Campaign veterans Archie Smart and Wyeth Ruthven sat down to discuss the strategies and messaging witnessed by over 100 million people during the first Presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. The debate took place on September 26 at Hofstra University.

Smart, Executive Vice President of Qorvis MSLGROUP, emphasized that one of Trump’s main endeavors in the debate was to appear presidential and what could be described as a referendum on his temperament. Did he succeed?

According to Smart, the answer is a mixed bag, as he saw success during the first half of the debate, before Clinton began to needle him into frustration. Smart points out, however, that this is Trump’s first one-on-one debate, compared to Clinton’s more extensive background on the stage.

Ruthven, Vice President of Qorvis MSLGROUP, agreed that Trump’s status as a first-time debater could have had an impact on his performance, although as he pointed out, “No one has had any practice debating Donald Trump.”

From the perspective of a media trainer, both candidates had their positive and negative moments.

Ruthven stated that Clinton fell flat on her trade answers; in this case, the strict two-minute time limit adhered to in the beginning by moderator Lester Holt helped Trump succeed in getting his messaging on the issue across.

Trump fell flat on his tax answers, according to Smart.

It has become apparent over the course of the election that these candidates take radically different approaches in their appeals to the public. The role that digital strategy, big data and technology play factored into the debate, as Trump used the podium to address Clinton’s massive spending on executing strategies that included attack ads. Trump favors a more traditional media blast approach, putting himself on TV as much as possible.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” said Smart, suggesting that it will be a fascinating case study once the results are in and its evident which approach prevailed.

This debate was only the first of four. The next will premiere on Tuesday October, 4 at Longwood University in Virginia.

 

Chuck Conconi welcomed James Zogby on this week’s episode of Focus Washington for a discussion on the current political climate. Zogby, President and Co-Founder of the Arab American Institute (AAI), discussed the implications of the 2016 presidential race  and Donald Trump on the Arab American population.

In the last polls AAI conducted in 2014, the political gap in the Arab American community was 2-1 Democrat and voter engagement was 3-1 Democrat, making voter patterns and party identification similar to those of Hispanics or the Jewish population. According to Zogby, nothing in the last two years has changed that dynamic, even the 2016 presidential election.

The election may not be changing the political leanings of America’s ethnic groups, but it is having an effect on the attitude of Americans about the Arab American community. Zogby states that hate crimes, while nothing new, are still occurring after a sharp increase following the 9/11 attacks. The increase in negativity toward the community, however, is equally matched by positive support from additional groups throughout the years, including African Americans, Latinos, mainline protestant churches and civil liberties organizations. These groups “wouldn’t give us the time of day 20 years ago,” exclaimed Zogby, but now quickly come to the defense of the Arab American community.

Like many Americans, Zogby has hung memorable documents on the walls of his office over the years. The most important document, he explained in the interview, was his father’s naturalization papers. This is important to him because his father came here illegally in his twenties at a time when the Senate “zeroed out quotas and said Syrian trash aren’t welcome.”

Hanging next to his father’s naturalization papers is a parchment from President Obama appointing Zogby to a post in the government. This, he contends, is the nature of the country – where even the son of an illegal immigrant can rise to serve the President of the United States.

“I continue to manifest though, in all the positions I make, the fact that you cannot view America either as fundamentally good or fundamentally evil. We are both. We are the Statue of Liberty and we’re Donald Trump.”

For Zogby, that is the story of America.

 

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Susan Eisenhower (Photo Credit: Focus Washington)

Susan Eisenhower (Photo Credit: Focus Washington)

Well-known independent voter discusses what the GOP and Dems Should Learn from Americans in the 2016 elections

13 June 2016 (Washington, DC): Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower and Chairman Emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the changing dynamics of the Republican party as well as the impact partisan politics has had on this year’s presidential race.

Susan addressed at length the ongoing leadership crisis this country faces. Although she had always been a Republican, she left the party eight years ago and became an independent. In fact, she endorsed President Obama during his initial campaign as well as his second presidential race. She claims that the party has ideologically shifted tremendously since her grandfather, President Eisenhower held office.

Susan’s grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, represented a form of moderate Republicanism advocating for social progression while remaining fiscally conservative. Unfortunately, in today’s polarized political arena, this ideology represents neither party but instead a combination of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

“The [Republican] party’s changing, and frankly, the party has been changing for a very long time,” stated Eisenhower.

Susan alluded to this year’s presidential nominations as an example of the transitions that are taking place within both parties. “In some ways it was surprising that [Hillary] had the kind of vigorous challenge that she did, and on the same side we had what we thought was going to be an heir apparent in Jeb Bush and it was rather fascinating to watch how quickly that set of assumptions fell through. So what I think it tells me is that both parties are changing, and they’re changing for larger reasons than I think what is currently being analyzed.”

Party politics has become a major obstacle, contributing to the lack of strategic leadership in this country. She emphasized to Chuck that “strategic” alludes to an element of time involved, and strategic leadership is defined by leaders who are trying to achieve long term goals. Susan points out that party politics make it impossible to talk and think about measures for all of America. She laments that the era when our presidents had to get up and articulate a strategy for the entire country is gone.

After declining to say which side she would be taking in this race, Susan says that she sees the United States as in transition, and that she knows much more about it than she did before this election. She recognizes the feeling of frustration emanating from the people of the United States, resulting from the notion that their government system is unavailable to them. The American people want new leadership– strategic leadership—but as Susan points out, the party politics shaking up Washington today makes it difficult to put such bold leaders into office.

 

Ron Faucheux, President of Clarus Research Group (Photo Credit | Focus Washington)

Ron Faucheux, President of Clarus Research Group (Photo Credit | Focus Washington)

With unprecedented negative views of both major party candidates, Ron Faucheux of Clarus Research Group predicts that the 2016 elections are likely to determine the future of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

 

08 June 2016 (Washington, DC): Ron Faucheux, President of Clarus Research Group, sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss what the polls can show us about the next couple of months of the election campaign now that both the Democrats and Republicans have their presumptive Presidential nominees.

“Polls don’t predict” Faucheux was quick to emphasize, but rather offer a snapshot of the current situation. Despite this disclaimer, following the polls and the Faucheux’s Lunchtime Politics report would have offered an accurate prediction for the winners over the course of the primary elections; in this case, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were seemingly in the cards.

As we turn toward the next couple of months of campaigning and the elections in November, the reputation and potential upcoming blunders of both candidates will play a major role in influencing voters. “We’ve never had two presidential nominees who’ve had such high negative ratings,” stated Faucheux, as both Clinton and Trump currently have negative approval rates of at least 60%. In light of the fact that neither candidate has begun campaigning heavily against each other, their negative approval rating is sure to only go up from here.

The Presidential election will not just be a two-way race, however. According to the polls, “Both Clinton and Trump, at this point anyway, are losing about the same [number of votes to Libertarian and Green candidates] when you go from the two-way race to the four-way race.” Trump has officially welcomed Sanders supporters, but Clinton cannot necessarily expect those voters to come her way.  Voters who don’t want to vote for either Trump or Clinton will need to make the decision to stay home, or cast their vote for a Libertarian or Green Party candidate.

There is a danger this election could wreck either, or both, parties. Both candidates bring major issues to the table. Leaders of the Republican party have expressed decisions not to back Trump, despite his successful campaign; meanwhile, the potential for Clinton to be implicated in or associated with criminal acts surrounding her email scandal spell trouble for Democrats.

As the general election gears up, be sure to subscribe to Ron’s Lunchtime Politics report for daily insights, and stay tuned for more election coverage Focus Washington-style.

On this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi interviews President and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, Behshad Sheldon, about the New Jersey based company’s intention to proceed with plans to develop a manufacturing and research facility in Durham County, North Carolina, despite the enactment of HB2, the controversial law that overturns local ordinances to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community.

Sheldon has met with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who shares the view that HB2 is unjust and needs to be overturned. However, the Attorney General argued that Braeburn could help more by advocating from within the state than by protesting through dropping plans to open the facility. The company states they have also been encouraged by the Department of Justice lawsuit filed on May 9, 2016 in NC Federal Court seeking a determination that HB2 violates federal non discrimination law, as well as the Obama administration’s guidelines issued to public schools on May 13, 2016.

19 May 2016 (Washington, DC): In this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi sat with Pierre Ghanem, an Arab journalist covering Washington and the United States, to discuss the Arab world’s reception of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Just like many here in the US, Donald Trump’s rise has surprised the Arab world, but officials of Arab countries are unlikely to be caught off guard. Ghanem elaborates, “Trump may be different but government officials are professionals, we can make it work.” However, the Arab street may harbor some resentment after Trump’s numerous offensive remarks about Muslims.

Clinton, on the other hand, doesn’t elicit as many negative preconceived notions. As Secretary of State, she has not been associated with the worst aspects of the Obama administration in the eyes of Arabs; She hasn’t been tainted by the perceived pivot to Iran, as Kerry has. She was also one of the first US officials to focus on Palestine and its citizens, saying that they deserved a state. According to Ghanem, whether it’s Hillary or Trump, the new president will be a welcome relief after Obama whose empty promises and poor leadership in Syria disappointed most of the Arab and Muslim world.  Continue reading »

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Chuck Conconi welcomed Bob Cusack on this week’s episode of Focus Washington. Cusack, Editor-in-Chief of Washington-based publication The Hill, evaluated the irregular political climate of the 2016 presidential election.

According to Cusack, the ascension of Donald Trump has transformed the identity of the Republican Party. By confronting the potential loss of House and Senate seats, “Republicans are coming to grips with reality.” Cusack predicted that Speaker Paul Ryan will endorse Trump by the Republican Convention in July. Despite his limited appeal among Hispanic and women’s groups, Trump surprised pundits by attracting a loyal base of support.

Insecurity among Republicans parallels growing divisions within the Democratic Party. Cusack noted that a contested convention will require critical negotiations between Clinton and Sanders. He predicted that Clinton will triumph over Sanders to receive the Democratic nomination. The Convention will measure Clinton’s success as she attempts to unite her traditional supporters with Sanders voters.

Cusack concluded his remarks by urging caution in predicting Convention results. Thus far, wavering support for Clinton, combined with Trump’s unforeseen political rise, has defied voters’ expectations. This time last year, confidence in particular candidates was unshakeable. To Cusack, a fragmented Republican Party and mounting opposition to Clinton define “the year of the outsider” in which no candidate is guaranteed victory.

 

Is the country’s budget process broken? Stan Collender sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the ins and outs of the budget process and prospects for compromise under the next administration.

As general election season approaches and the country hones in on the two likely nominees for the race, the differences between a Trump budget or a Clinton budget merits discussion. Collender points out that, however, that regardless of who will next sit in the Oval Office, the process goes beyond the total authority of the President; Clinton or Trump, the responsibility of passing a budget will still be with a split congress, making the chances of four more years of budget stalemate high.

Stan_Chuck

Chuck and Stan in the Focus Washington studio

Although budget jargon and process may be beyond reach for most Americans, Collender explains that the process is, in reality, very simple. Put in place in 1974, there are three steps: The President submits a proposed budget, Congress passes a Budget Resolution in response, and this is followed by Reconciliation with existing legislation. However, due to the inability of Congress to agree on budget priorities and the subsequent failure to pass a Budget Resolution, the process has broken down every step of the way.                                                                       

Collender recently testified in a Senate Budget Committee hearing on just this subject. As he recounted to Chuck, “I told them this process is broken down and it’s broken down because you have refused to implement it, so the idea you’re holding a hearing now to talk about better ways to implement it is crazy. I called it the fiscal equivalent of chutzpah.”

Of course, compromise has been reached before. Bill Clinton’s administration proved that it can be done. Now, however, a different political climate exists in the country, and Congress effectively holds the budget hostage when it refuses to participate in negotiations. “I’m not optimistic, but it’s not about the budget process. Congress doesn’t need it, they have all the power they need in the constitution, they can do whatever they want–the problem is they can’t agree on what they want to do, and until that happens, you’ll never get a budget process either enacted or actually implemented,” Collender explained.

After all, Congress didn’t even look at the President’s budget request this year. The failure of the budget process reflects the highly partisan nature of politics today. As Stan Collender points out, a lack of coherent priorities or decisions by the legislative branch paralyzes the fiscal policy of the nation – and this is a fact that is not likely to change in the coming four years.

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2016 Election Odds: Clinton, Trump and Sanders

2016 Election Odds: Clinton, Trump and Sanders

05 May, 2016; Washington, DC: For several months now, Donald Trump has been considered the presumptive nominee for president on the Republican side. On Tuesday, that assumption became a reality.

By winning the Indiana Primary, Trump padded his massive delegate lead and is now closer than ever to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination (Trump is now up to 1,056 delegates with 9 states remaining). He has such a commanding lead that both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have bowed out of the race entirely, leaving Trump without a single Republican competitor moving forward.

Trump is now +220 to win the White House at BetOnline, his best odds overall since we started keeping track back in early 2015. This means that a $100 bet on Trump to win the White House would pay out $220 if he wins the election.

For all intents and purposes, the Republican primary is over. It is no longer a question of “Can Trump win the nomination?” It is now a question of “Who will Trump’s Democratic opponent be in November?”

 

Things are much more interesting on the Democratic side

Hillary Clinton remains a solid favorite to win the nomination (she is currently -1500 at BetOnline, which means you would have to risk $1500 to win $100). However, while the former Secretary of State has won a majority of states and delegates, Clinton still hasn’t clinched the nomination.

After losing the New York Primary, Bernie Sanders was written off by the political and media establishment. He was counted out and left for dead. News pundits and party elites demanded that he drop out of the race and “unite” the party behind Clinton.

But a funny thing happened after New York.

Earlier this week, Sanders shocked the establishment by winning Indiana with nearly 53% of the vote, proving all the doubters wrong who told him to quit and exit the race.

While his path to victory remains narrow, Sanders is primed for a big 4th quarter comeback. Of the 13 remaining contests (9 states, 3 territories and Washington, DC), many favor Sanders.

According to the latest polling, the Vermont Senator leads Clinton in West Virginia and Oregon. He is gaining in Kentucky and New Mexico. He could sweep Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota as well.

If this happens, it will create a showdown for the ages in California, the largest state in the country (California doesn’t vote until June 7th). Sanders has vowed to run an “unprecedented grassroots campaign” in the Golden State and has already sent dozens of his top staffers to set up the campaign infrastructure.

Sanders currently trails Clinton by about 300 pledged delegates. If he can pull off a string of late victories he will close the gap substantially heading into California, where 475 delegates are up for grabs (more than enough to flip the race in his favor).

If this scenario holds true, neither candidate will have the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination, which means the Democrats are headed for a contested convention in July.

 

FDR at 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

FDR at 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Will There Be A Democratic Contested Convention?

Sanders can take some solace in the fact that the last Democrat to win a contested convention was Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, the godfather of the Democratic Socialist movement that Sanders now champions.

Many have predicted that in the case of a contested convention, Sanders’ army of revolutionaries will flood the city of Philadelphia, exerting massive pressure on super-delegates (party elites who can change their vote) to switch from team Clinton to team Sanders.

Also aiding Sanders is the fact that super-delegates in states that Sanders won big will face enormous backlash if they side with Clinton and go against the will of their constituents. They will also be inundated with polls showing Sanders as the stronger general election candidate (nearly every national poll shows Sanders beating Trump by much larger margins than Clinton).

While Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are only slightly better than Trump, Sanders remains a massively popular figure nationwide. He is the only candidate left in the race with a net-positive favorability rating. He also appeals to a much wider audience than Clinton. Sanders has incredible support among young people and independents, two constituencies that are key to winning the general election in November.

Long story short, if you believe Sanders can shock the world and pull off the upset, you should place your bet on him now, as his numbers are sure to improve with a series of wins down the stretch. Simply put, Sanders’ value will never be higher than it is now.

We are already starting to see this trend take place. After winning Indiana, Sanders’ 2016 odds rose from +2000 to +1400 at BetOnline, while his nomination odds rose from +1400 to +1000. This means that a $100 bet on Sanders to win the nomination would pay out +1000, while a $100 bet on Sanders to win the White House would pay out $1400.

On the flip side, if you view the Sanders comeback as a progressive fantasy that has no shot of actually taking place, you shouldn’t place your bet on Hillary right now, as her odds are sky-high (she is currently -240 to win the White House at BetOnline. This means you would have to risk $240 in order to win $100). More closely, you would be better suited to wait for Sanders to win a few contests, which will deflate Clinton’s odds, giving Hillary backers a better price.

What do you think?

Is Clinton still a shoo-in? Can Trump win in November? Or will Sanders pull off the greatest upset in modern political history?

 

Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights

Washington, DC; 28 April 2016: Providing aid and bolstering development in a region that has been a perennial conflict zone since 1948 is both demanding and rewarding. United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) has managed to do just that with a small dedicated staff and supporters since their founding in 1978 by a group of successful Palestinian-American professionals in New York. Focus Washington’s Chuck Conconi sat down with UPA’s Executive Director Saleem Zaru to learn more about the organization and its operations.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don't have a secure food source. UPA's Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don’t have a secure food source. UPA’s Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families. (Photo credit: UPA)

Zaru discussed the challenges of working under the constant state of emergency, noting that providing relief often consumes a great deal of time and funding, as opposed to being able to focus on development. One of the founding principles of UPA was to contribute to socioeconomic and cultural development in Palestine, but immediate needs to provide food aid, medical care (including psychological care for trauma victims) and basic needs like clothing and hygiene products sometimes take precedence.

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

In spite of the ongoing violence and emergency situations, UPA has made remarkable inroads in anticipating and instituting programs that help Palestinians become more independent so their situations do not perpetuate reliance on charity. Whether through micro-finance programs that launch small entrepreneurial start-ups, scholarships that advance education to better position Palestinians for employment, or partnerships programs like the Embracing Life campaign which is bringing Cleft Lip and Palate surgical and nursing training to West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with the Craniofacial Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

When asked about how programs like UPA can address extremism, Zaru stated that giving someone the opportunity to put food on their table and support their family creates hope, and hope is the best way to fight the lure of extremism.

Zaru’s dream for UPA is that they would go out of business because there is no more need and Palestinians live under normal conditions. Until that time comes, UPA will continue delivering hope to the people in Palestine and the refuge camps.

To learn more about United Palestinian Appeal, visit their website at: http://helpupa.org/

2016 Presidential Election Odds: Trump, Clinton, Cruz and Sanders21 April, 2016; Washington, DC: At Sports Insights, we have been tracking the 2016 election for some time now. However, we do not focus on the polls or what the pundits are saying, we focus exclusively on how the oddsmakers are assessing the race. Our goal is to highlight to our members which candidates are providing value so that they can make the smartest “futures” bet possible.
 
(A futures bet is a wager on a game or event that will not take place until several months or years in the future. For example, right now the Patriots are +600 to win next year’s Super Bowl (odds via Bovada). So if you put a $100 futures bet on the Patriots right now, you would win $600 if the Patriots win the Super Bowl).
 
 
At the time, Hillary Clinton was a +105 favorite to win the presidency (odds via Sportsbook). This means that a $100 futures bet on Clinton would pay out $105 if she is elected president.
 
Jeb Bush was the runner-up at +850, followed by Marco Rubio (+1200), Scott Walker (+1500), John Kasich (+3000) and Paul Ryan (+3500). Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz were all listed at +4000.
 
Interestingly, Bernie Sanders wasn’t even considered a legitimate candidate at the time. He opened at +6500, well-behind fellow Democrats Elizabeth Warren (+5000) and Joe Biden (+5000).
 
Even more mind-blowing is the fact that Donald Trump wasn’t even listed at all. Simply put, the idea that Trump could become president was so unimaginable back in May of 2015 that the oddsmakers didn’t even provide him as a betting option.
 
Much has changed over the course of the past 12 months.
 
After her big win in New York, Clinton is now a -1500 favorite to win the Democratic nomination and a -275 favorite to win the White House (odds via Bovada). That means if you want to bet Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, you would have to risk $1500 to win $100. If you want to bet Clinton to win the presidency, you would have to risk $275 to win $100.
 
On the Republican side, Trump is the clear-cut favorite. Back in June of 2015, Trump debuted at +4000 to become the next president (odds via Sportsbook). Now, following his blowout victory in New York, Trump is down to +350, best odds of any Republican and second-best odds overall behind Clinton. (Trump is a -225 favorite to win the Republican nomination).
 
In other words, the oddsmakers are predicting a Clinton vs Trump showdown in November. 
 
Beyond Clinton and Trump, only three other candidates remain in the 2016 conversation.
 
The first is Sanders. 
 
While the media ignores him and the establishment does everything they can to defeat him, Sanders has succeeded in energizing the liberal base and creating a political revolution. After debuting at +6500 to win the presidency, Sanders is now down to +1200, tied for the 3rd-best odds overall behind Clinton and Trump. He is +700 to win the Democratic nomination.
 
The second is Cruz. 
 
Like Sanders, Cruz is +1200 to win the White House. Despite Trump’s massive win in New York, he still may not receive the 1237 delegates needed to win the nomination. This leaves a (small) opening for Cruz, who has become the de-facto alternative to Trump. Cruz is +225 to win the Republican nomination.
 
The third is Kasich. He is currently listed at +3300 to win the White House and +1000 to win the nomination, which means he is a considerable longshot in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Simply put, Kasich is hanging by a thread, but he is still in the conversation.
 
Overall, Democrats are listed as a -280 favorite to win the White House, regardless of who the candidate is. Republicans are a +240 underdog (odds via BetOnline).
 
A couple variables to keep in mind: Clinton is currently being investigated by the FBI over her unprotected email server. Rumors are swirling that a decision whether or not to indict Clinton will be coming down in May. If Clinton is cleared of wrongdoing, her path to the White House is close to a done-deal.
 
However, if she is indicted, it changes everything. Clinton would be forced to exit the race, thus handing the nomination (and likely the presidency) to Sanders. If you view this is a legitimate possibility, you may want to place a futures bet on Sanders now. At +700 to win the nomination and +1200 to win the White House, Sanders backers would receive a huge payout if he can pull off the upset.
 
A similar wild-card scenario exists on the Republican side.
 
Ryan, the current Speaker of the House, is being listed at +15,000 to win the presidency and +5000 to win the Republican nomination (odds via BetOnline). Although his odds of winning are minuscule (he hasn’t even entered the race), the fact that Ryan is being listed as an option shows that oddsmakers are bracing for the possibility of a brokered convention in June.
 
 
Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights
 
Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW38 and Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 battle at Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Bahrain Grand Prix Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday 3 April 2016. © Sutton Motorsport Images

Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW38 and Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 battle at Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Bahrain Grand Prix Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sunday 3 April 2016. (Photo: Sutton Motorsport Images)

April 5, 2016: In the second race of the season, the German racer Nico Rosberg took a comfortable win in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday April 3rd. Meanwhile, his Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, climbed to third following a first-lap collision. The event attracted a peak of 3.2 million viewers. Around a hundred of them were watching from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington, DC.

Majlis for viewing F1 at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

Majlis for viewing F1 at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

 

The viewing party drew an eclectic crowd of friends of the embassy, as well as fans of the event. Attendees tended to wear red and/or white – in support of Bahrain – or wore apparel that identified their favorite team. Employees of the embassy mingled and socialized with the rest of the crowd, but were readily identified by their matching red and white Bahrain International Circuit shirts.

BBQ Buffet for F1 Event at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

BBQ Buffet for F1 Event at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

The main room functioned as a majlis (a room for gatherings in Arab homes) where people could watch the race and socialize. With large windows that flooded the space with natural light, the space was decorated from flags from all over the world and had multiple large screens to carry the broadcast from Manama. Outside a long buffet had been set up that served American and Arab Barbecue fare — with everything from hot dogs and kofta (similar to grilled “sausage” made from minced lamb and beef with spices) to hummus and pita. Arabic sweets were provided for dessert.

F1 Raffle at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

F1 Raffle at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

In comparison to the event in Bahrain — which is held as a night race set off by shooting sparks resulting from car modifications that have welded titanium plates to the undercarriage of the low, sleek automotive beasts — the viewing party at the embassy was casual and provided a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the afternoon. After the excitement of Rosberg crossing the finish line, the embassy raffle brought its own cheers as several winners took home first class tickets to Florida, and others won pearls from Bahrain.

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In 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected, progressive liberals looked forward to a leader who could move a progressive agenda along. On this week’s episode of Focus Washington with Chuck Conconi, liberal political commentator Bill Press addresses his disappointment in Obama’s pursuit of progressive legislation and change; Press’s recent book, Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down, makes a case for each missed opportunity.

According to Press, who is the former chairman of the Democratic Party in California, Obama fell short of progressive expectations on issues such as gun control, health care and immigration. Nevertheless,  Press praises Obama for several accomplishments during his eight years in the White House, “I give him credit for all the good things…brought the economy from the brink of ruin, saved the American auto industry… the [recent] Iran nuclear deal, re-opening relations with Cuba, so long overdue…”

Press criticizes the philosophical underpinnings of Obamacare’s in particular. “[Obama] said single-payer option was not under consideration–mistake number one,” says Press.  “Then a public-plan option was offered, giving people the option: instead of buying private insurance they can set up for Medicare, he sold that public plan action, dropped it without a vote or fight.” Current Obamacare requires every single American to buy insurance from a private insurance company… pharmaceutical companies can charge anything they want for prescription drugs.”

Press says that where the President walked away from Congress, he should have stepped forward. Both gun control and immigration reform present similar scenarios: Democrats had the majority in Congress for the first two years, and the Obama administration failed to act decisively.

“Obama should have fought the fight…. there are people that know how to work Congress. President Obama didn’t develop any strong relations when he was there and certainly didn’t as president.”

A progressive will work with Congress, says Press, engage in conservation, and “fight the fight.” To the extent that Obama didn’t use the power of the presidency with Congress, he let down the progressive liberals like Bill Press down.

 

It’s a fundamental issue addressed in media outlets all over the country: what happened to the conservative party?

Vic Gold states, “The breakdown of the republican party starts with Newt Gingrich and the 104th congress in 1994.” This, according to the long time conservative consultant, writer and journalist is where the polarization begins.

Gold elaborates, “Newt introduced a personal venom; the congress spent time impeaching [Bill Clinton], stopping the government…” (Once in 1994 and 1995 due to budget talks with the Clinton Administration.)

A seasoned politico who has lived through 24 elections, Gold knows that current GOP nominees are not descendants of the Goldwater rebellion; Vic served as the press secretary for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election and co-wrote George H.W. Bush’s 1987 autobiography. “These people are not conservatives…they are practically anarchists.” Gold agrees with Marco Rubio’s sentiments regarding Donald Trump: he is a third-world dictator.

It’s important to note the distinction between conservatives and anti-liberal in 2016. “[Anti-liberals] hated the Clintons and hate Obama… that’s all that matters.”

A reflection of the republican party’s state is particularly jarring, “Barry Goldwater would not run today, Ronald Reagan would not and could run today, let alone be elected.”

The unraveling is not exclusive to the republican party, it’s the whole political fiber.

“Why is Bernie Sanders the only guy that gets in the race? The political system, the money system we have…it has something to do with it. Joe Biden doesn’t get in the race because he doesn’t have the money. This is what Sanders has…he doesn’t have the money but he gets into it… we used to have that.”

While each party is responsible for its own weakness, it is “a “confluence of things that are working towards [Trump] a psychopathic megalomaniac. The republican party is broken down but the democratic party, which is a great party, how is it after twenty years with all the democrats, we come up with Hillary Clinton and the only other person is [Bernie Sanders]?  Where are the democratic leaders today? Why? That’s what I want to know. That concerns me.”

With too few democratic leaders entering the arena and too many anti-liberals campaigning as republicans, the integrity of the republican establishment has disintegrated and held hostage by the likes of Donald Trump and others.

 

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Why Bernie Sanders Matters

On March 11, 2016, in DCView, Focus Washington Interviews, PoliticalView, by Focus Washington

Why does Bernie Sanders matter?  Washington D.C. reporter and author Harry Jaffe answers that very question and shares insight he gained for his book, Why Bernie Sanders Matters in an interview on Focus Washington. He addresses a vital principle that is absent in many presidential candidates: Bernie wants to lead and govern where others want the power that comes with being a president.

Jaffe elaborates, “[Bernie’s] message is more than ‘I want to be president’, he wants to start a political revolution and he is on a mission.” Sander’s mission concerns the working class, a demographic that has no doubt suffered from stability in recent years. He looks through a lens that views the historical context of working class as the backbone of the American economy that is inconsistent with its state today. This is why, Jaffe says, he is not surprised about Bernie’s success, in Michigan or otherwise.

Working class voters are angry that their jobs are increasingly being sent overseas and their paychecks decreasing as a result. Opportunities for the working class are diminishing, rendering parents unable to provide a quality of life for their families that was once standard.  To that point, Sanders has always lobbied on behalf of the working class and never supported a fair trade agreement. Jaffe explains that Sanders measures every agreement not as to whether it helps the corporate class, but whether it is going to help the working class. Given that Ohio and Illinois are industrial states, Bernie has a favorable chance of winning in those primaries (contrary to projections of other commentators).

The Vermont senator carries momentum in the support of young voters. According to Jaffe, he has the “effable ability to be sincere, believable and trustworthy.” A perennial insider, Hillary Clinton is conditioned in the conventional political rhetoric; answers are rehearsed and produced according to polls and advisors, a strategy the Sanders campaign defies. When asked, “Bernie Sanders will respond in a direct way because that’s the way he has been speaking for 40 or 50 years, he doesn’t have to think about it” because everything boils down to what he thinks and believes. That’s refreshing and unusual.

Jaffe points out that Sanders as a Populist does have something in common with Trump in that he is not part of the establishment. But, the comparison ends there as the author viewsTrump as a “populist fascist” to Sanders as a “populist socialist”.

Bernie Sanders champions voters who are apathetic or distressed with Washington. He answers their call for change and relief; he hears them and shows them they matter. And because he lets them know that they matter, Bernie matters.

 

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The Republican establishment is drafting a movement to defeat Trump– but will it stick? If it’s anything similar to the public controversies inundating the businessman’s campaign, it won’t. Donald Trump as Bob Cusack, says, is “the Teflon candidate”.

His divisive statements regarding Muslims and tolerance of his KKK connections only seem to ameliorate his numbers.

Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority leader Mitch McConnell denounce his positions; however, as Cusack points out, both have gone on record to say they will support the nominee.

Anemic in delegates, “unless the establishment coalesces against [him], he will no doubt be the nominee,” Cusack suggests. With two senate endorsements to Ted Cruz’s zero, Marco Rubio’s deflating momentum (victorious in only Minnesota and more recently, Puerto Rico) and John Kasich’s waning campaign– “there is no good alternative”.

Unconventional republican rhetoric drives Trump’s broad appeal: he has openly blamed George W. Bush for 9/11, attacked pharmaceutical companies and even Wall St. This works, in part, because, “the republican electorate is rebelling against the establishment and there’s nothing they can do to stop it…. you’ll never see anything like this in politics ever again.”

Republicans on the Hill have balked at the intransigent candidate, going so far as to promise to vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump. In a scenario where Donald Trump doesn’t get the delegates, “it will be a nightmare for the establishment”.

Simply: Trump’s numbers will slide and he will, ultimately fall to Hillary Clinton.

 

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MSLGroup/Qorvis has polished up its 2016 campaign tracker, Influencer16.com. Launched in 2015, the digital platform is a visual guidebook to each candidate’s campaign structure for the 2016 presidential election.

President of Qorvis/ MSLGroup president Michael Petruzzello remarks, “Nothing like Influencer2016 has ever existed before.” Influencer16’s innovative approach is a resource that is fit for any political novice or expert. “Our digital and campaign teams joined together to build an extraordinary digital map that offers a special look inside and behind the scene of the campaign apparatus,” Petruzzello explains.

Seasoned politicians establish a plethora of relationships with trusted advisors  who help anchor his or her presidential bid. Influencer16 places the individual campaigns in context of the bigger picture and elucidates voters of presidential campaign nuances. MSLGroup/Qorvis is proud of Infleuncer16 and its continuation of producing unique strategies/tools in the public affairs arena. 

Influencer_16_Example

By Stan Collender

Ukrainian Currency

Many members of the U.S. House and Senate have complained long and hard about what they say is an out-of-control Federal Reserve Bank. They protested when the Fed took what they considered to be unprecedented measures during the recession, railed against someone other than an elected official making critical decisions about the U.S. economy and complained about what they claim is the Fed’s overbearing regulatory stance.

But congressional critics of the Federal Reserve should count their blessings: Instead of the Fed, they could be dealing with the increasingly hard-to-explain and harmful actions of the National Bank of Ukraine.

There is no doubt about the difficulty of the economic situation in the Ukraine. The value of the country’s currency has recently lost two-thirds of its value and inflation has soared to what for Americans is a hard-to-believe almost 43 percent.
Ukraine’s political situation is just as difficult. Just a few weeks ago, Vice President Joe Biden demanded in a speech in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev that the country quickly move ahead with governmental reforms that he insisted were long-promised and much-needed.

Emblem of the National Ban of Ukraine

Emblem of the National Bank of Ukraine

But Ukraine’s economic and political challenges do not explain or justify the actions by the National Bank of Ukraine that are actually exacerbating rather than alleviating the country’s problems.

In the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in Ukraine’s history that put serious stress on the country’s banking system, the NBU chose to close almost 60 banks rather than arranging for the strong ones to take over the operations of the weak. This made credit less available to Ukrainians at the precise time that it was most needed and exacerbated rather than alleviated the difficult economic situation.

It also greatly reduced the confidence Ukrainians have for the banks in their country. After the inept way the NBU acted, a survey conducted by The Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation this past July 2015 showed that almost 77 percent of Ukrainians did not completely or mostly trust their banks.

The NBU is also making it far more difficult than necessary for the surviving institutions and by doing so it reduced both current and future economic activity.

Read the full article here in The Hill.

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Chuck Conconi is back this week with a new episode of Focus Washington! His guest is budget expert Stan Collender, lending his insights into the continuing resolution, the effects of a shutdown, and giving his predictions for the upcoming elections. 

<p>Displaced Iraqis at a camp near Erbil.</p> Photographer: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

Kurdistan is a roughly defined geo-culture located in the Middle East with a population of 28 million; however, the recent immigration crisis has resulted in the absorption of 1.8 million refugees into the region. This increase causes an extreme strain on Kurdistan’s available resources.

The article below by Eli Lake was originally posted on Bloomberg View:

When the Islamic State in 2014 began its rampage throughout Iraq, many of the displaced people found a safe haven in the Kurdistan provinces in the north. That safe haven is now in danger.

This week at the start of the U.N. General Assembly, the Kurdistan Regional Government (or KRG) publicly warned that it was running out of money to provide basic services to the nearly 1.8 million Iraqis and Syrians who have fled there.

Unless the regional government receives a quick infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars, “there is going to be absolute destitution among the displaced population that we have not seen since the 1990s under Saddam,” the KRG’s U.S. representative, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, told me Tuesday.

The current refugee crisis created by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars has received significant attention in recent weeks as hundreds of thousands of refugees have sought new lives in Europe. But it’s the countries in the Middle East that are suffering the most as a result of the ongoing war.

In Jordan up to a quarter of the population is now Syrian refugees. The Kurdish region of Iraq has seen its population increase by 30 percent since the crisis began in 2014. Today the Kurdish region hosts 1.5 million displaced Iraqis and 280,000 Syrian refugees, according to the KRG’s statistics.

In the face of this crisis, one might think the Kurds would consider closing their border if the wave of migrants continues. But Abdul Rahman said that would be a last resort.

“We don’t want to close our borders,” Abdul Rahman said. “It’s not fair to someone running for their life. How can you shut your door to them?”

For Kurds the issue is a matter of principle. Almost all Kurds know the experience of being displaced. In Iraq they survived Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign, which included the use of chemical weapons in Halabja. “We’ve all been refugees at least once,” Abdul Rahman said. “Even people like me who are very privileged have been refugees. This is something we want to avoid at all costs.”

At the same time the situation in the Kurdish region is growing desperate. According to a recent estimate from the World Bank and the KRG’s own Ministry of Planning, the KRG will need $1.4 billion to stabilize the internally displaced people in its region if the flow of asylum seekers ended today. In a less optimistic scenario, it would need $2.4 billion.

In reality this would mean that even fewer children of the displaced in the Kurdistan region could go to school. Today 60 to 70 percent of school-age children do not go to school. Basic health services are often not available. Many of the internally displaced are living in shipping containers and half-built buildings without heat or electricity. Meanwhile, the U.N. vouchers for necessities like food could be eliminated, creating an even greater need.

When I was in the Kurdish region in January and February, I saw the misery for myself. The yards of churches and mosques around Erbil were turned into camps with tents and generators housing Iraqis who only a few months before had been comfortably middle class. Homeless Iraqis who couldn’t get housing at one of the seven U.N. camps in Erbil begged on the streets in broad daylight.

For now Abdul Rahman and other KRG officials in New York this week are appealing to Western governments for much-needed cash. But she told me she was also hoping for relief from other sources, including Christian charities and other private philanthropies.

Part of Abdul Rahman’s pitch is that over time, the young people displaced by the war will become a threat to the region and beyond if they are not integrated into society. She’s not alone in fearing this outcome. In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nancy Lindberg said the seven camps for the internally displaced just in and around Erbil were described to her by one aid worker as “seven time bombs.”

Abdul Rahman compared the fate of the displaced in the Kurdistan region to the generations of Palestinians who live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank. “I don’t want to take a side in that conflict,” she said. “But it’s a fact that there is a Palestinian generation who have lost everything, who are radical and vulnerable and have no hope. I don’t want that in my backyard in Kurdistan. One Palestine is enough.”

Zack Space is an American politician and a former Congressman, representing Ohio’s 18th congressional district from 2007 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Space serve on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as on the Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection; Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet; and Subcommittee on Health. Space currently serves as a principal for Vorys Advisors LLC, a subsidiary of the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease.

Transcript below: Continue reading »

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Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy’s Sue Sheridan discusses the impact of GOP control of the Senate on transmission policy.

Sue Sheridan is the President and Chief Counsel of CFTP. Ms. Sheridan began her work on Capitol Hill as counsel to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power when it was chaired by Rep. Philip R. Sharp, after stints at the Department of Energy and the White House Domestic Policy Council. She worked afterwards at the Energy and Commerce Committee for Chairman John D. Dingell, and served as Chief Counsel to the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment when she left the Hill in 2008. Ms. Sheridan now works as a consultant and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs and the George Washington School of Law. Ms. Sheridan graduated from Duke University and Vanderbilt Law School.

Transcript below. Continue reading »

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IESC’s Watchen Bruce talks Ebola, Liberian economy

On December 4, 2014, in DCView, by Focus Washington

Watchen Bruce is Chief of Party for USAID’s “Liberia Investing for Business Expansion Program” or IBEX. Implemented by the International Executive Service Corps’ consultants and volunteer experts, IBEX works on the ground in Liberia to support small- and medium-sized businesses by offering technical advice and facilitating access to credit. IBEX is also helping to raise funds and conduct crisis mitigation training to help local businesses to cope with the disruptive effects of the Ebola virus.
Watchen Bruce

 
Cui Tiankai, China's Vice Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the US.

Cui Tiankai, China’s Vice Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the US.

By Cui Tiankai

Originally posted on CNN

 

Editor’s note: Cui Tiankai is ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States. The views expressed are those of the author.

 

News that U.S. President Barack Obama is planning to attend next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing has been extremely welcome. China is thrilled to have President Obama as one of our guests, especially as the success of any initiatives that emerge from APEC rest squarely on cooperation between China and the United States.

Such cooperation is as important as ever, and this meeting — an event I have been involved in for many years — offers an opening to ending confusion among neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region while setting the stage for vigorous economic cooperation and integration in the coming decades.

The reality is that without strong participation by China and the United States, APEC would not have made such remarkable progress. When China and the United States find ways to work together, all nations benefit.

But shared economic growth cannot come through the decisions or actions of a single country. Instead, economic integration should be seen as a vital driving force for economic growth and prosperity in the region. Continue reading »

 

Careers in International Affairs

On September 16, 2014, in DCView, by Focus Washington

In the book “Careers in International Affairs” published by Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qorvis MSLGROUP’s Rebecca Bouchebel-MacMillan wrote about a career in Public Relations in the world of international affairs. The award-winning career book is the ultimate job hunting guide for anyone hoping to work in the US government, international organizations, business, or nonprofits.

Editors: Laura E. Cressey, Barrett J. Helmer, and Jennifer E. Steffensen.

By Rebecca Bou Chebel- MacMillan

When Tiger Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant at 2.25 am outside his Florida home he could not have anticipated the consequences – within days his life would be turned upside down and his public image damaged, possibly forever. By the time his managers came up with a strategy it was too late: a sporting icon and international household name had become damaged goods.

A good public relations campaign could have spared him the worst of the media onslaught but his team was too slow to act – they lost the golden hour and damage control became impossible.

The international free flow of information, globalization and the speed at which news is being disseminated via social media have made the fields of PR and Marketing imperative for any government or corporation.

From world-leading nations to small islands, global corporations to local businesses, all are finding themselves exposed and vulnerable to the speed of communication and the power of unchecked narratives channeled through the web. Today more than ever, they are vulnerable to crisis, as they are constantly put under the microscope. It is within this new media world order that the need for constant “engagement” and “relationship building” has become the bread and butter of PR and Marketing professionals. Continue reading »

Tom Miller is the President and CEO of International Executive Service Corps (www.iesc.org), a U.S. nonprofit that promotes economic growth and stability around the world through programs that support private enterprise, business organizations and public institutions. He was previously U.S. Ambassador to Greece, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Special Coordinator for Cyprus at the rank of Ambassador in his 29-year career as an American diplomat.

 

Throwback Thursday: Matt J. Lauer on Public Diplomacy

On August 21, 2014, in EmbassyView, by Focus Washington

Here is a  throwback to ten year’s ago when QorvisMSL’S Matt J. Lauer was executive director of the commission on public diplomacy at the U.S. State Department.  He discussed  the Bush administration’s report on public diplomacy which was instrumental in updating America’s public diplomacy from the cold war days.  Here he is on CNN’s “Diplomatic License.” Matt J. Lauer on Public Diplomacy Reform on CNN’s Diplomatic License

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Chuck Conconi sat down with Bob Cusack, Managing Editor of the Hill Newspaper, to discuss the resignation of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Lawmakers and members of Shinseki’s own party called for him to step down under reports that VA hospitals falsified waiting lists.

“As a political story, this will fade. The problem that Shinseki had is that if members of your own team call for your head, you’re in trouble. A dozen Democrats called for his head. There will be congressional oversight on this issue,” said Bob Cusack. Continue reading »

 

WASHINGTON—May 19, 2014— The government of Equatorial Guinea has heavily invested its oil revenues in the country by focusing on improving education, developing human capital and diversifying its economy, Equatorial Guinea’s Ambassador to the United States, Ruben Maye Nsue Mangue, said in a recent interview with Focus Washington.

Ambassador Nsue Mangue called improved education one of his country’s most important accomplishments since independence. “Since 1979, the government committed to develop professional education and human development. When we gained our independence, we did not have any universities, but now we have two universities, and the president is building another university in the new town of Oyala.”

Education has been a top priority for the government. Equatorial Guinean has an adult literacy rate of nearly 100%–the highest in Africa.. Since 1979, citizens of Equatorial Guinea have received more than 500,000 scholarships to study in universities and professional and technical-training programs outside the country. This figure includes multiple scholarship recipients and people who have remained outside the country.

The West African nation has also experienced significant economic growth, and it has learned how to best use its oil revenues from the positive and negative experiences of other countries. Continue reading »

 

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