02-19-2017  10:40 pm      •     

With the possible exception of Bill and Hillary Clinton, everyone on this side of the moon realizes that Hillary's quest to become the Democratic nominee for president is over. Employing new math and even newer arguments can't help Hillary at this point. Although the fat lady isn't singing yet, she's already tuning up, waiting for Hillary to exit stage right.
While giving proper deference to the waning days of the campaign, Barack Obama is beginning to focus his attention on his fall campaign against John McCain. Judging from the public comments of the respective camps, the political battlefield is already shaping up.
Approaching 72 years old – the oldest president elected for the first time, if he is successful – McCain's chief argument will be that he is experienced and can be counted on to command a strong defense. Obama will counter that wisdom does not necessarily accompany age. After all, many of George W's military advisers were "experienced" hands from his daddy's administration.
And what did that get us? Troops camped in Afghanistan and an intractable war in Iraq that began with the public being misled about the need for the war and how U.S. troops would be received.
Still, the old McCain POW war footage will be brought out of storage to not-so-subtly portray the GOP candidate as a Vietnam hero. Obama's camp must resist the temptation of some followers to point out that being captured in and of itself does not necessarily make one a hero. Rather, Obama must appear extremely grateful for McCain's military service while noting that it is McCain's post-war voting record that's at issue.
GOP strategist will try to make an issue of Obama not wearing an American flag on his label, though neither McCain, Clinton nor Obama wears one.
Like Hillary, the McCain camp will seek to paint Obama, a graduate of Columbia and Harvard, two Ivy League universities, as an "elitist" who can't connect with Joe and Jo Public. That will be a hard case to make because McCain is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, which isn't on par with your local trade school. And having a wife with assets of more than $100 million doesn't qualify McCain for public housing, either the traditional kind or the White House.
The heaviest Republican fire is likely to be the campaign to brand Obama as an extreme liberal, far away from the basic values of a country that's just to the right of center. Obama will need to show his bread-and-butter concerns are issues on the minds of most citizens.
Obama's best chance of winning hinges on his ability to remain on the offensive about the economy. With rising gas prices, a housing fiasco and an economy teetering on the brink of a recession, the Illinois senator must keep repeating this message. He has to point out that when George W. Bush entered the White House, he was presented with a $236 billion surplus. However, he will leave his successor with a $408 billion deficit. Obama has already begun to argue that electing McCain would be tantamount to giving Bush a third term.
Obama should be able to exploit dissatisfaction with a war that has cost more than $500 billion. According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. is spending $2 billion a week in Iraq. With all that spending on war, Bush still supported and signed into law a tax bill that lowered the tax rate of wealthy Americans. McCain first opposed and now supports those cuts.
Another position that communicates that Obama is not out of step with common people is his plan for universal health care, a position that McCain opposes. With millions of Americans without health insurance and those with insurance paying higher premiums and co-payments, this may be one of the sleeper issues of the general election.
Of course, stated or not, race will be the wildcard factor in this election. As the Democratic contest winds down, a desperate Hillary Clinton argues that White, working-class voters will support her, but not a Black man. However, Black voters will support her no matter what, she claims. If she learned anything from South Carolina, it should have been that African-Americans will not automatically vote for her.
As for what she calls "hard-working Americans, White Americans" – as though Blacks are not hard-working – Democrats lost them to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and have not won them back. Bill Clinton did not carry them in his two White House victories. In fact, Clinton did not win a majority of the White vote either time. He won the bulk of Black voters and just enough White voters to claim victory. With 90 percent of the Black vote, millions of first-time voters and a sufficient number of White voters, Obama can defeat McCain. Yes, he can.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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