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On the roster: TrumpCare and the dangers of catastrophic victory - House Intel fight over Russia, surveillance heats up - Power Play: Can Dems ever shake it off? - Audible: The great Cornholio - Flying high
TRUMPCARE AND THE DANGERS OF CATASTROPHIC VICTORY
Everybody talks about who will take the blame if TrumpCare fails in the House today. What they ought to be talking about is who would get the blame if it passed.
Politics is a business obsessed with short-term thinking and an emphasis on tactics rather than strategy, and boy howdy has that been on display in Washington in the less than three weeks since Republicans plopped out their health insurance overhaul plan.
If you wanted evidence of how bad this city’s attention deficit disorder is, just think about that for a second: It’s only been 19 days, and we are already fatigued with the discussion about an issue so enormous.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lamented today, “At some point there’s a political cost to dragging this out.” It would seem that “dragging out” ain’t what it used to be.
It took 16 weeks to draft the Constitution and another 40 weeks to ratify it. If American politicians had to do it today, they’d fight for a month and then just copy and paste a script from “Schoolhouse Rock.”
We are told by the NYT that as the bill began to collapse, the president and his advisers were getting ready to unsurprisingly, shank Speaker Paul Ryan like a prison-yard canary.
Several other outlets have reported that the blame for the bill’s failure would be laid at the feet of conservative members who refused President Trump’s repeated overtures to pass his first legislative initiative.
Now c’mon, people… We know that in politics, 72 hours can feel like an eternity, but how long really do you think the blame for the death of a broadly unpopular bill with no core constituency of its own would linger?
Yes, it’s embarrassing whenever you try and fail at legislation, especially when it’s the first one out of the chute for a president in his first 100 days. Democrats and the pundit class would declare Trump a lame duck already and howl over his failure.
But do you think anybody would still be talking much about it by this time next week? By Wednesday? Monday?
The post-mortems would fade into background noise and the attention would turn to the ongoing battle over Russian interference and Obama administration surveillance, as well as the locked-and-loaded tax plan Trump has been dying to release. It would be hard to imagine the demise of TrumpCare lasting long as a topic discussion.
The reason is simple: nobody wants the thing, apparently including its creators.
And it’s not just that the bills is broadly unpopular. It’s even unpopular with Trump’s core supporters. As Harry Enten observes, “Right now, though, the share of Hillary Clinton voters who oppose the Republican bill is much larger than the share of Donald Trump voters who support it.”
It may stand as a failure for the ages that Republicans did not manage to come up with a real replacement of their own in the seven years they spent railing against the many malignancies of ObamaCare.
But nothing is going to change that now, and, as Rich Lowry points out it’s not like good options abounded for the GOP.
Here’s the essential choice: Republicans can keep ObamaCare and admit defeat, learning to live with a new social welfare program and expansive federal regulation of insurance. Or, the GOP can take possession of a stingier version that simultaneously offends the consciences of conservatives while offending the well-being of many of the same working-class voters who put the GOP in total control of Washington.
The third option, which has been a fetishistic obsession among the think-tank set, was a radical remaking of the system with broad, fundamental changes to the way insurance and health care function.
The moment Trump won the Republican nomination, that sucker was off the table.
We have seen Republicans learn to live with the unthinkable before. Never forget that “budget sequestration” was designed as a doomsday punishment to force both parties to the table for a grand fiscal bargain.
It didn’t take many months for the GOP to be claiming it was good policy.
As Cousin Eddie Johnson told Clark Griswold, “I don’t know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine all by itself, huh?”
Faced with another chance to serve red meat, this time on health care, Republicans again preferred an all-filler product.
Let’s say that the bill passed and, like the Democrats before them, Republicans found themselves as the progenitors of unpopular legislation in need of constant reform and adjustment.
Picture the 2018 midterms with raucous town halls and anguished legislators explaining why they voted for a bill they knew was flawed. Then jump to the 2020 election being litigated around the question of whether to repair or replace TrumpCare.
Trust us: There would be no question who got the blame then: The guy with his name at the top of the ticket.
Trump has long claimed that his preferred strategy was to simply let ObamaCare collapse and deliver ruination to its beneficiaries, thereby evading responsibility for the issue entirely, and forcing Democrats to the bargaining table under adverse circumstances.
That probably wasn’t a real option in the sense that voters would blame the party in power for problems with any law, especially that party had the opportunity to fix.
But what most voters might not blame Trump and his party for, however, is continuing to kick the can on ObamaCare.
Maybe if they call it “Health Insurance Sequestration” they can get the House on board.
THE RULEBOOK: FALSE JEALOUSY
“An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1
TIME OUT: SOAKED
NatGeo: “In 2010 Dominique Demarville, cellar master for the champagne house Veuve Clicquot, got what he thought was a joke call: 168 bottles of likely the world’s oldest champagne had been found in a shipwreck beneath the Baltic Sea. Soon Demarville was sniffing and sipping the 170-year-old champagne, which he found sweet and fresh, although some tasters described its initial scent as ‘wet hair.’ The dark, cool sea had preserved it in what researchers called ‘close to perfect’ conditions. Four years later Veuve Clicquot launched Cellar in the Sea. Some 350 bottles were submerged in the Baltic, to be retrieved and analyzed periodically over 40 years…Napa’s Mira Winery conducted its own taste tests on 240 bottles in Charleston Harbor. When the first case was pulled up in 2013, a sommelier told owner Jim Dyke: ‘You’ve turned a 2009 cabernet into a 2007 in three months.’”
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HOUSE INTEL FIGHT OVER RUSSIA, SURVEILLANCE HEATS UP
Atlantic: “The top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee escalated their feud on Friday, with GOP Chairman Devin Nunes announcing that he wished to cancel a public hearing next week and Ranking Member Adam Schiff charging Nunes with bad faith and attempting to choke off an independent hearing. In a press conference at the Capitol Friday morning, Nunes announced that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, had offered through his attorney to testify before the committee…But Nunes also announced he wanted to cancel an open hearing scheduled for next week, with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, until the committee had a chance to have a closed hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers…About an hour later, Schiff held his own press conference, calling Nunes’s announcement a ‘serious mistake’ and accusing him of bowing to White House pressure.”
As the inquiry into Manafort spreads to Cyprus - AP: “The U.S. government investigation of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, crossed the Atlantic earlier this year to the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, once known as a haven for money laundering by Russian billionaires. Treasury agents in recent months obtained information connected to Manafort's transactions from Cypriot authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.”
Spokesman says Nunes doesn’t know ‘for sure’ that Trump associates were under surveillance - ABC News: “The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not know ‘for sure’ whether President Donald Trump or members of his transition team were even on the phone calls or other communications now being cited as partial vindication for the president’s wiretapping claims against the Obama administration, according to a spokesperson. ‘He said he'll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure,’ a spokesperson for Nunes said Thursday.”
POWER PLAY: CAN DEMS EVER SHAKE IT OFF?
Upcoming special elections give Democrats a chance to pick up a few seats, but their chances of victory may depend on what path the party decides to take. Matthew Continetti and Josh Kraushaar debate the hard choices facing Democrats as the newly elected party leadership begins its autopsy tour. WATCH HERE.
[Ed. note: Many of you asked us to rerun the winner of our Nerd Bracket pick chosen a few weeks ago so here is the video where Stirewalt reveals your choice for the best example of great American oratory. WATCH HERE.]
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Mr. Sunday talks foreign policy and ISIS with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, as well as all the week’s political news on “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.
It’s official: Trump approves permit for Keystone XL pipeline - AP
New Trump carbon regs expected soon - The Hill
Bush admin lawyer John Sullivan expected pick for Tillerson deputy - WSJ
Bipartisan watchdog groups express concern over Ivanka Trump’s White House role - AP
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., gets roasted by hometown paper over Gorsuch - The Denver Post
AUDIBLE: THE GREAT CORNHOLIO
“Who wants to be the butthead that keeps Obamacare?” – Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc., as quoted by Vox, on why he thinks the GOP’s health bill will pass.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“If the ACA was passed in its entirety using reconciliation, why can’t it be repealed and the AHCA enacted in its entirety using reconciliation? Why the need for the three phase approach?” – Tim Waddell, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
[Ed. note: Alas, for Republicans, ObamaCare was not passed entirely through reconciliation, but instead in tranches. The reconciliation part, which included the taxes, including the individual and employer mandates, were part of the last batch extruded through the Senate on a reconciliation vote. If the Republican bill proceeds, there will be intense debate over what constitutes a reconcilable bill. There is a law that provides for simple majorities on budget matters, strictly speaking taxes, other revenues and spending. But, as many have argued, when regulations affect taxes and vice versa, they should be included under the process. The little-celebrated Senate parliamentarian might soon become one of the most powerful people in Washington.]
“We love Halftime Report and I’m working single-handedly to increase your subscription list by forwarding your well written discussions to all of my erudite (and not-so-erudite) friends. Believe you missed a golden opportunity, however…headline should have read: Schumer FiliBluster or Will Just Be More Fluster???” – Rick Schuknecht, Ada, Mich.
[Ed. note: We are grateful and may even steal “FiliBluster” – and I promise to give you 10 percent of the subscription cost for every one you sign up…]
“Is Thursday’s Whitman reference a tip of the hat to the abiding need of the middle aged American male to rediscover health and fitness? On a personal note, I wish you the best on your fitness journey. I too love bacon and have tread the same ground back to the land of the fit after spending my 30’s and 40’s focused on family and career.” – Dan Burch, Turlock, Calif.
[Ed. note: The poet Juvenal said that prayer of every person should be for “mens sana in corpore sano,” meaning a sound mind in a sound body. As we approach our middle years, the emphasis there does tend to shift. Having honed our minds against the straightening steel of adult challenges, we may find our bodies neglected. What I have discovered through trial and error – mostly error – is that the two are interrelated. The better care I take of myself, the more nimble and fecund my mind becomes. Spending a few hours of a week pulling like an ox against his yoke, I find my overall well-being, including mental facility, much improved. I’ll let Juvenal take it from here: “Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death /and deems length of days the least of Nature's gifts /that can endure any kind of toil /that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks /the woes and hard labors of Hercules better than / the loves and banquets and downy cushions of Sardanapalus./ What I commend to you, you can give to yourself; / For assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.]
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India Times: “Forget chilies, parrots have discovered something new to nibble on. Actually, get high on. Yes, it’s drugs. Wild parrots in Madhya Pradesh [India] are getting high on opium and farmers are not happy. The birds are raiding their fields to feed their addiction, so much so that they have trained themselves to do it quietly, without squawking. The parrots wait until the farmers have left the fields. Then, very carefully they fly down to the flowers, gnaw at the stalks, jet back to the trees where they sleep off for hours, often falling down to their deaths. The first sightings were made in 2015 in Chittorgarh but now the phenomenon has spread to other areas. The farmers claim they are getting warnings from the government’s narcotics division due to their dwindling produce.”
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.