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Thanksgiving Political Trivia to Chew On – “Sunday Political Brunch” - December 1, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – We have a lot of food to chew on this Thanksgiving weekend, so why not some political trivia to chew on as well! It’s one of our holidays that is steeped in politics, so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Lincoln was Thinkin’ Thanks!” – President Abraham Lincoln is remembered for so many different and historic things, but I bet most folks don’t know that he was the one who declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday in 1863, celebrated on the final Thursday of November. Lincoln did not actually pardon a turkey he was given for the White House dinner. Instead he gave the big bird to his son as a pet, and it never wound up on the dinner table!

“He Stole Our Idea!” – To be sure, previous presidents called from time to time for a national day of thanksgiving. George Washington was the first in in 1777, asking for a day of thanksgiving for the passage of the U.S. Constitution, and the end to the Revolutionary War. But it was a sporadic occasion that occurred now and then, not annually.

“Hold on a Second!” – Thomas Jefferson opposed any type of thanksgiving declaration, because he felt it was signaling a religious celebration. Jefferson was the founding father who was most adamant about the separation of church and state, so he viewed any national endorsement of such a holiday with disdain. Fast forward to today, and I think common sense tells us that people can be thankful for many things, without necessarily extending it to a religious experience. To others, thanksgiving is a profound expression of one’s faith. My point is, it’s a matter of choice and expression. Not everyone feels or experiences thanks in the same way.

“Pardon Me, Sir!” – This year President Trump pardoned two turkeys named, “Bread” and “Butter.” In the modern era, the pardon has become an annual ritual, but who started it? Technically, President Kennedy issued the first pardon of a turkey in 1963. But it didn’t become an actual annual rite of passage until President George H.W. Bush did it on 1989, and all his successors followed suit. Before this tradition began, farmers would donate turkeys to the White House, with the intent they be butchered, cooked, and eaten, and they were!

“I Just Yoking!” – The annual turkey pardon has turned our presidents into “wannabee” stand-up comics. The event has evolved into one of humor and political barbs. Trump even used the occasion to poke fun at his impeachment inquiry. In pardoning Bread and Butter, Trump advised them "to remain calm under any condition, which will be very important because they have already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff's basement." Trump even skewered some of the impeachment witnesses whom he compared to Bread and Butter by saying, "Unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met. It's very unusual." Gallows humor? Maybe!

“FDR’s ‘Black Friday’” – One of my favorite bits of political trivia involves President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his concern over Christmas shopping season. Roosevelt believed that the late Thanksgiving holiday was hurting Christmas sales, so he moved it from the last Thursday in November, to the third Thursday. The public was furious and only about half the states complied. In 1941, Congress officially moved the day back to November’s final Thursday. Given today’s madness over Black Friday shopping, you get the sense that Roosevelt was trying to create a solution for a problem that didn’t exist.

“It’s All in the Name!” Okay, I love that this year’s pardoned turkeys were Bread and Butter. Last year they were Peas and Carrots. President Obama pardoned a turkey named Courage, as well as Gobbler and Cobbler. President George W. Bush pardoned Liberty and Freedom in 2001, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks. In 2004, he pardoned my favorites, Biscuits and Gravy. President Clinton pardoned Harry the Turkey, and Jerry the Turkey. President Obama also had Mac and Cheese one year, and Tater and Tot, his last year. It’s all in good fun!

We’ll get back to serious politics next week, but tell me, what’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish? Mine is the stuffing!!! Let us know by clicking the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states and much of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for The White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

The First Big Turning Point in Campaign 2020 – “Sunday Political Brunch” - November 24, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – After months of Democratic Presidential debates, and some sharp swings in the polls, we are at a major turning point. There are still too many candidates, and some probably need to go. I’ve spoken with a lot of my friends in the Democratic Party about who they like and don’t like, and why. Without naming names, let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Biden’s Boo-Boos” – On the positive side, he has the experience. And he’s the party’s elder statesman. There is a clear consensus among Democrats that Biden has the best resume and the most experience in this field. But Biden’s debate performances – including this week in Atlanta - have been meandering and lackluster and unfocused. One Biden fan told me, “It’s like he’s in a fog.” There is a feeling that Biden’s best days are behind him, and there are concerns whether he has the energy and stamina for the primary and general election campaigns, not to mention the job if he wins.

“Warren Warnings” – She gets an A+ for being the best debater. She knows her message and agenda, and she delivers it unwavering without apology, whether you agree with her or not. She’s confident and comfortable in her own skin, offering everything from free health care to free college tuition. Republicans attack by saying, “It sounds great, but how are you going to pay for this?” Well many Democrats who talk to me have the very same concern. What’s the price tag, and who pays? This may eventually erode some of her support.

“Burning Bernie” – Senator Sander’s biggest assets are his passion and his anger. He can really stir a crowd! But he gets so emotional at times that some Democrats worry the tag line offered by President Trump and Rush Limbaugh, who call him “Crazy Bernie!” is right on the money. Like his soulmate Elizabeth Warren, many Democrats know Sanders can win the nomination, but they privately worry he can’t win in November.

“Mayor Pete and Repeat” – He’s a close second to Elisabeth Warren in his debate prowess, with a grade of A. He knows his message and how to deliver it clearly. He has a genuine respect from a lot of different quarters for being openly gay, and is a solid guy, too, as a military veteran who’s fought for his country. A lot of folks from all political stripes say, “I may not agree with his private life, but I can stand with a guy who wears the uniform and defends his country.” The begrudging respect he has built is huge. On the other hand, he’s 37 years old, and many fellow Democrats think he’s too young and too lean on political and life experience for this job, just yet.

“The Harris v. Gabbard Feud” – Certainly the most combative element of this past week’s debate was the explosive feud between Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii. It was intense, so look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GVY5XnSqds.
A lot of the national press has portrayed this as a “cat fight” between these two women (and office holders), who clearly don’t like or agree with each other. Gosh, if it were John McCain and Barack Obama in 2008, people would say, “These are two combative, principled, passionate politicians who are standing their ground.” Yet, when it’s two women with the same political divisions it’s a “catfight,” or they are “bitches.” It’s a sexist, and unfair double-standard.

“The Harris Harangue” -- A lot of Democrats believe Harris may drop out well before Iowa and New Hampshire. She threw a knockout punch in the first debate against Joe Biden, and then got timid when attacked in ensuing contests. The consensus is her real intent was to build capital for 2024, to perhaps succeed Trump’s second term. But her exit (and that of her nemesis Gabbard) are probably coming soon. Gabbard needs to declare for her House seat if she wants to remain on the national political stage. Harris will be just four years into her Senate term in 2020, so she’s not on the ballot again until 2024.

“The Democrats' Turtle” – Everyone on the political scene refers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as, “The Turtle!” Yes, he looks like one of the Ninja turtles, but he also gets the chops for being a slow and steady legislator. So, who is the Democrats' “turtle?” I maintain it is Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota. She had another solid, credible debate this week. And while she’s not glamorous or flashy, she exudes competence and the ability to be in charge. Those are qualities voters want if something bad happens to the boss. She’s the vice-presidential pick that would pair well with virtually every other Democrat on the presidential stage.

“Exit Stage Left” – This is a race between Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg. Everyone else has faded or is back in the weeds. Late upstarts like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Gov. Deval Patrick, are showing up an hour after the starter’s pistol fired. Others, such as wealthy, self-funded candidates Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer are fascinating with out of the box ideas, but they’ve not caught fire. And, we’ve never nominated anyone in either party below age 40, so Gabbard and Buttigieg are probably done soon, just as Eric Swalwell and the other under 40-types faded.

Who is your choice for president in 2020, and why? And have you switched? Just click the comment button to let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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