- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2009

TIME TO STEAM

It’s “tea party” time on the West Side of the Capitol, site of the near-spontaneous “Super Bowl of Freedom” scheduled for noon Thursday, starring Rep. Michele Bachmann and a potential cast of thousands intent on voicing displeasure over health care reform. The Minnesota Republican’s grass-roots event has garnered some luminaries, including silver-screen conservative Jon Voight.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” WMAL morning talk-radio host Chris Plante tells Inside the Beltway. “It’s a continuation of the one-two punch that’s being delivered to Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership. This is the sleeping giant, awakening and pushing back, the silent majority that is silent no more.”

The two-hour event has implications for citizen journalism. Mrs. Bachmann has suggested participants bring video cameras and seek on-the-record opinions about heath care legislation from their own representatives.

“There’s really something remarkable happening here. Tuesday’s elections were a wake-up call for the Democrats. But events like this are an even bigger wake-up call. They have got to pay attention. This situation has shaken middle America right off their couches and forced us to take action against the Democratic agenda,” Mr. Plante says.

THE ENVELOPE PLEASE

Wait, was there an election? Something to do with Republicans winning stuff? Maybe not, according to prim press coverage that neutralized party victories in Virginia and New Jersey with language like this:

“Republicans revel in wins but ideological fissures loom.”

Oh, but of course. That came from the Washington Post. There’s more, though.

“These races turned on local and state issues and circumstances and on the candidates in each race - and despite what some will certainly claim - the results are not predictive of the future or reflective of the national mood or political environment,” says Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. “The all-out war between Republicans and the far-right wing is a disaster for the Republican Party.”

There were other sins of spin, according to the Media Research Center (MRC), which singled out a quartet of journalists for a “Dewey Defeats Truman Award” for their coverage of conservatives this week.

They are: Mike Allen of Politico, who said conservative influence was “suicidal” for Republicans; CBS News anchor Katie Couric, who called conservatives the “party fringe”; the New York Times’ editorial board, which condemned “right wing zeal”; and Ron Brownstein of the National Journal, who said conservatives held a tight “leash” on Republicans.

“The pundits have egg on their faces after touting the last ABC poll saying that somehow, Republicans were at their lowest point in 25 years. That doesn’t come anywhere close to accurate now. For them to warn people not to over-interpret these election results is rich. Media outlets love insisting that their polls of 1,000 people should move mountains in Washington, but when the entire public votes, it’s cast as an insignificant marker of public opinion,” the MRC’s Tim Graham tells the Beltway.

“The overprotective media’s worried about Obama losing all of his momentum long before the midterms. Bad election returns coming along at the same time [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid is saying ‘no health care bill this year’ just underlines that the agenda is stalling as Democrats’ popularity is tumbling,” Mr. Graham adds.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The branding of the White House has taken on yet another dimension. The Food Network joined the burgeoning roster of broadcasters granted special access to White House environs - specifically, the new kitchen garden. The network shot an special episode of “Iron Chef America” showcasing celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay and White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford and their quest to prepare something tasty with the first produce, complete with a cameo appearance by Michelle Obama.

“This is the most intense culinary competition we have ever shown,” says the network’s senior programmer, Bob Tuschman. The episode will air Jan. 3.

NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” has bested the chefs, however. An episode that aired on election night featured chubby cast members foraging in the White House garden, making a salad and later praising White House initiatives on healthy eating. This, of course, follows recent press reports that President Obama has become “too thin.”

Oh, the irony.

PRISON PROBLEMS

The nation’s federal corrections officers are asking for an “immediate” meeting with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to address problems within 114 Bureau of Prisons facilities.

“Management continues to turn a blind eye toward dangerous situations that put correctional officers, inmates and the surrounding communities at risk,” says Bryan Lowry, president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ Council of Prison Locals. “It’s time for the attorney general to hear from us.”

Federal prisons are understaffed and underfunded, he says, to the point that the inmate-to-staff ratio is typically 150-to-1 - and as high as 300-to-1. Correctional officers are unarmed and lack stab-resistant protective vests.

The group also frets that proposed downsizing of “industries” within prisons that encourage productive inmate behavior could seriously affect rehabilitation efforts. They have also asked Mr. Holder and Congress for the resignation of Bureau of Prisons Director Harley G. Lappin, who has been on the job since 2003.

“The days of ‘doing more with less’ must end,” Mr. Lowry says.

POLL DU JOUR

- 72 percent of Americans agree that “people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country.”

- 66 percent agree with the statement: “The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.”

- 57 percent say people in power “take advantage” of them.

- 56 percent agree that their personal opinion “doesn’t count much anymore.”

- 53 percent agree that “people running the country don’t care” what happens to them.

- 35 percent say they’re “left out of things going on around them.”

Source: A Harris Poll survey of 1,019 adults conducted Oct. 13-18.

Tirades, tantrums, chit-chat to jharper@washington times.com.

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