White House Politics: Chaos, Crisis, or Calm? – Sunday Political Brunch - December 16, 2018


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The year is ending on something of a tumultuous political note in Washington, D.C. Or, is it? There was a lot of sound and fury over images from the nation’s capital this week. Is it high drama, or simply political theatre? Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“So Much for Tea and Crumpets!” – It is an American tradition that U.S. Presidents host foreign dignitaries, Congressional leaders – even leaders of the opposition party – in the Oval Office for photo opportunities and some friendly chat. It’s all for show - and almost always polite and dignified – until this week. It reminds me that the Director of the Small Business Administration is Linda McMahon, of World Wrestling Entertainment fame. This was a pro wrestling smackdown in the White House! Did she and husband Vince McMahon orchestrate? It sure looked like it!

“Nancy, the Donald, and Chuck!” – As mentioned, these events are almost always a polite photo op for the press. Not this time! The goal of the meeting was an effort to fund the government to prevent a shutdown on December 21st. But to make a deal, President Trump wants $5 billion in funding for the Mexican border wall. Trump said, “And then we have the easy one, the wall. That will be the one that will be the easiest of all. What do you think, Chuck?” Schumer fired back, “It's called funding the government, Mr. President.” The Speaker-elect essentially taunted the President who has a majority in both chambers of Congress until Democrats take over the House on January 3rd. Pelosi said, “I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown.” It went downhill from there.

“Advantage Trump?” - I have covered three government shutdowns and have come away with the same conclusion. Blame for the shutdown focuses on Congress, somewhat insulating the president. In late 1995 and in early 1996, Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress, while Democrat Bill Clinton was in the White House. In 2014, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, with Democrat Barack Obama in the White House. The dynamic is that Congress has 535 members, and so often looks like the gang that can’t shoot straight. Only one person sits in the Oval Office with no corners in which to hide. What does human nature side with: the mob, or the lonely man? But, while people may sympathize with Trump, his party does – at least for three more weeks – control both the House and Senate.

“Michael Cohen” – The president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison this week for arranging “hush money” payments for two women claiming affairs with Trump. The monies were paid not long before the 2016 presidential election, suggesting the candidate was trying to sweep the scandal under the rug at the last minute to avoid losing. The big question remains: were campaign funds used for the payoff (a big no-no), or was it simply money from Trump’s personal wealth (unseemly, but probably not illegal). This may be the impeachment investigation’s focus.

“Storming, ‘Stormy Daniels’” – The oddity of all this is that a judge has sided with President Trump in his legal fight with stripper and Trump paramour, “Stormy Daniels!” The judge ordered Daniels to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees to Trump after her defamation suit against the president was dismissed. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero said Ms. Daniels, “is already being deterred from filing meritless defamation claims.”

“Government Shutdown V. Border Wall” – Not all Republicans agree with President Trump’s strategy (and the Oval Office smackdown with Pelosi and Schumer). Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R) West Virginia, had this to say, “I just think that there’s a better way to do it. Because in the end, you have to open the government back up. And I’m not sure that it gives the president the leverage that he thinks it would. I think in the end that we would all be better served – and I think he believes this, too – to move forward and find a compromise.”
“The Strong, Silent Type!” – Poor Vice President Mike Pence. He sat there like a bump on a log. Like so many people who have held the number-two job, he just bit his lip and remained stoic throughout the entire dust up. He at least gets points for dignity and poise (and probably silence, too)

What are your thoughts about who’s to blame for any government shutdown? Just click the comment button on this page or write me at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five bordering states, and the District of Columbia.

© 2018, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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