Fox News Halftime Report

Halftime at halftime

TV's Andy Levy reports from the 'Red Eye' News Deck

 

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On the roster:  Halftime at halftime - Conservatives shift pressure to Senate on TrumpCare - Trump team knew of Flynn’s Turkey ties - Nerd Bracket: Meet your champion - The real Hogzilla

HALFTIME AT HALFTIME
There’s no magic around the idea of 100 days and the presidency.

After all, history’s first 100-day benchmark was set by Napoleon Bonaparte who needed only that long to go from his triumphant return from exile on March 20, 1815 to his humiliation at Waterloo.

Not exactly an auspicious beginning to the concept…

We have measured American presidents by that standard since Franklin Roosevelt substantially remade government and the national economy in the period between March 4, 1933 and mid-June of that year.

FDR managed to launch the key components of the New Deal in that period – including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration, the National Recovery Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority – as well as to change the very concept of the presidency and its power.

But Roosevelt had some advantages that the current inhabitant of the White House does not. Aside from having been swept into power with the largest electoral landslide in 68 years, Roosevelt was also dealing with a nation so desperate for relief that it was willing to accept almost anything.

When a quarter of the workforce is unemployed and depositors are losing their life savings in bank busts, folks tend to become rather open to change.

So it’s hardly fair to judge Roosevelt’s successors by the same standard, especially one such as Donald Trump, who took office with a narrow margin and at a moment of relative peace and prosperity. Things may not be good enough for voters to want a caretaker presidency, but they’re not so bad as to create a sudden demand for radicalism.

Trump, like most of the rest, embraced the 100-day concept because of a mix of the historical grandiosity that comes with the start of every administration as well as the needed momentum that such a deadline provides. Congress doesn’t move until it must, and setting the finish-line for a 100-day dash helps get lawmakers out of the starting blocks – even when the situation isn’t so perilous as the one that faced the nation 84 years ago.

There was plenty more to fear back then than fear itself…

Even so, as Trump took office, he laid out an agenda as ambitious in some ways as Roosevelt’s and at least as audacious as any that came after: Remake the American health care system, re-write the tax code, overhaul the nation’s immigration policies, launch the most expensive infrastructure program in American history, re-negotiate trade policy from top to bottom and curtail drug abuse, all while creating a new paradigm for foreign policy and national security.

Whew…

By assembling a list so mind boggling, Trump was, in the strictest sense, setting himself up to fail. It would be impossible for any president to make even a down payment on such a list of promises in his first 100 days.

But, despite lots of turbulence, Trump is starting to make progress on some of his plans, particularly on health insurance and immigration. The moves have been halting at times, but, halfway through the first 100 days, the forward progress is unmistakable.

What remains to be seen is whether the strides Trump is taking toward effective governance in the past week are the new norm or a blip in what has mostly been a chaotic and unfocused start.

Will we look back 50 days from now and say that the middle of March was the start of the real Trump presidency or will it be a footnote in a larger story about executive insufficiency?

That will depend on Trump’s development of self-discipline equal to the task. Tweetstorms issued in fits of pique or other distractions prove only too appealing to reporters eager to write the story of the reality show host overwhelmed by office.

If it remains a chaotic, cutthroat affair pulled weekly into new and pointless controversies surrounding old grievances from the election or Trump’s internal and external grudges, there’s no hope of success.

Whether Trump finds victory or meets his Waterloo after 100 days will be in direct proportion to his ability to bring calm and focus to his still-unfinished administration.

THE RULEBOOK: FIRST THINGS FIRST
“Security against foreign danger is one of the primitive objects of civil society.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 41

TIME OUT: JACK WHITE, READ ALL OVER
America got to know Jack White as half of the punk revival band The White Stripes. Since the band’s heyday in the aughts, White has been busy, among other things, remaking the way Nashville makes music as one of the most acclaimed, genre-defying producers in the industry. The New Yorker sent Alec Wilkinson to White’s native Detroit to learn more about who he is and how he does it. “White’s principles for recording are a little old-fashioned. “My feeling is, if you record a take, and it’s not good enough, erase it, until you find what you love,” he said. “What people do on Pro Tools, they record fifty takes and fix it. They’re Auto-Tuning and throwing on the grid, so it’s all in time, and there’s no life left to it. We erase something, and it’s gone forever.” Read the whole thing here.

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

[Ed. note: Fox News Halftime Report is taking a one-week hiatus starting Monday. In Congress, they call it a “district work period,” but we can be honest with ourselves and call it what it is: a much-needed break. We will be back, rested and ready, on March 20. Until then, enjoy the circus in Washington and, most of all, “Let’s goooooooo Mountaineers!]

CONSERVATIVES SHIFT PRESSURE TO SENATE ON TRUMPCARE
Politico: “House Republican leaders narrowly tailored their Obamacare repeal bill to avoid violating Senate rules, but conservatives are pushing back with advice of their own: tear up the rulebook. A growing number of conservative lawmakers on Thursday urged GOP leaders to push the limits of how much of the health law they can reshape under a powerful procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation — and to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she doesn’t decide in their favor.”

And avoid criticism of Trump while bashing his health law… - The Hill: “President Trump has so far managed to avoid becoming a target for the conservative backlash to Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ObamaCare repeal and replace plan, even as the White House vigorously whips support for the bill. Ryan hasn’t been so lucky…Powerful conservative groups Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, whose leaders discussed the issue with Trump on Wednesday, have branded the bill ‘RyanCare.’ A FreedomWorks digital ad included a photoshopped image of former President Obama laughing with his arm around the Speaker.”

[Pence told Bret Baier on Thursday that health reform will be “done by spring.”]

Voters with the most to lose were mostly Trump backers - Nate Cohn explains how Trump’s base could rebel against the president’s health insurance cuts: “Over all, voters who would be eligible for a tax credit that would be at least $1,000 smaller than the subsidy they’re eligible for under Obamacare supported Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton by a seven-point margin. The voters hit the hardest — eligible for at least $5,000 less in tax credits under the Republican plan — supported Mr. Trump by a margin of 59 percent to 36 percent.”

TRUMP TEAM KNEW OF FLYNN’S TURKEY TIES
AP: “The White House has confirmed the president's transition team was informed before Inauguration Day that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn might need to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department. That's according to a White House official and a person with direct knowledge of discussions between transition lawyers and Flynn representatives… White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday he didn't believe President Donald Trump knew of Flynn's foreign agent work before his appointment.”

NERD BRACKET: MEET YOUR CHAMPION
What a hoot!

Thanks to all of you who shared your votes and insights over the past week as we have worked from 16 of the best American political speeches down to today’s final pairing and the champion of our own version of March Madness. Our readers never disappoint, but this was incredible.

To celebrate, we asked Power Play panelists Daniel Halper and Paige Lavender to share their thoughts on the Flourishing Four: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address vs. George Washington’s Farewell Address and Ronald Reagan’s “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc” vs. Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or Give me Death.”

It was a great show and you can watch Paige and Daniel duke it out here.

But it was your votes that picked the final pairing:

a) Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg address (1863) 
b) Patrick Henry: “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” (1775)

And it was also your votes that decided the ultimate champion, as determined by whichever entry received the most total votes.

So who was it? You’ll have to click here to find out.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Former Trump adviser Carter Page faces glare on Russia ties - AP

Tax reform takes a back seat to health care overhaul -
Fox News

‘Uh, no’: McConnell says Mexico won’t pay for border wall -
The Hill

Sessions says Guantanamo Bay a ‘very fine place’ for new terror suspects -
NY Times

Administration reportedly sending 50 judges to immigration centers to expedite deportations -
Reuters

House to vote next week on increasing the ability to fire employees at the VA -
WashEx

Nate Silver explains the power of groupthink in creating the 2016 media bubble - FiveThirtyEight

Schwarzenegger considering 2018 Senate run in California - Politico

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Mr. Sunday has the latest on the health care fight brewing on Capitol Hill. White House National Economic Adviser Gary Cohn talks health care and budget while Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, gives the Freedom Caucus take. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” 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: CALL ME, MAYBE?
“I was unaware that he was – the [Mexican] foreign minister was in town. And I’m not sure – I can’t speak to whether there’s going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level.” – State Department spokesman Mark Toner when asked why Mexico’s top diplomat was skipping normal channels and heading straight to the White House for meetings with top Trump aides.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I read Washington’s Farewell Address in its entirety for the first time.  It brings home how fortunate our young county was to have had combined in one man a great warrior and prophetic thinker willing to give up power when he felt it was time.” – Ellen Tensen, Sparta, N.J.

[Ed. note: It could rightly be said that Washington did as much in his departure from service as he did in the service itself. The hallmark of great leaders is that they raise up individuals and institutions to not just maintain, but advance their work. Washington is the embodiment of that spirit.]

“So after the worst speech, maybe the best and worst quotes? This Nerd Bracket thing is fun. I think panda ribs would be good also. Thanks for the great information.” – Mike Owens, Resaca, Ga.

[Ed. note: Finally, somebody who gets me! I think an Asian (obviously) glaze – kind of a honey-hoisin sauce – would be the answer. But the ultimate question is how gamey panda meat would be. I have tasted its omnivorous cousin the raccoon and can state that I would rather eat asbestos shingles than do so again. My hope is that the sedentary lifestyle and uniform diet would lead to a far less gamey taste. And, of course, once we get our cloned panda feedlots up and running we can make even greater strides toward mild taste. Not that I’ve given the matter any thought…]

“Your column [Thursday] used the phrase, ‘wrote learning is frowned upon today.’  It would appear that spelling and proofreading are also frowned upon, at least in West Virginia.” – Charlie Gaines, Brackettville, Texas

[Ed. note: You’ve got us there, Mr. Gaines. Auto-correct is a mighty force with which to reckon. An error that I’m sure any of the students of the Kinney County, Texas school system could have avoided. Our rote learning duty for our upcoming hiatus: Learning by heart: I will double-check Microsoft’s work….”]

“‘They worked a five-day week once in February and haven’t had a full week off in a fortnight.’ Gee – maybe they’re actually (almost) earning their money!!!” – John McClanahan, Ashland, Ky.

[Ed. note; Well, I’m not so sure. The monthly pay for an ordinary House member is $14,500. They were in session 14 days in February, so that comes out to $1,035.71 per member, per day. But I would suggest, however, that hours worked or even productivity makes for a poor overall measure of a legislative body’s success. A legislature that made one good law or repealed 10 bad ones would be far better than an efficient body that cranked out piles of bad bills. A Congress that was literally “do-nothing” would even be superior. But for the current debate about meeting the ambitious policy objectives that Republicans have set for themselves, claims of crunched calendars ought to always be checked against reality.]

“I was wondering what you think is the best ‘fix,’ if such a thing exists, to the ACA. Is the AHCA the best compromise conservatives, such as myself, should expect? I feel as though only a few people actually know anything about health care, and it does not seem those people have been involved in the process thus far.” – Seth Mays, Mansfield, Arkansas

[Ed. note: You are barking up the wrong pundit, Mr. Mays! I proclaim no special knowledge about health policy. I have read a few books on the subject and I know plenty of smart folks across the ideological spectrum, but it’s far from my area of expertise. I am like the political weather man. I just need to know enough about the policy to understand how it will likely affect the politics. And in this case, the Republicans are caught in a double bind between the voters who want to maintain expanded entitlement spending and those who see moral and fiscal hazards looming large.]
 
Share your color commentary: 
Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

THE REAL HOGZILLA
Fox News: “Hundreds of boars carrying highly radioactive material are reportedly stalking residents hoping the Japanese town of Fukushima six years after the meltdown of the nuclear plant. The New York Times reported that city officials are working to clear out the contaminated boar population in the area. Japan is set to allow residents to return to their homes in some areas near the plant. These city officials worry that these boars will attack returning residents. Some of these animals are reportedly living in abandoned homes. ‘We need a strong hunting plan,’ Hidekiyo Tachiya, the mayor of a nearby town called Soma. ‘I wish for the day to come when we can eat wild game again.’ Hunters have been reportedly hired and have so far killed about 800.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The problem is that the big thing here is an entitlement that nobody, Republican or Democrat, will take away.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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 digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.