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Sunday Political Brunch -- April 16, 2017: Trump Changing His Tune

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – There has been a lot of chatter this week in the news and on talk radio about how many times Donald Trump has changed positions now that he is President, compared to what he said on the campaign trail. In fairness, there have been consistencies, too! Let’s “brunch” on all that the Easter Sunday!

“Serious in Syria” – Last fall, when candidate Trump was asked about taking military action in Syria, he said, “What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria.” Last week, after he ordered missile attacks, he said, "Yesterday's chemical attack against innocent people - their deaths were an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated." So, what happened? Well, events and circumstance can change, prompting a policy change. I’d hardly call it a flip-flop. The difference between what was said in October and what was done in April was a chemical weapons attack on civilians.

“NATO No-No” – A year ago on the campaign trail, Trump’s criticism of NATO was a common theme. “My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits,” Trump said in a March 2016 Tweet. Trump’s two big beefs with NATO were that the U.S. paid a higher share of the cost and that NATO was not fighting terrorism. This past week, he said, "I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change; and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete; it's no longer obsolete." It’s not all coming up roses yet, but you could hear our European allies' collective sigh of relief.

“From Russia with No Love” – In the early days of the campaign, Trump said of Russia, "I was over in Moscow two years ago; and I will tell you — you can get along with those people and get along with them well. You can make deals with those people. Obama can't." Fast forward to April 2017 and he’s changed his tune on the heels of the Syrian gas attack. "Right now, we're not getting along with Russia at all," Trump said, adding that relations with Russia "may be at an all-time low." Trump has also changed his tune regarding China. During the campaign, he was highly critical of China’s trade policies, but has warmed up to the communist nation because he needs their support against North Korean aggression.

“Icing ISIS” – As previously mentioned, not all of Mr. Trump’s recent comments represented a change in position or policy. For example, during the campaign he said of ISIS: “I would just bomb those suckers; and that's right, I'd blow up the pipes, I'd blow up the refineries, I'd blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.” He may not have hit refineries yet, but dropped the “mother of all bombs” on an ISIS outpost in Afghanistan. On this issue, he is at least holding close to a campaign pledge, though there is much more work to be done.

“Read My Lips; No New Taxes” – George H.W. Bush won the White House in 1988 by famously saying, “Read my lips; no new taxes.” But, two years later, he raised taxes; and it cost him dearly. It is certainly one reason why he did not win a second term. Could Donald Trump’s position on NATO cost him a second term? I doubt it, and here’s why: Taxes are something that affect people personally. A tax increase has a direct impact on our wallets. Things like NATO seem remote from our daily lives. Yes, NATO is there to deter war; but unless it fails in that mission, a lot of its work goes largely unnoticed.

“With That Woman” – It wasn’t a public-policy flip-flop, but it surely was a personal one. Early in 1998, President Clinton denied having an affair with a White House intern: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” In September, 1998, Mr. Clinton addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, saying: “I agree with those who have said that in my first statement after I testified I was not contrite enough. I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also, my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.” Yes, he was still impeached, but I always call that the speech that saved his Presidency.

“Why All This Matters” – I often say, “It’s one thing to campaign for President; it’s quite another thing to actually have the job.” A President is privy to far more intelligence data than a candidate. Sometimes, you get to the job and say, “Whoa, I had no idea.” I’ve always suspected that is why candidate Barack Obama said he’d close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but never did. Not only do time and circumstances change policy decisions; so, too, does new information. There is at least one funny twist to this story. A company called www.cafepress.com is selling Trump flip-flops (photo above) you can wear on your feet! I'm certain that Trump, the entrepreneur, would appreciate that!

Do you have a memorable example of a politician flip-flopping or changing a previous position or statement? To share it, just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: cafepress.com

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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