Trump gets a taste of his own medicine

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On the roster: Trump gets a taste of his own medicine - Moore leads, but Strange tries to slip by - GOP eyes other ObamaCare options - Multiple White House officials used personal emails - But remember, Eli, no more samples 

Why do Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul feel such freedom to oppose health insurance legislation at the very heart of the agenda of a president of their own party? 

There has been much said about the opposition from Sens. John McCain and Susan Collins to a proposal championed by President Trump that would repeal ObamaCare and instead award funds to states in blocks. But at this point, how could either of their refusals be surprising? 

McCain, 81, is in his fifth term and has forged a personal brand out of defying party orthodoxy. Collins, who is in the middle of her fourth term, is openly considering leaving the Senate to run for governor in her home state of Maine. Neither of these people sound like good candidates for presidential pressure from Trump.

But what are we to make of the refusals from Cruz of Texas and Paul of Kentucky, who both represent states that went heavily for Trump in 2016 and where the president is still presumably quite popular? Plus, both Cruz and Paul were 2016 primary rivals of Trump and are both relatively young and would both seem to have big plans for the future. 

Heck, Cruz has to run for re-election next year in Texas!

To find an explanation for this insubordination, cast your eyes southward to Alabama, where voters today look likely to hand the president a defeat, and a rather stinging one at that. 

Trump has campaigned hard for Sen. Luther Strange, tapped to replace Jeff Sessions upon his ascension to Trump’s cabinet. But a cadre of former Trump officials and Republican insurgents has backed Roy Moore, a controversial former judge. 

There has been something of an infantilizing tone from Moore and his supporters who suggest that Trump is not able to make up his own mind on the question of who he would rather represent the Yellowhammer State. In their telling, Trump was either tricked or trapped into backing the man he affectionately calls “Big Luther.” 

While this ought to be somewhat insulting to a president who takes a great deal of interest into matters of loyalty and deference, the real issue here is the practical consideration of presidential clout. 

The fact that people like former White House adviser Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka seem poised to succeed in flouting their former boss will embolden other challenges to Trump’s position atop his party.

It’s almost as if Trump is being treated as a mascot or symbol of their political movement rather than its elected leader. That’s bad news for a president whose party is facing a series of painful votes.

It may be that McCain and Collins are substantially beyond Trump’s reach at this point in their careers, but Cruz and Paul should be easy pickings for a president who still commands the support of something like 80 percent of Republicans. Remember also, that these were two guys that Trump filleted like sockeye salmon in 2016.

If Alabama Republicans pick Moore over Strange they will be choosing someone to defy Trump not, as Strange has promised, be an implement of the president’s will. If that is deemed an acceptable position for Republicans, defiance will grow. 

Ask yourself if you can imagine how prior presidents would have dealt with insubordination at this level. You don’t even have to reach back to Lyndon Johnson’s tirades. All of Trump’s immediate predecessors were occasionally forced to deal with recalcitrant members of their own parties, sometimes harshly so.

The purpose of partisan politics is to arrange majorities needed to enact preferred policies. But as Trump found in his own run, there is much to gain for individual politicians in undermining that necessary cohesion.

If Trump lacks the clout to keep people like Cruz and Paul in line, he’ll have no hope of getting 50 Republicans together for any measure much more significant than naming a post office.

“…there are still to be found visionary or designing men, who stand ready to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace between the States, though dismembered and alienated from each other.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 6

Nat Geo: “A salt lake in Yuncheng, often called China’s ‘Dead Sea,’ has tourists flocking to it for an unusual reason. Its waters are appearing in intense shades of magenta, green, and yellow due to algal blooms and rapidly breeding insects. The rare phenomenon is caused by the algae species Dunaliella salina, which NASA has reported appears green in marine environments but can turn red if exposed to conditions of high salinity and light intensity due to ‘the production of protective carotenoids in the cells.’ Carotenoids are the plant pigments responsible for the lake’s brightly colored hues. A study done on the unique algae species by faculty at the University of Concepción, Chile says that D. salina is presently the most salt-tolerant eukaryote (any organism that possesses a clearly defined nucleus) known. It can be found in saline lakes around the world, in places such as Chile, Australia, Mexico, and Israel.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -12.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 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.]

FiveThirtyEight: “Is President Trump about to suffer his biggest electoral setback ever? That’s the question on people’s minds ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff in Alabama’s special Senate election. Trump’s preferred candidate, Sen. Luther Strange, is facing off against former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore for the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Moore is the favorite, but not by so much that a Strange win would be … well, strange. (Sorry.) Moore has led in every reliable public poll of the runoff. But if you look closely enough, it does seem that Moore’s edge has been declining in the waning days of the primary race. A number of surveys released over the past 10 days have put his lead in the single digits, though polls conducted this past weekend seemed to put Moore 10 percentage points or more ahead of his opponent. Private polls conducted by Strange’s allies show a tighter race. And remember, primary polls are typically less accurate than general election polls.”

Trump not backing off ‘Big Luther’ - Fox News: President Trump claimed his favored candidate is gaining steam as he urged voters to back GOP Sen. Luther Strange in Tuesday's Alabama Senate race, though some of the president’s top allies are backing former state Chief Justice Roy Moore and claim the energy of populist conservatives is on their side. Strange has trailed Moore in all recent public polls for the Republican primary runoff. But Trump argues Strange is closing the gap thanks to his support. ‘Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement,’ Trump tweeted Tuesday. ‘Finish the job - vote today for ‘Big Luther.’’”

Where rebellion against globalists is obedience to God - WashEx: “The night before polls open in the Republican primary runoff, Judge Roy Moore makes his final campaign stop in a pole barn on 300 acres of Alabama countryside just miles from the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. It feels like church camp. A congregation of about 250 stands on the mulched barnyard floor and listens intently to the sweaty political service on stage. Each of the speakers teach different iterations of the same anti-globalist, anti-establishment gospel, where rebellion against elites — particularly a vote for Moore — is obedience to God.”

Trump also at the top of Virginia voters’ minds - Virginian Pilot: “Nearly 40 percent of likely voters said the Republican president will influence their choice in the Nov. 7 election… When [Ed Gillespie] was asked during last week’s debate if he wanted Trump’s help, the candidate said he welcomed support from anyone. Asked afterwards if he would invite the president to campaign, Gillespie declined to elaborate. Wason reported that 58 percent disapproved of Trump’s job performance, 35 percent approved and the remainder didn’t answer. Voters’ views on Trump’s influence hinged on whether they backed Gillespie or Democrat Ralph Northam. Seventy-two percent of Gillespie’s supporters said the president doesn’t affect their choice, but about half of Northam’s voters said he does.”

Politico: “The supposedly hard deadline at the end of the month to repeal Obamacare might not be so hard after all. With their latest attempt to dismantle the health law on track to fail this week, GOP senators are already raising the prospect of going after it again with the same powerful tools that currently let them pass legislation with just 50 votes. There is nothing to suggest Obamacare repeal would get any easier in the coming months and doing so may significantly hobble the Republican majority’s other chief legislative priority: tax reform. But facing a floundering repeal push, wrath from the base and a frustrated President Donald Trump, Republicans may have no other choice but to keep pushing to uproot the law. ‘We’ve got to do both,’ Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said of tackling both Obamacare repeal and tax reform next year.”

But boy is it complicated - Axios: “Some Senate Republicans don’t want to give up on health care, but others worry combining the two difficult topics will sink the tax reform effort. ‘We don’t have the political capital,’ said the aide, who is in the latter camp. But as we’ve seen over the last 10 days, it becomes politically difficult for the GOP to ignore a glimmer of hope when it comes to repealing the Affordable Care Act. Who’s on board: Sens. Ron Johnson, Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul — so far.”

Trump’s state-tax plan could cause issues for his party members - Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump’s promised tax overhaul may force dozens of Republican congressmen in states including New York and New Jersey into a politically damaging vote to repeal a $1.3 trillion tax break their districts use heavily. But not if Representative Peter King of New York can help it. King, a Republican who represents Long Island, said he’ll oppose any attempt to repeal the state and local tax deduction, calling it ‘absolutely essential to my district.’”

White House ready to make McConnell the goat - Daily Beast: “The Trump White House is gearing up to lay blame for a series of likely failures this week squarely at the feet of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), according to sources in and outside of the administration. … The dual setbacks could have profound ramifications throughout the party, forcing it to reckon with a Republican electorate deeply upset with its inability to move an agenda and its own inability to get that agenda moved. The rush to assign responsibility for that failure is taking place before it even occurs. One senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast that the president is ‘well prepared to’ shovel blame onto McConnell if and when the latest Obamacare repeal effort goes down in flames later this week.”

Poll: Voters worry Trump tax plan will favor rich, big business - WaPo/ABC News: “Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that the tax system favors the wealthy — and half of Americans believe that President Trump's tax plan will help the rich even more, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. More than 7 in 10 adults say the nation's tax system already tends to favor the wealthy more than the middle class, with a 55 percent majority who feel this ‘strongly.’ About half expect Trump's tax plan will disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans, 51 percent, while 10 percent think it will mainly benefit the middle class, and 24 percent say it will benefit both groups equally.”

NYT: “At least six of President Trump’s closest advisers occasionally used private email addresses to discuss White House matters, current and former officials said on Monday. The disclosures came a day after news surfaced that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, used a private email account to send or receive about 100 work-related emails during the administration’s first seven months. But Mr. Kushner was not alone. Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, also occasionally used private email addresses. Other advisers, including Gary D. Cohn and Stephen Miller, sent or received at least a few emails on personal accounts, officials said. Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, who is married to Mr. Kushner, used a private account when she acted as an unpaid adviser in the first months of the administration, Newsweek reported Monday.” 

House Intel gets Stoned - WaPo: “Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone plans to fiercely deny to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he had any contact, much less colluded, with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election, according to a prepared opening statement he shared with The Washington Post. Stone also plans to deny that he had any advance knowledge that emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta would be hacked or that his emails would then be released by WikiLeaks — despite tweeting just days before that Podesta’s ‘time in the barrel’ would soon be coming.” 

Roger riffing on the eve of his testimony - NY Mag: “The last time he testified before Congress was in 1973, when, at 19 years old, he was called before the Senate Watergate Committee. ‘It was only a hundred years ago,’ he laughed. Now, close to half that exaggerated time later, he remains a looming figure on the periphery of the latest great political scandal/existential threat to a presidency. ‘No, I don’t get nervous. Never,’ he told me in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington on the eve of his testimony, though at brief intervals his far-off look appeared to betray those words before he snapped back to his entertaining self.”


Fox News: “President Trump announced he will visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico next Tuesday, as the island copes with shortages of food, drinking water and electricity. ‘We have to help them. The island is devastated,’ Trump said Tuesday. The administration has been facing criticism for its response to the damage on the island that is home to more than 3 million U.S. citizens. Trump said next Tuesday is the earliest he can visit without disrupting recovery operations. He voiced confidence that Puerto Rico will recover. …Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that his administration is ‘working hard’ to respond to the island’s needs, vowing, ‘Much food and water there/on way.’ The president also tweeted about the devastation overnight, while noting the island suffers from ‘broken infrastructure & massive debt.’ ‘It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed… Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well. #FEMA,’ he wrote.”

Poll finds hurricane handling had been a lone bright spot for Trump - CBS News: “President Trump's approval rating on the response to recent hurricanes is positive, but it's the only positive measure of those tested. His rating for handling health care is the lowest this poll tested -- at just 29 percent. Immigration meets just 35 percent approval. His overall approval rating, also now at 35 percent, is one point lower than August, and the lowest it has reached in this poll so far. Mr. Trump's overall job rating has been similarly negative since June. Those who disapprove of the president overall are overwhelmingly likely to also disapprove of his handling health care, while they are relatively more approving of his handling the economy and hurricanes.”

Dems say hurricanes should force delay in DACA phase out - Wash Times: “The recent battering of hurricanes has left such a mess that the Trump administration should delay its phaseout of the Obama-era deportation amnesty for Dreamers, or DACA, policy, top Democrats said Monday. While the storms have hit Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico hard, the Democrats called for a nationwide extension, saying illegal immigrants could need more time to get their documents together to comply with the Oct. 5 deadline Homeland Security set for renewals. Under the phaseout, those already in the program won’t have their two-year permits revoked, and can serve out the rest of the term. Those whose permits expire over the next six months can apply for a two-year renewal, but must have applications in by Oct. 5. The Democrats said tens of thousands of DACA recipients live in the areas affected by the storms.”

House Dems vote down FAA, hurricane tax relief bill -
 The Hill: “Legislation to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs and provide tax relief for victims of recent hurricanes failed on the House floor Monday after Democrats rejected it. … A total of 26 Democrats, mostly centrists or members from hurricane-affected states, refrained from endorsing their leaders' strategy and joined all but eight Republicans in supporting the bill. … Democratic leaders urged their rank-and-file to oppose the package because they thought the tax provisions didn’t go far enough and wanted to offer the DREAM Act to let young undocumented immigrants stay in the U.S. as an amendment.”

Trump to host RNC fundraising dinner, $250,000 per couple - Bloomberg

Interior Secretary Zinke tells oil group that 30 percent of agency workers disloyal - Fox News

Ivanka Trump’s business ties shrouded in secrecy in China - AP

Read this: ‘How fake news turned a small town upside down’ NYT Magazine

Less than a month into trial, N.J. voters want Sen. Menendez out if guilty USA Today

“I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed. Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes.” – White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in an interview with CNN

“I have been reading your daily releases since you started. Whether you choose to admit it or not, it goes without saying your take on the overall world of President Trump and his role in American government has noticeably shifted. I’ve held out from writing to see if you would tow the ‘no horse in this race’ line or not. No more. In your own way, you have joined the ranks of the so-called MSM in working to ensure the digs at Trump from all angles are echoed in your own words. No longer do I really read Halftime Report, but rather scan for anything worth reading.” – Floyd Prophet, Kannapolis, N.C.

[Ed. note: I’m sorry to hear that you’re unhappy, Mr. Prophet. And I certainly appreciate your longtime readership. I try, as they would say in Cloud City, to regularly search my feelings on this subject. The tests that I find helpful are to look for historical analogies or do thought experiments in which roles are reversed. If, for example, Barack Obama, had as president called the owners who refused to sign protesting quarterback Colin Kaepernick “sons of bitches” and said they should lose their franchises, what would I have thought or said? Or, I can look at how I analyzed Obama’s personalization of prior racially-charged controversies, like the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin. I found Obama’s use of the Martin case to be somewhat exploitive and unnecessarily divisive. Throughout his presidency, Obama wasted many opportunities to use his status as the first black president to bridge racial divides and instead sometimes exploited them. And if Obama had said the inverse of Trump’s rant and then followed it up with 25 tweets on the subject I have no doubt that I would have found it unseemly, cynically exploitive, pointlessly distracting and far beneath the dignity of an office so crucial to the success of the republic. Partisans often use past misconduct by opponents to excuse their own misdeeds. I believe such instances are better for testing our own views on current events. Trying the shoe on the other foot sometimes helps me a great deal. And my answer in this case is that presidents should substantially avoid commentary on matters beyond their power, especially when what they say tends to increase national disharmony. It’s unwise politically and defies the Framer’s vision for the chief magistrate. Whether one agrees with their underlying sentiments or not, presidents generally fail in their duties when they go beyond their job descriptions, especially in stoking controversies. Whatever the case for you, I hope you’ll continue to at least scan and that you’ll find things useful to you.]         

“You said, ‘Trump, who boasts friends and political allies among NFL ownership, wanted people to know how he would handle the thorny issue of black players kneeling in protest of police brutality during the playing of the national anthem before games.’ He NEVER mentioned race.” – Bob MartinProvo, Utah

[Ed. note: That’s true. But they did. The players’ motivations may not matter to Trump. He might have insulted their mothers if they had been veterans protesting the dysfunctional VA system, too. But to explain and understand the political consequences of the president’s blitz on the subject, I think it is important to understand the purpose of the protest. As a consequence of slavery, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, racial controversy is an immutable part of American politics. That may change some day, but not any time soon. Americans of many ethnicities wish deeply that we were moving away from rather than toward the political weaponization of race and the dominance of identity politics. But because of the intense feelings and therefore political potency of the issues, however, politicians and activists often can’t resist stoking the flames of enmity. Trump certainly knew that context when he engaged.]

“I have to admit that after being an avid political watcher for more than 42 years, this past weekend’s kerfuffle over the NFL and the President has pushed me off the edge. What a nonissue!!!!! As a rule, I don’t usually tune into the game until way into the 1st Quarter (Packer fans realize the beginning of their games are usually too painful to watch). The Democratic Party is so far away from any rational thinking, they have fallen off the horizon. And the Republicans have one leader, John McCain. No one else matters. Nothing will get done in this congress or any future congresses as only one or two people have the power to shoot down any thing that requires a vote, just because they can!!!!! The President was supposed to be the best of three poor choices. Trump will definitely go down in history as a memorable president but not in a way most people think he will. The country just went over the falls without a barrel!!!!!” –Terri ReynoldsMonroe, Wis.

[Ed. note: Save some exclamation marks for the rest of us, Ms. Reynolds! I would remind you, though, that we have been over higher falls than these in flimsier barrels than this one.] 

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SF Gate: “Sue Berkeley and Eli Bob, an Australian couple with a real love for buying things in bulk, tied the knot on Saturday at a place the bride calls ‘a place that I love’: their local Costco. … ‘The initial idea of the wedding was meant as a bit of joke,’ Berkeley told A Current Affair. … To Berkeley’s son Josh, who walked her down the aisle, the venue was an obvious choice. ‘She loves this place so much, and she’s here all the time…’…the couple’s wedding was attended by 90 of their family and friends and ‘200 confused shoppers.’ While onlookers moseyed by, Berkeley and Bob’s ceremony took place under an indoor trellis adorned with flowers, next to tables covered with white tablecloths and scattered rose petals. Invitees were treated to pizza, hot dogs, bulgogi rolls, fountain soda and wedding cake — all of which cost around $10 per head.”

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.