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A Political Hodge-Podge of Government Shutdown Stuff -- Sunday Political Brunch January 20, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – This has been a weird week in politics, but what week isn’t? Yet, this has exceeded the “outer limits” on both sides of the aisle. Once again, they are playing, “Tit for Tat politics,” in Washington, D.C. Can anyone get anything done? Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“Pelosi, ‘No State of the Union!’” – The week began with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) California saying, "Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29." To cut through the diplomatic BS here, she is saying, “Don’t come to the Capitol for a State of the Union Address.” In other words, “You’re not invited!”

“Trump, ‘No Federal Aircraft for the Speaker!’” – In apparent retaliation for the blocking of a State of the Union Address, President Trump responded, “Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you (Speaker Pelosi), that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.” Ouch!!!

“Why MOST People Hate Politics” – I LOVE politics! Most people don’t share my avocation! I get that. I love the give and the take, the deal making, the camaraderie and, yes, the bruising fights. Our system is built – with brilliance by the Founding Fathers – to have conflicts within the three branches of government. But, we cut deals, we accommodate, we horse trade – and yes, it gets tawdry and ugly sometimes – but stuff gets done! However, people hate the pettiness. The Speaker blocking the President’s State of the Union Address? The President telling the House Speaker to fly commercial? This is like fifth-graders in a school cafeteria food fight.

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia; Build a Fence Now, Rio Grande River!” – With sincere apologies, and all due respect to the late, great singer John Denver, West Virginia’s state song may be changing. This week, three Republicans members of the state’s House of Delegates proposed that West Virginia – which is seeing a big budget surplus – pledge $10 million to help build the wall President Trump wants along the Mexican border. It created such a buzz, it became national news. For now, my prediction is that it goes nowhere. It was a great publicity coupe and put some young lawmakers on the front burner. But, my gut says most West Virginians want West Virginia tax dollars spent on West Virginia problems.

“Plane Crashes! What Plane Crashes?” – I was chastised by a reader for my off-hand comments about the minimal impact of the government shutdown. I was greeted with comments such as, “What about the chaos at airports with the TSA and air traffic controllers?” Well, yes, both groups are not being paid. But despite the protests of some, most are showing up for work knowing they will be paid retroactively (the order has already been signed). Believe me, I sympathize with folks who’ve not had a paycheck for a month now, and the strain that can put on a family. I’ve been there. But airport chaos and plane accidents have just not happened.

“The Silly Season” – I’ve met a lot of political legends in my four decades of covering politics. Perhaps the most astute political analyst in the bunch, was the late, long-time Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci. Love him or not – and there are plenty on both sides – but the man had a political knack of being able to, “See around corners,” as I so often say. He called campaign season, “The Silly Season,” because people would say or do just about anything to get elected, as crazy as it might be. But the election season is over, and it seems like the legislative calendar has now become the “Silly Season!” Stay tuned to see if it gets better or worse.

Who do you think is winning in this latest political tug-of-war, President Trump or the Democrat run House? Just click the comment button on this page or click the comment button at

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and the five surrounding states, including a large portion of the Washington, D.C television market.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

When the White House Becomes a Prison -- Sunday Political Brunch January 13, 2019


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Three weeks into a partial government shutdown and there appears no end in sight. I predicted early on that President Trump would have the short-term advantage, but that as things dragged on, public sympathies may drift more to Congress. I think we're nearing some turning points that could change the dynamic, so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Art of the Deal?” – I was on KGO Radio 810-AM in San Francisco this week with host Ronn Owens, where I predicted President Trump would have to lead the way soon and be the dealmaker. After all he wrote the 1980s bestseller, “The Art of The Deal.” I still say he’ll concede on the so-called “Dreamers” and allow them to become U.S. citizens, in exchange for a good chunk of the border wall funding. In a true deal, each side gets something.

“Carter Rose Garden Lessons” – While I was on KGO with Ronn Owens, we discussed the dynamic of when a president faces a crisis. While we’ve never had a president like Trump, and my suggestion was that Mr. Trump ought to pay a close study to the history of President Jimmy Carter. During the 1979-80 Iran Hostage Crisis, Iranian militants took 52 Americans hostage - including military personnel - while seizing the U.S. Embassy. Carter barricaded himself in the White House in what came to be known as, “The Rose Garden Strategy.” It backfired, and Ronald Reagan crushed Carter’s reelection bid in a landslide.

“Public Sentiment Swings” – We are three weeks into this 25-percent government shutdown, which by my observation has been met with widespread public indifference. The backers of Trump and Pelosi/Schumer have secured their own base of support but aren’t moving the needle elsewhere. The tide could change. Friday marked the first day that affected federal workers went without a paycheck. If this stretches on two more weeks, they’ll miss another paycheck. Trump may have had an ideological advantage early on, (i.e., he kept his campaign promise to secure the border), but if we start to see a human cost to American citizens, public sentiment could turn on the White House in a very hostile way. People want Presidents to lead!

“SNL” – So far, the only winners in this fight are the writers at Saturday Night Live. In Tuesday’s night prime-time address to the nation, President Trump sounded stiff, robotic and scripted as he read from the White House teleprompter. It was a jarring contrast to the spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness, ad-libs of Trump on stage, both on the campaign and as President. Like him or not, he’s great unscripted. The Pelosi-Schumer response was just as bad on aesthetics. They looked like two high school kids, forced to go to the prom in an arranged date by their parents. Do they even like each other? The long, silent camera stares were uncomfortable, (and, yes, at times funny!)

“National Emergency” – The President says he reserves the right to declare a national emergency and build the wall, without Congressional authorization. Yes, the President has authority to do such things in a natural disaster or at times of war, but does illegal immigration rise to that threat level? His lawyers say yes, but Democrats in Congress are likely to challenge in Federal Court, as the separation of powers gives Congress the lead on raising and spending revenue. This one is a tough call, and since a long legal fight might mean an injunction, Trump remains more inclined to cut a deal with Congress. This remains, “in-play.”

“2020 Election” – There is a good bit of Republican unity right now but watch for eventual cracks in the wall (pardon the pun). Quietly there are some Republicans working behind the scenes trying to craft a compromise deal with Democrats. Why? Well, a long, protracted fight could hurt not only Mr. Trump, but also have a negative “coattail effect” in 2020. Republicans would like to keep control of the Senate and win back the House, which is plausible. But the Senate is risky. In 2018 Democrats were defending about three-quarters of the seats and lost many. Tables have turned and in 2020, the GOP is defending about three-times as many seats as Democrats. Watch as some members cut ties to Trump, to save their own jobs. That’s politics!

“Not Taxpayers; Mexico Pays” – During the campaign I thought one of Trump’s biggest mistakes was saying that he’d force Mexico pay for the wall. How? What court could ever enforce such a notion? Look, if this is a national defense issue, then the U.S. must suck it up and pay for its own defense. That’s what we’ve done in every war or conflict. It’s just the cost of doing business where we pay our own money to keep our nation free. No one pays us to do that. It’s a function of our self-reliance. Trump made a promise he can’t possibly enforce or keep.

What are your thoughts on the wall, and the government shutdown? Who’s winning? Just click the comments button on this page or click the comment button at

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and five surrounding states. He’s also a Contributing Writer for, writing each week for the White House Patch.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images.

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