Sunday Political Brunch: What a Week It Was—May 28, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

 

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Mark Curtis

We are on the road again this weekend, but keeping an eye on all things political. It’s been another crazy week, with all kinds of odd events, so let’s “brunch” on what it all might mean:

“The Body Slam Heard ‘Round the World!’ – For once – someone else has bumped President Trump off the front page – if only for a moment. Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte (R-MT), is accused of body slamming a reporter after choking him. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of the Guardian, said Gianforte assaulted him. The account was seconded by a Fox TV crew at the scene, one of whom said, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter.” Ouch, in more ways than one. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

“It Means Nothing Nationally” -- Until this controversy erupted, this Congressional race wasn’t even on the national radar, but now it is. Once again you have people in the national media saying this race is a “bellwether” referendum on President Trump’s agenda as we head to the 2018 midterm elections. It isn’t folks. The same was said of a special Congressional election in Kansas (which the Republican won, and an upcoming special election in Georgia where the Republicans have a good shot at keeping the seat). Every race is NOT a bellwether; every race is not a referendum. Collectively, the 2018 House and Senate races will be a sign; but not some small-town Montana race in May of 2017, which Gianforte and the Republicans won anyway.

“Pick and Roll” – Politicians with “the moves” are making all the headlines this week. President Trump – in a video that’s gone viral – looks as if he’s shoving a fellow NATO member, the Prime Minister of Montenegro - out of the way, maybe to get in the front row of leaders for a photo op. Who knows? But I found the video hysterical (still photo above). It’s like Trump was yelling “shotgun” to get the best ride in the car in high school. Some reporters and commentators are way-overanalyzing the video for some sort of larger significance. Look, it’s not some great international faux pas, but it was pretty damn funny. Cue the “Saturday Night Live” skit.”

“Keep Pope Alive” – This could also be a “Saturday Night Live” skit, but it’s too bad the show is in summer hiatus. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is said to be fuming after he was not included in the Trump inner-circle that met with Pope Francis this week. Spicer – a devout Catholic – has had a life-long dream of meeting a Pope. He was cut from the guest list that included First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who are Jewish. You can see and SNL skit in which actress Melissa McCarthy – who plays “Spicey” in a motorized press podium – crashing into pontiff Francis riding in the “Pope Mobile,” as if in a demolition derby.

“Bipartisan Hijinks” – Just when one party seems to have the upper hand on tragic comedy, the other steps in to compete. Within the past week former NYC mayoral candidate and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), pleaded guilty to federal charges of sending lewd photos to a minor. Weiner – once a rising star in Congress – is off to prison. His estranged wife Huma Abadin, was Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s “right hand lady” and would have been a top aide, or perhaps White House Chief of Staff had Mrs. Clinton won the election. Wiener’s fall from grace did not help the cause, especially after some of the classified State Department emails wound up on his computer.

“On the Upside” – Last week I wrote about how President Trump needed to get out of Washington, and change the conversation. From the trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, NATO and Italy, he’s been getting fairly high marks. To many, he looks “Presidential,” which is a quality he lacked so often during the campaign.

“On the Other Hand” – Images can turn so quickly from positive to negative. All week long, the President has been looking – well, “Presidential,” until that odd moment Thursday (mentioned above) when he seemingly pushed the other dignitary aside at NATO. It was probably meaningless; but it was funny, and the crazy moments are always going to push the good ones off the front page.

“Why All of This Matters” – Communication strategies – whether on the campaign trail or once in office – are critical to a politician’s success. Images matter. Why do you think aides to Ronald Reagan always had him against a backdrop of U.S. flags? In contrast, President Clinton was sometimes photographed holding his hand low to his abdomen during the “Pledge of Allegiance.” He looked like he was having a bout of heartburn, versus a bout of patriotism. It brought unwelcome criticism. How a President is perceived – at home, or on the international stage – matters.

What are your thoughts about President Trump’s first international trip?

 

Related Slideshow: Trump’s Win - What Does it Mean for Rhode Island?

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Jennifer Duffy

Cook Report

"We don't really know what a Trump presidency means for the nation, never mind the smallest state.  One of the unintended consequences of last night's results is that Sen. Jack Reed won't be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Chalk that up as a loss for RI."

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Pam Gencarella

Head of Ocean State Taxpayers' Association

"Trump’s win means that his signature issue, illegal immigration, could have a big impact on RI, hopefully reversing our course as a sanctuary state and saving the state taxpayer millions of dollars.  While we agree with his 'repeal and replace' Obamacare stance, we have no idea what that means to the RI debacle known as UHIP.  It is not a stretch to believe that federal funding for this kind of system will be off the table so, will RI be stuck with this massively expensive system that still doesn’t work and that is expected to cost another $124 million to fix?  

Trump's belief that there is significant fraud in the Food Stamp program and the policies that may come from that belief could have a negative impact on RI's local economy since there are businesses in certain cities that rely heavily on this program, fraud and all. On the upside, we may be able to ditch the UHIP program if there is significantly less need for processing welfare program requests (ie. Medicaid and food stamps) resulting from fewer illegal immigrants and less fraud.  While we are ambivalent about his touted child care policies, if enacted, it may force our legislators to revisit the ever growing state cost of subsidies in this area and possibly reduce the fraud and abuse in this system." 

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Kay Israel

Professor at Rhode Island College

"With a Republican President and Congress, Rhode Island will probably be excluded from the 'fruits of victory."  

The congressional delegation will be able to vocally make their presence felt, but in the long term it's more symbolic than substantive.  

For Rhode Island it's a matter of holding on and waiting until '18 or '20 and a surge in Democratic influence."

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Jennifer Lawless

Professor at American University

"The RI congressional delegation just became even less powerful than it was. With unified government, Trump doesn’t need to quell Democrats’ concerns or acquiesce because he’s worried about a Democratically-controlled Senate.

His appointments will reflect that. His executive orders will affect that. And the conservative policy agenda he puts forward will affect that."

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Len Lardaro

Professor at University of Rhode Island

"Well there's a few things -- because there's not going to be gridlock, that's a big difference if it had been Hillary and a GOP Congress, in which nothing would got done. We'll at least get a half a billion in infrastructure that's going to pass which will have an impact.

I think you'll see there will be reduced reliance on government nationally -- and that's where we'll stick out like sore thumb. We've relied way too much on government -- and our government is highly inefficient and ineffective.  Maybe, just maybe, in this who cycle of things we might be forced to be small and more efficient for once.

A couple of other things -- interest rates jumped. The one to follow is the ten year government bond rate -- which is tied to mortgages. It went from 1.7% to 2.05% in one day. The point is -- if the ten year stays high, mortgage rates will start going higher -- and in the short time people will run to re-finance. 

That's the short term impact -- but then if rates stay hight, that will make mortgages more out of reach. And we just passed a bond issue to limit open space -- housing has limited upside here.
The next thing -- the Fed Reserve will go ahead with tightening next month. A strong dollar will hurt manufacturing. When the dollar is strong our exports become more expensive overseas. 

Our goods production sector -- manufacturing and construction -- in the near term will do a little better, but as time goes on will be more limited. But something you won't hear, is there are lags in fiscal policy, of six months to year. So we won't really see the effects until the third our fourth quarter of 2017, going into 2018."
 

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Mike Stenhouse

RI Center for Freedon and Prosperity

"As the unbelievable turned into reality this morning, it struck me that the presidential election was not really all about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was about a fed-up people, revolting against a corrupt system - the "beast" - that relentlessly favors insiders. Hillary personified the beast, while Donald personified the slayer.

Sadly, based on election results in our state, Rhode Island's version of the beast lives on. I fear our political class has not learned the lessons from the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements - and will continue with their government-centric, anti-family, anti-business status quo."

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Kristina Contreras Fox

VP of Young Democrats of America

"A Trump Presidency means the validation of the ugliest part of America. In RI, as with the rest of the country, the hammer of his hatred will fall hardest on minority communities. Being a blue state doesn't make us immune from this danger.

Trump won over 35% (39.5) of the vote here! We need to look in the mirror, and not lie about what the reflection shows us. No more hiding underneath a blue blanket. I expect those who claim Democratic values to be true to those values. The gulf between words and actions have turned into fertile ground for Trump's message to grow here in RI. If you call yourself a Democrat, if you claim to stand in opposition to Trump, now is the time to prove it. Show up and fight back."
 

 
 

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