Dallas horror means time of testing for Clinton, Trump

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

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

The planned, large-scale attack that killed five police officers in Dallas is a threshold moment in American public life.

We cannot know what comes after this, but we do know that such an event, coming as it does amid the deepening unease Americans feel about the direction of the country and the durability of our culture, will change the way we see things.

Certainly that will include the way we see our political leaders.

And now, a fresh horror for a society that seems every day in new ways to be coming apart, brings us to yet another pivot point for the 2016 presidential election – and defining moments for the soon-to-be major party nominees.

Decency would demand a period of decorous and thoughtful prayer and mourning, but this being politics, decency is not exactly in long supply.

Instead, we can be certain that buzzing around Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are hives of advisors and soothsayers urging them to exploit the moment when a stunned electorate is forced to stop and pay attention.

A little less than a month ago, Americans saw something shocking enough to actually penetrate the tortoise-thick electronic shell of distraction that usually protects them from contemplation. An Islamist terrorist slaughtered 49 patrons at an Orlando nightclub and no one could escape the knowledge that something was different. Something was wrong.

So too will it be in the aftermath of the military-style ambush in Dallas.

For Clinton and Trump, today will be an important proving ground in a couple of areas: in playing the part of national healer and mourner in chief but also of their abilities to direct the national discussion. In short, to tell us why this happened and how can we stop it from happening again.

Both candidates wisely scrapped their campaign schedules today, but Clinton is still slated to address black church leaders at a previously scheduled event in Philadelphia.  Trump has no remarks scheduled for now, but certainly will be heard from soon.

Most of what politicians say and do doesn’t make much difference, because most of the people who pay attention have already made up their minds. On a day like today, though, the eyes and ears of voters who mostly (and understandably) ignore the bulk of political discourse are briefly opened.

Trump lost substantial ground in the wake of the Orlando massacre as he veered in his response. He cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes, and instead needs to show voters that he is equal to the task of sober, thoughtful insight and action. Trump’s emphasis on being “tough” can win support when voters are alarmed, but not if he appears erratic in the way he did after Orlando.

Clinton, on the other hand, finds herself at the end of one of the worst chapters in her career, having been humiliated by the director of the FBI for her dishonesty about mishandling state secrets. It’s good for her that the discussion of that debacle is pushed aside, but bad for her that she steps to the podium still under a cloud. Can she rise above, or will she say occluded?

This won’t be the last threshold moment for Trump and Clinton, but it is a major turning point. What they offer voters now will have more to say about the outcome of the election than anything that happens at this month’s conventions.

“[T]here has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.  … I’d ask all Americans to say a prayer for these officers and their families. Keep them in your thoughts. And as a nation, let’s remember to express our profound gratitude to our men and women in blue -- not just today, but every day. – President Obama, speaking from the NATO summit in Poland

“I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families & all who serve with them.” – Hillary Clinton on Twitter

“Prayers and condolences to all of the families who are so thoroughly devastated by the horrors we are all watching take place in our country.” – Donald Trump on Twitter

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

Average of national presidential polls: 
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +5.4 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was given the all clear from FBI Director James Comey, but that left many claiming there’s a double standard for the Clintons. Will this hurt Clinton’s status against Republican competitor Donald Trump or does her cleared status leave her path to victory wide open? Time’s Zeke Miller and Boston Globe’s Annie Linksey discuss with Chris Stirewalt. WATCH HERE.

[And with Cleveland on the horizon… - With promises of a new or different Trump coming ahead of the Republican National Convention will the party’s nominee start to look more main stream? Or will Cleveland be a convention like we’ve never seen before? Miller and Linksey lay it out. WATCH HERE.]

Political risks, rewards in House GOP’s email push - National Journal: “­Repub­lic­ans are go­ing big in their push to gain polit­ic­al trac­tion from the Justice De­part­ment’s de­cision not to pro­sec­ute Hil­lary Clin­ton for her email prac­tices. A suite of new GOP pro­pos­als on both sides of Cap­it­ol Hill are un­likely to bring con­crete con­sequences for Clin­ton. But they will provide op­por­tun­it­ies for the GOP to keep the email scan­dal alive dur­ing elec­tion sea­son, even as the Justice De­part­ment’s de­cision this week not to bring charges re­moved an ex­ist­en­tial threat to Clin­ton’s pres­id­en­tial run. The biggest move: a power­ful House Re­pub­lic­an’s pledge to form­ally ask the FBI to re­view wheth­er Clin­ton lied to Con­gress about her email.”

Fox News Sunday - The matchless Shannon Bream anchors this week and welcomes guests including Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

[#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz wraps the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. and a re-airing at 5 p.m. ET.]

Blockbuster jobs growth in June eases fears of economic slowdown - USA Today

Trump lags Romney, McCain in key demographics, especially married women - Pew Research Center

Jonah Goldberg explains why he thinks Newt Gingrich could be the right veep pick for Trump - NRO

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accepts invite to speak at RNC - The Hill

Trump meets with GOP lawmakers for unity but doesn’t go so smoothly -
USA Today

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., returns to Florida to face federal charges for misusing campaign funds - Roll Call

“I think his response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list. There is no Article XII. It was the normal stream of consciousness that’s long on hyperbole and short on facts.” – Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., explaining to reporters how Donald Trump stumbled in answering a question from a House member about Trump’s view of the Constitution’s separation of federal powers in Article I. The government’s charter has seven articles but 33 amendments.

“The Democrats may have sung the virtues of Comey as the greatest public servant & paragon of virtue. Rep. Gowdy outlined all the HRC lies re: emails. Comey did not disagree or refute.  Now, let the Democrats sing how HRC is a paragon of virtue without establishing their own lack of integrity, character & morality to match hers.” – Mike Larson, Walton, K.Y.

“Looking at and hearing some of the comments from FBI Director Comey makes me wonder if we could see perjury charges against Hillary Clinton from her testimony to the Benghazi committee.  Comey is saying she lied about things she said under oath.  Isn’t that the definition of perjury?” – Keith Laudermilch, Pottsville, Pa.

“I watch the Rasmussen poll since they used likely voters. Many of the polls use registered votes which historically not been as accurate. I notice yours are the latter, why not use ‘likely’ all the time instead of just before election.” – Ric Fox, Sarasota, Fla.

[Ed note: We are still four months away from the election so many pollsters don’t feel comfortable tightening voter screens so early. After all, July’s unlikely voter may turn likely by November or vice versa. But we still include polls of registered voters, and likely voters in our averages. We don’t include the research firm you mentioned and some others because they use automated systems –“robo calls” – that cannot call cell phone users. ]

If you are financially able to assist the families of the officers killed in the Dallas attack, consider giving to any of the reputable charities for survivors. One that is highly rated by the team at Charity Navigator is COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors). You can click here to find out more.

“I think [FBI Director James Comey] did not want to be remembered as the guy who changed the course of American political history.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up