Posted on July 28, 2017 in Countdown

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Kill All The Leakers

Before we rise above the chaos, let’s take a quick peek at it: When a reporter tweeted that President Trump was having dinner with Fox’s Sean Hannity, former Fox executive Bill Shine, and new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Scaramucci lost his… let’s just say ‘cool’ so we’re not using the type of language he does. He called up the reporter demanding to know who leaked news of the dinner, and  threatening to fire everyone on the White House communications team.  He later added: “I want to f---ing kill all the leakers.” We’re spare you the language he used to describe Bannon, but it looks like a war is brewing inside the White House, with Scaramucci targeting chief of staff Reince Priebus. However, now that the public knows this border-line deranged conversation with the reporter happened, let’s see who ends up on the chopping board. Scaramucci finally tweeted that he “made a mistake in trusting in a reporter.” Ah, yes, those pesky reporters who, instead of doing their jobs, just run around reporting on what high-ranking public officials say and do.


BDS Battle Heats Up

Last week, we told you about the ACLU’s letter urging members of Congress to refrain from cosponsoring the so-called “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” because American citizens have a constitutional right to boycott Israel if they want to (duh!). Subsequently, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) responded to the ACLU, insisting that they were blowing things out of proportion when they said what we've been saying for years now, and claiming the bill “does [not] punish individuals or companies from [sic] refusing to do business with Israel based on their own political beliefs.” That’s when the ACLU released this FAQ that’s so comprehensive in demonstrating how this Act would hinder free speech that we can’t do it justice in a quick and snappy Countdown paragraph (but seriously, you should read it). Better yet, rising progressive star Senator Gillibrand was challenged for supporting this anti-boycott law, and she responded as thoughtfully as a senator can: She explained she agreed that all Americans have the right to engage in boycotts, and has requested a meeting with the ACLU to better understand how the bill impacts free speech. She topped off her answer by saying she was troubled that Bibi Netanyahu didn’t have a vision for peace. Wouldn’t it be nice of all senators spoke this candidly?


When Facts are Upsetting

Given the current political climate and congressional efforts to defund the Palestinian Authority over concerns about terrorism (everything wrong with these efforts is explained here), one would expect Trump’s State Department to sing the same tune. But it looks like a level of independence and common sense is still intact in the State Department, which just put out a report on terrorism that threw some who, dare we say, maybe less informed for a loop. The report praises the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to prevent violence and terror attacks, noting they thwarted hundreds of attacks, and saying incitement to violence is “rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it.” So what are the factors that contribute to Palestinian violence? “Lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.” Incoherent outrage in 3, 2, 1… Congressman Peter Roskam, co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, sent a letter objecting to the report, and “pro-Israel” social media commentators fumed on Twitter. How dare the State Department put facts above a manufactured narrative?!


Let’s Make the State Department Better

With Secretary Tillerson on vacation (don’t worry, he’s “not going anywhere”), it appears that President Trump felt the State Department was a bit understaffed: on Wednesday, the President formally nominated Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to serve as the Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Perhaps most thrilled about the nomination are the residents of Kansas, whose beleaguered Governor has, according to a local House representative, wreaked “carnage and destruction” upon their state through the implementation of calamitous fiscal policies. While not the shiniest of governors (he’s rated second in disapproval behind New Jersey’s Chris Christie), many deem Brownback perfectly suited for his new role. But if you’re concerned about his record on LGBT rights and efforts to battle the imaginary threat of Sharia, don’t be! Did we say “don’t”? Sorry, go ahead and be.


Legislative remedy for grandma falls short

While a federal judge had already relieved Teta from Trump’s travel ban until the Supreme Court renders a final decision on it, Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) tried to make the ground she stands on just a little more solid. He offered an Amendment at the Appropriations Committee markup of the 2018 Homeland Security bill that would bar funding for ban enforcement targeting the families of US persons, including grandparents. Sadly, that amendment failed last week in a vote of 23-29. There was one Republican who didn’t go along with the ban’s worst element: Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA) who supported Pocan’s amendment. Kudos to him and any Republican or Democrat who puts principles before party!