- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

CELEBRITIES

“Don’t look now, but the unlikeliest people are being restocked as celebrity inventory: politicians,” Wall Street Journal columnist writes.

Barack Obama made Forbes’ Top 100 celebrities this year, the first sitting head of state ever. Obama is now the country’s main celebrity. The cameras are on him, all the time. He gives speeches. That’s his main act, most of the time,” Mr. Henninger said.

“Barack and Michelle. Nancy, Sarah. Arnie. Eliot. Joe. Huck. Mark. Barney.

“It makes sense. Their supply is capped by elections. South Carolina and New York can have only one deranged governor. Mass marketing can’t produce politicians and cheapen them further. Most of the time they don’t do much of anything, just like celebrities. Meet Senator [Al] Franken.

“It may not last. A poll in the last election found that most people think they could do a better job than their own member of Congress. So I expect that TV will soon create a reality Congress show. Average people could pretend to run a whole country, just like the celebrities who are pretending to run Washington.”

ROADKILL

“The rubber hit the road in Congress last Friday, but it wasn’t a transportation bill or a car-company bailout. It was the House vote on ‘climate change,’ which would still be known as ‘global warming’ if average temperatures had not inconveniently failed to go up over the past 11 years,” former Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Everyone, of course, wants to be a good steward of our planet. No one wants to be responsible for destroying the rain forests or polar bears. And no one wants his fingerprints on the thermostat if the Earth is warming,” Mr. Santorum said.

“But everything changes when politicians pull the trigger on a program that increases taxes and kills our economy, jobs, and standard of living. The rubber hits the road.

“Thus, President Obama had to pull out all the stops - and dish out some healthy helpings of pork - to eke out a slim majority in the House for a ‘cap-and-trade’ program designed to address global warming.

“But getting the needed 60 votes in the more cautious Senate isn’t likely. One reason is that the Senate is preparing for the rubber to hit the road on another contentious issue - health care reform.

“Like global warming, health care reform seems swell in the abstract. Who doesn’t want everyone to have all the highest quality health care he needs?

“But what happens when lawmakers attempt to tax employees’ existing health benefits, replace private insurance with a government plan, ration care based on patients’ utility to society, and limit access to expensive therapies? More rubber. More road. More hitting.”

EMBARRASSING

“Before [Wednesday’s] health-care town hall in Virginia, reporters asked Robert Gibbs again and again on whether the White House would screen questions for the president. The answer: Of course,” the Economist notes in a blog at www.economist.com.

“The White House press corps, not amused, pointed out that questions ‘from the public’ didn’t mean much if they were screened. ‘I’m confused,’ said Mr. Gibbs, smiling. ‘Are you not a member of the public?’

“Fast-forward to the town hall and you can see why people were worried,” the British news magazine said.

“Question one, a softball from the left: ‘Why are we considering a health care plan which maintains the private insurance companies with their high overhead costs, instead of a single-payer plan, which would eliminate the high overhead costs, saving the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars, while covering everyone in our country?’

“Question two, a plea that made the president look like the comforter-in-chief: ‘I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to make it in nine years until I’m qualified to get my regular Social Security - now that I have a new tumor and I have nowhere to turn.’

“The fourth exchange was embarrassing. The questioner declared that he worked ‘for a group called Health Care for America NOW,’ a group that basically supports the president’s plans. ‘I think he knows something about health care,’ said Mr. Obama.

“The staged town hall is a spoil of the presidency, but it’s relatively worthless as an educational tool and of questionable political value. How many town halls did George Bush hold on Social Security reform? Plenty. How much did all those friendly questions help in his push for reform? Not at all.”

RISING TROUBLE

“A little more than a week ago, President Barack Obama said it was ‘pretty clear’ that unemployment would exceed 10 percent. Unfortunately for him, he’s getting closer to being right,” Robert Schroeder writes at www.marketwatch.com.

“Thursday’s worse-than-expected jobs report turned up the heat on the still-popular president to put more Americans back to work. Unemployment hit a 26-year high of 9.5 percent in June, the Labor Department reported, and nonfarm payrolls shrank by 467,000, much higher than anticipated,” Mr. Schroeder noted.

“The numbers had Republicans salivating, left Democrats disappointed, and fueled the debate about whether a second stimulus - or something else - is needed to help.

“Obama recently said ‘not yet’ when asked if a second stimulus was necessary.

” ‘I think it’s important to see how the economy evolves and how effective the first stimulus is,’ he said on June 23.

“But nine days and one bad jobs report later, one of his top economic advisers wasn’t quite so dismissive.

” ‘We’ll do whatever it takes,’ said Council of Economic Advisers chair Christina Romer in an interview on CNBC on Thursday after the jobs report came out.”

SIMPLE MESSAGE

“As public support drops for President Obama’s agenda and Republicans hype their claims that he’s creating a socialist environment, the GOP is seeing more ideological House candidates jump in for the 2010 mid-term elections,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www. usnews.com.

” ‘These candidates have a simple message,’ says a GOP strategist helping to recruit House challengers. ‘It’s “Somebody has to stop this guy.” ‘ Before the ‘angry candidates’ began signing up to run, Republican officials say the dominant challengers were the ‘practical’ ones who were playing the odds that a new president historically loses several House seats in the mid-terms.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-33285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.

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