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

Sunday, April 09, 2017


View Larger +

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


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

View Larger +
Prev Next

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."

View Larger +
Prev Next

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." 

View Larger +
Prev Next

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."

View Larger +
Prev Next

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."

View Larger +
Prev Next

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."

View Larger +
Prev Next

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."

View Larger +
Prev Next

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."


Enjoy this post? Share it with others.


Sign Up for the Daily Eblast

I want to follow on Twitter

I want to Like on Facebook


Stay Connected — Free
Daily Email