Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- May 25, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – It’s Memorial Day weekend, and while it will be marked with barbecues, parades and auto racing, let’s not forget the real meaning of the holiday – to honor and remember our nation’s war dead. Memorial Day has had a fascinating history, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Changing Times” – Believe it or not, the modern Memorial Day of always celebrating on the last Monday in May, has only been around since 1971. Congress and the President moved four national holidays to Monday, to provide for a 3-day weekend. Prior to that, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30th, no matter the day of the week.

“Northern Traditions” – Decoration Day – as it was first known – has origins in the North and the South. Both traditions stemmed from all the deaths on both sides in the Civil War (over 600,000 in total). In the North, Waterloo, New York is cited as the birthplace of Memorial Day. In the summer of 1865, Union General John B. Murray – at the suggestion of a local group - helped create the day to honor those killed in the war.

“Southern Crosses” – In May of 1865, a group of people – many of them African-American – decided to decorate the graves of hundreds of soldiers killed on both sides of the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina. Historians can’t really pinpoint who exactly created the first Memorial Day, since it was celebrated in different ways, at different places, in approximately the same time frame. But clearly, good people with good intentions – on both sides of the Civil War – felt a virtually simultaneous need to remember and honor their war dead. The fact that a still bitterly divided nation – both geographically and racially – found this same sense of duty is just utterly profound and speaks volumes about all that is right about our country.

“Tomb of the Unknowns” – The most hallowed ground in the nation is the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. It was originally conceived to house the remains of an unidentified World War I soldier. Later, unidentified remains of a World War II, a Korean War, and a Vietnam War service member were also interred. In 1998, the Vietnam solider was positively identified. It is now likely – through modern DNA testing – that we will never have to bury an “unknown” solider ever again.

“Names Have Meanings” – I always found the “Tomb of the Unknowns” haunting. On the numerous times I visited when I worked in Washington, DC, I always thought of a family – somewhere across America – still grief stricken because their loved one was never identified and brought home. What a hole in their heart that must be. Yet, I think it was a stroke of genius to honor the unknown soldier. That meant our nation never forgot. I got to cover the identification of the last Vietnam War unknown service member in 1998. He was Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, killed in action at the age of 24 (photo above). His plane was shot down in 1972. Twenty-six years later, his remains were exhumed from the Tomb, identified, and sent for burial at a family gravesite in Missouri. This must have brought some sense of closure and great comfort to his loved ones. Let’s never forget his name or his service.

“Holiday Confusion” – There has always been confusion over the exact meaning of two similar holidays. Veterans Day now honors all of those who served in our nation’s military, especially during times of war and conflict. Memorial Day is to honor all those Veterans who died in service to the country.

“It’s Never to Late to Say, Thank You!” – On Saturday I was walking into a local pharmacy and a very feeble and frail older gentleman came walking out, clearly struggling. He was wearing a cap that said, “World War II Veteran.” He was parked next to me. When I offered to help him put his things in the car, he appeared to ignore me. Then when I simply said, “Thank you for serving our country,” he looked at me with a puzzled expression. Then he pointed to his ears and mouth, and shook his head side to side, signaling no. I gathered it was his way of telling me he was deaf and could no longer speak. He had to be 90 or older. I pointed to his cap, and again said “Thank you!” His face lit up with a big smile and I could tell he had read my lips! God bless him!

“How You Can Help!” – The best way to honor those who’ve died in service to our country is to help those veterans who are still living and are in need. On the West Coast I am involved in promoting the “Sentinels of Freedom” www.SentinelsOfFreedom.org and on the East Coast I support “Operation Stand Down Rhode Island” www.OSDRI.org.

While this is a weekend where we honor those who died for our country, when you see a veteran over the holiday, remember to thank them. If you have any Memorial Day remembrances, just post them at the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: U.S. Department of Defense

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- May 18, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush dropped a hint Saturday that he may not be done with politics. In a college graduation speech in Pennsylvania he told the students, "If you feel inspired to serve your fellow citizens, don't let the ugliness of politics keep you from pursuing public office.” It has really stirred up the political chatter, especially if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, posing a Bush-Clinton presidential rematch of 1992. Let’s “brunch” on that today:

“Bush Fatigue versus Clinton Fatigue” – There are plenty of people in both parties – and more importantly among the public at large – who have had their fill of the Bushes and the Clintons. Yet, both are viable, and will attract lots of money, volunteers and media buzz if they choose to run. So as much as some complain about “Bush and Clinton fatigue” the polls indicate potentially significant support for both candidacies. Who has the advantage? I’d call this fatigue-factor a tie. Advantage: Neutral.

“One for the Ages” – On Election Day in 2016, Jeb Bush will be 63 and Hillary Clinton will be 69. Presuming they are both in good mental and physical health, this should not be a factor. Sixty-nine used to be considered on the outer reaches of electability, but that ended with Ronald Reagan. Again, age is probably not a factor in this race. Advantage: Neutral.

“The Sunshine State” – One place where the “Bush factor” could be a big advantage is in the state of Florida, where he was twice elected Governor. Perhaps more importantly, Bush won the Hispanic vote in both elections. The point is, he could put Florida and its 29 Electoral College votes back in the Republican column for the first time since 2004. But, the Clinton name can’t be underestimated in Florida – where Bill Clinton won the state in 1996. But keep in mind, in 12 of the last 13 elections, whoever won Florida became President. The state is that important to the whole puzzle. Advantage: Bush.

“Gender Politics” – If there are two things we like in American politics, it is “new” and “different.” Yes, I know Hillary Clinton is hardly new to the scene, but she has the first legitimate shot to become the first female President. Being the first Catholic was a boost to John Kennedy, just as being the first African-American was a boost to Barack Obama. A lot of women, (and many men, too), would like to see the first woman in the White House. Remember, too, women vote in much higher numbers than men. Advantage: Clinton.

“The Pendulum Swings” – If history is any indication, the advantage may be more to a party, that to a person. In most elections where one party has held the White House for eight years, the other party usually wins the succeeding election. So we had a Democrat from 1993 to 2001; a Republican from 2001 to 2009; and now a Democrat from 2009 to 2017. There have been six of these eight-year pendulum swings in my lifetime, and only once has the party in power kept the White House. That being when George H.W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1988. Advantage: Republicans.

“The Resume Battle” – These are seasoned American political families. They are pros. They are cunning and calculating. Both candidates are experienced and qualified to be President. But does one have a perceived advantage? Hillary Clinton was first Lady for eight years; a U.S. Senator for eight years; and Secretary of State for four years. Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida for eight years. I always thought Jeb Bush could have rounded out his resume by running for U.S. Senate in Florida after he termed out as Governor, but he took a pass. He has spent significant time in the private sector, so he may try to leverage that. Advantage: Clinton.

“The Hispanic Factor” – As mentioned earlier, Bush’s popularity among Hispanics in Florida could help him win the Sunshine State. He may also do well in Texas, where his brother George was also popular among Hispanic voters. But Democrats have done considerably better with Latinos in California, and in key swing states such as New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. Nationally in 2012, President Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote. So, Bush must do better with the Latin vote outside of Florida and Texas, to win the White House. Advantage: Clinton.

“The Beer Poll” – The “likeability” factor will be key. That quadrennial poll that asks, “Which candidate would you like to join for a beer?” is a good barometer. Bush is a much better public speaker than his older brother and has exhibited more charm and personality. Anyone assuming he’ll be “George W. Lite” would be making a serious miscalculation. Hillary Clinton has always had a likability problem, but has added some self-deprecating barbs to her stump speech that show more personality emerging. I know – nuclear war and global economics are far more important issues – all I am saying is, personality matters. Advantage: Bush.

“Primary Colors” – Right now, Hillary Clinton has cleared the deck, and may not have any serious primary challengers. She has a stranglehold on money and manpower, unless she opts out. Even if another Democrat challengers her, it may end fast. On the other hand, there are at least ten prominent Republicans who have a realistic shot at the nomination, especially in a crowded, divided field. A bruising and expensive GOP primary season could sap the party’s money and unity, leaving it wounded for a November general election. Advantage: Clinton.

“Why All This Matters” – A Bush-Clinton rematch would be historic. It would garner even more media coverage than ever before (if that’s possible). I believe it would be a fun and engaging election that might get better press and public scrutiny. It would be like the Ali-Frazier showdown of politics.

Who do you think has the upper hand, Clinton or Bush? Just click on the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com and let me know!

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ABCnews.com

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