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The Sunday Political Brunch -- March 25, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Well politics was all over the map this week. A lot of fascinating stuff happened, and controversy, too. This as we head into the spring primary season. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Bring Back that ‘Stormy’ Day” – Okay I got lots of critical comments last week because I wrote about Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she had an affair with Trump and then was paid $130,000 to keep quiet, which she obviously has not done (are such deals legally binding, anyway?) Carp all you want, DC loves sex scandals. I didn’t write the rules. But now an ex-Playboy bunny by the name of Karen McDougal says she also had a consensual affair with Trump in 2006-07. Look, this is starting to look like the Clinton era, in which the former President’s handlers referred to similar claims with the unfortunate term, “bimbo eruptions.”

“Does It Matter?” – Yes, and no. As a member of the White House Press Corp from 1993-1999, I can tell you the beltway and the nation was consumed by the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. It was like the car wreck you’re not supposed to watch on the highway, but everyone does. But public opinion was largely against removing Clinton from office, despite widespread displeasure over his behavior. In Clinton’s case, perjury – not adultery – was the legal issue. Some say in Trump’s case, bribery – not adultery – is the real issue. But to the public, national stability and security are the issues. We didn’t dump Clinton; I doubt we will dump Trump.

“On the Bubble” – Like him, or not, President Trump seems to be consistent on one issue – overspending by certain bureaucrats. He fired Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price just months into the job for lavish travel. Now we know that HUD Secretary Ben Carson is on the bubble for lavish office furnishings; and EPA Administrator Greg Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may be on the way out, for what may be viewed excessive travel expenses. Folks, when voters send you to Washington, to cut spending and reign in the budget, a $30,000 dining room at your office was not what they had in mind.

“The Putin Call” – Here’s the truth of most political cycles - and most news cycles - which often last just 24-hours. What seems like an earthquake, can just be a speed bump. Many Democrats – and a lot of Republicans – are upset President Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his re-election “victory” – wink, wink – as if Russia has been known for free and fair democratic elections. Yes, it was a slap in the face to many Americans that Trump would congratulate our nation’s arch enemy, but President Obama also gave a congratulatory call last time Putin “won.” Like a loaf of bread, this story goes “stale” in about 24 hours.

“The Nixon Intra-Party Lesson” – Senators Jeff Flake (R) Arizona and Lindsey Graham (R) South Carolina, are among those suggesting impeachment hearings may result if President Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller. You may be scratching your head here. “How can a President be impeached with a majority of his party in the House and Senate?” The answer is, when your own party turns on you. In 1974, it wasn’t the Democrats who forced the Nixon resignation. While Nixon was prepared to fight to the death, Senators Barry Goldwater, (R) Arizona; Hugh Scott (R) Iowa; and, Howard Baker, (R) Tennessee, were among those who went to the White House and told Nixon he was done. Nixon – who never forgave Baker, and said it would ruin his White House chances - reluctantly agreed.

“Mueller Firing?” – Common sense tells me that President Trump won’t fire Mueller; my gut tells me he will. Trump is the most unconventional President in American history. All bets are off; all previous indicators are moot. Not only do I think Trump will fire Mueller; he will also ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign – which Sessions will refuse – and will then be fired. Conventional wisdom tells me you don’t do this in an election year, but there is no such concept as “conventional wisdom” in this time. Yes, I think Republicans will lose a chunk of seats in the House (15 to 25) – but not their majority. Oddly, I think the GOP will pick up two or three Senate seats. This is a weird cycle.

What are your thoughts on this weird week in politics? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and the bordering states. He’s an award-winning political author.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

A 'Topsy-Turvy' White House -- Sunday Political Brunch - March 18, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s been a topsy-turvy week at the White House, with another big departure and the return of a familiar face. Is the President steering the ship on the right course? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Rexit” – The departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after 14 months is not a surprise. He and President Trump seemed an odd fit at the start. Yes, Tillerson - like Trump - had tremendous international business experience as the CEO of Exxon, which is why he leap-frogged over more qualified candidates. But his political experience – like Trump’s – was nil. Of course, the head of any major international oil company is going to put him on the stage with many foreign leaders and that was an asset. I had been predicting that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley would succeed Tillerson, but she’s been at odds with Trump at times, who picked CIA Director Mike Pompeo instead.

“Intelligence is Everything” – I am intrigued by the choice of Pompeo. But elevating the CIA Director to State tells me something is in the offing. Giving the daily intelligence briefing, Pompeo has Trump’s ear. It makes we wonder if they know of a major terrorism plot on the horizon. It’s been nearly 17 years since the 9-11 attacks. A lot of the weaponry – especially cyberterrorism - has changed. I hope I’m wrong, but I wonder if they are on the verge of trying to stop a major attack, and that’s why he leap-frogged over Haley.

“Larry, to the Contrary” – Economist Larry Kudlow has accepted the nomination to be Chairman of the National Economic Council. Kudlow, a media savvy, business news pundit is widely known and respected, and is close to Trump. The one thing that may save this “out-of-the-box” (okay, weird Presidency), is that the economy – for now – is steaming along very well. Trump is no different than any other President. As Ronald Reagan famously asked in the 1980 campaign, “Are you better off today, then you were four years ago?” Most people said no and Reagan won in a crushing landslide. If the U.S. economy keeps cooking, Trump could have a second term if he wants one, despite all the controversy that surrounds him.

“Oh, Oprah” – People scoff at the idea of Orpah Winfrey running for President of the United States. I believe she has serious shot. Here’s why. She’s a self-made billionaire; she’s media savvy and loves the spotlight; she has a genuine consistency with groups of people who feel they have no voice; she’s not a professional politician; and, she’s both loved and loathed depending on who you ask. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar? Yes, she and Trump share a similar resume (though there are lot of differences, too). Both have appeal beyond traditional candidates in their own parties. "Oh, I'd love Oprah to win," Trump said. "I'd love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness." I’m telling you she has a legitimate chance.

“PA Congress” -- If the razor thin margin of victory holds, Democrat Conor Lamb will be the new Congressman in Western Pennsylvania. It’s a traditionally Republican district that Donald Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. But caution to those who interpret this as a national trend. This marks the second time Democrats have won a special Congressional election since the 2016 election, while Republicans won five. So, to those who interpret this as national anti-Trump trend, I say do the math. On the other hand, Republicans - who had a 5 to 0 run before the Alabama and Pennsylvania special elections - I say momentum can be a cruel foe. 2018 is getting interesting!

“Stormy Daniels” – I must tell you, I think the President’s sex scandal is drawing big yawn nationally, based on comments to my article last week. If President Trump had an affair with the porn star in 2006 - long before he was President – few of my readers seems to care. As I always say, if the economy is cooking, and national security seems good, the public doesn’t care about indiscretions. Former President Bill Clinton is “Exhibit-A” and President Trump seems to be riding in the same canoe.

“He’s No Snow-Flake” -- “I do think the president will have a challenge from the Republican Party, I think there should be,” Senator Jeff Flake said. “I also think that there will be an independent challenge, particularly if the Democrats insist on putting somebody up from the far left of the party.” Might one of those candidates be retiring Senator Jeff Flake, (R) Arizona. My gut says yes, and that spells trouble. In my lifetime any sitting President challenged for re-nomination from within his own party, was ousted. The list includes Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush. Watch out!

“End of Teacher Strike” – The nine-day statewide teachers strike I covered in West Virginia is now over. Teachers and all other state employees received a five-percent pay raise. Inspired by the massive walkout, teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma considered similar job actions. Will this have a surge for Democrats nationwide who support organized labor? It was a huge win, but can the momentum be sustained in 2018? The teachers chanted loudly, “We’ll remember in November!” outside the House and Senate Chambers. This bears watching as a potential national trend.

“Student Walk Out” – The nationwide student walkout over gun control was extraordinary this week. As I pointed out in recent weeks since the mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Broward County, Florida, the times may be-a-changin’ when it comes to gun control issues. The key to this issue is momentum and voter turnout. Typically, young voters ages 18 to 30 don’t turnout. They were huge for Barack Obama in 2008, but many vanished by 2012 and 2016. Will they be back in 2018, and 2020? My gut tells me yes, but they must be vocal and active through the election cycle. They can’t just march on Washington, March 24, and then go home. As mentioned above, success in politics is about seizing momentum.

Your thoughts? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis Ed.D., is a nationally-award winning political author reporter, and analyst, He is presently Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the five bordering states and the District of Columbia.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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