Friday, May 26, 2017

Italy, the Sick Man of Europe

France’s labor markets and productivity are a mess and one of President Macron’s biggest challenges. But, Italy’s are even worse, and there is no sense the politics of the next election will offer a solution.
Italy’s anti-establishment nationalism is intense. Most of the public in Europe support the Euro despite anti-Euro nationalism. Only in Italy does a plurality of the public see the Euro as bad (47%) for the country, not good (41%).

Slow growth, high unemployment, massive debt, low productivity, rigid labor, trade and professional rules, and a general dissatisfaction with the center parties gave birth to the Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo. The so-called party is mostly run as an online movement, but in 2016, it won the mayorships in Rome and Turin. It often looks more like a Bernie Sanders caucus meeting than a national party. But, there is passion and an anti-corruption, protectionist platform that appeals to Italian workers, businesses and dissatisfied voters. At 30 percent support, it is currently Italy’s largest political bloc.
Italy is currently run by an interim government since the constitutional reform referendum of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi failed in December and he resigned. A mid-2018 election is likely, and unless one of the major party groupings can get organized, Five Star could be asked to form a government.

Beppe Grillo, found of the Five Star Movement and Rome’s Mayor
Virginia Raggi during a demonstration in November | Gregorio Borgia/AP

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Election Dashboard

Although it is more than a year and a half until the next congressional elections, Washington, D.C. is watching the calendar early, mostly due to the chaos of Trump administration’s start-up. House Republicans are worried about holding their majority and Democrats are busy recruiting candidates.
Democrats need 24 House seats and 3 in the Senate. Both goals appeared unlikely after the November elections, but the beginning of Donald Trump’s second 100 days brings early speculation that Democrat could take both houses.
We will begin regularly publishing the 2018 political Dashboard to quantify and comment on the status of the congressional races, which are likely to be the most watched and analyzed in recent history. Control of Congress, especially the House, will not just decide the Trump and Republican legislative agenda, it may decide Trump’s survival as president. Bills of impeachment are in drafting, with many of the particular charges already identified. It is no doubt premature, but it reflects the President’s vulnerability and the Democrats’ passion.
The elements of the Dashboard are: presidential approval, congressional approval, the generic congressional ballot test, direction of the country, and the number of seats Democrats and Republicans need or enjoy respectively for a majority.
The President’s approval is at a record-low for this early in a term. There are more than 500 days until the November 2018 elections, but now is the time for recruitment and fundraising. Democrats have been benefiting from post-election activism and Obamacare rage. Now, of course, the White House and Trump’s performance are energizing them.
The RealClearPolitics presidential average rating is 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval, a 14-percent negative spread. And, the polls of the last few days have uniformly been below 40 percent.

The campaign for the House has already begun with heated town hall meetings for Republican incumbents and Democratic support organizations buying ads in 23 House Republican districts where Hillary Clinton won last year, including Colorado’s Mike Coffman’s 6th district. He won in November by 7 points, while Clinton was carrying the district by 9 points. Coffman voted against the Republican AHCA repeal and replacement legislation.
Democrats also need to defend 12 seats that Trump won, but with Trump’s low approval and the Republicans’ AHCA legislation having only a 25 percent public approval, it’s Republicans who are the most concerned.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How About the French Transition?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R)
greets visiting French President
Emmanuel Macron in Berlin
on May 15, 2017 | Xinhua/Shan Yuqi
The first round of the French presidential election was April 23, the second round 14 days later on May 7 and the transition completed on Sunday, May 14. It was a simple ceremony at the Élysée Palace, a speech by the new president and the brief ride down Avenue des Champs-Élysées in a military vehicle. A wreath was laid and President Macron went to work.

One day later, he was in Berlin building an essential relationship with German Chancellor Merkel. Nice transition – less money spent and time wasted and no arguments about crowd size.

New French President Emmanuel Macron waves from a military vehicle as
he rides on Avenue des Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe
in Paris, France, May 14, 2017 | AP Photo/Michel Euler, POOL

The EU Gets a Boost. Next Up: England, Germany and Italy.

With the victory of Emmanuel Macron, the EU gets a moment to reconfigure its future. It would be wise not to waste time. European electorates are in considerable stress with far-right and far-left movements adopting nationalist, anti-EU positions to compete with old center parties.

The next European elections are as important as Brexit, Trump and Macron. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to strengthen a governing majority in Great Britain for EU negotiations. Chancellor Angela Merkel must renew her five-year mandate. She represents the dean of world globalists, and with the new French president, the essential partner in preserving the EU. And finally, the most troubled Mediterranean EU member, Italy, will likely have an election in 2018. It could put an anti-EU populist party in control. Italy’s parliamentary election isn’t set yet. It’s likely to be in mid-2018 and the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement could be the largest party.

Nationalists and Eurosceptics continue to have clout. They control the Polish government and are a force in Britain, France, Austria and various parts of Eastern Europe. In fact, a snap election has been called in Austria due to the instability of old governing coalitions and politicians.

Although Ms. Merkel’s party appears well-positioned to be the dominant player in the September 24 election, this will continue a government that has lasted 12 years, a very long run in current European politics. Her challenge comes from the center-left more than the far-right.

Monday, May 15, 2017

French Nationalism Now the Main European Opposition to Globalism

Although the National Front, the main French party representing anti-immigrant, anti-EU sentiments, lost the presidential run-off; the anti-global position in France continues to grow. Marine Le Pen received 21% of the vote in April’s French first round election, but the total of right and left anti-global parties equaled nearly half the total vote (49%).
She increased her vote share 13 percent in the second round run-off to 34 percent. Hence, a third of the French electorate supports an extreme nationalist party, a steady increase from 2002 when the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, received just 18 percent.
The party (which may be renamed) is also now the leading opposition to Emmanuel Macron’s globalist position. Will nationalist elements of weakened left and right parties join it or can the Republican, Socialist and Communist parties reconstitute into viable alternatives?
The National Front post-election strategy is likely to affect the next steps in development of French
Marine Le Pen | Michel Euler/AP
nationalism. But, the new government will also shape the party’s development. If Macron fails to build a working parliamentary majority or if his solutions disappoint, the National Front and its allies will likely benefit.
Even in losing, the National Front has repositioned French politics from a left-right continuum to a nationalist-globalist framework, although ideologues are more flexible than fixed today. As the second largest party in the second most populated country and largest economy in Western Europe after Germany, the National Front is now the vanguard of the continent’s nationalistic movement.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Lavrov and Trump Meeting as Comey Fired

Just as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak conferenced with the President at the White House, the Russian cyber-attack investigation was dominating the airwaves with the FBI Director Comey firing.

Good news for the Russians in short term. The President reaffirms his commitment to build a relationship with Russia in spite of the Russian hacking investigation of the U.S. election. In longer-term, the firing will keep the issue in the news and in political turmoil. Vladimir Putin’s strategy here and in France is producing considerable blowback. It’s empowering political enemies and making it difficult for friends.

Putin personally requested a photo shoot between Trump and the Russian team. In fact, it was only covered by Russian media, which Trump allowed as he kept U.S. media at bay. In other words, in spite of Putin’s hostile intervention in the U.S. election, he managed to self-extol on Russian TV. What a master strategist he is!

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, President Donald
Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak
meet in the Oval Office, May 10, 2017 | Alexander Shcherbak/
TASS via Getty Images

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Battle Over Obamacare Repeal Comes to Colorado: KOA Interview

April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs interview on KOA May 9, 2017 on challenges congressional Republicans face from grassroots groups fighting the Obamacare repeal and replacement.

Floyd Ciruli: Two political fights are underway. In one fight, Democrats want to win back the House of Representatives. They need to pick up 24 seats in 2018. In the other, they want to stop the Obamacare legislative changes that came out of the House last Thursday, which are now in the Senate.

Health care policy has dominated American politics since what came to be known as Obamacare was first introduced in 2009. It cost the Democrats their majority in 2010 with a 30-seat loss. The losses continued in 2014. In a reversal of fortune, they are hoping the resistance is as potent as the Tea Party and health care will put them back in power in 2018.

But the fight is also over controlling the narrative as much as specific seats and candidates at this point. Democrats are arguing millions will lose coverage and that protection for pre-existing conditions has been emasculated. Republicans argue Obamacare is collapsing and the new law will stimulate private coverage, lower premiums and limit budget-busting Medicare expansions.

Part of the message battle is at congressperson town halls and constituent meetings. In Colorado, both Congressman Mike Coffman and Senator Cory Gardner have been targeted by the Democratic resistance and other health care activists.

A standing-room-only crowd in gymnasium of Byers Middle School during an
“in absentia”  town hall meeting directed at U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who was
invited, but did not respond to the invitation, Feb. 24, 2017 | Andy Colwell/
Special to Denver Post
Washington pundits believe that the embattled Trump presidency hovering over the health care debate has made the political environment very volatile and potentially competitive for 2018. In fact, the respected Cook Report just moved Coffman’s seat from lean Republican to toss-up in spite of his voting no on the bill. And although it is premature to downgrade Coffman, who wins re-elections in good and bad Republican years, health care has been a Republican-only bill with President Trump as the chief promoter.

It is now up to the Senate with its narrow Republican margin to craft something the House Republicans will accept and the party will want to run on in 2018.

See:
The Buzz: Democrats could retake the House
FiveThirtyEight: A very early look at the battle for the House in 2018
New York Times: ‘No district is off the table’: Health vote could put House in play

Four Reasons Trump Fired Comey

Four reasons stand out for President Trump’s May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey. These are based on Trump’s words, previous behavior and the logic of the timing.
  1. Trump was angry Comey didn’t exonerate him of his ties to the Russians related to the 2016 campaign. In fact, Comey refused to answer the questions and cited an ongoing investigation. Trump believes the ongoing investigation is a hoax and waste of resources. Tellingly in the firing letter, Trump claims he was told on three occasions there was no connection between him and the Russian investigation. If true, probably a violation of FBI procedures, but at least confirming evidence Trump is most concerned about the investigation.
  2. Trump was angry that Comey didn’t back up his claim that the Obama administration wire tapped him. Trump would have accepted most any vague statement as validation, but Comey was definitive that there was no spying on Trump by Barack Obama.
  3.   Comey failed to focus sufficient attention on what Trump believes is the greatest threat to the nation – leaks. Trump made clear leaks should be the FBI’s priority, not Russia.
  4. Comey was high-profile and on the Hill much too high. As Steve Bannon can attest, don’t get more famous than the boss. Comey’s position was excessively useful for ambitious Senate and Hill members that wanted good hearing news coverage. Better to bring in someone with less history or knowledge of the Russian issue.
 Notice Hillary Clinton is not a reason.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with former FBI Director James Comey | Getty

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

French Nationalism Hits a Wall: Not Good News for Putin and Trump.

Emmanuel Macron’s two-to-one victory over Marine Le Pen (66.1% vs. 33.9%) is a major defeat for Le Pen’s international supporters.

She and her party, the National Front, have long- and well-established ties with Vladimir Putin. They have received loans from Russian banks, she opposed Russian sanctions and she was pictured with Putin in a highly public visit in February. Macron repeatedly claimed Russia’s propaganda and anti-democratic machine was trying to damage his campaign. They are suspected to be responsible for the final hack of Macron’s campaign communications.

Ms. Le Pen at a conference in January in Germany joined her fellow nationalists to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory and his Steve Bannon-inspired Inaugural address. Most recently, she expressed reservations about Trump’s policies in Syria (interventionist, anti-Russia), but Trump was clear in his preference with his unsolicited tweets.

Behind the scenes, Bannon has been a fan of Le Pen and strongly supports the nationalism movement across the continent. Trump has been strongly pro-Brexit, predicted more withdrawals from the EU and hails as his good friend Nigel Farage, the Brexit leader, in Great Britain.
Ironically, Trump’s poor international image and “America First” pronouncement and policy are damaging his goal to help nationalist allies. In fact, Trump’s “America First” and generally anti-EU, anti-NATO rhetoric and behavior, which is as heavily reported on in the continent as here, contributed to the consolidation and support for center left, pro-EU candidates.

Russian elites, at some point, may conclude Putin’s strategy of cyber and propaganda warfare with the West is counterproductive.

Is Maduro Near the End?

Hunger is widespread, children are suffering from starvation, and hundreds have died in street protests. Statutes of Hugo Chávez are being torn down. Music icon, Gustavo Dudamel, says “enough is enough.” The urban and rural poor finally joined the protests.

The Bolivarian Revolution is collapsing and the army will soon have to decide: Does it continue to defend President Nicolás Maduro and fight the population or is change near – a coup or otherwise. The recent Latin American history of military officers escaping prosecution for crimes against their own population is not good.

The likelihood Maduro will die peacefully in the Presidential Palace or relaxing at a Venezuelan coastal resort seems remote.

Options for leaders who are about to leave office under duress:
Exile – Escape into exile with friends in Cuba or Nicaragua, sort of a reverse Batista and Somoza.
Arrest – Arrest like Slobodan Milošević or Hosni Mubarak.
Death – The streets can be dangerous as Muammar Gaddafi can attest. Nicolae Ceauşescu and Benito Mussolini were attempting escapes, but didn’t make it.

Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro dances with first lady
Cilia Flores during a rally to support the closing of the Colombian border,
in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015 | Ariana Cubillos/AP

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Obamacare Repeal Passes, But Fight Over Replacement Just Begins

The repeal and replacement of Obamacare passed the House on May 3, 2017 by one vote 104 days into the new administration, slightly over a month (41 days) after it was withdrawn due to the lack of votes on March 24 and seven years after Barack Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010 in the White House.

It has been the most controversial legislation in recent political history. Obamacare, as it became known, had no Republican support in 2009 and 2010 and the repeal has no Democratic support today.

Coffman “No” and Issa “Yes”
Of the 20 Republicans that opposed, most were in swing districts. In Colorado, Mike Coffman, who has been a weak supporter of Donald Trump, voted no. The Denver Post congratulated him, and although he has won his last two elections handily, it was probably the safest choice given 2018 could be a very difficult year for Republican officeholders up for re-election.

Darrell Issa, who wavered on the repeal and replace bill, decided to support it. He barely survived a challenge last year in his southern California district. Hillary Clinton won both Coffman’s and Issa’s districts.

Republicans Threatened
Obamacare may be a law that had about an eight-year life span. But it’s not done yet. Before final approval in 2010, Obamacare took months of hearings and negotiations and was approved in the House in November 2009 by only 220 to 215. Expect a similar elongated process and equal intrigue this year.

This was a politically dangerous vote for Republicans. They may pay for it in 2018, but failure to repeal was not an option and the replacement was never going to be popular with some elements of the Republican House conference. The more Republicans fear reaction, the longer they are likely to delay “full” implementation – maybe after 2020.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Flip-Flop or Flexible? Trump First 100 Days

President Trump has run into checks and balances, not just the constitutional restraints built into the system, but the full-range of limitations on executive actions that are part of the American political culture. From the Judiciary (9th Circuit), to Congress (Freedom Caucus), to his cabinet contradicting with him and the permanent bureaucracy leaking, to our foreign allies disagreeing him, the media’s intense coverage and even polls.

Donald Trump appears to realize how much more difficult the political system is compared to what he’s used to when he told Reuters last week, “I thought it would be easier.” And the AP, “I didn’t realize how big it was…every decision is made harder than you normally make.” Not quite the same as commercial real estate.

The President has come to see how complicated many policies are. He has referenced the complexity of health care and the Korean stalemate after listening to President Xi’s description of China’s relationship and history with North Korea.

One typical reaction of most politicians is to blame the rules. And Trump has called congressional rules “archaic,” and in his view, the filibuster needs to go. The White House is floating breaking up the 9th Circuit and changing liable laws.

But another reaction is to adjust. And so NATO is no longer obsolete; China is not a currency manipulator. Janet Yellen is beloved and respected and NAFTA should be negotiated not terminated.

We do not know the back story of many of these shifts. Some may just be reversals of Trump’s penchant for not well-thought-out declarations. But many reflect advice and experiences that show a White House and President dealing with very complex problems in a not always friendly world. His critics call them flip-flops, he calls it flexibility.

Most of the shifts are good news.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Staging the First 100 Days from the White House

Donald Trump staged the first 100 days from the White House, except for a few trips to his winter retreat at Mar-a-Lago and campaign-style forays. After 100 days, the Trump White House operates much as it did in its earliest days. Some describe it as a family-run commercial real estate firm. The distinctive features of the first weeks are captured in an early picture of the President signing the Executive Order to proceed on the XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The days were filled with drama, much of it around the Resolute Desk and, although there was a variety of participants in the room, there was always a cameraman, and initially the early photos were dominated by the campaign team hovering in the background.

The major features of early White House decision-making highlighted by the Resolute Desk stage:

Flat decision process. There is no chain of command. Trump is the star, he decides. Chief of Staff Preibus has some staff, but clearly he doesn’t control access or the agenda.

Centers of conflict. There are numerous power centers defending turf and viewpoints. Competition between nationalist Steve Bannon vs. globalist Jared Kushner is the highest profile conflict, but Preibus has his turf, Kellyanne Conway has hers.

Stay close to the desk. Trump is a mercurial man who tends toward the provocative and the impulsive. If you want to defend a position, an initiative or a space, stay close to his desk. The last person who talks to him often has the most influence.

Keeping the promises. Keeping campaign promises is an obsession with the Trump team. Bannon is in charge and has the list on his wall; he checks off accomplishments, or at least some action. That means that some of the most divisive and least popular campaign promises are high on the White House agenda, such as the wall and travel ban. But, it also means the campaign, with all its bad attitude and mean rhetoric, has moved to the White House.

In addition, the campaign for 2020 has started. The Pennsylvania rally had placards that said “Promises Made, Promises Kept” and TV advertising extolling the 100 days is starting.

‘Un’Obama. Finally, much White House activity is driven by being the ‘un’Obama. From the Inaugural argument over crowd size, to staging a picture of the national security team watching the Tomahawk Missile strike on Syria outdoing Barack Obama’s Bin Laden picture, this White House spends considerable time contrasting itself to Obama. But it also means that Obama is blamed for the need for or the failure of every action. “Obamacare is a disaster; look at the mess I inherited; this is the worst deal in history.” From Syria, to Iran, to the travel ban, to General Flynn’s security clearance, Obama was at fault.

Of course, all presidents do it to some extent. Herbert Hoover was a Democratic punching bag for four decades. Obama mentioned George W. Bush repeatedly as he reversed various foreign policy initiatives, but the volume and repetitiveness of it was minor compared to the barrage of criticism today.

The first 100 days have had some success, but it has mostly been characterized by a lack of preparation, acting precipitously and disorder. Will the second 100 days be the same as the first? Clearly the White House is improving its operations. The leaks are down and there appears more calm, but Donald Trump is the star and the decider, so it’s very much going to be based on his personality and preferences. We shall see.

That Desk is Scary

Gabriel Elizondo of Al Jazeera published a story on Pueblo, Colorado’s close vote for Donald Trump last November. The Al Jazeera audience is huge in Africa, the Middle East and pockets of Europe.

The photog though a shot from my desk would be a highlight. I’d admit it needs some filing, boxing, etc. It sort of looks like the high peaks of Vail.

Credit: Al Jazeera
Also read LA Times: Voters in this Democratic part of Colorado backed Trump. After 100 days, they have no regrets.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Landlines in the Minority

Landlines are now used by less than half the population. The National Center for Health Statistics, which regularly conducts major surveys of American households, reports that 51 percent of American homes are wireless-only.

There are pollsters reported on by the media that only survey landlines. To the extent their data appears accurate, it’s more a chance result (good luck) than a true sample of the population.

Pueblo Chiles and the New Bronco

Garett Bolles’ life story is a wonder. An authentic variation on the extraordinary story of Big Mike Oher recounted in the Academy Award nominated movie, The Blind Side.

But for those of us from Pueblo, Colorado, the highlight in the Sunday Denver Post story by Terry Frei was a brief aside that Bolles considered Pueblo’s welcoming ways and hot chiles as providing some of the important friendships in his life and contributing to his considerable weight. Bolles became a gourmand for Pueblo “sloppers,” the lionized local hamburger with green chiles on it. Pueblo green chiles are nationally recognized as among the best. Whole Foods considers them equal to New Mexico’s Hatch Green Chilies.
“I loved Pueblo,” he said. “They’re great people down there. The food’s outstanding; they put the green chili on the burgers and they smother burritos. Fat food for offensive linemen like me. I loved them; I have so many friends and friendships that always will play a big role in my life.” (Garett Bolles, Denver Post, 4-30-17)
Pueblo is famous for its produce. Ciruli Brothers Produce, known for their Mexico-imported mangoes also at Whole Foods, got their start in Pueblo, Colorado.

Go Broncos.

Garett Bolles and his son, Kingston | Andy Cross/Denver Post

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kogovsek's Death Shocks Political World - Pueblo Chieftain

On Sunday, Colorado lost one of its great water leaders, former U.S. Representative Ray Kogovsek. 
Floyd Ciruli, the Pueblo native who went on to establish Ciruli Associates, one of the best-known polling firms in the West, worked with Kogovsek in his early days in Congress. He said Kogovsek was a natural "networker" but found himself fighting President Jimmy Carter's efforts to cut all water projects out of the federal budget.
"That's when Ray became this ardent defender of natural resources. There he was, trying to explain to Carter why water projects were so vital in the West," Ciruli laughed. "We joked to ourselves that they must have had too much water in Georgia. Ray was the perfect congressman for Pueblo." (Pueblo Chieftain, 5-1-17)
Read Pueblo Chieftain: Kogovsek's death shocks political world 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Hickenlooper and Chuck Todd

In an interview on NBC News, John Hickenlooper argued for the Democratic Party to become a
“large tent” and welcome its business and more conservative members. With a well-trimmed look and tight responses, Governor Hickenlooper took on Chuck Todd’s questions concerning meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on marijuana and sanctuary cities. Hickenlooper said:
  • Sessions is strongly anti-drug, including marijuana, but intervention in state marijuana policies does not appear a priority. Hickenlooper advocated for state-federal collaboration on drug policy.
  • There is a gray area in local enforcement of immigration, but Hickenlooper believes considerable conflict will continue. Both he and Sessions believe there should be a congressional fix.
  • The Democratic Party is in a useful period of re-imagination; he’s part of the discussion and it should welcome its business wing as part of a “large tent” party.
Watch full interview here

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pre-100-Day Polls in on Trump: Not Good

President Trump | Getty
ABC/Washington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal and Gallup released polls over the weekend that showed President Trump has failed to improve his poor approval rating during the first 100 days. In fact, his ratings declined after a weak start and remain in the cellar.

Although Trump cherry picked a couple of positive numbers, he declared, in general, they were “fake news.”

Unfortunately for the poll sensitive President heading into his 100-day report card, more than half the public disapproves of his performance, and his approval at slightly more than 40 percent is below even the weak general election vote he received (46%). Of the biggest concern among national Republican leaders is the flat trend line, even with a White House receiving saturation coverage and a few popular items being accomplished, including the Neil Gorsuch confirmation and the missile strike against President Assad in Syria.

Although Trump holds his core base of voters, they are less than a third of the total electorate. His other advantage at this point is the Democrats are even less popular than Trump and Republicans.

Nonetheless, he is still described by the public as seriously lacking the judgement (41% yes has judgement, 56% no), and personality and temperament to be president (38% yes has temperament, 59% no) (ABC/WP). In terms of the first 100 days, most people say Trump was “off to a poor start (45%) or a “fair start” (19%). Only one-third of the public (35%) said he was “off to a “good or great start” (NBC/WSJ).

See:
Politico: Trump blasts recent approval rating polls as “fake news”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hill and Ciruli: President Trump’s First 100 Days

On May 1, Dean Christopher Hill and pollster Floyd Ciruli will present an analysis of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days at the University of Denver’s Korbel School.

The White House’s successes, failures, the polling results and where American foreign policy is headed are the topics. The White House may deny the historical standard is important, but they are rushing to put points up the final week. But, most importantly, it is useful to pause after the intense 14 weeks of the Trump administration and examine what’s been accomplished and what’s next. Hill and Ciruli will especially focus on foreign policy and what can be expected in Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific.

Will it be the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?



Register for event here



French Pollsters Nail It

First round of French elections Sunday produced a result predicted for several weeks by French pollsters, even though the last few days of polls showed a very close race.

Emmanuel Macron led with 24 percent and the final poll showed 23 percent. Marine Le Pen grabbed second with 21 percent and the final polls had her at 22 percent. The remaining three candidates’ results were within a point of final polls.

The run-off election is May 7, and pre-election polls show any of the top three candidates would beat Le Pen. Macron was the strongest at about 60 percent and 40 percent for Le Pen. French pollsters published their final pre-election polls on Friday, April 21. They then release a final poll on Election Day.

The five candidates represented 91 percent of the vote.

Although the pollsters nailed it, France’s politics is wide open. Le Pen’s campaign may have stalled from its showing earlier in the year (28%), but the anti-EU populist candidates still attracted nearly half of the vote. And the two major parties – the Socialists and Republicans – are in collapse. Hence, French politics is dominated by outsiders without identified governing majorities creating possibilities for significant change or massive gridlock.

Like recent elections in most Western democracies, there was significant division between the urban and more rural vote. Le Pen received about 5 percent of the vote in Paris and Macron 35 percent. Contrary to Donald Trump’s view, the final terrorist attack did not surge votes to his favorite candidate, Le Pen.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Trump Trying to Put Points on the Board

Donald Trump, who lives for ratings and is hypersensitive about crowd size, claims he’s no longer interested in the “first 100-day” standard. In fact, the White House has been obsessed about it for weeks, holding branding meetings and claiming that “no administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.” Most recently, President Trump has made clear he needs “points on the board” by April 29 and is trying to revive health care.

For the Korbel School and Crossley Center, the historical standard is a useful measure. On May 1, join them for an assessment of Trump’s first 100 days.

Read:
Politico:  Trump scoffs at 100-day mark as ‘ridiculous standard’
CNBC: Trump calls first 100 days as ‘ridiculous standard’ – even though he set it as a standard

Will it be the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?



The Beltway Rules – Shutdown

The government shutdown in 2013 was caused by a confrontation with Obamacare opponents and divided party government. It lasted 16 days in October as Republicans shed points in national polls. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got credit for settling it and has promised it won’t happen this year.

It would be profoundly stupid for the Republican Party, which controls all three branches of government, to let it shut down over internal policy disputes, especially after the Obamacare repeal and replace collapse.

  • “Take all necessary steps to avoid a government shutdown” (65%) or “If it helps them achieve their policy goals” (17%) – support shutdown 17%, with 22% Republicans and 14% Democrats; 23% men and 13% women
Read Politico: Poll: Voters recoil from government shutdown

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hickenlooper, Gardner and Bennet’s Job Approval

Morning Consult, an online poll from web journal Politico, asked a national sample of its participants the job performance of the governors and senators of every state. Governor John Hickenlooper and Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner have middling ratings.

Governor
The highest rated governors received scores in the mid-sixty percent range and above. Charlie Baker, a Democrat in Massachusetts, had the highest approval at 75 percent. The highest rated large-state governor was Greg Abbott (R) of Texas (64%). Westerners Brian Sandoval (R) of Nevada and Gary Herbert (R) of Utah also had 64 percent approvals.

John Hickenlooper was in the upper half of the list of 50 governors with 61 percent, joined by nearby governor Matt Mead (R) in Wyoming (60%) and Steve Bullock (R) in Montana (59%). The governor with the lowest approval was Chris Christie at 25 percent.

Senate
Small state senators were more popular than those in large states. At the top were Vermont Democrats Bernie Sanders (I) with 75 percent and Patrick Leahy (D) 70 percent approvals. Wyoming’s and Maine’s two senators were next with approval ratings above 66 percent. Also, they all had single digit “don’t know” ratings. Their citizens know them.

Colorado’s two senators were in the lower half of the list, with Michael Bennet at 54 percent and Cory Gardner receiving 49 percent approval. They both had high percentage of people who could not rate them.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Beltway Rules – Single-Payer

The beltway prerogatives and attitudes still rule.

In a state Hillary Clinton won by slightly more than 100,000 votes, single-payer health care, called Medicare for All by its public relations-minded acolytes, lost by 1,540,000 million Colorado voters (79% to 21%). Only Democrats deep into beltway politics would endorse Bernie Sanders’s long-time effort to promote a single-payer government system into Congress or American politics. But Diana DeGette and Jared Polis are leading the way locally. If they represented Vermont, Sanders’s home state, it would be understandable, but Colorado has just spoken.

Reps. Jared Polis and Diana DeGette
See: Three More Join HR 676 Single Payer Bill in House

The Beltway Rules – Gorsuch Vote

When Neil Gorsuch’s nomination was announced by Donald Trump on January 31, the stars appeared aligned for a smooth, if not easy, confirmation. Not easy given the current polarized politics, the bitter election result and President Trump’s ability to rile up the country’s left wing. And the Merrick Garland experience added resentment. But Gorsuch’s qualifications, his initial reception and the precedent for allowing a vote on justices led me to claim Gorsuch “gets to 60 and Colorado’s two Senators support him.” Wrong on both counts. Democrats decided to forget precedent and filibuster. Gorsuch supporters could not break it and Republicans went to a majority vote, ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. And Michael Bennet went with his caucus and the resistance.

The entire drama was a product of beltway politics.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (right) administers
judicial oath to Neil Gorsuch at White House, as his wife, Marie
Louise, and President Trump look on | Evan Vucci/AP

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

French Elections: Four Top Candidates in Margin of Error

Less than one week out, four candidates in the French election (April 23) are within the margin of error of making the first round. Since early March, the two frontrunners have been Marine Le Pen (22%) and Emmanuel Macron (23%). They remain locked in a tight race (see French Election-First Round Tie, April 10, 2017).

But ex-communist, nationalist candidate (both anti-German and anti-EU), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has moved into a tie for third with François Fillon, the right of center candidate burdened with an unfolding family patronage scandal. Both are only four points behind the frontrunners. More than 30 percent of the electorate may not vote or was undecided on April 19, two days before published polling must cease.

Two weeks after the Sunday vote, May 7, a runoff will take place with most polls showing that in hypothetical face-off Le Pen loses to whoever joins her after the first round.

Water for Colorado

Colorado’s mountains are the source of much of the West’s water. We, of course, have a stewardship duty to protect it, but Colorado itself is in short supply. We must use our legal share as effectively and efficiently as possible.
South Platte River | Denver Water

Although the Trump administration is struggling to develop a legislative strategy, one top priority, widely shared, is a massive investment in infrastructure, including water development and protection.

I have been engaged in a long-term effort to encourage Colorado to develop its water resources, and today, the most important action is to prepare a strategy and the argument for Colorado receiving its share of any federal funds. An editorial I wrote recently appeared in the Grand Junction Sentinel, Pueblo Chieftain and the Fort Collins Coloradoan. If you agree, share it with your local water leaders.

Colorado has been fortunate to have a long history of exceptional water leaders. We need to be leading today.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Will federal funds flow to Colorado water projects?
By Guest Columnist 
Sunday, April 9, 2017
By Floyd Ciruli

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter attempted to stop funding water projects, including those in Colorado. He was prevented from pulling the plug by the state’s delegation and with the help of the national water lobby. But it marked the end of significant appropriations for water projects and the close of the era of new dams and diversions directed by Washington.

Colorado did not stop advancing its water agenda. The need for storing water, reusing water and moving water from areas of surplus to populations of need continued. But the projects are now mostly funded through local rates or taxpayers. Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Douglas County, the Southern Delivery System of Pueblo and El Paso counties, Prairie Waters in Arapahoe County, Windy Gap Firming Project and the Northern Integrated Supply Project in Northern Colorado (both at the tail-end of their long permitting processes) and the Moffat Collection System Project sponsored by Denver Water represent $4 billion in water investments planned or built in the last decade.  Continue

Monday, April 17, 2017

ABC News Interview with Dean Hill on North Korea

Christopher Hill, dean of Josef Korbel School of International Studies at DU and former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, told ABC News “This Week” with Martha Raddatz that he thinks President Trump’s rhetoric toward North Korea over its nuclear program “makes people nervous.” However, he believes the some of the administration's actions in response to the North Korean threat are positive.
“[Working with the Chinese] seemed to be an elusive concept at a certain point in time and, yet that, I think, is very much happening.” Hill said.
Watch entire interview here.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Bannon About to Join Flynn?

“It reminds me of the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin when the world trembled at the sound of our rockets. (Captain Ramius, The Hunt for Red October, 1990)
Those were heady days when the boys were gathered around the Resolute Desk listening as President Trump spoke to President Putin.

Will it make a difference without Steve Bannon in the picture? If General Flynn had been handling national security, launching Tomahawk missiles and moving the Carl Vinson, the optics, if not the policy, would be much different. And, the national anxiety levels a lot higher.

Much of what Bannon stands for, his economic nationalism and anti-establishment populism has begun to corrode.
  • Anti-immigrant
  • Anti-multi-lateral trade agreements, anti-TPP, NAFTA, WTO
  • Anti-Russian phobia, Russia is a nationalist ally
  • Anti-alliances, NATO, anti-EU
  • Anti-interventionism, anti-humanitarianism, anti-regime change
  • Anti-legacy media
In a series of interviews and actions, Trump has reversed or significantly deviated from positions on a host of his and Bannon’s previous positions. Then in a New York Post interview, he backed away from Bannon himself.
“When I asked the president Tuesday afternoon if he still has confidence in Bannon, who took over the campaign in mid-August, I did not get a definitive yes.
‘I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,’ Trump said. ‘I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.’”

Supercarrier Strike Force Carl Vinson Changes Course and Returns to Korea

Looking for new options now that “strategic patience” has ended, the Trump administration ordered the Navy Third Fleet supercarrier, USS Carl Vinson, and its compliment of destroyers and cruisers back to Korea, cutting short a port stay in Singapore and diverting it from planned exercises and leave in Australia. The Carl Vinson had just participated with South Korea in naval exercises in March.

U.S. warship on its way to Korean Peninsula | Getty
The order to change course came from Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Command in Hawaii. The high-profile announcement signals that the decision is a show of force as the administration attempts to increase pressure on the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un. The fleet move is receiving top Navy leaderships’ attention. Rear Admiral James Kilby is aboard the Carl Vinson and leading the strike group. Overall command is led by the Navy’s Third Fleet commander Vice Admiral Nora Tyson from her headquarters in San Diego.

Secretary of State Tillerson’s and President Trump’s recent statements indicate North Korea has moved to a top priority and strategic threat that policy is changing and some type of military action is possible, although still not likely.

Trump 
North Korea just stated that it is in the final stage of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the United States. It won’t happen. (January)

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the US for years. China has done little to help! (March)

If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all that I am telling you. (April)

North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them. (April)

Tillerson 
Policy of “strategic patience” is over (March)

U.S. military action against North Korea is “an option on the table.” North Korea’s threat on the South would be met with “an appropriate response.” Twenty years of diplomatic and other efforts have failed. (March)

North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment. (April)

H.R. McMaster  
The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula must happen. The President asked us to give him a full range of options to remove this threat to the American people and our allies and partners in the region. (April)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

DU Sponsors “The First 100 Days” of Trump

On May 1, the Korbel School and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at DU will sponsor a discussion of President Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Was it the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?

Join the discussion with Korbel School Dean Christopher Hill and Crossley Center Director Floyd Ciruli to examine the first 100 days and discuss what’s next.

This session is a follow-up on the November 9, 2016 presentation when Hill and Ciruli deconstructed the election results and discussed what could be expected. Surprise has been the constant, from the Trump Tower transition, to the inaugural and first few weeks, to the latest foreign affairs crisis. “The First 100 Days” of Trump discussion will be stimulating and educational.

Join us.

Perlmutter is In

The race for governor has started early, reflecting a lot of pent up interest among the political class.
And although Congressman Ed Perlmutter is now seen as the Democratic frontrunner, a primary is still expected and the general election is likely to be competitive.

Perlmutter is well-liked in a party that has produced a lot of Colorado winners in the 21st century. He is a good fundraiser and represents an important part of the Denver metro area. Jefferson County, his home base, has given statewide Democrats a generous margin of votes.

But, he is unlikely to clear the Democratic field. The open gubernatorial seat has attracted a new generation of Democrats. Perlmutter, a Baby Boomer, represents the establishment. Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy, Noel Ginsburg and other rumored candidates will not walk away from the race. The primary will rough up Perlmutter’s friendly reputation.

His biggest liability, especially in the general election, is the decade in Washington, mostly during the Obama years. It is hardly the resume builder one wants to run in Colorado on. He arrived in Washington with the super-sized Democratic class of 2006, which made Nancy Pelosi the Speaker. He was a loyal soldier in the Democratic years of control. But since 2010, he has been in the minority.

Most likely, Perlmutter will try to run away from D.C., claiming it’s a mess that he tried to fix. Given his voting record and party loyalty, it may be a tough case to make. He dealt with Obamacare and the gridlock on his watch. He is the candidate of the teachers union, good for a Democratic primary, but controversial in the general election. Perlmutter is a liberal, especially on land use and the environment. The fracking issue is going to dog the Democratic primary and possibly produce division between him and parts of the party. It may leave him with a fractious party and a mass of gas and oil money in opposition.

Perlmutter made a strong entrance, but having started early, it will be a long season.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Democracy in the US: Robust or Brittle? World Poll Conference in Portugal

Democracy worldwide is on the defensive. Attacks are reported daily on independent judiciary, on a free press and on access to political space by opposition political groups. Even American democracy, which is old and its political institution mature, appears to be vulnerable to the anti-democratic trends sweeping Western European nations.

In a panel at the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) conference in Lisbon, Portugal, researchers from around the world will present on the Health of Politics. Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research in the Korbel School at the University of Denver will present a paper titled: Democracy in the U.S.: Robust or Brittle?

Presentation description:

This presentation will review the literature on democratic stability and more recent 2016 election description of vulnerabilities and flaws. These attributes will be tested in U.S. and state-level surveys to highlight possible fractures in public opinion that support or oppose the theory that U.S. democracy is becoming brittle and unstable. Trust in government, party polarization and the desire for change are factors that will be examined.

The willingness of partisans of both parties to ignore their evaluations of the fitness of office of the candidates and vote for them anyway is one variable that will be measured against trust, desire for change and partisanship. A second factor to test with the variables is the statement that the other candidate’s victory will be illegitimate.

Key question: Is the 2016 election and its result the culmination of a long period of dissatisfaction and support for the regime and its democratic process, which will rebound, or is this the beginning of a more profound weakening in democratic culture?

Race and Police Practices in US: Law & Order Meets Black Lives Matter, World Polling Conference in Portugal

The World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) will assemble in Lisbon, Portugal, in July to share research among the world public opinion researchers. Some of the most interesting papers are on major public opinion trends that are impacting public policy in the nations around the world.

Physical security in a nation and a community is, along with economic prosperity and government legitimacy, among the top factors of importance to the public.

The intersection of the need to impose social controls, the desire for liberty, and concern for fair and accountable police practices is a universal source of conflict in public opinion. In the U.S., the conflict has been exposed recently in a series of violent incidents between police and suspects, often minorities, and attacks on police by assailants, sometimes as specific targets of assassination.

The issue was most recently framed in the 2016 presidential election as a conflict between Law and Order vs. Black Lives Matter.

In a panel at the WAPOR conference titled, Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Issues, Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research in the Korbel School at the University of Denver, will present a paper on the topic.

Race and Police Practices in U.S.: Law and Order Meets Black Lives Matter

Use of force by police and their being victims of assassination were among the biggest news stories in the U.S. in 2016. This presentation explores the public opinion gap between the U.S. public, police and the African American community on police practices, especially use of force. The data sources are surveys conducted in Denver, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois, on police practices and community relations and Pew Research’s 2016 national polls of the public and police personnel on race and policing.

Trump Sees a Line, a Red Line

Donald Trump’s quick action on the tragedy in Syria produced significant political benefits for him and the U.S. when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, believing himself secure, decided to use chemical weapons again. It allowed Trump to frame himself as the world leader for the protection of innocent victims of a brutal, heartless dictator.

The tertiary benefits are astounding.
  • Trump can remind everyone of the near universal condemnation of President Obama’s feckless Syrian foreign policy, especially his walking away from his own Red Line in August 2013.
  • He demonstrated to President Xi and his North Korean associates that “bad things” can happen very quickly. It also rebukes Russia at a nice point to distract the endless Russian investigation and boost his anti-Kremlin credibility.
  • Europe likes it and has been calling for U.S. leadership. Even Merkel has a kind word. Our Middle East allies – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others – never forgave Obama’s weakness or, in their view, disloyalty. It also rebukes Iran, always positive with Sunni allies.
  • Dictators of the world took notice. Russia, China, Turkey and North Korea just saw that nationalism of the campaign does not mean isolationism. That there are other influences surveilling around the White House, pulling for a more robust national security policy.
  • The action will quiet momentarily Trump’s critics in the Republican national security establishment. McCain, Graham and Rubio were withering in their condemnation of Trump’s and Tillerson’s Syria statements that Assad’s future is up to the Syrian people as a free pass for Assad’s bad behavior. After the chemical attack, they more or less blamed Trump for it. Now, they are praising his action.
  • Numerous liberals and Democrats have grudgingly given Trump some praise. Removing Assad was the diplomatic goal of Obama and Secretary Kerry (leading to endless lunches in Geneva) and held by most liberal Middle East analysts, scholars and advocates.
See my blog: The Red Line: A decision that leveled a foreign policy

Monday, April 10, 2017

French Elections – First Round Tie

The first round of the French elections with 11 candidates will be held April 23. The run-off is May 7, 2017 if there is no majority candidate in the first round. As of April 7, two weeks out, Marine Le Pen (24%) of the right and Emmanuel Macron (24%) of the center-left are the frontrunners and tied. The remaining 52 percent of the voters are scattered among the other nine candidates and undecided. All eleven candidates just debated (April 4) for three and a half hours, an endurance test.

Candidates in French presidential election take part in debate on April 4 | CNN
Polling a run-off between the two evenly matched candidates has Macron winning about 60 percent to 40 percent. The far right position has increased 6 points since the last presidential election (2012, Le Pen 18%) to nearly two-fifths of the electorate in a run-off, but it is still not in position to take over the French government.

Le Pen is not the only candidate advancing an anti-EU position, but she is the favorite of the Trump administration (Steve Bannon’s position) and Russia (Marine Le Pen just visited Vladimir Putin). The anti-EU nationalists are powerful, but not yet dominant in France.

Candidates
Le Pen (48 years old) has been head of the National Front Party since 2011 and came in third in the 2012 presidential election with 18 percent of the vote behind the winners François Hollande (who won) and Nicolas Sarkozy (the former president). She has attempted to reposition the party away from its far right roots, but ride anti-refugee/immigrant sentiment.

Macron (39 years old) began his own party, En Marche! (Forward! or On the Move!), in 2016. A former investment banker and member of the Socialist Party who was in the current socialist government for two years as the economic minister. He resigned in 2016 to run for president. He represents much of the establishment from a center-left position, but claims to be independent with new thinking.

Polling
There has been some shifting among the top five candidates the last two weeks. Macron became the second-place candidate in late January 2017 and tied Le Pen about March 20. Le Pen has gained no ground since January when she held 27 percent of the vote.

Macron took second place after the collapse of François Fillon (The Republican Party – center-right) due to a scandal concerning his family on government payroll. A battle for fourth place shifted position in late March when Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Left Party and “Unsubmissive France”) moved into fourth displacing Benoît Hamon (Socialist Party).

Run-off
In the second round of voting, polling indicated that Le Pen would increase her position to about 40 percent, but lose to Macron, who would win with 60 percent. Fillon would beat her by a similar amount, if somewhat less (55% to 45%).

Hence, unless Mr. Trump’s fake news and rigged polls are at work, the favored candidate of Vladimir Putin and Steve Bannon represents a quarter to two-fifths of the French electorate and will lose the May run-off. There is still a month of campaigning, but it appears France’s two-tier electoral system is moving toward a business-oriented socialist as president.

See:
CNN: French election debate: Macron marches on as Le Pen loses out
Politico: 5 takeaways from France’s chaotic presidential debate
The Buzz: Outsiders take France – April 23

Friday, April 7, 2017

Gorsuch: Partisan Discipline Holds – KOA With Karen Trinidad

Neil Gorsuch is confirmed with 54 votes, including three Democrats. Since Chief Justice Roberts was confirmed in 2005 and received 22 Democratic votes, the number of Senate members willing to cross the aisle and vote for an opposing President’s nominee has declined. Only four Democrats voted for Alito in 2005, nine Republicans for Sotomayor in 2009 and five Republicans for Kagan in 2010. That was down from double-digit support in the 1990s. Even Justice Thomas, who only received 52 votes, managed to attract eleven Democrats.

In an interview with KOA, I said the most difficult vote was Michael Bennet’s. The state’s editorial pages endorsed Gorsuch, as did most of the legal establishment and several Democratic officials. Bennet’s vote didn’t affect the outcome. He voted for cloture and it lost. His vote against confirmation did not stop Gorsuch from taking his seat.

But, Bennet keeps his solidarity with Senate leadership and at least mollifies the Democratic resistance. Generally, a careful play in a tight spot.

See blogs:
DEFCON One (Most Severe) – The nuclear option has arrived
Gorsuch faces filibuster
Gorsuch has Colorado support

American Views on Trump’s Foreign Visitors

As President Trump familiarizes himself with world leaders and begins developing policies, it’s useful to examine public opinion concerning the countries’ favorability with Americans. Opinion tends to be fairly stable. The public’s views are affected by reported events and the positions of American leaders. Most of the public are only mildly interested in foreign affairs and don’t directly interact with foreign nations beyond periodic trips.

Gallup recently asked Americans to rate the favorability of 21 countries. At the top of the list were Canada and Great Britain with more than 90 percent of the public having a favorable view. In the 80 percent range was Japan, France and Germany. At the bottom were North Korea, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq (ranging from 11 percent for North Korea to 19 percent for Iraq). In the middle range of 50 percent were China, Cuba and Egypt.

Some comments:
  • President Trump has met with leaders from the most popular countries, which all correspond to our strongest allies. Each country had some trepidation in the new relations related to trade and security issues. German Chancellor Merkel probably had the most difficult visit.
  • The least favored countries are causing the President his earliest challenges: North Korea (11%), Iran (12%), Syria (17%), Afghanistan (17%) and Iraq (19%). Relations with them have military implications, some with American boots on the ground. North Korea has managed to become a major power pariah, which it apparently believes is an effective strategy to secure its survival and win concessions. President Assad must have felt invulnerable with his allies, Russia and Iran, and America just focused on ISIS and not regime change. A few Tomahawks have likely changed his thinking.
  • The President is attempting to change American policy and perceptions for some of the nations near the middle of the favorability pack. Egypt’s president has just had a successful visit. Cuba moved up the favorability rating due to the rapprochement. It’s not clear U.S. policy will change. Americans are ambivalent about China. They are competitors, could be a threat, but may be a partner.
Check out my blog: America’s views on world leaders