Posted on July 06, 2011 in Countdown

Pawlenty’s Groundbreaking Middle East Plan Fails to Break Any Ground
At a speech on Tuesday morning at the Council on Foreign Relations, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty laid out his Middle East platform, modestly titled “No Retreat From Freedom’s Rise.” Pawlenty urged stronger action against Syria as a means to precipitate the “fall of the mullahs” in Iran, and seemed to believe that all Arab monarchies—and only Arab monarchies—were eager to reform. He praised Israel as a “bastion of democracy” and urged everyone to “recognize that peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives clearly that America stands strongly with Israel.” Thanks Tim, we weren’t aware that most Arabs feel like America isn’t pro-Israel enough!

He’s Probably a Witch, Too!
Lynne Torgerson is running–again–against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and is once again pulling the Sharia card. Watch out Keith, she knows how to use it! Actually, she probably doesn’t even know what Sharia means, but that doesn’t stop her from basing her campaign on the so-ridiculous-it’s-almost-funny allegation that Keith is a “radical Islamist.” The looming specter of Sharia will definitely be used to win cheap political points in future elections, and we’ll have to watch Torgerson’s performance next year to gauge just how potent the anti-Sharia craze still is.

When Will They Start Worrying about Losing the “Arab Vote”?
Like every other administration in recent memory, the Obama team has continued the long-standing US policy of preferential treatment and support for Israel, but apparently this time it’s not enough. POLITICO ran a piece last week asking if Obama is losing the Jewish vote by insisting that Israel meet certain minimal obligations, and by his quasi-recognition of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Well, what about the Arab American vote? AAI President Jim Zogby addressed the issue recently: “Backing away from a smart and tough approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace may make a few hard-line supporters of Israel happy, but it can alienate Arab and Muslim voters in some key swing states.” We think it’s time to show them that we have political power and that our votes count.

Recess Is Over
At a press conference last Wednesday, President Obama called on members of Congress to “cancel things and stay here” to help solve the ongoing budget crisis. The 112th Congress takes a one week recess for every two weeks on the Hill, and has succeeded in passing only 18 bills so far this year—the vast majority of which have been appointments, extensions of existing laws, and building dedications. In response to Obama’s speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has cancelled a July 4 recess, but House Republicans are accusing Obama and the Democrats of “hypocrisy." Considering that approval ratings for Congress are hovering around 20%, the finger-pointing doesn’t seem to be accomplishing much. Staying in Washington is great, but can you make sure to do something while you’re here?

American Officials: It’s Okay to Kill Americans?
As Israel pressures the Greek government to block a humanitarian flotilla from heading to Gaza, US politicians, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have practically fallen over each other to announce their plans to deal with groups of unarmed civilian activists. Texas Governor Rick Perry enjoined the Attorney General to arrest flotilla participants. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) called for a joint military operation against the flotilla, and former Bush speechwriter and founder of Josh Trevino said he was “cool” with the shooting of Americans on board. “Far from being harmless hysteria or just plain dumb, all this posturing can be damaging and dangerous” said Jim in this week’s Washington Watch. Clearly the safety of our own citizens is not the top priority for some—but rather helping Israel defend itself from those insidious humanitarian supplies. Hmm.

It’s the Economy, Stupid!
Stumbling along after a mass-desertion of his campaign staff and the revelation that his campaign is $1 million in debt, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is tackling all the hot-button issues: Alzheimer’s treatment, pharmaceutical research policies, reforming the Food and Drug Administration… okay well maybe not exactly hot button issues like Middle East policy or the economy, but as long as he’s talking about the FDA, he’s probably not talking about loyalty oaths for Muslim Americans. We like the new Newt better!