Trump's seagull management style makes mess of Senate

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster:Trump’s seagull management style makes mess of Senate - House ready to pass Senate budget, even if it ‘stinks’ - Bannon bashes Afghan policy - Sen. Flake will not seek re-election in 2018 - Dat booty though


Corporate America has a phrase for relationships like the one President Trump has with Congress and his own cabinet: “Seagull management.”

That’s when somebody flies in, defecates on everything and then flies away.

This note generally ascribes to the theory of Trump’s worldview explained by Randall Lane, the editor of Forbes who has known and covered Trump since long before the president knew a caucus from a crockpot.

Lane interviewed Trump for the president’s listing in the magazine’s ranking of the richest Americans. Trump dropped 92 spots and his net worth slid by $600 million based on declining retail real estate values, but still checked in at a cool $3.1 billion.

But Lane’s insight on Trump is more precious than gold as we try to figure out what comes next for this rollercoaster presidency. Lane’s thesis is Trump looks at every encounter as combat in which there will be a winner and a loser. Lane cites for evidence a 1981 quote Trump gave to People Magazine, “Life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.”

As we have seen, this is an approach far more useful when constructing a deal for buying a casino or negotiating a television contract than it is for serving as president for all Americans and as the head of the Republican Party.

One of the problems former President Barack Obama had in governing was that he was too stingy with face-saving wins for his Republican foes. Rather than giving then-House Speaker John Boehner a little more fabric in which to cover his backside in dealing with crabby conservatives, Obama always had to notch the W for himself.

If you will recall, in those days, Democrats were thinking they would “break the fever” in the Republican Party by jamming up reasonable voices and elevating bomb throwers. Team Obama explained that this would not only give the Democrats generational majority status but also punish Republicans for humoring unsavory elements within their party.


If you want to get things done in Washington, you not only have to let your opponents save face sometimes, you also have to be willing to share the credit with other members of your own team. Those are ideas as antithetical to Trump as low ceilings and matte finishes in a building’s lobby.

For example, the president this week issued what amounted to a veto threat on tax legislation that lowered the cap for tax-free contributions to 401(k) retirement funds. The WSJ had picked up the scent on the Hill of what we were subsequently told was basically a bargaining ploy between Republicans drafting the plan.

In these scenarios, senior members raised the threat of something particularly onerous in order to get a little leverage on members who are stuck on another point.

Trump flew in, tweeted all over it and then flew away. Caw. Caw.

We saw plenty of this during the still unresolved efforts to patch ObamaCare for next year. Legislation was so great that it had to be celebrated one day and then a few days later it was “mean.” Legislation had to cover everyone and then it was fine for it to drop millions from the rolls. It was wrong to repeal without a replacement and then it was a betrayal to do anything else but that.

Now, some of this relates to changing political situations. But most of it relates to Trump’s desire to emerge victorious from every individual interaction.

Today, Trump is interacting the heck out of Sen. Bob Corker R-Tenn. What does a win look like here for Trump? What does a loss look like? Corker is already not running for reelection and he is not going to be removed as the head of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee. In all conventional terms, Corker is beyond Trump’s reach.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said today and Corker affirmed that the Tennessean would not vote against Trump’s favorite initiative, a tax cut plan, to spite the president. Corker basically intimated that that was the kind of thing Trump would do, but that Corker was too mature for.

But neither was there any sign that Corker would stop treating Trump like Trump treats the people he dislikes: taunting and trolling.

You are welcome to debate amongst yourselves who is most morally obliged to yield in this substantially pointless exercise. Should Trump because he is in a position of great responsibility, or should Corker since he already knows that Trump’s emotional register doesn’t have that setting? As for us, we will just assume that neither man will give the other the satisfaction of relenting.

That means that as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tries to cobble together some very tricky votes on health insurance, young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as children, funding the government, raising the debt ceiling and constraining the nuclear ambitions of Iran there will be even more seagull guano around than usual.

And for Trump, it may be that letting Corker and all of his buddies in the Senate clubhouse get credit for passing legislation and cutting deals is too much to bear. He may continue to feel obliged to swoop in and spoil the picnic, even if it’s not in his or his party’s long-term interests.

As we head into what promises to be the toughest 10 weeks for Congress yet, Republican success or failure may depend on Trump’s ability to fly above the fray.

“A local spirit will infallibly prevail much more in the members of Congress, than a national spirit will prevail in the legislatures of the particular States.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 46

The Atlantic: “As a teenager, [David Munns] was witness to the last gasps of a 20th-century lexical leitmotif. The suffix -tron, along with -matic and -stat, are what the historian Robert Proctor at Stanford University calls ’embodied symbols.’ Like the heraldic shields of ancient knights, these morphemes were painted onto the names of scientific technologies to proclaim one’s history and achievements to friends and enemies alike. Stat signaled something measurable, while matic advertised free labor; but tron, above all, indicated control. To gain the suffix was to acquire a proud and optimistic emblem of the electronic and atomic age. It was a totem of high modernism, the intellectual and cultural mode that decreed no process or phenomenon was too complex to be grasped, managed, and optimized. The suffix emblazoned the banners of nuclear physics’ Cosmotron, modern biology’s Climatron, and early AI’s perceptron—displaying to all our mastery over matter, life, and information.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump net job-approval rating: -20.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.8 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.]

WashEx: “Desperate to pass a tax reform bill by the end of the year, House Republicans have all but agreed not to nitpick the Senate-passed budget resolution, and instead pass it this week in order to quickly pave the way for a filibuster-proof vote on tax overhaul legislation. The House plans to vote Thursday on the Senate’s $4 trillion budget blueprint, which allows for a $1.5 trillion tax cut and increases the deficit. President Trump Monday began phoning House Republican lawmakers who might be reluctant to back the Senate budget resolution, which is less fiscally conservative than the House budget that passed earlier this month. … ‘[Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.] told him, Mr. President, this budget stinks.’ While the Senate plan sticks to federally mandated (and unpopular) spending caps, the House budget doesn’t, and it boosts defense spending while slashing domestic spending. The House plan also funds the southern border wall and reforms entitlements.”

Brady says next week for tax legislation - WaPo: “Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and is leading initial drafting of the tax legislation, is expected to release the bill as soon as next week and told reporters it remains on track. But he declined to make a firm commitment on timing and said Republicans had not yet made key decisions, such as whether to add an additional income tax bracket for high earners and on how to implement a planned estate tax repeal. … The remaining indecision shows the competing pressures tax writers face as they attempt to deliver the massive tax cuts Trump has promised while also minimizing the effect of the tax cuts on the deficit.”

Senate Republicans pen immigration plan for DREAMers - 
Politico: “Key Senate Republicans have begun privately discussing the contours of an immigration plan to shield the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who will lose work permits and deportation protections starting early next year. Preliminary talks show that influential GOP senators are eager to devise a legislative fix for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that could pass muster with both Democrats and President Donald Trump… In an interview, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said … Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has convened a working group on immigration that includes himself and GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma, as well as other lawmakers. Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Jeff Flake of Arizona also are among the Republicans who have been engaged in the talks, according to sources.”

Senate uncertain of where ObamaCare deal stands - Politico: “Republicans on Capitol Hill can’t seem to tell if the White House wants an Obamacare stabilization bill, leaving their path forward murky. Conflicting statements from President Donald Trump and a list of White House-requested changes circulated over the weekend have given GOP leaders no clarity on whether they should force a controversial vote on the proposed bipartisan Obamacare fix, or set it aside for now and then try to roll it into a far-reaching year-end spending bill. ‘It’s safe to say the president’s been unclear,’ said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. Like other Republicans, Capito is hoping Trump takes a clearer position when he makes his first-ever visit to the Senate GOP’s closed-door lunch on Tuesday. ‘I’m certain that’ll be one of the topics we discuss,’ she said.”

How King Corn beats big oil - 
Bloomberg: “Farm-state interests just conquered Big Oil in a fight over biofuels, proving that in Donald Trump’s Washington, King Corn still reigns. The clash erupted over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard, a 12-year-old law that compels the use of fuels such as corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel. Although the president had repeatedly promised Midwest voters he would ‘protect’ ethanol and support the program, his Environmental Protection Agency was considering steps to dilute the mandate. Farm-state governors and senators revolted -- setting off a behind-the-scenes struggle between two special-interest heavyweights. Lobbyists for oil refiners warned of higher gasoline prices if the administration backed down. Iowa leaders countered that Trump could face political retribution in 2020 during the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Republican senators threatened to delay confirmation of his nominees.”

Whatever happened to the Russia sanctions? Daily Beast: “When Congress sent President Donald Trump a bill in July that slapped new sanctions on Russia, the president signed the legislation reluctantly while lambasting it as an example of congressional overreach. The administration has since blown past an October 1 deadline to implement the sanctions. Lawmakers are now searching for answers as to whether the president is even planning to follow the law that they passed and he signed. … [Sen. John McCain], who chairs the powerful Armed Services Committee and has spoken out against the White House on its attitude toward Moscow, said the administration has left him in the dark. But aside from procedural tactics, Congress is essentially powerless in compelling the executive branch to follow through on the law it forced them to sign.”

WaPo: “It’s not just Republican senators any more. From his perch outside the White House, Stephen K. Bannon is now picking fights with the foreign policy establishment. David Petraeus reflected on the lessons of the Iraq surge yesterday during a day-long conference sponsored by the conservative Hudson Institute on countering violent extremism. ‘This is a generational struggle,’ the retired Army general and former CIA director said. ‘Therefore, we must have a sustainable and sustained commitment as our strategy.’ … Bannon, who was President Trump’s chief strategist into the summer, sought to directly refute Petraeus when he appeared at the conference later in the day. ‘There’s nobody in the United States that wants to be engaged in combat operations, special forces operations, drone operations (for multiple generations),’ he said. ‘That’s just not where the American people are. It’s not the way our country was founded or formed.’”

Bannon praises China’s ruler, says Bush remarks ‘pablum’ - Politico: “Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Monday dismissed as ‘more pablum’ recent speeches by former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain that seemed to criticize President Donald Trump’s brand of politics. The Breitbart News executive chairman contrasted the Republicans' addresses with a recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which that leader vowed not to over-extend China's global reach. ‘Last week in a span of I think 24 hours, we had the speech of President Xi, the speech of President Bush and the speech of Senator McCain,’ Bannon said at a national security summit hosted by the Hudson Institute. ‘And I would respectfully submit that President Xi’s speech was an adult speech to adults and that President Bush and ... McCain’s speech was just more pablum.’”

Trump expected to allow refugees from all nations but under new rules - WSJ: “The Trump administration will allow refugee admissions to the U.S. to resume for all countries but with new rules meant to better vet applicants, administration officials and others familiar with the planning said. The White House plans to announce the resumption of admissions and at least some of the new rules on Tuesday, officials said. Refugee admissions had generally been halted in June, with some exceptions.”

AZ Central: “Condemning the nastiness of Republican politics in the era of President Donald Trump, Sen. Jeff Flake on Tuesday announced he will serve out the remainder of his term but will not seek re-election in 2018. The bombshell, which Flake, R-Ariz., intended to detail Tuesday afternoon on the Senate floor, will further roil Republican hopes of keeping the party’s 52-seat Senate majority in the midterm elections of Trump’s first term, when the president’s party historically loses seats in Congress. It also likely will upend the race for Flake’s seat. Flake, one of the Senate’s more prominent critics of President Donald Trump, has been struggling in the polls. He told The Arizona Republic ahead of his announcement that he has become convinced ‘there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party.’”

Virginia air war turns even uglier - 
WTOP: “Be ready to see an increase of negative ads in the Virginia governor’s race as polls continue to tighten entering the final two weeks before the Nov. 7 election. … But one thing is certain: the gloves have come off and that means you will be seeing plenty of attack ads. Ads from Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign go after Democrat Ralph Northam, blaming him for the growth of MS-13 in Virginia. Northam’s campaign counters back by saying Gillespie has to go negative because he doesn’t have any good ideas. Bob Denton, an expert on Virginia politics at Virginia Tech, says from here on out, you will be seeing a lot more of these attack ads. ‘It’s a base race and so the messaging now is going to be much more targeted toward the core constituency for both Democrats and Republicans,’ Denton said.”

GOP sees rare opportunity for House seat in Maryland - 
WaPo: “Throughout the country next year, Democrats running for Congress will try to tie every Republican they can find to President Trump. But Republicans in Maryland’s 6th District believe they have a not-so-secret coat of armor to protect them from those attacks: Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has repeatedly distanced himself from the president and maintains high approval ratings across party lines. For the first time in a half­-­century, there will be no incumbent seeking reelection to the seat that Rep. John Delaney (D) is giving up to run for president in 2020. That gives Republicans surveying a potentially dismal electoral map a rare chance to compete for an open seat in one of the more purple parts of Maryland, a mostly Democratic state whose eight-member congressional delegation includes only one Republican, Rep. Andy Harris.”

March election set to replace disgraced Pennsylvania rep. - 
Pittsburg Post-Gazette: “A special election will be held Tuesday, March 13, to replace former Congressman Tim Murphy, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office announced late Monday afternoon. That date will now drive the deliberations of party leaders to choose their champions for the 18th district, which comprises portions of Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.”

Coal industry still getting crushed - Wash Times 

Labor leader who led push for minimum wage hike ousted over sexual misconduct claims 

Tyler Cowen: ‘The New Populism Isn’t About Economics’ Bloomberg

“F--- no, I’m not running for Senate. Are you kidding me? Who couldn’t figure that out? I’m releasing a new album. I’m going on tour too. Are you f------ s------- me?” – Musician Robert “Kid Rock” Richie talking to radio host Howard Stern declaring an end to what he said was his “joke” exploration of a Senate run in Michigan.

“‘We have for decades used excess revenues from payroll taxes intended to fund Social Security and Medicare for the general expenditures of the government.’ I’ve heard conflicting reports about what party allowed this to happen. What say you?” – Frank SieglerFarmington, Minn.

[Ed. note: I think the correct answer here is: both. The way Congress functioned for the second half of the 20th century was pretty simple. By borrowing against the future, lawmakers were able to give sweetheart treatment to members and by votes. Congressmen who could “bring home the bacon” were less vulnerable and more willing to make tough votes sought by leadership. But at the beginning of the 21st century deficits got out of control again and the debt began to reach alarming levels. People who are paying attention are now acutely aware that not only are we heading toward a disaster for unfunded entitlement programs and pensions, but that our debt load will be unsustainable when interest rates inevitably rise. But before those cold realities came into view, both Republicans and Democrats embraced the idea of pork-based lubricants for legislative jams. The bipartisan consensus in favor of spending our great-grandchildren’s money is one of the oldest and most durable points of accord in Washington.]

“My question to you is in regards to your ‘PLAY-BY-PLAY’ segment. As with my high school’s newspaper editor, is it kosher journalistically to cite ‘Fox News’? Sort of like tooting your own horn. I’m sure it’s not a journalistic no-no.” – Geno BokoskyFountain Valley, Calif.

[Ed. note: We won’t just toot our own horns here, we will blow our bugles from the rooftop. Fox News has a great team of reporters working behind the camera and producing mountains of marvelous content for the internet. It would be wrong of us to not share it with you!]

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

WKMG: “Authorities are saying neigh to a man whom an Orlando police mounted officer says slapped the rear of his horse early Sunday morning downtown then ran away. Police said they were patrolling the downtown area on North Orange Avenue at 2:30 a.m. when Casey Martin Waldner, 29, of San Diego, California, walked up behind an officer and his horse, Izzy, and slapped her rump. Izzy was startled and spun around, the officer said. Waldner hoofed it and ran away when the mounted patrol officer tried to speak with him, according to the arrest report. The officer notified another police officer on foot and asked him to speak with Waldner, who was then walking near Orange Avenue and Washington Street. ‘Officer Rine knew who I was talking about because he observed him run from me moments earlier,’ the mounted patrol officer wrote in the arrest report. Walder was arrested without incident.”

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.