Fox News Halftime Report -- On the dangers of sore winnerism

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FOX NEWS HALFTIME REPORT
Jan. 25, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

On the roster: 
On the dangers of sore winnerism - Time Out: Like a bull's-eyed womp rat - Trump readies construction on border wall - Audible: Wait. What? - Even the car thieves are polite

ON THE DANGERS OF SORE WINNERISM
On the night of Nov. 9, 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon said that Democratic candidate John Kennedy would have his "wholehearted support" as president.

What Nixon was thinking, though, was that he had been cheated out of the presidency by corrupt local officials in Chicago and around Texas.

Historians and partisans debate the issue to this day. Did famously corrupt Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and mob boss Sam Giancana really steal enough votes to give Kennedy an 8,858-vote victory in a state that had gone for Dwight Eisenhower and Nixon by more than 800,000 votes four years before?

And don't forget "Landslide" Lyndon Johnson who brought Texas in for himself and his running mate in something of a squeaker.

Both states had rich histories of election fraud, including the old favorites: buying votes, fake registrations and, best of all, destroying ballots. It's far easier to steal an election by destroying the other guy's votes than it is to fake votes for yourself. Could it have happened? Sure. But, did it?

Guess what? The world will never know.

Nixon probably knew that much as he stepped forward to offer his concession and that personally contesting the outcome would have been a political disaster, yes, but also a threat to the republic.

Now, that's not to say that he and his party did not avail themselves of every reasonable pathway to overturn the results on a state-by-state and county-by-county basis, asking for recounts or investigations in 11 states overall. Much like the efforts by Democrats and others in 2016, it all came to naught.

Nixon, though, was keen to avoid any association with the efforts on his behalf as the month-long battle raged on. His many detractors would say this was cynical and self-interested, not patriotic. But both things can be true.

Nixon could have wanted to avoid being labeled a "sore loser" for the sake of a still-promising political future, and also believed that it would've been unseemly for the sitting vice president and nominee of a major party to be calling the results of an election into doubt.

The Fox News Halftime Report is a political note of Appalachian origin and can say with authority that election fraud is real. We have seen public officials admit to destroying ballots and political hacks prosecuted for buying votes. And it ain't just Logan County, either…

How widespread is voter fraud? If we broaden the definition to include votes cast by unqualified voters as well as more direct assaults on the integrity of the system by officials, maybe quite a lot. But how many out of 135 million or so ballots cast?

While we can say that our electoral process is far cleaner than it was in 1960, and probably cleaner than it has ever been, we can't be sure how much fraud there is exactly. We know that officials catch vanishingly few instances of voter fraud each election, but that doesn't necessarily correlate to its prevalence overall.

We know what Nixon knew: the distance between belief and proof is the space between suspicion and accusation.

As the North Carolina Republican Party recently found out the burden of proof is on the accuser and failing to deliver the goods can make for massive embarrassment. Nixon also knew what he was talking about when it came to sore loserism.

So what about sore winnerism? Our current president indisputably won 304 electoral votes, trouncing Hillary Clinton. But he is now calling for an inquest into the results of an election he won. The mind reels.

Just as the failed effort in North Carolina found and the still-unresolved dispute over 1960 proves, these investigations are usually a big, fat waste of time. Imagine directing the FBI to fan out across the nation to re-check voter registration rolls. With 3,141 counties to go through, that should keep them busy until it's time to start investigating the next election.

In the end, we rely on duly installed officials at the state, county and precinct level to conduct their affairs properly. Or founders expressly did not want to put the federal government in charge of elections for partly practical reasons, but also as a way to devolve power.

Trump is, of course, hung up on the fact that he lost the popular vote by a larger margin than any electoral-vote winner since Rutherford Hayes. This is part of a larger issue for Trump, who also cannot accept that the crowd that attended his inauguration was smaller than the one eight years ago.

This is a frustrating distraction for Republicans who would much rather be talking about the strides Trump is taking on health insurance, national security, immigration, jobs and more. There is a great narrative for the new administration, but it's getting drowned out by Trump's fixation on meaningless measurements.

But that's the Republican Party's problem. All Americans, though, have reason for frustration with their new president's numerical neurosis.

It is fashionable today to say that our democracy is at risk. But it has been at risk before. Certainly Hayes, who assumed the presidency under renewed threat of civil war, could've told you that. So could George W. Bush, who Democrats said owed his presidency to the confusion and poor eyesight of elderly voters in Palm Beach County, Fla.

But it is true that something feels different this time. Certainly, having both the winning and losing sides of an election dispute the outcome is a first. And the lengths to which Democrats went to try to rob Trump of the presidency he fairly won feel like something of a harbinger.

The nightmare for America is the day that a president in power refuses to accept the results of an election unseating him or her, or their party. Had Nixon and Eisenhower declared Kennedy's win fraudulent, how many members of the armed forces might have sided with the old general? How many states might have refused to send their electoral votes? Picture competing swearing-in ceremonies. Mass confusion.

Imagine if Barack Obama had declared the 2016 election invalid because of Russian mischief and refused to leave the White House, calling instead for a continuation of his rule until "fair" elections could be held.

These things seem farfetched because we have no such experiences as a nation. But the rest of the world knows all about how quickly good order and tradition can be crushed in a time of misinformation, confusion and doubt.

By refusing to accept the results of an election – again, an election he won – Trump nudges wider that dangerous doorway. That's not at all to say that Trump wouldn't accept the results of the 2020 election if it goes against him, or that Democrats wouldn't assent to his re-election.

But it does add strain to what feels like the rather threadbare garment of our republican institutions.

THE RULEBOOK: FIGHT IT OUT
"There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests." – James MadisonFederalist No. 10

TIME OUT: LIKE A BULL'S-EYED WOMP RAT
Hey nerds, Katharine Trendacosta is about to blow your minds. iO9: "If you were asked to point to the trench that housed the first Death Star's exhaust port, where would you point? If you pointed at the big obvious seam running along the Death Star's equator, I am sorry, but you are wrong. But don't feel too bad—it turns out even the people at Industrial Light & Magic thought that was the answer. [Monday] visual effects artist Todd Vaziri posted a story on his blog, FXRants, which he's been holding in for a year… Instead, as Vaziri points out, the trench runs perpendicular to the equator, which everyone would know if we'd all just paid attention to General Jan Dodonna's briefing to the Rebel pilots where it is clearly shown."

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

TRUMP READIES CONSTRUCTION ON BORDER WALL
The Hill: "President Trump is expected to take executive actions on immigration this week that will include ordering the construction of a border wall with Mexico on Wednesday, according to multiple reports. Trump tweeted from his personal account about his plans on Tuesday evening, noting a 'big day' ahead. 'Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!,' he tweeted. White House officials told the New York Times that President Trump was planning to sign an executive order directing federal funds toward the wall."

And a refugee halt is likely coming - AP: "Trump is said to still be weighing the details of plans to restrict refugees coming to the U.S. The current proposal includes at least a four-month halt on all refugee admissions, as well as temporary ban on people coming from some Muslim majority countries, according to a representative of a public policy organization that monitors refugee issues. The person was briefed on the details of that proposed action by a government official and outlined the expected steps for The Associated Press."

TRUMP SAYS HE'LL SEND FEDS INTO CHICAGO IF HOMICIDES RISE
Fox News: "President Trump tweeted Tuesday night that if Chicago is unable to reduce its homicide figures, he will send in 'the Feds' to help reduce the city's murder rate. 'If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible `carnage' going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!' Trump posted. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson responded late Tuesday, saying: 'The Chicago Police Department is more than willing to work with the federal government to build on our partnerships with DOJ, FBI, DEA and ATF and boost federal prosecution rates for gun crimes in Chicago.' Trump did not offer specifics about how the federal government could help."

AUDIBLE: WAIT. WHAT?
"Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth." – Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, in a speech on the House floor denouncing the press.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump's hiring freeze on federal agencies has many exceptions - WaPo

Jonah Goldberg explains what Trump really means by 'America first' - National Review

Fact check: Spicer uses debunked research to support Trump's voter fraud claims - WaPo

Breitbart's influence in the White House grows as Bannon set to bring over more staff - The Hill

The folks who broke the Panama Papers explain how to cover Trump - The Guardian

GOP House, Senate members gather in Philadelphia to chart policy course - AP

Cruz says GOP should consider changing majority rules for Supreme Court nominations - The Hill

Rise of the mini-Trumps - Politico

Liberty U launches new politics center, taps former Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Va., to lead ­- Richmond Times-Dispatch

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"If the new [president] wanted to be a real hero, he'd have his sons buy the old Packard facilities in Detroit and lease them back (cheap) to a current offshore car builder." – Gary Smith, Sacramento, Calif.

[Ed. note: My grandfather worked for Hupmobile in Detroit wayyyy back when. That's the one I would like to see come back. One of the problems with the highly regulated automobile sector of the American economy is the appalling lack of innovation and diversity. Most of the cars today look like variations on a bar of soap, squat and blocky with rounded edges. We need Nash Ramblers, Packard Super Panamas and maybe even a Gremlin or two.]

"I was fascinated by your account of how a spider can be milked for its venom, so I turned to YouTube… Amazing! I have a hard enough time tightening the screws on my eyeglasses!" – Don Moore, Cortland, Ohio

[Ed. note: I will never, ever forgive you Mr. Moore for putting that image in my brain! So I figure the only right thing to do is share it. Thanks for sending along.]

"I may be intruding on sacred territory, but I'm curious to why the 'mistaken' reporter's identity, nor his or her affiliation never seems to come to light?" – Roger Carlson, Calimesa, Calif.

[Ed. note: I assume, Mr. Carlson, that you are referring to the mistaken report from Time's Zeke Miller about the absence of the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office. Zeke immediately corrected himself and apologized as did the magazine. I know Zeke and his reputation as a very solid reporter. I take him at his word that it was an honest error.]

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

EVEN THE CAR THIEVES ARE POLITE
CBC: "A pizza delivery driver in St. John's [Newfoundland, Canada] hopes an old lottery ticket will help find the thieves who stole his car in the middle of a snowstorm. Josh Cook was out in his own vehicle delivering pizzas…Because of the storm, he left his car running in the middle of the road with the emergency indictors on while he went inside an apartment building to deliver the pizza. That's when he heard the engine rev, and ran back just in time to see his car speed off down the street…Then the next night, a friend of the family…spotted Cook's vehicle — in almost the exact same spot where it was stolen. When Cook arrived with a spare key, he didn't see any noticeable damage to the vehicle…there was actually a full tank of gas as well…In addition to the gas, Cook also found …a scratched, losing lottery ticket. He is hopeful that the ticket may help lead to who took his car that night."

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"Why is [voter fraud] being brought up? And the answer is rather simple. I don't think it's a strategy. This is a character problem." – Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."

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