Posted on July 31, 2012 in Countdown

Pandering Beyond the Pale

So Romney finally held his fundraiser in Israel, making over $1 million from wealthy donors (and your favorite billionaire Sheldon Adelson was seated next to him). Among the advisers accompanying Romney on this trip was Dan Senor, a man who represents, among other things, an era of U.S. foreign policy failure and deception in Iraq. He’s a spin-doctor who is also a Park 51 opponent and who’s big on Israel’s “economic miracle.” We got a good dose of that “miracle” because we listened to Romney's remarks at the fundraiser, who accounted for the (grossly understated) disparity between Israel's stellar economy and the Palestinians' deprived one by citing "at least culture and a few other things," like the "hand of providence." Really, Mitt? Cultural superiority and God's hand? What century is this again? Maybe someone should alert Romney to the fact that living under military occupation that entails severe restrictions on trade and movement, and being dispossessed of your lands and natural resources are not so much "Palestinian culture" as they are Israeli policies imposed on Palestinians. And by the way, telling the oppressed that their oppressors have it better because God willed it kind of makes you sound like Squealer in Animal Farm telling all the other animals why the pigs deserve the extra rations. But how can you blame Romney? When you insist on painting yourself as drastically "more pro-Israel" than a President who has already given Israel tremendous support, you corner yourself into using distasteful rhetoric. Romney then offered this weak attempt at clarifying his comments.

Nonsense Has Its Staunch Defenders

In the last Countdown, we highlighted the Republican Establishment's scolding of Michele Bachmann over the baseless suspicion that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top State Department aide, was part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the U.S. government. But nonsense, no matter how harshly ridiculed by the sensible, is not without its staunch defenders. Eric Cantor defended Bachmann as merely being “concern[ed] about the security of our country.” Frequent Countdown guest Louie Gohmert doubled down on the imaginary Muslim Brotherhood threat, calling on the media to “get past the enjoyment of vilifying and trying to destroy the messenger” and investigate the threat more seriously. Bachmann herself is enjoying a fundraising boost that appears to be the result of her baseless accusations. As for Congressman Keith Ellison, the man who initially went after Bachmann for her witch-hunt against Arab Americans and American Muslims serving their country, he was added to Bachmann’s list of suspicious people and was accused by his Republican opponent of being “militantly anti-America.”

Other Races to Watch

Arab American Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA) is battling fellow Republican Jeff Landry as a result of redistricting. The new district contains more of Rep. Boustany’s old district than Rep. Landry’s, so Boustany maintains a comfortable lead & cash flow. In Michigan, Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke, who has a strong record on Arab American issues and who has spoken out passionately against Islamophobia, now finds himself in an ugly redistricting-born primary against fellow Democratic Congressman Garry Peters (another member with strong ties to the community in Michigan) and a few others. The ugliness escalated when robocalls and emails claimed that Clarke’s mother was not African-American (and this is an issue, why?). Clarke said his opponents were “go[ing] after my dead parents” because they couldn’t attack his record. His campaign said "Due to the use of racist rhetoric and race-baiting by certain candidates in the 14th Congressional District race, Hansen Clarke For Congress will not participate in any more debates at this time.  These political tactics are insulting and offensive to our voters."

What If Drones Were In Charge?

Concerned about the ever-expanding drone program in Yemen, Afghanistan, and who-knows-where-else? Just so you know, “who-knows-where-else” is actually right here in your own backyard. Luckily, some members of Congress have got your back, and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) has sponsored H.R.6199, the Preserving American Privacy Act of 2012, which aims to “provide for limitations on the domestic use of drones in investigating regulatory and criminal offenses, and for other purposes.” It already has 23 co-sponsors from both parties, and has attracted a considerable amount of attention from civil libertarians. We think the Act could get a lot more than 23 co-sponsors, if only the rest of them can also escape the drone surveillance inside the Capitol building.

Another Syria Update

This past weekend was witness to some of the worst violence in Syria to date, with as many as 200,000 Syrians displaced as a result of the ongoing bloodshed in Aleppo. Our hearts go out to the countless families that have been devastated by this crisis, and we’re trying our best to stay on top of the policy developments toward Syria taking place here in DC. A number of bills have been introduced to condemn the Russian government for providing weapons to Syria, and several members of Congress have issued strongly-worded statements in support of the Syrian uprising, ranging from the aggressive militarism of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to the pacifist non-interventionism of Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). In the administration as well, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of the dangers of the fragmenting Syrian army, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently reaffirmed US support to Syria’s opposition. A concrete short term policy to end the bloodshed, however, remains elusive.


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