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On the roster: Of Hugh Hefner and Roy Moore - I’ll Tell You What: All the Moore Strange - Bannon vows to keep bringing the pain to GOP - Health care, taxes weigh down Trump approval - *Cough, cough*


One of the field marshals of the culture war that has racked America for the past 60 years has gone on to that great, groovy cocktail party in the sky.

With the passing of Hugh Hefner, many commentators have marveled at how the man who helped make pornography mainstream altered the arc of American culture, and by extension, history. There would have been a sexual revolution without Hefner, but it would have lacked his intellectualized, silk-robed touch.

Hefner and Roy Moore, the Republican insurgent who toppled a sitting senator in this week’s Alabama primary runoff, would seem to have nothing in common beyond a penchant for dramatic attire.

But in truth, they are deeply connected as warriors in America’s endless fight over morality and culture.

When we think of the culture wars and the fights over social issues, we must first remember that prior to World War II, America had relatively little in the way of a common culture.

A century ago, the mores and lifestyle of an Illinois farm boy would have been foreign to a New Orleans saloon keeper, whose own way of life would have been quite unrecognizable to a Wyoming ranch hand, who wouldn’t have known what to make of how people lived in the tenements of Hell’s Kitchen.

Without the constant connections of mass media, America could boast a dozen or more cultures, some robust, some blighted and others just taking shape. It was only through the rise of radio, movies, television and truly national publications that there was even really a common culture to fight over.

The Chicago in which Hefner was born 91 years ago looked very little like Moore’s Alabama of the day, and that didn’t matter much to the people in either place. And by the time Hefner was publishing a new kind of nudie magazine, plenty of folks in Chicago were already hip to the scene. Alabamians would have been more likely to call the sheriff.

America’s common culture today is the product, yes, of happy collaborations and the kind of wonderful serendipities that produce marvels like the music of Hank Williams, the poetry of Langston Hughes and the cuisine of David Chang. Only in America, folks.

However, much of what we consider our common culture today was forged out of the conflict between what had previously been regional folkways. It was hard enough to get Alabama and Chicago to agree on how to form a government. Good luck getting them to agree on how much skin you can show in a magazine shipped through the United State Postal Service.

As those battles have raged, most notably of late in the matter of same-sex relations, it has left scar tissue where a culture ought to be. If America is increasingly a burned-over country when it comes to our public life, it is mostly because of conflicts over social issues.

And that is precisely because the issues that have most energized American political life in the past 60 years are substantially beyond the facility of our government to address.

Authoritarian states are just marvy at enforcing behavioral codes and imposing social norms. Cover your head or don’t? Grow a beard or shave it off? Use certain pronouns and not others? Celebrate this holiday and not that? Stand or kneel? Which bathroom shall you use? These are questions that authoritarian states can and do readily answer all the time.

A republic, on the other hand, has no good way to answer these issues. The Constitution is aimed at establishing maximal individual freedom within the confines of the rule of law. Freedom means denying the government the power to solve these nagging questions.

That’s good for business for the culture warriors like Hefner, at least until his original business model was obliterated by those who didn’t bother to serve wine and cheese at the orgy.

And it’s also been very helpful for politicians on either side, like Moore, who promise to use the government to remedy lapses. The crusaders on the social justice left and those on the culturally conservative right form a perpetual motion machine of making impossible demands of a government that cannot solve the problems and then capitalizing on those inevitable failures.
The outlook, we are afraid to say, is that it will be cultural issues, not government programs and policies, that will dominate national politics for the foreseeable future.

Like Hef knew, we just can’t look away. 
“The fortunes of disunited America will be even more disastrous than those of Europe.”– James MadisonFederalist No. 41

Smithsonian: “Many inventions are intended to solve problems – like the bendy straw. The now-ubiquitous drinking tool was patented on this day in 1937 by an inventor named Joseph Friedman. … While [the waxed paper drinking straw of the 1880s] was a popular invention, Friedman experienced a problem with it firsthand…  Friedman was seated at the Varsity Sweet Shop in San Francisco with his young daughter Judith. After watching her struggle to drink a milkshake out of a too-tall straw, he had an idea. … Friedman couldn’t make his daughter taller or make the counter shorter, so he designed a straw that would adapt to the situation. [He] looked at something and saw how it could be improved to make it accessible for more people–like his children and hospital patients…. Because of this, the straw is cited as a case study for ‘universal design,’ a mode of thinking that tries to make products accessible to as many people as possible.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -17 points
Change from one week ago: down 6.2 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss Luther Strange’s loss in Alabama and how Congressional Republicans have switched their attention to tax reform. Plus, Dana takes on questions from the mailbag and Chris gets his knowledge of Alabama politics tested with this week’s trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

NYT: “Mr. [Luther Strange’s] demise, senior party strategists and conservative activists said Wednesday, makes it likelier that Republican incumbents in the House and Senate will face serious primary challenges in 2018, fueled by anger at the party’s apparent ineptitude at wielding power in Washington. Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist and a vehement antagonist of the party establishment, said on Tuesday night that he intends to target Republican senators in Mississippi, Arizona and Nevada for defeat. And that rebellion could spread. … If nothing else, divisive intraparty battles could cost party donors tens of millions of dollars and weaken Republicans’ position in a year when Democrats were already poised to make gains, at least in the House.”

Moore will cause issues on both sides of the aisle - Politico: “Roy Moore’s win in Alabama’s Senate primary has raised the specter of a nightmare scenario for Democrats and Republicans: The GOP picks up a handful of seats next year, padding its Senate majority, but with candidates like Moore, who buck party leadership as often as they fall in line. … Early in 2016, several prominent Democrats exulted in Donald Trump’s meteoric rise… Some Democrats similarly cheered Moore’s ascent, arguing that he’d be easier to take down in the December general election. But others are alarmed by the prospect of a Trump-inspired bloc in the Senate. … Republicans… agree not only that the GOP is likely to hold the Alabama seat, but that Moore’s victory will inspire a rash of anti-establishment candidates who sow chaos and make Congress even more dysfunctional if they manage to make it there.”

California jolts primary calendar for 2020 - AP: “Gov. Jerry Brown gave his stamp of approval Wednesday to a measure jumping California’s primary up to the beginning of March, three months earlier than its contest in 2016, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had already captured the major parties’ nominations. ‘The Golden State will no longer be relegated to last place in the presidential nominating process,’ Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. … Bumping the primary up is designed to give the nation’s most populous state more sway in choosing the Republican and Democratic nominees.”

Axios: “President Trump has built an escape hatch from his own tax plan. In Indianapolis yesterday, he bragged that it’s the ‘largest tax cut in our county’s history.’ But in the West Wing earlier, Trump resisted the framework that had been cooked up by congressional leaders, plus economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. … If Trump shows the fickleness he showed on repeal-and-replace (championing the House plan, then later calling it ‘mean’), that could increase the chances the plan sinks, with him blaming Congress. …  Trump wanted to propose an even lower corporate rate. It’s ‘The Art of the Deal’: Don’t open the bidding with the number you ultimately want — 20% (the figure announced yesterday), down from 35%. Open with an extreme bid and work back. Trump wanted to propose 15%. Trump was also attuned to the political risks of raising the bottom rate from 10% to 12%, while cutting the top individual rate.”

Need a visual aid? - Check out these six charts from the NYT that help explain the key elements of the Republican tax plan.

Ryan backs trump in call for senate GOP to ditch filibuster - 
Politico: “[House Speaker Paul Ryan] expressed support for getting rid of what he called the ‘crazy filibuster rule,’ the 60-vote threshold to cut off debate in the upper chamber and allow a bill to move forward for a vote. Senate GOP leaders have repeatedly quashed attempts to kill the filibuster, and Ryan said Wednesday [in an interview with Sean Hannity] that he understood there simply isn’t enough support to change the rule. ‘Of course I’d like to see them do majority votes on these things,’ he said. ‘They don’t have the votes there for it, that’s the flat-simple answer.’”

House Republicans propose $10 billion for Trump’s border wall - Politico: “House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a plan to provide $10 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico, a bill unlikely to clear the Senate but which could fuel a shutdown fight in December. Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said his panel will vote on the legislation next week. The bill also would add 10,000 more border patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers, tap the National Guard to patrol the southern border and target people who have overstayed visas.”

The Judge’s Ruling: A ban by any other name - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano shares his thoughts on the ongoing process of the president’s travel ban: “I have serious misgivings about the morality and political wisdom of these travel bans. The right to travel and to escape oppression is a natural human right, with which no government may morally interfere. And the assumption that merely because a person belongs to a group defined by immutable characteristics of birth -- place of birth, in this case -- the person shares all the dominant traits of others in that group has been rejected as un-American for generations.” More here.

NYT: “As Twitter prepared to brief staff members of the Senate and House intelligence committees on Thursday for their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, researchers from a public policy group have been following hundreds of accounts to track the continuing Russian operations to influence social media discourse and foment division in the United States. … In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using ‘bot’ accounts to spread false stories and promote news articles about emails from Democratic operatives that had been obtained by Russian hackers. … Since last month, researchers at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan initiative of the German Marshall Fund, a public policy research group in Washington, have been publicly tracking 600 Twitter accounts — human users and suspected bots alike — they have linked to Russian influence operations. Those were the accounts pushing the opposing messages on the N.F.L. and the national anthem.”

Facebook, Google still under fire - 
WaPo: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has invited tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify in an open hearing as part of the panel’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a senate aide. The hearing, which is set to take place on Nov. 1, is expected to be the second time the tech companies’ executives will speak with the committee. Committee investigators have already conducted a closed-door interview with Facebook and are planning another with Twitter executives on Thursday; the committee is planning to speak with representatives of Google before the open hearing as well. Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee announced on Wednesday that they too plan to hold an open hearing with tech company executives in October.”

Lankford says Russian internet trolls stoked NFL debate - Reuters: “The assertion, made by Republican James Lankford, comes as congressional investigators probing Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election are focusing on how Russian agents used social media to spread divisive political content. ‘We watched, even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, their internet folks, start hashtagging out #TakeAKnee and also hashtagging out #BoycottNFL,’ Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during a hearing on threats faced by the United States. ‘They were taking both sides of the argument this weekend ... to try to raise the noise level of America and make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue as they are trying to push divisiveness in this country,’ Lankford said.”

Fox News:
 “Taxes and health care. Both are top priorities in Washington -- and both are issues where voters give President Trump some of his worst job ratings. Even so, if Republicans fail to fulfill their promise of replacing ObamaCare, few would blame the president. That’s according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday. Overall, 42 percent of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53 percent disapprove. Last month, it was 41-55 percent. His highest approval was 48 percent in February, soon after taking office (47 percent disapproved). Unlike his boss, Vice President Mike Pence gets a positive score: 44 percent approve vs. 40 percent disapprove. About one-in-seven, 15 percent, is unable to rate Pence. Some 83 percent of Republicans approve of Trump and 80 percent approve of Pence. Among all voters, more ‘strongly’ disapprove of Trump (45 percent) than ‘strongly’ approve (26 percent). That 19-point intensity gap is mostly unchanged since May.”

Voters disapprove of Trump’s tough talk on North Korea but actual policies get higher marks - Fox News: “[Seventy percent] say the way Trump talks about North Korea is not helpful. Just 23 percent think it helps. Setting aside Trump’s words, the poll, released Wednesday finds roughly equal numbers feel the president is being ‘too tough’ on North Korea (22 percent) versus ‘not tough enough’ (19 percent). The largest portion, 46 percent, thinks his handling has been ‘about right.’”

Poll shows acceptance grows for anthem protests after Trump attacks - Fox News:“Fifty-five percent of voters in the latest Fox News poll see kneeling during the national anthem as an inappropriate form of protest. That’s down six percentage points from 61 percent who felt that way a year ago (September 2016).”

Poll shows Twitter reinforces Trump’s bad reputation - WaPo: “There are three questions in Quinnipiac University’s new national poll that seem like they have some overlap. Most Americans (67 percent) think that President Trump is not level-headed. Most Americans (56 percent) think that Trump is not fit to serve as president. Most Americans (69 percent) think that Trump should stop tweeting from his personal account. This is a bit of a Rorschach test, in that you can isolate those three data points (setting aside, say, his approval rating, 36 percent, or the number of people who think he’s intelligent, 55 percent) and use them to identify the picture that you’re looking to see. But, again: They seem as if they overlap. Trump’s tweets reflect his personality, and his personality is shoot-from-the-hip, which is a nice way of saying ‘sometimes erratic.’”

Nate Silver: ‘Never Tweet, Mr. President’ - 
FiveThirtyEight: “But do Trump’s tweets merely annoy voters or can they actually make it hard for him to stay on track and maintain his support with the American public? In last week’s edition of our politics podcast, I wondered if there were any relationship between the frequency with which Trump sends out incendiary tweets — such as his recent rants against the NFL and some of its players — and his approval ratings. The answer is that there probably is such a relationship — periods when Trump sends out exclamatory or inflammatory tweets have been correlated with future approval-rating declines. But the relationship is somewhat noisy, and the causality isn’t totally clear. So we’d encourage you to read this story as a plausible hypothesis that will need further proof.”

Trump lifts Jones Act for Puerto Rico relief - The Hill

Senate rolls out its version of driverless car legislation - Reuters

Jet set: Price’s private jet travel draws unhappy scrutiny for EPA boss Pruitt - WaPo


“It starts with God. I just started praying.” – House Majority Whip Steve Scalise on the House floor today recalling the day he was shot during a congressional baseball practice.

“Trump HAD to back Strange. Strange was the sitting senator and Trump needs that vote. Trump can easily switch to Moore from now on. Too bad he didn’t realize he would need John McCain’s vote(s) before trashing McCain’s extraordinary sacrifice.” – Terry Miller, Escondido, Calif. 

[Ed. note: I think that for Trump his contempt for McCain is personal, not political. Trump has a long-documented loathing for those who would lecture him on decency and morality, which McCain has done with some regularity. And, like for many in their generation, the Vietnam War remains a contentious issue. McCain’s service and heroism provides moral authority, especially when confronting someone of his generation who did not serve. We saw the intensity of these conflicts when George W. Bush was president and Vietnam veteran Democrats attacked him mercilessly. The scars from that war are still far from healed.]  

“As a congenital Southerner, I appreciated your explanation on why support for the CSA is not right, then or now.  With all the news that makes me grind my teeth, you at least always keep a sincere vibe--but with good humor or at least, snark.” – Anna Kingry, Salem, Ore.

[Ed. note: Snark? Heaven forfend, Ms. Kingry!]

“Having two parties control our government served us well historically, however, is that true today?  Most of our Congressmen and Senators from either party are not far off center right or left. However, the more extreme wings of each possess voting, therefore party control. Without party-line voting, bills could succeed or fail on merit and not be so radical in either direction. Without party-line voting our elected officials would be reelected, or not, by how they served their constituents back home while in Washington. The popularity of President Trump’s reaching across the aisle to Democrats Pelosi and Schumer is direct evidence most people’s desire to debate all ideas not just the wishes of the party currently in control. The steady rise of registered independents, number of voters not voting their party, social media, even part of President Trump’s allure all indicate our two-party system is not serving us well as we evolve as a nation.” – Jim Hain, Omaha, Neb.

[Ed. note: As Brian Wilson said, “Wouldn’t it be nice.” You have described the ideal republic in which individual leaders and representatives rise above faction and address issues a la carte instead of as a package deal. But while the Framers may not have foreseen the absolute dominance of partisan affiliation in politics that we have today, they certainly knew that faction was an enormous potential problem. They eventually concluded, however, that faction was an inevitable byproduct of liberty. If people are free to associate as they wish, tribal bans will always form. The Framers understandably but wrongly assumed that most factions would be regional. In the days before easy travel and communication, it would have been impossible to imagine a mostly non-geographical partisanship of the kind we have today. If we could make you king for a day, Mr. Hain (and I have no doubt you would rule justly) and you abolished parties, I don’t think it would take very long for new factions to rise up in their places. I think the larger question right now is whether the two existing parties we have can endure. There is much to commend the two-party system, particularly its ability to channel and distill disparate ideas for governance. Our European cousins struggle with coalition-based parliamentary systems that have been failing for far longer than our republican model. If we believe the two-party system to be worth saving, than reforms are needed. Unfortunately, things will probably have to get worse before we are willing to let them get better.] 

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Daily Mail [UK]: “The 47-year-old patient, whose name is unknown, complained of coughing up yellow mucus and feeling unwell for little over a year. He sought help from doctors. … During a procedure to inspect his airway, medics discovered the mass to be a traffic cone from a Playmobil set, which the British man ingested 40 years ago. Doctors writing in BMJ Case Reports have dubbed him a medical mystery, due to the length of time that passed without him displaying any symptoms. … He remembered being given this specific Playmobil set as a present on his seventh birthday, doctors reported. Experts said it’s likely he went symptomless for so long because of how young he was when he inhaled the toy cone. They suggested that as he grew older, his airways moulded and adapted round the presence of the foreign body.”

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.