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On the roster: Moral anchors aweigh on Kavanaugh, Rosenstein – Kavanaugh calls second accusation ‘a smear’ – Poll: Dems hold double digit lead in generic ballot – Cruz-O’Rourke debates begin on Beto’s home turf – And yet nothing for the tin man
MORAL ANCHORS AWEIGH ON KAVANAUGH, ROSENSTEIN
Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono declared that she was inclined to believe the allegations of high school and college sexual misconduct against Judge Brett Kavanaugh because “of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases.”
Hirono, a Democrat dubbed by the New Yorker as the “moral anchor” of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, was telling CNN that because Kavanaugh follows a judicial philosophy she finds immoral, she is more likely to believe that he is immoral in his private conduct as well.
This would be a very convenient permission structure to create for oneself. Every political ideology contributes to human suffering, at least in the estimation of its opponents. And if a worldview is wicked, then it’s adherents are wicked too. Then they don’t deserve fair hearings or reasonable accommodations. They don’t need to be listened to.
Donald Trump Jr. is the “moral anchor” of the effort by some Republicans to end the investigation into Russian efforts to elect his father in 2016 in the same way as Hirono is for Democrats committed to deny President Trump any more high court appointments in this term. For Hirono and Trump Jr., the time has come to stop listening to the bad guys and start meting out rough justice.
To the younger Trump, the existence of the investigation itself is evidence of the corruption of the investigation. Anything the investigation finds, especially about him, isn’t evidence of wrongdoing on the part of anyone but prosecutors. It’s not the “fruit of the poison tree.” It’s the poison orchard, the poison soil, the poison aquifer, etc.
On Friday, the NYT dropped what seemed to be a bombshell story. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has discussed wearing “a wire” in meetings with the president and had discussed affecting the removal of the elder Trump from office by convincing a majority of the cabinet and the vice president that Trump Sr. was unfit to serve.
The story ended up being a lot more heat than light.
The source of the quotes were Justice Department memos memorializing meetings that took place in the aftermath of Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director. One memo, obtained by House Republicans in their ongoing effort to thwart the Russia probe being led by Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller, was from Comey’s interim replacement, Andrew McCabe.
It turns out that Rosenstein was being sarcastic and trying to back down McCabe, who was at that time suggesting opening a criminal case against the president for obstruction of justice. As in: Oh sure, Andy, maybe I should wear a wire the next time I talk to the president. **snort**
As it would turn out, McCabe and Comey have both ended up in substantial discredit. Comey’s effort to cast himself as the founder of #resist could never rise above the fact that he submarined Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy with some cockamamie claims about Anthony Weiner’s laptop the week before the election. McCabe ended up getting fired and being identified by an inspector general’s report as leaking damaging information about Clinton in a bid to shore up his credibility as nonpartisan.
Their resistance seems to have substantially been to negative career outcomes.
But when the NYT got the story, presumably leaked by Rosenstein’s Republican foes in Congress or an intermediary, that context wasn’t present. The Times initial version sounded very much like Rosenstein had seriously thought about bugging the Oval Office.
Reasonable people would respond to such an audacious claim about a career prosecutor who is usually about as audacious as his haircut by waiting and wanting to hear more about it. What did the accused say? Were there contemporaneous accounts to support the charge?
No need for such things among moral anchors, though.
“Shocked!!! Absolutely Shocked!!! Ohhh, who are we kidding at this point?” the president’s son and key campaign surrogate tweeted. “No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine [his father].”
He later said that the Friday Times story indicated that Rosenstein was likely the anonymous administration official who bragged in a NYT op-ed earlier this month about being part of a clique of old-guard Republicans working to blunt the worst impulses of an impetuous president.
“Anything to subvert a president who is actually getting things done for America… for a change,” announced Trump Jr.
To cast Rosenstein as a daring leaker who would risk his whole career for a moment of smug self-satisfaction would be something like putting Dan Ackroyd as Billy Ray Valentine instead of Louis Winthrop III. Maybe it’s true, but a reasonable person would at least want to know a little more before making such a charge.
But if you know a truth that surpasses other, lesser truths — if you are a moral anchor holding down the ship of state in these turbulent seas — you don’t need to know more. People who believe bad things do bad things and they are not to be listened to.
Friday initially saw a frenzy among the anti-DOJ Republicans that differed from the one against Kavanaugh only in duration. Rosenstein must resign, nay, be fired, nay, be prosecuted!
By this morning, the Rosenstein departure watch was in high gear. White House sources obviously hoping to buffalo Rosenstein into quitting leaked to preferred scribes that he had already done so. If Rosenstein stayed it would appear that he had reneged on his offer. The eternal problem with anonymous sources and scoop-hungry reporters: We don’t get the benefit of context.
But by then, even key members of the elder Trump’s offensive line on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees were backing way off the defenestration of Rosenstein. Not only might the facts not support the claim, firing the man overseeing the Mueller probe could actually make things worse.
It may have occurred to some of these House Republicans that firing Rosenstein during the final phase of a probe which enjoys broad support among voters would be another pound of sugar in the gas tank of already-stalled GOP efforts to hold the House.
It may also have occurred to them that if Trump Sr. fired Rosenstein he would have to appoint a replacement who would be confirmed by the Senate.
We would ask those who would like to debate whether Trump could fire Rosenstein and still use the Vacancies Act to slide some political hack into the post to kill the Mueller probe to imagine what responses would follow inside the Justice Department and the Senate. As it has been since the beginning for this administration, the only way out is through. Or, as Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”
We live in an era of moral panics and endless outrage. These eras are bound to produce “moral anchors.” It’s hard to remain reasonable women and men in such moments, but all the more imperative.
THE RULEBOOK: PICK ONE
“There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 10
TIME OUT: ‘DISOBEDIENCE IS MY JOY!’
Atlantic: “In 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, the author Craig Brown captures Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister perfectly. … A prolific satirist, Brown has been contributing parody diaries for years to the English magazine Private Eye and Vanity Fair… and part of the pleasure of 99 Glimpses is the fun he has with his ghastly/hilarious source material. The most egregious stuff … he will quote without comment… It is precisely his satirist’s sensibility, his overdeveloped ear for stylistic grotesquerie, that qualifies Brown to write about Princess Margaret. … So Margaret was a transitional figure. As celebs became the new aristocracy, and gossip the hottest new informational currency, she made her prickly, princess-y way through the demi-monde and beau monde and all her other mondes… Her life didn’t exactly make sense—how could it?—which is why Brown’s discontinuous, 13-ways-of-looking-at-a-princess method works so well. ‘She was of royalty, yet divorced from it,’ he writes. … And in Brown, most enjoyably for the reader, she has met her pasticheur.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41 percent
Average disapproval: 54.2 percent
Net Score: -13.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 2.2 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 44% approve – 52% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve – 56% disapprove; CNN: 37% approve – 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve – 54% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 40.6 percent
Democratic average: 50.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 10.2 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.2 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 49% Dems – 42% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 51% Dems – 43% GOP; CNN: 52% Dems – 42% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 52% Dems – 38% GOP; NPR/Marist: 50% Dems – 38% GOP.]
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KAVANAUGH CALLS SECOND ACCUSATION ‘A SMEAR’
USA Today: “A woman who attended Yale University with Brett Kavanaugh has alleged that he sexually assaulted her when they were both freshmen at the Ivy League school, according to a New Yorker report, which says Senate Democrats are investigating the allegations. The woman, identified as Deborah Ramirez, is accusing Kavanaugh of exposing himself at a dormitory party and ‘thrusting his penis’ in her face, according to the story, which also says that this incident happened during the 1983-84 academic year. She acknowledges she had been drinking that night and has gaps in her memory. Ramirez, 53, is the second woman to accuse the Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault decades ago. Also Sunday, Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Stormy Daniels in her hush-money case against President Donald Trump, tweeted that he is representing a third woman with ‘information’ on Kavanaugh. He sent a second tweet specifying that this woman is not Ramirez.”
Ford attorneys promise Thursday hearing will occur – Fox News: “Attorneys for Christine Ford, the California professor accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, definitively vowed Sunday that Ford would appear at a Senate hearing Thursday morning despite unresolved ‘procedural and logistical issues.’ After nearly a week of uncertainty, the move sets the stage for a dramatic and pivotal day of testimony on Capitol Hill that could determine the fate of President Trump’s second pick to the nation’s highest court. ‘We made important progress on our call this morning with Senate Judiciary Committee staff members,’ the attorneys, Debra Katz, Lisa Banks, and Michael Bromwich said in the statement. ‘We committed to moving forward with an open hearing on Thursday Sept 27 at 10:00 am.’ Sources on Capitol Hill tell Fox News they are now preparing in earnest for the Thursday hearing, which is likely to push a confirmation vote on the Senate floor beyond October 1, the start of the next Supreme Court term.”
Kavanaugh to provide Senate with calendars from 1982 – NYT: “Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh has calendars from the summer of 1982 that he plans to hand over to the Senate Judiciary Committee that do not show a party consistent with the description of his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, according to someone working for his confirmation. The calendars do not disprove Dr. Blasey’s allegations, Judge Kavanaugh’s team acknowledged. He could have attended a party that he did not list. But his team will argue to the senators that the calendars provide no corroboration for her account of a small gathering at a house where he allegedly pinned her to a bed and tried to remove her clothing. The calendar pages from June, July and August 1982, which were examined by The New York Times, show that Judge Kavanaugh was out of town much of the summer at the beach or away with his parents. When he was at home, the calendars list his basketball games, movie outings, football workouts and college interviews. A few parties are mentioned but include names of friends other than those identified by Dr. Blasey.”
[Watch Fox: Tune in tonight for Martha MacCallum’s exclusive interview with Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley. Watch “The Story with Martha MacCallum” tonight 7 pm ET.]
POLL: DEMS HOLD DOUBLE DIGIT LEAD IN GENERIC BALLOT
CNBC: “Congressional Republicans are facing a mid-term election wipeout fueled by voter resistance to President Donald Trump, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The survey, six weeks before Americans head to the polls, shows Democrats leading Republicans by 52 percent to 40 percent for control of Congress. If it holds, that 12 percentage point margin would suggest a ‘blue wave’ large enough to switch control of not just the House but also the Senate. ‘The results could not be clearer about making a change in direction from Trump’s policies,’ explained Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who helps conduct the NBC/WSJ survey. ‘Once again, Americans are hitting the brakes in a mid-term.’ In each of the last three off-year elections — 2006, 2010 and 2014 — voters have flipped control of one or both houses of Congress away from the incumbent president’s party. This year, the provocative behavior some voters accepted from Candidate Trump in 2016 has overshadowed everything else, including falling unemployment, surging growth and rising stock values.”
Fox Poll: Health care boosts Dems in upcoming midterm elections – Fox News: “There is a deluge of bad news for Republicans in the latest Fox News poll. Most voters are unhappy with the direction the country is taking. Majorities disagree with President Trump on the border wall, and extra tax-cut cash is nowhere to be seen. And, by a wide margin, Democrats are considered the party that would better handle health care — at a time when most prioritize health care in deciding their vote for Congress. With only 44 days until Election Day, maybe the thing that passes for good news for the GOP is that Democrats lead by only seven points in the generic congressional ballot among likely voters. That suggests the battle for control of the House of Representatives could still go either way. The poll, released Sunday, shows how much Americans have warmed to Obamacare. Four years ago, 48 percent thought the law ‘went too far’ (September 2014). That’s down to 36 percent today. And a majority believes Obamacare is ‘about right’ (21 percent) or ‘didn’t go far enough’ (30 percent).”
CRUZ-O’ROURKE DEBATES BEGIN ON BETO’S HOME TURF
El Paso Times: “El Paso wasn’t selected as a location for the debates between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke but the border city was mentioned multiple times Friday when the candidates faced each other for the first time. Cruz and O’Rourke exchanged frequent barbs during Friday’s debate in Dallas, each criticizing his opponent for his record while in office and attempting to paint him as wrong for Texas. O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, often talks about Texas’ sixth largest city where he lives with his wife, Amy, and three children. Friday’s debate was no different… But O’Rourke wasn’t the only candidate on the stage Friday who talked about El Paso. Cruz frequently spoke about O’Rourke’s time as a City Council member in various attacks against his challenger. Cruz said he took issue with drug policies O’Rourke pursued. In addition to advocating for legalizing marijuana, Cruz said, while on El Paso City Council, the Democrat wanted to have a debate about legalizing all narcotics. ‘I suspect Congressman O’Rourke will say he was just calling for a debate on it,’ Cruz said. ‘Well, we’re on a debate stage now.’”
Hogan, Jealous clash – Baltimore Sun: “Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his Democratic challenger Ben Jealous faced off Monday at Maryland Public Television for their only debate of the governor’s race. It was the first time the two men had met in person. Here are six takeaways from the encounter, which will be streamed at 7 p.m. Monday on baltimoresun.com, as well as airing on MPT, WBAL-TV and WBAL-AM … The candidates repeatedly ignored their time limits and talked over each other. Early on, Hogan criticized a reporter’s question and accused Jealous of speaking falsehoods. ‘Not a single word you said was true,’ the governor said to Jealous after a question on the economy. ‘You can’t just keep making up stories.’ At one point, Jealous urged Hogan to go his campaign website to correct what Jealous said was the governor’s misunderstanding of the Democrat’s plans. ‘I’m not going to go to benjealous.com,’ Hogan said.”
Poll shows Gillum ahead of DeSantis, Nelson and Scott tied in Florida – Politico: “Democrat Andrew Gillum is maintaining a slight lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in Florida’s race for governor, while the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is tied, according to the latest poll from the University of North Florida. The UNF poll also shows that 71 percent of likely Florida voters back a proposed state constitutional amendment to restore the voting rights of former felons, except for murderers and sex offenders. An amendment needs 60 percent support to pass. In showing a tied Senate race while finding that likely voters favor Gillum over DeSantis by 4 percentage points, the UNF survey reflects recent polls showing that a Democratic ‘blue wave’ might not be strong enough to carry Nelson to a fourth term. UNF pollster Michael Binder said the big difference between the two contests comes down to buzz and work ethic. Gillum has both right now and Nelson doesn’t.”
Will pharmaceutical industry background help or hurt Menendez challenger? – NYT: “Mr. [Bob Hugin], a Republican mounting a surprisingly strong challenge to Senator Robert Menendez in New Jersey, has made his career at Celgene [a pharmaceutical company] a cornerstone of his campaign, with television advertisements boasting that he ‘chose a life of service’ in the Marines and ‘leading a health care company that develops cancer medicine.’ … But Mr. Hugin’s professional career could also prove to be a liability — he is the sole pharmaceutical executive running for statewide office in 2018. Anger over high drug prices has risen and President Trump has vilified the industry. … An examination of Celgene’s aggressive promotion of Revlimid and its predecessor, Thalomid, while Mr. Hugin was a top executive at the company, including its chief executive for six years, reveals many of the controversial financial and legal tactics that have tarnished the industry’s reputation, from marketing drugs for unapproved uses to raising prices and fighting off generic competitors.”
Gosar family feud: Congressman gets ripped on by siblings in new ad – Arizona Republic: “Rep. Paul Gosar’s brothers and sisters have made a campaign ad asking Arizonans to vote for the other guy, Democrat David Brill. ‘It’s horrible to have to do this,’ says Jennifer Gosar. ‘I couldn’t be quiet any longer,’ says Grace Gosar. ‘We’ve got to stand up for our good name,’ says David Gosar. ‘This is not who we are.’ Brutal. But not unexpected. Gosar’s seven siblings broke with him last fall after the northeastern Arizona congressman went all Alex Jones after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Gosar, who represents Arizona’s most conservative congressional district, took to the national airwaves to explain how the deadly rally was masterminded by a supporter of Barack Obama. And probably funded by George Soros. He went on to explain that Soros was a Nazi sympathizer, turning in his fellow Jews when he was boy in Hungary. … The condemnation from Gosar’s base — the people who constantly decry ‘fake news’ – was non-existent. But his family was furious.”
Congress to pass funding bill to avoid government shutdown – AP
House GOP plan to adjourn Friday, returning to Washington after midterm elections – Politico
Trump, at UN, to again confront North Korea’s nuclear threat – AP
New U.S., China tariffs take effect to start the week – Fox Business
Read this: ‘Kent Sorenson Was a Tea Party Hero. Then He Lost Everything.’ – Politico
“I don’t know anything because, I’ll be honest, I do everything straight.” – President Trump said to Geraldo Rivera when asked if the president was worried about his former attorney, Michael Cohen, talking with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“My guess is the traditional white women with college degrees have fathers, husbands and sons and can easily imagine them accused of a misdeed they cannot prove they didn’t do. They may also be sick and tired of many Democrats’ assertions that white males, who in most ways are not that different from white females, cannot fairly judge Dr. Ford’s accusation. As you and others have pointed out, SCOTUS seats were an important issue in 2016, and the Democrats might be better off with the seat filled so as to keep Republican men and women who are not enthralled with Donald Trump away from the voting booth in November.” – Arthur Copeland, Stamford, Conn.
[Ed. note: One thing we know for sure is that the shocking spectacle surrounding the Supreme Court appointment will intensify hard feelings among partisans on both sides. What we were getting at on Friday was that to understand the political ramifications, it is important to also think about how this will play among persuadable voters and those lightly affiliated with either party. In a lot of ways the process is as important as the outcome as it regards to them.]
“Hi Chris, Just wondering why New Jersey is considered ‘likely’ Democrat and not ‘lean’ Democrat. Aside from one poll that is quite stale at this point (nearly half a year old), most polling that I’ve seem has this race at anywhere from a 2%-6% point lead, Which would almost but not quite make this a ‘toss-up’ in my books. Couple the polling with Menendez’ legal troubles and I think this race will be fairly competitive, and likely even more so than Ohio or West Virginia.” – Stew Berkeley, Queens, N.Y.
[Ed. note: I definitely hear what you are saying, Mr. Berkeley, and there is an argument to be made that New Jersey is as competitive for Democrats as Texas is for Republicans. But in the end, when I look at the political composition of the state and the national political climate, I have trouble seeing this as a flip. We are watching the race closely and looking for signs for change, but we are particularly grateful for when our readers, who have on-the-ground knowledge like you, share their insights. Thanks much!]
“Chris & Dana discussed in the recent ITYW podcast, another podcast featuring Chris’ conversations with others related to historical figures. I searched for a podcast related to Every Man a King but found nothing. Please send info about this other podcast. (Where to find/subscribe, link, etc.)” – John Kommeth, Atlanta
[Ed. note: You bet, Mr. Kommeth! Click here to subscribe on your preferred podcast platform and happy listening!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
AND YET NOTHING FOR THE TIN MAN
AP: “City officials in Idaho are looking for volunteers to help ward off what has become a local sign of fall: The arrival of roughly 10,000 crows to the city of Nampa. Nampa Chief of Staff Robert Sanchez tells Boise television station KTVB that he expects the annual migration of crows to start in the next week or two. The birds congregate around businesses downtown, creating a public health hazard with their droppings and sometimes breaking tree branches because of their combined weight. Sanchez is looking for volunteers to help track when and where the crows show up to roost, and to use noisemakers and hand-held laser devices to scare the crows away. The animals are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so the city takes only non-lethal approaches to crow control.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The immediate conventional wisdom was to blame the disturbance on the ‘toxic environment’ created by Trump. Nonsense. This was an act of deliberate sabotage created by a totalitarian left that specializes in the intimidation and silencing of political opponents.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on March 17, 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.