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On the roster: Will Trump’s late honeymoon last? - A whole new Trump: President revamps worldview - I’ll Tell You What: Hungry for change? - The Judge’s Ruling: Holy Week meditation - Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope…
WILL TRUMP’S LATE HONEYMOON LAST?
As President Trump explores, and apparently enjoys, his strength and broad latitude in re-shaping U.S. foreign policy, Washington is all aflutter about this new version of the man they spent so many months professionally detesting.
Approving murmurs about partnering with China, pummeling Putin and throwing over his former consigliere, Steve Bannon, have been more popular in the federal district this Holy Week than the ears on a chocolate bunny.
But the knowing nods will turn back to head shaking soon, we promise.
Somewhat lost among Trump’s new internationalism were a couple of meaningful domestic policy moves.
First, Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, laid down the law on immigration, outlining a very hard line on stopping and deporting illegal immigrants. That, paired with news that the administration is looking to build the “deportation force” that so appalled moderates tells us that Trump likely means what he says on the subject.
People forget that the basic negotiating position for Republicans on immigration for some time has been to offer pathways to citizenship or permanent legal status in exchange for the executive branch enforcing existing law.
Also forgotten is that tougher enforcement is actually popular. Leaders in both parties have for many years been pushing policies that are actually rather unpopular. But since they weren’t listening, they didn’t know.
If Trump’s forward progress on his immigration crack down isn’t enough to end the sudden honeymoon he’s having, then ObamaCare sure ought to do it.
Trump told the Wall Street Journal this week that he is considering cutting off subsidies to American’s covered under his predecessor’s health-insurance law in order to force Democrats to the bargaining table.
If you’ve ever seen “Blazing Saddles”, Trump’s threat is something like the scene in which Sheriff Bart takes himself hostage. If Trump’s opening bid is to single-handedly throw Americans off of their health insurance, Democrats would be only too happy to oblige him.
When a politician explicitly says that he will harm constituents in the name of political leverage, his opponent needs only to watch and wait.
A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a group that supports universal coverage but has provided extensive and reliable polling on the issue, explains Trump’s conundrum.
The group asked respondents who would be responsible for problems with ObamaCare going forward. By a two-to-one margin, it was Trump and Republicans in Congress. Additionally, 75 percent of those surveyed said Trump and his administration should do what they can to make the existing law work.
Trump’s position, shared by some stalwart ObamaCare foes in Congress, that Republicans should do what they can to make the law fail so they can replace it later, drew just 19 percent support.
That is all to say that when it comes to ObamaCare, Democrats have the upper hand, and probably don’t much care whether Trump is bluffing or not in his threat to start booting beneficiaries.
Next week’s special House election in Georgia will tell us a great deal about the attitude of voters toward the president and his party, but one suspects that whatever happens, Democrats will receive it as a sign that opposing Trump and his efforts to replace ObamaCare will be a political winner.
Certainly as House Republicans continue to get kicked in the shins at their town halls, their courage for passing unpopular legislation or punitive measures against voters will, ahem, diminish.
So for different reasons, both parties will have incentives to avoid bold action on ObamaCare for the foreseeable future.
It is possible that Trump will be able to blow up American politics and build multiple new situational coalitions for various issues. But it certainly won’t come so easily as reverting to what are essentially the normative bipartisan positions on foreign policy.
When it comes to immigration and health insurance, you can expect the political tribes to go back to their respective camps and get ready for battle.
THE RULEBOOK: JUST THE WAY IT IS
“It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good…” – James Madison, Federalist No. 37
TIME OUT: WE’RE GOING TO PARTY ANYWAY
TIME: “Thursday marks the 274th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth. But don't worry if you didn't plan a celebration honoring the Founding Father and third President of the United States: During his lifetime, he never wanted people to throw him a birthday party, and no reference to one has ever been found in his or his family's papers, according to Monticello, the museum on the site of his Charlottesville, Va., home. In fact, as he summed up his dislike for birthdays to his Attorney General in 1803, ‘...disapproving myself of transferring the honors and veneration for the great birthday of our republic to any individual, or of dividing them with individuals, I have declined letting my own birthday be known, and have engaged my family not to communicate it. This has been the uniform answer to every application of the kind.’”
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A WHOLE NEW TRUMP: PRESIDENT REVAMPS WORLDVIEW
The Hill: “President Trump on Wednesday flipped to new positions on four different policy issues, backing off of several campaign promises. ... Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that China is not artificially deflating the value of its currency, a big change after he repeatedly pledged during his campaign to label the country a currency manipulator. ... Trump also told the Journal he’d consider re-nominating [Janet Yellen] to chair the Fed's board of governors despite attacking her during his campaign. … Trump also threw his support behind the Export-Import Bank, which helps subsidize some U.S. exports, after opposing it during the campaign. …Trump said NATO is ‘no longer obsolete’ during a Wednesday press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, backtracking on his past criticism of the alliance. During the campaign, he frequently called the organization ‘obsolete,’ saying did little to crack down on terrorism and that its other members don’t pay their ‘fair share.’”
China-U.S. relations get even sunnier - AP: “The United States and China have struck what appears to be an unusual bargain as President Donald Trump says he won't label Beijing a currency manipulator and voices confidence Chinese President Xi Jinping will help him deal with North Korea's mounting threat. … In a newspaper interview and a White House news conference Wednesday, Trump hailed the rapport he developed with Xi during last week's Florida summit… ‘I think he wants to help us with North Korea,’ Trump said of Xi, crediting China in the White House news conference with taking a ‘big step’ by turning back boats of coal that North Korea sells to its northern neighbor.”
How long is Bannon’s leash? - WaPo: “[For Steve Bannon], the day’s routine obscured the reality that he is a marked man — diminished by weeks of battles with the bloc of centrists led by Trump’s daughter and son-in-law and cut down by the president himself, who belittled Bannon in an interview with the New York Post. The president’s comments were described by White House officials as a dressing-down and warning shot, though one Bannon friend, reflecting on them Wednesday, likened Bannon to a terminally ill family member who had been moved into hospice care.”
Blurred lines - The Hill: “White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday President Trump wanted to ‘make it very clear’ that his own long-held views helped him get elected president when he seemed to downplay chief strategist Steve Bannon's role. ‘[Trump] won this election because of the policies that he's been laying out for decades and the commitment that he’s had to the American worker to growing our economy and keeping our country safe,’ Spicer told host Dana Perino on Fox News’ ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’”
Bad pennies - AP: “[President Trump’s] personnel choices keep coming back to haunt him. One of the people Trump hired for the White House was working as a foreign agent while advising him during the election. His campaign chairman caught the Justice Department's attention for similarly surreptitious work. And a third campaign adviser was reportedly surveilled by the FBI as part of an investigation into whether or not he was a Russian spy. The tales of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Carter Page - none of whom still work for Trump - have created a steady drip of allegations that have clouded Trump's early presidency and raised persistent questions about his judgment.”
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: HUNGRY FOR CHANGE?
Is President Trump staying in character or are we seeing a costume change? Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt analyze the president’s recent claims about Steve Bannon and how he will approach the current situations in Russia and North Korea. Plus, Chris gives his review on Dana’s recommended Epic meat bars... woof. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
GOP turns on funding fire hose to save Montana House seat - WSJ
AUDIBLE: NYC ------> OKC
“It would be so protectionist, nationalist and backward-looking that they’d only be able to build in Oklahoma City or the Ozarks.” – An unnamed Republican operative talking to the WaPo about concerns among the president’s children about the value of the Trump brand if their father followed the same playbook in 2020 that he did in 2016.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, we face deep crisis on several fronts - Syria, North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran. How would a strong resolution in one of these affect the outcome on the others?” – Glen Lautt, Shelton, Wash.
[Ed. note: Strength and success generally begets more of the same. One of the unfortunate consequences of the doom-and-gloom politics of both parties in the past decade has been to leave Americans thinking their country is weak and failing. It’s quite the opposite. Although we have our share of troubles, no doubt, our position as a super power, militarily and economically, is still unquestioned. There will be testing, but with wise choices and perhaps some help from above, America will do what it has for most of its history and lead the way.]
“If the Senate’s filibuster rules can be changed by a simple majority, then why not change them back before you lose the majority. Could the Senate just flip-flop the rules back and forth to suit themselves?” – Jan Utzig, Bettendorf, Iowa
[Ed. note: That supposes there would be 51 votes for the flip flop, and it also supposes that there wouldn’t be 51 votes in the next Congress to flop right back. I suppose under certain circumstances such a switcheroo would make sense, but that’s grinding the cornmeal a little finely.]
“Why aren't you calling out [James Comey] for lying about surveillance of Trump campaign staff, given the Washington Post story [Wednesday]?” – Thom Clemens, Frederick, Md.
[Ed. note: You may have me on that one, Mr. Clemens. I looked for any point where Comey said in testimony or otherwise that his bureau had never conducted any surveillance on any Trump staffers. He forcefully denied any knowledge of former president Barack Obama ordering surveillance of Trump, but Comey was unabashed about saying that there was a criminal investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives. I am not at all surprised to find that law enforcement officials were tracking erstwhile Trump advisor Carter Page, whom the report you mentioned said was the only individual subject to such a warrant.]
“In future reports, please share how much money is spent by each candidate in each Congressional special election. If one party is greatly outspending the other, election turnout could be affected. For example, the Kansas margin of victory by the Republican candidate was far narrower than his predecessor's, but his predecessor was probably never outspent by a Democrat. How much more did the Democrats spend in Kansas this year than the Republicans? How did that compare to the previous contest for that same house seat?” – Tim Call, Glen Allen, Va.
[Ed. note: We won’t know the final spending numbers in this race until the end of the next fiscal quarter, and maybe never because of the vagaries of independent expenditures. There are indications that spending was somewhat lopsided. Republicans seem to have clearly outspent Democrats since the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee opted to stay out while Republicans pumped cash to save a struggling candidate. But remember, money matters but it is not everything. Otherwise we would have watched Hillary Clinton defeat Jeb Bush for president last year.]
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THE JUDGE’S RULING: WAR AND RUMORS OF WAR
As Easter approaches, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano reflects on the president’s decision to conduct air strikes in Syria and whether that decision was legal: “Under this international law, military force must be a last resort, used only when necessary to fight back or to prevent an imminent attack. It also must be proportional to the harm it seeks to eradicate and be likely to produce the result it seeks. Anything short of this violates international law, to which the U.S. is bound by numerous treaties.” More here.
NOPE, NOPE, NOPE, NOPE, NOPE…
UPI: “Cleaning staff at a Massachusetts hotel discovered a 5-foot reticulated python abandoned in a drawer inside a room that had recently been vacated. Rod Dazivasen, general manager of the Central Mass. Aquatics pet store, said animal control officers were called April 5 to the Marriott Residence Inn in Worcester to remove what was initially thought to be a 5-foot-long ball python from a drawer in one of the hotel's rooms. ‘He may be two years old but he's not an old snake,’ Dzivasen told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. ‘Why on earth they had him in a hotel room is beyond me.’ Police said they were unable to locate the person who had been staying in the room. ‘We tried to find the owner, but he gave the clerk a fake name and just disappeared,’ animal control officer Patrick Cherry told The Boston Globe.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The message is to the Russians, eight years of the free lunch is over. You're not going to walk all over the West.” – 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.