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On the roster: Is Trump ready to move on from Russia hacking? - I’ll Tell You What: ObamaCare bait and switch? - Gruesome beating video stuns political world - Audible: Wait a second… - When Febreze just isn’t enough
IS TRUMP READY TO MOVE ON FROM RUSSIA HACKING?
Like a man rubbing his aching tooth, Democrats can’t stop poking at their 2016 defeat. And rather than going to the dentist to get the thing pulled, the members of the blue team are still savoring the agony.
Some of the Democrats’ fixation on Russia’s hacking is understandable, given that their campaign operatives were the targets. It’s especially pungent given that those operatives made it so easy for the Putinic cyber crooks.
Imagine how hard it would be to think back over months of bad press that could’ve been avoided if only John Podesta knew what phishing was.
Some of the Russia fixation is undoubtedly malicious, intended to delegitimize Donald Trump’s victory in the same way some Republicans tried to use foul conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s nativity to undercut his presidency.
But, a fair-minded observer would have to allow that some of it is just despair. When a family has lost their home in a flood and is left to live amid the ruins, it is hard for them to think of anything other than their loss.
It will be a while before even patriotically gracious Democrats are probably able to move past Russian mischief.
The truth that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was a botch is hard to face. Yes, the drumbeat of negative stories from stolen emails hurt her, but she did so much damage to herself. In fact, she may have been the worst choice available to Democrats in 2016.
They chose poorly, she ran poorly and together, they went down to defeat.
But that’s life in the big leagues. The sooner the blue team comes to terms with the totality of the reasons for its loss, the sooner it can get on with figuring out how to put together a better roster. Moving on is hard, but no growth can happen without it.
The more urgent issue, though, is whether the president-elect and his party can move on.
Given today’s testimony on Capitol Hill, skeptics of Russian meddling are left to conclude either that it really happened, or that America’s intelligence community is a thoroughgoing disaster, perforated with lies and incompetence.
It’s also clear that the nation’s spies are not going to let Trump & Co. off the hook here. Their competency, integrity and patriotism have been called into question, and they are not going to let the matter be tabled.
This leaves the question: Will the GOP hunker down and allow this issue to dominate more weeks of the national discussion, or will they move on?
Obviously, Republicans would like to have won without Russia muddying the waters. We will never know whether Trump would have won without the bad press for Clinton any more than we will ever know if George W. Bush would have won in 2004 without a late-campaign release from Usama bin Laden.
Would the Confederacy have survived if Pickett’s Charge had succeeded? Would The Beatles have lasted if Yoko Ono never showed up? Would the Patriots have won if they wouldn’t have cheated? We’ll never know. It is therefore an unworthy use of time to mediate upon such questions for too long.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. We live in the world as it is, not as we wish it would be.
The longer Trump and his team stay in a defensive crouch on this issue, the better it is for Democrats. It looks bad, reinforces existing negative views and, worst, distracts the American people at the most crucial time for an administration to put forward its message.
Trump does not, one assumes, want to take office sounding like a guy selling wristwatches on a street corner outside of one of his buildings. “It’s legit,” does not a good inaugural sentiment make.
Democrats will be only too willing to oblige Trump in keeping the story alive, just as they were during his campaign fights with the parents of a U.S. officer slain in Iraq, or a former beauty pageant contestant.
It’s up to Trump to decide when to stop giving them the opportunity.
THE RULEBOOK: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
“[The legislative branch’s] connections of blood, of friendship, and of acquaintance embrace a great proportion of the most influential part of the society. The nature of their public trust implies a personal influence among the people, and that they are more immediately the confidential guardians of the rights and liberties of the people.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 49
TIME OUT: TEMPLE OF DOOM?
Smithsonian: “Architectural preservation is rarely so thrilling as it was in 1930s China. As the country teetered on the edge of war and revolution, a handful of obsessive scholars were making adventurous expeditions into the country’s vast rural hinterland, searching for the forgotten treasures of ancient Chinese architecture. At the time, there were no official records of historic structures that survived in the provinces. The semi-feudal countryside had become a dangerous and unpredictable place…Leaders of this small but dedicated group have taken on a mythic status in China today: the architect Liang Sicheng and his brilliant poet wife, Lin Huiyin…Despite the difficulties, the couple would go on to make a string of extraordinary discoveries in the 1930s, documenting almost 2,000 exquisitely carved temples, pagodas and monasteries that were on the verge of being lost forever.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: OBAMACARE BAIT AND SWITCH?
Out with the old, in with the new! President Obama prepares to leave office soon, but he’s not going very far, while the new GOP Congress take control. Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt are here to break it all down. Plus, some nitty-gritty baloney…gross! LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.
A year is a long time… - The Hill: “Republicans will put forward their plan to replace ObamaCare sometime this year, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday. Republicans are planning to pass a repeal bill quickly without having a replacement ready, but Ryan said that the replacement would follow this year. He said he did not yet know when the repeal bill and replacement bill would take effect, because Republicans are still working out how long to make the transition period. ‘Our legislating will occur this year,’ Ryan said at a press conference. ‘Our legislating on ObamaCare, our repealing and replacing and transitioning, the legislating will occur this year.’”
Beclowned - The Hill: “President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday blasted ObamaCare and Democrats, saying lawmakers from both parties must come together to create an effective healthcare plan. ‘The Democrats, lead by head clown Chuck Schumer, know how bad ObamaCare is and what a mess they are in,’ the president-elect said in a tweet Thursday morning. ‘Instead of working to fix it, they…do the typical political thing and BLAME,’ he said in a subsequent tweet. Trump also said ObamaCare was a ‘lie from the beginning.’ ‘'Keep you doctor, keep your plan!’ he tweeted.”
Good luck with that - WashEx: “Democratic senators are trying to force the GOP to get 60 votes to repeal Obamacare, a tall task for Republicans that only have a two-seat majority in the chamber. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced an amendment to a budget resolution that would thwart Republican plans to repeal the healthcare law via a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster…The amendment would require any bill that would reduce insurance coverage, increase costs and reduce healthcare plan quality to get 60 votes to be considered in the Senate.”
The Judge’s Ruling: C’mon! - Fox News’ Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano refutes a recent declaration by top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett that the outgoing president’s tenure was devoid of scandal. “When first I heard this preposterous claim, I thought I had misheard it. Yet it is apparently true that President Obama and his team somehow can overlook recent history and behave as if events with which we are all familiar never happened.”
GRUESOME BEATING VIDEO STUNS POLITICAL WORLD
Chicago Tribune: “Chicago police say they are considering hate crime charges against four people shown in a Facebook video attacking a mentally disabled man, cutting his scalp with a knife and punching him while yelling obscenities about Donald Trump and ‘white people.’ The 18-year-old man, who had been reported missing by his parents in Crystal Lake earlier this week, is shown crouching in a corner on a video carried on Facebook Live. His wrists are bound and his mouth is taped shut. As a woman shoots the video, two men cut the man's shirt with knives, then take turns punching him and stomping his head. One of the men cuts the victim’s hair and scalp with a knife, and it appears the man is bleeding. As the man crouches against a wall, someone shouts, ‘F‑‑‑ Donald Trump’ and ‘F‑‑‑ white people.’”
AUDIBLE: WAIT A SECOND…
“Apparently there’s yet a new standard now to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that’s something the American people simply will not tolerate.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“I think it’s disgraceful, I think there should be like death penalty or something.” – Donald Trump in 2010 talking about WikiLeaks at the time with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade.
Pence says Trump to use executive action to patch ObamaCare holes - The Hill
Rich Lowry rises to object on behalf of Jeff Sessions - Politico
Trump threatens retribution for Toyota - The Hill
Trump to pick former Dubya economic adviser William Hagerty as ambassador to Japan - Reuters
Christie aide Bill Stepien, fired amid Bridgegate scandal, picked as new White House political director - The [Bergen County, N.J.] Record
Primary brewing for Va. Dems ahead of Nov. gubernatorial race - NYT
Obama opines on president’s role in reforming criminal justice - Harvard Law Review
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I’ve been an avid watcher of the Megyn Kelly’s show and the best segments are those which involve your commentary. With her leaving I’m afraid my weeknight routine will experience a change. Is there a chance your delicious analysis of current affairs and West Virginia cooking tips will still be present in her time slot, or will I need to look elsewhere to hear exclamations of ‘Holy Croakano!’ and mountaineer idioms? Thanks for bringing a spirit of goodwill to the American people. Stay Classy!” – Warren Rayburn, Sweeny, Texas
[Ed. note: As you may have seen, Mr. Rayburn, FNC has wasted no time in moving ahead. Tucker Carlson is a friend, and while I am happy for him, I am even happier for the news organization that I call home. There will never be another Megyn, and I’m sure he won’t try to replicate her particular brand of awesomesauce, but the man has crackle, verve and wit. He loves America and Americans. I know that he is fond of hillbilly cuisine and possesses moderate tolerance for my linguistic lash-ups, but, I will do everything I can to help him be a great success. And how about Martha MacCallum! Her dispatches from the 7 p.m. ET hour are going to be fantastic. She is one of my favorite human beings, but also a top-notch journalist, interviewer and finder of fact. Nothing will make me stop being sad to see my friend go, but in terms of what comes next, I could hardly be happier.]
“The Russians may have hacked 1) Hillary’s server, 2) Podesta’s PC, DNC server and many other servers and PC. Why would you believe that they were the only ones? The servers/PCs mention above are so insecure that they most likely had to put a up traffic light to coordinate the hacks. Just because a technique used by the Russian was used to hack, any 1st rate hacker could have been using it since there techniques are well known in the hacker’s community. If there was more than one hack of these servers/PCs, how would you know who actually provided the data that was ultimately released? I find this whole discussion much like a group of goat herders’ discussion the trigger methods for A-Bombs…They know not of what they speak.” – Paul Hill, New Bern, N.C.
[Ed. note: At a certain point, Mr. Hill, we must either believe or disbelieve what the people in our government say. If our professional intelligence gatherers are lying to us, especially on a matter of such import, than we already live in true tyranny. A government capable of such enormous mendacity would be unjust and worthy of maximal opposition, even to the point of rebellion. I do not believe that is the case. While I certainly think Democrats have stretched the facts to fit their narrative, I do not believe that intelligence officials are lying. I may be wrong, but I know enough people who work in and around these agencies to trust their baseline conclusions.]
“Nice to receive your first newsletter of the New Year. The day you discontinued your newsletter in 2016, I asked your opinion of a proposal to give every state the same number of electors for presidential elections. The obvious benefit is that it ‘encourages’ presidential candidates to visit EVERY state (whether populated or not and whether ‘in play’ or not), and does so without disturbing the underlying, democratic process within each state. Secondarily, this may be the only way to avoid the constant carping of democrats seeking to undermine the Electoral College. Your thoughts?” – Eric Hutchins, Santa Barbara, Calif.
[Ed. note: That’s a new one to me, Mr. Hutchins. And it’s very intriguing. But I think in the end it fails to accommodate popular opinion enough. The genius of federalism is that it seeks to balance the power of states and the federal government. Certainly we have fallen far afield from the original balance. The federal government has grown to a monstrous size and consumed powers rightly seated with the states. Very few people now could probably identify all of their state lawmakers, but just imagine how important your state legislators would be, and how closely they would be watched, if their duties included picking your U.S. Senators and choosing the individuals who would act as unbound presidential electors. Despite the imbalance, though, I still believe not giving larger states greater say would be a mistake. I love West Virginia more than all 49 of the other states. But I also know that a government that paid equal attention to the concerns of the 35th state to those of, say, Texas, would not likely have its priorities right. I like the Founders’ compromise.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WHEN FEBREZE JUST ISN’T ENOUGH
WCHS: “There is a stinky situation happening in St. Albans. Drivers traveling along Twilight Lane, next to the railroad tracks, can see smoke billowing up from the hillside. The source of the smoke: a pile of horse manure. And the smell is making some neighbors upset. Craig Southern, who has lived in St. Albans for 18 years, said the smell has been present for about six months. ‘When the wind is blowing in the right direction, I can lay in bed at night and smell the smell of burning horse manure,’ Southern said…Officials with the Kanawha County Office of Emergency Management said the horse manure pile spontaneously combusted, but no one was in danger. They notified the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection…The manure pile comes from Sunday Stables, a nearby barn where horse riding lessons are offered. Susan Sunday, the property owner, owns about 16 horses, half of which are rescue animals that have been abused…Sunday said she is in contact with the state DEP, which is helping her find someone to haul the manure away.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. 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.