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The Policy of Speak Softly May be Dead—Sunday Political Brunch—May 20, 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Political discourse is loud these days, as witnessed by all the negative, campaign attack ads for the past few months in the 2018 primary election states. President Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy was, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” But over 100 years later, I wonder if his approach is now antiquated. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Speak Softy? NOT!” – President Trump is not Teddy Roosevelt by any stretch. Maybe Trump’s slogan should be: “Speak boorishly, and crudely, and carry a big stick!” I’m not making a negative judgement here, but rather am wondering if it’s a good approach in the modern age. During the campaign and first year of the Trump administration, I thought that the excessive and provocative tweeting should stop. It didn’t and it appears here to stay. Maybe we just need to recognize a new era in diplomacy, whether we like it or not, just as we recognize new ways to communicate that we don’t like.

“Jerusalem” – Consistency from campaign promises, to electoral success is something that voters like. If you ran on a policy, don’t change your mind once in office. We’ve seen “bait and switch” too many times in our lifetimes. Whether you like President Trump, or not, you’ve got to concede that for the most part he’s trying to hold true to campaign promises. He said he’d recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and move the U.S embassy there, and he did. Yes, there was ensuing violence; but, campaign promise made, promise fulfilled.

“Iran” – The same campaign-to-office consistency that applies to Jerusalem, also applies to Iran. Candidate Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal – and now President Trump has followed through. Again, you may think it’s a bad decision, but he gets points for sticking to what he pledged.

“Rigidity vs. Flexibility” – On the other hand, it’s one thing to be consistent, but what if on further reflection you change your mind? In 1988 Vice President George H. W. Bush ran on a pledge of, “Read my lips. No new taxes!” and he won the White House. By 1991, facing a recession, he in fact raised some taxes and it cost him reelection. Is it okay to change your mind? I ask, because in at least the North Korean instance, President Trump has.

“North Korea” – While he held his ground on Iran and Jerusalem, President Trump has done an about-face on North Korea. While the North lobbed wayward missiles, Trump essentially said he’d blow the nation off the map if the threats continued. Somehow, somewhere (I suspect China) Kim Jong Un has agreed to meet President Trump on June 12 in Singapore, and may give up his nuclear arms program (although turmoil in recent days suggests it may not happen). Either way, I mention it because clearly Trump has shown diplomatic flexibility.

“Where’s the Wall?” -- Another area where promises may not equal performance is on the southern border wall with Mexico. Yes, the President has directed the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to expand existing border walls and fences, this is by no means the start-to-finish border wall he promised. Of course, the answer lies in the funding. Unless Congress approves the entire budget to build the wall, it probably won’t happen. In a midterm election year, many marginal Republican House members and Senators probably want to steer clear of this until after November. That’s the reality of politics.

“Hey Joe, Speak Softly!” – The “speak softly and carry a big stick” line has had some humorous modern takes. Then Vice President Joe Biden tried to use this line to show President Obama’s toughness on foreign policy. What was meant to be a compliment, went viral and became an internet hoot! Judge for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrmbsKW0d7c

“Primary Colors” – Four the second straight week four states held primary elections: Pennsylvania, Idaho, Nebraska, and Oregon. There were no surprises in the latter three, but Pennsylvania remains intriguing. The state was under a Congressional redistricting plan that could lead to several Democrats taking currently Republican held seats in November. Right now, it’s hard to tell in a state Trump won in perhaps the biggest upset of 2016. Nationwide Democrats need to gain 25 seats to win back the House in 2018. In Pennsylvania, as many as six Republicans seats may be up for grabs, and it’s interesting to note that progressive (liberal) candidates beat moderates in many primary races.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author. He is currently the Chief Political Report for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, five surrounding states and Washington, D.C.

What do you think of President Trump’s foreign policy so far? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

Prev Next

Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

Prev Next

Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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