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On the roster: Who’s swamping who? - Meet Tom Price - Recount effort petering out - Landslide? Pffft… - Is something weighing you down, man?
WHO’S SWAMPING WHO?
There’s considerable consternation among some of Donald Trump’s supporters that he is not engaging in the kind of upheaval he promised as a candidate when he vowed to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Trump created an uproar inside the Beltway with his pick of nationalist provocateur Steve Bannon to be his top White House adviser. Other than that, though, Trump has mostly been turning to experienced politicians and bureaucrats for top jobs.
Consider the news today.
Trump tapped Rep. Tom Price, a six-term congressman from Georgia who leads the powerful House Budget Committee, to take over the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s a huge post for an administration keen to start the second massive overhaul of the nation’s health insurance system in a decade.
But more remarkable is the selection of Elaine Chao to be Trump’s Transportation secretary. Not only was Chao deputy Transportation secretary under George H.W. Bush, and Labor secretary for George W. Bush, she is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump’s chief of staff is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. His education secretary designee is probably the same woman Jeb Bush would have picked. His White House counsel will be from the biggest, most powerful Washington law firm. His man to lead the CIA is a congressman from Kansas. His attorney general pick has served almost 20 years in the Senate.
The only pick for a top job who hasn’t spent time on the marshy banks of the Potomac is South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, but even her selection as ambassador to the United Nations was seen as a nod to the GOP’s traditional base, not the populist prairie fire that propelled Trump into office.
There is no question that these picks represent massive change from the current administration and a somewhat different approach from previous GOP administrations. But most of these folks, with the potential exception of Trump’s designated National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, could easily be imagined in the administrations of any of Trump’s Republican rivals.
Is it draining the swamp, or just feeding a different set of alligators?
Now, there’s still plenty of picking to be done. The names floating around for key jobs suggest that there could still be upheavals ahead. Ben Carson running Housing and Urban Development would be a departure, to say the least.
But when we look at the three major remaining cabinet posts – State, Defense and Treasury – the trend does not seems to be toward the kind of wrecking-ball approach many once imagined Trump would bring to Washington.
WSJ reports that Trump could name his Treasury pick this week from a list of finalists that includes Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, head of the House Financial Services Committee, Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund wizard and John Allison, the former head of BB&T bank.
All very different than the current administration, yes. But hardly unimaginable choices for a more conventional Republican president-elect.
At the Pentagon, there is a similar story unfolding. The apparent shortlist for secretary of Defense includes Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a revered figure inside the national security establishment. Also reportedly in the running are former Bush National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Not choices Hillary Clinton would have made. But any might have come from, say, a President-elect Marco Rubio or Scott Walker.
The one that’s getting all the attention, though, is the pick for secretary of state. The high-intensity effort by Trump loyalists to keep Trump’s cardinal Republican critic, Mitt Romney, from the post belies the larger picture.
Whether he picks Romney or not, unless Trump is prepared to burn quite a bit of political capital pushing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani through a contentious Senate confirmation, the rest of the folks on the shortlist would be very much at home at on a panel discussion in Davos: former CIA boss David Petraeus, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and even, reportedly, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
So what gives?
Part of this is probably a reflection of the fact that Trump put Vice President-elect Mike Pence in charge of the transition. This certainly so far looks like the kind of cabinet that Pence might have picked for himself.
This is no doubt frustrating to those who invested their own reputations in what was originally considered an impossible Trump victory. For Giuliani or former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the administration seems to be shaping up in a much more pragmatic, predictable way than the madcap campaign.
Pence doesn’t do madcap. Pence celebrates his nomination at Chili’s.
But it also a reflection that Trump is himself the change agent here. He is looking not to have to rein in a wild bunch as president, but rather be the unpredictable one himself. If he was an insider, he might be more concerned about groupthink and the airless catacomb of inventiveness that is the executive branch.
A guy who throws out ideas like revoking the citizenship of flag burners at the drop of a tweet can probably rest easy on the question of a lack of unconventionality in his administration.
There’s also this: being president is enormously difficult and very little fun. If Trump wants to be the kind of chief executive he has described – a decisive, big-picture salesman who markets policies to the people and America to the world – he can hardly afford to have a team that is doing on-the-job training.
Many Trump supporters may be unhappy that “draining the swamp” is turning out to be more about replacing Democratic denizens with Republican ones. But that will no doubt fade.
Trump’s agenda is big and bold – border security, tax overhaul and a new health insurance system for starters. If his team can help him accomplish even most of it, he will be praised, not blamed, for picking a crew that can help him do it.
And if he and his team can’t deliver, Trump will get all the blame anyway.
THE RULEBOOK: IN GOVERNING AND IN LIFE
“Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. ”– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70
TIME OUT: KILLER VIBES
Atlantic: “When bridges and buildings begin to vibrate, whether from the wind or traffic or another stressor, they can literally shake themselves to pieces. Watch a 1940 clip of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge galloping up and down and then ripping like soggy cardboard to get a sense of the effects. This only happens when the vibrations happen to match what's called the resonant frequency of the structure, and engineers try to make sure this won't happen. Skyscrapers even have devices called dampers on their roofs to absorb energy. But natural, geological bridges like the great sandstone arches of Arches National Park in Utah, have no such defenses; they are still standing because over the eons they have shed pieces of themselves and adjusted their tension to weather the energy that washes up against them. However, with humans around—along with our helicopters, boats, highways, and everything else—the landscape of that energy has changed.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
MEET TOM PRICE
NYT: “If President-elect Donald J. Trump wanted a cabinet secretary who could help him dismantle and replace President Obama’s health care law, he could not have found anyone more prepared than Representative Tom Price, who has been studying how to accomplish that goal for more than six years. Mr. Price, an orthopedic surgeon who represents many of the northern suburbs of Atlanta, speaks with the self-assurance of a doctor about to perform another joint-replacement procedure. He knows the task and will proceed with brisk efficiency. Mr. Trump has picked Mr. Price, a six-term Republican congressman, to be secretary of health and human services, Mr. Trump’s transition team announced Tuesday morning.”
What’s his plan? - WaPo: “The ‘replace’ part, under Price's 2014 plan, is much different than what Obamacare looks like now. Instead of offering financial assistance for people to get health care coverage, he'd provide tax credits (based on age, up to $3,000 a year for those age 50 and older) to allow people to buy their own insurance. And he'd use another tax cut (a one-time cut up to $1,000) to incentivize people to sock away pre-tax money for health care costs in a Health Savings Account…Price has also supported giving individuals and small businesses the ability to pool together to, in his words, ‘gain the purchasing power of millions.’ … Price has supported the idea of requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.”
In addition to today’s much discussed dinner meeting with Mitt Romney, the president-elect is also scheduled to meet with the following:
--Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a potential pick for secretary of state
--Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a transition team member mentioned as a possible cabinet pick
--Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee
--Rep. Lou Barletta, Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, once thought to be a pick for Transportation secretary
--Pete Hegseth, former CEO of Concerned Veterans of America and a Fox News contributor
--Marion Blakey, president of Rolls Royce North America and former FAA administrator
--Gary Cohn, president and COO of Goldman Sachs
Also spotted at Trump Tower: former Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski.
RECOUNT EFFORT PETERING OUT
Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s efforts to seek a recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan look dim. Stein missed the deadline to file a voter-initiated recount in Pennsylvania and has threatened to go to court to challenge the law. In Wisconsin, Stein requested that county officials conduct the recount by hand, which was denied and has filed a lawsuit as a result. The bad news for recount hopefuls comes as Michigan announced their final total after three weeks, going for Trump by over 10,000 votes.
Do you know what they call a person who wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote? “Mr. President.” It just doesn’t matter, except for your feelings. As Democrats are working hard to remind everyone that Donald Trump won with a popular minority, Trump and his campaign are ratcheting up efforts to claim their astonishing upset was something else. Trump said Monday that he didn’t really lose the popular and now that Michigan’s votes are official, his former campaign manager is saying that his 306 electoral votes constituted a “landslide.” Nah... As Nate Silverexplains, Trump’s win with 57 percent of the electoral votes was certainly impressive but wasn’t a landslide by any stretch of the imagination. It ranked 44th out of the 54 elections held since the current framework for the Electoral College was set in 1804.
AUDIBLE: WELL, THERE’S ROOM AT GITMO…
“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” – President-elect Donald Trump on Twitter this morning.
Issa declared winner in razor-thin reelection bid - The Hill
Pentagon trying to track down leaks that sank Petraeus - AP
McCain, other GOP Senators express concern over spending fight in Trump’s first 100 days - The Hill
Trump’s early endorsers in the House test their new power on Capitol Hill - Politico
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Or, could it be that Trump is talking about ineligible people voting as insurance, in case the recount goes south, so he can demand verifications in the other states?” – Joanna Wragg, Bonita Springs, Fla.
[Ed. note: The thing about recounts Ms. Wragg, is that they are time specific. And the window for seeking them has already closed, or will be soon, in every state. As Jill Stein discovered in Pennsylvania, laws are unambiguous about candidates’ opportunity to contest results. It seems much more likely that Trump resents the repeated, antagonizing reminders from Democrats that he lost the popular vote by some 2.3 million votes as of today’s counting. But it doesn’t matter, and one imagines that the sting will fade for Trump in time.]
“Chris, greatly enjoy your newsletter and your comments on TV. My understanding is that absentee ballots are not tabulated unless the race is close enough for them to make a difference. If so, how many states did not tabulate the ballots for President and what impact would the cast but not counted ballots have on the popular vote for President in 2016?” – David Enzor, Crescent City, Fla.
[Ed. note: We’ve heard that one before, Mr. Enzor, but it’s not the case. While state laws differ, absentee ballots generally have to be post marked by Election Day, and are counted in the final tabulations – called a canvass – that take place usually later in that week. Absentee votes are treated or should be treated exactly as in-person ballots. Provisional ballots, are another matter. These are ballots that are irregular in some way. An elections official might flag a voter who lacked identification, was voting in the wrong precinct or some other abnormality. Those votes are set aside and then addressed during the canvass when other elections officials make a final determination about their validity. Is it possible that these votes, usually a tiny handful, don’t get full adjudication during blowouts? Sure. But when it comes to the millions of absentee ballots cast every election cycle, it’s the same as any other vote.]
“Please tell the raccoon story! The bean soup series has been great but, after having a pitch battle with a coon, I can hardly wait!” – JR Douglas, Wetumpka, Ala.
[Ed. note: Now you all have some pretty impressive raccoons down in Wetumpka, no doubt. What they can steal from people combined with the crayfish they can take out of Coosa would make for a fine, fat ringtail. But the raccoons of the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia have to work pretty hard to get their girth. Cunning ingenuity and tenacity are required. And let’s just say that when my dad declared war on the raccoons of Short Creek, it was a siege that lasted many years. The implements involved included a short-barreled .22 pistol, copious amounts of bacon fat and, occasionally, an orange plastic sled. (Sounds like the makings of a pretty good weekend, right there.) I promise I will tell the tale one day. Perhaps a Christmas story!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
IS SOMETHING WEIGHING YOU DOWN, MAN?
CBC:“A former Royal Canadian Mint employee who smuggled [more than $122,000] worth of gold in his rectum over several months is making efforts to pay it back, court heard Monday. Earlier this month, 35-year-old Leston Lawrence was found guilty of stealing 22 gold ‘pucks’… The weight of the pucks ranged from [6.7 ounces to more than half a pound] apiece. … While announcing the guilty verdict earlier this month, Ontario Court Justice Peter Doody said Lawrence set off the mint's walk-through metal detectors more than any other employee without a metal implant — 28 times between December 2014 and March 2015, court heard. But when a secondary check with handheld detectors failed to alert guards to the gold, Lawrence was able to leave with it each time.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.