Fox News Halftime Report -- Meryl Streep and the very vicious circle

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FOX NEWS HALFTIME REPORT
Jan. 9, 2016
By Chris Stirewalt

On the roster:
Meryl Streep and the very vicious circle - Ethics office says Trump picks haven't made disclosures - McConnell: ObamaCare repeal this week - Heller, Flake top Senate targets for Dems in 2018 – Scooped

MERYL STREEP AND THE VERY VICIOUS CIRCLE
Meryl Streep
believed she was entitled to shame Donald Trump for mocking a disabled reporter…whom Trump believed he was entitled to mock because the past unfairness of reporters…who believe they are entitled to be unfair because Donald Trump is so nasty.

Around and around we go, the endless cycle of outrage spins on.

American political discourse today rests increasingly on "tu quoque" arguments, literally Latin for "you too." Your parents taught you why this was a form of logical fallacy very simply when they said, "Two wrongs don't make a right."

The head-snapping hypocrisy on display in American politics would make even the most jaded observer take notice. Democrats who blamed a sluggish recovery and ungainly implementation of President Obama's health law on Republican intransigence now call on their fellows to do the same and worse to Trump.

One piece of this is especially pungent as Democrats who condemned Republicans for refusing to grant the outgoing president a pick for the Supreme Court in his final year now suggest they might not ever give Trump a pick at all.

Meantime, Republicans who trafficked in conspiracy theories about Obama's birthplace now condemn Democrats for trying to delegitimize Trump because of the harm done to Hillary Clinton's campaign by Russian operatives.

Politicians engage in grubby behavior and when caught like a red-cheeked child point and say, "She started it!"

This incessant taking of umbrage followed by accusations of hypocrisy is not just tiresome, but gets in the way of actual, adult discussions.

Every winning politician likes to pretend that each election brings a fresh start. "Forget about the time that I said you were lower than a rattlesnake's belly in a wagon rut, and join with me to create a brighter future!"

It doesn't work that way. The rattlesnake's belly in question knows that in a binary system, his future success will require the other guy's failure.

But this is the way politicians talk, not decent human beings…until lately, it seems.

The, um, venomous, fallacious circular reasoning of politicians serves no purpose beyond achieving their next victory. It certainly ought not be listened to by real people.

There's lots to talk about these days. Should Republicans move to repeal ObamaCare without first selling its replacement? Is massive deficit spending for infrastructural improvements a good way to boost the economy? Is Russia an enemy or an uncultivated friend? Should parents be allowed to choose the public school their children attend? Should Planned Parenthood receive taxpayer dollars?

Guess what? All of these matters can be discussed without anyone having to take umbrage or claim hypocrisy. There are facts and philosophies at issue.

The most damaging trend in American politics of the last 30 years has been the regularity with which partisans question the patriotism and good intentions of their opponents. This is corrosive particularly because it excuses even worse conduct in response.

It's not a pendulum, it's a ratchet.

Many Republicans who backed Trump from the beginning did so on the grounds that the party's previous nominees had been insufficiently tough or even nasty in pursuit of the White House. The reasoning followed that Trump was the needed antidote for a party that had grown squishy and polite to a fault.

They felt this way because they saw Obama as a power-mad egotist who cheated to win and was dismantling the country.

So what do you think Democrats are going to do in response to Trump's ascension? Are they going to conclude that love is the answer, or are they going to respond to a kick in the shins with a punch in the mouth? You know the answer.

It is popular these days to talk about Trump as abnormal and a departure from convention. He is surely that, but it is rather quaint of politicians to act like we went straight from the Lincoln-Douglas debates to "Because you'd be in jail."

We got here one insult, one executive overreach, one fake fact and one slanted story at a time.

Politicians and partisans like Streep will never stop looking for excuses for taking the fight to their foes. Nor will they suddenly embrace modesty, grace and deference for their rivals.

We shouldn't expect them to.

It is up to voters, therefore, to understand the difference between a real discussion about the future of the country and its policies and excuse making in the form of pointless tu quoque arguments.

After all, if we allow partisans to set the standards of decency and conduct for the country, we'd all be looking up at that rattlesnake's belly before too long.

[Watch Fox: A double-feature of excellence from Washington: "Tucker Carlson Tonight" heads to its new timeslot at 9 p.m. ET and "Special Report with Bret Baier, ahem, inaugurates a week of two-hour special shows starting at 6 p.m. ET.]

THE RULEBOOK: TELL THAT TO THE BELTWAY BANDITS  
"It ought also to be remembered that the citizens who inhabit the country at and near the seat of government will, in all questions that affect the general liberty and prosperity, have the same interest with those who are at a distance." – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 84

TIME OUT: VALUE ADDED
Atlantic: "As some types of manufacturing disappear in America—manual jobs that can be performed in places like Mexico where there are lower wages, and repetitive ones that can be automated—other types are growing. So-called advanced manufacturing, which is highly specialized and requires a facility with computers, is actually expanding. The U.S. economy will need to fill 3.5 million skilled manufacturing jobs over the next decade, the White House says. This is an industry that employs skilled and educated workers such as engineers and scientists. It's also an industry that adds significant value to the economy. Manufacturing output continues to rise in the U.S., and the average factory worker makes $180,000 worth of goods every year, more than three times what he produced in 1978."

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

ETHICS OFFICE SAYS TRUMP PICKS HAVEN'T MADE DISCLOSURES
Politico: "Donald Trump's Cabinet parade marches to the Capitol this week, as Republican leaders are vowing to plow ahead with a slew of confirmation hearings despite a sharp warning from the government's top ethics watchdog. Nine of Trump's Cabinet picks are slated to come before Senate committees for vetting at 10 hearings (Attorney general pick Jeff Sessions is expected to face questions over two days): two on Tuesday, five on Wednesday and three more on Thursday. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is encountering resistance not only from Democrats but the chief of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, who said over the weekend that some of Trump's nominees have yet to complete required financial disclosures and ethics documentation."

Confirmation cavalcade begins Tuesday - Reuters: "A total of seven confirmation hearings are expected this week, starting on Tuesday with hearings for U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions on his bid to become attorney general and a session for retired Gen. John Kelly, Trump's pick for secretary of homeland security…Five more nominees have hearings on Wednesday, the same day Trump is to stage in New York his first news conference since being elected president. The five include Rex Tillerson, the nominee for secretary of state; Betsy DeVos, for education secretary; CIA director designate Mike Pompeo; commerce pick Wilbur Ross; and Labor nominee Andrew Puzder."

Trump's team says he'll give his cabinet autonomy - Politico: "President-elect Donald Trump plans to give his Cabinet secretaries and top aides significant latitude to run their federal agencies, marking a sharp departure from Barack Obama's tightly controlled management style, according to people involved in and close to the transition…Trump, they say, doesn't usually like getting into day-to-day minutiae or taking lengthy briefings on issues. He doesn't have particularly strong feelings on the intricacies of some government issues and agencies, these people say, and would rather focus on high-profile issues, publicity and his brand."

MCCONNELL: OBAMACARE REPEAL THIS WEEK
Reuters: "The U.S. Senate will take its first steps toward repealing President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform act by the end of the week, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday. Speaking on CBS's 'Face the Nation,' McConnell said: 'There ought not to be a great gap' between repealing the act and replacing it and that Republicans would be 'replacing it rapidly after repealing it.' McConnell did not define what he meant by 'rapidly.'"

For the record - McConnell writes in an op-ed for Fox News that the transition from ObamaCare to its replacement will be steady but not necessarily swift.

[McConnell met with Trump today in New York.]

HELLER, FLAKE TOP SENATE TARGETS FOR DEMS IN 2018
The Hill: "Liberals are already beginning to target Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Dean Heller (Nev.) with attack ads as Democrats look to soften up their only two realistic targets ahead of a difficult 2018 Senate map. Two groups, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Allied Progress, have launched TV ads in the senators' home states that aim to tie the two GOP senators to President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet and White House staff picks. Democrats are starting GOP attacks early in a cycle where they're mostly playing defense and trying to block Republicans from flipping enough seats to achieve a 60-seat, filibuster-proof Senate majority."

AUDIBLE: NO PROFITS IN RELITIGATING LOSS
"I think there are a lot of factors going into an election. I think the bottom line is-- is that Donald Trump is gonna be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. And it's not necessarily profitable to sort of try to untangle all the different factors that went into it." – President Obama when asked by ABC News whether Russian interference was the reason Trump won the 2016 election.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner to be named adviser to the president, transition officials confirm - NYT
 
Kushner faces tricky tangle on ethics as he prepares to join administration - AP

How Kushner teamed up with Trump insiders Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller to take over the campaign - NY Magazine

Conservative Judicial Crisis Network to drop $10 million ad to push Supreme Court nomination - Politico

Priebus takes entitlement reform off the table, says economic growth will save programs - WashEx

Josh Kraushaar explains how the shakeup on the Democratic side of the Virginia governor's race could rewrite the political playbook - National Journal

In control for the first time in a century Ky. GOP makes right-to-work law first priority - The Hill
 
FROM THE BLEACHERS
"New to the Halftime Report but lifelong Stillers fan. Interesting take on term limits and lobbying power. Given constitutional guarantees on petitioning the government, are there practical and constitutional ways to limit lobbyists influence? I agree that lobbyists are not necessarily bad but they seem to have an outsized influence." – Bill Ciao, Bellingham, Wash.

[Ed. note: Many have tried, Mr. Ciao. All have failed. One of the issues is that, like campaign spending, we want to be very careful about limiting the ability of citizens to express themselves as it relates to the government. One of the pieces of legislation that then-Sen. Barack Obama was most proud of was a bipartisan deal to allegedly restrict the influence and access of registered lobbyists. So what did lobbyists do? They quit registering. Instead, they went to work for law firms that just happened to have lobbying shops. Similarly, when the new Obama White House bragged of the limits on the influence of lobbyists, we soon found that administration officials were crossing the street to a coffee shop to take meetings with lobbyists so that their meetings were not registered in visitor logs. As a result of the rule, we ended up knowing less, not more, about the influence of lobbyists. The answer with lobbying may be what some have found successful in campaign finance: less regulation but more transparency. With trillions of dollars on the line as it relates to federal policy, we will never stop corporations and pressure groups from trying to affect outcomes. Similarly, there will always be crooked people willing to be bought. Regulating human nature is always the hardest thing for governments to do, and lobbying is no exception. Now if only the Steelers can find a way to regulate Eric Berry and the Chiefs' secondary….]

"Love your blogs, but you may have crossed the line on the allegation of the Patriots cheating!  MIT scientists have proven otherwise and it was purely physics which reduced the pressure in the ball. Try to keep up, Mr. Stirewalt. Politics is one thing…falsely bashing a local sports team, well, that's another kettle of fish." – Ron L'Heureux, Tuftonboro, N.H.

[Ed. note: We'll have to let the folks at Carnegie Mellon University take a crack at "deflategate." I wonder if some regional confirmation bias wasn't at play for the folks in Cambridge…At any rate, it is a testament to the ferocity of Patriots fans that we have heard more about one line about Tom Brady's PSI preferences than almost anything in politics! I personally think Pats booster Sally Persons may be soliciting these…]

"Three factors which compelled me out into an 18 degree Mississippi [Saturday] morning: 1. Dog's pleading eyes. 2. Those 'hot hands' glove warmer thingies, which are pure magic. 3. A fresh ITYW podcast. What a pleasure to hear your kind voices again in the New Year. My nose is froze, but my ears are happy. Welcome back." – Mary Carol Miller, Greenwood, Miss.

[Ed. note: I'll tell you what, 18 degrees is cold anywhere, but in the Mississippi delta – whoo-wee! This week, we will try to talk about warm things exclusively. I will ask Dana if Jasper has any tips for your dog to stay warm. Thank you for listening and happy New Year.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

SCOOPED
Fox News: "A Texas man had a drug charge dropped after authorities discovered that the alleged methamphetamine found in his possession was actually kitty litter. KETK-TV reported Saturday that authorities in Harris County made the discovery of at least a half-pound of kitty litter during a traffic stop in early December. Deputies arrested Ross LeBeau thinking the kitty litter was methamphetamine… LeBeau got into some trouble after the test results came back positive for methamphetamine. A Harris County forensic lab conducted a third test and revealed the substance to be kitty litter. The case against LeBeau was dismissed. LeBeau lost his job due to the drug arrest, but he said he doesn't blame the deputies. 'They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County,' LeBeau added. 'This was the bust of the year for them.'"

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in you inbox every day? Sign up here.

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