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NIX THE PROMISES

“Unfortunately, winning is more important than governing.”

That’s the conclusion of Leon Panetta, co-chairman of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who sent a message Wednesday to both presidential candidates - Barack Obama and John McCain — that they can forget their costly campaign promises to the American people.

The former California congressman and White House chief of staff under President Clinton added up approximately $400 billion worth of new initiatives promised by the two candidates (the majority, more than $300 billion in spending, is proposed by Mr. Obama), which Mr. Panetta said just isn’t going to happen given the country’s economic woes.

Mr. Panetta also warned that the massive federal deficit will likely get worse in the short term, and balancing the books will hinge on whether the next president and Congress exercise “discipline.”

REMAIN CALM

Before economic panic takes hold of every American (after all, Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican, said “I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say this may be the day America died”), we call attention to former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s recent pledge to the Georgetown University Law Center:

“Trust will eventually re-emerge as investors dip hesitantly back into the marketplace [and] from that point, history tells us, financial and economic revival sets in. It always has, in this society governed by that remarkable document we call the Constitution of the United States.”

VITAL VOTES

Are the calendar days running out on John McCain?

Apart from Democrat Barack Obama enjoying an average five-to-seven-point lead in major polling, Electoral College projections perhaps present the biggest hurdle for the Republican.

A Rasmussen Reports survey on Wednesday projected Mr. Obama leading in electoral votes 248 to 163. When “leaners” are included, Mr. Obama is on top 300 to 174. Bear in mind a total of 270 electoral votes are needed to win the White House.

Suddenly, with fewer than four weeks until Election Day, Mr. McCain appears to need virtually every undecided electoral vote in order to beat Mr. Obama. Exactly 63 votes are in states leaning slightly one way or the other, while five states with 64 votes remain “pure toss-ups”: Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri and Nevada.

PRESIDENTIAL PERKS

Price of the presidential Inaugural luxury package advertised by the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown: $99,000.

Highlights include a pair of first-class roundtrip airline tickets to Washington, four-nights in a presidential suite, seating at the Inaugural parade, tickets to an Inaugural ball, 24-hour on-call chauffeur, Gucci luggage set, and finally first-class air transfers from the January cold to the warmth of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman for four days.

THREE BAIERS

Fox News White House Correspondent Bret Baier and his wife, Amy, helped the Central Intelligence Agency kick off its Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) at CIA headquarters in McLean this week, although the couple’s 15-month-old son, Paul, clearly stole the show.

The toddler, who was born with life-threatening heart defects, scampered into CIA Director Michael V. Hayden’s office and played with his commemorative coin collection before heading back downstairs with his parents for the rally, during which he blew kisses to the audience.

The couple told the agency’s employees about the amazing care their son received at Children’s National Medical Center, and their decision as a family to support its ongoing work and research.

Noted Mr. Hayden: “I’m pleased that someone who knows our agency and our mission agreed to speak here today, but … it was something they did as a family - an act of generosity - that caught our attention. The Baiers, together with Amy’s parents, Paul and Barbara Hills, recently donated $1 million to Children’s National Medical Center. Their gift was inspired by gratitude, and their story is itself inspirational.”

• John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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