WEEHAWKEN, NJ – JUNE 30: Fireworks explode over lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center on the second of six nights of the Macy’s July 4th fireworks shows in New York City on June 30, 2020 as seen from Weehawken, NJ. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

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On the roster: Independence or nah? – I’ll Tell You What: Tweet, talk a lot, surf the zeitgeist – June jobs jumped – Biden, DNC set fundraising record in June When the BBQ comes to you

INDEPENDENCE OR NAH?
If you could, like Cher, turn back time, would you still want the 13 colonies to have declared their independence from Britain 244 years ago this week?

For a lot of Americans on the eve of this year’s Independence Day festivities, the answer seems to be very much in doubt. Only 17 percent of respondents in a recent Pew poll said they felt pride when they thought of the state of the country today. Seventy-one percent said they were angry, and 66 percent said they were afraid.

What a horrible bramble of outraged anxiety. What a mess.

Despairing about the future of the country is very much the thing these days. From the progressive left and the nationalist right, we hear more and more that the American system is too corrupt, too broken and too unresponsive to address the concerns of today. Even among normal people there is the strong expression that something has gone terribly wrong.

Even if they would have wanted the colonies to break free, we get an increasing sense from our fellow Americans that given all of the failings of our nation and weaknesses of our system that it just hasn’t been worth it.

Like an Ikea bookcase with one permanently droopy shelf taunting you from the wall, America just hasn’t been worth all the trouble we’ve put in it. You can see the particleboard where you cracked the façade with that stupid little Allen wrench. Maybe we should chuck the thing.

Maybe we’d be like Canada or Australia, our contented-seeming cousins who keep Queen Elizabeth II on their cash and still hum a bit of “Rule Britannia” under their collective breaths. They don’t have mass protests in the streets, people threatening each other with murder over wearing corona masks or a political climate as noxious as sulfuric acid. They have their troubles, but not like us.

But we know that wouldn’t have been possible for us. Had Britain, not the U.S., been the dominant power in North America for the past two centuries – presuming it could have done so – things would look very different here and there. How the continent would have been carved up, colonized and governed would have been so different, and world history right along with it.

We wouldn’t be like Canada. Canada wouldn’t even be Canada. The French – whatever they would be (if they even were) in a world without American independence – might even be holding out in some of their claims in the interior of the continent.

And, of course, without the United States, it’s not likely that we would have seen the amazing technological improvements that followed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Britain is good at governance but has a pretty lousy track record on innovation in the past 150 years. There might still have been a Thomas Edison, but good luck getting a patent.

American independence was such a catalytic event in world history that we really can’t imagine what things would be like. America is the George Bailey of the modern world. If you take it out, everything else changes.

“Okay,” you might say, “so what?” America is, depending on your preferred set of antipathies, racist/sexist/socialist/lazy/unfair/weak/militaristic/cruel/coddled… and so on. The world would be different without America, yes, but is the status quo something worth perpetuating?

Here you should ask yourself a couple of other questions. In what other large, developed nation would you prefer to live? You can skip the part where you imagine life on a Caribbean Island or slicing steaks on the Pampas.

There are six other countries in the world that had gross domestic product of $2 trillion or more in 2019: China, Japan, Germany, India, Britain and France. How are they doing on the perceived defects of America today? How’s racism and sectarianism in Europe? How’s inequality in India? How’s sexism in Japan? How’s life in China’s police state?

You might prefer one of those nations other than China for cultural or lifestyle reasons, but not on any reasonable grounds are they not afflicted by the same woes of which America stands accused.

In fact, without America, those countries, if they existed in any familiar forms in the year 2020 without America’s help and protection, would probably be far less fair and far less egalitarian.

After all, they got to be the way they were in substantial part by copying us. Our nation was for so long the envy of the world and our accomplishments so fulgent that the system derived by the men who declared independence – Mr. Madison’s republic – became the preferred operating system for the world. A democratic republic with explicit protections of individual rights has been the open-source software that changed everything.

Would it have inevitably just evolved? Would the world have eventually bumped into liberal democracy someplace else? Would the idea of natural, inalienable rights have worked itself out somehow without America?

We wouldn’t bet on it – certainly not enough to flirt with the possibility of a world without our nation. From the start and still today, America is indispensable.

[Ed. note: The Halftime Report will be on an Independence Day break until Monday.]

THE RULEBOOK: FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY
“This convention composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue and wisdom, in times which tried the minds and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task. In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 2

TIME OUT: FOREVER PUTTING THE COOL IN COOLIDGE
In honor of President Calvin Coolidge’s Fourth of July birthday, here is an excerpt from his speech on the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 5, 1926: “It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.”

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

SCOREBOARD
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.8 percent
Biden: 50.6 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 9.8 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.4 points; Trump ↑ 2 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 41% Trump – 53% Biden; IBD: 40% Trump – 48% Biden; USA Today/Suffolk: 41% Trump – 53% Biden; NPR/PBS/Marist: Trump 44% – Biden 52%; CNBC: Trump 38% – Biden 47%.]

BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40 percent
Average disapproval: 55.4 percent
Net Score: -15.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 1.6 points
[Average includes: IBD: 39% approve – 56% disapprove; Monmouth University: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve – 58% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve – 57% disapprove; CNBC: 39% approve – 52% disapprove.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: TWEET, TALK A LOT, SURF THE ZEITGEIST
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt look ahead to Independence Day and touch base on their latest culinary feats after a long food-talk hiatus. They also discuss the importance of American history during these unsettled times, and the pandemic’s continued challenges to the presidential race. Plus, Chris attempts to crush presidential quote trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

JUNE JOBS JUMPED
NYT: “U.S. payrolls grew by 4.8 million in June, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the second month of gains after a loss of more than 20 million in April, when the pandemic put a large swath of economic activity on ice. The unemployment rate fell to 11.1 percent, down from a peak of 14.7 percent in April but still higher than in any previous period since World War II. The rate would have been about one percentage point higher had it not been for persistent data-collection problems, the Labor Department said. There were still nearly 15 million fewer jobs in June than in February, before the pandemic forced businesses to close. And the survey was compiled in mid-June, before coronavirus cases began to spike in Arizona, Florida and several other states. More timely data, also released by the Labor Department on Thursday morning, showed that 1.4 million Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, and more than 800,000 filed for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.”

Trump touts numbers, economists not as confident – USA Today: “President Donald Trump touted the record job gains in June Thursday, saying the U.S. was ‘roaring back’ as the economy attempts to crawl out of a crater left by the coronavirus pandemic. … ‘Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back,’ Trump said, adding that the government’s response to the pandemic was ‘working out very well.’ The monthly job gains in May and June are historic, but the labor market is still facing a net loss of 14.7 million job losses from the coronavirus recession. About 2.7 million jobs were added in May and 4.8 million positions were added in June — both a record. However, they came after an unprecedented 22 million job losses in March and April. Economists and analysts anticipate that the job figures will be volatile until a vaccine for the virus is developed.”

BIDEN, DNC SET FUNDRAISING RECORD IN JUNE
Fox News: “President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden both set eye-popping fundraising records last month — but Biden’s records were larger. The former vice president’s campaign announced on Wednesday night that they, the Democratic National Committee and their joint fundraising committees hauled in a combined $141 million in June, which was by far the campaign’s best monthly figure to date. Biden’s campaign called it a ‘jaw-dropping sum of money.’ The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign also reported bringing in a combined $282 million with the DNC during the April-June second quarter of fundraising, which was another record. And officials touted that the DNC outraised their rivals for a second straight month. The announcement from Biden’s team came just a couple of hours after the president’s reelection campaign reported that they, the Republican National Committee and their joint fundraising ventures brought in a combined $131 million in June — and more than $266 million the past three months.”

Dem ad makers target Trump on virus handling – Politico: “Donald Trump wasn’t halfway through his speech in Tulsa, Okla., and Democratic ad makers in Washington and New York were already cutting footage for an air raid on the slumping president. …[The] ads zeroed in on Trump’s admission that he urged officials to ‘slow the [coronavirus] testing down.’ It’s a reflection of a growing consensus among Democrats about what kind of hits on Trump are most likely to persuade swing voters — and which ones won’t. As in 2016, ad makers are focusing on Trump’s character. But unlike four years ago, they are no longer focusing on his character in isolation — rather they are pouring tens of millions of dollars into ads yoking his behavior to substantive policy issues surrounding the coronavirus, the economy and the civil unrest since the death of George Floyd.”

Biden holds on to double-digit lead – Politico: “Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead President Donald Trump by a wide margin nationally, a poll released Thursday shows, as the race for the White House stabilizes, at least for the time being, with Biden well in front. The Monmouth University poll shows Biden with a 12-point nationwide lead over the president, 53 percent to 41 percent among registered voters. … Thursday’s survey highlighted one of Trump’s major obstacles to reelection — the amount of the electorate which has made up its mind against him. Half of registered voters say they are not at all likely to support Trump, while 39 percent say the same for Biden. Whereas Trump benefited from a relatively unpopular opponent in 2016 when running against Hillary Clinton, Biden’s favorability ratings this cycle present a different challenge. Forty-four percent of voters view the former vice president favorably, the same percentage that view him unfavorably. Trump’s favorability rating, by comparison, is 17 points underwater.”

Biden hangs on to lead in Pennsylvania – FOX43: “Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump by a 46 to 41 percent margin among registered and likely voters, according to a new poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research in partnership with FOX43. The poll, released Sunday, is similar to an April poll which showed the former Vice President with a 48-42 lead over Mr. Trump. The survey polled 715 voters statewide, 49 percent of which were registered Democrats, and 42 percent were Republican. However, of those polled, nearly a quarter identified their voting habits were more closely aligned with being an Independent.”

GANG OF EIGHT GETS RUSSIA BOUNTY BRIEFING
Fox News: “The country’s top intelligence officials on Thursday held a classified briefing with congressional leaders amid demands for more information on the reports that Russian agents offered Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan thousands of dollars in bounties for killing American troops. Top intelligence officials, including CIA chief Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, held the briefing Thursday afternoon with members of the so-called ‘Gang of Eight’: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the top Republicans and Democrats on the two intelligence committees. ‘Force protection is a primary purpose of intelligence. It should have the same importance to the Commander-in-Chief.  Any reports of threats on our troops must be pursued relentlessly,’ Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement following the meeting. … Trump also has not directly addressed the substance of the reports nor whether the U.S. has or will respond to Russia.”

THE JUDGE’S RULING: OUR DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains how the Declaration’s essence is that all persons have equal natural rights: “The Declaration’s essence is that all persons have equal natural rights that no government can take away by legislation or command. Those rights can be used freely to pursue and defend life, liberty and happiness. Those rights can also be used to consent or not to consent to a government. … The government would not come about, of course, until the bloody war was completed. In reality, the real revolution was completed by July 4, 1776 because it was a revolution of minds more than of government. … Ah, but the revolution of men’s minds — the idea that the government was not legitimate unless consented to and limited, that individual personal freedom, not government power, is the default position; all of this was stirred up by the radicals, articulated by Jefferson, embraced by Congress, achieved by blood and acquiesced by the king — was as much a change for our forbearers as was the violence against the British.” More here.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
House Dems pass massive $1.5T infrastructure bill, GOP slams them for ‘partisan wish list’Fox News

Huntsman still trailing in Utah governor’s primary NYT

Gun demands sky rocketBloomberg

SupCo denies Congress access to grand jury testimony from Mueller’s Russia investigationAP

AUDIBLE: BIG MONEY, NO WHAMMIES
“The optimist in me would say the odds of us getting a break in the future are greater because we’ve had such a run of bad luck.” – Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., talking with Politico about keeping the majority on Election Day.

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

WHEN THE BBQ COMES TO YOU
Fox News: “A highway in Virginia was backed up for nearly an hour Wednesday after motorists found themselves sharing the road with loose pigs wandering into traffic, video shows. The hogs were spotted on the southbound Interstate 95 lanes in Spotsylvania and Carolina counties around 1 p.m., the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Diana Madison, who was driving home when she came upon the scene, told the paper she saw four hogs in total. Some motorists and Animal Control officials were giving them aid. She estimated they weighed around 400 pounds each. It wasn’t immediately clear how the pigs wound up on the interstate, nor were there any signs of damaged vehicles. At least two of the animals, however, appeared to have injuries. … State police and deputies with the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Department took control of the situation, closing the lane shoulder two spots south of where the pigs were roaming around, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“America demonstrated its capacity for swift, decisive action. And in defense, mind you, of an abstract international norm — a rationale that dramatically overrides the constraints of America First.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 13, 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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