A free press, like it or not

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: A free press, like it or not - Time Out: The world turned upside down - GOP candidates benefit from Dubya’s help - Big name Kansas Republicans back Dem for governor - Snowflakes, indeed 

What’s the point of our Constitution? 

In 1787, there were no “libs” to own, and smashing the patriarchy seems like an unlikely bet for 55 property-owning white dudes in waistcoats and breeches. 

We suppose that depending on who’s answering, we’d hear responses like “keep the government in check” or “protect the rights of individuals” or maybe even a “perpetuate the existing power structure.”

In truth, it was nothing so abstract. It was an urgent, desperate need to create a functioning government. Independence so painfully won was about to slip away because of internal squabbling and disunity. It would be replaced by the re-imposition of foreign rule or, worse, the tyranny of the mob.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some lofty hopes and, for the time, radical ideas. But read the preamble and take the Framers at their word. Their job was to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” 

In short: Make a good government that was built to last.

But what they came up with was deemed too good by some – too good at establishing control, too good at usurping state powers, too good at stifling the democratic impulses of the people. This was before the French Revolution and its lessons about the dangers of disordered liberty, and many Americans felt the federal republic of central authority laid out by the Constitution was simply too much.  

Without the votes of these Anti-Federalists, the charter would never be ratified in the states. The philosophical objections of opponents like Patrick Henry found fast admiration among state-level politicians who were not interested in losing power to the national government.

James Madison, the mediating force and brilliant architect to whom we owe the most for our charter’s success, found a compromise. He crafted a list of explicit rights in the same vein as the Magna Charta, like the one he had helped George Mason write for Virginia ten years earlier.  

The argument for a Bill of Rights was obvious to any student of history. Many things that are essential to a healthy republic and free people are disruptive, dangerous and broadly unpopular. To protect these things, they needed to be named and claimed, fenced off from the inevitable effort to roll them back that would eventually come.

We like to imagine as Americans that we all cherish the values enshrined there, but many are just as unpopular as they have ever been – if not more so. 

Free speech? Try it out on a college campus and get back to us. Freedom of religious practice? Fine as long as you don’t make a fuss about it. The right to bear arms? You couldn’t pass the Second Amendment today if George Washington himself rode Elijah’s chariot down and made the case. Protections for criminal defendants? Well, unless they’re guilty or are from a scary minority group.     

What about a free press? Hoo boy.

We hear a great deal today about how without the dominance of three television networks and two or three newspapers, Americans are losing the ability to govern themselves. Unreliable, partisan and even maliciously false information has reached such a point that we have lost the ability to govern ourselves. 

Both sides seem to agree that allowing people like us to write and report as we wish is hurting the country. There are varying degrees and varieties of solutions on offer for what to do. 

The current president thinks we need to make it easier to sue news outlets, and failing that, likes to berate the reporters penned like veal in the back of his campaign rallies for the enjoyment of his supporters who enthusiastically follow his cues. “The enemy of the people” remains on heavy rotation.

Members of the opposition party have argued that the government needs to establish standards for what is and isn’t news, and some have even suggested that expressions of editorial opinions should be regulated as campaign contributions.

While the methods of the moment may seem new, press freedom has usually been unpopular because the press has usually been unpopular. The news media of the age of the founding wasn’t anything like the post-World War II bubble of a few friendly faces offering dispassionate-sounding information on the events of the day. Newspapers were often bilious partisan broadsides full of slanderous rumormongering hidden behind crude satire and pseudonyms. Some were better than others, but the standards of the day were pretty close to rock bottom. And people hated them for it.

When our domestic tranquility has occasionally been marred by civil unrest, one of the first targets for angry mobs and goon squads has been the local newspaper. The only honest-to-goodness coup in American history, which took place in Wilmington, N.C. in 1898, was followed immediately by the burning of a newspaper building where a publisher had dared question the claims of sexual violence committed against white women.

We say we like a free press, but what we often mean is that we will tolerate press freedom if the press deserves it.

Campaigning in Montana Tuesday, President Trump reveled in the story from 2017 when now-Rep. Greg Gianforte threw reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground and then beat on him. 

Gianforte’s campaign initially lied about the incident, claiming Jacobs had been the aggressor. When confronted with a recording and the eyewitness accounts of others in the room, Gianforte eventually owned up to his behavior, apologized and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. 

Many Republicans assumed that Gianforte’s crime had thrown away a safe House seat and braced for a loss. 

Trump told the crowd that he was never worried. Knowing what he did about Montanans, Trump figured they’d like the idea of a candidate roughing up some liberal, out-of-state reporter. We’d still say that the president was being uncharitable to Montanans, but the crown Thursday sure seemed to agree, as did the voters who gave Gianforte a 6-point victory. 

And at the time there were plenty of folks who agreed with Trump that while perhaps Gianforte had gone too far, his frustrations with the press were understandable. How long should real Americans have to put up with “costal elites” and “liberal liars?”

Jacobs is a good reporter, and in our experience, a fair-minded one. He also did nothing wrong in the incident. He was respectfully doing his job, which is to ask questions of people in or seeking power.

But even if he wasn’t a good man or even if he was a liberal hack, that wouldn’t matter. The principle of a free press, like our other rights, are not the property of the government nor our fellow citizens. Nor is it conditional. 

Yes, courts have found over time different limitations that could be placed on our rights to worship, speak, assemble and defend ourselves, but the basic principle that the rights are natural ones granted to us by our creator remains true – even for people who we don’t think are deserving.  
The Framers were under no illusions about the excesses of the media and still insisted on our protection because they knew that days like this would come.

Watching this administration soft-peddle serious allegations against an important ally of murdering a dissident journalist while the president plays an assault on a reporter for laughs is a good reminder that the Anti-Federalist were right to make their demands on Mr. Madison. 

“One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 22

History: “General George Washington instructed the Marquis de Lafayette, who was in Virginia with an American army of around 5,000 men, to block Cornwallis’ escape from Yorktown by land. In the meantime, Washington’s 2,500 troops in New York were joined by a French army of 4,000 men under the Count de Rochambeau. Washington and Rochambeau made plans to attack [Lord Cornwallis] with the assistance of a large French fleet under the Count de Grasse, and on August 21 they crossed the Hudson River to march south to Yorktown. … On October 19, General Cornwallis surrendered 7,087 officers and men, 900 seamen, 144 cannons, 15 galleys, a frigate, and 30 transport ships. Pleading illness, he did not attend the surrender ceremony, but his second-in-command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. … Although the war persisted on the high seas and in other theaters, the Patriot victory at Yorktown effectively ended fighting in the American colonies.”

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

Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 43.6 percent
Average disapproval: 51.4 percent
Net Score: -7.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 3.2 points 
[Average includes: Fox News: 47% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; ABC/WaPo: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; CNBC: 41% approve - 49% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve - 52% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.6 percent
Democratic average: 49.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 8.6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 1 point  
[Average includes: Fox News: 49% Dems - 42% GOP; ABC/WaPo: 53% Dems - 42% GOP; CNBC: 42% Dems - 36% GOP; CNN: 54% Dems - 41% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 48% Dems - 42% GOP.]

WaPo: “Republican Rep. Martha McSally will spend Friday with President Trump, trying to rally conservative support for her Senate bid in Arizona. But Thursday evening, McSally is hosting another big name in GOP politics who, these days, prefers to do his work behind closed doors: George W. Bush. The former president is the guest of honor at a Scottsdale fundraising reception for the congresswoman’s bid to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R). On Monday, Bush flew to Indiana for a fundraiser with the Republican Senate nominee, Mike Braun. And in mid-September, Bush crisscrossed Florida for a lunch fundraiser in Tampa and then an evening dinner reception in Palm Beach to boost Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign. He has also hosted events in Texas for other Republican candidates. At a time when Trump rules the Republican Party, practically choosing winners and losers through his endorsements in the primaries, Bush is in high demand on the campaign trail. He even played a key role in helping shore up the votes of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Flake for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination, placing repeated calls to the two wavering Republicans to talk about his former White House aide.”

Annie Karni: ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Hillary?’ - Politico: “In recent months, some reporters who cover the Trump White House have received phone calls from the last person they would expect: Hillary Clinton. The 2016 Democratic nominee has been rethinking her relationship with the press … acknowledging that her grouchy relationship with journalists was a problem. … The under-the-radar overtures have come as Clinton has been re-inserting herself into the Trump story in other, more public ways. She has systematically outlined her theory of the case against what she calls Trump’s ‘assault on our democracy’ via a new afterword to her campaign memoir, ‘What Happened.’ … There’s also no sign that Clinton intends to give up the spotlight after the midterm elections, when Democrats begin their process of choosing a 2020 nominee and when a pre-existing relationship with the Clintons is widely seen as a vulnerability.”

Steyer’s machine - Atlantic: “…if Democrats win the House, Need to Impeach will immediately move to the next phase, with a plan that includes activating its list to immediately pressure new members to sign on with Donald Trump’s impeachment, flooding them long before they have staffs set up in Washington. A group of constitutional lawyers is already under contract drafting specific articles of impeachment against Trump, which it will then mail to supporters. (If and when Bob Mueller puts out a report, they may do an update.) … Mike Bloomberg has made headlines for becoming the biggest Democratic donor of the midterm cycle… Tom Steyer is in more than $120 million—though it has all gone to building his own machine. Steyer made a billion and a half dollars as an investor. He has sunk $50 million into Need to Impeach—so far—turning him into a familiar face in TV ads and, last year, on a Times Square billboard. Along the way, he has driven most top Democrats crazy by pushing them to take out the president, which they argue only helps vulnerable Republicans keep their seats.”

Fox News: “Multiple Republican leaders in Kansas have publicly backed Democrat Laura Kelly’s gubernatorial bid – a blow to controversial Republican Kris Kobach. Gov. Mike Hayden, who led Kansas from 1987 to 1991, was the latest Republican to back Kelly, a veteran state senator. He said he rarely casts a vote for a Democrat but will be doing so in this race. … Kobach told Fox News he ‘would not want Hayden's endorsement.’ … The race between Kobach and Kelly is ranked a toss-up by Fox News. Whoever wins will replace Republican Jeff Colyer, who took over the position once President Trump selected Gov. Sam Brownback to serve in his administration. …Trump has already endorsed Kobach, who was the vice chairman of the White House’s controversial voter fraud commission… Hayden is the second former Republican governor of Kansas to publicly endorse the Democrat this year. Bill Graves backed Kelly in a video last month, noting she is the only Democrat he’s ever endorsed.”

Evers’ office submitted plagiarized sections of budget request - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “State schools Superintendent Tony Evers submitted a budget request as his bid for governor heated up in September that included sections plagiarized from Wikipedia, a blog by an intern at a think tank and two other sources. GOP Gov. Scott Walker's campaign ripped Evers for his handling of the budget plan on Friday, just hours before Walker and his Democratic opponent were to debate. … The plagiarism problem echoes one that rocked the 2014 campaign for governor, when Democrat Mary Burke struggled to recover from reports that her campaign had lifted sections of her jobs plan from others. Walker defeated Burke that year.  Evers' budget request includes a 15-paragraph section on the benefits of summer school programs that is nearly verbatim to a blog post written by a Thomas B. Fordham Institute intern.”

Can Bredesen pull off a statewide win in Tennessee again? - Weekly Standard:“So why is Phil Bredesen, the Democratic party’s 74-year-old nominee for the U.S. Senate, stumping in this GOP stronghold with less than a month to go before the election? … The former mayor of Nashville, Bredesen won his 2002 bid for governor by closing the margin with his Republican rival in East Tennessee and even winning a few counties here. In his 2006 reelection campaign—his last race before 2018—Bredesen won every county in the state, including nearly 62 percent in Washington County, home of Johnson City. These days, it’s difficult to win statewide in Tennessee as a Democrat. Bredesen was the last candidate to do it. When Bredesen’s term was over, three of Tennessee’s five Democratic House seats flipped to the GOP. … Both of Tennessee’s Senate seats have been in Republican hands for more than two decades. Republican Bill Haslam is finishing his second term as a popular governor, following the business-friendly, center-right path of other successful Tennessee Republicans.”

In Missouri debate Hawley, McCaskill go to bat - Kansas City Star: “Missouri Republican candidate Josh Hawley used a Thursday debate to try to paint Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill as too liberal for the increasingly red state of Missouri, while McCaskill continued to hammer her challenger over his positions on health care. The candidates’ messaging during the St. Louis debate … reflects broader themes in their campaigns in the final weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Hawley so far has tied himself to President Donald Trump, who won Missouri by nearly 19 percentage points in 2016 and has returned to the state multiple times to drive up support for Hawley, the state’s attorney general. … McCaskill has been laser-focused on health care, particularly on saying that Hawley’s actions could mean the loss of insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”

Donnelly’s latest ad looks awfully similar to ‘Veep’ show - WaPo: “The campaign ad begins outside, the candidate clad in outdoor wear, chopping wood on a stump. It is a work of fiction, a fake advertisement for a character, Jonah Ryan, in the HBO show ‘Veep,’ starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But this week, Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat in the midst of a tough reelection fight in Indiana, released his own campaign ad that was curiously similar to the TV show’s fictitious ‘Jonah Ryan for Congress’ clip. As in the ad from ‘Veep,’ Donnelly stands outdoors, holding an ax in his hands, using wood chops to emphasize his campaign talking points, which are peppered with woodcutting metaphors. Donnelly uses his ad to tout his independence from liberal orthodoxy. … Social media users quickly noticed the similarities between the two ads.”

Culberson to skip Trump’s rally in Houston on Monday - Houston Chronicle:“President Donald Trump's Make America Great Again rally in Houston Monday night is being billed as a chance to boost U.S. Sen Ted Cruz and other Texas Republicans, but one GOP politician who will not be present is Houston U.S. Rep. John Culberson. Culberson, a nine-term incumbent facing a tight race with Democratic challenger Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, has chosen to skip the event to attend a neighborhood on flood control, according to campaign spokeswoman Catherine Kelly. … Culberson's Seventh Congressional District, which covers much of the city's west side and suburban Harris County, is one of three traditionally Republican districts in Texas that went to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.”

Republicans try to use Trump tactics to fire up base - CNBC: “Trump's failure to do … things is emblazoned across the up-is-down messages from Republican candidates and the White House two weeks before Election Day. … Since most voters believe the tax-cut helped corporations and the rich more than them, Republican candidates have sidelined it as a campaign theme. Instead, Republican candidates echo Trump in seeking to alarm a conservative base disproportionately composed of older, less-educated whites in small towns and rural areas. Across the country, they link Democrats with financial ruin, cultural disorder, and physical danger. Along with familiar foils like House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, those warnings often rely for emotional punch on images of non-whites.”

Russian national charged with interfering in US political system, 2018 elections Fox News

Um, okay.. Virginia lawmaker dumps many skeletons on Twitter WaPo

Check out this list of who Trump has endorsed in midterm elections - Fox News 

“Actually, when the president found out that I was Indian American, he asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren.” – Outgoing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley during a speech at a charity dinner Thursday night.

This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Arizona Senate candidate Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. 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.

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

CBS: “Sometimes a hat, scarf, and mittens just aren’t enough when the frosty air nips at your nose. Now, there’s a solution to that oh-so-cold woe — nose warmers. A company based in Sheffield, United Kingdom is selling the accessory globally to people that aren’t fans of having their noses frozen during the winter season. Nose warmers are sold in multiple styles to fit any fashion sense and are designed to hook around the ears not dissimilar to how medical face masks are worn. Whether you prefer fleece, wool, or faux fur there’s a nose warmer out there for those prone to the cold. Animal lovers can even get them in different themed prints like zebra or Dalmatian.”

“It’s not until a Rolex shows up on your wrist that you get indicted. Or you are found to have dangled a Senate appointment for cash. Then, like Rod Blagojevich, you go to jail. (He got 14 years.) Yet we are hardly bothered by the routine practice of presidents rewarding big donors with cushy ambassadorships, appointments to portentous boards and invitations to state dinners. The bright line seems to be outright bribery. Anything short of that is considered — not just for the Clintons, for everyone — acceptable corruption. It’s a sorry standard.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 25, 2016.  

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.