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The news that matters most

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On the roster: The news that matters most – Trump center stage in Florida debate – Saturday vote to replace disgraced Texas rep. – Trump meets with lawmakers to discuss SupCo vacancy – Who says it’s not a retirement strategy?

THE NEWS THAT MATTERS MOST
We have a profound bias in favor of small-town newspapers.

In fact, we believe that one of the great losses of our current era of media consolidation and low barriers to entry for citizen journalists is that we are deprived of the estuaries in which little fish reporters could grow into big journalistic tuna.

Covering the police beat, the courthouse, city hall and the zoning board is not the stuff of J-school fantasies. But it is where you learn how to be accountable to your readers and subjects. It’s where you learn that there can be a difference between what’s factual and what’s honest. It’s where you learn that this is just as much of a trade as it is a profession — you keep working at it day by day, and learning mistake by mistake.

But the greater loss has been to communities that have too often been deprived of their very American version of the agora. Whoever owns the paper, everyone in town feels like it is theirs too. If you ever need to show someone from another country what America is about, show them the letters to the editor and the obituaries in a small-market newspaper.

That’s because what matters most is usually what happens closest to you.

Humans first lived in little bands, and then in villages of 100 or 200 people and then in cities of thousands of souls. In time, we would come to dwell together as a million or more.

What we have never done before, though, is to try to live as a village of 325 million spread out over nearly 4 million square miles.

The central challenge of our time is that our culture lags behind our technology. We are able now to be connected to all of our countrymen. From Pasco County, Florida to Pasco, Washington we are now able to hear, see and know what our fellow Americans are thinking and doing. All the daggone time.

Our brains don’t really work that way.

America is really seven or eight different national cultures lashed together under a shared government. Previously, it wasn’t that important to the residents of Appalachia what the people of New England were up to. Nor did it matter very much to New Yorkers what the particular peccadilloes of Texans were.

It’s wrongly said that good fences make good neighbors. It’s big spaces that make good neighbors, at least as far as American politics and culture have been concerned. The corollary to the American Creed — “we hold these truths…” — might well be that for all matters not covered by our founding charters, “you do you.”

Faster transportation and communication have conspired against this healthy disinterest for generations, but only in the past 20 years have they so badly outpaced our abilities to adapt.

The pitiful mewling that often passes for public discourse these days is in many ways a symptom of the fact that we have never lived this way as a species before.

“Connectedness” defies what our culture evolved to do, namely bond together in common pursuit as units measured in dozens or hundreds.

The horrors of history for much of the past 200 years have reflected the challenges of finding ways to unite those small bands together. Nationalism, theocracy, communism and the rest have been failed experiments in getting past our tribal roots. Our liberal democracy worked so well because it respected human nature rather than trying to defeat it.

But it’s proving increasingly hard for us to operate as a federal republic in substantial part because we are now living in the cultural version of a tenement tower. We are piled atop each other in increasing cultural squalor. Like the aroma of cooked cabbage or the sound of a shouting argument, a single rotten tweet or false report travels through every apartment.

We may one day soon (Lord, hear our prayer) get better at ignoring the things that ail us. But the task is made much harder by the fact that the development of this new national media ductwork has so often come at the expense of small-town news outlets.

When President Trump attacks the press, he knows people won’t think of their friendly neighborhood newspaper. They’ll think of remote elites who they will much more readily turned into foils for his demagoguery. The “enemy of the American people” can’t include the lady who writes up the wedding announcements for The Daily Bugle.

And when national reporters talk about voters and issues, they’re too often not thinking about their audience on a human scale. It’s too easy to generalize and cut corners when discussing matters that affect millions than it is when reporting on a city council meeting where they know everyone in the room and walk the same streets as their readers.

Our national media — social, entertainment and news — is truly a wonder of the modern age.

And perhaps what we are living through is an age of adaptation in which we are developing a distinct, unified American culture as opposed to the cultural quilt of our history. Maybe this malign moment is a way station on the way to a new happy homogeneity in which the people of San Francisco share the same values as the people of Frisco, Texas.

Maybe.

But even if that unlikely result is what the future holds, we cannot do without our little newspapers. Americans, even if they come to share one culture, need desperately to be informed about what matters most. While that is rarely the big national story, it’s usually what’s happening to the people and with the government closest to them.

If we wish to love our neighbors as ourselves, serve our nation more fully and protect ourselves from the divisions sought by cynical leaders, we have to know each other. Little newspapers can help us do that work.

Whether they be ink and paper or pixels and data, may they ever serve us and may we ever support them.

We are heartbroken at the loss suffered by our peers at the Annapolis Capital Gazette. We are also awed by their tenacity and professionalism in rolling the presses anyway.

And we would suggest that if you feel the same, today would be a very good day to subscribe to or otherwise support the work of the reporters and editors working closest to you. They are truly doing the work of a great republic.

THE RULEBOOK: WHAT’S THEIRS IS THEIRS
“The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78

TIME OUT: VROOM, VROOM
National Archives: “Popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 established an interstate highway system in the United States. The movement behind the construction of a transcontinental superhighway started in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed interest in the construction of a network of toll superhighways that would provide more jobs for people in need of work during the Great Depression. The resulting legislation was the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938, which directed the chief of the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) to study the feasibility of a six-route toll network. But with America on the verge of joining the war in Europe, the time for a massive highway program had not arrived. At the end of the war, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 funded highway improvements and established major new ground by authorizing and designating, in Section 7, the construction of 40,000 miles of a ‘National System of Interstate Highways.’”

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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41.8 percent 
Average disapproval: 
51.8 percent 
Net Score:
 -10 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 1 point
[Average includes: Gallup: 41% approve – 55% disapprove; CNBC: 41% approve – 47% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve – 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 43% approve – 51% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve – 54% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 
41.6 percent
Democratic average: 48 percent
Advantage: 
Democrats plus 6.4 points
Change from one week ago: 
no change in points 
[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk University: 45% Dems – 39% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems – 43% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems – 42% GOP; Gallup: 48% Dems – 43% GOP; Monmouth University: 48% Dems – 41% GOP.]
TRUMP CENTER STAGE IN FLORIDA DEBATE

Tampa Bay Times: “Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam faced off in a nationally televised debate Thursday, and Donald Trump was the star of the show. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam gushed about the president, vowing to support his reelection in 2020 even though Trump has endorsed DeSantis. … Trump remains extremely popular among Republican primary voters, and he came up over and over again during the hour-long debate aired on Fox News. DeSantis mentioned Trump by name 21 times, Putnam mentioned him five times. Both candidates delivered confident and forceful performances with no reluctance to criticize one another. A rowdy crowd of 1,000 Florida GOP activists often cheered so loudly moderators Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier struggled to be heard. Putnam, 43, took a shot at DeSantis, 39, for appearing constantly on Fox News and only sporadically on the campaign trail in Florida. … DeSantis retorted he wished he could spend more time in Florida rather than fulfill his responsibilities… The stakes Thursday night were especially high for DeSantis who is running out of time to overtake frontrunner Putnam.”

Steyer backs Florida Dem for governor – Tampa Bay Times: “Late Thursday, Tom Steyer‘s NextGen America announced that it’s endorsing [Andrew Gillum] and plunging $1 million into his campaign, including a $500,000 donation from Steyer to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida. The political organization called the money an ‘initial investment,’ and said it’s also provided 50 organizers as part of an effort to help Gillum with his field, digital and mail operations, specifically those targeting voters under the age of 40. … NextGen’s relationship with Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, goes back to Gillum’s time as executive director of the Young Elected Officials Network. … Gillum already had the endorsement of George Soros, a billionaire Democratic donor…”

SATURDAY VOTE TO REPLACE DISGRACED TEXAS REP.
Texas Tribune: “Voters in the 27th Congressional District are preparing to go to the polls for a third time this year on Saturday for a sleepy special election in which both parties are working to rally their fatigued troops behind a single candidate in the nine-person field to replace former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi. Farenthold abruptly resigned in April amid the fallout from sexual harassment allegations and an ethics investigation by the House Ethics Committee. He had announced four months earlier that he wouldn’t run for re-election, creating an open race to succeed him. Saturday’s election is to determine who completes Farenthold’s current term, which ends in January, and it’s separate from the November election, the winner of which will take over the seat for a full two-year term after that. Despite nine candidates on the ballot, Republicans are hoping their general election nominee, Michael Cloud, can win outright Saturday and avoid a runoff… Democrats, meanwhile, believe the crowded race provides an opening for their consensus candidate — Eric Holguin…”

Michigan gubernatorial candidates hash it out in last debate – Detroit Free Press: “In their last televised debate, the Republican candidates for governor tried to distinguish themselves. Three of them — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Saginaw Township physician Jim Hines — often jabbed at Attorney General Bill Schuette, trying to chip away at the consistent lead in the polls he has enjoyed since getting into the race last year. … While there was much agreement among the four candidates on issues such as guns — don’t take them away from people in the name of increasing safety in schools — or fixing the roads without raising taxes, the candidates did diverge on one key issue for Michigan: the impact of tariffs announced by President Donald Trump.”

Early voting begins Monday ahead of Georgia gov. runoff  – AJC: “Early voting in the Republican runoff for governor begins Monday, and voters will decide between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The winner of the July 24 runoff faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. Here is our guide to the people, events and trends that have helped shape the race for governor. As the July 24 runoff nears, there’s a bigger battle going on in the GOP race for governor that doesn’t revolve around guns or immigration, but on another issue that could have an even greater pull on Republican voters: the depth of their loyalty to Trump. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told a former rival in a secretly recorded conversation that he engineered the passage of a bill he described as bad ‘a thousand different ways’ because it would deprive another opponent in the race for governor of millions of dollars in support.”

Three weeks until Alabama’s District 2 runoff election – Politico: “[Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala.,] was forced into a primary runoff against former Rep. Bobby Bright, the Democrat-turned-Republican, after Roby got 39 percent in the primary — well short of the majority threshold to win the nomination. Roby has trouble with the base over perceived disloyalty to President Donald Trump, after she distanced herself from the then-candidate in 2016 after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape. However, Roby received a huge boost from the president when he tweeted an endorsement. Meanwhile, she has been running ads attacking Bright’s vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker when he was a congressional Democrat in 2009 — an especially tough hit in a Republican primary.”

Trump heads to Montana July 5 – Great Falls Tribune: “President Donald Trump will come to Montana on July 5 to bolster support for Republican candidates in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. The visit was confirmed Thursday by White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters, but it was not immediately known whether he was coming to Great Falls. The president’s official website had Great Falls listed as the location for the event for a brief time on Thursday evening, but the page was down shortly afterward. Montana Republican officials could also not confirm the location of the event as of late Thursday. However, Great Falls officials were alerted recently about a potential visit by the president and local law enforcement planned to meet with federal officials soon to learn more.”

TRUMP MEETS WITH LAWMAKERS TO DISCUSS SUPCO VACANCY
Fox News: “President Trump met with a bipartisan group of six senators at the White House Thursday night to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the looming retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. The president met in person with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, ‘The President’s team also talked with more than a dozen other Senators today as part of ongoing outreach to get views and advice from both sides of the aisle on this important nomination.’ Collins, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin and Murkowski are seen as potential ‘swing’ votes in the battle over Kennedy’s replacement. Republicans currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, a slim margin that is effectively 50-49 in the absence of the John McCain, who’s been recovering from brain cancer treatment. That means Republicans effectively cannot lose any support for President Trump’s pick.”

Behind the scenes leading up to Kennedy’s retirement – NYT: “[The Trump administration’s] goal was to assure Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that his judicial legacy would be in good hands should he step down at the end of the court’s term that ended this week, as he was rumored to be considering. Allies of the White House were more blunt, warning the 81-year-old justice that time was of the essence. There was no telling, they said, what would happen if Democrats gained control of the Senate after the November elections and had the power to block the president’s choice as his successor. There were no direct efforts to pressure or lobby Justice Kennedy to announce his resignation on Wednesday, and it was hardly the first time a president had done his best to create a court opening. … But in subtle and not so subtle ways, the White House waged a quiet campaign to ensure that Mr. Trump had a second opportunity in his administration’s first 18 months to fulfill one of his most important campaign promises to his conservative followers — that he would change the complexion and direction of the Supreme Court.”

Roberts considered the new ‘swing’ justice – Fox News: “With Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring, the man President Trump once called an ‘absolute disaster’ potentially is poised to inherit the mantle of ‘swing’ justice – and solidify his power on the Supreme Court. Whether Chief Justice John Roberts can, or wants to, fill that vacuum is the big question in judicial circles right now. ‘If the president, as everyone expects, nominates a conservative to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat, the spotlight will shift to the chief justice, who will be viewed, rightly or wrongly, as the swing justice,’ said Thomas Dupree, a former top Bush Justice Department official. … While Roberts is chief justice, Kennedy has long held the power. He holds the reputation, deservedly or not, of the man in the middle, whose votes on a range of hot-button issues proved decisive over a 30-year high court career.”

White House hopes nomination will happen before Putin summit – Politico: “The White House hopes to have a Supreme Court nominee chosen by the time President Donald Trump leaves for his European trip on July 10, according to one Republican close to the White House and one person involved with the judicial selection process. The White House is expected to start interviewing candidates early next week, with the White House’s top attorney, Don McGahn, leading that process. The goal is to hold confirmation hearings in August or September, so that any confirmed justice can join the court in early October, before the next term.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Immigration vote will have to wait until after July 4th recess Roll Call

House passes defense spending billPolitico

Five senators head to Russia to meet with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov WashEx

Check this out: ‘Photographing the Ruins of Rural America’ The American Conservative

AUDIBLE: GOD BLESS
“Yes, we’re putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” – A tweet from The Capital Gazette newspaper Thursday afternoon.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

This weekend, Chris Wallace will sit down with White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society, Leonard Leo and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” airing at 8 am EST nationally due to coverage of the World Cup.

#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

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

WHO SAYS IT’S NOT A RETIREMENT STRATEGY?
UPI:Richard Nelson of Riddle, Ore., has won the lottery a week before he was set to retire and will now be receiving $1,000 per week for life. Nelson won the top prize in the Win for Life game after matching all four numbers for a drawing that took place on Saturday. … Nelson, who regularly plays the Win for Life game, was shocked to learn he had won after checking his ticket at the store. ‘I nearly fainted,’ he said in a statement of discovering that he had won the grand prize. ‘I am retiring on July 5, so this comes at a perfect time.’ Nelson, who has worked as a millwright for 18 years, said his winnings will be put towards his retirement and used to spend time with his grandchildren. ‘It didn’t really sink in until I got the check,’ he continued. ‘I’m still a little rattled.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“More than half of those you see sleeping on grates have suffered mental illness. It’s a national scandal. It’s time we recalibrated the pendulum that today allows the mentally ill to die with their rights on — and, rarely but unforgivably, take a dozen innocents with them.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2013

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.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.

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