**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: The unsinkable Dr. Krauthammer - Mueller files new charges against Manafort - Dems maintain their edge - Audible: Communion - Florida gonna Florida
THE UNSINKABLE DR. KRAUTHAMMER
Longtime readers of this note (and its antecedents Fox News First and Power Play) will know the degree to which we depend on Charles Krauthammer.
For eight years we have tried to conclude each of our epistles saying “and now, a word from Charles…” and share one of his clinchers from “Special Report” the night before.
We did so because you love him. We did so because polished paragraphs perfect for quotation roll from his tongue as effortlessly as ordering an egg salad sandwich. But mostly we did so because we wanted to associate ourselves with him.
We want to be like him, but knew that the best we could do was to repeat him.
Charles, a very private man, has done his legions of admirers the favor of including them in the most intimate of all experiences this life can bring: It’s end. We say favor because we know well your desire to know more about him, particularly when he would be back. For months we have either narrowly responded to your many inquires about his health or, more often, just ignored them altogether.
After all, why should we indulge your questions when surely at any moment the unsinkable Dr. Krauthammer would come wheeling back into the bureau, ready to take his spot at Bret Baier’s right hand? He would be back to hurl thunderbolts from his Olympian height of intellect and to charm even his most implacable foe. There was no need to indulge your questions because he certainly, certainly would be back.
And then one day a couple of weeks ago, we found out that he wouldn’t. We were wrong. He won’t be back after all.
As we all are with those whom we really love, we could not see the worst thing about him. And with Charles, the worst thing is that we are losing him. But he, ever decent and kind, wants us to know the truth, and to hear it from him.
We know Charles does not want fawning tributes today, but we hope he would have been gratified to have seen the outpouring of love and admiration in the Washington bureau today. There were many damp eyes as we all stopped what we were doing at noon to listen to his old friend Chris Wallace, half a world away in Singapore, break the news to the public. Emotions we thought well dispatched suddenly came rushing back. It wasn’t real until Mr. Sunday said it.
There is much laughter, too. Charles’ delivery is drier than the Gobi Desert. His jokes first take deep root and then blossom brilliantly. This is the guy, after all, who coined “The Stirewalt Rule” after adopting our satiric suggestion that we enforce a proposed religious test for entry into the United States by demanding that visitors first eat a bacon sandwich. He took one of our throwaway lines and turned it into a gem.
Beyond these walls the tributes are already pouring in. Charles retires from public life as one of America’s foremost public intellectuals – a revered and fearsome thinker. He was gracious and charitable with all of his sparring partners, but being on air with Charles always dangerous. You knew he could put you away with a single swat.
Charlie Hurt once described to us how Charles had just dismantled him on the Special Report panel. “What did you say?” we asked. “Say?” Charlie responded incredulously. “I figured I might as well quit while I was behind.”
We went back and watched. He was right. Charles flew in as silently as Stealth Bomber and dropped a bunker buster right down Charlie’s smokestack. Boom. We can commiserate because we’ve been there. There’s nothing left to do but salute from the bridge as your ship goes down. We can only imagine what it felt like for those who were on the receiving end of one of Charles columns. He was never wrathful, but rather perfectly clinical in his vivisections. Flabby defenses, emotionality and spurious arguments were sliced away, leaving the subject perfectly exposed.
But usually, Charles was happier to talk and write about what fascinated him and, whenever he could, what he loved: His country, his friends, his Washington Nationals, his wife, Robyn, and his adored son, Daniel, whose own writing reflects that brilliant spark which lit his father’s career.
Magnanimous in victory, gracious in his rare defeats, generous with praise, quick to correct error and always intellectually honest, Charles is the yardstick by which we measure everyone who seeks to be part of the national discussion. He has, quite simply, defined the role of the modern pundit.
Charles wrote only one book, “Things That Matter.” He waited an entire career to publish one while many other, lesser intellects choked the store shelves with recycled, hackneyed partisan jabberwocky. They cheapened the discourse for the sake of a little more celebrity, a little more money. But Charles waited until 2013 for his book, which was a collection of some of his best columns through the years.
What he added was a 13-page introduction which is, to our knowledge, the first and only time that he ever wrote about his ideological journey from left to right. But really it was the story of him finding an intellectual home that respected his ideological circumspection – his aversion to “the politics of certainty … in particular to the politics of the extreme.”
In the three decades prior to the American right’s present descent into Mau-Mauing, Charles found a place where he was free to think and speak as he wished, even when it defied orthodoxy. He knows that without a free, fair, honest and decent forum for the exchange of ideas, we are truly doomed.
“Politics is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns,” he wrote. “The entire 20th century with its mas of political enthusiasms is a lesson in the supreme power of politics to produce ever expanding circles of ruin.”
We are very sad to say that we will have no new words from Charles to share with you. But we are glad to say that in order to remind ourselves and you about these principles, we will be sharing some of our favorites from the past in the weeks to come. They are too good to have only one turn, and we are very much in a mood to celebrate his accomplishments.
But we also offer a challenge to those of you who share our sadness today: Help us reinforce those walls. Help us dig the moat deeper. Help us to struggle against the barbarism that has overtaken much of public discourse today.
We can honor Charles best by doing as he did and insisting on rigor, honesty, kindness and decency in what we say.
THE RULEBOOK: FARM AID
“In this country, if the principal part be not drawn from commerce, it must fall with oppressive weight upon land.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 12
TIME OUT: CONGRATS, CAPS
WUSA9: “No one has seen more Washington Capitals games in person than former play-by-play announcer, Ron Weber. He is the original voice of the Capitals and called the franchise’s first 1,936 games. He told the stories of over 200 players during his 23 years in the broadcast booth. ‘Once in a while especially when I go visit in the broadcast booth before they’re on the air I get a little itch like, yeah I wish I were still doing the games,’ Weber said. Even though Weber retired in 1997, he still rarely misses a home game. He takes the metro from his home in Wheaton with all the game day essentials packed: a flashlight, a pen and his score sheet, so he can keep track of all the game day action. You can bet longtime fans still recognize Weber as he’s heading to or from the games. ‘It’s very rewarding. I always try to thank them, but I continue to be perplexed as well as pleased that they would remember me,’ Weber explained. Among Weber’s many accomplishments, in 2010 he got a place on the wall at the Hockey Hall of Fame and received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award given for outstanding contributions to hockey broadcasting.”
[Ed note: For the record we should say: Congrats, but always, boo Caps.]
Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.2 percent
Average disapproval: 53 percent
Net Score: -11.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.6 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 36% approve - 55% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve - 55% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 40 percent
Democratic average: 48.4 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 8.4 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 1.8
[Average includes: Fox News: 48% Dems - 39% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 50% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; IBD: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; CBS News: 50% Dems - 41% GOP.]
**and now, for this important commercial message**
Consider yourself an Influencer? Become a trusted advisor in our FOX News community and help guide our brand’s future. Click here to find out how.
Members of FOX News Influencers have the opportunity to be heard, be part of a special network of peers and influence new initiatives. What’s more, you’ll receive updates on how your input has made an impact.
Fill out our qualification survey and join us. Thank you for your continued support in our company’s growth.
**we now return you to our regularly scheduled political palaver**
MUELLER FILES NEW CHARGES AGAINST MANAFORT
Fox News: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed new charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate on Friday, accusing them of obstructing justice in the investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates in 2016. The latest indictment against Manafort adds an associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, 48, of Moscow. Both were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice, according to federal court filings. ‘From in or about and between February 23, 2018, and April 2018, both dates being approximate and inclusive, within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants Paul J. Manafort Jr., and Konstantin Kilimnik knowingly and intentionally attempted to corruptly persuade another person, to wit: Persons D1 and D2, with intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding,’ the filing, signed by Mueller, read. The third superseding indictment against Manafort comes days after Mueller accused the former campaign chairman of witness tampering.”
Feds seize reporter’s records - NYT: “A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was arrested on Thursday in an investigation of classified information leaks where prosecutors also secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records. The former aide, James A. Wolfe, 57, was charged with lying repeatedly to investigators about his contacts with three reporters. According to the authorities, Mr. Wolfe made false statements to the F.B.I. about providing two of them with sensitive information related to the committee’s work. He denied to investigators that he ever gave classified material to journalists, the indictment said. … Mr. Wolfe’s case led to the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump. The seizure was disclosed in a letter to the Times reporter, Ali Watkins, who had been in a three-year relationship with Mr. Wolfe. The seizure suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.”
DOJ’s Clinton probe report to be released next week - WSJ: “A long-awaited watchdog report that is expected to criticize the Justice Department’s handling of the 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server will be released next Thursday, according to a letter to Congress from Inspector General Michael Horowitz. The release, and a hearing on the report by the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 18, will set the stage for what is likely to be a new front in the political battle that has flared in recent months over the handling of sensitive inquiries by the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The document, which officials say could exceed 500 pages, is intended to be a definitive account of the Clinton inquiry, including controversial decisions made by then-FBI Director James Comey and others in connection with the investigation. People familiar with the report’s contents say it will cast a critical eye on many of the people who occupied senior roles during the inquiry, from then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to Mr. Comey.”
DEMS MAINTAIN THEIR EDGE
The Hill: “Democrats hold a nine-point lead over Republicans on the generic House ballot, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday. According to the survey, 48 percent of voters preferred the Democratic candidate in their House district, compared to 39 percent who preferred the Republican candidate. That nine-point lead is up from the five-point lead Democrats held in March, the last time Fox News surveyed voters on the matter. The Fox News survey comes as welcome news for Democrats as they seek to regain control of the House in November's midterm elections. Two other polls released this week — an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey and a Quinnipiac University poll — also gave Democrats sizable leads on the generic House ballot. Democrats also appear to be more interested in midterm elections than Republicans. According to the Fox News poll, 72 percent of Democrats said they were either extremely or very interested in the contests. Sixty-three percent of Republicans said the same.”
Maine will implement ranked-choice voting - HuffPo: “For the first time, people across the state won’t just choose one person to go on and represent them in the general election, but will get to rank the candidates in their preferred order. Maine will be the first place to use the system, called ranked-choice voting, in statewide races this June (it’s already used in some local elections). The system kicks in for contests that have three or more candidates. Here’s how it works: Voters rank the candidates in their party’s primary in order of preference. If no candidate gets an outright majority, the candidate who got the fewest first-place votes is eliminated. The second-place votes of those who supported the eliminated candidate then get distributed to the remaining candidates. The process continues until one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the first-place votes and is declared the winner.”
Bernie has not endorsed his son’s House run - WaPo: “Levi Sanders has a steep hill to climb to represent New Hampshire in Congress. He faces a crowded field of eight other Democrats in advance of the primaries in September; should he prevail, he will challenge a Republican in a Trump-leaning swing district. And he has not received a significant piece of help: an endorsement from Bernie Sanders, a rising kingmaker in the world of progressive Democratic politics, and, perhaps more important, his father. … Sanders’s decision to not endorse Levi, his only biological child, stands out. The senator has crisscrossed the country to support and endorse candidates who reflect the leftward wing of the Democratic Party that he has come to represent, as the Globe pointed out. But he has not visited New Hampshire … since his son announced his candidacy in February.”
2018 could bring the first Native American woman to Congress - WaPo: “Deb Haaland’s victory in the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday positions her to be the first Native American woman to serve in Congress. The district has been held by a Democrat since 2009 and voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a 17-point margin. Interestingly, though, it’s not the most heavily Native American congressional district in the country — by a wide margin. It’s not the case, of course, that voters cast ballots only for candidates who share their racial or ethnic background. Utah’s 4th District is represented by Rep. Mia Love (R), a black woman, even though it’s got one of the smallest black populations in the
Political ads stopped in Washington state due to transparency laws - Seattle Times: “Google stopped accepting political ads in Washington state on Thursday, just days after state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the company, along with Facebook, saying the tech firms are not obeying state law on political-ad transparency. The company will reject ads related to ballot measures and state and local elections, according to an AdWords policy update posted on Wednesday. Google will send notifications to affected advertisers, it said. The ad pause includes Google ads that appear on many websites, as well as YouTube ads. The company said the temporary move was not directly related to the state lawsuit, but cited ad transparency regulations related to a state law that went into effect Thursday.”
Texas, with backing from Trump, take Obamacare to court - Bloomberg
Trump heads to Singapore immediately from G-7 summit - The Hill
GOP senators try to stifle Corker’s proposal to stop Trump’s tariffs - Politico
“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.” – Anthony Bourdain, who died this week, in an interview with BookPage.com in 2001. R.I.P.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This Sunday Mr. Wallace will be live from Singapore! He will sit down with the chief U.S. negotiator during '94 North Korean missile crisis, Ambassador Robert Gallucci,
columnist, Gordon Chang and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Bill Richardson. 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
“Chris, Brilliant historical perspective on public opinion/support and public policy decision making. The intellectual layer officials to prevent us from our own irrationality explains the Republic vs. Democracy very well. How we balance the two is the tricky question isn’t it? Also loved the curation of a wide range of perspectives in your news highlights section. You were on your A-game today.” – Jai Suresh, Milpitas, Calif.
[Ed. note: I think it’s because they put extra bacon on my Cobb salad! It fortified me.]
“Chris, I always appreciate knowing your point of view and what you’re ‘pondering.’ What you wrote as a ‘reminder’ today was new to me and caused me to think in a new way. Bravo and thanks!” – Emma Grimes, Lexington Park, Md.
[Ed. note: Thanks much! I may get it tattooed so I can always remember what George Orwell taught us: "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.”]
“Hi Chris, I just watched Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Daily Briefing with the fabulous, Dana Perino. She mentioned how she feels that many voters will vote in November based on student loans and how the government plans to deal with that. Can you please help me understand why that is an issue the government will take on and why as a voter and taxpayer without student debt this is my problem? No one holds guns to students’ heads and forces them to take on debt that a philosophy major will never pay down. I will be livid if that burden is passed on to us, the taxpayer, who made better choices. Thanks for any insight!” – Katie Hacker, Lynchburg, Va.
[Ed. note: We talk sometimes about how politics is like a Mickey Mouse balloon. If you squeeze one ear, the other gets bigger. If Democrats do run with the forgiveness of student debt as a core issue, the other ear – taxpayers frustrated by fiscal fecklessness – will most certainly grow.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
FLORIDA GONNA FLORIDA
WPBF: “A Home Depot employee was attacked by a customer’s pet spider monkey. It happened Monday in the parking lot outside the store at 2700 Highway 441 South in Okeechobee [Fla.]. Marilyn Howard said she was in the break area outside the store when she heard co-workers yelling about a monkey in the parking lot. She thought it was a joke until she saw the monkey, with its leash on, walking toward her. Howard said she grabbed the leash and the monkey climbed onto her back and bit her twice. Howard said the monkey got off her and she was able to grab the leash and walk the monkey to the entrance of the store. She said when the door to the store opened, it startled the monkey and it bit her on the arm and hand. She said the monkey also scratched her on the face. Tina Ballard, the monkey’s owner, said she had left the monkey in her truck but it somehow managed to get out. Howard refused treatment. No charges have been filed and no other information is available.”
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.