Fox News Halftime Report

Donald Trump, exceptionalist

Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Rand Paul (R-Texas) reacts to President Trump's military action against Syria.

 

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On the roster: Donald Trump, exceptionalist - Russian outrage over Syria strikes - It’s official: Gorsuch confirmed as Justice - ‘Power Play’ plays on - Orgies are a young snake’s game

DONALD TRUMP, EXCEPTIONALIST 
If you wondered what American exceptionalism looks like, the 59,000 pounds of U.S. warheads raining down on Syria’s air force is a pretty good snapshot.

America, the apex power of the world, does not tolerate the use of chemical weapons. We forbid it. Another country used chemical weapons – repeatedly – in its civil war, so the United States punished that nation by depleting its military.

There are other countries in the world with the capability to deliver that kind of firepower and spend something approaching $100 million to send a message about the rules of war. But only the United States has the wherewithal to do so without even breaking a sweat.

And, we dare say, that no other country in the world combines such capabilities with our moral authority.  As much maligned, sometimes rightly, as America’s overseas interventions have been, no great power in history can match our track record of the use of force without conquest. 

Members of Congress, Democratic and Republican, want President Trump to get congressional authorization if he intends to keep up the strikes or undertake, ahem, a forward strategy of freedom to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power and install a Western-style liberal democracy in his place.

But as for the legality of this attack, there’s not much to debate. As when the British Empire unilaterally decided in 1807 to use its navy to stop the slave trade, powerful nations have special privileges when confronting moral odium. Right and might together are hard to beat.

And that is what the traditional understanding of American Exceptionalism has been, not the more recent vintage that held that it was a little different from patriotism. Exceptionalism does not here refer to the qualities of the nation, but rather that there are exceptions to the rules for this nation because of its qualities. 

America can have nuclear weapons but says that others can’t. America can sail its navy when and where it pleases, but forbid others so to do. And so on…

It is not fair, but for more than a century, and in some ways since our founding, it is a right which America has claimed and defended as a privilege merited by our virtue.

Now, you may or may not like that role for our country. You may, as Trump held during his campaign, believe that America is a sap and a sucker that spends money and sheds blood overseas without anything in return, allowing other countries to take advantage of us.

Or you may believe, as Trump did when his predecessor, Barack Obama, contemplated a similar action punishing for atrocities committed four years ago, that such interventions threaten U.S. national security and divert needed resources from rebuilding the United States. 

And given the ways in which America has failed in the exercise of its power over the decades, these are far from unsupported arguments. In fact, what is happening in Syria today can properly be said to substantially descend from a confused and confusing application of American power.

And here we get to the questions with which human beings always struggle the most. 

We arrange our thinking and pursuits very much around questions relating to the word “can.” Those are simpler since they relate more to the other understanding of being exceptional -- can we do it? The hard ones are about “should.” The application of American power, exceptional or not, should always be governed more by the latter than the former.

But as for the question of what America’s rightful role in the world is, Trump, after many years arguing the opposite, has placed himself firmly on the side of the exceptionalists. 
 
RUSSIAN OUTRAGE OVER SYRIA STRIKES
AP: “World leaders rallied around the United States after it launched a missile strike early Friday on a Syrian air base in response to this week's chemical attack, while Russia condemned the move as ‘aggression’ and suspended crucial coordination with Washington in Syria's congested skies. The overnight missile attack, which marked the first time the U.S. has directly targeted Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, was condemned by his allies in Russia and Iran but welcomed by the Syrian opposition and its supporters, who expressed hope it signaled a turning point in the devastating six-year-old civil war. The bombing represents Trump's most dramatic military order since taking office and thrusts the U.S. administration deeper into the complex Syrian conflict. The Obama administration threatened to attack Assad's forces after previous chemical attacks, but never followed through.”

But claim they wouldn’t have been harmed - Miami Herald: “The Russian military says its facilities in Syria are reliably protected by cutting edge air defense weapons … Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Friday that the S-400 and Pantsyr air defense systems offer a ‘guaranteed protection’ to Russian warplanes stationed at Hemeimeem air base in Syria's province of Latakia. He added that a Russian navy outpost in Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus is protected by S-300 air defense systems. Konashenkov has previously said that the Russian military would help the Syrian military beef up its air defenses following the U.S. strike.

And Iran isn’t happy either - 
LA Times: “Iran on Friday condemned the Trump administration’s missile strikes against Syria, saying the unilateral U.S. action would strengthen terrorists and ‘further complicate the situation’ in the Middle East. The Islamic republic, a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said that while it condemned the use of chemical weapons, the U.S. response was ‘dangerous, destructive and a violation of international law.’ Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi rejected the conclusion that Assad’s forces had carried out the poison attack on Tuesday that killed more than 70 people in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in rebel-held Idlib province.”

SOME MEMBERS OF GOP ARE NOT ON BOARD
The Hill: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Thursday night that President Trump needs congressional authorization for military action in Syria after Trump ordered an airstrike in retaliation for a deadly chemical attack earlier this week. ‘While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked,’ Paul said in a statement shortly after reports that the U.S. had launched more than 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles against an airfield in Syria. ‘The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate,’ Paul said.

THE RULEBOOK: ONE COURT TO RULE THEM ALL 
“To avoid the confusion which would unavoidably result from the contradictory decisions of a number of independent judicatories, all nations have found it necessary to establish one court paramount to the rest, possessing a general superintendence, and authorized to settle and declare in the last resort a uniform rule of civil justice.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22 

TIME OUT: HAIL, LEXINGTON! 
History: “On this day in 1776, Navy Captain John Barry, commander of the American warship Lexington, makes the first American naval capture of a British vessel when he takes command of the British warship HMS Edward off the coast of Virginia. The capture of the Edward and its cargo turned Captain Barry into a national hero and boosted the morale of the Continental forces. Barry was born in the seaboard county of Wexford, Ireland, in 1745 and offered his services to the Continental Congress upon the outbreak of the American Revolution. Congress purchased Barry’s ship, Black Prince, which it renamed Alfred and placed under the command of Commodore Esek Hopkins. It was the first ship to fly the American flag, raised by John Paul Jones.”

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

IT’S OFFICIAL: GORSUCH CONFIRMED AS JUSTICE
AP: “The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to become the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court Friday, elevating Donald Trump's nominee following a corrosive partisan confrontation that could have lasting impacts for the Senate and the court. Vice President Mike Pence was presiding as the Senate voted 54-45 in favor of Gorsuch, a 49-year-old veteran of the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Denver whose rulings make him an intellectual heir to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he will fill. Gorsuch won support from 51 of the chambers' Republicans as well as three moderate Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won last fall: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkampof North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia did not vote.”

TRUMP SON-IN-LAW DIDN’T DISCLOSE RUSSIA MEETINGS 
NYT: “When Jared KushnerPresident Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, sought the top-secret security clearance that would give him access to some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets, he was required to disclose all encounters with foreign government officials over the last seven years. But Mr. Kushner did not mention dozens of contacts with foreign leaders or officials in recent months. They include a December meeting with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and one with the head of a Russian state-owned bank, Vnesheconombank, arranged at Mr. Kislyak’s behest. The omissions, which Mr. Kushner’s lawyer called an error, are particularly sensitive given the congressional and F.B.I. investigations into contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates.”

Tell us how you really feel, Steve Bannon - 
The Daily Beast: Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon has called the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner a ‘cuck’ and a ‘globalist’ during a time of high tension between the two top aides, several Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast. The fighting between Kushner and Bannon has been ‘nonstop’ in recent weeks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. It’s been an ‘open secret’ that Bannon and Kushner often clash ‘face-to-face,’ according to senior officials.”

‘POWER PLAY’ PLAYS ON
Another week, another round of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt.” We liked our addition of the weekly news quiz so much we did it again. Have you been following this week’s news close enough to “Fill-In the Trump?” It was no walk in the park for this week’s brave contestants, Byron York and Katie Pavlich. See if your knowledge has the power to play. WATCH HERE

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Matthew Continetti 
explains why Trump supporters are getting what they voted for Free Beacon

Republican National Committee 2017 fundraising off to a strong start WSJ

Freedom Caucus members show signs of support for health care bill with changes Reuters

March job numbers show low growth AP

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Fox News Sunday - 
Sens. John Cornyn R-Texas and Ben Cardin D-Md., discuss the latest on U.S. military action in Syria. Plus, the anticipated confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch is over. Senate Republicans can celebrate but how are the Democrats feeling about the outcome. 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: ASK PAZUZU… 
“Why did it take John Cena so long to propose marriage to Nikki Bella? And remember you’re under oath.” – Rep. Rod Blum shares a lighter moment with Linda McMahon head of the Small Business Administration and the former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I enjoy reading your Halftime Report and here's an Alexander Hamilton thought that's quite timely: “If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority...[the government's] situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy.” I found that in an Atlantic article about Cato turning the Roman senate into a morass. The authors posited that the Founding Fathers were familiar with what Cato's actions led to (the First Triumvirate) and the Feds had no desire for the minority to lead the majority around by the nose. Bipartisan actions are preferable to one-party rule and I hold out hope that senators will seek to serve country rather than party, but what's America without hope? France? The filibuster is not in the U.S. Constitution and deserves the boot. And the absence of the filibuster gives the New York Times one less opportunity to be hypocritical -- sweet!” – Michael Friend, Atlanta, Ga. 

[Ed. note: You are quite right, Mr. Friend. There is nothing magical about vote thresholds in the U.S. Senate. But I would argue that the increased thresholds have been a good check on the factionalism intensified by direct election over the past century. I do believe the Senate will endure, and may even thrive in this new era. But I still cannot help thinking that the loss of comity, though perhaps unavoidable, will come at some greater cost, especially for the court. A bad idea is not made good by virtue of bipartisan support. It is possible for both parties to be wrong at the same time. What pains me to see, however, is that with the rise of mobocracy, there is so little room for leadership.]  

“Any chance you could describe the difference between partisan and ‘rank partisan’? Possibly you might look to see if there is a correlation between the rise of the demos replacing the republic and the loss of the ‘most free’ nation on earth to out of the top 10.” – George Chapogas, Rivas, Nicaragua 

[Ed. note: I think you’re on to something, Mr. Chapogas! At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, I will say that the difference between a partisan and a rank partisan is ordinal in nature. Partisanship is fine if it still leaves room for putting your country first.]

“I think you are trying to prove we live in a multiverse. My version of the universe has the last three Democrat Supreme Court nominees getting approved, mostly along philosophical lines, without a talk-a-thon or filibuster. In your version of the universe it’s OK for the Democrats to act like 2 year old, crying because they didn't get their way, because their nominee for the Supreme Court wasn't considered? The lack of getting their nominee considered was  exactly because they laid out a set of rules about 40 years ago and then amplified by their ex VP, that said that no Supreme Court nominee from the opposing party would be consider in the last year of their President's term..... Is there a remote possibility that we could bring these two universes back to one, where we can all conduct our conversation based on one set of data, not multiple sets?” – Paul Hill, New Bern, N.C.

[Ed. note: There’s no debate that Democrats had it coming on the nuclear option. But whatever universe you live in, it sometimes proves helpful to consider things from a view outside of tu quoque arguments. I don’t blame Republicans for taking the step that they did, but I still lament the deterioration of republican ideals.]

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

ORGIES ARE A YOUNG SNAKE’S GAME
Nat Geo: “Right now in Manitoba, Canada, tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes are emerging from their winter dens to mate in massive, roiling throngs. While this bizarre reproductive strategy seems like it might be dangerous for the females, who may have upwards of one hundred males trying to mate with each of them at once, a new study published this week in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B finds that it’s the males who suffer most in the long-term. ‘Our results suggest that the male snakes may face a cost of such intense reproductive investment in the form of shortened telomeres, which cap the ends of chromosomes,’ says Emily Uhrig, a behavioral ecologist who coauthored the study while completing a PhD at Oregon State University.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I'm just saying that when a superpower changes its policy radically because a president is moved by pictures, you've got to wonder about the stability of the foreign policy.” –Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland 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.