Normalized, indeed

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On the roster: Normalized, indeed – Bear down: Tillerson takes hard line for Moscow trip – That’s Justice Gorsuch, to you – Team Trump back to drawing board on taxes – And you’ll find him living in a van, down by the river


President Trump took a little victory lap today on his successful appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

“And I got it done in the first 100 days,” Trump said in his trademark joking-not-joking style. “You think that’s easy?” Trump knows what he’s talking about on that one, since most of his opening act has been somewhere on a spectrum between chaos and calamity.

But, as we talked about a couple of weeks ago, there is nothing that the political press likes more than declaring a leader an unmitigated failure right before declaring them the “comeback kid.”

When Trump saw his health insurance plan melt like a Peep in the microwave while his administration was doing daily trench warfare in the ongoing controversy surrounding Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Trump made history as the earliest lame duck since William Henry Harrison.

It’s amazing what a Supreme Court justice and air strikes on a reviled, genocidal dictator will do. Add in a successful visit from the leader of China, and you start to hear words like “competent” and “able” being whispered in Washington.

A new poll out from CBS News says that the assessment extends beyond the beltway, too. Not only did 57 percent of respondents back Trump’s airstrikes in retaliation for Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war but Trump’s overall job approval rating ticked up 3 points to 43 percent. That’s high cotton for a guy languishing in the 30s in some polls just two weeks ago.

Trump is learning what his predecessor, Bill Clinton, found out during troubled times 20 years ago: voters are quick to rally around commanders in chief when missiles start flying, especially when no U.S. lives are lost and the bad guys are inarguably bad.

You know something is going on when The Washington Post sounds more supportive of Trump than Breitbart News.

So what will the president do with this moment of opportunity? Members of Congress have gone home to be upbraided by their constituents instead of by one another for a couple of weeks and even if they were here there is still no consensus about what to do next or how to do it.

Instead, it sounds like Trump is focused on some housekeeping that went undone during his tumultuous transition and first days in office.

We have heard multiple reports about the blood feud between Steve Bannon, Trump’s ideological id, and the president’s sunnier son-in-law, Jared Kushner. However this episode of “House of Cards” plays out the move in Trumpghanistan that seems continually to be toward normalcy.

This poses an interesting challenge for Trump’s strongest supporters and most ardent foes.

How to you #resist a guy who is acting pretty much like his predecessors? Or how do you stay stoked for the new Jacksonian revolution when your guy is sounding more like Ike and less like Old Hickory?


“…we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 10


WaPo: “The Revolutionary War was at a crucial point in 1777 when a remarkable set of documents surfaced in London that cast doubt on Yankee resolve. With France not yet helping the struggling rebels, a packet of letters said to have been intercepted from Gen. George Washington showed that the American leader was far from committed to the cause. In eloquent, plaintive language, he told his closest family that he was miserable and that the war was a mistake. It wasn’t. The letters were forgeries. It took a long time for that to be widely known, though, and the letters dogged Washington for the rest of his life. They resurfaced two decades later, during his presidency, when critics were slamming him for being too accommodating to the former British overlords. Turns out that fake news — that most disorienting symptom of modern political dysfunction — isn’t so modern after all.”

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NYT: “Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson is taking a hard line against Russia on the eve of his first diplomatic trip to Moscow, calling the country ‘incompetent’ for allowing Syria to hold on to chemical weapons and accusing Russia of trying to influence elections in Europe using the same methods it employed in the United States. Mr. Tillerson’s comments, made in interviews aired on Sunday, were far more critical of the Russian government than any public statements by President Trump, who has been an increasingly lonely voice for better ties with Russia. They seemed to reflect Mr. Tillerson’s expectation, which he has expressed privately to aides and members of Congress that the American relationship with Russia is already reverting to the norm: one of friction, distrust and mutual efforts to undermine each other’s reach.”

Trump administration stands firm on demands – WaPo:“Officials in the Trump administration on Sunday demanded that Russia stop supporting the Syrian government or face a further deterioration in its relations with the United States. Signaling the focus of talks that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to have in Moscow this week, officials said that Russia, in propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, bears at least partial responsibility for Tuesday’s chemical attack on villagers in Idlib province. In advance of Tillerson’s arrival, the Kremlinsaid Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had no plans to meet with the secretary of state.”


Fox News: “Justice Neil Gorsuch, vowing to be a ‘faithful servant’ to the Constitution, was sworn in Monday to the Supreme Court, capping a grueling confirmation process and filling the seat once held by the late Antonin Scalia. The latest addition to the court was sworn in at a public ceremony in the Rose Garden. Justice Anthony Kennedy – Gorsuch’s former boss – administered the Judicial Oath, the second of two Gorsuch took. ‘To the American people, I am humbled by the trust placed in me today,’ Gorsuch said after taking the oath. … At the ceremony, President Trump called Gorsuch a man of ‘unmatched qualification’ and ‘deeply devoted’ to the Constitution.”

Contemplating a Senate in nuclear winter – WaPo: “The confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has left shattered political conventions in its wake: the refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, the first partisan filibuster of a high court nominee, and the demise of the Senate filibuster for judges altogether. All this smashed political pottery shows not only how polarized our politics have become, but how dramatically the stakes of filling a vacant Supreme Court seat have increased.”


AP: “President Donald Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on and is going back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax system. The administration’s first attempt to write legislation is in its early stages and the White House has kept much of it under wraps. But it has already sprouted the consideration of a series of unorthodox proposals including a drastic cut to the payroll tax, aimed at appealing to Democrats. Some view the search for new options as a result of Trump’s refusal to set clear parameters for his plan and his exceedingly challenging endgame: reducing tax rates enough to spur faster growth without blowing up the budget deficit.”

But so far no nibble from Dems –
WSJ: “GOP attempts to reach across the aisle are complicated by lack of agreements on priorities. Democrats are starting to settle on a price for participating in a tax-code overhaul, and many Republicans won’t want to pay it. Democrats say they oppose net tax cuts and will resist proposals that mostly benefit high-income households.


Dems try to leverage air strikes into new discussion on Syria refugeesRoll Call

To-do List: Trump faces five deadlines WashEx

Freedom of information groups sue to force Trump to release White House visitor logsThe Hill

Dem allied group runs ads targeting GOP on ObamaCare Politico

Koch brothers network targets GOPers on border adjustment tax Axios

Last-minute GOP ads in Tuesday’s Kansas special congressional election hit hard on abortion Wichita Eagle

Republicans flood cash into upcoming House special election in Ga. – WaPo

Scandal-soaked Ala. governor expected to step down this week –Birmingham News

Juan Williams remembers the life and legacy of acclaimed African-American conservative William Coleman The Hill


“I have been a politician for two years now, but it’s really dog years. It’s really 14 years.” – Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) quoted by the Chicago Tribune regarding his ongoing battle with state Democrats during his time in office.

[Watch Fox: Americans have awoken to the brutal realities of the nation’s growing problem with opioid drug addiction. Starting tonight, the Fox News Channel takes a closer look at the causes, consequences and possible solutions for what has become an urgent public health crisis. Watch “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET.]


“As a reader of history I cannot help but compare the behavior of our current Congress with that of the Roman Senate at the time of Julius Caesar circa (54BC).” – John Prior Jr., Ocean, N.J.

[Ed. note: And look at how it ended up for him!]

“I am unclear on whether Justice Gorsuch can participate/vote on cases that have been presented to the Court but where no opinions have been released.” – Tom Balk, Danville, Calif.

[Ed. note: There are no take backs on ties, but there may be do-overs. In cases where the eight-member post-Scalia court deadlocked, the matter simply remanded to the lower court. This is something like the legal concept of a case being dismissed “without prejudice,” versus dismissed “with prejudice.” Cases dismissed without prejudice can be re-filed and reconsidered. Normally when the Supreme Court sends a case back down, that’s it. But in the case of ties, life goes on for the litigation. And on key cases, like a highly controversial California lawsuit over union dues we would expect to see those matters return.]

“I think I know what is next, and I can only hope it’s after my adult children’s lifetime: The senate will eventually rescind the designation of ‘lifetime assignments’ to SCJ’s during a time when one party dominates the house and senate, while the other side dominates the high court. ‘Oh, impossible’ you say? Well, to this observer, there appear NO rules that can remain unchanged. The games of Washington are modern day TEGWAR, made famous in a baseball book ‘Bang The Drum Slowly’: The Endless Game Without Any Rules.” – Matthew Freitas, Chicago

[Ed. note: A wonderful analogy, Mr. Freitas! Noted dog owner Jonah Goldberg famously observed about the nature of a “living Constitution” that if you can change the rules of the game as you go along things invariably devolve. Goldberg, apparently who is also a writer in addition to his work caring for dogs also compared American government to baseball: “In other words, if you don’t set the rules in advance you don’t get freedom, you get anarchy. You don’t get a baseball game, you get a bunch of guys running around in funny clothes with clubs.”]

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


NBC News4: “A National Rifle Association employee accidentally shot himself while doing firearms training at the organization’s headquarters, according to police. The 46-year-old man’s pistol accidentally discharged Thursday afternoon as he holstered the gun in Fairfax County, Virginia, police said. The accidental shooting happened at the NRA’s National Firearms Museum at 11250 Waples Mill Road in Fairfax. The employee suffered a minor wound to his lower body and was taken to a hospital for treatment, police said. Officers worked with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and no charges are expected, according to police. News4 has reached out to the NRA for comment, but has not received an immediate response.”

Chris Stirewaltis 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.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.

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