A familiar failure

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A FAMILIAR FAILURE 

The saying goes that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

That is so. But it is also so that the right thing to do also depends on the time. The question of “what” is usually more important than the question of “when.”

As desensitized as Americans have become to mass shootings, the carnage of the attack in Las Vegas was shocking even to a nation that has grown grimly accustomed to similar, smaller events over the past 20 years. 

Like the 2012 slaughter of 20 children younger than eight in Newtown, Conn., or the murder of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last year, Sunday’s killings break through our protective veneers of world weariness. 

These incidents have become depressingly common, especially so in the past decade. Very few of them make big news. Crime statistics show that in just three years – 2013 through 2015 – there were more than 1,000 mass shootings, defined as events that involve at least four people being shot, though not necessarily killed.

There were about 12,000 gun-related deaths in the United States in 2015, all of them tragedies to someone. But there is something different about the comparatively small number of attacks that target strangers in large numbers. 

Americans are enormously unlikely to be killed in such an incident, but killers like the one in Las Vegas prey on our collective fear of the unknowable and the uncontrollable. And we know this will not be the last one. Far from it.

So common have these events become that there is a rhythm to the political response. And not a good one. 

First, fools and political grifters take advantage of the absence of good information. While people are still trying to sort out what exactly has occurred, loudmouths and those looking to exploit the tragedy waste no time in offering bunkum and divisive opinions, sometimes crudely so. 

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, for example, would not even wait until the dead had been numbered to start exploiting the massacre. A woman already famous for her rapacity managed to still surprise with her response. 

The other major party also has a standard response to mass-casualty events involving firearms, which is to offer condolences and prayers to those slain and their families and then stand tight-lipped until the shock of the moment and, accordingly, the calls to action, begin to fade. 

Of all of the ways in which America is disserved by its broken political process, our leaders’ inability to do anything at all about the increasing frequency and lethality of these murders stands out. 

We have seen political progress in recent years on other epidemics, particularly drug addiction and cancer. But on the issue of mass murder, American government remains inert – riven by partisanship and populated by individuals without the imagination to summon new solutions.  

When such a killing occurs, those who favor gun control fixate on the means of murder to the exclusion of almost everything else. In response, those who oppose stricter gun laws fixate on other issues – our badly broken mental-health system, barriers to involuntary psychiatric commitments and cultural degeneration – to the almost complete exclusion of the weapons themselves.

So now we know the cycle: Gun control advocates and politicians who seek their support exploit the shock of the moment to rile existing supporters, gun control opponents, in turn, exploit the gun-grabbing talk to keep their people anxious and angry. Politicians wince their way through an awkward week or so and then, nothing happens. Until the next time.

We saw in the response to the unimaginable school shooting in Connecticut how inadequate current political thinking is on this issue. The entire result of an enormous public outcry was the introduction and eventual defeat of a symbolic bill on background checks that would have done nothing to have prevented the killings. 

The Constitution explicitly protects the rights of individuals to have weapons. Yes, it is true, that the gun industry spends an enormous amount of money fighting gun-control legislation, but it has been the courts, not the Congress, that have most frustrated the ambitions of the also-well-funded gun control lobby.

But while the Second Amendment to the Constitution makes addressing the issue more complicated, the Constitution itself offers a remedy. 

Americans have substantially abandoned the concept of constitutional amendments, preferring to hack the charter through various means. Politicians look for ways to defeat the Constitution rather than relying on the remedies it provides.

We are not suggesting that there are no actions to be taken short of amending the Constitution, especially for Republicans who talk much but do little to reform our mental health system. 

But if addressing the problem requires more gun control, it will require resolving the tension that has developed between two clauses of the Second Amendment: “a well-regulated militia” and “shall not be infringed.” 

Proposing symbolic legislation that wouldn’t have prevented this atrocity brings discredit to the gun control movement. If proponents want to do more than raise money off the horrors of mass murder, then it is long past time for them to devise and advance an amendment that would resolve that tension. 

Those ghouls who push partisan politics in the face of such carnage aren’t just wrong in their timing for speaking out so soon. 

There’s never a right time to do wrong.

THE RULEBOOK: IMMEDIATELY AWAKE 
“It is that which, being the immediate and visible guardian of life and property, having its benefits and its terrors in constant activity before the public eye, regulating all those personal interests and familiar concerns to which the sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake, contributes, more than any other circumstance, to impressing upon the minds of the people, affection, esteem, and reverence towards the government.” –Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 17

TIME OUT: AND NOW YOU KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY…
NatGeo: “A charcoal drawing known as the ‘nude Mona Lisa,’ long attributed to one of Leonardo da Vinci’s students, may have been drawn by the master himself, according to experts at the Louvre in Paris. It’s hard to miss the resemblance between the woman in da Vinci’s famous 16th-century painting and the semi-nude subject of the ‘Monna Vanna,’ a colorless sketch that has been held in the collection of the Condé Museum, north of Paris, since 1862. The familiar half-smile lingers above that pointed chin, while her hands are folded in exactly the same way. … The ‘Monna Vanna’ has been credited to one of da Vinci’s students, Andrea Salai, since the 20th century. Some have argued Salai’s version was only a copy of a lost original by the master. … Researchers plan another month of analysis before returning the painting to the Condé. Regardless of their conclusions, it seems likely that mystery will endure behind that enigmatic smile.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -18 points
Change from one week ago: down 7.6 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.]

GOP TURNS TO BLUE DOGS FOR SUPPORT ON TAX CUTS
Roll Call: “President Donald Trump and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady are trying to woo fiscally conservative Democrats, as Republicans seek consensus for an ambitious overhaul based on the GOP’s tax framework. Passing a tax bill with just Republican votes in the House is far from a sure thing, as some GOP lawmakers have said they want more details about the size and reach of tax cuts and the impact of contentious offsets such as the elimination of the popular deduction for state and local taxes. … Faced with potential defections, Trump and key Republicans like Brady are working the Blue Dog Coalition — the 18 Democrats who sometimes cross party lines on fiscal issues. Blue Dogs such as Henry Cuellar of Texas and Tom O’Halleran of Arizona said they are keeping the door open to possibly supporting the House GOP tax bill being written using the framework released Wednesday as a guide.”

New digital ad released to support tax reform plan - The Hill: “A group aligned with House GOP leadership on Monday rolled out a digital ad to promote the tax-reform framework released last week by the White House and Congressional Republicans. The ad from the American Action Network (AAN) features economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the president of the American Action Forum and a former economic adviser to President George W. Bush. Holtz-Eakin highlights several aspects of the GOP tax framework, including its larger standard deduction, expanded child tax credit and lower taxes for small businesses.”

[Watch Fox: Chris Stirewalt joins Steve Hilton and his panel on “The Next Revolution” to score the Trump tax plan. Watch it here.]

MORE TIES BETWEEN TRUMP LAWYER, RUSSIANS REVEALED
WaPo: “Associates of President Trump and his company have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter. In one case, Trump’s personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about the lawyer possibly traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladi­mir Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence. In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the upper house of the Russian parliament, these people said. The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign and has since come to light.”

Facebook bows to Congress on ads sold to Kremlin operatives - The Hill: “Facebook says that it will release the over 3,000 political ads purchased by Russian actors on its platform during the 2016 election to congressional investigators on Monday. The moves comes after Facebook faced pressure from federal lawmakers like Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) Both are the highest ranking Democrats in the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, respectively. While the two have said that they’re pleased with Facebook’s decision to release the ads to investigators, they note that they would still like more details. A spokesperson for Warner said that he’s interested in the activity of the social media accounts through which the ads were purchased. His office believes that this could yield more information on how Russians may have sought to influence the election and sow discord among Americans than the just the advertisements.”

TRUMP’S T-REX TAUNTS RAISE DOUBTS
AP: “President Donald Trump says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is ‘wasting his time’ trying to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs, raising speculation about whether Trump could be undermining efforts to maintain channels of communication or somehow bolstering the diplomat’s hand in possible future talks. It was not immediately clear what prompted Trump’s tweets, among a series of weekend posts that ranged from hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico to NFL players’ allegiance to the national anthem, and at whom they were aimed: Tillerson, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, those pushing for continued diplomacy, those favoring a military response to repeated provocations. Tillerson had acknowledged on Saturday, after meetings in Beijing with Chinese leaders, that the Trump administration was keeping open direct channels of communications with North Korea and probing the North’s willingness to talk.”

Lawmakers debate bypassing Trump - The Hill: “That talk is setting up a potential clash between Congress and President Trump, whose administration insists they are already hitting the regime of Kim Jong Un hard. … Lawmakers admit it is a difficult decision between sitting on the sidelines or bucking the president and taking matters into their own hands. ‘I wonder whether additional congressional activities are helpful when we’re on the brink of something that could become a catastrophe,’ Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)…”

NO WORD ON PRICE REPLACEMENT AT HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Politico: “Tom Price hadn’t even stepped down when the Washington policy world was buzzing about who was likely to replace him. A dozen names are being talked about as the next HHS Secretary, including several belonging to people already serving in the administration. But of course President Donald Trump often defies Washington’s conventional wisdom. The rumored short-list includes former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who would sail through Senate confirmation but would probably be considered too moderate on Obamacare, to Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardio-thoracic surgeon made famous by his talk show, which Trump has appeared on. Other current or former members of Congress who could be considered include Rep. Fred Upton and former Rep. Dave Camp.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Virginia Dem gov. candidate Northam cancels gun control events after massacre - Richmond Times Dispatch 

Amid accusations of callousness, Trump dedicates golf trophy to hurricane victims -
 WaPo

SupCo to hear arguments on gerrymandering Tuesday - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Frank Bruni: ‘Democrats, please get ready to lose’ - NYT:

Quite so: Tom Rogan shares a case study of how politicians can handle protesters - WashEx

AUDIBLE: JUST IMAGINE IF IT HAD BEEN ORANGE  
“It was lemon-lime. I mean, it was so good. And it was cold.”– Rep. Steve Scalise R-La., talking to Politico’s Tim Alberta about his recollections of the day he was shot during a congressional baseball game practice, including the relief of a drink of Gatorade after laying prone amid the subsequent crossfire.   

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“What happened to allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines? I heard a brief blip that Senator Rand Paul was bringing the issue up but have heard little else regarding this issue that Donald Trump campaigned hard on. It seems a fairly simple improvement to healthcare insurance costs that I would think should receive bipartisan support. Can’t we break this whole healthcare thing down into bite sized pieces and begin getting something done?” – Jim BurrowColleyville, Texas

[Ed. note: Good question, Mr. Burrow! There’s no law against selling insurance across state lines. The problem there is that insurance is still substantially regulated on the state level. Each state has an insurance commission or similar entity charged with setting rules for coverage. Insurers must have approval on a state-by-state basis to write policies. Even with the advent of ObamaCare, states have held on to these powers. If you live in a highly regulated state like New York, you can’t buy a policy from, say, Texas. So while conservatives embrace the idea of federalism when it comes to funding and administering ObamaCare, many, like Paul, would need to take power away from states in order to have national health regulations.]   

“Subsequent to your Friday newsletter, Tom Price resigned. He was the one cabinet official I had the highest hopes for. He was supposed to have had the policy chops to repeal and replace Obamacare. Instead, he resigns under a cloud, not having accomplished a thing. Who’s next?” – Jeff Smith, Statesboro, Ga.

[Ed. note: If we were going on the basis of public discomfort and/or embarrassment by the president: T-Rex is next.]

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‘MIGHT AS WELL GET A MONKEY’
WLWT: “Monkeys are on the loose in a Warren County neighborhood, several residents said Friday. Residents of a quiet community in Lebanon, Ohio, said that they have spotted the monkeys sporadically in recent weeks. One resident even snapped a picture to prove she wasn’t just seeing things. … That’s right. Dancing monkeys are in Ohio, neighbors claim. … The sightings have some people scratching their heads. ‘It’s like the squirrels are even acting a little funny around here,’ neighbor Chris Watson said. … Many suspect the monkeys are someone’s pets that got loose. Some people even said the primates are a welcome sight, providing a bit of entertainment. ‘As long as they’re not dangerous, I wouldn’t mind having a little one,’ Sandlin said. ‘My kids are grown. Might as well get a monkey.’”

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.