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The Policy of Speak Softly May be Dead -- Sunday Political Brunch-- May 20, 2018


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Political discourse is loud these days, as witnessed by all the negative, campaign attack ads for the past few months in the 2018 primary election states. President Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy was, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” But over 100 years later, I wonder if his approach is now antiquated. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Speak Softy? NOT!” – President Trump is not Teddy Roosevelt by any stretch. Maybe Trump’s slogan should be: “Speak boorishly, and crudely, and carry a big stick!” I’m not making a negative judgement here, but rather am wondering if it’s a good approach in the modern age. During the campaign and first year of the Trump administration, I thought that the excessive and provocative tweeting should stop. It didn’t and it appears here to stay. Maybe we just need to recognize a new era in diplomacy, whether we like it or not, just as we recognize new ways to communicate that we don’t like.

“Jerusalem” – Consistency from campaign promises, to electoral success is something that voters like. If you ran on a policy, don’t change your mind once in office. We’ve seen “bait and switch” too many times in our lifetimes. Whether you like President Trump, or not, you’ve got to concede that for the most part he’s trying to hold true to campaign promises. He said he’d recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and move the U.S embassy there, and he did. Yes, there was ensuing violence; but, campaign promise made, promise fulfilled.

“Iran” – The same campaign-to-office consistency that applies to Jerusalem, also applies to Iran. Candidate Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal – and now President Trump has followed through. Again, you may think it’s a bad decision, but he gets points for sticking to what he pledged.

“Rigidity vs. Flexibility” – On the other hand, it’s one thing to be consistent, but what if on further reflection you change your mind? In 1988 Vice President George H. W. Bush ran on a pledge of, “Read my lips. No new taxes!” and he won the White House. By 1991, facing a recession, he in fact raised some taxes and it cost him reelection. Is it okay to change your mind? I ask, because in at least the North Korean instance, President Trump has.

“North Korea” – While he held his ground on Iran and Jerusalem, President Trump has done an about-face on North Korea. While the North lobbed wayward missiles, Trump essentially said he’d blow the nation off the map if the threats continued. Somehow, somewhere (I suspect China) Kim Jong Un has agreed to meet President Trump on June 12 in Singapore, and may give up his nuclear arms program (although turmoil in recent days suggests it may not happen). Either way, I mention it because clearly Trump has shown diplomatic flexibility.

“Where’s the Wall?” -- Another area where promises may not equal performance is on the southern border wall with Mexico. Yes, the President has directed the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to expand existing border walls and fences, this is by no means the start-to-finish border wall he promised. Of course, the answer lies in the funding. Unless Congress approves the entire budget to build the wall, it probably won’t happen. In a midterm election year, many marginal Republican House members and Senators probably want to steer clear of this until after November. That’s the reality of politics.

“Hey Joe, Speak Softly!” – The “speak softly and carry a big stick” line has had some humorous modern takes. Then Vice President Joe Biden tried to use this line to show President Obama’s toughness on foreign policy. What was meant to be a compliment, went viral and became an internet hoot! Judge for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrmbsKW0d7c

“Primary Colors” – Four the second straight week four states held primary elections: Pennsylvania, Idaho, Nebraska, and Oregon. There were no surprises in the latter three, but Pennsylvania remains intriguing. The state was under a Congressional redistricting plan that could lead to several Democrats taking currently Republican held seats in November. Right now, it’s hard to tell in a state Trump won in perhaps the biggest upset of 2016. Nationwide Democrats need to gain 25 seats to win back the House in 2018. In Pennsylvania, as many as six Republicans seats may be up for grabs, and it’s interesting to note that progressive (liberal) candidates beat moderates in many primary races.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author. He is currently the Chief Political Report for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, five surrounding states and Washington, D.C.

What do you think of President Trump’s foreign policy so far? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

A Primary Post Mortem -- The Sunday Political Brunch -- May 13, 2018


CHARLESTON, West Virginia - The first big primary election cluster of the 2018 campaign season is over, and there's a lot to dissect. West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana all held primaries this past Tuesday, and the results are intriguing. Let's "brunch" on that this week.

"Trumping West Virginia" -- Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, (R-WV) is his party's nominee to take on Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Look for this to be a battle over who supports President Trump the most. Yes Manchin is a Democrat, but he's perhaps the most conservative of his party in the Senate. Manchin says he voted with Trump 60 percent of the time, including recently supporting Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State and the scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal. But expect Morrisey to attack Manchin for his past support of Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, as well as Manchin's vote against the Tax Reform Bill.

"House Cleaning?" -- Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) gave up a safe U.S. House in his losing bid for the Senate nomination. Now, popular State Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) has a realistic chance to beat Delegate Carol Miller, (R-Cabell) in the race to succeed Jenkins. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is likely to dump a lot of money in the race to make it competitive. A safe seat for the GOP, is now likely a toss-up that Democrats could win. This will be a recurring theme.

"Indiana Doesn't Want Me" -- Like West Virginia, Indiana had a fascinating and combative Senate Primary Tuesday night. Two sitting U.S. House members sought the nomination, but both were defeated by former State House Member Mike Braun, (R-IN). That leaves two GOP Indiana Congressional seats open. Mind you, one of them is the seat long held by now Vice President Mike Pence, so there's a good chance it will stay Republican, but an open seat means it is more vulnerable.

"Ohio Showdown" - Four-term Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) is his party's nominee to take on incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in November. But that leaves Renacci's 16th district Congressional seat wide open. He was preceded in that office by a Democrat, and only retained the seat in 2012, by four percentage points. You can bet Democrats will make a strong bid for this seat in what is essentially a more "purple" district, that a firm "red" or "blue." Again, it could be a seat national Democrats target and try to flip.

"Primary Pains" -- Last week I wrote about a vulnerable Republican Congressional seat in North Carolina. Sure enough, in a rematch Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) lost to challenger Mark Harris, whom he barely defeated in 2016. It's a marginal district and again, one Democrats plan to target as a possible pick-up in November.

"Peat, and Repeat!" -- Yes, I'm painting a theme here. With 40 Republican U.S. House members either retiring, or running for other office this year, that leaves a lot of open seats in Congress. The biggest departure was House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-WI) announcing he would not seek re-election. Right now Republicans hold 235 seats in the House, but if they have a net loss of 18 seats, Democrats will be back in charge of the House. It's very doable in what may be a big anti-Trump year.

"The Other Senate Race" -- West Virginia's U.S. Senate race got most of the national attention, Tuesday night, but keep an eye on Indiana. Senator Joe Donnelly, (D-IN), is thought to be one of the most vulnerable seats in the nation. In 2012, Donnelly barely got 50 percent of the vote over a very controversial Republican nominee. Many view this as the most likely Senate seat the GOP can flip this year. I would imagine Vice President Pence stumping for nominee and former State Rep. Mike Braun.

"The Trump Factor?" -- This is a very polarizing President, so he'll have to choose his battles carefully. Trump, I predict, will visit West Virginia often since he remains so popular here. He defeated Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points here. But, will Trump travel to campaign for Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio, where he won by much smaller margins? I suspect some candidates will openly embrace and campaign with Trump, while others will give him the proverbial "ten-foot pole."

"Why All of this Matters" -- Midterm elections are a report card on any President's first two years in office. Traditionally the party out of power gains seats - like House Democrats in 2006 and House Republicans in 1994 - and both of the those times the minority party surged into the majority. 2018 could be fascinating, so stay tuned!

What is trending in your state? Just click the click on the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

(c) 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis, Ed.D. is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author, and is now Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia.

Photo courtesy: localdvm.com

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