Fox News Halftime Report -- Dems resist, but mostly against reality

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FOX NEWS HALFTIME REPORT
Feb. 3, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

On the roster:
Dems resist, but mostly against reality - Trump administration sanctions Iran - Conway scolds press for not covering non-existent event - Power Play: Supreme Court pick looks like a winner - BRB

DEMS RESIST, BUT MOSTLY AGAINST REALITY
The slogan for Abraham Lincoln's 1864 re-election was "Don't change horses in the middle of a stream."

Lincoln, who attributed the simple bit of wisdom to "an old Dutch farmer," made his first recorded use of it during remarks at the White House accepting the endorsement of the National Union League on June 9 of that year. The record reflected "tumultuous" and "prolonged" laughter.

The meme may not sound very dank by today's standards, but the joke was that Lincoln had portrayed himself only as "not unworthy" of re-election but not worthy of their lavish praise. "I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country," he said.

Abe may have been an old plug, and a bit swaybacked after three years, but a sagacious Sangamon County farmer still wouldn't dismount him in the middle of Panther Creek.

The slogan, though, assumes that there was another mount available.

Democratic nominee George McClellan promised to both bring peace and preserve the Union while Lincoln made plain that he would see the war to its bloody conclusion. There was not only an alternative, but one that sounded far more appealing.

McClellan's party of today, however, has seemingly forgotten the simple virtue of offering alternatives and thereby feeling their own considerable misery.

The blue team has few if any discernible platform or identifiable policy positions of the moment beyond an absolute snot-slinging, garment-rending outrage over the result of the 2016 election. One feels almost embarrassed for their incoherence. Or at least alarm.

When Republicans found themselves in an even worse situation eight years ago they had one substantial advantage that Democrats lack today. The GOP had already substantially repudiated their own just-departed president.

Republicans had begun abandoning George W. Bush in the 2006 midterm beat down. By the time the country had endured the Panic of 2008 and the beginning of the ensuing recession, Republicans were more than happy to join Democrats, at least tacitly, in blaming Bush.

The Dubya stood for "Who?"

He became a convenient place to dump every failure and woe for a party that had notable failures at every level in the previous years.

In time, Republicans and many independents would re-examine their former leader, who is now held in relatively high regard. But not so much that it stopped the GOP from nominating or the general electorate selecting a man who blamed Bush for 9/11 and said he should have been impeached for invading Iraq. 

Certainly in 2009, Republicans were free to blow off Bush and any of his attendant doctrines or principles as they met the challenge of facing a popular, new Democratic president with supermajorities in both houses of Congress. 

Republicans did successfully defend the so-called "Bush tax cuts" for several years and fought alongside many Democrats to keep the Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp open despite Obama's vow to shutter it. But they didn't spend much time defending the past.

Now, that's not to say that they crafted much in the way of policy alternatives to what was coming down the pike. But they were quick and clear in their efforts to oppose every major policy initiative, often with some success and almost always drawing blood in the process.

Democrats, on the other hand, now find themselves desperate to oppose Trump but also freighted with trying to defend Obama's legacy. Obama's health law. Obama's Iran deal. Obama's Supreme Court appointment. Obama's global warming plan. Obama's immigration action. And on and on.

Obama's legacy is just as dead as Bush's was, and nothing will restore it in the next four years.

The advantage of being out of power is that you don't really need a plan of your own, just a good reason to oppose what the party in power is doing. The burden of proof is on the majority.

Democrats cry "resist!" but mostly that has so far meant resisting the reality that they lost a very winnable election and are bad at politics.

We see the first inkling that Democrats might finally be figuring this out with the opposition to the new administration's temporary ban on refugees seeking asylum in the United States. The early indication is that the measure is unpopular and, at least, initially poorly executed.

Rather than scattershot, incoherent and ineffective opposition to everything, Democrats can instead find a few weak spots and start pushing. They're not defending anything, so therefore can attack, attack, attack and render the issues toxic for Republicans.

As the GOP looks to start advancing an agenda even more ambitious than Obama's eight years ago, Dems will have plenty of chances to hone their skills.

THE RULEBOOK: BUT IT ALWAYS FINDS A WAY
"It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder." – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 68

TIME OUT: A BEAUTIFULLY TRAGIC PLACE
NatGeo: "A quick online search of the Western Isles, also known as the Outer Hebrides, reveals no shortage of dreamy imagery. The region, west of the Scottish mainland, is branded by travel agencies as an otherworldly paradise…Given this reputation, it took French photographer Laetitia Vancon by surprise when she read The Stornoway Way, an autobiographical novel by Scottish writer Kevin McNeil. The author portrayed the Western Isles as an isolated place where people struggle with alcoholism and entropy…What Vancon discovered after spending two months there was a group of youth deeply rooted in their cultural heritage, drawing strength from a sense of community…The lack of higher education on the Western Isles drives many young people to bigger cities…The coastal economies, built on environmentally sensitive industries such as fishing and offshore fossil fuel drilling, can be fragile and are largely male-dominated…On islands with small populations, women may have to wait for years before their desired position opens up, Vancon says. 'The women are leaving, and women carry life,' Vancon says."

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

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SANCTIONS IRAN
Fox News: "The Trump administration imposed new sanctions Friday on nearly two-dozen individuals and companies in response to Iran's recent missile tests, quickly moving to increase the pressure on the regime after putting Tehran "on notice" earlier this week. The U.S. Navy also moved a destroyer into position off the coast of Yemen, amid deep concerns over Iran's support for Shiite rebels there who recently attacked a Saudi naval vessel."  

CONWAY SCOLDS PRESS FOR COVERING NON-EXISTANT EVENT
USA Today: "Kellyanne Conway, President Trump's former campaign manager and now an adviser in his administration, pushed back Friday against claims she defended the White House's refugee ban with an assertion that appears to be factually indefensible. Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball TV program on Thursday night, Conway referred to the 'Bowling Green massacre' as part of her attempt to justify Trump's temporary restrictions on refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. 'I bet it's brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,' Conway said 'Most people don't know that because it didn't get covered.' However, early Friday Conway said she misspoke when she used the phrase 'Bowling Green massacre.' Really, she said in a tweet that links to an ABC News article, she meant say 'Bowling Green terrorists.' …Either way, it seems likely that the incident Conway refers to didn't get covered in the way she initially described it because there is an overwhelming consensus that there was no massacre at all." 

TRUMP SCALES BACK BANK REGULATIONS, ORDERS REVIEW OF DODD-FRANK
AP: "President Donald Trump is taking his first steps aimed at scaling back financial services regulations, and the Republican-run Congress cast a vote early Friday signaling that it's eager to help. The president will sign an executive order Friday that will direct the Treasury secretary to review the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law, which reshaped financial regulation after the 2008-09 financial crisis. But first, the Senate used an unusual pre-dawn vote to approve legislation, 52-47, killing a regulation that has required oil and gas companies to disclose payments to the U.S. or foreign governments for commercial development. The House approved the measure this week, and Trump is expected to sign it."

POLL: MAJORITY OPPOSES REFUGEE BAN
CBS News: "Two weeks into Donald Trump's presidency, the country remains sharply divided along partisan lines. A large majority of Republicans approves of President Trump and his recent executive order temporarily restricting entry into the U.S. by foreigners and refugees, while Democrats disapprove in similar numbers. Slightly more Americans disapprove (51 percent) than approve (45 percent) of President Trump's executive order temporarily banning people from entering the U.S. from seven designated countries…In the CBS News Poll's first measure of Mr. Trump's job performance as president, 40 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing -- the lowest of any president just after his first inauguration since the Gallup Poll began taking those measures in 1953. Some 48 percent disapprove."

POWER PLAY: SUPREME COURT PICK LOOKS LIKE A WINNER
After a disastrous first week, the Trump administration regains ground with a well-executed rollout of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, a contrast to last week's executive order. Washington Free Beacon's Matt Continetti and the New York Post's Daniel Halper recap the week with Chris Stirewalt. WATCH HERE.

AUDIBLE: MAGA, MEET KAG
"'Keep America Great,' exclamation point. Get me my lawyer!" – President Donald Trump in an interview with the WaPo on his new campaign slogan.
 
PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump administration urges Israel to halt West Bank settlement - NYT
 
Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate could cost taxpayers more than $3 million - Politico

DeVos vote set to take place next week - AP

Ryan continues fundraising blitz with new $3.4 million record - WaPo

New Yorker, Vanity Fair pull out of hosting WH correspondent's dinner - Axios

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Fox News Sunday is live from NRG Stadium in Houston and Mr. Sunday has all the latest in politics with Vice President Mike Pence talking about the administration's recent Supreme Court nominee and the pending cabinet nominations, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., giving her party's perspective. 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.
 
FROM THE BLEACHERS
"When and how was the Nuclear Option brought about? Why and when was it used?  Is it a Harry Reid invention?  If it's an option and Democrats are acting like spoiled brats what's the harm in using Nuclear Option? Why wouldn't they want to use it?" – Paula Marshall, Clemson, S.C.

[Ed. note: They call it the nuclear option not just because it was considered extreme when Republicans first threatened it during the Bush administration, because it leave radioactive material after it is deployed. Senate rules required 60 votes to end debate on any measure until 2013 when Democrats, using a simple majority, changed the rules for lower court appointments and other presidential appointees. Republicans maintained that setting when they took back control of the Senate in the 2014 elections and are now putting it to use as they install Trump's cabinet. What is being debated now is whether to extend the blast radius to include the Supreme Court. Republicans feel certain that Democrats would do the same to them when they get the chance in the future and so are feeling rather sanguine about the idea. If and when that moment comes, we can assume the next to fall will be the 60-vote threshold for everything else.]

"With the tightness of the vote to get Neil Gorsuch approved in the Senate, does Sen. Jeff Sessions need to remain a Senator until the vote is taken? Sounds like it may take several months.  How does that affect the workings of the Attorney General's office? Thanks." – Hans Herrmann, Chicago

[Ed. note: Republicans need have no fear about Sessions' seat if he is confirmed, as expected, next week. Alabama's governor has the power to appoint a replacement and has narrowed the list of choices to six candidates, any of whom would stand up and cheer for Gorsuch.]

"Perhaps if Betsy DeVos does not get confirmed Trump could decide not to replace her with another nomination but rather leave the Education Department without a Secretary at all.  He could slowly /quickly or in a lutrine manner transfer some functions to other departments and close it up…PS. My maternal grandfather came from Redfield, W.Va. He raised Bluetick hound dogs and was an avid Raccoon hunter. Do not know if he ever tried hunting the animals in the subfamily Lutrine." – James Shaner, Boulder, Colo.

[Ed. note: It looks like DeVos is over the hump and bound for confirmation next week, but Republicans have long loathed the Department of Education, even before Common Core was a twinkle in Arne Duncan's eye. DeVos, however, seems to be taking a different approach and intends to use the bureaucratic muscle of the agency to advance reform. I don't know Redfield, but I do know that a West Virginia coonhound is the finest. I'd love to know your granddad's secret hunting spot.]

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

BRB
Lancaster Online: "A good Samaritan was an unwitting getaway driver in a bank robbery after offering a ride home to a man he met in a Columbia tavern Monday. Greg Kreiser said he was just trying to help out the man when he expressed hesitation about driving after having a few drinks, and didn't mind as the man asked if they could make a few stops on the way. 'He wanted to stop at Turkey Hill for cigarettes, wanted to check to make sure his car was OK,' Kreiser recalled…One stop Kreiser and his passenger did make was Union Community Bank at the Columbia Shopping Center, just outside Columbia Borough on Route 462. He had no idea as he waited outside, that his passenger — later identified by police as Shannon E. Steckbeck, 50, of York County — was inside robbing the bank. Steckbeck was charged Thursday with robbery, bomb threats and theft, filed by West Hempfield Township police."

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"In a sense, the Obama administration was self-deterred. It was afraid that if it imposed sanctions or if it does anything more drastic, Iran will pull out of the nuclear agreement…So what the Trump administration is doing is saying those days are over." – 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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