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The Perils of a Political Strategy Disconnect - Sunday Political Brunch June 24, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – You can’t escape the debate this past week over border enforcement and the family separation policy. I’ll leave it to others to argue the pros and cons, and they have been all over social media and network TV. What I want to look at this week, as a political analyst, is what the strategy seems to be behind the scenes, and the implications for November if the polices drag on. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“The Bully Pulpit” – One of the things we’ve learned in the Trump administration is that he is an in-your-face, bull-in-a-China-shop negotiator. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a frequent foe of President Trump, has often described him as a street fighter. It has been decades since there was significant immigration reform in Washington, and the President was likely trying to leverage the shocking images of family separation into a pressure tactic on both fellow Republicans and Democrats to pass a significant immigration reform bill. So far, the effort has failed.

“Implications for November” – In some states, such as West Virginia, Trump is popular, and his policies play well on both sides. For example, this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Trump’s Homeland Security Budget, which includes $1.6 billion for the Border Wall with Mexico. Both Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) voted for the security budget, including funding for the wall. Not every state agrees. As we’ve discussed in recent weeks, seven California U.S. House districts currently occupied by Republicans are on the bubble. Former Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) won all these districts in the 2016 Presidential race. The hardline family separation policy may not play well here for the GOP. Control of the Senate and House are at stake on Capitol Hill.

“Immigration Bills” – If President Trump, as I hypothesize, was trying to insert leverage and pass a comprehensive immigration bill, so far it has not come to bear. A Thursday vote failed in the House, and a companion bill faces uncertainty in the days ahead. Even if anything passes the House, it’s likely dead in the Senate, where the GOP needs some Democratic votes for approval.

“The Pass-Pattern on Immigration” – The last significant immigration bill was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. That was 32 years ago, yet the problem has gotten worse under both Republican and Democrat administrations. Why is that, given that voters are so outraged on both sides of the debate? Here is the unvarnished answer. Democrats look at illegal immigrants as likely voters. Republicans look at illegal immigrants as an affordable labor source in the underground economy, often dominating the agribusiness and hospitality industries. Both sides feel comfortable looking the other way in hoping to advance their own self-interest. It sounds cynical, but it’s true.

“The Politics of Provocation” – I am not making an editorial comment here when I say the President likes to finesse, or “bully” his agenda into policy or votes. Calling opponents “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” or “Crazy Bernie,” was not just to create bumper stickers. President Trump likes to bait his opponents by provoking and angering them, in hopes of knocking them off balance. Calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Little Rocket Man” was meant to demean and belittle him. Then, President Trump invites him to a summit, only to cancel it and reschedule it again. That is the Trump strategy: To make Trump the power broker in the deal.

“The First Lady” – When I read Thursday that Melania Trump was on her way to the border for a fact-finding mission, I thought what a great way to counteract all the negative publicity surrounding family separation, including some of the highly-volatile video images. Yes, it’s a publicity gimmick, but all first ladies in my lifetime have often had a softening effect on their partner, or at least gave the impression of a more compassionate soul. I still view the pictures of the late First Lady Barbara Bush holding an AIDS baby as the shining example. But Melania Trump traveled to Texas with a coat bearing the expression, “I really don’t care, do u?” What a disaster! Where are her aides? Where is her own good judgement? Its indefensible. Images matter! Who on earth thought this was a good idea?

“Scatter and Run” – We are five-and-a-half months from the November election. With President Trump signing an Executive Order and reversing his policy on family separation at the border, it’s possible the issue may fade, despite the impassioned outcries people have today. It’s a long way to November and memories fade. That’s a political reality.

“The Shelf Life of News” – News about politics remains a “what have you done for me lately business”, even in the internet-age. If the immigration policy was a crisis for the Trump Administration in June, it might not even register as a blip on the radar in November, especially if the policy fades away. Strategically, the President was probably right to make the public provocation in June, even though it may have backfired in the short term.

Do you support or oppose a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border? Why, or why not? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Some Presidential Father’s Day Trivia -- The Sunday Political Brunch -- June 17, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Okay politics has gotten way too serious in the past week with five more primaries and President Trump’s summit with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. Let’s lighten up this week and do some fun trivia about presidents and their Father’s Day legacies. We’ll “brunch” on that this week.

“Like Father; Like Son” – We’ll start with the easy trivia. We’ve had two father and son combos serve in the White House, which is quite a rarity. Yes, royal families leave a legacy of kingly descendants, but our Founding Fathers very much tried to steer away from that. Still, President John Adams was our second U.S. President and his son John Quincy Adams was our sixth. Nearly two hundred years later we elected George H.W. Bush as our 41st President, and just twelve years later sent his son George W. Bush to the White House.

“John Who? – Does anyone recall U.S. Rep. John Scott Harrison (Whig-OH), who served two terms in Congress in the 1850s? Probably not, but he has the distinction of being the only person to be both the son and the father of a U.S. President. His dad was President William Henry Harrison, and his son President Benjamin Harrison.

“The Presidential Mingle” – Julie Nixon – daughter of President Richard Nixon – married David Eisenhower, grandson of President Dwight Eisenhower. Making this even more intriguing is the fact that Richard Nixon also served as Vice President under President Eisenhower for eight years from 1953 to 1961.

“Land of Lincoln” – President Abraham Lincoln is considered one of our greatest chief executives. His life was tinged with sadness, including the death of a son while he served as President. Two other Lincoln children died young. But Lincoln’s eldest had shining moments. His son Robert Todd Lincoln served as a Captain in the U.S. Army under General (and later President) Ulysses S. Grant. Robert Lincoln attended Harvard and rose the ranks in politics. He served as U.S. Secretary of War (now Defense), under Cleveland. He then went on to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Benjamin Harrison. Yes, his amazing accomplishments may be over shadowed by his dad in all the history books, but Robert Todd Lincoln remains one of the most prolific and successful of all presidential children.

“The Dads Have It” – If there is one thing in common among all 44 men who have served as U.S. President, it’s that all were fathers. Mind you that five were adoptive fathers, and the other 39 fathered biological children. Now I know some of you are scratching your heads saying, “President James Buchanan was a life-long bachelor?” Well, that’s true, but President Buchanan adopted his orphaned niece, Harriet Lane. At the age of 27, Lane served as First Lady of the United States for her bachelor uncle’s presidency!

“Father of Our Country?” – George Washington never fathered any children, but he did adopt his wife Martha's six kids. Four other Presidents - James Madison, James Polk, Andrew Jackson, and James Buchanan, also adopted children, but fathered none. President Warren Harding fathered a child out-of-wedlock the year before winning the White House.

“Trump Dad Times-Three” -- President Donald Trump is the only U.S. President to have been married three times, and fathered children with all three spouses. Donald Jr, Eric, and Ivanka, are the children from first wife Ivana. Tiffany Trump is the daughter of Marla Maples; and Barron Trump is the son of Melania Trump. Several other presidents had children with two spouses, and we know that Thomas Jefferson had children with slave Sally Hemmings.

“Father of Father’s Day” – Father's Day has a variety of origins. The first known commemoration was a memorial service in Monongah, West Virginia in 1907, after 361 men were killed in a mining accident. 1910, the YWCA in Spokane Washington offered a Father's Day service, but attempts to make it a national holiday in the administrations of Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge failed. It was always celebrated unofficially, but became a formally recognized holiday when President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation in 1966, which later became law under President Nixon in 1972. Father's Day had a lot of "presidential fathers!"

“Double Trouble” – The only presidential couple to deliver twins, was George W. and Laura Bush, with daughters Jenna and Barbara. By the way, they are among 31 living presidential children, the eldest being 74-year-old Lynda Byrd Johnson Robb, and the youngest being 12-year-old Barron Trump.
“Most Kids? – President John Tyler wins this one hands down, with 15 kids. Tyler had eight children with his first wife and seven with his second. His first wife Letitia died about a year and a half into his term. Two years later he married Julia, while still in the White House.

Do you have a favorite presidential child? I liked rebellious teenager Susan Ford, who was known to sneak out of the White House while in high school. Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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

© 2018 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: WhiteHouse.gov

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