Inside the Beltway

NO PROBLEM

“Not a shred of truth to it.”

Or so a senior White House official tells this columnist, referring to reports that President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s relationship is “strained” because of the latter’s indiscipline and frequent gaffes.

The official took particular issue with media reports surrounding Newsweek journalist Richard Wolffe’s new book, “Renegade: The Making of a President,” including that Mr. Obama has become “distracted” by Mr. Biden’s frequent gaffes to the extent that he has rebuked him.

The official insisted that at the end of the day Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden are “arm in arm, laughing with each other.”

PAY TO READ?

It’s not the best of times for the nation’s newspapers, especially the once-profitable New York Times, its parent company posting a $335,000 loss in the first quarter of 2009.

All the more reason for the Atlantic to rush forward with news of an unpublicized meeting in Chicago on Thursday of the Newspaper Association of America, attended by Michael Golden, vice chairman of the New York Times Co.

Mr. Golden now assures Editor & Publisher that there was nothing secretive about the meeting, pointing out: “If it were secret, there wouldn’t have been a sign on the door saying ‘NAA meeting.’ ”

Asked about the specifics of the gathering, which had been planned for several weeks and reportedly included the pros and cons of charging for Web content, Mr. Golden would only say “there were a lot of people there facing a lot of similar issues to the ones we are facing.”

ENDLESS GROWTH

Letter sent by Richard C. Thiel, chairman of the Wolf Den Architectural Control Committee in Vienna, Va.:

“To whom it may concern: a U.S. congressman, Alan Grayson, owns property in Wolf Den, a part of Wolf Trap Woods Homes Association … The height of his lawn currently ranges from 18 inches to 36 inches. The home also receives little to no exterior maintenance. A complaint form regarding the height of the lawn has already been forwarded to Fairfax County officials. Anything you can do to encourage this newly elected congressman from the 8th congressional district (Florida) to maintain his property to even minimum standards would be greatly appreciated by his discouraged neighbors.”

Attempts to reach Mr. Grayson over the weekend were unsuccessful. However, Inside the Beltway touched base Sunday with Mr. Thiel, who said one of the congressman’s fellow neighbors stepped in late Saturday afternoon to cut the lawmaker’s lawn.

“The neighbor saw the sticker left by the Fairfax County zoning enforcement,” Mr. Thiel said. “He went over and took the sticker off and communicated with the owner somehow.”

Mr. Grayson “grew up in the tenements of the Bronx” and “cleaned toilets and worked as a night watchman” to put himself through Harvard (and later Harvard Law School), graduating in the top 2 percent of his class, his congressional bio states.

After first practicing law, he launched and became president of the IDT Corp., a telecom/Internet company that grew into a $2 billion-a-year business. He and his wife later moved to Orlando, where they are no doubt also busy raising five children , all younger than 15: Skye, Star, Sage, Storm and Stone, the latter pair twins born in 2005.

GO FIGURE

If the political party with the most money in its campaign war chest had dominated in November’s elections, then Republicans would be in control of Congress and John McCain would be sitting in the Oval Office.

Nationally, according to the Federal Election Commission, the Republican Party raised $30 million more than Democrats during the 2007-2008 election cycle - $793 million and $762 million, respectively. But the amount raised by Democrats was a 58 percent increase over the 2006 cycle, while Republican receipts grew 32 percent.

The Republican National Committee spent far more in independent expenditures than the Democratic National Committee in opposing the other party’s presidential candidate. The DNC spent just more than $1 million opposing Mr. McCain, whereas the RNC spent almost $54 million opposing Democrat Barack Obama.

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

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