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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 23, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Lots of controversy in the nation’s capitol this week as President Obama signed his Executive Order on immigration. It made me wonder about the history of Presidential Executive Orders, and I found lots of fascinating facts and trivia, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Immigration” – In a nutshell, here are the main points of President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration. Adult illegal immigrants - who have been in the country five years or more - will be exempt from deportation if they have children who were born in the United States (making the children legal citizens), and provided the adult parents are not wanted; nor are being prosecuted; nor are convicted of any criminal offense. Yes, that’s a mouthful! It is not amnesty; it is not citizenship. They must register and apply for work permits (requiring them to pay taxes), and they won’t be deported.

“The Legal Battle” – Whether the President’s Executive Order violates the Constitution remains to be seen, and is likely the subject of a court fight. But as a practical matter - as the nation’s Chief Executive Officer - he can at least tell agencies under his jurisdiction what to do. He can tell Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not to conduct raids or deportations simply as a directive. But, can he put in a whole host of arbitrary conditions, such as the five-year residency requirement? That sounds more like lawmaking, which is the purview of Congress. This is where the Constitution gets conflicting and sticky. It’s a “Separation of Powers” versus “Checks and Balances” standoff! A classic Constitutional struggle – and court case!

“Emancipation” – I wondered about the most famous Executive Orders from the 238 years of our nation’s history. Perhaps the most noted is the Emancipation Proclamation from President Lincoln, freeing the slaves in Confederate states.

“WPA” – Another legendary Executive Order came from President Franklin Roosevelt which created the WPA - the Works Progress Administration. At the depths of the Great Depression, it provided meaningful work for over eight-million people. These weren’t just make-work jobs either. The WPA created over 600,000 miles of roads, thousands of parks, and hundreds of airports. Maybe we need a new WPA, today!

“The Downside” – While few would decry the benefits of freeing slaves and creating jobs, not all Executive Orders are looked upon so favorably today. President Franklin Roosevelt – who gets credit for the WPA – also gets a black mark in the history books for the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. More than 110,000 – most of them U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry - were rounded up and imprisoned after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There was no due process; there were no trials; and, they were imprisoned soley for being Japanese.

“By the Numbers” – President Obama has been widely criticized for “overuse” of the Executive Order, having now issued 194 is his six years in the White House. Has he gone overboard? Is his total excessive? You be the judge! Of our most recent two-term (or partial two-term) Presidents, here are the totals: George W. Bush, 291; Bill Clinton, 364; Ronald Reagan, 381; Richard Nixon, 346; Lyndon Johnson, 325; and Dwight Eisenhower, 484. Even one-term (or less) Presidents were on pace to surpass Mr. Obama. George H.W. Bush, 166; Jimmy Carter, 320; Gerald Ford, 169; and, John Kennedy, 214. President Obama – on average – will probably wind up on the low-end in terms of the sheer number of Executive Orders.

“Court Fight” – Forget the merit of the legal and Constitutional arguments from both sides for a moment. Let’s just consider the legal strategy and calendar here. On Monday Republicans could file a challenge in Federal District Court. Democrats could argue to stay any injunction on the Presidnet’s authority until the Court rules. That means the Immigration policy goes ahead as the President intended. Whichever side loses in District Court, will likely file to the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. Remember, the Court calendar tends to move slowly, and the next (and final) place for redress, is the U.S. Supreme Court, which will recess the final week of June 2015. Realistically, the soonest a definitive Supreme Court ruling could likely come is July 1, 2016, six months before President Obama leaves office.

“Assassination” – One of the most interesting Executive Orders in my lifetime was essentially a ban on foreign political assassinations, first issued by President Ford, and then strengthened by President Carter and President Reagan stating, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Later, it was clarified to mean a “head of state” but did not protect anyone involved in terrorist activity, and because of that Osama bin Laden was not covered by the Executive Order when he was killed on May 2, 2011. Thank God!

“Why All of the Matters” – A lot of what we’ve seen in the last week is political theater. That’s not to minimize the importance of the immigration issue, or the various positions on both sides. But there is a lot of posturing, particularly from President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Everything changes on January 3, when the new Republican-led Senate and House are sworn-in. Congress will probably pass a much tougher immigration bill than the one only the Senate approved this year. That will put the “check,” and then, “checkmate,” back in the President Obama’s corner. Republicans need to pass a law that the President signs, or, one which they can override - if he vetoes. Their hopes of winning the White House in 2016 likely depend on it!

What do you think? Will the President’s Executive Order be overturned by the Courts? Or, will Republicans overrule the President and pass even tougher illegal immigration measures? Post your thoughts by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: TheDesertReview.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 16, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – So last week’s election was a big win for the GOP on the national stage. Or was it? Elections are funny things, and they aren’t always what they seem. Yes, they can be short-term successes, but they can also bite you and set up long-term failure. So what seemed like a Republican slam dunk on Election Day could be short-lived. Let’s brunch on how “losers become winners” this week:

“Herbert Hoover” – The bit of trivia being passed on in the Republicans' landslide victory on November 4 is that the party will have the largest membership in the House of Representatives since Herbert Hoover was elected President in 1928. That may be true, but when the Great Depression hit in 1929, that was the end of Hoover and the GOP. Hoover was defeated in 1932, and the Republicans did not win the White House again for another 20 years. Over the next 58 years, Democrats ruled the House all but four years.
Now I am not predicting a repeat of history; I am only pointing out how quickly fortunes can turn.

“Hillary Clinton” – A backlash against the GOP can only help Hillary Clinton, should she run for President. If things go bad over the next two years, people can blame a) the Republican-led Congress; b) President Obama; or c) both! Since Clinton has been out of public office since 2012, her fingerprints have disappeared from public policy and politics, though there will still be lingering questions about her role (or lack of one) in the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Still, politics remains a “What have you done for me lately?” arena, and since she has been out for four years, Hillary can deflect a lot of the critics. Caution: Trying to run as a complete “outsider” might be tempting for her, but would seem ridiculous.

“Buddy Cianci” – I was covering the two-time Providence Mayor – and two-time convicted felon - on Election Day, as he came close to winning an unprecedented third stint in the Mayor’s office. People have asked me: “Was he sad? Was he depressed when he realized he lost?” Quite the contrary! I think he felt relieved and redeemed that nearly half the city voted for him. He was back on the radio the next day and back on his TV show this past Monday. Many thought he would take a long vacation, but the 73-year-old cancer patient was back doing “combat” on the airwaves. People love him or hate him, but he remains a voice of political influence – if not in elective office, then on the air. He didn’t lose a beat, and his opinion carries weight, even if not from a political office. Fascinating!

“Bill Clinton ‘96” – Maybe the craftiest politician I have ever seen in my life is Bill Clinton. He upset incumbent George H.W. Bush in 1992, only to have a disastrous legislative agenda his first two years in office. The backlash against him was so strong that Republicans swept both chambers of Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. Instead of being a beaten dog, Clinton co-opted much of the Republican agenda with which he agreed and passed a crime bill; passed welfare reform; passed the Telecommunications Act; and joined with the GOP in balancing the first federal budgets in decades. The political “Kumbaya” ended with his impeachment, but his success after the crushing defeat his party had suffered was one of the great political “Houdini” acts of my lifetime. Well played, and people love him for it to this day!

“Immigration Reform” – This may be the issue with which political losers may try to transform into winners. It’s also where compromise and accommodation have to meet and create strange political bedfellows. Look for a patchwork bill that is seemingly at odds with itself. It will need tough border fences and deportation requirements to appease conservatives; and it will need genuine and - in some cases - generous amnesty for certain groups (i.e. the “Dream Act” kids), to gain citizenship, to help appease liberals. The bill will simultaneously have to make Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) look like a hero (boosting his White House chances) while, at the same time, it makes President Obama look like King Solomon as the “Compromiser-in-Chief!” Hillary Clinton – as an outsider without a vote - like Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) – will have to spin their own likes and dislikes. Campaign 2016 is in full swing right now!

“Jimmy Carter vs. Richard Nixon” – There have been ten U.S. Presidents in my lifetime, but these two probably rank at the bottom in popularity and public approval for their respective parties. Both left office under very unpopular circumstances and public records – one through a landslide defeat and the other through a looming impeachment scandal. Yet, both repaired their public images and are remembered substantially more favorably these days. How? Both did it through painful political candor, authoring numerous books, and through revealing public interviews that gave us a deep insight into their minds and their public administrations - for good and for ill. You have to remember: In 238 years, only 43 men have occupied the Oval Office. What they tell us in candor is insightful and instructive. The world holds these two in much higher esteem today than on the days each left office.

“Gerald Ford” – In between Nixon and Carter, there was President Gerald Ford (all three seen in a rare joint photo above). Ford is the only President not directly elected by the people. He was wildly unpopular after succeeding and then pardoning Nixon. He then lost his reelection bid against Carter in a close 1976 Presidential campaign. But public opinion would later turn toward Ford. While many objected to his pardon of Nixon in 1974, by the time of his death in 2006, most Americans felt he spared the nation an agonizing and paralyzing impeachment of Nixon. Ford died a hero - not a goat!

What are your predictions? Can this year’s political losers be tomorrow’s political winners? Anything can happen in the wacky world of politics! Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014 MarkCurtisMedia. LLC

Photo courtesy: National Archives

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