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Sunday Political Brunch - April 9, 2017: Choose Your Battles Carefully


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

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


(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

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