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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- March 26, 2017

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Dr. Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media television stations in West Virginia.

(Washington, D.C.) – I was in the nation’s capital last week on assignment, and it got me to thinking about some of the tumultuous transitions of power we’ve had in this country. The Trump administration has had some major speed bumps along the road – including a big one this week - so let’s “brunch” on that:

“Obamacare Repeal” – The warning signs were already in place. As I have said for weeks, the House does not owe its Republican control to Mr. Trump. That majority was attained in 2010. So, it’s no surprise that enough Republicans bolted the party line and said “No” on the current repeal and replacement of Obamacare. It will be different if - and when - new healthcare legislation ever gets to the Senate, where clearly Trump’s coattails kept the Republican majority in charge. Make no mistake. This is a major defeat for the Republican Party, but by no means has the Titanic hit the iceberg yet.

“Getting Stuff Done” – All new administrations (and the media) focus almost obsessively on the “First 100 Days” of a new White House. I’m not sure where that emphasis originated, since rarely has anything monumental happened in the first three-plus months of any administration. As of today, we’re at day 66 of the Trump years. Yes, a bunch of Executive Orders were issued – some successful, some blocked in the courts – but the “100 Day” report card is still graded as “Incomplete.”

“Public vs. Private Sector” – I learned a valuable lesson covering the 1992 Presidential campaign, with businessman Ross Perot in the mix as an upstart independent candidate. Perot – like Trump – never held political office, but had made billions in private business. When you are the CEO, you can yell, “Jump!” and your workers reply by saying, “How high?” In politics, it doesn’t work that way, especially with built-in checks and balances on power. Mr. Trump simply can’t tell Congress what to do. Perot was placed on the Board of Directors at General Motors after it bought out his company. It was a contentious “shotgun marriage,” in which Perot could not get along with the others and was eventually dismissed. I deeply respect Perot, but the General Motors experience was an indication of his inability to work well with others in power. It’s a possible lesson for President Trump.

“The ‘Gorsuch Factor’” – For President Trump to turn the momentum in his first year, he needs a big, big victory. Since Democrats have now announced they will filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump has a battle he can fight and win. As mentioned earlier, the Senate owes its majority directly to Trump’s coattails, so he needs to call in the favor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has little choice but to invoke the “nuclear option” to let a simple majority of the Senate approve Gorsuch.

“Who’s at Justice?” – In 1993 it was almost like the famed Abbott and Costello skit, “Who’s On First?” except that it was a rough spot in the first weeks of the Clinton administration. Who would be the U.S. Attorney General? I was just days into my first job as a Congressional Aide, working for the House Judiciary Committee. Zoe Baird was nominated to be Attorney General, but dropped out after it was revealed that she had hired illegal immigrants to care for her children and had failed to file taxes. Then, Federal Judge Kimba Wood was nominated, only to bow out for also having an illegal-immigrant nanny. Janet Reno – the third nominee – became Attorney General. The lesson here was that President Clinton quickly cut his losses - twice - and moved on.

“Self-Inflicted Wounds” – I have often said in this column that the worst political wounds are frequently self-inflicted. Former President Clinton can blame Republicans all he wants for his 1998 impeachment, but it never would have happened if it weren’t for Mr. Clinton’s own reckless behavior. Partisans will argue for eternity about whether impeachment was warranted or not, but that’s beside the point. The President’s own actions led to a year-long power struggle that was a problem of his own making. Other cases in point: Congressman Anthony Weiner, President Richard Nixon, Congressman Wilbur Mills, Congressman Gary Condit, Senator Ted Kennedy, and the list goes on. In politics, you often “reap what you sow.”

“Why All This Matters” – Success in politics is about momentum, and about public support for your agenda. President Trump has wasted a lot of political capital with his incessant “tweets” that blow up in his face, e.g. the Obama wiretap claims. He needs to get his agenda back on track, and he needs to avoid offending his own allies. One thing he needs to remember is that every House member and one-third of the Senate will be up for reelection in 2018; but he is not. Many in his own party may abandon him to save their own political skins.

What issue should President Trump focus on after Obamacare? Tax reform? Immigration reform? Let us know your opinion by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media.

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

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(Charleston, West Virginia) -- Top o’ the mornin', readers. As many of you know, I am mostly Irish. My full name is Mark Corrigan Curtis; and, yes, I am a distant cousin of famed pilot Douglas “Wrong-way” Corrigan. My earliest relatives in the U.S. – Michael Corrigan and family - came during the Irish Potato famine in 1852. My son is Patrick Corrigan Curtis. In an offering of peace, we’ll have no serious political stuff today - just a look at some famous Irish politicians and issues. Some of today’s material is imported and updated from some of my previous St. Patrick’s Day issues. Let’s “Brunch” on some of that “corned beef” this year:

“Taste O’ the Green!” – Of the 44 U.S. Presidents, 22 claim some significant percentage of Irish ancestry. Most are a mix of nationalities, but President John F. Kennedy is the only one listed as 100% Irish. (He was the only Irish Catholic President, too). Even former President Obama has some Irish lineage on his mother’s side. I think just for one day he should change the spelling of his name to "Barack O’Bama." As for President Trump - while many people believe he looks to be of Irish heritage (maybe it’s the hair color) - he is of German and Scottish descent.

“Friends after 6 p.m.” – Two of my favorite Irish-American politicians were House Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan. They were often bitter political foes. O’Neill once said of Reagan that he was "the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House.” Reagan once compared O’Neill to the video game character Pac-Man, saying the House Speaker was "a round thing that gobbles up money." Ouch! In truth, the two wrote fondly of each other in their memoires, reflecting on nights at the White House, playing cards, sipping whiskey, and smoking cigars - all the while being “friends after 6 p.m.,” as Mr. Reagan put it. The two had a record of compromise on key issues and got a lot done together.

“The Dynasties” – Some of America’s biggest political dynasties are Irish – in whole, or in part. A redheaded 32-year-old named Joseph Kennedy III was elected to Congress in 2012, extending that family’s place in American politics into a fourth consecutive generation. Four generations of the Bush family have also held elective office in the U.S. The Bushes are part Irish. Then there is the Daley family of Chicago. Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. served a combined total of 43 years in the Mayor’s office. Richard M. Daley’s brother William was also U.S. Secretary of Commerce and White House Chief of Staff, and is still often mentioned for higher office.

“Same Family?” – As we all know, some families produce the famous and the infamous, all in the same generation. For 35 years, Billy Bulger served in the Massachusetts Legislature, the last 18 as President of the State Senate. He then went on to be President of the University of Massachusetts for seven years. Billy’s career ended when he admitted to having spoken to his infamous younger brother, James “Whitey” Bulger, a legendary Boston mobster. “Whitey,” who was "America’s Most Wanted" fugitive, was eventually captured and was convicted on murder charges. He’s serving life in prison.

“Luck o’ the Irish!” – Even today, the American political landscape is dotted with those of Irish ancestry. Former Vice President Joe Biden is mostly of Irish heritage. Former House Speaker John Boehner is Irish; and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is Irish, too. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2012, is Irish. And current U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is – well, with a name like McCarthy, what else could he be?

“Luck O’ the Irish II” – In 2014, I had the good fortune to meet Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny when he came to Rhode Island to meet with then Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI). This week, Prime Minster Kenny met with President Trump about the plight of Irish immigrants living illegally in the U.S., whom Kenny would like to see reach legal status. Kenny said: “We would like this to be sorted. It would remove a burden of so many people that they can stand out in the light and say, 'Now I am free to contribute to America as I know I can.' And that’s what people want.” To be continued!

“Irish Coffee” – Of course, if politics is not your “cup of tea,” then switch to coffee – Irish coffee. It’s been a favorite beverage of many an Irish politician, especially those who hang out at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco, where the drink was pioneered. The restaurant recently released the secret recipe: Fill a cup 3/4 full with coffee; stir in two sugar cubes; add 1 and ½ ounces of Irish Whiskey; then spoon about ¼ cup of slightly whipped cream gently on the top so it floats (photo above). This is a great drink if you love Irish politicians, or if you absolutely hate politics with a passion. (In the latter case, the beverage is used as an antidote.)

I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day weekend! As always, if you want to share your thoughts, click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
© 2017 MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.
Photo courtesy: MarkCurtisMedia

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