Welcome to the log flume, Republicans

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On the roster: Welcome to the log flume, Republicans - I’ll Tell You What: So about Tuesday afternoon… - Iowa murder roils midterm immigration debate - Hunter vows re-election despite corruption charges - Hey! That’s cheating  

We can’t be sure which words of Hillary Clinton’s will endure in history, except for one phrase in particular.

It’s too soon to say whether “basket of deplorables,” “at this point, what difference does it make,” “it takes a village to raise a child,” or any of Clinton’s other lines will be preserved in our collective memory.

But her words on the “Today Show” from 20 years ago will certainly endure.

“The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it,” Clinton told Matt Lauer, “is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

She didn’t coin “vast right-wing conspiracy,” but she made it one for the ages. The then-first lady was explaining to Lauer that the emerging charges against her husband that he had carried on an affair with a White House intern and then lied about it under oath were untrue. They were, she said, a fabrication.

“If all that were proven true,” she said in response to a question as to whether such behavior would merit a presidential resignation, “I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true.”

Of course, it was true. But by the time Clinton and her husband had whipsawed their supporters, reporters and the Democratic Party with a dizzying array of contradictions, accusations and shifting standards, it ended up not being so serious in their minds after all.

What remained unchanged, however, was the Clinton’s rock-solid belief that it was a shadowy conspiracy that was to blame for the many scandals that beset their candidacy and presidency from the start. They were only doing what everyone else did, but they were being persecuted because they were trying to reform the system. The scandals were evidence of the rightness of their cause, not the wrongness of their conduct.

Perhaps Republicans 20 years after the impeachment wars of 1998 will be able to find a little empathy if not for the woman most reviled by members of the GOP maybe at least for the Democrats who bought into that notion and rode a wild log flume down to the bottom in service of their president.

Much as Republicans have had to do in the past 18 months, Democrats of the Clinton era were faced with a choice between changing their allegiances or changing their values. For all but a handful of national Democratic figures, the latter proved more flexible then the former.

Like the first lady whose cues they followed, prominent Democrats gradually lost their standard for presidential conduct and gradually strengthened their partisan opposition to what they came to perceive as a witch hunt. That didn’t change no matter how many witches were actually discovered.

Impeachment has always been more a question about the raw exercise of political power than anything having to do with the law. While the rules are set to reflect those of the criminal justice system – an indictment, a trial and a verdict – that’s mostly just a veneer of due process.

In 1998, as it is now, political figures on both sides were more than willing to bend ethical and legal standards in service of partisan aims. Clinton argued in that same interview that Republicans were trying to undue the will of the voters who had twice selected her husband. And as long as the standard is that the verdict of elections can’t be overturned, that no president ever elected could be removed.

It will be hard for Republicans to think of themselves as being in the same position as Democrats were a century ago. The rottenness, dishonesty and cynicism of the Clintons are little reduced in their pungency by time.

But we hope that the wrenching experience of watching a president of their own party experience some of what Bill Clinton did would stir even a small ember of empathy in their breasts.

The current president’s former campaign chairman, longtime attorney and several other figures from his orbit are now facing serious legal consequences for their crimes. This will continue to be a painful ride for Republicans. But if they’re going to get soaked, at least they can learn a lesson on the way down.

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 47

Cathy Young writes a moving, informative encomium for an underappreciated cultural figure whose words helped shape the end of the Cold War on both sides of the Iron Curtin. Weekly Standard: “Never meet your heroes in person, the old saying goes, because they are bound to disappoint. It’s often true. But there also the rare occasions when you meet your heroes and discover them to be more admirable than you expected. That was the case for me with Vladimir Voinovich, the great Russian writer and fearless dissident who died in late July, just a few weeks shy of his 86th birthday. When, as a teenager in the Soviet Union, I first read Voinovich some 40 years ago, his work was forbidden fruit: A friend with access to banned books lent my parents a Paris edition of The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin.”

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This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the month’s worth of news that broke over the course of an hour, yesterday. Plus, Dana answers your mailbag questions, Chris answers Presidential trivia AND Chris shares the secret for how listeners can get an autographed copy of his book “Every Man a King.” LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 42.2 percent
Average disapproval: 52 percent
Net Score: -9.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.8 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 43% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 50% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average:
 42 percent
Democratic average: 48.4 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6.4 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 0.4 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 48% Dems - 43% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 51% Dems - 42% GOP; CNN: 52% Dems - 41% GOP; Pew Research Center: 46% Dems - 39% GOP; IBD: 45% Dems - 45% GOP.]


Des Moines Register: “With two words, the lead investigator in the death of a 20-year-old Iowa college student may have ratcheted up the debate over illegal immigration going into the last three months of the 2018 midterms. During a news conference Tuesday, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Rick Rahn said the man accused of killing Mollie Tibbetts, who went missing in July while jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa, is an ‘illegal alien.’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Rahn's news conference was barely finished before proponents of stronger border security flooded Twitter and conservative media outlets used Rivera's arrest as proof the U.S. needs to strengthen immigration laws and punish ‘sanctuary cities.’ … Immigration advocates also responded, highlighting studies that show undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than native-born Americans, and that sanctuary cities have lower crime rates than other cities. But conservatives dismissed the studies.”

Hunter vows re-election despite corruption charges - KGTV: “Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) told 10News that he’s innocent of accusations of campaign funding misuse one day after he and his wife Margaret were indicted by a federal grand jury. Prior to a Wednesday morning fishing trip for the military veterans group Rivers of Recovery, Hunter -- with his father by his side -- spoke to 10News reporter Mimi Elkalla about the indictment and what he calls the ‘new Department of Justice.’ ‘We’re excited about going to trial with this, frankly,’ Hunter said of the indictment. ‘This is modern politics and modern media mixed in with law enforcement that has a political agenda. That’s the new Department of Justice.’ The Republican congressman added, ‘This is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement, that’s what’s happening right now. It’s happening with [President] Trump, it’s happening with me. We’re going to fight through it and win and the people get to vote in November … I think they’ve used every dirty trick in the book, so it’ll go to court when they want it to.’ Hunter, who embarked on the fishing trip despite a Thursday court date, told 10News that he was not concerned with the indictment.”

Wyoming GOP breaks Trump’s primary win streak - WashTimes: “President Donald Trump tried his best to appeal to coal country but, amid a truckload of bad political news, the top coal-producing state didn’t love him back. Instead, Wyoming voters chose State Treasurer Mark Gordon, a rancher who grew up at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, over political mega-donor Foster Friess in the state’s Republican primary for governor. Calling Friess ‘Strong on Crime, Borders & 2nd Amendment,’ Trump had endorsed Friess on Twitter as voting got underway Tuesday. Trump hours later walked back Obama-era environmental regulations viewed as economic warfare in coal country and told a West Virginia rally that miners were headed back to work. About 40 percent of the nation’s coal comes from Wyoming - Trump no doubt got heard out West. Wyoming voters had their own ideas. ‘This is a governor’s race. This is about the state of Wyoming,’ Gordon said after winning his six-way primary.”

Dunleavy’s win sets up 3-way race for Alaska governor - Anchorage Daily News: “Former Wasilla state Sen. Mike Dunleavy built a big early lead and held it over former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Tuesday, winning the Republican primary race for Alaska governor. His victory sets up a three-way race in November's general election, with Dunleavy facing incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, and former U.S. Sen Mark Begich, a Democrat. With 95 percent of the precincts counted statewide by 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dunleavy had 62 percent of the vote compared with 32 percent for Treadwell. Dunleavy claimed victory shortly after 11 p.m. at a downtown Anchorage hotel, where the Alaska Republican Party held its watch party and where he had watched the results come in most of the night. Dunleavy thanked his supporters, his campaign staff, the other GOP candidates and his wife. He said he would work to build trust among those who didn't vote for him.”

Menendez may have a race - Quinnipiac University: “The New Jersey U.S. Senate campaign is developing into a horse race as Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez leads former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin, his Republican challenger, by a slim 43 - 37 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today. This compares to a 49 - 32 percent Menendez lead in a March 13 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University Poll. There is a wide racial gap as Hugin leads 47 - 38 percent among white voters and Menendez leads 51 - 18 percent among non-white voters. Republicans back Hugin 85 - 6 percent while Democrats go to Menendez 74 - 10 percent. Independent voters are divided with 37 percent for Hugin and 33 percent for Menendez. … Voters give Menendez a negative 40 - 47 percent approval rating and a negative 29 - 47 percent favorability rating.”

New poll shows tight races in Wisconsin - Marquette University Law School: “A new Marquette Law School Poll of Wisconsin voters finds a tight race for governor following last week’s statewide primary elections. Among likely voters (that is, those who say they are certain to vote), incumbent Republican Scott Walker receives 46 percent, Democrat Tony Evers receives 46 percent and Libertarian Phil Anderson 6 percent. Only 2 percent say they lack a preference or do not lean to a candidate. Among likely voters in the race for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat on the ballot in November, 49 percent support the incumbent, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and 47 percent support Republican Leah Vukmir, while 3 percent say they lack a preference or do not lean toward a candidate. Among all registered voters surveyed in the poll, the race for governor remains tight, with Walker at 46 percent, Evers at 44 percent and Anderson with 7 percent. There is a wider margin among all registered voters in the Senate race, with Baldwin receiving 51 percent and Vukmir 43 percent.”

Poll: Putnam gains on DeSantis - WJCT: “The race between Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis for the Republican nomination for governor is tightening, according to a poll released Tuesday by Florida Atlantic University. With a week left before the Aug. 28 primary, a survey from the FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative showed DeSantis, a three-term congressman from Northeast Florida, with 32 percent of the vote to 31 percent for Putnam, a two-term state agriculture commissioner. … The new poll showed an improvement for Putnam, who trailed DeSantis by 9 percentage points in an FAU poll released in late July. … In the Democratic primary for governor, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee leads the field with 29 percent of the vote in FAU poll. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine had 17 percent, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Palm Beach investor Jeff Greene, who both had 11 percent. Chris King, a Winter Park businessman, had 10 percent.”

Illinois gubernatorial race likely to become most expensive - NBC News: “In the billionaire-versus-multimillionaire contest for Illinois governor, Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker leads incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner by 16 points, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll. Pritzker gets support from 46 percent of registered voters in the state, while Rauner gets 30 percent. Libertarian nominee Kash Jackson is at 6 percent in the poll, while fellow third-party candidate Sam McCann is at 4 percent. Thirteen percent say they’re undecided for the election on November 6. By a 2-to-1 margin, Illinois adults have a negative opinion of Rauner — who made his fortune as an investor — with 52 percent viewing him unfavorably, versus 26 percent who see him in a favorable light. By comparison, Pritzker — whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain — is slightly above water, with 38 percent viewing him favorably, versus 35 percent unfavorably. The Rauner-Pritzker race is on track to be the most expensive gubernatorial race in American history; nearly $90 million in TV and radio ads have already been spent in the race, according to ad-spending data from Advertising Analytics.”

Arpaio’s run in shambles, aims to punish Ward - Arizona Republic: “Joe Arpaio’s campaign for the U.S. Senate is in turmoil as it enters the final days before the primary. Although Arizona’s GOP establishment never took Arpaio’s candidacy seriously — casting it as a way to keep the 86-year-old Fountain Hills grandfather busy and out of the house after Maricopa County voters booted him out of the Sheriff's Office in 2016 — he still could be the spoiler in the three-way Republican primary. But a week before the Aug. 28 Republican primary, Arpaio's campaign appears to be flailing. Chad Willems, Arpaio’s campaign manager of 20 years, is no longer involved in the campaign's day-to-day operations. And Arpaio has added two new staff members who some claim are more interested in seeking vengeance against one of the former sheriff's two Republican primary opponents, former state Sen. Kelli Ward than guiding him to victory.”

Poll: Generic ballot narrows slightly - Monmouth University: “Democrats continue to hold a lead over Republicans in the generic House ballot, although not by as much as a few months ago. Americans like candidates to have some government experience, but on the whole they would rather vote for a political outsider. The Monmouth University Poll also finds that health care is the top issue-related concern on voters’ minds, while the public is divided on whether they feel any direct benefit from a growing national economy. If the election for U.S. House of Representatives was held today, 48% of registered voters say they would support or lean toward supporting the Democratic candidate in their district compared to 43% who would vote for the Republican. Ratings were similar although nominally better in prior Monmouth polls – including a 48% to 41% Democratic edge in June, 49% to 41% in April, and 50% to 41% in March.”

AP: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for Republicans to delay Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings in the wake of Paul Manafort's conviction and Michael Cohen's guilty plea, calling the developments ‘a game changer.’ Schumer argues that Kavanaugh has refused to answer whether President Donald Trump can be forced to comply with a subpoena. He said that refusal, combined with Cohen implicating Trump in a federal crime, makes the danger of Kavanaugh's nomination ‘abundantly clear.’ He says the president is on the verge of making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, which may soon determine the extent of his legal jeopardy. He says the Senate shouldn't confirm a justice who believes that presidents ‘are virtually above the law and only Congress can check a president's power.’”

DNC shares most recent, failed hacking attempt - 
NYT: “The Democratic National Committee said on Wednesday it was alerted to an attempted hack of its voter database this week and has notified law enforcement about the incident. A cybersecurity researcher from a firm called Lookout contacted the D.N.C. on Tuesday about the attempted intrusion, said two officials briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. The F.B.I. is investigating, according to one of the officials. But the attempted hack, which was described as sophisticated, was not successful, the committee said. A Democratic Party official said the identities of those who attempted the hack were unclear, adding that the target of the effort was the party’s voter file, known as Votebuilder. The D.N.C. was hacked in 2016 during the presidential election campaign, and the incident was later traced back to Russia.”

Report: White House to announce NAFTA ‘handshake’ deal Thursday - The Hill

A record bull market, what it means for you - Fox Business

“If the question on the ballot were, ‘Do you want to send a Democrat or Republican to Washington?’ I would lose. If it’s, ‘Do you want to send Phil Bredesen or Marsha Blackburn to Washington?’ I think I can win that.” – Bredesen, former Democratic governor of Tennessee, in an interview with Politico.

“Chris, I love the podcast and the Halftime Report. I am writing in response to a person who wrote in questioning the prosecution of Paul Manafort. It is sad that someone would challenge his prosecution, when it seems pretty obvious that he is dirty. But that person's response highlights the main problem. The people prosecuting Manafort and the people charged with national intelligence have lost the confidence of the American people. You and others have mentioned the hardworking, patriotic people in the Justice Department and intelligence agencies.  I can't buy that characterization. When you have leaders like John BrennanJames ComeyAndrew McCabe, etc. it makes you wonder how those types of people rise through an organization if it isn't corrupt. How far down the organization chart to we have to go to find someone with integrity? Ultimately this crisis of confidence falls back on the American people. When the best you can come up with for the Presidency is Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, maybe the people aren't taking their civic responsibilities seriously. And when we allow those types of politicians, that leads to bureaucrats like the ones named above. We have to take more responsibility. Freedom isn't free. It requires effort and currently that effort is lacking. Keep up the good work.” – Chris Adams, St. Louis

[Ed. note: It’s been some time since I read a note from a reader that made me as melancholy as this one. You are an obviously thoughtful, intelligent person. And I very much agree with you on the ultimate duty of citizens in a republic. I think you’ve got that one exactly right. But that you consider the FBI, Department of Justice and CIA all corrupt is saddening indeed. Our government has known corruption since its beginning, and indeed even before. Was the Continental Army corrupt just because Benedict Arnold could rise to the very top? We have known scoundrels, rogues and villains all along. Our system is accordingly designed with the knowledge that people are flawed and therefore must have their powers constrained. The Justice Department and FBI particularly has known many abuses over the years. The transgressions of the Hoover era remain a lasting shame for the federal government. But that does not mean that the institution itself is corrupt, it means that our other balancing powers must work to hold each other to account and act as a check on each other’s excesses. But what we must not do is assume that one bad actor discredits the work of tens of thousands of others. The men and women of law enforcement and intelligence work tirelessly, usually with little reward or acknowledgement for the purpose of keeping us safe and protecting our freedoms. You ask how far you have to go up the organizational chart to find someone with integrity. I would say that from top to bottom, starting with the attorney general, his deputy, the CIA leadership and the director of the FBI, we have had the chance to watch men and women execute their responsibilities under the public trust with great respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. But more importantly, you will find in every FBI field office from coast to coast, professional, hard-working agents who take seriously their oaths. And we will never know the names of the CIA agents who have died in our service and defense, nor will we know the courage and sacrifice others show on a daily basis around the world. I feel the same on reading your blanket charge of corruption as I do when I hear others demonize the members of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Sad stuff, indeed.]          

“Chris, I enjoyed the headline topic in today’s Halftime Report on the declining importance of coal and the numbers of those who mine it. It’s a great reminder that probably more often changes of great importance have originated in the technological rather than the political realm. The corollary to Obama’s relative unimportance in the decline of coal mining jobs was his unimportance in the resurgence of American oil production during his 2 terms in office. I’m relatively certain it happened against his wishes and early on he mocked those who thought America could once again lead the world in oil production (remember ‘We can’t drill our way to lower prices’). He attempted to reign it in through fracking regulation and making more lands off limits to exploration. Ultimately, despite his wishes, the technological advantage derived through fracking was too much for even him to stop.” – Russ L. Kiekhaefer, Midland, Mich.

[Ed. note: Politicians tend to love complexity, particularly the kind that makes them indispensable. Combine that with partisan blinkers restricting one’s line of sight and you have a strong preference for ideologically narrow and self-serving policies. That makes America’s 21st Century energy revolution all the more remarkable. A fair-minded history of our age will place as much emphasis on what happened in America’s petroleum fields as it will on what happened in information technology.] 

“Chris, I’m reading ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by J.D. Vance. I was wondering if you had read it and if so what you thought of it? I always read Halftime Report and listen to your podcast with Dana.” – Evelyn Hall, Portland, Ore.

[Ed. note: I did. It’s a great book and one that I think strikes a wonderful balance by speaking frankly about the cultural problems that face Appalachia but not lapsing into being patronizing or self-pitying. The challenge for the people of my part of the world has a great deal to do with learning to heal. The first step in that process has to do with forgiveness, and that will mean forgiving ourselves and others for the misdeeds and mistakes that brought so many to such a hard strait. The deepening resentment I see among many is a troubling trend. Getting where we need to go will take a long, hard time, but I am convinced that it is happening. As our fellow hillbilly A. Lincoln said, “I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”  

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Miami Herald: “A little over a week ago, Key Largo resident Victor Perez was looking out toward the bayside canal behind his house when he spotted an unusual sight. ‘I’m on my balcony,’ said Perez, ‘and all of a sudden, I see this noodle and there’s a crocodile hanging off of it. I had to get my phone.’ The picture he took of the reptile on the yellow, foamy pool toy is a keeper. Perez was confused at first by what he saw. ‘It was just cruising along, and I was like, ‘OK, where’s the swimmer?’’ he said, laughing.  … The Miami native, who owns Reef Tropical Cleaning, is used to seeing crocs around the Keys, but never one that looked as if it was just hanging out in the water and enjoying itself. ‘I don’t know how he got that thing,’ Perez joked, ‘but he looked like just any typical Florida tourist!’”

“[George W. Bush] leaves behind the sinews of war, for the creation of which he has been so vilified but which will serve his successor -- and his country -- well over the coming years. The very continuation by Democrats of Bush's policies will be grudging, if silent, acknowledgment of how much he got right. – Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Washington Post, Jan. 16, 2009. 

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.