It certainly isn’t important in the present scheme of things that President Trump has made a petulant decision not to attend the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. His decision upset some of the dinner planners, but he may have inadvertently accomplished a good thing for Washington journalism.
Over the years, presidents have found time, often reluctantly, to attend the glittery, black-tie dinner, inelegantly known as the Nerd Prom. The dinner boasts the good deed cover of raising money for scholarships. It also is an opportunity for reporters to have a convivial evening with people they cover and to have a good time.
In recent years, however, the Correspondents’ Dinner became a showbiz celebrity event with respected media organizations vigorously competing to bring in as many Hollywood and entertainment world celebrities as could be fitted at a table. The dinner probably reached its nadir when reality television stars, like the Duck Dynasty hillbillies were sought after celebrity guests.
And to continue the Los Vegas glitter, a big-name comic emcee was necessary who often wasn’t as humorous as the President who has his speech writers and outside New York/Los Angles talents working overtime coming up with funny lines. And partly because he is the President, he often received the biggest laughs, his jokes dutifully picked up by television the following day.
Having been both a guest and also having covered the red carpet arrivals for television, it was often disheartening to see respected Washington newsmen acting like 13-year-olds catching sight of Justin Bieber.
The more affluent media organizations like NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair host impressive cocktail parties, as do several other media organizations with more shallow purses. The dinner is also a big money raiser for the Washington Hilton where most of the parties are held and where the largest ballroom in town is jammed with as many tables and people that the fire marshal will allow.
It is often argued by journalists that this hot ticket dinner, and the more prestigious Gridiron Dinner (President Trump also declined an invitation to attend), exists mainly to get newsmen and political leaders to get to know each other better and to have a better understanding of the roles of each.
There is some rationality to that reasoning, but conscientious journalists are expected to maintain some distance between themselves and the people they cover. Politicians, by their innate nature can be likable, and it is sometime difficult for a journalist to be tough when necessary on someone you cover and enjoy meeting with over dinner and drinks.
Journalistic organizations are aware of this problem and understand that regular beat reporters can get the good day-to-day stories, but if there is a need to dig beyond the daily news events, it takes a reporter who is outside the news beat structure. The Watergate expose by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is the obvious example where many beat reporters, even at the Washington Post, were opposed to the digging by the young newsmen who eventually brought down a president.
There is no question that the White House is a prestigious beat, but too often the famous newsmen who cover there are more like stenographers taking news information fed to them in press briefings and announcements. It’s a great beat because you get to travel the world with the President and be part of televised press conferences and maybe be seen by people back home.
President Trump, with a greater antipathy toward the press than perhaps even Richard Nixon, has injected new energy into the White House press corps. No reporter there is going to readily accept the often alternative fact information from the White House press office. And that is a good thing. The media and the politicians from municipal governments to Washington, need to have a respected adversarial relationship.
Both sides need to develop a trust for the role each plays and President Trump deciding not to be part of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner may be off to a good start. Obviously, the thin-skinned president would not have enjoyed the friendly jibs from the head table speakers and he knew that even the powerful media organizations would have difficulty producing glittery celebrity world guest if he attended and he would be blamed, not that he cared. All one needs to do is look at the paucity of Hollywood celebrities at the Republican National nominating convention in Cleveland.
President Trump wasn’t trying to do Washington journalism a favor, but by not attending the Correspondents’ Dinner, he has. Maybe the dinner can truly focus more on its earlier established roll of promoting responsible, ethical journalism. Good journalism is and should be hard work, and just maybe, a dinner focused on responsible, First Amendment journalism, is a move in the right direction.
Chuck Conconi welcomed James Zogby on this week’s episode of Focus Washington for a discussion on the current political climate. Zogby, President and Co-Founder of the Arab American Institute (AAI), discussed the implications of the 2016 presidential race and Donald Trump on the Arab American population.
In the last polls AAI conducted in 2014, the political gap in the Arab American community was 2-1 Democrat and voter engagement was 3-1 Democrat, making voter patterns and party identification similar to those of Hispanics or the Jewish population. According to Zogby, nothing in the last two years has changed that dynamic, even the 2016 presidential election.
The election may not be changing the political leanings of America’s ethnic groups, but it is having an effect on the attitude of Americans about the Arab American community. Zogby states that hate crimes, while nothing new, are still occurring after a sharp increase following the 9/11 attacks. The increase in negativity toward the community, however, is equally matched by positive support from additional groups throughout the years, including African Americans, Latinos, mainline protestant churches and civil liberties organizations. These groups “wouldn’t give us the time of day 20 years ago,” exclaimed Zogby, but now quickly come to the defense of the Arab American community.
Like many Americans, Zogby has hung memorable documents on the walls of his office over the years. The most important document, he explained in the interview, was his father’s naturalization papers. This is important to him because his father came here illegally in his twenties at a time when the Senate “zeroed out quotas and said Syrian trash aren’t welcome.”
Hanging next to his father’s naturalization papers is a parchment from President Obama appointing Zogby to a post in the government. This, he contends, is the nature of the country – where even the son of an illegal immigrant can rise to serve the President of the United States.
“I continue to manifest though, in all the positions I make, the fact that you cannot view America either as fundamentally good or fundamentally evil. We are both. We are the Statue of Liberty and we’re Donald Trump.”
For Zogby, that is the story of America.
Well-known independent voter discusses what the GOP and Dems Should Learn from Americans in the 2016 elections
13 June 2016 (Washington, DC): Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower and Chairman Emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the changing dynamics of the Republican party as well as the impact partisan politics has had on this year’s presidential race.
Susan addressed at length the ongoing leadership crisis this country faces. Although she had always been a Republican, she left the party eight years ago and became an independent. In fact, she endorsed President Obama during his initial campaign as well as his second presidential race. She claims that the party has ideologically shifted tremendously since her grandfather, President Eisenhower held office.
Susan’s grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, represented a form of moderate Republicanism advocating for social progression while remaining fiscally conservative. Unfortunately, in today’s polarized political arena, this ideology represents neither party but instead a combination of both the Republican and Democratic parties.
“The [Republican] party’s changing, and frankly, the party has been changing for a very long time,” stated Eisenhower.
Susan alluded to this year’s presidential nominations as an example of the transitions that are taking place within both parties. “In some ways it was surprising that [Hillary] had the kind of vigorous challenge that she did, and on the same side we had what we thought was going to be an heir apparent in Jeb Bush and it was rather fascinating to watch how quickly that set of assumptions fell through. So what I think it tells me is that both parties are changing, and they’re changing for larger reasons than I think what is currently being analyzed.”
Party politics has become a major obstacle, contributing to the lack of strategic leadership in this country. She emphasized to Chuck that “strategic” alludes to an element of time involved, and strategic leadership is defined by leaders who are trying to achieve long term goals. Susan points out that party politics make it impossible to talk and think about measures for all of America. She laments that the era when our presidents had to get up and articulate a strategy for the entire country is gone.
After declining to say which side she would be taking in this race, Susan says that she sees the United States as in transition, and that she knows much more about it than she did before this election. She recognizes the feeling of frustration emanating from the people of the United States, resulting from the notion that their government system is unavailable to them. The American people want new leadership– strategic leadership—but as Susan points out, the party politics shaking up Washington today makes it difficult to put such bold leaders into office.
With unprecedented negative views of both major party candidates, Ron Faucheux of Clarus Research Group predicts that the 2016 elections are likely to determine the future of the Democratic and Republican Parties.
08 June 2016 (Washington, DC): Ron Faucheux, President of Clarus Research Group, sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss what the polls can show us about the next couple of months of the election campaign now that both the Democrats and Republicans have their presumptive Presidential nominees.
“Polls don’t predict” Faucheux was quick to emphasize, but rather offer a snapshot of the current situation. Despite this disclaimer, following the polls and the Faucheux’s Lunchtime Politics report would have offered an accurate prediction for the winners over the course of the primary elections; in this case, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were seemingly in the cards.
As we turn toward the next couple of months of campaigning and the elections in November, the reputation and potential upcoming blunders of both candidates will play a major role in influencing voters. “We’ve never had two presidential nominees who’ve had such high negative ratings,” stated Faucheux, as both Clinton and Trump currently have negative approval rates of at least 60%. In light of the fact that neither candidate has begun campaigning heavily against each other, their negative approval rating is sure to only go up from here.
The Presidential election will not just be a two-way race, however. According to the polls, “Both Clinton and Trump, at this point anyway, are losing about the same [number of votes to Libertarian and Green candidates] when you go from the two-way race to the four-way race.” Trump has officially welcomed Sanders supporters, but Clinton cannot necessarily expect those voters to come her way. Voters who don’t want to vote for either Trump or Clinton will need to make the decision to stay home, or cast their vote for a Libertarian or Green Party candidate.
There is a danger this election could wreck either, or both, parties. Both candidates bring major issues to the table. Leaders of the Republican party have expressed decisions not to back Trump, despite his successful campaign; meanwhile, the potential for Clinton to be implicated in or associated with criminal acts surrounding her email scandal spell trouble for Democrats.
As the general election gears up, be sure to subscribe to Ron’s Lunchtime Politics report for daily insights, and stay tuned for more election coverage Focus Washington-style.
19 May 2016 (Washington, DC): In this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi sat with Pierre Ghanem, an Arab journalist covering Washington and the United States, to discuss the Arab world’s reception of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Just like many here in the US, Donald Trump’s rise has surprised the Arab world, but officials of Arab countries are unlikely to be caught off guard. Ghanem elaborates, “Trump may be different but government officials are professionals, we can make it work.” However, the Arab street may harbor some resentment after Trump’s numerous offensive remarks about Muslims.
Clinton, on the other hand, doesn’t elicit as many negative preconceived notions. As Secretary of State, she has not been associated with the worst aspects of the Obama administration in the eyes of Arabs; She hasn’t been tainted by the perceived pivot to Iran, as Kerry has. She was also one of the first US officials to focus on Palestine and its citizens, saying that they deserved a state. According to Ghanem, whether it’s Hillary or Trump, the new president will be a welcome relief after Obama whose empty promises and poor leadership in Syria disappointed most of the Arab and Muslim world. Continue reading »
Chuck Conconi welcomed Bob Cusack on this week’s episode of Focus Washington. Cusack, Editor-in-Chief of Washington-based publication The Hill, evaluated the irregular political climate of the 2016 presidential election.
According to Cusack, the ascension of Donald Trump has transformed the identity of the Republican Party. By confronting the potential loss of House and Senate seats, “Republicans are coming to grips with reality.” Cusack predicted that Speaker Paul Ryan will endorse Trump by the Republican Convention in July. Despite his limited appeal among Hispanic and women’s groups, Trump surprised pundits by attracting a loyal base of support.
Insecurity among Republicans parallels growing divisions within the Democratic Party. Cusack noted that a contested convention will require critical negotiations between Clinton and Sanders. He predicted that Clinton will triumph over Sanders to receive the Democratic nomination. The Convention will measure Clinton’s success as she attempts to unite her traditional supporters with Sanders voters.
Cusack concluded his remarks by urging caution in predicting Convention results. Thus far, wavering support for Clinton, combined with Trump’s unforeseen political rise, has defied voters’ expectations. This time last year, confidence in particular candidates was unshakeable. To Cusack, a fragmented Republican Party and mounting opposition to Clinton define “the year of the outsider” in which no candidate is guaranteed victory.
Is the country’s budget process broken? Stan Collender sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the ins and outs of the budget process and prospects for compromise under the next administration.
As general election season approaches and the country hones in on the two likely nominees for the race, the differences between a Trump budget or a Clinton budget merits discussion. Collender points out that, however, that regardless of who will next sit in the Oval Office, the process goes beyond the total authority of the President; Clinton or Trump, the responsibility of passing a budget will still be with a split congress, making the chances of four more years of budget stalemate high.
Although budget jargon and process may be beyond reach for most Americans, Collender explains that the process is, in reality, very simple. Put in place in 1974, there are three steps: The President submits a proposed budget, Congress passes a Budget Resolution in response, and this is followed by Reconciliation with existing legislation. However, due to the inability of Congress to agree on budget priorities and the subsequent failure to pass a Budget Resolution, the process has broken down every step of the way.
Collender recently testified in a Senate Budget Committee hearing on just this subject. As he recounted to Chuck, “I told them this process is broken down and it’s broken down because you have refused to implement it, so the idea you’re holding a hearing now to talk about better ways to implement it is crazy. I called it the fiscal equivalent of chutzpah.”
Of course, compromise has been reached before. Bill Clinton’s administration proved that it can be done. Now, however, a different political climate exists in the country, and Congress effectively holds the budget hostage when it refuses to participate in negotiations. “I’m not optimistic, but it’s not about the budget process. Congress doesn’t need it, they have all the power they need in the constitution, they can do whatever they want–the problem is they can’t agree on what they want to do, and until that happens, you’ll never get a budget process either enacted or actually implemented,” Collender explained.
After all, Congress didn’t even look at the President’s budget request this year. The failure of the budget process reflects the highly partisan nature of politics today. As Stan Collender points out, a lack of coherent priorities or decisions by the legislative branch paralyzes the fiscal policy of the nation – and this is a fact that is not likely to change in the coming four years.
05 May, 2016; Washington, DC: For several months now, Donald Trump has been considered the presumptive nominee for president on the Republican side. On Tuesday, that assumption became a reality.
By winning the Indiana Primary, Trump padded his massive delegate lead and is now closer than ever to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination (Trump is now up to 1,056 delegates with 9 states remaining). He has such a commanding lead that both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have bowed out of the race entirely, leaving Trump without a single Republican competitor moving forward.
Trump is now +220 to win the White House at BetOnline, his best odds overall since we started keeping track back in early 2015. This means that a $100 bet on Trump to win the White House would pay out $220 if he wins the election.
For all intents and purposes, the Republican primary is over. It is no longer a question of “Can Trump win the nomination?” It is now a question of “Who will Trump’s Democratic opponent be in November?”
Things are much more interesting on the Democratic side
Hillary Clinton remains a solid favorite to win the nomination (she is currently -1500 at BetOnline, which means you would have to risk $1500 to win $100). However, while the former Secretary of State has won a majority of states and delegates, Clinton still hasn’t clinched the nomination.
After losing the New York Primary, Bernie Sanders was written off by the political and media establishment. He was counted out and left for dead. News pundits and party elites demanded that he drop out of the race and “unite” the party behind Clinton.
But a funny thing happened after New York.
Earlier this week, Sanders shocked the establishment by winning Indiana with nearly 53% of the vote, proving all the doubters wrong who told him to quit and exit the race.
While his path to victory remains narrow, Sanders is primed for a big 4th quarter comeback. Of the 13 remaining contests (9 states, 3 territories and Washington, DC), many favor Sanders.
According to the latest polling, the Vermont Senator leads Clinton in West Virginia and Oregon. He is gaining in Kentucky and New Mexico. He could sweep Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota as well.
If this happens, it will create a showdown for the ages in California, the largest state in the country (California doesn’t vote until June 7th). Sanders has vowed to run an “unprecedented grassroots campaign” in the Golden State and has already sent dozens of his top staffers to set up the campaign infrastructure.
Sanders currently trails Clinton by about 300 pledged delegates. If he can pull off a string of late victories he will close the gap substantially heading into California, where 475 delegates are up for grabs (more than enough to flip the race in his favor).
If this scenario holds true, neither candidate will have the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination, which means the Democrats are headed for a contested convention in July.
Will There Be A Democratic Contested Convention?
Sanders can take some solace in the fact that the last Democrat to win a contested convention was Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, the godfather of the Democratic Socialist movement that Sanders now champions.
Many have predicted that in the case of a contested convention, Sanders’ army of revolutionaries will flood the city of Philadelphia, exerting massive pressure on super-delegates (party elites who can change their vote) to switch from team Clinton to team Sanders.
Also aiding Sanders is the fact that super-delegates in states that Sanders won big will face enormous backlash if they side with Clinton and go against the will of their constituents. They will also be inundated with polls showing Sanders as the stronger general election candidate (nearly every national poll shows Sanders beating Trump by much larger margins than Clinton).
While Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are only slightly better than Trump, Sanders remains a massively popular figure nationwide. He is the only candidate left in the race with a net-positive favorability rating. He also appeals to a much wider audience than Clinton. Sanders has incredible support among young people and independents, two constituencies that are key to winning the general election in November.
Long story short, if you believe Sanders can shock the world and pull off the upset, you should place your bet on him now, as his numbers are sure to improve with a series of wins down the stretch. Simply put, Sanders’ value will never be higher than it is now.
We are already starting to see this trend take place. After winning Indiana, Sanders’ 2016 odds rose from +2000 to +1400 at BetOnline, while his nomination odds rose from +1400 to +1000. This means that a $100 bet on Sanders to win the nomination would pay out +1000, while a $100 bet on Sanders to win the White House would pay out $1400.
On the flip side, if you view the Sanders comeback as a progressive fantasy that has no shot of actually taking place, you shouldn’t place your bet on Hillary right now, as her odds are sky-high (she is currently -240 to win the White House at BetOnline. This means you would have to risk $240 in order to win $100). More closely, you would be better suited to wait for Sanders to win a few contests, which will deflate Clinton’s odds, giving Hillary backers a better price.
What do you think?
Is Clinton still a shoo-in? Can Trump win in November? Or will Sanders pull off the greatest upset in modern political history?
Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights
It’s a fundamental issue addressed in media outlets all over the country: what happened to the conservative party?
Vic Gold states, “The breakdown of the republican party starts with Newt Gingrich and the 104th congress in 1994.” This, according to the long time conservative consultant, writer and journalist is where the polarization begins.
Gold elaborates, “Newt introduced a personal venom; the congress spent time impeaching [Bill Clinton], stopping the government…” (Once in 1994 and 1995 due to budget talks with the Clinton Administration.)
A seasoned politico who has lived through 24 elections, Gold knows that current GOP nominees are not descendants of the Goldwater rebellion; Vic served as the press secretary for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election and co-wrote George H.W. Bush’s 1987 autobiography. “These people are not conservatives…they are practically anarchists.” Gold agrees with Marco Rubio’s sentiments regarding Donald Trump: he is a third-world dictator.
It’s important to note the distinction between conservatives and anti-liberal in 2016. “[Anti-liberals] hated the Clintons and hate Obama… that’s all that matters.”
A reflection of the republican party’s state is particularly jarring, “Barry Goldwater would not run today, Ronald Reagan would not and could run today, let alone be elected.”
The unraveling is not exclusive to the republican party, it’s the whole political fiber.
“Why is Bernie Sanders the only guy that gets in the race? The political system, the money system we have…it has something to do with it. Joe Biden doesn’t get in the race because he doesn’t have the money. This is what Sanders has…he doesn’t have the money but he gets into it… we used to have that.”
While each party is responsible for its own weakness, it is “a “confluence of things that are working towards [Trump] a psychopathic megalomaniac. The republican party is broken down but the democratic party, which is a great party, how is it after twenty years with all the democrats, we come up with Hillary Clinton and the only other person is [Bernie Sanders]? Where are the democratic leaders today? Why? That’s what I want to know. That concerns me.”
With too few democratic leaders entering the arena and too many anti-liberals campaigning as republicans, the integrity of the republican establishment has disintegrated and held hostage by the likes of Donald Trump and others.
Why does Bernie Sanders matter? Washington D.C. reporter and author Harry Jaffe answers that very question and shares insight he gained for his book, Why Bernie Sanders Matters in an interview on Focus Washington. He addresses a vital principle that is absent in many presidential candidates: Bernie wants to lead and govern where others want the power that comes with being a president.
Jaffe elaborates, “[Bernie’s] message is more than ‘I want to be president’, he wants to start a political revolution and he is on a mission.” Sander’s mission concerns the working class, a demographic that has no doubt suffered from stability in recent years. He looks through a lens that views the historical context of working class as the backbone of the American economy that is inconsistent with its state today. This is why, Jaffe says, he is not surprised about Bernie’s success, in Michigan or otherwise.
Working class voters are angry that their jobs are increasingly being sent overseas and their paychecks decreasing as a result. Opportunities for the working class are diminishing, rendering parents unable to provide a quality of life for their families that was once standard. To that point, Sanders has always lobbied on behalf of the working class and never supported a fair trade agreement. Jaffe explains that Sanders measures every agreement not as to whether it helps the corporate class, but whether it is going to help the working class. Given that Ohio and Illinois are industrial states, Bernie has a favorable chance of winning in those primaries (contrary to projections of other commentators).
The Vermont senator carries momentum in the support of young voters. According to Jaffe, he has the “effable ability to be sincere, believable and trustworthy.” A perennial insider, Hillary Clinton is conditioned in the conventional political rhetoric; answers are rehearsed and produced according to polls and advisors, a strategy the Sanders campaign defies. When asked, “Bernie Sanders will respond in a direct way because that’s the way he has been speaking for 40 or 50 years, he doesn’t have to think about it” because everything boils down to what he thinks and believes. That’s refreshing and unusual.
Jaffe points out that Sanders as a Populist does have something in common with Trump in that he is not part of the establishment. But, the comparison ends there as the author viewsTrump as a “populist fascist” to Sanders as a “populist socialist”.
Bernie Sanders champions voters who are apathetic or distressed with Washington. He answers their call for change and relief; he hears them and shows them they matter. And because he lets them know that they matter, Bernie matters.
The Republican establishment is drafting a movement to defeat Trump– but will it stick? If it’s anything similar to the public controversies inundating the businessman’s campaign, it won’t. Donald Trump as Bob Cusack, says, is “the Teflon candidate”.
His divisive statements regarding Muslims and tolerance of his KKK connections only seem to ameliorate his numbers.
Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority leader Mitch McConnell denounce his positions; however, as Cusack points out, both have gone on record to say they will support the nominee.
Anemic in delegates, “unless the establishment coalesces against [him], he will no doubt be the nominee,” Cusack suggests. With two senate endorsements to Ted Cruz’s zero, Marco Rubio’s deflating momentum (victorious in only Minnesota and more recently, Puerto Rico) and John Kasich’s waning campaign– “there is no good alternative”.
Unconventional republican rhetoric drives Trump’s broad appeal: he has openly blamed George W. Bush for 9/11, attacked pharmaceutical companies and even Wall St. This works, in part, because, “the republican electorate is rebelling against the establishment and there’s nothing they can do to stop it…. you’ll never see anything like this in politics ever again.”
Republicans on the Hill have balked at the intransigent candidate, going so far as to promise to vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump. In a scenario where Donald Trump doesn’t get the delegates, “it will be a nightmare for the establishment”.
Simply: Trump’s numbers will slide and he will, ultimately fall to Hillary Clinton.