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"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- December 29, 2013


(Fort Lauderdale, Florida) – The “Brunch” is on the road this week looking at the world of politics from the Sunshine State where I spent a good chunk of my career reporting for WUFT-TV5 Gainesville; WCJB-TV20 Ocala/Gainesville; WEAR-TV3 Pensacola; and WFTV-TV9 Orlando (from Washington, DC). On radio, I was on WRUF-AM/FM in Gainesville. Anyway it’s always fun to reminisce whenever I get back here. There is a lot of political fodder across the nation, and here in Florida. So, here goes:

“Going Postal” -- If you ever wondered why people despise the federal government, one need look no further than what happened at the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission on Christmas Eve. I was stunned when the bulletin crossed the AP wire at my office in Providence the night before Christmas. The Postal Service was raising the price of a first-class stamp – again - this time by three cents. Look, I know the agency is in deep, deep financial trouble; but what does the timing say to the public? Good grief! Couldn’t the decision and announcement have waited until after the holidays?

“Peaking Duck” – A&E Television announced on Saturday that the popular (but now controversial) “Duck Dynasty” show will be coming back this spring. I have never seen the show – nor had I heard about it – until the brouhaha over star Phil Robertson’s remarks about gay people. I honestly thought it was a cooking show. In any case, a lot of people on both sides of the aisle were trying to make political hay of the issue this week, as if it were going to be a big issue in the 2014 election cycle. It’s not! Look, the show is highly rated and makes A&E a lot of money. In the world of broadcasting, money still trumps politics most of the time.

“ABSCAM Scammed” – My son and brother-in-law saw the movie “American Hustle” this week. I wanted to go - and probably will soon - but I am still disappointed I passed up being an actor in the movie. I was asked by the casting agent to read for the role of one of the Congressmen who was caught up in the fictionalized depiction of the ABSCAM bribery scandal. Many of you know that I work as a movie and TV show extra on occasion. But this was an offer to having a speaking part in a full-fledged bribery scene, with the star of the movie, Bradley Cooper. I wanted to do it so badly, but they said they would need me to be available for four weeks. I would love to “moonlight” as a Congressman, but I can’t give up my day job. However, I will be in “Labor Day,” with Kate Winslet, to be released in a few weeks.

“Where Are They Now?” – I know it’s just a movie, but “American Hustle” was loosely based on the events surrounding the ABSCAM Congressional bribery scandal of the late 1970s. The most celebrated of that group was Democratic South Carolina Representative John Jenrette, and his Republican wife Rita. The good-looking young couple was a big hit in the Washington, DC, social scene. Rita even claimed she and the Congressman had sex behind a pillar on the steps of the Capitol late one night. “The Capitol Steps” political satire troupe takes its name from this event! Anyway, the Congressman went to prison; Rita posed for Playboy; and, they eventually divorced. Today, John Jenrette is 77 and works in real estate. Rita Jenrette is married to an Italian prince, and at age 64 is still quite striking.

“Christie v Clinton?” – A new CNN 2016 Presidential preference poll has Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) leading former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 48 to 46 percent. Let me say, first, the poll means nothing. But, like many political junkies and voters, I actually love polls. They are fun as an unofficial barometer of what voters might be thinking at this moment in time. But they are just that, a snapshot of the potential landscape today, not a predictor of Election Day 2016. Still, it is interesting to note that Christie is the only Republican who beats Clinton in a theoretical matchup. By the way, similar polls in December 2007 showed that Clinton would be the 2008 Democratic nominee, and that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be the Republican nominee. See what I mean about polls being one snapshot in time?

“Bush-whacked” – By the way, the CNN poll has Hillary Clinton defeating former Republican Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 21 points. That’s stunning, but I think a Bush-Clinton rematch of the 1992 presidential race - with two new standard bearers for each political family – is still a very viable possibility. We have a long way to go until 2016.

“Sunshine State Showdown” – The wacky world of Florida politics makes a lot of national headlines, and 2014 will be no different. Current Republican Governor Rick Scott is facing a tough bid for a second term. Former Republican Governor-turned-independent Charlie Crist is now running as a Democrat for his old job. Crist is leading in most polls, but it’s early; and there are large numbers of undecideds. Voters don’t always latch on to party switchers – e.g. Rhode Island Republican-turned-independent-turned Democratic Governor Lincoln Chafee is not seeking a second term. Still, the Florida race is a toss-up according to many analysts and is one to watch in 2014.

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© 2013, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Postal Service

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- December 22, 2013


(Providence, Rhode Island) – We call this a “brunch” every week, but I am not sure that applies this week. Brunch usually has a consistent theme or direction. This is more like a smorgasbord or a cafeteria spread. Anyway, here goes!

“Popularity Contest” – I will admit I am not a big fan of Presidential approval polls. I never thought they were much of an indicator – let alone a predictor – of anything. President Obama’s approval rating dropped to 41 percent this month – his lowest ever recorded. Just eleven months ago, when he was sworn in to his second term, it was at 55 percent. That’s quite a drop! But he’s "termed out." He won't be on the ballot again. The political punching bag might be his fellow Democrats in Congress who are up for reelection in 2014. The President’s plummeting poll numbers are mainly due to the botched health care roll out, and he conceded that in Friday’s news conference.

“Walk the Plank?” – President Obama is not the only one dealing with popularity issues. House Speaker John Boehner’s approval is down, especially from the far right, after the recent bipartisan budget deal. Republicans are likely to remain in power in the House, but you have to wonder if the rank and file (especially the Tea Party wing), might choose another Speaker. Stay tuned.

“64 Bills; Good or Bad?” -- CNN had a story over the weekend suggesting this was the most unproductive year in the history of Congress, because it only passed 64 bills – the lowest yearly number ever. The story made the assumption this was a bad thing. Really? Is Congressional success measured purely on the number of bills passed, or the number of pages of legislation in a particular bill? Those advocating for less government have a different view, especially after the health care meltdown. They might argue the old saying, “Less is more!”

“The Too Fat Polka!” – Yes, that’s the name of a popular old song and dance! This week, radio commentator Glenn Beck said, “Chris Christie is a fat nightmare. He is a nightmare.” The suggestion has been made by others, too, that Christie’s obesity will prevent him from being elected President. Let’s revisit history. William Howard Taft weighed in at 350 pounds, yet served four years as President and nine years as Chief Justice of the United States (the only person in history to hold both posts). Taft was also Secretary of Defense, and served as Provisional Governor of Cuba and the Philippines, with one of the most storied political resumes in U.S. history. And he lived in a time that did not have the medicines and health care that might help Christie. Taft was 72 when he died. Glenn Beck needs to pick a different issue. If people like Christie, they will elect him (as they’ve done twice in New Jersey).

“Too Old?” -- Along the same lines as questions about Christie'as weight, some are questioning whether Vice President Joe Biden is too old to run for President. Biden will be 73 when Campaign 2016 begins. Hillary Clinton will be 68. So what? I think we are beyond the weight and age issues. Ronald Reagan took the oath of office at 69, and John McCain ran a tough campaign in 2008 at the age of 72. If a person is competent – and that’s what people want – then who cares about their age or weight? Many people are living longer and healthier. Look, the campaign is a grueling gauntlet. If someone can’t cut it, we will know – in a heartbeat!

“Who’s In; Who’s Out” – The last item with any chance of passing in the Obama administration is immigration reform. Don’t count on it; but don’t count it out. Why is this issue so important to both parties? Democrats are hoping for more voters; Republicans are hoping for more workers. Democrats need those voters here legally to vote in large numbers; but Republican constituencies - especially in the hospitality and agribusiness industries - count on illegals to help fuel a low-wage underground economy. The two sides can’t have it both ways, thus the standoff. Democrats are also wary because many Hispanic voters (40 percent plus in some states) lean Republican, so legalizing them doesn’t necessarily help the Democratic-backed voter base, nor the Republican-backed cheap labor workforce. A bill that gives concessions to both sides might pass, but barely.

“Remember and Honor” – Saturday, December 21, was the 25th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, which killed 270 innocent people. Of those killed, 189 were Americans, including 35 students from Syracuse University. A Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack brought down the 747. As time goes on, I worry that the memory of major events such as this, fade and are forgotten. Fortunately, memorial events were held Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, Westminster Abbey, and Syracuse University and at other locales. These events and memorials remind us that the war on terrorism is far from over.

What are your thoughts on all of these topics? Please click the comment button at

© 2013, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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