Fox News Halftime Report -- Trump’s learning curve collides with campaign hype

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Fox News Halftime Report

April 24, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: Trump's learning curve collides with campaign hype - Democrats in turmoil over pro-life candidate - Trump distances himself from campaign 'contract' - Former rivals unite to block Le Pen in French runoff - Potatoes O'Titleist 

TRUMP'S LEARNING CURVE COLLIDES WITH CAMPAIGN HYPE
One continual point of amazement for President Trump in his still-brief tenure has been the sheer size of the government which he leads.

In his very revealing interview with AP's Julie Pace, Trump revisits his astonishment at the scope of the enterprise: "This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world," Trump said. "It's massive. And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility." 
 
Trump went on to say that another key difference he observed from his time in the business world and in government is the need for "heart." In business, Trump concluded, it's bad to care about people. In government, he said, it is important to "love people."
 
Think about these realizations in the context of a very smart piece by Matt Bai last week in which he argued that the concept of "100 days" was particularly useless as it related to Trump.

Bai observed that because Trump didn't expect to win and had no real understanding of how the federal government operated, he neglected his transition effort. And the one that took place in the wake of his surprise victory was slapdash.

Instead of spending the period from Election Day to Inauguration Day putting the finishing touches on an agenda and a staff that had been years in the making, Trump was starting from scratch.

And there is reason to think, based on comments like the ones he gave to the AP and some pretty stunning reversals on personnel and policy, that only since taking office has Trump really begun to absorb what the presidency is and what the government does.

Unfortunately for the president, this is shaping up to be the week that defines the opening half of his term in office.

It didn't have to be that way.

Trump is 18 for 55 on the individual campaign promises for achievements within his first 100 days. He's made some progress of 11 of the remaining 37, but no matter what, Trump is going to dramatically miss the mark he set for himself.

And it might have been reasonable for him to have said, "so what?"

Trump has been just as unashamed about reversals and seeming contradictions as president as he was as a candidate and, before that, as a businessman.

One of the great frustrations about Trump is that you can't nail him down on issues – a changeability that sometimes veers into incoherence. But that also happens to be his single greatest political asset. He is, like it says in the book of Lamentations, "new every morning."

Somebody told Trump to make a "Contract with the American Voter," (looking at you Newt Gingrich) in a bid to shore up wobbly conservatives. Trump would bind himself to his agenda in advance and then the right would hold him to account.

That's not how it's going to happen.
 
As the WaPo/ABC News poll shows, even as Trump reinvents himself in office, there is no discernable alarm among his voters. Though it is probably also a reflection of how execrable Hillary Clinton's candidacy was, the fact that the poll shows Trump doing better now with 2016 voters than he did before Election Day says a lot.
 
There are limits, yes, and we may find some as Trump goes forward with his proposals on health insurance and taxes, but so far, voters seem to have accepted Trump for who he is: a political novice who is trying to invent himself as a national leader. After all, he delivered on the biggest reason for his victory on day one simply by not being Clinton.
 
What ought to worry Trump in the poll is the fact that his presidency is changing the electorate. The intense ire from the left and anxieties on the right are obviously motivating voters who sat out 2016 or voted for neither Trump nor Clinton.

But Trump won't have time to develop the record and coalition he will need to survive the coming storms in 2018 if he screws up this week in an arbitrary bid for consistency. This would be a very unfortunate time for Trump to develop a political conscience.
 
There are signs from the White House that the president is backing away from the idea of trying to jam through a health insurance bill this week, which should encourage the president's fans.

There's time to still do something more than punt on ObamaCare, but not if TrumpCare fails for a second time in two months.

Similarly, Trump team's threats to shut down the government over a stopgap funding bill if it doesn't reflect the president's agenda seem to be coming with more of a wink today.

It's hard to imagine how bad the damage would be for a party that can't keep the government open while in full control of Washington, but rest assured it would cast a shadow on every day between now and next November.
 
And remember, if Democrats win the House next year, they will almost surely impeach Trump.
 
That's a pretty big risk to take just to make good on some promises that Trump made at the end of a long-shot presidential bid and at the encouragement of some advisors.

Better to have one bad Friday than roast the rest of your presidency on that particular bonfire.

THE RULEBOOK: YIN AND YANG
"Two motives preponderated in that opposition: one, a jealousy entertained of our future power; and the other, the interest of certain individuals of influence in the neighboring States, who had obtained grants of lands under the actual government of that district." – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 7

TIME OUT: PUT THE NEEDLE ON THE RECORD
Damon Krukowski
examines the transition of sound from analog to digital in his book "The New Analog." Paris Review: "Analog sound reproduction is tactile. … Meaning: you hear these media being played. Surface noise and tape hiss are not flaws in analog media but artifacts of their use. … They are the sound of time, measured by the rotation of a record or reel of tape… The switch to digital media for music seems obviously disruptive now, but in the mid-eighties, it was so anodyne my musician friends and I hardly took notice. … The sensation of first hearing a CD of a recording I had memorized—together with the surface noises on my copy of the LP, and in this case also the (different) surface noises on my bandmate's copy—was something like driving a late-model car designed for a smooth ride rather than my rusting Fiat 128… Just as in a big new American car, I could no longer feel the surface."

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

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -14.4 points
Change from one week ago: -1.4
 
[Ed. note: Please welcome back to the lineup our "Scoreboard" feature. We now need it to track ongoing changes in the president's job-approval rating, a metric he obviously pays close attention to – as do his friends and foes in Washington. We get our score by taking the average approval and disapproval in the five most-recent, methodologically sound public polls. His score is the average approval minus the average disapproval. A score of "even" would be quite sound. Anything more than 10 points in the positive would be, by historical standards, very strong. Anything more than 10 points negative, by the same standard, is very weak. As we get closer to midterm elections, we will also be adding a test for generic congressional vote.]

DEMOCRATS IN TURMOIL OVER PRO-LIFE CANDIDATE
Fox News: "Democrats no longer have a choice about being pro-choice. So says Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, who drew a swift rebuke from Republicans and a public swipe from a top leader of his own party after declaring Friday that 'every Democrat' should be pro-choice -- no exceptions. Asked Sunday if a Democratic politician could be pro-life, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was unequivocal. 'Of course,' Pelosi told NBC's 'Meet The Press.' … The controversy originated after a DNC "Unity Tour" stop last week in Nebraska, where DNC Deputy Chairman Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., appeared with a former state senator who had once supported a bill requiring an abortion-seeking woman to "be told of her right to request a list of places she can get a free ultrasound." The ex-senator, Heath Mello, is now an Omaha mayoral candidate."

[Bloomberg's Francis Wilkinson explains what to make of "Democrats in disarray."]

Obama returns to the stage, but treads lightly about Trump - Chicago Tribune: "President Barack Obama lifted the veil on his retirement Monday at a University of Chicago forum, engaging students with a message calling on them to use empathy and listen to those with whom they disagree. 'I have to say that there's a reason why I'm always optimistic when things look like they're sometimes not going the way I want. And that is because of young people like this,' Obama said in wrapping up the 80-minute forum… Indeed, there were no direct references to Trump, the Republican-controlled Congress or the continued attempts to repeal and replace his signature Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, or a host of executive orders the new president has used to overturn Obama policies. Instead, the discussion with six younger people, including four students, featured Obama largely delivering bromides from a historical perspective of his years as an organizer, state senator, U.S. senator and president."

TRUMP DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM CAMPAIGN 'CONTRACT'
AP: "'It's a different kind of a presidency,' [President Trump] said in an Oval Office interview with The Associated Press, an hour-long conversation as he approached Saturday's key presidential benchmark. … Although he retained his signature bravado and a salesman's confidence in his upward trajectory, he displayed an understanding that many of his own lofty expectations for his first 100 days in office have not been met. 'It's an artificial barrier. It's not very meaningful,' he said. Trump waffled on whether he should be held accountable for the 100-day plan he outlined with great fanfare in his campaign's closing days, suggesting his 'Contract with the American Voter' wasn't really his idea to begin with. 'Somebody put out the concept of a 100-day plan,' he said."

FORMER RIVALS UNITE TO BLOCK LE PEN IN FRENCH RUNOFF 
Reuters: "France's outgoing president, Francois Hollande, on Monday urged people to back centrist Emmanuel Macron in a vote to choose his successor next month and reject far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose place in the runoff represented a "risk" for France. Macron and Le Pen, leader of the National Front, go head-to-head on May 7 after taking the top two places in Sunday's first round. Opinion polls indicate that the business-friendly Macron, who has never held elected office, will take at least 61 percent of the vote against Le Pen after two defeated rivals pledged to back him to thwart her eurosceptic, anti-immigrant platform. Hollande, a Socialist nearing the end of five years of unpopular rule, threw his weight behind his former economy minister in a televised address, saying Le Pen's policies were divisive and stigmatised sections of the population. … Le Pen needs to avoid a repetition of 2002, when her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, surprisingly made the second round, but was then humiliated by right-wing president Jacques Chirac as mainstream parties united to block a party they considered racist and anti-Semitic."

France's presidential election reveals new divide - WaPo: "True to the spirit of 1789, the revolutionary French are a step ahead of everyone else. On Sunday, they became the first large Western country to ditch, in a major election, the center-right/center-left political-party structure that has dominated European politics since the Second World War. Neither Emmanuel Macron nor Marine Le Pen, the two candidates who emerged from the first round of voting for the French presidency, belongs to the old gauche or the old droite. Neither will have a major parliamentary party behind his or her program. Neither, as president, would represent a continuation of the status quo. If the most important political divide, in France as almost everywhere else, was once over the size of the state, the new political divide is not really about economics at all. It is about different visions of the identity of France itself."

Violence erupts in response to election outcome - Fox News: "Police detained 29 people in Paris on Sunday after 'anti-fascist' demonstrators became violent – hurling glass bottles and firecrackers and setting cars ablaze. Six officers and three demonstrators were injured during the protests at the Place de la Bastille. Several businesses sustained damage, Agence-France Presse reported. At least three people were arrested. Many of the left-wing protesters said they were angry at the first-round results of the presidential election in which centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen emerged as the two top vote getters. 'We have come here to protest against the pantomime of this election,' a protester told AFP."

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump to host entire U.S. Senate for briefing on North Korea Wednesday - Fox News

The kid stays in the picture: Trump reportedly said he wouldn't fire Spicer because of "great ratings" - WaPo
Poll: Americans say government needs to do more, not less - NBC News

Uneasiness about Trump agenda colors GOP views on 2018 - Politico

Secretary Mattis takes a surprise trip to Afghanistan - AP

Senate to confirm Sonny Purdue as agriculture secretary - AP

Steve Bannon's West Coast, pre-Trump life - The New Yorker

Swampy: Trump campaign vets rake in big bucks lobbying - USA Today

AUDIBLE: SO YOU'RE SAYING YOU THINK IT WAS GOOD?
"A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber." – President Trump said in an interview with AP in regards to his joint address to Congress.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"Zell Miller was the last Democrat Senator from Georgia. Thanks so much for the great job you do on the Half Time Report. I always enjoy your reasonable take on matters political.... or even the ones not so political." – Marge Peterson, Salinas, Calif.
 
[Ed. note: Another satisfied Power Play viewer! Thanks for playing along with our panel last week. People forget that Georgia has never been exactly a bright-red state like its neighbors Alabama and South Carolina. Democrats herald a more-competitive climate in the peach state because of changing demography, but as recently as 2003, Georgia's governor and both of its Senators were all Democrats and its House delegation was almost evenly divided as recently as 2013.]

"I can't help but wonder how many of your readers understood your Les Nessman reference [in the headline about Friday's Kicker] before the egg drop story. I started to laugh again as I thought of his boss, after throwing live turkeys out of a helicopter and seeing them splat on the ground, saying 'As God is my witness I thought turkeys could fly.'" – Mike Wiater, Colorado Springs, Colo.

[Ed. note: "WKRP in Cincinnati" remains one of my truly favorite shows. As a boy the show, even in syndication, seemed rebellious and counter-cultural. We can all agree that the episode "Turkeys Away" is sitcom perfection.]

"[Friday's note was] [s]uper-depressing to read, but no doubt true.  Hope you can do a follow-up article saying something good about Trump's presidency.  There must be something . . ." – Marcia Stone, Denver, Colo.

[Ed. note: "Good" and "bad" are subjective terms, but if you are a Trump voter there is lots to be happy about, particularly a new Supreme Court justice, a crackdown on illegal immigration and a roll back of Obama-administration policies on a host of issues. Less subjective is the question of success or failure. Whether you think that Ronald Reagan's policies were helpful or hurtful, no one can say that his term in office was not successful in so far as he helped remake American politics and shifted the ideological axis of the government for a generation, at least. You could say something similar about Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson. You could also say that presidents who were stewards rather than agents of change were successful too, like Dwight Eisenhower or Bill Clinton. At the end of their terms they were both popular and the country was prosperous. Trump's challenge is that neither he nor the rest of us can seem to figure out where he wants to take his government. He ran as an agent of massive change but seems to be shying away from some of the most radical departures he promised. But neither is the country in the mood for a stewardship presidency, with voters demanding change on a host of issues. It will be up to Americans to decide for themselves if what Trump is doing is "good" or "bad," but if Trump wants to be successful he will have to figure out exactly what Trumpism is, explain it to the rest of the political hierarchy and the American people and then get busy putting it into place.]

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

POTATOES O'TITLEIST
WGHP: "A food company is recalling frozen hash browns that may have pieces of golf balls in them. McCain Foods USA announced Friday it is voluntarily recalling Harris Teeter Brand, 2 lb. Bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns and Roundy's Brand, 2 lb. Bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns. The company said the 'frozen hash brown products that may be contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials' that may have been 'inadvertently harvested with potatoes used to make this product.' No injuries have been reported, but the products may pose a choking hazard or other physical injury to the mouth, according to McCain Foods USA."



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