White House stumbles add up to trouble for GOP

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On the roster: White House stumbles add up to trouble for GOP - Time Out: Semper Fi - GOP looks for relief with Arizona special election - Blankenship court fight will last past primary - Fritters would have been more appropriate 

WHITE HOUSE STUMBLES ADD UP TO TROUBLE FOR GOP

It would seem that is time for us to discuss again what the heck is going on in the White House. 

President Trump today seemed to pull the plug on his nominee to lead the Veterans Administration just one day after a bipartisan group of senators balked at some rather lurid allegations from Dr. Ronny Jackson’s career. 

Trump, who seemed to have talked Jackson into accepting the job in the first place, sounded like he was trying to talk his personal physician out of the gig when he was discussing the incipient scandal with reporters. 

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this. It’s too ugly, and it’s too disgusting,” Trump said during a bilateral press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “I said to Dr. Jackson, ‘what do you need it for?’” 

Le woof.

This might have been a good conversation for the president to have with Jackson before the White House physician put his career and previously good reputation on the line to face confirmation in the Senate. 

Arguably no promise was as important to Trump’s 2016 success as a vow to reform and modernize the bureaucratic quagmire of the VA. And yet, we are watching the president’s second nominee to lead the agency fall apart just after his predecessor quit under the stench of scandal. 

When Trump picked his personal White House physician to lead the agency it prompted much consternation and some appreciation, mostly from predictable courtiers in both cases. But whether Jackson would be in over his head or a bracing wind of change at the agency which employs nearly 400,000 people will likely remain unknown. 

News broke last night that the senators on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs refused to move ahead with Jackson’s confirmation hearings after being informed of allegations of serious misconduct against the longtime Navy physician. 

We will not repeat the allegations here without further support, but at a minimum these claims would cast serious doubt on his abilities to manage such a large and important organization. One senior Senate staffer told us that the surprise and alarm among Republican members is genuine. 

Jackson got the job partly because he did two things well that are very important to Trump: He made great television as he deflected incredulous reporters’ questions about the executive girth and flattered the president with an enthusiasm that few other than the vice president could match. 

But consider the possibility of an administration that would send a nominee to the Senate for an agency so central to the president’s platform without even conducting cursory vetting of the kind that would reveal claims such as these. In what way does it reflect a serious commitment to help veterans or serve the interest of taxpayers?

President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, is on track for confirmation. He was spared the indignity of a losing vote in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who found the mercy and grace to withhold his vote in deference to his colleague Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who was speaking at a funeral when the vote was being held. 

Coons’ deference was only necessary because Senate Democrats, like Dianne Feinstein, are too desperately afraid of their primary voters to do something normal like voting to advance a nominee they had already once voted for to hold a sensitive position. 

That, combined with Sen. Rand Paul’s noisy and entirely predictable reversal means that Pompeo should sail smoothly into Foggy Bottom. 

For the rest of the president’s pack, though, things aren’t looking so good and it’s not because of excessive wokeness in the Democratic electorate. It’s because people, including the president, are not doing their jobs well when it comes to staffing an administration.

The president’s nominee to replace Pompeo at the CIA, Gina Haspel, stands a better chance of surviving the process than Jackson, at least for now, but bipartisan opposition to her nomination is growing. 

General Charles Krulak, the former Marine Corps commandant, is leading a group of retired officers opposing Haspel’s nomination because she oversaw the use of harsh interrogation techniques, called torture by some. 

“Our group does not dispute Ms. Haspel’s competence and experience as a CIA operative,” Krulak said on a conference call. “But when the moment came to make the hard choice, the right choice, the choice that required more courage and strength of character, Ms. Haspel failed.”

Haspel is a favorite at the agency, where the rank and file is happy to see one of their own advance through the ranks with a chance to lead. But anyone who has paid even cursory attention to the national political debate over the last decade would know that reopening the torture debate might work well at a campaign rally but creates lots of problems in the Senate. 

Haspel might be the best woman for the job, but getting her there is going to be a challenge for any administration. It will probably prove shattering for a team so ill-prepared and poorly organized as this one.

While the White House is scurrying to get Haspel on her feet while simultaneously cutting the legs from under Jackson, the scandals surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt continue unabated. 

With reports that the White House is backing away from its once robust support for the embattled agency boss, we read today that Senate Republicans are planning hearings to press Pruitt about his VIP lifestyle and ethically dubious dealings. For a time, the fact that keeping Pruitt made liberal heads explode seemed sufficient to keep him in his job. 

Now, it looks like his best choices look to either be pressing on in weakened condition through the twilight state of ethical purgatory or just calling it quits. That, of course, would open up another confirmation conflama.

Many outlets have reported the degree to which White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is a shadow of himself and that the president increasingly disregards his gatekeeper. And perhaps Trump has succeeded in muzzling his old guard dog to such an extent that the president can do as he pleases whenever he pleases. 

Certainly, the administration’s dire mishandling of domestic violence charges against a senior aide didn’t help Kelly’s case. The general may have outrun his supply lines in his battle to impose order on a president who thrives on chaos.

Republicans looking anxiously to midterms should wonder how many seats in Congress these administrative pratfalls are worth. If this chaos continues, Democrats will have only too good an argument for the need for adult supervision in Washington.

THE RULEBOOK: TBH
“Every candid reader will make the proper reflections on these important facts.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 38

TIME OUT: SEMPER FI 
French President Emanuel Macron and President Trump planted a sapling at the White House taken from one of the surviving old-growth trees from Belleau Wood. Here’s why that is a sacred space. USA Today: “In the spring of 1918, the wooded area known as Belleau Wood, about 30 miles northeast of Paris, was a quiet sanctuary of graceful old-growth trees, a hunting preserve for well-off Parisians, teeming with birds and game. … When the battle at Belleau Wood was over, the ground was soaked with the blood of nearly 10,000 American casualties, including more than 1,800 killed, and an unknown number of Germans. The U.S. Marine Corps suffered more casualties in that battle than it did in its entire history to that point. The battle was three weeks of carnage that left the once-beautiful preserve a scorched ruin, its trees splintered or uprooted. … Acts of extraordinary heroism were commonplace. ‘Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?’ 1st Sgt. Dan Daly famously yelled to his attacking Marines as he urged them into German lines. The lines would come to epitomize Marine Corps spirit for generations to come.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent 
Net Score: 
-14.6 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve - 57% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approval - 54% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 39% approve - 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 52% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.8 percent
Democratic average: 46.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 5 points
Change from one week ago: no change Democratic advantage 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; ABC News/WaPo: 47% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 46% Dems - 43% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP.]

GOP LOOKS FOR RELIEF WITH ARIZONA SPECIAL ELECTION
Fortune: “On Tuesday, voters in Arizona’s 8th district will go to the polls to elect a new U.S. representative in a special election. They will vote for Rep. Trent Franks’ replacement. Congressman resigned in December amid allegations that he had offered to pay a staffer $5 million to carry his child as a surrogate. First-time candidate Hiral Tipirneni is running on the Democratic ticket. An immigrant from India, Tipirneni moved to the U.S. when she was 3. She is an emergency room physician and cancer research advocate. Tipirneni will face Republican and former state senator Debbie Lesko. Prior to serving as a state senator for the last three years, Lesko was a state representative for six years. During that time, she represented parts of Arizona’s 8th district. … Of the approximately 150,000 people who have already voted, the data suggests that 49% are registered Republicans and 28% are registered Democrats.”

Vulnerable GOP congressman booted from ballot -
 WaPo: “Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) is pursuing legal action to keep his name on the June 26 primary ballot after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that hundreds of signatures on his candidate petitions were collected by people who did not live in his district. ‘We recognize the gravity of this conclusion, but Colorado law does not permit us to conclude otherwise,’ wrote Judge Brian Whitney in a decision released Monday afternoon. Lamborn’s campaign pledged immediately to fight the decision. … Lamborn, first elected in 2006, has faced primary challengers in almost every campaign, holding off Republicans who usually challenged him from the center-right, saying he had been an ineffective representative for central Colorado.”

Supreme Court could toss out Texas districts ahead of midterms - Governing: “Texas voters went to the polls March 6 for the state's primaries. But they could find themselves voting in different districts for the next election, depending on the outcome of a case before the Supreme Court. The court will hear oral arguments Tuesday on a case in which Texas lawmakers are accused of drawing state legislative and congressional maps that discriminated against black and Latino voters.”

Abbott can call special election to replace Farenthold - USA Today: “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott likely has the authority to call an emergency special election to fill the congressional seat vacated this month by Corpus Christi Republican Blake Farenthold, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a written opinion Monday. ‘If the Governor determines the situation in Congressional District 27 constitutes an emergency warranting a special election before November 6, 2018, a court would likely conclude that section 41.0011 of the Election Code authorizes calling an expedited special election to fill the vacancy in that district,’ Paxton said in a response to an inquiry by Abbott last week.”

BLANKENSHIP COURT FIGHT WILL LAST PAST PRIMARY
West Virginia Metro News: “U.S. Senate candidate Don Blankenship’s effort to have his mine safety conviction set aside is unlikely to be resolved before the Republican primary election. A federal magistrate on Monday granted a request by Blankenship’s lawyers for more time to produce a memorandum supporting the former coal executive’s original motion. The federal magistrate ruled that Blankenship’s legal team now has until June 4 to produce the memo. Lawyers for the federal government then would have 45 days after that to file its answer. And, after that, Blankenship’s legal team would have another two weeks to respond to what the federal government has said. Blankenship is part of a crowded field of Republicans running for U.S. Senate. Primary Election Day is May 8. Early voting begins this Wednesday.”

[Watch Fox: Results from the Fox News poll of the Republican Senate primary in West Virginia will be announced at 6 p.m. ET on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Candidates with at least 10 percent support will be invited to participate in a Fox News debate in Morgantown on May 2.]

GOP groups sluice money into Wisconsin to soften up Baldwin - NYT: “The attack ads began in early 2017, planting doubts well ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Against ominous background music and storm clouds, the Republican-financed spots hit Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s Democratic senator, over the Affordable Care Act, Iran and veterans’ health care. By July, a Milwaukee radio station was carrying audacious ads about Ms. Baldwin’s support for abortion rights. … Then came the positive ads describing one of her opponents, Kevin Nicholson, as a former Marine… For many national Republicans, Ms. Baldwin has emerged as the top target in the 2018 midterms: Donors from outside the state are spending twice as much money on the race so far as on any other Senate contest this year, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics. Much of the money has gone toward television and radio ads.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Pretty flakey: Trump brushes dandruff off of Macron in front of cameras NY Post 

Rahm Emanuel
: ‘Impeachment isn’t a political tool’ - Axios

Former congressmen Murphy and Jolly ponder bipartisan Fla. governor run The Hill

NRA campaign arm more than doubles cash haul in wake of massacre McCaltchy 

Comey book sales crush Clinton and Wolff numbers in opening week NYT

Romney taunts NBA star Russell Westbrook at Thunder-Jazz playoff game ­Fox News

AUDIBLE: THE AL DAVIS DEMOCRATS  

“We need to win. So if you feel like you're in a district that you need other make those types of positions, you've got to [do] what you've got to do to win. – Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock explaining to CNBC that Democratic candidates should feel free to reject Nancy Pelosi as House leader. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“As a former Hoosier who was once a Republican congressional candidate, county chair, and state central committee officer, it pained me to read that an anti-trade, anti-immigrant candidate could be my party’s candidate. We once had truly principled individuals, Richard Lugar and Dan Coats, but maybe there is no longer such a thing as ‘Hoosier values.’” – John A. Johnson, Tucson, Ariz.

[Ed. note: As the brother of two Hoosier sisters and the son of parents who met and started their marriage together in Indianapolis, I can most certainly declare that “Hoosier values” are not dead. What I might submit, however, is that politics has proven to be a poor receptacle and protector of values.]  

“You guys have to look at how the Democrats are running the state of Connecticut into bankruptcy. What a horrible show.” – Kenneth Wozniak, Hartford, Conn.

[Ed. note: I leave Nutmeg State native Brianna in charge of all matters Connecticut and she has me looking seriously at the gubernatorial race there now. I’m still quite skeptical about GOP chances in what looks like a tough year for red candidates in blue states, but we’re watching!] 

“[The] wise words [of Friday’s Rulebook] need to be published all over our country. The quandary we are in has come about because too many voters vote for ‘their’ party rather than electing people of character, and then holding their feet to the fire when they go astray. Thank you for bringing this quote to our attention.” – Eleanor Korf, Glendale, Ariz.

[Ed. note: It’s a goodie! Repeating here for those who missed: “The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.” Hear, hear.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

FRITTERS WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE APPROPRIATE 
WLWT: “A Hamilton Township [Ohio] police officer has issued a delicious apology after accidentally shocking one of the township’s bravest. Officer Darcy Workman accidentally shocked firefighter Rickey Wagoner with her Taser last week. Officials said Workman was assisting the fire department on an emergency medical call, when an altercation ensued with a patient in the life squad. Over the weekend, Workman delivered a special cake to Wagoner which reads ‘Sorry I tased you.’”

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.