Sunday Political Brunch: Political Crazy Talk - May 14, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalProv Contributor

Mark Curtis
Sometimes politicians open their mouths and say things that maybe they shouldn’t. Words matter, and they have consequences. On so many occasions I know politicians wish they could take their words back. This week we’ve seen a lot of statements the authors would likely want to walk back. But “closing the barn door after the horse escapes” is an often-futile exercise. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“If the Dead Could Speak” – Despite all the controversy over what President Trump said this week, I don’t think he wins first prize. That award goes to Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) who said at a town hall meeting, “Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care." No matter where you stand politically on Obamacare – left, or right - people die every day because of a lack of access to health care. You can imagine this ill-advised soundbite being aired over and over in the 2018 campaign ads.

“Trump ‘Trumps’ Trump!” – Just when you think he can’t top his last headline, he does. This week President Trump tweeted after firing the FBI Director, "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” Trump was referring to calls and dinner at the White House with Comey (photo above), before dismissing him. Mr. Trump also said Comey told him that the President was not under investigation. Tapes? No tapes? Secret recordings? To many, this sounds strangely reminiscent of President Nixon’s administration, where the tapes – and gaps - ultimately cost him the White House. Stay tuned!

“It Happens” – As I’ve mentioned, politicians have quotes they wish they could take back. A case in point, Hillary Clinton’s comments about the coal industry in her run for the White House. “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” said former Secretary Clinton as she campaigned on a new energy platform. It came back to haunt her as she lost West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and other coal producing states in 2016. Quotes like this can turn tides. In 2008, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary by 42 points. Eight years later she was crushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders who won all 55 counties in the Mountain State.

“Obamacare Scare” – If you wonder why the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have gained such momentum over the past seven years, consider this famous quote from President Obama: "If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold." said Mr. Obama. Well a lot of people wound up losing their coverage, and their preferred doctor, or, they paid more to keep their health plan. As mentioned, words matter.

“Did He Really Just Say That?” – I deal with a lot of political press secretaries who must do damage control after the boss “misspeaks.” My favorite is President George W. Bush speaking about terrorism in August 2004, “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” Ouch!!! As I often say, the worst political wounds are usually self-inflicted.

“Why All of This Matters” – Look, politicians misspeak. I get that. In the blur of the spotlight or on the campaign trail politicians say things that are just inaccurate. Sometimes you can blame it on fatigue, or poor fact gathering. On the other hand, politicians sometimes deliberately say things to mislead the press and public. How do you tell the difference? It’s hard to sort out fact from fiction. On one hand, you have political hyperbole that exaggerates the truth; other times they are just bald face lies. It’s important to have a free and unfettered press, and an always highly skeptical public to try to sort it all out.

What is your favorite political “misspeak?” Just click the comment button on

  • 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."

  • 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." 

  • 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."

  • 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."

  • 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."

  • 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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