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On the roster: Is Russia part of the West? 
Power Play: Baier trap? - McConnell fires warning shot on ObamaCare - Boom: Jobs report shows big gains - But is he loxed up yet?

President Trump 
called on Western nations to unite in the spirit of self-preservation and in defense of civilization itself.

A pertinent question: Does that include Russia? 

If we understand “the West” as the secular successor to Christendom, then maybe. Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, very much see themselves as not just part of that sphere but as protectors of the true Eastern Orthodox faith. 

In fact, even as people in America and Western Europe look upon Russia as some benighted backwater, Putin and his fellows embrace the concept of Moscow as the “third Rome.” 

In this telling, the true faith and the rightful seat of Christendom was driven from both Roman capitals as they fell – first Rome itself then Constantinople – to be salved and succored in Moscow and at St. Basil’s.    

It may sound silly to post religious Western ears, but it is along with a paternal protectionism of all Slavic peoples a central part of Putinism. So in that sense, that would make Russia part of “the West.”

But despite what Trump’s critics have claimed, the president wasn’t talking about the West as the Christian world. He seemed to be more plainly invoking those ideas laid out by Samuel Huntington and others that see “the West” as the philosophical descendants of the ancient Greeks. 

In this version, enlightenment and the understanding of the individual’s inherent humanity and rights flowered in the city-states of Greece, expanded along with the Roman Empire, absorbed the religious humanism of the teachings of Jesus and exploded across the world during the Enlightenment. 

Looked at this way, America is the culmination of a long, often uneven, but relentless march toward liberty, in which human beings possess inalienable rights by the gift of their creator and are to be afforded the greatest degree of personal freedom and self-determination possible. 

And if that’s what we’re talking about then, no, Russia is most decidedly not part of “the West.”

And in that sense, Russia would be quite fine with that since what Putin and his followers see when they look across to Europe and the United States is a decadent, immoral and ever-weakening culture.

As we discussed above, Russia does not see itself as a backward Western power but rather as a colossus bestride two continents and the defender of a culture which will preserve humanity. 

They are every bit as convinced that their hard-bitten, collectively oriented culture is humanity’s saving hope as Westerners are that their enlightened individualism is the only way to go. 

Yes, relentless propaganda, government dishonesty and fear of reprisals keep Russians behind strongman Putin. But so also does a collective cultural belief that Russia is not only great, but has a great role to play in the world. 

Remember also that much of Putin’s appeal comes from the way the Cold War ended. The culmination of the decades-long conflict for Americans was balanced budgets and new business opportunities around the world. For Russians, the end meant humiliation, privation and an era of lawlessness. 

Putin, like every good authoritarian, knows that the way to consolidate power is to focus on what people find shameful and frightening and promise to restore pride and strength.

So if Russia isn’t part of the West – sorry Peter I and Catherine II – then what shall the West do about Russia?

Despite onetime dreams of Russia joining the American sphere of influence and even becoming part of NATO, deep alliance with a power as secretive and mistrustful as Russia is probably not the case. 

The avoidance of conflict? Certainly. Conditional cooperation? Yes. A brotherhood of nations? Not a chance.

House Dems slow Russia sanctions bill passed by Senate - Politico: “But on Thursday, House Democrats objected to speedy consideration of the fix… At issue in the ongoing dispute over the bill, which imposes new sanctions on Russia and Iran, is the impact of the House's proposed fix. Even though the Senate agreed to changes that Democrats on that side of the Capitol described as merely technical, House Democrats disagree.”

Warning signs that Russia hackers targeting U.S. nuclear facilities - NYT: “The joint [Department of Homeland Security and F.B.I.] report… carried an urgent amber warning, the second-highest rating for the sensitivity of the threat. The report did not indicate whether the cyberattacks were an attempt at espionage — such as stealing industrial secrets — or part of a plan to cause destruction. There is no indication that hackers were able to jump from their victims’ computers into the control systems of the facilities, nor is it clear how many facilities were breached.”

De Blasio races to Germany to protest G20 summit - NY Post: “Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday skipped an NYPD swearing-in ceremony made somber by this week’s assassination of a cop — then hours later revealed he was busy preparing to jet off on a surprise trip to join leftist protesters at the G-20 summit in Germany. Hizzoner’s overseas jaunt was kept under wraps until just 90 minutes before he took off from Newark Airport. A last-minute announcement said he ‘will attend several events surrounding the G-20 Summit, including Saturday’s Hamburg Zeigt Haltung rally.’”

Poll shows Americans hold dim view of Russia, and mistrust for Trump - new poll conducted for PBS NewsHour by Marist College, President Trump only enjoyed a 6-point advantage over Russia ruler Vladimir Putin on the question of which man was a more effective leader. The same poll showed that more than half of voters believe that had done something illegal or at least unethical in his dealings with the Russian leader. 67 percent of respondents saw Russia as a threat.

Mueller taps broad range of talent for Russia probe - WSJ: “In a few weeks on the job, special counsel Robert Mueller has assembled an elite team of lawyers with expertise in national security, public corruption and financial crimes, suggesting he is taking a broad view of his mandate to probe Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.”

One speech, two very different reactions - Conservative voices like the WSJ’s editorial page were thrilled with President Trump’s unflinching defense of a unified western world and his celebration of its virtues, especially as opposed to some of the darker rhetoric of his prior remarks. Those on the left, however, were appalled at what many of them said was racist rhetoric. Here’s a sample: 

“But—and this shocked Washington—the speech aimed higher. Like the best presidential speeches, it contained affirmations of ideas and principles and related them to the current political moment. … This was more than a speech, though. It was an argument. One might even call it an apologia for the West.” – WSJ Editorial Board

“‘We write symphonies.’ … In that one line, taken in context with everything else Trump said, what I heard was the loudest of dog whistles. A familiar boast that swells the chests of white nationalists everywhere.” – Jonathan Capehart for WaPo

“In the extended republic of the United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties, and sects which it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good…” – Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 51

It was 70 years ago today that a New Mexico rancher, Mac Brazel, presented Chaves County Sheriff George Wilcox with a collection of what Brazel described as “rubber strips, tinfoil, and rather tough paper, and sticks” that the rancher found on his property about 80 miles northwest of the county seat – Roswell. That debris and that little town by the Pecos River were about to have their date with history. The sheriff called the nearby Army Air Corps base to see if the folks there knew what it was all about. The commander there dispatched Maj. Jesse Marcel investigate. Marcel made the fateful choice to make a public statement to local reporters that led to the headline “[Army] Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell” in the paper the next day. The debris was actually from one of the spy balloons the military sent into the ionosphere to monitor for traces of potential Soviet nuclear tests, but a public already crazed by talk of little green men wouldn’t hear much about that.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -13.2 points
Change from one week ago: -0.8 points

We know you love our game, so we decided to make it even better! This week Chris Stirewalt moderates the weekly news and trivia quiz with an all new graphics package. We welcome Fox News’ own Bret Baier and RealClearPolitics Associate Editor AB Stoddard to the floor as friends, but who will take home the bacon cotton candy? WATCH HERE

WaPo: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that if his party fails to muster 50 votes for its plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act, it will have no choice but to draft a more modest bill with Democrats to support the law’s existing insurance markets. The remarks, made at a Rotary Club lunch in Glasgow, Ky., represent a significant shift for the veteran legislator. While he had raised the idea last week that Republicans may have to turn to Democrats if they cannot pass their own bill, his words mark the first time he has explicitly raised the prospect of shoring up the ACA. ‘If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,’ McConnell said. ‘No action is not an alternative. We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.’”

Lee, Cruz dig in - Axios: “Sen. Mike Lee won't vote for the Senate GOP health care bill without the addition of a controversial amendment he's championing with Sen. Ted Cruz… ‘The entire bill is unacceptable without the Consumer Freedom Option,’ Conn Carroll, Lee's spokesman, wrote in an email. … Saying he'll vote no without the conservative amendment is a harder line than just saying ‘the bill can be improved’ (the line Cruz has been taking). But moderates are worried about both the policy and politics of potentially making coverage unaffordable for sick people, and senior GOP aides say touching pre-existing conditions protections will automatically sink the bill.”

Business Insider: “The US economy gained 222,000 jobs in June, many more than expected, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Economists had forecast that nonfarm payrolls increased by 178,000, according to Bloomberg. The excess number of people employed in June over those who were laid off or fired was revised upward for both April and May. That left the June job gains roughly in line with the average increases this year and did not vastly change the overall picture of employment. … The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4% from a 16-year low of 4.3%. The increase was viewed as a positive indication that more people were entering the workforce, as the labor-force participation rate indeed increased to 62.8% from 62.7%. … Economists expect wages to be rising at an even faster pace because the unemployment rate is near a post crisis low, and so there should be more competition for skilled workers.”

Loretta Lynch’s lawyer issues denial on obstruction claim Politico

Kamala Harris gets star treatment as a freshman NYT

The back story on Washington’s outrage of the week - the House ban on sleeveless dresses - The Weekly Standard

Our Fox News colleague Chris Wallace sits down with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to talk about the G20 Summit and the Trump Team agenda. Plus, Mr. Sunday will talk with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) about passing the healthcare reform bill. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz -
 Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

“I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it’s awful.” – Maine Governor Paul LePage’s (R) response to how the media reported he planned to leave the state during a budget impasse.

“Of course they aren't serious... yet. [ObamaCare] is shaping up as a lose-lose-lose for the Republicans. In a while the Dems will step in and save the Republicans from themselves and heroically rescue Trumpcare. The only solution, if there is one, is for repeal first, thus negating single payer, which is entrenched in [ObamaCare]. Only then can the Republicans craft a health care system wholly their own, God willing!” – Harry Albert, Chesapeake City, Md.

[Ed. note: You might be right, Mr. Albert, but I don’t think it looks like we’ll get the chance to find out. Republicans seem to be shying away from the idea of repeal-then-replace and moving the debate to the narrower ground over what to do about the imploding individual insurance market before this fall. A successfully executed punt might be the best the GOP can pull off before then. At least that’s better than getting sacked for a loss on fourth down.] 

“I always enjoy your column, but [Thursday’s] issue (July 6) left me chuckling at the mental images you evoked.  From Democrats delighting like a crowd at a wet t-shirt contest to Republicans staggering around like a pack of tranquilized elk, I couldn’t stop laughing.  You have outdone yourself this time! Keep up the good work!” – Brian King, Liberal, Mo.

[Ed. note: The real problem, Mr. King, is if the elk show up at the wet t-shirt contest. That’s always trouble. Thanks for reading and taking the time to write!]

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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Forward: “An armed gunman entered a Miami-area TD Bank branch at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning, ordering employees and customers onto the ground and firing two shots into the ceiling. No one was injured, but the shooter escaped with a substantial sum of money — and a stolen kosher bakery van. The truck belongs to local kosher bakery Zak The Baker, which took to Facebook to express their frustration… The Public Information Bureau of the Miami-Dade County Police Department said the case is being handled by the FBI and was unable to provide additional information. Zak the Baker was not immediately available for comment. FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock told local news the stolen van was later recovered around 1 p.m. about 3.5 miles away. … Miami FBI Public Affairs Specialist Jim Marshall told the Forward that no arrests have been made in relation to the bank robbery. But if he is caught, he’ll be toast.”

“The contrast was to Trump's own inaugural address. This was a refutation root and branch of the ideas underlined in the inaugural address which was America first, the allies are parasites, we’re going to stick up for ourselves. It was none of that. It was the opposite.” – 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.