Posted on February 04, 2015 in Countdown


Crazy Play Call

In what would be the clear winner of the Super Bowl of crazy interviews, last week’s Foreign Affairs interview with Syrian regime leader Bashar Al Assad escalated the strongman’s friendly sociopath persona to new heights. With brazen disregard for reality, Assad continues to see himself as the beloved, long-awaited white knight of Syria, completely misunderstood by the world. It’s Assad against the terrorists and no one is helping! He continued to position himself as the more cooperative partner for Western-led cooperation, intervention, and negotiations …so long as any actions support his regime. With the notion of Assad remaining in power an ever more begrudgingly accepted fact in Washington circles, we’re just glad that this interview reminds us that we are coming frighteningly close to partnering with an unrepentant dictator whose actions have contributed to the deaths of over 200,000 Syrians and the displacement of nearly 8 million. As Foreign Affairs Editor Jonathan Tepperman succinctly surmised in his Washington Post op-ed, the civil war in Syria will likely end in one of two ways: with either the crushing of rebel groups or the defeat and dissolution of the Assad regime. In the meantime, let there be interviews!

Multiple Bad Play Calls

In an unsatisfactory victory for freedom of the press, a few Al Jazeera journalists are being extradited from Egypt. Peter Greste was extradited back to Australia last week after 400 days in jail. There was no conviction overturned, no wrong acknowledged, no apologies made; just an extradition with the expectation that Australia will arrest him (Australia chose to let him go free). Also getting out is fellow journalist Mohamed Fahmy who struck the only deal offered, under which he must surrender his Egyptian passport, renounce his citizenship, and be extradited to Canada where he holds citizenship. Freed but not absolved of guilt, any brief moment of celebratory optimism was short-lived. Just a few days later, Egyptian courts handed down a ruling which sentenced 183 Muslim Brotherhood members to death for participating in protests during which 11 police officers were killed. This left the third Al Jazeera journalist Baher Mohamed, who does not have dual citizenship, in jail along with 12 other journalists and hundreds of activists who continue to languish in prison under Egypt’s brutal crackdown on opposition groups. Will the following days and months shine a brighter light on those suffering under Egypt’s judicial injustices or will they, much like the regime’s many other violations, recede into the background? 

A Nonexistent Play Call

We’re still shocked by the bad play call Bibi and Boehner made. While his Republican colleagues stand united behind Speaker Boehner’s scandalous diplomacy, on the other side of the aisle Democrats are scrambling to find a unified, relevant voice on the matter. On the one hand, Democrats in the Progressive Caucus took a pragmatic line, with Rep. Ellison (MN-5), Rep. Cohen (TN-9) and Rep. Waters (CA-43) circulating a letter to Speaker Boehner urging him to delay the speech, and accusing the Speaker of reckless, harmful diplomacy. Meanwhile, Rep. Blumenauer (OR-3) is the lone Democrat vowing to boycott the speech thus far. Shocking most observers, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t bring the hammer down on Blumenauer, and actually left the window open for Democrats to refuse to attend the speech, but neither did Pelosi sign the more moderately positioned letter to Boehner. Just today we heard that Vice President Joe Biden isn’t committed to attending the event either – leaving a boycott on the menu of Democratic play calls. We’re left wondering if the Democrats even have a position on the matter. No sooner did we start to hope that the Dems might find a backbone on the issue than we caught wind of a peculiarly timed leak of DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz criticizing the media’s biased coverage of last summer’s Gaza war - saying CNN and MSNBC were hypercritical and unsympathetic to Israel. Don’t worry Bibi, you still have some Dems on your side. The rest of us are all questioning Boehner’s wisdom.

Old School Play Call

169 years. Yup, that’s right. That is the number of years - combined thankfully -that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger have spent on earth. In a hearing last week, Chairman McCain invited Kissinger to the Senate Armed Services Committee to share his innovative (yeah right) and unpredictable (yeah right) thoughts on U.S. national security strategy. Crazy enough, it was not Kissinger’s political science jargon filled platitudes that stole the show. The chaos began when members of the anti-war group Code Pink called for Henry Kissinger to be tried for war crimes. In defense of his 91-year-old colleague with a broken shoulder, Chairman McCain feistily told one of protestors, “get out of here, you low life scum.”  Wow. Although Code Pink isn’t known for being the most tactful advocates on the Hill, we’re shocked by the aggressive tone Chairman McCain has set for his Committee hearings – he even stood by his remarks, saying that he doesn’t regret the way that he handled the situation. With the first committee hearing behind him, we hope Chairman McCain can bring new ideas and a lot less anger to the next one.

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