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Surveying The State Of The Republican Party

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., front left, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, and other Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, speak to members of the media as they conclude the testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., front left, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, and other Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, speak to members of the media as they conclude the testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

As the impeachment trial looms, we talk with Republicans about the risk and rewards of standing with Trump.


Lisa Desjardins, correspondent for PBS NewsHour. (@LisaDNews)

Seth Weathers, Republican political consultant and digital strategist. Founder of the political campaign agency Weatherscorp. Georgia state director for the 2016 Trump campaign. (@sethweathers)

Kim Alfano, Republican strategist and president and CEO of Alfano Communications. (@ALFANOCOMM)

Highlights From The Show

On standing with President Trump, despite any revelations from the impeachment inquiry

Kim Alfano: “You didn’t mention cutting regulations and creating jobs and, you know, boosting the economy. As much as I care what the phone call contained, I care more that my 401(k) is growing, because I have a child to put through college. … You have to understand, Donald Trump is both theater and policy. And the policies, for the most part, especially domestically, have been very widely appreciated.

“I think that it’s hard to parse the personality with the policy. For some of us that are out here, it’s sometimes hard to ignore the brashness of our president. And we support him, and we support his policies, but, you know, personality-wise, not all the time. And I think that a lot can be done at the local level and in local races to drive home the success of the policies that are making our families better, that are making our lives freer and more prosperous. But we also have to do it in the shadow of a presidential campaign, which is going to be the reality TV part of it. So, we have to be clear about policies and priorities and the specifics of them, despite what the show might be playing that night.”

Seth Weathers: “I think what she’s calling the show is the president is standing up strongly for the American people for a change. And I understand that it can be brash and off-putting to some people, but we’ve reached a time where that was needed. That’s what the people wanted. They wanted someone that was willing to call BS, BS, and not run around in circles and give us political doublespeak. And I think that that’s what Trump’s given us. Are some of the tweets over the line, or something along that? Perhaps, at times.

“Anything Trump says gets blown out of context by the media. He referred to the impeachment as a ‘lynching.’ Well, then you had like two days of the media calling the president a racist. And how awful it was, how he was referring to black people being lynched in the south, and all kinds of nonsense. And then we go back to 1996, and you’ve got a slew of Democrats referring to the Clinton impeachment as a ‘lynching.’ It’s an example of just over-blowing anything Trump does and says, and the media forms that into this terrible synopsis that the people can latch onto, watching the television or listening to a show. And so, I think, that when you have the media pushing one narrative, and they blindly ignore the other side, of the Democrats, for the same exact words, it blows everything out of proportion. And so it makes it into things that it’s simply not.”

We heard from Sheila, a Republican caller from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“Your guest panelist had mentioned that as long as her 401(k) was growing, then she was OK with what’s happening in the country. I’m a Republican, which is a minority here in New Mexico. I’m a small business owner, and I believe in the Republican Party in regard to what it stands for. But what I don’t believe in is that we’re giving up on morals and ethics in replacement of self-benefit. And that’s what concerns me right now, what’s going on with our country.

“Trump, specifically, the way he acts and represents our country is not how I want to be represented as an American and as a Republican, because turning your back to morals and ethics and treating individuals poorly — that is not representing who we are. And the fact that people are willing to overlook that for self-benefit, that concerns me for our country as a whole.”

Here’s how our panelists responded:

Alfano: “I don’t disagree with you. And I think I I’ve said it before. The fact that the theater is happening is not my favorite thing. And, again, as a consultant, I would love to be able to talk to people in the party about policies that I think are helpful to families. And if I made it sound like, you know, it’s all about my 401(k), I didn’t mean to say that. What I meant to say is that it’s important that our economy continues to grow, that small business owners — like yourself, and my business is very small as well — have the freedom and the ability to grow our companies and employ people. I mean, these are things that the Republican Party has stood for for years and years, pre-Trump, and now, and after Trump. My point is that the policies he’s actually enacted have been helpful to our economy, and that is the bread and butter kind of issue that people can parse, and pull out, and say, ‘Well, the country is doing well.’ How that plays out in the presidential race? We’ll find out.”

Sheila, how are you doing financially in the time since President Trump has taken office?

“Financially, I would say the same, but morally and emotionally and just ethically, no. And that’s the concern. I agree that we all need to provide for our families and look to our families to support them. But I don’t want my children thinking, you know, as long as you’re making a good buck, you’re doing well in this country. I want them to have the morals and the leadership that represents who we want to be as a nation.

“Just how he treats women. I have teenage daughters. I don’t like how he treats women, in regard to the comments. … I’m also a veteran. And so I know chain of command. I can’t respect him as a military person because of what he does with our military and bypassing. I’m also a former intelligence analyst. So the fact that he bypasses the intelligence community.”

Weathers interrupted Sheila at this point to explain that the president is the commander-in-chief, the top of the chain of command. Sheila clarified to explain her issue is with Trump’s disregard of the intelligence community.

As for Trump’s demeaning comments toward women …

Weathers: “He says the same things about Rosie O’Donnell as he has, at some point, about Ted Cruz or anyone else who he’s ever gone up against. And so I think he’s very gender-neutral when it comes to who he goes after, after they go after him, who he responds to. He’s also the guy that’s appointed the first female head of the CIA, the first female campaign manager to win a presidency — a long line of other female appointments that you haven’t seen that are literally first in history.”

From The Reading List

CNN: “White House will not participate in Judiciary Committee hearing” — “Neither President Donald Trump nor his attorneys will participate in Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, they said late Sunday.

“In a letter to Chairman Jerrold Nadler, White House counsel to the President Pat Cipollone said, ‘We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the President a fair process through additional hearings. More importantly, an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with an semblance of a fair process. Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.’

“Cipollone said they would respond separately to the Friday deadline about their participation in future hearings.”

The Hill: “Top Judiciary Republican: ‘My first and foremost witness is Adam Schiff’” — “Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top GOP member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is the most important witness Republicans want to question in the upcoming phase of the impeachment inquiry.

“‘My first and foremost witness is Adam Schiff,’ Collins said on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ also noting that Schiff had ‘compared himself in the past to a special counsel’ and that then-special prosecutor Ken Starr testified during the GOP-controlled House’s impeachment of former President Clinton.

“‘[Schiff] has put himself into that position,’ Collins added. ‘If he chooses not to [testify], then I really have to question his veracity in what he’s putting in his report.’

“‘It’s easy to hide behind a report,’ Collins said. ‘But it’s going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions.’ ”

The Hill: “Trump faces uphill 2020 climb” — “President Trump is a slight underdog to win a second term with less than a year to go before the 2020 election.

“The president is saddled with low approval ratings nationally and weaknesses with key voting groups. Trump’s approval ratings are mired in the low 40s, and he may remain the first president since modern polling began whose favorability number has never been above 50 percent in a Gallup poll.

“Trump’s fiery and impulsive style appeals to members of his core Make America Great Again base, who continue to pack large arenas for his campaign rallies. But it costs him badly among other segments of the electorate.”

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