Mark Curtis's blog

Long Knives for Biden Mostly DEM Not GOP – Sunday Political Brunch April 7, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va.— He’s the Democratic frontrunner for president, but he finds himself in perilous trouble at the starting gate (and he hasn’t even announced his candidacy yet). Former Vice President and long-time Senator Joe Biden is beating back accusations that he acted inappropriately with women. Many wonder: Will he still run? Who is his base? And, can he still win? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Friendly Old Joe” – Joe Biden has always been a very good retail politician. He’s a back-slapper, a handshaker and a hugger. When you come from a small state like Delaware, you must be a “boots on the ground” politician greeting folks at factory gates and grocery stores alike. He always has a big smile and a gregarious nature. People called him “Uncle Joe” or “Old Joe” and he had the charm to fill the bill. So, a lot of people will look at the videos and pictures and say, “Aw, that’s just Joe being Joe!”

“A Different Generation” – The problem for Biden, is that he’s an old-school politician from a different era gone by. What worked for him in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, may not be in the political playbook today. The politics that Biden grew up in was a nearly all male, “boy’s club.” There was a pecking order. Most of elected officials were men, but many of the subordinate staffers and volunteers were women. There was a power structure and some men took advantage. But after the most recent election, Congress is basically 25-percent women, and the trend is growing. The margins are even closer in legislatures and city councils. In many of these places, women get equal pay, and share power. The behavior of the “good old boy network” had to change to reflect the shifting power dynamic.

“In Plain Sight” – There is a big difference between complaints about Joe Biden and accusations against others like Brett Kavanaugh. A lot of photos and videos of Biden’s behavior are surfacing. Some are cringeworthy, while other are innocuous (even though they make some uncomfortable). My point is the images really don’t appear overtly sexually, nor do they contain the kind of old-school quid pro quo of Washington or Hollywood, where the male attitude was often, “I’ll give you a job, but you have to sleep with me first.” So much of Biden’s behavior is in plain sight, not in a closed-door room on a casting couch. My guess is that even people who find his behavior inappropriate, may also find it forgivable.

“Trump: Pot, Kettle?” – One of the most surreal moments this week was President Trump making fun of Joe Biden for his dilemma. While Trump didn’t speak directly of Biden’s behavior, he tweeted a doctored video showing a second Joe Biden sneaking up on Joe Biden who was speaking, then massaging his shoulders and kissing the back of his head. All that President Trump said was, “Welcome back Joe!” Yes, it’s a parody, but it also reminds the public about Trump’s own misbehavior with women. As Trump famously bragged on the Access Hollywood tapes, “I just start kissing them,” adding, “I don’t even wait.” He even claimed he would, “Grab ’em by the pussy.” Trump hardly has the moral high-ground here.

"Susan Collins Weighs In” – Oddly, the defense from Republicans may be a big asset to Biden at this hour. Sen. Susan Collins, (R) Maine said, “I’ve known Joe Biden for so many years, and he is a very friendly, affectionate individual who is a natural toucher — never found him to be inappropriate,” she told reporters Tuesday.

“Lindsay Graham Weighs In” – Among the Republicans defending Biden was Sen. Lindsay Graham, (R) South Carolina, who said, “Maybe at times he’s done some things that make people feel uncomfortable, but it matters to me that what his intent is,” he said. “I just think he’s a good guy. I think he means nothing bad by this.” Graham said Biden was just a “Glad-handing politician.”

“Democrats Disqualifier” – The accusation against then Vice President came from Rep. Lucy Flores, (D) Nevada. Biden was at a campaign rally for her as she was running for lieutenant governor in 2014. Last week Flores told NPR that Biden should not run for president because of her encounter. But she said if Biden was the nominee against Trump, "That's not even a question. Of course, I would support Biden,” Flores said on CBS News. Other prominent leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D) California, says Biden should not be disqualified from a presidential run. But, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D) Massachusetts said, "I believe Lucy Flores. And Joe Biden needs to give an answer."

“Biden: In His Own Words” – Following the allegations from former Rep. Lucy Flores, (D) Nevada, Joe Biden issued a statement that reads, in part, “In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once -- never -- did I believe I acted inappropriately," he said in the statement. "If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention." He said he did not recall his public interaction with Flores, but said "we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences… "And men should pay attention," he said. "And I will."

“The Democrats Dilemma” – Democrats know they have a challenging fight to win back the White House in 2020. Trump, like him or not, is formidable after carrying the key states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin into the White House. Even if Democrats win two of those states, and all else stays the same, Trump wins a second term. Right now, the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll has the Democratic race with former VP Joe Biden 29 percent; Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I) Vermont, 22 percent; Sen. Kamala Harris, (D) California, 10 percent; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, (D) Texas, 9 percent; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D) Massachusetts, 6 percent. The other eight contenders are all polling at less than four percent each.

“The Strategy?” – I’ve said many times this is a race for the heart, soul and future of the Democratic Party. Biden and Sanders are white males in their 70s, party elders whom many on the younger generation wish would proudly walk off into the sunset. There’s a real push to put a young, progressive (read very liberal) Democrat, perhaps a female or person of color, at the top of the ticket. That may be the wish of young party insiders, but the poll hardly suggests broad public support with Biden and Sanders winning a collective 51 percent of votes. But it's very early and I suspect the numbers may change drastically, and often. Stay tuned.

Which Democrat do you feel has the best chance at winning the nomination and the White House in 2020? Just click the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chef Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, the five surrounding states, and much of the Washington, DC media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Mueller Report has people “Russian” to the Exits – Sunday Political Brunch March 31, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It may be the most anti-climactic event in my 42 years of covering American politics. The widely anticipated report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which we are told will eventually be several hundred pages long, landed with a thud on the nation’s political doorstep last weekend. There are many implications, especially for Campaign 2020, which is already upon us. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“What it Said” – “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the special counsel wrote in his four-page summary report to Attorney General William Barr.

“What it Didn’t Say” – Some folks are trying to read between the lines on additional comments from Mueller and Barr: “For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leave unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr wrote to Congress. “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’” said Barr. So, while they found nothing, and their work is done, it leaves the barndoor open for others, i.e. Congress, to keep looking.

“A Senator Weighs In” – This week I got to interview Senator Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia, for her reaction on the Mueller Report. Capito was among several Republicans who did not oppose the Russia investigation in the first place. "I was very supportive of the Special Counsel. I thought it should come to its natural conclusion which it did. And basically, what it says is that neither the President, nor his campaign, colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election, cut and dry,” said Senator Capito. She added, “I think clearly this is a time to put this topic behind us and move on in the important issues we talk about every day.”

“Full Disclosure” – As a First Amendment practitioner, I am an ardent supporter of full-disclosure and transparency. At a time reasonably soon, I would like to see the full Mueller Report made available to Congress, the public, and the press. Remember, it’s not really Mueller’s report, it is “our” report. Yes, redactions should be made in any instance where there is a national security concern, or protections in any ongoing legal matter, but what we don’t need is page after page of blacked out material. Just put it out there in the sunshine and let people evaluate for themselves.

“2020 Issue?” – There will be a lot of strategizing behind the scenes, especially by Democrats, in terms of how to frame this in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. And on the Republican side you’ll hear chants of this being complete exoneration. I would suggest, that to most voters, this issue is over. Time and time again we note that people vote on “kitchen table” issues. How is my economic well-being? Is my community and country safe? Do I have health insurance? Can we afford to send the kids to college? Yes, people also want to know that elections are fair and protected, but this report may have eased that worry. If I’m a candidate for either party for 2020, I’d stick to “bread and butter” issues.

“Bob Dole 1996” – Whether or not the Trump-Russia investigation becomes a central campaign issue in 2020 remains to be seen, but I have my doubts. Back in 1996 when Congressional Republicans were still investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton’s complicated Whitewater land deal in Arkansas, Senator Bob Dole was asked if he’d make Whitewater a big campaign issue. I’m paraphrasing him here, but Dole was blunt and said something to the effect of, “I can’t make an issue out of something you can’t explain in 30 seconds. It’s not a bumper sticker.” He was right and the same may hold true in 2020 on Russia. As a campaign issue, I don’t think it has staying power

“Impeachment Full Speed Ahead” – Despite what I say about this not being a central political issue in 2020, I fully anticipate Democrats will go full-bore with their investigations, and even start an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee. If nothing else, many Democrats are looking for “payback” on the 1998 impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. As President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “In Washington, D.C., we keep score.”

“The Big Picture” – Set your partisan politics aside for a moment. Set your love or disdain for President Trump and his Democratic opponents in Congress aside for a moment. Realize this fact: Russia clearly attempted to interfere and influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Russia also tried to manipulate and interfere in the 2018 midterm elections. And rest assured it will happen again in 2020. There is indisputable, rock-solid evidence within the cyber security and intelligence communities to back this up. A lot of the influence peddling is done on social media and the internet where it’s open season like the wild, wild west. I am among those that believe cyber-terrorism – including election meddling - is one of the greatest threats we face right now. The next big war will be fought online, not on the traditional battlefield.

What are your concerns about the 2020 election? Click the comment button on this page or email me at Mark@MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and the five surrounding states, plus most of the Washington, D.C media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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