- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

BOONE TOWN

The burgeoning population of Hollywood conservatives now stands at about 1,000 industry types who maintain that traditional American values still have a relevant place on the silver screen.

“It started with 20 or 30 people. The last gathering - and it was magnificent - drew a thousand,” legendary crooner Pat Boone tells Inside the Beltway. “They’re not anonymous. We’re talking writers, directors, producers - there are certainly enough to start a film company. Seriously. Their zeal is growing.”

The “Friends of Abe” - the grass-roots term for this once rare breed - may have big ideas brewing.

“I think Americans are ready to see films that celebrate who we are, what we’ve got and that we are a good nation. They’re ready to feel good, and I think there are people ready to produce these kinds of films,” Mr. Boone says.

PROTECTIVE MEASURE

A round of applause, please, for the Secret Service during these times of strife.

Contentious town-hall meetings over health care reform make good political theater, and they lend themselves to titillating press coverage. But for those charged with protecting the very mobile President Obama, it isn’t easy.

“This is definitely not a good time for the Secret Service. The increased emotional levels of public crowds, the uptick in slight violence - this would be cause for concern,” Ron Kessler tells Inside the Beltway.

The former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporter has penned a tell-all book about such things. “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect” was published last week.

“Anything that might give people negative ideas could prove troublesome, combined with the fact that there has been a 400 percent increase in threats against the president,” Mr. Kessler continues. “Plus, the Secret Service has had to cut corners lately too - curtailing or even omitting magnetometer screenings.”

The federal law enforcement agency started protecting then-Sen. Barack Obama on May 3, 2007, and future first lady Michelle Obama on Feb. 2, 2008, according to the agency’s fiscal 2008 report.

MUCKING ABOUT

And now we present an eyewitness report from the whistleblowing tribe, which doesn’t go on vacation, it seems.

From Marthena Cowart, the pointwoman for the most recent “Muckraker’s Happy Hour” at Johnny’s Half Shell on Capitol Hill, a soiree organized by the Project On Government Oversight, which appears to be more wine summit than beer summit.

“They’re drinking mostly the house white or red with the occasional Guinness drinker,” Ms. Cowart tells Inside the Beltway. “We had a big crowd for August. Seems muckrakers hunker down while others head to the beach.”

PRESS GRAPES

Oh, we’re so relieved. The brand new New York Times Wine Club - yes, readers can now order a six-bottle sampler from the Gray Lady - is journalistically sound.

“The wines themselves are selected independently, not by Times wine critics or other members of the news department,” the paper advises.

The media may be steeping itself in merlot, meanwhile.

The Times is relying on the wine picking prowess of the California-based Global Wine Co., which also manages a wine club for KQED, a Public Broadcasting System station in San Francisco.

NOTE TO ARLEN

NetRoots, a gathering of 1,500 progressive bloggers in Pittsburgh that ended Sunday, has dismal news for Sen.Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania - who shed his Republican skin and became a Democrat last year.

The progressive audience is not thrilled.

In a straw-poll match-up for the Senate nomination pitting fellow Democrat Rep. Joe Sestak against Mr. Specter, the group favored Mr. Sestak, 48 percent to 10 percent. In a separate comparison question, Mr. Sestak was also viewed more favorably than Mr. Specter, by a 46 precent to 15 percent margin.

Mr. Specter has faced vehement critics during town-hall meetings on health care reform recently.

“Those people need to be heard and have a right to be heard, that they’re not really representative of America,” the lawmaker told a recent ABC’s “This Week” program.

POLL DU JOUR

• 83 percent of Americans favor women in support roles like medics or drivers during combat.

• 14 percent oppose the idea.

• 53 percent of Americans favor women in direct combat roles, such as ground fighting.

• 53 percent of men and 53 percent of women favor the idea.

• 43 percent oppose women in direct combat roles.

• 45 percent of men and 42 percent of women oppose it.

Source: A CBS/New York Times poll of 1,005 adults conducted July 24-28, with a margin of error of three percentage points.

Short answers, long winded press releases to jharper@washingtontimes .comor 202/636-3085. Follow her at http://twitter.com/ harperbulletin.

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