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On the roster: - ‘Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friend?’ - NSA chief visits Trump - Clapper resigns as head of intelligence - Dems map strategy to work with President Trump - And tax reform looks like the first policy move - One way or another…
'DO I NOT DESTROY MY ENEMIES WHEN I MAKE THEM MY FRIEND?'
The conceit of every generation is that the history it writes is like nothing that came before.
In our suffering and in our gladness, we are all tempted to see our experiences as the culmination of all of human history.
And wouldn’t you know that would be the case for a generation that has bled the world of all its exclamation points to describe its pumpkin spice lattes on Instagram.
All hail Ozymandias of the selfie!
The collective freakout about the election of Donald Trump is a reflection of this conceit.
While it is true that Trump is unlike his 44 predecessors in having no record of public service, the idea that Trump’s election is the most shocking event in political history or that his election is more decisive than any before it is plenty of poppycock.
As reporters wait like a rookery of seals in the lobby of Trump Tower waiting to be fed fish in the form of news on the presidential transition, we tend to lose perspective on the larger questions.
Scoops are great and certainly fill the gaping canyon of daily news coverage, but the larger question is about the tone and tenor of the president-elect’s team.
The executive branch is big. Really big. No single appointment tells the whole tale. What matters are the animating principles.
Trump, who will come to office without the mandate of a popular vote victory and with some portion of the country viewing his elevation as a descent to overt racism and demagoguery, faces some special challenges.
The nation, too, has some special challenges of its own. Massive economic disruptive wrought by technological change, cultural incoherence, an uncertain place in the world and greedy-eyed enemies, make for an anxious time in America.
But many of Trump’s predecessors and ours would look laughingly at our moment of existential crisis and despair.
Imagine heading to the White House having won just less than 40 percent of the popular vote, and just 16 states. Imagine also that they had to smuggle you in to Washington on a night train to keep the assassins from killing you.
To say that Abraham Lincoln came to Washington without a mandate is plenty understatement. If you think it’s bad to have protests in the streets because you win, remember entire states left the Union because of Lincoln’s victory.
Add to that that Lincoln was by no means qualified in resume to hold the post of president. A backwoods circuit-riding lawyer who served one term in congress and whose career as an attorney for the railroad wasn’t anybody’s idea of heir to the founders’ largesse.
Lincoln had won the presidency in the same way he had won the Republican nomination: A crowded and divided field of candidates had created an opening for an unlikely victory. Lincoln’s rivals for the 1860 Republican nomination would’ve seemed much more suited to the moment. Ohio Gov. Salmon Chase looked like he was born to president.
The Senators in the running: William Seward of New York, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Wade of Ohio and William Dayton of New Jersey all could claim political success where Lincoln had only failure. And experience at statecraft.
Rep. Edward Bates, Missouri congressman from a powerful political family, also made a potent claim as a border-state political powerhouse.
Lincoln and his small team of Illinois homeboys beat them all at the Republican convention in Chicago. And in his letters to friends, Lincoln confided deep concerns about his readiness for office and the inadequacy of experience to the task in front of him.
These moments are the great tests of character, but especially for leaders.
Fear is the cruelest master of all. We all fall under its lash. But not all of us are able to ever find our feet again. Lincoln, however, did.
Given his humble origins, rough-hewn pedigree and nearly accidental ascension to office, politics of the cunning kind would have suggested that Lincoln not populate his cabinet with his betters.
But Lincoln, as every schoolchild knows, was better than that.
Cameron became secretary of war, Chase became the treasury secretary, Seward became secretary of state, Bates became attorney general and Dayton became Lincoln’s ambassador to France.
Doris Kerns Goodwin dubbed them a “Team of Rivals” in her 2006 book. And to say that their success seemed improbable is understatement as well. Huge egos and almost open contempt for their hayseed commander in chief threatened to turn the whole thing over on its head.
But, Lincoln had the peace that comes from desperation. It would work because it had to. As Richard Brookheiser’s “Founder’s Son” expertly explains, Lincoln carried with him the weight of his duty to his forbearers but also the inspiration of their genius for collaboration.
Lincoln had the true humility that passes from understanding: he knew his real self, his own strengths and weaknesses. And because of that, he was able to risk being overshadowed by his own more famous and prestigious subordinates.
In the highly-sorted world of modern politics, we don’t see much of that anymore.
But from time to time, real leaders do emerge. The best measure of them is often whether they choose to surround themselves with rivals or simply human mirrors to reflect their own vanity.
THE RULEBOOK: DAT VETO, DOH
“The first thing that offers itself to our observation, is the qualified negative of the President upon the acts or resolutions of the two houses of the legislature; or, in other words, his power of returning all bills with objections, to have the effect of preventing their becoming laws, unless they should afterwards be ratified by two thirds of each of the component members of the legislative body.”–Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 73
TIME OUT: WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
Did you know that the reclusive J.D. Salinger almost allowed one of his stories, “For Esmé—With Love and Squalor” to be made into a televised film? It’s a pretty remarkable story about fame, the evolution of mass media and the pains of artistic creation. New Yorker: “…in 1962, Salinger got a letter from Peter Tewksbury … an Emmy Award-winning television director, best known for ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘My Three Sons.’ Salinger had a 16-mm. projector at his house. He borrowed reels from the Dartmouth library; he loved to watch old movies, like ‘The Lady Vanishes.’ But the only TV show that Salinger watched in 1962, according to Tewksbury, was his new series, ‘It’s a Man’s World.’ Tewksbury wanted to adapt ‘Esmé.’ Salinger agreed…Salinger admired Tewksbury, and not just for ‘It’s a Man’s World.’ ‘Tewksbury is a young director on the way up, and all that,’ Salinger wrote, ‘but he’s also quite a thoughtful guy, in a nice sense.’ Salinger had another reason for working with Tewksbury, though. There was a girl…”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
NSA CHIEF VISITS TRUMP
Looking to allay uncertainty on the national security front, president elect Donald Trump is moving swiftly to build out his defense and intelligence teams. A crucial moment comes today as Trump is set to meet with Adm. Michael Rogers, head of the national security agency.
Rogers, who just Wednesday confirmed that “a nation state,” presumably Russia, tried to sway the outcome of the 2016 election arrives in New York just as Trump looks poised to elevate a former spy chief to a top national security post.
Trump is reportedly leaning towards his adviser and campaign surrogate, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, to be his White House national security adviser. Flynn has had an extremely contentious relationship with his former colleagues like Rogers since leaving the service in 2014.
Flynn’s withering criticisms of U.S. national security policy have made him a favorite of Trump’s supporters, but caused military brass to view him warily.
Rogers’ visit today could present something of an inflection point for the transition. Rogers may just be there for a further briefing of the president-elect. He might also be there to audition for an even larger post in the administration. Are he and Flynn still admiring colleagues?
America’s massive national security apparatus is watching all of this unfold with considerable anxiety. The elevation of Rogers, the former commander of the 10th fleet, would be seen as a reassurance to many in the high command, as well as a ratification of a great deal of existing U.S. intelligence policy.
Remember, for admirers of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden the NSA’s massive data collection is considered a pernicious evil. Where Trump and his team stand on electronic surveillance and these issues isn’t’ clear. We know Trump liked Assange’s handiwork at WikiLeaks, but we don’t know if he shares much of his world view?
CLAPPER RESIGNS AS HEAD OF INTELLIGENCE
NPR: “Saying that ‘It felt really good’ to step down, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, 75, says he has submitted his letter of resignation. Clapper revealed the news as he testified to the House Select Committee on Intelligence Thursday. Clapper's resignation ‘was expected and does not today appear to indicate that Clapper is in any trouble or is being forced out,’ NPR National Security Editor Philip Ewing says. ‘He has told our Mary Louise Kelly (and others) that he keeps a calendar counting down the days until he is out of government service.’”
[Also in the national security realm, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, retired Gen. Jack Keane have meetings planned today at Trump Tower.]
DEMS MAP STRATEGY TO WORK WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP
NYT: “Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party. On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like.”
And tax reform looks like the first policy move - WaPo: “With control of Congress and the White House in hand, Republicans say they will embark next year on an ambitious effort to lower taxes for businesses and individuals through an overhaul of the tax code …Senate Republicans this week said the party needs Democratic support to help move the legislation through the upper chamber and to then, more importantly, ensure it has a chance to be a long-lasting policy, arguing President Obama’s signature achievements, such as the Affordable Care Act, are now under threat of repeal because they passed without any GOP support.”
--It looks increasingly clear that Trump’s on-in-law Jared Kushner will have a senior role in the administration.
--Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is being considered for energy secretary. Trump is also meeting with South Carolina Gov.Nikki Haley today for possible cabinet positions, reports WSJ.
-- Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who brushed off questions relating to his possible role in the new White House administration, according to the Miami Herald.
--And who else? Those meeting at Trump Tower today include: Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, possible pick for Treasury secretary, FedEx founder Fred Smith, Oracle CEO Safra Catz and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
--New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio met with Trump Wednesday to explain the fear New Yorkers have over Trump’s tenure especially relating to his immigration policy.
--Vice president-elect Mike Pence is set to meet with incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today in Washington.
THE JUDGE’S RULING: POLITICAL POLICING?
Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano concludes that as surely as Hillary Clinton was guilty of mishandling state secrets, the FBI conducted a flawed investigation wrought with political entanglements: “We have the dangerous injection of the FBI into elective politics, which can do ruinous harm to the rule of law. And we had a candidate who should blame only herself for the whole controversy.”
AUDIBLE: BORN FIGHTING
“The Democratic Party has moved into interest group politics and in many cases white working people have become the whipping post…” – Former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Voter fraud complaints in N.C. governor's race that remains 'too close to call' - Fox News
Japanese officials on meeting with Trump today: ‘there has been a lot of confusion’ -Reuters
Shortlist for RNC chairman replacement surfaces including David Bossie - Politico
Ryan persuades Republicans to hold off voting on earmarks until after Trump’s inauguration - The Hill
David Drucker explains why Republican governors are still nervous about Trump -WashEx
Hillary urges supporters to ‘stay engaged’ through Trump presidency - AP
Dems recruiting Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., to challenge Pelosi - The Hill
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, I just had to tell you how much I enjoy your references to WV. My late husband was from Parkersburg and was a WVU graduate. You bring back all the stories and euphemisms about WV and I recall all the many visits we made to beautiful West By God Virginia. Keep up the good work. I look forward to your daily Half Time Report.” – Kathryn Lichiello, Roswell, Ga.
[Ed. note: I knew another fella from Wood County who, like your dear husband, went over to Morgantown to get a degree. He was a farm boy, and though the family was hard pressed, Pappy figured Junior could learn some useful things for agriculture. On Junior’s first visit home, Pappy asked him what he was studying. “Biology, world history, French and geometry,” Junior told him. Pappy demanded: “Well, say something in geometry.” Junior explained that you don’t “say things” in geometry. Pappy reminded him that the family was making a huge sacrifice to send him to school and he’d better not be shy about it. “Well…” Junior hesitated before declaring tentatively: “Pi r squared.” Furious, Pappy took of his hat and started hitting Junior over the head with it, exclaiming: “You idjit! Pie are round! What kind of a fool takes all my money and go to school to tell me pie are square!?!” I hope your husband’s family was more understanding… Thanks for reading and taking the time to write!”
“Many states are still gathering in absentee ballots, five wrapping up between Nov. 19-21. We hope you will cover the actual results - races not yet decided, and the true national popular vote, when those certifications come available. Others are spinning all sorts of ideas based on early returns. You alone, we hope, will paint a true picture. Accurate, rather than swift. Keep up the good work.” – Don McGaffey and Sandra Stone, Redford, Mich.
[Ed. note: Thanks, folks! I’m always a little leery about paying attention to the national popular vote because, well, it doesn’t matter; but also because it deters understanding of system’s republican nature. With those caveats in place: I give you Dave Wasserman’s handy-dandy popular vote spreadsheet. The current spread is 1.3 million votes – 1 point – for Hillary Clinton. We would expect that number to grow as the more than 4 million still-uncounted votes in California come trickling in. I promise we will be watching!]
Share your color commentary: Email us atHALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
ONE WAY OR ANOTHER…
Syracuse.com: “One of the most impressive Upstate New York bucks taken so far this fall was not downed with a hunter’s bow, crossbow or firearm. It was hit by a truck. James Murphy, 27, of Fabius, said he was driving his truck home back from a day of deer hunting up on Boonville Sunday evening when a 15-point buck darted in front of him on Route 173 just outside of the village of Manlius in Onondaga County. He said he was going about 40 miles per hour. It was about 5:30 p.m. ‘It was probably chasing a doe. Hit him square on. He went underneath my truck and trailer and died quickly,’ he said. Murphy called the Manlius police, and then his wife to tell her he’d be home late... The taxidermist, Bob Converse, said the gross rough score of the antlers using the Boone and Crockett scoring system is nearly’ 200 inches.’ It’s a ‘world class deer, no doubt,’ he said.”
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.