Chaos or strategy? Understanding the headlines from DC

The Means Report - Chaos or Strategy? Understanding The Headlines From DC graphic
The Means Report - Chaos or Strategy? Understanding The Headlines From DC graphic

Augusta, GA (WJBF) – The news hasn’t slowed down during the summer months. The headlines are coming quickly and furiously and we wanna tackle many of those headlines, especially as they relate to the political arena. To do that we have brought in our good friend and frequent contributor to The Means Report, Craig Albert from Augusta University, a political scientist there and an expert on a lot of the things that you are reading in the paper and seeing here on television each and everyday. And so we look forward to talking to Dr. Albert today.

Brad Means: Let’s get started on the political front where things have been moving very rapidly and Dr. Craig Albert, political scientist from Augusta University is here. Dr. Albert, as always, thank you for coming back.

Dr. Craig Albert: Thanks for having me.

Brad Means: Well it’s our pleasure and I wanna start with what’s happened most recently and that’s the incredible shake up of President Trump’s Communications team. He brings in Anthony Scaramucci. Mr. Scaramucci lasts 11 days and he’s gone. You have a new Chief of Staff in General Kelly. What are your initial thoughts on the upheaval that we’ve witnessed in recent days.

Dr. Craig Albert: What we need to understand is this is how Trump operates. So this is how he’s operated in the business world and more importantly I think, this is what he promised to the American voters he would do upon taking office, would let people fight against one another, because he thinks that the person who wins has the best ideas, the best principles that he should follow. That’s the way he’s run his business for 30 years and that’s the way he said he was gonna run the White House. The problem with that is the mixed messaging that gets out from running the White House that way. So typically what you have is Chief of Staff who is a hierarchical principal. Nobody can get to the president without going through the Chief of Staff. That’s how it usually works.

Brad Means: That’s how it works on House of Cards.

Dr. Craig Albert: Exactly.

Brad Means: Right.

Dr. Craig Albert: So before Kelly took over, however, that’s not how it worked. Anybody, especially family members of Donald Trump, that had any political relations with him, could just walk into the West Wing have a conversation. So they would leave the White House, go to the reporter and report what they had just discussed with Donald Trump. Somebody else would go and see the president, come out with a different message, because that’s how Trump operates. So you would have three or four different messages on the same topic coming out. So finally the president said, this has gotta stop, because you know, it’s too convoluted, too complex and General Kelly’s gonna step in and say, we’re hierarchical, you cannot speak to the president without coming through me. So he says he’s gonna operate, if given the authority, and the White House has said it has given him full authority so nobody can stop to see Mr. Trump without him now.

Brad Means: Let me asks you this about the Scaramucci deal. It was weird, it was wacky, it was short lived. But I will say, and I’ll ask you if this was an effective way to handle it, I will say that it was over fast. That somebody, President Trump we would presume, pulled the trigger and said get out of here, this isn’t working. Maybe it was General Kelly. Was that a good way to handle it? Yes this horrible, yes the optics on this are bad, but I’m ending it quickly. Is that the way to do it when you have a crisis?

Dr. Craig Albert: Oh absolutely. You know that goes right out of the Critical Philosophy, when Machiavelli says, when things are going poorly make a quick executive decision and get it over with and that’s how you handle it, because we have short memories in democracy. So this won’t be remembered well for a while, especially if it was General Kelly. That’s a great sign that he came in and said, no I want you gone, I’m in charge, I’m not gonna have any of the political mud tossing, I’m in charge, get out. And so by all accounts, it was General Kelly that said I want my first action to be getting rid of him.

Brad Means: Let me get your take on this, whether it’s the mainstream media or late night comedians, they are portraying everything that we’ve been talking about as unstable, crazy, a weird start to the presidency. And what point does it become too far along in the Trump presidency to undo any of this.

Dr. Craig Albert: Right before the midterm elections. So again, he said this is how things were gonna work. So he either needs to reapproach the public and say this is how I was going to run things, you voted for me to run things this way, give it time to play out and you’ll see that it’s going to work the way I say it’s going to work or he needs to fix it and he needs to fix it now. Because if the message that gets out is controlled by late night comediennes and pundits that don’t like the president, then it’s gonna be terrible for Republicans when it comes to the 2018 midterm elections. And that’s really when President Trump’s reelection campaign steps up is at the 2018 election.

Brad Means: Would you have a similar answer when it comes to the question, you know, has healthcare failed? Would the answer still be, just wait, this is how Trump works? Healthcare is not dead yet. Or should the Trump Administration accept that their efforts on healthcare are over.

Dr. Craig Albert: This is my biggest critique of the president. He is not a good messenger himself. So the president is supposed to be the person that’s using the bully pulpit, getting out there, getting out the message saying this is what I want done and this is why it want done. That’s how President Obama pushed things through effectively. That’s how President George W. Bush pushed things through effectively is by really coming to the public and saying this is what I’m doing, and more importantly, why I’m doing this. President Trump just didn’t do that. He just said if you don’t get this done, we’re gonna look bad. But he didn’t encourage a single message on healthcare. So I don’t think that healthcare’s over with, the repeal and replace, I think they’re gonna continue this, but for it to be successful, whatever they do, you’re gonna need President Trump to be much more aggressive, much more in your face, much more this is why we’re doing this, and with a single message.

Brad Means: We see and hear dissension from our own Senator Lindsay Graham. We see John McCain expressing similar disagreement with President Trump’s policies. Does the president have the support of his own party at this point.

Dr. Craig Albert: The Republican Party’s in a civil war. It is not the same party it was even 10 months ago. So you have different factions, we spoke about this before, but now those factions are entrenched. I mean they are at war with one another. So you have the establishment, which is Senator Graham, which is Senator McCain and then you have those that are always going to support Trump. These two are at war with one another. There’s a huge shakeup. It’s do we want the establishment to run as usual, or do we really wanna revolutionize the Republican Party, revolutionize the political system and drain the swamp, in Trump’s, you know, terminology. So those two factions, are really causing the president hardship, because they don’t agree on anything. That’s why healthcare hasn’t passed, because you have one sect of the Republican Party fighting another sect of the Republican Party. They should be able to get it done with out any Democratic support, but because those two sects are fighting each other and Trump’s not really trying to unify them, he wants them to fight each other, that’s why we’re not getting anything done.

Brad Means: That sounds like the makings of a four year long stalemate.

Dr. Craig Albert: Unless President Trump can show his base, show the popular support that this is what needed to be done. So what we haven’t paid attention to in the mainstream media, especially over the past six months is how many regulations from the Obama Administration President Trump has de-regulated, has broken down. And that’s his point, that’s what being a conservative means, a conservative Republican, which he hasn’t really been conservative in other areas, but this one way where he certainly has galvanized the base. You are supposed to limit the size of government, limit regulation, and devolve power from the federal government back to the states. He has done this. He has repealed or decentralized over 100 Obama era regulations. So that’s huge, but because it’s not a huge act getting passed that’s not in the media’s attention. And I think this is purposeful on Trump. He’s not sending this out so that when the 2018 midterm elections come around, he can say this is my list of achievements, I’ve repealed 200 bills that you haven’t even paid attention to.

Brad Means: Right, right, they haven’t made the headlines, they haven’t made the nightly news, but look at what I’ve done so far.

Dr. Craig Albert: Right and he controls the message on Twitter and so if he wanted people to know what he was doing there, he would be able to. So he’s more savvy that we give him credit for. That’s why he won the presidential election against all odds, so don’t count him out yet.

Part 2

Brad Means: Dr. Craig Albert is our special guest talking about everything going on in the world of politics, an exciting world for sure, especially in recent weeks. Really, especially since President Trump took office in January. We’re gonna talk about immigration, the wall, Russia. Before we do though, I wanna touch on healthcare one more time. What do you see happening down the road, as far as what version of healthcare reform, if any, we’ll see?

Dr. Craig Albert: If we don’t get the traditional repeal and replace Obamacare and the Democrats take over at least one house of Congress after the 2018 midterm elections, you can see us moving towards a single-payee system, which is much more of a nationalized healthcare, universal healthcare system.

Brad Means: You think that could happen?

Dr. Craig Albert: I absolutely think that can happen, because the public is so disenfranchised right now with the healthcare debate. The idea of a single payer system that was just so obsolete, eight years ago, even when President Obama was getting the Affordable Care Act through, it’s now in everyday news, and the Democrats are starting to talk much more about it. And where, you know, eight years ago it had 20 to a 40% polling percentage, today 60% of Americans say that they would prefer that. And that’s because it’s just completely out of your pockets at that point. You don’t have to worry about it, I mean it comes from taxes, and it’s not a Republican plan but if the Democrats passed it, this could be President Trump saving face to run for reelection, saying I repealed and replaced Obamacare with this system.

Brad Means: All right we’ll continue to watch healthcare closely as all of you all will for sure. Is the wall going to get built? We’re six months in. Will there be wall?

Dr. Craig Albert: There has to be. There has to be some type of physical structure for President Trump to win reelection. So the House approved $1.8 billion in a budget plan for the wall last week to immediately start some type of aspect of the wall there. If the president doesn’t get this done, I don’t think he’ll be reelected, an it could negatively effect Republicans chances in the midterm elections.

Brad Means: Dr. Albert will it be enough, perhaps to show ground being broken or a portion of the wall being constructed at the midterms or at the end of the first term to say, we’ve started it.

Dr. Craig Albert: At the midterms yes, not for reelection for the president.

Brad Means: You need a wall by then.

Dr. Craig Albert: You need a structure, you need a permanent plan, at least blueprints and everybody working on it.

Brad Means:  What about immigration? President Trump, kind of, I don’t wanna say, you know off the radar, but it was a push that many did not see coming this past week, where he overhauled the Green Card system and I’m simplifying it, but said, we want our Green Card holders to be better educated and to be able to speak English. Your thoughts on that.

Dr. Craig Albert: I think this is smart by President Trump to try and to retake the message. So he was probably getting tired of hearing abour Russia, he was probably getting tired of hearing about healthcare, this is something that he wanted to get out and push out effectively and easily and he did. The message got out very quickly. So what the audience should know is that it’s not atypical for a country to make sure that anybody applying for a Green Card or immigration status, legal immigration status, already knows how to speak the language of the country and that can offer something to society. So many countries, including Canada for instance, have this idea, they only accept immigrants that can contribute high level factors to the country. This hasn’t been the United States’s policy in the past, but Donald Trump says that that’s hurting our economy by having so many people that are non-English speakers and that don’t have high skill levels. So they’re taking jobs that don’t nescessarily help the economy, says President Trump. So I think this was a great way to change the debate in Washington, but I’m not sure that many people understand his reasoning behind this. Again, you know, poor communications by the president, so look for General Kelly and if they hire a new communications director, to refocus and explain why they are doing this, which is to increase the economic gains of the United States.

Brad Means: Is there anything to this Russian probe? Is it gonna go anywhere? Just when we think it’s about to go away, you enter the president’s son or some other angle, and it’s fired back up again.

Dr. Craig Albert: There seems to be a lot of… A taste of unethical things that have taken place, I don’t mean collusion, I don’t mean collaboration between Russia and the United States, I don’t mean anything that would have broken the law. Trump is new to the political game, so he would have, could have, especially some of his campaign team, done things that are atypical for American elections. I don’t mean to say illegal in anyway. But for the media or anybody that opposes Trump, anything that looks a tiny bit unethical, even if it’s allowed, or we don’t know, because nobody’s crossed these boundaries before, they’re gonna tackle pretty hard. And that’s what we see going on now. There is no evidence of anything illegal and when I look at these, I try to give the president as I did President Obama, the benefit of the doubt and say this is a business man, who had no idea what you could and could not do when it comes to negotiations with people from another country in your campaigning mode. So I just see this as a business man who wanted to get things done, his campaign who wanted to get things. They didn’t know that the taste of something unethical could, you know, have so many long term repercussions

Brad Means: So recently the president’s support sanctions against Russia, some are saying it’s the start of a trade war. Russia’s own prime minister says, this represents the hope for improving Russian U.S. relations being over, this move. Why did President Trump do that? Is he trying just to say to the world, see I don’t like these people, we’re not colluding, we’re not doing anything bad. I’m even imposing sanctions against them.

Dr. Craig Albert: This is the congressional checks of presidential power. President Trump had no choice, but to sign this bill. This was a veto-proof bill, passed by both Houses of Congress. If he didn’t sign it, it would have looked poor. It would have looked like he was colluding with Putin, with the Russians. So this is congress saying, we’re gonna force your hands President Trump, which is the way the founders designed our Constitution, and some of these instances were so each branch could fight each other and force the other branches hand. You had a veto-proof bill. He had to sign it or that would have looked very poor.

Brad Means: Does it make him look weak when he has Congress steering the ship and telling him what’s gonna happen.

Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely it makes him look weak. So I think that’s why you see immediately him come out with the RAISE Act, with this idea, he’s like okay, you’re gonna push one thing on me, I’m gonna push something else on you and set the tone, set the agenda. For President Trump, any news is good news. So when he’s switching the debate, when he’s switching the topic from something that doesn’t make him look good, even if it’s bad for instance, the Democrats don’t like the immigration plan, doesn’t matter. For his base, for the people who wanna vote for Trump, who are gonna come out in numbers again in 2020, him constantly really being in the headlines and changing the messaging is great for President Trump.

Brad Means: Don’t we need Russia though, big picture, when it comes to navigating our relationships with says Iran or North Korea? Don’t we need them to sort of still like us?

Dr. Craig Albert: We need them to respect us. And Russia hasn’t respected us for quite some time now. It would behoove us to learn how to cautiously dictate terms to Russia to handle situations such as North Korea, Iran, and especially Syria. President Trump could negotiate a deal where Russia handled the Syrian sitution that would make President Trump look amazing. Even if we gave, you know, the destruction of ISIS in Syria over to Putin, if Trump could negotiate such a deal where we would benefit from that, you know we wouldn’t lose troops, we wouldn’t be spending that kind of money there. That would go to Putin, but at the same time, Trump can say I managed this deal where we have a Syrian ceasefire, even in Assad stays in power there. So it’s not that we need Russia, but President Trump certainly could use them in a proper way, that all great powers use each other to achieve their own goals. We need them in that way.

Brad Means: About 45 seconds left. How’s the war on terror going? How are our efforts to defeat ISIS going?

Dr. Craig Albert: ISIS is diminishing, and you know, the combined forces just took over Mosul a few weeks ago. That’s a great victory. I think I heard something where it’ll take 10 years to completely de-mine Mosul, so we’re gonna see a continued loss of life there just from IEDs, booby traps that they planted there, but that’s a great victory. Again, the public should be aware, that the more land ISIS loses, the more lone wolf attacks they will encourage, the more lone gunman attacks, or knife attacks that we’ve seen in Germany recently will continue. So as we gain ground and take by Syria and Iraq, look for the virtual terrorism, for lone wolf encouragement to become much more severe than it has been.

Brad Means: Was some great insight on a lot of topics today from you Dr. Albert. Thank you so much for everything. We’ll have you back very soon.

Dr. Craig Albert: Look forward to it, thank you.

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