The shutdown is dead! Long live the shutdown!

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On the roster: The shutdown is dead! Long live the shutdown! – Does Biden have a place in 2020 race? – Stone arrested, as expected – Audible: He’s with her – Ace wins the Nobel prize for trolling 

THE SHUTDOWN IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE SHUTDOWN!
Assuming that this evening, the president does, in fact, sign a 21-day resumption of full federal funding, we will have just endured what amounted to an incredibly expensive spitting contest.

President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi entered into a battle of wills in which he would not allow the government to reopen without billions more for border security funding and she would not negotiate more funding until the government was reopened.

Pelosi, needless to say, cleaned his clock. But we all know that this was just round one of what is expected to be the most grueling governance we’ve seen in the federal city.   

The feeling of ennui (that’s French for “I can’t even…”) in Washington about the seemingly endless shutdown was because people here mostly understand shutdowns to be matters of budget priorities. And on its face, this one seemed to be exactly that. Democrats offer $1.6 billion in border funding, but Trump wants $5.7 billion. Seemingly simple, right? 

But more than a month passed and there were essentially no negotiations. And no counteroffers. There were no “gangs of eight” or discharge petitions or any other maneuvers. Everyone just sat and watched Trump and Pelosi sit and watch each other to see who would crack first. 

And it is true that as a policy proposition, it was pointless. A short-term deal that allows negotiations to proceed is the expected outcome of every shutdown at its outset. That’s what usually happens after two days, not two pay periods. 

But this shutdown, and the one that will likely follow it on Feb. 15, was not about money. It was about establishing dominance. It was about base voters. It was about bragging rights. And most of all, it was about the 2020 election.

Both sides now fairly agree that the purpose of this enormous infliction of intentional harm was to “teach a lesson” to the other side. Some of the quotes about it are on fake Washington background (“who asked to speak anonymously so she could say stuff she would never be caught dead saying in real life, anywhere.”) but others are pretty transparent.

“We cannot reward the kind of behavior of hostage taking,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told NBC. “Because if the president can arbitrarily shut down the government now, he will do it time and again.” No doubt very comforting for his constituents who couldn’t pay their rent.

When you say publicly that you’re trying to establish an advantageous rhythm for continuing dysfunction you’re not exactly reaching for the Founders’ cup.

Now that’s not to say we don’t strongly endorse the new performative style in Congress as recently exhibited by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. Old Joe T. Robinson would be proud. It’s good to see lawmakers whooping it up again instead of just reading “Green Eggs and Ham.” Plus, three-piece suits and facial hair are both back in style, so we’ve got a real throwback situation going on.

But there’s no doubt it’s getting a little dicey in the cradle of Madisonian democracy.

Congressional leaders invented the partial shutdown in the post-Watergate era when something as humiliating as not paying the Coast Guard would have been beneath the honor even of politicians. We suppose after you have a vice-president and president resign and surrender your embassy in South Vietnam, you tend to be more circumspect about asinine political stunts.

But our current leaders have been treating this like an episode of “Shutdown Island.” 

It’s popular now to say that “this is why we can’t have nice things.” It would be more accurate to say that “this is why we can’t even have rotten things like government shutdowns.” And over less four one hundredths of the deficit alone!

How does this cliffhanger end? Well, there’s a chance that it will result in some kind of holistic, durable and humane response to illegal immigration and illegal immigrants. There are about 50 other chances that say this is just the first of many damaging, petulant difficulties arranged around what are probably deeply misguided presuppositions about the 2020 elections.

Republicans have been busy trying to designate a poster person for the increasingly liberal Democratic Party. Every day, Republicans find new shocking statements by left-wing Democrats, including… who’s the freshman from the Bronx? We can’t remember.

But as Republicans scurry to brand Democrats as the party of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Democrats are having no trouble defining the party of Trump as, well, the party of Trump. He is seemingly everywhere, and always talking.

Despite the death of the daily press briefing, Trump is, to our knowledge, the most accessible American president in generations. He would do a press gaggle while he was flossing his teeth if they had good enough light in the bathroom. And have you ever seen such a cabinet meeting as these?

Neither he nor his core supporters can like how this first round is ending, but as a concept, high-stakes struggles that consume day after day of coverage are a very good fit for our theatrical president.

There are a million things that would be politically useful for Republicans to be talking about right now: The radicalizing Democratic Party, the biographical or personality flaws of the emerging Democratic field, impeachment, Covington Catholic High, New York’s new elective abortion bill… almost anything other than bread lines for active-duty military families.

Will Trump be able to govern in such a way that doesn’t set the GOP up next year for an even worse kick in the teeth than they got in 2018? Does he want to? What if his interests and those of his party diverge?

The answers start to matter more each day as Republicans — especially the president’s own campaign — work desperately to not make the 2020 election a referendum on Trump. For Republicans to have a fighting chance, the election will have to be substantially about the fitness of the Democratic challenger.

And Trump driving like Roscoe P. Coltrane from shutdown to showdown will not be the way to get there.

THE RULEBOOK: ABSURD TO SAY THE LEAST
“For the absurdity must continually stare us in the face of confiding to a government the direction of the most essential national interests, without daring to trust it to the authorities which are indispensable to their proper and efficient management.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 23

TIME OUT: POP, POP, POP
Smithsonian: “…Alfred [Fielding] was co-inventor of Bubble Wrap with his business partner Marc Chavannes, a Swiss chemist. They were trying to create a textured wallpaper in 1957 that would appeal to the burgeoning Beat generation. They put two pieces of plastic shower curtain through a heat-sealing machine but were disappointed—at first—by the results: a sheet of film with trapped air bubbles. However, the inventors did not totally dismiss their failure. They filed the first of several patents for the process and equipment of embossing and laminating materials, then started thinking of uses: more than 400, in fact. One—greenhouse insulation—made it off the drawing board, but ultimately was about as successful as textured wallpaper. … To continue developing their unusual product, which was branded Bubble Wrap, Fielding and Chavannes founded Sealed Air Corp. in 1960. It wasn’t until they decided the next year to use it as packaging material that they found success.”

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

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
39.2 percent
Average disapproval: 56.6 percent
Net Score: -17.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.6 points
[Average includes: ABC News/WaPo: 38% approve – 58% disapprove; Fox News: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; CBS News: 36% approve – 59% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 40% approve – 54% disapprove; Pew: 39% approve – 58% disapprove.]       

DOES BIDEN HAVE A PLACE IN 2020 RACE? 
WaPo: “As he ponders a third presidential run, Joe Biden is wrapping himself in familiar imagery, casting himself as an optimist who likes working with Republicans, an experienced and stabilizing force in a rocky political period. But the open question, asked even by longtime Biden supporters and advisers, is whether there is a market in 2020 for the Biden brand. The Democratic Party over the past two years has become increasingly partisan and sharp-edged. It has been fueled by a visceral hatred of Trump. And in its sharp shift, it has turned toward things that Biden, the 76-year-old lifetime pol, most certainly is not: fresh faces, minorities, and women. His strategy of casting himself as the bridge from one generation to the next, and as the one who can win over pragmatic Democrats as well as disaffected Republicans, would test the limits of Democratic primary voters who have encouraged the most diverse crop of candidates in history.”

McAuliffe will make his 2020 decision by March 31 – WCAV: “Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was the keynote speaker at the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ 20th Annual American Democracy Conference on Thursday. He said he’ll announce his decision about running for the Democratic nomination for president by March 31 and predicted the swelling field of Democratic candidates would quickly be narrowed to a dozen or fewer by the fundraising demands of a presidential campaign. Serious candidates, he said, would need to raise $50 million this year to be ready to compete.”

Beto’s ‘campaign-in-waiting’ just needs a candidate – Politico: “Beto O’Rourke might not have a campaign yet, but he has a campaign-in-waiting. And if he decides to run for president, he’ll be handed an existing infrastructure that could help mitigate the effects of a late entry into the 2020 race. Two separate ‘Draft Beto’ efforts have become a significant force to keep public attention focused on him as a potential presidential candidate. And their groundwork in early primary states could prove critical if O’Rourke enters the race, delivering a roster of consultants and supporters for him to tap into if he runs. Unlike many of his Democratic rivals — several of whom are already far along in building their staffs — O’Rourke has done little on his own to assemble a campaign infrastructure in those states. In Nevada last week, a message introducing the Draft Beto effort was forwarded to Democrats via the secretary of the state Democratic Party, and when Democrats in New Hampshire received invitations to a Draughts with Draft Beto event in Concord next week, nine state representatives were listed among the co-hosts.”

Koch network plans to stay out of 2020 race – WaPo: “The conservative Koch political network has told donors that it plans to once again stay out of the presidential race and will not work to help reelect President Trump in 2020, a move that sidelines a major player that has been pivotal in mobilizing voters on the right for more than a decade. The decision reflects a narrow path that the influential network led by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch has sought to walk in the Trump era: aligning with the president on some policy issues while withholding its electoral firepower on his behalf. The network’s plan to stay out of the 2020 race was quietly relayed to major donors in recent months, according to people familiar with the conversations. It comes as the network has sought to shift attention from its political activities to its investments in education and philanthropy. Donors say they expect to discuss the issue at a retreat for top network contributors this weekend.”

NOjeda… – The Intercept: “Former West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda ended his long-shot presidential bid on Friday. A leader of the state’s teachers strikes last year, Ojeda concluded that the campaign ultimately wasn’t winnable and told his supporters that he could no longer ask people to contribute money to a cause he thought was lost. ‘I don’t want to see people send money to a campaign that’s probably not going to get off the ground,’ he said in a video he recorded and provided to The Intercept and The Young Turks.”

STONE ARRESTED, AS EXPECTED 
Fox News: “Former Trump adviser Roger Stone vowed during a dramatic press conference outside a federal courthouse in Florida on Friday afternoon to fight the charges of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, calling the charges ‘politically motivated’ while insisting he would not turn against President Trump. ‘I will plead not guilty to these charges,’ Stone told reporters, speaking over hecklers. ‘I will defeat them in court. This is a politically-motivated investigation.’ Stone, who once worked for former President Nixon and has a tattoo of the former president on his back, flashed the Nixon V-signs in front of cameras before he spoke. ‘There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself,’ said Stone, who will appear on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ on Fox News Channel Friday at 8 p.m. ET.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
SOTU still TBD – Roll Call

U.S. will return first group of asylum seekers to Mexico Friday – Reuters

Schumer’s press secretary admits he was friends with fraudster behind Fyre Festival – NY Post

Plurality of Dems want US to move toward socialism, according to Fox News poll – Fox News

AUDIBLE: HE’S WITH HER 
“No one should ever underestimate the Speaker, as Donald Trump has learned.” – Sen. Chuck Schumer in his response to the president’s Rose Garden announcement about the short-term deal to re-open the government.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend John Roberts will sit in for Mr. Sunday. He will be joined by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 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.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Thank you for including the link to Caitlin Flanagan’s exceptional article in the Atlantic regarding the media coverage of the Covington students. The inspiring truth that is missed by most of the coverage is the astonishing restraint demonstrated by these teenage boys. Flanangan thankfully does the deep dive that this story truly deserves. Her closing with receiving an email reminder from the New York Times on journalistic ethics is priceless.” – Dan Burch, Turlock, Calif.

[Ed. note: She really nailed it, didn’t she? There was an old joke among reporters about the Associated Press’ former competitor, UPI: “Always first… to be wrong.” As citizen journalists crowd into the breaking news business and social media conquers all, journalists are getting agitated. This week’s latest round of newsroom layoffs sent a chill up the spine of every working reporter. When you combine those anxieties with the pre-existing biases of many in the profession, you have a highly combustible atmosphere. The desperation to be at the front end of a cascade of clicks drives people beyond good judgement. And when that story aligns with their worldview, well…]

“Your use of ‘Terpsichore’ [in Thursday’s Halftime Report] sent me running to Wikipedia. Your motive, no doubt, was to transport your readers to Greek Myth and thus allow us to escape from our depressing contemporary tragedies. Were you also intending for us to learn that Hubris is one of Greek Myths’ main themes? And that perpetrators were punished for ‘actions that shamed and humiliated the victim for pleasure or gratification’?” – John McNeill Lee, Walnut Creek, Calif.

[Ed. note: My eldest son’s class is wrapping up their time with “The Odyssey” this week. I have enjoyed talking about the poem wand its characters. I was reminded that Odysseus literally means “trouble.” And boy are we in some deep Odysseus these days…]    

“The length of the Halftime Report is ‘Just right!’ It varies depending on what is going on… and is bound to be longer to cover all the maneuvering by the Dems in the lead-up to 2020! I suggest to your reader who was not bothering to open just open, and read the sections you are interested in!! It is very nicely delineated with a short phrase or sentence in bold… that will alert you as to whether that is something you are interested it. It would be a shame to miss the opening commentary by Chris, Krauthammer’s quote and other notables!!” – Liana Silsby, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

[Ed. note: Considering your over-generous praise and what is already a VERY long note today, I almost left out your letter, Ms. Silsby… almost.]

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

ACE WINS THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR TROLLING  
CBS News: “Ace Davis from Lexington, Kentucky, entered his [science] project titled, ‘Is Tom Brady a Cheater?’ into his elementary school’s science fair to prove that deflated footballs give players an advantage. Brady and the Patriots were famously accused of deflating footballs in 2015 during the AFC title game by the Indianapolis Colts. … But, Davis, who is also a quarterback, wasn’t satisfied with the punishment and set out to solve the mystery — once his dad gave him the idea for the project. … Ace’s experiment utilized the scientific method, listing his hypothesis on a trifold poster to illustrate his findings. … To test his theory, Ace’s family was enlisted to throw footballs with varied amounts of inflation in their yard. After measuring the distance of each throw and calculating the average, Ace found that the least-inflated ball traveled the farthest distance. … Ace said he would tell Brady he ‘needs to retire’ if the two ever came face-to-face. Ace also said he would tell him ‘give me some of your money. You don’t deserve it.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The Founders we’re deeply opposed to the militarization of civil society. There is all kinds of aversions to it and this is importing it because, as you say, it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s silent. It’s something that you can easily deploy. It’s going to be, I think the bane of our existence.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) said on the “Special Report” panel on May 14, 2012.

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.

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