Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- March 19, 2017


(Charleston, West Virginia) -- Top o’ the mornin', readers. As many of you know, I am mostly Irish. My full name is Mark Corrigan Curtis; and, yes, I am a distant cousin of famed pilot Douglas “Wrong-way” Corrigan. My earliest relatives in the U.S. – Michael Corrigan and family - came during the Irish Potato famine in 1852. My son is Patrick Corrigan Curtis. In an offering of peace, we’ll have no serious political stuff today - just a look at some famous Irish politicians and issues. Some of today’s material is imported and updated from some of my previous St. Patrick’s Day issues. Let’s “Brunch” on some of that “corned beef” this year:

“Taste O’ the Green!” – Of the 44 U.S. Presidents, 22 claim some significant percentage of Irish ancestry. Most are a mix of nationalities, but President John F. Kennedy is the only one listed as 100% Irish. (He was the only Irish Catholic President, too). Even former President Obama has some Irish lineage on his mother’s side. I think just for one day he should change the spelling of his name to "Barack O’Bama." As for President Trump - while many people believe he looks to be of Irish heritage (maybe it’s the hair color) - he is of German and Scottish descent.

“Friends after 6 p.m.” – Two of my favorite Irish-American politicians were House Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan. They were often bitter political foes. O’Neill once said of Reagan that he was "the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House.” Reagan once compared O’Neill to the video game character Pac-Man, saying the House Speaker was "a round thing that gobbles up money." Ouch! In truth, the two wrote fondly of each other in their memoires, reflecting on nights at the White House, playing cards, sipping whiskey, and smoking cigars - all the while being “friends after 6 p.m.,” as Mr. Reagan put it. The two had a record of compromise on key issues and got a lot done together.

“The Dynasties” – Some of America’s biggest political dynasties are Irish – in whole, or in part. A redheaded 32-year-old named Joseph Kennedy III was elected to Congress in 2012, extending that family’s place in American politics into a fourth consecutive generation. Four generations of the Bush family have also held elective office in the U.S. The Bushes are part Irish. Then there is the Daley family of Chicago. Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. served a combined total of 43 years in the Mayor’s office. Richard M. Daley’s brother William was also U.S. Secretary of Commerce and White House Chief of Staff, and is still often mentioned for higher office.

“Same Family?” – As we all know, some families produce the famous and the infamous, all in the same generation. For 35 years, Billy Bulger served in the Massachusetts Legislature, the last 18 as President of the State Senate. He then went on to be President of the University of Massachusetts for seven years. Billy’s career ended when he admitted to having spoken to his infamous younger brother, James “Whitey” Bulger, a legendary Boston mobster. “Whitey,” who was "America’s Most Wanted" fugitive, was eventually captured and was convicted on murder charges. He’s serving life in prison.

“Luck o’ the Irish!” – Even today, the American political landscape is dotted with those of Irish ancestry. Former Vice President Joe Biden is mostly of Irish heritage. Former House Speaker John Boehner is Irish; and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is Irish, too. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2012, is Irish. And current U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is – well, with a name like McCarthy, what else could he be?

“Luck O’ the Irish II” – In 2014, I had the good fortune to meet Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny when he came to Rhode Island to meet with then Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI). This week, Prime Minster Kenny met with President Trump about the plight of Irish immigrants living illegally in the U.S., whom Kenny would like to see reach legal status. Kenny said: “We would like this to be sorted. It would remove a burden of so many people that they can stand out in the light and say, 'Now I am free to contribute to America as I know I can.' And that’s what people want.” To be continued!

“Irish Coffee” – Of course, if politics is not your “cup of tea,” then switch to coffee – Irish coffee. It’s been a favorite beverage of many an Irish politician, especially those who hang out at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco, where the drink was pioneered. The restaurant recently released the secret recipe: Fill a cup 3/4 full with coffee; stir in two sugar cubes; add 1 and ½ ounces of Irish Whiskey; then spoon about ¼ cup of slightly whipped cream gently on the top so it floats (photo above). This is a great drink if you love Irish politicians, or if you absolutely hate politics with a passion. (In the latter case, the beverage is used as an antidote.)

I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day weekend! As always, if you want to share your thoughts, click the comment button at
© 2017 MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.
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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- March 12, 2017


(Charleston, West Virginia) – I’ve had a lot of comments and messages in the last week regarding the Democratic Party response to President Trump’s joint address to Congress last week. Many of my readers wondered about the choice of former Governor Steve Beshear (D-KY), who gave the response. I think it’s a fair issue for discussion, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Bashing Beshear” – I’ll be honest; I thought it was an odd choice. Steve Beshear is 72 years old and a long-time Kentucky politico, who has served in various public offices since the 1970s. He was termed-out in 2016, after serving eight years as Governor. I have a lot of viewers and readers in Kentucky, so I want to make this clear: I am not criticizing Governor Beshear or his message. But isn’t he more about his party’s past, rather than its future? Actually, the answer might be a bit of both as you read on.

“Boosting Beshear” – Okay, don’t anyone accuse me of ageism, but I have a fascinating question: Why didn’t they choose Governor Beshear’s son? Andy Beshear came into office as Attorney General (D-KY) the same day his dad left office. The younger Beshear has been brash and has made headlines for successfully taking on some of the initiatives of new Governor Matt Bevin (D-KY). At the age of 39, Andy Beshear is certainly one of the faces of the future for the Democratic Party both locally and nationally. He has a long road ahead.

“Bench Strength” – I raise the issue of the Democratic Party’s future because Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is 75; former Vice President Joe Biden is 74; and former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is 69. As popular as each one once was, does any of them have the stamina for another Presidential run in 2020? Maybe; maybe not. The party has been widely criticized for not developing a “bench” much like a football or basketball franchise. The party’s future lies more with an Andy Beshear than with a Steve Beshear, and there are others of his generation we should discuss.

“Oh, No! Another Cuomo” – One of the potential Presidential candidates to keep an eye on is Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). As a practical matter, any time you can get a Democratic candidate from New York or California (or a Republican from Texas or Florida), you potentially secure a huge chunk of Electoral College votes. Yes, his dad was the late Governor Mario Cuomo (D-NY), but Andrew has compiled a long resume of his own. In the past 24 years, he has served in the Clinton cabinet and as New York Attorney General, before becoming Governor. At 59, he’s viable for at least the next two or three election cycles.

“West Coast Boast” – As mentioned, California remains a big electoral prize for Democrats. Right now, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) is the odds-on favorite to become Governor in 2018. I’ve known and covered him for the past twenty years. Yes, he’s had some scandal; but, at age 49, a lot of that is behind him. If he’s a successful Governor (and a potential replacement for Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), he has quite a long political future ahead. He’s the architect of legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States, which could cut both ways politically. Keep him on your radar screen (photo with former President Clinton above).

“Don’t Duck Duckworth” – Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is an authentic American war hero. She lost both legs and much of the use of her right arm in 2004, when the Army helicopter she was piloting during the Iraq War was shot down. When she came back stateside, she lost her first race for Congress in 2006. She was appointed at both the state and federal levels to work in veterans' affairs jobs before winning two terms in the U.S. House beginning in 2012 and then being elevated to the Senate in 2016. As a 49-year-old Asian-American with a base in a big Electoral College state, she’s a legitimate White House contender for the next 20 years.

“Castro Brothers; No, Not Those Castros” – I’ve written about them before, and they are worth keeping on your radar. Julian Castro was the Mayor of San Antonio for five years, before being named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration. His twin brother Joaquin has just started his third term in the House of Representatives. The Castro brothers are 42 years old, so they have decades of political viability. Their only downside might be their seeming inability to carry the solid red state of Texas, but these young men are on a definite watch list for national viability.

“Why All of This Matters?” – I found the Steve Beshear response to President Trump jarring – not from a political policy standpoint, but rather from a party’s strategic standpoint. Steve Beshear is part of his party’s past; his son Andy is part of the party’s future. Many of the other younger candidates I’ve spoken of here are also part of their party’s future. It’s about building a bench. Let’s face it: The 2020 Presidential campaign began November 9, 2016 – the day after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

Who is your Presidential candidate in 2020? Just click the comment button at

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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