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On the roster: Republicans at the crossroads – Feds warn of armed protests nationwide – Biden to emphasize unity, bipartisanship at inaugural – Smothered, covered & chunked
REPUBLICANS AT THE CROSSROADS
Greetings from Fortress Washington, where thousands of troops prepare to repulse potential rioters aiming to disrupt Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
Meanwhile, inside the miles of steel barrier that encircle the Capitol, Democratic lawmakers have presented an article of impeachment against the president on whose behalf rioters sacked the building last week.
But the real action is among the members of that president’s party.
Two good questions for you to consider as events unfold today and this – yet again – historic week for our country. The consequences of the answers will likely last for decades:
What would become of a Republican Party that can’t act to punish President Trump?
What would become of a Republican Party that shuns Trump and his devoted followers?
If you’re a Democrat or unaffiliated you might figure that the answers aren’t that important to you. You might even hope that the GOP cracks up completely trying to navigate this present crisis.
But make no mistake, every American has an interest in how Republicans navigate what has become a defining question of a generation: What price, if any, should Trump pay for his misconduct leading up to and during last week’s riot?
However the party responds will cost it supporters. That’s just unavoidable. If Trump gets away with it, there will be many conservatives and moderates who abandon the party. If Trump is punished, even mildly, there will be many nationalists who leave the party along with Trump.
In a city where people look to avoid hard choices at almost any cost, Republicans face a brutal choice – fittingly, a choice brought about by their prior refusals to deal with their problems in a forthright way.
After losing both houses of Congress for his party, subsuming the Republican National Committee as his absolute property, attacking his fellow Republicans mercilessly and dishonestly for years, demanding Republicans lie on his behalf, threatening those who did not abet his effort to steal the 2020 election and attacking his own vice president, the Grand Old Party had lots of reasons to be glad Trump was going to soon be out of power even before the glass started shattering at the Capitol.
The Georgia runoffs, needlessly squalid elections that wasted a half-a-billion dollars to indulge Trump in his rank efforts to pervert the electoral system, would have probably been enough on their own to inspire Republican relief at the end of the endless hurricane of Trump blowback.
Trump had worn out his welcome for mainstream Republicans before he directed an angry mob of supporters to physically intimidate Congress in an effort to interrupt the legitimate transfer of power, before that mob went berserk, before he expressed his love for the mob, before he tweeted the following while the fatal riot was unfolding:
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution … USA demands the truth!”
If you’re a life-loyal Republican who is active in your party, even if you twice voted for Trump and defended him through an impeachment and four-years’ worth of controversies, there’s got to be relief at the thought of him leaving office.
No doubt most Republicans, even many of the president’s remaining backers, would want the president to spend the next 210 hours or so in quiet isolation. Trump could do little things like handing out medals to his supporters and signing proclamations behind closed doors.
Maybe if Trump stays quiet and takes no major actions between now and his departure, maybe Republicans can just let it slide?
First, the word is that Trump means to be heard and seen in his remaining days. He’s got a border visit teed up Tuesday and is said to be readying more controversial executive action on pardons and against the social media firms that have given him the boot.
Second, whether it is the impeachment now underway in the House or some other means – perhaps using the 14th Amendment as grounds for barring Trump from seeking office or stripping him of his post-presidency privileges – Republican officials from top to bottom are going to have declare themselves fish or fowl soon enough.
This brings us back, as ever, to the incongruity of the GOP as currently constituted. While one half of the party wants to try to win back the more affluent, educated voters who have fled the party under Trump, the other half is doggedly committed to building a party devoted to the white, working-class voters who fueled Trump’s rise.
There are lots of factors that will shape how the choice is framed.
What is the president’s condition and is he executing the functions of his office capably? If Trump has another meltdown in the coming days, it would certainly tip the balance against him.
How do Democrats prosecute their case? The impeachment article is carefully crafted to limit itself to Trump’s efforts to steal the election and his conduct on the day of the riot. Had it been about anything more, it would have made it easier for Republicans to beg off.
But it’s not clear that they will continue to be so disciplined. Biden himself is wisely steering clear and preaching unity, but there are plenty in his party who will want to wring outrage clicks and donations out if the crisis instead of actually zapping Trump.
In any case, if Republicans are perceived as protecting Trump, then the shift in the GOP will accelerate toward nationalism, cultural populism and the eternal veneration of MAGA.
Conversely, if Republicans are perceived as being too hard on Trump, the voters in the order of the red hat will spurn the conservatives and moderates as too prissy. For those who share Trump’s view that power is the point, any official sanction against Trump would be an unforgivable offense.
The uneasy coalition that made Senate and House control possible even with Trump roiling the republic would vanish under either scenario.
It’s not strictly an either/or choice, of course. A solution may be found that satisfies enough on both ends to minimize the damage. That’s why the frantic work of this week will not be among the Democrats preparing to take complete control of Fortress Washington but among the Republicans preparing to walk out of the stockade.
THE RULEBOOK: QUESTION THE MEANS, NOT THE MOTIVES
“Is it an unreasonable conjecture, that the errors which may be contained in the plan of the convention are such as have resulted rather from the defect of antecedent experience on this complicated and difficult subject, than from a want of accuracy or care in the investigation of it…” – James Madison, Federalist No. 38
TIME OUT: FROM WOLF TO WOOF
Science News: “Sometime between around 29,000 and 14,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers navigating northern Eurasia’s frigid landscapes turned wolves into dogs by feeding them lean-meat leftovers. That, at least, is a likely scenario that would have benefited both wolves and people, say archaeologist Maria Lahtinen of the Finnish Food Authority… In harsh Ice Age winters, when game hunted by both species was lean and fat-free, prey animals would have provided more protein than humans could safely consume, the researchers conclude…. People could have fed surplus lean meat to captured wolf pups being raised as pets because the animals wouldn’t have had the same dietary limitations… So Ice Age hunter-gatherers probably reached a point where they focused on hunting in order to extract fatty marrow and grease from the bones of prey to meet energy needs … leaving plenty of lean meat untouched and available as wolf food. Competition between humans and wolves for prey would have declined as generations of pet wolves gradually evolved into dogs… “
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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 HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
FEDS BRACE FOR ARMED PROTESTS NATIONWIDE
AP: “The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. An internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of some extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC. ‘Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,’ the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.”
Records reveal right-wing roots of riot – AP: “The insurrectionist mob that showed up at the president’s behest and stormed the U.S. Capitol was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals. Records show that some were heavily armed and included convicted criminals, such as a Florida man recently released from prison for attempted murder. The Associated Press reviewed social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest or who, going maskless amid the pandemic, were later identified through photographs and videos taken during the melee.”
Republican attorneys general under fire for urging march on capitol – WaPo: “The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent out robocalls urging supporters to come to D.C. to ‘fight’ Congress over President Trump’s baseless election fraud claims. ‘At 1 p.m. we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,’ said the message first reported by the watchdog group Documented. ‘We’re hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections.’ After the attempted insurrection on Wednesday left a police officer and four others dead, several GOP attorneys general have distanced themselves from the robocalls, insisting they didn’t know about the campaign. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, the chairman of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, the nonprofit that sent out the calls, blamed the group’s staffers.”
Army investigating officer who led group to Trump protest – Fox News: “A psychological operations officer at Fort Bragg is under investigation by the Army after leading a group of 100 Trump supporters from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., last week on the same day rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, interrupting the official certification of Electoral College votes. Capt. Emily Rainey, 30, had already resigned from her commission before traveling to D.C. last week, CBS News first reported Monday. Though, the resignation process takes time, and she was therefore still on active-duty Wednesday. She reportedly offered her resignation after receiving a career-ending letter of reprimand regarding her involvement in a different protest in the Fort Bragg-area last year. Commanders at Fort Bragg are reviewing Rainey’s involvement in last week’s events in the nation’s capital, but she said she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law.”
New York Bar Association launches inquiry into Giuliani removal – Politico: “The New York State Bar Association is launching an inquiry into expelling Rudy Giuliani from its membership over his role in inciting the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. The Bar Association said Monday it has received hundreds of complaints about Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and the former mayor of New York City. Its president, Scott Karson, ‘has launched an inquiry pursuant to the Association’s bylaws to determine whether Mr. Giuliani should be removed from the membership rolls of the Association,’ the group said in a statement.”
Pergram: Right back to where we were last year – Fox News: “We begin 2021 where we began 2020: an impeachment of the President of the United States. But the distance from where we launch articles of impeachment in 2021 compared to 2020 is galactic. … Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) crafted the sole article of impeachment for the President. It alleges that President Trump is ‘in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States.’ The article declares that ‘Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.’ … Articles of impeachment don’t require weeks of interviews, depositions, investigations, hearings and floor debate. The House quickly crafted an impeachment article. It goes to the floor for debate and vote. It’s as simple as that. And if a simple majority of the House votes yes, President Trump is impeached. Again.”
BIDEN TO EMPHASIZE UNITY, BIPARTISANSHIP AT INAUGURAL
AP: “The theme for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will be ‘America United,’ an issue that’s long been a central focus for Biden but one that’s taken on added weight in the wake of the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week. In an announcement shared first with The Associated Press, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said that the theme ‘reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together, and creates a path to a brighter future.’ In keeping with the theme of unity, the committee also announced that after he is officially inaugurated, Biden, Vice President-elect Harris and their spouses will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and will be joined there by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and their wives. It will be one of Biden’s first acts as president, and a show of bipartisanship at a time when the national divide is on stark display.”
Biden turns to careerist Burns to lead CIA – WSJ: “President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate William J. Burns, a former career diplomat with 33 years of service, as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Burns, 64, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan and a former deputy secretary of state who served under Republican and Democratic administrations, retired in 2014 and serves as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ‘Bill Burns is an exemplary diplomat with decades of experience on the world stage keeping our people and our country safe and secure,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘He shares my profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence professionals serving our nation deserve our gratitude and respect.’ While not an intelligence agency professional, Mr. Burns has experience with sensitive national security matters.”
Report: Biden frustrated with ‘underperforming’ virus response team – Politico: “President-elect Joe Biden has grown frustrated with the team in charge of plotting his coronavirus response, amid rising concerns that his administration will fall short of its promise of 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days, according to people familiar with the conversations. Biden has expressed criticism on multiple occasions to groups of transition officials — including one confrontation where Biden conveyed to Covid coordinator Jeff Zients and his deputy, Natalie Quillian, that their team was underperforming. The tensions have surfaced as Biden’s advisers plan a dramatic scale-up of vaccinations starting Jan. 20, when the incoming team inherits a troubled Trump administration vaccine rollout that has fallen well short of its initial targets. In interviews, multiple senior transition officials defended Zients and stressed the enormity of the challenge, noting that the Trump administration has refused to share key information for weeks.”
Kraushaar: McCarthy makes a risky bet on Trump – National Journal
Washington Monument closes through Biden’s inauguration due to ‘credible threats’ – Fox News
Biden received second dose of coronavirus vaccine – Reuters
“And then one of the saddest things is I had colleagues who, when it came time to recognize reality and vote to certify Arizona and Pennsylvania in the Electoral College, they knew in their heart of hearts that they should’ve voted to certify, but some had legitimate concerns about the safety of their families. They felt that that vote would put their families in danger.” – Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., talking to Reason.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“‘Government is not a solution to our problem. Government is the problem.’ – This is a fantastic applause line in a speech however, as an operating principle for a political party, it is tragically flawed. It has led us to our current state. If one believes that government is the problem then by definition anything proposed by the government makes every situation worse. If the government only makes things worse then it’s policies should be opposed or disregarded. Once this leap is made it is easy to apply this reasoning to other institutions of power. It is now easy to disbelieve public health advice or election authorities. Perhaps the premise should be: Government is not a solution to all problems but some problems are best addressed by government. I acknowledge the difficult part is deciding which problems are best addressed by government or quasi governmental institutions but seeing them as only problematic leads us to chaos. Let us renew the conversation about the role of our government. And let’s start the conversation by acknowledging its utility and necessity. I believe that you have stated in this newsletter that political movements swing like a pendulum. Hopefully we have reached the terminus of the pendulum’s arc in this direction.” – Bill Ciao, Bellingham, Wash.
[Ed. note: I think you might profit from a little more context here, Mr. Ciao. The people who ransacked the capitol and the mob cheering them on are not opposed to government. Far from it. They love government so much that they would use any means possible to control it and then direct it against their enemies. Believe me when I tell you that small-government conservatism of the kind embodied by a handful of presidents in the 20th century — William Taft, Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan — has been out of fashion for quite some time on the American right. Taking its place has been a new, European-style nationalism that instead embraces the federal government as the primary unit of power and seeks to use that power to reward or punish different blocs of citizens. Conservatives seek to empower states. Last week, nationalists tried to strip states of their power to conduct elections Reagan most famously used a version of the line you cited in his first inaugural 40 years ago: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The “present crisis” to which he referred was a deadly combination of economic stagnation and inflation that had crushed Americans. And given the decade of bipartisan failures on that front, it would be hard to argue that he didn’t have a point. But here’s how he started: “The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle. [President Jimmy Carter] I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition.” Reagan was a Madisonian through and through. While that certainly did make him a foe of the expansion of government power, it also made him a guardian of the Framer’s system. The political struggle of the coming years will not be between those who favor more or less federal spending but instead between those who would try to rebuild and protect the institutions that sustain our republic and those who would toss them aside in service of their own lust for power. Progressives and nationalists may have different objectives for the use of federal control, but they are alike in their desire to expand and control it.]
“I respectfully suggest the following. Congress should actually take up the business of the people which involves hearings on Pres (select) Biden’s cabinet picks to expedite his transition. We all know the 25th amendment is going nowhere nor will the cumbersome impeachment ever succeed (if ever) in the time allotted prior to Inauguration Day. This is a blatant political stunt which will only serve to foment the raw nerves gripping the nation on both sides. This hysteria about the nuclear codes is a classic diversionary scare tactic. PLEASE stop the political pontificating and get down to business. Your job is to get on with confirmation not vindictive posturing. In the alternative, go on vacation which Congress is so wont to do at the most inopportune times.” – Tom DuBois, The Villages, Fla.
[Ed. note: Here’s a respectful suggestion in return: You might consider the possibility that those with whom you disagree are sincere. One of the contributing factors to the tragedy of the Trump riot was the fact that so many assumed that the effort to steal the election was insincere — just a grift. People like Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz and others played along with the Trump gambit secure in the knowledge that it would go nowhere and they would get free points with the rage-drunk nationalists for being on their side. What Trump’s abettors didn’t understand was that there would be so many people who actually believed Trump’s avalanche of falsehoods and who supported his unconstitutional and illegal demands. If you believe that the deep state, aided by hostile foreign powers, has stolen the presidency for a man controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, rioting is hardly the wrong thing to do. In fact, if that were the case, it would be time for a revolution. Based on their understanding, the rioters were acting correctly. They could not see the truth and were actively misled for weeks and weeks by those who knew better. So now you might try taking seriously the concerns of those who were the targets of the mob. Don’t be so quick to question the motives of those with whom you disagree. We would have been better off if more people both parties had taken Trump’s attempted theft seriously. We would be better off now if we could conduct the debate about how to respond in an open-faced fashion rather than dismissing the voices that annoy us as phony.]
“A note of thanks for your steady hand through all the tumult. You were kind enough to publish and respond to an email I wrote about Ruth Bader Ginsberg back in September, such an innocent time! Hoping we all can all find some common ground going forward. I fear that the Dems will overreach in reaction to the breach of the Capitol building and turn their back (or keep it turned) on Trump’s many, many supporters and the downward slide will continue. I enjoyed your reference to Tommy Lasorda. What a uniquely American life he led! Remember when he got into a fight with the Philly Phanatic for disrespecting the Dodger’s uniform? Imagine any manager today doing that. As a Mets fan, I don’t have much common ground with you (and of course I hated Lasorda), but I have to say I have become less interested in MLB of late, as I am convinced that they intend to have the DH in the National League permanently and to ramp up interleague play even more. The DH is the Devil’s tool…on that we can agree. Again, thanks for all of your hard work…I always look forward to reading your column.” – Jay Grimm, New York, New York
[Ed. note: Other than your dreaded Mets, the Dodgers were the great rivals of my Cardinals during my most baseball-besotted years — which were Lasorda’s glory years, too. For every Cardinals’ home stand with the Dodgers one question would be sure to come up on the radio and in conversation: Where did Tommy eat that night? Was he at Charlie Gitto’s up on The Hill, where they named a dining room after him? Somebody heard he demolished the manicotti at Agusti’s. One of my dad’s friends told us the maitre d’ at the very chic Anthonys in the Equitable Building always kept a table for Lasorda during Dodger’s visits. A waiter at another joint bragged about being at a neighborhood tavern for a beer bust where Lasorda held forth behind the bar, serving suds and swapping stories about favorite son, Yogi Berra. As much as Cardinals fans hated the way the Dodgers could break our hearts, we loved the way their skipper loved St. Louis – especially with some toasted ravs. For me, I know that those years in St. Louis made a permanent Cardinals baseball fan of me. And while I know the wicked designs of the hitter designators are real, I still can’t imagine losing that wonderful part of life.]
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SMOTHERED, COVERED & CHUNKED
WSB: “Michael Carsley says it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. In his case, it was Waffle House waffles. … Carsley and his buddies are in a fantasy football league. The guy who finished in last place agreed to spend 24 hours at the Chamblee [Ga.] restaurant eating waffles. … For every waffle Carsley could consume, he was able to knock an hour off his time sitting at the table. All the while, unbeknownst to her, Carsley was running a live fundraiser so his server, who was running back and forth with all those waffles, could get a really nice tip. In five hours, Michael ate 18 waffles. It left him with a $49 tab. Over those five hours, his friends on social media raised $1,100 for his server. … In case you’re wondering, all those waffles added up to 5,652 calories, not including butter or syrup.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“When you live in a town with a great team, you go to see them win. When you live in a town with a team that is passing rapidly through mediocrity on its way to contention — the Nats have an amazing crop of upcoming young players — you go for the moments.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Sept. 1, 2011.
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