Dems' dangerous denial

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On the roster: Dems’ dangerous denial - Gates and Rice, whose firm represents Exxon, pushed CEO Tillerson - Trump tries for reboot with tech titans - Russians also targeted down-ballot Dems - Thanks, Siri

A good confidence man knows that his marks will do most of the work for him – if you just give them a chance.

People want to believe. And desperate people want desperately to believe, grasping at even the thinnest threads of hope.

Which brings us to the Democrats, circa December 2016…

The 50 states and the District of Columbia had all certified their results as of Monday: 306 votes for Republican Donald Trump and 232 for Democrat Hillary Clinton, the fewest electoral votes for any member of her party since 1988.

Now, state elections officials are summoning the 538 electors to the various capitols to cast their ballots on Monday, the results of which will be transmitted to Washington for recording and certification.

And then, the election will finally, blessedly be finished. We expect to see no tears at the interment. But in the five days that remain, some supporters of Clinton are making sure that there will be no death with dignity for this seemingly endless contest.

We have discussed the attempt to get federal intelligence agencies to provide the electors briefings about Russian interference in the campaign in a bid to prejudice them against Trump. The electors are bound by law to reflect the popular votes of their states, but as has sometimes happened before, they can chose to defy the law.

Think of it this way: Pass interference is illegal in football, but a defender might decide that stopping a touchdown is worth a 15-yard penalty.

Eminent political gadfly Lawrence Lessig a Harvard law professor, has offered to provide free legal representation to any renegade electors. He claims that as many as 20 Republican electors bound to Trump are considering defying the voters and casting their ballots for someone else. Not necessarily Clinton, mind you, but just not Trump.

Let’s assume, for the sake of folly, that was so. Lessig would still need 17 more just to put Trump under the required 270 votes. And if he could manage that, it would throw the election to the House… where Trump would win.

Peddling this hokum is certainly harmful to those – like the backers of the Green Party’s costly and pointless Midwestern recount push – who fall for it. As the Republicans who mounted increasingly absurd gambits to deny Trump the nomination found out, denial only sharpens the pain when the ax eventually falls.

But there is damage here beyond the shattered hopes of the true believers.

Worst of all, this bitter-enderism further degrades confidence in our already weakened institutions. Refusing to accept the results of a duly conducted election is straight Banana Republic business. We will all be poorer for the degree to which first Trump and now Team Clinton are diminishing our system of elections itself.

But there’s also the fact that this endeavor, which has the support of Clinton’s former campaign chairman, is ensuring that Democrats will take exactly the wrong lessons from their defeat.

The fast-hardening conventional wisdom on the Blue Team goes something like this: A toxic stew of sexism and white nationalism fueled Trump’s success with blue-collar white voters but Clinton couldn’t rally her own counteroffensive because Russian hackers and FBI DirectorJames Comey kept dropping bombs on her head.

You can certainly preach it that way. And when Clinton gathers with her biggest donors Thursday at a campaign wrap party at the Plaza Hotel in New York, there will be lots of versions of what the campaign’s communication director said at a CNN post-election slugfest between the two staffs: “I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”

Feeling virtuous about a defeat is nothing new. Many Republicans believed that their party lost four years ago by bribing voters with “free stuff” or that their nominee was too gentlemanly.

But the lesson in these tropes about the cause of Clinton’s defeat could greatly prolong the party’s time in the wilderness.

Rather than nodding knowingly about Russian hacks and Trump’s army of internet toads, Democrats would be better off spending their time reading Edward-Isaac Dovere’s piece on the staggering dysfunction of the Clinton campaign.

It reveals a campaign that became exactly what Democrats had feared: top-heavy, wasteful, musclebound and unable to adapt. The anecdotes would be heartbreaking for any Democrat: the desperate calls from state activists, the wasted money, the irrational data dependency. Simply a disaster.

We can say without any fear of correction that no campaign has ever spent more to achieve less.

With a weak candidate who has famously bad political judgment – you know, the kind of person who opts to run for president while under federal investigation – a campaign has to fill in the gaps. The Clinton campaign reinforced rather than compensated for her weaknesses: aloof, unadaptable and brittle.

But Democrats would rather focus on Russian interference. It’s understandable they would rather not face their own faults just yet, but they ought to think about the message they’re sending to voters.

As Megan McArdle perfectly put it: “‘The American voter had too much information about the Democrats’ is not a ringing slogan with which to argue that their party should really have won.”

A little self-pity after a big loss is understandable. But even the 2000 election had been settled by this point. It’s time for Democrats to get on with the hard part and start taking their own inventory.

[Watch Fox: The first post-election Fox News poll is out tonight on the mood of the country and how people feel about President-elect Trump on “Special Report withBret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET]

“The first question that offers itself is, whether the general form and aspect of the government be strictly republican. It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 39

Holiday classics take years to earn such a title, and A Christmas Story was no exception. Vanity Fair: “…[W]hen A Christmas Story premiered, in 1983, we suddenly had a new kind of holiday movie, one that acknowledged—even relished—the ‘unbridled avarice,’ the commercialism, the disappointments, the hurt feelings, and all-around bad luck that, in reality, often define the merry season. In other words, what real Christmas was like in real families…The movie’s director, Bob Clark, who died in a 2007 car accident, once recalled being in a restaurant in New Hampshire when he overheard a family at a nearby table speaking what sounded like dialogue from A Christmas Story. Turned out, it was. The maître d’ explained that it was a ritual every Christmas Eve for this family to come to the restaurant, sit around a table, and recite dialogue from every scene. ‘That’s when it began to sink in,’ said Clark. “This low-budget fluke of a movie” had become a quintessential Christmas tradition.”

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WaPo: “Donald Trump sat in his office at Trump Tower on Dec. 2 facing the most important choice of his transition to the presidency, and his indecision had set off a war among his top aides. Some favored Mitt Romney, who had trashed Trump during the campaign. Many wanted the ultimate loyalist, Rudolph WGiuliani. Others preferred Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) or retired Gen. David Petraeus. Trump, who hated being pressured when making important decisions, insisted that he needed more time. He seemed to have misgivings about all of them. Then, by happenstance, Trump welcomed into his office a man who has served presidents of both parties, Robert M. Gates…Trump asked whether there was someone else to consider. ‘I recommend Rex,’ Gates told Trump, referring to Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil. Gates said in an interview that he had not gone to the meeting intending to recommend Tillerson, and he did not recommend anyone else. Separately, on the previous day, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had proposed Tillerson to Vice President-electMike Pence. Rice and Gates, who run a consulting firm that counts ExxonMobil as a client, had jointly concluded that Tillerson might give Trump a fresh alternative.”

Warming trend - U.S. News: “The flood of support from such prominent GOP names and highly respected figures from the last Republican White House has appeared to lift Tillerson’s initial standing on Capitol Hill…Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, an outspoken critic of Trump during the presidential campaign, signaled that the endorsements of Tillerson carry ‘considerable weight.’ …Additionally, a handful of Republicans have raised concerns about Tillerson, a crucial factor given that the Texan will need at least 50 votes (plus Vice President-elect Mike Pence if there was a tie) to clear the Senate. Holding a slim majority, Republicans will have only 52 senators next year. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who will vet Tillerson's views on global hot spots, has said ‘being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for’ in a secretary of state.”

[Another top Trump nomination is already facing a possible delay in the Senate as Democrats claim they want more time to review Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., prior to the hearings on Jan. 10.]

LAT: “Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs made little effort over the last year to conceal their distaste for Donald Trump, a candidate whose social media savvy belied what they saw as a staggering disregard for the innovation economy and the tech culture that has fostered it. Now comes the reckoning. Some of the nation’s top tech CEOs will find out how much of a grudge Trump holds when they ride the elevator up to his office in Trump Tower on Wednesday. Tech titans including Apple Chief Executive Tim CookSheryl Sandberg of Facebook, ElonMusk of Tesla and SpaceX and Larry Page of Alphabet, the corporate parent of Google, have been summoned by Trump as firms scramble to adjust to a reality for which they had not prepared — a potentially hostile president-elect indebted to almost no one in Silicon Valley, save for an idiosyncratic fellow billionaire they don’t particularly like.”

IBM head announces 25,000 new jobs ahead of Trump meeting - IBM CEO Ginni Rometty argues there’s a skill-level gap in the tech field. Writing in an op-ed for USA Today ahead of her meeting with Trump, Rometty says IBM will have about 25,000 jobs to fill in the next four years, but says there needs to be more job training programs aimed at the tech market in order to have qualified workers.

[Tech giant Bill Gates talked to CNBC on Tuesday about his phone call with President-elect Donald Trump on promoting American innovation.]

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., has reportedly been tapped to serve as Interior secretary. The first-term congressman and former Navy SEAL was somewhat of a surprise after reports that Trump was leaning towards Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., for the position. The move is a potential lifesaver for Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who had been expecting a showdown with Zinke next year.

NYT: “Why the Russian government might care about these unglamorous House races is a source of bafflement for some of the lawmakers who were targeted. But if the goal of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, was to make American democracy a less attractive model to his own citizens and to Russia’s neighbors, then entangling congressional races in accusations of leaks and subterfuge was a step in the right direction. The intrusions in House races in states including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina can be traced to tens of thousands of pages of documents taken from the D.C.C.C., which shares a Capitol Hill office building with the Democratic National Committee.”

Duuuuuuuuude… - The Hill: “The hack and eventual release of a decade’s worth of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails may have been caused by a typo, The New York Times reported Tuesday in an in-depth piece on Russian cyberattacks. Last March, Podesta received an email purportedly from Google saying hackers had tried to infiltrate his Gmail account. When an aide emailed the campaign’s IT staff to ask if the notice was real, Clinton campaign aide Charles Delavan replied that it was ‘a legitimate email’ and that Podesta should ‘change his password immediately.’ Instead of telling the aide that the email was a threat and that a good response would be to change his password directly through Google’s website, he had inadvertently told the aide to click on the fraudulent email and give the attackers access to the account. Delavan told the Times he had intended to type ‘illegitimate,’ a typo he still has not forgiven himself for making.”

“We will win so much that you’re gonna go to Paul Ryan and say ‘Mr. Speaker, please, we can’t stand winning this much. We can’t take it.’ He is going to come to see me and say, ‘Mr. President, the people in Wisconsin are tired of winning so much.’” – President-elect Donald Trump at a rally in West Allis, Wisc.

New docs reveal Trump NSA pick Flynn improperly shared intel during Army tenure - WaPo

Aleppo’s fall to the Syrian government sets up Trump’s first major presidential test - AP

Energy Department refuses Trump team request for names of those who worked on Obama climate change plan - ABC News

Knives are out in Clinton World and they’re aimed at Huma Abedin - Vanity Fair

Too many votes in 37 percent of Detroit’s precincts - Detroit Free Press

Poll: Ed Gillespie has early lead in 2017 Virginia governor’s race - 
Quinnipiac University

Josh Kraushaar explains why Dems need to shift their focus to the suburbs - National Journal

Pelosi says GOP division will prevent them from passing ObamaCare repeal - The Hill

Kasich signs 20-week abortion ban, rejects heartbeat measure - NPR

“Well, I couldn’t stop laughing (out loud, at work) as I read the ‘Not So Funny Now’ section of today’s Halftime Report. You totally nailed it and helped me find humor amidst the craziness of the last month. Thanks for that - and for giving me my daily politics fix.” – Alisa Emerson, Denver, Colo.

[Ed. note: Certainly our pleasure, Ms. Emerson! Like one wily old politico who I covered many years ago taught me: You can take your job seriously without taking yourself seriously. Plenty of people in politics today get that exactly backwards.]

“Chris, each weekday I look forward to your thoughts.  I get a kick that a few of your readers manage to get their blood pressure up from some of your thoughts!  Seems to me friendly disagreement between intelligent people is the spice of life!  PLEASE don’t stop calling it as you see it, and - thanks for the obvious thought and time you and Sally put in for each and every report!” – Ernie Weaver, North Port. Fla.

[Ed note: Well, Mr. Weaver, I’m inclined – initially at least – to be indulgent of the ranters and ravers. That’s for a couple of reasons. First, we all know how easy it is to write an email in haste and anger that we later regret. Learning the judicious use of the “delete” function has been a bit of very valuable but hard won wisdom for me. It’s easy to be incautious with words, especially when directed toward someone you’ve never met. After all, who am I but some talking head on your TV screen? Second, these are painful and confusing times for people who genuinely love their country. The manic veering between hope and despair takes a lot out of our citizenry. That’s largely a function, I believe, of the way politics is played these days. Every election is framed as the most important one ever. Every choice is existential. Victory or oblivion. Some choices certainly matter more than others, but it is their concatenation that matters. Like golf, individual events matter far less than their groupings. A great drive, a perfect approach shot or a canny putt are always nice things. But they’re so much nicer when you put them in a row. Similarly, a pull-hooked tee shot, a chunked five iron or a smothered sand shot are always bad. But they’re only really problematic when they happen in succession. And if it’s hard to keep that in perspective when you’re on the golf course, it’s even harder to keep things in the proper frame when you feel that the life of the republic is in the balance. So it’s good for me to be obliging of people whose passions sometimes outrun their manners. I’ll always try to give them, ahem, a Mulligan. Thank you, and I will be sure to pass your kind words on to the ever-diligent and always perspicacious Ms. Persons.]

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

LEX18: “A routine trip to a local diner allowed Danville’s [Ky.] Police Chief to serve a side of a justice to some would-be robbers. According to the Danville Advocate Messenger, police say two suspects were sitting inside their car outside of Brothers’ BBQ discussing their plans to rob the restaurant. Unfortunately for them, one of the men had accidentally pocket dialed police dispatch. Serendipitously, Police Chief TonyGray was enjoying dinner and talking to owner Mike Southerland when he got a phone call…Gray was told that dispatch had picked up an accidental call and could hear people discussing robbing a business…Chief Gray and other responding officers searched the parking lot until they found the men in their car. One of them had a mask on his person. The men, identified as Robert Bourne and David Grigsby, have only been charged with public intoxication. The 911 tape will be turned over to the prosecutor’s office to see if other charges will be filed.”

“[Trump] gives the Energy Department to a man whose campaign died because he couldn’t remember the name of the department that he wanted to abolish of which he’s now going to be the head.  That’s good script writing, and I think he ought to remain executive producer of ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ He’s earned the credential.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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