NEWS AND OPINION:
NBA great Dennis Rodman revealed to NBC News a mere 48 hours ago that he “got permission” to journey to Russia to seek the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, now sentenced to prison in that nation on drug charges. Major news organizations immediately jumped on Mr. Rodman’s sudden announcement, and, well, there you are. Stay tuned.
Lest we forget, the 6-foot 7-inch former player has experience practicing his own brand of diplomacy. Since 2013, Mr. Rodman has visited North Korea four times at the behest of the nation’s leader Kim Jong-un, even staging an exhibition game there with fellow U.S. former baseball stars. At the time, both the State Department and White House remained fairly elusive on the Rodman visits.
“Mr. Rodman made a private trip,” then-White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Jan. 7, 2014.
“Sports exchanges can be valuable. Sports diplomacy can be valuable. And it’s something that we pursue in many places around the world, including through direct support. But this is a private trip,” Mr. Carney told his gaggle of reporters when pressed on the issue, according to the official White House transcript.
The White House, he later added, was more focused on whether North Korea would turn away from “further isolation” and take advantage “of the opportunity to rejoin the community of nations.”
Would you wave a sign?
Are politics and political beliefs steering the lives of most voters? An NBC News poll asked registered U.S. voters how to gauge the importance of their personal political calling — and here’s what the survey found: 38% of U.S. adults said their “political identity” was “somewhat important” in their life, 25% deemed it “very important.”
Another 19% said their political identity was “not too important” while 15% said it was “not at all important.” A mere 3%, however, said their political identity was “the most important thing” in their life.
And one more noteworthy finding: Respondents were asked if they would carry a protest sign around “for a day” if an issue surfaced that “upsets you enough.” The survey found that 61% said they would carry the sign; 36% gave a flat-out “no” and 3% were not sure.
The NBC News poll of 1,000 registered U.S. voters was conducted Aug. 12-16 and released Sunday.
Advice for Mitch McConnell
It’s no surprise that many Americans watch Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1942 and first elected to the Senate in 1984. Yes, many watch Mr. McConnell — and some have advice for him.
“McConnell has many strengths, even if his more vociferous critics are unwilling to admit them. He has done good work, particularly with judicial nominees. He prides himself on playing effective small ball to accomplish legislative victories. He has many powerful connections and does a good job raising money,” wrote Mollie Hemingway, editor in chief of The Federalist.
The title of her essay, however, is this: “Come on, Mitch McConnell, Republicans need you to step up and lead.”
Ms. Hemingway does praise Mr. McConnell’s ability to raise funds, foster legislative victories or finesse the confirmation of judicial nominees.
Then there’s this:
“At this moment, McConnell simply must be a better leader. As the top elected Republican in the country, he should be ecumenical in his support for all Republican candidates for Senate, becoming their biggest cheerleader on a national stage. It’s understandable that an establishment figure such as himself might have preferred candidates more like himself, but he should set aside his hurt feelings for the sake of the party and country. He should motivate and energize the Republican voters while reaching out to those who can be persuaded to become Republican voters. He should learn how to fight the left-wing media that daily seek Republicans’ destruction, rather than kowtowing to them. He should be envisioning a bold legislative strategy to help save the country,” Ms. Hemingway writes.
“Mitch McConnell is the top elected Republican in the country. He has an obligation to immediately and dramatically improve his performance of these obvious, basic, and rudimentary political skills,” she advises.
A Melania moment
Here’s an update about former first lady Melania Trump, and a lengthy headline tells all:
“Melania Trump is now ready for a second tilt as the First Lady: Enemies said they’d split as soon as Donald Trump left the White House, but as he hints he’ll run again, friends paint her as the power behind the throne,” said the Daily Mail on Sunday.
“Asked if she fancied another stint as First Lady, her reply was, ‘never say never’” noted a lesser headline that followed.
“While many speculated Melania would leave her husband of 17 years the moment Marine One, the presidential helicopter, departed the White House front lawn at the chaotic end of his term in office, that has not turned out to be the case. Instead, the former First Lady has been quietly rebuilding her life away from the spotlight,” wrote Caroline Graham, a U.S. editor for the British news organization.
“I get mad every time I read false stories about how she and Donald are going to divorce, and how they lead separate lives,” Toni Holt Kramer — a personal friend of Mrs. Trump — told The Mail on Sunday.
“I’ve known Donald Trump since 2010, when my husband and I joined the club at Mar-a-Lago. I met Melania a short time after. Since then, I’ve been to more parties with them than I can count. The Melania I know is sweet, kind, natural, classy and puts her family above everything else. She constantly gets a bad rap because people love to hate the Trumps,” Ms. Kramer observed.
Poll du jour
• 62% of U.S. business executives expect inflation in the U.S. to remain elevated in the next 12 months.
• 61% expect increased political tension and divisiveness in that time period.
• 60% expect a recession to occur; 54% expect higher global taxes.
• 52% expect higher U.S. corporate taxes; 49% expect COVID variants or other public health risks to occur.
• 49& expect increased societal unrest in general; 48% expect more U.S. regulatory activity.
Source: A PWC Pulse survey of 722 U.S. business leaders from public and private companies conducted Aug. 1-5 and released Aug. 18.
• Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.