Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- May 3, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – Wow! What a week it has been in the world of politics, with Baltimore as the center of the universe. I always say, it is easy to plan political events and political posturing when everything in the world is going great; but a crisis can drastically change the landscape. Anyone can plan an anticipated event, but it’s the unplanned, spontaneous happening that will really test your political mettle. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“O’Malley Rally” – For months I have been writing about the looming Presidential campaign of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD), who was the state’s chief executive from 2007 to 2015. Prior to that, he was Mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007; and before that, was a Baltimore City Council member for eight years. In short, he has had his hand on the throttle of Baltimore and Maryland politics for 24 years. Suddenly, people are asking, “Did he do enough to promote economic development in minority communities and racial equality in his city?”

“VP Heap?” – I have been suggesting that - at the least - former Governor O’Malley had a lock on the Vice Presidential nomination, assuming Hillary Clinton won the Presidential nomination. It’s not a safe bet anymore. Maryland is now radioactive in the political sense, and with police-community relations likely to be a hot, new national issue in 2016, Mrs. Clinton may want to distance herself from O’Malley and Maryland – whether it is fair or not. Politics is politics, folks.

“Oops, She Did It Again!” – Hillary Clinton has had a knack for self-inflicted wounds over the years. Did she do it again this past week by jumping to conclusions in Baltimore? At a campaign stop, former Secretary Clinton said: “There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.” She added, “Without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be living in poverty.” Analysts have argued that her husband’s moderately tough-on-crime stances as Arkansas Governor and as President were a big political asset to him. Does she now disagree? Police unions, which widely supported Bill Clinton, may take a dim view of Hillary Clinton’s comments.

“How Important: The Politics of Race?” – There have been so many efforts to racially polarize the public in these cases. In Orlando, Trayvon Martin, who died, was black; George Zimmerman, the accused and acquitted, was half-Latino, half-white; in Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown – an African-American robbery suspect – was killed by white police Officer Darren Wilson; and in Staten Island, New York, suspect Eric Garner, who was black, died in the custody of Officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin Damico, who are white. Conversely, in Baltimore, three of the six accused officers are “people of color,” including a black female police sergeant. In Baltimore, it’s perhaps more a case of medical neglect and general negligence, than a case of race-based police brutality. Baltimore also has a black mayor, police chief, and city attorney, and a police force which reflects the city’s African-American demographic. All of this may impact the outcome of the present crisis.

“Network!” – The oddest of many scenes this week involved the Reverend Al Sharpton, a talk-show host and paid political commentator on MSNBC, acting as a press liaison for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. It got even weirder when he tried to prevent reporter Leland Vittert, of the rival Fox News Channel, from questioning her. Folks, from an ethical standpoint, you are either a member of the independent press, or you work for a partisan public official. You cannot do both! NBC has been hiding from this blatant conflict of interest involving Al Sharpton for years. You’d think - with the embarrassing Brian Williams scandal still on the front burner - that NBC would be more mindful of conflicts of interest and damage control. The “peacock’s” feathers are a mess!

“A Shared Duty” –A lot of Republicans are distancing themselves from all of this. To be sure, these are urban problems in big cities and in states run – by and large - by Democrats over the past several decades since the Civil Rights movement. Many in the GOP are saying, “It’s not our fault!” Truth be told, the GOP held the White House for 28 years since 1960, while Democrats have held it almost as long. Democrats dominated Congress from 1954 to 1994 – 40 years – before Republicans seized control, which then see-sawed between the two parties over the past two decades. As stated earlier, the public expects leaders to lead and to work for the betterment of all in society. Many in our nation feel that both parties share the blame for not fostering better race relations and more equal opportunity.

“Why All of This Matters!” -- As always, I hate to bring politics into the picture when someone has died and others are facing criminal charges. It just feels unseemly. But part of politics is the public assessment of whether leaders did a good job at what we hired them to do – to lead. Some leaders, such as the current Mayor of Baltimore, have come under harsh criticism for not acting quickly and decisively enough. As voters, we wonder whether potential future leaders, including the President, will do a better job. As I always say, every public policy decision has a political consequence.

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© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- April 26, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – Former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton paid a trip to New Hampshire this past week, her first visit since formally announcing her candidacy for President of the United States. The Granite State was a redemptive factor for her in 2008, as it was for her husband Bill Clinton back in 1992. New Hampshire was a positive, pivotal point for both of their campaigns. That got me to thinking, “What is former President Clinton’s role in his wife’s 2016 bid for the White House?” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“WWBCD” – That stands for “What would Bill Clinton do?” First, I am not trying to mock the popular religious saying; instead, I am trying to channel it in the political realm. Like him or not, Bill Clinton remains a very popular figure in this country. Aside from Ronald Reagan, he is the only other President in my lifetime (and there have been ten) who could have won a third term if not for the 22nd Amendment. Let’s be clear: It’s Hillary’s race to win or lose, and she must be the driving force. But he could certainly be an “x-factor”.

“Knock, Hello? Anyone Home?” -- The fact that Hillary Clinton has no viable opponents right now puts her on the glide path to an easy nomination. That may sound like a blessing; it is not! Without primary opponents there are no debates; there is little spark of controversy; and, consequently, there is little room for her in the headlines. The Republicans look as if they are going to have a “Battle Royale,” so they will garner the vast majority of the press attention. Bottom line: "Out of sight, out of mind" is not a high-profile strategy.

“Invite Opponents” – Here is my boldest strategy suggestion to date. Bill Clinton should meet quietly with former Governor Martin O’Malley, and plead with him to join the race. He should even suggest that O’Malley criticize Hillary on some issues (and, indeed, O’Malley has already pointed out some areas where they disagree). Mrs. Clinton needs a foil in the primaries, as a boxer needs a sparring partner for months before a championship fight. I would also suggest that former President Clinton “invite” Vice President Joe Biden to join the race, too; but I think Biden will find a way there on his own.

“Stir the Pot!” – I know I sound as if I am trying to provoke a Clinton vs. O’Malley fight, and to some extent I am. I have been predicting here for months that former Secretary Clinton would pick O’Malley as her running mate, and I stick to that. Believe it or not, a feisty intraparty fight has little downside. In 1980, George H.W. Bush called Ronald Reagan’s budget ideas “voodoo economics.” Despite that caustic attack, which many of us remember to this day, Bush got the VP nod for eight years and then became President in his own right. It also paved the way for one son – and now possibly another – to become President. That’s the kind of dynasty the Clintons hope to create as well!

“Divest the Foundation” – At some point – and it’s already simmering – the Clintons need to address the issue of the Clinton Foundation. Look! It’s well intended and does a lot of good work, but some contributions by wealthy donors and foreign countries gave the feeling of “quid pro quo” while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State. Maybe the Clintons should turn the foundation over to a blind trust, or pick a bipartisan board of directors to run it until further notice. Another idea might be to stop taking any contributions for the foreseeable future, but donate the accumulated interest each year, without touching the principle. Anyway, it’s a headache they need to deal with.

“Don’t Let Her Be ‘Gored’” – Bill Clinton should campaign for his wife all over the country, but particularly in the South and in minority communities. Al Gore made the fatal mistake of not accepting Bill Clinton’s offer to campaign in those constituencies. Had President Clinton done so, it’s possible Gore might have won Tennessee or Arkansas - either one of which would have put Gore in the White House regardless of what happened in Florida. This time Bill Clinton could help keep Virginia and North Carolina blue; and he could be a big power broker in Florida and - yes - maybe even in Arkansas.

“Be a Norman Rockwell Painting!” – One thing Bill Clinton could do is be a more frequent part of the family portrait. It will be critical for him to be in lots of photo ops with his wife, daughter Chelsea and son-in-law Marc, as well as the Clintons' grandchild. Voters love family-centric candidates regardless of party, but the Clintons have been challenged in this area, to say the least. It’s never too late to recreate their public image; and - as we know - in politics, real or perceived images matter.

“The Steady Hand of Leadership” – This will sound like a complete contradiction, because Bill Clinton was elected President in his mid 40s, becoming one of our country’s youngest Commanders-in-Chief. However, this time he might attack the GOP candidates for being too young and inexperienced. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) are all still in their 40s. The Clintons – now both in their late 60s – could campaign on being the steady hand of experience. It would be a Houdini-like trick, but I bet the Clintons could pull it off.

“Why He Wants the White House So Badly” – I spent a lot of time covering Bill Clinton as he campaigned for his wife in 2008. At first, people questioned his motives and their relationship: Do they really love each other, or is this just a political business arrangement? I spoke with him a few times (photo above) and covered many rallies – some at which she was present but mostly where he was on his own. I have never seen a more passionate campaigner in my career. Hands down, he truly believes she’d be a great President; and he really wants to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue again. Yes, some of it is about influencing the world’s power structure again; but much of it is about Bill Clinton’s legacy, too. If she wins, he wins! It will be fascinating to watch as his role unfolds.

What do you think Bill Clinton’s role should be in Campaign 2016? Let us know your comments by clicking the comment button at

© 2015 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: MCM

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