Inside Politics Weekend

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Stop the presses. Take a deep breath. Someone is actually defending President Bush.

“Bush may not have the slickness of his predecessor, but he is a man you can trust and who prefers to tell it like it is. This is refreshing, and very scary for us who are used to our politicians always talking grandly about principles and hiding behind political mumbo-speak.

“The fact is you guys hate Mr. Bush because he is not a hypocrite and you are used to hypocrites as your leaders. We hate what we don’t understand,” writes Sameh El-Shahatof the Daily Telegraph.

“Yes, yes, all you bleeding heart liberals are cringing out there. I can just hear you. But the fact is, Mr. Bush has had to take some very tough decisions and the world needs people who can not only talk but also act tough and admit mistakes. Of course you think Sen. Barack Obama is going to make a difference, but as I write this, he’s already giving all the signs of somebody who will say anything to get into power only to act in exactly the same way as the Washington clique he aims to replace!

“Hating George W. Bush is not only dull and unoriginal, but it shows a complete lack of understanding of the world in which we live in,” Mr. El-Shahat notes.

Zigging with abandon

The man with the beatific smile on the cover of Rolling Stone is giving some pause, according to Bob Herbert of The New York Times.

“Back in January when Barack Obama pulled off his stunning win in the Iowa caucuses, and people were lining up in the cold and snow for hours just to get a glimpse of him, there was a wide and growing belief — encouraged to the max by the candidate — that something new in American politics had arrived,” Mr. Herbert writes.

“Only an idiot would think or hope that a politician going through the crucible of a presidential campaign could hold fast to every position, steer clear of the stumbling blocks of nuance and never make a mistake. But Barack Obama went out of his way to create the impression that he was a new kind of political leader — more honest, less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most.

“You would be able to listen to him without worrying about what the meaning of ‘is’ is. This is why so many of Sen. Obama’s strongest supporters are uneasy, upset, dismayed and even angry at the candidate who is now emerging in the bright light of summer. One issue or another might not have made much difference. Tacking toward the center in a general election is as common as kissing babies in a campaign, and lord knows the Democrats need to expand their coalition.

“But Sen. Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He’s lurching right when it suits him, and he’s zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash.”

By the numbers

59 percent of voters overall oppose lowering the speed limit nationwide to 55 mph, 34 percent support it.

Among men, 69 percent oppose the lower speed limit, 25 percent favor it.

Among women, 50 percent oppose and 42 percent favor it.

26 percent of voters overall think that slower driving will lead to lower gas prices.

61 percent say it will not.

59 percent support offshore drilling, 60 percent support drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.

Among Republicans, 85 percent favor drilling in the refuge, among Democrats 41 percent.

46 percent of voters say that reducing the price of gas and oil is more important than protecting the environment; 38 percent take the opposite view.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted July 6, with a margin of error of three percentage points.

Quote-a-rama

“I have to think John McCain. I think our core fan base being strong Republicans like they are, that’s going to be the first choice. I also think his credits in history and what he’s done for our country, certainly for our country, a lot of those things will be fully noticed by our fan base.” - Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR driver “No. 48,” on who NASCAR fans want for president, during a speech at the National Press Club.

“I’m a little conservative when it comes to my gum.” — Sen. Barack Obama on his distaste for bubble gum, during an “Access Hollywood” interview.

“If you were in a dark alley which one of the three of us would you want with you?” — former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, commenting on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, his opponents should he run for the Senate seat as an independent, in a National Public Radio interview.

“Our finger is always on the trigger.” — Gen. Hossein Salam, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard ground forces, in an interview with Iran State TV.

Heap on veeps

The press can’t stop speculating on who will win the coveted slots as vice-presidential candidates. Time magazine’s David Von Drehle pines for slower coverage, though.

“Suddenly, everyone wants to talk about running mates. Tomorrow’s trivia questions are the titans of today - Midwestern governors, swing state Senators, retired generals. Recent history says the winners will be announced days or even weeks before the conventions in late August. But what’s the hurry? At least one party ought to revive tradition by dropping the bombshell while the delegates are gathered,” Mr. Von Drehle writes.

“Barack Obama could use his veep announcement to drown out any lingering voices of unhappiness from Sen. Hillary Clinton’s army of convention delegates,” he notes.

But someone else could really cash in on the dramatic moment.

“John McCain is the one who might benefit from the jolt that comes from launching a running mate. While Obama is trying to brand McCain as nothing more than an older George Bush, the right running mate could help McCain break symbolically from the White House. It could elevate the excitement around McCain’s campaign and possibly energize fundraisers.

“And McCain isn’t hearing the sort of gripes and grumbles from the camps of vanquished rivals that continue to haunt Barack Obama. He doesn’t need to hold a headline in reserve.”

Days of yore

Today is Jack Kemp’s birthday, born in Los Angeles in 1935.

It also marks the anniversary of the Northwest Ordinance, enacted by the Continental Congress in 1787, establishing governing rules for the Northwest Territory. It also set forth procedures for the admission of new states and limited the expansion of slavery.

It is also the birthday of a Tinseltown icon. The “Hollywood” sign - now a registered trademark - was dedicated over the hills of Los Angeles in 1923. The sign originally read “Hollywoodland.” The last four letters were dropped in 1949.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washington times.com or 202/636-3085.

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