Ethics first

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On the roster: Ethics first - Dow keeps tumbling as trade fears deepen - Faith leaders set come to Jesus meeting for Trump - Feds probe Trump overseas deals - …not that innocent 

ETHICS FIRST 
Poor Blake Farenthold. It turns out that the American system of government could churn on without the services of 1/435th of its lower legislative house. 

You know the story of the hapless now-former Texas congressman who used $84,000 of your money to pay off a staffer in what was supposed to be a secret arrangement to go away and be quiet about remarks he made to her regarding the young woman’s areolae and his nocturnal emissions. 

First: Gross, dude.

Second: The fact that it took Farenthold months to finally resign even after lawmakers, public officials and private-sector leaders had stepped aside over smaller infractions tells us a great deal about what is wrong with Washington. 

They say Washington is a swamp and politicians routinely tell you how much they hate it here. But the swamp is actually quite lovely. When winter’s chill lingers long enough to sustain rather than destroy the blossoms, but warm sun on your shoulders still assures you that an even more radiant spring is to arrive, it is hard to question the judgement of our Founders who chose this spot.

The streets and avenues are broad, the architecture handsome, the culture increasingly satisfying to the human soul. And if you are in a position of even modest power it is even finer. Doors swing wide for you and flatterers are everywhere. 

So what most of them are saying when they tell you they hate it here is really, “Please send me back again.”

Long derided as “Potomac fever,” the condition of coming to love being in Washington and enjoying the privileges of power to the point of forgetting your place and purpose is as old as the city itself. Which, of course, brings us to EPA Scott Pruitt

One of the conceits of tribal politics is that every choice is a binary one between good and evil. A particularly unfortunate corollary to that is the belief that these men and women are indispensable, even if they are abominable. Partisan affiliations cover a lot of sins; hyper-partisanship can cover them all. 

Pruitt may not have committed abominations, but his freewheeling, ethically obtuse management of his agency is a stinker too malodorous to ignore. Aside from a sweetheart apartment deal from the wife of an energy lobbyists, the Environmental Protection Agency director presided over lavish, irregular raises for two of his friends from Oklahoma who worked in his agency. 

To say the least, Pruitt has developed a reputation for a politician too good at extracting the benefits of power. The fact that he persisted after having seen the agonies of other cabinet secretaries who fell afoul of similar standards makes it all the more striking. 

We stipulate that no cabinet secretary probably faced a more hostile work force than Pruitt upon his arrival. (Except for maybe Mick Mulvaney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who seems to actually enjoy occasionally turning a hose on the staff over there.) 

We also stipulate that Pruitt has been arguably the most successful cabinet member of the Trump era. Whether you agree or disagree with his objectives, the former Oklahoma attorney general burned through that agency like William Tecumseh Sherman in a Georgia cornfield. 

Would you believe, though, that that’s not enough to merit ethical laxity in government? 

If you are crying out at this moment, “But Obama!” we hear you and know where you’re coming from. After all, if you believe that the other side is entitled to grievous ethical lapses as it executes policies you hate, why shouldn’t you be allowed to do the same? The alluring logic of “they started it” isn’t just good for the backseat of a family station wagon on a long road trip.  

Bad policies, or at least whatever you think constitutes badness in policy, can be very dangerous to a republic. Governments that are charged with protecting the lives and liberties of the citizens can quickly turn into instruments of abuse and oppression. There’s no doubt about it. 

But ethical conduct matters more than policies. 

If we continue to degrade the trust and confidence that Americans have in our government and institutions, people will come to believe that there is no virtue left among their leaders. And if there’s anything that politicians are good at, it is living down to low expectations. 

President Trump may choose to skip his traditional Friday firings as it relates to Pruitt. Facing serious blowback from different portions of his political base on immigration, spending and his insipient trade war, the president is looking for ways to placate Republicans. As it turns out, Pruitt’s support crosses over into several factions. Dismantling the expanded powers of the EPA from the Obama era is a popular policy on the Red Team, indeed. 

This may make the president more inclined to give Pruitt a pass. Or maybe he just likes trolling and dislikes yielding to the braying mob now demanding Pruitt’s ouster. Whatever the reason, the president may not act even though he has fired officials of more importance for less cause. 

What we wonder, though, is why Pruitt believes that he is indispensable?

One of the symptoms of Potomac fever is learning the mantra that you hear from agency headquarters conference rooms to consultant to consultants’ offices to the halls of Congress: “It’s complicated, it’s expensive and you can’t do it without me.” 

Does the secretary think that there is no man or woman at least as able as he to oversee this agency? Is not one of his subordinates or one of his former fellow attorneys general or any number of the host of conservative Republicans who have devoted their lives to fighting the federal behemoth on issues of industrial environmental regulations? 

Even if Pruitt’s many errors were committed in ignorance as he claims, he still does not have a right to his job. Outside of tenured college professors, civil servants and Dick Vitale, none of us have guaranteed employment. 

When you think of Farenthold clinging desperately to power even in the face of rank humiliation for him and his family or of Pruitt trying to ride out the storm by making ethics a partisan question, think of Charles Guiteau

Guiteau is the man who killed President James Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac railroad station down on Constitution Avenue in 1881. Guiteau was enraged by Garfield’s reforms to civil service which not only tossed out a bunch of political hacks who had found cozy nests during the Hayes and Grant administrations, but also made it hard for new cronies to get in on the spoils of office.

Like most killers, Guiteau was unwell, but his anger was hardly uncommon among members of the political class of his day. Though none would have approved of the means, many were probably secretly happy that Garfield the reformer was no more. 

Guiteau’s case of Potomac fever may have been more virulent than most, but there is no question that the disease is a powerful one even in men and women of sound minds. It should not be given space to fester.

If corruption is allowed to persist within a government, the people will cease to trust the government and will stop participating as citizens, believing that their voices do not matter. And when the electorate absents itself, oppression will surely follow. 

That’s why our system came to treat questions of ethics with such stringency. Infractions against the public trust have always been treated differently because our civilization has learned through many painful lessons that tyranny and corruption are so closely linked. 

THE RULEBOOK: RHYME OR REASON

“In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.” – Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 55

TIME OUT: INTO THE HORNET’S NEST 
CivilWar.com: “On the morning of April 6, 1862, 40,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston poured out of the nearby woods and struck the encamped divisions of Union soldiers occupying ground near Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The overpowering Confederate attack … threatened to overwhelm Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s entire Army of the Tennessee. … Federals … established a battle line at a sunken road, known as the ‘Hornet's Nest.’ Repeated Rebel attacks failed to carry the Hornet's Nest, but massed Union artillery helped to turn the tide… By the next morning, the Federals had been reinforced by the Army of the Ohio under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell… Grant launched a counteroffensive along the entire line, overpowering the weakened Confederate forces and driving Beauregard’s army from the field. The Confederate defeat ended any hopes of blocking the Union advance into northern Mississippi. The two day battle at Shiloh … was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that time.”
 
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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 53.4 percent 
Net Score: 
-12 points
Change from one week ago: down 1 point
[Average includes: Gallup: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Marist College: 42% approve - 51% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 52% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.4 percent
Democratic average: 47.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6.4 points
Change from one week ago: no change in Democratic advantage
[Average includes: CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP; Marist College: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; Fox News: 46% Dems - 41% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 50% Dems - 40% GOP.]

DOW KEEPS TUMBLING AS TRADE FEARS DEEPEN 
WSJ: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 700 points as escalating tensions between the U.S. and China exacerbated investors’ fears of an all-out trade war between the world’s largest economies. All 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 declined, as investors broadly sold stocks, with the deepest declines among companies that stand to suffer from an escalation in protectionist trade policies, such as big industrial manufacturers like Boeing and Caterpillar. Investors moved into assets that tend to hold up better during times of uncertainty, with so-called haven assets such as bonds and gold rising. Several Trump administration officials tried to allay investors’ fears of a trade conflict, but money managers said comments from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and others provided little comfort and the Dow deepened its decline late in the session.”

Trump’s prediction: Pain - 
CNBC: “U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday the United States has already lost any trade war, as he defended his proposed tariffs against Chinese goods, saying the move might cause ‘a little pain’ but the United States will be better off in the long run. ‘We've already lost the trade war. We don't have a trade war, we've lost the trade war,’ Trump said in a radio interview with New York radio show, 77 WABC's ‘Bernie & Sid.’ ‘I'm not saying there won't be a little pain, but the market has gone up 40 percent, 42 percent so we might lose a little bit of it. But we're going to have a much stronger country when we're finished. ‘So we may take a hit and you know what, ultimately we're going to be much stronger for it,’ Trump said.”

Dow drops more than 150 points on trade worries, weak jobs report - CNBC: “Stocks fell sharply on Friday as worries of a trade war between the U.S. and China grew. Wall Street also digested employment data that missed analyst expectations. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 350 points, with Boeing and Caterpillar as the biggest decliners in the index. The S&P 500 declined 1.1 percent, with industrials as the worst-performing sector. The Nasdaq composite dropped 1 percent. ‘This is truly a reaction to China,’ said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. ‘What we've seen with this administration is a trend of a big statement, followed by everyone getting riled up, and then a pragmatic solution is found…’ After China announced fresh tariffs on 106 U.S. products Wednesday, President Donald Trump threatened more levies on Thursday, stating that he has asked the United States Trade Representative to consider $100 billion in additional tariffs against China.”

China says it will fight US ‘at any cost’ after Trump proposal for $100B in new tariffs - Fox News: “China’s commerce ministry on Friday said it would fight the U.S. at ‘any cost’ after President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese imports. Trump asked the U.S. Trade Representative to consider lobbing additional tariffs against China in light of the country’s ‘illicit trade practices’ that have ‘destroyed thousands of American factories and millions of American jobs.’ The president issued a statement saying he has been committed to ‘level the playing field’ after an investigation by the USTR found that certain Chinese policies have given the country an unfair advantage over the U.S. One policy requires foreign companies to hand over technology in violation of Beijing's free-trade commitments, often forcing U.S. firms to license their technology in China.”

Sasse: Hopefully Trump is blowing off steam because ‘this is nuts’ - The Hill: “Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) slammed President Trump's announcement Thursday that he was considering imposing $100 billion in tariffs on China amid the ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing… ‘Hopefully the President is just blowing off steam again but, if he's even half-serious, this is nuts. China is guilty of many things, but the President has no actual plan to win right now,’ Sasse said in a statement. ‘He’s threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this’… Sasse joins Senate Republicans including Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Pat Roberts (Kansas) in ripping the president's trade conflict with China this week.” 

FAITH LEADERS SET COME TO JESUS MEETING FOR TRUMP

NPR: “As allegations continue to swirl about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter, evangelical leaders are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June, four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting tell NPR. ‘We're very concerned’ about the allegations, said a leader of a faith-based ministry. The leader is involved in hosting the gathering, which organizers are aiming to take place June 19 at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The source said the combination of the Stormy Daniels sex-scandal allegations and Trump's continued reputation for divisive rhetoric could suppress evangelical turnout in the November midterm elections. ‘It is a concern of ours that 2018 could be very detrimental to some of the other issues that we hold dear,’ like preserving religious liberty and restricting abortion rights, the source noted.” 

Trump leaves Cohen on the hook - Wash Ex: “President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen may have violated federal campaign laws by paying adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump more than a decade ago, according to national security lawyer Bradley Moss. The comments from Moss come after Trump said he was not familiar with the 2016 nondisclosure agreement signed by Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and said he didn't know anything about the $130,000 payment. ‘You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael,’ Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. After the comments, Moss advised Cohen to call his lawyer.”

FEDS PROBE TRUMP OVERSEAS DEALS 
McClatchy: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years. Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad… Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia. The move to question business associates of the president adds a significant new element to the Mueller investigation, which began by probing whether the Trump campaign and Russia colluded in an effort to get Trump elected but has branched far beyond that.”

Manafort’s troubles deepen - Bloomberg: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed to lawyers for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, that they obtained a search warrant for information about five telephone numbers, suggesting the sprawling investigation may be headed in a new direction. Prosecutors disclosed Thursday they got the warrant on March 9, or two weeks after Manafort was indicted for a second time amid Mueller’s investigation into links between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election. The warrant involved a search of ‘information associated with’ five AT&T telephone numbers, according to a filing by prosecutors in federal court in Washington. Mueller declined to provide information about the search to defense lawyers because it involves ‘ongoing investigations that are not the subject of current prosecutions involving Manafort,’ according to the filing.”

Administration lowers the boom on Putting cronies  - AP: “The United States hit seven Russian oligarchs and 17 Russian government officials with sanctions on Friday for what it called ‘malign activity’ around the world, as the Trump administration tried to show that President Donald Trump is taking tough action to stand up to Moscow. A dozen Russian companies owned by the oligarchs were also targeted, along with a state-owned arms-dealing company and a subsidiary bank, the Treasury Department said. Senior Trump administration officials cast the penalties as part of a concerted and ongoing effort by the U.S. to push back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, emphasizing that since Trump took office last year, the U.S. has punished 189 Russian-related people and entities with sanctions.”

REPUBLICANS GET A RESPITE AS RACES EVEN OUT 
Cook Political Report: “The good news for Republicans is that President Trump's approval rating has, on balance, ticked up from 38 percent to 40 percent since January as attention has shifted from unpopular GOP proposals on healthcare and taxes to the economy, tariffs and Stormy Daniels… Democrats' lead on the question of which party voters would support for Congress has shrunk from a dozen points in January to about eight points today. The bad news for Republicans, of course, is that Trump's approval rating is still 40 percent and that they still trail Democrats on the generic ballot by eight points. That's enough to offset the GOP's edge from favorably drawn districts and endanger their 23-seat majority (by our estimate, Democrats would need to win seven to eight percent more votes for House to win 218 of 435 seats). Moreover, in a reversal from the 2014 midterms, Democrats enjoy a wide voter enthusiasm gap.”

Ohio Senate GOP primary gets lit - Fox News: “A few blocks away from the Quicken Loans Arena, site of the convention where Donald J. Trump officially accepted his party’s nomination, an investment banker who has never held elected office is hoping to channel the president’s success. ‘He’s kind of blazed the trail,’ businessman Mike Gibbons told Fox News... ‘He’s been very effective and accomplished an awful lot for the good of America, and I’d like to follow in his footsteps...’ He’s facing stiff competition for a spot on the midterm ballot from Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, a member of Congress since 2011… At a March event in Ohio, President Trump addressed Renacci in the crowd, to say, ‘Jim, get in there and fight, we need you.’”

Pence tries to shore up Walker’s crumbling red wall in Wisconsin - AP: “Vice President Mike Pence is coming to Wisconsin to host a fundraiser for Republican Gov. Scott Walker three weeks after the two-term incumbent issued warnings about conservatives being vulnerable to a ‘blue wave’ in the fall midterms… Walker is up for re-election to a third term in November. He sounded the warning to fellow Republicans on Tuesday after liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Dallet trounced her conservative opponent by 12 points… President Donald Trump carried Wisconsin by less than 1 point in 2016. Since then, Democrats won a special election in a state Senate district Trump carried and that had been represented by a Republican for 17 years.”

Paw Patrol: Former Minnesota governor’s return bid makes race a toss-up - WDIO: “After months of rumors and meetings with supporters, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has made it official: He wants to be governor again. The Republican announced his candidacy in a video on Thursday afternoon. ‘My campaign for governor will focus on charting a better way forward for Minnesota families who see health care premiums skyrocketing, paychecks not increasing very fast, college costs and student debt rising — all while government spending and taxes climb through the roof,’ Pawlenty said. ‘Minnesota deserves better and we need to hold government more accountable. I have the strength and experience to solve problems and bring Minnesotans together.’ Incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton is not seeking re-election after two terms in office… Pawlenty previously served two terms as Minnesota governor from 2003 to 2011.”

Republicans step up air war in Arizona special election - Politico: “The NRCC's independent expenditure unit is going up with a small cable buy in the House special election in Arizona. An NRCC official confirmed the buy, adding that there would likely be more in the future. The buy totals $22,000 on cable stations from April 6-12, according to Advertising Analytics. The ads will boost Republican Debbie Lesko, who's running against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in the special election to replace Arizona Rep. Trent Franks in a deep red district.”

Ad war gets ugly - The Arizona Republic: “The ad opens benignly enough, with Republican Debbie Lesko offering a strained cheer to ‘make America great again!’ followed by a cringe-worthy ‘woo-hoo!’ After that, her Democratic opponent, Hiral Tipirneni, unloads three hard-hitting points against Lesko... With West Valley voters in the 8th Congressional District sending in ballots by the thousands, Tipirneni has aired an ad that implies Lesko could be a criminal, backs cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare and is responsible for a recent utility rate hike. Lesko's campaign pushed back Wednesday, saying the ad is false and shows that Tipirneni is losing in the conservative district… Tipirneni's campaign defended the ad, but largely avoided its specifics.”

New Jersey emerges as key House battleground - NYT: “The tables inside the hotel room were full and Andy Kim, the candidate responsible for filling them, was pleasantly surprised. It was a weeknight fund-raiser after all, rescheduled once already, for this relatively unknown Democratic challenger in a Republican district… Ever since the election of President Trump, Democrats across the country have seen a predictable surge in energy among a base eager to take on the White House… In New Jersey, which has been described by Democrats and Republicans as the most suburban state in the country, the revolt has been especially muscular and has put into play Republican-held congressional seats that until this year had hardly been on the Democratic radar.”

Bernie blunders with Obama jab - NYT: “Senator Bernie Sanders insists he hasn’t decided whether to run again for president, but a 14-hour sprint across the Deep South on Wednesday made clear that he is not only thinking about it but is already trying to remedy his most significant vulnerability in 2016: his lack of support from black voters. … Even more than recapturing the magic of 2016 in the early nominating states, Mr. Sanders’s prospects in 2020 would hinge in large part on whether he could garner far stronger support from African-Americans than the less than 20 percent of the vote that he won from them in Southern states. Still, the same unvarnished bluntness, lack of polish and unwavering devotion to his tried-and-true message … continue to create challenges for him. On Wednesday night, after the Jackson [Mississippi] forum, Mr. Sanders faced sharp criticism from some African-Americans who thought he had reduced the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, to merely being what Mr. Sanders called a ‘charismatic individual.’”

FB’S SANDBERG SAYS COMPANY DIDN’T PROTECT PEOPLE'S DATA
Fox News: “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg continued the social media company’s apology tour on Friday – saying she was sorry for the controversial data harvest currently embroiling the company and promising to do a better job at keeping people's information safe in the future. Speaking on Fox News’ ‘The Daily Briefing’ with Dana Perino, Sandberg said that while the company expects to find more data breaches, Facebook is taking action to prevent such problems in the future. ‘We know at Facebook we did not do enough to protect people's data,’ Sandberg told Perino, also referencing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ‘Mark is sorry about that. I'm sorry about that.’ Sandberg’s admission comes as the social media giant struggles to address mounting security concerns in the wake of revelations that 87 million Facebook users may have had their data harvested by Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data firm that was employed for a time by President Trump’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Kevin Williamson
: ‘Class Acts’ - Commentary Magazine

March jobs numbers sink USA Today

House readies midterm messaging on balanced budget amendment The Hill

Senate GOP dubious about Trump plan to claw back parts of mammoth spending deal - The Hill

Bipartisan bill aims to clean up campaign funds - WTSP

Inside a White House in tumult, John Kelly’s clout dwindles - AP

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy reportedly spent $13,000 on office for his wife - Fox News

Justice Department misses deadline to hand over FBI documents to Congress Fox News

AUDIBLE: THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

“Thank you very much, everybody. I’ll see you back in New York.” – President Trump speaking to the press gaggle on Air Force One during the flight from West Virginia back to Washington, D.C. Thursday afternoon. 

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

This weekend Chris will sit down with White House National Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow and House Democratic Caucus Chairman, Rep. Joe Crowley, D-NY. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

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

FROM THE BLEACHERS
[Ed. note: Because I took Easter Monday for myself, I was not able to respond to the many thoughtful, thought-provoking notes you all sent us. As usual, I was moved by your intellects, levels of erudition and, most of all, your generous spirits. Accordingly, you will find below some responses to our note from Good Friday. For those of you Western Christians who are still in the season of Easter we say, “Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!” To our friends in the Eastern Rite we wish you a blessed Good Friday and send our love to you and yours for Easter.

“Hi Chris and Brianna - I am so pleased the attention you gave in Friday's news, regarding the Jefferson Bible. I have, for the past few weeks, been stewing about the hateful and unneeded discourse flying by our politicians. When one makes someone's ‘dogs bark,’ you sure as hell are not going to then achieve anything. Back to the Jefferson Bible - I've read just about all there is available about his ‘project,’ and communications in later life with Adams. Maybe some of your readers are unaware that, when the Bible was purchased from Jefferson's granddaughter in the 1890's, the Government Printing Office printed copies and each incoming member of Congress was given a copy until the mid-fifties. I am not going to express my own opinions on the Gospels and the writers, other than to say, Jefferson, in my book, distilled from them a code for living, at peace with our fellow man, and, our Maker. The message I have taken away is Jesus' message to ‘turn the other cheek.’ I do not take this, telling us to be a ‘wooz’ He certainly wasn't! I choose to think ‘turn the other cheek’ means simply to ‘let it go.’ We Americans certainly appear to not let much of anything go, and while we are eaten up with our conflicting emotions - we are impeding our progress, and wallowing around in petty things we should simply ‘LET IT GO!’ Oh, and if any readers wish to delve into his Bible, I would suggest to have a new translation at their side, as I have found it's the only way to understand ‘His sublime words.’” – Ernie Weaver, North Port, Fla.

“Chris Stirewalt, Thank you for the thoughtful comments about Easter/secular society/and governance.  Many people would not, or could not, coordinate those thoughts so effectively. Many of us do not comment to you regularly but I hope you know that there are many of us that appreciate your analysis and comments.  God Bless you all.” – Gary Wegner, Vancouver, Wash.

“Chris, I find more and more that I look forward less to your punditry (which is excellent), as I look forward to your written words. You sir, are an excellent wordsmith. Last year I gave up your column for Lent to focus on something more positive. Not as a reflection of your abilities, but as a way to pivot to less politics during a dark time in all things political. (As a Catholic I've learned not to just give up candy bars but to be more proactive. But that's another story...) This year my Lenten observance didn't include excluding you. I'm glad. Your column today was an affirmation that I made the right choice. It was spot on!  Plus the way you wove in your knowledge of both Jefferson and history, with comments by the Pope, was truly masterful. You, indeed, are a blessing. Happy Easter to you, your family and staff.” – Victoria Doyle, Salem, Ore.

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…NOT THAT INNOCENT 
The Guardian: “… Britney Spears has emerged as an unlikely figurehead in the fight against Somali pirates. According to reports, Britney's hits, including ‘Oops! I Did It Again’ and ‘Baby One More Time,’ are being employed by British naval officers in an attempt to scare off pirates along the east coast of Africa. Perhaps nothing else – not guns, not harpoons – is quite as intimidating as the sound of Ms. Spears singing ‘Ooh baby baby!’ Merchant naval officer Rachel Owens explained the tactics to Metro: ‘Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can't stand western culture or music, making Britney's hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.’”

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.