Sunday Political Brunch: President Trump Had a Roller Coaster Week -- November 5, 2017

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CHARLESTON, WV – It was an up-and-down week for President Trump – perhaps his most topsy-turvy week in the White House. He sure had some highs and lows and they could have both short-term and long-term impacts. Let’s “brunch” on that with a report card this week:

“Book ‘Em” – It’s never good to have someone close to you be indicted. You may have done nothing wrong but the “guilt by association” friendships can bring criticism (fair or unfair), and can have a lasting impact. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a deputy Richard Gates were charges with crimes related to their business dealings, long before they came to the Trump campaign. It may turn out that the charges have zero to do with the election. But public perception may be that the campaign was too cozy with a couple of shady characters. That’s not a confidence builder, at a time when Mr. Trump’s public confidence is still low. Grade: C-

“The Coffee Boy” – Another Trump campaign worker named George Papadopoulos plead guilty to charges related to the Russian investigation, in a likely plea deal to testify against others. A whistle-blower is never a good thing. The White House tried to downplay his significance, referring to him as a low-level, unpaid volunteer. A former top campaign leader called Papadopoulos a lowly “coffee boy” and Trump tweeted that he was a liar. But other sources say Papadopoulos has a much greater role, and was knowledgeable about campaign contacts with Russians (more below). If he were just a “coffee boy” why is he pleading guilty to federal charges? It doesn’t pass the smell test. Grade: F

“Terror in New York City” – A terrorist attack on any President’s watch is not a good thing. It makes us all feel more vulnerable and less secure. But in this case, the suspect was taken into custody immediately, charged as a terrorist and enemy combatant, and no more damage was done. From a political standpoint, that’s a plus for President Trump. Yes, all the real credit goes to law enforcement, but if you create a climate where people feel secure and protected, that reflects positively on a President. While Trump still has low approval ratings, his two key strengths are if people feel safe, and if they feel the economy is prospering. Grade: B+

“Show Me the Money” – As mentioned several times in this column over the past nine months, President Trump is still in need of a major legislative victory. This past week House Republicans unveiled their tax reform package. The usual arguments were there – Republicans saying it would cut taxes and promote economic growth for all; while Democrats say it would mostly benefit the well-off. The truth is a lot would depend on individual circumstances. But if the President and lawmakers can convince the public this will make things easier and help the economy - and they get it passed - then it’s a big win. President Trump wants it done by Christmas, but I find that awfully optimistic. Grade: B- (for putting it on the table; could go to A- if they can get it done).

“What Say the Markets?” – The biggest asset that President Trump has right now is the hot financial marketplace. The Dow Jones closed Thursday at 23,516. Many other financial indicators are preforming very well. Sure, people with lots of money and investments benefit the most, but average folks with 401(k) retirement accounts are benefitting, too. As mentioned the two biggest items for any President are national security, and the economy. When things go bad they get the blame; and when things go well they get credit (whether it’s fair or not). Grade: A-

“Ag is Not in the Bag” – On Thursday President Trump’s nominee to be the top scientist as the Department of Agriculture, withdrew his name from consideration. Sam Clovis had contacts with the above-mentioned George Papadopoulos, who entered a guilty plea in the Russia investigation. President Trump was described as “seething” this week over various developments in the Russia investigation, although none has directly led to him. Even if they never do, it’s a major distraction that pulls attention from one’s agenda. Grade: D

“The Sun Also Rises” – President Trump travels to Asia this week with stops in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China and more. This is a crucial trip given the nuclear tensions with North Korea. Even in the depths of domestic scandal and distraction, President Nixon made great headway on the international stage with groundbreaking trips to Russia and China. Mr. Trump certainly can’t match those historic feats (it’s a high bar), but how any President looks on the international stage can set a tone for the White House. Grade: Incomplete.

“Why All of This Matters” – I’ve said it often, politics is a “what have you done for me lately” business. Politicians make promises; the public wants results. The above grades are subjective; not a precise science. It’s a mixed bag. The President has performed well in some areas; but remains suspect on other achievements and policies. One year from this week, voters will issue the first major report card on the Trump White House, when they vote in the critical midterm Congressional elections. Stay tuned!

What grades would you give on what issues? Just click theh comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations service West Virginia, and is a nationally-known political analysts and author who appears on KGO Radio 810-AM San Francisco.

Photo courtesy: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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