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On the roster: There are no corners in an oval office - Bernie gets banged up - Pelosi talks down impeachment - Audible: Massachusetts woman enjoys human embrace - Five second rule does not apply
THERE ARE NO CORNERS IN AN OVAL OFFICE
Having more than 800,000 federal workers not getting paid, garbage piling up and the multitudinous second-order consequences of a partial government shutdown over the paltry – by federal standards at least – sum of about $3 billion was too farcical even for our current political moment.
So to keep it going and keep each party’s electoral bases committed to the fight, the president is raising the stakes.
Whether or not this shambling shutdown harms or helps either political party and to what degree is an entirely open question. But for now, at least, we can conclusively say that it benefits the narrow interests of President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
For Trump it has put him back in the driver’s seat. He got to be president by being the best at manipulating media coverage and those skills have obviously not left him entirely.
We’re not talking about Special Counsel Robert Mueller or the agenda of the new Democratic House of Representatives or the topsy turvy economy. Like the North Korea summit, the ill-fated election fraud commission and other Trump showstoppers, the semi-shutdown is catnip for coverage and the engagement of his longtime supporters but doesn’t add up to much.
For Pelosi, it has mostly kept the insurrectionists in her conference in check, mother truckers notwithstanding. Democrats may disagree on may things, but sticking it to Trump is not one of them. War with Trump makes life simpler and power more easily wielded.
The problem, as with every shutdown, is not how to get it started but rather how to get it stopped.
Trump’s problem was that he had painted himself in a corner. His demand was so small it sounded petty. When your government is running a $1 trillion deficit, it seems more than a little churlish to have all of these histrionics over a few billion dollars.
Friday of this week is payday for many of those affected workers who, if a resolution is not found, have gone a month without salary. Soon enough, walkouts, the blue flu, furious passengers standing in line at airports and other problems will start piling up.
Last Friday, Trump raised the stakes saying that the shutdown wasn’t about $3 billion but rather about a comprehensive immigration reform effort. That may be too much in the other direction since such a goal is unlikely to be achieved, but it’s certainly raises the stakes to a point that seems worth the trouble.
Now, Trump is going to use his first-ever Oval Office address – the .44 Magnum in the presidential communications arsenal – to lay out this comprehensive plan. He will also, presumably, throw in some bar talk about invoking a national emergency to use extraordinary executive powers to get his way.
The intent here is to get Pelosi on defense and cast her as unwilling to deal with a huge issue of major importance to most Americans. It’s not a format that suits the president, who struggles with scripted speeches, but if he can pull it off, could dramatically alter the political moment.
With roadblock coverage across all television broadcast and news stations, Trump will have a moment to tell the country what he really wants in simple, unambiguous terms. What does a deal that he would support look like.
Or, he will go on another discursion about slats and concrete and what somebody’s cousin Pete told him and the moment will be wasted and the next time he says he wants to address the nation it will get yawns.
The president has bluffed, bullied and wheedled his way into a very consequential moment. Now we’ll find out what he wants to do with it.
THE RULEBOOK: IT’S ALWAYS THE LAST ONE YOU SUSPECT
“For it is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25
TIME OUT: LE SPIDER-MAN
Enjoy a brief excerpt from a piece by the New Yorker’s Jake Halpern about the skilled climber and thief referred to as “Spider-Man” by the French press. New Yorker: “Long before the burglar Vjeran Tomic became the talk of Paris, he honed his skills in a graveyard. … At the age of ten, Tomic pulled off his first heist. He broke into a library in Mostar, climbing through a window that was nearly ten feet above street level. He stole two books, each of which appeared to be several hundred years old. … Tomic said of his early criminal adventures, ‘It was intuitive. Nobody ever taught me anything.’ … In time, Tomic began robbing apartments in more affluent neighborhoods. His climbing skills continued to improve, and by the age of sixteen he could scale the façade of a multistory building with relative ease. … One night, he had a vivid dream in which he stole five paintings from a museum. He took it as a portent. As he wrote to me, ‘I knew that someday I would do something great.’”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 42 percent
Average disapproval: 53.4 percent
Net Score: -11.4 points
Change from one week ago: unchanged
[Average includes: Gallup: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 39% approve - 52% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 52% disapprove.]
BERNIE GETS BANGED UP
Fox News: “As Bernie Sanders gears up for a likely second run at the Democratic presidential nomination, the Vermont senator finds himself facing a much higher level of scrutiny than he ever endured in 2016. … The allegations of harassment and sexism in Sanders’ 2016 campaign – which emerged in reports last week by The New York Times and Politico – are raising new questions even among some of Sanders' strongest supporters. … And the home-state Barre Montpelier Times Argus newspaper just published a blistering editorial that began, ‘Bernie Sanders should not run for president. In fact, we beg him not to.’ The editorial listed several points, including the sexual harassment allegations, while noting they are not directed at him personally. But more broadly, the piece warned… ‘It is one thing to start a revolution, but at a certain point you need to know when to step out of the way and let others carry the water for you.’”
Be best: Biden tells friends nobody in Dem field can top him - NYT: “Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is in the final stages of deciding whether to run for president and has told allies he is skeptical the other Democrats eyeing the White House can defeat President Trump, an assessment that foreshadows a clash between the veteran Washington insider and the more liberal and fresh-faced contenders for the party’s 2020 nomination. Many Democratic voters, and nearly all major Democratic donors, are keenly interested in Mr. Biden’s plans because of their consuming focus on finding a candidate who can beat a president they believe represents a threat to American democracy. But there is also a rising demand in the party for a more progressive standard-bearer who reflects the increasingly diverse Democratic coalition. Mr. Biden would instantly be the early front-runner if he ran, but he would have to bridge divides in a primary…”
Trump campaign moving fast to rig nomination - Politico: “President Donald Trump is tightening his iron grip on the Republican Party, launching an elaborate effort to stamp out any vestiges of GOP opposition that might embarrass him at the 2020 Republican convention. The president’s reelection campaign is intent on avoiding the kind of circus that unfolded on the convention floor in 2016, when Never Trump Republicans loudly protested his nomination before a national TV audience. The effort comes as party elites like Utah Sen. Mitt Romney are openly questioning Trump’s fitness for the job, and it’s meant to ensure that delegates to next year’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., are presidential loyalists… Trump political aides Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, the organizers of the project, held a national conference call with Republican state party chairs, who traditionally play an outsize role in picking delegates. Last week, the two advisers began having one-on-one calls with the state chairs to describe the campaign’s mission and discuss various circumstances in each state.”
J. V. Last: ‘The Trump Primary Has Already Begun’ - The Bulwark: “The smartest thing Barack Obama ever did was running for president when everyone thought Hillary Clinton was invincible. The second smartest thing he did was invite Clinton into his Cabinet and keep her there through his first term. Obama understood that avoiding a primary challenge is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for re-election. … President Trump, on the other hand, seems to be daring someone to run against him in 2020. He frequently insults his fellow Republicans and has made almost no effort to mend fences… He did not bring the people most likely to run against him—John Kasich and Mitt Romney—into his administration. And he has not kept the people who would be most dangerous to him—Nikki Haley and Jim Mattis—on his team. If you only looked at this top-line data, you’d almost think Trump wants a primary challenger. Maybe he does.”
PELOSI TALKS DOWN IMPEACHMENT
WaPo: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sought to quell a rising furor Sunday over whether Democratic lawmakers will seek to impeach President Trump, saying in an interview on CBS News’s ‘Sunday Morning’ that the public has yet to hear the conclusions of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. Democrats are unlikely to pursue a path of impeachment without Republican backing, Pelosi hinted. That could hinge significantly on whether Mueller’s probe uncovers concrete evidence of wrongdoing. … Pelosi’s remarks were echoed Sunday by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who said calls for Trump’s impeachment were a ‘distraction’ from Democrats' ‘substantive agenda.’ … Pelosi’s remarks come amid days of Democratic infighting after newly elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) vowed … to ‘impeach the motherf-----,’ referring to Trump. Many of Tlaib’s colleagues have cautioned against moving too quickly toward impeachment. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on Sunday told ABC News that impeaching Trump would be ‘an unbelievably serious undertaking.’”
But investigations to come fast and furious - Politico: “Democrats want to investigate the Trump Hotel deal and President Donald Trump’s taxes. They want to haul up conflicted Cabinet officials and dig into controversial changes to the census and food stamps. They want to put Education Secretary Betsy DeVos under oath and investigate child detentions at the border. The threat of subpoenas, investigations and oversight hearings will dominate the new House Democratic majority agenda, targeting the White House’s most controversial policies and personnel, spanning immigration, the environment, trade and of course, the biggest question of them all: Russian collusion. … But for House Democrats in control for the first time in nearly a decade, it’s also a role full of pitfalls. Trump has already tried to brand the prospect of congressional oversight as nothing more than ‘harassment,’ and Democrats will also have to show they can legislate, govern and investigate all at the same time in the House.”
Pergram: ‘The outsiders move inside: New to Congress, with all the pitfalls’ - Fox News
Bustos unveils ambitious plans for DCCC - Politico
Bolton puts terms on Trump’s initial threat of Syria troop withdrawal - AP
Rubio gets bipartisan backing for foreign policy bill aimed at bolstering Israel - The Intercept
Trump’s consequential SupCo gambles piling up - USA Today
AUDIBLE: MASSACHUSETTS WOMAN ENJOYS HUMAN EMBRACE
“I love it. I’m a hugger.” – Sen. Elizabeth Warren telling the Des Moines Register about the number of hugs she received on her recent trip to Iowa.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I think your history comment for [Friday] is a bit off or at least does not tell the whole story. The 44 Colt model of 1847 was a collaboration of Sam Walker and Colt in 1846-47. Walker was with the Texas Rangers at the time and wanted a more powerful weapon for the Mexican-American war. The 1000 US military orders were for the State of Texas Military is my understanding. The 44 Walker was the most powerful handgun until the 357 Magnum came along in 1935. They were called ‘horse pistols’ as they commonly were carried on the pommel of the saddle. These were powerful, accurate repeating weapons. Sam Walker carried two at the time of his death. Military Walkers are stamped with the US and 1847 on the left side of the revolver. Original Walkers are exceptionally expensive. Beat up ones might set you back 40 to 60 thousand dollars while the few really nice ones that are properly authenticated go for nearly a million. I attached a few pictures of me shooting my replica. They are fun guns to shoot and it teaches you a lot about patience as it takes a while to load up the black powder (pyrodex replica in my case) and it is quite powerful. My targets are not the best in the world but certainly show that the revolver could be quite accurate at 25 yards. The center group is 2 cylinders worth or 12 shots so a Ranger armed with a couple of Walkers would be force to be reckoned with. Keep up the great work on the Halftime Report. I find them always interesting.” – Peter Eick, Houston
[Ed. note: Awesome info (and photos), Mr. Eick. We can usually count on our readers to elucidate matters such as these and you certainly did not disappoint. Thanks much!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
FIVE SECOND RULE DOES NOT APPLY
WBRC: “Why did the chicken tenders cross the road? Apparently to cause a traffic hazard, according to Cherokee County authorities. No, seriously. It’s not a joke. The Cherokee County EMA is asking drivers to not eat the chicken fingers left on Highway 35 in a late Sunday night Facebook post. The tenders spilled on the roadway during an 18-wheeler wreck. The cases, which have been on the ground for 24 hours, aren’t safe to eat, authorities warn. What’s worse? Diving for free chicken tenders could land you in hot water with the law. It’s a crime to impede traffic, according to the EMA. Anyone caught could face charges.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Bill Clinton. One of the strangest nomination speeches ever… By the end, I half expected him to say, in the spontaneous laid-back style of the whole speech: I’ve changed my mind. I nominate myself. Or, if you’re a constitutional stickler, my wife. It would have made for the greatest call of the roll in 100 years.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Sept. 6, 2012.
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.