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When the White House Becomes a Prison -- Sunday Political Brunch January 13, 2019


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Three weeks into a partial government shutdown and there appears no end in sight. I predicted early on that President Trump would have the short-term advantage, but that as things dragged on, public sympathies may drift more to Congress. I think we're nearing some turning points that could change the dynamic, so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Art of the Deal?” – I was on KGO Radio 810-AM in San Francisco this week with host Ronn Owens, where I predicted President Trump would have to lead the way soon and be the dealmaker. After all he wrote the 1980s bestseller, “The Art of The Deal.” I still say he’ll concede on the so-called “Dreamers” and allow them to become U.S. citizens, in exchange for a good chunk of the border wall funding. In a true deal, each side gets something.

“Carter Rose Garden Lessons” – While I was on KGO with Ronn Owens, we discussed the dynamic of when a president faces a crisis. While we’ve never had a president like Trump, and my suggestion was that Mr. Trump ought to pay a close study to the history of President Jimmy Carter. During the 1979-80 Iran Hostage Crisis, Iranian militants took 52 Americans hostage - including military personnel - while seizing the U.S. Embassy. Carter barricaded himself in the White House in what came to be known as, “The Rose Garden Strategy.” It backfired, and Ronald Reagan crushed Carter’s reelection bid in a landslide.

“Public Sentiment Swings” – We are three weeks into this 25-percent government shutdown, which by my observation has been met with widespread public indifference. The backers of Trump and Pelosi/Schumer have secured their own base of support but aren’t moving the needle elsewhere. The tide could change. Friday marked the first day that affected federal workers went without a paycheck. If this stretches on two more weeks, they’ll miss another paycheck. Trump may have had an ideological advantage early on, (i.e., he kept his campaign promise to secure the border), but if we start to see a human cost to American citizens, public sentiment could turn on the White House in a very hostile way. People want Presidents to lead!

“SNL” – So far, the only winners in this fight are the writers at Saturday Night Live. In Tuesday’s night prime-time address to the nation, President Trump sounded stiff, robotic and scripted as he read from the White House teleprompter. It was a jarring contrast to the spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness, ad-libs of Trump on stage, both on the campaign and as President. Like him or not, he’s great unscripted. The Pelosi-Schumer response was just as bad on aesthetics. They looked like two high school kids, forced to go to the prom in an arranged date by their parents. Do they even like each other? The long, silent camera stares were uncomfortable, (and, yes, at times funny!)

“National Emergency” – The President says he reserves the right to declare a national emergency and build the wall, without Congressional authorization. Yes, the President has authority to do such things in a natural disaster or at times of war, but does illegal immigration rise to that threat level? His lawyers say yes, but Democrats in Congress are likely to challenge in Federal Court, as the separation of powers gives Congress the lead on raising and spending revenue. This one is a tough call, and since a long legal fight might mean an injunction, Trump remains more inclined to cut a deal with Congress. This remains, “in-play.”

“2020 Election” – There is a good bit of Republican unity right now but watch for eventual cracks in the wall (pardon the pun). Quietly there are some Republicans working behind the scenes trying to craft a compromise deal with Democrats. Why? Well, a long, protracted fight could hurt not only Mr. Trump, but also have a negative “coattail effect” in 2020. Republicans would like to keep control of the Senate and win back the House, which is plausible. But the Senate is risky. In 2018 Democrats were defending about three-quarters of the seats and lost many. Tables have turned and in 2020, the GOP is defending about three-times as many seats as Democrats. Watch as some members cut ties to Trump, to save their own jobs. That’s politics!

“Not Taxpayers; Mexico Pays” – During the campaign I thought one of Trump’s biggest mistakes was saying that he’d force Mexico pay for the wall. How? What court could ever enforce such a notion? Look, if this is a national defense issue, then the U.S. must suck it up and pay for its own defense. That’s what we’ve done in every war or conflict. It’s just the cost of doing business where we pay our own money to keep our nation free. No one pays us to do that. It’s a function of our self-reliance. Trump made a promise he can’t possibly enforce or keep.

What are your thoughts on the wall, and the government shutdown? Who’s winning? Just click the comments button on this page or click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and five surrounding states. He’s also a Contributing Writer for Patch.com, writing each week for the White House Patch.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images.

A New Year’s Political Hodge-Podge – Sunday Political Brunch – January 6, 2019


WASHINGTON, D.C – I spent two days on Capitol Hill this week as the 116th Congress was sworn-in. Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans remain in control of the White House and Senate. Transitions of power always fascinate me, and it was great to bear witness to it in person. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Shared Power” – The last two years have been marked by a pitched battle between President Trump and Democrats, and especially with members of Trump’s own Republican Party. Some are hoping that now as Democrats share power with control of the House, there will be room for compromise. This week at the U.S. Capitol, Senator Joe Manchin (D) West Virginia told me, "When you have all Democrats or all Republicans, they tend not to listen to the other side. Now they have to. So, the President has to understand that if he wants anything done, he's got to work with the majority of Democrats in the House."

“Can They Compromise?” – When I arrived in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, there was a tweet from President Trump saying to the Democratic Congressional leaders, “Let’s Make a Deal” as if channeling the old TV game show of the same name, hosted by Monte Hall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded on Twitter with an #IrresponsibleTrumpShutdown hash tag and it all spiraled out of control from there, with Trump at some points calling it the “Schumer Shutdown.” It was three-way finger pointing at its finest!

“From a Viewer’s Perspective” – One of my TV viewers from Wheeling, West Virginia asked me Friday what I thought would happen with the shutdown. Here’s my best guess: President Trump wants $5 billion for the border wall. Democrats (and some Republicans) want a path to citizenship for a few million so-called “Dreamers,” or DACA immigrants. They are people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, when the kids were young, minor children, who had no say in their fate. Many are now adults, who have assimilated into the United States, and are educated and working. I predict Trump will allow the “Dreamers” to stay (with some strict guidelines), and Democrats will give a more generic multi-billion-dollar border fund that won’t be specifically earmarked for a wall, but could be used as such. Is it an “Art of the Deal” moment? We’ll see!

“Chaos! What Chaos?” – The partial (about 25 percent) government shutdown has stretched into two weeks. With this, along with several high profile White House personnel and cabinet departures, many in the national media kept reporting about “chaos” at the White House, Capitol, and indeed all of Washington, D.C. Well, in my two days in the Capitol City – where I previously worked for six years and visited many times since – I saw no signs of chaos. The hustle and bustle of D.C. was alive and well. The beat goes on, as the song says. I mean no disrespect to the approximately 800,000 federal workers on furlough without paychecks (they always get back pay when the government reopens), but the average American is neither seeing or feeling much, if any, impact from the shutdown.

“Year of the Woman, Part Two” – One of the genuine pieces of history made this week was the swearing in of the largest number of women serving in both the House and Senate in American history. Women now hold 127 seats in the House and Senate which amounts to 24 percent of Congress. Parity no; progress, yes. This week I got to interview two of them for their perspective. "We're wired differently. We bring different tools. Most women I know have seven or eight plates up in the air, spinning at all times, doing multi-tasking," said Rep. Carol Miller (R) West Virginia-Dist. 3. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R) said, “We are known to be better negotiators, working across the aisle with other women. I always say that women are busy people. You know we have lots on our plate that we are doing every single day.”

“Compromise or Gridlock?” – I am often asked to predict how political dynamics will shake out, especially when the power structure shifts and changes. When Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, he had Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate but got very little accomplished. In 1994, when voters gave control of both chambers in Congress to Republicans, many thought the Clinton presidency was doomed. It wasn’t. Both sides looked for common ground and passed a major crime bill, welfare reform, and ground-breaking telecommunications legislation. They also balanced the federal budget for the first time in decades. We’ll see if a similar dynamic takes place now that we have divided government again. Stay tuned!

What would you like to see President Trump and the divided Congress achieve together? Just click the comment button on this page or click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and it’s five neighboring states.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

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