Villainizing China, Russia Won't Help U.S. Interests In Africa, Analysts Say

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Thursday rolled out the Trump administration's new Africa strategy. Analysts said that his speech, while stroking a hostile and competitive tone against countries like Russia and China, will not help the United States expand its business, political and military engagement with Africa.

Calling China and Russia's commercial cooperation with African nations "predatory practices," Bolton asserted that the two countries' "stunt economic growth in Africa; threaten the financial independence of African nations; inhibit opportunities for U.S. investment; interfere with US military operations; and pose a significant threat to U.S. national security interests."

Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua that Bolton's comments "reflect concern over China's investments in Africa and their possible impact on U.S. interests there."

Bolton "wants to increase American investment in Africa to counter China and Russia, and make sure the United States retains a foothold on that continent," he added, noting that the U.S. strategy will not be achievable if the Trump administration cannot convince U.S. businesses to invest there.

GOP strategist and TV news personality Ford O'Connell, told Xinhua that Bolton's speech is part of "a shift of U.S. foreign policy from a focus on counter terror to a focus on China and Russia."

"U.S. foreign policy has been so geared toward the Middle East that we've ignored this (Africa) for a long time," he said. "This has the beginning of a tit-for-tat over the rest of the globe between China and the United States."

Read more at Xinhua

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'Trump Shutdown' Looks More Likely After Hostile Meeting With Democrats

President Donald Trump’s negotiations with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Tuesday failed to produce a consensus on much of anything except who will bear responsibility if the parts of the government shut down later this month.

“If we don't get what we want, one way or the other -- whether it's through you, through a military, through anything you want to call -- I will shut down the government... I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump said.

It started to go off the rails when Pelosi referred to a partial government shutdown that would result if they fail to reach a budget agreement as a “Trump shutdown.” Trump interrupted, beginning an extended three-way debate about border security, the legislative process, and the midterm election results that wore on for 10 minutes while Vice President Mike Pence sat silently between them.

In a statement afterward, the White House called the meeting “constructive.”

Funding for a border wall through the Department of Homeland Security remains the biggest sticking point in negotiations, and lawmakers have already delayed an inevitable standoff with Trump on the issue several times. A Senate DHS appropriations bill would provide $1.6 billion for border security, which is what the White House initially requested, but the version of the bill under consideration in the House includes the $5 billion Trump has demanded more recently.

However, Republicans said Trump got what he wanted from the meeting by showing how obstinate Democrats are about building a wall to secure the border and prevent illegal immigration.

“They are more interested at this stage in denying Trump a campaign promise than they are in protecting the border,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Stocks Tank As Trade Deficit Reaches 10-Year Highs

The U.S. trade deficit grew to a 10-year high Thursday as self-proclaimed “tariff man” President Donald Trump continued to place his trade war with China at the center of his administration’s economic platform.

“When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN,” he tweeted this week.

But trade deficits between the U.S. and China grew to an all-time high in October as imports rose 0.2 percent to $266.5 billion and exports fell 0.1 percent to $211 billion, making it clear that increased tariffs were not making “America rich again.”

The news came as the stock market fell once again Thursday, wiping away nearly all gains in 2018. Earlier this week, the U.S. Treasury yield curve inverted, a sign that typically indicates the economy is set to weaken. In a recent survey by Bloomberg, a vast majority of economists said the U.S. would likely see another recession before the end of 2020.

President Trump, who often takes credit for a thriving stock market and economy, has either blown off recessionary fears or placed the blame on Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for raising interest rates.

But he may have more to worry about than he thinks.

“Trump’s biggest worry in 2020 isn’t a particular candidate or ticket, it’s a recession,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former McCain-Palin presidential campaign adviser. “Incumbents have won 15 to 4 since 1900, but what the losers all have in common is a recession or major economic event.”

Read more from Nicole Goodkind at Newsweek

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Fox News Guest: Trump Is ‘Playing 3-D Chess With A Rubik’s Cube Behind His Back’

President Donald Trump‘s announcement of former Attorney General William Barr‘s nomination to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew some over-the-top praise from frequent Fox News guest and Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

On Friday afternoon’s edition of Outnumbered Overtime, O’Connell told host Harris Faulkner that the Barr nomination is a “home run” for Trump, and added that if Democrats oppose the nomination, “it could be a case of him playing three-dimensional chess with a Rubik’s Cube behind his back.”

There is no evidence to suggest that the concealment of a Rubik’s Cube in any way improves one’s chances of winning chess games of any kind.

O’Connell went on to explain that Democrats would have a difficult time opposing Barr because “He was unanimously approved to be attorney general under Bush 41. We have just spent several days praising Bush 41 as a 20th century founding father. Well guess what? If it’s good enough for Bush 41, it’s good enough for Trump and America.”

Watch the video and read more from Tommy Christopher at Mediate

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Beto O’Rourke Meets Barack Obama, But Is His 2020 Ambition To Become President Or Joe Biden’s VP?

Beto O’Rourke met with former President Barack Obama in his Washington D.C. offices this November, just four days before Obama publicly commented that O’Rourke was a “very impressive young man” who reminded him of himself. The meeting and subsequent comments fueled speculation that O’Rourke is preparing for a 2020 presidential run. 

Less than two weeks after the meeting, former Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer penned an opinion piece comparing Obama and O’Rourke, making the case for the latter's potential ascent to the Democratic nomination. “I have never seen a Senate candidate—including Obama in 2004—inspire the sort of enthusiasm that Beto did in his race,” he wrote, further fueling speculation.

The Washington Post first reported details of the meeting between O’Rourke and Obama on Tuesday, more than three weeks after it took place, and the same day former Vice President Joe Biden called himself “the most qualified person in the country” to be president. Both Obama’s office and O’Rourke’s office declined to comment on the details of the meeting to Newsweek and to the Post

In a Democratic primary, there isn’t much risk of that. “I don’t see how it hurts to meet with Obama, he’s still the most popular figure in the Democratic party,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told Newsweek. “He’s still the leader of the Democratic party as long as Trump is in the White House.”

O’Connell, however, isn’t so sure that Obama was meeting with O’Rourke to discuss the presidency. He thinks Obama had another position in mind.

“Obama could have the biggest sway in helping him become vice president," said O'Connell. "O’Rourke is much more likely to be in the parlor game for vice president.” 

News of Obama’s meeting with Tallahassee mayor and failed Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum only fuels O’Connell’s suspicions. “Obama is looking for fresh faces to balance out Joe Biden. He’s doing some legwork for the vice president side, rather than letting horses run on the presidential side.”

Read more from Nicole Goodkind at Newsweek

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US Stocks Tumble After Trump Tweets On Trade

Republican strategist Ford O’ Connell and Heritage Foundation policy analyst Riley Walters on President Trump’s “tariff man” tweet and the U.S.-China trade truce.

Watch the video at

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Why President Trump May Want A 'Good Shutdown'

Since the early days of his presidency, Donald Trump has been talking about shutting down the very institution he campaigned to lead: the federal government. Sometimes he frames such a move as a “good shutdown,” much the way people used to talk about a child needing a “good spanking.”

The goal of a “good shutdown,” President Trump tweeted last year, was to fix the “mess” in Washington. Since then, the federal government has shut down twice, as congressional funding has lapsed, but so briefly as to be hardly noticeable. And certainly, Washington still isn’t performing as Mr. Trump would like. For one, Congress still hasn’t funded his long-promised border wall with Mexico.

Now, as the final, lame-duck portion of the 115th Congress begins, and the Republicans enter their waning days in control of the House, the possibility of a partial shutdown looms. Funding for several critical departments is due to expire Dec. 7. Trump speaks of a shutdown regularly, as a way to sharpen the stakes of a tension-filled border debate, please his political base, and set up the politics of 2020 with a slam on Democrats as soft on migrant caravans full of “criminals.”

“If he’s going to go all in for the border wall, this is the best time to do it,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

A “shutdown” in early December would actually involve only one-quarter of the government, as most departments are already funded through September 2019. Among those departments awaiting funding is the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the border patrol. Though as with all shutdowns, agency heads are empowered to exempt “essential personnel,” so the critical functions of government – including border security – would not stop.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Democrats See Rural Gains Bolstering Fight For White House In 2020

Democrats made dramatic gains in this month’s U.S. congressional elections despite getting little love from white, rural, working-class voters who two years ago backed President Donald Trump.

But the party is convinced it made important inroads in rural America - an argument supported by a Reuters analysis of election results.

Democratic sources cite wins in places like upstate New York, Iowa, Maine and Pennsylvania as evidence the party has found a populist platform that connects with those voters and could help it retake the White House in 2020.

As of Tuesday, Democrats had captured 36 seats in the House of Representatives, building a majority that will enable them to thwart Trump’s agenda and launch investigations into his administration. Republicans retained a majority in the Senate.

Beyond the victories, Democrats increased their share of the vote in dozens of the country’s most rural congressional districts, a Reuters analysis shows.

Compared to 2016 election results, they posted gains in at least 54 districts where the share of households in rural areas was at least 39 percent, or twice the national average, even though they only won a handful of the districts.

That could bode well for Democratic efforts to win the White House and retake the Senate in 2020.

Still, the road to Democrats’ new House majority mostly ran through cities and suburbs, while Republicans held on to the vast majority of rural districts they were defending.

Democrats lost two tight House races in Minnesota in largely rural districts and the governor’s race in Iowa, reaffirming Republicans’ edge in those regions.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain’s presidential campaign, said Trump voters who backed a Democrat in 2018 easily could return to Trump in 2020.

“People want a check on the president,” O’Connell said. “These voters are very open to flipping back.”

Read more from James Oliphant at Reuters

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Tax Law Failed To Save GOP Majority

The biggest accomplishment for congressional Republicans — passing a sweeping new tax law at the end of 2017 — didn’t end up saving the GOP majority in the House.

The economy wasn’t the biggest issue of the midterm elections, according to exit polls, which found that a plurality of voters think the new tax law has not had any impact on their personal finances.

Democrats claimed victory on the issue.

Some say the law helped prevent the GOP from losing even more seats because it boosted the economy. They blame losses in the House on separate issues and factors.

Other GOP lawmakers, however, expressed concerns that a provision in the law hurt Republicans in high-tax states such as New York and New Jersey — where the GOP ended up losing a total of six seats, with two races still uncalled.

The law, which cut tax rates across-the-board for individuals and businesses, was unpopular at the time it was signed, but Republicans thought it would become a political winner as people started seeing more money in their paychecks.

The law’s popularity increased in the weeks following its enactment, when many companies announced that they were giving their employees bonuses. But the tax law never got widespread support, and polls ahead of the election tended to show voters divided on the measure.

While Republicans spent some time on the campaign trail touting the tax cuts and arguing that Democrats would raise taxes if elected, other issues, such as immigration, often featured more prominently in their campaigns.

“To properly message the tax law, it takes a lot of time and effort, and you have to stay on the same page,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

He said that didn’t happen, particularly in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, when both Republicans and Democrats decided to focus more on issues designed to mobilize their bases.

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

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Hillary Clinton 2020? Former Adviser Claims She Wants A Rematch Against Trump

Before the dust has settled on the midterm elections, candidates are testing the waters for the 2020 presidential election and according to a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee wants a rematch against President Donald Trump.

Mark Penn, who advised Hillary and Bill Clinton for more than a decade, penned an opinion piece Sunday with New York City politician Andrew Stein, predicting Hillary Clinton will make her third bid for president in 2020.

"You can expect her to run for president once again," the writers asserted. "Maybe not at first, when the legions of Senate Democrats make their announcements, but definitely by the time the primaries are in full swing."

The initial response from the White House appeared to be just short of popping champagne bottles. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded gleefully to the prospect of a Trump versus Clinton rematch, tweeting, "Dear God, please, yes."

"Hillary will be the gift that keeps on giving to the Republicans if she decides to jump into that race," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Clinton still has all of the political liabilities she had in 2016, plus the potential to throw an already crowded and chaotic field of Democrats into bitter infighting. "If she got in, she'll lose the Democratic nomination. It's going to tear the party apart and Donald Trump is going to walk to re-election victory." O'Connell predicted.

Democrats will also be fighting the historic odds of beating an incumbent president. Incumbency is a powerful factor, even for unpopular presidents. In the last 100 years, only five of 15 sitting presidents have lost re-election and each time it was related to a significant economic downturn. "The only thing that can hurt Trump is if he has a recession," said O'Connell.

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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