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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- February 19, 2017

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – Everyone has been talking about the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Forget that! How about the first 30 days, which we are completing this weekend? This has been a wild, roller-coaster ride, but many of the potholes the President hit, have been experienced by others before him. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Out Like Flynn” – They love to split hairs about these things in Washington, DC. No one wants to say someone has been fired; they always “resigned.” Well, what happens is the President of the United States asks for your resignation, which is a polite spin on saying, “You’re fired!” National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is gone; and now his potential replacement - retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward - says he won’t take the job. This NSA position has been a headache for other Presidents, too!

“Tossing Rice” – President Obama’s final National Security Advisor was a lightning rod for controversy. Susan Rice held the job for three-and-a-half years, but earlier troubles prevented her from ever gaining the measure of respect to which the office is entitled. Earlier in the Obama administration, Rice was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. When four Americans were killed at a CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, Rice went on numerous network newscasts to say the attacks were a direct result of a "heinous and offensive [anti-Muslim] video", and were spontaneous, not pre-planned. We learned not long after that there was no such video motivation and no such protest. It was a calculated and deliberate terrorist attack. The fallout likely prevented Rice from being named Secretary of State.

“A Bad Berger” – To be fair, the late National Security Advisor Sandy Berger violated no laws, ethics, or principles that we know of while he held the post during the Clinton administration from 1997 to 2001. It was after he left the post that he got into a whole heap of trouble. In 2003, Berger was scheduled to testify before the 9/11 Commission about anti-terrorism measures taken while President Clinton was in office. In preparation for his testimony, Berger visited the National Archives, illegally removed four classified documents and smuggled them out of the building. Berger later pled guilty to the charges and had his law license revoked.

“Win One for the Gipper’s Wife” – In 1982, National Security Advisor Richard Allen was forced to resign after a Japanese reporter claimed he had bribed Allen to secure an interview with First Lady Nancy Reagan (a charge never made in court nor resulting in any legal sanction). Allen said he had intercepted a check made out to Mrs. Reagan to avoid any embarrassment to the Reagan family. Nonetheless, the drumbeat of negative headlines eventually led to his departure.

“Why the NSA Pothole?” – Others who held the NSA job ran into political trouble and controversy, too, so why? My assessment is that this is a crucial intelligence, diplomatic, and political job. Imagine, for example, having to be Secretary of State, CIA Director, and Chairman of your own political party - all at the very same time. There have got to be conflicts and temptations galore. I say this not to make excuses for Michael Flynn or the others, but to demonstrate that NSA has been the Achilles Heel of many a Presidential administration.

“The Puzder Puzzle” – Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder officially became the “sacrificial lamb” of the Trump Cabinet appointees. It happens to virtually every President, whether they have Cabinet appointees or Supreme Court nominees go down in flames. It’s a Washington parlor game as a way to one-up a President. Think failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in the Reagan era, or failed Defense Secretary nominee John Tower in the Bush I administration. President Clinton had two nominees for Attorney General torpedoed before finally settling in on Janet Reno. It happens!

“Mending Fences” – Speaking of the failed Labor Secretary nominee, President Trump quickly found a replacement by nominating Alexander Acosta to head the Labor Department. Acosta – if approved – would be the first Latino in Trump’s Cabinet. This was something for which the President was criticized - not selecting a Hispanic in the first place - after Trump garnered 28 percent of the Latin vote nationwide.

“Immigration Delineation” – The President is also on the defensive (both legally and politically) over his Executive Order banning travel to the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries. While he lost in the Court of Appeals - and may bypass a Supreme Court fight by issuing a more Constitutionally defensible order - he has wasted enormous political capital on his signature issue – immigration reform. Rather than using executive fiat, he would be better served by codifying immigration reform by getting Congress to pass reforms into law. He needs to co-opt his party’s majorities in the House and Senate while he still has them. “Going it alone” is a bad strategy in Washington, DC.

“Why All of This Matters” – It has been portrayed that Trump’s rough start is somehow unprecedented, or an anomaly. We’ve shown here that most Presidents have major hiccups in their first 100 days. But the public and other branches of government have only so much patience. Presidents Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and others had troubles out of the starting gate, but corrected their courses and bounced back. Trump could take a page from the Reagan playbook (pictured above) – Reagan won as a Washington outsider, yet embraced official “insider” Washington when he got there – to great political success. Sometimes, history can repeat itself.

What do you think of President Trump’s first 30 days? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: dailymail.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- February 12, 2017

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – Domination by one party is a rare event in American politics and no fun for the party out of power. And despite all of the anti-GOP protests after the 2016 elections, things may actually get worse for Democrats. It’s a tough road ahead, so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Against All Odds” – The numbers are not kind to Democrats right now. In the 2018 U.S. Senate elections, Democrats (plus two Independents who caucus with them) are defending 25 seats. Republican incumbents are defending just nine seats. Yes, midterm elections usually mean gains for the party out of power, but this will be a struggle. Right now, Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, and actually their numbers could grow.

“The Trump Factor” – Of the 25 states where Democrats and their allies are defending incumbent seats next year, Donald Trump carried ten in the Electoral College. Those states may tilt more towards Republicans in 2018. If the GOP wins eight of the states, that would bring its majority to 60 in the Senate, enough to block any filibuster.

“Almost Heaven; West Virginia” – Let’s begin in the state where I currently reside. Popular U.S. Senator (and former Governor) Joe Manchin is up for re-election in 2018 (photo above). Despite his family’s long legacy in Mountain State politics, his gregarious personal charm, and a gift for retail politics, his re-election prospects are now listed as a “toss-up” by national analysts. This is an old blue state turned solid red in recent years, and Manchin has even been rumored to be thinking of switching parties. (He’s the most conservative Democrat in the U.S. Senate.) Two-term Republican State Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, and U.S. Representatives Evan Jenkins (R-WV-3) and David McKinley (R-WV-1) are possible foils.

“North, by North Dakota” – Incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is a political moderate who has sided with conservatives on issues concerning the fossil fuels - oil, gas, and coal. She was even considered by President Trump to be Secretary of Agriculture. She is the state’s former Attorney General. In many ways – like Senator Joe Manchin – she is a Democratic olive branch to the Trump administration; but, right now, her re-election race is listed as a “toss-up.”

“I Dream of Jeannie” – Actor Larry Hagman was astronaut “Major Nelson” in the 60s TV sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” so I laughed when Congressman-turned-astronaut Bill Nelson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. It seemed this was a “Nelson family” legacy. All this fun trivia aside, Florida is another state that went for Trump in 2016. Right now, Florida is listed as “tilts Democrat” for the Nelson 2018 race, but a lot depends on who runs against him. Might former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) jump in to raise his national profile? Current Governor Rick Scott? Stay tuned!

“The Safe States – Or Are They?” – Traditionally Democratic states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan went for candidate Trump in 2106, and swing state Ohio went for him, too. Each of these four critical Presidential states has a Democratic Senator defending a seat in the next election. But the seats of Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patrick Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are listed as “leaning" or "safe” for the Democrats next year. Why is that, if those states went for Trump? Well, all four states are fiercely and traditionally independent, so just because they picked a GOP candidate for the White House doesn’t mean they won’t go DEM for Senate!

“Wild Cards” – Three states may hold the balance: Montana, Missouri, and Indiana. Why? First, all three states with Democratic Senators went for Donald Trump for President. One-term Senator Ted Donnelly (D-IN) must already be feeling the heat, with his former Governor, Mike Pence (R-IN), having been elected Vice President. In Montana, two-term Senator Jon Tester has won both times in very close races, with less than 50 percent of the vote. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) won a very close race, defeating an incumbent in 2006, and coasted to a solid re-election in 2012. But Missouri is a swing state, so in 2018 it’s listed as a “toss-up.”

“My Prediction” – Based on the usual gains by the party out of power and the very uncertain Trump coattail effect, I am predicting the Republicans will have a net gain of three seats in the U.S Senate in 2018, giving them a 55-45 majority, but short of the filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes they seek.

Are you already looking forward to Campaign 2018? And why? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017 Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: cbsnews.com

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