Not confirmation, affirmation

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On the roster: Not confirmation, affirmation - New storms buffet White House with Woodward book - Jon Kyl to replace John McCain - Poll: Florida gubernatorial race too close to call - HBD Helen

In journalism, we wage a long (and usually losing) war against unanchored statistics.

A 12 percent increase in onion ring sales… From what to what? The third most populous province of puffins… Out of how many and by what margin? Eighteen times longer than the previous record mud wrestling match… Which was how long exactly?

Without context, data can be more confusing than clarifying. Worse, it can be far more easily used to manipulate news consumers. A 200 percent increase in the occurrence of basset hound halitosis sounds a lot more alarming than saying that there used to be one and now there are three.

(Unless you’re the one they’re breathing on…)

Today’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee have been a master class in unanchored statistics. Republicans and Democrats nattering in each other’s general directions about 47,000 pages of this and the most documents ever provided of that.

Everything they’re saying is true – or at least supported by some evidence.

Have the Republicans released a pile of records heavier than a pregnant pachyderm about Brett Kavanaugh? Yep.

Have Democrats demanded and been refused a whole passel of potentially germane items? Yewbetcha.

The context that is missing, though, is that these documents don’t matter. In fact, these hearings don’t matter. Like so much else in Washington, this days-long gabfest is little more than a vehicle for the personal ambitions of the participants.

We’ve told you since the end of June when now-former Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement that, given the partisan composition of the Senate, any mainstream nominee by President Trump would be a shoo-in.

In Kavanaugh, Trump chose the mainest mainstreamer who has ever mainstreamed – impeccable credentials, establishment bona fides, a long record of service and a courtly manner.

Not only will Kavanaugh likely be conformed, he will likely be confirmed with four or five votes to spare given the approving murmurs coming from some red-state Democrats. Unless someone finds an opinion he wrote in support of putting peas in guacamole, this matter has been a moot point since July 9 when he was appointed.

So what’s the point of holding hearings when we already know how the senators will vote? There are a few holdouts, but one assumes that they will all, like Sen. Rand Paulin his self-parodic rapid reversal, return to their own partisan corners when it’s time to count votes.

The purpose of the hearings has little to do with the subject of the questions and quite a lot to do with the ones asking the questions.

Sen. Cory Booker, who has already declared his opposition to Kavanaugh, was one of the committee members who staged a protest at the beginning of the hearings to denounce the late release of documents. But even before the frustrated gavel taps from Chairman Chuck Grassley had faded, Booker was out with a fundraising email juicing supporters for help in 2020.

Then we found that the protests themselves were reportedly arranged in a conference call with Democratic leaders.

And if you needed further evidence of the real object of the hearings, just consider that the first day has been devoted exclusively to the business of letting senators speechify and posture.

But who will be offended? Like taking a meeting with shady operatives to dig some dirt on a political rival or flouting campaign finance laws, it seems to be a good enough excuse these days to say that you will do whatever it takes to win because the stakes are simply too high to play fair or do right.

Sen. Ben Sasse declared in his opening speech that these hearings have been a wreck in the 31 since the successful effort to stop the confirmation of Robert Bork. That may be so, but this vapid, partisan, fact-free session would seem to be evidence that we are slouching toward procedural Gomorrah at rather a swifter pace these days.

These are not confirmation hearings designed to help Senators advise the president and give consent. These are affirmation hearings designed to affirm and intensify the cynicism and ambitions of the participants.

“The standard of good behavior for the continuance in office of the judicial magistracy, is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78

The Atlantic: “ scientist Antonio Torralba noticed stray shadows on the wall of his hotel room that didn’t seem to have been cast by anything. Torralba eventually realized that the discolored patches of wall weren’t shadows at all, but rather a faint, upside-down image of the patio outside his window. The window was acting as a pinhole camera—the simplest kind of camera, in which light rays pass through a small opening and form an inverted image on the other side. The resulting image was barely perceptible on the light-drenched wall. … The experience alerted him and his colleague, Bill Freeman, both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to the ubiquity of ‘accidental cameras,’ as they call them: windows, corners, houseplants, and other common objects that create subtle images of their surroundings. These images, as much as 1,000 times dimmer than everything else, are typically invisible to the naked eye.”
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Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 39.8 percent
Average disapproval: 55.4 percent
Net Score: -15.6 points
Change from one week ago: down 5.6 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 41% approve - 53% disapprove; IBD: 36% approve - 56% dispparove; ABC News/WaPo: 38% approve - 60% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve - 56% disapprove - NBC/WSJ: 44% approve - 52% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
39.2 percent
Democratic average: 50.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 11 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 2.2 points
[Average includes: IBD: 50% Dems - 38% GOP; ABC/WaPo: 52% Dems - 38% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk: 50% Dems - 39% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 50% Dems - 42% GOP; Fox News: 49% Dems - 38% GOP.]

CNBC: “According to the book, titled ‘Fear,’ Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘a traitor,’ and complained ‘everybody's trying to get me’ after he learned that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election that sent Trump to the White House. Trump also called Sessions ‘mentally retarded.’ The president was also the subject of insults. He was called ‘unhinged’ and an ‘idiot’ by his chief of staff, John Kelly, Woodward's book says. And the president once phoned Defense Secretary James Mattis to say ‘Let's f---ing kill him’ after Syrian leader Bashar Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians, according to the book. … Woodward says in the book that he conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with participants and witnesses in the conversations he writes about. He also had taped notes, diaries and government documents.”

Kelly defends himself, denies allegations - WaPo: “White House chief of staff John Kelly defended himself against a new report Tuesday that he repeatedly questioned President Trump's intelligence and once described him as ‘unhinged.’ … Kelly said that Woodward's characterization is patently false and that it is simply another ‘attempt to smear people close to’ Trump. ‘The idea I ever called the President an idiot is not true,’ Kelly said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. ‘As I stated back in May and still firmly stand behind: ‘I spend more time with the President than anyone else, and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship. He always knows where I stand, and he and I both know this story is total BS.’’”

The WaPo published the transcript of the call - WaPo: “Over the course of 11-plus minutes, Trump repeatedly claimed his White House staff hadn’t informed him of Woodward’s interview request — despite also admitting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had told him Woodward wanted to talk. He also started the phone call by saying Woodward had ‘always been fair’ to him, but by the end he said the book would be ‘inaccurate.’ This is a transcript of that call, with key sections highlighted and annotated.”

Fox News: “Former Arizona senator Jon Kyl was tapped to replace Sen. John McCain, who recently lost his battle to an aggressive form of brain cancer. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the news Tuesday, writing on Twitter that he is ‘deeply grateful to Senator Kyl for agreeing to succeed his friend and colleague of so many years.’ Kyl will serve as a placeholder and is not expected to run in 2020 — the year voters will decide who will fill McCain’s seat for the following two years. After that, the seat will be open for a full six-year term. McCain's widow, Cindy, tweeted: ‘Jon Kyl is a dear friend of mine and John's. It's a great tribute to John that he is prepared to go back into public service to help the state of Arizona.’ Kyl was a longtime Republican senator in Arizona, serving from 1995 to 2012 before retiring from Congress in 2013. He left as the second highest-ranking Republican senator. Kyl, a longtime friend and colleague of McCain, wrote in The Weekly Standard following McCain’s death that the former Vietnam War hero ‘faced his inevitable end with courage and grace.’”

Quinnipiac University: “The Florida governor's race is too close to call, with 50 percent of likely voters for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democrat, and 47 percent for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today. There are wide gender and racial gaps, as men back DeSantis 52 - 45 percent, while women back Gillum 55 - 42 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds. White voters go Republican by a narrow 52 - 45 percent, as black voters go Democratic 93 - 2 percent. Hispanic voters go 56 percent for DeSantis and 43 percent for Gillum. Republicans back DeSantis 92 - 6 percent, as Democrats back Gillum 93 - 3 percent. Independent voters go to Gillum 55 - 42 percent.  Among Florida likely voters who name a candidate choice, 94 percent say their mind is made up. Gillum gets a 46 - 33 percent favorability rating, while DeSantis gets a split 45 - 43 percent favorability rating.”

Poll shows Dems gain advantage in midterms - WaPo: “Two months ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats hold a clear advantage over Republicans in congressional vote support, with antipathy toward President Trump fueling Democratic enthusiasm, even among those in the party who stayed home four years ago, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. The survey also points to broad unrest and frustration with the political system generally. More than 6 in 10 Americans say Trump and the Republican Party are out of touch with most people in the country. While Democrats fare better, a narrower 51 percent majority also judged them out of touch. Registered voters say they favor the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate in their district by 52 percent to 38 percent. That is a marked increase from the four-point edge in an April Post-ABC poll but similar to the 12-point advantage Democrats enjoyed in January.”

Alaska Dems face deadline on decision for governor’s race candidate - Anchorage Daily News: “With just a few days to go before the Tuesday deadline for Alaska candidates to withdraw from the Nov. 6 election, Democrats remain split on who to support in the three-way race for governor. Both Gov. Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, say they have no intention of dropping out of the race against Republican Mike Dunleavy, a former state senator. That's left at least some Democrats and others worried that Walker and Begich will split the vote, handing the governor's office to Dunleavy. ‘It becomes really a wild card,’ Rep. David Guttenberg, a Fairbanks Democrat, said about a three-way race. ‘You don't know what's going to happen.’ In Alaska's last election for governor, voters had the choice between two candidates: incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, and Walker, a Republican-turned-independent.”

Plaintiffs say too late to redraw NC’s districts for 2018 -
[Raleigh] News and Observer: “It is too late to redraw North Carolina’s congressional districts for the 2018 election despite a court ruling them unconstitutional, the winners in the state’s partisan gerrymandering case said Friday. The state chapters of Common Cause and The League of Women Voters won their gerrymandering case on Monday, but on Friday they wrote to the federal judges who had ruled for them that the November election is too soon to try to draw new maps. ‘Attempting to impose a new districting plan in time for the 2018 election would be too disruptive and potentially counterproductive,’ they wrote, adding that they reached their conclusion ‘with utmost frustration and regret.’”

AP: “Democrats know who their voters are. They just have to figure out how to get them to the polls in November — and that’s where the puppies come in. Students returning to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus this summer were greeted by therapy dogs for petting. Those lured by the chance to ruffle a dog’s ears were then asked to register to vote — a ‘Pups to the Polls’ gimmick that was just one of several similar events being staged in 11 battleground states by the liberal group NextGen America. Young people tend to vote for Democrats, but they also tend stay away during midterm elections. It’s a perennial frustration for the party — one they are trying to overcome as they seek to take control of Congress. NextGen America, formed by billionaire activist Tom Steyer, hopes to be a game changer. Steyer is investing more than $30 million in what’s believed to be the largest voter engagement effort of its kind in U.S. history. The push to register and get pledges from college students to vote is focusing on states such as Wisconsin, Virginia, California and North Carolina with competitive races for Congress, U.S. Senate and other offices.”

Biden to decide on 2020 by January - AP: “Shortly after Joe Biden boarded a recent flight from Washington to New York, a string of passengers began stopping at his seat in coach to deliver some version of the same message: Run, Joe, run. ‘We’re with you,’ one said, according to a Democratic strategist who happened to be on the plane and witnessed the scene. ‘You’ve got to do this,’ said another. Biden himself is more conflicted — but he is listening keenly to the supporters pushing him to run for the White House in 2020. Biden is convinced he can beat President Donald Trump, friends and advisers say, and he has given himself until January to deliberate and size up potential competition for the Democratic nomination, according to people who have spoken to the former vice president about his decision-making. In the meantime, Biden diligently maintains a network of supporters in key states, a group 30 years in the making, while some of those competitors are still making introductions.”

Thanks, for the primary help, Obama - The Hill: “Former President Obama is set to dive into the midterm elections next week with a speech in Illinois where he is expected to urge Democrats across the country to vote — addressing a problem that plagued the party in 2016. Obama has kept a low political profile since leaving office, but sources familiar with his plans say he will soon hit the campaign trail to help Democrats in their quest to take back the House, protect vulnerable Senate incumbents and win state legislative races. The former president will kick off his push by delivering a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Friday. In the weeks ahead, Obama will also campaign in California, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, a person familiar with his schedule said. Not all Democrats want Obama’s help.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces he will not seek re-election -
Fox News: “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that he is not seeking re-election for a third term amid withering criticism over his administration’s policies and a soaring violent crime rate in the Windy City. ‘As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I’ve decided not to seek re-election,’ Emanuel said at a press conference on Tuesday. ‘This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime.’”

Fox News: “Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is running for re-election in the typically deep-blue Massachusetts. Often considered to be one of the most popular governors in the U.S., Baker faces Scott Lively in the GOP primary. Baker has distanced himself from President Trump and hasn’t been afraid to criticize the administration. He’s signed laws to protect abortion rights and has supported more gun control and a minimum wage increase. Lively, on the other hand, is a pastor well known for his anti-gay sentiments. He said he is anti-abortion and is running against Baker to ‘bring Biblical values back into the political arena here’ on his campaign website. For the Democrats, environmentalist and activist Bob Massie and Jay Gonzalez, the former secretary of administration and finance under Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, are going head-to-head in Tuesday’s primary. But neither candidate has much name recognition outside Democratic activist circles. Fox News has ranked the gubernatorial election as leaning Republican.”

Warren is ready for a November challenge - WBUR: “It's primary day in Massachusetts and one of the races to be decided Tuesday is who will win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. The winner will face Sen. Elizabeth Warren in November. On Monday, the candidates campaigned across Massachusetts. Beth Lindstrom walked the Marlborough Labor Day parade. … Lindstrom, who owns a day spa in her home town of Groton, said her campaign has outworked its opponents. … After also taking part in the Marlborough parade, one of Lindstrom's rivals in Tuesday's primary, Geoff Diehl, visited his campaign headquarters in Braintree to thank volunteers making phone calls. Diehl, a state representative from Whitman who co-chaired Donald Trump's Massachusetts campaign in 2016, said he feels good about the election. … The third Republican candidate, John Kingston, had a late-day campaign event we were unable to attend. Kingston has more money to spend in this campaign than the others… No matter which Republican wins, Warren said she's ready for the challenge.”

Mass. House primary will test Capuano - Politico: “No one doubts the outcome in Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano’s district in November — the Democratic nominee will win in a blowout. But who that nominee is might be the most important question that gets answered in the final days of primary season. In the state’s most-watched race Tuesday, Capuano, 66, faces his first serious challenger since taking office in the late 1990s — Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, a 44-year-old African-American woman. It’s a test of whether a longtime liberal incumbent can withstand the wave of pent-up ambition surging through the Democratic Party, but that’s not all. Pressley is also pressing another issue, one that attracted national attention in the aftermath of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s massive upset victory against New York Rep. Joe Crowley in June…”

White House rolls back work safety protections - Politico

Trump’s NAFTA fight continues, negotiations pick up again Wednesday - Bloomberg

“When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls, things start getting nasty and bloody.” – Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus quoted by author Bob Woodward on the degree of infighting in the Trump administration.

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KTMF: “If you've ever visited the Montana Club in Missoula to celebrate your birthday, you know the restaurant chain offers a generous discount. Turning 38? Take 38 percent off your meal. One Western Montana woman has been taking full advantage of that discount every year since she turned 100. … Friday was no different for Helen Self. Surrounded by nearly two dozen family members and friends, she celebrated her 109th birthday. … When it was time to pay the check Friday, Montana Club owner Nick Alonzo honored the special birthday discount. Self got 100 percent off of her meal and then Alonzo gave her the nine percent back in cash. She kissed him on the cheek when he returned the money. ‘Oh thanks darlin,’ she said.”

“What happens when the red phone rings at 3 in the morning? I’d say: Let it ring. Let the wizard sleep. Forward the call to Defense Secretary Mattis.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on May 4, 2017.

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.