Americans need some faith healing

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On the roster: Americans need some faith healing - I’ll Tell You What: This is the future - New Q poll shows women give Dems lead - Feds look into National Enquirer’s relationship with Cohen - ‘A’ for effort though

We talk a lot about America’s crisis of confidence. This doesn’t just relate to the mostly false perception that Americans have about our current condition, but also the confidence that Americans have in the institutions that make up our system.

We have the same problem with our institutions as we do with our infrastructure. They both reflect the generations of effort that came before, but now we can’t be bothered to invest in keeping them up. Like the bridges that connect our cities and towns, civic institutions connect us with each other.

new poll conducted for NPR and PBS shows just how bad the decay has gotten. And, perhaps most alarmingly, how partisan these perceptions are. Pollsters asked respondents to share the degree of confidence that they felt in core U.S. institutions: the military, the Supreme Court, the FBI, the presidency, Congress and the media.

The two entities primarily responsible for facilitating our political system, a free press and the legislative branch, score the worst of the batch.

Congress, as always, is disdained by the electorate. Just 24 percent of respondents expressed any confidence at all in Congress, with big bipartisan majorities expressing their contempt. Usually, dissatisfaction with Congress tends to intensify among members of the party that is out of power, but there is little difference between Republicans and Democrats here.

We can’t particularly blame them given that Congress has substantially abdicated its constitutional duties. But even so…

For the media, though, it’s a different story. About half of Democrats express some degree of confidence in the press, but a stunning 94 percent of Republicans say they have little or no confidence in the journalists who bring them the news on which they rely to make decisions as informed citizens.

Now we’re not here to say that we are blameless or that excesses of the past have not done discredit to our profession, but 94 percent!? Jeepers crow.

However you apportion the blame for these dismal numbers, we should all be able to acknowledge that this is a crisis. It will not help to have Democrats blaming President Trump for this rock-bottom estimation by voters and Republicans saying that that’s what the lying press deserves.

Members on both sides have to focus on what they can do to make the situation better. Yes, journalists must do more to avoid inaccuracy and bias. But Republicans who should know better ought to point out loudly and often that a free press is an invaluable bulwark against tyranny. If only 25 percent of voters believe they can trust what we’re telling them, Americans are ripe pickings for demagoguery and dishonesty from leaders.

You’ll be less than surprised to know that views on the presidency are highly partisan. Forty-three percent of respondents overall express confidence in the institution of the presidency itself, and that generally reflects where independent voters land on the question. But among Democrats the number is just 17 percent, compared to 85 percent for Republicans.

There are some of the same phenomenon when it comes to views of the Supreme Court, but less acutely so. Forty-two percent of Democrats still have confidence in the high court, but 82 percent of Republicans feel good about the Supremes. That probably stands to reason given the current alarm on the left that Brett Kavanaugh is poised to reinstate the Dred Scott decision. One assumes that as the extreme alarm abates we will see Democratic numbers bounce back.

Another whopperjawed estimation by partisans: the FBI, not surprisingly. If you want to know how distorting this presidency has been to traditional political sentiments in this country consider that now 74 percent of Democrats feel good about the Feds and just 34 percent of Republicans feel the same way.

Again, you’re free to place blame for this problem wherever you wish. But the fact that it is a problem should be an uncontroversial point.

Of all of the institutions that this poll considered only one was aces across the board. The U.S. military usually leads in these estimations. That’s usually the case in surveys such as these, and rightly so. America’s all-volunteer military is truly the best of us: A color-blind meritocracy where the best and brightest can advance regardless of their origins. And that they have fought to liberate and keep free so much of the world without becoming conquers themselves has shown our uniformed services to be very worth of our trust indeed.

But ask yourself what becomes of a country where representative government and the free flow of ideas are distrusted and the military is venerated above everything else. This is not the American model and it will lead to un-American results if it is allowed to persist.

The urgent work of repairing our institutional infrastructure must begin at once.

“It is a singular instance of the capriciousness of the human mind, that after all the admonitions we have had from experience on this head, there should still be found men who object to the new Constitution, for deviating from a principle which has been found the bane of the old, and which is in itself evidently incompatible with the idea of GOVERNMENT…” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 15

NatGeo: “Super volcanoes sound terrifying, but the risks they pose don’t usually match their fearsome reputations. Yellowstone in particular often makes its way into headlines, as every earthquake swarm or change in geyser activity spawns unfounded rumors of an apocalyptic eruption. However, ask a volcanologist where the real risk in the U.S. lurks, and there’s a good chance that they will turn their gaze to the Pacific Northwest. Nestled among the Cascade mountain range sits Mount Rainier, a postcard-perfect natural wonder—and a volcano that causes scientists genuine concern. It’s unclear when it will stir from its long slumber, and there’s no sign that anything is imminent. Nevertheless, a future eruption could cause one of the worst natural disasters in the U.S. Unlike its infamous cousin, Mount St. Helens, Rainier is not known to be particularly explosive. And yet, Janine Krippner, a volcanologist at Concord University, is unequivocal in her assessment. ‘Rainier is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world,’ she says. ‘It’s a huge concern.’”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
42.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 
53.2 percent 
Net Score:
 -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 1.2 points 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.4 percent
Democratic average: 48.6 percent
Democrats plus 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: 
Democratic advantage up 0.4 points  
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 51% Dems - 39% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; Fox News: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]

This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the Cohen tapes and their dislike for discussing such unpleasantness. Plus, Chris is on fire discussing the Georgia GOP gubernatorial primary, the 17th Amendment and the 2020 Democratic field. And Dana answers your mailbag questions today. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Quinnipiac University: “With almost 2-1 backing from women, Democrats take a 51 - 39 percent lead in hypothetical races for the U.S. House of Representatives this year, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Women back Democratic candidates 57 - 32 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll finds. Men are divided with 46 percent going Republican and 44 percent for Democrats. White voters are divided with 46 percent for Democrats and 45 percent for Republicans. Black voters go Democratic 78 - 16 percent and Hispanic voters back Democrats 66 - 23 percent. The key block of independent voters backs Democratic candidates 50 - 33 percent. American voters disapprove 66 - 27 percent of the job Republicans in Congress are doing and disapprove of Democrats in Congress 63 - 30 percent. Voters are divided on President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court as 40 percent say the U.S. Senate should confirm the nomination and 41 percent say the Senate should not confirm the nomination.”

Kemp readies for a November showdown -
 AJC: “Secretary of State Brian Kemp decisively won the Republican nomination for Georgia governor Tuesday, defeating Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle after a grueling runoff shaped by secret recordings, provocative ads and the late intervention of President Donald Trump. Kemp’s victory sets up a November showdown against former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams to decide one of the nation’s most-watched races. The two are bitter foes who have scrapped over voting rights and election security since 2014. Cagle was the heavy favorite when he entered the race last year, thanks to three statewide victories and a huge fundraising advantage. But Cagle was hobbled by damaging audio covertly recorded by a former GOP rival, and any chance of his victory slipped away after Trump endorsed Kemp.”

Two more women win primaries, this time in Georgia Dem runoffs - The Hill:“Two female Democratic candidates won their respective House runoffs in Georgia on Tuesday, as women continue to rack up primary victories in what is shaping up to be the ‘Year of the Woman.’ In Georgia’s 6th District, gun-control activist Lucy McBath is projected to advance to the November election after beating Democratic rival Kevin Abel… McBath, who was motivated to run after her teenage son was shot and killed, will face off against freshman Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.). … Meanwhile, in Georgia’s 7th District, Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, a professor at Georgia State University, is projected to advance to the general election, according to AP, after beating Democratic rival David Kim, the son of South Korean immigrants and founder of a tutoring company.”

Texas Republicans debate trading speaker votes for chairmanship nomination -
Politico: “Texas Republicans, the largest GOP delegation in the House, are debating whether to use their leverage in a speakership race to plant one of their own atop the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Several Texas Republicans — well aware that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy needs their support to succeed Speaker Paul Ryan — have discussed pushing Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) to lead the spending panel in return for their votes for speaker. The idea, which has been closely guarded, came up at a recent Texas delegation lunch. Some members of the group are more supportive of the idea than others, according to interviews with nine Texas Republicans. Though many support Granger for the chairmanship, two Texas Republicans said they don’t need to formally make the demand because they believe McCarthy will back Granger for the position.”

Cornyn raises big for struggling candidates - McClatchy: “Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is not up for re-election until 2020, raised more than $10 million for other GOP Senate candidates this cycle, according to a source familiar with his political operation. Cornyn would like to move into his party’s top Senate leadership position, and being generous with colleagues is a time-honored way of winning their support. He’s raised $9.39 million for Republicans’ Senate campaign arm — playing an ‘indispensable’ role in the committee’s fundraising, according to its leadership. Cornyn’s also contributed nearly $100,000 to the campaigns of individual GOP lawmakers and candidates so far this cycle, according to data provided to the Star-Telegram.”

WSJ: “Michael Cohen and the publisher of the National Enquirer forged an alliance over the years, looking out for the interests of Donald Trump and each other. Now, federal investigators are examining those ties as part of a wide-ranging probe into Mr. Cohen’s personal business dealings and his self-described role as Mr. Trump’s fixer. In previously unreported interactions, some of which are memorialized in emails now under review, Mr. Cohen mediated a dispute between Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who had been a star on Mr. Trump’s ‘Apprentice’ reality TV show, and the Enquirer over a story about her brother’s murder. He intervened in a separate legal case on behalf of David Pecker, chief executive of Enquirer parent American Media Inc. And when American Media paid a doorman who alleged that Mr. Trump fathered a child with one of his employees, a company executive ordered reporters to stop investigating after speaking with Mr. Cohen. The revelations show a relationship characterized by mutual benefit and favor-trading on a greater scale than was previously known. The shared history could expose American Media, Mr. Cohen and by extension, Mr. Trump, to criminal campaign-finance charges.”

Davis says more tapes are coming - Axios: “Lanny Davis — a lawyer for Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer — tells me that, following last night's release of a secret Trump-Cohen recording, we'll soon learn more ‘about what Michael Cohen saw and heard.’ … Davis, a damage-control maestro going back to the Clinton administration, told me: ‘Michael Cohen has made a turn. This is on the record — Michael and I talked about it.’ ‘Michael is going to tell the truth to the powers that be, and let the chips fall where they may.’ ‘I've used this line too many times, but who talks about cash like that besides drug dealers and mobsters?’ … Davis said he was unable to say what Cohen's next move is: ‘I’m not saying there are more tapes as telling as [this] one, ... but there are more tapes. ... There is more to come.’”

Fox News: “President Trump announced Wednesday that he has secured major trade concessions from European Union officials as part of an effort to head off a trade war between the U.S. and the E.U. After talks at the White House, Trump announced that the E.U. delegation agreed to increase imports of soybeans and liquefied natural gas. Both sides agreed to work toward the goal of ‘zero’ tariffs and subsidies on non-auto industrial goods and to resolve ‘retaliatory tariffs.’ ‘This was a very big day for free and fair trade,’ he said. Trump said they are looking to slash regulations that limit access to each other's markets and to look to reform the World Trade Organization and limit unfair market practices. Trump made the announcement alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a press conference in the Rose Garden after more than two hours of talks at the White House.”

WH and Senate Republicans team up on Kavanaugh document dispute - WaPo

House Republicans announce effort to expand tax law AP

Mick Mulvaney
 appears to be top contender for Trump’s next chief of staff - Politico

Bipartisan efforts continue to put the hammer down on Russia Politico

Pence in North Dakota Wednesday for fundraiser and visit with Air Force base personnel Grand Forks Herald

Listen to Paul Ryan read mean tweets about himself @SpeakerRyan

“I want it to be me.” – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking to students at a Turning Point USA conference Wednesday.

“Hi Chris, I thought the House Appropriations committee had to approve executive branch spending not involving day to day functioning. Shouldn't Trump get approval for farmer pork? This feels like Solyndra all over again. At least that was advancing us towards an alternate fuel energy independent future. This one I don't know what to call it. That line from Charles (ref MLK) made me look up the National Mall memorials. Perhaps another trip to DC with the kids is in order. Keep doing the good work.” – Jai Suresh, Milpitas, Calif.

[Ed. note: Congress has done a very impressive job over the years of giving up its own power to the chief executive. In this case, Congress gave up its power to appropriate relief funds during a trade war back in the 1930s. Presidents can, citing “national security” interests, dip into a little deficit spending. This is similar to, for example, the same power that the president is using to apply tariffs on imported metals. That one is supposed to be for national security as well, but in both cases the powers are being used economic planning and political advantage.]

“I am NOT a Trump fan but I have to give him props for thinking out of the box.   The stupidity of the last nearly 30 years, yes since the end of the Reagan Presidency, has not worked. As Reagan showed us, toughness with backing of military power is the only thing despots, dictators and terrorists understand and will listen to. Appease them all you want and all you will get is an empty pocketbook and less cooperation.  Let’s give Trump’s way a chance, we cannot be worse off than we have been under the Bush’s and Obama. By the way, absolutely love the quotes from Charles. Most of my intelligent political thinking has been shaped by him… the rest of my political thinking needs some adjustment which I hope your continued sharing of Charles wisdom can provide. Keep up the good work!” – Will Schafer, Panama, Iowa

[Ed. note: Your point of view, Mr. Schafer is one that was key to Trump’s 2016 victory. The idea that America can become a doormat for the world rankles many voters. That’s why the debacle in Helsinki was damaging for the president. Wherever you stand on the question of Russian interference in the election or the Mueller investigation in general, Americans want to see their representative on the world stage stand up to despots like Vladimir Putin.]

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WVTR: “The two boys who wrecked a Lexus sedan were trying to drive to the beach, according to the Fluvanna County [Va.] Sheriff’s Office. The boy, ages 10 and seven, made a 37-mile trip down Interstate 64 in a vehicle taken from their guardians. The 10-year old was behind the wheel, and crashed the vehicle in the median just past the Gum Springs exit in Goochland County, shortly after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. The boys’ guardians immediately called police after they woke up to find the kids and Lexus missing, Fluvanna deputies said. … A Fluvanna sheriff’s deputy took the boys from the crash site to their home in the Wilmington area of Fluvanna County, where they were safely reunited with their guardians. ‘The juveniles were transported back to their custodians' home and turned over to their custody.  The juveniles stated they were going to Virginia Beach,’ Fluvanna deputies wrote in a press release on the incident.”

“Trump will continue to tweet and the media will continue to take the bait. Highly entertaining, but it is a sideshow. Congress is where the fate of the Trump presidency will be decided.” – Charles Krauthammer writing for the Washington Post, Dec. 6, 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.