But sometimes, the messenger’s identity can come down so like-a-ton-of-bricks on the viability of the message that you can’t help but make it about the messenger. Consider what Dick Cheney recently said of President Obama: "He has been an unmitigated disaster to the country." Um, Dick, when you have a considerable degree of personal responsibility for America’s worst strategic and moral blunders of the last few decades (the invasion of Iraq, the instituting of torture…etc.), you kind of lose the privilege of calling anyone else in American politics “an unmitigated disaster for the country.”

Making Things More Interesting

In February we told you about two Arab American Democrats who were running for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ open seat in Arizona’s 8th congressional district. While they have both conceded the Democratic nomination to Ron Barber, the Republican side isn’t settled yet, and the primary election takes place today. We want to bring your attention to Republican candidate Martha McSally (doesn’t that sound like a superhero’s pseudonym?), a retired Air Force colonel with a surprising amount of support from influential members of the Republican Party. Though she has fewer direct ties to the district than her three other GOP opponents, she made headlines when she challenged the U.S. military’s policy of forcing women stationed in Saudi Arabia to cover themselves. She also had some pretty choice words about Rick Santorum’s opposition to women in the military: “I really just wanted to kick him in the jimmy,” she told a Fox News interviewer. Keep an eye on her; if she wins, she’ll certainly make the general election for the seat (taking place on June 12th) very interesting.

Always Busy with Important Things

So Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas honored former White House correspondent Helen Thomas with an award, and senior members of the U.S. Congress (always getting themselves busy with important stuff) have gotten upset and are taking action. Republican Steve Chabot, Chairman of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, and Democrat Eliot Engel, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have sent a letter to President Abbas denouncing the award and hinting at potentially adverse consequences on U.S. assistance to the P.A.  The letter cited the condescendingly-titled “Preparing the Palestinian People for Peace Act,” which conditions U.S. aid to the P.A. on whether the P.A. is preparing Palestinians for peace with messages of tolerance and compromise. Yes, forget the 1988 recognition of Israel, Oslo, the Arab Peace Initiative, and the revelations of the “Palestine Papers” that the Palestinian leadership is bending over backwards to reach a peaceful settlement with Israel; the honoring of Helen Thomas (not the expansion of settlements) is what clearly shows how peace is being undermined. If Chabot and Engle truly want to discipline a dependent, but out-of-control state that is hindering peace with its obnoxious and disorderly behavior, I’m sure the Palestinians would want to be the first to happily point them in the right direction.