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On the roster: You can’t disinfect the politicians either – Trump claims he was just testing reporters – GOP debate: Defend Trump or attack Biden – Up next: The case of Denied It v. Supplied It
YOU CAN’T DISINFECT THE POLITICIANS EITHER
Welcome to week seven of your coronavirus captivity, dear readers.
It looks like we’re closer to the end than the beginning, but other than that, it’s the proverbial wilderness of mirrors. Just when you think you’ve got things kind of figured out, you find yourself on a rainy Friday morning Googling “ultraviolet catheters.”
So for today, rather than risking casuistry by trying to look at the big picture, let’s pick a few nits and enjoy some newsy nuggets…
– Joe Biden has a lot to learn about running against Donald Trump, as is evidenced by his musing to a group of donors that Trump would “kick back the election somehow.” The date for national elections, the first Tuesday after Nov. 1, has been a matter of federal law since 1845. Hard to see a divided Congress repealing that one, Mr. Vice President. If we voted on schedule in 1864, we’ve got this. The problem for Biden here isn’t that it’s a practical impossibility. It’s that these kinds of existential but abstract fears are catnip for Trump. Remember all of the mileage he got out of questioning the 2016 results… even after he won? Or his threat to seek a third term? Imagine the fact checks and freak-outs if Trump starts meaninglessly menacing the date of the election. Trump already occupies enough headspace among Democrats, no need to send him a Zillow listing.
– Speaking of lib ownership and the mastery thereof, Mitch McConnell remains the sensei of that dojo. We watched Republicans and Democrats batting the beach ball of a state bailout package back and forth. President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were nudging out the contours of what would be a trade of billions of direct aid to states coupled with something Republicans like. Reading Larry Kudlow’s scarf semaphore suggests maybe a tax cut, but some goodies for GOPers whatever the case. McConnell walks right into the middle of the game and deflates the ball. Maybe broke states should instead be allowed to “use the bankruptcy route,” he mused. Andrew Cuomo had kittens and McConnell’s many detractors attacked. But that doesn’t ever seem to bother the majority leader. While Congress isn’t going to pass a state bankruptcy law, McConnell did manage to change the parameters of the playing field.
– However the game for the coming trillions and trillions of dollars of bailouts and stimuli is played, it’s no surprise that the coronavirus and lockdown have exposed the true weak spots in our system. A big one is, indeed, the massive debts and unfunded liabilities among states and localities. This comes after decades of profligate bond issuance driven by feckless state and local leaders emulating their cake-and-eat-it counterparts in Washington. The pension debt bomb was already detonating before coronavirus. Now it’s going nuclear. The same things that made it hard to solve it before will make it hard now. Democrats’ most important patrons are government worker unions, making them unwilling to talk about structural changes. Republicans’ core voters don’t mostly live in or near big cities, making them insensitive to concerns about what life would really be like in a blue-state bankruptcy model. In fact, some Republicans would probably like to see those city folks suffer for their sins. But if we don’t tackle this soon, it’s going to seriously eat our lunch.
– “I myself am made somewhat uncomfortable by my own arguments.” That line from Alan Rozenshtein, a former Justice Department national security lawyer, is a nice glimpse into the thoughtful piece at The Atlantic from Mike Giglio on the debate over personal privacy in a pandemic. What makes Rozenshtein and other proponents of government tracing efforts to control contagion uncomfortable is how ripe such tools would be for abuse in the hands of the wrong people. But that’s what we in a liberal democracy must always assume. If you want the government to have a new power, you must automatically assume that the power will be abused. You must add safeguards against the abuse, but then still know that people will defeat those safeguards. It is just the human condition.
– There’ve been billions of pixels slaughtered in the name of discussing Biden’s deficiency with younger Bernieite voters, and rightly so. Biden’s coalition is broad but brittle. But new Fox News polls this week raise a different question from the other end of the demographic spectrum: Can Trump win back the older voters who pushed him over the finish line last time? Trump was behind among older voters in Pennsylvania by 7 points and in Michigan by 18 points. But the big warning sign for the GOP came from the mother of all elder states, Florida, where Trump’s lead with Baby Boomers was just 1 point. In 2016, Trump won with seniors there by 17 points, a number he needed to offset massive Democratic advantages with voters under 40. What explains Trump’s struggles? Coronavirus response has to be part of the story. Gov. Ron DeSantis outperforms Trump on job his handling of the crisis by 8 points.
– While Kansas is certainly a contender, Georgia seems like the likely winner for most needlessly destructive Senate primary for 2020. This is the one where the president wanted Gov. Brian Kemp to pick Trump’s favorite attack dog in Congress, Rep. Doug Collins, for a Senate vacancy. Kemp instead picked Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler. Well, Collins decided he deserved it anyway and filed to challenge Loeffler in the primary. Then the president’s super PAC swung in behind Collins. This is pure misery for Georgia Republicans who are trying to defend two Senate seats at once in a state Democrats are salivating over turning purple. It was already expensive and embittering, but now the feud is getting more consequential. Trump went to great lengths this week to trash Kemp for his limited reopening order for today, but now we read that Kemp had already cleared his move with the administration and was caught off guard by Trump’s attacks. Leaks, backbiting, accusations of dishonesty… Democrats could not be happier about their good luck.
– We have a suggestion for the president’s advisers and media supporters who have been trying so desperately for weeks to get him to stop or change the format of his nightly “Punch and Judy” show in the White House press room. Thursday night’s debacle (more on that below the fold) will surely put more downward pressure on the president’s already dire numbers for public trust and confidence. But if we’ve observed anything about Trump, it is that he hates admitting he is wrong, especially if that means admitting that the intelligentsia is right. The WSJ Editorial Board may need to Jack Donaghy this one and start demanding that Trump absolutely hold the daily sessions no matter what so Trump will have an excuse to help himself.
THE RULEBOOK: DON’T FORGET, THOMAS
“[The ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’], like every thing from the same pen, marks a turn of thinking, original, comprehensive, and accurate; and is the more worthy of attention as it equally displays a fervent attachment to republican government and an enlightened view of the dangerous propensities against which it ought to be guarded.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 49
TIME OUT: LOVE GROWS
Teddy Bourgeois is a restaurant manager in Asheville, N.C. who got two big surprises in March: the very premature birth of his twin daughters and the sudden shutdown of the industry where he and his wife make their livings. Gravy: “I grieve for the homecoming we planned. Sarah and I had talked often about what the first two weeks home could look like for the twins. We imagined the exhaustion, how we would introduce them to the dogs, and how perfect it could be to bring babies home as spring arrives and the world turns green. … Our world will be different on the other side of this. This virus challenges the promise of restaurants to bring people together, to build intimacy and community. The births of our daughters remind us that the promise endures. I live apart from my girls for now, just as I work apart from my restaurant colleagues. But in this struggle, we all walk together. We’re not sad people. We are people experiencing sadness. We are not small. We are growing bigger. Just like my babies.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 46 percent
Average disapproval: 49.2 percent
Net Score: -3.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.8 points
[Average includes: NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve – 51% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; Fox News: 49% approve – 49% disapprove; Monmouth University: 46% approve – 49% disapprove; CNBC: 46% approve – 43% disapprove.]
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TRUMP CLAIMS HE WAS JUST TESTING REPORTERS
AP: “Don’t inject disinfectants, health officials leapt to warn on Friday, reacting to President Donald Trump’s comment that disinfectants perhaps could be injected or ingested to fight COVID-19. His suggestion even prompted the maker of Lysol to warn its product should never be used internally. … Trump told reporters on Friday: ‘I was asking the question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.’ This is what he said a day earlier: ‘And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning,’ Trump said. ‘Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.’”
Signs bailout – AP: “President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill Friday to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Americans and devastated broad swaths of the economy. The bill is the latest effort by the federal government to help keep afloat businesses that have had to close or dramatically alter their operations as states try to slow the spread of the virus. Over the past five weeks, roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid, or about 1 in 6 U.S. workers. Trump thanked Congress for ‘answering my call’ to provide the critical assistance and said it was ‘a tremendous victory.’ But easy passage of this aid installment belies a potentially bumpier path ahead for future legislation to address the crisis. The measure passed Congress almost unanimously Thursday as lawmakers gathered in Washington as a group for the first time since March 27.”
Frightful deficit and economy numbers from CBO – CBO: “CBO has developed preliminary projections of key economic variables through the end of calendar year 2021… In the second quarter of 2020, the economy will experience a sharp contraction, and CBO’s current economic projections include the following: Inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (real GDP) is expected to decline by about 12 percent during the second quarter, equivalent to a decline at an annual rate of 40 percent for that quarter. The unemployment rate is expected to average close to 14 percent during the second quarter. Interest rates on 3-month Treasury bills and 10-year Treasury notes are expected to average 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, during that quarter. For fiscal year 2020, CBO’s early look at the fiscal outlook shows the following: The federal budget deficit is projected to be $3.7 trillion. Federal debt held by the public is projected to be 101 percent of GDP by the end of the fiscal year.”
GOP DEBATE: DEFEND TRUMP OR ATTACK BIDEN
Politico: “Senior Republicans and President Donald Trump’s campaign are wrestling with how to best position him for November as the coronavirus poses a grave threat to his reelection. With Trump’s poll figures sagging in key battleground states six months out from the election, the Republican National Committee has launched a massive effort to reach some 20 million swing voters to make an affirmative case for his performance. But Trump campaign officials are taking a different approach: Rather than devoting resources to boost Trump’s numbers, which haven’t moved materially since he was elected, they want to go scorched earth against Joe Biden. Over the past few weeks, the Trump campaign has unveiled a digital ad savaging Biden over his relationship with China. It also launched a weekly online program dubbed ‘War Room’ in which presidential advisers take aim at the former vice president on an array of issues. The campaign has also weighed a major TV offensive going after Biden.”
Biden campaign taps Summers for recovery plan – Bloomberg: “Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on economic policy, including its plans to revive the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic, according to five people familiar with his involvement. The Obama and Clinton administration veteran’s role roiled progressives who view his past work on the 2009 recovery as too favorable to big banks. That’s awkward for the Biden campaign at a time when it is trying to win the trust of former supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Two Sanders-aligned groups, Justice Democrats and Sunrise Movement, said Friday they ‘hope Biden publicly rejects Summers’s role as an economic adviser to better earn the trust of our generation.’ They said they also plan to start a petition calling on Biden to pledge to exclude Summers from his transition team or administration.”
Mishkin: A one-night stand – Fox News: “The two criteria one hears about the most are: who can help Biden win important battleground states … and who can help ensure significant enthusiasm among minorities or progressives, whose turnout in 2016 was less than Democrats expected. … But there’s a third criterion that ought to be at the forefront of Biden’s calculus: who will do best in the debate against Vice President Mike Pence? … Underestimate Mike Pence at your peril, Mr. Biden. Just ask ‘Vice President’ Tim Kaine. … I’d argue that Pence’s performance in the 2016 debate against Kaine was a key reason for Trump’s victory.”
Left wingers warn Biden on Klobuchar – McClatchy: “Amy Klobuchar’s vice presidential prospects are facing stiff headwinds from progressives and African American activists who are increasingly vocalizing their opposition to the Minnesota senator joining the Democratic ticket. The 59-year-old Klobuchar is widely thought to be near the top of Joe Biden’s running mate list… But to her most ardent critics, the elevation of Klobuchar would amount to a stinging snub of two of the Democratic Party’s most vital constituencies: liberals and women of color. … She The People founder Aimee Allison said most female minority leaders she regularly speaks with believe ‘Klobuchar would be a reckless choice that would risk the votes of the party’s base.’ And on Wednesday, Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has openly stated she wants to be the VP pick, said she would have ‘concerns’ if Biden did not choose a woman of color.”
Michigan Gov. Whitmer extends modified stay-at-home order into May, as lawmakers intervene – Fox News
Kansas GOP chairman asks Senate candidates to drop out as fears of Kobach flop grow – Kansas City Star
House creates coronavirus oversight committee – Axios
Partisan spat over GOPers not wearing masks on House floor – NY Post
House to probe scientist’s demotion – NYT
The Judge’s Ruling: During pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy blatantly ignores the Constitution – WashTimes
AUDIBLE: BLAME CANADA
“My mother’s family’s all from Ontario, and I may have gotten my mayonnaise-eating habits from that side of the family.” – Sen. Mark Warner, creator of the internet’s most-maligned tuna melt, explaining to a Canadian radio host his VERY enthusiastic use of mayonnaise in his “sandwich.”
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend for a packed show! Mr. Sunday will sit down with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Dr. Tom Inglesby and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. 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.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
UP NEXT: THE CASE OF DENIED IT V. SUPPLIED IT
CBC: “A $500,000 debt incurred from three games of rock paper scissors is invalid, the Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled. Edmund Mark Hooper … took out a mortgage on his house to pay off the debt — a fact that was acknowledged in a notarized contract. But the Superior Court cancelled that mortgage in a 2017 decision, which was appealed by Michel Primeau, who beat Hooper in the game of rock paper scissors… Quebec law stipulates that for a wagering contract to be valid, it must be related to activities ‘requiring only skill or bodily exertion on the part of the parties,’ rather than to chance. Furthermore, the amount wagered must not be excessive. … The game [a judge ruled], could, ‘in certain precise circumstances, call upon the skill of the parties, particularly in the speed of execution, the sense of observation or the putting in place of a strategic sequence.’ But she invalidated the contract nonetheless, judging the amount wagered to be excessive.”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The joke was on those who believed that [Donald Trump] was not a serious man and therefore would not be taken seriously. They — myself emphatically included — were wrong.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 5, 2016.
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.