Dems bunch up on the left

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On the roster: Dems bunch up on the left - McConnell says he can still jam Dems on debt deal - Kremlin used Facebook to whip up 2016 protests - Judge orders probe of Hillary lawyers’ conduct - TMZ, Alaska bureau

DEMS BUNCH UP ON THE LEFT 
Nancy Pelosi 
said today that single-payer health insurance is not a “litmus test” for Democrats. But for how long? 

Pelosi was explaining why she was not backing a new proposal from 2016 Democratic runner-up Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ legislation is ostensibly about opening up the Medicare system to all Americans, regardless of age, but realistically represents a long-sought beachhead for a European-style system in the U.S.

Among the first to join Sanders were three of his potential 2020 rivals, Sens. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass., Kamala Harris D-Calif., and Cory Booker D-N.J. So you tell us what color you think the Democratic litmus paper is going to turn. 

The stampede to the left among Democrats seems like a mistake given the results of the 2016 election. Reason would seem to dictate that a party in defeat and at its lowest ebb in nearly a century would seek to moderate rather than run to extremes.

But we’re not talking about rationality, we’re talking about politics. 

As we have discussed before, there is much alike between the Democrats’ defeats in 1988 and 2016. Handed a surprising rebuke under the pennant of a weak nominee, the party is turning on itself. Much like Republicans after their own 2012 stumble, Democrats are most intent on assigning blame and punishing perceived malefactors. 

Their nominee, Hillary Clinton, has developed an entire genre dedicated to assigning blame to those other than herself, while Sanders supporters are equally determined to make clear that she was the one to blame. Meantime, party activists are determined to punish perceived moderation for dampening base enthusiasm. 

None of this is particularly helpful in helping the party get back on its feet, though it may be unavoidable. 

The remaining Democratic moderates are themselves toying with how much collaboration is too much with the sitting Republican president, whom Democrats generally despise like a bad rash. 

As vulnerable Senate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana head to the White House to schmooze with President Trump, it is not so much the beginning of some movement towards bipartisanship on tax cuts but rather a symbol of how lonesome those three and their kind are within their party. 

Make no mistake: Whatever spending deal Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Chuck Schumer, may have cut with Trump, there is no workable constituency for cooperation in the Democratic Party. Helping Trump punish the Republican leadership was not the start of something big, but rather the Washington equivalent of a sucker punch. 

But does this mean that Democrats are sure to go hard left in 2020? 

History suggests some alternatives. When the party was desperately dog paddling toward the center after its 2004 defeat, few credible analysts would have suggested that Barack Hussein Obama was the man of the moment, and yet he was. 

One of the ways Obama won was by, in the immortal words of Wee Willie Keeler: “Hit him where they ain’t.” There were many, many Democrats positioning themselves as a moderate response to George W. Bush. That gave Obama plenty of running room. 

Something similar happened, but in the opposite direction, in the wake of the 1988 election. No one would have bet on the centrist-sounding governor of Arkansas in a party that seemed intent on lionizing liberals, but Bill Clinton found some space to himself and managed to turn it into real momentum against a weak field, mostly clustered to his left. 

As Trump himself has shown, winning primaries is not necessarily about majorities, but rather securing reliable pluralities. And in what promises to be an enormously crowded Democratic field, that is almost sure to be the case.

It’s too soon to say who among Democratic contenders might be following Reece’s dictum in 2020, but with the infield already shifting overwhelmingly to the left, it looks like there will be a lot of wide-open spaces.  

THE RULEBOOK: SAY WHAT YOU MEAN, MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
 
“There are two rules of construction, dictated by plain reason, as well as founded on legal axioms. The one is, that every part of the expression ought, if possible, to be allowed some meaning, and be made to conspire to some common end. The other is, that where the several parts cannot be made to coincide, the less important should give way to the more important part…” – James MadisonFederalist No. 40

TIME OUT: THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND
The New Yorker: “In the southern edge of Paris, a five-thousand-square-foot basement houses the city’s lost possessions. The Bureau of Found Objects, as it is officially called, is more than two hundred years old, and one of the largest centralized lost and founds in Europe. Any item left behind on the Métro, in a museum, in an airport, or found on the street and dropped, unaddressed, into a mailbox makes its way here, around six or seven hundred items each day. Umbrellas, wallets, purses, and mittens line the shelves, along with less quotidian possessions: a wedding dress with matching shoes, a prosthetic leg, an urn filled with human remains. The bureau is an administrative department, run by the Police Prefecture and staffed by very French functionaries—and yet it’s also an improbable, poetic space where the entrenched French bureaucracy and the societal ideals of the country collide.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -19 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.8 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

MCCONNELL SAYS HE CAN STILL JAM DEMS ON DEBT DEAL
NYT: “Senator Mitch McConnell thinks Democrats were a tad premature in exuberantly celebrating the surprise spending deal they struck last week with President Trump. ‘Let’s put it this way,’ Mr. McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, said Monday in an interview [with the New York Times] ‘The deal is not quite as good as my counterpart thought it was.’ The reason? Mr. McConnell said that he insisted the newly passed legislation preserve Treasury’s ability to  … shift money within government accounts to pay off debt and extend federal borrowing power. …In fact, Mr. McConnell said, the debt limit will not have to be increased until well into 2018, taking that volatile subject off the table for the December spending talks, and eliminating the Democrats’ most dangerous bargaining chip in the first round of negotiations.”

Top Trump adviser says DREAMer amnesty may not depend on wall funds - The Hill: “White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters on Tuesday that President Trump would not demand that border wall funding is tied to a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Speaking at a roundtable event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Short said the administration didn’t want to ‘bind’ itself by making a demand that would likely be a nonstarter for many lawmakers. ‘We’re interested in getting border security and the president has made the commitment to the American people that a barrier is important to that security,’ Short said. ‘Whether it’s part of DCA or another legislative vehicle, I don’t want to bind us into a construct that would make the conclusion on DACA impossible.’ There had been speculation that Trump would require any compromise on potential DACA legislation include money for a wall along the Southern border.”

Sen. Rand Paul takes stand on defense bill - WaPo: “But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has largely been alone in his quest to force a deadline on Congress, as the chief agitators for a new AUMF, Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), have expressed a firm preference for crafting such a measure in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Paul sits on that panel and its chairman, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), has promised to schedule an AUMF debate soon. Paul was also alone on the Senate floor Monday night as he pledged to ‘sit on the floor, in silent protest . . . for as long as needed to ensure Congress do its duty, and vote on ending these wars.’ He stressed that he would object to ‘all procedural moves and amendments’ until his AUMF measure was guaranteed a vote.”

KREMLIN USED FACEBOOK TO WHIP UP 2016 PROTESTS
Daily Beast: “Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook’s event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Beast that the social-media giant ‘shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.’ The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. … The Facebook events—one of which echoed Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump media outlets—are the first indication that the Kremlin’s attempts to shape America’s political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action. … Last week Facebook acknowledged for the first time that Russia used false identities and about 3,000 ads to spread politically divisive posts to Americans before and after the election.”

Mueller interviews a stress test for Trump loyalty - Politico: “As special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators prepare to question high-ranking aides — including Hope HicksReince Priebus and Sean Spicer — in the coming weeks, Trump’s long history of demanding his employees’ complete loyalty are being put to the test. But Trump stalwarts know the president is closely following the media coverage of the Russia case – and the last thing they want is to be deemed a turncoat whose answers end up becoming further fuel for investigators. Several of the lawyers representing current and former aides told POLITICO they’re actively warning their clients that any bonds connecting them to Trump won’t protect them from criminal charges if federal prosecutors can nail them for perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice.”

Trump lawyers urged president to dump son in law over Russia ties - WSJ: “Some of President Donald Trump’s lawyers earlier this summer concluded that Jared Kushner should step down as senior White House adviser because of possible legal complications related to a probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and aired concerns about him to the president, people familiar with the matter said.”

Russian lawmaker taunts: Kremlin ‘stole’ election -
 Axios: “Russian politician Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Duma, said U.S. ‘intelligence missed it when Russian intelligence stole the president of the United States.’ He made the remarks on a Russian panel show, ‘Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.’ The episode centered on the U.S.' diminishing power on the world stage and the resulting chaos, The Hill reports. University of Virginia professor Allen Lynch told The Hill that Nikonov's statement was directed at the idea that the U.S. must be losing power if it can't uphold the integrity of its own electoral system.”

JUDGE ORDERS PROBE OF HILLARY LAWYERS’ CONDUCT
WashTimes: “A Maryland judge ordered the state bar to open an investigation Monday into the three lawyers who helped former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delete her private emails. Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. said the complaints lodged against David E. KendallCheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson were egregious and the state bar couldn’t dismiss them as frivolous. ‘There are allegations of destroying evidence,’ Judge Harris said at a hearing Monday morning. He said the state’s rules require the bar to conduct investigations no matter who raises the complaint and can’t brush aside accusations. … The Maryland bar complaint was brought by Ty Clevenger, a lawyer who has pursued sanctions against Mrs. Clinton and her legal team in several venues and who is also pressing the FBI to release details of its investigation into the former top diplomat.”

PARTISAN FRACAS IMPERILS TRUMP VOTE FRAUD PANEL 
Reuters: “A Democratic member of President Donald Trump’s bipartisan commission to investigate possible voter fraud after the 2016 U.S. presidential election said on Tuesday its mission is being threatened by ‘extreme partisanship.’ Dozens of protesters gathered near the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s second meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire… Commission member Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state for Kansas, stirred controversy last week when he said in a Breitbart News column that voter fraud in New Hampshire led to former Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan defeating incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte for a U.S. Senate seat. … His comments prompted New Hampshire’s four-person, all-Democratic congressional delegation to urge New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, also a Democrat, to resign from the commission. Gardner said on Tuesday he would not. … He said the commission has faced opposition since it was launched…. ‘The specter of extreme political partisanship already threatens our ability to reach a consensus,’ Gardner said.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
White House pushes Congress to reauthorize mass surveillance ahead of deadline - AP

Agencies still waiting on White House for official Trump photo - WaPo

McCain to maintain regular work schedule in Senate through cancer treatment - Roll Call

Poll shows potential hazards for Alabama GOP’s savage Senate primary AL.com

AUDIBLE: POPCORN 
“Perhaps we should have done something like this during the Indiana primary.” – Sen. Ted Cruz talking to reporters about what he said was a staffer’s mistake to “like” a tweet linking to a hardcore pornographic video clip. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“First of all, glad that you’re back. Your Halftime Report is how I enjoy my lunch time. I have an honest, if ignorant, question. What is the issue with ‘White Nationalists?’ I’m white, I consider myself a nationalist (I love my country), but I don’t harbor any racist views or hatred of others. I’m a Baptist, give me a casserole, and I love you forever. I don’t understand why the term ‘White Nationalist’ is given such a negative connotation. Would the same vitriol be spewed forth for a Black Nationalist? What about a Brown, Red, Yellow, or Purple polka-dotted Nationalist? What am I missing? I honestly do not understand.” – Joshua A. Biggs, Susanville, Calif.

[Ed. note: I’m glad you asked, Mr. Biggs. English is not the most beautiful language in the world, but it is the most useful and adaptive. We easily absorb the words of other languages (“Let’s ditch the status quo and go en masse to the buffet before we pick up the bambinos from kindergarten…”), create new words (hate-watch, eephus, Faulknerian, geotag…) and, sometimes disconcertingly, change the meaning of existing words or their connotations. We understand this well in politics. What people think of as a “conservative” today might have been thought a “liberal”, and so on. But what you are really talking about her is a question of emphasis and correlation. If a woman lives in Northern Ireland and is both Protestant and in favor of maintaining union with the United Kingdom, that does not mean she primarily identifies herself as a “Protestant Unionist,” even though those words would accurately describe some of her views. That’s because that term is freighted by its use to describe a defunct political party and would suggest her association. The same would go for her Catholic counterpart who wants unification with Ireland. She may share the stated aims of the Irish Republican Army, but would not take their moniker. In America, a man might be black and favor a robust, separate African American culture distinct from the dominate one. But he might recoil at being called a “black separatist” because the term suggests something direr than his affection for Kwanza celebrations and Afro-centric literature. There’s nothing wrong with being white and there’s nothing wrong with taking a nationalistic view on policies. But when you put the two together, it evokes those who say America is a white nation and that its laws and culture should reinforce that concept. Bigots have embraced that brand, but for others who are not racists and believe in the concept of equality under the law, the phrase is wicked. Every person has a complex set of characteristics and beliefs, many of which evolve over the course of a lifetime. The ones that we chose to highlight say a lot about who we are. These words are billboards that we use to show the rest of the world what matters most to us. If someone thinks the most important things about himself is his race and his nationalistic political views, then he is a white nationalist. But in so declaring himself, he is making common cause with those who intentionally reject the American creed.] 

“Brilliant analysis Monday of the likely political situation on the Hill. First time I have seen an obvious point--Trump's decision empowers GOP leadership against far right. Tax reform may have become bipartisan and that ain't bad.” – Steve Bell, Alexandria, Va.

[Ed. note: Thanks, Mr. Bell! Not to be a cynic, but a word here is probably merited (again) about the perverse incentives of duopoly. As we have discussed before Democrats have every reason to support lowering the corporate income tax given the fact that former President Barack Obama made substantially the same argument while he was in office. Republicans, who love lower taxes, refused him because it was not in their political interests – individually or collectively – to hand the president a victory. I think the chances of finding 60 votes for broad-based tax reform are effectively nil. Is it possible that the 51-vote reconciliation path could include a Democrat or two? Sure. But I still believe that if any changes to the tax code emerge from this Congress it will be a narrow, thoroughly partisan effort.]

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TMZ, ALASKA BUREAU 
Seward City [Alaska] News: “On Sunday afternoon, just before 3pm, an adolescent black bear walked into the Breeze Inn, located near the Boat Harbor in Seward. The bear entered the lobby through the back door, which was propped open while housekeeping and maintenance was being done on the nearby hotel rooms. … The hotel’s staff propped open the front door and began encouraging the animal to leave the hotel, while the bear climbed atop one of the couches and pressed its paws against the glass, leaving prints that were clearly visible two hours later. Hotel staff were eventually able to herd the bear out the front door, at which point the bear crossed the Seward Highway… [Cheryl Verschueren] stated that the bear had been ‘chased [into the hotel] by people trying to take photographs.’ … After the bear departed, business went back to normal at the Breeze Inn.”

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.