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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—January 22, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017


As we’ve completed the transition, I continue now with part two of my column from last week about looking back at one President, and looking ahead to another. I am not going to dissect the Inaugural address, simply because a speech – is, well – just a speech. I want to focus more on the political landscape instead. There’s a lot to “brunch” on this week:

“Housework” – Republicans had a huge majority in the House of Representatives before Donald Trump came along. And while they lost a handful of seats in 2016, the GOP still holds a big advantage and it’s an advantage they won on their own long before Trump showed up. Because of this many House members will not feel obligated to support Trump’s every whim and wish. Be watching for some blow ups from GOP House members from time to time.

“Senatorial” – The other side of the capitol is a whole different issue. Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority, and at least four of those Senate seats were probably won on Trump’s coattails. In 2016, those seats were in trouble in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina – and three were states where Trump was running behind most of the year, yet he pulled off victories in all. Control of the U.S. Senate would never have been maintained without Trump’s influence on these key seats. Trump can demand and enforce loyalty in the Senate; but he has no such clout in the House.

“Unplanned Events” – One of the things to anticipate with President Trump is how he deals with any unplanned events. No one wants to see disasters or attacks, but they happen in every White House. In many ways the Iran hostage crisis defined President Jimmy Carter’s term, even though it happened in his final 15 months in office. President George W. Bush will always be remembered about how he responded in the aftermath to 9/11. These are defining moments. Anyone can campaign on a laundry list of promises, but the real test for any President comes when the world deviates from the script of planned events.

“Pressing Matters” – My advice to President Trump is to try to develop a better relationship with the press as an industry. I know there are going to be the occasional flare-ups with this reporter or that anchor. But he would be ill-served to launch a pitched battle with the entire industry for the next four years. Ronald Reagan was able work past conflicts with the press, mostly by his tremendous charm and humor which he had in spades. Trump’s persona is not Reagan-esque. Reagan’s battle with the pesky ABC reporter Sam Donaldson became a hallmark of the Reagan White House. Donaldson clearly got under Reagan’s skin often, but Reagan used his own disarming charm to often win the day, (and win public support).

“From Obamacare to Trumpcare” – This is going to be the first marquee fight to watch. Since 2010, Republicans in the House and Senate promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. Then along came Trump with his campaign promise to “repeal Obamacare, and replace it with something better.” Now you hear many Congressional Republicans saying the same thing. In essence, they’ve now boxed themselves into a corner and are going to need to produce some sort of government-subsidized health care for perhaps 20 million people. It’s always hard to take away a benefit once it’s been granted. This is going to be a political mine field!

“Uncharted Waters” – Donald Trump will be the sixth President never to have been elected to any previous political office. The other five were George Washington, Zachary Tayler, Ulysses Grant, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower. But Washington, Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower had high-ranking military experience, and the military is very political in its own way. As for Herbert Hoover – who was appointed U.S Secretary of Commerce – he, like Trump, relied heavily on his business experience in the U.S. and overseas. Unlike Trump, Hoover did have at least some unelected experience in politics, so with Trump we are clearly in uncharted territory.

“Pence-ive Mood” – As fascinating and as controversial Trump can be, I believe the key person to keep an eye on is Vice President Mike Pence. Will he fade into the background like so many other VPs? Or will he be the key point-man in Congress for the political neophyte Trump. The new President has offended various House and Senate leaders in the past, causing a need for fence-mending. Trump will need a Sherpa-like guide to get his bills through Congress, and Pence – as a former House Member – may be the critical player here.

“Use Your Intelligence” – President Trump needs to patch up troubles with the intelligence community, especially the CIA. They have extensive experience in areas where he has absolutely none. He should dial back the public criticism (though quietly deal with clear intelligence failures and problems that do exist). President Trump needs these folk more than they need him! He’d be wise to remember that.

How would you advise President Trump? Just leave your comments by clicking the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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