**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: School is still not in session for Trump - Powell actually did advise Hillary on evading email rules - Trump trails on cash, bigly - Audible: It’s Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Aleppo, right? - Oh, that’ll totally work
SCHOOL IS STILL NOT IN SESSION FOR TRUMP
Donald Trump recently said that he was leery of being too prepared for the three presidential debates that commence later this month.
“I believe you can prep too much for those things,” Trump told the NYT. “It can be dangerous. You can sound scripted or phony – like you’re trying to be someone you’re not.”
Well, he needn’t have worried about that on Tuesday night.
Trump and Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton did back-to-back interviews on national security with NBC News. Clinton sweated through her session in a defensive crouch over her mishandling of state secrets, particularly as a veteran in the audience shamed her for skating through the criminal probe into her misdeeds.
Clinton opened wide the way for Trump to impress, and certainly the questioner seemed inclined to grade on a curve and make allowances for the Republican nominee’s lack of prior public service.
But with two months to Election Day, Trump instead showed that he’s in no position to take advantage of such opportunities.
He repeated his claim that the United States should have plundered Iraq’s oil and well as his debunked claim that he had opposed the 2003 invasion from the start.
Trump sounded off on replacing military commanders with whom he disagrees, expounded on the causes of sexual assault in the ranks, pontificated on the nature of ISIS and even claimed his national security briefers were subtly denigrating President Obama behind closed doors.
Trump also rhapsodized over Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, citing Putin’s “82 percent approval rating” like it was a swing-state poll. Trump said he was impressed by the demi-czar’s “great control over his country” and thought the former KGB officer was a better leader than Obama.
We will leave it to others to debate what Trump really meant or whether his positions are defensible. Given enough time and rationalizing, even a politician’s most inane ramblings can be spun by a good flack. And Trump’s most ardent supporters, like the members of any faction, either agree with him on merits or will quickly forgive his errors.
It frankly doesn’t matter if Trump was right, or could be proven to have been so. This is politics, not a college debating society. What is of political significance here is that he has still not learned to say less.
One of Halftime Report’s cardinal rules of politics is that candidates win elections not because of what they say, but rather what they don’t say. Successful politicians have highly attuned radar that helps them steer away from obvious pitfalls and depth meters that sound when they are in over their heads.
Trump advisers who said that their candidate will be trained and would be ready for the debates and the final stretch of the campaign should have shivered on Tuesday. One got the unmistakable sense that Trump’s inner circle is not challenging him to be better at this but rather indulging and accommodating him.
If Trump delivers any of the lulus from Tuesday night on Sept. 26, Clinton will skewer him. Trump and his supporters are telling themselves that she is too feeble to debate well or needs answers fed to her through an earpiece. They ought not be so cocky.
She’s tough as hell and will tear him apart of he shows up at the final exam still unprepared. And the people who are telling him that he’s doing a great job already are only setting him up to fail.
THE RULEBOOK: ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE
“The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union…” – Alexander Hamilton, “Federalist No. 68”
TIME OUT: PICKUP ARTISTS
The best money is that which we do not have to spend to get what we want, which economists call “consumer surplus.” And it would seem that Uber is creating an awful lot of surplus for American consumers. The company, which connects passengers with drivers for hire, allowed economists, including “Freakonomics” author Steven Levitt, limited access to its user data for research on how pricing affects consumer behavior. If you think of consumer surplus as money you would have spent but didn’t have to – essentially the sense of value – it’s a blockbuster finding. From the economists’ paper: “…we estimate that in 2015 the UberX service generated about $2.9 billion in consumer surplus in the four U.S. cities included in our analysis. For each dollar spent by consumers, about $1.60 of consumer surplus is generated. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the overall consumer surplus generated by the UberX service in the United States in 2015 was $6.8 billion.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
CLINTON DOUBLES DOWN: NO GROUND TROOPS IN SYRIA, IRAQ
Speaking at a news conference today, Hillary Clinton reiterated her position that she would not put troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria as part of her plan to combat ISIS, reports the WSJ. The Democratic candidate said, “I think putting a big contingent of American ground troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria would not be in the best interest in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups. In fact, I think it would fulfill one of their dearest wishes, which is to drag the U.S. back into a ground war in that region.”
The Judge’s Ruling: So far, Hillary and the FBI haven’t proven their case - Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano says details from the FBI’s interrogation support neither Hillary Clinton’s denial that she mishandled classified material nor the agency’s claim that there wasn’t a case to bring against her. “The FBI seriously dropped the ball, and Clinton was more concerned about being indicted than she was about losing the race for the presidency. It is apparent that some in FBI management blindly followed what they were told to do -- exonerate Hillary Clinton. There is no other explanation for the FBI’s failure from the outset to use ordinary law enforcement tools available to it…. They know that a strong case for prosecution and for guilt is being ignored for political reasons.” More here.
Powell actually did advise Hillary on evading email rules - Fox News: “Former Secretary of State Colin Powell] told Clinton that he used a personal computer to conduct government business and took steps to ensure his digital correspondence wasn’t ‘going through the State Department servers.’ Powell said he had ‘a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line…so I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers. I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal email accounts.’ …Clinton told federal authorities that she didn’t follow Powell’s guidance, even though she used a private email account to handle government business.”
TRUMP TRAILS ON CASH, BIGLY
WSJ: “Republican Donald Trump heads into the final stage of the presidential campaign with $50 million less in his coffers than rival Hillary Clinton, an imbalance that means he may struggle to match the Democratic nominee in advertising and staffing for field offices. Mr. Trump ended August with $97 million on hand between his campaign and two joint fundraising committees with the Republican Party, his campaign told The Wall Street Journal. Mrs. Clinton finished the month with $152 million in her campaign and joint fund bank accounts, her campaign said earlier this month. In August, Mr. Trump raised $70 million in small donations for his campaign and a joint party fund, in addition to $18 million in larger donations for a second joint fund. He also donated another $2 million to his campaign last month.”
[Trump family to return to Texas for fundraising spree - Texas Tribune]
Clinton outspending Trump seven to one in battleground states - NPR: “Hillary Clinton's campaign has built a massive spending advantage over Donald Trump in critical swing states heading into Election Day — a widening disparity that worries Republicans not just for the presidential race but also in the battle for the Senate. According to figures provided to NPR by a Republican source tracking ad buys, the GOP presidential nominee is on pace to be heavily outspent in seven presidential and Senate battlegrounds by $127 million to $18 million. Those numbers represent airtime already purchased or reserved from July 26 through Nov. 8.”
PERINO & STIREWALT: I’LL TELL YOU WHAT
Summer has come and gone and early voting kicks off Friday. Will voters split their tickets or vote down the party line? The answer is crucial for both the 2016 candidates and their party members also gearing up for Election Day. Also, what is the most disgusting food you can cook in the office microwave and what’s a sure fire way to get Chris to choke up? Plus, how’s your political scandal geography? The perspicacious Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt explain it all. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.
Trump says he’d be okay with illegal immigrants serving in the military - The Hill
Trump brings in a pro to run Florida operation - Politico
Mexican official said to have pushed Trump invite ousted - NYT
Veteran sears Clinton over sending classified emails - WashEx
Explaining Assange’s hatred of Hillary - Daily Beast
Clinton backs bill to protect benefits for coal miners as issue divides GOP Senate - AP
Larry Sabato explains that the gubernatorial races are shaping up to be just as confounding as 2014 - UVA Center for Politcis
AUDIBLE: IT’S GROUCHO, HARPO, CHICO AND ALEPPO, RIGHT?
“And what is Aleppo?” -- Gary Johnson on MSNBC today in an exchange about the Syrian city where the government has been suspected of atrocities against civilians.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Hey Chris I am a conservative freshman in college at Marquette University, and I just read an article on CNN in which they claimed. Millennials identify more conservatively than both generation X and the baby boomers did. Is this true? And side note you are my favorite political analyst and person, besides maybe [Dana Perino], at Fox News!” – Dan Reid, Chicago
[Ed. note: You made me do my own research, Mr. Reid! And at the competition, no less! But I think this is the piece. It’s based on a social psychology research paper focused on that old saw: political polarization. I’m skeptical of this kind of reverse sociological engineering since it depends on subjective terms like “liberal” and “conservative” that change their meanings across time and across different social groups. What we do know about voters under the age of 35 is that they identify less with political parties and tend to have a more a-la-carte view of policies and politics than older voters. That’s part of why the right-left paradigm is breaking down as we see with two major party nominees who crisscross traditional party lines on major issues. The question for the future is where new coalitions will arise. You are blessed to live in interesting times and to be part of shaping the future of the republic at a moment of transition. Make the most of it!]
“Two things I’m curious about are: 1) Why don’t reports of polls mention the margin of error, which is often between 3% & 5%, or making a virtual tie of some of the Clinton/Trump polls. 2) With all the emphasis of Hillary out-fundraising Trump, there doesn’t seem to be any reporting of how much she is spending to stay in virtual tie with him. Interesting!” – Annetta Forrer, Eugene, Ore.
[Ed. note: We generally define polls within the margin of error as “statistically tied” or in “a dead heat” or somesuch. And this is another good reason to focus on poll averages rather than individual polls for a better sense of the state of the race. As for the money Clinton is spending to maintain her slim advantage, I tend to think the importance of money in presidential politics is overstated. But it does matter, especially at the very end. Clinton won’t be able to spend all she raises, but she will hope that she has built an organization that can make the difference in states where the race is close and saturate airwaves with messages defining Trump as unfit for command. What’s maddening about campaign spending for candidates is that you don’t know how much is enough until it’s too late to do anything about it!]
“Please do not paraphrase quotes that are in English. Madison wrote ‘faction’ and ‘aliment;’ ‘partisanship’ and ‘element’ really are not quite the same, especially the latter. If you think he mis-wrote, maybe look up the definitions first to be sure. And if you’re afraid your audience won’t understand, maybe it would do them good, also, to use a dictionary now and then. But thanks for the brackets so I knew you’d changed it.” – Ken Partridge, Foresthill, Calif.
[Ed. note: I appreciate your high estimation of our readers, Mr. Partridge. It is one we share! “Faction” was actually the trickier one for us, since it really does mean more than just political party. Certainly there are factions within parties and factions within factions, so the sense is larger. We will find a way to include the original and modern language when necessary.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
OH, THAT’LL TOTALLY WORK
Independent: “North Korea has forbidden people from making sarcastic comments about Kim Jong-un or his totalitarian regime in their everyday conversations. Even indirect criticism of the authoritarian government has been banned, Asian media reported. Residents were warned against criticising the state in a series of mass meetings held by functionaries across the country. ‘One state security official personally organised a meeting to alert local residents to potential ‘hostile actions’ by internal rebellious elements,’ a source in Jagang Province told Radio Free Asia’s Korean Service. ‘The main point of the lecture was ‘Keep your mouths shut.’ The caution was also issued in neighbouring Yangang Province, sources revealed.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It’s disturbing to think that our election could hinge on an accused rapist hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the one hand…and a thug who runs Russia.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
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 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.