“Sunday Political Brunch: Will This Ever End?” – May 21, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017


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Mark Curtis

I honestly don’t know where to begin; and I honestly don’t know where this will end. This has been one of the most bizarre weeks --- politically speaking – that I have every witnessed. It’s like the rain storm that never ends. There are huge implications, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Location, Location, Location” – I’ve often said in this column that when the political heat gets too hot, the best things a politician can do are change locations, and change the topics of conversation. President Trump departed the U.S. on an eight-day international trip. He’s probably hoping that will deflect some of the attention he’s been getting here at home. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Italy are among his stops. Maybe the questions will be about foreign relations and terrorism, but I doubt that will be all.

“My Dear Friend Boris” – I will never, ever forget President Clinton visiting Russia on a much-ballyhooed foreign visit on September 1, 1998. Mr. Clinton was probably looking forward to knocking his impeachment scandal off the front page. As he stood next to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin, came this question from a reporter: “Sir, you were just speaking of the challenges that we face as a nation. And what has the reaction since your admission of a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky caused you any -- given you any cause for concern that you may not be as effective as you should be in leading the country?” Clinton repeated his apology and asked for forgiveness, but he looked like he wanted to crawl under the Kremlin carpet and die.

“Shut Up Already” – The worst political wounds are usually self-inflicted. I advised post-election that Donald Trump should stop his daily tweets, or at least choose his battles more carefully. He’d often go on a rant about something of little consequence and it would blow up into a big story. He’s a provocateur and he likes to stir trouble. Friday on a talk radio interview Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) echoed my sentiments. “He likes to pour gasoline on the fire, every hour of every day,” said Manchin, advising the White House to tone it down. It wasn’t just Democrats. “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House,” said Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY).

“Nixon’s Most Famous Quote” – At the height of the Watergate scandal, President Nixon gave a speech to - of all people – a convention of newspaper editors. Nixon – like Trump – was no fan of the press. During that address he said, “…people have got to know whether their President is a crook. Well I am not a crook.” A lot of people are comparing the current White House problems to the Nixon years, particularly after the firing of FBI Director James Comey. The two cases aren’t exactly parallel, and there are some “apples and oranges” comparisons. But the Trump investigations could become all-consuming, as with the Watergate and Clinton probes.

“No, No, Next Question” – On Thursday in a joint news conference with the President of Columbia, President Trump was asked if he requested then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation of fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Trump responded tersely, “No, no. Next question.” -- Maybe we’ll get some clarity, as Comey has now agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee sometime after Memorial Day. Trump has asserted that Director Comey – on three occasions – said Trump was not the focus of the Russian election hacking investigation. Comey – as mentioned – has asserted there was some White House pressure to halt the Flynn-Russia probe. And now former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed Special Counsel, to lead the Russia investigation. Stay tuned!

“Why All of This Matters” – I lived through Watergate and was a student of it. I covered the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal for a full-year as a reporter in Washington, D.C. 1972 President Nixon made his breakthrough, historic trips to China and Russia. I don’t remember a single significant accomplished of Mr. Nixon, once the scandal hit full-bore. President Clinton had very productive years from 1995 through 1997, but once the Lewinsky affair broke, the administration’s agenda came to a screeching halt. The biggest danger of the Trump-Russia-Comey mess is that little else of significance my get done in Washington, D.C. for the foreseeable future.

What are your thoughts on all the new revelations – or accusations – concerning President Trump? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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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