On the roster: Trump’s talkers: As disciplined as he is unruly - Trump tees up trade fight with China - Poll: Trump needs conflict solution, Russia probe - Audible: Backfield in motion - So sick of talking about work at these things!
TRUMP’S TALKERS: AS DISCIPLINED AS HE IS UNRULY
Americans are about to learn that their language has a lot more of the letter “R” in it than they previously knew, as Rhode Islander Sean Spicer gets ready to take over as White House press secretary.
As they would say in Spicer’s home state: “You have no idear…”
Spicer, who has been flacking for Reince Priebus at the Republican National Committee since 2011, is stepping up to the biggest podium in the world of political communications. And taking that spot on behalf of Donald Trump means that that podium will have a bullseye right on the front of it.
The press secretary’s job is to first and foremost sell (or defend) an administration’s actions. Then comes the tricky part: acting as an advocate for the press and the public inside the White House in favor of transparency and access.
Every new administration tries new ways to beat the press, and this one will be no exception. But perhaps even more than others before him, Trump understands the power of the press to shape perceptions.
Spicer’s time in the Navy has perhaps taught him enough about evasive maneuvering that he can find a safe course between the jagged rocks of accountability and messaging.
He rounds out a communications team that looks to be led by Kellyanne Conway, who, though a pollster by trade, has proven herself to be the most effective communicator for the incoming administration and the best Trump-to-English translator in the business.
Conway took a top spot as “counselor to the president,” but it seems clear that the job is as the message maven for the White House and, Republicans hope, continue to function as “the Trump whisperer” – the woman who can get the boss back on script.
Jason Miller slides in to the communications director slot with the unenviable task of message management for an administration populated with lots of political neophytes. The Trump team took a free-for-all approach to communications during the campaign with a remarkably large number of spokespeople and surrogates hitting the airwaves and talking to reporters. Miller’s job will be to act as a gatekeeper for the press but, more importantly, for his own team. Fewer messengers means fewer messages and less confusion.
What’s notable about the Conway-Miller-Spicer triad is that they are all seasoned GOP operatives with longstanding experience across multiple levels of the business of politics.
After much speculation that Trump would end up with a wild card at the podium or someone to try to stiff-arm the media, he ended up with a well-credentialed team that seems inclined to spurn unnecessary drama– one that has to please soon to be chief of staff Priebus.
There will be much made out of the rivalry between Priebus and Steve Bannon, the nationalist provocateur who helped turn Trump’s populist message into political blasting caps. Conway, they say, is Team Bannon, not Team Priebus.
If that’s for real, it could spell trouble down the line. But for today, Trump’s selections suggest that he’s on board with the Priebusian idea of message discipline and good order.
Or as they would say in Rhode Island, “playing it smaht.” Remember, they have to make up for all those extra Rs someplace…
THE RULEBOOK: A TRUE REPUBLIC
“Could any further proof be required of the republican complexion of this system, the most decisive one might be found in its absolute prohibition of titles of nobility, both under the federal and the State governments; and in its express guaranty of the republican form to each of the latter.” – James Madison, Federalist 39
TIME OUT: TIME WELL WASTED
Are you making the most of your wasted time? The New Yorker’s Adrian Chen offers his reviews of the best simple smartphone games for adults this year. Read on: “Stripped down by necessity, the games represent pure escapism. I began to think of them as a healthy alternative to Twitter, fulfilling the need for constant stimulus that has now been wired into our brains without the psychic toll of learning about what is going wrong with the world in real time. In 2017, we may need more of that.”
[Ed. note: The tennis game is fantastic!]
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
TRUMP TEES UP TRADE FIGHT WITH CHINA
WaPo: President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday named billionaire investor Carl Icahn and vocal China critic Peter Navarro as high-level White House advisers, leaning on controversial figures from his campaign to help shape his economic agenda. Trump announced that Navarro would lead the National Trade Council, a newly created group within the White House that the Trump transition team said would be equivalent to the historically powerful roles of the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. Navarro, a business professor at the University of California at Irvine who has been a sharp critic of globalization and trade with China, will help set strategy in trade negotiations, address the decline in manufacturing jobs and implement Trump’s pledge to “Buy American, hire American.” … Icahn, one of a handful of hedge fund investors who supported Trump’s during his campaign, will serve as a special adviser overseeing regulatory reform.”
POLL: TRUMP NEEDS CONFLICT SOLUTION, RUSSIA PROBE
USA Today: “[A] majority of Americans, including one in five Trump voters, say the president-elect hasn't done enough to prevent conflicts between his business interests and the nation's interests. And by nearly 2-1, those surveyed say the incoming administration should investigate whether Russia tried to meddle in the American election, a conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that Trump initially dismissed. … Trump has seen his favorable-unfavorable ratings improve since the election, from a dismal 31%-61% in the USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll in late October to 41%-46% now. … But Trump's standing continues to lag even the 46.1% proportion of the vote he carried. In the new survey, 5% of those who supported him have an unfavorable opinion and 11% are undecided.”
STAGE FRIGHT? BIG NAMES SAID TO DUCK TRUMP INAUGURAL
NME: “Celine Dion is the latest big name rumoured to have turned down Donald Trump.The President-elect is understood to be having great difficulty booking acts to perform at his inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C. next month (January). Opera singer Andrea Bocelli fell through earlier this week, reportedly because fans reacted badly to news that he might be performing for Trump. Garth Brooks is also believed to have rejected an offer from the President-elect. According to TheWrap, a close friend of Trump’s, Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn, had vowed to secure a performance from Dion for the January 20 inauguration ceremony, but was unable to keep his promise…Meanwhile, the lineup for Trump’s pre-inauguration ‘All-American Ball’ has been announced, and it’s less than stellar. It includes performances from Nashville singer/songwriter Beau Davidson, ’80s cover band The Reagan Years (who only perform songs that were released when Ronald Reagan was President), and The Mixx, who are billed as ‘the Mid-Atlantic’s hottest Party Band!’”
Counter-programming - Politico: “Mark Ross, a concert promoter and the son of the late Time Warner CEO Steve Ross, is in the process of putting together a large-scale concert [in Miami] called ‘We the People’ to DIRECTLY compete with Donald Trump’s inauguration.”
[But LDS still says yes! - The leader of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has confirmed it will make its seventh appearance at a presidential inauguration.]
THE JUDGE’S RULING: SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS
Fox Senior Legal Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano offers a meditation on Christmas in his finest Socratic form. “What if we don’t mask this but live it? What if we say with our hearts and mean with our words – Merry Christmas?” Read it here.
AUDIBLE: BACKFIELD IN MOTION
“I told the reporters I had a great visit, and that we were going to make the wishbone great again. I told them I was going to be Secretary of Offense and that Trump knew how to run the ball down the field. Then I went back to my hotel and laughed my ass off.” – Former Dallas Cowboys Coach Barry Switzer to Politico on pranking the press corps into believing he met with the president-elect.
Clinton team kept tabs on elector revolt effort - Politico
Bash the ‘stache? Trump team says the boss is all about “the look” - WaPo
Revenge of the swamp things: Goldman gets top billing in Trump world - Bloomberg
Former campaign manager Lewandowski cashing in on Trump ties on K Street - Politico
Eric Trump steps back from his charity fearing ethical ‘quagmire’ - NYT
Jet Blue passenger booted for confronting fellow passenger Ivanka Trump - The Hill
Obamacare signups jump - AP
Poll: Biden tops list of 2020 Dems, but biggest haul is for ‘someone new’- USA Today
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, great analysis on Obama’s ‘tenure’ particularly noting the outright lies. So I am astonished that you buy his claim there was not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS. Do you think Trump will think so too?” –William Garden, Normal, IL
[Ed. note: Thank you, Mr. Garden. That was a biggie. I had forgotten all about the IRS… though I doubt I’ll be able to say the same thing in April.]
“I enjoy ‘Halftime Report’ and your appearances on Fox News. Today you said that the Obama administration has been pretty much free of sexual impropriety, self-dealing and payola. You also mention a number of things where the Obama administration flat-out lied to the American public and to Congress. Later in today’s issue, you report accusations that the administration punished climate skeptics including firing a leading scientist. You didn't mention how federal agencies have been used to punish conservative groups and harass political opponents--IRS audits, OSHA inspections, etc. Corruption can take many forms. I submit the Obama administration has been quite corrupt. The Solyndra fiasco is, I believe, an example of payola. – Jim Miller, Southlake, Texas
[Ed note: Solyndra certainly brushed close to payola. The presence of donors in the firm and on the team directing stimulus money was rank even by Washington standards. But as you point out, most of the corruption in the Obama era has seemed to be either ideologically or politically motivated rather than for personal gain.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
SO SICK OF TALKING ABOUT WORK AT THESE THINGS!
Santa Fe New Mexican: “Epidemiologists at the [New Mexico] Department of Health are investigating their agency’s own annual holiday luncheon after dozens of employees reported falling ill after the party last week. About 70 staff members claim to have experienced gastrointestinal issues following the catered event at the Harold Runnels Building attended by more than 200 employees, according to a spokesman. Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher wrote in an email to staff Monday that investigators have not identified a specific food from the party that may have caused the outbreak. A team from the department’s Epidemiology and Response Division ‘believes that there may have been cross-contamination of menu items served during the luncheon,’ she wrote.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News Halftime Report in you 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.