Posted on February 04, 2016 in Countdown

Click here to subscribe to Countdown, AAI's weekly take on news from Washington, around the country, and abroad.


New Hampshire: Who’s The Anointed One Now?

High-stakes New Hampshire did not disappoint on delivering more drama for the never-ending 2016 presidential campaign. Coming out of the Granite State primary, the media is as hell bent on making the Clinton campaign look as panicked as possible as her campaign is on projecting an unflinching confidence. The Clinton machine had a few shaky moments in New Hampshire though, notably when her campaign manager sent a memo conceding defeat hours before the results came in that tried to explain away (and completely deny) the importance of her less-than-stellar start winning popular support in the two crucial early voting states. Yes, the Clinton campaign may have expected to split Iowa and New Hampshire with Senator Sanders, and yes Clinton might be able to deliver on the widely held expectation that minorities are in her camp, but the memo sounded every bit as panicked as the media has been saying. That is even though Clinton is likely to walk out of New Hampshire with more delegates than Sanders (that's the bizarreness of electoral politics folks!). On the Republican side, just about everyone was expecting Trump to win, but the surprising surge Ohio Governor Kasich staged with the help of notable Arab American John E. Sununu is a serious challenge to a Rubio campaign that had hoped to gather Republican establishment support following the Florida Senator’s Iowa showing. With the Republican field reduced by two thanks to New Hampshire, the real fight for the establishment endorsement looks to be between New Hampshire favorite Kasich, the down-but-not-out Bush, and the likely-not-a-robot Rubio. For both parties, New Hampshire cleared less up than it complicated. Now on to South Carolina!


The FBI's "Don't Be A Puppet" Debut Leaves Everyone Dumbfounded

This week the FBI debuted the widely criticized "Don't Be A Puppet" online platform meant to help young people across the United States not fall victim to violent extremist ideologies. And when we say “across the United States” we really mean young American Muslims the FBI thinks are one click away from becoming a terrorist. Beyond comical and self-defeating, the FBI's attempt to counter-message violent ideology in the classroom is doing the very thing President Obama promised us in Baltimore he would not do: securitize the government's relationship with the American Muslim community. And even though his Administration officials say that the "video game" and other CVE programs are not designed or directed exclusively for communities based on faith, there are a few things that let us know that is exactly what they are doing: like the disclaimer on the brochure and the easy-to-see pattern in where "Countering Violent Extremism" programs have been operating. Even if you believe this glossy, flashing, expensive attempt to counter extremism is a valid undertaking (we don’t) more of these programs might be coming down the pipes. The President's hot-off-the-press $4 trillion budget allots major money for the CVE efforts run by the Department of Homeland Security even though CVE is a bad idea, based on bad science, and is bad for the President’s expressed intention to strengthen – not securitize – the government’s, which includes the FBI’s, relationship with American Muslim communities.


Egypt’s Shoukry Doesn’t Want to Hear About It

On the heels of the 5th anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and set Egypt down a tumultuous path to where we are now, the Egyptian Foreign Minister showed up in Washington, D.C. for a set of high-level meetings focused on Egypt's international worries. On the streets of Cairo, the January 25th anniversary came and went without protest, in no small part because of the un-democratic measures to prevent one. But from what we can tell U.S. policymakers missed an opportunity to engage the Foreign Minister on the status of the revolutionaries who are either dead, in prison, abroad, or forced into hiding under threat of becoming one of the above. While FM Sameh Shoukry might not be the one to hold to the fire on human rights issues domestically, especially because he brought a long list of valid and important foreign policy agenda items that the U.S. is pushing,  nonetheless were pleased to see FM Shoukry was not let off the hook entirely, evidenced by his repeated, irritated denial of human rights groups' claims of gross misconduct in regards to activists. These days you can't talk about Egypt without talking about the latest affront to personal freedoms; whether it's the list of disappeared people, the hampered freedom of the press, the mysterious and tragic case of the brutalized Italian student, or the protest law. The U.S. must continue to insist that we can walk and chew gum at the same time by supporting Egypt's military to fend off real threats AND pushing for the dignity the Egyptian people demanded in the first place.


Ferguson's Political Class is Finally Facing the Music

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the City of Ferguson. Finally. The lawsuit is an attempt to force the City to accept a negotiated deal to radically reform it's police department - a deal which has been in the works since the 2015 issuance of the DOJ's investigation into the killing of Michael Brown and the systematic racial policing practices of the Ferguson men in blue. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Ferguson's residents, "have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights and that thousands of other police departments follow every day." That is a year too long, and this lawsuit is essentially calling Ferguson's bluff and trying to force the deal through a reluctant, cash-strapped city lead by Mayor James Knowles III. We hope the lesson is not that when an indictment doesn't stick, a thorough investigation is printed but not implemented, and a national movement is sparked, only then will justice be enforced. 


About that Performance: Queen Bey Riles a King and More

Super Bowl half time shows have a history of making headlines, but we've got to give the crown to the Queen herself, Beyoncé Knowles, for her Black Panthers-inspired performance that was watched live by 115.5 million viewers. As one of the defining pop culture icons of our time, we're sure Beyoncé knew that her song "Formation," the provocative music video that went with it, and the highly stylized Super Bowl performance were going to create a political conversation that she wouldn't be able to control. Beyoncé’s three part "Formation" punch coincided with the emotional birthday of would-be 21-year-old Trayvon Martin and called upon the rawness of Baltimore, Flint, and Ferguson. Beyoncé’s timing was poignant, but we wonder if she's surprised by just how quickly politics and politicos have tried to put her artwork in a box. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani called it an "outrageous affront to police" and Representative Pete King (R, NY-2) issued a 5 paragraph diatribe on why Beyoncé crossed a line by promoting "discredited" "fables" of innocent black men being killed by cops. And now we hear that a anti-Beyoncé protest is planned in front of the National Football League’s headquarters, apparently because the NFL is at fault for providing Beyoncé a political platform. As we well know, in an election year, everything is political, but hasn't football been political for much longer?