The shadow of corruption


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On the roster: The shadow of corruption - Biden racks up key endorsements - Ukraine at center of fight over alleged Trump promise - Trump rallies with Modi in outreach to key voter bloc - You stay classy, Caleb Bennett

THE SHADOW OF CORRUPTION

How corrupt do you think your government is?

According to Transparency International, which has been ranking countries on its 1-100 scale for 25 years, the United States is not very corrupt at all.

The most recent rankings, built through a survey of experts and businesspeople, ranks the U.S. as 22nd cleanest in the 180 nations of the world. We run in a pack with other mostly Western liberal democracies like Australia, Britain and France just behind the squeaky clean Scandinavian nations and, of course, Canada.

We are far removed from the rampant corruption under which most of the rest of the world is forced to live. Russia, China, India and Brazil are all bad news when it comes to basic principles of fairness. All of Africa except for Botswana and every Asian nation except Japan are considered substantially corrupt.  

So your government, on an empirical basis, is pretty much on the level.

But that’s not the important question. What matters is how corrupt do you think your government is. And on that score, the news is bad.

In our most recent Fox News poll, we asked respondents “How many people in the government do you think are corrupt -- almost all, many, some, or almost none?” The results should be sobering for everyone concerned about the current trajectory of politics.

About one in five said that almost all of the people in government are corrupt. An amazing 43 percent said that “many” are crooked. Just 31 percent got closer to reality saying that “some” in the government are corrupt. A sad 2 percent said “almost none.”

As with all reputational goods, like a nation’s currency, the perception of value is far more important than the actual value itself. If a government is perceived as corrupt it’s almost as bad as the real thing, and will eventually result in real corruption anyway.

If you think the game is rigged, you’re far more likely to be willing to cheat yourself.

The 64 percent of Americans who believe their government is rotten with corruption don’t belong to any particular demographic or political group, either. Women are a little more distrustful than men and white people are more dubious than other ethnic groups, whites without college degrees most of all.

But religious faith, political proclivities, education and income all had relatively little bearing on the overall perception that corruption is a major problem in our government.

It’s no wonder, given what both political parties are selling these days. It would be one thing if the response was really about “draining the swamp” and some sustained effort for reforms that might bring public perception back into alignment with reality. But what tends to happen is that politicians exploit such perceptions to create lower expectations for good government and accountability once they are in power.

If the whole system is rigged, why should our side have to play by the rules? After all they’re the real crooks 

That’s how the false perception of rampant corruption makes way for the real thing.

THE RULEBOOK: THERE’S A DIFFERENCE
“It is, that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy, consequently, will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be extended over a large region.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 14

TIME OUT: SOUNDS LIKE AMERICA
Gun&Garden: “When Ken Burns decides to cover a topic, set aside some time to dig in. Best known for his epics, including his Civil War documentary, which aired on PBS over five nights in 1990 to an audience of 40 million people, the filmmaker is now readying for the premiere his latest deep-dive, Country Music. The eight-part, sixteen-hour film takes a magnifying glass to the forces that shaped this distinctly American sound. ‘I’m looking for stories, and I’m looking for stories that are firing on all cylinders,’ Burns tells Garden & Gun. … The film runs chronologically, tracing the many influences that shaped country music, from enslaved people bringing the banjo across the Atlantic from Africa all the way to the heyday of pop-country in the mid-1990s. The genre, Burns reveals, is less a set of rules and boundaries than it is a spectrum—one that trades on universal truths and bridges cultural, racial, and economic divides.”

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SCOREBOARD
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 28.2 points 
Warren: 20.2 points
Sanders: 16 points
Harris: 6.6 points
Buttigieg: 5.4 points
[Averages include: Fox News, NBC News/WSJ, CNN, ABC News/WaPo and IBD.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 42.6 percent
Average disapproval: 54 percent
Net Score: -11.4 percent
Change from one week ago: up 3.4 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve - 55% disapprove.]

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BIDEN RACKS UP KEY ENDORSEMENTS
AP: “Joe Biden sought to demonstrate a broad appeal to Democrats on Thursday with new endorsements from leading African American lawmakers and a former governor of a pivotal swing state. The backing from Reps. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Charlie Crist of Florida reflects Biden’s play both for the party establishment and for minority voters who are critical in the early stages of the primary. Butterfield and Cleaver are former chairmen of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Crist was the governor of Florida before he entered Congress. The moves are the latest example of Biden’s durability as an early Democratic front-runner. So far, he’s successfully threaded different wings of the party despite skepticism from progressives and questions about whether, at 76, he’s too old for the presidency. … [T]he support of Butterfield and Cleaver in particular is a potential blow to Sen. Kamala Harris [and] Sen. Cory Booker…”

Younger black voters try to pry their parents from Biden - NYT: “If Mr. Biden, 76, is going to win the Democratic nomination, it is likely to be because of the support of older black voters… But if he is to be overtaken by one of his more progressive rivals, the most powerful tool against him may not be opposition research or negative advertisements. Instead, it may be an organic effort by younger black voters — concerned about Mr. Biden’s age and more moderate ideology — to sway their older family members. Mr. Biden seems aware of this dynamic. In interviews, he has both acknowledged the generational gap among his black supporters and downplayed its importance, arguing that the support of older, more moderate black voters would be enough to give him an electoral advantage. Still, Mr. Biden, by his own admission, would be unwise to underestimate the lobbying efforts of those who are young and politically engaged.”

Harris takes aim at Warren - WSJ: “Ka­mala Har­ris, now a dis­tant fourth in the De­mo­c­ra­tic pres­i­den­tial race, took aim at poll-climber Eliz­a­beth War­ren for do­ing big-money events. In re­sponse to a ques­tion about War­ren, Har­ris said at a closed-door fundraiser it was hyp­o­crit­i­cal for her ri­val to claim she wasn’t tak­ing money from large donors when War­ren trans­ferred around $10 mil­lion from her Sen­ate funds be­fore de­nounc­ing big money do­na­tions. Har­ris moved $1.2 mil­lion into her pres­i­den­tial fund. Har­ris lamented that she now needs to be in places like New York to keep the cam­paign fi­nan­cially afloat but prefers to spend time in early vot­ing states. On a later press call, Har­ris’s cam­paign didn’t name War­ren di­rectly but noted re­peat­edly that Har­ris came into the cam­paign with less than other can­di­dates be­cause ‘we spent 2018 rais­ing for other can­di­dates.’”

And same with Buttigieg - AP: “Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is accusing his 2020 rival Elizabeth Warren of being ‘extremely evasive’ when it comes to explaining how she'd finance a universal health care plan. Speaking on CNN on Thursday, Buttigieg issued his most pointed attack yet on the Massachusetts senator, saying she ‘was extremely evasive when asked that question, and we've seen that repeatedly.’ The sharpened critique comes as the fall campaign kicks into high gear with Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses scheduled in February. Warren has assembled a well-organized campaign there and leads Buttigieg in Iowa, where the South Bend, Indiana, mayor's longshot presidential campaign is competing heavily and trying to break through.”

Yang plays Perot for a new generation - Atlantic: “To understand why [Andrew Yang is hanging on in the polls], it’s worth looking at how he responded earlier this month when Shane Gillis, a comedian for Saturday Night Live, referred to him using a racial slur. Yang urged that Gillis not be fired. … But more revealing was Yang’s explanation for why Gillis deserved forgiveness. Gillis, Yang tweeted, ‘does not strike me as malignant or evil. He strikes me as a still-forming comedian from central Pennsylvania.’ What does central Pennsylvania have to do with it? For Andrew Yang and his supporters, everything. It’s code for economic distress—which Yang believes fuels racism and most of the other problems that menace America. … Over the past quarter century, two presidential candidates have mobilized these economics-first, culture-war-indifferent voters into a potent force. The first was Ross Perot. The second is Andrew Yang.”

De Blasiout - Fox News: “New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday he is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic primary, ending his campaign after struggling to gain traction in the race. ‘I feel like I contributed all I can to this primary election and it’s clearly not my time,’ he said during an appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’ ‘So I’m going to end my presidential campaign, continue my work as mayor of New York City and I’m going to keep speaking up for working people.’ De Blasio entered the presidential race in May, running as a proud progressive. But his campaign never caught fire: He qualified for the first two rounds of Democratic presidential debates but has failed to make the cut for the others.”

Booker hides from past alliance with DeVos - WaPo: “Cory Booker was a little-known member of the Newark City Council 19 years ago when he received an extraordinary invitation from a Michigan group connected to Betsy DeVos, now the U.S. Secretary of Education. DeVos and her husband, Dick, were leading Republican proponents of a state ballot initiative that would allow taxpayer-financed vouchers to pay for private schools. … Booker accepted. … But as Booker runs for president, his relationship with DeVos, his previous support of vouchers and his continuing praise for charter schools present potential roadblocks. Vouchers and charters schools are anathema to many powerful teachers unions, who have outsize power in Democratic primaries, and some candidates in the party strongly oppose them on the grounds that they weaken traditional public schools.”

UKRAINE AT CENTER OF FIGHT OVER ALLEGED TRUMP PROMISE
Fox News: “The developing controversy over a mysterious phone conversation President Trump had with a foreign leader apparently centers on Ukraine, as the president and his allies fight back and claim the uproar is just another ‘partisan’ plot against him. What touched off the controversy is a secret whistleblower complaint that the director of national intelligence has kept from Congress, reportedly involving a ‘promise’ Trump made to an unnamed foreign leader. In the latest development, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday that the complaint relates to Ukraine. Fox News has not confirmed the reports. Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, seemed to acknowledge some effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate potential corruption related to the Biden family, though he gave conflicting answers on the matter in a CNN interview overnight. It remains unclear what the supposed ‘promise’ from Trump entailed. The president, however, maintained he said nothing improper, tearing into those pushing the allegations Friday.”

Giuliani inconsistent - WaPo: “Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, contradicted himself when asked whether he personally asked Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, ranted about media bias and defended Trump amid new reports about an intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint, during a chaotic and fiery CNN interview Thursday night. Immediately after anchor Chris Cuomo introduced him and summarized the latest news out of the whistleblower story, which had only broken about an hour prior, Giuliani went into attack mode. … Giuliani spent the first half of the interview repeating the claim that Biden in 2016 pressured Ukraine to drop its top prosecutor, which at the time was also investigating a natural gas company where Biden’s son Hunter was on the board. …There’s been no evidence found that Biden was trying to help out his son.”

TRUMP RALLIES WITH MODI IN OUTREACH TO KEY VOTER BLOC
WaPo: “President Trump heads to Harris County, Texas this weekend to a major rally ahead of next week's United Nations General Assembly — for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The website for the ‘Howdy, Modi’ rally boasts that the ‘live audience will be the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader visiting the United States other than the Pope’: Some 50,000 people, many from Houston's large Indian diaspora, are expected to turn out. It's eye-popping that leaders of the world's two biggest democracies are appearing together at such an event — let alone that this particular American president will be holding court in the epicenter of Texas's blue wave and the most diverse city in America. You're not wrong if you think that doesn't sound like friendly territory for Trump. But that's a strong political reason for him to go: Democrats are making a big play for Texas in 2020 and Republicans are growing concerned. The rally for Modi, who is hugely popular in India, provides Trump with access to a potential pool of Indian American voters that could turn out to be critical in next year's presidential elections.”

SENATE DEMS NEED BIG WINS IN THE SUN BELT
Politico: “To take back the White House, Democrats only need to win back three key Rust Belt states. But if they want to move a president’s agenda through the Senate, they have to flip the Sun Belt. From Arizona to North Carolina to a pair of seats in Georgia, Democrats have to clean up in that stretch of the country to have any chance of taking the chamber. President Donald Trump carried each of those states in 2016, and in an era of polarized politics when Senate races are increasingly nationalized, Democrats need at least strong performances by the party's presidential nominee in the Sun Belt states — if not victories — to have a shot at flipping their Senate seats. So while some Democrats are laser-focused on winning back the Rust Belt, Democrats across the Southern half of the country are urging their party to invest heavily in their states — not just as a way to flip the Senate, but as part of the path to 270 Electoral College votes.”

Kemp frustrates GOP with cattle call for Senate appointment - AJC: “Within hours of Gov. Brian Kemp’s unusual decision to invite the public to apply to succeed U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, his office was blitzed with resumes — some serious and some silly — from wannabe Washingtonians.Lawyers. Doctors. Local government officials. Serial jokesters. IT specialists. A well-known pundit. As of Wednesday evening, 158 people had applied — and many, many more are expected to join in. … Welcome to the next phase of the race for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. Chances are, Kemp and his advisers already have whittled a list of top contenders for Isakson’s seat down to a handful — and that the online application process unveiled late Tuesday will be largely for show. But encouraging would-be U.S. senators to publicly declare their ambition might just expand the scope of his search even as it forces some tough decisions on potential contenders.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Fox Poll: Voters are frustrated with government, nervous about economy Fox News

Trump files lawsuit in bid to protect personal, corporate tax returns from release Fox News

McConnell flips stance, announces support for $250 million in election security funding - WaPo

Sanders becomes first Dem candidate to hit one million donors - Politico

AUDIBLE: IOWA NICE?
“I’m f****** moving to Iowa.” – Sen. Kamala Harris said jokingly to Sen. Mazie Hirono according to journalist Matt Laslo.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend John Roberts will fill in for Mr. Sunday. He’ll sit down with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. 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. 

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

YOU STAY CLASSY, CALEB BENNETT
WFTS: “A freak boating accident left a 14-year-old Manatee County boy with an anchor lodged in his skull, and doctors call his survival story ‘one in a million.’ ‘I can’t believe I had an anchor in my head. Like, that’s pretty crazy,’ Caleb Bennett said. ‘My friends now call me the ‘Anchorman’ so that’s kind of cool. I’m kind of a big deal around here.’ Caleb and his family love to fish on the Manatee River, and that's exactly what the teenager was doing when the accident happened. His parents, Kelli and Rick Bennett, were in the Bahamas celebrating their wedding anniversary when they got the call. … Caleb told the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital he remembered feeling the anchor and thinking he just needed to stay calm. … Caleb was flown to Johns Hopkins in St. Petersburg where he immediately underwent brain surgery. … [Luis Rodriguez, M.D., a pediatric neurological surgeon at Johns Hopkins] told the family how lucky it was that the anchor didn't touch any of the blood vessels in Caleb's brain. His caretakers say he's a ‘miracle.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Wounding a President by reversing his most cherished foreign policy goal is an understandable political instinct. But if it wounds the country, it is a bad one.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 24, 2001.

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.