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On the roster: – TrumpCare? RyanCare? How about don’t care – Nunes was at White House before shock presser - Trump blames Freedom Caucus for health bill failure – Trump creates job for son-in-law – And they probably don’t even care

There is a difference between wanting and wishing, and it’s all about effort.

Looking admiringly at a beautiful baby grand piano, a party guest once remarked, “I always wanted to play the piano…” She was rather taken aback when her host told her, “No you don’t. Or you would’ve taken lessons.”

What the woman meant was that she wished she knew how to play piano – that Jiminy Cricket would appear with his magic bumbershoot and make it so. 

Now we know that Republicans only wished that they could replace ObamaCare, but they didn’t really want to do it.

We have talked before about the value of hypocrisy in politics and life. As La Rochefoucauld said “hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” A helpful hypocrisy of politics past was that politicians claimed they were not interested in what was popular, but what was right immediately before abandoning all principal in favor of trying to win the next election.

It was maddening for Americans to see big talk about toughness and leadership give way to naked pandering, but at least the embarrassment of climbing down from the blustery heights of phony courage provided a disincentive for the next time.

As they would say in Triadelphia: Don’t let your mouth write a check your behind can’t cash. (But they don’t really say “behind.”)

Even the most cynical observers were surprised at the craven political positioning in the hilariously brief struggle to enact a law that would’ve touched every American and re-regulated at least a fifth of the entire economy.

When President Trump — who began his re-election campaign even before he took the oath of office for his first term — was selling his health bill, he didn’t bother talking about the legislation. He talked about what would happen to Republicans in 2018 if they didn’t pass it. He talked about the need to win, but not why winning would have been a good thing.

If the goal of the endeavor was to win in Midterms and return Trump for a second term, then it was doomed from the beginning.

There are lots of big and maybe even good ideas on the left and right for how to fix what ails America’s health care system. And guess what? They would all be unpopular, at least at first. That illustrates exactly why our founders chose a republic rather than a democracy. If the federal government could only do what was popular, this experiment wouldn’t have lasted long at all.

We had reached a pretty low ebb on political courage in the Obama era as the former president and Democrats in Congress ended up muddling not just their health insurance law but policies ranging from bank regulations to the Syrian civil war based on a low threshold for political pain.

Who knew that they would end up looking positively Jacksonian in their boldness?

It was, in fact, Trump’s favorite president, Andrew Jackson, who said “one man with courage makes a majority.” What Old Hickory meant was that a human being possessed with an idea he or she believes in and the will to endure in the face of opposition is often how big things happen.

What we saw last week on Obamacare was the exact opposite. No one seemed to believe in the product and no one was willing to pay any political price for its enactment. In that way, it is good that they abandoned the legislation. But it reveals something important about our political moment.

We have a president and Congress elected on the promise of upheaval, but who so far lack the willingness to pay the price.

Trump’s open, constant pursuit of a second term and the knock-kneed GOP’s 2018 panic takes fundamental reform on big issues off the table. It usually takes some time for these realities to set in, but they didn’t even make it 90 days, let alone 100.

We are now told that Republicans will move briskly toward tax reform, believing that the issue will be more popular. The White House even is promising that they will produce bipartisan legislation behind a major overhaul.

If they bring the same finger-in-the-wind approach to taxes that they did to health insurance, we will be in for another 18-day flop.

Real leadership isn’t doing what’s popular. It is possessing a vision of the future and convincing people to take the harder way to get there. To pass real tax reform, it will require not deal-making, but rather a belief in an ambitious plan, salesmanship and, most of all, tenacity.

“The ability of a country to pay taxes must always be proportioned, in a great degree, to the quantity of money in circulation, and to the celerity with which it circulates.” –Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 12

NatGeo: “Scientists have found a way to use spinach to build working human heart muscle, potentially solving a long-standing problem in efforts to repair damaged organs. Their study, published this month by the journal Biomaterials, offers a new way to grow a vascular system, which has been a roadblock for tissue engineering. Scientists have already created large-scale human tissue in a lab using methods like 3D printing, but it’s been much harder to grow the small, delicate blood vessels that are vital to tissue health…One of the defining traits of a leaf is the branching network of thin veins that delivers water and nutrients to its cells. Now, scientists have used plant veins to replicate the way blood moves through human tissue. The work involves modifying a spinach leaf in the lab to remove its plant cells, which leaves behind a frame made of cellulose.”

The Hill: “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was on the White House grounds the day before he announced information related to U.S. surveillance of President Trump’s transition team. Nunes said he was on grounds, but not in the White House itself, for meetings ‘to confirm what I already knew’ and noted no one in the White House knew he was there. A spokesperson for Nunes told The Hill in a statement that he ‘met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.’”

Staffers puzzled when Nunes bolted Uber ride – Daily Beast: “Hours before the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced his shocking claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team on Wednesday morning, he practically disappeared. Rep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts. By the next morning, Nunes hastily announced a press conference.”

WaPo: “President Trump cast blame Sunday for the collapse of his effort to overhaul the health-care system on conservative interest groups and far-right Republican lawmakers, shifting culpability to his own party after initially faulting Democratic intransigence. His attack — starting with a tweet that singled out the House Freedom Caucus as well as the influential Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America — marked a new turn in the increasingly troubled relationship between the White House and a divided GOP still adjusting to its unorthodox standard-bearer. And the tweet served as a warning shot, with battles still to come on issues such as taxes and infrastructure that threaten to further expose Republican fractures, that Trump will not hesitate to apply public pressure on those in his party he views as standing in the way.”

[Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, resigned Sunday from the House Freedom Caucus blaming conservative hard-liners for the failure of TrumpCare.]

Meadows still popular at home after health bill failure – 
Politico: “House insurgent Mark Meadows embarrassed the White House and forced his fellow Republicans to turn tail on a seven-year pledge to tear down Obamacare. His constituents are throwing him a party. …In these small rural towns that double as ground zero for the type of populist, anti-establishment politics that thrust Donald Trump into the presidency and gave Republicans control of Washington, Meadows remains a hero…His constituents …now expect him to go back to Washington and pick up the fight to uproot and destroy the law completely.”

Silver: House Republicans aren’t out of the woods yet – FiveThirtyEight‘s NateSilver highlights an easily overlooked issue that could sink Congressional Republicans as they move on to tax reform: they don’t have a governing mandate. Trump’s November upset overshadows a simple but potentially troublesome fact for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell: they lost seats in November.

Dems blow off Trump prediction that they will come begging – NYT: “President Trump, looking for a flicker of hope after his Republican majority fell to pieces last week, predicted that the opposition party would eventually give in: ‘I honestly believe the Democrats will come to us and say let’s get together and get a great health care bill or plan,’ he said. But Democrats will not be lending a hand anytime soon. Invigorated by the Republican dysfunction…Democrats are in their best position since their embarrassing loss in the November election.”

Taxes now top priority – Reuters: “Trump has put tax reform at the top of his legislative agenda now that the healthcare bill has failed. [ReincePriebus said Trump was not backing off his view that the tax reform bill needed a border tax. He also said that the measure would include a middle-class tax cut that he said might help to attract votes from moderate Democrats.”

[WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib argues that after the collapse of the GOP health bill, Trump needs to find, or create, a group to govern and execute for him, especially as he looks to take on tax reform.]

WaPo: “The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by JaredKushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.”

And he’s about to testify on Russia ties - NYT: “Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials. The White House Counsel’s Office was informed this month that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wanted to question Mr. Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, according to the government officials.” 

Ivanka Trump to travel to Germany - WaPo: “Ivanka Trump is planning a trip to Germany to attend a summit on the economic empowerment of women, a senior administration official said Sunday. The first daughter was invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during Merkel’s recent White House visit, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss details of the trip by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The W20 summit, a women-focused effort within the Group of 20 countries, will be held in Berlin in late April.”

WashEx: “Senate Democrats are beginning to line up against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, increasing the chances the Senate will enact a ‘nuclear option’ that would thwart the minority filibuster for high court picks. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, announced he would vote against Gorsuch, an expected move, but one that could set the tone for rank-and-file Democrats on the fence about his nomination. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and TomCarper, D-Del., also announced opposition to Gorsuch, and the list is likely to grow significantly.”

Bathroom bill to cost North Carolina $3.76 billion – AP

Trump reportedly handed Merkel a $374 billion invoice for NATO - Slate

Will ObamaCare really explode? – Politico

“I think I could have won.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden talking to students at Colgate University on whether he should’ve run for president in 2016.

“The Freedom Caucus thought that they had Trump over a barrel and that he needed the bill. They were very wrong. Since Trump cannot rely on them, he will find Democrats that he can rely on.” – Joe King, Tiburon, Calif. 

[Ed. note: Maybe…but I think more likely, Trump will basically abandon the issue. Health insurance regulations are no fun, especially compared to things like big tax cuts or military buildups. I think the real winner of last week was Barack Obama, whose health law will now likely survive in perpetuity.]

“Wow! I am a Democrat who has been both freaking out and watching the story unfold. I really appreciate the fact that you point out – Republicans had 7 YEARS to thoroughly come up with something that would have more benefits (to their constituents) and be less overtly offensive to pretty much everyone! …I wish you would have included a little bit of a call out on [Donald Trump] for trying to bully his own team as a way of negotiating. His threat of ‘pass this bill or you will get crushed in 2018.’ It made him look really weak and entirely out of touch…” – Jill Rackiewicz Henderson, St. Paul, Minn.

[Ed. note: All presidents have made similar threats/warnings to their parties. What we are unfamiliar with is the nakedness with which Trump did so. Usually, politicians are careful to hide, or at least minimize, their arguments for political self-interest. In public, you say, “This is great legislation that will help the country and give everyone a free puppy!” And then in private, you say, “Boys, we’d better pass this thing or we’re dead meat next year.” Trump just forgot to use his inside voice.]

“In [Wednesday’s] podcast, Dana expressed her wish for savory protein bars, which you quickly pronounced the very idea to be gross. I’m surprised that you didn’t think to mention that savory protein bars have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It’s called jerky.” – Matthew Nelson, Los Alamos, N.M.

[Ed. note: **slow clapping**]

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

Mirror: “A road collapse has been blamed on – burrowing badgers. Several large craters appeared along a stretch of country road which it’s believed have been caused by badgers tunnelling underneath. Devon County [England] Council have closed Sandy Lane in Braunton in both directions for emergency repairs. A council spokesman said: ‘We have closed Sandy Lane in Braunton, near the Braunton Burrows car park, as it appears badgers have been tunnelling under the road, causing subsidence. We are yet to establish the extent of any damage to the road structure and how much the road has been undermined, and for the safety of the travelling public it will remain closed while the damage is assessed.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily “Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including “The Kelly File,” “Special Report with Bret Baier,” and “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.