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On the roster: Keith Ellison and when trolling goes wrong - Top Dem dissents on Mattis pick - Trump takes a raucous victory lap - GOP Senate shies away from Medicare fight - Minnesota gonna Minnesota
KEITH ELLISON AND WHEN TROLLING GOES WRONG
There was a kind of symmetry in Democrats elevating the first Muslim member of the House of Representatives to be their party’s chairman in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory.
If 2016 is about trolling, choosing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to be Democratic National Committee chairman was troll game even Trump himself would have to admire.
Ellison, an unabashed liberal, won the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others for his policy positions. But the genius of the pick was that it might induce spittle-flecked raving from Republicans and, Democrats hoped, Trump himself.
The implicit message: Republicans are hateful xenophobes, Democrats are tolerant and inclusive. And then sit back and watch as heads totally exploded on the right. The memes would be the dankest!
But rather than sipping on white male tears, Democrats are trying to sort out a mess of their own making.
In a recording obtained by a controversial anti-Islamist activist group, Ellison is heard at a 2010 fundraiser hosted by the past president of the Muslim American Society lamenting Israel’s influence on American foreign policy and calling for Americans of Arab dissent to engage politically to diminish the Jewish state’s influence.
“The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million,” Ellison said. “Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes. Can I say that again?”
Though Ellison said the remarks were taken out of context, he acknowledged having made them. And in what must have been an underwhelming assurance to pro-Israel skeptics, Ellison said that he considered Israel and the U.S. relationship with its most important ally in the region as “key considerations.”
Mainstream American Jewish groups had defended Ellison in the face of earlier criticisms for defending notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and for accepting a costly trip to Mecca from a controversial American Muslim group.
But the claim that U.S. policy is “governed” by Israel was a bridge too far for the Anti-Defamation League. The group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, called Ellison’s 2010 comments “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”
So far, Ellison’s most important backer, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is holding the line. And without a viable alternative, Ellison may be able to drag his way through to take over the party.
But would it be worth it?
The deliciousness of the Ellison rejoinder to Trump’s election has certainly turned sour. The feelings of moral superiority have waned too, no doubt. And in its place is the knowledge that rather than elevating a figure to appeal to resistant voters or even unify the party, the party is instead going to have to live with the hangover from a botched trolling effort.
Meanwhile, Trump and the GOP are going all out in pursuit of the blue-collar white voters who have been spurning Democrats. Aside from the populist economic message from the president-elect and the red team, Democratic Sens. HeidiHeitkamp, D-N.D., or Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are being eyed for energy secretary.
Democrats increasingly agree that a lack of focus on economic issues and too much attention to polarizing social issues hurt the party in 2016. But for the time being, they just don’t seem to be able to do anything else.
THE RULEBOOK: SERVANTS AND MASTERS
“In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22
TIME OUT: READING A MYSTERY
Paris Review: “Medieval manuscripts are survivors – of Viking raids, of damp and decay – but even with delicate, fragile pages and binding, many of them remain luminous, their vellum illuminated in gold and silver, embellished with vegetal and animistic imagery, and sketched through with the marginalia of generations of owners…The Voynich Manuscript, an early fifteenth-century volume housed in Yale’s Beinecke library, looks at first like any such edition, with its loopy text and colorful illustrations. Yet as soon as you try reading the book, it resists. There’s no author, no title. It isn’t written in a foreign language; rather, this language is totally unknown. And while the illustrations appear to be plants or stars or baths, in fact they have no analogue in the known world… Some have suggested it was written by the philosopher Roger Bacon, while others insist it must have been bestowed on humanity by aliens. More cynical thinkers believe that the manuscript is a hoax, probably created by medieval charlatans.”
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TOP DEM DISSENTS ON MATTIS PICK
Politico: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) … said she plans to vote against the waiver required for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as Donald Trump’s defense secretary. Gillibrand’s early opposition to the waiver came less than an hour after Trump announced he would tap Mattis for the Pentagon. The popular commander, nicknamed ‘Mad Dog,’ is still expected to become the first defense secretary nominee in more than 60 years to win the congressional waiver that's necessary to install him as the military's civilian leader given his recent service in uniform. ‘While I deeply respect General Mattis’s service, I will oppose a waiver,’ Gillibrand said in a statement. ‘Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and I will not vote for an exception to this rule.’”
Meet ‘Mad Dog’ - Time: “Retired Marine general James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to become Secretary of Defense. The next commander-in-chief is betting that Congress will give the tough-talking leatherneck the waiver he needs to run the Pentagon well short of the seven-year ban on retired military officers serving as the Pentagon’s civilian boss… A 66-year-old lifelong bachelor, Mattis spent his final years in uniform as head of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, responsible for the arc of crisis stretching from Egypt to Afghanistan. His hawkish views toward Iran, Pentagon officials say, led the Obama Administration to ease him out of that sensitive post and into retirement.”
TRUMP TAKES A RAUCOUS VICTORY LAP
Bloomberg: “President-elect Donald Trump exulted in his surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, mocking critics who said before the election that polls showed he had no path to the White House. ‘We won in a landslide. That was a landslide,’ Trump said Thursday at a victory rally in Cincinnati, the first of what he said would be about 10 stops on a ‘Thank You Tour’ to celebrate his win… At his rally, Trump mocked an unnamed television pundit who he described standing in front of an election map ‘saying for months there’s no way that Donald Trump can break the blue wall’ of Midwestern states. ‘We didn’t break it, we shattered that sucker,’’ Trump said. ‘That blue wall is busted up.’ Earlier in the day, Trump toured of a Carrier factory in Indianapolis that will remain open, employing about 1,100, after the firm’s parent company, United Technologies Corp., negotiated with Trump to rescind plans to shutter the plant and move its work to Mexico.”
Carrier deal could set precedent of retaining rather than luring jobs -Indianapolis Star: “The $7 million incentive package Carrier Corp. will receive as part of a deal the company reached with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence represents a departure from how tax credits are typically used in Indiana. It’s also the kind of agreement Trump slammed on the campaign trail…The deal was a major early victory for the incoming presidential administration…But the deal differs from most other economic development agreements in Indiana, where incentives are usually aimed at luring jobs, not merely retaining them.”
GOP SENATE SHIES AWAY FROM MEDICARE FIGHT
AP: “Congressional Democrats are warning that Speaker Paul Ryan and President-elect Donald Trump are gunning for Medicare — and they are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of an epic political battle over the government’s flagship health program that covers 57 million Americans. It turns out that Republicans, especially in the Senate, are not spoiling for a fight. ‘We are not inclined to lead with our chin,’ said No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas. ‘And right now, we’ve got a lot on our plate.’ …Over the last couple of weeks, however, it’s become clear that even House Republicans aren’t gunning for a big fight on Medicare this year…Reaction among Senate Republicans at the prospect of major Medicare cuts, meanwhile, was almost one of bemusement.”
GOP looking for ways to prop up insurance companies after ObamaCare repeal - The Hill: “Congressional Republicans are talking to health insurers about ways to prevent a collapse of the insurance market once they pass an ObamaCare repeal bill. Republicans are planning to pass repeal legislation as soon as January, but plan to delay it from taking effect for a few years to avoid immediate disruption in people’s coverage. The delay would also buy them time to come up with a replacement. But industry officials and healthcare experts are warning that insurers might bail out of the system altogether once a repeal bill passes, particularly since many of them have been losing millions of dollars on ObamaCare plans…Republican congressional staffers are in talks with insurers about policies they could implement to help improve their financial situation in that interim period and prevent a breakdown in the market, according to three Republican lobbyists.”
Among those slated to meet with the president-elect at his New York office today:
--Former UN Ambassador and Fox News Contributor John Bolton, a contender for secretary of state
--David Malpass, a top economic adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
--Robert Gates, secretary of defense under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama
--Former Homeland Security official retired Adm. Jay Cohen
--Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga.
--Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, rumored to be a contender for “drug czar” as head of Office of National Drug Control Policy
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Fox News Sunday - Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway joins Chris Wallace in the wake of a heated discussion with Clinton aides on the post-election analysis. Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
AUDIBLE: YOUR WISH IS GRANTED
“I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.” – Former Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway at a post-election forum hosted by CNN at the Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
Texas border fence foreshadows challenges for Trump’s wall - Reuters
Poll: Louisiana Senate runoff looks safe for Republicans - The Hill
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., won the chairmanship of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, a 50-member caucus in the House - Hartford [Conn.] Courant
Senate unanimously approves 10-year extension on potential Iran sanctions - Fox News
Chaffetz says he’ll wait until Trump takes office to ‘poke around’ Hillary investigation - AP
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, really enjoy your Halftime Report each weekday. With all the names being tossed in the ring, what about Trey Gowdy? I have heard nothing about him and it was his committee which discovered HRC’s secret server. He would make an excellent FBI Director or are we stuck with Jim Comey for the balance of his 10-year appointed term. The FBI really needs cleaning out, especially the top two gentlemen.” – Judy Murphy, Spring Lake, N.C.
[Ed. note: I daresay House Republicans would be unhappy to lose his services as their chief prosecutor! Moreover, the act of dislodging an FBI director who doesn’t wish to be removed is no small thing. The reason the post carries such a long term is for the expressed purpose of preventing presidents from sacking directors who are politically inconvenient.]
“What group of insane Supreme Court justices thought that burning our flag is ‘free speech?’ I taught high school speech for six years and never even one time did the flag come out of anyone’s mouth. ‘Speech’ requires verbal articulation. It is absurd to think otherwise.” – Ray Mossholder, Fort Worth, Texas
[Ed. note: Would you consider carrying a sign an expression of free speech? What about a political contribution? Or what about a protester sitting silently and refusing to be moved? There are many things that we consider forms of free expression that don’t involve the articulation of words. As the late Justice Antonin Scalia said, “If I were king, I would not allow people to go around burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged -- and it is addressed in particular to speech critical of the government. That was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress.” A constitutional amendment to criminalize that particular form of free expression is always a possibility, but jurists left and right have long held that even the most offensive expressions merit protections in our republic.]
“Chris, we look forward each day to your timely and witty comments. Also – just love the bits of history you throw in! I managed to get through high school and college with very little American history, and have tried to play ‘catch up’ for years. Our forefathers were inspired men. NOW for the ‘biggie’ – each day Sally Persons is mentioned as a contributor to your work. She must be a talented and intelligent lady to be working alongside you. Could you please introduce her to your loyal followers?” – Ernie Weaver, North Port Fla.
[Ed. note: You would absolutely adore her! Sally has been working me for almost two years and she is the readers’ best advocate. A daughter of Minnesota but with a Boston backstory, she combines a patriotic perspective with a real love of politics and a passion for history and culture. She also keeps me on the beam on deadline (sometimes) and in remembering why we are here: to help you understand what’s happening in politics and get a sense of what might happen next. I’m lucky to have her help, and so are you.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
MINNESOTA GONNA MINNESOTA
Star Tribune: “Early in the upcoming legislative session, the Minnesota Senate will again take up an issue sure to spark debate and division among its members: whether to allow senators to drink water while on the Senate floor. The upper chamber of the Legislature has long prided itself on tradition and a particular view of decorum… Anyone on the Senate floor is banned from bringing in food or beverages, including water. Supporters of the rules…say they are needed to enforce order – and protect the Senate’s antique desks from water damage. But critics, including Sen. TorreyWestrom, R-Elbow Lake, said his colleagues’ dedication to protecting the rules borders on the absurd. ‘We’re not three-year-olds who need sippy cups,’ said Westrom… It’s unclear how much support Westrom will have when he introduces his plan, likely sometime in January.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It’s good to have a military man. It’s also good to have a military man who is known as ‘mad dog,’ because let’s say you’re trying to send a message to obstreperous Iranians who have been harassing our boats. I think you want to send a message that says something like if you don’t stop within 48 hours, I may have to turn the matter over to mad dog, translated afterwards into Persian. I think that can be quite useful.” – 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.