Sore-loserism stress test in Georgia

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On the roster: Sore-loserism stress test in Georgia – Senate rushes to override Trump veto of defense funds – Biden education pick sets up big fights – Newsom bows to Latino groups with Senate pick – The best dad bod  

The Senate runoffs elections in Georgia that will conclude two weeks from today look like very close contests.

Polling for the Peach State’s November general election was pretty good on both the presidential and senatorial levels. What the same pollsters are finding this time around are very close contests in both races.

The averages in the races between Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and their challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, show a wafer-thin lead for the Democrats. But the real takeaway here is that this looks like a close call.

Now, we will point out that there is no good historical precedent for turnout expectations here. There have been two Georgia general election Senate runoffs before, and both were low-turnout boat races in which Republicans easily sailed into port. This time, though, turnout looks enormous and the state is tuned in like never before.

Unprecedented elections make polling harder, but certainly we can say that this is no safe harbor for Republicans.

Now imagine a very close outcome on Jan. 5, closer even than President-elect Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory last month. Now, further suppose that the control of the Senate hangs in the balance because either both results are very close or Democrats have clearly won one of the two seats.

It would be bad enough in any state in light of President Trump’s efforts to cling to power following his own defeat. Sore-loserism seems to have gone from a mortal political sin to something of a requirement – and there are practitioners in both parties.

Consider that Trump is spending the waning days of his presidency devoted to forcing a rupture in the GOP over his own preposterous claims of a landslide re-election. His targets include some of the people responsible for the successes for which Trump is constantly demanding more praise, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Bill Barr and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

There’s no disagreement on ideas or policies here, just the fact that these guys won’t lie and say they believe Trump won the election when they do not and there is no evidence to support any such claim. But in Trump’s construction, it doesn’t matter whether you believe it, it just matters whether you think it might work.

Most telling is Trump’s attack on McConnell, whom the president argues owes him because Trump saved McConnell’s re-election in Kentucky this year. Let’s leave aside the fact that there’s no reason to think that’s true given McConnell’s track record of being in over-hyped but ultimately easily won races. If Trump really could claim to be McConnell’s benefactor rather than the other way around, what difference should that make? Should McConnell say what he doesn’t believe and do so to the detriment of his own party because he owes Trump? Apparently, yes.

But surely there could be no place worse than Georgia to put the post-kraken political reality through a stress test.

Certainly Georgia has suffered more than most states at the hands of Trump and his outrage mobs. While the president came after Republicans in other battleground states he lost, Georgia stands out. It’s probably because Georgia is the most Republican state Trump lost, meaning it had the most Republican officials for Trump to badger.

But sore-loserism is not new to Georgia.

Stacey Abrams played the part after her 2018 gubernatorial defeat at the hands of Brian Kemp. Abrams, like Trump, refused to accept her defeat and, like Trump, attributed her loss to systemic corruption when she could not provide evidence of actual fraud.

Now, a couple of things were different with Abrams. First, her claims were not as goofy as Trump’s but second, they were rooted in allegations of racism and voter disenfranchisement.

While Abrams was no Sidney Powell, she certainly got kid-glove treatment for her disobliging, selfish refusal to accept the results of the election. 

If it’s close in Georgia, you can certainly expect no abundance of good sportsmanship among the contestants. The pressure on candidates in both parties to try to overturn the election results in a close contest would be intense.

Both sides claim their own dubious moral justifications for eroding confidence in the state’s sound electoral system for their own personal benefit… what fun.

The first big test of how Americans will behave in the post-Trump era may be upon us even before Trump leaves the White House.

“Every man of discernment must at once perceive the wide difference between SILENCE and ABOLITION.” – Alexander Hamilton, discussing the Judiciary and trial by jury, Federalist No. 83

NYT: “On Dec. 22, 1864, as the Civil War entered its final months, Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman sent a message to President Lincoln notifying him that he had captured the city of Savannah, Ga., thereby completing his 300-mile ‘March to the Sea’ that had begun in Atlanta on Nov. 16. … It read, ‘I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.’ Sherman … believed that advancing across the state to Savannah would be effective as a form of psychological warfare, demonstrating to Southerners that their army could not protect them from the invading troops. President Lincoln wrote back to Sherman…: ‘Many, many thanks for your Christmas-gift — the capture of Savannah. When you were about leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but … I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours.’”  

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Fox News: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remained on the Senate floor into the wee small hours of the morning Tuesday – long after the Senate passed the $900 billion pandemic relief package – and urged President Trump not to make good on his threat to veto the defense spending bill, but prepared the Senate’s response. Earlier this month, the GOP-controlled Senate approved the $740 billion national defense bill despite Trump’s veto threat. Trump wants any National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to include the repeal of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The law provides legal protection for Big Tech companies. Trump has called the law a ‘serious threat to our ‘National Security & Election Integrity.’ Trump’s position on the veto threatens to divide Republicans in the Senate. The final vote in the Senate was 84-13, well beyond the two-thirds requirement to override a potential veto if Trump carried through on his threat to sink the legislation.”

Too long to read, virus relief included unrelated items – AP: “The $900 billion pandemic relief package that was rushed through Congress Monday … was a bill too big to fail, and also too big to read. Delivering virus aid to the country required a leap of faith for lawmakers as they cast their votes, practically sight unseen, for a sprawling, 5,593-page bill that linked the pandemic aid with a $1.4 trillion annual spending bill to fund the government. … Also in the bill: hundreds of unrelated legislative items negotiated by leadership to win support from various constituencies. It includes extended tax breaks for the alcohol industry and motor speedways, comprehensive energy legislation, revised copyright rules, approval of two new Smithsonian museums and lessened penalties for the transportation of water hyacinths. There’s also an entire section on Tibet, including a statement of U.S. policy on how to determine the country’s next spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the decriminalization of the use of the Swiss coat of arms.

A closer look at how party leaders sealed the deal – Politico: “When the top four congressional leaders finally sat down after months of avoiding a meeting on coronavirus relief, things quickly grew heated. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer thought they were being lowballed. Two days before, a bipartisan Senate group looking to break the logjam split their $908 billion proposal into two pieces: $160 billion in state and local aid along with a liability shield, and a $748 billion spending bill without those two most contentious issues. … After so many months of inaction even as the virus raged, Washington’s top leaders had no spending target in common when they convened. McConnell had proposed several bills ranging from $500 billion to nearly $1 trillion, Pelosi and Schumer wanted $2 trillion or more and Mnuchin and Pelosi had talked about $1.8 trillion. Schumer said the ensuing discussions over total spending consumed a day and a half. After congressional leaders eventually signed off on a coronavirus relief deal totaling around $900 billion, McConnell argued he’d been right all along.”

Why these 6 GOP senators voted against coronavirus relief package – Fox News: “Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., all stood firmly against the bill, which had been bundled with a $1.4 trillion spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. … Paul suggested that instead lawmakers should open the economy, cut obvious waste in the budget, and stop piling on debt for future generations. Likewise, Scott railed against what he believed was an unnecessarily expensive measure… Blackburn recognized that the legislation will accomplish a number of positive goals … but claimed it was not worth the steep cost. … Johnson warned that due to the lack of time to examine the lengthy bill, it could take weeks or months before lawmakers understand everything included in it. … Cruz and Lee also criticized the process of the legislation, with lawmakers having just hours to read several thousand pages.”

USA Today: “President-elect Joe Biden is poised to nominate Miguel Cardona, the education commissioner of Connecticut, as secretary of the Department of Education, multiple media outlets reported, choosing a major proponent of reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Cardona, 45, would lead Biden’s goal to reopen all public schools in the first 100 days of his administration if confirmed by the U.S. Senate. His pick would also add another Latino to Biden’s increasingly diverse Cabinet. The expected hire marks a rapid rise for Cardona, who has served as Connecticut’s education chief for just 16 months after working as a public school educator for two decades in Meriden, Conn., which has a school system of just 7,459 students. … Cardona is not directly aligned with teachers unions or advocates of school choice in the nation’s education policy wars. Both camps praised the potential selection.”

Progressives fume over key White House pick – Fox News: “‘Sign now: No Deficit Hawks in the Biden Administration!’ read a petition promoted by the Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-aligned Justice Democrats in November. It was in opposition to Bruce Reed, a longtime aide to President-elect Biden getting a spot in his administration. Reed, Biden’s transition organization announced Tuesday, will be the president-elect’s deputy chief of staff, one of the most powerful positions in a presidential administration. Reed was tapped along with a handful of others to senior posts in the Biden White House on Tuesday. … While progressives have scored some victories in getting their allies picked… there has been a stewing dissatisfaction with the direction of Biden’s high-profile appointments. Reed being chosen for such a critical role is likely to increase that.”

Team Biden tries to manage left’s expectations on immigration – Fox News: “Top officials for the incoming Biden administration are warning that some changes to President Trump’s immigration policies will ‘take time’ – and migrants should not expect the border to be ‘fully open’ right away. Susan Rice and Jake Sullivan, President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming domestic policy and national security advisers, respectively, told Spanish wire service EFE that changes to the U.S. immigration system won’t happen right away. ‘We will be able to take some steps to change policies right away,’ Rice said, in comments first reported by The Washington Post. ‘Others will take time to put in place, and the situation at the border will not transform overnight due in large part to the damage done over the last four years. But we are committed to addressing it in full.’”

Dems face a difficult electoral landscape – WaPo: “Ultimately, President-elect Joe Biden won the contests that mattered most… But beneath the surface, despite low approval ratings, high unemployment and a raging pandemic whose handling he had fumbled, Trump’s strength grew among key parts of the electorate. Those warning signs have dampened the celebratory mood among Democrats enthusiastic about dispatching Trump. Party strategists now speak privately with a sense of gloom and publicly with a tone of concern as the election results become clearer. They worry about the potential emergence of a mostly male and increasingly interracial working-class coalition for Republicans that will cut into the demographic advantages Democrats had long counted on. They speculate that the tremendous Democratic gains in the suburbs during the Trump years might fade when he leaves office. And they fret that their inability to make inroads in more rural areas could forestall anything but the most narrow Senate majority in the future.”

WSJ: “Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday named California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, giving the state its first-ever Latino senator. Ms. Harris, the second nonwhite senator elected to represent California, is set to vacate the seat when she takes higher office on Jan. 20 and Mr. Newsom had been under intense pressure to appoint a person of color to replace her. ‘Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in D.C., lifting up our state’s values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic,’ Mr. Newsom said of Mr. Padilla. Leaders in the Latino community had argued that the group’s sheer numbers—40% of the state’s population and growing—and the role its growth played in turning California solidly blue warranted a seat in the U.S. Senate.”

Sources: Feds have discussed potential request for Giuliani’s electronic communications NBC News

White House virus coordinator Deborah Birx announces retirement AP

“[Biden’s nominees] aren’t all going to pass on a voice vote, and they aren’t all going to make it, but I will put them on the floor.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talking with the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“This statement [Friday] immediately caught my attention, mostly the date: ‘When Edward Jenner performed the first vaccination in Gloucestershire, England in 1796.’ 1796 cannot be right for the first vaccination, unless it only counts if it went through some unknown bureaucratic process. My first thought was what about the Smallpox Vaccination that was done during the revolutionary war in the US? One Internet site talks about the first vaccination against smallpox took place 50 years earlier. Most credit George Washington with deciding to inoculate his troops and some claim this action may have been a deciding factor in the results of that revolution.” – Chris Haggerty, Winchester, Va.

[Ed. note: Certainly Washington, scarred by his own youthful bout with Smallpox, was a trailblazer on the subject. Not only did Continental camp life reflect Washington’s insistence on hygiene and quarantines, he even was known to have built units from those who had survived the pox and were immune for fighting with infected enemy units. In 1777, Washington took the step of intentionally exposing the whole army to a milder form of the disease – a practice called variolation that had been in use in the West for more than 50 years. In variolation, the patient’s arm is scratched or cut and then rubbed with a paste made from smallpox scabs from those already infected. Ewwwwwwwww. The goal is for the patient to actually get the disease but only a mild dose — like moms having chicken pox parties. It saved many lives and was a great help to the war effort. But it was Jenner who was the first to use what we think of today as a vaccine — an injection of a variant of the virus intended to trigger the immune response without producing an actual infection.]

“Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a great 2021! Each day I receive the Halftime Report, with your essays and articles, it is a gift indeed. Thank you so much! I would send you some of my homemade peanut brittle in return but I couldn’t figure out how to attach it to this email.” – Steve Bartlett, Greenville, S.C.

[Ed. note: I think if I hold my computer just right, I can smell it! Thank you very much for the kind words and the good thought. It is certainly my very great pleasure and privilege to be part of the lives of so many wonderful people like you, Mr. Bartlett. Truly a gift.]

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

Reuters: “A Canadian father endured painful hours under a tattoo needle to help his ‘self-conscious’ [8-year-old] son accept a birthmark on his torso. Edmonton-based Derek Prue Sr was inspired to get inked after noticing his son did not want to take off his shirt when he went swimming. ‘I knew he was self-conscious and that made me want just to show him that he wasn’t the only one, like, we both have the same mark,’ Prue said. The inking was much more intense than he anticipated, he said. ‘It felt good to do it. It’s a long process to do it. I thought it was going to be a few hours. It was, like, 30.’ Prue unveiled the surprise to his son, also named Derek, as he played in a hotel pool earlier this month. … The dad’s red-wine colored tattoo covers part of his chest and belly and extends under his left arm.” 

“The hyperbole that met [Trump’s] withdrawal from the Paris agreement — a traitorous act of war against the American people, America just resigned as leader of the free world, etc. — was astonishing, though hardly unusual, this being Trump. What the critics don’t seem to recognize is that the Paris agreement itself was a huge failure.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on June 8, 2017.

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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