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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 28, 2016


(Charleston, West Virginia) – We’ve heard a lot of debate this year about whether certain candidates are “qualified” to be President of the United State, or not. It’s become comical: Trump and Sanders saying Clinton was not qualified; Clinton and Sanders saying Trump was not qualified; and Clinton and Trump suggesting Sanders was not qualified! Is anyone deserving of this office? Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Are They Qualified?” – Well, according to the Constitution, there are only three qualifications for the job: you must be a natural born citizen of the United States; you must be at least 35 years of age; and, you must have resided in the United States for the past 14 years. Based on those criterion, Clinton, Trump, and Sanders are all qualified to be President. Me thinks the real question should then be on whether they are competent; not whether they are qualified.

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall? Who’s the Most Qualified of All?” -- I have to poke fun, because at this year’s Democratic National Convention, I interviewed many delegates who said, “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for President in American history!” I heard it all the time, leading me to believe the party put that out there as a talking point for delegates if they were interviewed by the press. It was amusing, but was it true? I went to investigate.

“The Hillary Resume” – It is impressive, no doubt. She was 12 years First Lady of Arkansas; then eight years First Lady of the United States. If you don’t think First Lady qualifies as political experience, then Google Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Nancy Reagan, among others. The job is very political, and for many First Ladies, they were, in fact, senior policy advisors, just as Mrs. Clinton certainly was. She then served eight years in the U.S. Senate, and four years as Secretary of State. Her resume is long and impressive, but is she really the most qualified in history? I don’t believe so.

“Jack-of-All-Trades” – Clearly one of the most experienced people we’ve ever sent to the White House, was George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. He had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives; the Ambassador to China; the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; the Chairman of the Republican National Committee; and, then Vice President for eight years. The old joke was that he had the longest resume in Washington, D.C., which was probably true. He was also the son of a U.S. Senator, so his knowledge and contacts ran deep.

“Most Qualified?” – And yes I mean the most competent, experienced, and equipped here. My unscientific review of all Presidential resumes, leads me to pick one person as the “most qualified in American history.” The title goes to James Monroe, was one of the country’s Founding Fathers. He served as President for eight years, and certainly came well prepared for office. From 1783 to 1817 he served in a variety of roles before moving into the White House. He was a member of the Continental Congress; was a U.S. Senator; Governor of Virginia; Ambassador to France; Ambassador to Great Britain; Secretary of War (now Defense); and, Secretary of State. He helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase; and authored the fabled Monroe Doctrine. My choice for most the qualified Presidential candidate in history is James Monroe.

“World War II Generation” – At one-time John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford all served in the House of Representatives together. I don’t believe we’ve ever had four sitting House members all become President. They led this nation for a combined 16 years in succession. All had military service, too. Three served in the U.S. Senate; three served as Vice President; and one led his party in the House. All four were part of what Tom Brokaw dubbed, “The Greatest Generation!” Now that’s an impressive, collective resume!

“Do Resumes Matter?” – It’s a fascinating question. Some Presidents show so much promise, then disappoint. Others look like underachievers, yet have great success. I mentioned George H.W. Bush above. Yes, he had a gold-plated resume, but he struggled to gain his footing in the Oval Office, and was voted out after one term. Harry Truman was a haberdasher (a men’s clothing salesman) of all things, and was our last President with no college degree. Yes, he served ten years in the U.S. Senate, but Roosevelt picked him because he was a non-threatening, back-bencher. Today he remains one of our most revered Presidents. Abraham Lincoln served one measly two-year term in Congress, and eight years in the Illinois Legislature, yet he is considered among our best Presidents.

“No Elective Office” – The presence of Donald Trump raises an interesting question? Have we ever elected a President who was never elected to any political office? The answer is yes, and indeed five times. They are: Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower (all top Generals); William Howard Taft (who served as Secretary of War); and Herbert Hoover (who was Secretary of Commerce.). While it is rare, one can become President without ever having been elected to any other office. Trump – and these five men - distinguished themselves in other careers before the White House ambitions arrived.

“Why All of This Matters” – Regardless of how we vote, and party affiliation, I believe most Americans want their President to succeed – not necessarily from a policy standpoint – but from the standpoint of leadership and respect on the world stage. We want our leaders to do the right things; in the best interests of the country as a whole. We’ve had a year in which 17 Republicans and five Democrats, and a handful of third-party candidates have put their names on the ballot. Now we are down to two major party nominees; and two third-party choices who may get significant votes. Let the debate begin!

Who do you think is the most qualified President or candidate we’ve ever had? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: whitehouse.gov

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 21, 2016


(Providence, Rhode Island) – We are still on the road this week with a visit to my old home of Providence, where - as elsewhere - there is turmoil among the voting public. Many here are dissatisfied with the two main Presidential choices and are thinking about third-party candidates, or about just staying home and not voting. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Sanders Dilemma” – I have talked repeatedly with Bernie Sanders supporters, perhaps way more than those of any other candidate. I bet the count is over 100, but so far only four have told me they are definitely backing Hillary Clinton. Some may vote for Trump, and some will vote Green or Libertarian, but the largest group includes those who just may not vote at all. Providence City Councilman Wilbur Jennings, Jr., tells me: “Right now I’m undecided, although I am a die-hard Democrat. But I was a Sanders convention delegate, and right now I am trying to keep the revolution alive.” Jennings believes the nomination was unfairly taken from Sanders, but in the end says he might vote for Clinton, although he’s still not certain.

“Johnson/Weld” – Support for the Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld – both former Republican Governors – remains solid. This week, I interviewed Rhode Island Libertarian leader Tony Jones, who has run for office under that party’s banner (photo above). I asked Jones what it means to be a Libertarian; and he said, “It’s fiscally conservative and socially cool.” Even my old friend, former State Senator Dawson Hodgson (R-RI), has bolted his party’s candidate, to endorse Libertarians Johnson/Weld. He’s hardly alone.

“What Say You, GOP?” – So after all of the turmoil in Campaign 2016, why is Donald Trump still viable despite derision from the left, and division from the right? Former West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart, who now runs the Trump campaign in the Mountain State, perhaps sums it up best. "At some point - Republicans and Democrats - it started to turn off in me in terms of those speeches, every year or every two years promising, 'I'm going to fix it, I'm going to fix it,' and nothing gets done. They do nothing. And so what I like about Donald Trump is that he's a guy who does it. He gets things done," Stuart said. In short, the unconventional candidate still has lots of appeal.

“The Common Bond” – So we’ve heard from a prominent Democrat, an ardent Libertarian, and a rebel Republican. Is there a common theme about voter anger and dissent this year? “I think there is such an anti-incumbent, anti-two party [theme], such a major dissatisfaction that actually this election cycle people are willing to think outside of the box and to think about third-party and independent candidates,” said Libertarian Tony Jones. Would a Democrat like Wilbur Jennings go third-party? “Well it looks like they are still possibilities, because I see they are out there working very hard. I see people telling me they are going to vote for the Libertarian candidate, because people just don’t know what to do. I’m all over the City of Providence and people say, ‘I don’t know who to vote for,’” Councilman Jennings said.

“What the Polls Say” – The Libertarian ticket has polled as high as 13 percent. Right now the Real Clear Politics composite poll has them at 8.6 percent. The Green Party’s Jill Steins is at 3.1 percent. So how does this help or hurt the two major parties? Well, in a head-to-head matchup Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 6 percentage points. When you factor in the Libertarian and Green party votes, Hillary Clinton’s lead over Trump shrinks slightly to 5.5 percent, so right now the third parties are not deal breakers. But if a third-party nominee reaches 15 percent in the polls, they will make the fall debate stage and that changes everything.

“Why All of This Matters” – Despite a rough three weeks since the conventions ended, I don’t think Trump is toast – not yet, anyway! He needs to get the management of his campaign on track after the departures of his first chief, Corey Lewandowski, and now his second chief, Paul Manafort. Bringing a radioactive Roger Ailes and the chief of the Brietbart News Network to the team may or may not work. But the public is mad, and a volatile electorate is very hard to predict. The Trump campaign is on oxygen, but it’s not on life support just yet.

Is your vote changing at all in Campaign 2016? Have you switched? Tell us by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

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