The epitaph of the tea party


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On the roster: The epitaph of the tea party – Biden sitting pretty in latest Fox News poll – Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez hold peace summit – Audible: Don’t mess with RGB’s boys – Crime spikes

Somewhere, John Boehner is laughing.

Now, that’s not a very risky assumption for us to make because Boehner has been laughing ever since he split town in 2015, one digit extended to the chuckleheads in Congress.

What we suppose would amuse the former speaker today, however, is the official end of the Tea Party movement’s influence on American government. 

Probably sometime today the Senate will, with the smell of jet fuel heavy in the halls, pass a preposterously lazy two-year spending and debt deal. It’s a package that will, thanks to baseline budgeting, add up to nearly $2 trillion in extra spending over the next decade. And that’s before the next round of budget busters sure to come before the 2022 midterms, and the stimulus spending that will take place whenever the economy turns south. 

At the heart of the new spending and debt package is the repeal of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which is to our knowledge unique in modern political history. We are not aware of any other time that Congress actually cut spending. 

Now, many Congresses have cut the increase in spending, but Boehner executed the real thing rather than the phony Washington version and sometime today or tomorrow that accomplishment will be revoked. 

We will not bore you with another lecture on the bipartisan failures that have led us to a place where debt and deficit are so far out of control that no one will even try to address the problem before the inevitable crisis. These folks are all about getting hammered on their way to rehab.   

The 111th Congress was called the “Tea Party Congress,” swept into power by electoral backlash against the perceived excesses of the first two years of the Obama administration. Debates over Barack Obama’s big-ticket policies, stimulus and universal health insurance, centered on excessive costs. 

When a South Carolina congressman shouted, “You lie,” at Obama during the president’s 2009 address to a joint session of Congress on health insurance it was Obama’s claims that illegal immigrants would not be eligible that spurred the outburst. 

The Republican narrative on Obama was that he was using government money taken from hard-working, middle-class tax payers to give free stuff to preferred demographic groups. Free insurance, free phones, free college…

A mainstay of Republican messaging in 2010 was about wasteful spending in Obama’s ill-conceived and poorly executed stimulus plan. Republicans loved to find particular projects – turtle tunnels, studies of the sexual behavior of ducks, shrimp on treadmills, etc. – to mock Obama and his party for supporting egregious, obvious waste. 

In Tim Alberta’s engrossing, detail-rich new book, “American Carnage,” the writer chronicles the moment when the Tea Party movement truly came to control Congress when fiscal conservatives forced a vote on the “cut, cap and balance” proposal.

The proposal, which would have cut spending by $100 billion for openers was dismissed instantly by the Senate and met with mockery from the Obama White House. 

Boehner then tried to cobble together a new deal that could pass both chambers, but was immediately undercut by his own members, who refused any compromise on what they saw as their prime directive: Using congressional spending power to block as much of Obama’s agenda as possible. 

That remained the norm in the Republican Congress until at least 2013 when Sen. Ted Cruz forced a government shutdown over ObamaCare. Maximum resistance was the idea, and stopping spending was so important that House Republicans put Boehner through hell for four years just to make their point.

The result, after much anguish, some shutdown and lots of posturing, was the Budget Control Act, the single most effective effort by Republicans in modern political history at controlling runaway spending. And what could be more perfectly Washingtonian than the measure being swept away by a Republican president?  

Like all movements, the Tea Party meant different things to different people, and was often a victim of its critics’ unfair characterizations. But whatever the spasm among older, whiter, suburban and rural voters in 2009 and 2010 was about, limiting spending and taxes was definitely a big part. 

As it turns out, though, many of the same members who were swept in on promises of fiscal restraint now vote for spending that would have been disqualifying for any Republican primary candidate eight years ago. The epitaph for their movement would rightly read: jk lolz.

The Tea Party wasn’t about spending, per say. It was about Obama’s spending. 

As Democrats in the 116th Congress – the #resistance Congress – endure similar anguish as Boehner and his leadership team did in 2011 we have a moment to wonder what that movement’s epitaph will be. 

How will we regard Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez eight years hence? What will the militant supporters of impeachment have to say about executive authority if a different party is in the White House? Will the Green New Deal and Medicare for All be punchlines like Cruz’s shutdown? 

Somewhere, presumably with a bloody Mary in hand, John Boehner is laughing. He knows the answer: Nothing is quite so flexible as the ideology of politicians in Washington in our era of moronic partisanship. 

“The difficulty of placing [trust] rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction…” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 65

NatGeo: “Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared more than 80 years ago, on July 2, 1937, during the second to last leg of their around-the-world flight. … Now Robert Ballard, the man who found the Titanic, is planning to search for signs of the missing aviators. On August 7, he’ll depart from Samoa for Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island that’s part of the Micronesian nation of Kiribati. The expedition will be filmed by National Geographic for a two-hour documentary airing October 20. The National Geographic Explorer at Large brings a state-of-the-art research vessel, the E/V Nautilus, and extensive underwater expertise to this historic search. In addition to locating the Titanic, Ballard discovered the remains of John F. Kennedy’s World War II patrol boat in the Solomon Sea, the German battleship Bismarck in the Atlantic, and many ancient ships in the Black Sea, as well as hydrothermal vents near the Galapagos.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump job performance
Average approval
: 45.2 percent
Average disapproval: 51.4 percent
Net Score: -6.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.4 points 
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve – 51% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve – 53% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve – 51% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 45% approve – 52% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 47% approve – 50% disapprove.]

You can join Chris and Brianna every day on Fox Nation. Go behind-the-scenes of your favorite political note as they go through the must-read headlines of the day right from their office – with plenty of personality. Click here to sign up and watch!

Fox News: “Joe Biden is the lone top tier candidate in the Democratic nomination race, according to the latest Fox News Poll. The former vice president captures 33 percent support among Democratic primary voters (up one point since June). That’s more than double any of the second-tier competitors, which includes Bernie Sanders at 15 percent (+2), Elizabeth Warren at 12 percent (+3) and Kamala Harris at 10 percent (+2). Another six candidates receive at least two percent support: Pete Buttigieg (5 percent), Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang (3 percent a piece), and Cory BookerJohn Hickenlooper, and Beto O’Rourke (each at 2 percent).  All others receive one percent or less.” 

Biden, Sanders fair best against Trump – Fox News: “Having the most voters in nearly two decades feeling positive about the economy and 52 percent approving of his job on the economy should position President Trump well to win re-election. That ambivalence about the economy contributes to Trump’s support staying between 39-42 percent in hypothetical 2020 presidential match-ups. … Trump trails Biden by ten points and Sanders by six. He edges both Warren and Harris by one. None of the candidates hit 50 percent support. Biden’s is the only lead outside the poll’s margin of sampling error — notable when a majority of Democratic primary voters prioritizes ousting Trump.”

Maintains South Carolina stronghold – Monmouth University: “Former Vice President Joe Biden is the clear front-runner among likely Democratic primary voters in South Carolina in the first Monmouth University Poll here for the 2020 cycle. Biden has majority support among African American voters, a group that is significantly less liberal than white voters in the Democratic electorate. Biden currently holds 39% support among South Carolina voters who are likely to vote in the February 2020 Democratic primary. The next tier of candidates includes California Sen. Kamala Harris (12%), Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (10%), and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (9%). South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg registers 5% support. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer each earn 2%, while Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke each have 1% support.”

Drucker: GOP insiders fear Harris – Vanity Fair: “For months I’ve been in contact with a group of senior Republican strategists keeping tabs on Donald Trump and the party’s view of the unfolding Democratic presidential primary. Since the beginning of the campaign, these people have been worried that Biden constituted the biggest political threat to Trump’s reelection. … But a smaller, though equally distinguished group of Republican operatives in my Rolodex, a sort of GOP cult of Kamala, had been insisting for weeks that Harris was being radically underestimated. With her surgical vivisection of Biden in the first debate, it seemed their fears had been realized. Now, as Democrats prepare for a second round of debates next week, these strategists are raising the alarm. ‘I think she’s dangerous, and probably maybe the most dangerous, from our view,’ a veteran Republican political consultant told me this month.”

Wait. What? – Mediaite: “Independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took the bold step of releasing an ad that opens with MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah declaring ‘Bernie Sanders makes my skin crawl!’ On Thursday, the Sanders campaign released a three-and-a-half-minute social media ad — entitled ‘Why Women Are With Bernie’ — that opens with a clip of Rocah’s July 21 appearance on MSNBC’s Up with David Gura… Sanders’ new ad aims to dispel Rocah’s opinion through the provision of receipts. Following Rocah’s blunt declaration at the top of the ad, senior Sanders campaign adviser Nina Turner tells viewers that Rocah’s opinion ‘is wrong all day long, and it is very anti-feminist.’”

Fox News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a one-on-one meeting Friday on Capitol Hill, in an effort to ease the recent infighting between the progressive wing and moderate congressional Democrats—and smooth over their own differences after the two traded barbs. Pelosi said after the sit-down that it went ‘very well.’ And when asked during her weekly press conference if the meeting served to ‘bury the hatchet,’ Pelosi scoffed: ‘There was no hatchet. We are in the political arena.’ ‘We are the Democratic Party…In our caucus, we have our differences. Respect that instead of making a big issue of it,’ Pelosi said. ‘We sat down today, we had a good meeting. The congresswoman is a very gracious member of Congress, so we had a very positive conversation.’ … Her office even provided photographic evidence afterward of the two lawmakers smiling beside each other.”

August recess will dull impeachment hopes – WaPo: “House Democrats pushing for impeachment now face one of their most unusual enemies: August recess. Beyond the usual month-long break at the end of summer, House leaders long ago set up a historically lengthy recess of almost 46 full days. After the last votes were cast Thursday, lawmakers bolted from the House and will not return until Sept. 9, leaving behind a vacuum that makes it difficult to keep up the drumbeat for beginning impeachment proceedings against President Trump. … Some Democrats talked about selling the sharpest moments from the testimony to constituents over the long recess. One Democrat floated the idea of returning to Washington for more hearings during August. Another, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), said that House committees need to quickly set the next round of hearings with Trump insiders so that there is a sense of forward momentum.”

Pelosi warns Dems: Don’t trash colleagues who won’t back impeachment – Fox News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday warned congressional Democrats who support impeachment proceedings against President Trump not to ‘disparage’ colleagues who don’t, a source familiar with the conversation told Fox News. The stern guidance came during a morning meeting on Capitol Hill, on the heels of Robert Mueller’s testimony which left pro-impeachment Democrats with little new material to pursue their case. The source told Fox News that Pelosi told lawmakers they are still allowed talk about impeachment if it’s politically important for their home districts, but urged them not to malign members who aren’t in the same camp. … The source added that Pelosi even warned them not to ‘make it a thing’ that members in support of impeachment proceedings are ‘following the Constitution’ because it ‘implies that those of us who don’t support it are not following the Constitution.’”

Report: Economy is expanding at a 2.1% annual rate – WaPo

Inside the world of political action hustlers – Politico 

“My two newest colleagues are very decent, very smart individuals.” – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg defending Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh during a Q&A session after a speech Wednesday night. 

This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney. 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. 

“You used the often quoted line from Winston Churchill, ‘If you aren’t a liberal in your twenties you don’t have a heart and if you aren’t a conservative in your forties you don’t have a mind.’ Wasn’t he elected as a Conservative in his twenties? And then served as a Liberal in his forties?” – Hyrum Hibbert, Boise, Idaho 

[Ed. note: First, the history of that quote is as checkered as the flag at the finish line. It would seem that the sentiment likely traces back to Edmund Burke, for whom it would be a perfect fit. I tend to put lines like that into the broader category of “aphorism.” I think this one has been used so much in so many different eras that we can lodge it in the same category of “if you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas” and “give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself.” It belongs to the ages. As for Sir Winston, he most certainly was a conservative at 25 in 1899. That’s when he first stood for Parliament in Oldham, northeast of Manchester.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Ed. note: I will be on vacation next week, glorying in the delights of the 35th state so we will have to leave the mailbag aside for a while. The note will be in the extremely capable hands of Ms. Brianna McClelland, who I assume will pack each edition with typically forbidden items about Boston sports, heart-warming stories of hero pets and the royal family. She will set aside the most interesting or urgent correspondence which I will take up the following week. In the meantime, if you need me, check Patsy’s in Elm Grove.

UPI: “Whoever stole the Cincinnati Circus Company’s sideshow trailer Saturday is in for a surprise when they open it. The tandem-axle Homesteader Challenger housed some of the most ghoulish props in their repertoire: A bed of nails, a coffin and an electric chair, among other odd-but-essential accouterments for assorted acts of daring. It’s over $10,000 of equipment all told, according to owner Dave Willacker, and losing it to theft is a serious setback. You can’t just buy a replacement bed of nails. The company, which employs about 100 performers, has spent the last several days borrowing equipment from other circus companies in order to make scheduled performance dates. It’s not sustainable, Willacker said.”

“You can outlaw technique; you cannot repeal biology.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for Time magazine on June 24, 2001. 

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.

Source: Fox News

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