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On the roster: Obama compelled to another August display of compassion - Phone logs show close ties between State, foundation - Could Arizona really go blue? - Audible: And no banging the jar on the counter - Guess they don’t teach physics at Pitt

OBAMA COMPELLED TO ANOTHER AUGUST DISPLAY OF COMPASSION
By 2004, the very existence of George W. Bush had driven much of the Democratic Party to distraction.

That man was in the White House and exploiting the Sept. 11 attacks for every manner of misconduct an internet chat room could summon. Add in the preexisting anger over Bush’s narrow win in 2000, and the blue team belched pure sulfur at the very mention of his name.

An area of particular derangement was over Bush’s frequent trips to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, or any other recreational activity the president or his family might enjoy.

Most famously, perhaps, was Bush’s 2002 tough-talk on Iraq to gathered reporters before saying “now watch this drive” and teeing off for a round of golf with his brother and father.

Provocateur Michael Moore made that moment a center piece of his jeremiad against Bush, “Fahrenheit 9/11” that warned of the coming police state in which the criminal and authoritarian Republicans were turning America into some sort of a theocratic prison camp. Or whatever…

Another defining moment for Bush came as he peered out the window of Air Force One at the damage of Hurricane Katrina, the summer after he survived the best efforts of Moore, et al. to defeat him for reelection.

The narrative was readymade like a tube of biscuits: the rich, white, president played rancher in Texas while poor, black people died in New Orleans and then, like a king, peered down at the peasants’ plight from above.

We will never know for sure, but one could argue that Republican reversals in 2006 had as much to do with that hurricane and its aftermath as it did the Iraq war. Democrats and the press pushed hard on the idea that 1) the world was spiraling out of control to 2) Bush was out of touch with the real problems and 3) that the president just didn’t care.

Republicans manfully tried then and throughout Bush’s tenure to argue that the president is the president wherever he goes, and whether it is a ranch house in McLennan County, Texas or at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, his powers and capacities are the same.

Ever since John Adams went back to Massachusetts, political rivals have made much of presidential departures from Washington. It’s a normal bit of the Punch and Judy show of American politics – a little something to rile up the crowds while the band plays and the pints or punch are handed out.

But there was something different with the Bush business.

The implicit and sometimes explicit message about Bush’s time away from the Oval Office was that he just did not care. How could Bush care about American war dead and still take pleasure in a well-hit tee shot? How could Bush have enough strength to go on clearing brush with knowledge of the suffering of thousands in New Orleans?

It was evidence not just that Bush was not competent, but that he was not concerned about his country. Not really patriotic. Not really humane.

Whether or not turnabout is fair play, Republicans have turned it about plenty on President Obama when it comes to his often-weekly golf outings or his family’s summer and Christmas vacations. Some of the same folks who once defended Bush’s balance between work and recreation now denounce Obama.

Two years ago, Obama was essentially shamed into holding a press conference to discuss the murder of American journalist James Foley. That murder and Obama’s botched response – he went and played golf right after – set the frame for the coming Democratic mid-term rout.

And never forget that Obama’s first Oval Office address was delivered under duress as Americans wondered why he was not doing more and better to deal with an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama’s awkward family jaunt to the Gulf that summer stands as one of the most excruciating political perambulations of recent memory.

So there’s no question that Obama is bad at judging what public perception will absorb when it comes to presidential aloofness. And he is apparently even worse at sticking to his decisions not to be cowed into public displays of compassion.

But Americans ought to pause a bit at the question of what – exactly – they expect their president to be. Or, more aptly, who they need him to be.

Presidents have worked hard to cultivate the mythology that they are in fact powerful national fathers (and perhaps soon mothers) who not only heal the psychic wounds of the nation but also apply their managerial might to whatever problems confront the country.

The bipartisan message of modern presidents is that no good thing can occur without their involvement.

Scoring a few easy political points on the other team for “bad optics” is as much a part of politics as disputing poll numbers and ducking press conferences. The August heat on Obama is in that way no big deal.

But the danger is if people actually start believing that the president’s presence or even location itself is the key to solving problems.

Rather than diminishing an individual holder of the office, it inflates to the next more voluminous size the expectations and perceived authorities of a presidency that has already grown far beyond what Americans might have imagined even a century ago – let alone what the Founders envisioned.

TIME OUT: DOG DAYS
What is it about August and bad news, or at least big news? The Telegraph of London examined the historical phenomenon and the explanations for it, including today’s unhappy anniversary: “The heat was certainly a factor in the St Bartholomew Day’s Massacre on August 24 1572. Paris had been sweltering in fetid heat for more than three weeks and tempers were short and fraying when that terrible communal massacre of Protestants by Catholics took place. But high temperatures can hardly explain the prevalence of the month of August in history in the era of air-conditioning, which has been around since the 1940s. Perhaps the reason that a ‘silly season’ myth came about in Fleet Street was not because nothing happened in August, but instead the very opposite.”

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

SCOREBOARD
Average of national head-to-head presidential polls
: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +9 points
Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton + 6.6 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8

PHONE LOGS SHOW CLOSE TIES BETWEEN STATE, FOUNDATION
Fox News colleague James Rosen reports on newly released call logs that reveal deeper ties between top aides for the Clinton State Dept. and family foundation. Fox News: “A senior executive at the Clinton Foundation left almost 150 telephone messages for Hillary Clinton’s top aide at the State Department within a two-year time frame, according to previously unpublished documents obtained by Fox News. A review of State Department call logs for Cheryl Mills, the longtime Clinton confidant who served as chief of staff for the entirety of Clinton’s four-year tenure as America’s top diplomat, reflects at least 148 messages from Laura Graham – then the Clinton Foundation’s chief operating officer – between 2010 and 2012. No other individual or non-profit appears in the logs with anything like that frequency or volume, the review found.”

Trump calls for special prosecutor on pay-to-play claims -
Fox News: “‘Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called for an ‘expedited investigation’ by a special prosecutor into ‘pay-to-play’ accusations involving the Clinton Foundation, amid new allegations the group sought special access for donors with Hillary Clinton’s State Department. ‘The Clintons made the State Department into the same kind of pay-to-play operations as the Arkansas government was: pay the Clinton Foundation huge sums of money and throw in some big speaking fees for Bill Clinton and you got to play with the State Department,’ Trump said at a campaign rally Monday night in Akron, Ohio.”

COULD ARIZONA REALLY GO BLUE?
Fox News colleague Serafin Gomez explains how deep-red state like Arizona could be up for grabs in this election cycle. Fox News Latino: “Carmen Maldonado, a Mexican-American, has proudly voted for the Republican presidential candidate since former president George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004. The 55-year-old grandmother is a staunch Catholic who considers herself strongly pro-life, and pro-military. She decorates her home with American flags and lives with her husband, Vince, a former gold glove boxer, on their ranch in the Arizona desert. This year, for the first time in years, she is leaning toward voting for the Democrat in the presidential race, even though she is not eager to do so.”

Trump dumps swing state events - USA Today: “Donald Trump has canceled at least three events this month. On Monday, outlets in Colorado, Nevada and Oregon reported that Trump events set to go on in their states were canceled, though in Nevada and Colorado, Trump is still slated to attend fundraisers. Trump was originally scheduled to make a speech on immigration in Denver on Thursday, but according to The Denver Post the speech has been postponed. The campaign said that his speech was ‘still being modified.’ Trump will, however, attend a fundraiser in Aspen, according to the Post. Nevada’s KTNV also reported Monday that Trump’s Friday rally in Las Vegas was canceled, but his fundraiser in Lake Tahoe the same day is still on.”

But events in Mississippi and Texas are still on - Politico: “Donald Trump might be moderating his rhetoric, but he hasn’t adjusted a campaign strategy that has him spending valuable time in states that will not prove decisive on Election Day. With fewer than 80 days to go and lagging in the polls, the Republican nominee will host a rally Tuesday in Austin, Texas, and another on Wednesday in Jackson, Mississippi. Both cities sit inside strongly Republican states that are safe and uncompetitive.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Clinton plans speech on ‘alt-right’ white nationalism and Trump for Thursday -
WaPo

Kellyanne Conway defends, explains Trump’s deportation force on “The Kelly File” - Fox News

Troll so hard: Clinton camp opens up campaign headquarters in Utah - Politico

Nate Cohn says even if this year is a ‘wave’ election, Dems would still have a hard time taking the House - NYT

Trump campaign staffers’ social media accounts reveal racism, religious war - AP

David Drucker explores Trump’s struggles in hiring “the best people” - WashEx

John Daniel Davidson argues that the troubles of blue-collar white Americans are about culture, not politics - The Federalist

Poll: Hillary moves to 16-point lead in Virginia - Roanoke College

Trump hikes rent on his own campaign headquarters -
New York Post

Republicans still waiting on Trump’s fundraising promises to trickle down - AP

Melania Trump seeks legal action against Daily Mail for defamation - Politico

Campaign crop circles? - WBIR

AUDIBLE: AND NO BANGING THE JAR ON THE COUNTER
“Can you open this jar of pickles?” -- Jimmy Kimmel talking to Hillary Clinton on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Monday mocking claims from the Trump campaign that Clinton is concealing dire health problems. Clinton was able to open the jar.

FROM THE BLEACHERS

“If the above statement doesn’t call for a ‘flag on the play’ what would? I am no fan of Trump, but this is a below the belt description of what is essentially opposition to people breaking the law by entering and staying in the country illegally. Come on guys, give us a break here, enough with the piling on by the media.” – Slaton Fry, Baytown, Texas

[Ed. note: We hold no position on whether having a “deportation force” is a good thing or a bad thing. We can’t even know exactly what that would mean in practical application. And certainly others who call to “enforce the law,” are seeking mass deportations by different means – maybe slower and maybe with less proactive measures, but that would be the net effect. It’s up to voters and politicians to decide whether, when and how quickly to do such things. Our point is only that a shift, even a rhetorical one, on the issue so much at the core of a party nominee’s campaign is a pretty big deal.]

“The Republican Party is having a Darwinian period.  The Establishment species has cared only about winning.  The Anti-Establishment species cares only about principle and ignores the task of winning (Trumpasorious). It appears that the Anti-Establishment species is going the way of the Dodo Bird.  Whether the Establishment Species discovers that winning needs principle to justify its existence will be the subject of future study.  If the Establishment fails to discover the need for principle then future generations will be digging up their bones as well.” – Steve Bartlett, Greenville, S.C.

[Ed. note: The most important questions in public life relate not to “can” but rather “should.” Parties and politicians spend a lot of time on “can” – “Can we win the election?” “Can we get away with saying that?” “Can we pass the bill?” The “shoulds” are usually afterthoughts or rationalizations if they are asked at all. Politics is the best means for avoiding the barbarism and strife that has plagued mankind for most of time, but it is not an end unto itself.]

“I want to express my admiration for you, Chris. While it is obvious that you are highly intelligent and superbly educated, you proudly remain yourself - a boy from West Virginia who cherishes his background and origins.” – Karen Baird, Houston, Texas

[Ed. note: You’re too kind, Ms. Baird. Thank you. The Mountain State takes a back seat to no one, not even your beloved Texas, when it comes to affection for a place. And you know, if we flattened out all those hills and mountains, we’d probably be as big as y’all, or as we would say “you’ns.]

“You have about 20 paragraphs talking about Donald Trump [in Monday’s Halftime Report]. Don’t you ever get tired of finding something about him to write about? Why not write about Clinton, as she is the one that has more problems and has caused more damage and I don’t see much about her. It is always swept under the rug.” – Ann Hayes, New Haven, Conn.

[Ed. note: But the paragraphs are so short! But seriously, there’s no doubt that Trump gets the lion’s share of coverage this cycle – if only for the fact that he so assiduously seeks it out… But we appreciate your gentle reproof, Ms. Hayes, and will bear it in mind. Thanks and all best.]

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

GUESS THEY DON’T TEACH PHYSICS AT PITT
KDKA: “Pittsburgh Police, Fire, and Public Works crews worked to free a man who was trapped between two buildings Tuesday morning in Oakland. It all started around 2 a.m. on Forbes Avenue. Police say the man met a woman at a nearby establishment and took her up to a building rooftop. In an effort to impress her, police say the man attempted to jump from one rooftop to the next. He missed and instead ended up wedged in between the buildings…Crews were at the scene for more than three hours working to free him. The man was finally rescued around 6 a.m. Crews removed bricks and went through the wall at the Qdoba restaurant…The man reportedly has an injured ankle. He has not been identified, but he is believed to be a Pitt student.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.