FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/16/16) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on President-Elect Donald Trump to drop anti-Islam conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney as an adviser on national security for his transition team. (#DropGaffney)
SEE: Meet Frank Gaffney, the Anti-Muslim Gadfly Reportedly Advising Trump’s Transition Team (Washington Post)
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has identified Gaffney as an anti-Muslim extremist and his Center for Security Policy (CSP) as a hate group. According to the SPLC, CSP is “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.”
Of Gaffney himself, the SPLC says he is “gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, suspicious that Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya, and a proponent of a new version of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee to root out suspected Muslim subversives.”
SPLC: Frank Gaffney
“Discredited conspiracy theorists like Frank Gaffney should not come within 100 miles of any administration that seeks to maintain credibility on the world stage or to uphold longstanding American values of religious diversity and inclusion,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “With these kinds of associations, President-elect Trump is dividing America at a time when we are most in need of unity.”
Backgrounder on Frank Gaffney:
Gaffney is a notorious anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who has claimed that “most of the Muslim-American groups of any prominence in America are now known to be, as a matter of fact, hostile to the United States and its Constitution.”
He is a key promoter of the bizarre conspiracy theory that Muslims in public service are infiltrating the government on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Gaffney has questioned “whether Mr. Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States,” claimed the Missile Defense Agency logo is part of a “worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam,” claimed an aide to Hillary Clinton was a secret Muslim Brotherhood operative, was a key witness for the plaintiffs in a controversial lawsuit seeking to block construction of a Tennessee mosque, promoted the debunked claim that Dearborn, Mich., is a “ghetto enclave in which it’s Muslim-only,” and hosted “white supremacist” Jared Taylor on his “Secure Freedom” radio program.
He has in the past:
* Suggested that Saddam Hussein was behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
* Claimed Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was submitting to Islamic law when he condemned the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor.
* Objected to Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) serving on the House Intelligence Committee because they are Muslim.
* Accused Pope Francis of having “rabidly anti-American” views after the pope said it is “not Christian” to urge the deportation of undocumented immigrants and to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Gaffney was banned from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011 after accusing fellow Republicans of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, cited Gaffney in his anti-Muslim manifesto.
Gaffney’s staff attorney, David Yerushalmi, has advocated outlawing the practice of Islam in America and is the key promoter of anti-Islam bills in state legislatures nationwide.
When leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, he quoted from a sham survey commissioned by Gaffney’s organization.
Earlier this week, CAIR decried the appointment of anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and White nationalist “alt-right” extremist Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump.
Bannon hosted Gaffney on his Sirius XM radio show “Breitbart News Daily” 29 times.
CAIR recently updated its site with information about the extremist anti-Muslim views of a number of potential Trump administration appointees.
CAIR Islamophobia Monitor: Islamophobia and the Potential Trump Team
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights group is monitoring a troubling spike in anti-Muslim and racist incidents since the November 8 election.
Muslim community members who believe their rights have been violated are being asked to contact local police and CAIR’s Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by filing a report at: http://www.cair.com/civil-rights/report-an-incident/view/form.html
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
La misión de CAIR es mejorar la comprensión del Islam, fomentar el diálogo, proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.
– END –
CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com
Dear MoveOn member,
A few months ago, I visited the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, the largest Syrian refugee camp and home to about 80,000 people.
It is hard to describe with words what I saw. The camp was full of women and young children who fled Syria in fear for their lives. While I was there, I saw children as young as six years old digging trenches in the sand for raw sewage. I saw young boys and girls being kept home from school to do hard labor because the meager wage is the only way their families could afford to eat. And I heard stories of young girls sold into marriage so the rest of the family could afford to live in this perpetual state of despair. I saw desperation and want emanate from every corner of the camp.
This isn’t just a humanitarian crisis, it has real national security implications. If we don’t help feed and shelter these refugees, extremists like ISIS will. For years, I’ve called upon the United States to increase humanitarian aid to improve the conditions in refugee camps to help other nations bear the burden of displaced persons, and take in more refugees here at home. Finally, there is momentum growing to step up and meet this challenge.
Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Senate will consider a bipartisan request for $1 billion in emergency funding to provide humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees, and it is CRITICAL that you make your voice heard on this issue.
I know my colleagues take calls from constituents seriously, so make the call and tell Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker you support emergency appropriations to provide humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees, and to please co-sponsor Senate Bill 2145, the Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.
Here’s where to call:
Senator Robert Menendez
Phone: (202) 224-4744
Senator Cory Booker
Phone: (202) 224-3224
Then, please report your call by clicking here:
Our nation has a long tradition of providing safe haven to refugees fleeing tyranny, violence, and persecution. We welcomed more than 200,000 refugees during the Balkan Wars, 700,000 refugees from Cuba, and more than 700,000 refugees from Vietnam.
We are a VERY generous nation, always have been, but there is a double standard in our foreign policy today.
When America sets a military objective, we allocate every single dollar we need to accomplish that mission. But when it’s a humanitarian objective, we only put in a share and expect others to fill the gap. That approach comes at a very real human cost in the region, and ultimately, to our credibility around the world.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve led the effort to articulate a progressive vision for America’s role in the world—one that exercises smarter power and influence by leaning into the world with something other than the pointed edge of the sword. Because the truth is, failing to invest in humanitarian programs can be just as dangerous to U.S. national security interests as failing to invest in military operations when they are necessary. As I’ve rolled out this new foreign policy direction, I’ve been grateful for the passionate feedback I’ve received from MoveOn members and for our steadfast partnership.
That’s why I’m asking you to make your voice heard today. I know my colleagues will be waiting to see which way the calls come in on this issue. Pick up the phone and tell Sens. Menendez and Booker to support legislation providing emergency humanitarian relief to help Syrian refugees.
Here’s where to call:
Senator Robert Menendez
Phone: (202) 224-4744
Senator Cory Booker
Phone: (202) 224-3224
Then, please report your call by clicking here:
With the civil war persisting in Syria, many families have been in these camps for two or three years, and I can tell you from my experience there, this is nowhere anyone would want to live. This explains why so many refugees are giving up on the camps and fleeing for Europe. They see no end to the civil war, and with little real humanitarian assistance on the way to make life in camps better, they flee, often risking their own lives and the lives of loved ones.
Thank you for standing with me on this issue.
Every best wish,
Senator Chris Murphy
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FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH ALLAN LICHTMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND FREQUENT POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND ELECTORAL FORECASTER
TOPIC: STATE OF THE RACE 2016: AN OVERVIEW OF THE 2016 ELECTIONS FOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS COVERING THEIR FIRST U.S. ELECTION
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2015, 11:00 A.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today I would like to welcome Professor Allan Lichtman, American University professor of history and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, back to the Washington Foreign Press Center for another in his series of elections and political briefings. This briefing is titled “The State of the Race, 2016: An Overview of the 2016 Elections for Foreign Correspondents Covering Their First U.S. Election.” Professor Lichtman’s views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Department of State.
Without further ado, here is Professor Lichtman.
MR LICHTMAN: In fact, my views don’t represent anyone except me, so don’t attribute it to American University, the federal government, the United States, or anyone else except Allan Lichtman.
How many of you were here for my 2014 briefing? A few of you. Remember I said three things mattered in midterm elections, right? Turnout, turnout, and turnout, and I predicted if the turnout was low, the Republicans were going to win the 2014 midterms, and that’s exactly what happened. Turnout was low and it was a very good year for Republicans. However, things change in presidential election years. The turnout is something along the lines of 50 percent higher than it is in midterm elections and doesn’t tend to vary quite as much from election to election.
And obviously, unlike midterm elections where turnout can be highly dependent on what’s going on in an individual state – do you have a real tight race in that state – in a presidential year, of course, turnout is determined by the top of the ticket, the presidential contest. But the basic dynamic is still very much the same: High turnout tends to benefit Democrats and low turnout tends to benefit Republicans, whether in a presidential year or a midterm year. And particularly high turnout of minority voters tends to favor Democrats; higher turnout of white voters tends to favor Republicans.
We have a very racially and ethnically polarized electorate in the United States, and it is virtually uniform. There are variations in numbers, but the pattern is almost uniform across all the states with white voters giving majorities to Republicans and African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians giving majorities to Democrats. There’s a slight exception to that in Florida where there’s a very strong Cuban American population that has been traditionally Republican, but that has been changing. The older anti-Castro Cold War generation is dying out and the new generation is much less Republican, and Florida is also experiencing strong immigration from other parts of Latin America. So today, the Hispanic vote in Florida is about 50/50; everywhere else, it tends Democratic. And of course, the African American vote is 90 percent or more Democratic. So turnout matters and turnout of whites versus minorities matter a great deal in this election.
I’ll turn first to the presidential contest and what’s going on in each primary. The Democrats ought to be building a monument to Vice President Joe Biden because of what he didn’t do – that is, he didn’t get into the presidential race. Why is that important? Because it means there is much less likely to be a contest within the Democratic Party for the nomination. Bernie Sanders fires up about a quarter to a third of the Democratic primary electorate. There are a lot of people who will walk through brick walls for Senator Bernie Sanders, but he has a great deal of trouble expanding beyond that 25 to 30 percent. He does really well in Iowa and New Hampshire – small, primarily white states – but he is being swamped in the polls by Hillary Clinton in all of the big states where there’s very strong minority voting in Democratic primaries, where money organization and name recognition matters. You’re not going to go door to door in California, New York, and Florida.
So it looks like, unless something really bizarre happens – and that does happen in politics – that Hillary Clinton is cruising to become the consensus Democratic nominee. And she was helped not only by Joe Biden getting out of the race, but greatly helped by her Republican opposition. The more things change, the more they remain the same in politics.
Some of you may even remember back to the crisis facing her husband, President Bill Clinton, the only president since Andrew Johnson in 1868 to be impeached by the U.S. House while the Republicans pressed too far. And it made it look like – even though Bill Clinton had done some pretty dastardly things – that the Republican campaign against him was political, it was political revenge and was being sought for political advantage, not for the good of the republic.
Guess what? The Republicans have made exactly the same mistake in going after Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi tragedy and the emails. Yes, Hillary and the State Department made some pretty serious errors, but it has been pursued so relentlessly for so long with so little new information coming up that now, the American people overwhelmingly believe – 75 percent – that this – these investigations of Hillary Clinton are being motivated by partisanship. And a couple of Republicans have even come out and greatly helped Hillary Clinton by saying, yeah, these hearings were designed to drive her poll numbers down or hurt her electability.
So the Republicans have done something that Hillary Clinton could never have done by herself – make this ice lady look sympathetic and appealing and beleaguered and persecuted. And that had greatly helped her campaign along with an absolutely superb performance in the Democratic debate and just showing she was a marathon runner in coming out of 11 hours of grilling in the Benghazi hearings absolutely unscathed.
Why does it matter that Hillary Clinton is going to be the consensus Democratic nominee? The reason is history. History teaches that the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House, which of course is the Democratic Party even though Barack Obama is not eligible to run again – the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House is an internal, bitter party fight.
The last time the party holding the White House survived a major internal fight for the nomination was, guess what, 1880 when James Garfield won the presidency by about one-tenth of 1 percent in the popular vote. Since then, major internal party fights have been the kiss of death for the party holding the White House. I need only remind you of 2008; the Republicans had a big fight, or 1980 when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter, or 1976 when you had the bitter battle between Ronald Reagan and the sitting president, Gerald Ford.
So the reason avoiding a party fight is so critical in this election is not necessarily because Hillary Clinton is the most electable candidate. In fact, going for the most electable candidate is about the worst strategy any party could ever adopt because you don’t know who is electable.
I remind you of 2004 when the Democrats opted for John Kerry, Senator Kerry, not because they loved him but because they thought he was electable and, of course, he lost to a very weak president who was really faltering, George W. Bush, in 2004.
So very good news for the Democrats with Joe Biden’s withdrawal and the recent resurgence of Hillary Clinton. If form holds and Hillary Clinton becomes the consensus nominee, that’s very positive for the Democrats going into the general election.
Now, what is also interesting historically is it’s entirely different for the challenging party, for the party that does not hold the White House. They can fight all they want and historically it makes absolutely no difference. I point you to 2008, right, when the Democrats were the out party. The Republicans were holding the White House and there was a long, protracted – one of the longest and most tract – protracted nomination struggles in modern history between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and that did not stop the challenging candidate, Barack Obama, from handily winning the White House.
So the pundits have it all wrong. It doesn’t matter that there’s this big squabble among Republicans. It doesn’t matter that there is no clear consensus nominee and this could be a long struggle. The pundits have no sense of history. They have no theory of how a presidential election works. They’re operating from the seat of their pants and they are absolutely wrong.
That said, the real action and the real interest is on the Republican side, and what is astonishing about the Republican struggle – it’s still early, but not too soon to be astonished – is that the only candidates in double digits, and they’re both over 20 points in the polls; the next highest are 8 or 9 – so the two candidates who are absolutely sweeping the Republican field now – doesn’t mean they’re going to be nominated, but it’s not that early; it’s getting close to 2016 – are two candidates who not only have never been elected to anything, who have never held public office, and that is Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who together, according to the polls, hold the support of more than 50 percent of likely Republican primary voters.
Now, you may think, oh, it’s the Republican Party. They are the party that challenges Washington. This is not surprising for the Republican Party. Nonsense. When was the last time the Republican Party nominated someone who had never held any kind of public position? The answer is never. The answer is never. You have Dwight Eisenhower, who was never elected, but of course he was General of the Army. You have Herbert Hoover, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of Commerce. You have William Howard Taft, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of War and Governor General of the Philippines. Never has the Republican Party reached out to someone who not only has never stood for election but never held public office.
In fact, if you look at the more recent history of the Republican Party, they have always nominated a mainstream figure with lots of experience and standing within the party. Look at their nominees: Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts; John McCain, senator from Arizona; George W. Bush, governor of Texas, son of a President; George H. W. Bush, vice president; Bob Dole, leader of the Senate; Ronald Reagan, governor of California; Richard Nixon, former senator and vice president; even Barry Goldwater, the maverick far conservative who was nominated in 1964, was still a U.S. senator from Arizona.
So you are looking at two candidates who might not seem surprising, but who are actually incredibly surprising because they completely break the mold both of the long history of the Republican Party, and even more pointedly, the recent history of the Republican Party. They have not nominated anyone with the profile, or non-profile, of a Ben Carson or a Donald Trump. Got to editorialize a little bit here. Remember, these are my own opinions only.
Donald Trump doesn’t surprise me. I predicted Donald Trump many, many months ago, when all the pundits were scoffing at him. Why did I predict the rise of Donald Trump? A number of reasons. One, he is a great showman. He really knows how, positively and negatively, to get attention and to attract people to pay attention to him and to listen to him. And in a crowded field, you need a shtick. You know what a shtick is? It’s a Jewish term, it’s used in Hollywood a lot – something that makes you different, something that stands out, something really special. You remember the impersonation of Sarah Palin that made Saturday Night Live really stick out. Tina Fey just had her to a T. It was a great shtick. And Donald Trump has a shtick. Now, whether that shtick will last through the primaries, who knows. But all the pundits again were wrong who said he was a meteor who would just burn out in the atmosphere. That hasn’t happened. He’s been atop or, until recently, very close to the top of the polls now for a very long time.
The other thing about Donald Trump is he says things that a lot of other Republican candidates believe but are too afraid, too timid to say – such as his denigrating of immigrants. It’s inflammatory stuff, probably a majority of Americans don’t agree with it, but there is a segment within the Republican Party that likes to hear that kind of thing and believes that Donald Trump is a non-scripted kind of candidate; he’s not a controlled, Washington-establishment type of candidate. And if there is anything that marks the Republican Party today, it’s complete disgust with Washington.
And it’s not just because Barack Obama, a Democrat, is president; it’s because Republicans are deeply and bitterly unhappy about their own Republican Congress. They don’t believe that their own Republican Congress had done nearly enough either to challenge Barack Obama or to imprint Republican values and Republican policies. There’s a big segment of the Republican Party that’s quite willing to blow everything up and start all over again.
So I get Donald Trump. I’ll tell you who I don’t get, and that’s Ben Carson. I cannot understand what the appeal of Ben Carson is. Watch the debate – the man had nothing to say. He couldn’t distinguish between the debt and the deficit. He tried to explain medical policy – his own medical policy. He’s a doctor and he couldn’t explain his own medical policy. But what baffles me most about Ben Carson – have people listened to what the man actually has said?
He embodies two things that I think are the most dangerous elements that any politician could have: a lack of a moral compass, and a lack of a sense of history. The man has compared the Obama Administration to Nazi Germany. This cheapens the Holocaust. It cheapens the deaths of tens of millions of people in World War II. Whatever you may think of Barack Obama – love him or hate him – he didn’t kill 6 million Jews. He didn’t start a war that killed 67 million people. What kind of moralist are you? What kind of sense of history do you have when you make those kinds of comparisons?
I’m a Jew, and I – and I’ve studied the Holocaust. And I am profoundly offended by his cheapening of the Holocaust by saying if the Jews only had a few guns, they could’ve stopped the Nazi war machine. How could you be so profoundly ignorant of history? First of all, only a tiny fraction of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust were German Jews. Most of the Jews were from territories occupied or influenced by the Nazis – Poland, Romania, Hungary, not Germany. And guess what? The Jews tried to fight the Nazis with a few guns.
Mr. Carson never seems to have heard of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. You know how many Jews were killed? Thirteen thousand to 20 Nazis. Nearly 60,000 were deported to the death camps. How you can cheapen the Holocaust, perhaps the greatest human tragedy in history, by saying it could’ve prevented – it could’ve been prevented if the German Jews had a few more guns. I don’t get Ben Carson.
I don’t understand how he has risen to the top of the polls, unless people just aren’t listening. And that may be true. Maybe he hasn’t gotten the scrutiny that a Donald Trump or a Jeb Bush has gotten, and people just think he’s this profoundly moral outsider who’s going to bring a new era to Washington. That may well be his appeal, but I don’t get it. I get everyone else in the Republican and Democratic field.
And the other candidate I get is Jeb Bush. That’s the other big story, is the absolute collapse of the candidate who was considered to be the establishment favorite. Why has the Jeb Bush campaign fallen apart to the point where some of the commentators are indicating he may even drop out of the race? He’s already cut back on staff. He’s already reorganized his campaign. He already looks like a loser. How could that possibly have happened? Well, part of it isn’t his fault, and part of it is his fault. What isn’t his fault is, as we’ve seen so far, this isn’t a good year for the Republican establishment. The Republican establishment doesn’t seem to be offering anything that’s appealing to the Republican electorate. In fact, if you put together three candidates who have never held public office and never run for anything – add Carly Fiorina to Ben Carson and Donald Trump – and you’ve got about 60 percent of the potential Republican primary electorate, with eight candidates sharing the other 40 percent. So that is not anything that has to do with Jeb Bush personally.
But Jeb Bush has run one of the worst campaigns in modern history. He not only commits gaffes, he doesn’t seem committed to the campaign. He’s not crisp, he’s not sharp, he’s not appealing, he has no shtick whatsoever. And my own pure speculation – I have no inside information on this – is the – I won’t say collapse, because remember, Lazarus rose from the dead. John McCain rose from the dead in 2008. Things – strange things can happen, so I won’t say collapse yet. I’ll say terrible faltering of the Bush campaign – is he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly. He doesn’t seem to want this with great passion. He seems to be pursuing it – and again, this is my speculation – because it’s his turn. His dad was President, his brother was President; governor of Florida, hugely important swing state. It seemed his time. And when confronted with this extraordinary tsunami of anti-establishment sentiment within the Republican Party and the rise of these absolutely unexpected candidates, Bush has had no answer to this point.
But I wouldn’t count him out entirely yet because there is going to be an establishment candidate. It’s not in the end, I don’t believe, going to be only Carson and Trump. I believe one or the other will survive and thrive as we go into the primaries, but I think there is going to be an alternative. And the smart money of course has always been on Jeb Bush, but it’s now shifted. Smart money’s now on Marco Rubio, another Florida candidate, and that’s kind of understandable. He’s young, he’s good-looking, he’s got – he’s articulate, he’s charismatic. But the problem for Rubio: Where does he break through? Where does he make his mark and how does he make his mark?
So I think it’s entirely up in the air who is going to be the alternative to the anti-establishment candidates, and Bush – his heart is still beating, but it’s beating very, very faintly. But there is at least some small possibility that the heart of Jeb Bush is going to be revived, but somehow the passion has got to come internally within Jeb Bush himself.
But regardless of which Republican emerges, you’re going to see real contrasts between the two parties. Two parties agree on almost nothing today. People talk about polarization although it was a matter of Republicans and Democrats sitting down and having a beer or having a coffee – nonsense. You know why there’s polarization in Washington? Because two parties don’t agree on anything. They don’t agree on health care, they don’t agree on taxes, they don’t agree on immigration.
And the huge sleeper issue that I think may well emerge by next year – it hasn’t been much so far – is climate change, arguably the biggest challenge that humanity is facing. California is running out of water, which not only affects tens of millions of people in California, but because of their agricultural production, they – confronts the whole country. A study came out yesterday saying if the world doesn’t deal with climate change, there’s going to be a huge hit to the world economy and an enormous rise in poverty. A study came out showing the states of the Persian Gulf – get this – may be facing something that has never before been seen in the history of humanity: that is, temperatures too hot for human survival. There’s this huge meeting in Paris. I don’t know what will come of it, but I do think climate change could become a huge sleeper issue as we get into 2016. And once again, the parties are absolutely at odds over whether we should do anything whatsoever about this problem of climate change.
And of course, America has crumbling infrastructure – our electric grid, our roads, our bridges are badly needing repair. Another big issue, another huge issue: the gap between not the rich and the poor anymore; it’s now the gap between the rich and everybody else – how the party is going to address that. So look forward to an election, no matter who gets nominated, where there are going to be huge ideological differences and policy differences between the parties.
Finally, I want to say a word about the other election where the action is, and that is the United States Senate. The United States Senate is going to be of critical importance after 2016 because the next president may well have three, four, two Supreme Court nominations to make, and remember, Supreme Court justices serve for life. President John Adams, the second President of the United States after George Washington, served one term. He was elected in 1796. His party, the Federalist Party, disappeared, but he appointed John Marshall as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. John Marshall held that position for more than 30 years. Today he is regarded as one of the two most influential chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and he put into play principles of the long-gone, long-defunct Federalist Party. So you cannot underestimate the importance of Supreme Court appointments, and of course, the Senate ratifies all appointments including Supreme Court appointments. So control of the Senate is absolutely critical.
One way in which the Democrats got Republicans to stop blocking not Supreme Court appointments but a lot of other court appointments that are very important was to ban the filibuster on circuit court and district court appointments, and that opened the floodgates to a lot of Obama appointees in the courts. You cannot underestimate the courts because the courts are often where the action is because of the gridlock in the Congress and the gridlock between the Congress and the President. As we saw in decisions like Citizens United on allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions, some of the most important policies are set by the Supreme Court.
So you cannot underestimate the importance of control of the Senate, which has flip-flopped quite a bit in recent years. The Democrats took the Senate in 2006, the Republicans took the Senate back in 2014, and now the Democrats have an opportunity to take the Senate back again in 2016 for two reasons. One, it’s a presidential year – higher turnout, much higher turnout than at midterms. And as I’ve explained to you several times, higher turnout favors Democrats. Secondly, Democrats are only defending a couple of western vulnerable seats – in Colorado and in Nevada, where, of course, the Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid is retiring, so that’s an open seat.
And Republicans are facing at least seven vulnerable seats. I’m not going to go over all of them, but they’re in states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio – mostly states won by Barack Obama in 2012. I think the Republicans have vulnerable seats in six states won by Barack Obama in 2012. Democrats need – they have 46 seats now, counting the Democratic-leaning independents. They need five to take absolute control. They need four to have a 50/50 Senate, which would mean whoever wins the presidency controls the Senate because the vice president casts the deciding vote.
So keep your eye on these vulnerable states. They are going to decide the fate of the Senate, and right now it’s about 50/50. The Democrats have about a 50 percent chance to win back the Senate assuming they hold one of the two vulnerable Democratic seats, which I think is reasonable, then if they can pick up five or six of the seven or so vulnerable Republican seats, they can win back the United States Senate. And so it’s the presidency and the Senate where the action is.
There’s an old proverb I like to talk about. I believe it’s Chinese but I’m not certain – maybe some of you can correct me – and that is, “May you live in interesting times.” And I don’t see how politically the times could be any more interesting than they are right now.
Thank you very much. I’ll take any of your questions.
MODERATOR: Okay. Please wait for the microphone and state your name and publication for the transcript. We’ll go right there.
QUESTION: Good morning. As I understand —
MODERATOR: You’re fine.
QUESTION: Yeah. As I understand what you tell us, you are reducing the possibilities in the Republican side. They have two options: a populist candidate, and populist mean – I’m talking about Trump or Carson.
MR LICHTMAN: Populist Republican.
QUESTION: Yeah, or Jeb Bush. I mean, could you tell us something, anything else about Rubio and the possibilities (inaudible) possibilities of Rubio?
MR LICHTMAN: It’s very, very difficult to handicap primaries for a bunch of reasons, and those who think they know are wrong. Reason number one is there’s so many candidates – very difficult. The mathematics of it become asymptotically complex when dealing with multiple candidates. Secondly, it’s not linear. That is, one primary affects the next primary, so who – if Ben Carson, who is now well ahead in Iowa, wins Iowa, that’s going to scramble things, that’s going to change things. If Jeb Bush comes in fifth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire, he may be done. So one primary affects another, and that makes it very difficult to handicap.
And finally, the polls are not real meaningful. If you think back to 2012, there were all kinds of Republicans who popped up in the polls – Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum – and none of them, none of them were nominated. Republicans went back to the middle establishment figure. So I don’t think it’s possible at this point to give any informed answer on who is going to be the nominee and whether it’s going to be an outsider or an insider. I’m not in a position to make that prediction.
But I would say don’t count out the insider just because the outsiders are crushing in the polls now. I still think – and I don’t know who it’s going to be, it could be Jeb – there will be a viable insider establishment candidate who can still win this nomination just based on long-term and recent history of the Republican Party. They tend to love these mavericks but they never nominate them.
MODERATOR: Okay, I’ll come right there.
QUESTION: Stefan Grobe with Euronews, [France]. Good to see you.
MR LICHTMAN: Good to see you again.
QUESTION: You said you can’t explain Ben Carson.
MR LICHTMAN: I can’t. Maybe you can. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, my question is: How do you explain the fact that he is the darling of a very conservative white constituency, being African American —
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah.
QUESTION: — and has zero support – almost zero support among African Americans? Is that bad luck, good luck, or chance or whatever?
MR LICHTMAN: Well, we saw that with Herman Cain, another African American, back in 2012. In earlier elections there was a very conservative Republican, Alan Keyes, whose support was also largely white.
I would say a couple of things. One, nobody knows anything about Ben Carson if you look at the polls. He seems to be this really nice guy, this really moral individual, until you really look at what he’s said and his history. I know him really well because he’s from Maryland, my state, and I followed his actions in the Maryland struggle over abortion in the 1990s. And he now claims to be so morally guided that he won’t even allow abortions in the case of rape or incest. But back in the 1990s when he was actually involved in the moral struggle over abortion, he was the only player who played both sides. He gave an anti-choice commercial and then walked back from his own commercial, said, “I really didn’t understand what I was doing,” tried to be both pro-choice and pro-life at the same time. So it’s very hard to understand.
But in these polls, within the Republican Party, people are not voting race. They’re voting issues and more are voting kind of these vague perceptions. But again, don’t be deceived by the early polls. People don’t know what Ben Carson yet stands for. Maybe when the Republicans see what they stand for, they’ll love him. Who knows? But I think it’s going to be a much – if he gets the nomination, a much more difficult go for him in the general election.
MODERATOR: We’ll come down here.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mounzer Sleiman, al-Mayadeen TV, [Lebanon]. Can you give us just your sense of how much this campaign will be financed, compared to other campaign in the past – the presidential campaign? And I want to ask you about Florida, because this is probably tied up to your establishment prediction. Since two prominent person, individuals —
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah, Rubio and Jeb Bush.
QUESTION: — do you think that Florida would be a factor, since Florida has been a factor in the election —
MR LICHTMAN: Yes.
QUESTION: — that could be a factor —
MR LICHTMAN: Got it.
QUESTION: — in the calculation of Republican to select the one in the final analysis?
MR LICHTMAN: Very, very, very excellent questions. First of all, on finance, the sky is the limit. As we saw approaching a billion dollar campaign by Barack Obama last time, you can expect billion dollar campaigns on the side of both candidates. But there’s a dirty little secret about spending in general presidential elections, not primary: Spending doesn’t matter. That is, there’s no particular correlation historically between who spends the most money and who wins.
And the reason is pretty simple. In other elections, voters don’t know much, and who can get out their message by spending really matters. But people know the presidential candidates. You got debates, you got lots of free media. So spending is less important.
I absolutely agree with you; Florida is critical. And right now, both Rubio and Bush seem to be trailing in Florida. That could knock both of them out. One of them has got to win Florida, and then he could become the establishment candidate. But if they both lose Florida, that could knock both of them out entirely, and that’s an early primary. So we’re going to get some early indication.
And by the way, when you get into the later Republican primaries after middle March, they’re winner-take-all. So you can win those primaries with 35 percent and get every single delegate. So things are going to change if there’s still a big contest after the middle of March.
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up very quickly?
QUESTION: That’s fine.
QUESTION: I forgot to ask you, because I think it’s very important, to give us the difference between the caucus and the primary, please.
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah. Very simply put, a primary is just like any other election – you show up at the polls and you vote. Caucus, you have to go to meetings. And the meetings can last all day and you have a series of votes at the meetings, ultimately leading to a tally of a statewide vote. So the big difference is you’ve got to put in a lot more time, energy, and effort to go to a caucus. So it involves much more committed voters. The reason, by the way, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 is not what anyone thinks; it’s because Obama organized the caucus states. And it was the victory in the caucus states for Barack Obama that put him over the top. So organization really matters in the caucus states, which is why you got to take these generalized polls with a grain of salt, because the candidates might have very different operations on the ground.
QUESTION: Thank you, professor. Bingru Wang with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV. This time we have seen China being brought up during the debates. So how much does China matter during the election this time, and how China card will be played out?
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah. I always get these questions, and they’re really good questions, from people from particular countries. And, of course, China is going to matter a lot more than most places, because it is – there are three great powers vying, competing in the world – China, Russia, and the United States. So policy towards China is very important.
But the details of policy won’t matter, because – I hate to say this – but the American people never follow the details of foreign policy. They pay attention only when there is a big crisis or a big victory. So they’ll pay attention to the Iran nuclear treaty law. I promise you they can’t tell you the details of it. And what they might be paying attention to is the potential tensions and conflicts. There’s this big issue over these islands, and the United States is not recognizing those islands as legitimate Chinese territory. If that flares up into something more, that can become a big issue in the campaign. But beyond that, the details of policy are going to shoot over most people’s heads.
MODERATOR: Gentleman in back, in the glasses? No, no; back, back; glasses.
QUESTION: Oh. (Laughter.)
MR LICHTMAN: Got to get the back row.
MODERATOR: Got to be fair to the back. Sorry, guys.
QUESTION: Hi, hi. This is Ryan Hermelijn from NOS News TV, [The Netherlands]. I was wondering about the general election. Specifically you outlined a couple of themes, but I didn’t hear the culture wars. We have had the advancement of several liberal ideas such as the advancement of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, assisted suicide is popping up. There’s a backlash with Hobby Lobby and Kim Davis and such. So how do you think that will play out in the 2016 elections?
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah. Before I answer that, let me – it’s related to your question. There’s a debate tonight and do you know where it is?
MR LICHTMAN: Colorado. And what is one of the biggest rising industries in the state of Colorado? The pot industry. Last I saw, it was a $700 million industry employing lots of folks. Are the Republicans going to talk about the pot industry in Colorado? And Republicans have an interesting dilemma on some of these things like pot. Because on the one hand, the Republican Party is the party of what – free enterprise, right? Business – they should be encouraging the pot industry, right, as a classic example of entrepreneurship and the American way. But on the other hand, as you say, they also harbor a lot of social conservatives who obviously look askance at the use of pot and other recreational drugs.
So it’ll be interesting to see if they say anything about this at all. If I were the moderator, I would certainly ask them about it, because it does pit two Republican values – the problems with the social issues is people’s positions are pretty well set. You’re not going to change someone’s mind about abortion. You’re not going to change someone’s mind about gay marriage. And these issues, while they play to the Republican primary electorate, don’t play to the general electorate. The most amazing social trend in America in the past decade has been the extraordinary acceptance of gay and lesbian rights. If you had told anyone 10 years ago that a majority of Americans would favor gay marriage, they would’ve told you you’re living in never-never land. Just huge shifts on these social issues, so I don’t suspect the Republicans are going to pound them.
Interestingly, the Democrats might. Democrats might try to play the abortion issue against the Republicans, particularly if you have a candidate who is coming out like Ben Carson and saying not even in cases of rape or incest are we going to allow abortions. That’s like a 20 percent position within the electorate.
MODERATOR: Okay, come down here. Yeah.
QUESTION: Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado Sao Paolo. Going to the historical perspective, one thing that is often told is that the last time the Democrats won the White House after being in the White House for two terms in a row was 19th century, with the exception of FDR. Like, how important it is to see this historical theme play there?
And another question: Like, who would be the best and who would be the worst candidate on the Republican Party from the Democrat perspective?
MR LICHTMAN: Let me answer – yeah, I got you. Let me answer the – the second question first, and that is the one word that I would throw out of the dictionary is electability. You have no idea who is electable in advance of an election. As I said, parties have gone to the candidates they thought were the most electable and they’ve crashed and burned and lost. Presidential elections – and you’ve got to read my book, The Keys to the White House; the sixth edition will be coming out in early 2016 – a system for explaining and predicting presidential elections that has not been wrong ever. I’ve been predicting since 1984, since I was nine. I’ve hit every election – (laughter) – correctly.
I got to tell you a little story about cultural divide. A few years ago I was in India and Korea, giving lectures on The Keys to the White House. And India’s this really loose, kind of chaotic, exciting place, and Korea is much more controlled and stable and sober. And the Indians would get my jokes, but somehow some of the Koreans wouldn’t get my jokes. And I swear, one guy, after I gave my lecture made this point and raised his hand and said, “Professor Lichtman, can you please explain to me how you were able to predict elections when you were nine?” (Laughter.) So real cultural divides in the world.
So according to my theory, presidential elections are referenda on the performance of the party holding the White House. That’s why things like foreign policy successes and failures, the fate of the Iran treaty, the state of the economy, policy change, social unrest matter, and the identity of the candidate doesn’t matter. But the pundits – who are always wrong, but I’ll have to give you the pundits’ view – they think Marco Rubio is probably the most electable Republican. But they have no basis, really, for saying that.
In terms of winning a third consecutive term, that’s hard. It’s not an absolute bar, but it’s hard, because one of my keys to the White House is whether or not the sitting president is running for re-election. And after two consecutive terms, under the amendment to the Constitution, you can’t run for a third term. So it is harder to win three consecutive terms than it is to win two consecutive terms, but it’s obviously one factor and one factor only.
QUESTION: Thank you, professor. Rita Chen from Central News Agency, Taiwan. You just say the (inaudible) matter. I wondered how possibly the issue of gender could play a role once the – it’s closing to the voting day, and —
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah, very interesting. I’ve spent a lot of time in Taiwan, and —
QUESTION: And – sorry, I have a second question: And how important the Vice President for both party if they choose the – anyone —
MR LICHTMAN: Gotcha. All right.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you.
MR LICHTMAN: First, gender. Very difficult to say. In 2008, I predicted an Obama victory. In fact, I became notorious because I used my keys to the White House in 2005, three years before the election, to say things are going so badly for the Republicans that the Democrats could pick a name out of the phone book and elect that person. They kind of did. Whoever heard of Barack Obama at that point? But a lot of people said to me, “Your keys are going to be wrong because they don’t take into account race” – obviously not, since we’ve never had an African American candidate – and it turned out the keys were spot on. They got the election exactly right and race made no difference.
Will gender make a difference? Probably not, but it’s very, very hard to say. My wife, who’s a leading women’s rights advocate, tells me gender creates more prejudice than even race, but it’s hidden. People are not going to come out and say, “I’m not going to vote for a woman president.”
So my overall answer is I don’t think it’s going to override other factors, but you never know because these things are impossible to measure.
QUESTION: Hi, Zhang Yue for China Daily, [China]. I was late so I didn’t know you were talking about this earlier. And do you agree that – the saying that the dynasty, the Bush and the Clinton, and also the unlimited campaign finance, as signs of erosion of American democracy? Thank you.
MR LICHTMAN: No, I don’t think dynasties erode American democracy, as our people still pick the president; there’s no dictator or dictatorial cabal picking the president. And the truth is Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, whatever you may think of their policies or their characters, by background and by history, are eminently qualified to run for president of the United States. I do think money is a much bigger problem though. I do think you’ve put your finger on something very important. I do think unlimited money and the expense of campaigns has eroded American democracy, not so much the presidential level – as I said, money matters least – but at every other level, money matters a whole lot. Even to win a puny seat on a county commission or city council, you have to spend upwards of $100,000. That is a lot of money for an ordinary American. To win a congressional seat, you probably have to spend millions of dollars in a contested – that’s just one of 435 congressional seats.
Ninety-nine percent of Americans are priced out of the political market. To run for office today, you either have to be reasonably affluent or tied into affluent special interests. So we have vastly constricted the political choice and political opportunities open to Americans because of the overriding importance of money at every level below the presidency, and that is a huge problem, and it’s not going to be solved because the Supreme Court has interpreted money as speech. As long as that decision stands and the Citizens United decision on unlimited corporate spending stands, it’s not going to be solved.
By the way, I didn’t answer the lady’s question about the vice presidential nominee. How much does it matter? Zero. The worst vice presidential nomination in modern history was not Sarah Palin, it was Dan Quayle, the nominee of George H. W. Bush, who had the most embarrassing moment in the history of presidential debates when he compared himself – because he was young and inexperienced, he compared himself to John Kennedy, and Lloyd Bentsen, the experienced Democratic vice presidential nominee turned and said, “Sir, I knew John Kennedy. John Kennedy was a friend of mine. And with all due respect, sir, you are no John Kennedy.” It was just a complete, utterly deflating moment. Did it make any difference whatsoever in the presidential election? No. There’s no evidence that the vice president matters.
MODERATOR: Gentleman in the white shirt in the middle.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, professor. My name is [Koya] Ozeki; I work for Japan’s Yomiuri. I have two questions. My understanding is that until a few decades ago, primaries and caucuses were much more restricted to party elites. It was a much more restricted process. And back in those days, I guess candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson had much less chance of coming up like today. But do you hear any arguments pointing that fact out? And do you hear any arguments calling for change of the system?
MR LICHTMAN: Got it.
QUESTION: Changing it back to the primary system. And actually there’s another question. Millennials.
MR LICHTMAN: That was a pretty long one. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I know. Sorry about that.
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah, we’re running out of time, so —
QUESTION: Millennials. Just – and the second question is very short. I’m interested in the Millennials. Do they – how do they impact 2016? Thank you very much.
MR LICHTMAN: Let me answer your first question. Yes, there has been a revolution in how the parties select their presidential nominees, and the revolution dates back to the Democratic nomination in 1968 when the country was so deeply divided over the Vietnam War. You may recall the sitting President was Lyndon Johnson, who dropped out. He was eligible to run again, but he dropped out of the election because of the divisions over the war. And it looked Bobby Kennedy – anti-war candidate – particularly after he won the California primary would be nominated, but on the very eve of winning that primary Kennedy was assassinated. And the result was someone who had entered no primaries, Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President, was nominated and the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party was outraged.
And as a concession to those folks, the Democratic Party set up a commission on delegate selection headed by a very famous liberal who would be the next party nominee, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, and they completely changed the rules for nomination. Now the only way you could get a delegate was in open primaries and open caucuses. It used to be there were a lot of states were the party bosses, behind closed doors, would pick the nominee, as you pointed out. And the Democratic Party adopted this open system and the Republicans followed suit. And since then, conventions haven’t mattered a wit. Nominees get selected in the primaries and caucuses and by the voters. And there has been tons of complaints about it. Let’s go back to the old system of having these gray, wise, old men sit in a smoke-filled room and pick the nominee; it’s not going to happen. This system is firmly in place. No one is going to disenfranchise the voters.
As far as the millennials, I resist all that kind of breaking down the electorate in these ways. The electorate moves in one piece generally. Yes, there are huge differences within the electorate, but the electorate is going to make one decision and one decision only: Have the Democrats governed well enough to get four more years in the White House, or have they governed poorly enough so that voters want a change? That is the theory behind the keys to the White House. And to get the scoop, as I said, my book will be out in about four months, sixth edition.
MODERATOR: We have time for one or two more.
QUESTION: Hello. Oliver Grimm for the Austrian newspaper, Die Presse. Could you briefly talk about the House and particularly in light of how the Republican Party there has – sorry, disintegrated? Does it actually make a matter if there’s a formally Republican majority there if they can’t really decide on the things that it really wants?
MR LICHTMAN: Yeah, I haven’t talked about the House. Let me talk a little bit about the house. The House, of course, is entirely different than the Senate where you’re elected in districts within the states. And there’s one word to describe the House, and that word is gerrymander. Do you all know what a gerrymander is? It’s where you concoct the districts to favor one party. And the truth is today, 85 to 90 percent of House districts aren’t competitive in the general election. The voters don’t decide the election; the line drawers fix the districts so they’re clearly going to win for one party or the other. And both parties do it. Republicans have been better because they won the 2010 midterms and the last redistricting was right after that, so – strange places like Pennsylvania that’s a Democratic state that has an overwhelming Republican majority in the House.
But that also means something else. Where’s the action, then, if it’s not in the general elections in the primary? And this has led to the election of a lot of very conservative Republican members of the House, the so-called Tea Party Coalition. And that’s the conflict you’re seeing within the House, between the Tea Party Coalition and the more mainstream Republicans who are more willing to possibly work with the Democrats to some extent and accommodate them. And by the way, that same division is present within the Republican electorate itself. There’s a small majority of Republicans, when they’re polled, who say don’t compromise; stick to principles. But 30 to 45 to 40 percent of Republicans say we should compromise.
So you’re absolutely right, there is a real division within the Republican Party. And while having a consensus speaker like Paul Ryan’s going to paper it over temporarily, the conflicts within the House are not going to end.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ve got time for one more question. We’ll go to (off-mike).
QUESTION: Thank you. Jane with China’s Sina News. My question is about social media. How do you think the social media changed the dynamic of the presidential campaign? And secondly – quick question – how important is the endorsement from the celebrity, congressmen, politician to the presidential candidate? Thank you.
MR LICHTMAN: I’ll answer your last question first. Endorsements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. And that’s been true for a long time historically. The classic example historically is Edmund Muskie, who had run for vice president on the Democratic ticket in ’68. Had every single endorsement of everyone, had all the money, and his candidacy completely collapsed to the insurgent campaign of George McGovern. Certainly Ben Carson and Donald Trump are not leading the field because of endorsements. Jeb Bush would be ahead if you went solely with endorsements. So I don’t think endorsements really matter one bit.
And what was your other question?
Social media. They’ve changed campaigns very little to this point. Everyone says, “Oh, social media’s going to take over the campaign.” Nonsense. The overwhelming bulk of money by candidates – at every level, really – if you can afford it, is still spent on traditional media, particularly television. And the vast bulk of campaign contributions do not come in through social media; they come in through traditional fundraising methods.
That said, however, social media is becoming increasingly important. It hasn’t taken over yet, but I think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before because of one very simple fact: Today, more people get their news from social media than they do from any other source. And so people do go to social – they go to scores of different places, but social media is displacing everything else as a source of news. So I do think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before.
Thank you all very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you all for coming. This event is now concluded.
# # #
Washington Foreign Press Center
U.S. Department of State
WHAT: Washington Foreign Press Center On-The-Record Briefing
TOPIC: State of the Race 2016: An overview of the 2016 Elections for foreign correspondents covering their first U.S. election
BRIEFER: Professor Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster
WHEN: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: National Press Building, 529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800
RSVP: Interested media should respond to FPCOwner@state.gov.
BACKGROUND: Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, will provide an overview of the ‘state of the race’ for the 2016 presidential, Congressional, and state elections on the morning of the upcoming October 28 Republican Party debate in Boulder, CO. Professor Lichtman will discuss the state of the race for the current slate of Democratic, Republican, and third party candidates. He will also address which House and Senate races are competitive this election cycle, and whether the Democratic Party will win back the House or the Senate. In addition, Lichtman will forecast which battleground states are competitive this election cycle and whether they are leaning red or blue. Lastly, Lichtman will lay out a series of issues to watch, from the perspective of foreign media who are covering their first U.S. election and want to quickly get up to speed on the ways in which U.S. politics are different from other parliamentary systems around the world.
NOTE: All briefings are subject to change. Please call (202) 504-6300 or visit the FPC website at http://fpc.state.gov for the latest information on this and other FPC programs.
BROADCASTERS: Download a digital copy of the video at www.dvidshub.net/USDOS.
Washington Foreign Press Center
National Press Building
529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20045 Phone: (202) 504-6300 || Fax: (202) 504-6334
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
STATEMENT BY MARK TONER, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON
October 13, 2015
The Dutch Safety Board’s Final Report on the Shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17
We welcome the important findings of the Dutch Safety Board in its final report on the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. This report is the result of an independent, transparent, and rigorous 15-month investigation completed in accordance with Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, and includes contributions from a wide array of experts from many countries, including the United States.
This report validates what Secretary Kerry first said more than a year ago, MH17 was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile. Secretary Kerry also made clear that the United States detected a missile launch from separatist-controlled territory at the moment of the shootdown and drew attention to verified conversations among separatist leaders bragging about shooting down an aircraft in the immediate aftermath of this tragic event.
We also take note of the finding of the Dutch Safety Board’s recommendations regarding the handling of airspace during armed conflicts, and we are studying them.
Our sympathy and thoughts remain with the families and friends of the MH17 victims.
FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH HERALDO MUÑOZ, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF CHILE AND CATHERINE NOVELLI, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH, ENERGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
TOPIC: WAVES OF CHANGE: AN UPDATE ON OCEAN POLICY AND PRACTICES
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2015, 12:30 P.M. EDT
NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: (In progress) to the New York Foreign Press Center. We are very honored to have with us today Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, and Heraldo Muñoz, the Foreign Minister of Chile. The under secretary and the foreign minister are here to preview the Ocean Conference that Chile is hosting next week. This briefing is on the record. After opening remarks, we will open the floor to questions from the media and conclude the press conference after journalists have had the opportunity to ask their questions. The under secretary and the foreign minister have agreed to remain after the official press conference to answer some questions from students. Journalists, please wait for the microphone, and state your name and media affiliation when you’re called upon.
Before I turn it over to Under Secretary Novelli, let’s watch a message from Secretary of State John Kerry that features Foreign Minister Muñoz:
“SECRETARY KERRY: Growing up along the coast of Massachusetts, I developed a powerful connection to the ocean at a very early age. But it wasn’t until much later that I discovered how significant the ocean is to all of humankind.
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Last year I asked for your help in protecting our oceans, and I encouraged leaders around the world to take action. Together we are making progress. We’ve established new marine protected areas across the globe. Efforts to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud are gaining momentum. We’re raising awareness about how plastic waste harms our ocean, and we are working on solutions.
Many countries are cutting carbon emissions that cause ocean acidification.
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Show your support and make a commitment to leave behind a healthy and vibrant ocean for future generations. Recycle more and reduce the amount of plastic that you use. Only eat legally caught sustainable seafood. Reduce your carbon footprint to help stop ocean acidification and climate change.
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Que hara usted para ayudar a proteger nuestro oceano?
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: Let us know on social media using #OurOcean2015.”
MODERATOR: And with that, I’ll turn it over to Under Secretary Novelli.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you very much. It is an absolute honor to be here today with Foreign Minister Muñoz. He and his government have shown incredible leadership on ocean issues, not just for this conference but all along the way. And I am really excited that both the Secretary and myself will be visiting Valparaiso, Chile next week for the second Our Ocean Conference, and I just want to thank him for his commitment.
As the world leaders gather here in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly, the fate of our ocean is as an important part of the agenda. The UN has just adopted a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which will guide the work of the UN and member-states for the next 15 years, and a critical component of achieving all of the global goals will be conservation and sustainable use of the world’s oceans and marine resources.
This is the good news. And the good news is that there is a growing understanding that a healthy and resilient ocean will help drive widespread and shared prosperity, including economic, food, energy security, and will ensure the health of our planet for generations to come. It’s been about a year since Secretary Kerry convened the first Our Ocean Conference in Washington, D.C., and that conference aimed to spur action on the threats to our ocean. Since then, the United States and its partners around the world have been working together to tackle challenges such as ocean acidification, sustainable fishing, and marine debris. And we’ve made a lot of progress, and so our momentum going forward is only going stronger.
And so we’re very pleased that all of you came here to cover this event in such a busy UNGA week, and I think we’re all here because we recognize that a healthy ocean is essential to life on Earth. Phytoplankton in the ocean produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe. A healthy ocean provides us with millions of jobs through fishing, tourism, other industries, and with a nutritious source of protein for billions of people. In short, we can’t live without a healthy ocean, and the well-being of our citizens depends heavily on how we treat it. That’s why the United States, Chile, and other governments around the world, civil society, the private sector, are all working together to protect the ocean and ensure that we use its valuable resources in a sustainable manner.
Just to go over a few things of where we’ve been in terms of last year’s Ocean Conference and the tremendous commitments that came out of that, we are moving closer – the United States and all of our partners – to the goal of having 10 percent of the ocean and coastal areas managed by marine protected areas. Those are areas where we don’t allow fishing or other economic activity. And we are working to ensure that these areas, the ones that have been declared, are properly enforced. Shortly after the conference last year, President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Monument, making it the largest marine protected area in the world closed to commercial extractive activities.
Illegal fishing and seafood fraud are also seriously undermining the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries around the world, and it’s estimated that we lose billions of dollars to illegal fishing around the globe. In the U.S., for us it’s especially important because we import 90 percent of our seafood. So to address this problem, U.S. Government agencies, in consultation with environment groups, the seafood industry, and other governments are implementing the recommendations that the U.S. Presidential Task Force to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud, which is a long name – short name is IUU – and that task force was set up as part of the Our Ocean Conference last year. It has now come out with recommendations, including an exciting new traceability program that’s going to track seafood from the harvest anywhere in the world to entry into the United States and is going to allow consumers to know where their seafood’s come from and whether or not it was sustainably harvested.
We think this is extremely important because we want to create a level playing field and reward honest fishermen and women both here in the United States as well as around the world globally. We’re also working to reduce marine pollution and concentrating on marine plastics. It’s estimated that about 80 percent of the plastics in the ocean are land-based, and so we’re focusing our efforts on improving waste management systems and programs in key countries across Asia, as well as innovative waste-to-energy solutions, so actually turning the waste into energy.
As you also know, the United States is playing a strong leadership role in addressing greenhouse gas emissions that not only lead to climate change, which is well known, but also lead to acidification of the ocean. And this acidification has very significant consequences for marine ecosystems and shellfish industries. The ocean has absorbed 30 percent of the carbon that has been put into the atmosphere, so it’s a great bellwether of what is going on. President Obama and Secretary Kerry are fully committed to achieving an ambitious and durable international agreement at the COP 21 in Paris later this year, and our stated intention is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025. And this is relevant to this discussion today because it’s going to contribute substantially to the international efforts to reduce ocean acidification as well as climate change.
We’re looking forward to moving the ball forward on all of these things in Chile next week in Valparaiso. There’s already an incredible lineup of participants as well as concrete commitments that the United States and other participants expect to unveil, and that will – the unveiling will wait until then. And this is really due to the fantastic leadership of Foreign Minister Muñoz and his team, and so we are very gratified that we have had the opportunity to work with them on this oceans – Our Ocean II Conference. And I’m going to hand this over to him to describe more their efforts, but again, I just want to commend the foreign minister for his courage and his vision. Thank you. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: Thank you very much. First of all, let me thank Under Secretary Cathy Novelli and Secretary of State John Kerry for their initiative to have organized the first Our Ocean Conference and now to have given us the baton to continue on to the second conference that will take place in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on the 5th and 6th of October.
We are very pleased to be partners in this endeavor because protecting our oceans is betting on the future. The ocean – and the conference is called Our Ocean, in singular – not in plural – because scientists have proven that through maritime currents, really there’s only one single ocean and that belongs to all of us and it is the responsibility of all to protect for the present and future generations. So that’s why a country like Chile, that has a very long coast, our future depends on the sustainable use of the ocean, and that’s why we’ve taken up this challenge of organizing this second conference and to confront the dangers that ail the ocean.
And these are basically three that I think Under Secretary Novelli has described very well: First of all, illegal and unregulated and unreported fishing. It is estimated that illegal fishing could amount to up to $20 billion in terms of business. And this would be like the third most profitable illegal business in the world after drug trafficking and illegal trade of arms. And this is because the consumption of fish and products of the sea by individuals has increased enormously. FAO has estimated that during the 1960s, the per capita consumption at the world level was about 9.9 kilograms of fishing products. That has increased to almost 20 kilos per capita during the present – during present days. So that’s one danger that we have. We have to control, we have to regulate illegal fishing.
Second, acidification of the oceans which affect the corals and the change – the chain of biodiversity on which fish and mammals in the ocean feed. And that acidification, it is estimated by some studies, has increased about 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution.
And the third danger is the pollution of the ocean, particularly plastics. And here there’s a huge responsibility about recycling and reducing the use of plastics because plastics in the ocean accumulate and constitute veritable islands and then disintegrate. So that it is estimated that there is at least five concentrations of plastic, one in the so-called Indian Ocean, one in the north Atlantic, one in the south Atlantic, one in the north Pacific Ocean and in the south. In the one in the south – it’s near Rapa Nui – Easter Island – which is part of Chilean territory. And it is estimated that some of these concentrations of plastic reach a depth almost 80 meters and then disintegrate and affect, of course, fish and biodiversity.
So we have to tackle this. In order to do that, I think one of the elements that attracted Chile to support the initiative taken by Secretary Kerry and Cathy was that this is not a talk shop that we’re going to have in Chile. Certainly, there will be speeches, but more important than that, we want commitments – voluntary commitment by governments and by institutions of civil society, because this is not only a government responsibility. It is first and foremost, but it’s also civil society that can also contribute in a major way, so that we are asking those that are attending and speaking up to make voluntary commitments, to tell us what they are going to do to protect the ocean, whether it be a bill, whether it be a protected area – maritime protected area, or any other initiatives that will contribute to tackle the three problems that I’ve just listed.
And those of us who went to Washington last year when John Kerry organized the first conference will have to report on what we did and what we promised. Chile promised three things: First, that we would organize the second conference; we are doing that. Second, that we would have a new policy on illegal fishing, and we’ve done that, and we’re going to report specifically on what. And third, that we will join the United Nations fish stock agreement – the so-called New York agreement that would allow us to fiscalize better what goes on beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and we’re going to do that.
And now, the idea is that reporting what we’d promised, we do new commitments. And I’m not going to speak about that, because I’ll leave it as a surprise for Valparaiso where we will be talking about new commitments that Chile will be making and all other countries attending will do the same as well as, as I said, civil society. So we’re very excited about what’s coming soon in Valparaiso.
We are very happy to be working also with important foundations and NGOs like National Geographic, like Oceana, like Pew, many others that will be attending there at the high level where we’ll have some high-level personalities, as well as government officials. For certain Cathy and John will be there. But anybody from Prince Albert of Monaco to many foreign ministers, the commissioner of fishing from the European Union, the director general of the FAO – well, it’s a long list of government officials and representatives of civil society. So I – we hope that Valparaiso will be a major step forward.
And as Cathy Novelli was just saying, we just approved the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, and goal number 14 is the protection of the oceans. So this is a way to begin honoring a commitment that we just approved at the highest level. This is the way we are honoring the commitments, we feel, so that we’re very excited about what will transpire in Valparaiso within a week or so. Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Under Secretary Novelli, Minister Muñoz, for those opening remarks. We’ll go to questions.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Kahraman Haliscelik from Turkish radio and television. It’s great to see you again, Mr. Foreign Minister, here. Now, the issue of marine pollution. There are a lot of private companies, conglomerates that are actually also polluting the ocean – ships in the ocean. How do you think preventing this could be enforced? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: Well, about – let’s see, about plastic, which is one of the major threats – clearly, recycling is one answer. Less use of plastics, and the key is that all the plastic in the ocean comes from land, from us. So that is the first realization that we have to have, and we have to stop throwing waste into the ocean. In addition to that, we are seeing now that increasingly there are companies that are picking up that and recycling. It’s very difficult to pick it up once concentrated because it begins to disintegrate into tiny little pieces. And that’s one of the challenges that we have. But, for example, I know of companies that will be present in this second conference that are picking up the plastic in islands, bringing it up to the continent, and recycling it. And that – I think anything that goes in that direction, I think it would be very positive.
Evidently, in terms of longer term, education is fundamental. This is in a sense a pedagogic endeavor as well, because to create consciousness that the oceans are fundamental for our future. Why are we creating maritime protected areas? Because they’re like saving accounts for the future. And we have to have those saving accounts, obviously, free of plastic waste. So that to the extent that we’re creating consciousness with this conference, this – that will also be a great of – deal of help, I think.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: If I could just add one thing to the fantastic answer of the foreign minister, I think there’s also some long-term things that we can think about. In the short term we have to concentrate on keeping the waste from going into the ocean. And in the longer term, we need to really think about how do we redesign packaging, how do we both use less and also how do we use different materials so that we really can be in what’s been referred to as the circular economy so that everything that’s used gets re-used, but that depends on what’s used in the first place. And there’s some really good work that’s being done, pioneering work that’s being done both on how to redesign packaging, but also on using biopolymers and other things. And so those folks are going to be present at the conference, too. And this is going to be a whole-of-Earth effort to be able to tackle this.
QUESTION: Actually, two questions. Alexey Osipov from Novosty. With all respect to the United States and Chile with – as a strong country with the longest coastal lane, it looks too weak. Where is China, Russia, Australia? Who invited to the conference to the Valparaiso? Who supported the program that you presented today?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, let me just talk about the conference, the first conference, and I’ll let the minister talk about this one. But we invited – there were countries from everywhere at the first Our Ocean Conference. It wasn’t just the United States and Chile; there were foreign ministers from all over the world. And all of those folks made significant commitments as to what their countries were going to do. So I think the reason why the minister and I are up here is because we hosted the first one and Chile’s hosting the second one, but it’s not that we’re just the only two people standing up here. But I’ll let the minister talk about who’s coming to the second one.
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: Well, we’ve invited a representation of countries from all over the world. In fact, you asked about Russia, and we’ve invited Foreign Minister Lavrov. In fact, I’m still waiting for an answer. I hope that he can be there, and I will be seeing him in the next couple of days, and I hope to get a positive answer. We invited China as well at the highest level, and we know that there’s a high official attending from China.
So there’s been a very wide representation of countries that will be there, large countries and small countries, because here, you have to have due respect for small countries that – their own survival is sort of at stake. So we’ve invited Caribbean countries because we wanted this time, since it is in Chile, to have a little bit of a more regional dimension, so that – for instance, the foreign minister of Jamaica is attending; very possibly, the first lady of Belize, who is very involved in these issues. We’ve invited the foreign minister of Trinidad and Tobago. We hope that he’ll be coming. We’ve invited the foreign minister of Guyana.
So we still, in the – as it always occurs with these conferences, we sometimes have confirmations in the last minute. But it’s a very wide range of countries, no discrimination of any region, but – large countries and small, and many have a large stake because their future is very much at stake if we don’t act.
QUESTION: And one more question: Today, largest oil and gas producer is looking there, oil and gas far from even the coastal line. And you mentioned already the marine pollution and plastic – yeah, it’s huge issues, big issues. And what about oil and gas?
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: Well, look. The ocean – Our Ocean Conference, that’s not aimed at impeding the exploration, exploitation of oil and gas. That’s a reality. We also need gas even though I would prefer that we increasingly use renewables as a source of energy. But that’s part of life.
But what are we doing? There is three elements in this conference that I think are relatively new as regards to the first one. One is marine-protected areas that we are underlining even more than the first conference. And marine-protected areas is – as I said before, it’s like a savings account, and it will mean that in the future then, we will protect it from these type of activities and from illegal fishing and et cetera, and from any fishing that is not – from any fishing. So that, I think, is something that I should underline.
Second element that I think is very important: We are going to underline oceanic island communities this time so that we will have the mayor of Easter Island, as it is known here – but in Chile we know it as Rapa Nui – we will have the mayor of Juan Fernandez, which is a major island. You know the story of Robinson Crusoe happened in those islands. Because communities – oceanic island communities have very much at stake and they have very much of a high interest in protecting the oceans – the waters that surround them. So that, I think, will be an element.
And third, philanthropic initiatives. Increasingly, there is civil society and philanthropists that are very interested in contributing. And there will be a strong presence of philanthropists as well.
All of this makes us confident that we can make a difference with these conferences, particularly because, as I said, the idea is voluntary commitments. Nobody’s forcing anybody to sign anything if they don’t want to. If they come, we expect them to make announcement to make promises and to comply by them.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Can I just add to that? I think that the concept of the blue economy is really starting to be discussed more and more. And the meaning of that term comes from the idea that you can have blue, meaning sort of sustainable, but also economic activity at the same time, and that you don’t have to say that economic activity is somehow the enemy of conservation. And in fact, the goal is to find a way to have both. It’s not an either/or, it’s an “and.” And that is also something that I think is going to be more and more discussed as we go forward, because there is an incredible source of natural resources and fish themselves which are feeding huge swaths of the world. So we do have to think about how do we conserve that, but we conserve it so that we can continue to use it.
QUESTION: Hello, my name is Seana Magee from Kyodo News. I’m sorry. I didn’t know if Japan participated in your first meeting. And I’m wondering, will they be participating, at what level, and what contributions do you feel Japan can make as a seafood nation of importance?
And also, could you tell us a little bit about how you plan to tackle the illegal fishing – I’m sorry. Illegal fishing – do you have any proposals that are on the table or that you hope to present at this next meeting? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ: I don’t recall if Japan was represented in the first conference, and I don’t know whether they will be represented at the second one. I hope they will be. I don’t recall whether there’s a high official, though. They would be welcome for certain.
As regards how to combat illegal fishing, there are various tools. One of them is the New York Fish Stock Agreement, for example, because joining that instrument allows us to exercise control beyond the 200-mile zone over illegal fishing, particularly because a lot of these illegal ships position themselves right by the 200-mile limit and they go in and out. And since this New York agreement is aimed at highly migratory species, the idea is that we can exercise control that we didn’t have if we didn’t join the New York agreement. So this is one of the instruments.
Evidently, there is more technological instruments, so that we need satellite observation, for example. We need satellite instruments to know exactly where they are, these boats fishing illegally. And we’ve discovered them even within our exclusive economic zone. Happily, in Chile we have a very active navy, and that navy’s always trying to spot the illegal ships fishing illegally. And that – we’ve had many instances where we have captured those boats, taken them to port, and fined them heavily for fishing in our zone.
So that’s happening just about every day. Our navy picks up – when it’s bigger ships, we’ve had observation. I myself was at the Desventuradas Island. These islands are in the north of Chile, and we went with the navy in an observation plane. We went to the island – which is a beautiful island, by the way; Oceana has done a film about the richness that we have below there – and as we were coming back, there was a major ship that is known for fishing illegally. And we went over to spot it, and they were fishing just beyond the 200-mile limit. They were just there. And we went down in the plane about 20 meters above it so that – to make them nervous at least. I’m not going to give the name of the ship.
So that’s a way to exercise control over illegal fishing, but one needs resources. That’s the key. And when you have such a long coast and you are a developing country, then satellite observation, data gathering is absolutely fundamental.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: And I would add to that – and I completely agree with all of those things – there’s another agreement called the Port State Measures Agreement. That’s a treaty Chile’s already ratified and that we’re – the United States is working on ratified – we’ve acceded to, and so have a number of other countries. And what’s wonderful about this is that it basically says that if you sign it, you’re not going to allow these boats who have been illegally fishing and identified as such to actually enter your port. And so they don’t have anywhere to then go and sell their fish, which is, I think, a fantastic way to dis-incentivize this fishing.
The other thing that, as I said, we’re going to do in the United States is to institute what we hope is going to be a state-of-the-art traceability program, so that we’re going to basically say that unless you can show where this fish has come from, it’s not going to enter the commerce of the United States. And what we’re hoping is that we can work with other countries to also help them institute these kind of things, and we’re already speaking – the European Union has a system that’s slightly different than ours but also very strict, and we’re both speaking with Japan. We are the three largest seafood markets among us, and so we’re hoping that that can have an impact.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Unfortunately, we’re out of time for the press conference. Thank you all for attending. The transcript will be posted soon to fpc.state.gov.
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Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in the United States – Washington, DC
|The Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in the United States is seeking a capable Consular Services Director. This position requires the processing of administrative and legal documentation for the Kurdish community in the United States and maintaining the link with relevant Kurdistan Regional Government authorities and agencies in the Kurdistan Region. Equally important, the Director of Consular Services must translate from English to Kurdish and vice versa and write various documents and reports. The director reports directly to the Representative. The successful candidate will be hired on a contract basis, renewable based on performance.
Please send cover letter and resume no later than September 7, 2015.
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