- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2016

How acrimonious is the 2016 presidential race? A new survey finds that 90 percent of Americans say the bout between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is more polarizing and controversial than the 2012 election - to the point that it has compromised their personal relationships. Some appear to be done with it all: 81 percent say they are now avoiding political discussions “at all costs,” this according to research conducted by VitalSmarts, a business leadership training company which is urging the citizenry to be civil one another - and keep talking about the election despite the strife.

“Our society depends on this kind of respectful discussion,” says Joseph Grenny, who co-founded the Utah-based group. “The essence of democracy is a contest of ideas. So if we can’t talk about politics amicably, we can’t make better decisions about our future.”

There’s ill will in the office too.

The survey also found that 79 percent of the respondents have decided to avoid political conversations with their co-workers in particular. Seven out of 10 won’t talk election news with strangers, 56 percent with their neighbors. The personal space has also been affected. Four out of 10 have had political arguments in their own home, 31 percent in a community setting, 28 percent in the workplace and 26 percent via social media.

Then there’s the collateral damage. A third have been insulted or even attacked in a political argument; 25 percent say they have suffered damaged relationships because of ongoing discord. The poll of 1,866 U.S. adults was conducted throughout April and released Thursday.

“The silver lining in this data is that people have it in them to listen and agree,” says David Maxfield, the other company co-founder. “Even people who think their rivals are angry, uneducated, and ignorant can also reach agreement, respect and find common ground. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect them.”

PAUL MANAFORT’S GUARANTEE: GOP UNITY ON THE WAY

The Republican Party can’t unify itself overnight, no matter what the news media may expect. That is the message from Donald Trump’s senior advisor Paul Manafort, who advises impatient GOP leaders and the press to take a breath.

“It’s a healing process.  It’s a healing process that will happen over time and frankly the media’s expectations that the day after the Indiana primary when everybody got out of the race and everything was going to come together in one moment - it was unrealistic,” Mr. Manafort told Chris Wallace during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Trump understands this.  What’s important to him is that he unifies the voters and that he unifies the Republican Party. Remember, he ran as an outsider, he ran as somebody who was representing the people’s interests who were frustrated with the gridlock in Washington. He wasn’t a candidate of the leaders,” the advisor continued.

“To expect everything to come together the day after the primary process ended, it was a bit unrealistic.  But frankly, I’m very pleased to say that it’s happening even faster than we thought. Many of the candidate who ran against him - and there were 16 - are now moving behind him, endorsing his candidacy expressing support for it. Party leadership in the Congress as well as members of Congress is coming together. The governors are coming together,” said Mr. Manafort.

“It’s a process. It will be fine. We’ve got plenty of time now. There will be no contested convention. We have plenty of time to put the party together.”

FOXIFIED

The primetime line-up at Fox News still rules the ratings, according to new Neilsen Media Research numbers. The network produced  nine of the 10 most-watched cable news programs in the past month. In the lead: The O’Reilly Factor, with an average 2.8 million viewers per night, followed by The Kelly File (2.3 million), Special Report with Bret Baier (2 million), The Five (1.9 million), Hannity (1.8 million), On The Record with Greta Van Susteren (1.7 million), America’s Newsroom (1.4 million), Your World with Neil Cavuto (1.3 million), and Outnumbered (1.3 million).

Who was the tenth? That would be MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, which drew and audience of 1.2 million.

OUR TRAVELING PRESIDENT

Yes, we know that the White House travels on the public’s dime. President Obama - who recently visited Saudi Arabia, Britain and Germany - is one of the nation’s most traveled presidents. He is bested only by another Democrat, says Demian Brady, an analyst for the National Taxpayer’s Union Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization which tracks where the money goes.

Mr. Obama’s most recent jaunt cost $5.6 million just for travel aboard the magnificent but pricey Air Force One, notes Mr. Brady, who notes this does not include security details, advance personnel and logistics support which add to the presidential itinerary.

To date, Mr. Obama has taken 45 trips abroad. Former President Clinton has the record as the most traveled president, with a total of 55 trips during his eight years in office. Former President George W. Bush had a grand total of 49.

“Obama will be headed to Japan and possible Vietnam in late May, Canada in June, Poland in July, China and Laos in September, and Peru in November. And as the president goes up in the air, so do the costs for taxpayers,” Mr. Brady says.

THE DEBT GOES EVER ON

There used to be a bumper sticker out there that said, “Don’t tell Obama what comes after a trillion.” That annoying adage still applies.

CNS News editor Terence P. Jeffrey reveals that the federal debt has risen by over $1 trillion since then-House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cut a budget deal with President Obama that suspended the legal limit on the federal debt until March 15, 2017.

Mr. Jeffrey notes that by the close of business on Oct. 30, 2015, the total federal debt was $18,152,981,685,747.52 according to the Treasury Dept. It now stands at $19,186,207,744,589.55 — give or take a dime or two.

“That is an increase of $1,033,226,058,842.03,” says a glum Mr. Jeffrey.

BEN CARSON’S NEW CALLING

“One of the primary reasons I ran for president was to help restore the Judeo-Christian values that made America great. Right now, they are either in decline or facing a full-on assault. While I won’t be leading this revival from the Oval Office, I’ve decided to continue on with this mission,” says Ben Carson, who dropped out of the White House race in March.

One of Mr. Carson’s new calling is a targeted grassroots outreach called My Faith Votes.

“The immediate goal of My Faith Votes is simple - get the 25 million registered Christians who did not vote in 2012 to the polls this November,” says Mr. Carson. “We face very serious challenges regarding our growing national debt and First Amendment rights of civil and religious liberty - but we do not have to play defense. When Christians vote, their faith transforms the future.”

The new voter outreach is casting a wide net, relying on an emerging national church initiative, the help of high-profile clergy plus social media and broadcast outlets.

“The only way that we as Christians will not be heard is if we don’t speak up,” says Mr. Carson.

POLL DU JOUR

54 percent of Americans disapprove of Obamacare; 89 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats agree.

44 percent overall approve; 9 percent of Republicans, 39 percent of independents and 78 percent of Democrats agree.

44 percent say the healthcare law has had a “mostly negative” effect on the nation; 72 percent of Republicans, 48 percent of independents and 16 percent of Democrats agree.

39 percent overall say the law’s effect is “mostly positive”; 10 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 2,008 U.S. adults conducted April 12-19 and released Wednesday.

• Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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