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On the roster: What Congress does instead of its duty - Polls show Trump approval low in Midwest states - Administration scrambles to reunite migrant families - The Judge’s Ruling: Requiescat in pace - Hot (food bar) summer


The saying goes that if you want to have self-esteem, you should do esteem-able things. 

Somebody should tack that one up in the Capitol.

There is still much that the members of the legislative branch must do before the November election, particularly as it relates to budgeting and appropriations. Then there are things that they should be doing, like addressing the ongoing debacles surrounding immigration and health insurance. 

These are ongoing harms inflicted by the government on the people, and decency would seem to require some effort at serious remediation. But we all know that you’d go broke pretty quickly betting on the decency of the 115th Congress. In our post-shame era, there’s not much to do about such dereliction.

There are still other things that Congress could be doing. Election security strikes us as a pretty urgent cause, as does the fast-approaching insolvency of entitlement programs, decaying infrastructure and an educational system that is failing young people from pre-school to post-doctorate. 

Aside from requiring courage and thoughtfulness, these things are impossibilities because they cannot be done in such a way that represents an abject defeat for one side. In business and most of the rest of life, “win-win” is the preferred outcome. In Washington, no action is deemed truly successful unless it harms someone else.  

None of that is news. We didn’t get here overnight, but rather through decades of shabby, self-interested politics on all sides. Even so, you might wonder what it is that Congress is doing today – one of a handful of working days left before the lame duck session after the election.

Jim Jordan got into politics 24 years ago and moved up from the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to Congress 13 years later. In his time in Washington he has made himself famous for his refusal to wear a suitcoat with a necktie and for his conservative absolutism. 

He is a founder and one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 30 or so rightward members who have entered a compact in which they have agreed to vote as a bloc on all relevant measures. And with the GOP holding a majority of 23 seats, this gives Jordan and his team effective veto power over the rest of the GOP conference. Their strength is in their solidarity.

Jordan announced today that he would like to be the next speaker of the House, third in line of presidential succession. This would be quite a capstone for a long career that began as a young wrestling coach running to be a state delegate from an exurban Columbus district.

His ambitions are complicated by several things. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is the frontrunner in the speaker’s race on the GOP side. If the Republicans succeed against the odds and cling to control of the House, they will vote after the November midterms on who will lead the chamber. Whomever a majority of the party in control backs for the post would typically expect to have the support of the entire party when the matter is put to a vote in the whole House. Presto, a speaker is born.

But while Jordan’s Freedom Caucus is very effective at preventing things from happening, they haven’t ever done much in the way of positive achievement. A bloc is good for stoppage, but poor for starting. There’s no indication that he, disdained by many of the more moderate and pragmatic members of the GOP conference, could achieve anything like a majority. Jordan’s caucus could threaten to defect the whole House and vote against the Republican candidate, McCarthy or otherwise, but it’s hard to see how that would result in polarizing Jordan from obtaining the prize he seeks.  

Jordan also chose to officially declare his candidacy on the same day that he and 10 other members of his caucus brought forth articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It’s an almost entirely symbolic act aimed at the man who is overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The likelihood of Congress ever voting to remove Rosenstein, still widely respected and admired in both parties, is even less likely than Jordan becoming speaker. Your lawmakers are more apt to fix Social Security, infrastructure and immigration policy before either of those things.

Jordan’s decision to announce today is doubly unfortunate for his causes. It suggests a degree of calculation that suggests insincerity in his crusade against Rosenstein. If he really wanted to take the drastic step of prying a top law enforcement official out of his Senate-confirmed job, Jordan would have done better to not complicate it by his own personal ambitions. 

We will grant him the benefit of goodwill and assume that the two things are unrelated, but doubt that many of his colleagues will be so generous. Those who sincerely believe that Rosenstein is a blight on the criminal justice system were ill-served indeed by Jordan’s announcement.

So when you wonder what it is that Congress does all of the time while ignoring its duties, just remember today and you will always know why. Congress has ceased to have ambition for itself and has become almost entirely a vessel for the ambitions of its members.

We hear members from both parties bellyache frequently about the way in which Congress is disrespected by the other branches of government. That’s a reasonable complaint, but it seems that in order for Congress to have self-esteem of that kind, it should set out to do some more esteem-able things.

There are no participation trophies in the struggle for balanced federal powers.

“But the safety of the people of America against dangers from FOREIGN force depends not only on their forbearing to give JUST causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to INVITE hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are PRETENDED as well as just causes of war.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 4

Author Phillip Ball looks at the pseudoscience and outright sorcery that has long been associated with plain old water – even before people paid $5 a bottle for it. Lapham’s Quarterly: “I once spent a couple of hours with a very famous pop singer hosting a group of Russian scientists in her elegantly minimal London residence while the scientists sought to persuade me that they had developed some manner of treating water—I think it involved electromagnetic fields—to ‘neutralize radioactivity’ and thereby decontaminate the lakes around Chernobyl. When I explained to the assembled company that radioactive decay does not really respond to this sort of intervention, I was offered an explanation based on quantum mechanics. I have heard nothing of this solution for radioactive decontamination since, but the technique (‘quantum resonance technology’) resurfaced for the production of yet another brand of health-giving, and expensive, bottled water, Kabbalah Water. I sense a pattern here.”
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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
42.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 
53.2 percent 
Net Score:
 -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 1.2 points 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.4 percent
Democratic average: 48.6 percent
Democrats plus 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: 
Democratic advantage up 0.4 points  
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 51% Dems - 39% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; Fox News: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]

NBC News: “In three politically important Midwest states — including two that were key in deciding the 2016 election — President Donald Trump’s job approval rating is below 40 percent, and Democrats hold a sizable lead for the upcoming congressional midterms, according to a trio of new NBC News/Marist polls. In Michigan, which Trump won by nearly 11,000 votes, 36 percent of registered voters approve of the president’s job, while 54 percent disapprove. In Wisconsin, which he won by about 23,000 votes, another 36 percent give Trump a thumbs up, with 52 percent giving him a thumbs down. And in Minnesota, which Trump narrowly lost by 1.5 percentage points, his rating stands at 38 percent approve, 51 percent disapprove. What’s more, with November’s midterm elections less than four months away, Democrats enjoy a lead in congressional preference from 8 points to 12 points in these three states.”

Two weeks out from Michigan governor primary leaders emerge - Detroit Free Press: “Republican Bill Schuette and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer hold commanding leads in the race for governor with less than two weeks to go before the Aug. 7 primary, according to a new poll commissioned by the Detroit Free Press. Schuette, the state attorney general, would get 42 percent of the Republican primary vote if the election were held today, while Lt. Gov. Brian Calley would get 24 percent, according to the poll conducted by EPIC-MRA of Lansing for the Free Press and its media partners. … On the Democratic side, Whitmer, the former Senate minority leader, holds an even larger lead, the poll found. Whitmer would get 49 percent of the vote, while Ann-Arbor area businessman Shri Thanedar would get 22 percent, and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the former director of the Detroit health department, would get 19 percent. Another 10 percent remain undecided.”

Bernie Sanders endorses Michigan Dem sitting third in the polls -
Detroit News: “ U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday endorsed Abdul El-Sayed for Michigan governor, giving the former Detroit health department director a high-profile boost less than two weeks before the Democratic primary. Sanders, a democratic socialist from Vermont, scored a surprise win in Michigan’s 2016 presidential primary, topping eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by less than two percentage points. El-Sayed is hoping to pull off a similar upset next month. He is running third in recent polls of the Democratic gubernatorial field, which includes former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing and Ann Arbor entrepreneur Shri Thanedar.”

Newsom holds lead in California governor’s race -
Sacramento Bee:Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor, holds a commanding lead over his Republican rival, businessman John Cox, in the race to be California’s next governor, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. In a new poll released Wednesday, 55 percent of likely voters favored Newsom, compared to 31 percent who would pick Cox. More than than three months before the November election, only 9 percent of respondents were still undecided. Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC, said Democrats quickly coalesced around Newsom after an open, and sometimes bitter, primary in which millions of them voted for other major candidates, like former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang. About 86 percent of Democratic likely voters in the poll supported Newsom, significantly narrowing the path forward for Cox’s underdog campaign.”

NBC News: “The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would meet the deadline and reunite roughly 1,600 parents deemed ‘eligible’ to be reconnected with their children. Hundreds of other families will not be reunited; in those cases, the parents either haven't been located or are ineligible because of their criminal history, medical issues or a potential threat to the child. To meet the deadline, attorneys say the administration is carrying out parent-child reunifications in parking lots of detention centers, and immigrants are being moved late at night to other detention centers or dropped at shelters or centers run by nonprofits, often without lawyers being notified. Attorneys say that amid this chaos, some parents are not being fully informed of their rights or are choosing the shortest path toward being reunited with their children, even if that means giving up on a chance to stay in the U.S. Attorneys say they've spoken to some mothers who stopped pursuing their asylum cases after being told that continuing to fight would keep them in detention and separated from their children — potentially for months.”

This week, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano writes a beautiful tribute to his father: “He was the first person in his family to vote Republican, and he took a lot of heat for that. … He would explain to his parents and in-laws and sons that he feared the Democrats would give away the store to stay in office. Though he loved the Navy and respected the police, he was skeptical of government in general, and he loved Jefferson’s mantra that ‘that government is best which governs least.’ He was a devout Roman Catholic. He loved the New York Yankees, the New York Football Giants and Fox News -- and he loved that girl he married, more with each passing day. … After this marvelous man received the Anointing of the Sick and he said a peaceful, loving goodbye, the angels came and brought his soul to heaven. I knew this man well and loved him with all my heart. He taught me all his values. His name was Andrew Alexander Napolitano.” More here.

West Virginia secretary of state denies Blankenship candidacy, lawsuit expected - W. Va. Metro News

Read this editorial piece regarding the CNN correspondent blocked from WH press event Wednesday - Weekly Standard

Twenty-four candidates in 2018 elections have been affected by the #MeToo movement - Atlantic

Facebook, Twitter and Google execs expected back back on the Hill in the fall - Axios

“You might be wondering why I’m here to speak to this group of young activists. I should tell you that I had my own activism streak in my youth. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the Boston Tea Party, but it was a real game changer.” – Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaking to high school students Thursday morning.

“This [Wednesday’s note] could have been written 25 - 30 years ago - with the same amount of meaning it has now.  It's not because of this President - or the other one - it's because Congress - both sides - have failed to do their jobs.  Continuing Resolutions are ridiculous / meaningless - at face value.” – Donald G. Tygart, Tualatin, Ore.

[Ed. note: I certainly agree with you that as the first among equals, much of the responsibility for our deteriorating civic institutions falls at the feet of Congress. But I tend to think at this moment we need to be clear eyed about the ways in which we as citizens have failed to live up to our obligations as well. The old saying is that in a republic people get the government they deserve. All of these issues are part of a political ecosystem that is obviously unwell. Problems in the press may get harder to have a frank discussion, dysfunction in Congress opens the way for executive overreach, executive overreach makes way for judicial activism, etc. As a general precept, I suggest that we all do better at measuring our actions on the basis of whether they are constructive or destructive. Tearing down is fun and easy, and sometimes necessary. But we need a new generation of builders.]

“Chris, I think our only way out of this country's crisis, is to repair the media with the critical need being the establishment of a common understanding of what is TRUE. I am sure I don't know all the ways to accomplish that, but I would like to see the news clearly segregate and label what they are reporting as fact vs. opinion! Preferably something simple like a flashing green light in the corner for fact, and yellow lights for opinions. Enforcement will be tricky, but I think it would help a lot if we can get there.” – Ken Muntz, Las Vegas

[Ed. note: You know what I’m going to say, Mr. Muntz: Who? A free press is not free if there is a government entity making determinations about truth. That’s the kind of authority that our Founders wisely knew to deny the state. In a recent interview that you will get to listen to later in a podcast for my forthcoming book, “Every Man a King,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., had an interesting idea in how civil litigation might provide a remedy for the ocean of mendacity in which we are currently swimming. I won’t give it away here, since he should be able to explain it himself, but I think you might be intrigued.]

“You write: ‘But ask yourself what becomes of a country where reprehensive government and the free flow of ideas are distrusted and the military is venerated above everything else. This is not the American model and it will lead to un-American results if it is allowed to persist.’ For one possible answer, see the book (don’t waste your time on the movie) ‘Starship Troopers’ by Robert Heinlein.  In the future depicted in the book, nation-states around the world collapsed and those were serving in the military, or had served, were the ones who stepped up and brought order out of chaos. No surprise, from that point forward, citizens had to earn the right to vote by serving in the military in some capacity. No exceptions. If someone, regardless of how limited in their physical abilities, insisted on serving, the government/military had to find something for them to do. I agree wholeheartedly this is not the American model, but various ideological true believers keep pushing their agendas. Of late, those who would preserve the American model are pushing back. I don’t know if we will be able to resolve our differences civilly and handwringing about we all need to calm down aren’t working.  Sad to say, the most civil resolution may be a breakup of the United States where ideology and geography coincide. The only alternative may be a true civil war. My wife and I pray for our nation every day. We trust you do too.” – Jonathan Kahnoski, Meridian, Idaho

[Ed. note: I do, Mr. Kahnoski, and I still believe what Lincoln said that we are the last best hope for earth. I also highly recommend Heinlein’s novel, especially for teenagers and young adults as many authors have. Getting people to think about politics outside of our current reality sometimes helps them see things more clearly.

“SAUSAGE has been made for centuries. Usually it tastes good. The Political legislative process uses a similar technique of which songs have been made. It has to be done behind closed doors because it looks messy. The mess has to be clean. When the sausage became unpalatable, some really suspected either poor ingredients or uncleanliness. Elections and time usually improve ingredients. Uncleanliness needs sunshine. Today there is selective sunshine by some and even the black light of false sunshine. Thank you for some light. Open sausage making is ugly, even on the world stage!” – Jim McCoy, Clare, Ill.

[Ed. note: I think I know what you’re getting at, Mr. McCoy, but I don’t want to take any liberties. I would say, though, that transparency and accountability are two different things. I think our Congress would work better if we took cameras out, for example. I’m okay with people working behind closed doors to solve problems if there is a record and the results of the negotiations are quickly and readily available. Sunlight is important for documents and budgets and many things, but I think lawmakers would do a better job if they weren’t mugging for the camera.]

“Hi Chris! Love your report! While you are no doubt correct in stating (in Wednesday's report) ‘that Congress has largely advocated its Congressional duties’ (since all they seem to do is talk, Talk, TALK!), you surely meant that they ‘have largely ABDICATED’ them. Blaming everyone else and advocating for their own partisan view is abdicating (or ‘shirking’) their duties of the first order! You're forgiven a typo, of course! It actually brought a laugh!” – Mac McJunkins, Ranchos de Taos, N.M.

[Ed. note: Thank you for your merciful reading, Mr. McJunkins! We had more than our usual share of typos on Wednesday, which we have since corrected. It is lucky that we have readers as gracious and generous as you.]

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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WHAM: “With coffee and a full tank of gas, Sarah Wells and Rebecca Hurley set out to visit all 97 Wegmans stores in a week…while on vacation from their jobs at Wegmans. ‘Rebecca and I just wanted to go on a road trip,’ said Sarah. ‘We didn’t have any destination in mind. It came up as an idea, and we took it as a challenge and ran with it.’ Day one: A marathon. The duo visited just under 40 stores, all in Buffalo and Rochester. Day two: They started thinking about the beach. But those familiar aisles were calling. ‘We had to see it through,’ said Sarah. … Friends and coworkers were so interested, they chronicled their Weg-cation on Instagram, store after store. … When the trips were over, they’d logged 4,000 miles in seven days – all with no regrets… Both Sarah and Rebecca work at the kitchen at the Sheridan Road store in Buffalo.”

“Even if every charge against Clinton were true and she got 20 years in the clink, it would change not one iota of the truth — or falsity — of the charges of collusion being made against the Trump campaign. Moreover, in America we don’t lock up political adversaries. They do that in Turkey. They do that (and worse) in Russia. Part of American greatness is that we don’t criminalize our politics.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post July 27, 2017. 

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.