Mark Curtis's blog

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

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

Of Political Turning Points - Sunday Political Brunch March 4, 2018

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CHARLESTON, WV -- Some of the most fascinating times in politics are when longstanding issues and viewpoints change. The liberal Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) once said of conservative Senator Storm Thurmond (R-SC), "If Strom Thurmond and I ever vote the same way on a bill, either one of us made a mistake, or it's an idea whose time has come." Let's "brunch" on some political turning points this week.

"Not 'Sticking to Your Guns'"- President Donald Trump departed with a lot of fellow Republicans this week when he indicated he could support some limited gun control measures. "We're going to do strong background checks. We're going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. We're getting rid of the bump stocks. And we're going to be focusing strongly on mental health," said President Trump, who promised to work with Democrats. To many on the GOP and NRA side, this is heresy. Yet, for Trump it's an option to be bipartisan and show that he owes no one in Washington, DC any favors. It's a fascinating turn of events, but not a guarantee any laws or policies will change.

"Who are the Change Agents?" -- As I said in last week's column, the change agents in the gun debate could be our youngest citizens (just as they were for marriage equality). Most of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, are on the verge of voting age. They and their cohorts from across the nation will march on Washington on March 24. Alphonso Calderon, a student an Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said of the recent fatal shootings there, and gun control, “Everybody needs to remember, we are just children. A lot of people think that disqualifies us from even having an opinion on this sort of matter…This matters to me more than anything else in my entire life." Will gun laws and policies change? This could be a turning point.

"Trump Trumps Trump" -- The President has other opportunities for turning points. For months I've said DACA was the likely place where he could work with Democrats and find a path to legal status for immigrants brought be illegally as children by their parents. I ultimately believe he will accomplish that, but for now it's on the back-burner. Trump had great victories with a Supreme Court nominee and a tax reform bill, but those were solely done with GOP support. Much of his future success may be based on how well he can work with the other side of the aisle.

"LBJ and Civil Rights" -- In my opinion, President John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy get more of the credit then they really deserve for passage of major civil rights legislation. To be sure, they were key players, but the guy who often got the ball across the goal line was President Lyndon Johnson. As a Texan, Johnson was able to persuade other southern Democratic Senators to change their views on civil rights. It's hard to imagine liberals from Massachusetts having that same clout.

"Losing Hope" -- President Trump had a personal turning point this week, when White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigned. Hicks was a personal friend of Trump's daughter Ivanka, who then became a close campaign confidant to Trump, and continued that role in the White House. Many Presidents choose personal friends to be advisors, in addition to adding seasoned Washington pros. But Hicks was entangled in some of the Russia investigation and in the controversy and resignation of her former boyfriend, White House Secretary Rob Porter. It's tough when a President and close friend must part ways. I think of President Clinton and his life-long friend Mack McClarty, who did not work out well as White House Chief of Staff.

"Aid for AIDS" -- One of the big successes for President George W. Bush was providing billons in foreign relief for AIDS victims and prevention efforts in Africa. Bush saw AIDS - not only as a health issue - but a national security issue as well. If countries in Africa decimated by AIDS weakened and fell into the hands of Al-Qaeda or its sympathizers, then our enemies could establish a growing base. Fighting AIDS overseas was smart. Former President Bill Clinton once said that he wished he could have done as much for AIDS in Africa, as his successor did.

"Labor Pains" -- I've been covering one of the biggest stories in the nation this week, the statewide teacher strike in West Virginia, where classrooms have been idled in all 55 counties. Pay and health insurance benefits are the big issues. Organized labor in the Mountain State has taken big hits the last two election cycles. A Right-to-Work law was passed, and the prevailing wage for union workers was abolished. Many labor-backed candidates lost. But now, the teachers and their supporters are emboldened. They've been on strike for seven school days, with no end in sight. They've already secured a five-percent pay raise in the House of Delegates, which is supported by Governor Jim Justice. This could be huge turning point for organized labor, if the State Senate goes along.

"Obama in History" - Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of President Barack Obama's terms in the fact that he was the first African-American sent to the White House. Forty years ago, that would have been unthinkable. But his election showed the country had changed in many ways. First, states such as California have minority-majority populations. That means minorities - in total from all group - now outnumber the Caucasian population. That shifts the power base. The other intriguing thing about the Obama election is that more white Americans voted for Obama in 2008, than voted for Democratic nominees Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. Again, it's a significant power shift, and a huge change in viewpoints about race.

Do you have a favorite or memorable political turning point in your life? Please click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally known political reporter, analyst and author based in West Virginia

(c) 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: WhiteHouse.gov

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