Sunday Political Brunch - April 9, 2017: Choose Your Battles Carefully

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Dr. Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations in West Virginia, and a Political Analyst for “The Brian Copeland Show” on KGO Radio 810-AM San Francisco.

(Charleston, West Virginia) – It has been a wild ride of politics this week, with some wins and losses for the White House. Politics is about ebb and flow, winning big fights, and avoiding losses that are preventable. As I mention often, I am not an endorser of policies or politicians; rather, I try to analyze the political fallout of what they do. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Syrian Strike” – Regardless of how you feel about what President Trump did in Syria this week, the action speaks volumes to many people. The President had said that he would take action if there was a provocation, and he did. The public often measures politicians by whether their actions match their words. We’ll see in the coming weeks whether there are consequences, but Trump backed up his words with action. That usually is a plus politically.

“Gorsuch Wins” – Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch was confirmed on Friday. The President nominated a Scalia-like conservative, and then called in his chits in the Senate to secure confirmation. Yes, there may be eventual fallout after the Senate changed its longstanding rules, but Justice Gorsuch could be handing down rulings for the next 30-plus years. No matter how you slice it, it’s a huge political win for the Trump Administration when it needed one.

“Ten-Foot-Pole Award” – In an awkward interview this week, President Trump was asked about Fox News paying millions of dollars to settle sexual harassment claims against TV host Bill O’Reilly. Trump told the New York Times, "I think he shouldn't have settled; personally, I think he shouldn't have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong." Why is Trump even addressing this? He’s President of the United States, with other concerns (see Syria above). Stay out of it. All it does is invite more comparisons to Trump’s own behavior towards women and to that of others like former President Clinton. Pass with a, “No comment,” and move on.

“Bashing Assad; Blaming Russia; Blaming Obama” – Diplomacy has never been Donald Trump’s trademark. He’s the proverbial "bull in the china shop"; and that’s okay – because it’s his authentic style (for better, or for worse). He blamed Syrian President al-Assad for the mess in his own country, and blamed the Russian meddling, too. But blaming former President Obama for the atrocity committed by Syria last week seemed a stretch. Look, I understand the criticism of many that President Obama declined to launch military strikes years ago. Maybe that was a tactical error back then. But to include Obama in the blame rightly shared by al-Assad and Putin this week rings hollow to many in this country

“Winning Graciously” – I think a shining example of diplomacy and grace in motion involved President Reagan and outgoing President Carter in 1981. Ronald Reagan had beaten the incumbent in November due to the worst economy since the Great Depression and to the fact that 52 American hostages were still being held in Iran after one year. Yet, instead of wiping Jimmy Carter’s face in the dirt with it, President Reagan asked Carter to fly to Germany to welcome the hostages upon their release on Inauguration Day. It was one of the classiest and most unifying moves I’ve ever seen by two Presidents in my lifetime. U.S. politics has traditionally stopped at the water’s edge.

“Momentum Matters” – President Trump has been in office about three months. He’s had some tough losses including those on immigration restrictions and the Obamacare repeal. Now he’s buoyed by his firm action in the Mideast and by his win at the Supreme Court. Sure, things could go south again next week, but for now he has a couple of wins and the momentum that may come with them. It may be short-lived, but maybe not. In politics, momentum matters.

“Power Struggles” – There has been a lot of chatter this week about power struggles within the White House. Senior Advisor Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council. Senior Advisor (and Presidential son-in-law) Jared Kushner received more duties and responsibilities. There are reports of a power struggle between Bannon and Kushner. Now, when I lived and worked in DC, this would have been major news for all those inside the beltway. But in my years beyond DC, I’ve learned that people in the heartland and elsewhere have no stomach for this stuff. It means nothing in their lives, and they simply don’t care. Washington take note!

What are your thought on what transpired this busy political week? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: cbsnews.com

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