AMAZINGLY UNGRACIOUS ERA
First, please stipulate that the very idea of a State of the Union address is a concept that should have gone out with top hats on Inauguration Day.
We will not assault your eyes with another lamentation of this overstuffed overwrought and mostly meaningless ritual. But suffice to say it is so far out of whack with its intended purpose as a duty of the executive to the legislative branch as to be laughable.
It’s supposed purpose in the television age is to give the president an opportunity to lay out his vision for the coming year, and exhort Congress to action. Almost invariably, though, these speeches turn into laundry lists and brag sheets.
But all the same these addresses provide helpful waypoints to check a president’s progress. So let’s do that, shall we?
It’s hard to remember now what Washington was like at this time seven years ago. The city was brimming with energy and excitement ahead of the inauguration. Even people who had opposed Obama welcomed the end of the Bush era and the start of something new. Republicans were terrified and desperate for ways to show they would work with the president. They were afraid to oppose him; sounds hilarious now.
But starting the first month with his stimulus, and plowing right into ObamaCare despite widespread opposition, all that quickly changed.
He plunged ahead using party line votes and procedural tricks and managed to set the template for the seven years to come: uncompromising and unproductive. Simply put, by being ungracious, Obama let his opponents off the hook. He tried to crush them but instead forged a hard and unyielding resistance. Welcome to House minority, Democrats.
Occasional triumphs, like killing Usama Bin Laden only occasionally bubbled Obama back to majority support, quickly deflated by the next partisan gambit. His grind-it-out, scorched earth election of 2012 was a fitting midway point. He became the first president re-elected with a smaller electoral vote margin than he was originally elected.
By the time we made it to the signal moments – the revelation of the “if you like it you can keep it” bologna, the ISIS debacle and the 2014 midterm pummeling – it all seemed to be reading from the same old script. Obama was right. He was just sorry you weren’t smart enough to understand.
So he arrives here drained of his power as an inspirational figure to all but his true loyalists and more of a cautionary tale about what happens to a politician who preaches hope, but doesn’t really hold it in his heart.
[Watch the Fox News Channel for the best analysis before and after the 9 p.m. ET speech]
Hillary breaks with Obama on deportation raids - Fox News: “Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton joined her rivals Monday in opposing the Obama administration’s deportation raids targeting Central American immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally and ignored deportation orders. Speaking at a forum aimed at young and minority voters in Iowa, Clinton said the raids had ‘sown fear and division in immigrant communities across the country. People are afraid to go to work. They are afraid to send their kids to school. They are afraid to go to the hospital, or even the grocery store.’”
Biden says Hillary ‘relatively new’ to inequality issue - The Hill: “Vice President [Joe] Biden heaped praise on Hillary Clinton's chief opponent in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for his ‘deep and real’ focus on income inequality…‘I think that Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real. And he has credibility on that,’ Biden said Monday in an interview with CNN. Asked about the fact Hillary has spoken about the issue too, Biden replied ‘it's relatively new for Hillary to talk about that.’ ‘Hillary's focus has been on other things up to now,’ he added. ‘No one questions Bernie's authenticity on those issues.’”
Sanders says the Hillary camp is ‘in serious trouble’ - WaPo: “Bernie Sanders declared Monday that the presidential campaign of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is in ‘serious trouble,’ suggesting that tightening polls in Iowa have prompted her recent attacks on his positions on guns and health care. ‘I think a candidate who was originally thought to be the anointed candidate, to be the inevitable candidate, is now locked in a very difficult race,’ the senator from Vermont told reporters.”
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
National Geographic: “The biggest sea-dwelling crocodile ever found has turned up in the Tunisian desert. The whopper of a prehistoric predator grew to over 30 feet long (nearly ten meters) and weighed three tons. Paleontologists have dubbed the new species Machimosaurus rex and describe it Monday in the journal Cretaceous Research. Although the recovered remains are fragmentary, enough remained in the 120-million-year-old rock to identify the reptile as the largest known member of a peculiar lineage of crocodiles that spent their lives almost entirely at sea. … The carnivore’s teeth may hint at what it fed on in the ancient ocean. ‘Machimosaurus rex had stocky, relatively short and rounded teeth,’ [Federico Fanti, the archeologist who discovered the fossil] says, ‘and a massive skull capable of a remarkable bite force.’ This cluster of features leads Fanti to suggest that the croc was a generalist hunter that took a variety of prey, including large marine turtles.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Republican Nomination – Trump 34 percent; Cruz 20 percent;Rubio 11 percent; Carson 9.5 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump – Clinton +2.0 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5
SUPER PAC DEBACLE MAY BE JEB’S LEGACY
Republicans can’t really blame Jeb Bush for running for president. Seemingly everybody else took a poke this cycle and nobody, including him, could have known what a debacle it would be.
Bush and his supporters rightly reasoned that the Democrats having a legacy nominee opened the way for the GOP to take a similar risk. Another Clinton took the idea of another Bush from ridiculous to plausible. What none understood, though, was that just as Clinton begat Bush, so Bush would beget Trump.
There are many things the Republican Party did to bring about Donald Trump’s current pummeling. Overpromising and under delivering to voters was a big part of it. “Elect us to rip out ObamaCare… eventually and partially and not really…”
Another substantial cause of Trumpitis has been a deepening disconnect between richer and poorer conservatives. The constant clacking about entitlement cuts, free trade and microscopic government does little for older, less-skilled and economically insecure voters.
In the current formula, though, Bush was the precipitant that produced Trump in his current form. The idea of being force fed another Bush so soon caused many Republicans to revolt. Faced with grey, wonky, bespectacled obligation, many found Trump the perfect rebellion. He’s the one your mother warned you about…
But again, everybody gets their chance to run. And Bush, a successful former governor of a large, electorally important state with a huge fundraising network, certainly had reason to believe his chance was better than most. He was wrong, but as they say, that’s why they play the game.
So Republicans won’t be able to hold a grudge against Bush for running, but they will for his decision to outsource his campaign to a super PAC and then putting Mike Murphy in charge of it.
It sounded daft when they rolled out the plan, and has lived down to every expectation. The strategy has been wasteful of donors’ resources, grossly ineffective and has deprived the campaign itself of needed resources and sovereignty.
Bush has been running a mortgaged campaign from the beginning.
So at a moment when Republicans are desperate to find a way to address Trump, what does Murphy do? Unload on Marco Rubio with cartoon ads. The ads may hurt Rubio, but they won’t help Bush. Aside from highlighting Bush’s own changeable views on pathways to citizenship, the ad most astonishingly depicts Bush at the end of the spot as a freight train roaring through the countryside. On the GOP Island of Sodor, Bush isn’t even Toby the Steam Tram, let alone a freight train.
If this is a preview of the way Murphy is going to burn through the rest of the Bush network’s $100 million largesse – belittling Rubio and ignoring Trump – then Bush’s legacy from this run will be an unhappy one indeed.
FIRST IN FOX NEWS FIRST: CRUZ SNAGS W.VA. ENDORSEMENT
West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney is set to endorse Sen. Ted Cruz today, his campaign reveals to Fox News First. Mooney will also serve as the campaign’s state chairman. Mooney was elected in 2014 after Republican incumbent Shelley Moore Capito successfully ran for Senate, maintaining the seat for Republicans.
Multiple Cruz PACs create confusion as donors want more say - WaPo: “At least eight independent political groups are jockeying to support Cruz now that he has risen in the polls as perhaps the strongest challenger to frontrunner Donald Trump. The dynamic has confused wealthy donors and brought disarray to the otherwise orderly political operation that surrounds the freshman senator from Texas…The swelling number of pro-Cruz super PACs illustrates a challenge posed by the hands-on approach rich donors are taking in the 2016 elections. After seeing little return on the massive sums they gave in 2012, major conservative givers are now deeply immersed in the tactics of the groups they are financing — and in some cases, running their own political operations.”
Rubio postpones fundraiser for Washington business amid absentee criticism - Time: “Amid growing criticism of his poor attendance record, Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday scrapped an evening fundraiser in the Florida Keys so he could attend a closed-door Capitol Hill briefing on North Korea’s latest belligerence. The move was a sign that, despite his team’s steadfast insistence that voters don’t care about Rubio’s absenteeism, advisers were starting to consider the mounting questions that could erode support. After CNN reported that Rubio was missing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee session on Kim Jong Un’s behavior, Rubio’s aides told TIME that the Senator would be there. Rubio is now also scheduled to meet with the King of Jordan on Tuesday, attend President Obama’s final State of the Union speech (as previously scheduled) and vote on a measure that would audit the Federal Reserve.”
Christie’s record shows changes on gun control - NYT: “A review of Mr. Christie’s record found that he has exercised his executive powers with increasing assertiveness, using his veto to block new gun restrictions, and wielding pardons and executive orders to revise the way state laws are enforced. Mr. Christie now rejects a ban on assault weapons, and has renounced his past endorsement of the state’s tough gun laws, declaring that he would make it easier for residents to carry concealed weapons if he could.”
Fox Business announces debate lineup - On Monday, Fox Business Network announced the groupings for the Jan. 14 debate in Charleston, S.C. Those participating in the 9 p.m. ET debate include: Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Govs Chris Christie and John Kasich. Those invited to the earlier 6 p.m. ET debate include: Carly Fiorina, Sen. Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. Sen. Rand Paul has opted not to participate.
Rand vows ‘war’ over exclusion - NPR: “Paul’s campaign has been criticizing the debate criteria for days, repeating widely held criticism that the TV networks hosting primary debates are basing their selection on polling. They had warned that Paul would not show up for an ‘undercard’ matchup. ‘By any reasonable criteria Senator Paul has a top tier campaign,’ a statement from the Paul campaign said just after the lineup was announced Monday evening. ‘He will not let the media decide the tiers of this race and will instead take his message directly to the voters of New Hampshire and Iowa.’”
“It won’t take much for our supporters to understand why we’re doing this,” Paul said. “You want war? We’ll give it to you.” – Sen. Rand Paul to WaPo.
READER’S REACT: 2016 GOP POWER INDEX
“They have a saying in Scotland, the country of The Donald’s ancestors, ‘the empty barrels make the most noise.’ This seems to capture Trump’s campaign very well so far. At least Christie, Rubio, and Cruz have addressed many of the American voters’ real concerns. Trump on any complicated issue: ‘I’ll hire the right people to deal with that.’ The Republican party doesn’t need a narcissistic poser like this as their standard bearer.” – Fred Dahlgren
“It's time to take the Top FOUR Candidates and let the rest go! It’s beyond ridiculous at this point. This is only hurting the GOP!” – Steven Broughton
“You really picked up my attention September 15 when you put Cruz in first. I was overcome with a sense of being perplexed, joyful, hopeful at the same time. With this being three weeks till Iowa, I’m letting everybody know that you called it first. Good call and keep up the good work!” – Luke Mathisen
“I suggest the legal chiefs from both parties petition the U S Supreme Court for an emergency review and make a determination before the primaries.” – Robert P. Perkins
LOOKING SHARP NOW, THOUGH
Tribune Media: LIMA, Ohio – “An Ohio man on the run from police sent officers a selfie because he hates his mugshot. Donald A ‘Chip’ Pugh, 45, is wanted by police in connection with several crimes. After police shared Pugh’s mugshot on social media, he sent police a new photo with the caption: ‘Here is a better photo that one is terrible.’ The Lima Police Department shared the new photo of Pugh and wrote: ‘This photo was sent to us by Mr. Pugh himself. We thank him for being helpful, but now we would appreciate it if he would come speak to us at the LPD about his charges.’ Pugh was interviewed on a local radio show, where he talked about how much he hates his mugshot. ‘Man, they just did me wrong,” Pugh [said.] “They put a picture that made me look like I was a Thundercat or something.’”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Even if [Hillary Clinton] loses Iowa and New Hampshire, it's hard to see how Sanders goes anywhere particularly down south when his constituency is essentially richer white liberals who live on the coast, some in university towns. It’s a big constituency, but it ain’t big enough.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.