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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- April 2, 2017

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – It’s been a turbulent couple of weeks for President Trump. But every Commander in Chief has patches of rough seas. It’s how you get out of it - and right the ship - that matters. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Country Roads, West Virginia” – An old bromide in politics counsels a President when things go bad to “Travel to where you are popular; and change the topic of conversation.” After the collapse of the Obamacare repeal, it was Vice President Pence who traveled to West Virginia on Saturday (photo above) and proclaimed, "President Trump and I are confident the United States Senate will confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch [to the Supreme Court] one way or the other." Nowhere is Trump more popular than in West Virginia; and a Gorsuch win will provide a huge boost after the health care meltdown.

“Nuking the Filibuster” – Senate Democrats have already promised to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, but two have bolted. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have pledged to vote "yes" on Gorsuch. That brings his support total to 54 in the Senate, short of the 60 needed to defeat the filibuster. Prediction: Republicans will not get 60 yes votes. Therefore, they will choose the “nuclear option" and blow up current Senate rules, changing them so that a simple majority wins confirmation. Democrats did the same thing a few years back, so it’s tit-for-tat politics. Neil Gorsuch will be the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and President Trump will have a win he badly needs.

“Health is Unhealthy” – After the vote to repeal Obamacare was tabled, there was talk President Trump would move on to another issue and return to the Affordable Care Act somewhere down the road. Now, Republicans are talking about rallying another effort to repeal sooner, rather than later. My educated guess is that would be a mistake. The Republican strategy needs to be finding a different issue where they can win. After all, what would happen if they double-down and lose on Obamacare two straight times in short order? The fallout would be devastating. Have a cool-down period, and move on to something else first.

“Political Freedom Isn’t Free” – There is a weird dynamic here. The conservative Republican Freedom Caucus blocked the effort to repeal Obamacare. They are the same rebel group that had earlier prompted former Speaker John Boehner to leave Congress. The membership varies, but is at about three dozen. That’s hardly most of the Republican caucus, but it’s enough to gum up the works. Both President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized the Freedom Caucus this week. Then President Trump said he would work with Democrats on health care reform, which in turn upset Speaker Ryan, who does not want to work with Democrats. Are they forming a “circular firing squad?” Stay tuned.

“The Carnival Side Show” – There was criticism this week after first daughter Ivanka Trump was appointed to an official White House job (though unpaid). Her husband, Jared Kushner, is already working in similar capacity (unpaid, too); yet Democrats have made cries of nepotism. This is odd. Hillary Clinton served as an unpaid senior advisor to President Bill Clinton (as she was put in charge of health care reform). Bobby Kennedy was President John Kennedy’s chief confidant and was also U.S. Attorney General. Unless Ivanka tries to sell handbags or her clothing line during Cabinet meetings, this criticism is without merit.

“What’s Next?” – Many have suggested that the President and his Republicans move on to a different issue for now and let health care simmer down. They are talking tax reform as another hot issue. Maybe that’s the path, but what about Mr. Trump’s signature issue, immigration reform? That’s what got him elected. As I suggested in previous columns, they need to break immigration reform down into about eight different bills focused on specific topics, as it will never pass as one huge, all-encompassing bill. Pick an easy topic to win, and look like you are building momentum.

“Why All of This Matters” – NFL Hall of Fame Football Coach John Madden coined a phrase about his profession, noting that “winning is the best deodorant.” Yes, your defense may be weak, or your running game poor, but if you win the game people tend not to care about the details. The San Francisco 49ers may have won five Super Bowls, but their record last season was a meager 2-wins, 14-losses. Politics – like sports – is a “what have you done for me lately” business After a court defeat on immigration and a legislative defeat on Obamacare, the Trump team needs a winning streak.

Question: If you were President Trump, what issue would you tackle next? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com and let us know what you’d do!

© 2017, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo courtesy: tristateupdate.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- March 26, 2017

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Dr. Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media television stations in West Virginia.

(Washington, D.C.) – I was in the nation’s capital last week on assignment, and it got me to thinking about some of the tumultuous transitions of power we’ve had in this country. The Trump administration has had some major speed bumps along the road – including a big one this week - so let’s “brunch” on that:

“Obamacare Repeal” – The warning signs were already in place. As I have said for weeks, the House does not owe its Republican control to Mr. Trump. That majority was attained in 2010. So, it’s no surprise that enough Republicans bolted the party line and said “No” on the current repeal and replacement of Obamacare. It will be different if - and when - new healthcare legislation ever gets to the Senate, where clearly Trump’s coattails kept the Republican majority in charge. Make no mistake. This is a major defeat for the Republican Party, but by no means has the Titanic hit the iceberg yet.

“Getting Stuff Done” – All new administrations (and the media) focus almost obsessively on the “First 100 Days” of a new White House. I’m not sure where that emphasis originated, since rarely has anything monumental happened in the first three-plus months of any administration. As of today, we’re at day 66 of the Trump years. Yes, a bunch of Executive Orders were issued – some successful, some blocked in the courts – but the “100 Day” report card is still graded as “Incomplete.”

“Public vs. Private Sector” – I learned a valuable lesson covering the 1992 Presidential campaign, with businessman Ross Perot in the mix as an upstart independent candidate. Perot – like Trump – never held political office, but had made billions in private business. When you are the CEO, you can yell, “Jump!” and your workers reply by saying, “How high?” In politics, it doesn’t work that way, especially with built-in checks and balances on power. Mr. Trump simply can’t tell Congress what to do. Perot was placed on the Board of Directors at General Motors after it bought out his company. It was a contentious “shotgun marriage,” in which Perot could not get along with the others and was eventually dismissed. I deeply respect Perot, but the General Motors experience was an indication of his inability to work well with others in power. It’s a possible lesson for President Trump.

“The ‘Gorsuch Factor’” – For President Trump to turn the momentum in his first year, he needs a big, big victory. Since Democrats have now announced they will filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump has a battle he can fight and win. As mentioned earlier, the Senate owes its majority directly to Trump’s coattails, so he needs to call in the favor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has little choice but to invoke the “nuclear option” to let a simple majority of the Senate approve Gorsuch.

“Who’s at Justice?” – In 1993 it was almost like the famed Abbott and Costello skit, “Who’s On First?” except that it was a rough spot in the first weeks of the Clinton administration. Who would be the U.S. Attorney General? I was just days into my first job as a Congressional Aide, working for the House Judiciary Committee. Zoe Baird was nominated to be Attorney General, but dropped out after it was revealed that she had hired illegal immigrants to care for her children and had failed to file taxes. Then, Federal Judge Kimba Wood was nominated, only to bow out for also having an illegal-immigrant nanny. Janet Reno – the third nominee – became Attorney General. The lesson here was that President Clinton quickly cut his losses - twice - and moved on.

“Self-Inflicted Wounds” – I have often said in this column that the worst political wounds are frequently self-inflicted. Former President Clinton can blame Republicans all he wants for his 1998 impeachment, but it never would have happened if it weren’t for Mr. Clinton’s own reckless behavior. Partisans will argue for eternity about whether impeachment was warranted or not, but that’s beside the point. The President’s own actions led to a year-long power struggle that was a problem of his own making. Other cases in point: Congressman Anthony Weiner, President Richard Nixon, Congressman Wilbur Mills, Congressman Gary Condit, Senator Ted Kennedy, and the list goes on. In politics, you often “reap what you sow.”

“Why All This Matters” – Success in politics is about momentum, and about public support for your agenda. President Trump has wasted a lot of political capital with his incessant “tweets” that blow up in his face, e.g. the Obama wiretap claims. He needs to get his agenda back on track, and he needs to avoid offending his own allies. One thing he needs to remember is that every House member and one-third of the Senate will be up for reelection in 2018; but he is not. Many in his own party may abandon him to save their own political skins.

What issue should President Trump focus on after Obamacare? Tax reform? Immigration reform? Let us know your opinion by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media.

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