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On the roster: Hillary can’t help herself from helping Trump - Alexander, Murray reach bipartisan deal on ObamaCare - Trump invokes Kelly’s slain son defending Obama swipe - White House refuses Gowdy request on personal emails - Bacon is for lovers, not fighters
HILLARY CAN’T HELP HERSELF FROM HELPING TRUMP
One of the great punchlines in modern political history will be that Hillary Clinton and her party sought out the candidacy of Donald Trump and worked to elevate his position in the GOP field.
Now, it may be a little like “Ghostbusters” that whatever means she and her party would have chosen – even the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – could have been her destroyer. But however weak Clinton was, the fact that she got the Republican nominee Democrats wanted and still lost goes down as an epic strategic blunder.
But as Trump’s presidency bangs along, it seems increasingly like it is Clinton, not him, that makes the perfect foil. If she didn’t exist, Trump would have to invent her.
Consider the too-zany-for-Kevin-Spacy plot offered this week by Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard professor who briefly ran for president in 2016. Lessig imagines a scenario in which Clinton still becomes president because Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are both removed from office. House Speaker Paul Ryan ascends to the presidency and then out of deference, appoints Clinton as his vice president and resigns, allowing her to become chief magistrate.
Now, this would be no more important than some piece of “Battlestar Galactica” fanfiction but for the fact that it simultaneously stimulates the imaginations of Clinton dead-enders and, more significantly, members of Trump’s base.
A recent New Yorker piece on Pence sought to warn Democrats away from the comforting thought of Trump’s removal and replacement by his No. 2. Pence, the magazine pointed out, is a super-duper social conservative with ties to the Blue Team’s preferred boogeymen prior to the age of Trump, Charles and David Koch.
The author’s message was pretty clear: removing Trump from office is not enough.
The article would tend to have opposite of the desired effect, though. As Republicans consider the possibility, however remote, that the ongoing probe into Trump’s campaign or some other impinging event would result in him not completing his term, thinking of Pence as a social conservative with deep ties to conservatives would be a deeply consoling thought.
(That’s probably why Trump consigliere Steve Bannon has been at pains of late to try to show Pence as either unworthy or disloyal. He wouldn’t have been bagging on the veep to the New Yorker just to pass the time.)
Clinton proved to be an even greater unifier of the Republican Party than Barack Obama ever was. The intense hate for the 44th president among the populist nationalist base that propelled Trump to the Republican nomination was flamethrower hot. But Clinton lit up every part of the GOP.
There were the old campaigners who remembered her from the brutal political wars of the 1990s, the good-government types who recoiled at her family’s penchant for corrupt practices, the ideological conservatives who blanched at her cartel-like approach to governance and the social conservatives who knew well her record as a fierce advocate for access to elective abortions.
The Clintons may have believed that Trump was the easiest Republican to beat, but that formula seems to have worked out exactly in reverse.
Clinton’s many defenders take deep umbrage at calls for her to retire from public life and let a new generation of Democrats step forward, seething at efforts to silence the two-time presidential candidate, former secretary of state, former senator of New York and former first lady. Who can imagine what she has left unsaid after all these years, but Clinton Inc. is still intent on pushing product.
Trump has the answer to these people, as he says again and again: Bring her on.
Marginal figures in the party are still fantasizing about her incipient presidency and that we cannot state with complete assurance that she will not run in 2020. These two facts alone should be chilling for Democrats hoping to see their party restored to power.
We all learned about the dangers of “collateralized debt obligations” after the Panic of 2008. These were bundles of mortgages in which the good notes were supposed to compensate for the bad ones and make the bundle a safe bet.
The Clintons have ended up being something like a CDO for Democrats. The party went long on the promise of the strong components, particularly the great political gifts of Bill Clinton and the family’s astonishing gift for fundraising. They failed to appreciate just how bad the rest of the loans looked.
Stuck with this toxic asset, Democrats are in a quandary. And it is one that Trump and the GOP know exactly how to exploit. Polls continue to show the 2016 Democratic nominee as deeply unpopular, even more so than she was on the eve of election and, in some cases, even less popular than Trump.
She is obviously determined to rehabilitate her image and not be remembered as the person who lost a race that was thought unlosable. But that is an act of extreme selfishness even in a political dynasty famous for solipsism.
THE RULEBOOK: RULE FOLLOWERS
“The general precaution, that no new States shall be formed, without the concurrence of the federal authority, and that of the States concerned, is consonant to the principles which ought to govern such transactions.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 43
TIME OUT: BON APPÉTIT
Reporter Hannah Foster takes us on a journey of the newest medium for art: sugar - Paris Review: “I sat down with [Raphael Castoriano] and his programs manager Simone Sutnick to discuss Kreëmart’s newest edible endeavor. Castoriano explained that sugar is an ideal medium for art because both sugar and art are ‘not necessities—they are luxuries.’ … Kreëmart’s most recent project is a collaboration between the Yugoslavian performance artist Marina Abramovic and the Parisian bakery and patisserie Ladurée, a frequent manufacturer of Castoriano’s concepts. … Marina Abramovic’s Taste … provides another way of consuming Abramovic’s body. It’s a highly customized macaron—Ladurée’s signature cookie-like treat with two delicate shells encasing a sweet cream or jam-based filling—embodying facets of the artist’s identity. The macarons are Prussian blue and stamped with the Abramovic family’s coat of arms. One is painted with edible gold leaf. The black triangle box in which they are served is meant to evoke mystery and Abramovic’s cosmic number (yes, that’s a thing, and it’s three).”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -21.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 4.8 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.]
ALEXANDER, MURRAY REACH BIPARTISAN DEAL ON OBAMACARE
Politico: “Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray say they have reached an agreement on a bipartisan Obamacare deal to fund a key insurance subsidy program and provide states some flexibility around parts of the health care law. Senators are expected to get a briefing on details at 5 p.m. today. It would include two years of funding for Obamacare’s cost-sharing program, which President Donald Trump cut last week. It also would allow states to use existing Obamacare waivers to approve insurance plans with ‘comparable affordability’ as Obamacare plans. ‘Sen. Murray and I have an agreement,’ Alexander said. ‘We're going to round up co-sponsors as best we can.’”
Ryan unveils ambitious timeline on taxes - The Hill: “Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) offered an ambitious timeline on Monday for when Congress will enact tax reform this year, starting with House passage of a bill in the next month. Ryan predicted in an interview with Milwaukee radio station WTMJ that tax overhaul legislation would pass in the House by ‘early November’ and make it through the Senate to President Trump’s desk by the end of December.”
White House: Corporate tax cut could boost average incomes by $9,000 - The Hill: “The Trump administration is pushing back against criticism from Democrats that its tax-reform plan will be a boon for the rich, casting the GOP bid to slash corporate taxes as a win for workers. … Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers on Monday released a paper arguing that the GOP plan to slash the corporate tax rate would increase average household income by $4,000 to $9,000 annually. Some outside experts were skeptical of the claim.”
Paul still holding out as Senate GOP seeks budget plan passage - Reuters: “U.S. Senate Republicans on Monday gained crucial support for a vote on a budget resolution that is vital to President Donald Trump’s hopes of signing sweeping tax reform legislation into law before January. … ‘I am leaning ‘yes’,’ Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told reporters as the chamber prepared for what is expected to be a late Thursday vote on the fiscal 2018 spending blueprint. Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced on Sunday that she will likely vote ‘yes.’ … [Rand Paul] of Kentucky told reporters there is a possibility he will vote yes. ‘We’re in discussions on it. We’re trying to get it to a document that we think represents what we stand for,’ Paul said.”
Trump readies counterattack on McCain after senator’s thrashing - AP: “President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued a warning shot after Republican Sen. John McCain questioned ‘half-baked, spurious nationalism’ in America's foreign policy. Trump said in a radio interview with WMAL in Washington that ‘people have to be careful because at some point I fight back.’ The president added ‘I'm being very, very nice but at some point I fight back and it won't be pretty.’ McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent 5½ years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp and is battling brain cancer, offered a simple response to Trump: ‘I have faced tougher adversaries.’ In Philadelphia on Monday night, the six-term Republican senator from Arizona received an award for a lifetime of service and sacrifice to the country.”
TRUMP INVOKES KELLY’S SLAIN SON DEFENDING OBAMA SWIPE
Business Insider: “President Donald Trump seemed to double down on his claim that former President Barack Obama didn't call the families of American soldiers killed in combat. ‘You can ask General Kelly. Did he get a call from Obama?’ Trump told ‘Fox & Friends’ host Brian Kilmeade during an interview on Tuesday. Presumably, Trump was referring to Kelly's son, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. ‘I don't know what Obama's policy was,’ Trump told Kilmeade. ‘I write letters and I also call.’ During a press conference on Monday, Trump at first suggested that Obama did not call Gold Star families when he was president after a reporter asked whether Trump had reached out to the families of those killed in a special forces raid in Niger. ‘President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls,’ Trump added. ‘I call when it's appropriate.’”
Embattled congressman bows out as Trump drug czar pick - WaPo: “President Trump said Tuesday that his nominee to be the nation’s drug czar is withdrawing from consideration for the job. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) was under fire in the wake of revelations in a Washington Post/’60 Minutes’ investigation that the lawmaker helped steer legislation in Congress making it harder to act against giant drug companies. Trump had declined to express support for Marino on Monday. The president also said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic. Trump said ‘we’re going to be looking into’ the investigation, while many Democrats and at least one Republican called for modification or outright repeal of the law. Democrats also urged Trump to drop Marino as his pick to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy.”
Trump will interview current Fed chair Yellen about appointment - Politico: “President Donald Trump plans to formally interview Janet Yellen this week about potentially staying on as Federal Reserve chair, two people familiar with the matter said. The meeting will come as Trump nears a decision on filling the world’s most important central banking job.”
WHITE HOUSE REFUSES GOWDY REQUEST ON PERSONAL EMAILS
Politico: “The White House brushed off a bipartisan request from House investigators for details of senior administration officials’ use of private email and encrypted messaging apps for government work, including possible violations of federal record-keeping laws, a letter obtained by POLITICO shows. In a terse letter to Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — leaders of the House oversight committee — President Donald Trump’s congressional liaison Marc Short declined to indicate whether any administration officials had used personal email accounts or messaging services, despite reports suggesting such communications were common in the West Wing. ‘The White House and covered employees endeavor to comply with all relevant laws,’ Short wrote in a two-page reply delivered late last week and obtained Monday by POLITICO.”
Fusion GPS fighting House subpoenas - Fox News: “The political research firm behind a controversial and unverified anti-Trump dossier is fighting subpoenas from the House Intelligence Committee, with its lawyer seeming to lay the groundwork for company representatives to plead the Fifth on Capitol Hill. Joshua Levy, the attorney for Fusion GPS, said in a letter to the panel Monday that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is acting ‘in bad faith.’ ‘Based on this Committee’s bad faith interactions with the undersigned counsel and its pattern of unprofessional conduct exhibited during different points throughout this investigation, you have left us with no choice but to advise our clients to assert their privileges in the face of these subpoenas,’ he wrote, in a 17-page list of reasons why the company would not comply.”
McCarthy: Why is Trump administration sitting on the dossier? - National Review: “It is an article of faith among the president’s most ardent supporters: The Trump dossier is a completely discredited piece of garbage. Hence, its relevance is limited to one matter and one matter alone: The dossier’s suspected use by the Obama administration (specifically, the Justice Department and the FBI) as a pretext to spy on the opposition party’s presidential campaign — a ruse that included cribbing the dossier’s sensational allegations in secret court applications for wiretap warrants. … So, is the article of faith true? If the Trump dossier is just a tissue of lies, why are the Justice Department and FBI, now controlled by Trump appointees, concealing information about it rather than anxiously volunteering disclosure?”
FBI confirms contents of Comey memo on Clinton - Fox News: ““The FBI released documents Monday proving former FBI Director James Comey began drafting a letter regarding Hillary Clinton’s email investigation months before conducting several key interviews, including speaking to Clinton herself. … The existence of the documents, reported by Newsweek, were first brought to light by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also a member of the committee, after they reviewed transcripts of interviews with top Comey aides who alluded to the email’s existence. The Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating Comey in his role as FBI director and President Trump’s decision to fire him in May.”
POLLS SHOW TIGHTENING RACE IN VIRGINIA
Monmouth University: “The campaign for governor of Virginia remains up for grabs, with Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam locked in a one point race. The Monmouth University Poll finds the race becoming more regionally divided, with Gillespie widening the gap in Western Virginia and Northam picking up steam in Northern Virginia. Northam has a better net favorable rating, but Gillespie has built issue advantages in some key areas. Currently, 48% of likely voters support Gillespie, the former national GOP party leader, and 47% support Northam, the Commonwealth's current lieutenant governor. Libertarian Cliff Hyra gets 3% of the vote and 3% are undecided. Last month, Northam had a 49% to 44% edge over Gillespie while the race was tied at 44% each in July.”
Virginian Pilot: “Democrat Ralph Northam’s lead over Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s gubernatorial election appears to be shrinking, and the race is statistically too close to call, according to a poll released today. … Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy’s poll found that Northam, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, was favored by 48 percent; Gillespie, a communications consultant and longtime GOP activist, by 44 percent; and Libertarian Cliff Hyra, an attorney, by 3 percent.”
Roanoke College: “Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam leads Republican Ed Gillespie by six percentage points (50%-44%), while Libertarian Cliff Hyra garners two percent of likely voters, and only four percent remain undecided, according to The Roanoke College Poll. The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research interviewed 607 likely voters in Virginia between Oct. 8 and Oct. 13 and the poll has a margin of error of +4 percent.”
TRUMP SUPER PAC MAKES SENATE PICKS
McClatchy: “A prominent pro-Donald Trump super PAC with ties to ex-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is rolling out its official endorsements in the Wisconsin and Arizona GOP Senate primaries. Great America PAC will announce that in Wisconsin, it is supporting Kevin Nicholson, a Marine veteran running in a hotly contested primary to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat running for re-election in a state President Donald Trump won. … Meanwhile, in Arizona, Great America PAC is also highlighting its support for former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who recently met with Bannon at a secretive conservative confab in Colorado Springs.”
Former Dem gov. eyes Tennessee Senate seat - Tennessean: “Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, the last Democrat to win a statewide election in the Volunteer State, is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Republican Bob Corker after previously ruling out a bid. Bredesen said in a statement Monday that he is mulling an entry into the race after several people urged him to reconsider a potential run. Bredesen, governor from 2003-11, and former mayor of Nashville, initially denied any interest in the race in the aftermath of Corker’s bombshell Sept. 26 announcement that he won’t run for a third term. ‘Since then, a number of people for whom I have great respect have encouraged me to reconsider and I am doing so,’ Bredesen, a moderate Democrat, said in a statement first reported by the Associated Press.”
Rand Paul endorses Roy Moore for Alabama Senate seat - WashEx: “In a huge show of support, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday endorsed Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore… Paul's endorsement puts a stamp of approval on Moore's anti-Washington campaign which he rode to victory recently in a primary against Sen. Luther Strange, appointed earlier this year to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions when he became the Attorney General. … Utah Sen. Mike Lee also endorsed Moore this week.”
Trump admin to increase federal immigration jails - USA Today
Trump drops in Forbes 400 list - CNBC
Justice Department holds Trump Twitter account is private, but tweets are public - Reuters
Dems maintain dominant lead in generic ballot polls - WaPo
AUDIBLE: THE ACUITY OF HINDSIGHT
“I have served America’s cause – the cause of our security and the security of our friends, the cause of freedom and equal justice – all my adult life. I haven’t always served it well. I haven’t even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by other interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past.” – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in his speech accepting the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Would it be possible for you sometime to write in the Half-Time Report about your thoughts on Pres. Trump brokering a crossfire with the Repubs such that they take advantage of their current numbers to put the other party away for a while. … Whyn’t you enumerate the top 5 things Pres T could to do get his party to put them away. Thanks. Always reading…always listening…out here in Fly Over Country.” – Rick Schuknecht, Ada, Mich.
[Ed. note: I don’t really think it’s a question of five things, Mr. Schuknecht. I think it’s really just one thing: Uniting Republicans around a broad set of principles. Democrats showed eight years ago how party unity is both powerful and fragile. Democrats fell apart at a couple of key moments, leaving former President Obama’s legacy supremely vulnerable in the hands of his successor. But when they were united, they did manage to put lots of points on the board. Republicans have a smaller Senate majority than Democrats did, making party unity all the more important. Trump is stepping up on his tax plan and is starting to try to play the role of mediator in the intra-party dispute that long predates his arrival in the GOP. As the saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. And if Republicans can succeed and Americans feel richer, safer and more optimistic than they did before, you won’t have to worry about putting any Democrats away, voters will do it for you.]
“Love your halftime analysis. The term ‘squishy’ middle Republicans was spot on and hysterical. My laugh for the day.” – Dianne Strachan, Flagstaff, Ariz.
[Ed. note: I can hardly claim credit for that one, Ms. Strachan. But that old descriptor seems to work very well on the spectrum between two poles populated by hardliners.]
“I value reading your posts. Your scoreboard current number and change points offers a glimpse. Could you offer a picture? A chart of these numbers since you first posted them up to the present would allow a thoughtful reader to track this metric against the occurrences which have preceded the rise and fall over time. Occurrences both clearly political, and those broader things occurring in the economy, the nation, and the world. Maybe a link to a separate page? Keep up the very challenging effort of making sense of much information, and rendering it accessible to the folks. It is certainly appreciated.” – Donald P. McGaffey, Redford, Mich.
[Ed. note: What a great idea, Mr. McGaffey! We will devote all of our best people, by which I mean Brianna, to something like this. I think it would be hugely helpful to be able to look at data and trends over a longer frame but without clogging up the middle of the note with more text. Well done!]
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BACON IS FOR LOVERS, NOT FIGHTERS
WTVD: “On Sunday, a Goldsboro man reported to police that he was slapped with a package of bacon. Yes, a package of bacon... According to a police report, the man said he was arguing with his girlfriend at their apartment on West Lockhaven Drive when she struck him in the face with an uncooked package of bacon. Goldsboro police said charges had not yet been filed; officers did not mention if they confiscated the delicious evidence.”
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.