The state of our nation: Breaking down the political battles

Augusta, GA (WJBF) -- Every day a new battle seems to be waged in Washington. From gun debates to domestic violence and tax reform - there is never a quiet day or an easy answer. Dr. Craig Albert is a frequent guest on The Means Report, and he joined Brad Means once more to help break down the state of our nation.

Brad Means: First we want to welcome back a familiar face to The Means Report, he's Craig Albert. Craig is the Associate Professor of Political Science at Augusta University you know that, what you might not know as we talk about all thing political with Dr. Albert is that he is the recently named Graduate Director of the Master's Degree program in Intelligence and Security Studies at AU. Congratulations to you Craig.

Dr. Craig Albert: Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.

Brad Means: Well, I'm glad that you're sharing your expertise with us and unfortunately we'll start on a somber note. No surprise to our viewers, and that is the subject of the school shooting in South Florida this past week, my question to you from a political standpoint is whether this shooting will lead to any changes when it comes to gun control. There are already demands for that.

Dr. Craig Albert: I doubt it'll lead to any real changes in gun control. You have the Republican Party that really stands by gun rights and gun ownership, and we have to remember that this embedded in our Constitution, so any restriction to the ownership of guns is gonna have some political fire when it comes to it, unfortunately. I think what you might see rather than gun control restrictions is perhaps the president forcing a conversation on mental health and how people that have mental health issues can purchase guns, or what type of weapons they can have. So I think there might be some type of correlation the president would like to see between gun control and mental health issues. But even then, I'm not sure if he'll have any buy-in by Republicans in Congress because there's too many that are staunchly opposed to any restrictions.

Brad Means: So are you talking primarily about changing the background check process? Because I know that everything apparently checked out with this suspected shooter when he bought his gun.

Dr. Craig Albert: Right, I think that's exactly what's going to happen is you're gonna have some type of evaluation in the background or maybe even some age verification needed too, cause I'm not sure that in the state of Florida he was old enough to buy this type of weapon. Cause he's only 19, so there might be some discussion on how old you can be to buy a semi-automatic rifle versus a handgun. And states might need to get in line with those types of arguments.

Brad Means: Do you know, and it's okay if you don't off the top of your head, any restrictions that are in place right now, or sort of what the rules are when it comes to somebody with mental health issues purchasing a gun? If you have any sort of track record of treatment, are you denied?

Dr. Craig Albert: Not that I know of, only if you've committed a crime based on that. So you're restricted, concealed permits in many states, if you have a criminal record and it's usually more difficult to buy a semi-automatic weapon in some states based on that as well.

Brad Means: I saw something when I was walking past the television this morning and it was just a little blurb underneath the Sheriff I think of Broward County, he was giving a news conference and it was a quote I think from him that said, "We have to do everything we can within the power "of the federal government to protect our children "while they're in school." Craig, how can the federal government protect our children while they're in school?

Dr. Craig Albert: This is unfortunately, one of the most difficult questions to pose because we're so juxtaposed, the citizens of the United States on this issue, which is more important, our Constitutional right to own weapons? Or preserving security? If you limit gun access, some people will see that as restricting their freedom. So here you have the age-old problem of liberty, freedom to do whatever you want, versus necessary security of your citizens. So this is a battle that's been fought for ages now between different groups. So I think what's likely to happen is certain states, Florida will probably be one of those, will require certain restrictions within the school grounds themselves. So perhaps there needs to be somebody on duty to actually check you through the doors, or perhaps metal detectors at each of the entrances. Perhaps something as simple as installing a camera and you can't enter the building whatsoever without seeing like an ID and state your purpose there and then they buzz you through. Something like that, so little things that are posed towards individuals rather than the gun issue could have the same effect that as restricting access to guns.

Brad Means: President Trump is sending his condolences out to the victims and their families in South Florida, he did in that in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. There is push back on his condolences, saying we don't want to hear from you, do some of the things you and I have been talking about Mr. President and change the way that the gun laws are in America. Do you remember such push back or such rejection of sympathy in former presidents during times of crisis?

Dr. Craig Albert: I don't, but we haven't had the frequency and intensity that we've been seeing lately as we do with President Trump so unfortunately he's presiding over the United States under a terrible time when it comes to gun violence. And there's so much angst in general in America, and there's a lot of people that are just upset at President Trump anyways for not coming out very quickly on things, for domestic violence for instance. So there's so much push back right now against him that pretty much anything that happens as a national crisis, he's gonna face serious criticism because people are just upset at him in general.

Brad Means: Are we gonna have more school shootings?

Dr. Craig Albert: Yes, that's unfortunate.

Brad Means: It's just a part of life now.

Dr. Craig Albert: Yeah.

Brad Means: What about other things relating to the president, you mentioned domestic violence, and before the school shooting took the headlines, as well it should, these domestic violence concerns were dominating the news in relation to a senior staffer in the Trump Administration who resigned. Come to find out, there were some domestic violence issues with he and his wife. The question now is when did the White House know about those issues? What kind of a problem is this for the president?

Dr. Craig Albert: It's a big problem for the president because whether he is, I mean obviously he's probably against domestic violence, but the idea that so many things, so many individuals are associated with the president that are having these types of problems, presents President Trump with a bad situation where he's just associated with all these people. So often you're judged by, you know, who you hang around and who you surround yourself with. So that doesn't make the president look good, even if he's steadfastly against these things, which I take him at his words, he's steadfastly against these things. But it's an image problem and a communication problem, the president needs to do more to demonstrate that he stands against these types of things. What's more an issue is that there seems to be a process because the FBI denied that individual's request for security clearance and issued a temporary allowance of security. So in the position he was in, you should not be allowed to have a temporary security clearance because of the access to the type of classified information and the type of conversations he would've been allowed to hear with the president in the room. So we have to, we have a larger bureaucratic issue of should we allow temporary access with this type of information at this level of governance?

Brad Means: Have you noticed that whenever there's the slightest controversy involving this administration, the other party demands an investigation? Is that just sort of how it work in Washington? When you see blood in the water, you call for a probe?

Dr. Craig Albert: We are in a wonderful time to be a political scientist.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Craig Albert: Where, but a bad time to be an American I think, where we are so divided on everything and I think you saw this with Republicans pushing back everything that President Obama did, so we saw this same type of resentment.

Brad Means: We did.

Dr. Craig Albert: And we're just seeing the opposite of that, except President Trump just happens to be lucky enough to attract very high visible controversy about everything. And I say lucky enough because I think that plays into his permanent candidacy, he wants to be in the news all the time, and in fact one of his former advisors, Roger Stone, who advised him for the presidency said Trump wants, he lives his life by the idea that any news in good news, the only news that's bad news is no news. So he'll prefer to be in the headlines daily, every if it's a typically traditional negative message, because he wants to be in the news.

Brad Means: Are the allegations that some sort of hush money may have been paid to a porn star going to hurt him?

Dr. Craig Albert: This depends on how this MeToo Movement continues on, if the president makes any progress in supporting restrictions, making sure that there's no tolerance of domestic violence, on making sure he stands up for the progressive movement or all movements towards protecting women and protecting the vulnerable, protecting victims, if he takes a move towards this, I think he'll be alright. If he doesn't, it's gonna hurt him in the future.

Brad Means: And oh yeah, a gigantic tax reform package was approved. Is he still holding onto any momentum from that?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think so, and on top of his tax reform, he gave what most people think was a beautiful State of the Union address. So if you tie those two together, you're gonna see an increase in his popularity in his polls. In fact, we're already seeing an increase in popularity, and he still maintaining a 90% or above approval rating among Republicans. So not even just among his base, but for those people that identify and are registered Republicans, he has the traditional, which is consistent across Republican presidents, 90% approval rating within that. So when it comes time for midterms and his reelection campaign, if those numbers are the same, and tax reform was definitely gonna help with the Republicans increase his popularity, I don't think you'll see an issue with him getting reelected, if they come out to the polls.

Brad Means: Does he have to build the wall? Or as you have stated previously, does he just have to show that he tried to build the wall?

Dr. Craig Albert: Making progress, that's all he has to do is making progress. Because he's beautiful at crafting something not getting done and blaming the Democrats for that, and that's the type of message you'll continue to see. And this'll be the Republican strategy for the midterms, if you want the wall, come out and vote for Republicans because the Democrats are preventing this from happening. And that's what you'll likely to see very soon here in the news cycle will be Republicans that are running for office blaming Democrats for these proposals not getting accomplished. Or you'll see Democrats reversing it and saying if you want to keep it not getting done, vote for us because we'll obstacute Trump's plans.

Brad Means: If you are sitting on the sidelines, it seems like a compromise or compromises have been happening in immigration talks. Are we seeing both sides working together on immigration? And where does that whole thing end up?

Dr. Craig Albert: It all ends with Trump, so Trump has four criteria that he says must be implemented for him to sign off on any bill, and he said he will not budge on these instances. So where the Senate Republicans and Democrats and House Democrats and Republicans are willing to budge and compromise on a lot of this, Trump seems to be saying don't bother. If these four conditions aren't met we're not doing it, and his biggest is money for that border wall.

Brad Means: Right.

Dr. Craig Albert: He says he will give permanent status to the Dreamers, but you must fully fund his wall. He's not negotiating on anything with that.

Brad Means: And so if that fails, he can still say, "I tried."

Dr. Craig Albert: Blame it on the Democrats.

Brad Means: Blame it, I tried my best. Is ISIS defeated? Are they gone?

Dr. Craig Albert: No, we can expect more from ISIS. They have lost almost 100% of their land holdings, but now they're dispersed, they have orders to act through lone wolf terrorism, so you'll see this increasing in the upcoming months, as soon as they gather themselves and collect themselves, and give time for things to settle down. Obviously, counter terrorism, counter intelligence officials will be looking for them, hunting them down. And we'll see special hunt missions by Special Operations forces to capture high-value targets, but they will be active, they will be watching, and they will be planning on soft target attacks, internationally and here in America.

Brad Means: Can we do anything more to cut off their funding?

Dr. Craig Albert: This is tough, I don't think ISIS is tied much to funding from external actors from other governments. So we've tied up as much of their funding as we can, we've cut their revenues from oil profits that they've made, ransoms aren't getting paid that they have, people that they have hostages. They make a significant portion of their income by ransoming them off for money. We've done all that we can to stop that so, and unfortunately lone wolf and small operations aren't expensive, so even if we could cut off more, which I don't think there's an issue with, they're gonna you know, rent and truck and drive it into a crowd, and that is a massive form of terrorism.

Brad Means: Well and it's like you mentioned about the school shootings, sadly enough these things are now a part of our lives as Americans and as world citizens.

Dr. Craig Albert: Yes.

Brad Means: Craig Albert thank you for your time, I know we covered a ton of ground in a short time, but with the midterms getting closer I know you'll be back very soon.

Dr. Craig Albert: Look forward to it, thank you.

Brad Means: Me too. Dr. Craig Albert, Associate Professor at Augusta University, congratulations on your new gig there as well.

Dr. Craig Albert: Thank you.

Brad Means: We are proud of you for sure.


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