GOP cooks red meat but tries selling salads

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On the roster: GOP cooks red meat but tries selling salads - Price offers some cash, but more trips revealed - Warner slams Twitter for Russia response - Dems draw top recruit to face embattled Sen. Flake - That’ll do, donkey

GOP COOKS RED MEAT BUT TRIES SELLING SALADS 
When it comes to policy, Republicans have a tendency to act like burger joints selling salads. 

Whether you think an In-N-Out double-double smeared with “spread” is where it’s at or believe that a sack of Krystal belly bombers slathered in mustard is nirvana on blacktop, you do not go for the sake of the salads. 

It’s the red meat.

That’s not to say that burger palaces don’t have to make accommodations for those of us avoiding caloric catastrophes who are dining with a group of patty hounds, but that’s a footnote, not a headline. 

When Republicans were getting ready to roll out their proposals on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, they were ready to start flipping some serious burgers. The emphasis was to be on “health care” not “insurance coverage.” Central to the sales pitch was that by removing government regulations and taxes, Americans could get both better health care and spend less money. 

But almost immediately thereafter, the party, led by President Trump, shifted its focus to using the same yardstick for success as Democrats had when they passed ObamaCare in the first place: How many people would be covered.

Here’s a hint: If you are repealing a law that gives away free health insurances to some and forces others to buy insurance or face a fine, the number of people with health insurance is going to go down. That’s kind of the idea. 

As soon as Republicans ceded the terms of the debate to Democrats, defeat was almost inevitable. The best the GOP could come up with was lamely explain that kicking poor people off their health insurance was necessary to trigger Senate rules to allow for a tax cut with just 51 votes in the Senate.

The sales pitch was unduly focused on process instead of product. When the product was even mentioned, it was treated like something to be ashamed of. That shame resulted in a succession of plans that pleased neither free-market fans nor welfare boosters.

Republicans who are optimistic about the chances for a major tax overhaul should learn well the lessons of the 2017 health insurance debacle. They are already committing some of the same mistakes. 

The NYT reports today that Trump would stand to gain more than $1 billion under the plan he has proposed, and new estimates abound suggesting that Trump’s fellow plutocrats would be poised for plunder under the plan. 

These critiques are unavoidable for any Republican tax cut plan. Democrats generally believe in more government spending and would prefer to finance that spending by larger taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Republicans, meanwhile, generally believe that keeping taxes low, including those on the wealthy, boosts economic growth and results in improved wages across the board. 

But rather than charging into the teeth of this ideological division, Republicans from the president down seem to have already accepted Democratic terms for the argument. If lower taxes for top earners are deemed to be as immoral as reducing health insurance subsidies came to be seen in the ObamaCare debate, Republicans will do just about as well. 

Polls are pretty clear that there is not a burning desire in America right now for a tax cut, and voters certainly wouldn’t like the idea of a billionaire president skimming cream for himself and his fellows. That’s exactly why Republicans can’t get pinned down on that point and why Trump’s claims that he wouldn’t benefit under the law are already unhelpful to his cause. 

This will either be a debate over whether the rich should “pay their fair share” or it will be one about encouraging economic growth. One of those debates the Republicans could win. The other they would surely lose. 

It doesn’t matter how juicy the patties or how gooey the cheese, you will sell no burgers if you are advertising salad.  

THE RULEBOOK: WELL, MAYBE NOT ALL EMBARRASSMENTS 
“…whereas one government, watching over the general and common interests, and combining and directing the powers and resources of the whole, would be free from all these embarrassments, and conduce far more to the safety of the people.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 4

TIME OUT: SONGS FOR THE ROAD HOME 
Garden & Gun: “Gregory LeNoir Allman was always moving, always itching to get back on the road with his band after sometimes just a week of downtime. And, of course, this is the legend who gave us the indelible life mantra ‘The road goes on forever.’ But in 2015, Allman and his manager, Michael Lehman, began discussing a new album, one that Allman could use to meticulously chronicle his life and document the last chapter of his legacy. The just-released Southern Blood is that definitive statement, with Allman and producer Don Was choosing songs that held special meaning. … But ‘My Only True Friend’ is Southern Blood’s opener and also its wistful farewell. It’s the one song written by Allman … and causes shivers when he sings in his fierce but weakened voice: ‘I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul when I’m gone.’”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -17.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 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.]

PRICE OFFERS SOME CASH, BUT MORE TRIPS REVEALED 
Politico: “The White House approved the use of military aircraft for multi-national trips by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to Africa and Europe this spring, and to Asia in the summer, at a cost of more than $500,000 to taxpayers. The overseas trips bring the total cost to taxpayers of Price’s travels to more than $1 million since May, according to a POLITICO review. [In an interview with Bret Baier,] Price pledged on Thursday to reimburse the government for the cost of his own seat on his domestic trips using private aircraft – reportedly around $52,000 – but that would not include the cost of the military flights. Price’s wife, Betty, accompanied him on the military flights, while other members of the secretary’s delegation flew commercially to Europe. HHS spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest said Price has reimbursed the agency for the cost of his wife’s travel abroad, but declined to say when he did so.”

Zinke calls ‘b.s.’ on comparisons to Price’s jet setting - TPM: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday dismissed scrutiny of his use of private and government planes for trips within the U.S. and abroad as ‘a little BS.’ Politico reported Thursday evening that Zinke used a private or military plane for travel in at least four instances. … ‘Before we get started, I’d just like to address, in the words of General Schwarzkopf, a little BS on travel,’ he told the audience. Zinke defended his use of private and government planes, arguing that they were the only options that would allow him to meet his schedule. ‘Using tax dollars wisely and ethically is a greatest responsibility and it is at the heart of a good government,’ he said. ‘And there are times, however, when we have to utilize charter services because we often travel in areas and under circumstances that we don’t have other flight options.’”

Price not the first to fly into trouble - Fox News: “From Jan. 20 to Sept. 19, the Trump administration authorized 77 military flights, while the Obama administration allowed 94 flights during the same time period, according to the stats. Leon Panetta, who served as both CIA director and defense secretary during the Obama years, frequently used a government airplane to commute back and forth from Washington to California nearly every weekend at taxpayer expense. The Washington Times reported then that each flight cost about $32,000 but Panetta only had to pay $630 per trip, because that was the cost of an equivalent round-trip commercial flight. It noted that the government required defense secretaries to use a military plane for travel, and Panetta had the approval of Obama to fly home every weekend.”

WARNER SLAMS TWITTER FOR RUSSIA RESPONSE 

Politico: “Twitter’s presentation Thursday to Senate staffers about possible Russian election interference brought a caustic reaction from top Intelligence Committee Democrat Mark Warner, who called it ‘deeply disappointing’ and ‘inadequate on every level.’ The Virginia senator said he was especially disappointed that much of Twitter’s findings were based on user accounts that Facebook had already flagged as problematic and shared with congressional staff. That showed ‘an enormous lack of understanding’ from Twitter on how serious the Russia issue is and the ‘threat it poses to democratic institutions,’ Warner said. Warner's comments came after Twitter gave a pair of closed-door briefings Thursday to House and Senate intelligence committee staff, who are looking for ways Russia may have used social media to try to influence the outcome of last year's U.S. presidential election. Facebook has also shared information with congressional investigators. The reception to Twitter's presentation underscores what's at stake for it and other tech companies as the Russia investigation intensifies.”

Senate Intel Committee calls out Kushner on personal emails - The Hill: “Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner didn’t reveal the existence of his personal email account, according to CNN. The two leaders of the committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), sent Kushner a letter via his attorney on Thursday, calling on him to check that the documents he turned over to the committee included those from the personal email address. ‘The Committee was concerned to learn of this additional email account from the news media, rather than from you, in your closed staff interview,’ Burr and Warner wrote.”

White House opens internal investigation - Fox News: “The White House has launched an internal probe on the use of personal email accounts, Fox News has confirmed. The review appears to have emerged from recent reports of current and former White House officials using private email accounts and personal phones for administrative business, despite being advised not to do so.”

Kremlin used ‘Blacktivist’ social media campaign to divide Americans - CNN: “A social media campaign calling itself ‘Blacktivist’ and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the U.S. presidential election, two sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN. The Twitter account has been handed over to Congress; the Facebook account is expected to be handed over in the coming days. Both Blacktivist accounts, each of which used the handle Blacktivists, regularly shared content intended to stoke outrage. ‘Black people should wake up as soon as possible,’ one post on the Twitter account read. ‘Black families are divided and destroyed by mass incarceration and death of black men,’ another read. The accounts also posted videos of police violence against African Americans.”

Pence sent his lawyer to meet with Mueller - Politico: “Vice President Mike Pence’s outside lawyer met privately with special counsel Robert Mueller at Pence’s request last summer, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The meeting, which has not been previously reported, was held at Pence’s request to express his willingness to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, the person said. Pence retained Richard Cullen, chairman of McGuireWoods and a former U.S. attorney, in June to represent him in the Russia probe. The meeting with Mueller took place soon after Cullen accepted the job. Pence’s office, Mueller’s office and Cullen all declined to comment.”

DEMS DRAW TOP RECRUIT TO FACE EMBATTLED SEN. FLAKE
AZ Central: “U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is running for the Senate seat held by Jeff Flake, ending months of speculation about her political future and giving Democrats a top-tier fundraiser with experience on Capitol Hill. In a video announcing her bid, the Arizona Democrat recounts her upbringing in a family that fell from the middle class into homelessness. She made her way to Congress, Sinema says, with hard work and help from ‘family, church and, sometimes, even the government.’ … Sinema, who has a reputation as an energetic problem-solver not focused on partisanship, said she intends to make her work on behalf of military veterans and in cutting regulatory red tape for businesses the core issues of her campaign.”

Moore amended income disclosure - Daily Beast: “Roy Moore, the controversial Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama, neglected to disclose as much as $150,000 in income to federal ethics officials, according to a Daily Beast review of public records. In filings with the Alabama Ethics Commission, Moore, the former chief justice of the state supreme court, listed between $50,000 and $150,000 in honoraria received last year for various speaking engagements. But in a filing with the Senate Ethics Committee two months later, he explicitly denied having received any payments last year ‘for an article, speech, or appearance.’”

Hillary to raise cash for Virginia gubernatorial race - WaPo: “Hillary Clinton will headline a fundraiser for Virginia Democrat Ralph Northam next month as he makes a final push against Republican rival Ed Gillespie. Northam will hold the fundraiser with Clinton in New York on Oct. 4, as first reported by the Associated Press. The Northam campaign confirmed the report but declined to comment further. Northam, who is Virginia’s lieutenant governor, is locked in what polls say is a close contest with Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, ahead of the Nov. 7 election.”

Virginia delegate race could be telling for 2018 outcome - Cook Political Report:“The races that could best harbingers of November 2018 aren't likely to get much national coverage at all: all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are up for election this November. Democrats aren't likely to pick up the chamber: they currently hold just 34 seats and would need to gain 17 to win control. … Moreover, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam isn't blowing out Gillespie, so down-ballot Democrats may not be riding long coattails. Still, if Democrats managed to pick off 10 or more GOP-held seats, it would send a signal that voters are in the mood to punish President Trump and Republicans - a mirror image of the GOP legislative gains in 2009 that foreshadowed Republicans taking back the House in 2010.”

Nate Cohn: Incumbency gives House GOP the edge for 2018 - NYT: “Without a surge of Republican retirements, a Democratic House takeover would probably require the party to do even better at defeating Republican incumbents than it did in 2006 or the Republicans did in 2010. If Democrats merely matched those results, they would probably fall a bit short of the 24 seats they need.”

John Podhoretz: ‘Democrats’ best hope for 2020: Oprah’ - NY Post: “If any figure in the United States bears watching over the next couple of years as our political culture continues the radical transformation that led to the election of Donald Trump, it’s Oprah. I believe she’s uniquely positioned, should she wish to commit herself, to seek the Democratic nomination for president and challenge Trump in 2020. If you think that Trump can be beaten by a two-term governor of a Midwestern state with really good ideas about health care, or by a senator who really attracts young people, think again. The idea that a relatively conventional elected official will differentiate herself from Trump by dint of her seriousness or that an unconventional elected official can out-populist Trump is crazy.”

SENATE GOP BUDGET ALLOWS TAX CUT, NO OBAMACARE REPEAL 
WaPo: “Senate Republicans are preparing to at least partially abandon their quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pivot instead to a massive tax overhaul, according to draft budget legislation released Friday. …setting out procedures that will allow the legislation to pass with a simple 51-vote majority... [The] Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee will have until Nov. 13 to draft tax bills that cost no more than $1.5 trillion in lost revenue. … The draft resolution … is widely seen as a pathway to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling — a key priority for the panel’s chairman, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The budget does not direct the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee or the House Energy and Commerce Committee to draft legislation – a signal that Republicans are stepping aide, for now, from their abortive health-care efforts.”

Senate GOP backs McConnell despite storms - 
National Journal: “Mitch McConnell, the reticent majority leader of the Senate, faces a challenges on all sides: allies eying the exit, powerful enemies gunning to pick off supporters, a frosty relationship with the president, and, perhaps most importantly, no progress on his pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. In poll after poll, McConnell’s unpopularity among the Republican base is enervating. Grassroots conservatives see him as the personification of the status quo they rallied against in the presidential election. … Still, McConnell holds sway with those who matter most, the 52 Republican senators who elect him and give him his power.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
 
Melania Trump calls librarian’s response to Dr. Seuss books ‘unfortunate’ Fox News

Utah Gov. John Huntsman gets unanimous approval as U.S. Ambassador to Russia - Salt Lake Tribune

Poll: ‘World going to hell in a handbasket as nation comes apart at seams’ - Fox News

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend, Chris Wallace will sit down with Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney to discuss tax reform. Mr. Sunday will also discuss relief efforts in Puerto Rico with FEMA Administrator, Brock LongWatch note: “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” will be aired nationally on Fox News Channel at 8 am ET. 

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

AUDIBLE: SHOO

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.” – Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, said to his cadets after racial slurs were found on boards at the academy’s preparatory school.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Starting with the election cycle up to present day, I have found myself constantly checking for the latest story/scandal to break. Those stories of course bleeds into Facebook where friends and family have heated debates, i.e. the NFL kneeling issue.  The problem is that the more of this I’m exposed to, the madder and more frustrated I become. Yet since there are so many stories breaking every week, I can’t seem to stop. It’s become like reality television. I was never an avid news consumer before. This is a relatively new phenomenon in my life, and I’m sure it’s the same with many other Americans. My belief is that a vast majority of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, are becoming more pessimistic and angry the more they take in media at large (present company excluded), and that there will be long term consequences to this. What say you?” – Mike Doyle, Oakland, Calif.

[Ed. note: I’m with you, Mr. Doyle. One thing I try to do as much as possible is ask myself whether the world really needs my opinion on a particular subject. As I like to say: Opinions are luxury items, make sure you don’t have more than you can afford. It is very tempting in the era of social media to believe that it is vitally important for every one of us to take a position on every passing controversy. But, of course, good sense and even a modest dose of humility will remind us that is far from the truth. My advice to you is to power off your devices for a set period of time each week – I love the concept of, but struggle to adhere to, a digital Sabbath in which one leaves a single day aside from our hyper-connected world. If you take that time to go interact with live human beings, as I’m sure you already do, I believe you’ll find what I find: We live in a country full of wonderful people doing kind, interesting and worthwhile things.]

“I am disappointed that recent public debate (or at least media commentary) has ignored the evils of ‘post-bellum’ politicians and their northern enablers. … These post-bellum politicians were not Confederates. They took office under the United States. They had no expectation that the rest of America would adopt the Jim Crow model of organizing a society. Their century of dishonest rhetoric has tainted the values of tradition, the conservative perspective in culture and politics, and the very concept of Federalism in our government. Their obstruction and overt racism preserved many of the tragic realities America faces today.  I will close by asking why there is not more attention paid to American history from 1865--1965 when so many injustices happened?” – Jim Haynes, Towson, Md.

[Ed. note: In a way, Mr. Haynes, that’s what the current debate is about. The Civil War resulted in enormous losses of American lives, but also ended with hope for the future and the promise of what Abraham Lincoln called “a new birth of freedom.” An unavoidable war that ended in the resolution of the most pernicious question that had plagued the nation since its founding is a sad but hopeful story. But it is what happened in the century afterward that casts a longer shadow on America today. Following Lincoln’s assassination, radical Republicans exacted brutal vengeance on the South for more than two decades through military occupation. Gone was the healing promise of the Great Emancipator’s second inaugural address, replaced instead by revenge and exploitation. Unable to visit their rage on their Northern occupiers, former Confederates instead abused former slaves unable to defend themselves. That dehumanizing brutality would prove to be even more corrupting perhaps than even the original institution of slavery itself. We may be more than 150 years past emancipation, but we are only a generation or two removed from the poison that washed over the South in its wake. Americans, black and white, Northern and Southern, should be applauded for the remarkable strides made toward peace and mutual respect since the mid-1960’s. But we should not pretend that these wounds would heal quickly or leave no scars behind.]     
 
“Much agreement here with your comments on American culture, but it was (was it 1989?) the Supreme Court that loosed the reins, for the seemingly bottomless devolution of crudity now in the square, with its interpretation of ‘speech’ as freedom of expression. If James Madison were still living, he wouldn’t be. Who knew what was once easily regarded as reprehensible no longer stuns the ever-coarsening culture. In a time where nothing seems to be wrong, can anyone, truly, be surprised by bathrooms without borders? Do you know the refrain from, ‘The Limbo?’” – Paul Thomson, Edmond, Okla.

[Ed. note: One of the problems with having the government as the guardian of decency is that those standards are subjective and bound to shift. One may like the direction the dial turns or be appalled. I would submit that governments are poor custodians of virtue, since governments themselves are so seldom virtuous. I do not think America is a coarser, baser nation as a result of the failures of the government. Instead, I think it is because communities and civic institutions have been in retreat for generations. Speech codes and blue laws are impractical in the internet era, anyway. And as for Madison, I imagine he would not have dreamed that individuals and local communities would have looked to the remote federal government to make judgements about what is decent and not. He did not live in a nation of so many moral imbeciles, as you and I do today.]

“President Trump (and many others) want the senate to get rid of the filibuster and many in the senate are understandably reluctant to do so. Has the senate leadership considered a more moderate change that I believe would be as effective? Why not return to the rules that require senators seeking a filibuster to actually stand in the well and speak on the floor? In addition, my understanding is that in the days of yore, when a filibuster was occurring, no other business could proceed. It seems that re-invoking these two rules would preserve the filibuster but it would be used sparingly as it was in the past.” – Roy Slagle, Fort Smith, Ark.

[Ed. note: You are on to something there, Mr. Slagle. Those are the rules of the Senate. Any senator can, upon being recognized to speak, hold the floor for as long as he or she can keep talking. The Senate can move on to no other business while the filibuster is underway. But what current rules also allow is, essentially, a non-talking filibuster in which 41 senators can band together to refuse to allow debate on a bill to be ended. This is called cloture. One of the things that has made cloture votes more troublesome is the exploitation of these votes in political campaigns. It was once very common for senators to vote to end debate on a controversial bill and then vote against the legislation itself. But, over time, that distinction has been lost and it is now assumed that a vote to end debate is the same as the vote to final legislation. It’s stupid, but it works well in a 30-second ad. I think there is a lot to commend the idea to the return to a talking filibuster era, which would be achieved by lowering the cloture threshold. But I also recognize that the super-majority standard for legislation, even if it has evolved in this twisted way guarantees the rights of the minority and puts pressure on majorities to gain bipartisan approval for important measures. This is why the Framers wanted the Senate to be quite different and quite aloof from the kind of political pressures felt by individual members of the House. The 17th Amendment was designed to make the voices of the people heard, but has instead resulted in increasing dysfunction in the body that is supposed to rise above politics by the largest degree.]

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THAT’LL DO, DONKEY
AP: “A German court has ordered a donkey's owners to pony up 5,800 euros ($6,800) to the driver of a pricey McLaren sports car to cover damage caused when the animal chomped the backside of the vehicle. Police said that Vitus the donkey may have mistaken the orange McLaren parked next to his enclosure as a giant carrot when he bit the back, damaging the paint and a carbon-fiber piece. The dpa news agency reported that the state court in Giessen on Thursday sided with the car owner, who filed the suit after the donkey owner refused reimbursement for the incident last September. At the time, Local media reported the owner of the donkey refused to pay for the damage, telling the McLaren owner he should have picked a better parking place.”

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.