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On the roster: Dems still not ready to get serious - I’ll Tell You What: Workin’ It - Trump confronts Putin, embraces NATO in Polish address - Election probe boss calls state complaints ‘fake news’ - That place was the bomb

Democrats have come in for a great deal of mockery over a silly promotion in which supporters were asked to vote on their preferred slogans for campaign stickers.

One of the options was, “I mean, have you seen the other guys?”

This is some undeniably weak sauce right there. It probably only reflects the foolish, stale snark of some poor intern tasked in finding a way to flog the same donors for another $5.

What makes it significant, though, is that it was unintentionally true – just as it is for Republicans.

One of the reasons Democrats take so much delight in every gaffe of President Trump is that they believe they are just a few more crummy tweets and bumbled initiatives away from recapturing Congress and, eventually, the White House.

Partisans always delight in the foibles of their opponents, but the Blue Team is doing it with all of the subtlety of the crowd at a wet t-shirt contest.

We will not here rehash all the old business about the patriotic obligations to govern, but there are even practical political considerations for members of opposing factions finding areas in which to work together.

Whether you trace its origins to the attack on Judge Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination, the impeachment of Bill Clinton or some other turning point, by the time 2007 rolled around and the minority party was voting against even an increase to the federal borrowing limit to pay for a war Congress had already authorized, the idea of strategic cooperation was kaput.

Partisans have always fondly wished for their rivals to fail, but as we have seen through now three presidents and with both parties alternately in control of different branches, weaponized obstruction rules the day in Washington.

The net result has been a relentless race to the bottom in which the parties are essentially daring voters to choose them. The 2016 election was particularly gross. One party promised the end of Western civilization if the other guys won and the other side said, literally, that all human life on earth hung in the balance in the choice between two unpopular politicians.

The problem for Democrats as they look forward to 2018 is that they can’t be so sure that they are the second worse option in the eyes of voters.

Yes, the party can take heart from polls that show voters by a clear margin prefer Democrats to be in control of Congress than Republicans. But, with an incumbency rate of 97 percent in the last election cycle, it will take more than a clear but modest margin for Democrats to win the 24 House seats they need to recapture the lower chamber for the first time since 2010.

While the party can hope that Republicans will let them define political deviancy down again and deliver a wave of opposition to reward Democratic obstruction. Depending on the day and whether the president had free time with his phone in the morning, that looks like either a good bet or a bad one.

But what it is not is helpful to the party or to the country. As Republicans now stagger around like a pack of tranquilized elks we see the dangers of utter obstructionism.

“Repeal” in 2010 turned into “repeal and replace” in 2012. But in the four years after agreeing that some system would have to be put in ObamaCare’s place, Republicans never bothered to come up with what that replacement would be.

As a result we have watched the GOP start out with delayed repeal for a vague replacement to what essentially was a suite of cuts to ObamaCare programs but no repeal and now, finally, what amounts to a fight of how to keep the law operating next year.

One of the main drawbacks to “have you seen the other guys” as a campaign strategy is that eventually you might succeed and then you are the “other guys.” And unlike more positive campaigning of the past, you arrive with no mandate other than not being as detestable as someone else. Moreover, it’s hard to really show yourself as the less detestable one if all you do is carp.

But where would Democrats go to find their voice and purpose for next year?

Former Bill Clinton pollster Mark Penn and former New York City Council President Andrew Stein suggest in today’s NYT that the place to go for Democrats is, not surprisingly, back to the center.

This is not only right but inevitable. History shows the same cycle playing over and over again. Success breeds excess when it comes to ideologies. The better a party does, the more pungent its ideological base becomes. Conversely, enough time in the wilderness will make survivalists of anyone, and that includes even the staunchest ideologue.

Just look at the arc of the past few decades. It took three consecutive presidential defeats and the loss of the House of Representatives for the first time since Harry Truman was president to shock Democrats into the middle, but they got there.

Or consider the more compact arc of the GOP that was obsessed with ideological purity in 2012 and riven constantly by doctrinal fights only to nominate and support a candidate with a hodgepodge of views ranging from fairly far left to center-right.

Humans usually need to suffer enough before they’re willing to give up on long-held beliefs and practices. It remains to be seen, though, that Democrats have suffered enough yet. One of the dangerous fictions sold by the party’s 2016 nominee is that the loss was a result of rigging. Other than being an embittering and disuniting stance for a politician, it also invites Democrats to ignore the lessons sent to them by voters.

Unless and until Democrats can let Robert Mueller do his job so they can do their own, that doesn’t seem likely to change.

“[The government] will indeed deserve the most vigilant and careful attention of the people, to see that it be modeled in such a manner as to admit of its being safely vested with the requisite powers.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 23

Atlantic: “In 2005, astronomers discovered a star unlike any other in the Milky Way. Most of the billions of stars in the galaxy, including our sun, travel at an average speed of about 800,000 kilometers, or 500,000 miles, per hour. But this star? It was moving three times faster than that, hurting across space at 2.5 million kilometers, or 1.6 million miles, per hour. Since then, astronomers have discovered about 20 of these fast-moving stars, known as hypervelocity stars. They’ve also been trying to pin down their origin. The leading theory comes from a 1988 paper that predicted the existence of hypervelocity stars, years before the first one was observed. It suggests a hypervelocity star starts out as one-half of a binary star system that gets too close to the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center. The black hole captures one star, pulling it into a tight orbit, and pushes away the other, slingshotting it across the galaxy at enormous speeds.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -13.2 points
Change from one week ago: -0.6 points

This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt tackle topics including the threat of a North Korean ICBM, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s beach day and whether there will be drama or no drama during the president’s meeting with Russian President Putin. Plus, Chris tackles presidential nicknames and Dana shares about her new snack find: trail mix with meat…? LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE


WaPo: “WARSAW — President Trump reaffirmed the United States' commitment to a collective-security pact with European allies and criticized Russia for ‘destabilizing activities’ during a speech here Thursday in a public square in Poland's capital. Addressing a friendly crowd, Trump heaped effusive praise on Poland as he made the case for defending Western civilization against challenges posed by ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ and ideological extremism. ‘The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken, and who have never forgotten who they are,’ Trump said in a speech delivered at the Warsaw monument to the 1944 resistance against German occupation… His speech included an explicit commitment to Article 5, the collective security provision of the NATO treaty: ‘The United States has demonstrated not merely with words, but with its actions, that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,’ he said.”

Buuuuutttttt… Raises doubts about U.S. intelligence on foreign trip - AP: “On the eve of his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to confront ‘new forms of aggression’ targeting the West and called for Moscow to stop fomenting unrest around the world. Yet he pointedly stopped short of condemning Russia for meddling in the U.S. election. … It was a critique that the president did not appear to extend to Russia's actions last year during the presidential campaign. In a news conference before his speech, Trump questioned the veracity of American intelligence about foreign meddling in the U.S. election, arguing that Russia wasn't the only country that may have interfered. ‘Nobody really knows for sure,’ Trump said.”

Trump aides want Kremlin critic in Putin meeting - Daily Beast: “According to two White House aides, senior Trump administration officials have pressed for [Fiona Hill]—the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia and the author of critical psychological biography of Putin—to be in the room during the president’s highly anticipated meeting with Putin. If Hill is there, these officials believe, it will help the White House avoid the perception that the president is too eager to cozy up to the Kremlin. The hope is to avoid a repeat of Trump’s last meeting with top Russian officials, during which he disclosed classified intelligence to two of the country’s top diplomats—and was pictured by Russian state media looking particularly friendly with them.”

Politico: “Conservative groups are aggressively backing Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruzin their bid to move the Senate Republicans' Obamacare repeal bill further to the right, setting up a major confrontation between the party’s warring factions next week. On Wednesday afternoon both FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to adopt an amendment from Cruz of Texas and Lee of Utah that would largely gut Obamacare’s regulatory regime. The move is significant: Without at least a neutral stance from conservative groups, it could be impossible for McConnell to find the 50 votes needed to pass a repeal this month. … Cruz and Lee’s Consumer Freedom Act would allow the sale of noncompliant healthcare plans as long as insurers offered plans that also covered pre-existing conditions and other terms mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Lee and Cruz… have been pushing their colleagues privately to adopt the language…”

USA Today: “States aren't embracing President Trump's voter fraud panel with the same enthusiasm he had when he announced it. An analysis found nearly all states and Washington, D.C., have denied the president's commission in one way or another. The commission requested voter data from states last week. But the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been stymied by some state officials who flat-out refused to hand over the information while others said they could fulfill just part of the request. On Wednesday, the commission's vice chairman Kris Kobach took umbrage with news accounts of states rejecting the request. ‘While there are news reports that 44 states have ‘refused’ to provide voter information to the Commission, these reports are patently false, more ‘fake news,’’ said Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state, in a statement.”

Voter fraud commission may have violated law The Hill: “President Trump’s voter fraud commission may have violated the law by ignoring federal requirements governing requests for information from states, several experts on the regulatory process told The Hill. Experts say the failure to submit the request to states through the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) violates a 1980 law known as the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). They also say the failure could be significant, since states could argue it means they are under no obligation to respond.”

Hack attack? - Bush Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff warns of potential national security risks in assembling such a large trove of information about American voters.

Hopes of ‘Trump bump’ for U.S. economy fade - NYT

Trump’s aides build their own empires in the West Wing - Politico

To punish NoKo, US weighs sanctions on Chinese companies - AP

18 Democratic state attorneys generals sue DeVos over student loans Politico

Rep. Steve Scalise readmitted into hospital due to concerns of infection - WaPo

Justin Trudeau says EU-Canada trade deal is ‘model to the world’ - Politico

“Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand. You put the supply out there and the demand will follow.”– Energy Secretary Rick Perry quoted by a reporter for SPG on a tour of a West Virginia coal plant.

“The realization of additional leisure time is a bigger issue than how much of it is spent on video games. I play video games as an escape and to set aside the tasks of my 50-60 hour work week for a short time. If there is a trend of irresponsibility, the source is not digital. We're analog.” – Chris McNutt, Puyallup, Wash.

[Ed. note: I could not agree more, Mr. McNutt! You are referring to this week’s “I’ll Tell You What” podcast in which kale enthusiast and wise woman Dana Perino and I discussed the study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows that the reduced number of work hours for young men – 12 percent less in 2015 than in 2000 – is not attributable to a weak job market. Instead the bureau found that the decline mirrored an increase in the amount of leisure time for men of the same age. As the NYT observed, some experts attribute this shift to the sense of purpose and community that online gaming provides to young men – characteristics that might be missing from a 9-to-5 job in some “Office Space” gig. The correlation between less work and more play for young men isn’t necessarily the fault of games themselves. As we should always remember: correlation does not equal causation. It’s not unreasonable to believe that young men would be dropping out of the workforce and doing other things if online gaming wasn’t an option. As economists point out, Japan has not seen a similar shift in its workforce despite the enormous popularity of games there. The culprit here instead seems to be a culture that increasingly treats young men as annoyances or even dangers. As Dana and I discussed, the shift in American society toward gender equality has done many great things for women but increasingly seems to be leaving men behind. That’s not the fault of “Call of Duty” and certainly, like any other indulgence, there is a difference between use and abuse. I know there are many millions of American males who use games as you do: to unwind and disconnect in order to return to the real world more fully engaged.]   

“I don't often agree with your viewpoints but I respect them. I believe that the ACA should be repealed as part of the larger tax reform. The Solicitor General argued before the Supreme Court that the ACA was a TAX bill not a healthcare bill. The Supreme Court affirmed the ACA as a tax...” – Douglas Kelly, Pasadena, Calif.

[Ed. note: Yes, but... the taxes of the law can certainly be repealed as part of the overall tax plan –and that factors heavily into the thinking of the president and the House speaker – but you can't repeal insurance regulations as part of a tax bill. You can do a lot under budget reconciliation within certain parliamentary boundaries, but ultimately, Republicans cannot eliminate the law without specific legislation doing so. And thank you for your kind words. I can think of little praise higher than respectful, attentive disagreement. Thanks for reading and taking the time to write.]

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AP: “Workers at a Manhattan construction site dug up what appeared to be an unexploded World War II-era bomb, but turned out to be a time capsule from a New York City nightclub that helped launch Madonna's career. Police determined quickly that the device was not dangerous after crews found it Wednesday in the Flatiron section of Manhattan. It turns out the capsule was buried in 1985 by clubgoers and bartenders from the club Danceteria. Former owner John Argento told the Daily News of New York he bought it for $200 at an Army Navy store on Canal Street. He says the capsule was ‘an excuse to throw a party.’ Madonna was a regular at the club in the early 1980s and performed there. It closed in 1986.”

“Anybody who expects we're going to get help [with North Korea] from the Russians is whistling in the dark. The Russians have no interest in helping us out, the same way with the Chinese. They see a strategic advantage in retaining this thorn in our side.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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.