Fox News Halftime Report -- Dear reporters (again): This is not about you

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FOX NEWS HALFTIME REPORT
Feb. 17, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

On the roster:  Dear reporters (again): This is not about you - E-P-Yeas beat nays to confirm Pruitt - Meet Trump's pick for Labor secretary - Power Play: One month later…-  Date night!


DEAR REPORTERS (AGAIN): THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU
The only people more obsessed with media coverage than President Trump are the members of the media themselves.

Understanding that, Trump knew the way to gain some altitude after a rough takeoff in his first month in office.

"That's how I won," Trump taunted at his White House press conference on Thursday, "I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by people listening to you people. That's for sure."

And he's right. Pugilistic press conferences in which he turned reporters into foils and objects of derision helped him win the presidency. So too did rallies in which he directed his supporters' disgust at members of the political press penned in the back of the hall like veal calves waiting to be made into scaloppini.

Reporters know this and yet cannot resist Trump's trolling. He even accurately previewed the coverage of his schticky presser.

"Tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, 'Donald Trump rants and raves,'" Trump said in a comedic accent that sounded like your Great Aunt Matilda complaining about slow service at her country club.

And he called it. Here's a sampling of choice adjectives from the headlines of major media outlets: "chaotic," "combative," "erratic," "puzzling" and "wild."

Rather than focusing on actual news, coverage of the event sounded like reviews for an experimental Broadway show in which the critics themselves played a starring role. So deep is the self-regard of journalists that even when they know it is hurting them, they cannot resist an opportunity to talk about themselves and their profession.

Let's get one thing straight: Media criticism is the asbestos abatement of journalism. It's a dirty job that should be left to experienced professionals, but generally avoided by everyone else.

In 2017 America, however, everyone from the president to your barista sounds like they're working up a think piece for the Columbia Journalism Review. So it pains us to have to repeat for a second time what should be an obvious truth to the other members of our profession: This is not about you.

Your readers and viewers do not care whether you are offended by the president's evident distain for you and our profession. Trump hates you. So do many of his supporters. That is not going to change. Get over it.

How much does Trump hate you?

Look at the way he spoke to Jake Turks, a reporter for an Orthodox Jewish newspaper in Brooklyn. Trump called on him looking for a "friendly reporter." Turks was evidently trying to oblige the president with a softball question that giving Trump the opportunity to declare his love for Jewish Americans and denounce anti-Semitism, something he has done many times before.

Instead, Trump shamed the young man, telling him to "sit down," interrupting him even before he could finish. Trump called it "not a fair question." Neither did Trump think that American Urban Radio Network's correspondent April Ryan was asking a fair question either when she wanted to know whether Trump was going to include the Congressional Black Caucus in his strategy for dealing with decaying inner cities.

But Trump mocked her, insinuating that she was in the tank for the CBC.

"Tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?" Trump scoffed, "Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting."

Let's stipulate that these are not nice things to say. Let's stipulate further that no prior president would have said this to them in a press conference. Let's also stipulate that they were hurtful to their targets' feelings.

But you did not get into this business to have your feelings valued and respected by your subjects. If you are doing it right, you came here to serve your readers and viewers and fulfill your patriotic obligation as a practitioner of the only profession with its own line item in the Bill of Rights.

If you become part of the story, you are failing in a catastrophic way. Actual reporters debated with a sitting president of the United States about the ratings of their network, the validity of their reporting and the fairness of their questions.

Voters do not care about your feelings. And they don't care about you, except for in your ability to fairly, quickly and accurately bring them the story in its proper context. All of the bellyaching about Trump's media bashing represents time that would be better spent on covering the actual news.

If you doubt any of that, just look at how successful Trump was in shifting the conversation away from tumult and division within his administration, a failed cabinet nomination and lingering questions about Russian efforts to compromise him and his team.

The story has changed, and Trump's base, which was starting to have reason to wonder when all of the #MAGAing was going to get started and whether their man was in over his head, are back on their feet and cheering.

Never forget, that for many Republicans, the media is an object of more intense hatred than are Democrats (insofar as they see any difference between the two).

Now, as Noah Rothman points out, media bashing is a dry well for Trump or any Republican. Just as most Americans don't care about the hurt feelings and worries of reporters, they don't spend too much time feeling sorry for politicians who complain about their coverage. You don't change any minds in the middle by fixating on your bad press clippings.

Similarly, many conservative journalists and pundits use media criticism as a crutch to avoid addressing thornier questions about the new administration. Rather than taking a clear-eyed view of what's going on, they cop out and join Trump in mauling the mainstream media for unfair coverage or past failures to hold Democrats to account.

Get over that, too. We are far enough down the path with the new administration and there are more than enough policy proposals on the table to move beyond reflexive media criticism.

The truth is Trump is pretty unpopular for a new president with just a 42 percent job approval rating by the Gallup benchmark, but Americans are positive about his qualities as a leader and as a change agent.

Like other presidents who have had bumpy beginnings, Trump may, like Bill Clinton in 1993, right his ship and learn how to be an effective executive, or, like Jimmy Carter 40 years ago, he may remain capsized.

We don't know. That's what we're here to figure out. So go do it.

THE RULEBOOK: FREEDOM TO SERVE
"A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people." – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25

TIME OUT: THE MAN COMES AROUND
Rolling Stone: "While the legend of Johnny Cash is heavily steeped in the five decades worth of songs that he wrote, recorded and performed via his unmistakable boom, the Man in Black was also an incredibly productive poet who was just as happy to let his pen do the talking… With the help of author Paul Muldoon, [John Carter Cash] pored over his father's vast catalog of unreleased material to find the pieces that both resonated the deepest and felt most complete. Their combined efforts resulted in a rich collection of poems written by Cash throughout his life…Love, mortality, addiction, humor, spirituality, pain, wonder, hope, heartbreak, freedom and resignation all weave in and out of Cash's poetry – just as they did in his songs – in an attempt to paint the most accurate portrait of his true self."

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

E-P-YEAS BEAT NAYS TO CONFIRM PRUITT
USA Today: "The Senate voted Friday to confirm Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency despite a last-ditch effort by Democrats to delay the vote after a judge ruled that Pruitt must release about 3,000 emails relating to his communication with oil, gas and coal companies while he served as Oklahoma's attorney general. The vote was 52-46 to confirm Pruitt. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted against Pruitt's confirmation. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined the rest of the Republicans in voting to approve him."

MEET TRUMP'S PICK FOR LABOR SECRETARY
Miami Herald: "When the Justice Department named R. Alexander Acosta the new U.S. attorney in South Florida in 2005, he was largely an unknown to federal prosecutors in Miami. Many viewed him with suspicion because he had never tried any criminal cases, and some feared he would carry the torch of the arch-conservative bosses that President George W. Bush had picked to run the Justice Department — John Ashcroft and his successor, Alberto Gonzales. Acosta, who grew up in Miami, had lost touch with his roots after attending Harvard University and pursuing a career in Washington. But the Republican gradually reconnected with South Florida, won over his skeptics and gained the respect of leaders in the local legal and law enforcement establishment."

FLYNN MISLED FBI ABOUT RUSSIA TALKS
WaPo: "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country's ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said. The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy. Lying to the FBI is a felony offense. But several officials said it is unclear whether prosecutors would attempt to bring a case, in part because Flynn may parse the definition of the word 'sanctions.' He also followed his denial to the FBI by saying he couldn't recall all of the conversation, officials said. Any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department."

POWER PLAY: ONE MONTH LATER…
President Trump
's eventful first month as president ends with a bang as National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's resigns and Labor pick Andy Puzder withdraws his nomination. Chris Stirewalt talks with Fox News Contributor Charles Hurt and The Weekly Standard's Chris Deaton. WATCH HERE.

AUDIBLE: BUT NO OREOS
"'Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.''" – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie quoting President Trump at their Tuesday White House telling Christie what to eat.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Did you miss your fix of this week's "I'll Tell You What" podcast? Well, you can always listen and subscribe here OR tune in to Fox News Channel on Sirius XM channel 450 or on Fox News Talk Sundays at 8 a.m. ET starting this weekend.

El Rushbo and Mr. Sunday - And, of course, Mr. Sunday has all the latest political news, joined this week by conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Watch "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week's media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump given comprehensive summary of Flynn's phone calls prior to resignation - Fox News

Pentagon says there's no evidence Flynn was authorized to take money from a foreign government before traveling to Moscow in 2015 - Fox News

Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward turned down NSA offer - Politico

Gen. Keith Kellogg, four others in contention for NSA spot says Trump - WashEx

Pompeo denies keeping info from Trump - Fox News
All hands on deck: Message maestro Michael Dubke takes the reins as White House comms director - USA Today

Kushner takes Trump's complaints of CNN's coverage to Time Warner execs - NY Magazine

McConnell says Trump's approval rating would be '10 to 15 points higher' is he stayed on point - Weekly Standard

Mark Sanford revels in his role as Trump's conservative conscience - Politico

Ryan has troubling selling Trump's tax plan in Senate - Politico

Chaffetz seeks charge of former Clinton server specialist - AP

Nation's largest private-sector union urges members to back Ellison for DNC chairman - Politico

RIP, Bob Michel, Longtime GOP House leader - AP

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"It's not just West Virginians with sloppy thumbbbs! I'm glad to know my favorite prognosticator is mobile. How about those West Virginia miners? I'm from Washington State, but my chest still swelled with pride. No one says we still get 60% of our power from coal mines. Why not?  Keep it up. Balance is needed." – Ace Weems, Silverdale, Wash.

[Ed. note: It's been a long time since coal constituted 60 percent of the nation's electric load. A combination of cheap natural gas, increasing production costs for coal and enormous regulations on both the extraction and burning of coal, have left America's most abundant fuel in pretty poor shape these days, relative to the past century. Coal is now the source of something less than 40 percent of the nation's electricity. And whatever Trump does, that's not likely to spike anytime soon because of other market forces. The great relief for the industry is that the decline may be arrested or even just slowed.]

"I'm coming to your defense, and I'm sure I won't be the only one. In the sample sentence, 'honing' would be correct, just as you first used it. The Free Dictionary defines honing: 'to focus the attention or make progress achieving an objective.'  I think that definition works great and I've used it that way many times. I look forward to the Halftime Report every day.  Keep up the good work." – Danny Bass, Burleson, Texas

[Ed. note: You are kind to help and I certainly could have hidden behind that definition, But, "homing" was what I was going for, like a missile or a pigeon heading for its target. I never cease to be amazed at both the kindness and intelligence of our readers. We are lucky people.]

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

DATE NIGHT!
C-VILLE Weekly: "When the time is right, they crawl. Once a year, over the span of a couple warm, wet nights, a local population of more than 1,000 spotted salamanders makes the 100-yard trek from their forested homes to their vernal pool breeding grounds, crossing Rio Mills and Polo Grounds roads. Though they can grow to be about 8 inches long, the salamanders often go unnoticed by drivers in the middle of night and have a fatal encounter…Donning headlamps and with their vehicles parked along the road…a small group of volunteers take to the Route 29 site each year to perform a 'salamander rescue night,' during which they carry the critters across the road and talk with any amused or confused drivers who are interrupted by the group's samaritanship…But the largest success for spotted salamander fans? A proposed underpass system that would allow the polka-dotted amphibians to migrate under the roads safely. A 40-foot apron at the entrance to the tunnels would guide the salamanders along the path to safety."

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"I must say of course the high point [of Trump's press conference] was when he mentioned me. I thought I was going to be the surprise new national security advisor." – 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 here.

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