Posted on February 04, 2016 in Countdown

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Iowa: The Carnage and the Controversy

Iowa wasn't friendly to anyone, literally. Even the winners, Senator Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, didn't walk away unscathed. While there is some crazy business with the path to the narrow victory of Hillary Clinton (seriously, how does anyone win 6 of 6 coin flips? That's nearly a statistical impossibility), the Ted Cruz drama is downright scary, which seems to be his strategy. When he's not trying to scare people about refugees or carpet bombing cities in Syria, he apparently found the time to craft an unethical – possibly illegal - way to scare Iowans into attending caucuses. The Cruz campaign sent out very official looking mail to voters who they thought were likely Cruz suppoters. It read "VOTING VIOLATION" – and attempt to scare people into voting this time around to improve their record (whether they needed to or not). It's nice that a constitutional lawyer would toe the legal line in order to get people to vote for him. And it wasn't just the mailers, Cruz's crew is also under fire from rivals Trump and Carson for tricking people into voting for him on caucus night. Cruz needs to reign in the fear and rediscover constitutional limitations on fraud. Elections can be ugly, but the kind of manipulation coming from the Cruz campaign is scary. Shouldn't a future president be looking to inspire us?


The President Went to a Mosque & Went Off-Script

In a much-hyped visit to a mosque, the first in his presidency, President Obama was at his best in Baltimore yesterday. He made an important stand against anti-Muslim bigotry, as he has done on many significant occasions in the past, but he also took on substantive concerns the Arab American and American Muslim communities have over "engagement" programs targeting our communities. We couldn't have written the speech any better ourselves, well actually - we noticed that some of the best parts weren’t written at all, but when the President was speaking freely and directly inspired by the roundtable discussion he had with American Muslims before his remarks. He said, "engagement with Muslim American communities must never be a cover for surveillance...We can't securitize our entire relationship with Muslim Americans." Bingo, Mr. President - we're relieved to hear you say that, and to hear you say it with empathy and force. We just want to point out that many of the actions of your administration have indeed been clumsy and mishandled - as you said they might be. Now that the President has clarified his directives, we want to see how these securitized engagement programs will change. Because they must.


Flint: Bottled Accountability Needed

Flint's water crisis is criminal, but you wouldn't know it based on all those who should be held accountable but are instead running the clean up, being given a pass by Congress, or running away. Governor Snyder, whose administration knew about the problem, is overseeing the state's response to the emergency. Snyder is being trusted to manage the use of $28 million from his state and potentially $1 billion from the federal government to make the situation right. And while getting clean water into Flint faucets is a really simple priority, sending Flint bottles of water and switching back to clean water sources is not the only fix that people need. The work of Arab American Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha proved last year that children have been poisoned and are facing a lifetime of health concerns. We can’t believe we have to say this, but after state institutions knowingly poisoned a generation of Flint children, Michigan’s so-called leaders must take on the challenge of rehabilitating these kids, footing the bill, and compensating the people of Flint for the institutional racism that allowed this to happen.


But Seriously, Where is the NYT on Israel?

Ironically, Israel found itself in the headlines this week for not actually being in the headlines this week. Some activist groups critical of the New York Times's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took it upon themselves to reposition the paper's coverage of Israel by printing and distributing copies of the iconic front page announcing the national daily is "Rethinking our 2015 Coverage on Israel-Palestine." They even sent out an email to press and created a spoof website and twitter account for the new New York Times coverage. And while the initiative might have ruffled some feathers, we totally agree that the Times's coverage of the conflict leaves a lot to be desired. We like the approach these groups have taken. After decades of complaining about biased media coverage and not being able to crack that nut, we will keep trying to change the dialogue but in the meantime, let’s create the reality we want and need.


O'Malley is Out, But Can He Stay?

The former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley barely registered in the Iowa caucus delegate battle on Tuesday, and quickly suspended his presidential campaign. It's a bit of a mystery why his mostly solid resume, inspirational message, and easy likability never really caught on this election season when it's worked for others in the past. But then again, this election season is defying predictability in many, many ways (cough, Trump). But we're hoping O'Malley stays around the election circus to keep pushing three pieces of his platform that we've long been a fan of: his first-to-the-punch clarion call for the US to resettle Syrian refugees; his articulation of what amounts to the closest thing to a balanced policy on Israel-Palestine we've seen from a candidate; and, a wonderfully proactive approach to combatting anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry. And O'Malley was pitch perfect till the end, in an email to his supporters announcing the end of his campaign, he said, "We must hold strong for Latinos and Muslims and everyone defending us against the demagogues." O'Malley, oh how we will miss your voice on these issues, please don’t go too far.