Biden still riding high

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On the roster: Biden still riding high - GOP Sens. offer support for red flag, background bills - Mississippians head to the polls for primary day - Audible: Toni Morrison, R.I.P. - When your guilt ketches up to you

Fox News: “Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts remain the top three contenders in the first poll conducted in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire following last week’s Democratic nomination debates. But the Suffolk University survey for the Boston Globe released Tuesday also indicates a slip in support for Sen. Kamala Harris of California when compared with polls conducted prior to the debates. Biden stands at 21 percent among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire according to the survey, with Sanders at 17 percent, Warren at 14 percent, and Harris at 8 percent. Biden stood at 23 percent in an average of the two live operator surveys – University of New Hampshire/CNN and Saint Anselm College – conducted in early to mid-July, before the debates. Warren averaged 18 percent, Sanders 15 percent and Harris 14 percent.”

August heat will melt Dem field - Politico: “With two sets of debates and six months of fundraising finished, a new stage is opening in the Democratic presidential primary: The summer slog. For six weeks until the next debate, in mid-September, candidates will shift their focus more completely to the early primary states, grinding through a ritualistic run of picnics, forums, and party fundraisers: The Wing Ding, the Iowa State Fair, the Summer Sizzler, Londonderry’s Old Home Days. For the frontrunners, the rigors of a month full of intimate, often less scripted public appearances will present a significant test. But the weaker contenders will also come under considerable pressure. Some will likely begin running out of money or will fail to qualify for the next set of debates, culling the now-sprawling field.”

Harris and Booker attended church where previously called gay sex a sin - The Mercury News: “Presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Cory Booker attended services this weekend at a Baptist church led by a pastor who’s called being gay a sin — ‘enough to send you to hell’ — and Bernie Sanders held a town hall at the church last month. It isn’t clear what the three presidential candidates — all staunch supporters of LGBTQ rights — knew about the Rev. Robert E. Fowler Sr.’s position on homosexuality when they campaigned at Las Vegas’ Victory Missionary Baptist Church, but his views are hardly a secret: A 2017 Las Vegas Review-Journal column about his perspective on gay rights shows up on the first page of results for a Google search of his name. … The visits to the church illustrate potential hazards as Democrats vie for voters in battleground states with more conservative views.”

Dem candidates compete to give away billions in taxpayer money - Fox News: “Candidates like Cory Booker, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang are among those pitching cash handout plans this election cycle. [Yang’s] plan is simple, on the surface: every American citizen over the age of 18 gets $1,000 every month. … The only major caveat for Yang's plan is that those receiving benefits such as welfare or disability would not be eligible… Booker, meanwhile, has his own proposal which he's already pursuing in Congress -- legislation to start a savings account for every American child when they're born. … Williamson’s platform includes a far more costly plan to pay between $200 billion and $500 billion over a 20-year period to black communities as reparations for slavery. She views that money as ‘payment of a debt that is owed’ due to ‘a great injustice that has never been dealt with.’”

Mike Gravel ends presidential campaign - USA Today: “Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator and anti-war firebrand who launched an online-centric campaign for president, is officially wrapping up his quest for the White House. The Twitter account affiliated with Gravel's campaign on Saturday thanked staffers and supporters who had helped the 89-year-old former senator from Alaska raise his profile and eventually draw more than 65,000 donors to his campaign. ‘Of course, the true key has been the #Gravelanche itself, our incredible supporters and donors. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,’ the account tweeted. Gravel is set to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, according to The Daily Beast.”

“The founders of our republics have so much merit for the wisdom which they have displayed, that no task can be less pleasing than that of pointing out the errors into which they have fallen.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 48

Historian David Wootton meditates on how our changing understanding of happiness bedevils modern humankind. Lapham’s Quarterly: “Thomas Jefferson lived in a world of slavery and pervasive inequality; he knew perfectly well that the world was not as it ought to be. But he believed, rightly, that a world in which people were free to pursue happiness would be one in which liberty would slowly spread, until all could benefit from it. What seemed evident to him would not have seemed remotely plausible to any educated person before the English Civil War. In 1690, [John Locke’s] arguments were still peculiar and pioneering; by 1776 they had become, as they still are for us, self-evident. … But there is an important difference between us and the founding fathers. They saw life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the alternative to despotism and intolerance. We now can see that a society devoted to self-gratification may, in the end, destroy the conditions of its own existence.”

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Trump job performance
Average approval
: 42.4 percent
Average disapproval: 53.6 percent
Net Score: -11.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 2.8 points 
[Average includes: IBD: 40% approve - 56% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve - 53% disapprove.]

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Politico: “A shaken Sen. Rob Portman on Tuesday spoke out against white nationalism and expressed support for red flag laws, after horrific mass shootings over the weekend in Texas and his home state of Ohio. The Republican's endorsement of limited gun control comes one day after President Donald Trump called for such laws, which allow police and family members to block access to firearms for people who are an imminent threat to others or themselves. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday he would introduce legislation to encourage more states to adopt red flag laws…. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Monday vowed to renew efforts to pass legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that would expand background checks after Trump called for similar legislation via tweet, though the president didn’t follow up on the call during a televised address several hours later. The Manchin-Toomey proposal failed in 2013 and 2015 and has little Republican support.”

NRA infighting leaves group weakened - WaPo: “Fresh calls for gun control following massacres in two U.S. cities over the weekend are testing the resilience of the National Rifle Association at a time when the nation’s largest gun lobby is riven by leadership clashes and allegations of reckless spending. The NRA, which has blocked proposed restrictions after past mass shootings, including at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has lost key veterans in recent months, including lobbyist Christopher Cox, who back-channeled with the White House and lawmakers during previous political crises. The NRA’s longtime advertising firm, which helped craft its hard-edge responses to past gun violence, is battling the organization in court. Last week, three NRA board members resigned, saying they were sidelined after demanding audits of the organization’s spending. Rank-and-file members are urging changes, while other gun rights groups are seeking to capi­tal­ize on the NRA’s struggles.”

David Brooks: The other-ism - NYT: “Finally, pluralism is the adventure of life. Pluralism is not just having diverse people coexist in one place. It’s going out and getting into each other’s lives. It’s a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live. Life in a pluralistic society is an ever-moving spiral. There are the enemies of pluralism ripping it apart and the weavers of community binding it together. There is no resting spot. Its change, fluidity and movement all the way down. The terrorists dream of a pure, static world. But the only thing that’s static is death, which is why they are so pathologically drawn to death. Pluralism is about movement, interdependence and life. The struggle ahead is about competing values as much as it is about controlling guns and healing damaged psyches. Pluralism thrives when we name what the terrorists hate about us, and live it out.”

Politico: “It's primary day in Mississippi, where voters will head to the polls to pick nominees for governor … The Democratic side is fairly straightforward: There’s more than a handful of candidates on the ballot, but state Attorney General Jim Hood is considered the prohibitive favorite. But the Republican primary is more competitive. Three candidates — Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller, Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster — are all vying for the nomination. A recent Mason-Dixon poll in the state highlights the uncertainty: Reeves leads the other two men, but sits at 41 percent, below the simple majority required to avoid a runoff election. Waller is in second with 31 percent, and Foster is at the back of the pack at 13 percent. If no one clears 50 percent, there will be a runoff in three weeks. … [Despite Reeves many] endorsements — and a massive fundraising and spending advantage favoring Reeves — Waller is still hanging around.”

Jon Huntsman 
resigns as ambassador to Russia Fox News

Sen. Ben Sasse announces 2020 re-election campaign - Roll Call

Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter draws top-tier primary challenger Politico

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” – Author Toni Morrison (Feb. 18, 1931-Aug. 5, 2019) writing the dialogue of Sixo, a character in her 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved.”  

“You let the other, and equally important, side of the story of Charlottesville out of your otherwise outstanding synopsis of White Nationalism. Black Lives Matter and Antifa militants were approved by the Charlottesville authorities to stage a counter protest several blocks away from the White Nationalist rally. It was the BLM/Antifa group that ignored their lawful permit and left their designated area to engage the White Nationalists in racial combat. Had they cared about civility, they would’ve stayed within the area reserved for them and Charlottesville would’ve been an ugly local news footnote like Fountain Square in Cincinnati and numerous other places where the Klan, Aryan Brotherhood and others have marched and faded away. But, of course, it didn’t happen that way. The racial arsonists and the anarchists fought their battle. All three groups got their twisted need of coverage filled. Trump fumbled away his opportunity with a poor choice of words and the Left had a new clarion call. Because, in today’s polarized environment, these tiny, fringe of the fringe political movements are driving the narrative. They may represent .001% of our population but their influence is magnitudes greater. Expression of thought isn’t hate but translate the thought into action and it’s a crime against civility. Perpetrators of these crimes need to be fairly prosecuted to the fullest without the lens of left-right politics. Perhaps, if we can get the Country back to ‘fair and equal,’ then all the people can again believe they live under the best system on the Planet.” –Steve Aue, Brock, Texas

[Ed. note: You make a worthwhile point about the cycle of attention seeking, Mr. Aue. But our discussion Monday was about white nationalism, not its competing radical ideologies. That was the topic because a white nationalist in El Paso, Texas slaughtered 20 Hispanic people in the name of that cause. I could have explored the back and forth between attention-seeking extremists, but I rather think that would have obscured the point and would have risked diluting the blame for the murders. Yes, there is a symbiosis between these militant groups, but that doesn’t lessen the moral judgement against white nationalism as a cause or mitigate the actions of the killer. On Monday, we were exploring how a media fixation on the president’s responses to murders by white nationalists obscures a more useful discussion about the movement itself and the roots racial violence in America today. I don’t think tarrying over the lack of civility by counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville would have been at all elucidating.]      

“It took you 20 paragraphs of regurgitation to get to the bottom line and tell America that our national illness can only be fixed from the bottom up. Indeed, Trump is a reflection of our problems, not the cause, yet you managed to regurgitate every negative you could to attribute white nationalism to him: YOU put fuel on a fire.” – Linda Harward, Crawford, Texas

[Ed. note: As I perused your note, Ms. Harward, I had just finished reading about the Democratic outrage over a headline in today’s NYT: “Trump urges unity vs. racism.” The freak out was pretty remarkable, even for these freaked out times. The headline was certainly accurate, even if one doubts the president’s sincerity. It may have been too simplistic for a complicated story, but that’s life in big-league journalism. Not every headline is a winner. But the response was just, well, wild. One presidential candidate even suggested the Times was complicit in murder and another let fly with a string of obscenities about media coverage. Really profoundly stupid stuff. There is a powerful temptation to conflate coverage with causality in these polarized times. There is an even stronger impulse to shut out points of view that challenge our own worldviews or make us feel uncomfortable about our political choices. All of us, not just politicians, are obliged to resist these temptations.]  

“When the NRA has the [Senate majority leader], Mitch McConnell, in their pocket from the $1.2 million USD they have spent on his elections AND the [Senate majority leader], Mitch McConnell, refuses to let 2 Bi-PARTISAN gun reform bills that passed in the House 5 months ago get a vote on the Senate floor - it's really, really hard to believe it's a ‘bottom-up’ problem! The ‘it's us, not them’ suggestion doesn't hold water in this particular instance!” – Jill Rackiewicz Henderson, St. Paul, Minn.

[Ed. note: It is true that the House did pass two bipartisan firearms bills. One would extend the waiting period from three days to 10 days for weapon sales when the federal background check system fails to deliver (as it sometimes does) another would require all firearm transfers to be subject to background checks, including private sales, family gifts, etc. A couple of thoughts here: Both bills have the same problem as many proposed in the wake of mass murders. Neither would have prevented the massacres to which they are offered as responses. That makes it harder to get lawmakers to back bills that come at a political cost. But also: How do you think McConnell’s constituents in Kentucky feel about gun control? Your suggestion here is that McConnell would back these bills or at least bring them out for a vote if it wasn’t for the donations of the National Rifle Association. I doubt it. The NRA is very powerful, or at least was until it its recent crack up, but that power isn’t from its contributions. McConnell will never want for money in any race, but he would face serious problems is the organization’s millions of members declared him an enemy. What makes the gun-rights activist community powerful isn’t its money but its members. I’m not suggesting that there is no federal part to play in addressing these killings. But I do believe that it is up to Americans to form a new consensus on these issues rather than partisan blame casting. That’s what we’ve been doing for 30 years and it has gotten us exactly nowhere.]   

“Are you able to explain how the President is able to willy nilly make up new tariffs and screw with the entire economy without the consent of the Congress, please? Why is the legislative branch so weak when it comes to this area? Thanks!” – Katie HackerEvington, Va.

[Ed. note: It’s pretty simple, Ms. Hacker: Congress gave away the power. In various pieces of legislation, particularly the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and the Trade Act of 1974 and its successor legislation, Congress ceded its own authority to set tariffs to the executive branch. For example, when the president threatens new taxes on cars made by foreign manufacturers – including those assembled here – he is citing the 1962 legislation that grants him such power in order to protect “national security.” To Trump, winning the trade wars is a national security issue so, blammo, he’s got the power. This anguishes many Republicans, but they are deathly afraid of Trump, who has demonstrated his power repeatedly to punish dissent in his party. Many Democrats, meanwhile, secretly admire Trump’s protectionism and are unlikely to pipe up. The lesson for Congress, is that power is much more easily surrendered than reclaimed. Any decent custodian of Congress’ constitutional power should think first how a power ceded to the executive could be abused before considering how it might be used.]  

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NY Post: “She wouldn’t cut the mustard as a hardened criminal. A thief who swiped a bottle of ketchup from a New Jersey restaurant was so wracked with guilt — and suffering from bad karma — that she secretly returned to drop off two containers of Heinz. ‘I hope returning two new bottles will restore some [luck] for me, and I can stop carrying around this guilt,’ wrote the contrite condiment klepto in a note left with the ketchup outside a door at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery on Route 9 in Forked River. The thief — who workers at the eatery insist is a young woman, judging from her penmanship — admitted in the note that she had no good reason to steal from the Lacey Township restaurant. ‘A few weeks ago, I had taken one of your ketchup bottles off the table because for some odd reason I thought it’d be ‘risky,’’ said the note… The culprit didn’t leave a name but signed off with, ‘From, an awful person.’”

“Growing up (as I did) in the province of Québec, you learn not just the joys but also the perils of bilingualism. … Canada, of course, had no choice about bilingualism. It is a country created of two nations at its birth, and has ever since been trying to cope with that inherently divisive fact.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 4, 2006.

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.