Twisting the dragon's tail

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On the roster: Twisting the dragon’s tail - Trade war taking shape - Manafort pleads not guilty to charges - GOP dumps on Saccone - Hi, Bubbles

The staple good of machine politics in New York a century and a half ago was vicious attacks on Great Britain.

Politicians like Gov. John Hoffman, a disciple of the infamous Boss Tweed, knew that one of the best ways to keep Irish immigrants quiescent about the many social and economic ills that plagued them was to “twist the lion’s tail.”

It’s hard for us to understand now, but the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain as we have known it is really only a post-World War II creation. For all of the years prior to 1918, the U.S. was the junior partner in the alliance and – more important politically – the successive waves of immigrants who reshaped the nation’s character, tended to be from places where the British Empire was very unpopular.

You know that the play Abraham Lincoln was attending when he was assassinated was called “Our American Cousin.” What you may not know is what made the play such a smash hit in the United States was because it lampooned foppish, British aristocrats. The character Lord Dundreary drew gales of laughter across the continent for playing a dull-witted fool who lived down to the expectations of American audiences who prided themselves on ruggedness, practicality and acumen.

The problem with Irish immigrants for the new country was that they were poor, Catholic and often without prospects. Unlike the two other prior waves of immigrants, German and Scots-Irish, the Irish came not just in massive numbers but fleeing a famine in their home countries.

While the Scots-Irish and Germans had headed west into the largely unpopulated interior with the abilities and resources to either homestead or trade, the Irish had none of those advantages. That’s why they were greeted with such alarm and contempt by the dominate culture. And many of them were stuck in tenements in large eastern cities.

If you have seen the movies “Gangs of New York” or “Far and Away,” you already have a stylized vision of what this moment in history was like. And, like the ways in which the dominant American culture would subsequently respond to waves of immigrants from China, Southern and Eastern Europe and, more recently, Latin America, there was much unpleasantness.

But, the Irish also represented votes. Every survivor of high school American history, insofar as such a subject is even taught anymore, will be able to summon an image of Tweed drawn by the great political cartoonist Thomas Nast. While much of the dominant culture was focused on spurning the Irish, Tweed & Co. were eager to exploit the political power these new immigrants provided.

The problem was that Tweed and his cronies could only really provide protection for the immigrants but not ameliorate the problems that truly plagued them. So how do you keep them voting for you?

One great way was to remind them of your shared hate for those stuffy, domineering, repressed and repressive Englishmen.

This would then trickle down to Washington where members of Congress from states and districts with burgeoning Irish populations would demand an increasingly belligerent American posture toward what was then and empire of unparalleled might and wealth.

Just imagine what the debate was like over America joining World War I. Aside from the substantial, wealthy and overwhelmingly Republican German-American population, there were the increasingly mighty Irish-Americans to think about. Joining a war to save the British from the Germans was about as popular as a MAGA hat in a barrio.

There’s much alarm being expressed in many quarters about the new protectionism being advanced by the current administration. And while it is a fairly substantial departure for policy norms in recent generations, it is hardly a new thing in American politics.

Identity politics was not an invention of liberals in the 1960’s, nor did it fade with their fortunes. It has always been with us.

And when a group, like the economically disadvantaged residents of the Rust Belt, cannot be directly helped it is sometimes good enough to simply hurt the countries they resent.

“But will not the House of Representatives be as much interested as the Senate in maintaining the government in its proper functions, and will they not therefore be unwilling to stake its existence or its reputation on the pliancy of the Senate?” – James Madison, Federalist No. 58


Sydney Morning Herald: “After decades of mystery surrounding [Amelia Earhart's] disappearance, her story might come to a close. A new scientific study claims that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro belong to Earhart, despite a forensic analysis of the remains conducted in 1941 that linked the bones to a male. … But Ric Gillespie, director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) spoke to The Washington Post's in 2016 about how he too believes the bones found on Nikumaroro belong to Earhart. … In June 2017, researchers travelled to Nikumaroro with dogs… But there were no bones. A week later, the History Channel published a photo suggesting Earhart died in Japan. Based on a photograph unearthed from the National Archives, researchers said Earhart may have been captured by the Japanese, as the photo showed Earhart and [her navigator Fred Noonan], in Jaluit Harbour in the Marshall Islands after their disappearance. … Gillespie still stands by his theory, he told Wootson in 2017 after the photograph's discovery.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
38.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 56.6 percent 
Net Score: 
-18.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.2 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve -56% disapprove; Monmouth University: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; IBD: 37% approve - 58% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 38% approve - 60% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 37.6 percent
Democratic average: 49 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 11.4 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.2 points 
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 38% GOP; Monmouth University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk: 47% Dems - 32% GOP; CNN: 54% Dems - 38% GOP; Marist College: 46% Dems - 39% GOP.]

Fox News:President Trump is signing an order Thursday that imposes tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from all foreign countries, while carving out an exception for Canada and Mexico for now while NAFTA negotiations are underway, White House officials told Fox News. The administration is placing a 25 percent tariff on all steel, and 10 percent on aluminum across the board. ‘We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military,’ the president tweeted early Thursday. Officials said this week that Mexico and Canada would be exempt from the tariffs during the American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, talks. The president himself has hinted at other exemptions. ‘If that [NAFTA] negotiation is unsuccessful then tariffs will be applied across the board,’ Peter Navarro, Director of the White House National Trade Council told Fox News.”

White House asked China to develop plan to reduce US trade deficit - CNBC: “President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has asked China to develop a plan to reduce the current trade deficit between the two countries by $1 billion. ‘Our relationship with China has been a very good one,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday. ‘We look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon!’ The trade deficit with China surged 16.7 percent to $36 billion in January, its highest level since September 2015, suggesting that Trump's ‘America First’ policies have not yet had a material impact on the deficit. Meanwhile, the United States' total trade deficit increased to a more than nine-year high during the first month of 2018. A $1 billion decrease in the U.S.-China trade deficit would represent a less than 1 percent reduction in the annual deficit.”

GOP worries about Cohn’s replacement - The Hill: “The Senate’s No. 2 Republican is expressing concern about the direction of President Trump’s policies after Gary Cohn announced the day before he’s stepping down as director of the White House's National Economic Council. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas) told reporters on Wednesday that the departure of Cohn leaves a major gap in the White House's policymaking process. ‘I don’t think it’s good news,’ Cornyn told reporters. ‘I'm concerned who the president will turn to for advice,’ he added. ‘I think Mr. Cohn was an outstanding public servant and somebody who had the credentials and experience to help the president decide what the policies of the government should be.’ White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Cornyn shouldn't be concerned about Cohn's departure.”

AP: “President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty on charges including tax evasion and bank fraud. Paul Manafort did not speak during the Thursday arraignment at a northern Virginia courthouse. A trial date of July 10 has been set, four months earlier than the defense had wanted. The grand jury indictment in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, accuses Manafort of hiding from the Internal Revenue Service tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine. The charges are part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections. Most of the charges against Manafort had been filed in the District of Columbia. But prosecutors say they were required to bring these charges to Virginia because they lacked venue in the nation's capital.”

Report: Trump asked Priebus about Mueller testimony - Fox News: “President Trump asked Reince Priebus about the former White House chief of staff's testimony in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, sources confirmed to Fox News on Wednesday -- but they said the talk included ‘nothing’ of substance. A source with knowledge of the investigation said the conversation was limited to questions like ‘how did it go?’ and ‘were you treated fairly?’ A second source said the president simply asked Priebus how he was treated and whether investigators were ‘nice’ to him. The source summed up the conversation as ‘nothing,’ saying Trump felt bad that Priebus was forced to sit for hours with Mueller and his staff. The president also spoke to White House Counsel Donald McGahn. Sources said Trump asked McGahn to talk to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about what they could do regarding Mueller, but that Trump never ‘ordered’ McGahn to fire Mueller. Both sources said the conversation did not go into the substance of Priebus’s testimony.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Trump in the middle - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why the Mueller investigation is just gearing up: “There are actually three sets of legal crosshairs, so to speak. One seeks to determine whether the Trump campaign received ‘anything of value’ from any foreign national or foreign government, and whether Trump personally approved of it -- a felony. Another inquiry seeks to determine whether the president himself attempted to obstruct the work of the Mueller grand juries by firing then-FBI Director James Comey for a corrupt reason, one that is self-serving and lacking a bona fide governmental purpose -- also a felony. The third inquiry seeks to examine whether Trump misused or misrepresented corporate funds or bank loans in his pre-presidential life -- another felony.” More here.

Politico: “Shortly after the new year, Rep. Steve Stivers, the House GOP campaign chief, delivered a stern message to Rick Saccone, the party's special election candidate in Pennsylvania. You need to start pulling your weight, Stivers implored Saccone, the mustachioed 60-year-old state legislator who is carrying the weight of the Republican Party in a crucial contest next week. Stivers’ warning, described by two people familiar with the discussion, was intended to put the candidate on notice. The national GOP would be helping him out substantially, Stivers said. But if Saccone didn’t start upping his fundraising game and getting his sluggish campaign in order, he could lose a race that should be a gimme for the party. Saccone said he understood. But in the weeks to come, the National Republican Congressional Committee quietly dispatched a staffer to the district to walk Saccone, who lacked any donor infrastructure, through the basics of how to fundraise. Stivers had several more conversations with the candidate to try to prod him along.”

Scott will announce decision on Senate run Friday - Wash Times: “If Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a reputation for anything, it’s keeping a cool head in a crisis. How he is navigating the latest may help determine whether he wins a new job in November. In the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Mr. Scott has begun drawing fine lines between himself and more unyielding positions of powerful groups. The National Rifle Association has blessed the Republican with its coveted A+ rating, but the governor will not be addressing its convention in May. Mr. Scott has declined to say whether he will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat seeking a fourth term in November. The governor will announce his decision on the race after the Florida Legislature adjourns Friday.”

House Dem PAC lays out big bucks - Roll Call: “House Majority PAC, the group that helps House Democrats, is making $43 million in TV reservations in 33 media markets for the final weeks of the 2018 campaign. These initial reservations will be placed over the course of the month, which is the earliest the super PAC has booked time for the fall. Reserving early allows HMP to lock in lower rates in some expensive media markets. In 2016, it made fall reservations in eight markets on March 30. In 2014 and 2012, it made its reservations in mid-April and July, respectively. ‘2018 will bring a barrage of frantic negative attack ads from GOP outside groups, but HMP is ensuring we’re prepared early-on to fight back,’ executive director Charlie Kelly said in a statement. ‘Momentum is on our side, and with smart, strategic investments, we will help Democrats win across the country.’”

Dems rely on veterans to push back on guns - Bloomberg: “From New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the Denver suburbs, a new crop of Democratic congressional candidates is campaigning on what’s been a difficult topic for the party, especially in rural and conservative areas: gun control. But these aren’t the stereotypical Democrats portrayed by gun-rights supporters as elitists who haven’t held a firearm. They’re U.S. military veterans who say new steps must be taken to prevent weapons of war from being used in domestic mass shootings. Recruiting veterans is a key part of Democrats’ strategy to gain House seats in this year’s elections, and there are at least 25 running in primaries. Most have been advocating new controls on guns, or beefed-up background checks, since the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Florida, often citing their own experience with firearms.”

Steyer spends millions on young voters -
The Hill: “Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer on Wednesday announced separate $3.5 million investments in California and Florida to turn out young voters in this year's midterm elections. The two states are primary focuses of a $30 million campaign through Steyer’s organization, NextGen America, to register and engage young voters across the country. In Florida, the group plans to reach more than 1.5 million young voters through registration efforts, in-person conversations and targeted mailing programs. The organization will hire more than 100 organizers to meet with voters on dozens of college campuses and encourage them to elect progressive candidates.”

Politico: “House Republicans are demanding a series of controversial abortion and health care policies in the annual health spending bill, setting up a showdown with Democrats and threatening passage of an omnibus spending package to keep the government open. Democrats are vowing to block the slew of long-sought conservative priorities. The riders would cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, eliminate a federal family planning program and ax the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, according to sources on Capitol Hill. Republicans also want to insert a new prohibition on funding research that uses human fetal tissue obtained after an abortion. The dispute has stalled negotiations on other health issues, such as how much to spend on the opioid epidemic and prompted discussions about buying negotiators more time, with short-term government funding set to expire on March 23 and many of Congress’ other spending panels nearly finished with their bills.”

Ryan splits from Trump: No gas tax hike - The Hill: “House Speaker Paul Ryan pledged on Wednesday that the House would not vote to raise a tax on gasoline, after President Trump reportedly endorsed such a proposal to help pay for his infrastructure overhaul. ‘Well, we’re not going to raise gas taxes so I don’t foresee that as a problem. We’re just not going to do that here,’ Ryan said on a phone call with the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. ‘There are some people who are talking about that, but the last thing we want to do is pass historic tax relief in December and then undo that, so we are not going to raise gas taxes.’ The 18.4 cent federal gas tax hasn't been increased since the 1990s. President Trump reportedly told lawmakers last month that he was in favor of a 25-cent gas tax hike to help pay for a multi-billion dollar plan to overhaul the nation's infrastructure.”

Louisiana Republican Kennedy proposes internet regs -Axios: “Louisiana Republican John Kennedy introduced legislation Wednesday that his office says stops internet service providers from blocking or slowing down content. Why it matters: Kennedy has been courted by net neutrality activists as a potentially crucial vote for a resolution to block the Federal Communication Commission's December repeal of its net neutrality rules. Yes, but: Vocal net neutrality backers hate the bill's House companion, introduced last year, for not going far enough in their view and blocking states from taking their own action. Those same groups blasted Kennedy's bill on Wednesday.”

West Virginia teachers return to classroom after nine days - AP

Sec. David Shulkin’s to make sweeping changes in VA hospitals - USA Today

“He may be a globalist, but I still like him… I have a feeling you’ll be back.” – President Trump referring to his soon-to-be-ex-economic adviser Gary Cohn during a cabinet meeting open to cameras and reporters on Thursday.

“Remember when there was that awful school shooting in Florida and gun reform/school safety was all that was being talked about.... 3 weeks ago. The thing that technology has probably done that is worse than anything is provided us with reasons to get past things and forget as a nation. While that is good with some things, other things aren't something that should be a flavor of the day in my mind. Constant news bombardment by any kind of media, social or otherwise seems to make us forget all too easily and move on to the newest political nerve center. I heard a quote on a podcast last night that said ‘if all things are political, then nothing is political’ and I think that is where we are at in this country. With everything being politicized and brought to the forefront on a daily basis it masks things that should be in the limelight for much longer. We as a country have seen our attention spans shorten and intensity of political rage increase. I don't know what can be done as none of the factors contributing to this are going to be anything but increasing. Sorry to be so dire.” – Jeff Cox, Broken Arrow, Okla.

[Ed. note: It isn’t dire, Mr. Cox, to be honest in a constructive way about what the problem is. And I think you have identified one of the most significant problems facing our culture today. The groundbreaking 1985 book by Neil Postman “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” was terrifyingly prescient. Postman’s thesis was that while the Cold War-era west most feared the rise of an Orwellian super state like the one in Russia, the more likely dystopia was that imagined by Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World.” In that future, we are crushed under the weight of information technology. And I am afraid that he was quite right. We are hopelessly distracted in our quest for real meaning and purpose, and surround ourselves with means for all kinds of immediate gratifications. The pleasing thrum of your vibrating phone in your hip pocket might be an important message about your child’s school being closed, but it’s probably just another digital bon-bon offered up to keep you from your appointed grounds. If you want to know why books like Jordan Peterson’s “Twelve Rules” are so popular right now it’s because we feel ourselves being sucked into the digital Borg. Like most things, politics offers no solutions. Like happiness, a healthy republic is an inside job.]

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KGTV: “A monitor lizard that calls a Spring Valley pet store home is missing after apparently slithering out of his cage over the weekend. Bubbles, a six-year-old black-throated monitor lizard, was last seen March 4 at around 1:20 p.m., according to Mike Estevez, the owner of Mike's Pets in Spring Valley… Estevez told 10News Bubbles was in his cage that afternoon and likely escaped through a 2-inch-by-5-inch crevice between the bottom of the cage and the ground. A security camera inside the store captured Bubbles walking away toward the back door and the cage propped against the open entrance. Because of the glare of the sunlight, the lizard's movements can't be seen once he crawled out of the room. He hasn't been seen since. Estevez and others searched the nearby neighborhood but have not been able to find Bubbles. Estevez said Bubbles is very good around people… However, Estevez advised anyone who sees Bubbles not to try to grab him or approach him.”

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.