When keeping it real goes wrong

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On the roster: When keeping it real goes wrong - Power Play: Well, that escalated quickly - Trump, British PM differ on Putin thaw - Trump, Mexican president try to patch up rift - What’s Gaelic for ‘gross, dude?’

In a career of fine columns, perhaps the finest – or at least the most durably instructive – by the late William Raspberry might have been his 1984 encomium “In Praise of Hypocrisy.”

“Hypocrisy recognizes that the erosion of standards hurts everybody. It accepts the sanctity of societal standards, even while violating them,” Raspberry wrote. “It says: What I’m doing is wrong; therefore I must not be found out. La Rochefoucauld said it 300 years ago: ‘Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.’”

Well, friends, if you’re looking for hypocrisy, Washington at the moment of a change of power between the parties is the place to be. It’s thicker than the coal in the old Pittsburgh No. 8 seam, and twice as dark.

The first place to looks is always on debt and spending.

President Trump told Sean Hannity on Thursday that increasing deficit spending was necessary in order to “fuel the well” of economic growth.

This was the same Trump who as a candidate relentlessly hammered then-President Obama for “doubling the national debt.”

And that was the same Obama who, as he was readying his own presidential run, criticized then-President George W. Bush as “unpatriotic” for continued borrowing.

As newly inaugurated Obama came under fire for hypocrisy, he waved away the charges saying that he was working on a higher plane than Bush.

“I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November,” Obama said in February 2009 defending his call for massive deficit spending to spur growth and transform the economy.

You know, “fuel the well.”

Both Trump and Obama would doubtless argue that their borrowing was necessary and responsible while the other guy was doing it wrong. But the larger truth is that voters hate debt and deficits, but they hate taxes and spending cuts even more. Faced with a choice between the two, politicians know which horse to take to the trough first.

If government debt is, as fiscal conservatives would argue, a tax on future generations then why worry? The unborn get no votes.

The widening ocean of hypocrisy that meets every party change in Washington typically has some other features beyond a sudden loss of interest in fiscal restraint.

Democrats who mocked Republicans as holding antediluvian attitudes about the Constitution suddenly become Madisonian devotees of government restraint. Republicans who denounce presidential abuses of power swoon for a “man of action.”

This is enormously frustrating for actual ideologues. Conservative constitutionalists sneer at the newfound zeal of Democrats for restraint. Liberals who love Keynesian cash pumping take offense when a Republican suddenly shows up to open the spending sluiceways.

The real lesson here, though, isn’t about the ideas themselves, but rather the inadequacy of partisanship as a foundation for a political philosophy. Real people need to look elsewhere for their cues.

But neither should they be too quick to dismiss as unworthy the hypocritical agreement of their former foes. If you love limited government, applaud new converts, even if insincere. If you believe deficit-spending stimuli are unpatriotic, take your erstwhile enemy’s hand, even if he had given you the back of it before.

It may be the best you can get in moments when the rest of your views find little purchase in a hostile government. And, more importantly, it strengthens the standards themselves.

We’ll let Raspberry have the last word on that:

“Think of standards as an electrified fence that describes the limits of acceptable behavior. We are constantly tempted to cross the fence, and all of us, at one time or another, yield to the temptation. But the violation both thrills us and shocks us into a return to the confines of the fence. The deadly revolution came when instead of shying away from the fence, we simply moved it back to accommodate our actual behavior.”

“A good Government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of Government, which is the happiness of the People; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.” ― James Madison,  Federalist No. 62

Fifty years ago today, tragedy struck at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 34 when fire claimed the lives of NASA astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. An epilogue to Apollo I’s crew biographies written by Mary C. White (no relation) relates how this horrific accident contributed to the achievements of America’s space voyagers: “Apollo I never left the launch pad. However, the information gained from this fatal mission paved the way for a totally redesigned Apollo spacecraft, eleven Apollo space flights and six lunar landings. ... Only weeks before he died, Gus Grissom wrote the following: ‘There will be risks, as there are in any experimental program, and sooner or later, we're going to run head-on into the law of averages and lose somebody. I hope this never happens, and... perhaps it never will, but if it does, I hope the American people won't think it’s too high a price to pay for our space program.’”

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President Trump
had a busy first week filled with executive actions, meetings, tweets and a rehashing of possible voter fraud? National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar and WaPo’s James Hohmann join Chris Stirewalt to discuss the president’s decision to prolong the issue and where he and the press go from here. WATCH HERE.

NYT: “Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Theresa May, the British prime minister, Mr. Trump did not say whether he supports keeping sanctions that were put in place following Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine and its interference in the 2016 election. But he said he hoped to have a good relationship with Mr. Putin. ‘If we could have a great relationship with Russia and with China and with all countries, I’m all for that,’ Mr. Trump said in a brief answer to the question. Ms. May was more direct in her answer to the question about sanctions on Russia. She said the United Kingdom ‘believes that the sanctions should continue.’”

USA Today: “President Trump spoke by phone for an hour Friday with Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto, a day after a dispute over Trump’s proposed border wall caused a rift between their two nations and cancellation of a scheduled meeting between the two leaders. Saying he had ‘a nice phone call’ with Peña Nieto, Trump told reporters he would continue to push for talks with Mexico on trade rules and how Mexico might pay for the wall, despite that government's insistence that it would never help finance such a structure. ‘We’ll be negotiating and we’ll see what happens,’ Trump said during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.”

But, about that 20 percent border tax - Politico: “White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday walked back his statement that President Donald Trump supports a plan to tax imports in order to pay for a wall along the U.S. -Mexico border… Trying to clarify his original stance, Spicer added: ‘And the idea is to show that generating revenue for the wall is not as difficult as some might have suggested.’ ‘It could be a multitude of things. Right? It could be, instead of 20 percent it could be 18 it could be 5,” he added. ‘We could go in another direction, we could talk about tariffs, we could talk about, y’know, other, custom-user fees, or a hundred other things.’”

Fox News: ‘Vice President Mike Pence fired up the crowd at Friday’s March for Life in Washington, telling the pro-life throng their movement is succeeding. ‘Life is winning in America and today is a celebration in that progress,’ Pence said, speaking at the Washington Monument, before the march stepped off just after noon. ‘We’ve come to a historic moment in the cause of life and we must approach it with compassion for every American. Life is winning in America because of you. ‘Let this movement be known for love,’ he added to thunderous applause. ‘Not anger. For compassion. Not confrontation.’ The 43rd annual event was the third major event in the nation’s capital this week, and drew activists from around the country. There was no immediate estimate of the crowd size.”

AP: “President Donald Trump on Friday intended to sign an executive action Friday temporarily halting the flow of refugees into the United Sates and stopping all entries from some majority-Muslim nations, his spokesman said. A draft of the order obtained by The Associated Press also includes an indefinite ban on accepting Syrian refugees, and the pause in the broader refugee program extends for 120 days. Trump campaigned on a pledge to put in place ‘extreme vetting’ procedures particularly for people coming to the U.S. from countries with terrorism ties. According to the draft order, the president plans to suspend issuing visas for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen for at least 30 days. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump intended to sign the order during a Friday afternoon visit to the Pentagon, along with actions related to military readiness and the National Security Council. Details of those directives were not immediately clear.”

WaPo: “On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons: The new president wanted to talk to him. In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average. … Reynolds was taken aback by Trump’s request, but he did secure some additional aerial photographs and forwarded them to the White House through normal channels in the Interior Department, the people who notified The Post said. The photos, however, did not prove Trump’s contention that the crowd size was upward of 1 million.”


Donald Trump is a man of action. He wants things done and done yesterday. We like that about him, but Congress was not set up to act like that.” – Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, in an interview with Politico.

Economy slows in final quarter, growth in 2016 worst in five years - WashEx

Top Trump adviser Bannon says media should “keep its mouth shut” – NYT

Labor pick outsourced jobs to Philippines – AP

Poll: Trump starts presidency with 36 percent approval rating –
Quinnipiac University

Days ahead of deadline, Trump team pulls ObamaCare sign-up ads – NYT

Trump cites questionable claim on voter fraud front – The Hill

Mixed White House signals leave Republicans divided over paying for wall – AP

Miami-Dade mayor complies with Trump sanctuary city crackdown – Fox News

Mr. Sunday hosts Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway on what has been a busy first week for the Trump administration. And Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin delivers his perspective on the Senate agenda. 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.

“When did I miss the seminal moment in American history when it became OK to decide which laws each citizen would obey, and which laws a citizen chose not to obey?   Why is withholding Federal funds and grant money the only recourse to try to reign in Sanctuary Cities?  What about prosecuting the Mayors and Chiefs of Police who openly, brazenly proclaim they will continue to violate the law?  If you or I chose to break a Federal law, or any law for that matter, we would be prosecuted.  Does this mean it’s now OK for the American people to follow the example of the "leaders" of Sanctuary Cities and also choose which laws we follow, and which laws we ignore?” – Mark Simmons, Torrington, Wyo.

[Ed. note: Governments are among the worst lawbreakers of all, from the federal all the way down. Part of it is unwittingly running afoul of abstruse or seemingly contradictory rules, but oftentimes it is willful. When a president fails to provide a timely budget he is in violation of the law, but, as they have learned, there is no mechanism to punish them for the violation. During the Clinton-era campaign finance scandals the phrase “no controlling legal authority” dawned on the public consciousness. That’s a fancy way to say that there was nobody to punish the violators. And an unenforceable law is the same as no law at all. The local officials who refuse to comply with federal demands to detain illegal immigrants are in something of the same situation. They may be in violation of federal statutes, but they are not violating criminal statutes. That’s why the threatened penalty from the feds – much as it is on issues like environmental regulations, seat belt laws, etc. – is economic sanctions: Do what they say or lose parts of your federal funding.]

“As we race headlong off the cliff of literacy dominated by emojis and vowel-less text messaging, it is a pleasure to read Halftime Report.  I loved your ‘...creates a bad case of linguistic inflation.’ Thanks for throwing a lifeline to the beauty of language.” – Ira Korman, Dallas, Texas

[Ed. note: LOLZ!]

“Chris, you stated in this most recent piece, ‘A people who cannot mostly believe what their government says will eventually fall into subjugation or rebellion.’  I wonder where you have been living.  Americans have not been able to trust most of what their government says since at least the first Lyndon Johnson administration.  We have been lied to repeatedly, talked down to by liberal elites, and told that black is white for so long it is a wonder that we have not had an armed rebellion.  I think Trump’s election was an unarmed rebellion against liberal control of the agenda.” – John Woll, Bethel Park, Pa.

[Ed. note: American skepticism about governmental honesty goes way back to when the Gulf of Tonkin was just a puddle. Will Rogers wrote in 1923 that “If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.” And he was only half kidding. Where we get into trouble is when we believe that one side or the other has the market cornered on either dishonesty or virtue. History tells us that government deception is a bipartisan effort. Americans have long known that their government is better viewed with one eyebrow raised than closed eyes. If we keep that healthy skepticism intact we will avoid the traps of either vassalage or revolt.]

“In my household, I am continually getting reports from the media noise machine from my family, augmented with a healthy dose of cacophony from social media. I remain grounded with the musings from the Halftime Report, which continues to impress with its moderate reading of current political events. There are real events happening based on Trump’s early days in office, but it’s incredibly difficult to parse their impact with all the grandstanding from both Trump and his detractors. Are there other reliable sources for analysis out there right now? Surely Chris, you’re not alone out there!” – Jim Montgomery, Dallas, Texas

[Ed. note: Far from it! Though there is much to deplore in journalism today, in many ways there has never been more good work done by more good journalists than at any time before. We occasionally publish lists of our favorites and you, Mr. Montgomery, have reminded me that we are overdue. Thanks for your kind words and taking the time to write.]

“I thoroughly enjoy and resonate with your commentary (both written and spoken) on politics and the Republic, but I think I enjoy it even more when you playfully chide the lovely Ms. Perino on her taste in brisket and country music. Perhaps her brisket seasoned with water is the ‘Dierks Bentley’ of barbecue preparation. I believe it is your patriotic duty Mr. Stirewalt, to provide the ‘Lefty Frizzell’ of brisket as a worthy alternative. More seriously, thank you as always for your poignant commentary on current events while offering appropriate historical context.” – Will Thrasher, Warsaw, Ind.

[Ed. note: I know enough about cooking to not interfere with perfect ingredients masterfully prepared, Mr. Thrasher. So I will simply say: Thanks.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Irish Independent: “A Fine Gael minister has been forced to contact gardai [Irish State Police] and broadcasting regulatory authorities on behalf of angry constituents who are being bombarded with late-night telephone calls from adult chatline callers. Regional Development Minister Michael Ring has demanded answers after households in his constituency complained of being inundated with calls from users of adult chatlines advertised on British television channels. The premium rate telephone numbers used by chatline operators are similar to local landlines of residents in Westport, Mayo. When Irish users of the UK based services ring the numbers without adding the international dial code they are put through to family homes in Westport. The calls are causing huge distress for households as people are receiving several calls a day, mostly at night, from men who believe they are calling X-rated phone services.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Mike Maltas contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.