Donald Trump, down to earth

On the roster: Donald Trump, down to earth - Time Out: Wolfgang leads the pack - Trump Labor nominee teetering - Netanyahu seeks ‘no gaps’ ahead of Trump meeting - Unabashed haberdasher

The departure of Michael Flynn as President Trump’s national security adviser has official Washington grinding like a chop saw on a ham hock.

To call it a full freak out would be an insult to freaks.

But as we have often discussed here, one of the most common conceits of humankind is that the matters of our own moment are unlike anything that have come before. While much of our current political condition is extraordinary, the truth is that we have been here before. Or at least in this neighborhood.

We will come back to Flynn and the current discombobulation at the White House, but first, let’s hop in the Wayback Machine.

It was Feb. 3, 2009 that the newly minted Obama administration hit the skids.

Recall the initial promise of the 44th president’s tenure: a cool, technocratic, center-leftism that would deliver liberal policies but with such smart efficiency that even the business world would stand up and cheer.

If you had “transformative” on your Beltway buzzword bingo game, congratulations.

Here was the idea: The Panic of 2008 and the deepening recession would make America ready for a new, pragmatic leftism powered by newly chic policy geeks, big data and the connectedness of its supporters that would sweep away the grubby, short-sighted politics of the previous 20 years in favor of strategic thinking.

President Obama was like FDR. No, wait. Like Lincoln. Hold on. He’s really Mr. Spock.

Front and center on the bridge of the Enterprise and channeling the excitement of the coming technocratic revolution was former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Though he had become a Washington influence peddler since getting bounced out on his fodder shocks by the voters of South Dakota in 2004, this transgression could be forgiven. Daschle was serving as the guru of what was and would, unfortunately for the new president, remain the centerpiece of his administration: a massive restructuring of the American health care system.

But revolutionizing American health care was just part of the transformation. The way government itself operated would change as well. Accordingly, the president ordered the creation of the position of “chief performance officer” and tapped management consultant extraordinaire Nancy Killefer to launch the office.

With a master’s in business from M.I.T. and a sterling record at mega-consultancy McKinsey & Co., Killefer was going to give the federal government the equivalent of a colonoscopy to root out waste, inefficiency and outmoded practices.

It was particularly important because Obama was pushing a $775 billion spending package that looked suspiciously like Washington business as usual, an unfocused heap of spending larded with goodies for powerful politicians and their friends.

Not so, said Obama, vowing Killefer would take “unprecedented measures to ensure that taxpayers keep track of how this money is spent.” Obama allowed that his plan would cause the deficit spending about which had been so bitterly complaining under his predecessor to further skyrocket.

The new president promised, though, that best practices imposed by Killefer and her fellows would ensure that the tide of red ink would soon be turned back and balanced budgets would return.

But then **poof** both she and Daschle were gone.

They had both failed to pay some of their taxes and having just pushed through Timothy Geithner’s nomination as treasury secretary despite his own tax foibles, the president and his administration had no appetite for further embarrassments of the same kind.

And in one day, the narrative changed. The transformational technocratic president and his team became bumblers whose arrogance and lack of experience was putting everything at risk. By April, the health law was a mess and the stimulus was a “shovel-ready” joke.

Now, we have no idea what twists and turns will follow Flynn’s late-night ejection from the Trump bubble. But we can know that this is one of those moments when the impossible expectations of a presidency come hurtling earthward.

Of course, the narrative around Trump was quite the opposite of the one that welcomed Obama. Trump was greeted as a fascistic destroyer who would turn the federal government into a ruthlessly efficient engine of sadistic racism and cruelty.

If Obama was going to turn America into “Star Trek,” Trump was staging a remake of “The Man in the High Castle.”

The good thing about the stumbles of presidential administrations is how they remind Americans of the real limits of practical power in our system. Remember that the best argument against conspiracy theories is the rank evidence of human incompetence everywhere.

If the Nixon administration couldn’t cover up a botched burglary do you think it really faked the moon landing?

Flynn’s tumultuous tenure was an easily avoided mistake. The president and his aides had been warned repeatedly about Flynn’s unnerving proximity to the Kremlin and bent toward other controversial views.

Trump, understandably grateful that Flynn had long ago staked his then-considerable reputation on backing Trump’s once-improbable presidential bid gave his “favorite general” the benefit of the doubt and assigned Flynn to the plum post

When Flynn was found to have misled Vice President Mike Pence about – of all subjects! – his contacts with Russian officials, the mistake was plainly evident. And, quite understandably, Flynn had to go before he further compromised the trust of the national security team or did more damage to the administration on the already fraught subject of Kremlin ties.


Trump has work to do in buttoning up his White House and finding some way to plug the leaks that so often plague factious administrations such as this one, but that’s not why Flynn is gone. He’s gone because he lived down to the expectations of his critics and proved to be a liability that exceeded his value to the president.

And that is the most normal thing of all for a new administration. And like every other administration this one will make more mistakes as it learns the ropes of governance. The failure of Flynn is just one of many moments in which the missed expectations of the new team will be painfully revealed.

Remember, it’s not just the press and the public with outsized ideas about what a new president is capable of...

“Divide et impera [divide and rule] must be the motto of every nation that either hates or fears us.” ― Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 7

Aletia: “
The artist who sold more albums than anyone in 2016 had no need to promote his work with an international tour. In fact, he has not given a concert himself in some 200 years (though his work is covered by other artists all the time). His name is more widely recognized than that of any living performer. According to a report published by Billboard, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart broke all records this year thanks to the publication of a new collection containing his entire musical work. Released in October, Mozart 225: The New Complete Edition is a 200-disc collection containing the complete catalogue of the Austrian genius: symphonies, concertos and even unfinished fragments are all included. Priced just over $300, the collction became the year’s top seller, leaving Beyoncé, Kanye, and Adele way behind. Although a little more than 6,000 copies of the collection have been sold, because it consists of 200 discs the total number of sold records amounts to 1,250,000. Not bad for an artist who has never made a music video or shown up at the Grammy Awards in a rhinestone tuxedo, huh?”

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

WaPo: “Andrew Puzder, the fast-food executive whom President Trump nominated to be labor secretary, emerged Monday as Democrats’ last, best hope of defeating one of Trump’s Cabinet choices as four key Republicans are on the fence about his nomination. … Puzder has also been accused of domestic abuse — an accusation that was later recanted — and has acknowledged hiring an undocumented worker for his home.  … The Republican senators who were noncommittal about Puzder’s nomination on Monday — Susan Collins (Maine), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Tim Scott (S.C.) — sit on the committee that will hold his confirmation hearing Thursday. If they oppose him, his nomination is all but certainly dead.”

Mnuchin minted as new Treasury chief - NYT: “The Senate confirmed Steven T. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood film financier, to be Treasury secretary on Monday, putting in place a key lieutenant to President Trump who will help drive the administration’s plans to overhaul the tax code, renegotiate trade deals around the world and remake financial regulations. By a vote of 53 to 47, the Senate confirmed Mr. Mnuchin, who was Mr. Trump’s top campaign fund-raiser. … The new Treasury secretary will have little time to celebrate. He will be under pressure to help finalize the Trump administration’s tax plan, accelerate the rollback regulations and raise the government’s borrowing limit. The administration has said it will release a comprehensive plan to rewrite the tax code in the coming weeks, and it will have to deal with the debt ceiling next month.”

McMahon steps into the ring - The Hill: “The Senate on Tuesday cleared pro wrestling magnate Linda McMahon to lead the Small Business Administration (SBA). McMahon, the World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder and former CEO, was approved by an 81-19 vote. She needed a simple majority vote to be confirmed. Despite her lack of government experience, McMahon found bipartisan support, clearing through the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee with only Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) voting against her.”

Reuters: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, preparing for his first meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, will work with advisers on Tuesday to align Israeli and U.S. thinking on the Middle East and ensure ‘no gaps’ remain…Those reassurances came as Netanyahu took a cautious line on whether he would support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the bedrock of U.S. diplomacy for two decades, when he sits down [Wednesday] with Trump. During the presidential campaign, Trump was often unabashedly pro-Israel, promising to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, backing David Friedman, a supporter of settlements, as his envoy to Israel, and saying that he wouldn’t apply pressure for talks with the Palestinians. But in the three-and-a-half weeks since taking office, positions have shifted.”

[Watch Fox: New Fox News poll numbers on President Trump’s job performance, top priority in the first 100 days and the president’s executive order on immigration are released at 6 p.m. ET on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”]

He knew he’d become a lightning rod” – Trump Adviser Kellyanne Conway in an interview with NBC on Gen. Michael Flynn’s decision to resign as National Security Adviser.

Top Dem on House Intel Committee says more to come on Flynn-Russia ties – Politico

Trump, Republicans eye ‘illegal’ leaks after Flynn resignation – Fox News

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., calls for exhaustive investigation of Trump-Russia connections - The Hill

At look at some possible replacements for Flynn - Roll Call

Gossip shop: Kushner holds Bannon tight - Vanity Fair

Trump scraps plans to sign measure repealing Obama coal rule in Ohio - WashEx

Judges on two coasts deal blows to Trump refugee ban - Bloomberg

White House posts wrong versions of Trump’s orders on its website - USA TODAY

White House to resume public tours after lawmakers complain - WashEx

If the phone calls are recorded and listened to, why all the hullabaloo?  Just listen and report.” – Geraldine Ross, Pennsylvania

[Ed. note: Oh, don’t I wish I had access to them, Ms. Ross! The point I was aiming for on Monday was that while the secrets are seldom divulged, they are known to someone. Presidents often succeed in keeping things secret from the public, but their work requires that those around them are aware of what’s happening. That’s not just to help them implement the orders but also protect the boss from spies and the release of false information. It’s a lonely life there in the middle of the presidential fishbowl. We should be grateful that so many good men throughout our history have been willing to pay the price.]

“You and Dana are outstanding. I wish you were on more than once a week. If you weren't a Cardinal fan, i would give you even more compliments about
your outstanding work on Fox, but enough is enough. Looking forward to pounding the Cardinals again this year and listening to you and Dana continue.” – George Lesniak, Chicago

[Ed. note: Your note reaches me just as pitchers and catchers report so I am awash with the good spirits that always emerge from the start of another season. I am full of hope and good cheer. So I have decided: I’m fine with the Cubs keeping up their current pace of championships. One every 108 years sounds just right to me!]

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

Daily Mail: “An angry tailor has sent its customer a shirt emblazoned with male genitalia after she complained about its alteration work to her $2,000 suit. Perth lawyer Francesca Bucolo said the shirt – featuring dozens of penises - was personally delivered to her Perth office on Friday. … The delivery comes three months after Ms Bucolo sued LGFG Fashion House over a $2,000 three-piece suit which she bought in May last year. … Ms Bucolo said she was forced to return the suit to the Canada-based tailor eight times, before she finally gave up and resorted to taking legal action to get her money back. LGFG Fashion House offered Ms Bucolo a 50 per cent refund on the suit and five free tailored shirts to settle the lawsuit out of court. But when the shirts were personally delivered to her office on Friday, three months after the settlement, Ms Bucolo said she was disgusted.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.