Dems get personal in attacks on Graham and Cassidy

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On the roster: Dems get personal in attacks on Graham and Cassidy - Trump using donor dollars to pay legal bills - Poll finds Trump backers unfazed by Dem deals - Price-y: Health secretary takes heat for private jets - Yeah, but did he get the job?

We are told that the health insurance plan put forward by a pair of Republican senators is not just bad policy but actually immoral. 

Looked at one way, the proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is a copout for Republicans who can’t come up with a solution to the worsening problems in the health insurance market. Looked at another way, it’s an elegantly simple solution to an intractable problem. Opinions, as they always do, vary.

We will not delve too deeply into particular policy points, but the essence is this: ObamaCare would be repealed, but each state would initially get the same amount of money it is currently receiving for its citizens’ insurance subsidies and welfare payments through Medicaid. 

Each of the 50 states would get to determine how to use those funds and which health insurance regulations they prefer. The money would taper off in the out years before ending in a decade. 

This makes it extremely difficult to predict the implications of such a law. The poor folks at the Congressional Budget Office can’t possibly make a forecast based off of what 50 governors and thousands of state legislators might decide next year, let alone the next 10. 

Federalism is a real bear for the bean counters.  

We are no prudes when it comes to political rhetoric. As we have discussed before, President Trump is just an intensification of an already acid bath of a political climate. He may be the Babe Ruth of political trolling, but he is surely not its inventor. 

Even with that in mind, the language being used by Democrats to attack this legislation is still arresting. Sen. Chris Murphy D-Conn., called the legislation a “moral garbage truck fire.” Former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said it was “cruel.”

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel devoted the opening part of his show on Tuesday to dismantling the bill and calling Cassidy a liar for having told the former comedian that he wanted a bill that would not allow insurance companies to deny coverage to children born with pre-existing conditions. 

So by this rationale, federalism isn’t just tough on the accountants, it’s actually immoral. 

Whether or not you think states are the best vehicle for administering health-insurance programs or whether you think there should be government health insurance at all or whether you think the federal government should guarantee cradle-to-grave coverage for every American, there’s got to be a way for people to discuss these things without it devolving into character attacks. 

The same kinds of personal attacks that many Democrats say they abhor from Trump as a crass coarsening of political discourse aren’t any worse than calling a sitting U.S. senator who has been working on this legislation for years a cruel, immoral liar. 

Americans do lots of things via federalism, including Medicaid itself. Surely discussing that idea can’t be itself immoral. 

We understand that, much like some of the Republican attacks on ObamaCare eight years ago, some of these attacks are insincere. Cynically disingenuous accusations are nothing new and hardly the exclusive domain of Democrats. Republicans’ scaremongering on ObamaCare certainly went farther than what Democrats are doing this week. 

But just because someone else did something wrong does not excuse our leaders from the obligations of good conduct in their service to the republic. 

This legislation faces long odds and we would say it is more likely to fail than pass. But this simple but sweeping change in the way American health insurance works ought to have some kind of discussion around it, not just mean tweets and ad hominem attacks. 

If Democrats are serious about winning back public trust after their 2016 debacle, a good place to start would be by not imitating the tactics of the man they say is ruining the country. 

“Commerce, finance, negotiation, and war seem to comprehend all the objects which have charms for minds governed by that passion; and all the powers necessary to those objects ought, in the first instance, to be lodged in the national depository.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 17 

The Atlantic: “James Kugel has been spent his entire scholarly career studying the Bible, but some very basic questions about it still obsess him. What was it about the minds of ancient Israelites that allowed them to hear and see God directly—or at least, to believe that they did? … First, Kugel uses biblical research to show that ancient people had a ‘sense of self’ that was fundamentally different from the one modern Westerners have—and that this enabled them to experience and interpret prophecy differently than we do. Then he uses scientific research to show that we shouldn’t assume their view was wrong. If anything, our modern Western notion of the bounded, individual self is the anomaly; most human beings throughout history conceived of the self as a porous entity open to intrusions. In fact, much of the rest of the world today still does.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -13.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 6 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.]

Reuters: “U.S. President Donald Trump is using money donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters. Following Reuters exclusive report on Tuesday, CNN reported that the Republican National Committee paid in August more than $230,000 to cover some of Trump’s legal fees related to the probe. RNC spokesperson Cassie Smedile confirmed to Reuters that Trump’s lead lawyer, John Dowd, received $100,000 from the RNC and that the RNC also paid $131,250 to the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, the law firm where Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s lawyers, is a partner. The RNC is scheduled to disclose its August spending on Wednesday. The Trump campaign is due for a disclosure on Oct. 15.”

Mueller interviewed Rosenstein - Fox News: “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team over the summer, sources familiar with the investigation tell Fox News. The questioning is a sign that Mueller’s team is looking into the firing of former FBI Director James Comey earlier this year -- as Rosenstein wrote a memo the White House cited, in part, as the reasoning for Comey’s removal. Mueller's team of investigators also reports to Rosenstein, who has overseen the Justice Department's Russia investigation following the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. At this point, Rosenstein seems to have no plans to follow Sessions in recusing himself. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement…”

U.S. officials intercepted conversations between Manafort and Russians - The Hill: “U.S. government officials picked up conversations between former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort and Russian individuals about the 2016 campaign, CBS News reported Tuesday. This new information comes just one day after a report revealed that the U.S. government had been wiretapping Manafort during and after the 2016 campaign. It’s unclear what information was discussed during those conversations or what ties the Russian individuals had to President Trump or the Russian government.”

Eli Lake: What we still don’t know about Obama-era unmasking - Bloomberg: “Like most Washington scandals, the frenzy over a senior Obama adviser unmasking identities of Trump officials is larger and smaller than both sides imagine. … The Rice scandal is larger than either party's party line because it raises the prospect of abuse of the U.S. surveillance apparatus. A senior White House official can learn quite a bit about political opposition by unmasking the redacted names of U.S. citizens caught up in the routine surveillance of foreign targets. As I've written before, in the Obama years it looks like it was routine for senior government officials to request the identities of those Americans.”

Asbury Park [N.J.] Press: “President Donald Trump’s base of support is remaining loyal despite some of his recent wheeling-and-dealing with top Democrats in Congress, a Monmouth University poll has found. The Republican president's outreaches to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats in recent weeks have sown little doubt among his supporters, according to the poll, released Wednesday. In general terms, a majority of all Americans (53 percent) say that Trump’s actions in the past month – without any reference to meeting with Democrats or other specific behaviors – have not raised any questions about where he stands on core conservative principles, while 37 percent say recent actions have raised questions. Trump’s current job rating stands at a net negative – 40 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove – largely unchanged from his 41-49 ratings in August. ‘Donald Trump’s approval rating continues to hold steady. …’ Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.”

Politico: “In a sharp departure from his predecessors, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took private jets on five separate flights for official business, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel. The secretary’s five flights, which were scheduled between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, took him to a resort in Maine where he participated in a Q&A discussion with a health care industry CEO, and to community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to internal HHS documents. The travel by corporate-style jet comes at a time when other members of the Trump administration are under fire for travel expenditures, and breaks with the practices of Obama-era secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States. Price, a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for department wide cost savings, declined to comment.”

WaPo: “White House and GOP leaders are considering major changes to upcoming tax legislation, including scaling back plans for large-scale tax cuts for the wealthy, as Republicans seek to win support from Democrats in Congress, three people briefed on the discussions said. The White House is considering, among other things, keeping the top tax rate for individuals at 39.6 percent, decreasing the benefits top earners would see in the tax package by scrapping an earlier proposal that would have cut that rate to 35 percent. White House negotiators are also considering giving up on a push to repeal the estate tax, which is levied on individuals who die with more than $5.49 million in their estates. Republicans have long called for repealing the tax, but Democrats have raised objections, saying repeal would benefit only the wealthy and would add to the federal debt.”

Fox News: “Virginia voters give Democrat Ralph Northam the edge over Republican Ed Gillespie by 42-38 percent in the race for governor, according to a new Fox News Poll. That four-point advantage is within the poll’s margin of sampling error. Libertarian Cliff Hyra receives 2 percent, and another 18 percent are undecided or plan to support someone else. This benchmark poll of the Virginia governor’s race comes as the major party candidates prepare to debate Tuesday. Northam is the state’s lieutenant governor, and Gillespie was the 2014 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate (he lost to Sen. Mark Warner by less than a percentage point). Over half of registered voters (53 percent) are ‘extremely’ (23 percent) or ‘very’ (30 percent) interested in the governor’s race. Among just those interested voters, Gillespie tops Northam by one point (45-44 percent). With less than two months to go, one quarter of Virginia voters say they could change their mind before Election Day…” 

Virginia debate focuses on issues, no personal attacks - WaPo: “Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie jousted over the economy, race relations in the aftermath of Charlottesville and health care Tuesday night at their most lively encounter yet in the high stakes race for Virginia governor. In their first televised debate, the two contenders sparred over issues in a spirited but genteel manner, and refrained from the personal attacks that have recently begun to flavor their campaign commercials and social media posts. Both candidates began the debate with competing assessments of the state economy.”

Obama to hold events for N.J. and Va. Dem candidates - 
The Hill: “Former President Obama will host an event this fall for Phil Murphy, the Democrat running for governor of New Jersey, Democratic sources say. Murphy served as U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013 under Obama. He also worked for more than two decades at Goldman Sachs. It's one of several events Obama is expected to attend in the coming weeks as he seeks to lend his star power to Democrats across the country. An event for Ralph Northam, the Democrat running for governor of Virginia, is also in the works, and sources say Obama is likely to add to his political schedule through the beginning of 2018 as he readies for next year's midterms.”

Moore’s campaign endorsement from beyond the grave -
 Roll Call: “Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is racking up endorsements from inside the state and around the country for his challenge to Republican Sen. Luther Strange, but one in particular stood out: renowned — and deceased — conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly died on Sept. 5, 2016, at the age of 92, two months before Donald Trump won the presidential election and four months before Republican Jeff Sessions left his Senate seat in order to become attorney general, yet she was included on the endorsements page of Moore’s campaign website.” 
Politico: “In public, in private, and with few exceptions, world leaders gathered at the United Nations this week are urging President Donald Trump not to follow through on his threat to derail the Iran nuclear deal. But so far, Trump shows no sign of listening to them. And some diplomats and supporters of the agreement even worry the efforts could backfire by triggering Trump’s defiantly contrarian instincts. The issue will take center stage on Wednesday, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joins a multinational meeting on the nuclear deal that will also be attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif… The session is being held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. The meeting will come a day after Trump said in his Tuesday address to the U.N.’s annual gathering that the nuclear deal was ‘one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into’…”

Hillary unhappy - The Hill: “Hillary Clinton late Tuesday tore into President Trump's ‘very dark’ and ‘dangerous’ speech at the United Nations General Assembly earlier in the day, arguing he took the wrong tact in condemning North Korea's nuclear pursuits. ‘When you face dangerous situations like what is happening in North Korea, to make it clear, your first approach should always be diplomatic, Clinton said during an appearance on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.’ The former Democratic presidential nominee and secretary of State said she wished Trump had stressed diplomacy in his speech before global leaders at the U.N. headquarters earlier Tuesday in New York.”

John Kerry hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run WashEx

Right out of prison, former Rep. Michael Grimm R-N.Y. to run for old seat - The Hill


“[Is Vermont's Republican Governor]” – Tweet from Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt., in response to journalists who didn’t know his name. 

[Ed. note: You guys are so great! The submissions on proposed Constitutional amendments have kept rolling in and we are paying attention. We will revisit the topic soon as I am working on more ways to make these ideas useful and available to everyone.]

“While I can understand Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump, Jr. dropping their Secret Service protection, why in the world would you announce it publicly?  Doesn’t this make them more attractive targets? I can’t imagine what it’s like for any high profile public official these days in either party. At Nancy Pelosi’s raucous speaking engagement recently, it looked like most of the protestors could get very close to her. I don’t want to see anyone injured or worse, regardless of party, and am happy to see my tax dollars going to protect them all.” – Diane BalcomPittsburgh

[Ed. note: I think that you can rest easy knowing that Trump the younger is well protected, indeed. Wealthy, famous people often have private security protection that is sometimes more comprehensive than that which Secret Service agents can provide. But Secret Service rules do not allow protectees to have their own security while they are under federal protection – too many cooks spoil the security perimeter. The younger Trump is well protected, I’m sure. His decision to place privacy and the freedom to travel without attendant taxpayer costs and paper trails is an understandable one, especially given his situation. Pelosi also is amply protected. Her security detail exceeds that of most presidents prior to the modern era. She is protected by Capitol Police, in whose big black Suburbans she rides. I would even suggest that the individual security details for members of the congressional leadership is excessive and leads to misplaced senses of self-worth. Obviously, security is necessary, as the horrors of the attack on a congressional baseball game practice show quite plainly, but it can sometimes seem to be a fine line between a security detail and an entourage when members of Congress go around town.]   

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WBZ: “Massachusetts State Police said the man they arrested Tuesday was in a hurry to get away from them – but not such a hurry that he couldn’t stop to check if a local business was hiring. State Police said they were involved in a car chase with Jose Jimenez, 26 of Lawrence, and that the chase ended after he ditched the car and ran inside Osprey Wireless in Westwood. … ‘He was as cool as a cucumber,’ recalled employee Jeff Maron. Jimenez was wanted for [fleeing] a motor vehicle stop in Brockton last Thursday, running over a trooper’s foot … in the process. … Osprey employees said Jimenez ran inside the store, spoke with multiple people to ask if they had any positions available–then started filling out an application. At that point, ‘We’re hearing police helicopters outside, there’s police coming in from every direction,’ said Maron.”

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 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.