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On the roster: We the seagulls - I’ll Tell You What: This podcast is dated, but still listen - Trump goes all in for DeSantis - Ryan gets his farm bill after all - Audible: The parson and the pimp - Rawk & rohl
WE THE SEAGULLS
Trying to be a good citizen in the electronic age is like trying to stick to your diet with an unlimited Uber Eats account.
You want to focus on the issues and consume healthful, sustainable intellectual nutrition, but every time you swipe through your phone you know that the informational equivalent of chicken parmigiana with a funnel cake chaser is simply a tap away.
We have talked before about how America is suffering from cultural type 2 diabetes. The excesses made possible by our wealth and power have degraded our culture to the point where we are no longer able to sustain such decadence.
And nowhere is this more evident than with the way we get our news.
The time that it took for the debate over what to do with the children of refugees seeking asylum in the United States to go from frank and meaningful to pointless and onanistic was just a few days.
For a brief moment there was some pretty refreshing candor on various sides of the immigration debate: 1) taking toddlers away from their parents in a chaotic and confused manner was a bad idea and that 2) America was in desperate need of some sensible reforms on immigration. As strange as this may sound, it is possible for humans to hold both views at once.
But then, clickbait began dropping into the lake of public opinion.
Why talk about hard things when you could talk about easy things? Wouldn’t you reallyrather discuss media bias because of a wrongly attributed photograph? Wouldn’t youreally rather talk about the first lady’s jacket?
Whatever your personal political predilections, social media is there for you with tailor-made distractions from the things that matter.
Now, that’s not to say that it is entirely the fault of social media providers that American public discourse has turned into the expostulative equivalent of a colony of seagulls fighting over a half-eaten hotdog. We, the seagulls, have certainly done most of it to ourselves.
But we are not profiting by it. In fact, it is killing us.
We have heard, rightly so, a great deal about Russian efforts to destabilize our government, just as that government have across the West. Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing to break NATO apart, leaving the former pieces of the Russian empire naked and afraid before him. We certainly ought to be clear-eyed about that. The unserious manner in which most members of our political class have treated this question is disquieting.
But less discussed is the way social media firms exacerbate these problems for profit.
Let’s say you needed a new tennis racquet. You go online and find a panoply of choices, and select one that matches your size, game and aesthetic preferences. Five clicks and $150 later, your Prince will soon come.
But when you go back online you will be enticed deeper and deeper into the game. You will be greeted by all manner of sweatbands, ball hoppers, instructional videos, lessons and even affinity groups where you can interact with other tennis fans.
If you follow your thumbs, you will be deeper in than Rod Laver in no time. In fact, you might even decide that your other hobbies and your non-tennis playing friends are really just a distraction from what has become your true love. And as you slide your headband into place, you will know the smug satisfaction of being a high-caste member of an elite and important group.
Now, you won’t necessarily turn into Richie Tenenbaum just because you bought one racquet. There are considerable barriers to entry there. First, you’ve got to spend money and then you’ve actually got to go play tennis. It’s hot out there and sometimes there are bugs.
But with politics, you get to stay in climate-controlled comfort far from gnats and flies. And you don’t even have to pay a dime. All they want are your clicks.
When we go looking for news on a particular subject that aligns with our beliefs, we will be introduced to the next most radical position on the topic and so on and so on until it seems very normal to be an apologist for white nationalists or to speak up on behalf of those who fantasize about the rape of children.
By the time you get to the end of the heap you have moved far past normal positions. Now you need the really intense stuff to feel the same thrill.
And with every click, we move farther away from each other. This is not the purpose of Facebook and Twitter, but it is a necessary byproduct of their business models. They care most about the most intense users, and the best way to intensify is to keep placing a steady diet of philosophical junk food in the faces of already overstuffed users.
Yes, we should have more self-restraint. Yes, we should deal more directly with the threat Russia poses to the civilized world. But we should also not let social media companies skate by on what they are doing to our republic.
THE RULEBOOK: STAY FOCUSED
“If momentary rays of glory break forth from the gloom, while they dazzle us with a transient and fleeting brilliancy, they at the same time admonish us to lament that the vices of government should pervert the direction and tarnish the lustre of those bright talents and exalted endowments for which the favored soils that produced them have been so justly celebrated.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 9
TIME OUT: ‘NO MISTAKES, JUST HAPPY ACCIDENTS’
New Yorker: “Bob Ross’s affable demeanor, easy smile, and encouraging bits of painting wisdom won’t impress any fine-art M.F.A. grads. … The magic of Ross’s show was that he essentially skipped over the really hard part of realistic painting: translating the actual world into a flat image on a canvas. … The fun of painting by formula is that it turns painting into a project requiring only persistence and a steady hand, offering the reward of an expected final product rather than an adventure that may come to naught. For an insomniac, there is nothing more soothing than the promise that an endeavor will eventually work out. And that’s the appeal of genre painting: once you know how to ‘do trees’ or ‘do mountains,’ you can just keep doing them. … Somewhere between tapping Play on the sleep story and dozing off, it occurred to [New Yorker reporter Sarah Archer] that Calm is the ideal vehicle for Ross’s style of meditative art instruction, because his paintings, each one an idealized version of what it portrays, are dreamscapes.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.8 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -9 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 43% approve - 51% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CBS News: 42% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 45% approve - 50% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 41.6 percent
Democratic average: 49 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6.4 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 2 points
[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk University: 45% Dems - 39% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 42% GOP; Monmouth University: 48% Dems - 41% GOP; Pew Research Center: 48% Dems - 43% GOP.]
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: THIS PODCAST IS DATED, BUT STILL LISTEN
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt try to navigate the ongoing saga at America's southern border and the executive and legislative attempts to solve it. Plus, mailbag and trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
TRUMP SGOES ALL IN FOR DESANTIS
Orlando Sentinel: “President Donald Trump used Twitter on Friday morning to endorse Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Florida governor’s race, despite previous White House denials that the president would get involved with the race. Trump’s tweet reads: ‘Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes - Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!’ Trump also tweeted positively about DeSantis in December, which DeSantis took as an endorsement that he has been touting ever since. … Trump’s support for DeSantis could help the tea party conservative outflank the right wing of GOP front-runner Adam Putnam, who is Florida's agriculture commissioner and boasts a campaign war chest of $15.7 million. DeSantis has about $9.6 million cash on hand.”
Fox News Poll: DeSantis trails widely - Fox News: “Two candidates lead the pack in Florida’s Republican gubernatorial nomination contest -- although many voters remain undecided or uncertain about their vote. A Fox News Poll of Florida likely GOP primary voters finds Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam ahead of Congressman Ron DeSantis by a 32-17 percent margin. Yet the largest number of voters, 39 percent, is unsure who they will back in the August 28 primary. Meanwhile, 46 percent of those supporting a candidate say they could still change their mind. All other candidates receive less than four percent support. The results hold when narrowed to just those who say they will ‘definitely’ vote: 34 percent Putnam, 19 percent DeSantis, and 35 percent undecided.”
In S.C. runoff, Gov. McMaster banks on Trump bump - Fox News: “Henry McMaster took a big leap when he endorsed Donald Trump for president in January 2016, well before the billionaire businessman had vanquished his 16 more conventional primary foes. Now, the South Carolina governor is hoping that early support pays dividends – as the incumbent looks to visits from the president and vice president to put him over the top in his Republican primary runoff this Tuesday. President Trump has announced he’ll be visiting South Carolina to stump for McMaster on Monday night, on the heels of a visit from Vice President [Mike Pence.] ‘Henry worked so hard & was so loyal to me that I look forward to reciprocating!’ Trump tweeted. McMaster responded: ‘I am honored by your friendship and support, Mr. President. On behalf of South Carolinians everywhere, we look forward to seeing you on Monday night!’”
Trump backs onetime critic Roby - Axios: “President Trump tweeted his endorsement of Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) Friday, despite Roby's impassioned rebuke of Trump in the wake of the Access Hollywood scandal during his 2016 presidential campaign, when she said: ‘I cannot look my children in the eye and justify a vote for a man who promotes and boasts about sexually assaulting women.’ Behind the scenes: It's a stunning signal of support, given Trump's fixation on loyalty. Meanwhile, there’s been consternation within Trumpworld over whether to endorse Roby, who has worked hard at gaining back the president's approval.”
Voter interest in midterms off the charts - Pew Research Center: “The congressional elections are more than four months away, but voter engagement is high when compared with comparable points in previous midterm cycles. And a record share of registered voters (68%) say the issue of which party controls Congress will be a factor in their vote in November. Compared with recent midterms, more voters also say their view of the president – positive or negative – will influence their vote for Congress. A 60% majority say they consider their midterm vote as essentially a vote either for Donald Trump (26%) or against him (34%). These are among the highest shares saying their view of the president would be a factor in their vote in any midterm in more than three decades. In early voting intentions, 48% of registered voters say they would favor the Democratic candidate in their district, or lean toward the Democrat, while 43% favor the Republican or lean Republican.”
2020 SCOUTING REPORT: JEFF MERKLEY?
NYT: “[Dem. Sen. Jeff Merkley] went to the border, he said in an interview on Thursday, because he thought reports of children being separated from their families might be fake news: ‘I just couldn’t envision that the administration would actually take asylum seekers, those fleeing persecution, and deliberately inflict trauma on their children.’ It is undoubtedly not lost on him that the ensuing publicity is good for his career; Mr. Merkley also acknowledged that he was ‘exploring the possibility’ of a 2020 presidential bid. (He has previously said he was ‘keeping the options open.’) Asked whether he would stay out of the race should Ms. [Elizabeth Warren] or Mr. [Bernie Sanders] become candidates, he leaned back in his chair and said, ‘Not necessarily.’”
Little Rhody targets Trump on taxes for 2020 - Providence Journal: “Rhode Island is the latest state taking steps to require candidates for president and vice-president to make their tax returns public as a prerequisite to getting on the Rhode Island ballot. The state Senate 34-to-3 for a bill to require candidates on a presidential ticket to release tax returns going back five years. As noted by the lead sponsor, Sen. Gayle Goldin, every president since The Providence Journal exposed Richard Nixon’s tax returns has made them public voluntarily, until Donald Trump. Republican Sen. Elaine Morgan of Hopkinton asked why the president should have to do that, if state lawmakers face no such requirement. Goldin argued — and the majority in the Democrat-dominated Senate agreed — that ‘tax returns provide essential information about candidates’ conflicts of interest,’ and other vital information to a voter weighing a decision.”
RYAN GETS HIS FARM BILL AFTER ALL
NPR: “By a razor-thin margin, the House of Representatives passed its version of the farm bill Thursday as Republican leadership was able to round up just enough support from members of its conservative wing to clear passage. The GOP-backed measure, which covers farm and food policy legislation, passed 213-211. The $867 billion package renews the safety net for farmers across the country, but also includes tougher work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. Shortly after its passage, President Trump tweeted his support for the measure. … The House bill failed last month as 30 Republicans — many of the members of the House Freedom Caucus — bucked leadership and sided with Democrats to defeat the bill after failing to get concessions on spending and a vote on a conservative immigration bill.”
House approves big bill on opioid crisis - NBC News: “The House on Friday passed the most ambitious congressional push yet to address the growing opioid epidemic, with provisions directing federal agencies to prioritize training, support recovery centers and expand research on several fronts. The package, made up of 58 individual House-approved bills, is the largest legislative effort in recent history to address an epidemic that killed 42,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the provisions would direct the National Institutes of Health to develop nonaddictive painkillers. Another would try to change how prescription pills are distributed to reduce the potential for abuse. The element of the bill garnering perhaps the most attention, Jessie’s Law, would require that medical records list a patient's addiction history.”
Budget clears committee - WashTimes: “House Republicans powered a 2019 budget through committee Thursday, laying out the trillions of dollars of spending cuts that they say will be needed to get the government’s finances under control. The blueprint cleared the Budget Committee on a 21-13 vote, but it’s not clear what the future is for the measure. GOP leaders haven’t committed to floor action in the House, and both the House and Senate are already working to approve the annual spending bills without bothering to wait for a budget. But Committee Chairman Steve Womack said his panel did its job in detailing the trims to entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid he said will be needed to preserve the programs for the long run. … His proposal slashes $8 trillion from federal deficits over the next decade, with $5.4 trillion of that from changes to entitlement programs.”
Pentagon preparing for military to house as many as 20,000 migrant children - Reuters
Feinstein, Cruz, Durbin and Tillis working on immigration deal - The Hill
Court allows administration to proceed with dismantling consumer protection bureau - WaPo
EU announces 25 percent tariffs on American goods - USA Today
AUDIBLE: THE PARSON AND THE PIMP
“We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that.” – Pastor Victor Fuentes talking to Reuters about his support for brothel keeper and self-styled “pimp” Hof for a Nevada state Senate seat.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend, Mr. Sunday will sit down with Former Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Charles’ graduation to the higher level is undeniably the world’s loss. My heart is broken that Charles will no longer be appearing on Special Report. Agree or disagree with him, Charles IS the standard of excellence---in profession, in elegance, in intelligence, and n personal comportment. No other public figure comes close. Plus, we share the love of dogs---the most civilized among us. Heartfelt condolences to all at FOX news. How fortunate for you to have known Charles personally. Thank you for sharing this very special person with us. We grieve with you.” – J. Bielot, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
[Ed. note: Writing about Winston Churchill, Charles said, “…every once in a while, a single person arises without whom everything would be different.” That is certainly true when it relates to Charles. We thank you and all of our readers who have shared their condolences and heartfelt remembrances of our friend. I think I need a little more time to process the lessons of his life and will probably return with some more thoughts on the subject eventually. For now, I am content to just remember and indulge myself in a moment of mourning.]
“What did you mean by ‘Restoring regular order in the House’ [in Thursday’s Bleachers]? Please explain to us deplorable people.” – Sam Fusco, Sebastian, Fla.
[Ed. note: I doubt you are deplorable, Mr. Fusco! Regular order is just what it sounds like: Letting bills work through the regular committee process and move along at the pace they are intended to. That means amendments and holding legislation over so that it can be read. Congressional leadership never likes these kinds of things. The preferred method is lengthy periods of inaction followed by chaotic passage of legislation crafted behind closed doors. I have sympathy for lawmakers on this point since doing things by the book leaves them subject to lots of interference by the minority party and slows things down quite a bit. But given how little Congress is able to do these days even when the rules are suspended, the efficacy argument is becoming less persuasive.]
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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
RAWK & ROHL
NBC4: “The soon-to-open Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City had to work quickly to fix a misspelling on a 30-foot-tall guitar installed this week. The sign, modeled after a Gibson Les Paul guitar, was put up Thursday morning without officials noticing the word ‘rhythm’ was misspelled on the rhythm and treble switch. It included the letter ‘E.’ The guitar is one of two expected to go up at the new resort, with the second slated for installation Saturday at the resort's entrance. Hard Rock officials say the typo was corrected Thursday afternoon by removing the extra vinyl letter.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Denial is not in great favor today. It is considered unhealthy, an almost cowardly psychic constriction. The mantra today is that all must be dealt with, talked out, coped with, opened up, faced squarely.
This may work for some. But it has become something of a religion. And if its priests are so correct about the joys of catharsis and the perils of denial, how do they explain how the champion denier of our century, Franklin Roosevelt, lived such a splendid life?
Roosevelt's denial of his disability was more than just a denial of crushing adversity, more than a jaunty, smiling, damn-the-torpedoes refusal to dwell upon – indeed, fully acknowledge – his physical reality. It was a denial of self, a strange notion for us living in this confessional age when self – self-exploration, self-expression, self-love – is paramount. Roosevelt's life had a grand outer directedness. He was not searching for the inner Franklin. He was reaching for a new America. It was the outer Franklin he cultivated, and it is that Franklin, the one who saved his country, that we honor and remember.
At a time like ours, when every cultural cue is an incitement to self-revelation, we can use a solitary monument to reticence. Leave F.D.R. as he is.” – Charles Krauthammer, writing in Time magazine, May 12, 1997
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.