Fox News Halftime Report -- After Fat Tuesday, time to hit the gym

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Fox News Halftime Report

Feb. 28, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt


On the roster: After Fat Tuesday, time to hit the gym - Leaked GOP ObamaCare replacement 'no longer viable' - Clash on entitlements ahead for Trump, conservatives - Trump blames Obama for protests at GOP town halls - Would you believe 'Moooooo?'
 
AFTER FAT TUESDAY, TIME TO HIT THE GYM
"I think I've done great things, but I don't think I have – I and my people – I don't think we've explained it well enough to the American public." – President Trump in an interview with "FOX & Friends"

It is fitting that President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress comes on Fat Tuesday. After 40 days of mad-cap moves and considerable frivolity, the season of atonement is about to begin.

Or at least that's what Republicans in Washington are hoping.

Ahead of his prime-time Mardi Gras celebration, Trump has been cultivating multiple excuses for why things haven't been going exactly the way he or many of his supporters might have expected.

Blaming the press, blaming his predecessor, blaming a do-nothing Congress, blaming the "complicated" nature of health care and blaming poor "messaging" is hardly unusual for a president. They all do it to some degree.

President Obama certainly flogged these enemies of progress with enthusiasm throughout his tenure. But this litany of complaints sounds odd coming from Trump who was unsparing in his criticism of Obama's lack of leadership when it came to addressing the nation's problems.

Trump's basic pitch to the electorate was that he, a results-oriented businessman, would stop making excuses and start getting results. But instead we have gotten a lot of typical political palaver from him and his administration.

Any president would have ample excuses for not being able to deliver on his promises. The press is always adversarial to some degree. There's always an inherited "mess." Congress is always stubborn and slow. Big challenges are always complicated. And your message always gets lost in translation. Always.

No wonder so few people would want the job.

"Hail to the Chief" sounds nice when the Marine band strikes up, but it's hardly worth the aggravation. With the possible exception of Jeb Bush, however, nobody is forced to run for president.

It is telling that when Trump was asked to grade his administration he alighted on "messaging," Obama's favorite critique when looking to appear self-critical. Obama deployed it to suggest that it wasn't his policies that were unpopular, but rather that the American people didn't understand how good those policies were. He was wrong. Americans liked Obama considerably more than they liked his plans.

With Trump, it is shaping up to be the opposite. People like his plans a good deal more than they like him. Especially on the economy, Trump's broad strokes on taxes, trade and stimulus spending have a lot of fans across the country, and maybe even across the aisle.

But it's not messaging that's the problem. It's that no one, apparently including Trump, seems exactly sure of what the plan really is…

Good administrations descend from clarity of purpose. Yet on a given day it is hard to tell whether Trump is running a cutthroat reality show among his harried underlings, a master class in trolling or a presidential administration.

As we have said before, some of the unfocused nature of these first 40 days is due to the fact that Trump's victory was such a surprise and he scrambled to get ready. But if the next 40 don't look very different, the season of Lenten privation will stretch far beyond Easter for Trump and the country.

Tonight Trump has to tell Congress exactly what he wants. He can't do what Obama did and simply demand results or he will get what Obama got: muddled policies with unsatisfying results.

It's time for the president to show his hand on what should replace ObamaCare for starters, as well as some of the details on his tax plans and his infrastructure stimulus spending program.

If he is not ready to do that, the rest of this year could already be a lost cause. Congress has weeks of fighting to do about ObamaCare alone, to say nothing of the fight over spending that will take place this spring and summer.

That all has to happen before Trump's real economic agenda gets moving. And don't forget about that Supreme Court nomination fight that hasn't even really begun.

If Trump squanders the opportunity to direct the attention of Congress and the American people toward specific polices he will not get another chance.

Though relatively unpopular for a new president, Trump is still the beneficiary of a certain kind of honeymoon. Voters who might take issue with him are still quite optimistic that he can deliver needed change to Washington and revitalize the economy.

When Trump really gets into the nitty gritty of negotiating policy with Congress, it will be messy, frustrating and, invariably, include some failures. So what? Get on with it. It is better to get past those problems sooner rather than later. If you wait, you risk not delay and slight embarrassment, but cataclysmic failure when the whole thing comes apart at the end. 

If you hear Trump blaming those devils of every president – the press, his predecessor, Congress, complexity of governance and the failure of Americans to understand the greatness in their midst – you will know that Trump is still vamping and not get ready to govern.

No president wants to start cashing in his political capital. But unlike financial capital, the political disappears through disuse. Perhaps it is better to think of a president's political strength like muscle tone: If you do too much, you'll tear it. But if you don't keep working it out, it will atrophy.

Trump's commitment for Lent ought to be to start pumping some iron.

[Watch Fox: Get ready for President Trump's speech to Congress tonight with "Special Report with Bret Baier" at 6 p.m. ET followed by "First Hundred Days" with Martha MacCallum at 7 p.m. ET then "The O'Reilly Factor" at 8 p.m. ET with special coverage with Bret and Martha for the speech beginning at 9 p.m. ET]

THE RULEBOOK: OR SO IT SHOULD BE
"Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution." – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78

TIME OUT: WHY ARE CELEBRITIES 'STARS'?
The Atlantic: "The answer has to do with Ovid. And Shakespeare. And Thomas Edison. And Mary Pickford. Stars are stars, certainly, because they sparkle and shine—because, even when they are bathed in the limelight, they seem to have an incandescence of their own. But they are 'stars,' much more specifically, because they are part of Western culture's longstanding tendency to associate the human with the heavenly. They are 'stars' because their audiences want them—and in some sense need them—to be. The broad use of the word 'star' to indicate a leader among us dates back, Peter Davis, a theater historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told me, to the Middle Ages. Chaucer, who was also the first recorded user of the word 'celebrity' and one of the first to use the word 'famous,' also hinted at the lexical convergence of the human and the celestial: In The House of Fame, Chaucer's dreamer worries that he might find himself 'stellified.'"

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

LEAKED GOP OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT 'NO LONGER VIABLE'
The Hill: "A day after House conservatives panned a leaked GOP draft ObamaCare replacement plan, a top Republican leader on Tuesday described the proposed legislation as 'no longer even a viable draft that we're working off of.' Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 3 House Republican and chief vote-counter, told reporters he had just spoken to Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who issued a statement Monday saying he could not vote for the leaked draft or recommend his 170 members support it because of its use of refundable tax credits. Another influential conservative leader, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), came out against the draft plan earlier in the day."

McConnell summons members to meet on ObamaCare replacement - Politico: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is summoning his conference for a members-only meeting on Wednesday to hash out the party's strategy on Obamacare. According to a notice sent Tuesday morning and obtained by POLITICO, the Kentucky Republican has asked all GOP senators to meet at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss the 'upcoming mark-up of the House Repeal and Replace bill.'"

Clash on entitlements ahead for Trump, conservatives - NYT: "President Trump's proposal to slash domestic spending in order to preserve the two biggest drains on the federal government — Social Security and Medicare — has set up a battle to determine who now controls the Republican Party's ideology. The outcome could map the course of major challenges to come, including a revision of the tax code, a huge increase in infrastructure spending and any effort to balance the budget. …Mr. Trump's budget blueprint — which is expected to be central to his address to Congress on Tuesday night — sets up a striking clash with the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, who has made a career out of pressing difficult truths on federal spending."

Trump blames Obama for protests at GOP town halls - Fox News: "President Trump said in an exclusive interview Tuesday that he believes former President Barack Obama and his top aides are behind the protests and leaks that have tormented the new administration – and he doesn't expect it to stop anytime soon. Trump, during an interview with "Fox & Friends," blamed Obama acolytes and the ex-president himself for the organized demonstrations that have sprung up nationwide since the Nov. 8 election, and also for the politically embarrassing leaks that have hindered Trump's messaging. 'I think that President Obama's behind it because his people are certainly behind it,' Trump said. 'And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, you know, some of the leaks – which are very serious leaks, because they're very bad in terms of national security.'"

AUDIBLE: DROWNING
"I wish the Senators had stood with me in the face of this kind of fake news tsunami that was out there." – Former Labor designee Andy Puzder talking to Hugh Hewitt on what Puzder believe sunk his nomination.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Former Obama Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman in talks to be deputy secretary of state - The Hill

Several senior national security officials reject White House claims on value of deadly Yemen raid - Time

McMaster tells Trump to back off using 'radical Islamic terrorism' - Politico

Trump orders EPA to roll back Obama water rules - WashEx

Democrats Spanish-language rebuttle will come from a DREAMer - AP

Trump chides Spicer for checking staffers' phones for leak evidence - WaPo

But…Trump reportedly signed off on Spicer's phone check for employees - CNN

Ross confirmed as Commerce secretary - USA Today

Trump ally at helm of House Intel Committee looks to block Russia special prosecutor - Fox News

Ellison to bring former DNC chair rival Perez as guest to Trump's speech - Time

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, rules out run for governor - Cleveland Plain Dealer

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"I agree that the Republicans in Congress are absolutely petrified that no one would lose coverage under the so called 'Unafffordable Care Act.' I am also consoled somewhat that we will not have 'single payer' or for lack of a better description Socialized Medicine if Hill and Bill had been elected." – Gene Landry, Lafayette, La

[Ed. note: Don't be so sure, Mr. Landry. A federal benefit once established is harder to eradicate than Louisiana kudzu. It is easy to imagine how, once Republicans affirm the federal government's responsibility to guarantee health insurance coverage, that the U.S. will end up like our cousins in Britain in which the two parties debate not about the propriety of federal involvement in health care, but rather the stinginess or generosity of that program.]

"Being from the great (and largest) state of Alaska (home of Sarah Palin) I just had to point out your obvious slip of the pen on Monday when you stated that Kamala [Harris] hails from the largest state in the union. Heck, even Texas is bigger than California (but not even half as big as Alaska). Slips of the pen aside, keep up the great work, your Half-Time report is always required reading for me." – Phil Lielasus, Anchorage, Alaska

[Ed. note: Quite so, Mr. Lielasus! We should always point out that we are talking here in size of population not real estate. Thanks very much for reading and taking the time to write.]

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

WOULD YOU BELIEVE 'MOOOOOOOOOOOOOO?'
The Local (Germany): "A stag has joined a herd of cows in Flensburg, near the Danish border in Schleswig-Holstein, broadcaster NDR reported on Sunday. The five-year-old red deer, named Sven by the locals, has been visiting the Galloway cows for two years and is spending increasing amounts of time with the herd and his favourite cow, Sarina 'He probably thinks he's a cow as well by now,' joked Gerd Kämmer, head of local landowner the Wischen Association, to the Flensburger Tageblatt. Kämmer had assumed that Sven would eventually leave the group after a few weeks or months. Indeed, it seemed that this had happened when Sven vanished for a few months in the summer of 2015. But by the autumn he had returned to the group. 'He has learned that he is safe here and will not be hunted on the nature reserve,' Kämmer added. Katrin Koch, from the Nature Protection Association (NABU) in Berlin, said 'there appears to be an advantage for the stag by keeping himself with the herd.'"

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"This is a beginning of a down payment on what's really needed." – Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier" talking about President Trump's plan to increase defense spending.
 

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