Posted on August 21, 2012 in Countdown

Contentious Races, From IL to NJ

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) issued a new video attacking opponent Tammy Duckworth for criticizing his remarks on Islam. In the video, Walsh distinguishes between “the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans [who] are… peace-loving” and “radical Islamists.” So, what’s Duckworth’s problem with that? Well, it has nothing to do with what Walsh actually said before. Just a few days earlier, Walsh was caught on tape saying fear of “offending Islam” [not exactly synonymous with a minority of radical Muslims] was getting Americans killed. Worse yet, this was Walsh’s response to a guy who said he was looking for Members of Congress “who will stand in the face of the danger of Islam… [because] Islam is not the peaceful, loving religion we hear about.” Joe, the distinction shouldn’t just be made when you’re challenged for pandering to the anti-Muslim sentiment, it should also be made when responding to bigots like this guy. Elsewhere, in New Jersey’s 9th District, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell won the primary a couple of months ago in spite of a campaign of demonization for his close relationship with the Arab American community. Well, he now has a new challenge: Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire who likely turned Gingrich into an anti-Palestinian extremist, is trying to defeat Pascrell, spending half a million dollars funding Super PACs that back his opponent. Grab some popcorn and wait for those Super PAC ads to come out; they should be entertaining.

A Bill to Save Us from 6-Headed Monsters

Once again, the federal government has used the state secrets privilege to cover up useless and legally questionable activities; this time to dismiss the lawsuit over “Operation Flex,” which involved indiscriminate spying on mosques across Southern California. In a simultaneously amusing and disturbing judgment, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney explained his decision by comparing himself to Odysseus in the legend of Scylla and Charybdis. Carney recalled how Odysseus chooses to lose several of his men to the six-headed monster rather than lose his entire ship to the whirlpool. In Carney’s version of the epic, as you’ve surely guessed, the constitutional rights of Arab Americans and American Muslims are what must be fed to the six-headed monster to save the ship. But as today’s revelation that 6 years of NYPD spying on Arab Americans and American Muslims has produced no leads illustrates yet again, you don’t need to sacrifice rights to save the ship. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced in June the “State Secrets Protection Act” (H.R. 5956), a bill that would require judges to find alternatives to outright dismissal of lawsuits when the privilege is invoked. Thus, the bill would deal a serious blow to the federal government’s ability to shield itself from scrutiny involving spying, warrantless wiretapping, and the lethal targeting of U.S. citizens. Tell your Members of Congress to support this bill, so that judges like Carney won’t feed Americans’ rights to any more monsters.

The Untold Tales of an Israel Trip

According to POLITICO, the FBI is currently investigating a late night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved heavy drinking and at least one naked Congressman, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS).  Yoder swam in the lake without swimming attire, and was joined by the (hopefully clothed) Republican Congressmen Steve Southerland (R-FL), Tom Reed (R-NY), Ben Quayle (R-AZ), Jeff Denham (R-CA), and Michael Grimm (R-NY), along with several of their wives and daughters.  The American Israel Educational Foundation, an AIPAC-affiliated group that sponsored the trip, defended the visit as “substantive and rigorous.” Eric Cantor is said to have scolded the Congressional swimmers (we’re probably the first people ever to use the term “Congressional swimmers”). However, that didn’t keep the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from seizing the opportunity to attack Republicans, releasing a statement saying the episode “looks more like a scene out of Animal House than a delegation of Members of Congress representing America in Israel.”

New Poll Coming Out on Thursday

What are American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims? Do Democrats and Republicans have different views on them? You’ll find the answers to all these questions and more this Thursday when we release the findings of our latest poll. For several years now, AAI has polled on American attitudes toward Arab Americans, American Muslims, Arab and Muslim communities abroad, and the Middle East, and we’ve kept a comprehensive archive with more than a decade’s worth of polling data that tracks the shifts in public opinion. Unfortunately, the results aren’t always good, but they’re always interesting, and keep us mindful of the priorities we should have in influencing public opinion moving forward. We will be live-streaming the poll release at 11am on Thursday (EST). Check out our blog on Thursday to watch.

What Our Non-Participating Friends Think

A new survey shows that President Obama is leading Mitt Romney by 43% to 18% among 90 million eligible American voters. So why, then, isn’t this election in the bag for Obama? Because that’s 90 million people who are either unregistered or unlikely to vote. And why are they unlikely to vote? Is it because registering to vote is too much trouble? Not really, two-thirds of them are already registered. Is it because they don’t think government policies affect their lives? No again; 8 in 10 think the government plays a big part in their lives. Well, there are many reasons: “They're too busy. They aren't excited about either candidate. Their vote doesn't really matter. And nothing ever gets done, anyway.” You know, we sympathize with all that, but the answer is to organize and push candidates to be more accountable to the people, not get passive and make it matter even less who gets elected, because while you’re too busy to care, special interests are filling the uncontested void, and that’s bad for us all.

The Countdown Team will be in Tampa next week, and Charlotte the following week, so look for special Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention editions of Countdown over the next couple of weeks.

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