Fox News Halftime Report

Down to business

'Fox & Friends' political panel debates


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On the roster: Down to business - War of words between GOP, Schumer on Pompeo vote - Flynn investigated for Russia ties - White House rivals use Spicer’s stumble against him - Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope…

President Trump needs an enemy. But who?

Trump excelled as a candidate by devolving every issue into single combat. He worked through his Republican primary opponents like a crate of clay pigeons, blowing them away, one after another.

Then came the main event with Hillary Clinton. Exit polls show mortal combat was a highly effective strategy, with Trump managing to leverage a humble 38 percent favorability rating into a victory.

The secret for Trump was winning 66 percent of the voters who declared both candidates unfit for the presidency in exit polls. It was these skeptical voters who delivered him his narrow victory. Both candidates dove headlong into the muck, but if 2016 was a race to the bottom, Trump was the man for the job.

So, who’s next?

Official Washington is suffering right now from a bad case of the vapors after Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took a ball bat to the press for reporting on the smaller crowds that attended Trump’s inaugural than his predecessor’s first swearing in, or for the women’s march that took place Saturday.

Brutalizing the press and casually trafficking in falsehoods were key components in Trump’s victory. Those who think that he and his team would be so awed by their new titles that they would suddenly become genteel haven’t been paying attention.

But the Washington press corps is hardly a worthy adversary.

Trump’s core supporters hate the mainstream media even more than they hate Democrats, insofar as they can see a difference between the two. Crowds at Trump’s rallies certainly bayed for the incarceration of Clinton, but saved their loudest howls for the press.

This has the double advantage of keeping core supporters from believing news that is unflattering to Trump. But it doesn’t do anything to expand his coalition or advance his agenda.

Trump’s task right now is to deliver victories on the enormous promises he laid out in his campaign and in his precedent-shattering inaugural address. He needs wins in order to convince his most skeptical supporters that their tentative trust was, in fact, well-placed.

Some of the new president’s most effective language in the speech and in the events surrounding his inauguration were about getting to work – a businessman getting down to business.

What followed with Trump carping at the CIA of all places about crowd size and Spicer’s diatribe were exactly the opposite. That was not about “the forgotten Americans,” that was about Trump, no matter how much whitewash he and his team slap on about press accountability.

Today, we see a different Trump. He’s wielding his pen to remake policy and using his position to drive his message on job creation. The president looks purposeful and driven not petty and venal.

And given the size of the tasks ahead of him on devising a new health care regime for the nation, re-writing the tax code, revamping the entire regulatory regime and overhauling the national security apparatus there’s no time to waste on bruised egos or distracting, circular fights with reporters.

Trump has 97 more days out of the traditional 100-day launch phase to start to deliver on those promises. If he wastes many more like he did this weekend instead of today’s more purposeful posture between now and April 30, it will be a bust.

The real enemy for Trump right now is not the press. It’s not Hollywood or protest marchers. It’s not the Democrats or the Republicans in Washington, either.

The deadly enemy for new presidents is distraction – his own and that of Washington and the electorate. If Trump can fight that foe with anything like the intensity he did his political rivals he’d have a chance to secure the support of the skeptical and even begin to build a governing coalition.

“The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” – Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 51

Atlantic: “Young people are not getting driver’s licenses so much anymore. In fact, no one is. According to a new study by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the percentage of people with a driver’s license decreased between 2011 and 2014, across all age groups. For people aged 16 to 44, that percentage has been decreasing steadily since 1983. It’s especially pronounced for the teens—in 2014, just 24.5 percent of 16-year-olds had a license, a 47-percent decrease from 1983, when 46.2 percent did. And at the tail end of the teen years, 69 percent of 19-year-olds had licenses in 2014, compared to 87.3 percent in 1983, a 21-percent decrease…”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

USA Today: “President Trump signed three presidential directives Monday, withdrawing U.S. support for a Pacific trade deal, imposing a hiring freeze in civilian agencies, and restoring the so-called Mexico City policy that prohibits U.S. aid from supporting international groups that promote abortion. ‘Everybody knows what I'm about to do,’ Trump said before withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 13-nation trade deal signed by the Obama administration but not ratified by the Senate. ‘We’ve been talking about this for a long time. A great thing for the American worker, what we just did.’”

Weekly Standard: “[Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.] will almost certainly be confirmed as CIA Director on Monday. And the CIA will no doubt survive two days without its new leader. But the nastiness of the partisan sniping between top Republicans and Democrats that led to the delay may well have a lasting impact on the Senate - in this Congress and beyond. According to six sources familiar with the negotiations over Pompeo's confirmation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told Republican leaders that he would allow Pompeo to be confirmed by voice vote on Inauguration Day, along with two other Trump nominees who have national security responsibilities. But Schumer broke his promise, these sources say…”]

Reuters: “U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Monday said he would reluctantly back President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in a move that all but secures Senate confirmation of the former Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive as the nation’s top diplomat. Rubio said he was troubled by Tillerson’s recent responses before lawmakers regarding Russia as well as other countries, but that ultimately he decided he would vote to approve the nominee in deference to Trump, as well as to not leave a critical top job unfilled. ‘Despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate,’ Rubio said in a statement ahead of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s vote on Tillerson later on Monday.”

WSJ: “U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated communications that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser had with Russian officials, according to people familiar with the matter. Michael Flynn is the first person inside the White House under Mr. Trump whose communications are known to have faced scrutiny as part of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Treasury Department to determine the extent of Russian government contacts with people close to Mr. Trump. A key issue in the investigation is a series of telephone calls Mr. Flynn made to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., on Dec. 29. That day, the Obama administration announced sanctions and other measures against Russia…In a statement Sunday night, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: ‘We have absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation.’”

Fox News: “A liberal-funded watchdog group filed a lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump alleging that he is violating the Constitution by allowing his business to accept payments from foreign governments. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York and claims Trump is violating a clause in the Constitution that prohibits his businesses from receiving anything of value from foreign governments. Because Trump didn’t divest his businesses, the group claims he’s now receiving gifts from foreign governments via guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings and real estate deals abroad.”

NYT: “On Saturday, Mr. Trump told his advisers that he wanted to push back hard on ‘dishonest media’ coverage — mostly referring to a Twitter post from a New York Times reporter showing side-by-side frames of Mr. Trump’s crowd and Mr. Obama’s in 2009. But most of Mr. Trump’s advisers urged him to focus on the responsibilities of his office during his first full day as president…But most of his remarks [at the CIA] were devoted to attacking the news media. And Mr. Spicer picked up the theme later in the day in the White House briefing room. But his appearance, according to the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s thinking, went too far, in the president’s opinion.”

“I do not know, because he has made so many comments that are contradictory.” –Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when asked on ABC News if he has confidence in President Trump’s ability to fulfill the obligations of the presidency.

The limits, political and practical, on executive action to undo ObamaCare - The Upshot

Trump promises to slash regulation by 75 percent, decrease corporate taxes - WashEx

Kremlin says Trump-Putin phone call happening ‘very soon’ - Bloomberg

Netanyahu accepts Trump’s invitation to the White House next month - Fox News

Most of Trump’s cabinet nominees expect delayed confirmations - WashEx

Trump’s first day includes meeting with Ryan, congressional leaders - The Hill

Breitbart staffer hostile to Ryan to join WH staff - Politico

Jack Shafer says covering Trump just requires good, old-fashioned journalism - Politico

Poll: Soft support for Warren’s re-election bid in Mass. - WBUR

Billionaire battle: Facebook founder Zuckerberg stirs speculation about a presidential run - The Hill

“Surely you meant, ‘And unlike this time sixteen years ago, the president is not crassly cashing in on his last hours in power…’ I’m reasonably certain that [George W. Bush] didn’t attempt to pilfer the White House china when he moved out eight years ago.” – Ed Ozmun, Poway, Calif.

[Ed. note: As you might guess, Mr. Ozmun, you were not the only reader to notice this bone-headed error on my part. Certainly it was the Clintons we were talking about, as the included link reflected. Maybe it’s just that it’s hard for me to believe that it really has been 16 years.]

“Of all your email columns I’ve read, [Thursday’s] is far and away, ‘Top Notchiest.’ Well done.” – Mark Hoffman, Des Moines

[Ed. note: I did not want to be uncharitable as the former president was leaving office, but geez Louise! Thanks for your kind words.]

“Greetings and Salutations Mr. Stirewalt, Love the halftime report and listening to you and Dana banter on the podcast. Makes the train ride more palatable. You both carry on about food and I notice that you nit-pick on Dana about her diet with comments like ‘I know you won’t eat this.’ … I’d like to hear her talk about her diet and what she will and won’t eat. It’ll help us listeners get a better understanding of your food related musings.” – Phil Toth, Chicago

[Ed. note: I have on good authority, Mr. Toth, that Dana cooked a brisket this past weekend. Any list of forbidden foods that still allows a woman to eat brisket can’t be all bad I suppose. I promise I will elicit details from her on her culinary adventures this week.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Sky News: “An Australian zoo has asked ‘responsible adults’ to collect funnel-web spiders so it can milk them in its antivenom programme. The Australian Reptile Park relies on the public handing the spiders in to keep the programme running. The funnel-web spider is found in areas including rotting wood, logs, rockeries and even bundles of clothes, bedclothes and towels. It is highly venemous and potentially fatal if bites are untreated. The park has released a video showing people where they might find the spiders and instructing on how to catch them safely…To keep up the supply of venoms the staff regularly ‘milk’ more than 300 snakes and 500 spiders that are included in the programme.”

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 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.