White House softens stance on Moore, cites tax vote

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On the roster: White House softens stance on Moore, cites tax vote - New questions on savings, uninsured rate from killing mandate - Romney Senate hopes rise as potential rival drops out - Another Dem joins Bill Clinton condemnation - Kumpel, wo ist mein Auto?

WHITE HOUSE SOFTENS STANCE ON MOORE, CITES TAX VOTE

Would either of the tax proposals in Congress be worth you voting for an alleged child predator for Senate?

That was part of the argument on offer from the White House this morning, and it ought to be something of a wakeup call for Republicans on the matters of both the Alabama Senate election and their tax proposal.

Senior White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway was lighting into Alabama Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones today on “Fox & Friends” as a “doctrinaire liberal” who is weak on crime and illegal immigration. 

Co-host Brian Kilmeade jumped in: “So what, vote for Roy Moore?”

“I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” Conway said. “And if the media were really concerned about all these allegations and that’s what this was truly about … Al Franken would be on the ash heap of bygone, half-funny comedians.”      

Let’s put this in some context. Last week, Conway had essentially mirrored the official White House line that if true, the allegations that Moore had abused his position as a prosecutor to pursue and intimidate teenage girls, some as young as 14, would be disqualifying. 

As Conway very succinctly and effectively put it: “No Senate seat is worth more than a child.”  

By late last week, though, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration had turned agnostic on Moore: “The president believes that these allegations are troubling and should be taken seriously, and he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be.”

The new ground Conway staked out today, though, was that since Franken had not yet been expelled from the Senate, the White House was free to go in four days from an askance but neutral to a position supportive of Moore – regardless of the veracity of the claims of serial, predatory misconduct by the GOP nominee. 

The case against Moore is stronger and the allegations are more serious than those facing Franken so far. But with a new accuser stepping forward, this time with a contemporaneously documented accusation made during Franken’s Senate tenure, the Minnesotan’s “please investigate me” posture may be rapidly deteriorating.

But even if Franken does survive his rapid descent from 66-year-old Democratic “fresh face” to dirty old man, is Moore worth saving? 

We wrote on Friday about the power of politically weaponized claims of sexual misconduct. Some Democrats were already arguing to spare Franken because Republicans couldn’t be counted on to deal as harshly with their offenders as Democrats wanted to. Now top Republicans are following suit. 

We talk about the moral imbecility of our era, but “both of us can do the wrong thing because neither of us will probably do the right thing” is a lulu even for the time of the Big Stupid

But leaving aside what happens to parties that act so dissolutely and cultures that will accept it, what about the tax plan that supposedly merits overlooking the brontosaurus-sized skeleton now tumbled from Moore’s closet? Did children become less valuable or did Senate seats become more valuable?

To be fair, Conway was only listing the tax plan as the first among other considerations, and didn’t even include the more ethically salient question of abortion which has been raised by those, like Alabama’s governor, who say they will back Moore even if he did cruise for teenagers outside of abuse and neglect hearings. 

No tax plan in history is worth that degree of surrender from any White House, but especially not the lumpy porridge on offer from the House and Senate just now. 

The mistaken belief among many Republicans is that they need a “win” after the ObamaCare repeal debacle and that passing tax legislation, almost irrespective of content, is a do-or-die proposal.

The legislation, which raises taxes for some in order to cut taxes for others, primarily corporations, is already unpopular. But more worrying for the GOP is that despite months of good economic news, the party and its president remain in woeful disrepair with voters. 

If good economic news is supposed to help Republicans hold the House, why isn’t it working yet? What annualized GDP growth rate and market all-time-high do GOP seers believe will deliver the popularity that has so far eluded the party in power? 

It has not yet occurred to enough Republicans that the people who are likely to be the most enthused about corporate tax cuts and a sky-high Dow Jones Industrial Average – upscale, college-educated, suburbanites – are the very same voters most likely to recoil from a permissive attitude toward Moore.

There were two conclusions Republicans could have taken from 2016’s narrow victory: That they won in spite of concerns about character and fitness and need to walk the straight and narrow henceforth; or that voters just don’t care anymore.

If the White House helps Moore limp into the Senate, the party will have a great test case on those questions as each of its candidates for the upper chamber runs manacled to the pistol packing D.A. from Etowah County.

THE RULEBOOK: KEEP IT IN CHECK
“If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 21

TIME OUT: MURDER MATH
New Yorker: “Thomas Hargrove is a homicide archivist. For the past seven years, he has been collecting municipal records of murders, and he now has the largest catalogue of killings in the country—751,785 murders carried out since 1976, which is roughly twenty-seven thousand more than appear in F.B.I. files. … Using computer code he wrote, he searches his archive for statistical anomalies among the more ordinary murders resulting from lovers’ triangles, gang fights, robberies, or brawls. … Hargrove created the code, which operates as a simple algorithm, in 2010… The algorithm forms the basis of the Murder Accountability Project (map), a nonprofit that consists of Hargrove—who is retired—a database, a Web site, and a board of nine members, who include former detectives, homicide scholars, and a forensic psychiatrist. By a process of data aggregating, the algorithm gathers killings that are related by method, place, and time, and by the victim’s sex.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -19.8 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.6 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.]

NEW QUESTIONS ON SAVINGS, UNINSURED RATE FROM KILLING MANDATE  
NYT: “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that doing away with the mandate would result in nearly 13 million more people without insurance and federal savings of $338 billion by 2027. But polling data, analysis from a private forecasting agency and interviews with people who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces suggest the savings could be far less, largely because many people who qualify for the subsidies will still want to take advantage of them. Even the budget office is revising its estimates and has predicted the new numbers would be smaller. In a survey this fall, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that just 7 percent of people who buy insurance on the individual market said they would go without coverage if the mandate were no longer enforced. A majority said the mandate was not a reason they bought insurance. Only about one in five said it was a major reason.”

Mulvaney says White House is ‘OK’ pulling individual mandate repeal - Politico: “White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the administration wants to repeal part of Obamacare in Congress’ tax bill but is ‘OK with taking it out’ if ‘it becomes an impediment.’ President Donald Trump has called for Congress to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in its tax bill. … ‘I don’t think anybody doubts where the White House is on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We absolutely want to do it,’ Mulvaney told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’”

Lamar Alexander: ‘Bipartisan ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill’ - The Hill:“Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) expressed optimism about a bipartisan effort to stabilize ObamaCare markets, saying his bill could be included in the upcoming funding package if it had President Trump’s blessing. ‘I think if the president supports it, it’ll be a part of the end-of-the-year package,’ Alexander told CNBC in an
interview published Monday. Alexander has been pushing for his bill with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), which would fund key ObamaCare payments for two years in exchange for added flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules.”

Business group to target key GOP senators over tax plan deficit spike - Axios: “Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform, a coalition of small business leaders, will launch a six-figure TV campaign to oppose the GOP tax bill on the grounds that it balloons the federal deficit by more than $1 trillion. Per a source involved in the efforts: The first ads highlight promises by GOP senators James Lankford and Bob Corker to oppose any plan that increases the deficit. The TV ads — which you can see here and here — will run in these senators’ home states of Tennessee (Corker) and Oklahoma (Lankford.) Polls show the Republican tax plans are unpopular — as Axios’ David Nather has reported. But progressives know they can’t rely on lackluster public opinion to sink the bill, given the extraordinary political pressure on Republicans to pass something before the end of the year.”

Darrell Issa: ‘Californians don’t deserve a tax increase’ - Orange County Register: “Federal tax reform moved forward this past week in Washington. Good news for most of the country. Not so much for us here in California. … Unfortunately, I fear that the plan as approved could actually make the incredible burden our state’s taxpayers feel even worse. I voted no because my constituents don’t deserve a tax increase. While the world thinks living is easy in the land of sand and sun, the Southern California families and small businesses I know are putting in long hours and making tough sacrifices to make each day work. Californians have stayed late, picked up second shifts and worked hard in an honest effort to make ends meet, only to find themselves with less and less to show for it.”

ROMNEY SENATE HOPES RISE AS POTENTIAL RIVAL DROPS OUT 
Politico: “Utah Republican Boyd Matheson is forgoing a 2018 Senate campaign, a decision that further opens the door for Mitt Romney to run. Matheson, a former chief of staff to Utah Sen. Mike Lee and the president of the conservative Sutherland Institute think tank, announced on Monday that he would not run for the seat currently held by longtime Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is 83 and deciding whether to seek another term. The prospect of a Matheson campaign had gained traction among conservatives. During a recent trip to Washington, Matheson met with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and President Donald Trump’s 2016 deputy campaign manager,David Bossie. He also received encouragement from an array of conservative outside groups. But in a video released Monday, Matheson said he had chosen not to run, and that he would instead launch a new outside political group.”

Dem wave may not be enough for House in 2018 NYT: “All considered, this year’s election results and the current national political environment are consistent with the possibility of a so-called wave election, like the ones that brought Democrats to power in the House in 2006 and swept Republicans into office in 1994 and 2010. But Republicans have important structural advantages. They enter the cycle with the advantage of incumbency and a highly favorable congressional map, thanks to partisan gerrymandering and the tendency for Democrats to waste votes with overwhelming margins in heavily Democratic urban areas. As a result, it’s not obvious that the building Democratic wave will be enough to flip control of the House. That’s not because the Democratic showing in 2017 has been any less impressive than in prior wave elections.”

Republican governors face tough map in 2010 - NYT: “For nearly a decade, meetings of the Republican Governors Association were buoyant, even giddy, affairs, as the party — lifted by enormous political donations and a backlash against the Obama administration — achieved overwhelming control of state governments. But a sense of foreboding hung over the group’s gathering in Austin this past week, as President Trump’s unpopularity and Republicans’ unexpectedly drastic losses in elections earlier this month in Virginia, New Jersey and suburbs from Philadelphia to Seattle raised the specter of a political reckoning in 2018. ‘I do think Virginia was a wake-up call,’ said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who took over here as chairman of the governors association. ‘There’s a pretty strong message there. When Republicans lose white married women, that’s a strong message.’”

Bannon’s new crew - Axios: “Steve Bannon is setting up a new 501(c)(4) — aka a ‘tax-exempt social welfare organization’ — to promote his agenda, and, he argues, the president’s. Such groups don’t have to disclose their donors so long as — according to the IRS code — they can ‘be operated exclusively to promote social welfare’ and so long as politics are not the group’s ‘primary activity.’ Bannon first publicly mentioned his new plans on billionaire John Catsimatidis’ Sunday morning radio show, ‘Cat’s Roundtable.’ … The group has no name yet but will be set up this week. Bannon plans to use the group to establish a ‘war council’ to promote hawkish policies against China. … For all the speculation about Bannon’s relationships with donors he’s had no fundraising apparatus to date.”

2020 DEM RACE BEGINS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Fox News: “Not one year into the Trump administration, New Hampshire already is buzzing with the anticipation of 2020 and playing host to an early screen test for a parade of potential and declared White House hopefuls. The state Democratic Party’s annual Kennedy-Clinton fall fundraising gala – held on a cold and windy November night this past Friday, in part to celebrate their 2017 victories and look ahead to the midterms – featured two headliners with an eye on the next presidential race. Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who over the summer launched a stunningly early 2020 presidential campaign, told the audience that ‘hyper partisan politics is tearing our country apart.’ The message from the three-term congressman was ‘what we really need a president to do is to bring us together, to restore civility in politics and respect in public service.’ Eight-term Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, also a potential contender for the next Democratic presidential nomination, preached to the crowd that ‘the Democratic Party’s got to be the party that builds the new system.’”

Sasse warns of ‘political idolatry’ in Iowa - Radio Iowa: “Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse warned against false idols, political tribalism and an addiction to ‘24/7 news cycles’ during a speech in Iowa tonight. ‘Friends, there is no politician who’s going to save America,’ Sasse said. ‘Friends, there is no election that’s going to transform your life to become so much better than it is right now and into all you want it to be.’ Sasse was the featured speaker at a fundraiser in Des Moines for The Family Leader, a Christian conservative organization. Sasse told the crowd elections can make the country ‘worse’ or ‘incrementally better,’ but Sasse suggested it was ‘almost a little bit un-American’ to organize your life around two- and four-year election cycles.”

ANOTHER DEM JOINS BILL CLINTON CONDEMNATION  
Daily Caller: “Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier said Sunday on ’Face the Nation’ that former President Bill Clinton’s accusers ‘were not treated as they should have been’ and that ‘they should have been believed.’ Speier was responding to CBS host John Dickerson who asked about her stance on the argument of a reevaluation of Bill Clinton’s presidency. ‘I think that the victims who came forward were not treated as they should have been. They should have been believed because, as I have pointed out, most people who come forward are telling the truth,’ she said. ‘Let’s remember that he did face impeachment,’ Speier said of Cinton. ‘It wasn’t as if it was just tossed to the side. He faced impeachment.’ … There are other Democrats serving in congress that are in agreement with Rep. Speier. Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said that Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.”

Florida politics in sex scandal tsunami - 
Politico: “The Florida Democratic Party chairman resigned Friday in shame. A Republican state senator faces possible expulsion for sexual harassment. The state Senate’s top Democratic leader abruptly stepped down after admitting an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. Even amid the flood of sexual misconduct revelations that have rocked state capitals across the country, the nation’s biggest swing state has lived up to its reputation for political drama and excess over the past month, with major implications for next year’s contested U.S. Senate and gubernatorial elections — and the next presidential race. ‘Florida is on fire. And it’s not a controlled burn,’ said John Morgan, a major Democratic donor, godfather to the state’s medical-marijuana initiative and wildcard possible candidate for governor.”

A WHITE HOUSE DIVIDED OVER RUSSIA PROBE
WaPo: “Six months into a special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House aides and others in President Trump’s close orbit are increasingly divided in their assessments of the expanding probe and how worried administration officials and campaign aides should be about their potential legal peril, according to numerous people familiar with the debate. … The investigation reached a critical turning point in recent weeks, with a formal subpoena to the campaign, an expanding list of potential witnesses and the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Some within Trump’s circle, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, have already been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators, while others such as Hope Hicks — the White House communications director and trusted confidant of the president — and White House counsel Donald McGahn are expected in coming weeks.”

Special counsel sends wide document request - ABC News: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct a federal inquiry into connections between his presidential campaign and Russian operatives has now directed the Justice Department to turn over a broad array of documents, ABC News has learned. In particular, Mueller’s investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter, according to a source who has not seen the specific request but was told about it. Issued within the past month, the directive marks the special counsel’s first records request to the Justice Department, and it means Mueller is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation.”

MERKEL’S FUTURE TERM IN DOUBT AS COALITION TALKS COLLAPSE
Sky News: “Chancellor Angela Merkel’s future as German Chancellor is hanging in the balance after her potential coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), pulled out of talks to create a new government. Mrs. Merkel had been forced to seek an alliance with an unlikely group of parties after September’s elections left her without a majority. But after four weeks of negotiations, FDP leader Christian Lindner walked out of the discussions, saying there was no ‘basis of trust’ to forge a government with Mrs. Merkel’s conservative bloc and the Greens. ‘It is better not to govern than to govern badly,’ he said, adding that the parties did not share ‘a common vision on modernizing’ Germany. Mrs. Merkel emerged from the talks looking weary but vowed to steer Germany through the crisis. She said she would stay on as acting Chancellor and would consult with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on how to move forward, adding that a deal had been within reach.”

TRUMP REGRETS EFFORT TO FREE AMERICANS HELD IN CHINA
U.S. News and World:
 “Trump tweeted his pique at the father of one of three UCLA basketball players arrested in China recently for shoplifting. LaVar Ball said his son LiAngelo Ball’s offense was minor and refused to credit Trump with his son’s release, which the president said he was responsible for. Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter, ‘Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!’ The three players – LiAngelo BallJalen Hilland Cody Riley – all thanked Trump when they returned to UCLA after the president, writing on Twitter, prodded them to express their gratitude. Critics faulted Trump for saying he regretted helping three American citizens being held by another government because the father of one wasn’t sufficiently grateful.”

Beast mode or least mode?  - ESPN: “President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Monday morning to criticize Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch for standing during the Mexican national anthem but sitting during the anthem for the United States prior to the Raiders’ loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca. Lynch was actually standing during the first few bars of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on Sunday before taking a seat. And while he stood for the Mexican anthem, he was not completely at attention.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Trump admin tightens scrutiny of skilled worker visa applicants - WSJ

White House says cost of opioid epidemic topped $500 billion in 2015 - AP

So why’s Marine One in Palm Beach? - Palm Beach Post

AUDIBLE: NO. NO YOU SHOULD NOT
“I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like villains from James Bond, I guess I should take that as a compliment.” – Secretary Steven Mnuchin on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” in response to criticism of photos of him and his wife posing with dollar bills 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“While it may not have been in line with your tribalism theme, it is worth mentioning thatMr. Clinton was guilty of perjury in a sexual harassment trial for which he was later disbarred. ’Tribal self-identification’ I voted for Ford, Anderson, Reagan, Bush, Clinton (1st term), then Republican -- Clinton’s enthusiastic abortion support convinced me to vote almost exclusively for Republicans since.” – Tom Parks, Rogers, Ark.

[Ed. note: Tribalism, Mr. Parks, is a good thing, if taken in moderation. Being part of organizations larger than ourselves is good for the soul and useful for the body. These connections help us achieve more than we can by ourselves and imbue life with particular meaning. But that’s when they’re kept in proper proportion. Here’s C.S. Lewis in “The Four Loves”: “We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. They become gods; then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred.” When it comes to politics, a good standard is to test your willingness to excuse misconduct in one of your tribe with against your enthusiasm for condemning the same behavior in a member of a rival gang. I have no doubt that you would not tolerate perjury in a president of your own party any more than you condoned it from a Democratic president. We all must daily test our assumptions in this area, though. Are we excusing too readily? Are we condemning too gleefully?]      

“In many communities American small businessmen who own/operate lawn care, lawn irrigation, landscaping, construction site cleanup, property maintenance and most every other local business that employee unskilled labor. It is quite serious in the communities I am familiar with. Obviously, a legally compliant company cannot compete when the competition is hiring cheap labor that is often paid under the table in cash. A friend of mine was telling me that the biggest issue in his residential lawn care business are the illegals with an old truck, a flatbed car trailer and two riding lawn mowers. He says, in recent years they are becoming greater in numbers and literally putting him out of business.” – Phillip ScottWilmington, N.C.

[Ed. note: The least discussed but probably most important part of immigration reform gets shorthanded as “internal enforcement.” What we’re really talking about there is increasing the penalties on those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. If the risks of hiring those here illegally outweighs the savings from cheap labor then the demand for illegal workers will slacken, thereby changing the calculus for those here illegally and those considering entering the U.S. illegally or remaining here after their visas expire. This is where prior compromises have fallen short. Many in the business community, especially in the service and agricultural sectors, rely on illegal and/or migrant workers to pad profits and have lobbied hard against cracking down on the employer side.]

“It is a mystery to me why this is never discussed when talking about taxes.   It is my contention that government cannot tax a business or more importantly a corporation simply because they simply consider taxes and the compliance with those laws as a cost of doing business.   Those costs are folded into the price of whatever goods or services being provided.   As a consequence we the consumer of whatever product they produce end up paying those taxes in the form of higher prices for those products.  I think this is a gross disservice to the US tax payers in that they mostly don’t recognize these taxes levied against businesses and corporations as being paid indirectly by themselves. What say you?” – Will Gibbs, Mossyrock, Wash.

[Ed. note: Quite so, Mr. Gibbs! One of the advantages or disadvantages (depending on where you stand) of the so-called value-added tax or other taxes on consumption is that the government’s share of the price of goods is not immediately evident to the citizens. If you want to raises taxes on income, as Republicans are currently attempting, voters will howl. Adding a half-of a percent to price of Tootsie Pops or pinochle sets is much easier to do. Thusly, a frog can get more easily boiled in a VAT…]   

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KUMPEL, WO IST MEIN AUTO?
Irish Times: “This week, an elderly German man was re-united with his car twenty years after he forgot where he parked. He reported his car missing to the police in Frankfurt in 1997 and city authorities have just found it. The car was not stolen, but in fact parked in a garage in an old industrial building. The car was discovered because the building was due to be demolished. The police set out to find the owner of the vehicle as it was in the way.When the 76-year-old owner was found, he was driven by police and accompanied by his daughter to be reunited with the car, according to German regional paper Augsberger Allgemein. The car was in disrepair, and could not be driven home.”

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.