Fox News Halftime Report -- Oh really, Bubba?

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Fox News Halftime Report

July 14, 2017

By Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: Oh really, Bubba? - Fresh failure by Team Trump keeps Russia story alive - Senate ObamaCare cuts dangling by a thread - House votes to keep transgender military policies - **Screams silently**

OH REALLY, BUBBA?
If it had been somebody else, we would call it a gaffe, but since it was Bill Clinton, we know better. 

The former president, speaking at an event with his successor, George W. Bush, mused on the question of what makes a winning campaign, and offered a stinging rebuke of candidates that happened to sound exactly like his wife. 

"Yeah, you have to win the election, but why in the heck are you running?" Clinton asked rhetorically. He said it wasn't enough to simply disparage the other candidate, ahem, but one had to have a real agenda that voters could understand. 

"If you want to be president, you have to realize it's about the people, not about you," said the husband of the woman who ran on "I'm with her."

The 42nd president has a special gift for accidentally stating brutally honest truths about his wife's campaigns, as well as the politics and policies of Barack Obama

Put in a forum like this, something usually slips out. If they gave medals for effective deployment of passive aggression, Clinton would be the most decorated American in public life today. 

It is a little quaint, though, to be lectured on purposeful, policy-oriented campaigning from a guy who made ideological fecklessness into a prized virtue. Clintonian pragmatism may have tended to moderate the liberal bent of Democrats since the Vietnam era, but it was just about going where the voters were. 

Suffice it to say that he would not have won the Democratic nomination running on cutting welfare, keeping gay soldiers in the closet and rolling back Wall Street regulations. 

A less lofty version of what Clinton said this week might be better said as "tell people what they want to hear." 

It is especially ironic that a guy who helped break the back of the Democratic Party in order to save himself would intone against self-centered politicians. He would know better than to have a campaign as grossly self-centered as his wife's, but the end goal of Clintonism was only ever Clinton himself.

When we cast our eyes back over the past 30 years in politics, both sides can agree that the impeachment of Clinton was a shattering moment.
 
Democrats will tell you that it was when toxic Republican partisanship overtook the GOP. Whatever truth there is in that, it is also true that it was during that impeachment, Democrats just as fully embrace the concept of party over everything. And they did it all to save Bill Clinton. 

With his various lies and false denials, and those of his team, Clinton made fools out of many in his party. But he drained them of their dignity so slowly that many did not notice, and some still haven't yet. 

History now recalls that sex-crazed, hypocritical, hyper-partisan, Gingrichian Republicans and their TorquemadaKen Starr, tried to oust a sitting president for receiving the fellative ministrations of a woman who was not his wife. To say that this was well-executed spin by the president and his team understates the genius of the dishonesty. 

There's no reason to rehash all the details, but if you would have told the Democratic members of the Senate at the outset that the president had engaged in a variety of innovative sexual acts with a 21-year-old intern, has engaged in these assignations in the Oval Office, lied about it and sought to cover it up, they would have demanded he resign at once. 

While it is true that the first rule of scandal is to make a full disclosure once caught, that is only in a compartmental sense. You don't want to do what the current administration has done and be contradicted repeatedly on one part of the scandal, but there is such a thing as coming clean too quickly. 

By dragging out the horrible process of his admission, defense, counterattack and public rehabilitation, Clinton wore down Democrats' sense of outrage. By the end, the facts didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was that Clinton stay in power because he was better than those other, awful bastards. 

Listening to Republicans these days, you can feel the same sluiceway opening up. The speed with which some – including the current president – have gone from adamant denials of misconduct, to saying that the other guys are hypocrites, to saying that it's really the smart thing to do has been stunning. It's been the Clinton strategy, but set on fast-forward.
 
Perhaps fittingly, the reason that so many of the defenders of the current president will stand by their man in the face of any trouble is the depths of hatred they have against Clinton and his wife for their successful execution of the same gambit 20 years ago. In the eyes of some Republicans, no act could be too sleazy to stop the Clintons from returning to the White House – even acting like the Clintons themselves.

Clinton may want to talk today about the politics of meaning and connecting with voters on policy, but his legacy on issues is as faint a whisper as his own voice has become. But on savage partisanship and brazen defiance in the face of scandal, it roars as loud as it ever did. 

THE RULEBOOK: FRIENDLY NEIGHBORS 
"In times of insurrection, or invasion, it would be natural and proper that the militia of a neighboring State should be marched into another, to resist a common enemy, or to guard the republic against the violence of faction or sedition." – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 29

TIME OUT: MORE THAN SURVIVAL
Cancer robbed author David Wong Louie of the ability to eat – the chewing and swallowing and tasting of food. He has survived the past six years taking sustenance through a feeding tube. He offers a powerful meditation on the meaning of eating. Harpers:  "At home, in my kitchen, I watch the dog eat. She puts her head down and doesn't come up for air until she's emptied the bowl. All day she wants food, and as soon as food arrives, it's gone. She has all that mouth, all those teeth, all that jaw, and she doesn't chew, just mindlessly inhales the premium kibble. It's textbook carnivore behavior, I know, brutal at its core, tear and swallow, take in the largest hunks that won't choke you. All the dog does is ingest a substance for the sole purpose of loading up the gastrointestinal tract: the same joyless thing that I do. Breathe, I would tell her, if I could. Sniff. Relish the chicken-and-liver recipe. Chew."
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with
your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -12.2 points
Change from one week ago: +1 point

POWER PLAY: FRENCH FRIED
Chris Stirewalt welcomes two new players to the Power Play news and trivia quiz! Matthew Continetti, editor of the Washington Free Beacon and Democratic campaign guru Joe Trippi put their minds to the test in this week's quiz. Test your knowledge of WWI history against these rookies. WATCH HERE

FRESH FAILURE BY TEAM TRUMP KEEP RUSSIA STORY ALIVE
AP: "A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump's son, marking another shift in the account of a discussion that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican's White House campaign. Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday. Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies, though he denies ever working as an intelligence agent. He told the AP that he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but was never formally trained as a spy. The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump's campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the election, which is the focus of federal and congressional investigations. … While [Donald] Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he did not disclose Akhmetshin's presence. The president's son has tried to discount the meeting, saying that he did not receive the information he was promised."

Claim: Offer of help with DNC dirt came days before hacked emails hit - Daily Caller: "A former Soviet military intelligence officer told the Associated Press on Friday that a Russian lawyer he accompanied to a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower offered to provide information about illicit financial activity carried out by the Democratic National Committee. Nine days later, on June 18, Guccifer 2.0, the hacker believed to be a front for Russian spy agencies, dropped a bombshell. 'NEW DOCS FROM DNC NETWORK: LOTS OF FINANCIAL REPORTS AND DONORS' PERSONAL DATA,' was the headline plastered across the Guccifer 2.0 website."

Why Russian lawyer was in the US - CBS News: "In October 2015, [Natalia] Veselnitskaya represented Denis Katsyv in a money laundering suit against his company, Prevezon. … Veselnitskaya's application for a visa to travel to the U.S. to work on the case was denied, she said in a later court filing. Instead, the Department of Justice granted Katsyv and Veselnitskaya immigration parole. … The U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York granted Veselnitskaya immigration parole in October 2015, setting an expiration date of January 7, 2016, DOJ attorneys later told the court."

Trump to put Washington ultra-insider atop Russia response team - Bloomberg: "President Donald Trump plans to put a veteran Washington lawyer, Ty Cobb, in charge of overseeing the White House's legal and media response to investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Top administration officials want someone to enforce discipline in the White House regarding Russia matters -- and that includes the president, who frequently vents his frustrations about the investigations on Twitter, a White House official said."

Gee thanks, bro… - Politico: "Jared Kushner [who reportedly revealed the existence of his brother-in-law's undisclosed meeting] has been pressing other White House aides to more vigorously defend the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer that Kushner also attended, but has faced resistance from some of Trump's top press aides, according to six sources familiar with the matter. Four White House officials and two outside advisers say Kushner wants the White House to more aggressively push out surrogates and talking points to change the narrative around the latest twist in the Russia scandal."
 
SENATE OBAMACARE CUTS DANGLING BY A THREAD
Politico: "Two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paulof Kentucky, said Thursday afternoon they will oppose a procedural vote next week to bring the bill to the floor. GOP leaders are putting immense pressure on about half a dozen other Republican senators not to join them and topple the entire effort. Another 'no' is enough to kill the bill, and would also likely lead to mass defections. The Trump administration is also lobbying intensely for the bill, the latest version of which was released Thursday. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma spent Thursday trying to convince centrist senators to reconsider their opposition to prior drafts of the bill. Republicans are also hoping Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) can convince Sen.Mike Lee (R-Utah) to back the measure after Lee said it was 'unclear' if this version is better than the last. Majority Whip John Cornyn acknowledged GOP leaders don't have the minimum 50 votes right now but insisted, 'We're making good progress.'"

Senate Republicans exempt own health coverage from proposal -Vox: "Senate Republicans included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan. This exemption could have the effect of ensuring that members of Congress have coverage for a wider array of benefits than other Americans who purchase their own coverage. A Senate Republican aide confirmed that the exemption existed but was unable to comment as to the specific effect it would have. The aide said it was included to ensure that the bill hewed to the chamber's strict reconciliation rules that limit the policies this health bill can include. The exemption is similar to the one that existed in the House health bill. After Vox reported on its existence, the House voted to close the loophole — and the Senate aide expected their chamber to follow the same path."

Trump places pressure from France via Twitter storm - Politico:"President Donald Trump turned up the pressure Friday morning on Senate Republicans, urging them via Twitter to make good on a years-old campaign promise by passing legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. … 'Republicans Senators are working hard to get their failed ObamaCare replacement approved. I will be at my desk, pen in hand!' Trump, who is in France attending Bastille Day celebrations with French President Emmanuel Macron, wrote on Twitter Friday morning. 'So impt Rep Senators, under leadership of @SenateMajLdr McConnell get healthcare plan approved. After 7yrs of O'Care disaster, must happen!'"

Five takeaways from the GOP's healthcare reboot - The Hill: "It includes a provision key to earning conservative support… An amendment pushed for weeks by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) could go a long way… Medicaid cuts are largely kept in place. … The updated legislation left the deep Medicaid cuts from the first version of the bill essentially unchanged… The bill includes more money to combat the opioid crisis. … $45 billion. … The bill keeps ObamaCare taxes on high earners. … Republicans reversed from their initial draft and decided to keep ObamaCare's taxes on high earners. Much of ObamaCare would remain. … It keeps the structure of ObamaCare's tax credits to help lower income Americans afford insurance in place, though they would be less generous. A tax on high earners would remain. In short, it's not a straight repeal of the law."

HOUSE VOTES TO KEEP TRANSGENDER MILITARY POLICIES
WashEx: "A majority in the House voted down a proposal to restrict funding for transgender members of the military, standing by social policy changes enacted by the Pentagon under former President Barack Obama. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., succeeded in forcing a vote, arguing that Obama's 'transgender decision is costly in dollars and short on common sense.' The attempted rollback failed on a 209-214 vote, however, as 24 Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in opposing the proposal. 'The Obama transgender policy, which was implemented without input from members of Congress, is ill-conceived…' Hartzler said in June. … Her amendment would have barred the Defense Department from 'provid[ing] medical treatment (other than mental health treatment) related to gender transition' to members of the military. Proponents of transgender military service argued that her proposal 'would reduce military readiness' by discouraging transgender Americans from serving."

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Poll: Public thinks current replacement plan doesn't fulfill promises President Trump made about health care Kaiser Family Foundation

Ryan says the House will reconsider the dress code - AP

Hawaii judge allows grandparents and others to bypass Trump refugee ban -Politico

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This Sunday, Chris Wallace sits down with the face of President Trump's legal team Jay Sekulow to talk about all things Russia. Also on deck, Wallace discusses passing the healthcare reform bill with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. 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.

AUDIBLE: WE ARE FAMILY 
"He's a brother from a different mother." – Former President George W. Bush joked with former President Bill Clinton during a conversation at the graduation ceremony for the 2017 class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"So, please explain to me why the Republican majority is compelled to bail out the ACA should a repeal/replace bill fail? If the Democrats won't participate, why not just let them own the failed system? Why must the Republicans come along and provide additional funds to save a system they had nothing to do with in the first place? Why not just let the failure play out and say 'see, we told you so?' After all, the Democrats made their bed, why not just let them sleep in it?" – Paul Sellers, Atascadero, Calif.

[Ed. note: Mr. Sellers, "see we told you so" is the single worst campaign motto I can imagine (maybe other than "I'm with her"). The people who would lose their health insurance or face crippling premium increases would not all be Democrats. There would be lots of Trump voters who were forced to abandon their old plans in favor of ObamaCare exchanges. Imagine that Republicans would say to them "we couldn't figure out how to fix the program so you're just going to have to suffer. But at least we were right eight years ago." Democrats make a mistake by failing to present policy alternatives in the minority, but don't kid yourself: If Republicans choke on this voters will have no hesitation about turning out incumbents again.]

"I'm befuddled... explain to me why the GOP majority can't just play a zero sum game and repeal [ObamaCare] outright without a full-scale ['TrumpCare'] replacement? It seems so easy; all they have to do is hit the reset button, and the marketplace returns to 2009. If necessary, pass separate, one-off market reforms. E.g. separate bills for ideas such as plans across state lines, risk pools, a separate Medicaid fix that levels the playing field for all 50 states, etc. They stand or die on their own, let the chips fall where they may across party lines. This way, the GOP can walk away saying that they kept their promise. And yes, where are the cost comparisons not for what a GOP bill might spend, but what that cost is against leaving [ObamaCare] intact and how many millions lose complete access to any health insurance." – Jeff SmithStatesboro, Ga.

[Ed. note: It does seem so easy, Mr. Smith, until we remember that the Republicans do not agree among themselves what that replacement would look like. The problem here is not Democratic intransigence, its Republican disagreement. You can't get 51 Republicans to vote for a repeal unless you can get them to agree on what the replacement is. There are a considerable number that would rather have the existing system than face the possibility that replacement legislation fails and leaves millions out of luck. One of the biggest fundamental changes for the Republican Party in 2016 was that it ceased to be the party opposed to guaranteed universal coverage when it nominated Donald Trump. No issue has animated the GOP more than health insurance in the past decade, but the party's members nominated in that time first the author of the state-level model for the federal program who then shied away from too-harsh attacks on the law and then in 2016 a proponent of universal coverage. Whatever ways in which ObamaCare sputters, stutters and stalls the great success of the law, as it turns out, is in getting the Republican Party to accept as a federal obligation the provision of health insurance.]

"Hi Chris! Perhaps you can clear this up. It used to be, that Republican States were affiliated with the color Blue, and Democrat States, Red. When, why and how did that change?" – Bill HodgesOakland, Calif.

[Ed. note: Great question, Mr. Hodges! Like much of our modern political world it was the 2000 election that changed it. There had been no set convention for color coding the parties, and you are right that very often the GOP was depicted as the Blue Team. By 1992, most networks had settled on red for Republicans and blue for Democrats, presumably out of a herd mentality. But it wasn't until 2000 that Americans really began to see themselves as living in red states or blue states. But, for anyone over the age of 25, they know why. As Florida hung in the balance between George W. Bush and Al Gore that color code became enormously important. The growth of online coverage and the obsession with charts and maps helped too.]

"I have been preaching the same thing for years, and I have to wonder what the local voter turn-out rates might be if more people took this advice to heart. I believe that the apathy toward national elections is harmful to our collective participation in the Great Self-Governance Experiment we've been engaged in for the last couple centuries. There is much wisdom to be gained from hearing from your local candidates at the county fair, like in the olden days…plus, you might run into some good barbeque! BTW, this is Thursday. Can't wait to retrieve the White County News from the mailbox." – Steve SmithCleveland, Ga.

[Ed. note: Hear, hear, Mr. Smith! Henry David Thoreau said "That government is best which governs least." (No, it was not Thomas Jefferson, even if it sounds like him.) But it might better be said that if the government that governs best governs closest to its constituents. Some things, like raising an army, require the contributions of the entire country. But, our system envisions devolving decision making power, including on taxation and expenditure, to as close to the application as reasonably possible. Democrats are rediscovering their love of federalism as they battle with the Trump administration, but it has always been so that the more issues that can be resolved on the local and state level the better able to central government is to deal with its own unique set of issues.]

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

**SCREAMS SILENTLY**
Oregon Live: "In a scene straight out of your nightmares, a truck full of 'slime eels' lost its load Thursday on U.S. 101, causing a five-car crash, dousing sedans with goo and sending sea creatures slithering across vehicles and the highway. Technically, the fish were not eels, but hagfish, which have a skull but no jaw or spine and they secrete slime when distressed, earning them the nickname 'slime eels.' And distressed they were, emitting gooey stuff that will make you shiver in your sandals and that covered 101 along with the 7,500 pounds of fish. The Oregon State Police tweeted photos of extensively damaged, slimy sedans. It was a decidedly disgusting scene best avoided by travelers. …  Also, according to smithsonianmag.com, to prevent choking on its own slime, a hagfish can 'sneeze' out its slime-filled nostril, and tie its body into a knot to keep the slime from dripping onto its face."  

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"I don't think it's illegal. I don't think anybody's claiming that it's illegal. But it does, the one thing it does do, it totally undermines a six-month story from the White House to which I was sympathetic that there wasn't any collusion. This was a bungled collusion." – Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."

 


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