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

Sunday, April 09, 2017


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.

It’s 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 said he’d take action if there was a provocation, and he did. The public often measures politicians by whether their actions meet their words. We’ll see in the coming weeks if there are consequences, but he backed up his words with action. That’s 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 long-standing rules, but Justice Gorsuch could be handing down rulings for the next 30 years-plus. 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 settling millions of dollars in 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 he 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 of Trump’s own behavior towards women and 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 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 what happened this 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 lump the blame rightly shared by al-Assad and Putin this week - on President Obama - rings hollow to many in this country

“Winning Graciously” – I think an example of diplomacy and grace in motion involved President Reagan and outgoing President Carter in 1981. Ronald Reagan beat the incumbent in November on the heels of the worst economy since the Great Depression, and 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 on immigration restrictions and the Obamacare repeal. Now he’s buoyed by his firm action in the Mideast and 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 be 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 http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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