Steve Scalise and the politics of moral authority

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On the roster: Steve Scalise and the politics of moral authority - Pelosi seeks blue ribbon commission on shootings - Trump tours storm-ravaged Puerto Rico -  White House wrapping up requests from Mueller - So now Nebraska’s going to use Katy Perry 

Does Rep. Steve Scalise R-La., have special moral authority to talk about mass shootings because he was badly wounded in one?

What about former Rep. Gabby Giffords D-Ariz., who survived a similarly harrowing incident?

Your answer may depend on which one you think will offer the answer that aligns with your pre-existing policy point of view. Scalise told Fox News colleague Martha MacCallum today that his own experience “fortified” his support for gun rights while Giffords has devoted her life after Congress to seeing the new gun bans imposed.

They are both bright, patriotic individuals who overcame terrible traumas. They can’t both be right on the solution to the growing problem of mass shootings, but they can both be sincere.

And that’s where things fall apart.

The strong belief among Democrats is that Republicans stand for strong gun rights not so much for ideological or practical reasons, but rather because they are bribed and bullied by the National Rifle Association to do so.

Many Republicans, meanwhile, feel that calls for legislation are simply political trickery designed to inculpate the GOP in the slaughter of innocents.

While there probably some Republicans who oppose gun control out of their narrow personal political interests and perhaps a cynical handful of Democrats who think first of political advantage, the overwhelming majority on both sides are well intentioned.

But that’s not how the debate over this issue is going to play out, as we all know by now. Democrats will write off Republicans as shills for the gun lobby and Republicans will dismiss Democrats as gun grabbers exploiting the deaths of victims.

The point of these postures isn’t to advance policies. Quite the contrary. It is to place in advance blame for inevitable inaction. It’s part of our base-versus-base politics that places a higher value on incitement than persuasion. The promise of absolute victory just over the horizon is used to defeat any moves toward incremental improvements.

Even so, imagine living in a country where both Scalise and Giffords could be heard and treated with respect for their experiences and opinions.

Imagine even one where Democrats reached out to Republicans to back legislation on mental health and Republicans joined Democratic calls for restrictions on after-market modifications like the one that the Las Vegas killer reportedly used to make his rifle work like a machine gun.

Those are things that people would do in politics that valued not just the humanity of the victims of these murders, but of each other.

[Watch Fox: Majority Whip Steve Scalise will be “The Story with Martha MacCallum” tonight at 7 pm ET.]

Wash Times: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for a new special select congressional committee to study the issue, saying Congress has a ‘moral duty’ to address it. Meanwhile former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was herself seriously wounded in a 2011 shooting targeting her, told Congress ‘the nation’s counting on you’ to change the laws. But most of all, gun control advocates on Capitol Hill pleaded with colleagues not to become ‘numb’ to the violence they said seems to be coming at a far too frequent pace. ‘What Congress can do — what Congress must do — is pass laws that keep our citizens safe,’ said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. Mrs. Pelosi said the first bill out of the chute should be legislation to stiffen and expand the background check system…”

Bannon warns Trump on guns - Axios: “Trump's allies, both inside and out of the White House, are mostly sure he'll resist because he owes too much to the NRA and its supporters — but even some of them aren't 100 percent sure. … Most say they can't imagine him doing a Chuck-and-Nancy deal on gun control. … [Jonathan Swan] asked Steve Bannon whether he could imagine Trump pivoting to the left on guns after the Las Vegas massacre. ‘Impossible: will be the end of everything,’ Bannon texted. When asked whether Trump's base would react worse to this than they would if he supported an immigration amnesty bill, Bannon replied: ‘as hard as it is to believe actually worse.’”

How mass shootings distort debate over gun violence - FiveThirtyEight: “So mass shootings become a symbol of gun violence in general. The deaths of dozens become a window into the death of one, and a separate one, and a different one over there. This, of course, has already happened with the mass shooting on Sunday in Las Vegas that left at least 58 people dead and hundreds more injured. And this is a problem. What we know about mass shootings suggests that they are different from the everyday deaths that happen at the end of a gun. The weapon is the same. So much else is different.”

“The supposition of a want of proper knowledge seems to be entirely destitute of foundation.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 36

AP: “The Nobel Physics Prize 2017 has been awarded to three scientists for their discoveries in gravitational waves. Sweden’s Royal Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday that the winners are Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology. The three were key to the first observation of gravitational waves in September 2015. When the discovery was announced several months later, it was a sensation not only among scientists but the general public. Gravitational waves are extremely faint ripples in the fabric of space and time, generated by some of the most violent events in the universe. … Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity. General relativity says that gravity is caused by heavy objects bending space-time, which itself is the four-dimensional way that astronomers see the universe.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -18.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 5.4 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.]

Fox News: “President Trump visited storm-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday to survey damage and talk to residents, while also meeting and briefly praising the San Juan mayor following a feud over the administration's response to Hurricane Maria. The president, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, participated in a packed briefing on storm recovery shortly after landing at Luis Muñiz Air National Guard Base in San Juan. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has repeatedly criticized the president’s actions since the storm wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory last month, was seen shaking Trump's hand and joining him for the briefing in a hangar at the base. Trump didn’t mention Cruz in his remarks to the media. But – in comments that seemed meant to draw a contrast – the president singled out Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, for praise. … [Trump] is meeting with senior military personnel and government officials, including Rosselló and Kenneth Mapp, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was also severely damaged by the storm.”

Bloomberg: “The White House expects soon to clear a backlog of requests for documents and information from special counsel Robert Mueller related to his investigation of Russian tampering with the 2016 U.S. election, according to two people familiar with the investigation. While Mueller may make additional requests from the White House as the probe proceeds, his existing demands largely should be met as soon as this week, the people said. Mueller has been seeking documents from the White House for months on a range of issues, including Donald Trump’s firings of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and FBI director James Comey, as well as the preparation of a public statement related to a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. The response to Mueller’s requests was slowed because few staffers were assigned to the task, said another person familiar with the process, who like the others discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.”

Why did Manafort take the Trump job? - Atlantic: “According to a source close to [Paul Manafort], the initials ‘OVD’ refer to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and one of Russia’s richest men. The source also confirmed that one of the individuals repeatedly mentioned in the email exchange as an intermediary to Deripaska is an aide to the oligarch. … They are part of a trove of documents turned over by lawyers for Trump’s presidential campaign to investigators looking into the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. A source close to Manafort confirmed their authenticity. …the full text of these exchanges, provided to The Atlantic, shows that Manafort attempted to leverage his leadership role in the Trump campaign to curry favor with a Russian oligarch close to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Manafort was deeply in debt, and did not earn a salary from the Trump campaign.”

CIA denies Senate requests for Russia materials - Politico: “The CIA has denied a request by the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee to let them view some of the same information about Russian meddling that the intelligence committee has already seen, according to the panel’s top Democrat. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had asked CIA Director Mike Pompeo last week for access to certain unspecified material related to their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — information that the Senate Intelligence Committee has already received, a sign that turf battles between the two panels may be heating up. Feinstein told reporters Monday evening, however, that she and Grassley were unsuccessful.”

Facebook: 10 million users saw Kremlin ads - WSJ: “Facebook Inc. on Monday said it estimates 10 million people saw ads it has discovered on its platform paid for by Russian entities, but warned that it may not have uncovered all malicious activity that attempted to interfere in the American political process. The revelation from Facebook quantifies for the first time the spread of the known Russian activity since the social network said last month it had identified 470 ‘inauthentic’ Russian-backed accounts responsible for $100,000 in advertising spending.”

More email woes for Kushner - Politico: “White House officials have begun examining emails associated with a third and previously unreported email account on Jared Kushner
and Ivanka Trump’s private domain, according to three people familiar with the matter. Hundreds of emails have been sent since January from White House addresses to accounts on the Kushner family domain, these people said. Many of those emails went not to Kushner’s or Ivanka Trump’s personal addresses but to an account they both had access to and shared with their personal household staff for family scheduling.”

AP: “Former Vice President Joe Biden is in Alabama to campaign for Democrat Doug Jones in the race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' former Senate seat. Biden is speaking at a Tuesday rally in Birmingham for Jones. It's been two decades since a Democrat held an Alabama Senate seat, but some national Democrats see hope. Jones is running against Republican Roy Moore. Moore was twice removed as state chief justice for flouting court orders regarding gay marriage and the Ten Commandments. Jones is a former U.S. attorney and is best known for prosecuting the Klansmen who bombed a Birmingham church. A series of national figures have delved into the Alabama race. President Donald Trump endorsed Sen. Luther Strange, who lost to Moore. Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon backed Moore.”

Can Bannon really replicate his Alabama victory? - The Hill: “Bannon and his allies have used [Roy Moore’s] Tuesday night victory over the establishment-backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) as a springboard to float challenges against a fleet of Republican incumbents. …  But some establishment Republican strategists aren’t buying it. They argue that the influence Bannon and his Breitbart News outlet had on Moore’s victory is overblown and that the unique set of circumstances that won Alabama won’t be easily transferable to other primary challenges across the country. ‘Moore was leading this race long before Bannon got involved and he won this race for reasons that have nothing to do with Bannon’s involvement,’ said Alex Conant, a strategist who worked on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) presidential campaign.”

Blackburn prepping run for Tennessee Senate seat - WashEx: “Rep. Marsha Blackburn is preparing to run for Senate in Tennessee, building a campaign team and lining up the financial backing necessary if she decides to get into the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Blackburn is gathering internal data to assess the playing field for what could be a competitive Republican primary. The polling she has seen so far has been encouraging, say Republican operatives familiar with her planning. Her immediate priority is building a network of grassroots and donor support for a contest she estimates could run $10 million — $15 million if Republican Gov. Bill Haslam decides to run.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Guns were already on the radar for Monday in Virginia’s governor’s race, but the massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday night forced both campaigns to react amid another round of debate over the political response to mass shootings. Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam called the shooting a ‘terrorist attack’ and reiterated his calls for tighter gun restrictions. Republican Ed Gillespie, whose promises to preserve gun rights have earned the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, called the violence an ‘act of evil,’ but did not weigh in on the question of whether the latest tragedy should compel new approaches to gun policy. Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a champion for stronger gun control who survived being shot in the head in 2011, had been scheduled to campaign for Northam in Northern Virginia on Monday.”

Rauner faces headwinds from Illinois GOP - Politico: “Until recently, the biggest question looming over Illinois politics has been whether Republican Bruce Rauner, the most vulnerable incumbent governor in the country, can win re-election next year. Now the question is whether Rauner can make it through a Republican primary. After the first-term governor signed a highly controversial bill last week expanding taxpayer-funded abortion in the state — becoming the first governor in decades to on his own authorize Medicaid payments for the procedure… The Chicago Sun-Times summed up the reaction on the right with this screaming tabloid cover page: ‘Benedict Rauner.’”

Collins can’t decide if she should stay or should she go? - Politico: “A move by [Susan Collins] to seek the governorship would rock the Senate and the broader political landscape. In a chamber controlled by just 52 Republicans, Collins and a handful of other centrist senators can decide the fate of President Donald Trump’s agenda. And a run by Collins for governor could eventually cost the GOP one of its last congressional footholds in New England. Collins is torn over whether to leave her prominent perch as one of the Senate’s few true moderate legislators, according to her colleagues. If Collins had made up her mind by now, said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), ‘she already would have announced it.’”

WaPo: “Republicans on a leading House health-care committee are proposing to send $1 billion in extra Medicaid funding to Puerto Rico as it deals with severe hurricane damage, as part of a five-year plan to fund the federal health insurance program for children. The proposal from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provided Monday night to The Washington Post, would be paid for with a bucket of items, including raising Medicare rates for wealthier seniors, redirecting dollars from the Affordable Care Act’s prevention fund and shortening a grace period for enrollees who don’t pay their premiums. It’s the first request from a group of Republicans in Congress to direct extra Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria recently caused widespread wreckage. Democrats have demanded a disaster aid package, but the White House has yet to propose one and Trump has defended his administration’s slow response in the territory.”

Senate naysayers emerge on Trump tax plan - WaPo: “Republican leaders have promised to unite the party around a plan to create explosive economic growth by cutting tax rates for the majority of businesses and individuals. But battle lines are being drawn among rank-and-file Republicans such as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) who have questioned the assumptions underpinning the GOP plan. The early skepticism comes as GOP leaders are planning for an aggressive timeline that would allow them to vote on a tax bill before the end of the year. House leaders plan to vote as early as this week on a budget framework that is a key step that would allow a tax bill to eventually pass the Senate without the help of Democrats. Tax-writing committees could begin writing a bill and holding hearings as early as the end of this month. That would set up final votes in November or early December, assuming Republicans can remain unified on their tax plan.”

Trump backs House 20-week abortion ban - 
The Hill: “The Trump administration formally backed a House bill Monday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The administration ‘strongly supports’ the bill and ‘applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections,’ the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a statement of administration policy. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), will come up for a vote in the House on Tuesday. It would make it a crime to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with the possibility of a fine, up to five years in prison or both. There are exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the woman, and the bill wouldn't penalize women for seeking abortions after 20 weeks.”

White House studying welfare programs for possible overhaul - Politico: “Trump administration officials are mulling an executive order that would instruct federal agencies to review low-income assistance programs, part of a coming effort to make sweeping changes to the country’s welfare system. … One of the officials said the draft order calls on agencies to review existing regulations and propose new rules that conform to a set of broad welfare principles, including tighter work requirements that encourage recipients to shift back into the labor force. The order also calls for streamlining or eliminating duplicative services and establishing metrics for holding agencies accountable for program performance. It also encourages greater cooperation with state and local governments.”

Two criminal justice reform bills to be introduced on the Senate floor - Axios: “These bills … mark the first serious congressional engagement on criminal justice reform for more than a year. … On Monday, Republican Senators Orrin HatchMike LeeTed CruzDavid Perdue, and Rand Paul introduced legislation to ensure that all federal criminal laws take into account whether the person committing the crime did so with intent. … Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin want to pass ‘comprehensive legislation to review prison sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenders, reduce recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars.’”


Fox News: “Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is set to testify Tuesday in the corruption trial of Sen. Robert Menendez, Fox News confirmed Tuesday. Menendez, D-N.J., is accused of accepting campaign donations, gifts and vacations from Florida ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen. In return, Menendez allegedly used his Senate powers to lobby on behalf of Melgen’s business interests. Sebelius’ testimony is expected to implicate Menendez, who is accused of using his Senate rank to have Sebelius intervene in a billing dispute between Melgen’s company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, and the federal government. According to a trial brief filed by federal prosecutors last month, on Aug. 2, 2012, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Menendez met with Sebelius in Reid’s office on Capitol Hill, where, according to witnesses in the meeting, Menendez allegedly ‘argued vehemently’ for Melgen’s position on the Medicare billing dispute between HHS and Melgen’s office.”

Fox News: “A familiar partisan divide was on display Tuesday at the Supreme Court in a case examining complaints that Wisconsin Republicans went too far in drawing electoral districts for maximum political advantage. In a lively hour of oral arguments, the justices appeared at odds over whether the lawmakers created ‘extreme’ legislative boundaries that benefited Republicans but were out of balance with the state's political makeup. ‘It's okay to stack the decks so that for 10 years or an indefinite period of time one party, even though it gets a minority of votes, can get the majority of seats?’ Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked, rhetorically. Justice Neil Gorsuch, though, questioned whether such a court-mandated formula was possible or desirable. … The case on gerrymandering could have far-reaching implications for elections well beyond Wisconsin. The court is being asked to endorse a standard for redistricting that would apply nationwide. The stakes are huge …”

Read this: Michael Barone: ‘California Democrats’ early presidential primary: Unintended consequences?’ WashEx

Mattis, Dunford on the Hill to talk Afghanistan strategy
 - WashEx

“This is going to make health care look like a simple thing to do.” – Sen. Bob Corker R-Tenn., referring to the passing of a tax bill. 

“In my opinion, there is not much public support for extreme positions on gun control like repeal of the Second Amendment, but I think the public would be willing to support the idea of treating guns the way we treat automobiles. People have a right to own automobiles, and there is public support for the systems that have been developed at the federal and state level to register automobiles, owners and drivers, and give authorities the info they need to protect the public when something goes wrong. Wouldn’t something like this make sense for guns?” – Sandy Harlow, Timonium, Md.

[Ed. note: I think you are very right about public opinion, Ms. Harlow. But I do have to point out the difference between automobiles and firearms. There is no constitutional right to have a car or to drive. Americans generally enjoy the right to free commerce and personal property, but a city or a state would be within its rights to ban automobiles if they wanted to. Some communities already do in certain areas. Gun ownership is an explicitly protected right, guaranteed by the Constitution. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be regulations, and certainly many would say that there was no constitutional barrier to the kind of registry you’re talking about. But, gun-rights advocates have long argued that registration would give the government the power it needed for eventual confiscation. Polls certainly show that there is broad public support for more background checks and, possibly, registration. But for now, the party that embraces those causes can’t seem to win many elections.]

“I’d like to corroborate your comments regarding the former Democratic nominee. She, along with other public figures immediately politicizing the issue, come off as yearning for Retweets and further adoration. A freshman city councilman/woman would know, especially outside of an election, to not viciously attack a powerful lobby with whom you know you’re going to have to negotiate with in order to actually realize any meaningful change. All they’re doing is being divisive with a brash ‘I told you so’ mentality. By seemingly blaming the NRA for the deaths of 50+ human beings and hundreds of casualties, Hillary Clinton displays her visceral lust for attention and veneration. Keep up the great work, always a pleasure to read!” – Jack Whiteman, St. Louis

[Ed. note: The great thing about partisan invective for its perpetrators is that it guarantees that the cycle is the rate of return. Capitalizing on mass murder to attack your political enemies does fire up one’s supporters or potential supporters, but it also guarantees that your enemy will respond in kind. One of the reasons discussions about social issues in America are so stupid is that there is too much fun and profit to be had by stoking hatreds on opposite ends of the political spectrum.]

“Unfortunately because you are much of the time wise, solicitous, and intellectually astute, I’ve never found need to call you up short on one of your columns.  But you finally went off the tracks with your jeremiad about gun control, gun rights, mass murders and the human condition. The right of the people to arm themselves shall never be infringed, because if it is then they cannot ultimately protect themselves from their government.  The price for this ability is people who will use guns for ill, the benefit is that freedom will ring here--these are unequal realities that cannot be balanced.” – Tom Tripp, Gahanna, Ohio

[Ed. note: Mr. Tripp, I’m sure that you do not mean to sound indifferent to the suffering of your fellow Americans. I take your point about constitutional freedoms, especially with respects to intended purpose of that “well-regulated militia.” But I think it behooves defenders of gun rights to offer more in the way of solutions as it relates to these kinds of murders. For those who believe we need to address our mental health system, they should do that. Finding a way to incorporate psychological commitment data into firearms purchase background checks might be a place to start. These killings are a relatively new phenomenon, and the problem is getting worse. It falls to all Americans to deal with this subject in good faith.]

“I totally agree with your assessment of the predictable and maddeningly ineffectual partisan responses in the aftermath of the Las Vegas (and other) mass shooting tragedies. You seem to feel that there is some sort of Constitutional amendment solution to address this when you state it is ‘long past time for them to devise and advance an amendment that would resolve that tension.’ Could you please put forth what you feel would be a possible amendment that would be acceptable to both sides of the issue of gun control?” – Neil Klapthor, Evans, Ga.

[Ed. note: There are probably many policy prescriptions that could win the support of the majority of Americans, but maybe not the majority of either party. This strikes me as an issue that will have to be ping-ponged between the two parties over the next several years. You may like, however, the recent suggestion of one of your fellow readers who basically called for putting the militia back into the “well-regulated militia.” If you made gun purchases and ownership contingent on agreeing to be available for militia service, it would be interesting to see how many still wanted in. But that, like any other fundamental change, would require a constitutional amendment. When people are trying to avoid a subject, they generally say that they want to “have a discussion” about such-and-so. But unless there is a proposal on the table those discussions always add up to not. It’s time for a little innovation, America.]

“Wondering if the differing messages from Sec. of State [Rex Tillerson] and President over [North Korea] are an attempt to play Good Cop-Bad Cop.” – Susan Williams, St. Louis

[Ed. note: I think that is the idea, but there are problems with the execution, especially given the friction between the two men in the past. Diplomats are helped when those who they are negotiating with believe that the boss is capable of dangerous actions. But it is not good if the negotiators across the table think that the secretary of state has no clout.] 

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SO NOW NEBRASKA’S GOING TO USE KATY PERRY “Road signs in Iowa used lyrics from one of Taylor Swift’s newest songs to warn motorists about the dangers of distracted driving. The Iowa Department of Transportation shared a photo of a sign saying there have been 246 traffic deaths this year -- along with a twist on a lyric from Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do.’ ‘Old Taylor can’t come to the phone...she’s driving,’ the sign reads. The department reported 10 more deaths since the sign was crafted on Monday and warned that taking one’s eyes, hands and mind off the wheel can all be forms of distracted driving. ‘Some people think time behind the wheel is wasted if they are simply driving. After all, there are phone calls to return, lunch to be eaten, and schedules to plan,’ the department said. ‘But multitasking, especially while behind the wheel, is an illusion.’”

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.