Fox News Halftime Report -- GOP family feud turns nasty

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Fox News Halftime Report

August 9, 2017

By Chris Stirewalt


On the roster: GOP family feud turns nasty - Feds raided home of former Trump campaign boss - Trump goes nuclear over Norks - Trump may sell Afghan war to supporter's former firm - Aw, that's just Cousin Dale with his shirt off…

GOP FAMILY FEUD TURNS NASTY
We had wondered for months when the fissures in the Republican Party would turn into ruptures.

President Trump drubbed the Republican establishment in the party's 2016 primaries, but after the Republican National Convention, Trump's hostile takeover morphed into an uneasy merger. 

That deal may be kaput. 

Trump has mostly been a one-man show up to now. Trump-like candidates didn't fare well in 2016, including the notable blowout when of a mini-Trump who ran in a primary against House Speaker Paul Ryan. And in primary elections and other down-ballot contests in special elections, Republican nominees were not sounding very Trump-y at all. 

But starting with the close call for Virginia gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie against a mega-MAGA candidate last month, we have seen signs of increasing fractures. 

This week, the most vulnerable incumbent Republican senator drew a Trump-pumping challenger in Nevada. And in Indiana, one of the GOP's best hopes for a Senate pickup next year, what promises to be a very ugly fight between two congressmen, one of the old line and the other of the red-hat tribe, is already underway. 

And, of course, there is the fratricidal fight in Alabama in the race to serve out the remainder of Attorney General Jeff Sessions former Senate term. That donnybrook is made even more complicated by another instance of Trump-GOP friction, in which the president beleaguered his own attorney general for weeks. 

Appointed incumbent Luther Strange tried to play peacemaker between the two. Challenger Rep. Mo Brooks weighed in on Sessions' side while another challenger, Roy Moore, just hopes that the two big dogs will wear each other out enough to let him slip by. 

While Brooks may be Team Sessions in that feud, he is assailing Strange for being part of the establishment and not supporting things like Trump's call to do away with Senate filibuster rules.  

Now, primary fights in Alabama matter less than in places like Nevada and Indiana since Republicans can probably nominate a basket of fried oysters for Senate in the Yellowhammer State and still stand a pretty good chance of a November victory. But even so, there is a theme developing.

Trump, perhaps grateful for Strange's forbearance, endorsed him on Twitter, a relief for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is trying to protect incumbents as best he can. 

But McConnell's relief would not last long, as the president followed the lead of his social media maven and launched a Twitter attack on McConnell for having told Rotarians in Kentucky that Trump had "excessive expectations" about how quickly Congress could work. 

McConnell is not wrong that artificial, arbitrary deadlines for passing health insurance legislation did more harm than good, especially considering the fact that the president was unclear about what he wanted in the legislative package. 

He might be right, but he's probably not going to be happy. 

McConnell now finds himself in the awkward position of not being able to deliver what Trump wants – party line votes on whatever the he wants – but also without enough clout in his own party to back the bellicose president down. 

Now, this may just be all another Trump Twitter war that amounts to nothing. But we would tend to think that as Congress gets ready to return and faces a slate of must-pass legislation, the chances for open insurrection from either/both the GOP leadership against Trump or Trump enthusiasts in the Congressional rank and file against the leadership.

While it is certainly true that Democrat's chances in 2018 will substantially depend on their ability to sort out intra-party disputes, the feud that's taking shape on the Republican side right now may be just what Democrats need to get back on the good foot for 2018.

THE RULEBOOK: SHEEP COSTUMES 
"For it is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion." – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 25

TIME OUT: GETTING STEAMED 
Charleston, S.C. food writer Hanna Raskin shares a sliver of the history of her profession with a southern flavor. Gravy: "That's food journalism: An eternally complex mass of achievements and mistakes. I could cherry-pick examples from the past century, but it's more instructive to focus on one moment smack dab in the middle: The second annual Virginia Chefs' Tournament, held during the last week of March 1948. The tournament was a cooking competition, designed by the state to showcase Virginia food and its resident ritziest chefs. In many ways, though, it was all about food media. Specifically, it was a study in what food media covered and how they covered it. To serve as judges, the tournament assembled a panel of the nation's top food writers and broadcasters. … Still, the driving force for the second edition of the tournament wasn't Americans' gloom. It was Virginians' outrage."
 
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -23.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 4 points

[President Trump's score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

FEDS RAIDED HOME OF FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN BOSS
Fox News: "FBI agents raided the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman in late July, taking documents and other materials related to the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, Fox News has confirmed. 'FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort's residences,' Manafort's spokesperson Jason Maloni, confirmed to Fox News. 'Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well.' … Armed with a search warrant, federal agents went to Manafort's Alexandria home during the predawn hours of July 26 – one day after he met voluntarily with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The search warrant seems to indicate that investigators may have had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all of the records requested in response to a grand jury subpoena…"

Trump mauls Mueller in public, but nuzzles via backchannel - USA Today: "President Trump has publicly called the widening federal investigation into Russia's election meddling a 'witch hunt.' But through his lawyer, Trump has sent private messages of 'appreciation' to special counsel Robert Mueller. 'He appreciates what Bob Mueller is doing,' Trump's chief counsel John Dowd told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday. 'He asked me to share that with him and that's what I've done.'"

Justice Department audit puts Mueller's team in the clear - NY Mag: "Trump publicly attacked the prosecutors leading the Russia probe for their rampant conflicts of interest, apparently because that's one of the reasons they can be fired under Justice Department regulations. … On Tuesday, the financial disclosures for Trump and seven of his associates were made public, and so far the biggest revelation is that they walked away from a lot of money when they agreed to join the Russia investigation." 

TRUMP GOES NUCLEAR OVER NORKS  
NYT: "President Trump's warning on Tuesday … was a remarkable escalation of military rhetoric with little precedent in the modern era… Mr. Trump's menacing remarks echoed the tone and cadence of President Harry S. Truman, who, in a 1945 address announcing that the United States had dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, urged the Japanese to surrender, warning that if they did not, 'they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.' It is not clear whether Mr. Trump intended the historical parallel — White House officials did not respond to questions about how much planning went into his brief statement, or what was intended by the alliterative language — but it was a stark break with decades of more measured presidential responses to brewing foreign conflicts."

Allies anxious - USA Today: "New Zealand's premier admonished him for remarks 'not helpful' in a 'very tense' environment. … In Japan … Mayor Tomihisa Taue said anxiety was spreading 'that in the not too distant future these weapons could be used again.' … In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also expressed concern with Trump's use of language. … China's foreign ministry appealed for calm and urged Pyongyang and Washington to refrain from using 'any words or actions' that could further aggravate the situation. In Berlin, Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, said Germany wanted to avoid military escalation and to settle the conflict peacefully."

Tillerson tries to calm - Politico: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that 'Americans should sleep well at night,' free from worry that North Korea's ever-progressing nuclear program presents an 'imminent threat' to the United States. … The secretary of state said he did not reconsider rerouting his current Pacific trip away from a planned stop in Guam. … Tillerson was optimistic that recent diplomatic efforts have made headway on putting real pressure on North Korea."

Graham says Trump has 'basically drawn a red line' for North Korea - Politico: "'There are two scenarios where we would go to war with North Korea: if they attack Guam or some other American interest or our allies or if they try to keep developing an ICBM with a nuclear weapon,' [Sen. Lindsey Graham] said on 'CBS This Morning.'" 

McCain: Don't bluff - KTAR: "U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that President Donald Trump must tread cautiously when issuing threats to North Korea if he is unprepared to act. … 'The great leaders I've seen don't threaten unless they're ready to act and I'm not sure President Trump is ready to act,' he said."
 
History lesson: Why Bill Clinton's North Korea deal failed - WaPo: "As Iowa State University professor Young Whan Kihl noted in an article exploring the political ramifications: 'Since the 'Agreed Framework' took the form of a presidential 'executive agreement,' rather than a formal treaty (such as SALT I & II), the U.S. Senate did not need to give 'advise and consent' under the U.S. Constitution. … Some congressmen and senators demanded that the 'agreed framework' be treated as a formal treaty; this move was resisted by the Clinton Administration but, because of the budgetary and appropriation clauses of the agreement, the U.S. Congress was inevitably drawn into the process of implementation and verification of the agreement.'"

TRUMP MAY SELL AFGHAN WAR TO SUPPORTER'S FORMER FIRM
USA Today: "The White House is actively considering a bold plan to turn over a big chunk of the U.S. war in Afghanistan to private contractors in an effort to turn the tide in a stalemated war, according to the former head of a security firm pushing the project. Under the proposal, 5,500 private contractors, primarily former Special Operations troops, would advise Afghan combat forces. The plan also includes a 90-plane private air force that would provide air support in the nearly 16-year-old war against Taliban insurgents, Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm, told USA TODAY. The unprecedented proposal comes as the U.S.-backed Afghan military faces a stalemate in the war and growing frustration by President Trump about the lack of progress in the war. The U.S. military has 8,400 U.S. troops there to train and guide local forces. They do not have a direct combat role, and presumably would be replaced gradually by the contractors."

MODERATE DEMS LAUNCH GROUP TO PUSH PARTY TO CENTER
AP: "Dissatisfied with Democratic fortunes in the era of President Donald Trump, a group of prominent Democrats is forming an organization outside the formal party structure, with the goal of winning again in Republican-dominated middle America. Calling itself New Democracy, the group includes sitting and former governors, former Cabinet members, mayors and lawmakers from Congress to statehouses. Among the affiliated politicians: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, considered a possible future presidential candidate; former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, also a former Iowa governor; and Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, current head of the nonpartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors. 'We have to expand this party, and make it a bigger tent,' saidWill Marshall, the Democratic policy veteran who is running the group."

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
White House reaches back to Bush strategy to push tax cuts - Bloomberg

Pence's real power move: Hiring on political operative Nick Ayers as chief of staff Politico

Could voting fraud panel create an easy target for hackers? - AP

Indiana congressman apes Trump in Senate campaign debut, setting up nasty primary - IndyStar

AUDIBLE: CAPS LOCK WILL REMAIN ON 
"[Trump] was pissed when he read Kelly wanted to control his Twitter feed." – A White House insider talking to WashEx about a misunderstanding between the president and his new chief of staff.  

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"I'm just curious why you referred to Trump's supporters as 'his small but intensely loyal base of supporters'? Is it not possible that his supporters are more than a 'small base', and are waiting patiently for the midterms to change the face of Congress by electing Trump supporters and getting rid of the lying members who campaigned on repealing and replacing the ACA? I do not know if I am part of the small but loyal base for Trump, but I now that I am a Republican who is sick and tired of the career politicians who only seem to care about getting re-elected and could care less about what is best for our country." – Gary Sullivan, Savannah, Ga.

[Ed. note: Politics can be like jewelry, Mr. Sullivan. Size is not necessarily correlative to value. Trump's base is small, relative to most presidents of the recent past. But ask yourself this: Would you rather have broad, lukewarm support or a smaller group of backers who boiled as hot as tea kettles? As Trump and his team prepare for their war against the GOP, you and your fellows constitute a credible threat. It's hard to motivate voters to go to the polls for primary elections, unless they are real activists. You don't need to have a majority of a party to choose a majority of a party's nominees. You just need to get your people to the polls more than the other guys. Not surprisingly, people who are politically moderate are more moderate in their primary voting frequency. Trump's base is small, but it is sure concentrated.]

"We are reminded every year that raising the debt ceiling is needed to cover financial obligations already incurred by the federal government. To not do so will cause the USA to default on its debt obligations. We have been reminded of this fact for decades. The biggest problem we are facing is not about raising the debt limit but about NOT creating new financial obligations that will cause future debt limits increases to be necessary." – Kenneth RuszkowskiWilliamsburg, Va.

[Ed. note: You are not wrong, Mr. Ruszkowski. We caught our current debt limit ailment in 2007 when the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans were looking for ways to circumvent Democratic efforts to block funding for the Iraq war. That's when Congress stopped doing budgets and started doing stopgap funding measures, the kind on which we still subsist. Previously, debt bumps were part of budget talks and, rightly so. Talking about how much more you're going to borrow should seemingly be related to how much more you're going to spend. Both parties have come to like the fiscal irresponsibility allowed by divorcing those two related subjects, but everyone hates one of the symptoms: Fiscal cliffs that terrify markets and lead to panicky solutions. Our government functions like we are a pauper nation, instead of the richest country in the world.]

"Chris, I just love your sense of humor. What a terrific quote from The Federalist Papers, to wit: 'The science of politics, however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement.' I just cracked up laughing. All I could think of was that before he got shot to death, poor Alexander never had the privilege of meeting such stalwarts as Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and other 'greatly improved political denizens of our time.'" – Bill Panagakos, Santa Fe, N.M.

[Ed. note: Good point, Mr. Panagakos. One of the most damaging conceits of modern social science is that society is evolutionary in the same way as biology. If humans are superior to mudpuppies, then modern societies must be superior to what came before. Even a casual observation of human history suggests this is not the case and that cultural development and progress, if evaluated for its improvement of the human condition and the liberty of individuals to seek their own happiness, does not have an arc. It squiggles and doubles back and sometimes soars and sometimes flat lines. Nothing is promised as it relates to our future as a species, and that means the choices we make matter.]

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

AW, THAT'S JUST COUSIN DALE WITH HIS SHIRT OFF…
Tribune Media: "A police department in South Carolina issued a warning to residents after there was an alleged Bigfoot sighting in a nearby county. On Tuesday, the Greenville Police Department in South Carolina posted this on its Facebook page: 'If you see Bigfoot, please do not shoot at him/her, as you'll most likely be wounding a fun-loving and well-intentioned person, sweating in a gorilla costume.' A group that investigates Bigfoot sightings, called Bigfoot 911, reported seeing 'a large bipedal animal covered in hair' in McDowell County, North Carolina Friday night. John Bruner, of Bigfoot 911, said seven people were out in the woods with glow sticks, which they believe entice Bigfoot, the Charlotte Observer reported. According to WYFF, Bruner wrote in the closed Bigfoot 911 Facebook group that his team 'hit pay dirt' Friday… Unconvinced by news of Friday's expedition, they posted on Facebook, 'I think we can say with some confidence that proof of Bigfoot still eludes us.'"

 


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