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The Rushmore Report: Why Trump’s Low Poll Numbers Matter

President Trump entered the White House with the lowest approval ratings any president has had when taking office, and though his numbers went up for a few weeks, a new Gallup Poll has his approval rating at a new historic low – 37%. The question is, with the next presidential election nearly four years away, does it matter? The answer is yes – this is a real problem. Here’s why.

First, it is important to note that two factors seem to be able to keep approval ratings above or below their natural level for long periods: the economy and media coverage. To a lesser degree, unemployment and inflation have historically altered approval ratings. For Trump, this seems to be a wash. Though the economy is moving in a positive direction, clearly the media is predisposed to attack Trump as never seen in modern political history.

America’s current partisan divide further burdens the president’s numbers. Democrats in Congress are not going to work with him and Democrats at large are solidly against him, even if they don’t know why.

Here’s why low poll numbers matter. Any major policy initiative requires that the president work with people who pay attention to them. High approval ratings give a president a great deal of leverage over members of Congress. Under unpopular presidents, big policy changes – tax reform, immigration reform, health care reform – often force legislators to choose between what their district wants them to do and what the president or Congress wants them to do. A popular president can help to ease the burden of an unpopular vote; an unpopular president has to accept what Congress wants to pass if he wants to sign any bills at all.

A president can have real power to shape the future of the country, but that only comes with popularity. An unpopular president is more likely to find himself hemmed in by protests, like Johnson and Nixon in their later years – or like Carter, so ignored by Congress and his own administration that he spent his time approving the White House tennis schedules.

If President Trump wants to avoid their fate, he’ll need to change something dramatically. We’ll soon find out whether he can.

About the Author

Dan Cassino is an associate professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University, researching public opinion and political psychology. His new book, Fox News and American Politics, will be released at the end of April.

The Rushmore Report: Jennifer Garner Backs Working with Trump, Blasts Hollywood

Church-going Christian actress Jennifer Garner has said that she is ready and willing to work with President Donald Trump when it comes to helping the country’s rural working class, and that unlike some of her Hollywood friends, she is not “refusing to engage” with him. In an interview with The Washington Post, she balked at Hollywood’s refusal to give Trump a chance.

Garner said, “People felt like Trump really understood them, that he was going to come in and create jobs for them. They felt like they needed something to just turn everything upside down. I’m looking forward to helping him make good on what they saw as promises, a mandate from him, that he was going to make their lives better.”

The newspaper pointed out that some members of the Hollywood elite are feeling split between working alongside Trump in their various charity efforts or protesting the president over his policies and remarks.

Trump was made the butt of a number of jokes during the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, with the Republican pushing back by arguing that those opposed to him are “losing badly.”

Garner admitted that some of her friends “want to turn their back to his administration and just don’t even want to engage.” She added, “If he’s willing to help the poor kids who got him elected, then let’s do it. They certainly think he’s going to.”

Jennifer Garner has starred in faith-based movies, such as Miracles from Heaven, and has regularly been spotted taking her children to church. The Golden Globe award-winning actress has said that making faith-based films has inspired her even further to continue attending church.

“I will say that being around this community, and while I’ve always gone to church in West Virginia, that when I got back to Los Angeles, I was talking to my kids about the movie and they said, ‘Mom, you don’t take us to church,’ and we went that Sunday, and they went today without me,” Garner said in an interview that year.

One of Garner’s main initiatives has been the nonprofit Save the Children organization, which is famous for its international projects, but also for helping poor rural communities in the U.S. when it comes to educational programs.

The actress has for years urged Congress and state governments to fund reading and literacy programs that include all-day kindergarten, and called on the U.S. government to expand credits and deductions for the education needs of families.

“Send me a ticket to Mar-a-Lago,” she said. “I’m ready to go down and have a steak and a good chat (with the President). I really think it’s great, if he’s willing to help the poor kids who got him elected.”

About the Author

Stoyan Zaimov is a reporter for The Christian Post, with a focus on current events and Christian culture.

The Rushmore Report: Predictions for 2017

At the end of 2016, social media buzzed with Americans intentionally sharing their unpopular opinions. While I wasn’t aware that anyone on Twitter or Facebook ever held back their thoughts and feelings, now is as good a time as any to make a few political predictions for 2017. Admittedly, my predictions may not be popular with many in the “mainstream.”

1. Political correctness will die a cold lonely death.

Here’s a novel concept: We shouldn’t let the media and cultural police dictate the kinds of conversations we’re allowed to have, words we use, or places we’re permitted to speak. Donald Trump might not always have the best words, but he shrewdly recognized that America is sick of being shamed for essentially not being liberal. The flipside to our newfound rhetorical freedom is that we shouldn’t be jerks and must extend a measure of grace when we ourselves are offended. That’s going to be a challenge.

2. Republicans will pull a Harry Reid and use the nuclear option to confirm a Supreme Court Justice.

When we allowed for the direct election of Senators with the 17th Amendment, we began the process of turning the Senate into a more august House of Representatives. Republican Senators can bank on losing upcoming primaries if they fail to replace Antonin Scalia with a staunch conservative. Oh, they’ll wax poetic about process and respecting the rights of the minority. But Mitch McConnell won’t put that process over a major political win at the Supreme Court if Democrats force the issue.

3. Democrats will oppose Trump’s trade policies even though they aren’t much different than their own.

It was almost impossible for Republicans to say nice things about President Obama’s unapologetic support for free trade. It’s hard to admit agreement with the political opposition, and Democrats will continue the trend. Trump’s opposition to free trade sounds a lot like Clinton’s rhetoric and his trillion-dollar infrastructure spending ideas are based on the same premise as Obama’s 2009 Stimulus. Nevertheless, Democrats will find a reason why Trump’s trade protectionism and stimulus aren’t sufficient to win their support.

4. Donald Trump will have more Tweets than appearances at White House press briefings.

According to incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Trump’s Twitter account “will be a really exciting part of the job.” That means those lovely tweets aren’t going anywhere. Why should they? Trump is communicating directly with his most passionate supporters and keeping the media tied in knots. It’s hard to ignore a tweet from the President-elect taking credit for stock market advances and bringing hope to a previously gloomy nation. We’ve never had a real social media president. Well . . . we sure have one now.

5. Republicans will find they can’t keep popular parts of Obamacare.

Conservatives hate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. It also happens to be the cornerstone of the whole healthcare scheme the law creates. The ACA puts heavy restraints on the health insurance marketplace in exchange for requiring young healthy Americans to buy insurance policies that they otherwise wouldn’t. It’s cost shifting at its finest. If Republicans want to keep many of the popular aspects of the ACA – like requiring coverage for preexisting conditions – and end the individual mandate, insurers will lose their shirts and the model will collapse. Repealing and replacing the ACA will be a huge lift, but Republicans can’t simply keep what people like and remove the parts the GOP finds objectionable.

6. America will begin to wrestle with the public policy implications of automation technology.

We love technology in America. Innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship are hallmarks of our culture. To this point, advances in technology have largely provided us an array of tools that made us more efficient and expanded our economic opportunities. But what happens when machines replace humans in major sectors of our economy? Automated trains, cars, trucks, and boats will increasingly supplant transportation workers. Retail, manufacturing, and food service automation is happening at a similar pace. We shouldn’t limit technological progress, but we must retool education towards a lifetime of learning and routine reskilling for adults as well as children. That’s going to be a monumental task, but we need to tackle it sooner rather than later. Otherwise, we’re going to be talking about much higher taxes and commensurate social program spending to deal with higher unemployment.

7. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions enforcing federal marijuana law, Congress will kick it to the states.

Whether voters support marijuana legalization or not, it’s likely going to become an issue that Congress leaves to the states to decide. With the patchwork of state laws in clear conflict with federal law, either Sessions starts going after inconsistent state laws or Congress addresses the issues first. Democrats would gladly move the issue to the states and enough federalist Republicans will join them in the name of empowering the states. This move will undoubtedly put pressure on remaining states to regulate and tax marijuana as another revenue stream likely subject to high “sin” taxes.

With a new president riding a populist wave, basic partisan assumptions may not hold true this year. The political consequences will be interesting, to put it mildly. You might like politics in 2017; you might not. Thankfully, 2016 taught us that you don’t need to keep your feelings about it to yourself.

About the Author

Cameron Smith is a regular columnist for AL.com and state programs director for the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

The Rushmore Report: Progressives Demand Gun Control After Knife Attack at Ohio State

You can’t make this stuff up. Following the horrific knife attack at Ohio State University (no guns involved), would-be Vice President Tim Kaine tweeted: “Deeply saddened by the senseless act of gun violence at Ohio State this morning.” Never mind, the only gun that was used was the one that killed the raging ISIS-inspired murderer, preventing the loss of dozens of more lives.

Still, progressives used the brutal knife attack as an excuse to demand more gun control, even after authorities declared that they had zero evidence that the attacker even owned a gun, let alone used one in the attack. But as is often the case, progressives, including the man who wanted to be Vice President, don’t let pesky facts derail their agenda.

An Ohio State police officer used his gun to shoot and kill the machete-wielding attacker, believed to be an immigrant from Somalia, inspired by ISIS.

Yet, in the aftermath of the rampage, the talking heads at CNN, MSNBC, and ABC didn’t hold back. Joined by progressive activists and celebrities, they spent the next 48 hours using the attack as a pretext for demanding stricter gun control laws.

Let’s be clear. The attacker did not use a gun. A good guy who did have a gun ended the attack. Therefore, guns are the problem. Am I missing something here?

Shannon Watts, who runs a gun control group funded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, claimed during the attack that America “gives dangerous people guns,” and intimated that a gun-free zone would have stopped the OSU attack. She did not explain why the campus ban on machetes did not prevent the attacker from striking and stabbing at least nine individuals.

So if a machete-free zone didn’t keep out machetes, why would a gun-free zone keep out guns? Actually, in the Ohio State example, it would have made things much worse. Presumably, the gun-free zone would have affected campus police. So here’s my question. While nine people were stabbed, several more would have been had the attacker not been shot by the officer. Which of the would-be victims, looking back, wish the gun had not been used?

Of course, the media is complicit with the craziness. Tim Kaine lamented the “gun attack” when there were no guns. Yet, not one report from CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, or ABC criticized him for his obvious misstatement. But if Donald Trump predicts the weather incorrectly, he is branded a liar, manipulator, and danger to our democracy.

From this, we learn two things.

1. Gun-free zones don’t work any better than machete-free zones.

2. Honest journalism in America is pretty much dead.

The Rushmore Report: Why George Will Left the Republican Party

George Will is no longer a Republican. The famed conservative columnist and commentator has left the party he joined in 1964. Why? In his own words – “I left the party for the same reason I joined it in 1964 when I voted for Barry Goldwater. I joined the party because I was a conservative. I leave it for the same reason – I am a conservative.”

Will chalked up his departure to the ascension of Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee.

“To give you a time line, shortly after Trump became the presumptive nominee, he had a summit meeting with Paul Ryan where they stressed their common principles and their vast shared ground, which is much more important than their differences. I thought that was puzzling doubly so because Paul Ryan still didn’t endorse him,” Will told Fox News.

“After Trump went after the Mexican judge from northern Indiana, then Paul Ryan endorsed him. And I decided that, in fact, this is not my party anymore.”

Trump retaliated by attacking Will on Twitter. “George Will, one of the most overrated political pundits (who lost his way long ago), has left the Republican Party. He’s made many bad calls,” said Trump.

When asked to respond, Will said, “I have no response. Mr. Trump has the gift of being able to say everything he knows in a short tweet. I don’t share that gift.”

Will explained the process. “I changed my registration to unaffiliated 23 days ago. I hardly made an announcement. I just mentioned this in a meeting with the Federalist Society.” He then invoked Ronald Reagan, who was a Democrat before joining the GOP. “So the long and short of it is, as Ronald Reagan said when he changed his party registration, I did not leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me.”

Response to the State of the Union Address

Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution states, “The President shall from time to time give to the Congress information on the State of the Union.” George Washington delivered the first such address on January 8, 1790 in New York City. From Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson, the address was written, but not delivered in person. Initially referred to as “The President’s Annual Message to Congress,” Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the phrase “State of the Union,” which has been used ever since. And since 1966, the opposition party has delivered a rebuttal.

Last night, President Obama sought to offer an upbeat celebration of his administration’s achievements, while setting the stage for the 2016 elections. He pointed to job creation numbers, low unemployment numbers, lower gas prices, a higher stock market, and withdrawal from unstable states in the Mideast. He made his final pitch for action on climate change, gun control, immigration, and income inequality. “Last year, he spoke to Congress,” said Jennifer Psaki, the White House Communications Director. “This year, he spoke more to the American people.”

Critics point to a failing strategy to defeat ISIS, record numbers who have left the job market, and a sobering poll that reveals 68 percent of Americans feel the country is on the wrong track. Further, they attack the president’s positions on gun control (rightly saying none of his new executive orders would have stopped any of the recent highly publicized shootings), immigration (correctly pointing out he had two years to pass anything he wanted, when the Democrats controlled all of Congress, but did nothing), and his assessment of climate change as our greatest national security threat.

There is much in Obama’s speech to criticize. His cynical, often rude response to his Republican opposition has grown predictable and tired, beneath his office. The assent of Donald Trump, which he routinely ridicules, is the result of the political environment and ineptitude which he has, at the very least, failed to solve.

But rather than offer a point-by-point rebuttal of the president’s speech or policies, let’s be grateful for the way our system works. A democratically elected leader, along with co-equal branches of government, represents the people. Does the American democratic experiment have its flaws? Of course it does. But in the entire history of organized government, no better plan has been put forth. There will be plenty of time to assess the speech itself. But let’s pause and rejoice that we have a president and not a dictator, a representative government and not a monarchy.

Can You Name This Candidate?

There are 17 Republicans and five Democrats running for President. Let’s play “Name This Candidate.” I will tell you some of the things he or she has said on the record. You guess who this is. And then you decide – would you vote for this person?

  1. “I am very pro-choice.”
  2. “I identify more as a Democrat.”
  3. “Hillary Clinton is a talented and terrific woman.”
  4. “We must have universal health care.”
  5. “I just believe Republicans are too crazy.”
  6. “The economy just does better under Democrats.”
  7. “I generally oppose gun control.”
  8. “I don’t ask God for forgiveness.”

Would you vote for this man or woman? If you want a President who is, by his or her own words, “pro-choice,” “a Democrat,” a fan of Hillary Clinton, and a proponent of universal health care, this is your man or woman. If you want someone who considers Republicans “crazy” and favors Democratic rule on the economy, vote for him or her. If you are looking for someone who “generally” opposes gun control and sees no need to pray for God’s forgiveness, this is your candidate. I’ll give you another hint as to their identity. This person was a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Reformed Party member, Democrat, and then Republican again.

So who is this pro-choice, self-identified Democrat, supporter of Hillary Clinton, who needs not ask for God’s forgiveness? His name is Donald Trump and he leads in all the polls.

How is this possible? If Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio espoused these views, they’d be laughed off the stage of the September 16 debate on CNN. So what does this tell us? I see two things. First, people are tired of politicians and desperate for change. Trump represents change. And second, people vote for the medium over the message. That’s why the more attractive candidate usually wins. In 1960, the people who listened to the Kennedy-Nixon debates said Nixon won. But those who watched said Kennedy won.

Brash is in. Ideology is out. Rudeness is accepted. Words matter little. Americans are ready for change – any change. But in a day when 73 percent think we are on the wrong track, who can blame the American people? Don’t let me stand in your way if you are a Trump supporter. But buyer, beware. If his track record means anything, you have to know that the Donald you like today is not likely to be the same Donald on Inauguration Day, 2017.

The Winner of the GOP Debate Was . . . ?

Last night, 17 Republicans stood on the same stage, though at two different hours, and debated one another on the issues of the day. They all want one thing – to be the next President of the United States. Who won the debate? The answer is . . . America.

Most pundits are congratulating Carly Fiorina on her performance at the early forum. They are playing the endless sound bites from Donald Trump as he mixed it up with Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and each of the Fox News moderators. Huckabee showed his wit, Carson his calm demeanor, and Rubio his positive view of the America of tomorrow. We saw the good, the bad, and the ugly from all the candidates. The experts will tell us who won and the Democrats will tell us they all lost. But the real winner is . . . America.

Only 18 percent of American voters will participate in any Republican caucus or primary this year. Less than half will vote in the general election next year. That is pathetic. We live in a country where we have the right – and duty – to vote. I know some people who never vote. And I know others who seldom vote. But I don’t know anyone who can’t vote. That is because the real winner is . . . America.

I’m sure you have the guy or gal you think won. I am personally convinced of the candidate who rated the best. As Christians, as patriots, we have every right to disagree. What we don’t have the right to do is ignore the process. There are 196 countries in the world today. But only one is a democratic republic and world power. And that is the one where dreams are made possible. That is the country where we all can watch such debates as over ten million saw late last night. That’s why the winner is clear. The winner is . . . America.

The Faith of Jeb Bush

by Dr. Mark Denison–

John Ellis Bush was an Episcopalian for the first 44 years of his life, following the tradition of his family. Better known as Jeb (his initials are J.E.B.), he was born in Midland, Texas, raised in Houston, graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and earned a degree in Latin American affairs from the University of Texas. It was there that he married Columba Garnica Gallo, whom he had met during a foreign exchange trip in Leon, Mexico. Columba was (and remains) a faithful Catholic. Jeb maintained his ties to the Episcopal Church until 1996, when he converted to the faith of his wife. Jeb Bush is a Catholic.

Referring to his conversion to the Catholic faith, Bush said, “My faith was strengthened when I converted to my wife’s faith. It gives me a serenity that, in a world of a lot of turbulence, is really important. It creates a moral architecture that simplifies things. There are views that I have, that are grounded in faith, that really aren’t negotiable, and it just simplifies things.” Taking an unintended shot at his former church, Bush has listed his reasons for converting: “the sacraments of the Catholic Church, the timeless nature of the message of the Catholic Church, and the fact that the Catholic Church believes in and acts on absolute truth as its foundational principles and doesn’t move with modern times as my former religion (Episcopal) did.”

Mark Leibovich, formerly of The Washington Post, wrote extensively on Bush’s religion and change. Says Leibovich, “He underwent a personal transformation that included a reevaluation of his political, spiritual, and family life.” Should Bush be elected President in 2016, what effect will his Catholic faith have on his policies? Bush says, “As it relates to making decisions as a public leader, one’s faith should guide you.” He added, “That’s not to say that every decision I made would be completely in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church, but it was a guide post that kept me out of trouble.” Bush has frequently tweeted quotes from Pope Francis as evidence of the depth of his faith.

Not all pundits are impressed. Bill Maher, that great defender of the faith, blogged on the subject, questioning the sincerity of Jeb’s conversion, suggesting it came rather conveniently before his successful run for Governor in a state with more Catholics than Evangelicals. (The difference is just one percent.) Maher said, “Jeb Bush converted to Catholicism in 1996 – 22 years after marrying his Mexican-born wife, Columba, and conveniently between the first time he ran for governor (and lost) and the second time he ran, and won. I guess Jeb finally noticed his wife was Catholic after 22 years.”

So what are we to make of Jeb’s Catholic faith? First, let’s be glad he adheres to a Christian faith. Second, let’s not assume the Vatican will be running the White House (a common fear when John F. Kennedy became America’s first Catholic President in 1960). Third, let’s not question another man’s faith. By all accounts, the Bushes have been faithful members of their church in Miami for decades. And fourth, remember we are electing a President, not a pastor. While I question some of the tenants of the Catholic faith, I do not question the faith of Catholics, be they family members, friends or Jeb Bush. He is not the only Catholic running for President. But more on that later.

Does Trump Owe McCain an Apology?

Over the weekend, Donald Trump was addressing a gathering of religious conservatives in Ames, Iowa, when the moderator referred to Senator John McCain as a war hero. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump retorted. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” In numerous interviews Sunday and Monday, Trump refused to back off his comments. In fact, he has piled on, criticizing McCain for not doing enough to help veterans, as a senator. For his part, McCain said, “I’m not a hero. I was honored to serve my country.” He said Trump did not owe him an apology, but did owe an apology to the larger family of veterans. “I think the point here is that there’s so many men and some women who served and sacrificed and happened to be held prisoner. Somehow to denigrate that in any way is offensive, I think, to most of our veterans.”

To his credit, Mr. Trump is trumpeting efforts to improve life for veterans, saying, “No one will help the veterans like I will.” But he refused to apologize for his inflammatory comments. The political season is just warming up, and we already have rhetorical fireworks in abundance. I can’t imagine what the first debate will bring in two weeks, but I’ll be watching. I like debate. But I also like boxing. There is a place for boxing, but public discourse is not that place.

The Bible has a lot to say about the words we speak. “Let your speech always be gracious” (Colossians 4:6). “Encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24). “Only speak that which builds each other up” (Ephesians 4:29). “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

James said that if we can control our tongues, we can control our whole bodies. We live in a day when inflammatory speech makes headlines. The media was “outraged” by Trump’s comments, but the last thing they wanted was an apology that would put the issue to rest. That is exactly why Trump should have apologized. In a day when division and slander make headlines, a simple “I’m sorry” from the most famous billionaire on the planet would have gone a long way.