On the roster: ‘Scandal free?’ C’mon - Tempers flare during Treasury hearing - Perry eats crow at confirmation - Audible: Howdy, pardner - Well, it is a red state now…
‘SCANDAL FREE?’ C’MON
One of the closing arguments for President Obama and his team has been the absence of scandal in his administration.
And if you look at it just right, it’s true. But you kind of have to squint a little to see it.
What they mean is that there have been no personal scandals like the ones that rocked Bill Clinton’s administration. There have been no allegations of personal corruption, no tawdriness of an, ahem, personal nature, and no major meltdowns.
Nobody got arrested, nobody got sued for sexual harassment and nobody took a bribe. And unlike this time eight years ago, the president is not crassly cashing in on his last hours in power (or carting off the White House furnishings.) )
Surely the nation should be grateful for the service and good ethical conduct of the president and his subordinates – just as the nation should have been grateful for the service and good conduct of the Bush administration. Neither bunch demeaned the office of the president with cheap or sleazy personal scandals.
That’s a good thing. But that seems to be setting the bar rather low, doesn’t it?
A scandal is properly understood as wrongdoing resulting in public outrage. That doesn’t cover errors in well-intentioned judgement or execution. And under that definition, history will record plenty in the past eight years.
Obama’s Justice Department was a particularly bubbling cauldron.
Most recently, we had the meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Hillary Clinton’s husband while the former Democratic nominee was being investigated by the department. That was a doozy.
But there were more.
The “Fast and Furious” botched gunning-running sting that dumped illegal weapons in the American Southwest and even into the hands of Mexican drug cartels started as a lapse of judgment but became a scandal when Obama exerted executive privilege to shield then-Attorney General Eric Holder from congressional scrutiny.
Holder’s Justice Department also delivered the scandal surrounding Obama’s crackdown on the press. Forgotten in some of the current denunciations of President-elect Donald Trump’s distain for journalists are the unprecedented steps Obama and his administration took against reporters.
Under Holder’s watch, the Justice Department spied on reporters, prosecuted leakers and did so unrepentantly.
Holder was also part of a scandal that stunk up the Treasury Department. Who could ever forget the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS? Wait, all the Democrats did. But if we were being honest, we would say that the targeting and Holder’s subsequent slow-walking of the investigation was an abuse of power that would have made Richard Nixon blush.
That’s one that Democrats probably wish they had to do over again. As they stand on tiptoes, ready for outrageous behavior from the Trump administration, Democrats would be in a stronger position to decry misconduct if they had roused themselves to even modest outrage about the IRS.
There’s no suggestion Obama ordered the misconduct, but the lack of a rigorous response came close to tacit approval. No one would have thought the president was concerned
The most famous, most divisive scandal of Obama’s tenure was, of course, the doctored talking points surrounding the raid by Islamist militants on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Allegations surrounding the attack have included some truly deplorable claims, including that Obama and his national security team chose to let Americans die for ulterior motives.
In fact, the claims were so audacious that it ended up obscuring the incontrovertible scandal in the story: that the administration knowingly misled the American public about the nature of the attack in order to push a narrative more favorable to Obama in the fall of an election year.
Lying about the cause of an attack that killed Americans to win an election may not be graft or personal corruption, but it is surely a scandal.
Lying to win an election also covers Obama’s famous pledge that Americans could keep their insurance policies and doctors under his health law. We would only subsequently find out that this wasn’t happy talk from Obama but more likely willful, knowing misleading.
Again, the absence of personal scandals among Obama and his team is a good thing and one for which the public should be grateful. Avoiding embarrassing distractions isn’t just good politics, it sets a good example for the rest of the country.
But to shorthand that as “scandal free” does a disservice to the truth and to our proper understanding of the past eight years.
[Watch Fox: A new Fox News poll of Trump, Pence’s favorability is out tonight on “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET]
THE RULEBOOK: JUST RIGHT
“As, on the one hand, a duration of four years will contribute to the firmness of the Executive in a sufficient degree to render it a very valuable ingredient in the composition; so, on the other, it is not enough to justify any alarm for the public liberty.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 85
TIME OUT: FROM 1 TO 45
As we celebrate the inauguration of another new president Friday, we look back at the first president’s humble road to his inauguration. Mount Vernon: “The journey to America’s first capital by its first president was not only a national effusion of gratitude and admiration for the ‘Father of His Country,’ but a triumphal march for Americans themselves. In praising General Washington, the citizens were acknowledging victory over tyranny; in lauding President Washington they welcomed strength and purpose to the administration of their new government. On April 16, 1789, George Washington, in a rare diary entry of this period, described his departure from home: ‘About ten o’clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life… with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York…with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.’”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
TEMPERS FLARE DURING TREASURY HEARING
Fox News: “Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, on Thursday defended his banking career and pushed back on claims he ran a ‘foreclosure machine’ that profited off Americans during the financial crisis. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker who also served as Trump’s national finance chairman, testified before the Senate Committee on Finance for his confirmation hearing…[The hearing] started off with a testy exchange between two senators. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., joked he should give ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a Valium pill for the questioning. ‘Senator Wyden, I’ve got a valium pill here that you might want to take before the second round,’ Roberts said. ‘Just a suggestion, sir.’ Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown butted in and fired back, saying he hopes the ‘comment about Valium doesn’t set the tone for 2017 in this committee.’ He added, ‘This is just outrageous.’”
PERRY EATS CROW AT CONFIRMATION HEARING
USA Today: “Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Energy secretary, said Thursday he has changed his mind about abolishing the agency. ‘My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,’ Perry said in prepared remarks planned for delivery at his confirmation hearing. ‘In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.’ … Perry, who in the past has expressed skepticism about climate change, said he believes the climate is changing.”
TRUMP BLUEPRINT CALLS FOR AUDACIOUS CUTS
The Hill: “Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned. The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.”
CABINET COMPLETE WITH PERDUE FOR AGRICULTURE
Atlanta Journal Constitution: “President-elect Donald Trump picked former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday to be his agriculture secretary, tapping a veterinarian-turned-politician who was the state’s first Republican governor in more than a century to lead the sprawling department. Perdue, 70, had emerged as Trump’s leading contender to run the agriculture department in recent days, and he is said to have impressed the New York businessman with his experience in public office and in the private sector.”
AUDIBLE: HOWDY, PARDNER
“I hope you are as fun on the dais as you were on your couch.” – Energy Secretary Designee Rick Perry’s response when asked by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., if Perry enjoyed meeting him during an earlier private chat in Franken’s office.
THE JUDGE’S RULING: PARTING SHOT
Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano points to a recent secret order signed Attorney General Loretta Lynch that allows the National Security Agency to share raw data collected by its domestic surveillance program with all other foreign intelligence agencies as another example of how Americans’ constitutional rights are being violated: “President Barack Obama, in the death throes of his time in the White House, has delivered perhaps his harshest blow to constitutional freedom by permitting his attorney general to circumvent the Fourth Amendment…” More here.
It’s official: Trump pays $25 million to settle fraud suit over Trump University - The Hill
In his first briefing, Spicer says Trump ‘still deciding’ on executive orders - Politico
Trump cabinet to be the first since Reagan without a Hispanic member - The Hill
McConnell NATO is ‘the most important military alliance in world history’ - McClatchy DC
Tom Cotton says Iran deal is dead in an interview with David Drucker- WashEx
Manchin accuses fellow Dems of ‘playing politics’ with Sessions’ nomination - WashEx
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“What is happening to the money in the Clinton Foundation, now that it is closing down? Will the FBI investigations continue?” – DiAnne Forville, Newburgh, Ind.
[Ed. note: You may be referring here to the Clinton Global Initiative, which is set to be officially shuttered on April 15. The effort is reaching its ignominious end after foreign governments pulled back in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. This provides the best evidence yet of how CGI and the family’s foundation were seen as pathways to payola and opportunities to curry favor with powerful people. This, of course, is the same concern that now faces the Trump administration and the president-elect’s high-profile business holdings. Whether Trump intends it or not, those looking to influence his decisions may end up doing business with his company and spending money at his hotels and golf courses in hopes of winning his favor. Trump is removing himself from the management of his firm, but won’t be able to remove himself from the knowledge of its practices, especially as news outlets report the details of deals and transactions. It’s a tricky business.]
“Love the Halftime Report; however, with the Superbowl fast approaching, might it be time for another sports theme to fit the season? As we roll into spring, how about using some baseball vernacular -- double header, shut out, seventh inning stretch, bottom of the ninth, home run, etc.?” – DJ Jowers, Littleton, Mass.
[Ed. note: Despite the heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma on Wednesday, I’m thinking college hoops and the West Virginia University Mountaineers these days. As we march to March, maybe we should think about some basketball terms. Certainly, there’s lots of double dribbles in politics and Lord knows there’s plenty of technical fouls, but on the whole, I think we’ll stick to our terminology. After all, I love it here in the Bleachers…]
“Thanks Chris (and Dana) for the podcast, I can always count on smiling while you are in my ear. I have been married to a West Virginian for 18 years & there have been many times when we go back home someone brings up Coleman’s Fish Market, but I have not ever made it there. I think for our next visit I will have to make that a must on the to-do list. Right after DiCarlos Pizza. Thanks for the always entertaining podcast & the daily informative e-mail. Who says politics can’t be fun!” – Colleen Mansuetto, Cleveland
[Ed. note: Coleman’s is perfection. I know I’m a homer, but I have never met its match in the world of fish sandwiches. As it relates to DiCarlos, I readily acknowledge that it’s a Wheeling thing. For the uninitiated, real DiCarlos pizza is rectangular, and only the crust and sauce go in the oven with mozzarella cheese added after it comes out of the heat. I love it and will only go to the location in Elm Grove for the real deal. For a town so small to have produced two foods so perfect is pretty remarkable.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WELL, IT IS A RED STATE NOW…
Fox6: “The Dodge County [Wisc.] Sheriff’s Office came across something odd in the road Tuesday evening, January 17th — hundreds of thousands of Skittles! …‘While we don’t know who did this, it is certainly clear that it may be difficult to ‘Taste the Rainbow’ in its entirety with one color that likely fell off the truck,’ said the Sheriff’s Office in a post to their Facebook page. On Wednesday afternoon, officials said they confirmed the Skittles fell off the back of a flatbed truck. They were in a large box and because it was raining, the box got wet and the Skittles spilled. Sheriff’s officials said it has been reported that the Skittles were intended to be feed for cattle, as they did not make the cut for packaging at the company. The Dodge County Highway Department has since cleaned the road.”
Chris Stirewalt is the 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.