“The Sunday Political Brunch”—March 19, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017


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Top o’ the mornin', readers. As many of you know, I am mostly Irish. My full name is Mark Corrigan Curtis; and, yes, I am a distant cousin of famed pilot Douglas “Wrong-way” Corrigan. My earliest relatives in the U.S. – Michael Corrigan and family - came during the Irish Potato famine in 1852. My son is Patrick Corrigan Curtis. In an offering of peace, we’ll have no serious political stuff today - just a look at some famous Irish politicians and issues. Some of today’s material is imported and updated from some of my previous St. Patrick’s Day issues. Let’s “Brunch” on some of that “corned beef” this year:

“Taste O’ the Green!” – Of the 44 U.S. Presidents, 22 claim some significant percentage of Irish ancestry. Most are a mix of nationalities, but President John F. Kennedy is the only one listed as 100% Irish. (He was the only Irish Catholic President, too). Even former President Obama has some Irish lineage on his mother’s side. I think just for one day he should change the spelling of his name to "Barack O’Bama." As for President Trump - while many people believe he looks to be of Irish heritage (maybe it’s the hair color) - he is of German and Scottish descent.

“Friends after 6 p.m.” – Two of my favorite Irish-American politicians were House Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan. They were often bitter political foes. O’Neill once said of Reagan that he was "the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House.” Reagan once compared O’Neill to the video game character Pac-Man, saying the House Speaker was "a round thing that gobbles up money." Ouch! In truth, the two wrote fondly of each other in their memoires, reflecting on nights at the White House, playing cards, sipping whiskey, and smoking cigars - all the while being “friends after 6 p.m.,” as Mr. Reagan put it. The two had a record of compromise on key issues and got a lot done together.

“The Dynasties” – Some of America’s biggest political dynasties are Irish – in whole, or in part. A redheaded 32-year-old named Joseph Kennedy III was elected to Congress in 2012, extending that family’s place in American politics into a fourth consecutive generation. Four generations of the Bush family have also held elective office in the U.S. The Bushes are part Irish. Then there is the Daley family of Chicago. Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. served a combined total of 43 years in the Mayor’s office. Richard M. Daley’s brother William was also U.S. Secretary of Commerce and White House Chief of Staff, and is still often mentioned for higher office.

“Same Family?” – As we all know, some families produce the famous and the infamous, all in the same generation. For 35 years, Billy Bulger served in the Massachusetts Legislature, the last 18 as President of the State Senate. He then went on to be President of the University of Massachusetts for seven years. Billy’s career ended when he admitted to having spoken to his infamous younger brother, James “Whitey” Bulger, a legendary Boston mobster. “Whitey,” who was "America’s Most Wanted" fugitive, was eventually captured and was convicted on murder charges. He’s serving life in prison.

“Luck o’ the Irish!” – Even today, the American political landscape is dotted with those of Irish ancestry. Former Vice President Joe Biden is mostly of Irish heritage. Former House Speaker John Boehner is Irish; and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is Irish, too. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2012, is Irish. And current U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is – well, with a name like McCarthy, what else could he be?

“Luck O’ the Irish II” – In 2014, I had the good fortune to meet Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny when he came to Rhode Island to meet with then Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI). This week, Prime Minster Kenny met with President Trump about the plight of Irish immigrants living illegally in the U.S., whom Kenny would like to see reach legal status. Kenny said: “We would like this to be sorted. It would remove a burden of so many people that they can stand out in the light and say, 'Now I am free to contribute to America as I know I can.' And that’s what people want.” To be continued!

“Irish Coffee” – Of course, if politics is not your “cup of tea,” then switch to coffee – Irish coffee. It’s been a favorite beverage of many an Irish politician, especially those who hang out at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco, where the drink was pioneered. The restaurant recently released the secret recipe: Fill a cup 3/4 full with coffee; stir in two sugar cubes; add 1 and ½ ounces of Irish Whiskey; then spoon about ¼ cup of slightly whipped cream gently on the top so it floats (photo above). This is a great drink if you love Irish politicians, or if you absolutely hate politics with a passion. (In the latter case, the beverage is used as an antidote.)

I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day weekend! As always, if you want to share your thoughts, 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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