**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.** On the roster: A shot at history – Feds scramble to respond to catastrophic hack attack – Tick, tick, tick – Harris heading to Georgia – An earthy bouquetA SHOT AT HISTORYThere is something about human vanity that even makes us exaggerate our problems. It’s not enough for things to be bad, it’s got to be the woooorrrrst.Now we’ve got to give 2020 credit for being a real stinkapalooza, even one of historic magnitude. Conducting an acrimonious presidential election against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands dead and an economy ravaged by a pandemic does not exactly make one feel chipper.Even so, many of the problems we currently endure are seen as novel, when they are really reruns. That same vanity that makes us overstate the good and the bad of our moment in history also tends to make us look at history as a flat surface stretching out behind us. Especially for younger Americans and those without proper education in history (but we repeat ourselves) it is easy for us to imagine that everything used to be hunky dory in America and then somehow fell apart the day before yesterday. This is fed by the nostalgia of older Americans who forget the bad times and the unnaturally lofty expectations of our modern consumer-driven society. For example, there is much contempt for the fact that a considerable portion of the American public has reservations about getting inoculated against coronavirus. Do you know when else people did that? Ever since the first vaccine. When Edward Jenner performed the first vaccination in Gloucestershire, England in 1796, we assume Jenny McCarthy’s great-great-great-great-great grandmother was standing behind him handing out pamphlets saying it was the devil’s work. The unfortunate conceit is that enlightenment and advancement is a straight-line projection. The truth is we are always forgetting the lessons of the past and always prone to revert to our own mankind’s source code which includes tribalism, authoritarianism, fearmongering and superstition. The whole point of our system of government, in fact, is to set walls against the inevitable eruptions of our species’ id. That’s also why it is important for leaders like those in Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to show up early for their shots. Leadership by example is the best kind of all.Did you know, for example, about the swine flu fiasco of 1976? After a young soldier died in the winter of that year from a new strain of the flu, federal officials went on high alert for a pandemic that was said to be deadlier than the 1918 Spanish Flu.That spring, Congress jumped on board an effort by the Ford administration to vaccinate 80 percent of the nation’s population. Big money was spent and big promises were made, but the swine flu wasn’t showing up as expected. By the time vaccinations began in October there was hardly an oink for a squeal anywhere. On the other hand, that year did see a startling outbreak of Legionnaires disease, but that, fortunately, was treatable with antibiotics.
As President Ford was in the throes of a brutal campaign against Democrat Jimmy Carter, he found himself captaining the vaccination debacle. Not a good look. Worst of all, hundreds of Americans contracted a neurological disorder that was a rare side effect of the swine flu vaccine. It would be no stretch to say that Ford could blame his narrow loss on his administration’s klutzy, zombie-like response to the threat. Nor would it be a stretch to say that the incident undermined Americans’ confidence in epidemiology. This year will earn its place in our history as one of the worst, no doubt. But don’t kid yourself. For all the talk of our "unprecedented" time, you don’t need to look too far to find plenty of precedent for what ails us today. THE RULEBOOK: FEDERALES "The difference between a federal and national government, as it relates to the OPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT, is supposed to consist in this, that in the former the powers operate on the political bodies composing the Confederacy, in their political capacities; in the latter, on the individual citizens composing the nation, in their individual capacities." – James Madison, Federalist No. 39TIME OUT: PLYMOUTH ROCKEDHistory Channel: "On December 18, 1620, the British ship Mayflower docks at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its passengers prepare to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony. The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers – dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony – crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World." Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?We’ve brought "From the Bleachers" to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to [email protected].FEDS SCRAMBLE TO RESPOND TO CATASTROPHIC HACK ATTACKAxios: "A Trump administration official tells Axios that the cyberattack on the U.S. government and corporate America, apparently by Russia, is looking worse by the day – and secrets may still be being stolen in ways not yet discovered. The big picture: ‘We still don't know the bottom of the well,’ the official said. Stunningly, the breach goes back to at least March, and continued all through the election. … Microsoft President Brad Smith told the N.Y. Times that at least 40 companies, government agencies and think tanks had been infiltrated. The hack is known to have breached the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce, and Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration – plus the National Institutes of Health. … In unusually vivid language for a bureaucracy, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of Homeland Security, said yesterday that … the breach ‘poses a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.’"With Trump on the sidelines, response will likely be up to Biden – AP: "All fingers are pointing to Russia as the source of the worst-ever hack of U.S. government agencies. But President Donald Trump, long wary of blaming Moscow for cyberattacks, has been silent. The lack of any statement seeking to hold Russia responsible casts doubt on the likelihood of a swift response and suggests any retaliation — whether through sanctions, criminal charges or cyber actions — will be left in the hands of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. …Trump’s response, or lack thereof, is being closely watched because of his preoccupation with a fruitless effort to overturn the results of last month’s election and because of his reluctance to consistently acknowledge that Russian hackers interfered in the 2016 presidential [campaign] in his favor. Exactly what action Biden might take … might be shaped by criticism that the Obama administration did not act aggressively enough to thwart interference in 2016."Biden team says Pentagon shut down briefings – Politico: "The tension between the Trump administration and President-elect Joe Biden's team spilled out into the open on Friday, as officials traded accusations over the status of a series of Defense Department transition meetings that a Biden spokesperson called ‘invaluable’ for national security. Biden spokesperson Yohannes Abraham directly contradicted acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller's claims that the two teams ‘mutually agreed’ to pause the interviews until after the holiday, after Axios reported that Miller had abruptly ordered a department-wide halt to cooperation with the transition team."TICK, TICK, TICKWSJ: "Lawmakers rushed Friday to hammer out the final round of disputes on a sprawling coronavirus relief and year-end spending package ahead of a midnight deadline, aiming to close differences on the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers among other final snags. The government’s current funding is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, giving lawmakers just hours to complete their work on a coronavirus aid package and a full-year spending bill. In a bid to keep the pressure on, lawmakers may not pass a short-term spending patch, according to lawmakers and aides, opening up the possibility that the government could experience a brief, partial shutdown Saturday before legislation is passed and signed into law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the Senate floor Friday morning that talks continued to make progress. ‘I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand,’ he said."White House aides reportedly talked Trump out of blowing up deal – WaPo: "White House aides intervened Thursday to prevent President Trump from issuing a statement calling for substantially larger stimulus payments for millions of Americans, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private exchange. On a phone call Thursday afternoon, Trump told allies that he believes stimulus payments in the next relief package should be ‘at least’ $1,200 per person and possibly as big as $2,000 per person, the officials said. Congressional leadership is preparing a stimulus package that would provide checks of $600 per person. Trump was in the middle of formally drafting his demand for the larger payments when White House officials told him that doing so could imperil delicate negotiations over the economic relief package, the officials said."Hawley, Graham ready to nix troop funds to back Trump’s veto – Roll Call: "With President Donald Trump’s latest threat to veto the defense policy bill still fresh in their minds, lawmakers were already looking ahead Thursday to the prospect of casting politically charged override votes. The key question now is not so much whether Trump will veto the bill — that seems almost certain given his continued threats to do so — but whether enough Republicans who voted for the measure a week ago would change their tune and vote to sustain a Trump veto in the days ahead. The answer, for now, seems to be: not enough Republicans will change course on a bill that authorizes military pay raises and construction projects and sets Pentagon policy on hundreds of matters. … At least two Senate Republicans — Josh Hawley of Missouri and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — told reporters Thursday they would also vote to sustain a Trump veto."House Dems block Ocasio-Cortez from key post – Fox News: "The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Thursday voted to seat Rep. Kathleen Rice on a coveted committee over her New York colleague Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the latest example of House Democrats bucking the firebrand who represents the Bronx and Queens. With five open slots on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nominated four people and left the fifth spot open for members to choose between the two New Yorkers in a vote, Politico first reported. Fox News confirmed that Rice decisively won the vote 46-13. The Energy and Commerce Committee handles some of the most critical legislation in the House, from the environment to health care to nuclear facilities. Its site says that it ‘has the broadest jurisdiction of any authorizing committee in Congress.’"HARRIS HEADING TO GEORGIA Fox News: "Less than a week after President-elect Joe Biden campaigned in Georgia on behalf of the two Democratic candidates in the state’s twin Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections, it was announced that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will head to the Peach State, as well. Biden transition officials said Friday that the vice president-elect will hold events in Suwanee and Columbus on Monday, for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The Republican Senate majority is at stake in the two Jan. 5 contests. ‘Georgia, can’t wait to be back next Monday to rally voters ahead of the Senate runoffs! Let’s flip the Senate,’ the senator from California wrote on Twitter minutes after the announcement. Harris campaigned in Georgia twice in the run-up to last month’s general election, helping to mobilize Black voters. But Monday’s trip will be her first since the Democratic ticket won the election…"More than 1.1 ballots cast in early voting – Reuters: "More than 1.1 million Georgians have voted in twin U.S. Senate runoff elections that will determine which party controls that chamber of Congress, and with it the fate of much of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda, state data showed on Friday. The surge in turnout after four days of early in-person voting, and about four weeks of mail-in voting, showed that voter participation in the two races is on pace to rival the records set in the November presidential contest in which Biden defeated Republican incumbent Donald Trump. State data published on Friday showed the number of accepted ballots was just below the level seen at the same point in early voting for November’s election. Voting in the Senate runoffs, which are taking place because no candidate won 50% support on Nov. 3, ends on Jan. 5."Kemp details threats, harassment from Trump backers – AJC: "Gov. Brian Kemp is fed up with the unrelenting attacks from conspiracy theorists calling on him to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. But he’s even more enraged that some of those peddlers of false claims are targeting his wife and three daughters. ‘It has gotten ridiculous — from death threats, (claims of) bribes from China, the social media posts that my children are getting,’ he said. ‘We have the ‘no crying in politics rule’ in the Kemp house. But this is stuff that, if I said it, I would be taken to the woodshed and would never see the light of day.’ The Republican singled out the invective targeting his daughter Lucy, who has received hate-filled messages about inane false conspiracies about the death of her longtime boyfriend, Harrison Deal, who was killed in a traffic accident this month in Savannah."BIDEN SEEKS BIPARTISAN BACKING FOR INFRASTRUCTURE Axios: "President Trump's now infamous ‘infrastructure week’ may finally get a shovel in the ground … during the Biden administration. If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps control of the Senate, a bill to finance all sorts of public construction projects may be one of the few big pieces of legislation President-elect Joe Biden can realistically achieve within a divided government, given its broad, bipartisan support. The president-elect's transition team has privately started laying the groundwork to strike a bipartisan infrastructure deal during the first year of his term. The team has indicated to business leaders it sees an opening to use it as a driver for more economic and job relief as the U.S. emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Business and labor leaders — currently fretting over whether Congress can get its act together to pass a coronavirus relief package — are salivating at the potential of a secondary form of stimulus to fuel economic growth."Dems fret about possible Merrick Garland AG pick – Fox News: "Democrats on Wednesday and early Thursday expressed concern over the fact President-elect Joe Biden's list for possible nominees for attorney general includes Merrick Garland, a judge on the highly consequential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Garland is a widely respected judge who was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama in 2016 before the presidential election, though the Senate refused to take up his nomination. His qualifications for attorney general were lauded by those on the left, but some worried it would not be smart to create a vacancy on the critical D.C. Circuit with a strong chance the Republicans will be able to continue to be the majority in the Senate. The other person on the attorney general shortlist seen as a leading choice is Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala."TUBERVILLE FLIRTS WITH BIDEN BLOCKADE EFFORT Yellowhammer News: "In a phone interview with Yellowhammer News on Thursday, U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) spoke about his thoughts on the planned effort by some U.S. House Republicans to challenge the Electoral College votes of certain states on January 6. The effort is being led by Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05), however the formal support of at least one senator is still needed to force floor debate and votes by each chamber on the respective states in question. … Speaking to Yellowhammer News, Tuberville emphasized that he has not made up his mind on whether he will support the congressional challenge; he outlined that he will be doing his ‘due diligence,’ studying the issue and soliciting feedback from his constituents before taking a stance."Carney: Maxine Waters is no role model for the GOP – WashEx: "In 2000, Democratic congressmen called George W. Bush’s win a ‘coup d’etat’ and unfailingly pushed the false claim that the Supreme Court ‘appointed’ Bush president. Trump’s 2016 win was ‘illegitimate,’ according to Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Carter… And, in 2004, when Bush won the national popular vote 51% to 48% and carried Ohio by more than 100,000 votes, Democrats threw a protest on the House floor.… They abused the power Congress has to rectify real Electoral College problems and used it instead for a partisan political show. … ‘Political grandstanding during this vital Electoral College ballot count is shameful and reprehensible,’ Rep. Tom Price said. Republicans were right back then. They should be right again this time. There is no evidence of large-scale fraud or error that could come even close to flipping any of Biden’s states to Trump. … Congress should ratify them all, rather than play-act as slightly crazier versions of [Maxine Waters]."PLAY-BY-PLAYDem steering committee bucks Ocasio-Cortez, picks other NY lawmaker for spot – Fox NewsBiden builds out comms team – Fox NewsAtlantic City, N.J. auctions off chance to push button demolishing former Trump casino – KYW-TVBen Carson wants to start a think tank – AxiosU.S. slides down the list of freest countries – Cato InstituteAUDIBLE: UNANIMOUS CONSENT"I say to the Senate leadership: You’d better get this last vote done by tonight or you will have to do it without me, because I’m going to be with Kay on our anniversary on Saturday." – Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., on the Senate floor today speaking of his wife of 61 years.ANY GIVEN SUNDAYTune in as Mr. Sunday sits down with incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. 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"I enjoyed your comments about soap, water and their use on cast iron. I was raised to never ever get one wet but I did it anyway on nasty sticky stuff or like your example something that would leave a flavor. You just had to re-season it after the water and soap routine. On other stains or crud, I would clean with rock salt for ice cream makers which does an excellent job at scrubbing the crud off and not cutting the built up seasoning too badly. One observation I have is that modern cast iron is much more porous and less nicely finished than vintage cast iron. Go visit a big box retailer and investigate to confirm my observation. Thus I have been slowly looking for good quality vintage cast iron that can be easily updated with a new seasoning. Considering the topic, please let us know your seasoning approach to cast iron as I am sure you have your own special way. Thanks for a great year of reports. Not often we get Cast Iron reviews sprinkled in with the last political shenanigans." – Peter Eick, Boerne, Texas[Ed. note: I wholly associate myself with your methods, Mr. Eick! Salt is the key.]"I’m so burned out on politics and the year 2020 that I seldom watch much news anymore and limit myself to a few sites and the Halftime Report. In From the Bleachers [Thursday], your use of the term ‘nincompoopery’ when describing Congress, was a good reminder why I still bother. Thanks for the chuckle. Merry Christmas to you and Brianna, and to all those you love." – Victoria Doyle, Salem, Ore.[Ed. note: Every blessing and glad tiding to you and yours as well, Ms. Doyle.]Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.AN EARTHY BOUQUETAP: "Sheriff’s officials say they’ve busted an illegal winery that was operating at a municipal sewage plant in a small north Alabama town. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement it received an anonymous tip about an alcohol operation at a municipal building in the town of Rainsville on Thursday. Investigators then uncovered what’s described as a large illegal winery inside the Rainsville Waste Water Treatment Plant. Photos released by investigators show glass containers, buckets, a fermenting rack and other equipment often used by people who make wine at home. The agency says officers seized a lot of illegal alcohol, and arrests are expected. The town of about 5,100 people is 100 miles northeast of Birmingham. … ‘This is definitely one of the biggest operations we’ve seen in our county and possibly our state.’ [Sheriff Nick Welden said in a statement.]" AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…"We remember the late 15th and 16th centuries as the Age of Exploration. The second half of the 20th was at one point known as the Space Age. What happened?" – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in The Weekly Standard on Jan. 31, 2000.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.