Posted on September 24, 2015 in Countdown

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The Golden Rule

Pope Francis kicked off his American visit with a red carpet arrival in Washington, DC. In this historic first visit to the U.S., Pope Francis has a multi-city tour with remarks at the White House, before Congress, the United Nations and religious institutions. At the White House, Pope Francis called for "a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive” to preserve the rights of individuals and to reject all forms of discrimination. Pope Francis’s reminder on freedom of religion is timely in the wake of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s latest anti-Muslim comments. Pope Francis delivered a stirring speech before a joint session of Congress. In his remarks he recognized the refugee crisis as reaching a magnitude "not seen since the Second World War." The Pope said "we must not be taken aback by their numbers" and to "view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories." Ultimately, as only the leader of a global faith can, the Pope called on all to apply the Golden Rule in responding to this crisis, "let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated." Thank you Pope Francis for your comments to our nation, and especially your appeal to help refugees.


No Religious Test

We’re sure by now you’ve heard the very troubling things Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said last Sunday on Meet the Press. As distressing and controversial as that was, Carson failed to recant his remarks and instead alluded to fears of Shariah law in the United States. This fear mongering that started on the fringes with legislation in Louisiana and Tennessee, and extended to several other states, has now made it to one of the most watched prime time political news programs. Even more troubling, Carson received a big spike in fundraising presumably in response to his bigoted remarks. We are heartened to see that several prominent lawmakers and politicians have come forward to reject Carson's remarks. Perhaps the best came from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) "I have a problem with any person running for president who would apply a religious test to any religious group inside of America." Further, Graham asked Carson to apologize to American Muslims and to recognize the 3,500 American Muslims serving in the U.S. military. We take Sen. Graham to task when we need to, so you bet we are going to thank him for speaking up against bigotry.


A Step in the Right Direction but…

During a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. would increase the number of worldwide refugees it accepts each year to 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 the following year. While this announcement was a positive development, it fails to substantially increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. Add to that the fact that President Obama’s decision to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year is already running into significant pushback in Congress. In the House Homeland Security Committee, Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) has introduced a bill that would give Congress the ability to conduct an up-or-down vote on the President’s plan. Additionally, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated that Syrian refugees should not be admitted without a “foolproof” plan to address security concerns. With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on this topic next week, we will see where our elected officials stand on this dire humanitarian crisis. Will they uphold the U.S. tradition of welcoming refugees with our built-in process of vetting them, or will they allow fear to cloud their judgment?


Fiery Fiorina Gains Fans

Fighting her way to the main debate stage just two weeks ago, Carly Fiorina’s precipitous rise in the polls continues this election season’s trend towards political outsiders and voters’ preference for the absurd. Even though Fiorina nearly doubled her polling percentages nationwide, the media hoopla around the unsurprising catastrophe of the Trump campaign and the impolitic trajectory of the Carson campaign has drowned out her triumph. Even if the media were to give Fiorina fair air time, she is still polling a unthreatening third behind Trump and Carson. But it’s worth noting that national polls and state polls are all over the board and contradicting each other (compare national polls Quinnipac + Zogby + CNN + Fox to any of these swing state polls), and it’s comical to watch pundits – in the same breath – authoritatively cite the polls and then discredit the significance of early polling numbers altogether. Even though Fiorina's huge bump in the polls and undeniably impressive command of the debate stage, interviews, and some great TV ads, Fiorina hasn’t impressed the political machinery with her ground game. She is struggling to put money in the bank and staff in offices in each of the critical early voting states. The media can be saying much more about Carly Fiorina, but it isn’t all good. Still it's better than the nonsense coming from the two candidates beating her in the polls.


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Iran Deal

Former Ohio governor and presidential hopeful John Kasich is pushing this week for the so-called “nuclear option” in order to pass a resolution that would prevent Senate Democrats from blocking a vote against the Iran nuclear deal. Currently, the Senate Democrats are filibustering the bill so it can’t be voted on, which is why Kasich decided to try this tactic. If succesful, the nuclear option would allow the Senate to override its supermajority requirement for passing legislation and ending a filibuster, which normally requires at least 60 votes, and replacing it with a simple majority requirement. In his effort to get the deal-blocking bill passed, Kasich is calling for “extreme measures [to be] taken… to achieve it.” This push is coming not even a week after the GOP debate where Kasich was the oddball out when he said he wouldn’t immediately rip up the Iran nuclear deal if he took office. Even though these efforts are seemingly pointless because President Obama can just veto the bill if it passes, Kasich is committed to this path, claiming he doesn’t meet “many people here in the country who like this agreement.” In fact, Americans are more in favor of the deal with or without knowledge of its details. Also, those against the deal should listen to Pope Francis who said before Congress "when countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue…new opportunities open up for all."