**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.** On the roster: Can the GOP outflank the Dems’ moral high ground? - Trump r
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On the roster: Can the GOP outflank the Dems’ moral high ground? – Trump riffs rally style at convention – Biden hits Trump on Goodyear boycott – In rare endorsement, Dubya backs Collins – Finally found something it was good for
CAN THE GOP OUTFLANK THE DEMS’ MORAL HIGH GROUND?
Democrats have been delighting in the latest juicy drama from Trumpworld, the secretly recorded comments from President Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry.
The recordings released this weekend were the latest salvo from Mary Trump, the president’s niece, whose very public fight with her uncle and his side of the family. Mary Trump recorded her aunt, who served as a federal judge from 1983 until her retirement in 2018, in private conversations that she then shared with the Washington Post.
Barry’s words have quickly become a mantra for the #resist movement: “His g—amned tweet and lying, oh my God. I’m talking too freely, but you know… The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy s–t.”
This will soon surely adorn the reusable tote bags of the loyal opposition. Joe Scarborough may want to consider a chest tattoo if he hasn’t already settled on “Person, woman, man, camera, TV.”
And while it is embarrassing for Trump to have these words from his sister, a well-respected jurist, broadcast and then repeated ad infinitum, Democrats should ask themselves: For whom is Barry probably voting?
While we certainly don’t know for sure, we do know of lots of Republicans, including several prominent members of Congress, who agree with her assessment of the president’s character and capacity – sometimes with even more colorful language – who will be pulling the lever for Trump this fall.
Democrats just spent a week devoted principally to explaining that Donald Trump is a bad person whose character defects make him a bad president. Joe Biden, they said, is a good person whose character will make him a good president.
As Republicans learned in 1992 and 1996, voters don’t care nearly as much about character as we all might think. No one seriously doubted that war heroes George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole were better men than the draft dodging, enthusiastically oleaginous Bill Clinton. But voters weren’t choosing a role model, they were choosing to turn the page from the Cold Warriors of yore in favor of “thinkin’ about tomorrow” – easy money, permissive morality and a big fat peace dividend.
In short, voters picked who they thought was a bad guy with good opinions over good guys with what they thought were bad opinions.
Dozens of former Republican lawmakers, including the long-anguishing Jeff Flake, announced today that they’re backing Biden. The campaign explained that it was because of Trump’s “corruption, destruction of democracy [and] blatant disregard for moral decency.”
You can call us cynical if you like, but it’s hard to remember a time when America was all tingly about “moral decency.”
And at the risk of even deeper cynicism, we wonder if the list would have been so long if Trump had a more successful second term. Had Trump been indecent but, like Clinton, presided over a roaring economy, balanced budget and significant programmatic reforms, maybe those folks would have been more forgiving.
Certainly there are lots of voters who chose Trump in 2016 who now abjure their choice. And just as certainly many of them were driven away by the same complaint Trump’s sister voiced in her estimation of her brother’s character. Those folks aren’t coming back, either.
But the voters who could make the difference for Republicans this year may be the ones who agree with Judge Barry’s assessments but would still vote for someone they hold in low esteem for the sake of their preferred policy provisions.
That’s why the crucial work for Republicans this week is not to try to rebut Democrats’ moral judgment of Trump, but rather to argue why the Red Team is more likely to deliver good outcomes than the Blue Team.
Democrats went to great lengths to claim the moral high ground, but made a less convincing case against Trump’s actual governance. They sort of assumed everyone agreed that his first term was a bust and went light on indicting his handling of matters of state.
But given Trump’s still-high ratings on the economy, the way is still pretty clearly open for the GOP to say that the Democrats are just a bunch of scolds while Trump is just looking for the chance to get the gravy train back on track.
That’s why the imperative for Republicans is to make their informercial not about exalting Trump but driving home the policy differences that could bring back mainstream Republicans and right-leaning independents who think like the president’s sister.
THE RULEBOOK: PAGING POLYBIUS
“I have thought it not superfluous to give the outlines of this important portion of [Greece’s] history; both because it teaches more than one lesson, and because, as a supplement to the outlines of the Achaean constitution, it emphatically illustrates the tendency of federal bodies rather to anarchy among the members, than to tyranny in the head.” – Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, on the insufficiency of the Confederation to preserve the Union, Federalist No. 18
TIME OUT: ROMAN RUIN
The Writer’s Almanac: “It was on this day in the year 410 that Rome was sacked by the Visigoths. It was the first time in 800 years that Rome was successfully invaded. The leader of the Visigoths was a man named Alaric. They came from what is now Germany, and were one of the many tribes who were suffering at the hands of the Roman Empire. … Once it became clear that the Visigoths were preparing to invade the city, about 30,000 Roman soldiers and slaves defected to Alaric’s army — many of them had been captured from the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire and forced into servitude. … Those who were not Christians blamed Christianity for destroying the long-lived Roman Empire. St. Augustine, living in Hippo, wrote an entire book called City of God to reassure Christians that the fall of Rome was not a judgment on Christianity.”
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NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 43 percent
Biden: 51.2 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 46% – Biden 50%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 41% – Biden 50%; Fox News: Trump 42% – Biden 49%; NPR/PBS News/Marist: Trump 42% – Biden 53%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 54.6 percent
Net Score: -11.6 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: CNN: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 42% approve – 57% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 44% approve – 53% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve – 55% disapprove.]
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to [email protected]
TRUMP RIFFS RALLY STYLE AT CONVENTION
Bloomberg: “Donald Trump marked his official nomination for a second term with a speech complaining about voting by mail, alleging that his opponents were attempting to steal the November election and accusing Democratic nominee Joe Biden of being a puppet of Beijing. The president launched into his allegations about mail voting … even before he thanked delegates gathered at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte for their nomination. … Trump took the stage at the Charlotte Convention Center after his adopted home state of Florida ended the roll-call vote by awarding him its 122 delegates. No delegate from any state voted against Trump’s nomination. The president plans to appear nightly during the four-day convention, which after Monday will be staged mostly from Washington because of the pandemic. He is scheduled to formally accept the nomination on Thursday in a speech from the South Lawn of the White House.”
RNC announces speakers for the week – Politico: “President Donald Trump’s campaign on Sunday announced its roster of speakers for this week’s Republican National Convention, a four-day event that will conclude with the president accepting the nomination on Thursday night from the White House. The list of more than 70 people includes a mix of Washington politicians, White House and campaign staff, the president’s family members and others. Jason Miller, a Trump campaign adviser, said America would see ‘a very optimistic and upbeat convention’ from Trump and his Republican, independent and Democratic allies. … Monday’s lineup will feature Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chamber’s lone Black Republican, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who chairs the Trump Victory Committee’s finance committee.”
RNC punts on platform, vows loyalty to Trump – Fox News: “The Republican National Committee issued a resolution stating that due to constraints on the size of this year’s Republican National Convention, it will not be adopting a new party platform, leaving in place the one from 2016. The resolution says the platform committee would have agreed to continue supporting President Trump and his administration but did not want to have a small group draft a new platform for the party. ‘The RNC has unanimously voted to forego the Convention Committee on Platform, in appreciation of the fact that it did not want a small contingent of delegates formulating a new platform without the breadth of perspectives within the ever-growing Republican movement,’ the resolution says. The number of attendees at this year’s convention is limited by state restrictions on gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Vote tally reveals depths of Dem platform divisions – Fox News: “While it’s described as the most progressive platform in the Democratic Party’s history and pushes the party to left on many issues — including health care reform, combating climate change, trade deals, and fighting racial injustice — the 92-page document doesn’t specifically endorse ‘Medicare-for-all’ or the Green New Deal, two of the top proposals pushed by the party’s progressive wing. Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials announced last Tuesday that the platform was passed by convention delegates and adopted. But despite inquiries by Fox News and other news organizations, they didn’t release the roll-call vote on the platform for days.”
Tillis keeps his distance – Charlotte Observer: “He’s in the middle of one of the most contested Senate races in the country as Republicans battle to keep control of the upper chamber. And he’s been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and an advocate to bring the 2020 Republican National Convention to Charlotte. But U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., will be a no-show Monday when Trump stops at the Charlotte Convention Center to thank the 336 RNC delegates meeting there for nominating him to a second term. Tillis will be in Charlotte on Monday, his campaign said. But he scheduled another event at noon — the same time Trump is expected to greet the delegates at the scaled-back Charlotte portion of this week’s GOP convention.”
Kraushaar: What Trump needs out of his convention – National Journal: “President Trump heads into his convention this week facing a daunting deficit in polls. … The Republican National Convention will offer the president an opportunity to recalibrate his own muddled message and redefine Joe Biden to the public. So far, Trump hasn’t been successful on that front, but the convention will be one of his last, best opportunities to shift the political narrative in his favor. Here’s how the Republican Party can help him do that this week: 1. Focus on the party, not the president. … 2. Explain what a second Trump term would look like. … 3. Neutralize his biggest weakness: Handling the pandemic. … 4. Capitalize on the Democrats’ glaring silence on violent crime. … 5. Highlight the party’s next generation of talent. … 6. Avoid any technical difficulties.”
The dynastic ambitions of Trump Jr. – NYT: “When Trump ran for president in 2016, Trump Jr., who is now 42, was involved but hardly central to the effort. His sister Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, exercised sweeping influence over the campaign. Trump Jr., by contrast, was assigned small, discrete tasks, like putting his outdoorsmanship on display in a pheasant-hunting photo op with his brother, Eric, before the Iowa caucuses to counter attacks that his father was a liberal city slicker. … So it is one of the many surprises of Trump’s presidency that Trump Jr. has grown into arguably his father’s most valuable political weapon. … After spending much of his adult life searching for a purpose, Trump Jr. seems to have found one in politics. His siblings can often seem to be patiently waiting out their father’s presidency.”
Conway, architect of Trump’s 2016 win, to depart – Fox News: “Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president and one of the longest fixtures in the Trump White House, will leave her position at the end of the month to focus on her family, she tweeted late Sunday. She posted on Twitter late Sunday that her husband, George Conway, a fierce critic of President Trump, will also make unspecified changes. ‘We disagree about plenty but we are united on what matters most: the kids,’ she said in a statement. … She said the decision to exit the White House—months before the election—was ‘completely’ her choice and once again pointed out her devotion to her children and said there will be less ‘drama, more mama.’ Conway has been one of the most effective envoys for Trump and has seldom backed down from questions from the press and the target of criticism from Democrats. She helped him win election in 2016 as his campaign manager.”
Falwell, one of Trump’s top evangelical backers, in meltdown mode – AP: “Jerry Falwell Jr., currently on a leave of absence as the leader of evangelical Liberty University, has released a statement saying that he is seeking help for the ‘emotional toll’ of an affair his wife had with a man who he says later threatened his family. Falwell issued a lengthy statement to The Washington Examiner on Sunday, publicly disclosing the affair and saying the man involved had been threatening to reveal the relationship ‘to deliberately embarrass my wife, family, and Liberty University unless we agreed to pay him substantial monies.’ … Falwell, an early and ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, has been on an indefinite leave since early August as president and chancellor of the Lynchburg university founded by his late father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. He stepped down after an uproar sparked by a photo he posted on social media that showed him with his pants unzipped, stomach exposed and arm high around the waist of a woman who was not his wife.”
BIDEN HITS TRUMP ON GOODYEAR BOYCOTT
The Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch: “The Biden camp is airing a similar 30-second spot in North Carolina, where Goodyear has a manufacturing plant near Fayetteville. The campaign did not release the size of the ad buy in either state. It is airing on TV and YouTube. It comes just as Trump kicks off the four-day Republican National Convention. Trump called for the boycott on Twitter apparently after hearing that a Goodyear facility in Kansas had told employees that apparel with phrases that are not directly political… The company later clarified its policy to note that Blue Lives Matter, meant to show support for law enforcement, also is acceptable. In a statement last week to the Akron Beacon Journal, Biden said, ‘To President Trump, those workers and their jobs aren’t a source of pride, just collateral damage in yet another one of his political attacks. President Trump doesn’t have a clue about the dignity and worth that comes with good-paying union jobs at places like Goodyear — jobs that can support a family and sustain a community.’”
Biden promises to raise taxes on top earners – Fox Business: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that if he wins the presidency in November’s election, he will raise taxes on Americans who earn more than $400,000 a year. In an interview with ABC’s David Muir that aired Sunday, Biden discussed his plan for raising taxes that included this segment of the population and appeared to include businesses as well. ‘I will raise taxes for anybody making over $400,000,’ Biden said. ‘Let me tell you why I’m going to do it. It’s about time they start paying a fair share of the economic responsibility we have. The very wealthy should pay a fair share — corporations should pay a fair share.’ Biden referred to businesses that take in ‘close to a trillion dollars and pay no tax at all.’ After saying this, Muir questioned the wisdom of burdening businesses with new taxes while the economy needs to recover from the coronavirus crisis.”
Biden bristles at grandfatherly role – New Yorker: “Biden vacillates between embracing the image of a kindly grandfather and bridling at it. When, in 2015, the late-night host Stephen Colbert referred to him on the air as a ‘nice old man,’ Biden called him the next day, Colbert told me: ‘He goes, ‘Listen, buddy, you call me a nice old man one more time and I will personally come down there and kick your ass.’ I laughed, and he laughed. I said, ‘Don’t worry. I won’t call you a nice old man, because clearly you’re not that nice.’’ In truth, Biden’s effusiveness has always disguised a prickly side. Among staff, he is known for giving support to talented people without connections, but he can also be curt and demanding, leaving the menial work of fund-raising to others. He sometimes lavishes more gratitude on strangers who want selfies than on aides who have spent years keeping him in office. … For all his longevity in Washington, Biden has never quite belonged to the technocratic élite. To the dominant Democrats—the Clinton and Obama circles—he was too mawkish with the Scranton Joe routine, too transparent in his ambition.”
IN RARE ENDORSEMENT, BUSH BACKS COLLINS
AP: “Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush gave a strong endorsement today of Sen. Susan Collins, who is in a tough re-election battle against Democrat Sara Gideon. Collins joined President and Mrs. Bush for lunch at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, something she frequently did with the late President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. In brief comments to reporters, President Bush praised Collins for being ‘honest and forthright,’ and also said she is independent, commenting he saw that on issues where Collins had opposed him. Laura Bush also praised Collins and was highly critical of the TV attack ads against Collins in the campaign. Both commented about the divisive political climate in the country. The President and Mrs. Bush did not take questions. Sen. Collins answered a few after, but would not say if she thinks President Trump should be re-elected.”
Kennedy leans on legacy in home starch of primary – National Journal: “Rep. Joe Kennedy III was pleading. Early voting in his primary against Democratic Sen. Ed Markey was starting in just two days, and many voters had already received their ballots at home. Standing in front of a General Motors bus-turned-band-shell, the scion of the Boston-based political dynasty… urged the crowd, holding signs emblazoned with his famous last name and the date of the Sept. 1 primary, to talk to everyone they know, even their exes, about the primary. ‘I come from a family that believes that government can make things better, and a United States senator certainly can,’ Kennedy said, waving his black mask. … Kennedy and Markey are in the final stretch of one of the last competitive congressional primaries of the year. But it is only in the final days of the year-long race when Kennedy, 39, has publicly leaned on his family name in hopes of getting over the finish line, with critiques of the dynasty attracting an unexpected, 11th-hour endorsement from the speaker of the House.”
WISCONSIN ROILED AFTER POLICE SHOOTING
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Kenosha police shot a man Sunday evening, setting off unrest in the city after a video appeared to show the officer firing several shots at close range into the man’s back. The shooting victim has been identified as Jacob Blake, a Black man, by Wisconsin officials. He was in serious condition at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee as of early Monday morning. The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation said early Monday that the involved officers have been placed on administrative leave. Police had been called to a domestic incident in the 2800 block of 40th Street at 5:11 p.m. where the shooting later occurred. Officers provided immediate aid to the shooting victim, Kenosha police reported, and he was taken by Flight for Life to Froedtert. ‘Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight,’ Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement. ‘While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.’”
Pergram: RNC, DNC conventions amid Covid leave veteran journalist pining for normalcy – Fox News
Oops: Rep. Chris Jacobs voted against post office bill but meant to vote for it – WRGZ
Jerry Seinfeld: ‘So you think New York is ‘dead’’ – NYT
AUDIBLE: DRY WIT
“Republicans tend to say you have to be a Republican or be Black; you can’t be both. But that’s impossible to do. It’s like separating the water from the wet.” – Former Oklahoma House Rep. J.C. Watts talking to the WaPo about Sen. Tim Scott’s challenges.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Calling the Joe Biden of today a moderate is quite a stretch. It may have been true 20-30 years ago but certainly not now. Also, to describe the blue dog Democrats as fiscally conservative??? They may be more fiscally conservative than the vast majority of democrats… but definitely NOT fiscally conservative. I honestly don’t know if there are any congresspeople that fit that description anymore in either party. However, I always find your newsletter interesting to read. I do have to put you down as a never Trumper or a Democrat. Keep plugging away.” – Roger Reed, Springfield, Ohio
[Ed. note: I guess, Mr. Reed, that you could put me down as a “never anybody.” When I was younger, it took more effort to be disinterested. But after enough years and enough experience with politicians it comes easy. I certainly understand that for millions of my countrymen, partisan attachment and ideological enthusiasm grows over time. But it’s been the opposite for me. Perhaps it’s because I believe the biggest problems in our republic today have little to do with specific policies. Our system is badly broken and trust in the sustaining institutions on which we depend is at rock bottom. My disdain for negative partisanship certainly springs from those concerns. It seems that each cycle we manage to set the bar lower and to more cynically exploit tribal antipathies. America is suffering from a bipartisan disorder in which we understandably hold our political leaders in low regard but lack the means to find, elevate and elect individuals with the combination of character and competency to restore confidence. And so, we slouch on to Gomorrah. While I certainly don’t begrudge you your political enthusiasms, I do hope you see why it is good for journalists to avoid any kind of political boosterism. As for what is moderate and what isn’t, it’s all relative. As an adjective or a noun, moderate means basically “in between.” You could have rightly called Leon Trotsky a moderate, but only in relation to his peers in one particular place in time. Consider how both major party presidential nominees support gay marriage. Twelve years ago, neither did and doing so would hardly have been considered “moderate.”]
“Can’t understand how everyone is drooling over a prepared speech off a TelePrompTer. You could at least hold judgment on Biden’s faculty until he is answering questions one on one with real journalists. And his debates neither of which I think the Dems will allow him to do. Also Chris, been reading your report for a while and I believe you show a substantial bias against this president. November 3 is coming quickly and a lot of things can change. I hope your reporting does also.” – William Setteducato, Manahawkin, N.J.
[Ed. note: If you’re unhappy with the positive responses to former Vice President Biden’s perfectly good speech, you may want to inquire with President Trump and his party. For months, Trump has told us that Biden is a mental incompetent who is being led around in a daze by his handlers. While Biden’s impromptu moments at the convention were certainly as awkward as ever, the overall effect was that he was certainly operating under his own steam. If I was a Republican, I would stop lowering the bar ahead of these three debates. By the standard you are setting, for Biden to even show up would be an accomplishment. After so long bragging about how Trump will pulverize his challenger, it won’t take much for Biden to look like he carried the day.]
“I miss you being on Twitter. I loved being able to comment on your snark and high-minded observations in real time as a listen to the pod cast. But I understand that the tradeoff is simply not there for you to come back.” – Polly Barrett, Waco, Texas
[Ed. note: The tradeoff for me is zilch-o. What’s good about Twitter was interacting with all of you wonderful humans — especially seeing your kids, pets, prize winning tomatoes, etc. — Instagram provides that very nicely. Twitter, I’m afraid, is an irredeemable slag heap that rewards ugliness and punishes thoughtfulness. After more than a year, it is a game I am so happy not to have to play.]
“Your Friday article segment regarding Hawaii has quotation marks but no attribution. Could you be so kind as to inform us?” – Michael W. Farrell, South Burlington, Vt.
[Ed. note: You may have missed it because of the cunningness of the History Channel’s naming scheme. The attribution “History” refers to the outlet’s History.com web site. I’ve long disliked giving them the name, and your note has convinced me. When we highlight their work in the future, we will go with “History Channel.”]
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FINALLY FOUND SOMETHING IT WAS GOOD FOR
KCRA: “A California man was trying to protect his home from the LNU Lightning Complex fire, and he used the only thing he had to put out the flames — beer. ‘It was crazy,’ homeowner Chad Little told KCRA when describing the fire. ‘Everybody’s on propane tanks. It was like a war zone.’ As his family packed up, Little made up his mind. He wasn’t leaving. He was staying and protecting his home. Little’s family already lost their home five years ago in an attic fire, and their rebuild was set to finish this year. … Little has hoses around the property, but he wasn’t prepared for the water to turn off. He grabbed a rake and started clearing dry grass. … ‘I had one barrel with a little bit of water in it, and I tried using that. It didn’t work.’ He grabbed the only liquid he had left — cans of Bud Light. ‘When I ripped up the sheet metal, it had a nail, so I was just shaking it up, popping it just and spraying them, popping it out and grabbing another one,’ Little said. ‘My buddies all tease me about drinking water beer, and I say, ‘Hey, saved my shop.’’ Little said firefighters arrived soon after he used his beer to extinguish the flames at his shop.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“An inaugural address is no off-the-cuff riff. These words are the product of at least three weeks of deliberate crafting for an address that Trump’s spokesman said was intended to express his philosophy.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Jan. 26, 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.