Fox News Halftime Report

Is media Trump deranged? Maybe. Dependent? For sure.

Chris Stirewalt

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On the roster: Is media Trump deranged? Maybe. Dependent? For sure. - Trump talks up peace plan in Israel - White House delays subsidy decision, insurers in limbo - Flynn refuses to testify - Like Uber, but for Bubonic plague

IS MEDIA TRUMP DERANGED? MAYBE. DEPENDENT? FOR SURE.
President Trump
is abroad on a long trip that is so far orderly. Back at home, the leaks about the investigation into his 2016 campaign are drying up now that there is a special prosecutor overseeing the investigation. 

So what the heck is a reporter supposed to do?!?

Many on the right are pointing to the recent study by the Harvard Shorenstein Center that shows the overwhelmingly negative tone in coverage of the opening months of the Trump presidency.

The main takeaway: The tone of coverage across the board was twice as negative about President Trump in his first 100 days then it was for Trump’s predecessor. Trump’s coverage was even more negative than that of the chaotic opening of the Clinton presidency 24 years ago.

First, we ought to be clear about a couple of things. Trump earned a lot of that negative coverage. The coverage of train wrecks is probably mostly negative, too. Second, this political note typically avoids talking about the press and press bias because we are here to talk about what politicians and voters do, not gaze inwardly at our own profession.

That all having been said, the intensity of the negative coverage of Trump tells us something important about our political moment. But even more telling is the sheer volume of coverage that the administration and the president have received.

In keeping with the trend from the 2016 election, Trump has devoured the media and it has devoured him. The study found that in the first 100 days Trump was the topic of 41 percent of national television news coverage, three times the usual amount for a president.

Some of this increase is understandable given the number of bombshells that exploded in Trump’s first 100 days, but much of it reflects the ongoing love-hate relationship between the press and the president. As he is found of reminding reporters, love him or hate him, he gets great ratings. 

Sure, you could dig into proposed health insurance legislation or investigate governmental waste fraud and abuse or cultivate contacts in Congress to get ahead of the next day’s story… or you can just dust off a couple of rank Trump tweets from the morning, grab a little reaction and go with it. Yolo.

The tone and quantity of coverage is reflective of the fact that we live in a different era than even eight years ago in which trolling and click baiting have become a part of doing business, even for the most elite media outlets. That’s not Trump’s fault, even if he is the troller in chief. That’s the result of the changes still gnawing through the media world. And keeping the focus on Trump has been a surefire way to keep ‘em clicking.

Official Washington and the press corps may mostly despise the president, but they love how easy he makes their jobs.

The high-drama soap opera that began with Trump’s candidacy and continues through his presidency is truly impossible to resist watching. Even the coolest customers are riveted by the stunning plot twists.

Beyond just whether the media is bias against Trump, beyond the degree to which his governance has merited, is simply how dependent on Trump reporters and news outlets have become. It feels at times like there is no story but his story, and that’s not a healthy thing in a republic where the president is the first among equals.

Aside from overstating the role that the chief executive plays in the daily life of the nation, this Trump dependency also blots out stories that might otherwise make it through.

We, as enthusiastic wallowers in political minutiae, are not going to climb a top our box of Borax to lecture you on how journalists should be covering the real news. We are, after all, a political note that treats politics like sports, so we are not here to preach.

But we would suggest to our peers across and apart from the ideological spectrum to maybe think about taking a breath and stepping back from the Trump spigot for a minute.

It’s bad for you and bad for the country, and when readers and viewers finally do start to tire of the story, as they always do, you won’t be ready.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled wallowing…

THE RULEBOOK: THE DEFINITION OF POWER
“What is a power, but the ability or faculty of doing a thing? What is the ability to do a thing, but the power of employing the MEANS necessary to its execution?” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 33 

TIME OUT: OR, YOU KNOW, BUY A SUIT
Atlantic: “Americans began the 20th century in bustles and bowler hats and ended it in velour sweat suits and flannel shirts—the most radical shift in dress standards in human history. At the center of this sartorial revolution was business casual, a genre of dress that broke the last bastion of formality—office attire—to redefine the American wardrobe. Born in Silicon Valley in the early-1980s, business casual consists of khaki pants, sensible shoes, and button-down collared shirts. By the time it was mainstream, in the 1990s, it flummoxed HR managers and employees alike. ‘Welcome to the confusing world of business casual,’ declared a fashion writer for the Chicago Tribune in 1995. With time and some coaching, people caught on. Today, though, the term ‘business casual’ is nearly obsolete for describing the clothing of a workforce that includes many who work from home in yoga pants, put on a clean T-shirt for a Skype meeting, and don’t always go into the office.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -16.8 points
Change from one week ago: -2 points

TRUMP TALKS UP PEACE PLAN IN ISRAEL
Fox News: “President Trump, on the second leg of his first foreign trip as commander-in-chief, greeted Israeli leaders in Jerusalem Monday with hopes to lay the groundwork for a peace deal with the Palestinians – saying a ‘rare opportunity’ exists, and the threat posed by Iran is bringing Arab neighbors together toward that goal.  ‘There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran,’ Trump said, speaking alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. He said earlier ‘there’s a great feeling for peace throughout the Middle East,’ and suggested a potential warming by other countries toward Israel could be one ‘benefit’ to the long-running tensions over Iran. ‘It’s brought a lot of folks together,’ Trump said. On Monday, Trump placed a note in the Western Wall becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit one of Judaism's holiest sites.”

Air Force One breaks symbolic barrier - Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump made a direct flight Monday between two nations that have historically been sworn enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel -- a first for Air Force One.”

Tillerson says the president’s views ‘continue to evolve’ - WashEx: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Trump's views on Islam ‘continue to evolve.’ Speaking to reporters on Air Force One as the president arrived in Israel on Monday, Tillerson was asked if Trump still believes Islam "hates us," as he said during the campaign. ‘I think the president's views like we hope the American people's views, are going to continue to evolve,’ Tillerson said. ‘And I think an important part of this trip, one of the takeaways, my observations — again I hope it's something that translates back, not just to the American people but to the Muslim world as well — we need to put a lot more effort into understanding one another better,’ he said.”

Sleepy time - WashEx: “A White House official told reporters that President Trump is ‘exhausted’ just three days into his first trip abroad as president. Trump was expected to say ‘Islamist extremism’ during his speech to Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, but instead said ‘Islamic extremism.’ When asked why Trump deviated from the prepared text of his speech, an administration official said Trump is ‘just an exhausted guy.’”

WHITE HOUSE DELAYS SUBSIDY DECISION, INSURERS IN LIMBO 
Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump’s administration asked for another 90 days to resolve a lawsuit over subsidies that help poorer people afford to use their Obamacare insurance plans, further delaying a long-running legal fight that’s already destabilizing the health law. The U.S. Department of Justice and House Republicans made the joint request Monday as they ‘continue to discuss measures that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action,’ such as the Obamacare replacement plan known as the American Health Care Act, according to a court filing. Without the payments, insurers have threatened to drop out of the Affordable Care Act’s markets or substantially raise premiums, and customers could face thousands of dollars in unexpected costs. The Trump administration could still choose to drop the appeal, though other parties are trying to defend the payments. ‘Going forward, we are weighing our options and still evaluating the issues,’ Alleigh Marre, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health & Human Services, said in a statement.”

Trump’s budget to bring big cuts to Medicaid - WaPo: “President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net. For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade. The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs…”

Budget proposal also shows huge cuts to food stamps -
AP: “President Donald Trump’s budget would drive millions of people off of food stamps, part of a new wave of spending cut proposals that already are getting panned by lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill. Trump’s blueprint for the 2018 budget year comes out Tuesday. … All told, according to people familiar with the plan, Trump’s budget includes $1.7 trillion over 10 years in cuts from such so-called mandatory programs. … People familiar with the plan were not authorized to discuss it by name and requested anonymity. Cuts include a whopping $193 billion from food stamps over the coming decade — a cut of more than 25 percent — implemented by cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements, according to talking points circulated by the White House.”

Boehner called Trump about signing government funding bill - The Hill: “Axios reported Sunday that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus called [John Boehner] when the bill was final; telling him Trump was considering vetoing Congress’ funding plan. He asked if the former speaker would talk with the president about signing the bill. Boehner reportedly told Trump that he should avoid a government shutdown and be thankful that the deal included an increase in military spending, Axios said.” 

FLYNN REFUSES TO TESTIFY
AP: “Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination on Monday when he declines to hand over documents to a Senate panel investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, The Associated Press has learned. Flynn is expected to cite Fifth Amendment protections in a letter Monday to the Senate intelligence committee, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. … The letter was expected to stress that Flynn invoking his constitutional protections was not an admission of wrongdoing but rather a response to the current political climate… The letter does not fully close the door on Flynn's future cooperation with the committee. Flynn's attorney Robert Kelner said in March that Flynn wants to tell his story ‘should the circumstances permit.’ At the time, Kelner noted it would be unreasonable for Flynn to agree to be questioned by the committee ‘without assurances against unfair prosecution.’”

[It may look bad, but Fox News colleague Brit Hume explains why Flynn’s ducking a subpoena is the legally, tactically smart move.]

White House still undecided on whether to try to block Mueller - WashEx: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wants the Justice Department to grant an ethics rule waiver to allow former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign. Mueller was named special counsel for the investigation into Russian cyber-attacks against the Democratic Party, which includes a probe of the Trump campaign's alleged ties to the Russian government. But Mueller's former law firm has represented President Trump's son-in-law and his former campaign manager, reportedly leading the Trump team to consider invoking an ethics rule that could restrict Mueller's ability to investigate those men. ‘These ethics rules were designed to prevent conflicts of interest, not to allow the White House or the President to avoid the full scrutiny of a special counsel or to impugn the credibility of a distinguished public servant,’ Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Saturday evening.”

Cummings on Russia probe: ‘May be quite a few people’ in White House with problems - The Hill: “Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) suggested Sunday that more than one person at the White House may be under investigation for having ties to Russia. ‘My impression, when I walked out of the briefing, was that this thing runs deep,’ Cummings told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ speaking about a closed-door briefing lawmakers received last week on the matter. ‘There may be quite a few people that may have some problems with the law.’ The Washington Post reported last week that the federal investigation into possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia now includes a current White House official as a ‘significant person of interest.’”

Chaffetz and Comey to meet on Monday - The Hill: “Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the outgoing chairman of the House Oversight Committee, on Sunday said he expects to speak with former FBI Director James Comey on Monday. ‘What I have heard is that I believe Director Comey and I are going to have a conversation on Monday.  So I have not spoken directly with him,’ Chaffetz told ABC’s ‘This Week’ when asked if he had heard from the Justice Department about Comey publicly testifying about the circumstances surrounding his dismissal. Chaffetz, who will resign from Congress at the end of June, said the committee is pursuing any possible documents detailing meetings between President Trump and Comey.”

[None other than the NYT editorial board cautions its readers, ‘Watergate? We’re not there yet.’]

DEMOCRATS GET RAUCOUS, RAUNCHY IN CALIFORNIA
LAT: “The California Democratic Party convention started with a bang Friday night, with protesters disrupting speeches at the official kickoff and state party Chairman John Burton unleashing a series of F-bombs aimed at the demonstrators. The chanting began when Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Burton stepped up to the podium in a cavernous hall at the state capital's convention center, with protesters shouting demands that the party reject corporate donations and work to implement a single-payer healthcare system. Burton, known for his salty language, lashed out quickly. He told protesters that the Democratic Party had been fighting for single-payer healthcare ‘since before you were born.’ … Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez headlined the kickoff event and, seemingly accustomed to such a reception, delivered his speech in almost a thunderous shout — loud enough to drown out the chants.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
White House rejects ethics inquiry into ex-lobbyists - NYT

Young voters fled GOP over the past year - Pew

 Toss up? Thursday’s Montana special House election could be close - Roll Call

Hmmmm… Cuomo adds veterans of Obama, Clinton campaigns to staff - Newsday

Billy Bush breaks silence on Trump sexual assault banter - Hollywood Reporter

Ivanka Trump convinced her father to add billions to new maternity leave entitlement to budget - NYT

AUDIBLE: CUT A RUG
“Well, I hadn’t been practicing. But it was not my first sword dance.” – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when asked by Fox News colleague Chris Wallace about the former Exxon CEO’s relative ease in a Saudi sword dance welcoming President Trump and his team to the kingdom.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“You, sir, are among the most skilled and intelligent in your profession. However, the more you draw attention to the unalterable (technological advancement) and to the superficially banal (the beltway circus), the more you impede your readership's understanding of what is really taking place in the strata between these two extremes... the steadily diminishing opportunity to revitalize (or at least preserve a piece of) the most exceptional society in human history. Might I suggest that you and your readers take a fresh look at Yuval Levin's ‘The Great Debate - Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left.’ Just now, clear-headed constructiveness is in much shorter supply than entertaining social commentary.” – Eric Hutchins, Santa Barbara, Calif.

[Ed. note: Well, Mr. Hutchins, if you take away the unalterable and the superficially banal, I might as well go ahead and move out of Washington right now! Your suggestion to reconsider Levin’s book, though, is a great one. So much has transpired in the three years since it was published and what I wonder is whether he still considers the American right basically Burkean. I think there is some serious lane changing going on between the two parties and among those who consider themselves conservatives and liberals.]

“Oops, Chris. In light of the ‘nut job’ stories [about President Trump bashing former FBI James Comey in Trump’s meeting with Russian officials], it seems you were indeed right [on Friday] to have correction-fear. One literally couldn't make this up. (Although I certainly did fear pretty much exactly this when Trump was elected.)” – Simon Adell, New York

[Ed. note: Though I still stand by our thesis that Friday marked a substantial change in course from the recent manic marathon of news, I laughed so hard when not even an hour after predicting an anticlimactic day, another afternoon news thunderstorm rolled into town. But from the looks of today, again said with substantial fear of correction, what happened Friday was more of a coda than a return to the crescendo.]

Barack Obama said it best when he observed that the GOP was only against things, not for anything. That allowed Donald Trump to temporarily take over the Republican Party in 2016. When Obama had his scandals like Benghazi and others, Democrats were lock step behind him.  The same is not true of Republicans in relation to Trump. Republicans talk the talk but have no core beliefs but Democrats do but alas it’s the wrong set of beliefs as far as I am concerned.  So that leaves me with no one to like or support so why vote?” – Bryan Akers, Roanoke, Va.

[Ed. note: I do not count myself as one of those who argues that voting is either inherently virtuous or obligatory. If you don’t know the issues well enough to have formed an opinion, do us all a favor and stay out of it. But… why on earth would any rational person look to political parties for their ideologies. As I have said many times in this space before, the purpose of political parties is to win elections, not be guardians of ideas. As both parties shift on the ideological spectrum, we see that is truer now than ever. I don’t belong to a political party, not just because I’m a journalist but also because I don’t see the point. But I do vote, picking my way through the partisan furor as best I can.]

“How long does it take to prove that nothing exists?  Seems like Robert Mueller's efforts to demonstrate that there was no collusion might take 12-18 months (the FBI already is 8 months into an investigation).  Or maybe 4 years.  Mr. Trump has already confessed... that nothing happened.  James Clapper admits there is nothing there, there.  Susan Rice has unmasked everything in search of the truth.  And Senator Dianne Feinstein has stated she hasn't seen anything... yet.  HOW does one prove something doesn't exist well enough for the Swamp to believe that nothing exists?” – Jay Stevenson, New Franklin, Mo.

[Ed. note: Remember, Mr. Stevenson the importance of the word “yet.” You are right that some Democrats would never accept any finding that exonerates Trump. But I think most fair-minded people in Washington would accept a finding from Mueller that Trump is innocent and that his senior advisers were not colluding with a hostile foreign power. We should remember that we have not had even one of the multiple investigations of these claims come to completion. No one needs an authoritative answer on the subject more than the president, and Mueller is in the position to do exactly that.]

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LIKE UBER, BUT FOR BUBONIC PLAGUE
Mercury News: “The new tourist attraction coming to San Francisco is billed as ‘not for the faint of heart.’ …its rats. Live ones. And not the ones you might get to see for free in the Tenderloin. These are cleaned up, adoptable rats. And at the San Francisco Dungeon, you can have coffee and a pastry as they scurry around. (Uh, eat quickly unless you want to share.) The Rat Cafe is a new, two-day-only feature at the Dungeon, an attraction that takes tourists and locals through 200 years of the city’s colorful and off-color history. This ‘immersive, pop-up’ cafe will be open for two skin-crawling days only, July 1 and July 8. On those days, the price of Dungeon admission ($49.99) will include coffee or tea plus pastry, plus 15 minutes of rodent interaction, plus entrance to the attraction. The aim was to create a ‘frighteningly funny encounter’ — one that could only be found at the Dungeon, executive Matthew Clarkson of the Merlin Entertainments Group parent company said in a statement.”

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.