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On the roster: When every day is Presidents’ Day - Would Biden be the real frontrunner? - List of litigants against Trump emergency growing - Audible: Like freedom fries? - Tudder for an udder
WHEN EVERY DAY IS PRESIDENTS’ DAY
We are in the midst of a needful and long-overdue discussion about executive authority.
But don’t expect it to last.
In the past seven decades, Americans have substantially learned to live without the small-r republicanism that was so much a part of our founding and first century and a half of our history.
Consider the long, slouchy slide into the abomination that we call “Presidents’ Day.” The holiday is still “George Washington’s Birthday” by law, having survived an effort in 1968 to standardize the observance as a generic honor for all presidents.
Abraham Lincoln, born on Feb. 12, never had a federal observance of his own, but most states had holidays for the Great Emancipator. Washington was born on Feb. 22, so this created something of a holiday logjam in February, which was unhelpful for schools and employers.
Over time, confusion between state and federal observances and the pressure from advertisers who wanted a standard way to hawk mattresses and minivans, dumbed down the holiday.
While it’s true that it doesn’t really matter what we call the day for the sake of celebrations. Americans ought not need to be told how and when exactly to venerate our two greatest leaders. Plus, ski weekends…
What does matter, though, is that the generic holiday is an unfortunate reflection of the royalist strain that has so much taken hold of American political thinking.
There’s no doubt that in our republic, the president is afforded many of the powers of a term-limited king. The power of the commander in chief to defend against an attack or of whether to pardon a criminal are magisterial indeed.
The fear among the Federalists in support of the Constitution was, in fact, that the legislative branch would be too powerful and that the executive would be too puny to get the job done. Sapped of the capacity for decisive action, the executive branch would become a kind of ceremonial head of state – a hood ornament for the country. Meanwhile, Congress would be unable to provide decisive responses to *ahem* national emergencies.
It’s turned out to be exactly the opposite. Congress can seldom act, it’s true. But the response from what is supposed to be the preeminent branch has been to cede its own authority. For decades now and under the control of both parties, Congress has taken itself from the lion of our government into a pipsqueak.
The idea behind venerating Washington and Lincoln is that they were special men who, at crucial moments, led the country out of dangerous straits and into greater glories. And in both cases, that given the opportunity to be demagogues or to hoard power for themselves, they instead placed those authorities back in the hands of the representatives of the people.
But the reason their self-sacrifice is so remarkable is that it is so rare. And it is so rare because, as the verdict of 10,000 years of history clearly shows, the people generally don’t want the power. Autocracy and highly centralized power haven’t been the norm in human history just because of the efforts autocrats, but also the will of the people.
Being a citizen in a republic is harder duty than being the subject of a king or queen. You have to make decisions. You have to know the facts. You have to participate.
The imperial American presidency has been growing and growing to the point now where we are even having a discussion about whether the current occupant of the Oval Office can even disregard the domestic spending direction of the Congress. That we are even in debate on the subject tells us how far we have fallen.
And in this case, like every executive usurpation that has come before, the executive points to the abuses that came before and were allowed to stand by a craven Congress. We won’t here delve into the cause of congressional cravenness, except to say that the individual ambitions of careerist lawmakers has made lawmaking seem rather too icky.
Where we’ve landed, and this has been very much for the current presidency and the one before it, is where everything seems focused on the man in the White House. Day after day after day of focus on one single human. As if a president could be so powerful…
Whatever sign they hung in the window at the mattress store today doesn’t matter, but we would submit that when we divorced the observance from the individual men, it was another step toward a monarchical America.
The truth that most of us would probably not like to confront is that America likes it better that way.
THE RULEBOOK: FANCY THAT
“The representatives of the people, in a popular assembly, seem sometimes to fancy that they are the people themselves, and betray strong symptoms of impatience and disgust at the least sign of opposition from any other quarter…” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 71
TIME OUT: UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Fashion critic Vanessa Friedman shares some thoughts on the passing of the original “influencer.” NYT: “What does it mean to have your greatest legacy be one of ‘taste?’ I have been thinking about this since the news of Lee Radziwill’s death arrived, along with the flood of photographs from all corners of social media featuring Ms. Radziwill throughout her life — in white corduroys and a blue boat-neck T-shirt, in bouffant chignon and tunics; in a pink shift with her sister, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, atop an elephant during a tour of India; in a white-and-silver beaded gown dancing with Truman Capote at his Black and White Ball; in a black patent python jacket — all of them used to pay homage to her extraordinary ‘taste.’ Been thinking about it since some of the obituaries and reminiscences almost seem to use the word as a backhanded compliment; a reference to a life that had more impact in style than substance... But are the two really so unrelated?”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -12.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 3.6 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve - 52% unapproved; CNN: 42% approve - 54% disapproval; IBD: 39% approve - 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 57% disapprove.]
WOULD BIDEN BE THE REAL FRONTRUNNER?
Politico: “Joe Biden’s big lead in early Democratic 2020 polling might be a bunch of malarkey. While most polls show the former vice president hovering around 30 percent of the Democratic primary vote, well ahead of second-place Sen. Bernie Sanders, two recent surveys paint a starkly different picture — raising the question of whether Biden is a real front-runner or just has big name-recognition. Those polls show far more Democratic voters undecided about which candidate to support, and they pegged Biden’s backing at a much less intimidating 9 to 12 percent. The results are so varied partly thanks to different methodological choices by the pollsters. But parsing the results is more than an academic exercise: While Biden weighs a third campaign for the presidency, he and his allies must consider whether polls a year before primary season really reflect Biden’s true strength — and his potential rivals have to calculate whether the former vice president could overwhelm lesser-known challengers in 2020.”
The mom lane - The Boston Globe: “As the 2020 Democratic primary shapes up, its leading women candidates – accomplished stateswomen, all – are drawing attention to another role they play: Mom. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar both talked about being mothers in the opening statements of their presidential bids. Senator Kamala Harris speaks often of her husband’s two children and the nickname they have given her: Momala. There are already indications that the women of 2020 plan to draw on their own experiences to embrace policies that affect mothers and working parents more broadly, bringing such issues as child care and family leave firmly into the political mainstream. This week, for example, Warren plans to introduce a universal child care and early learning plan, which she has said would be paid for by taxing the wealth of the richest Americans.”
Busy weekend on the trail - AP: “Five Democratic senators vying for their party’s nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020 fanned out across the country Saturday to campaign and meet voters. Kamala Harris of California spent her second straight day in the pivotal early-voting state of South Carolina, holding a town hall meeting in Columbia, the capital. Also visiting the state was Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who met with an estimated 800 voters in Greenville before heading to Georgia… Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York both focused on New Hampshire. Booker made his first visit to there since joining the race earlier this month, holding a question-and-answer session with more than 400 voters in Portsmouth. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, meanwhile, made her own uncommon choice for early campaigning by visiting Wisconsin before heading to Iowa, home to the nation’s first caucus. And a Democratic heavyweight who’s yet to address his 2020 plans, former Vice President Joe Biden, made his own high-profile appearance at the Munich Security Conference.”
Bernie’s team talked of grim standing with non-white voters - NYT: “Shortly after Senator Bernie Sanders suffered a crushing loss in South Carolina’s Democratic primary in 2016, his campaign’s African-American outreach team sent a memo to top campaign leaders with an urgent warning. ‘The margin by which we lost the African-American vote has got to be — at the very least — cut in half or there simply is no path to victory,’ the team wrote in the memo, which was reviewed by The New York Times. Mr. Sanders had won 14 percent of the black vote there compared with 86 percent for Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls. Over seven pages, the team outlined a strategy for winning black voters that included using social media influencers and having Mr. Sanders give a major speech on discrimination in a city like St. Louis or Cincinnati. Mr. Sanders’s inner circle did not respond.”
LIST OF LITIGANTS AGAINST TRUMP EMERGENCY GROWING
NBC News: “California and a dozen other states are filing a lawsuit challenging Donald Trump's national emergency declaration, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday. ‘The president admitted that there’s not a basis for the declaration. He admitted there’s no crisis at the border. He’s now trying to rob funds that were allocated by Congress legally to the various states and people of our states,’ Becerra told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC Monday afternoon. ‘The separation of powers is being violated, we’re going to go out there and make sure that Donald Trump cannot steal money from the states and people who need them, since we paid the taxpayer dollars to Washington, D.C., to get those services,’ he said. … New Jersey, Colorado, and Connecticut all confirmed to NBC News they are a part of the lawsuit. ‘The only national emergency is the president's trafficking in lies and deceit,’ Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement.”
Stephen Miller on the hot seat - USA Today: “During an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ host Chris Wallace pressed [senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller] on the need for a national emergency, citing U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data showing between 80 to 90 percent of drugs seized in attempted smugglings happened at ports of entry. … Wallace pressed Miller to cite another example from the 59 times presidents used the National Emergency Act where it was invoked to obtain money that Congress had refused to appropriate. Miller did not cite such a precedent and took issue with the premise of the question. ‘They didn’t refuse to appropriate it,’ Miller said. ‘They passed a law specifically saying the president could have this authority. It’s in the plain statute. That’s the decision that Congress made, and if people don’t like that, they can address it.’”
Senate Judiciary Committee will investigate McCabe’s claims - WaPo
North Carolina election officials make their case against GOP ‘ballot harvesting’ in unresolved House race - Raleigh News & Observer
AUDIBLE: LIKE FREEDOM FRIES?
“I think that whatever you eat is a very personal decision and everybody should eat what they want to eat. That’s America- that’s what we believe in freedom.” – Presidential Candidate Cory Booker (D-NJ) explained his vegan diet to his voters via twitter over the weekend.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, be serious, neither [Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld] nor [Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan] can be classified as ‘notable’. I'd put [Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich] in that category, but I don't think he'll get into a race that he knows for sure that he can't win.” – Lou Banas, Brea,Calif
[Ed. Note: I can’t be sure of your definition of notability, Mr. Banas. But the second-term governor of a state of 6 million or so souls strikes me as within any reasonable definition. The ting about primary challenges is that they don’t have to be successful to do their damage. In 1980, Ted Kennedy didn’t beat Jimmy Carter, nor did Pat Buchanan unhorse George H.W. Bush in 1992, but both campaigns were certainly consequential. That’s why the Trump campaign is rightly worried about just such a run.]
“One of the greatest walls between us, the people, and an overzealous government is the separation of powers. The Founding Fathers, in perhaps one of their greatest acts of genius, divided the power of government into three separate branches so as to insure there was no party with absolute power. Declaring an ‘emergency’, after the president has already given the congress the opportunity to act and has acted, creates a huge breach in this wall of protection. Gaining short-term funds for building a border wall in exchange for the Constitutional wall of protection created by the separation of powers is neither conservative nor is it wise. Liberals often believe the end justifies the means, I hope conservatives do not stray down this dangerous road.” – Steve Bartlett, Greenville, S.C.
[Ed. Note: The Constitution is always getting strange new respect from the party out of power. We could call it hypocrisy, but that would be too narrow of a view. In fact, our charter has very much in mind keeping majorities from turning into steamrollers. So then maybe it makes a certain sense that the party out of power holds the Constitution in greater reverence.]
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TUDDER FOR AN UDDER
Reuters: “A Tinder-inspired app is helping farmers match up potential partners for their cattle. Called ‘Tudder’ ― a mix of dating app Tinder and udder - it lets farmers swipe right on cattle they like the look of. They are then directed to a page on the SellMyLivestock website where they can browse more pictures and data about the animals before deciding whether to buy. Valuable information is available on matters like milk yield and protein content, or calving potential, explained Doug Bairner, CEO of Hectare Agritech which runs SellMyLivestock (SML) and Graindex, a UK-based online agritech trading platform. ‘Matching livestock online is even easier than it is to match humans because there’s a huge amount of data that sits behind these wonderful animals that predicts what their offspring will be,’ he said.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Nixon might indeed have committed crimes. But the spectacle of an ex-president on trial and perhaps even in jail was something Ford would not allow the country to go through.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on July 27, 2017.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Liz Friden contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.