Mark Curtis's blog

Sunday Political Brunch: What a Week It Was” -- May 28 2017


(Providence, Rhode Island) – We are on the road again this weekend, but keeping an eye on all things political. It has been another crazy week, with all kinds of odd events, so let’s “brunch” on what it all might mean:

“The Body Slam Heard ‘Round the World!’ – For once, someone else has bumped President Trump off the front page – if only for a moment. Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte (R-MT) is accused of body slamming a reporter after choking him. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of the Guardian, said Gianforte assaulted him. The account was seconded by a Fox TV crew at the scene, one of whom said, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter.” Ouch, in more ways than one. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

“It Means Nothing Nationally” -- Until this controversy erupted, this Congressional race wasn’t even on the national radar, but now it is. Once again, you have people in the national media saying this race is a “bellwether” referendum on President Trump’s agenda, as we head to the 2018 midterm elections. It isn’t, Folks. The same was said of a special Congressional election in Kansas (which the Republican candidate won) and of an upcoming special election in Georgia where the Republicans have a good shot at keeping the seat. Every race is NOT a bellwether; every race is not a referendum. Collectively, the 2018 House and Senate races will be a sign - but not some small-town Montana race in May of 2017, which Gianforte and the Republicans won anyway.

“Pick and Roll” – Politicians with “the moves” are making all the headlines this week. President Trump – in a video that has gone viral – looks as if he’s shoving a fellow NATO member, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, out of the way, maybe to get in the front row of leaders for a photo op. Who knows? But I found the video hysterical (still photo above). It’s as if Trump was yelling “shotgun” to get the best ride in the car in high school. Some reporters and commentators are way-overanalyzing the video for some sort of larger significance. Look, it was not some great international faux pas, but it was pretty damn funny. Cue the “Saturday Night Live” skit.”

“Keep Pope Alive” – This could also be a “Saturday Night Live” skit, but unfortunately the show is in summer hiatus. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is said to be fuming after he was not included in the Trump inner circle that met with Pope Francis this week. Spicer, a devout Catholic, has had a lifelong dream of meeting a Pope. He was cut from the guest list that included First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who are Jewish. You can imagine an SNL skit in which actress Melissa McCarthy, who plays “Spicey,” crashes a motorized press podium into the "Pope Mobile," carrying the Pontiff” as if in a demolition derby.

“Bipartisan Hijinks” – Just when one party seems to have the upper hand on tragic comedy, the other steps in to compete. Within the past week, former NYC mayoral candidate and Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) pleaded guilty to federal charges of sending lewd photos to a minor. Weiner – once a rising star in Congress – is off to prison. His estranged wife, Huma Abadin, was Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s “right hand lady” and would have been a top aide, or perhaps White House Chief of Staff had Mrs. Clinton won the election. Wiener’s fall from grace did not help the cause, especially after some of the classified State Department emails wound up on his computer.

“On the Upside” – Last week, I wrote about how President Trump needed to get out of Washington and to change the conversation. From the trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, NATO and Italy, he has been getting fairly high marks. To many, he looks “Presidential,” which is a quality he lacked so often during the campaign.

“On the Other Hand” – Images can turn so quickly from positive to negative. All week long, the President has been looking – well, “Presidential,” until that odd moment Thursday (mentioned above) when he seemingly pushed the other dignitary aside at NATO. It was probably meaningless; but it was funny, and the crazy moments are always going to push the good ones off the front page.

“Why All of This Matters” – Communication strategies – whether on the campaign trail or once in office – are critical to a politician’s success. Images matter. Why do you think aides to Ronald Reagan always had him against a backdrop of U.S. flags? In contrast, President Clinton was sometimes photographed holding his hand low to his abdomen during the “Pledge of Allegiance.” He looked like he was having a bout of heartburn, versus a bout of patriotism. It brought unwelcome criticism. How a President is perceived – at home, or on the international stage – matters.

What are your thoughts about President Trump’s first international trip? Just click the comment button at

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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“Sunday Political Brunch: Will This Ever End?” – May 21, 2017


(Charleston, West Virginia) – I honestly don’t know where to begin; and I honestly don’t know where this will end. This has been one of the most bizarre weeks - politically speaking – that I have every witnessed. It’s like the rain storm that never ends. There are huge implications, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Location, Location, Location” – I’ve often said in this column that when the political heat gets too high, the best things a politician can do are to change locations and to change the topics of conversation. President Trump departed the U.S. on an eight-day international trip. He’s probably hoping that will deflect public attention from some of the unfavorable coverage he has been getting here at home. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Italy are among his stops. Maybe the questions he is asked there will be about foreign relations and terrorism, but I doubt that will be all.

“My Dear Friend Boris” – I will never, ever forget President Clinton visiting Russia on September 1, 1998, during a much-ballyhooed foreign trip. Mr. Clinton was probably looking forward to knocking his impeachment scandal off the front page. As he stood next to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin, came this question from a reporter: “Sir, you were just speaking of the challenges that we face as a nation. And has the reaction since your admission of a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky caused you any -- given you any cause for concern that you may not be as effective as you should be in leading the country?” Clinton repeated his public apology and request for forgiveness, but he looked as if he wanted to crawl under the Kremlin carpet and die.

“Shut Up Already” – The worst political wounds are usually self-inflicted. I advised post-election that Donald Trump should stop his daily tweets, or at least choose his battles more carefully. He would often go on a rant about something of little consequence, and it would blow up into a big story. He’s a provocateur, and he likes to stir up trouble. Friday, on a talk-radio interview, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) echoed my sentiments. “They keep throwing gasoline on the fire, every hour of every day,” said Manchin, advising the White House to tone it down. It wasn’t only Democrats who voiced this opinion. “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House,” said Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“Nixon’s Most Famous Quote” – At the height of the Watergate scandal, President Nixon gave a speech to - of all people – a convention of newspaper editors. Nixon – like Trump – was no fan of the press. During that address, he said, “…people have got to know whether their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook.” A lot of people are comparing the current White House problems to the Nixon years, particularly after the firing of FBI Director James Comey. The two cases aren’t exactly parallel, and there are some “apples and oranges” comparisons. But the Trump investigations could become all-consuming, as happened with the Watergate and Clinton probes.

“No, No, Next Question” – On Thursday, in a joint news conference with the President of Colombia, President Trump was asked whether he had requested then-FBI-Director James Comey to drop the investigation of fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Trump responded tersely, “No, no. Next question.” Maybe we’ll get some clarity, as Comey has now agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee some time after Memorial Day. Trump has asserted that Director Comey – on three occasions – has said Trump was not the focus of the Russian election-hacking investigation. Comey has asserted there was some White House pressure to halt the Flynn-Russia probe. And now, former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed Special Counsel to lead the Russia investigation. Stay tuned!

“Why All of This Matters” – I lived through Watergate and was a student of it. I covered the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal for a full year as a reporter in Washington, D.C. In 1972, President Nixon made his breakthrough, historic trips to China and Russia; but I don’t remember a single significant accomplishment of Mr. Nixon once the Watergate scandal hit full-bore. President Clinton had very productive years from 1995 through 1997; but once the Lewinsky affair broke, the administration’s agenda came to a screeching halt. The biggest danger of the Trump-Russia-Comey mess is that little else of significance may get done in Washington for the foreseeable future.

What are your thoughts on all the new revelations – or accusations – concerning President Trump? Just click the comment button at

© 2017, Mark Curtis media, LLC.

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Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, author and analyst based on the East Coast

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