Trump tests the turning radius on the ship of state

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On the roster: Trump tests the turning radius on the ship of state - I’ll Tell You What: Pick of the litter - Wisconsin Dems sound the alarm - Trade war heating up - Imagine his inbox!

The president offered some tough talk to a key international ally. And while the policy demands were not much of a departure from those of his predecessors, the scolding tone and emphasis on the failings of our foreign friends drew shocked responses.

The president’s political rivals said he had thrown an important ally “under the bus” and undermined its fragile governing coalition. The president had made a “dangerous demand” in what amounted to a “betrayal” of a stalwart supporter of U.S. policy in a crucial region.

That’s what some of Barack Obama’s potential 2012 opponents had to say about Obama’s May 2011 speech calling for Israel to return to its borders before 1967’s Six-Day War.

American presidents had previously suggested that a two-state solution for the decades-old conflict depended substantially on Israel surrendering these buffer zones as part of a peace deal. But Obama did so in a public fashion and in such a way that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ceded Israel’s negotiating power.

Obama’s conservative critics went bonkers and made Obama’s obviously strained relationship with Netanyahu part of the GOP effort to oust the incumbent the next year. And in 2015 when Obama campaign operatives were part of the effort to unseat Netanyahu in Israeli elections, many Republicans said it was further evidence that America was abandoning its most important regional ally at a time of crisis.

Then came the Iran nuclear deal and many Republicans shifted all the way to arguing that Obama was “hostile” to the interests of Israel. Conspiracy theorists in the racist right-wing fever swamps suggested that Obama’s secret Muslim faith and alleged Kenyan nativity were behind his undermining of Israel.

But while Republicans, mainstream and fringy alike, were apoplectic – some even sincerely so – Obama’s base was quite pleased.

Liberal Democrats, including a substantial number of American Jews, believed that Netanyahu was a war-monger who was whipping up domestic fears for the purpose of gaining and maintaining power. And many Democrats believed that the lavish support Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had provided to Israel was a root cause of anti-U.S. sentiment in the Muslim world.

Why should American’s subsidize Israel when Israel wouldn’t help America by making reasonable concessions to American plans for regional realignment? Good for Obama, they said.

When Obama smacked Netanyahu and made nice with Tehran, Republicans howled but Obama’s base cheered. Down with neoconservative nation builders; up with letting the Middle East go its own way and “nation building here at home.”

And it helped (or at least didn’t hurt) Obama’s chances in 2012. Republican claims of Obama’s foreign policy fecklessness were at least offset by the enthusiasm of voters who were glad Obama was undoing the Bush doctrine.

As we know, Obama’s policy aims were dashed in 2016 when Donald Trump won the presidency. Trump has gone on not just to undo Obama’s tough approach to Israel and encouragement to Iran, but to go farther even than Bush ever had.

Trump’s own ambitious foreign policy agenda is his crackdown on traditional American allies in Western Europe. The alliance born of the suffering of two world wars and shaped by the Marshall Plan is to Trump as Israel was to Obama. We can still be friends, he says, but things are going to have to change.

Meantime, Trump is looking to remake America’s relationship with Russia, a global malefactor and nuclear power on a scale far beyond Iran’s fervid fantasies. Bush and Obama both had aims to make a useful ally out of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, but by the end of 2016 strong majorities in both parties had concluded what the future junior senator from Utah said in 2012: that Putinist Russia was America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”

After 18 months in office, though, Trump has never stinted in his admiration for Putin. And is now headed for a summit with the Russian ruler as European allies only too keenly aware of the dangers posed by Putin’s aim for regional dominance are getting nervous.

Trump met with the other leaders from the Western alliance today. He opened with a public scolding of Germany and closed with a demand that American counterparts not only immediately fulfil their unmet defense spending requirements but to double their commitments.

Like Obama’s upbraiding of Israel seven years ago, Trump isn’t making suggestions that are so different from those of his predecessors. It’s that he is doing so in a blunt, scolding and publicly embarrassing fashion. Trump, like Obama, means to shame an ally into supporting a broader U.S. policy shift. And, like Obama, a former member of Trump’s political team is perceived as working to undermine a key U.S. ally.

And the response from Democrats to Trump’s seagull style in Brussels was not unlike what Republicans said about Obama’s 1967 borders demand.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Trump’s “brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment. His behavior this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies.”     
There’s plenty more where that came from, but that captures the broad sense of Democratic response. And, like those Republicans who believed Obama had a secret agenda in favor of Arabs and against Jews, some Democrats claim that Trump is undermining traditional American allies at the behest of his Kremlin puppet master.

And since Putin did intervene in the 2016 U.S. election on Trump’s behalf, the claims take on extra intensity even beyond the fever swamps.

What those Democrats and the remaining number of Republicans who oppose Trump’s big foreign policy gambit forget, however, is that Trump insulting Europeans while praising Putin has a constituency perhaps as big as the one Obama was satisfying in his own mission to remake global affairs.

At the ceremony today in Brussels before the big dinner for the heads of state, organizers had an acrobat held aloft by a bunch of balloons perform for the dignitaries. Think “Up” meets Cirque du Soleil. It was delicate, odd and very avant-garde – all things that right-wing American populists are likely to loathe.

If Trump had taken out a pea shooter and started popping the performer’s balloons, there would have been plenty of his supporters who would have delighted in the deed. If Trumpism is an attack on the elites, globalists, bleeding hearts and cultural change, then Western Europe is its antithesis.

Democratic leaders may not know it, but Trump’s scolding of the same Continentals they revere sounds in the ears of his supporters much like Obama’s upbraiding of Netanyahu. Good for him, they think.

Now that fully a quarter of Republicans – and probably rising – holds a favorable view of Putin, there will be less consequence for Trump’s outreach to Moscow. Putin’s emphasis on power, nationalism, cultural traditionalism and machismo is a better fit for Trumpism than the effetes of the West and their balloon ballerinas.

And as for Putin’s human rights abuses, murders, international crimes, well… “you think our country is so innocent?”

Our own political instability is leading to increasingly wild swings in American foreign policy. But whatever these upheavals do to the globe and the hope for a continuation of the Pax Americana, never forget that they trace back to our own domestic politics.     

“The difference between a federal and national government, as it relates to the OPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT, is supposed to consist in this, that in the former the powers operate on the political bodies composing the Confederacy, in their political capacities; in the latter, on the individual citizens composing the nation, in their individual capacities.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 39

History: “In a duel held in Weehawken, New Jersey, Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shoots his long-time political antagonist Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, a leading Federalist and the chief architect of America’s political economy, died the following day. … Hamilton came to detest Burr, whom he regarded as a dangerous opportunist, and he often spoke ill of him. … Affairs of honor were commonplace in America at the time, and the complex rules governing them usually led to an honorable resolution before any actual firing of weapons. In fact, the outspoken Hamilton had been involved in several affairs of honor in his life, and he had resolved most of them peaceably. No such recourse was found with Burr, however, and on July 11, 1804, the enemies met at 7 a.m. at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey. It was the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801. … Few affairs of honor actually resulted in deaths, and the nation was outraged by the killing of a man as eminent as Alexander Hamilton. Charged with murder in New York and New Jersey, Burr, still vice president, returned to Washington, D.C., where he finished his term immune from prosecution.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 
52.6 percent 
Net Score:
 -11.4 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 0.8 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 41% approve - 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNBC: 41% approve - 47% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 43% approve - 51% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
41 percent
Democratic average: 48.2 percent
Democrats plus 7.2 points
Change from one week ago: 
no change 
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk University: 45% Dems - 39% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 42% GOP; Gallup: 48% Dems - 43% GOP.]

This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss President Trump's pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy and the path to confirmation. Plus, Chris uses the term “LARPer” and Dana answers questions from the mailbag. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Politico: “Sen. Tammy Baldwin wants everyone to know she could lose. It’s an unusual message for any candidate, but the liberal Democrat from Wisconsin is sounding the alarm after Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer effectively declared the first-term senator a favorite to keep her seat in November by leaving her off their lists of top-tier Senate races. After their pronouncements, major outside groups in both parties skipped Wisconsin in their initial $120 million of spending planned for this fall — triggering fears among state Democrats that the party will take victory for granted. But there’s palpable concern here among Democrats — and Baldwin especially — that Wisconsin is ripe for a repeat of 2016, when Donald Trump carried the state by less than a percentage point and GOP Sen. Ron Johnson surged to a surprise reelection behind a flood of late spending from conservative groups.”

GOP candidate Arrington back to campaign trail after car wreck - Fox News: “Republican congressional candidate Katie Arrington is ready again to hit the campaign trail after surviving a horrific head-on collision – and despite her serious injuries, says it would take ‘a lot more than an automobile accident to break’ her. ‘I can’t explain why I lived. If anyone does not believe in God, look at me,’ Arrington told Fox News in a phone interview on Wednesday. … Arrington was sidelined by the accident just days after scoring an upset primary victory over Rep. Mark Sanford last month in South Carolina. But she's now out of the hospital, and plans to return to the trail next week with fundraisers and meetings with supporters. Arrington, who is now sporting a red, white and blue hard cast on her left leg, told Fox News that her campaign is ‘back on the road.’”

Republican officials finalizing Charlotte for 2020 Convention - WSJ: “Republican officials were finalizing details Tuesday on a deal to bring the party’s 2020 convention to Charlotte, N.C., making a southern city in a battleground state the site for President Donald Trump’s expected nomination for a second term, people familiar with the selection process said. Party officials are also discussing the selection of a convention chairman, with David Bossie and Ronald Kaufman among the top choices, according to people familiar with those talks. That decision rests with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. Mr. Bossie was deputy campaign manager for Mr. Trump in 2016, and Mr. Kaufman is the party’s national committeeman from Massachusetts. The two longtime Republican activists didn’t return calls seeking comment on their potential selection.”

Pence heads to the Midwest to help House candidates - Politico: “Vice President Mike Pence begins a campaign swing through the Midwest on Wednesday designed to fire up the base in three battleground House districts. But there’s also a secondary mission: damage control. In the face of a trade war that intensified just four days ago, Pence is quietly setting up one-on-one meetings with major Midwestern donors where he is prepared to blunt concerns over an escalating situation that’s beginning to wreak havoc on markets, farmers and employers across the region. … The vice-president’s trip — announced Monday, just days after the United States leveled a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion of Chinese goods and China enacted equivalent retaliatory tariffs — will take him to Kansas City, Cedar Rapids and Chicago, where he’ll meet privately with big donors and attend fundraisers for three embattled Republican House incumbents. Pence is also planning public events with America First Policies, a group that is advocating for the Trump tax cuts.”

W. Va.’s Richard Ojeda continues to rise - Roll Call: “Richard Ojeda has become one of the stars of the 2018 midterms. First, the national media latched on to this Trump-voting Democrat, and now the national party is behind him too. A recent independent poll found him ahead here in southern West Virginia’s coal-mining 3rd District that President Donald Trump carried by nearly 50 points in 2016. But it wasn’t always this way. … The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently added Ojeda to its Red to Blue program, which should boost his fundraising. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates his race against GOP state Del. Carol Miller Likely Republican.”


Fox Business: “The U.S. is pursuing a new set of tariffs that would hit $200 billion in Chinese goods, according to senior administration officials. In a list published late Tuesday, the U.S. Trade Representative said the 10% tariffs would target a variety of products imported from China, including clothing, baseball gloves, bicycles, refrigerators and seafood. The additional U.S. tariffs, which will go through a two-month approval process including a public hearing, come after China retaliated in a tit-for-tat trade skirmish last week. The U.S. imposed an initial round of 25% tariffs, applying to $34 billion in imports, as part of a $50 billion tariff plan. China responded with levies of its own, targeting $34 billion in U.S. products such as pork and whiskey. ‘As a result of China’s retaliation and failure to change its practices, the president has ordered USTR to begin the process of imposing tariffs of 10 percent on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports,’ U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.”

Brady calls on Trump to meet with Xi over trade war - Bloomberg: “Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican who heads the powerful Ways and Means Committee, called on Trump to meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and hash out an agreement to settle their trade differences. Brady warned that further escalation, such as the administration’s latest move to levy tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, risked a multiyear fight that ‘that engulfs more and more of the globe.’ ‘Despite the serious economic consequences of ever-increasing tariffs, today there are no serious trade discussions occurring between the U.S. and China, no plans for trade negotiations anytime soon, and seemingly little action toward a solution,’ Brady said in a statement late Tuesday.”

Kavanaugh meets with GOP leaders as swing-vote senators, under pressure Fox News

Lisa Page
 will not appear for Capitol Hill interview despite subpoena, attorney says - Fox News

Deadlines pile up on administration for separated kids - Bloomberg

Senate Republicans are in no rush to replace Pruitt - Politico

“Richard took one step back, and said, ‘Angus, I don't know if you want to quote ‘Hamilton’ to me since my great, great grandfather shot him.’” – Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, re-telling a story in which he quoted “Hamilton” the musical to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

“Freudian slip in today's Halftime Report? Or maybe I'm missing something here if ‘Jew Jersey’ is something other than a typo. NRCC dumps Jew Jersey nominee over racist rants - WaPo: ‘The National Republican Congressional Committee has withdrawn its endorsement of a congressional candidate in New Jersey . . . Seth Grossman.’ Either more thorough proofreading or some soul-searching would seem to be in order.” – Dave Riley, Kasilof, Alaska

[Ed. note: You cannot imagine my mortification, Mr. Riley! Of all the places to make that always unfortunate typo, to do so on an item about a racist candidate is just beyond my editor nightmares. I am so sorry for any offense we caused through our sloppy editing. The item has been fixed online and we will redouble our efforts to read more carefully. Otherwise, all we can say is “Oy vey.”] 

“I do take exception however (and it probably reflects your inner feelings) when you say, ‘No project has been more focused or more consuming for Americans in the past 40 years, so this victory will be sweet for them indeed.’ You explicitly assume that only conservatives are ‘Americans.’  I consider myself a true American and find the way we have/will select Supreme Court justices not sweet indeed.” – John HarperVancouver, Wash.

[Ed. note: We were really having a banner day on Tuesday it would seem. The omitted word “conservative” I hope would make my meaning clear. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to point out the slip.] 

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Telegraph: “A civil servant in the Spanish province of Valencia has been handed a nine-year ban from public posts after it emerged he had been absent from his €50,000-a-year job for more than a decade. Every weekday morning, Carles Recio, an archives director in Valencia’s provincial government, would turn up at his office only to clock in and head straight out again, before coming back at 4pm to clock out. It was a routine he managed to maintain for ten years until last summer, when, after colleagues began to raise suspicions, he was finally fired. To the ire of local authorities, an attempt to prosecute him was shelved by state attorneys, who considered that his chronic and well-paid absence did not constitute a crime.”

“The way I see it, dogs had this big meeting, oh, maybe 20,000 years ago. A huge meeting—an international convention with delegates from everywhere. And that’s when they decided that humans were the up-and-coming species and dogs were going to throw their lot in with them. The decision was obviously not unanimous. The wolves and dingoes walked out in protest. Cats had an even more negative reaction.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in Time, June 16, 2003. 

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.