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The Potential Potholes and Pitfalls of Impeachment – “The Sunday Political Brunch” - October 13, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – All the clamor from Washington, D.C. over impeachment is raising a lot of questions and concerns. As someone who covered President Clinton’s impeachment from gavel-to-gavel and was riveted to TV during President Nixon’s impeachment hearings, I have some perspective I’d like to share. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“What’s Getting Done?” – Congressional action – like the way we budget time in our own lives – is a series of choices. Time is finite, so when we say we want to pursue Agenda A and Agenda B, then we might be eliminating time and resources to address Agendas C and D. This was a huge argument in Bill Clinton’s impeachment, when the Nation’s Capital came to a grinding halt and seized up completely in the impeachment investigation.

“Times They Are a’ Different” – In 1974, President Nixon had already been reelected to a second term and would never appear on the ballot again. The same is true for President Clinton in 1998. Not so, for President Trump, who will be on the ballot in 2020 for reelection. The perspective here may cut a number of ways. First, the entire process may appear entirely political. House Democrats are already pushing for a vote by Christmas knowing they have the numbers to impeach, even though the Senate has the numbers to keep Trump from being expelled from the White House. Is this all just to taint his reelection campaign? That will be the accusation. Bet on it!

“What Have You Done for Me Lately” – It’s important to think about why Trump was elected in the first place. His top issue was immigration reform. Let’s face it, official Washington – both Democrats and Republicans alike – have refused to confront the illegal immigration problem in any serious way. They may nibble around the edges but no historic reforms are near. If impeachment goes forward, immigration reform will not. In fact, most other legislation and a host of issues, will come to a grinding halt, just as they did in the Nixon and Clinton cases. Impeachment simply sucks all the oxygen out of the room in Washington. Democrats will say Trump is an impeached president; Republicans will blame the House for being a “do-nothing Congress.” Tit-for-Tat here we come!

“The Finger-Pointing Game” – In 1998-99 when I was covering the Clinton impeachment, I can’t remember any bills of significance being passed. Republicans were accused of being a “do-nothing” Congress. The majority of the public – while outraged by Clinton’s personal indiscretions – did not believe it warranted removal from office. Republicans, who were criticized by many as overplaying their hand, lost five seats in their House Majority and Speaker Newt Gingrich had to walk the gang-plank, and was ousted by his own caucus.

“Same Song; Different Verse” – Quite honestly, Democrats in 2020 could face the same peril as Republicans in 1998. If you are perceived to be wasting a lot of time and money on what may be a partisan attack, and little else gets done, you could face the wrath of voters who want action on all kinds of issues from immigration reform, to Obamacare fixes.

“What’s the Rush?” – Many Democrats want to conduct impeachment hearings and have a vote by Christmas. That’s fast. From a purely political, tactical. perspective why not run it low and slow and deep into the 2020 campaign cycle and keep in on the front pages? With enough votes to impeach in the House, but not enough to remove in the Senate, Trump could spin this as a major political victory on New Year’s Day. “Democrats tried to take me out, but they failed,” he could say which might rally his base.

“The Power of Voter Anger” – Remember that Trump’s election had a great deal to do with voting against the status quo. And in the states where he surprisingly won such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, he appealed to a lot of those so-called “Reagan Democrats” who felt ignored by their own party. Impeachment may inflame, rather than placate the passions of those voters.

“Overview” – When I covered the Clinton impeachment of 1998-99, I ran into an incredible number of people in both parties who thought it was a colossal waste of time and money. Republicans went into the problem knowing they easily had enough votes for a House impeachment but were sure to lose in the Senate which required a two-thirds vote for expulsion. We face the very same math today and woe to the politicians on the bubble facing voters in 2020.

“A Huge Difference” – In 1974 and in 1998, the House held a largely symbolic, yet important vote, to call for an impeachment inquiry. I say symbolic, because the House Speaker – as Nancy Pelosi has done this year – has the power to call an inquiry without a vote of the rank and file. The symbolic votes on Nixon and Clinton were largely to show consensus. Yet in 2020 there are a significant number of Democrats in the House, who were elected in 2018, in districts Trump won in 2016. Democrats are very protective and trying to save those seats in an act of political self-preservation. It’s a move that could backfire when members currently sitting on their hands must cast a “yay” or “nay” vote.

Are you for or against impeachment, and why? Just click the comment button and let us know.

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

© 2019 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

The Ever-Evolving Presidential Campaign Changes Again – “Sunday Political Brunch” - October 6, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Just when it seemed like the presidential campaign was getting stagnant, there are a whole bunch of new twists and turns. After three rounds of debates, former Vice President Joe Biden was holding a steady lead, but all a sudden things are in flux, on many fronts. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Sanders Health Scare” – Senator Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont was taken to a Las Vegas hospital this week after some alarming discomfort in his chest. After tests were done, there was blockage in an artery of his heart and two stents were inserted. His campaign says he’s off the trail until further notice, but remember the next big debate is in Ohio on October 15th. Everyone responds differently to this - and on a personal note - I had similar surgery in June on a Friday and was back at work Monday. I’m 18 years younger than Sanders, but he’s a passionate energetic guy, and I fully anticipate he’ll make the debate.

“Is This the Age of the Senior?” – Bernie Sanders is 78, the oldest candidate in the race. But this is the most senior field the nation has ever pondered. Joe Biden is 76, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts is 70. President Trump is 73. Some people thought Ronald Reagan was too old to be president being elected at the age of 69 and re-elected four years later. Look, people are living longer, and modern medicine has more treatments and medicines. If candidates appear physically healthy and mentally sharp, I don’t think age will be an issue. Remember that those born in the “baby boom” generation are now between 55 and 73 years old and are not inclined to be fans of age discrimination. Competence, not age, will define this issue.

“The Warren Bounce” – In my opinion, Senator Warren has been the most solid and consistent performer through all three rounds of debates. She’s been steady as she goes. Now that’s not an endorsement of her policies and positions, but rather an assessment of her performance on a crowded stage, with a lot of grenades being lobbed. She can throw a punch and take a punch.

“What Say the Polls?” – The polls are starting to shift, and in some cases dramatically. I believe it has a lot to do with Warren’s three solid debate performances. She’s about the only candidate where you can say, “She had a really good night,” at all the debates. The Real Clear Politics national composite poll now has it Biden 26.1 percent, Warren 24.4 and Sanders at 16.7. More striking – since there's no national primary – is what we are seeing in the first two primary/caucus states. Warren has surged ahead in Iowa with 23 percent, to 20.3 percent for Biden, and Sanders at 12 percent. In New Hampshire Biden still leads with 23.2 but Warren is at 21 and Sanders at 17.2 Biden and Sanders have been losing support, while Warren is gaining.

“Impeach This!” – I am trying to get my arms around the political strategy of impeachment right now, as a tactical campaign issue. I’ve left the Constitutional and legal issues up to others for now, while I assess tactics. Democrats seem in a hurry, many even wanting a vote by December. This whole thing could be over by Christmas, with the House impeaching, but the Senate acquitting. Call me crazy but wouldn’t the Democrats want to drag this out, at least through the primary season which ends around June 1? That keeps it on the front pages, especially while people are out campaigning and debating. If you dispatch it too fast, the public may snooze. In that vein, let me talk about “Exhibit A.”

“Exhibit A: The Power of Prominence” – In early October 2016, the infamous “Access Hollywood” tapes were released. Like many other political analysts, I thought Trump was done and would lose by a significant margin. The story was huge for a few days but then faded from prominence. Yes, it was shocking to hear Trump talk about kissing and grabbing the private parts of women he barely knew. But in the 24-hour news cycle, many stories have the shelf-life of a loaf of bread and go stale within days. That is not to minimalize the significance of sexual improprieties, which is quite a serious issue. But I think many Democrats assumed Trump was done as well, and they did not hammer home this point and drive a nail in his political coffin. By the time a full month had passed, the story faded and he escaped like a political Houdini.

“The Next Debate!” – The next Democratic debate is in Westerville, Ohio, near Columbus on October 15th. There will be 12 candidates on stage making it the largest faceoff yet. By the way, keep an eye on Senator Sherrod Brown (D) Ohio. This is a key swing-state and a must-win for Republicans to keep the White House. Brown has got to be on the vice-presidential short list for any potential presidential nominee.

Is your support for any candidate shifting? If so, who are you leaving, and who are you now backing? Just click the comment button.

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

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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