Monday, June 26, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Understanding "Understanding Trump"

Occasionally, a book breaks all the rules of what makes a book
important, and it perhaps it should not surprise us when both
the subject and the author of the book break all the rules, too.

In order to tell my readers about this book, I have to break some
rules myself.

Let me explain. The book I am reviewing is by a good and old
friend.  If I managed a large website with many co-writers, the
simple solution would be to assign the book to someone else.
I can’t do that so I will try to be as transparent as I can be, and
let the reader decide how to evaluate what I say.

I have known Newt Gingrich for more than three decades. When I
first met him he was a backbencher in Congress and a thorn in the
side of the then-Democratic Speaker of the House Jim Wright.

Newt and his “Conservative  Opportunity Society” colleagues
formed a small band of constant critics of the then Democratic
majority with daily house floor speeches on camera, and
broadcast on C-SPAN. That camera, incidentally, was fixed and
did not reveal that Newt and his friends were, other than the chair,
often the only ones in the chamber. (It was a canny and pioneer
political use of early cable TV.)

From being political nuisances, Newt and his group rose in
prominence at the Capitol, culminating in his being elected
Republican minority whip in 1989, and then his becoming
speaker of the house following the upset Republican victory in
the “Contract With America” mid-term election of 1994 that
marked a new direction in U.S. politics.

I did not ever work for Newt, but we collaborated on projects and
co-wrote an article on presidential debates for Real Clear Politics.
We lived in different cities,  but thanks to the internet and frequent
travel, we have remained in touch for more than 30 years.

I have had political disagreements with him, and he with me,
but I have made no secret about my admiration for him as one
of the nation’s few original political minds (in either party),
and a rare political survivor. He demonstrated this again in
2011-12 by becoming a serious presidential candidate (even
briefly, the frontrunner) in that cycle, partly through his
formidable debate appearances and grasp of the issues.

He has often been controversial in both his public and private
life, but he has demonstrated the knack of being pertinent and
trenchant through all the recent U.S. political cycles. How many
other American political figures can this be said about?

He has written and co-written several books, including ones on
public policy, American history, and lately, two fictional spy
thrillers. I’ve read them all. Now he has written something quite
different. It’s title is self-explanatory --- Understanding Trump.
It’s based on Newt’s first-hand experience with the new president
before, during and after the 2016 presidential campaign turned
American politics upside down.

There have been, and will be, many books trying to explain
Donald Trump, but this one is so good, in my opinion, that I am
going to review it for my readers. As I said previously, readers
knowing my full disclosure, and my own decades of commentary
writing, can decide if my comments are accurate and useful, or not.

In Understanding Trump, Newt makes no secret that his
realization of who Donald Trump was, and why he succeeded
in 2016, took some time. Newt’s analysis is deferential, frequently
partisan, and in some ways, self-serving. It is also on occasion
critical of his subject, and almost always incisive.

One point I can personally testify to is that Newt figured out
Donald Trump’s success and skill well before most others. I was
a skeptic about the man who is now president during all of 2015
and in early 2016, but in several private conversations with Newt
in that period and later, he argued forcefully that Mr. Trump would
succeed and why he would win the election.

Underlying Understanding Trump is the premise that most of the
new president’s opponents, much of the media, and even many of
his supporters have little or no comprehension of the man, how he
thinks and acts, and of his extraordinary skills in the public arena.

I have no intention or desire here of trying to persuade those who
disagree with Donald Trump to change their minds about what he
is doing or stands for --- or even to like him. What I do want to
communicate is that this book gives all of us, supporters,
opponents or critics, and uncommitted observers, a useful and
original perspective of who Donald Trump really is, and his
historic role in American politics.

Understanding Trump is now reportedly the number one best seller
on the New York Times list (interestingly, replacing Al Franken’s
new book as number one).

For forty tumultuous years, Newt Gingrich has remained at the
cutting edge of American politics and public policy. Like his
subject in Understanding Trump, he remains controversial,
criticized, and underestimated, but now in his 70’s, he is still
amazingly at the center of it all.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017


The clear defeat of Democrat Jon Ossoff by Republican
Karen Handel in the Georgia-6 special election run-off is
the end of a road traveled by many liberals and the
establishment media now in its embarrassing decline.

Touted in this media as a “referendum on Trump,” the
race was unnecessarily nationalized on the faulty premise
that GOP voters don’t like the president. In fact, at the
outset local Georgia Democrats recruited an attractive and
young (albeit inexperienced) candidate (Mr. Ossoff) who
initially and smartly avoided making Mr. Trump the issue.
He almost won the initial special election, and might
have done so if national Democrats had not poured in so
much money and out-of-state volunteers into the race ---
something which usually antagonizes local voters.

The GOP nominee, Karen Handel, had little pizzazz. Donald
Trump had barely carried the district in 2016 against Hillary
Clinton, and the mostly upscale, educated district was no
longer reliably Republican. As Michael Barone points out,
Georgia 6 is just the kind of place outside a large urban area
where liberals and Democrats are making some of their best

The run-off wasn’t a landslide, but it also wasn’t close. Most
polls until the very end had Mr. Ossoff winning by 2-7 points.
Mrs. Handel won by 4%, a clear margin under the

The antagonism between the Democratic leadership and
Mr. Trump is now so toxic, and has been since the 2016 election
when he upset their expectations, that whether or not Mr.
Ossoff wanted the tens of millions of dollars in outside
money, and all the national media attention, was not an option
for the Democrat’s campaign. If indeed some Republicans in the
district were now feeling ambivalent about the man they voted
for last November, that was swept aside by the in-your-face
challenge to conservative goals by sneering Hollywood liberals
and biased media coverage. In short, GOP voters were actually
provoked into rallying around the president through Mrs. Handel.

If any proof of this is required, one has only to look at the other
special congressional election on the same day in South Carolina.
Pitting ultraconservative Republican Ralph Norman, a Trump
supporter, against Democrat Archie Parnell, the national media
and liberal donors ignored the race on the assumption it wasn’t
winnable. Mr. Norman was so hardcore, and Mr. Parnell was such
a good campaigner, that the Democrat almost pulled off an upset.
The margin was actually notably less than in the Georgia 6 race.
Under the political radar, Mr. Parnell quietly courted the district’s
black voters, and they came out for  him.

As I have pointed out previously, the national Democratic
leadership has struck out again and again since the 2016
election day when Mr. Trump turned their world upside down.
Doomed recounts, ill-fated appeals to electors, bitter tactics in
Congress, and collusion with the establishment media trying to
delegitimatize the president and his administration has produced
a shutout so far --- in fact, Mr. Trump is going into the late
innings with a no-hitter (but not a perfect game).

At some point, the Democratic leadership have to realize they
have taken the wrong road, and now are lost in the political
wilderness. It’s not that the Republicans, especially in the
Congress, have had so very many successes. In fact, they do
not. But by obsessing on Mr. Trump’s tweeting foibles and his
mannerisms, his opposition is actually enabling him to go
forward with his government reform and reorganization
program. By chronically attacking him personally, the
establishment media only confirms Mr. Trump’s bona fides
to his supporters and helps him keep their loyalty. By
attempting to ridicule the new president, Democrats and the
media only make themselves appear petty and vindictive to
voters, especially to conservatives and independents.

Republicans actually have some big problems ahead, and
President Trump has some serious challenges facing him
and his administrative team. If his opposition had taken the
road of debating and criticizing those issues, the political
landscape might now be much more favorable to them than
it is at present.

Trump-hating Democrats and journalists apparently don’t
know it, but they are Donald Trump’s best political allies
just now.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend News Commentary 7


Until now, most (but not all) public political disruptions
have been perpetrated by individuals and groups on the
left against conservatives and their events. But a
conservative group, Rebel Media, has now turned the tables
and interrupted a performance of New York City’s
Shakespeare in the Park controversial production of Julius
  The play is done in modern dress, and the title
character, who is assassinated, looks like President
Trump. Even before the horrific shooting at a Republican
congressional baseball practice in Washington, DC, the
production was labeled by many as grossly inappropriate,
but after the DC attack, calls have been made to close the
play’s run. Several of the theater’s major corporate sponsors
have reportedly withdrawn their support. During the
interruption, one Rebel Media protestor rushed on to the
stage. She and another protestor in the audience yelled
“Goebbels would be proud!” and saying to the audience
“You’re All Nazis!” One protestor was arrested and later


The congressional special election run-off in the suburban
Atlanta 6th district is only days away. Democrats, needing at
least one victory in their bitter competition with Republicans
since their broad-based election defeats in 2016, have poured
more than $20 million into the race, and overwhelmed the local
radio, TV, cable and print media to promote Jon Ossoff, a 30
year-old first-time candidate against veteran GOP nominee
Karen Handel. The special election is to fill the seat vacated by
Tom Price who accepted a position in the cabinet of President
Donald Trump. Polls have indicated that Mr. Ossoff had held a
5-7 point lead going into the final week, but latest polls now
rate the race a toss-up. It is now the most expensive
congressional race in U.S. history --- and one of the most


President Emmanuel Macron, just elected in a landslide over
nationalist opponent Marine Le Pen, now stands likely to win
a large majority of the seats in the French parliament, shocking
his opponents on the right and the left. M. Macron, a first-time
candidate, ran as the head of a new centrist party, Republique
En Marche
, that he had created only months before. The
traditional conservative and leftist parties which had
dominated French politics for more than half a century did not
even have a candidate in the presidential election run-off, and
now these and other parties of the left and right are poised to
have their representation in the French parliament similarly
demolished by more than 400 last-minute candidates from M.
Macron’s new party. Nothing like it has happened since the
reappearance of General Charles DeGaulle when he returned
to power in 1958 during the Algerian crisis, and formed the
Fifth French Republic. Nominally a socialist, from his role as
a minister in the cabinet of his predecessor Socialist President
Francois Hollande, M. Macron has now identified himself and
his new movement as a pro-European Union, pro-business
centrist party. France, although having enjoyed general
post-Algerian civil war prosperity until recently, now faces
crises in its domestic economy and immigration. President
Macron now also faces the imminent negotiations over Brexit
with the United Kingdom. The second and final round of the
legislative elections take place on Sunday, June 18.

[UPDATE: With near-final results now in, President Macron
and his new party have won a landslide in the parliamentary
elections. His party and its party ally have won at least 350
seats, many more than a majority . Coming in second with 
about 137 seats is the conservative Republican Party. The far
left and far right parties have less than 100 seats between them,
and the socialists in particular went from controlling the past
government to electoral obscurity virtually overnight. The 
center and center right, at least for the present, now dominate
French politics.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Why The Democrats Have To Win Georgia-6

Many, but not all, Democrats have simply not accepted the
facts of the results of the 2016 election. Even some
Republicans, in their contempt for President Trump, are
also in a state of political denial.

As I say again and again, this is a free county, and it’s the
right of anyone to criticize or oppose a political figure or a
political party and it’s policies. But it’s another level of
consciousness to pretend what did happen did not happen.

We have observed, beginning on the day after the election,
a series of public manifestations of these fantasies. First,
there were actual challenges to the voting in the form of
improbable recounts in key states. When this failed, there
were unprecedented efforts to persuade state electors legally
obligated to vote for Mr. Trump somehow to vote for Mrs.
Clinton. This predictably went nowhere. Finally, some
Democrats tried to prevent the actual electoral count in
Congress. Even then Vice President Biden scoffed at this.

Next came efforts to sabotage the new president’s naming
of cabinet officers, and then of his first supreme court
nominee. This backfired. The cabinet is now full and Justice
Gorsuch is seated on the court.

A widespread “resistance” campaign then was begun
nationwide, and when that didn’t work, efforts were made
to demean the new administration with so-far empty
charges of Russian campaign collusion.

The last, and final, part of this campaign is perhaps the only
one which has legitimacy --- special elections for U.S. house
seats vacated by incumbents who have accepted presidential
appointments. Since most of these special elections involve
traditionally GOP seats, Democrats understandably are
making huge efforts to win them as proof the Trump
administration is unpopular. So far these efforts, too have

Now we are down to the special election in Georgia-6. This
has been a Republican seat since Newt Gingrich won it more
than thirty years ago. But this suburban district is really a
swing district with many voters who fit a Democratic voter
profile. In fact, Hillary Clinton almost carried the district in

It has, not surprisingly, received historic attention from
liberals and Democrats who want to embarrass President
Trump and the Republicans. It has become the most
expensive congressional race in history --- with more than
$40 million already spent on it (most of it by Democrats) as
well as unprecedented TV/radio/print advertising and the
influx of hordes of out-of-state volunteer campaigners.

The Democrats recruited well --- a young, photogenic and
articulate young man named Jon Ossoff who had not run for
office previously, but had some public policy experience. In
the original run-off election recently, Mr. Ossoff fell just
short of the 50% vote require for election, and now he must
face Republican Karen Handel in a run-off election. Mrs.
Handel is an able, but not a glamorous candidate.

Recent polls showed Mr. Ossoff with a clear lead, but the
latest poll showed the contest a tie with 6% undecided. The
Democrat skipped a debate with Mrs. Handel. The ugly
attack on Republican congressmen at a baseball practice
in Washington by a Bernie Sanders supporter isn’t likely to
help, but Jon Ossoff still has to be the favorite in this race
considering the resources he and the national Democratic
Party have put into it, and the allegation by liberals and the
national anti-Trump media that the president is very

If Mr. Ossoff does not win, the opposition party and its
hard-line resisters will have come up with zero victories of
note to satisfy their obsessive denial of what actually did
happen on Tuesday, November 8 last year.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 9, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Just Happened In The U.K.?

The results are in from the so-called “snap” parliamentary
election in the United Kingdom (UK), and it is, above all,
clear that Conservative (Tory) Prime Minister Theresa May’s
gamble to enlarge her majority has failed, especially in the
short term.

But longer term pronouncements about British politics, based
on first glance at these results, are likely to be premature if not
possibly wrong.

In sheer numbers, the Tories won 318 seats, Labour, led by
Jeremy Corbyn, won 262, and other parties won about 70 seats
between them. Technically, a majority is 326, but since the 7
Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) elected members do not attend, 
a majority is in reality 322. Since the 10 Union Party members
elected from Northern Ireland traditionally support the Tory
party in Parliament, Mrs. May clearly has enough (albeit
barely) to form a government.

The UK’s minor parties, especially the Scottish independence
party and the right wing UKIP, suffered dramatic losses. In fact,
the Tories best results came in Scotland where they picked up
seats. (Labour also gained seats in the north, but fewer than
the Conservatives.) The Liberal Party, formerly a partner with
the Tories, gained a few seats, but their overall number is
much-diminished from a few years ago.

Although I pay attention to British politics, and have often
visited there since 1964 (most recently in 2010 just after their
election that year), I am not an expert on UK voting, and
recommend my readers to my friend Michael Barone’s current
astute analysis ("Breaking Down Theresa May's Disastrous 
Night") in the Washington Examiner. Michael spent several days
in the UK during the campaign, and brings his legendary
statistical and analytical mastery to the other side of the Pond.

Bearing his and other voting analyses in mind, I would like to
look at the longer term view, the one which takes into account
the consequences of these latest election results.

That view, as I see it, is not necessarily as dire either for the
Tory Party, Brexit or Great Britain as headlines, anti-Tory
media, and Labour Party partisans might have us believe in
the immediate aftermath.

One matter, however, is clear. Theresa May’s political career
is now on life support, and might well be over soon. She will
likely form a government now, and open the Brexit
negotiations shortly scheduled to begin, but her political
performance, and that of her team, was so flawed, that she
will have to do something remarkable soon if she is to survive
as the resident of 10 Downing Street. Technically, her party
could govern for the next five years, but her Tory colleagues
might well put someone else at the helm. There are indeed
several figures waiting in the wings, perhaps most prominently
Boris Johnson and David Davies.

The Tory majority is clearly very thin, and some future crisis
could easily provoke still another election.

I think the prospects of British politics depend most on how
much and how well the Tory leadership learned from this
latest election. The pro-Labour media is now extolling Labour
leader Jeremy Corbyn’s role in the election as their narrative.
I would say, however, it was Mr. Corbyn who cost Labour the
opportunity to capitalize on the weak Tory campaign, and
actually win the election. A Labour leader with Tony Blair’s
skill and appeal, I think, would have done much better than
the radical and feckless program Mr. Corbyn offered British
voters. His foreign policy views alone (although he did say
he now “softly” supports Brexit) are not what most British
voters hold. Mr. Corbyn apparently did do well with younger
voters. If the Tories ignore this, they will be making a serious

One of Michael Barone’s smart insights is that protest parties
usually fade after the object of their protest is accomplished.
With the Brexit vote, the rationale and energy of UKIP, the
right wing party, evaporated in 2017. Their constituency
melted away. But those who would have expected their voters
to automatically go the Conservatives would have been wrong.
The 2017 votes indicate that in the educated urban centers,
UKIP voters went to Labour. Only in rural area did the Tories
inherit the UKIP protest vote.

If the Tory Party is to recover and enlarge its majority in the
next election (five years from now or sooner), it will have to do
a much better job of understanding what are the concerns of
the British voters in an age not only of terror attacks, but job
insecurity, global realignments and much social change.

Theresa May gets a D-minus for her effort in 2017, but her
party has probably got a reprieve. Mr. Thorpe, like his
American counterpart Bernie Sanders, is thinking in a
political dreamland, and is not likely to reverse course,
especially now.

This is the potential good news for the Tories despite the
bad news of the 2017 election.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 5, 2017


In 1944 has there was a consequential first two weeks in June.
That D-Day fortnight 73 years ago was historic, tragically
violent and suspenseful, but when it was over, it marked the
final turning point that led to the end of a catastrophic world

Global violence is still with us, as are global efforts to improve
human lives and conditions, but so are conflicting global
opinions about how to stop the former and to assist the latter.

The United States, under President Donald Trump, pulled out
of the so-called Paris Accords, declaring the voluntary
agreement responding to worldwide environmental issues was
“a bad deal” and not in our national interests. The Accords had
been partly fashioned through the efforts of former President
Barack Obama, signed by him, but not submitted to the U.S.
senate (as every treaty must be) for ratification.

Then, Islamic terrorists struck central London (the third recent
major attack in the United Kingdom) just  few days before the
British parliamentary elections.

The elections themselves are to take place on June 8 in the middle
of this fortnight. UK Tory Prime Minister Theresa May had been
expected to expand her majority in the House of Commons, but
recent polls suggest the race was tightening, at least until the
terrorist attacks.

President Trump has announced he intends to privatize the
air traffic controllers across the nation as part of his infrastructure
initiative. President Ronald Reagan also made changes with this
group by confronting their union, but did keep their federal status.

Meanwhile, North Korea has tested another missile, and a top
administration official has declared this a “clear and present
danger.” Japan and Hawaii are preparing for the worst.

In the Middle East, four Arab Gulf nations have broken off
diplomatic relations with the small (but oil-rich) Gulf nation of
Qatar. Neighbors Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrein and United Arab
Emirates took the unprecedented action, contending that Qatar
was aiding terrorism. Although Qatar has lots of revenue, it
depends on its neighbors for food and other basic supplies.
Complicating the move is the presence of a large U.S. airbase in
the emirate

In Minnesota, its governor did what many governors have long
dreamed of doing, but never dared to try. With a stroke of his
pen, he in effect abolished both houses of the state legislature
(controlled by his opposition) for two years by vetoing their
entire budget. This occurred at the climactic finale of a bitter
legislative session. Legislators have contended his action is
unconstitutional, and the outcome will now be determined by
the state supreme court.

Congressional investigations into alleged wrongdoing by both
Democrats and Republicans are now just underway.

All this and more has happened in barely a third of the first
June fortnight of what might have been expected to be a quiet
interlude in the otherwise contemporary 24/7 era of incessant
“breaking news.”

Conceding this eventful period is not as consequential as the
two weeks which included the preparations, landing and
successful beachhead battles of D-Day, however, it has not been
by any analysis a tranquil hiatus.

And half the fortnight remains to happen.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 2, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The President Keeps A Promise

President Trump, after promising throughout his 2016
campaign that he would withdraw the U.S. from the so-called
Paris Accords, did just that.

Elections matter.

What are the Paris Accords? They are a non-enforceable and
essentially symbolic pact in which nations self-determine
their own level of environmental emissions. It is a “feel-good”
agreement in which primarily smaller nations declare their
commitment to protecting the global environment at little or
no cost to themselves while larger industrial nations are
expected to diminish their industrial capacity (and thus lose
many jobs and lower living standards for their own citizens)
in order to fulfill emissions standards which are temporarily
popular and fashionable in the scientific community, but which
remain controversial.

The Paris Accords, under the guise of being a non-partisan
environmental agreement, are, in reality, very political.

In the international media and the establishment U.S. media,
the Paris Accords pit those who want to “protect” the
environment and the planet against those who do not. This
was always a false division because a person can agree with
climate environmentalists and still oppose joining the Paris

There are those in the world who are indifferent to
environment concerns. These are persons and institutions who
opposed removing lead from gasoline, controlling tobacco
smoking, protecting workers in the workplace, and promoting
clean air and water. Most Americans do not agree with this
indifference to environmental concerns.

But to equate those who oppose the so-called Paris Accords
with these “anti-environmentalists” is not only ludicrous, but
factually wrong. The claim that scientists are almost
unanimously agreed about climate science today is also wrong.
(The first error is the assumption that all scientists are experts
in climatology. That error is the equivalent of saying that a
medical researcher is also competent to pass expert judgment
on latest theories in sub-atomic particles or astrophysics.)

Is there climate change taking place? Of course there is.
Climate change is as old as the planet. It is always occurring,
and global warming and cooling are constant features of the
ecology  of the earth. Does human activity affect the
environment? Of course it does. There were measurable and
non-controversial results of removing lead from gasoline,
restricting public tobacco smoking, protecting workers from
toxic exposure in factories, and reducing industrial air pollution.

The last I observed, the United States is among those nations
which has made the most improvements in protecting its
environment. Although “smog” still exists in Los Angeles,
air pollution is much more prevalent, for example, in the cities
of China  and Brazil.

The real question in this matter is whether or not dismantling
long-term industrial capacity of the developed nations will
vitally and critically “save” the world from environmental
climate change conditions. That is a legitimate question. There
are reasonable arguments on both sides.

But it is not the question at stake in the issue of the Paris
Accords. I repeat, those “Accords” are a voluntary, self-defining
and symbolic agreement based on controversial assumptions,
and which would provoke very negative and immediate impact
on millions of workers in the developed industrial world.

That does not say that further research and accurate data cannot
lead to global agreements on the environment that most can
support --- and all would benefit from.

President Trump has stated that his administration is willing to
renegotiate this and other global environmental agreements. The
initial reaction from primarily European leaders is that they will
NOT negotiate.  Who then is the real obstacle to international
cooperation in this matter?

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.