(Providence, Rhode Island) – I celebrated another birthday this past week, and as always I reflected on the past, present and future of what I do – covering and analyzing politics. I have been doing it most of my life; so, at 54, I still have a lot to talk about.
“To Join or Not to Join” – Four years ago, on my 50th birthday, I wrote what is still one of my most widely-read columns. That week I received my first AARP card offer in the mail and asked my readers whether or not I should join. The response was very negative, with most saying I was too young. Well, now - at 54 - I received another AARP offer in the mail. For $16 a year I can join AARP and enjoy lots of discounts. For example, each time I order a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts, I will get a free donut (an 89 cent value). That means if I make 17.9 trips to Dunkin for coffee, I’ve made my membership fee back in free donuts. (Yes, I got out a calculator and did the math.) Tempting. What should I do? I am seriously considering joining.
“Lame Duck Dinner” – Speaking of food, they are now serving Lame Duck for dinner at the White House. I made this joke on a few radio shows I was on this week; but, in truth, I was trying to be more analytical than humorous. I have no idea whether President Obama has his fingerprints on all the scandals now brewing at the White House, but I do know this: Second-term scandals tend to paralyze a President. After Watergate broke in 1973, Nixon was pretty much done; after Iran-Contra was uncovered in 1986, Reagan accomplished little the rest of his term; following the Clinton Impeachment in 1998, his accomplishments were pretty much nil; and Bush II never got any traction after WMD and Katrina. I often said President Obama’s biggest accomplishment in his second term could be a bipartisan Immigration Reform bill, but that is now in jeopardy.
“It’s Not the Other Party” – Now White House Press Secretary Jay Carney blamed Republicans for all the President’s problems this week, but that’s not really why his “lame duck” status may have arrived. As with the other scandals mentioned above, the problem often lies in the President’s own party, and here’s why. The President is termed out; he can’t run again. On the other hand all Democrats in the House and over 40 percent of Democratic Senators are up for reelection next year. You are going to see many in Congress distance themselves from the White House. Their political survival may depend on it. Why would a Democrat in Congress fall on his or her sword on a controversial vote to support the White House on, say, gun control? In 1994 many moderate-to-conservative Democrats did just that and were promptly voted out of office.
“It’s Not the Other Party, Part II” – All of this could affect the next Presidential campaign, too. Hillary Clinton will not get a free pass to the nomination. A handful of other Democratic contenders will emerge, and they are likely to attack any areas of perceived weakness, such as her handling of Benghazi. Again, a lot of the Democrats' problems are going to be intraparty over the next four years, as candidates – both for Congress and the White House – jockey for position.
“On the Other Hand” – This is not to say Republicans are out of the picture. Obviously, many are already being critical of the White House. A few are calling for impeachment, which I doubt is going to happen. Internally, many in the GOP believe they overplayed their hand in Bill Clinton’s 1998-99 impeachment and that the party suffered a backlash. As a practical matter, if Republicans hold control of the House and Democrats hold the Senate, there will be no impeachment. Do the math.
“Travelin’ Man” – So what will President Obama do? Well, when many second-term Presidents get in hot water, they board Air Force One and get out of Dodge. You can expect the President to take lots of foreign trips, where he is far away both geographically and politically. And if he negotiates some treaties, he only has to get them through the Senate, as the House has no vote according to the Constitution.
“ALS” – We have a great military medical mystery in this country, and it needs to be solved. Saturday night I was with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) at the annual “Evening of Hope” fundraiser and awards dinner for the ALS Association of Rhode Island. I was stunned to learn that ALS (also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) affects military members at twice the rate that it strikes people in the general population. No one is certain why. Both lawmakers are members of the Armed Services Committee in their respective sides of Congress, so it’s an area of big concern for them. In any case, it was a wonderful event; and, if you wish to help end ALS, you can get more information at www.ALSa.org. And, for a very special story on an ALS patient we profiled on ABC6 News, go to: http://www.abc6.com/story/22286038/the-silent-speak-high-tech-gives-new-....
“KGO Radio” – Sunday, May 19, at 1 p.m. PDT or 4 p.m. EDT, I will be on KGO-Radio 810 AM in San Francisco talking politics with host Brian Copeland. If you are local, listen in live. Otherwise you can tune in from anywhere at www.KGOradio.com.
As always, I welcome your comments at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.