Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 27, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – Things have been a little frosty between the United States and Russia of late, especially after the shoot down of the Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine. It got me to thinking that the old Cold War between the two world powers was heading back into the deep freeze. So, let’s “brunch” on some Cold Russian Borscht this week as we look back on the Cold War and what may lie ahead!

“The Beginnings” – The tug of war that led to the Cold War was well underway before World War II was even over. But it was the tension over how to divide up occupied Germany that sent what had been somewhat warm relations between the U.S. and Russia into the ice box. The establishment of the Eastern Bloc and the ultimate formation of the Soviet Union created a giant iceberg. Advantage: Standoff.

“Berlin as Ground Zero” – As things went from bad to worse, Russian dictator Joseph Stalin launched what came to be known as Berlin Blockade, in which food and other critical supplies were not allowed to be transported from East to West Berlin. The United States and its European allies had to form a massive Berlin Airlift, to keep people in the West from starving. Advantage: USA

“Atoms Away!” – The U.S. dropping the atomic bombs on Japan effectively ended World War II in the Pacific Theatre. Finding itself at a military disadvantage, Russia developed and tested its own atom bomb. The arms race was on, and both nations spent hundreds of billions over the next four decades, escalating the arms race and causing an economic surge in both nations that President Dwight Eisenhower dubbed, “The Military-Industrial Complex.” Advantage: Standoff.

“Changing Faces” – Presidents Roosevelt and Stalin died; Nikita Khrushchev took over in Russia and lasted through U.S. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. He was probably the biggest and longest lasting thorn in the side of the U.S. Advantage: Soviet Union.

“Bay of Pigs” - When Fidel Castro seized control of power in Cuba in 1959, he changed his country’s allegiance from the United States to the Soviets. He welcomed Russian help, and, in response, President Eisenhower developed a CIA plot to overthrown Castro. The plan took two years to craft and by the time it was executed in 1961, President Kennedy was in office. The overthrow failed badly, and was an embarrassment to U.S. foreign policy. Advantage: Soviet Union.

“Cuban Missile Crisis” – On the heels of the Bay of Pigs disaster - just 18 months later – the U.S. detected Soviet made missiles on the ground in Cuba. The Russians wanted them there to counter the U.S. missiles placed in Europe. The Cuban Missile Crisis would last nearly two weeks, and was perhaps the closest the two nations ever came to going to war, nuclear missiles, and all. The Soviets backed down and removed the missiles. Advantage: USA.

“Afghan Invasion” – In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and, for nearly a decade, fought it out with various bands of tribal rebels (many of whom were supported with money and weapons from the United States). The mountainous territory was eventually no match for the Russians, nor was the bad public relations the war created for Moscow worldwide. The U.S. offered a paper tiger of a protest by not participating in the Russian Olympics in 1980, which accomplished nothing. For once the Soviets looked over matched, but the U.S. looked timid and weak in response. Advantage: Standoff.

“Korean Airlines Flight 007” – On September 1, 1983 the Russian military shot down a commercial airliner killing all 269 people on board, including U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald (D-GA). Yes, the pilots strayed into Soviet airspace, but clearly the Boeing 747’s unique design made it identifiable as a passenger jet. President Reagan strongly condemned the Soviet Union in a televised address, and the world community was clearly in support of the United States and Korea. It was another public relations disaster for Moscow. Advantage: USA.

“Down Comes the Wall!” – In 1989 the forces of freedom, bolstered by the forces of a failed communist economy, were too much for the Berlin Wall to bear. Years earlier, President Reagan stood at Brandenburg Gate and shouted, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall!” It was one of the most electrifying moments in the history of U.S. Presidents and foreign policy. Advantage: USA

“Why All This Matters?” – In so many of the instances of Russian - and later - Soviet aggression, the Cold War enemy was met face-to-face with the steely resolve of an angry U.S. leader, whether it was a Democrat in Kennedy, or a Republican in Reagan. There were also major breakthroughs in diplomatic efforts, most notably by President Nixon on the U.S. side, and Mikhail Gorbachev for the Soviets. There were moments of weakness, too, such as President Carter’s response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Cancelling U.S. participation in the Olympics was a failure. It’s early in this latest crisis and many are wondering how stern a response President Obama and our European allies will send to Vladimir Putin, perhaps the most aggressive and steely (translate mean) Russian leader since Khrushchev. The world watches and waits! Advantage: Standoff, so far.

What are your thoughts on what the U.S. and its European allies should do with Russia? Post your comments at

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: ABC News

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 20, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – I was chatting on Facebook Saturday with my old Washington, DC news colleague, Bob Franken of CNN fame – I was at Cox DC back then. I mentioned that as of January 2015, I would start spending a fair amount of time in New Hampshire, getting ready for the 2016 Presidential election. Yes, that’s right, the campaign there will begin in earnest right after this November’s election. It got me to thinking, “What’s the strategy to victory for all of the big name candidates?” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Hillary Clinton” – Okay, people presume she has the nomination in the bag, which is a huge mistake. They said the same thing about her in 2008. So, lesson one is be humble and make no assumptions. Two, don’t try to portray yourself as “ordinary people” with voters, ala the “we were practically broke when we left the White House” story line. Instead, sell your experience for Heaven’s sake: First Lady eight years; U.S. Senator eight years; and, Secretary of State for four years. Experience and resumes impress lots of people. P.S. Neutralize you potential opponent and ask Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) Maryland to be your running mate early in the process. If not, he may run against you!

“Jeb Bush” – Yes, like Hillary Clinton, you have a big family name. Don’t try to oversell it though. “Bush fatigue” is as dangerous as “Clinton fatigue” in different parts of this country. Your Vice Presidential pick is crucial. Don’t be Mitt Romney and pick another white male who looks pretty much just like you. You have to pick a woman, or a Hispanic, or – get this – how about both? Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM) would be an excellent choice for Bush. She’s a woman (which helps neutralize some of the female vote for Hillary); she’s Latina, and can help bring swing states such as New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado back into their old GOP home. P.S. Jeb is fluent in Spanish; has a Latina wife; and, has multiracial children. Leverage that, Governor, and you could have the same job as your dad and brother.

“Marco Rubio” – Okay, you are Latino and you can win Florida. That’s not enough. If the GOP had won New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida in 2012, Mitt Romney would have been President. Yes, it was only a four state margin (see map above). So, Rubio needs to pick Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio to be his running mate. Rubio carries Florida; Kasich carries Ohio; together they carry Virginia; and, the combo is probably enough to draw a winning Hispanic margin in New Mexico, Colorado, or Nevada - so New Hampshire is moot. Here’s another plus. Kasich – like Dick Cheney and Joe Biden – is an old Washington hand. He was in the House 20 years and chaired the Budget Committee. When you elect a young, or “outsider” President such as Carter, Reagan, Bush II, Clinton, or Obama, the “Washington Insider” VP is crucial.

“Chris Christie” – First, you must carry your home state of New Jersey. The first rule of Presidential politics is, “Thou shalt carry thy own state!” So, he’s won statewide twice, and, he needs to do it again. New Jersey’s 14 Electoral votes become crucial if the GOP can’t capture the 18 in Ohio. Beyond that, Christie needs to neutralize the non-white and female vote that may gravitate to Hillary Clinton. So, like Jeb Bush, he needs to pick Gov. Susana Martinez (R) New Mexico as his running mate.

“Martin O’Malley” – Let’s just speculate that Hillary Clinton falters or chooses not to run. O’Malley is the go-to-guy among a lot of Democrats. He’s not well known outside of the political chattering classes, but he’s considered the potential “next big thing” ala Bill Clinton in 1988. If he’s the nominee, there will be considerable disappointment among female voters who wanted Hillary. So, he needs to pick a female Vice Presidential running mate. For geographic and gender balance he needs to pick Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, or Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) Michigan.

“Joe Biden” – I consider the Vice President a long shot, but again, we’ve seen front runners falter before. As with O’Malley, if Biden is at the top of the ticket, he has to pick a competent female running mate to mitigate the disaffected Hillary voters. In addition to Sens. Klobuchar and Stabenow mentioned above, look for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York, to be on a Biden VP short list. Or, if Wendy Davis, (D) Texas, pulls an upset in this year’s race for Governor, she’ll rocket to the top of peoples’ lists, too.

“Mitt Romney” – The speculation this past week that Romney might take a third “bite at the apple” was a bit over the top, but he could. Nothing against Rep. Paul Ryan, (R) Wisconsin, but he was simply the wrong pick in 2012. Had Romney picked Sen. Marco Rubio, (R) Florida, he might be living in the White House today. If Romney is the 2016 nominee, how about Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, (R) Washington, the number four ranking Republican in the House leadership? She’s much more conservative than Romney, and could deliver the party’s right wing, which was always suspicious of the moderate Romney.

“Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, et. al.” – If you are the nominee, then many of the above caveats for the Republican Party apply to you, too. Remember Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” philosophy? The GOP needs to get back to that. Some of the nation’s most pioneering females and Hispanics who’ve held high office were Republicans. You have prominent conservatives African Americans, too, in Dr. Ben Carson, Herman Cain and Thomas Sowell. The party needs to foster that kind of diversity without sacrificing its conservative ideals. Broaden and diversify your base under the “Big Tent” and you might just win back the White House.

Who did I miss? Who would you like to see on the Presidential tickets in both parties? Let me know by clicking the comment button at

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy:

Syndicate content