Thursday, January 19, 2017

America’s Views of World Leaders

The latest CNN poll asked Americans at the start of the new administration how they would rate some national and world leaders. The results should remind the new administration that there is a backdrop of attitudes positioning friends and foes that should be kept in mind as policies and tweets start to fly.

For example, at the bottom of the list of favored leaders are Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Raúl Castro and Xi Jinping. Claiming any one of these people a good friend and ally will be a lift.

The public loves the Queen and the Pope. They have a few detractors, both to the office and the person, but very few. Starting fights with them will be costly.

Many people don’t know Angela Merkel or Theresa May, but due to old alliances and respect for their actions, they have more than two-to-one favorability among the attentive public.

Donald Trump has a 44 percent favorability rating, higher than the mean of the eight foreign leaders. However, with near universal awareness, his unfavorability rating of 53 percent is near Raúl Castro’s.

The Red Line: A Decision that Leveled a Foreign Policy

Barack Obama is doing his legacy tour. There are some high points; some may even survive his successor. But one decision sums up a series of mistakes that most harmed his foreign policy and produced a disastrous effect still being felt.

In August 2014, Obama backed away from a threat to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime for the use of chemical weapons against his population. From the moment the decision was announced, Obama’s credibility dropped with allies and adversaries, foreign and domestic.

The Situation Room announcement picture captures the disbelief among the president’s team, especially the responsible politicians – Biden, Kerry and Hagel.

In fact, the decision only highlighted an often described feckless policy related to the Syrian civil war. A strategy that contributed to millions of refugees, many fleeing and destabilizing democracies in Europe, a vacuum allowing the entry of Russia on Assad’s side, and the utter destruction of Aleppo. The decision was firmly embedded in Obama’s fundamental approach of minimalism in the Middle East, which included the Iraq withdrawal and the truncated Libyan intervention.

See blogs:
President has options in Syria
Will foreign policy effect the 2014 elections?
Red Line: Kerry and Hagel agree Obama foreign policy disaster
Chuck Hagel – Nice guy, wrong fit
Syria: Public opinion cul-de-sac
Panic in the White House – Foreign policy
Obama’s last State of the Union and foreign policy

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Marijuana Takes Heat in State of the State Speech

Marijuana was mentioned, but not in a friendly fashion, in John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address.

He opened by stating he hadn’t supported the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012, but the state had mastered regulating it, including addressing continuing problem areas of edibles endangering children and the need for education on underage use.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, State of the State address
Photo: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
But then he shifted to the bad news. He pointed out that, contrary to the claims of drug advocates, organized crime is flourishing in a home grow “gray market” and action must be taken to fight it. Finally, he linked the spread of marijuana in Colorado to mental illness and chronic homelessness, and advocated using marijuana money to service the victims.

Governor’s list of major problems:
  • Endangering children
  • Underage use
  • Organized crime
  • Mental illness and chronic homelessness
Just as four more states legalized recreational sales of marijuana, Colorado’s leadership, from the state to local level, appear to be becoming aware of the ill consequences of commercialization of marijuana. In Colorado, the public may also be becoming more attuned to the problem. A majority (53%) in a DU/Korbel School poll was against the increased sales of recreational marijuana in their community.

Eight states and Washington D.C. have now legalized commercial marijuana. California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada joined the number with Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Numerous other states are considering legislation or initiative to legalize commercial sales. The question in Colorado is no longer legalization, which a majority of the public favors, but retail sale and use in neighborhoods and communities. On this issue, the public is becoming much more skeptical. Will the forces of opposition get organized?

The Hill: Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures
The Buzz: Colorado Voters Appear Reluctant to Expand Use of Recreational Marijuana
The Buzz: End of Marijuana Holiday? El Paso County Says “No” to Marijuana Expansion

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kalorama and Kompromat: The Week of Transition in Washington

Washington loves and dreads transition. The inaugural event is a high political society celebration, a circus, and can be a civil war. A bit of all three will take over Washington this weekend. There will be nostalgia for the Obamas, a modern update of a Norman Rockwell painting and the Nelsons of TV sitcom fame. Of course, there is a relief for those anxious to end what they consider a failed administration. The Trump inaugural instills a combination of dread and elation. Almost all new residents of the White House are considered vandals and Philistines, although Donald Trump appears to look for fights: John Lewis, the intel community, CNN, EU, Merkel, NATO and China, and that’s just the last few days.

The new words of currency this week are Kalorama and Kompromat. Kalorama, an exclusive section of D.C. north of DuPont Circle, has just gotten the Obamas, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and Jeff Bezos ($23 million for house) as residents. This may be ushering in an era of big money and big houses.

Kompromat is the Russian term for compromising material, like that found in the unverified dossier on Donald Trump. Sex, scandal, tweets and Russians are in D.C.’s future.

As thousands pour into the weekend celebrations and demonstrations, the 2016 post-election period is over and the fun begins.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tall is Good – Regis Jesuit

Congratulations to Regis Jesuit for attracting and supporting women sports stars and superstars.

Missy Franklin at 6’2” and Fran Belibi at 6’1” are Regis Jesuit stars and part of an academic program that puts athletes on track for Berkeley and Stanford, which offers support that produces winning athletes and teams.

Trump Wins Intel Battle, But Losing War – 9KUSA

Trump at first press conference, Jan. 11, 2017
(Photo: Getty Images)
Donald Trump’s first press conference as president-elect was vintage Trump. He vigorously denied (fake news) the Internet-driven intelligence story about a Russian dossier on him, attacked the media for printing it and pivoted to his approach to conflicts of interest concerning the Trump Corporation. He dominated the news cycle and the press conference. Not particularly “presidential,” but self-confident, chatty and in control.

Of course, it is likely only a temporary reprieve from news on the dossier and fight with the intelligence community, and Trump already has problems. A new Quinnipiac poll shows the president-elect with a declining favorability rating since his November victory and low approval ratings for the transition.
  • 37% favorability, down from 44% right after the November 8 election
  • 37% approve transition, 51% disapprove
  • Optimistic about next 4 years was 59%, now 52%
  • Stop tweeting 64% to 33%
In an interview with 9KUSA TaRhonda Thomas, the following was highlighted:
  • It is unprecedented to have this much controversy just prior to the inauguration, but the entire public aspect of this transition is unprecedented. The public entrances and departures at Trump Tower and frequent tweeting, including fights with actor Meryl Streep.
  • Trump is master at surviving scandal. The Access Hollywood controversy last fall shows his durability. He recovered and won the election.
  • The dossier will surely recede if no new evidence shows up. As president, he will have more ways to manage bad news, but there are a lot of intelligence players who intend on protecting their agencies, some of whom don’t believe he should be president.
  • The conflict of interest issue will be back because his solution is too shallow for most observers.
See Politico: Highlights from Trump’s press conference

Friday, January 13, 2017

Body Cameras for Police

Body cameras are becoming increasingly common equipment for police patrol officers. They are a technological approach to issues of transparency and accountability offering some real time protections for police officers and the public.

They are overwhelmingly popular. New polling data from Pew Research shows that both the general public and police officers support body cameras. Denverites agree. A recent Ciruli Associates poll in Denver indicates strong support for their use.

The Denver Police Department endorsed use of body cameras and the Denver Police Foundation has assisted in their purchase.

Pew: The racial confidence gap in police performance
Pew: On views of race and inequality, blacks and whites are worlds apart