- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2009

Where oh where?

A familiar Washington parlor game is about to be reinstated: “Where’s Osama?”

As American troops ready themselves to be deployed to Afghanistan under the auspices of President Obama’s newly articulated inner mettle, the location of Osama bin Laden and his ilk will provide hours of fun for speculative journalists and pundits. White House spinmeisters can use the very visceral effect of bin Laden, the Taliban, al Qaeda, et al., cast in the role of enemy to deflect assorted criticism from Mr. Obama, now Nobel Peace prize winner turned wartime leader.

Hey, we’re escalating stuff to find Osama and his bunch, OK? So shut up.

But the Osama whereabouts. The press has squawked much about it. Witness this dispatch:

“One new account puts the terrorist in Europe using a false German or French passport. So says Washington-based journalist Atef Gawad, a correspondent for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan newspaper and other news organizations. … The Fox News Channel also reported that bin Laden had changed his appearance and was living incognito in Pakistan — but without the surgery. Fox said he had shaved his beard, put on a Western suit and scuttled his old combat fatigues.”

The account continues: “Al-Akhbar, a Pakistani newspaper, reported that bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had been shot ‘by their own consent’ in Kandahar the day the city fell to American troops and Afghan freedom fighters. … The Agence France-Presse news service, meanwhile, speculated that bin Laden has gone to the border mountains of Uzbekistan to the northwest, where he is being sheltered by Islamic militants sympathetic to his cause.”

And this: “The BBC has pronounced that bin Laden’s ‘trail has gone cold,’ though a BBC analyst has suggested Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Chechnya as possible bin Laden hideouts.”

Interesting possibilities all, most likely to resurface as the Afghanistan surge roars to life. Interesting too the date of the aforementioned story: Dec. 18, 2001.

I know, because I wrote it. So let the games begin. Again.

Young Reaganites

There’s still time for college students who believe in “freedom, American values and Constitutional principles” to apply for the Ronald Reagan College Leaders Scholarship Program. We’re talking scholarships up to $10,000 here, courtesy of the nonprofit Phillips Foundation.

A hundred college students will be selected, based on a 500-to-750-word essay that addresses leadership and the current “ideological climate” on campus. Judges include Thomas L. Phillips, chairman of Eagle Publishing; Becky Norton Dunlap of the Heritage Foundation; and Ronald E. Robinson, president of Young America’s Foundation.

Applications must be postmarked by Jan 15, 2010. For information, contact Jeff Hollingsworth, The Phillips Foundation, 1 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 620, Washington, D.C., 2001 (202/250-3887, ext. 628) or via e-mail: jhollingsworth@thephillipsfoundation.org

Be of good cheer

Yes, things are tough. As a public service, Inside the Beltway hereby pushes the editorial envelope to supply readers with a few Christmas stats to mull, just for the heck of it:

“O Holy Night” — American’s favorite Christmas tune (Zogby survey, Dec. 5).

“Silent Night” — America’s favorite Christmas tune (Harris Poll, Dec. 4).

81 percent — Number of pet owners who will give a furred/ feathered/ scaled friend a Christmas gift. (Ultrapaws survey, Dec. 9).

77 percent of Americans say they have been “nice,” 9 percent have been “naughty” this year; 85 percent of Republicans claim to have been “nice,” compared to 79 percent of Democrats. (Rasmussen Reports survey, Dec. 8).

111 million — Number of Americans who will donate to charities online in 2009, up from 89 million last year. (The North American Technographics Omnibus Online Survey, Dec. 9).

Swine Flu Recovery Kit — Named the “stupidest holiday gift for 2009” by Stupid.com.

Days of yore

Happy 373rd birthday today to the U.S. National Guard, whose roots were established on this day in 1636 when three militia regiments were organized by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The original mission was “to Execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions,” according to historic records.

An estimated 11,000 Northern soldiers were killed or wounded when Union forces were defeated by Confederates under Gen. Robert E. Lee, at the Battle of Fredericksburg, on this day 147 years ago.

The battle of the hanging chad ended nine years ago today when then Vice President Al Gore conceded defeat to Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential race, after weeks of recounts and finger pointing.

Today also marks the discovery of the “spider hole.” Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured on this day in 2003 by U.S. soldiers who found him hiding in a six-foot-deep hole, nine miles outside his hometown of Tikrit.

Poll du jour

81 percent of Americans put up a Christmas tree.

60 percent put up lights and decorations during the holiday season.

58 percent attend religious services.

52 percent make a donation to charity.

40 percent host a party for family and friends.

31 percent fault the “commercialism” of the season.

26 percent volunteer to provide community service.

7 percent go caroling.

Source: A Zogby poll of 2,330 adults conducted Dec. 8.

Follow Jennifer Harper at twitter.com/harperbulletin.

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