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A 'Topsy-Turvy' White House -- Sunday Political Brunch - March 18, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s been a topsy-turvy week at the White House, with another big departure and the return of a familiar face. Is the President steering the ship on the right course? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Rexit” – The departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after 14 months is not a surprise. He and President Trump seemed an odd fit at the start. Yes, Tillerson - like Trump - had tremendous international business experience as the CEO of Exxon, which is why he leap-frogged over more qualified candidates. But his political experience – like Trump’s – was nil. Of course, the head of any major international oil company is going to put him on the stage with many foreign leaders and that was an asset. I had been predicting that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley would succeed Tillerson, but she’s been at odds with Trump at times, who picked CIA Director Mike Pompeo instead.

“Intelligence is Everything” – I am intrigued by the choice of Pompeo. But elevating the CIA Director to State tells me something is in the offing. Giving the daily intelligence briefing, Pompeo has Trump’s ear. It makes we wonder if they know of a major terrorism plot on the horizon. It’s been nearly 17 years since the 9-11 attacks. A lot of the weaponry – especially cyberterrorism - has changed. I hope I’m wrong, but I wonder if they are on the verge of trying to stop a major attack, and that’s why he leap-frogged over Haley.

“Larry, to the Contrary” – Economist Larry Kudlow has accepted the nomination to be Chairman of the National Economic Council. Kudlow, a media savvy, business news pundit is widely known and respected, and is close to Trump. The one thing that may save this “out-of-the-box” (okay, weird Presidency), is that the economy – for now – is steaming along very well. Trump is no different than any other President. As Ronald Reagan famously asked in the 1980 campaign, “Are you better off today, then you were four years ago?” Most people said no and Reagan won in a crushing landslide. If the U.S. economy keeps cooking, Trump could have a second term if he wants one, despite all the controversy that surrounds him.

“Oh, Oprah” – People scoff at the idea of Orpah Winfrey running for President of the United States. I believe she has serious shot. Here’s why. She’s a self-made billionaire; she’s media savvy and loves the spotlight; she has a genuine consistency with groups of people who feel they have no voice; she’s not a professional politician; and, she’s both loved and loathed depending on who you ask. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar? Yes, she and Trump share a similar resume (though there are lot of differences, too). Both have appeal beyond traditional candidates in their own parties. "Oh, I'd love Oprah to win," Trump said. "I'd love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness." I’m telling you she has a legitimate chance.

“PA Congress” -- If the razor thin margin of victory holds, Democrat Conor Lamb will be the new Congressman in Western Pennsylvania. It’s a traditionally Republican district that Donald Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. But caution to those who interpret this as a national trend. This marks the second time Democrats have won a special Congressional election since the 2016 election, while Republicans won five. So, to those who interpret this as national anti-Trump trend, I say do the math. On the other hand, Republicans - who had a 5 to 0 run before the Alabama and Pennsylvania special elections - I say momentum can be a cruel foe. 2018 is getting interesting!

“Stormy Daniels” – I must tell you, I think the President’s sex scandal is drawing big yawn nationally, based on comments to my article last week. If President Trump had an affair with the porn star in 2006 - long before he was President – few of my readers seems to care. As I always say, if the economy is cooking, and national security seems good, the public doesn’t care about indiscretions. Former President Bill Clinton is “Exhibit-A” and President Trump seems to be riding in the same canoe.

“He’s No Snow-Flake” -- “I do think the president will have a challenge from the Republican Party, I think there should be,” Senator Jeff Flake said. “I also think that there will be an independent challenge, particularly if the Democrats insist on putting somebody up from the far left of the party.” Might one of those candidates be retiring Senator Jeff Flake, (R) Arizona. My gut says yes, and that spells trouble. In my lifetime any sitting President challenged for re-nomination from within his own party, was ousted. The list includes Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush. Watch out!

“End of Teacher Strike” – The nine-day statewide teachers strike I covered in West Virginia is now over. Teachers and all other state employees received a five-percent pay raise. Inspired by the massive walkout, teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma considered similar job actions. Will this have a surge for Democrats nationwide who support organized labor? It was a huge win, but can the momentum be sustained in 2018? The teachers chanted loudly, “We’ll remember in November!” outside the House and Senate Chambers. This bears watching as a potential national trend.

“Student Walk Out” – The nationwide student walkout over gun control was extraordinary this week. As I pointed out in recent weeks since the mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Broward County, Florida, the times may be-a-changin’ when it comes to gun control issues. The key to this issue is momentum and voter turnout. Typically, young voters ages 18 to 30 don’t turnout. They were huge for Barack Obama in 2008, but many vanished by 2012 and 2016. Will they be back in 2018, and 2020? My gut tells me yes, but they must be vocal and active through the election cycle. They can’t just march on Washington, March 24, and then go home. As mentioned above, success in politics is about seizing momentum.

Your thoughts? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis Ed.D., is a nationally-award winning political author reporter, and analyst, He is presently Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the five bordering states and the District of Columbia.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Could Trump’s Erosion Become a Political Avalanche? -- Sunday Political Brunch March 11, 2018

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CHARLESTON, West Va. – President Trump has had some bad weeks since moving into the White House, but this may be one of the worst. Amid staff resignations, plus personal and legal controversies, a politician never likes to see this stuff especially in a challenging mid-term election. Voters won’t just be electing many Senate and House members in November, they will also be expressing the national mood on the Trump Presidency so far. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“’Stormy’ Weather” – Washington, D.C. loves scandal, especially a sex scandal (whether true or not). There’s even a popular network TV show called, “Scandal.” When Watergate and the Clinton impeachment replaced fictional soap operas with real soap operas the public tuned-in in droves. So, when a porn star named “Stormy Daniels” now claims she had an affair with then citizen Trump in 2006, the news and social media went nuts. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen says he paid Daniels $130,000 dollars of his own money to sign a non-disclosure agreement, ten days before Trump was elected President. Now the deal has gone south. This is probably going nowhere politically, but as always stay tuned for the entertainment value!

“Another Cohn Brother Controversy!” – No, not the Coen Brothers of movie fame (you know, Fargo, etc.) This week Michael Cohen was joined in the headlines by his “Trump-brother” Gary Cohn, who was the President‘s top economic advisor. Of course, they aren’t real brothers, and don’t even spell their names the same, but I couldn’t resist. Anyway, Gary Cohn resigned from the Trump administration because he does not support the President’s tariffs on imported steel, and the trade wars that might result. The President has lost another key advisor in a now long series of departures from the West Wing. The financial markets were not pleased and dropped. But by Friday, a new report showed 313,000 new jobs created in February and the markets once again soared!

“Keep Hope Alive!” – It’s bad enough President Trump lost his Communications Director and close confidant Hope Hicks last week. Now is he on the path to losing Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, too? Trump is said to be upset with Sanders for how she answered a question about porn star Stormy Daniels’ legal claim against him. Sanders said an arbitration regarding the Daniels case was won, "In the President’s favor.” That was an admission that the nondisclosure agreement with the President exists, marking the first time the White House acknowledged the President was involved somehow with Daniels – despite previous denials. Ouch!

“The Tweet Sessions” – President Trump continues to whack Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, though Sessions remains publicly loyal to the President. Trump tweeted his frustration: “Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren't they the subject of the investigation?" Trump asked. "Why didn't Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren't Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Session!" Truth be told Sessions has the safest job in Washington right now. Trump firing him would be a disaster. The late Attorney General Janet Reno got under the skin of the Clinton White House, but they had no choice by to keep her!

“Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” – The “New York Times” reported this week that the President had questioned a number of people who have spoken to investigators in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Some of it was mundane like Trump asking then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus if Mueller’s team was “nice” to him. The Times says two people were questioned by Trump about their statements to investigators. Look the case is radioactive. The last thing the President needs is any suggestion of witness tampering. It goes to his undisciplined nature. I am sure the White House Counsel’s Office told him explicitly to not discuss any issues with potential targets or witnesses, but he did it anyway. Unlike some of his “loose cannon” tweets, this could be legally serious.

“Postcards from the Edge of North Korea” – As the week ends, President Trump has apparently accepted an invitation to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for discussions about that country’s nuclear program, and presumably U.S. sanctions. While it’s not as pioneering as Nixon going to Russia and China in the 1970s, it does have the potential to be a breakthrough for the embattled President. A lot of people both domestically and overseas would rather see a peaceful solution to the tensions with the North rather than the United States being provoked to blowing Un and North Korea off the map. It could be a turning point for Trump.

“Why All of this Matters” – Late last year I wrote a column clearly indicating that Trump had far more top-ranking departures than any other President since 1960. A revolving door at the White House is not a sign of stability and does not engender confidence amongst the public, or the financial markets (where up until now Trump had been performing strongly). 2018 is an election year, and we’re about to head into a busy primary season, and then on to November. Republicans want a show of stability, normalcy, and reliability from the White House. Anything short of that could turn the steady erosion in the White House staff, into a Democratic political landslide in November.

If you had to give President Trump one bit of advice, what would it be? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author now based at the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virgin and five surrounding states.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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