The price of presidential provocation

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On the roster: The price of presidential provocation - Strange daze - Can cold cash warm Alaska, Maine Sens. to health bill? - Travel ban 3.0: Broader, less focused on Muslims - Smokey and the (ringtail) bandit

In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt summoned the coaches of college football’s big three of the day – Harvard, Princeton and Yale – to the White House to try to save the sport. 

The problem then, as it is today, was injuries from excessive violence. In the first five years of the last century, contemporary accounts record the deaths of at least 45 football players. 

Under pressure from the sports-obsessed commander in chief, whose own son had been badly injured playing at Harvard, the college programs instituted new rules allowing forward passes and eliminating dangerous formations. The new rules created the game we know today.

Though the much has changed (including Ivy League football) in the past 112 years, the desire of American presidents to interfere in the sport – for good or for ill – has not. 

Aside from being a sports bug himself, former President Barack Obama tried to be a modern-day Rough Rider by trying to push professional football to reforms that would mitigate the long-term damage caused by concussions. His efforts were, at best, inconclusive.

President Trump who has proven a better politician than he was a football franchise owner has many, many, many ideas about the way the business of football should be run today. 

Trump, who boasts friends and political allies among NFL ownership, wanted people to know how he would handle the thorny issue of black players kneeling in protest of police brutality during the playing of the national anthem before games. 

You can decide whether you think Trump was acting obliviously or maliciously when he poured jet fuel on the controversy, including personal insults about the protestors. But whether Trump was simply popping off or intentionally trying to sow divisions and exploit disharmony, there will be political consequences. 

One of the reasons politicians and political activists target cultural institutions is because that’s where Americans generally go to avoid people like them. As normal Americans in increasing numbers try more desperately to escape a politics of brutal stupidity, the more aggressively the political world must assault those institutions. You may not be interested in politics, but politics is surely interested in you.

Leaving aside the larger considerations about race relations, the business of football and more, there will probably be some immediate, first-order consequences from Trump’s misspent weekend. 

We have many times discussed the life-cycle of the Trump campaign and presidency. After a long enough slide and serious enough consequences, Trump becomes willing to behave himself and to take the advice of his staff. Good conduct generally begets good results, and Trump is soon back on the upswing for a while… 

It was just last week when we broke down Trump’s remarkable resurgence in popular opinion since its low-water mark in August following the murder of a woman protesting a white supremacist rally.

Heading into one of the most consequential weeks of his presidency so far with only days to pass key parts of his beleaguered legislative agenda, Trump could boast a surge in popularity, an effective leadership team at his White House, bipartisan cooperation on key measures and further cemented status as a world leader. 

It was so good, it was like he couldn’t stand it. 

Through the course of one pointless controversy, Trump has managed to convince many black Americans that the things said about Trump in the wake of the white supremacist murder were actually true. 

The president has also managed to make many millions of football fans miserable by turning what is supposed to be a pleasant Sunday distraction into political theater and did so with no power to actually address the problems of which he complained.

But most consequentially, Trump also reminded Republicans wondering whether to jump off the cliff with Trump on health insurance, taxes and other issues that he is not only mercurial but also willing to sacrifice progress on important issues over distractions. 

When trolling jocks takes precedence over repealing health insurance, even briefly, it’s a sign to lawmakers that the boom and bust cycle of Trumpism is with them still.

Events will overtake this kerfuffle soon enough and it will go on the scrap pile of other recent media meltdowns, but Trump’s status as provocateur president will be with us as long as he is in power.  
“An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 48

Constitution Center: “On September 25, 1789, the First Congress made a highly-anticipated move in arguably the most important congressional session in history, when it agreed on a list of constitutional amendments known as the Bill of Rights. The first session of the First Congress lasted 210 days and much talk at that session since early June was about a proposal made by James Madison in the House about a list of personal rights as an amendment to the Constitution agreed to in Philadelphia about two years earlier. During three months of debate, Congress would finally settle on a final list of Rights to present to the states. Some of Madison’s opening list of amendments didn’t make the final cut in September. The House first agreed on a version of the Bill of Rights that had 17 amendments, and later, the Senate consolidated the list to 12 amendments. … The committee’s version of the Bill of Rights mostly followed the Senate version, and the compromise had been passed by two-thirds of the House as required.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -10.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 6.6 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.]

Politico: “The White House and senior Republicans are deeply worried about Sen. Luther Strange’s chances in Tuesday’s GOP runoff here — even after unleashing the full weight of the party machinery to stop his opponent, flame-throwing conservative Roy Moore. Top administration officials and allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have spent days poring over public and private polling that shows Moore consistently leading Strange, though the race has tightened, say those familiar with the numbers. … With Strange on the ropes and time running out, the party has launched a coordinated, scorched-earth campaign to take down Moore. The sheer breadth of the anti-Moore campaign has stunned Alabama’s political class: It includes non-stop TV ads, a meticulously-crafted get-out-the-vote effort, and detailed, oppo-research-filled debate prep sessions for Strange. … If he comes out ahead on Tuesday, mainstream Republicans worry it would instigate a broader offensive by the activist right to unseat other GOP incumbents in the 2018 midterms.”

Pence heads to Alabama to campaign for Strange - WashEx: “Vice President Mike Pence will campaign for Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama Monday night before the Republican primary in the election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The White House announced Pence would be traveling to Alabama to speak at a rally for Strange at 7:30 p.m. local time on Monday.”

Strange should worry about Moore’s loyal following - The Hill: “Roy Moore lost his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court twice. But in the process, he gained a fiercely loyal following likely to propel him to a seat in the U.S. Senate. Polls show Moore leading Sen. Luther Strange (R) in advance of Tuesday’s runoff election for the Republican nomination for Strange’s seat. That lead has held despite millions in spending by Strange’s allies, and even President Trump’s endorsement. If Moore makes it through the runoff, and over Democratic nominee Doug Jones in the December special election, he will owe a debt of political gratitude to an army of evangelicals — and specifically Southern Baptists — who see him as a hero in the culture wars that have shaken social conservatives in recent years.”

Brexit leader to campaign for Moore - 
NYT: “Nigel Farage, the right-wing British politician and outspoken supporter of President Trump, plans to campaign in Alabama on Monday against the president’s preferred candidate in a crucial Republican Senate runoff. Mr. Farage’s endorsement of Roy Moore, a former State Supreme Court justice who leads in the polls before the election on Tuesday, lines up another anti-establishment voice in opposition to Mr. Trump. He plans to speak at a rally for Mr. Moore that will also include Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief strategist to Mr. Trump.”

WaPo: “The Republican senators at the forefront of the latest effort to undo the Affordable Care Act plan to release a revised version of their bill Monday sending more health-care dollars to the states of key holdouts… Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) will propose giving Alaska and Maine more funding than initially offered. Those states are represented by Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), who have expressed concerns about the bill but have yet to say how they would vote. The Cassidy-Graham legislation would overhaul the ACA by lumping together the current law’s spending on insurance subsidies and expanded Medicaid and redistributing it to states in the form of block grants. Alaska would get 3 percent more funding between 2020 and 2026 than under current law, and Maine would get 43 percent more funding during that time period, according to a summary obtained by The Post.”

Rand Paul still a no - Axios: “Rand Paul, who has become a do-or-die vote for the Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is sending a list to the White House of what it would take to get him from no to yes. [Axios has] obtained the list and, if the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accept Paul’s demands, it’s hard to see how they’d stop at least half a dozen moderate Republican senators dropping their support for the Graham-Cassidy health care bill.”

Cruz cryptic - AP: “Sen. Ted Cruz says he’s against the Republican bill that would erase much of President Barack Obama’s health law. If the Texas Republican sticks to that stand, GOP leaders will have little hope that their 11th-hour Senate push will survive. Cruz spokesman Phil Novack says the senator said Sunday in Austin, Texas, that ‘right now, they don’t have my vote.’ The bill would lose if three GOP senators vote ‘no’ in a showdown this week.”

Trump to release tax plan this week - Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump and Republican leaders plan to release a tax framework this week that would dramatically cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, provide a measure of middle-class tax relief and punish some households in Democratic-leaning states like New York and New Jersey.”

AP: “President Donald Trump has signed a proclamation imposing strict new restrictions on travelers from a handful of countries, including five that were covered by his expiring travel ban. Administration officials say the new measures are required to keep the nation safe. The indefinite restrictions apply to citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea. As part of the presidential proclamation signed Sunday, the U.S. will also bar the entry of certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate families. The changes will take effect October 18. The announcement came the same day that Trump’s temporary ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries was set to expire, 90 days after it went into effect.”

Noah Feldman: Court may seek truce with Trump through revised ban - Bloomberg: “…in the real world, the U.S. Supreme Court may take the opportunity to de-escalate the ongoing conflict between the Trump administration and the judiciary. If that is so, a majority of the justices could simply defer to Trump’s assertion that the countries on the list were chosen because they don’t provide information to facilitate screening of visitors. Such deference would provide an easy route to upholding the ban, and might establish a kind of detente between Trump and the courts. The idea would be that the courts have taught Trump a lesson about the rule of law, and can now afford to let him have a ban that might well have been upheld if Trump had promulgated it to begin with rather than so blatantly targeting Muslims.”

New restrictions stand as more of a symbol in NoKo - Fox News: “U.S. President Donald Trump’s new restrictions on visitors from several nations are largely symbolic in North Korea’s case, because not many of its citizens visit the United States. North Korea’s authoritarian government doesn’t allow most of its 24 million people to travel abroad, except in special cases such as for jobs that bring in foreign currency or participation in sporting events.”

Looking for future court fights, Dems pump up attorney general races - Politico: “Democratic attorneys general, aiming to take on the Trump administration on a growing number of fronts, are planning to spend $10 million to $15 million to elect more of their own next year. The offensive comes as Democratic attorneys general have already challenged the White House’s travel ban, its planned border wall, rollback of environmental regulations and President Donald Trump’s business dealings.”

Politico: “Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business. Kushner uses his private account alongside his official White House email account, sometimes trading emails with senior White House officials, outside advisers and others about media coverage, event planning and other subjects, according to four people familiar with the correspondence. POLITICO has seen and verified about two dozen emails. ’Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,’ Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, said in a statement Sunday. ‘Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account.”

Seven signs that Team Mueller is stepping up investigation - WashEx: “Each new disclosure about the direction and breadth of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation lent credence to what many legal experts have been saying since the former FBI director began hiring lawyers with expertise in corruption, foreign bribery, and white collar crime: This is serious, and some in Trump’s orbit should be worried.”

Open hearing on Trump dossier scheduled - The Hill: “The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled an open hearing on Thursday amid escalating demands from Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that the Justice Department turn over documents related to a controversial dossier linking President Trump to Russia.”

Northam holds a 6-point lead over Gillespie in Virginia gubernatorial race - WDBJ

Moderates in New Democrat Coalition adds 12 House challengers to 2018 candidate list - Roll Call

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner sentenced to 21 months in prison - USA Today

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former Michigan party boss, doubts Kid Rock will run for Senate Detroit News

“I think it’s perhaps indicative when somebody doesn’t even know his name. That’s not a good sign for him.” – President Trump talking to the hosts of the “Rick and Bubba” radio show in Alabama after they corrected the president who repeatedly referred to the candidate he opposes in the state’s Senate primary as “Ray,” rather than Roy Moore

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Denver Post: “A hitchhiking raccoon hopped onto the hood of a Colorado Springs police officer’s large major-accident van as he was driving to the scene of a car crash Wednesday night. Officer Christopher Frabbiele slowed down and safely pulled over, police spokesman Lt. Howard Black said. The raccoon hopped off. There was no word on the raccoon’s motive. ‘How in the world did that raccoon hop on?’ Black asked. ‘It’s safe to say a raccoon hopping is not a common occurrence.’ Raccoons are a regular sight in Colorado Springs, but they’re most often found in attics, crawl spaces and basements when they’re not prowling around outdoors. This hitchhiking raccoon appears to be more ambitious, however.”

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.