Viewpoint with James Zogby: Geneive Abdo, Laura Murphy, Peter Fenn, Ali Mostafa

Geneive Abdo, director of the Iran program at the Century Foundation and editor of www.insideIran.org, discussed Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Lebanon as well as the current political landscape in the country. Ms. Abdo explained that Ahmadinejad’s visit comes amidst trouble at home for his regime.” I think that the visit was really designed more to, or was more directed to sort of rehabilitating him at home because he is suffering at home”, Adbo said. “Support that we saw in Lebanon was really to show that he has credibility among Shiite Muslims in the region”, Ms. Abdo added. Abdo also spoke about the relationship between President Ahmedinejad and supreme ruler Khomeini.

 

Laura Murphy, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), discussed a wide range of ACLU activities, including a brief assessment of the Obama Administrations performance relating to civil liberties and humans rights. Murphy described Obama’s performance thus far as a “vast improvement” on the previous Bush Administration’s policy. Ms. Murphy discussed the status of other controversial and important cases, explaining the roles undertaken by the ACLU in each. In a final address during her segment, Ms. Murphy stated the need to return to the basic elements of our constitution. “We really need to remind people why the United States is different”, she said. “We stand for religion liberty, how we can disagree with each other without assuring that someone is arrested because of their political viewpoints.”

 

Peter Fenn, president of Fenn Communications Group, a premier political and public affairs media firm, discussed the approaching mid-term elections. Mr. Fenn discussed the much anticipated losses Democrats will face in the House, and also predicted outcomes in the Senate. “The Republicans need 39 seats to take control of the house. Right now I would say they got them”, said Fenn. “The question is how many more they're going to get”, he added, “The senate is a tougher one because the Republicans have kicked away, in my view, several seats.” Mr. Fenn commented on Senate Races in Nevada and Delaware where he believes weak Republican candidates won their party’s nomination and alluded to their ultimate failure to win the senate seat in their respective states.  

Ali Mostafa, director of the UAE’s first big budget film, City of Life, discussed his new film. Written, produced and directed in the U.A.E., Mr. Mostafa explained the obstacles he had faced to get the film completed and gave viewers a glimpse of the film’s message. Mostafa explained that he did the film to address the misconceptions that Dubai, where the film takes place a “Disney Landish-type artificial place”. He also explained that his intentions where to “showcase Arabs in the people in a different light than would have usually have been seen and how they are shown in films for Hollywood”. City of Life premiered at the Arabian Sights film festival in Washington, DC.

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Bill Press

In a special edition of Viewpoint with James Zogby, Bill Press, Host of The Bill Press Show interviews Dr. Zogby about his new Book, Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us And Why it Matters. Dr. Zogby reverses roles with Bill Press and discusses the reasons for writing his book, which hit store shelves this Tuesday. “I wrote it for two reasons”, Dr. Zogby said. “One [reason] is because the stakes are so high. We're in real trouble in the Middle East…it's not getting better”, he added. The second reason, he explained, was to “shatter” the myths Americans have about Arabs. Using data from 40 years of polling in Arab Countries and supporting the numbers with personal stories and anecdotes, Arab Voices attempts to paint the most accurate picture of the Arab people, explaining who they are to the American people. Dr. Zogby pointed to the lack of education offered to bridge the gap between Arabs and Americans, and iterated that many Americans are getting false information on Arabs and the Middle East from so-called experts, who in fact lack understanding of the Arab World. Dr. Zogby said: “Ignorance coupled with bad information, when you think you know and you don't, that's the most dangerous kind of ignorance of all.”

To learn more about the book, visit the Arab Voices section of this site. Click here to purchase a copy.

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Norm Ornstein, Joost Hiltermann, Frank Donatelli

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."

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Frank Sharry, Greg Nojeim

Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director of America's Voice, discussed the current status of immigration reform in the US. Sharry explained the issues around many proposed pieces of legislation, including the debated DREAM Act which would grant citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Sharry answered many questions from viewers concerned with several issues related to immigration, including job security for American citizens. “I think if you're interested in an orderly system that protects American workers and taxpayers and restores the rule of law, comprehensive immigration reform that combines tough enforcement with a humane legal system is the solution,” he said.

Greg Nojeim, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and the Director of its Project on Freedom, Security & Technology, discussed the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase the ability for certain alaw enforcement agencies to monitor internet use. Nojeim also described what is already being practiced by law enforcement and security agencies in terms of monitoring the internet. Nojeim also described this issue as potentially damaging for innovation, “Some of the greatest applications have been built in a dorm room or in a garage. Now a new mandate is going to fall on these innovators.”  

A Washington correspondent for Al-Hayat, discussed a wide range of Middle East Issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian Peace process, the situation in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Brian Baird, Shane D’Aprile

Congressman Brian Baird, 6-term Democrat from Washington’s 3rd district, took a look back on his 12 year career as a member of Congress. Baird is retiring from office this November after more than a decade of service. When asked what accomplishments he was most proud of during his tenure as a representative, Baird made a distinction between his work locally and nationally. “The most important accomplishments are local, the service to the local districts.” He continued, “throughout my district, I can look at each community and say we worked on this issue for this community, for these individuals, and made a difference locally.” Speaking about his work on a national level, Baird said that his constant endeavor to be a leader on ocean issues and science diplomacy stand out, as well as his positions on Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. In addition to discussing his career, Baird highlighted many current issues in Congress and commented on the wider political landscape in Washington, DC.      


Shane D'Aprile, campaign reporter for The Hill newspaper, discussed the park 51 controversy. D’Aprile explained that Park51 is not an issue being discussed in the halls of Congress, but that the issue will most certainly remain an issue on the campaign trail. D’Aprile commented on an ad put out by Renee Elmers, a candidate for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd district which claims the the Mosque in lower Manhattan is akin to ‘victory mosques’ built after Muslim conquests of Jerusalem and Constantinople. “It was certainly on the one hand an attempt to get attention on what is a long-shot campaign and it's worked”, said D’Aprile of Elmers’ ad. In addition to the Park 51 conversation, D’Aprile also commented on other political issues leading up the November elections.

Shane D’Aprile, campaign reporter for The Hill newspaper, discussed the park 51 controversy. D’Aprile explained that Park51 is not an issue being discussed in the halls of Congress, but that the issue will most certainly remain an issue on the campaign trail. D’Aprile commented on an ad put out by Renee Elmers, a candidate for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd district who calls the Mosque in lower Manhattan akin to ‘victory mosques’ built after Muslim conquests of Jerusalem and Constantinople. “It was certainly on the one hand an attempt to get attention on what is a long-shot campaign and it's worked”, said D’Aprile of Elmers’ ad. In addition to the Park 51 conversation, D’Aprile also commented on other political issues leading up the November elections.

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Josh Kraushaar, Laith Kubba, Keith Ellison

On Thursday's edition of Viewpoint with James Zogby: Josh Kraushaar, executive editor of The Hotline, the National Journal; Laith Kubba, senior director for the Middle East and North Africa program at the National Endowment for Democracy; Congressman Keith Ellison, second term Democrat from the state of Minnesota and first Muslim elected to Congress.

Josh Kraushaar, Executive Editor of The Hotline, the National Journal, discussed some key primary election results and gave analysis of the political landscape in the US leading up to the November elections. Kraushaar commented on contests in Delaware, Florida, Kentucky and Nevada, among others, citing the key issues in each. On the senate race in Delaware, in which primary results saw Christine O’Donnell, an individual with little-to-no political experience win over incumbent Mike Castle, Kraushaar said, “There is a sense that anyone can be a senator. The people that have been in control in Washington no matter which party have been the leading the country astray. Why not have this nobody?” Kraushaar’s comments highlight the overwhelming anti-incumbent mood sweeping the country.

 

Laith Kubba, senior director for the Middle East and North Africa program at the National Endowment for Democracy, discussed the current situation in Iraq post withdrawal of US combat troops from the country. “Let me tell you what the fundamentals are”, said Kubba, “Number one is the Iraq army is much stronger. It's a fact. And number two is you do not need the U.S. army to fight Al Qaeda.” Kubba iterated that there is bound to be violence in Iraq, and that at times the US may need to assist because of its superior capabilities. Kubba described two types of violence, one, which he said does not make headlines, what her terms “political violence”- the silencing of certain political voices. The second, more known violence, is what he attributed to Al Qaeda: “a car bomb going on in some public place”, he said, describing a car bomb as “a hopeless move from them (Al Qaeda) to try to find some air in a country that is very, very slowly putting itself together.”

 

Congressman Keith Ellison, second term Democrat from the state of Minnesota and first Muslim elected to Congress, discussed the uproar of Anti-Muslim sentiment in the US in recent months since the announcement of the proposed Islamic Cultural center in lower Manhattan. “People like Palin and Gingrich and others…whipping up hatred in order to gain a political advantage. The truth is it's not over yet.” In regards to Pastor Terry Jones, the man in Gainsville, Florida who threatened to carry out “National Burn a Qur’an Day”, Ellison said: “The one thing that Terry Jones did for America is to see -- is to reveal how bad things can get.” On a final note, Ellison stated: “We're going to put our best foot forward, trying to bring people to each other rather than being against each other.”

At the end of the show, Jim, having the first opportunity on air to do so, paid tribute to Ron Walters who passed away last Friday. Of Walters Jim said: “I got to learn him and know from him. As close as we got in 1984, in 1988 we got closer because he was the senior foreign policy advisor for the Jackson campaign. His insights and understanding of American politics and of African-American history were absolutely breathtaking. And what I learned from him I will never forget.”

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Josh Kraushaar, Michelle Richardson, Andrew Serwer

On Thursday's edition of Viewpoint with James Zogby: Josh Kraushaar, Executive Editor of The Hotline, the National Journal; Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel at the ACLU; Andrew Serwer, Writing fellow at The American Prospect.

Josh Kraushaar, Executive Editor of The Hotline, the National Journal, discussed a wide range of political issues including Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Kraushaar compared Kagan’s confirmation to that of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, saying that the ultimate decision of certain moderate Republicans to vote against her confirmation “suggests Obama’s clout is not what it was when Sonia Sotomayor as elected”. Kraushaar went on to discuss key congressional races in Nevada and Michigan and offered his expert analysis on other important issues in Washington politics. 

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Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel at the ACLU, discussed efforts by federal agencies like the FBI to broaden their abilities to obtain sensitive personal material and supersede constitutionally protected rights to privacy.  Richardson said that the FBI is “…engaging in ethnic and racial mapping” in order to find out information about certain groups’ activities.  Richardson explained that if the FBI gets its way, no limit will be placed on its authority to obtain (by any means) any information they see fit. The FBI will need “no factual basis to investigate a crime”, said Richardson “this is ultimately where we are heading”.

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Andrew Serwer, Writing fellow at The American Prospect discussed the controversial Cordoba Center, a proposed Mosque and community center to be built near ground zero in New York City. The proposed Cordoba center has sparked an nation-wide debate and has been at the center of much criticism from many groups. Despite its controversy, and the high level of opposition from many groups, the Cordoba Center is well on its way to being built. Serwer discussed the opposition to the center, by what he called “outside national conservative figures” and termed the opposition “cultural war counter terrorism”. “The group that is building the mosque is not a threat to national security “, said Serwer.

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: P.J. Crowley, Robert Wexler, Hilary Shelton

On Thursday's edition of Viewpoint with James Zogby: P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the State Department; Honorable Robert Wexler, former Florida Congressman and President of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace; Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau.

P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the State Department, examined the tenuous Iraqi political process following the March elections. Crowley acknowledged the U.S. government’s concern with the slow pace of government formulation, but highlighted the "real politics" taking place in the country and the importance of this “indigenous” process. Explaining that "there are some people in Iraq who would like us to tell them what the right answer is. We can’t do this for their benefit…If we’re seen as dictating a solution, that undercuts the legitimacy of the government when it does emerge." Crowley also discussed the recent "talk from many quarters" that ICE investigators may indict several Hezbollah officials concerning the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri. Though worried that an investigation may potentially incite instability in Lebanon, Crowley believes this process will be important for Lebanon to "establish its own sovereignty…the chips have to fall where they do."

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Robert Wexler, former Florida Congressman and President of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, answered tough questions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, settlement construction, and the impact of a potential Republican take over of Congress on the peace process. When asked to evaluate Obama’s policies encouraging Middle East Peace, Wexler praised the president for "inspiring hope in the Arab world from the very first day in office." While discussing the recent drop in Arab approval of Obama, Wexler defended the president’s "integrity and the seriousness of purpose… I imagine the President is frustrated in terms of the ebbs and flows and the starts and the fits…But you have to look where he started, and where he is today. He entered office right on the heels of the War in Gaza when the parties could not have been further apart." Wexler then went on to state that despite the potential for a shift in political control of Congress, President Obama will continue to encourage peace in the region "with a very ambitious agenda [and will] seek to facilitate the negotiation process that hopefully will benefit both the Israelis and the Palestinians to take risks for peace."

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Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, discussed the allegations of racism within the Tea Party as the NAACP calls for greater accountability by Tea Party leaders. Shelton highlighted a resurgence of racist rhetoric and went on to examine a number of pictures of tea party protestors carrying "very ugly racist signs." Dr. Zogby then displayed data from a New York Times-CBS poll that demonstrated "Clearly a race obsession" within the Tea Party movement "fed by a network [Fox News] that some accuse of actually being a mobilizer for the tea party movement." Shelton went on to discuss an October march sponsored by the NAACP, which intends to "reclaim the civility and…eliminate a lot of this disruption and distraction that comes from people like the tea party, allowing us to really focus in on the issues that challenge us as Americans every day."

http://blip.tv/play/hoZkgfLSDQA%2Em4v

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Robert Malley, Ken Menkhaus

On Thursday's edition of Viewpoint with James Zogby: Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group, Washington, DC.; Ken Mekhaus, Somalia expert and Professor of Political Science at Davidson College, NC.

Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group, Washington, DC., discussed a wide range of Middle East-related issues, including Lebanon, Gaza and Syria. On Lebanon, Malley gave an analysis of reports which stipulate an International Tribunal indictment against select Hezbollah members suspected of playing parts in the assassination of Lebanese PM Saad Hariri's father, Rafiq Harari. He also discussed the Lebanese struggle to achieve national unity and domestic cohesion. On Gaza, Malley discussed what he called a political problem which, "was intended to hurt Hamas by turning its people against it, by turning the west bank into the favorable model and Gaza into the nightmare." On Syria, Malley discussed the country's growing role in the Middle East in the past year.

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Ken Menkhaus, Somalia expert and Professor of Political Science at Davidson College, discussed Somalia and gave viewers a tutorial of the the surrounding region, including facts on geography, politics and culture. Menkhaus discussed the militant group Al-Shabab, which controls much of the country and has subsequently implemented its very harsh interpretation of Sharia law. Mekhaus also discussed similarities and difference between Al-Shabab and the Taliban. He explained that Al-Shabab's legitimacy came about as a result of U.S.-backed Ethiopia's invasion of the country in 2006, but iterated that there is growing resentment towards the militant group among Somalis.

http://blip.tv/play/AYHwrGEA

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Viewpoint with James Zogby: Daniel Levy, Nuh Yilmaz, Jafar Farah

On Thursday’s edition of Viewpoint with James Zogby:Daniel Levy, Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation; Nuh Yilmaz, Director of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA); Jafar Farah, Director of the Mossawa Center.


Daniel Levy, Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation, discussed the latest developments in the Middle East peace process. Levy began by commenting on an ad, sponsored by The Emergency Committee for Israel, which attacks Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) for, among other things, refusing “to sign a bipartisan letter affirming U.S. support for Israel.” In his analysis of the ad, levy said; “Part of the ad was pretty blatant racism”. He explained that the very people who ran the ad represent a wing of the right of the political spectrum whose views “…cannot co-exist with support for the kind of aide that Israel gets as an OEDC member, a support for a big American footprint overseas, billions of dollars for wars in the middle east, trillions of dollars.”      

 

 

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Nuh Yilmaz, Director of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), discussed Turkey and the current status of its relations with Israel in the recent months since the Gaza-bound Turkish Flotilla incident. “The government of Turkey had two big demands after the flotilla attack: One was an apology, and the other was an international inquiry”, said Yilmaz. He explained that Turkey has curtailed certain privileges Israel once had, including reducing Israeli military flights through Turkish airspace. Yilmaz commented on the notion that the Turkish role in Israeli-Palestinian conflict will backfire and have negative implications for Turkey. Yilmaz stated: “I think that critique is mostly an isolated and marginal critique.”  

 

 

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Jafar Farah, Director of the Mossawa Center, the advocacy center for Arab citizens in Israel, painted a picture of life for the 1.3 million Arab citizens of Israel. “We’re an important layer, we’re a big community and we are discriminated systematically by the Israeli government”, said Farah. He continued, “We have potential to be the future because we have the accessibility to the Palestinians and the Jews.” Farah explained that Arab Israelis find themselves in very tough positions when it comes to recognition even among other Arabs, who for a time, he explained, viewed them as traitors. Also, because of their Israeli citizenship, both Israel and 19 Arab countries restrict their movement to and from Israel. “If I fall in love with somebody in Ramallah, we can’t live together”, said Farah. His comments refer law which prohibits Israeli Arabs from obtaining citizenship for their spouses outside of Israel.  

 

 

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