Posted on October 08, 2010 in Viewpoint with James Zogby

Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), discussed the political challenges facing Congress in the second half of Barack Obama’s presidency. Mr. Ornstein characterized the political climate in congress over the last two years as “nasty” and “rancorous”, and explained that the next two years will be no different. “Whatever happens in November, it’s going to be a bad election for Democrats”, he said, “it’s just a question of how devastating.” Despite his characterization of the 111th Congress, Mr. Ornstein said that this congress was productive. He added that congressional approval rating among voters is extremely low. Mr. Ornstein continued with an analysis of the possible issues that will result post-November in the lame duck session between the legislative and executive branches of government.


Joost Hiltermann, Deputy Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group (ICG), discussed the Iraq elections and the continued political strife in that country. Mr. Hiltermann provided a breakdown of the current political climate in Iraq and explained the stance and issues facing each party and political faction in the Iraqi system. Mr. Hiltermann also gave analysis of how internal Iraqi politics is influenced by countries on the peripheries, such as Iran, Syria and the United States. Though other countries are “interfering and trying to push their own interests in Iraq", he said, "they are not necessarily succeeding.” Mr. Hiltermann stressed how far the Iraqis are from any type of solution to the Iraqi political situation, but said “anything is still possible.”


Frank Donatelli, Chairman of GOPAC, discussed the the GOP ahead of the November election. Mr. Donatelli said despite the GOP leading Democrats in the polls leading up to the elections, the Republican party still has a lot to do. “We still have doors to knock on, money to raise”, Donatelli said. Mr. Donatelli acknowledged numbers showing support for the GOP over Democrats narrowing, and said that he was not surprised. He attributed the numbers to a campaign push from the Democrats in recent weeks. In terms of a Rpeublican response to this push, Donatelli said, “I think that the real focus for the Republican campaign this year is to finally do something about this leviathan government that’s growing totally out of control.” Donatelli also repudiated an ad campaign aimed against Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV) for supporting Arab Americans and for giving voice to "issues Arab American care about."