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Sunday Political Brunch: What a Week It Was—May 28, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalPDX Contributor

Mark Curtis
We are on the road again this weekend, but keeping an eye on all things political. It’s been another crazy week, with all kinds of odd events, so let’s “brunch” on what it all might mean:

“The Body Slam Heard ‘Round the World!’ – For once – someone else has bumped President Trump off the front page – if only for a moment. Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte (R-MT), is accused of body slamming a reporter after choking him. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of the Guardian, said Gianforte assaulted him. The account was seconded by a Fox TV crew at the scene, one of whom said, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter.” Ouch, in more ways than one. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

“It Means Nothing Nationally” -- Until this controversy erupted, this Congressional race wasn’t even on the national radar, but now it is. Once again you have people in the national media saying this race is a “bellwether” referendum on President Trump’s agenda as we head to the 2018 midterm elections. It isn’t folks. The same was said of a special Congressional election in Kansas (which the Republican won, and an upcoming special election in Georgia where the Republicans have a good shot at keeping the seat). Every race is NOT a bellwether; every race is not a referendum. Collectively, the 2018 House and Senate races will be a sign; but not some small-town Montana race in May of 2017, which Gianforte and the Republicans won anyway.

“Pick and Roll” – Politicians with “the moves” are making all the headlines this week. President Trump – in a video that’s gone viral – looks as if he’s shoving a fellow NATO member, the Prime Minister of Montenegro - out of the way, maybe to get in the front row of leaders for a photo op. Who knows? But I found the video hysterical (still photo above). It’s like Trump was yelling “shotgun” to get the best ride in the car in high school. Some reporters and commentators are way-overanalyzing the video for some sort of larger significance. Look, it’s not some great international faux pas, but it was pretty damn funny. Cue the “Saturday Night Live” skit.”

“Keep Pope Alive” – This could also be a “Saturday Night Live” skit, but it’s too bad the show is in summer hiatus. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is said to be fuming after he was not included in the Trump inner-circle that met with Pope Francis this week. Spicer – a devout Catholic – has had a life-long dream of meeting a Pope. He was cut from the guest list that included First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who are Jewish. You can see and SNL skit in which actress Melissa McCarthy – who plays “Spicey” in a motorized press podium – crashing into pontiff Francis riding in the “Pope Mobile,” as if in a demolition derby.

“Bipartisan Hijinks” – Just when one party seems to have the upper hand on tragic comedy, the other steps in to compete. Within the past week former NYC mayoral candidate and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), pleaded guilty to federal charges of sending lewd photos to a minor. Weiner – once a rising star in Congress – is off to prison. His estranged wife Huma Abadin, was Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s “right hand lady” and would have been a top aide, or perhaps White House Chief of Staff had Mrs. Clinton won the election. Wiener’s fall from grace did not help the cause, especially after some of the classified State Department emails wound up on his computer.

“On the Upside” – Last week I wrote about how President Trump needed to get out of Washington, and change the conversation. From the trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, NATO and Italy, he’s been getting fairly high marks. To many, he looks “Presidential,” which is a quality he lacked so often during the campaign.

“On the Other Hand” – Images can turn so quickly from positive to negative. All week long, the President has been looking – well, “Presidential,” until that odd moment Thursday (mentioned above) when he seemingly pushed the other dignitary aside at NATO. It was probably meaningless; but it was funny, and the crazy moments are always going to push the good ones off the front page.

“Why All of This Matters” – Communication strategies – whether on the campaign trail or once in office – are critical to a politician’s success. Images matter. Why do you think aides to Ronald Reagan always had him against a backdrop of U.S. flags? In contrast, President Clinton was sometimes photographed holding his hand low to his abdomen during the “Pledge of Allegiance.” He looked like he was having a bout of heartburn, versus a bout of patriotism. It brought unwelcome criticism. How a President is perceived – at home, or on the international stage – matters.

What are your thoughts about President Trump’s first international trip?

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