- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 8, 2009

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There’s talk on NBC News that former White House “green jobs” czar Van Jones is the “Republican right’s first scalp,” which makes for sexy headlines. But it’s also a cautionary tale for the Republicans, who may be lapsing into unproductive bully mode. Yes, they can still be sly predators. They can walk softly, carry a big stick, plan ambushes and set snares - but they must be very prudent about such activities in the age of hypersensitive media and an overly informed public.

“It’s important to make a distinction here. It’s acceptable for Republicans to challenge President Obama regarding his policies, but it is not a good idea to attack the man himself. It’s OK to pile on policy, but not personality,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean tells Inside the Beltway.

“The general public still likes him as a person. But they are also having serious problems with the big-government takeover and large spending sprees. If the GOP can confine their attacks in the policy zone and at the same time show viable alternatives, then that is the best approach.”

Broadcast networks, meanwhile, portray Mr. Jones as “a victim of conservatives,” says Brent Baker of the Media Research Center - with Republican attacks framed as a petty distraction in times of crisis.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that many in this country politically would rather start an ‘Animal House’ food fight,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to a gaggle of attentive reporters aboard Air Force One during the Monday briefing.

LEARNED PERSPECTIVE

“I can’t recall the political discourse hitting this level of virulence so early in a presidency,” presidential historian Bruce Buchanan tells Beltway. The University of Texas professor recalls that there have been other “ambitious presidents” and some intense partisanship in both the Clinton and Reagan administrations.

“If President Obama shows a sign of weakness, there is a greater instinct in his critics to go for the strike. In some ways, the GOP is over the top. They smell blood, and they view attacks as a way to unify the party and determine its direction,” Mr. Buchanan says.

“In the meantime, the Democratic left wants Mr. Obama to strike back. And I think he will strike back. It’s hard to maintain the ‘cool president’ demeanor when you’re tired of the noise and want to push back. Besides, the president knows what’s at stake here,” Mr. Buchanan adds.

TALKERPALOOZA

Some remain on vigilant border patrol.

The largest gathering of talk-radio hosts ever assembled - 47 of them - are girding for a two-day “National Electronic Town Hall,” centered on the impact of continued illegal immigration on jobs, wages, education, the environment, national security - not to mention health care reform, which could allow illegal aliens access to taxpayer-funded benefits.

Roger Hedgecock of Radio America Networks and Lou Dobbs of United Stations Radio Network will be on hand for the Sept. 15-16 event.

The talkers are in “hold their feet to the fire” mode, Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, tells Beltway.

“While expanding benefits for illegal aliens, this administration is simultaneously dismantling immigration enforcement and systematically laying the groundwork for yet another massive amnesty bill, Mr. Dane says, noting that the assorted radio gods will stage a press conference on the West Lawn of the Capitol.

“Radio talk hosts represent millions of Americans - and their collective voice is a voice that roars,” Mr. Dane adds.

TEACHABLE MOMENT

The White House may have recalled its study guide to President Obama’s message to American schoolchildren. That’s not the case elsewhere. The Center for Education Reform on Monday released “Making Sense of President Obama’s School Speech: 10 Things Parents Should Share with their Kids.” The text can be found at www.edreform.com.

“Parents are not only the first line of defense when it comes to their family’s education, they should be the first line of offense as well,” says Jeanne Allen, president of the Washington nonprofit.

“Parents should remind their children something that schools often neglect - that they live in the land of opportunity, the best nation on earth, and that along with making sure they receive a great education, they must always seek to learn from history and to advance the principles upon which this country was founded,” she adds.

POLL DU JOUR

• 83 percent of American voters say proof of citizenship should be required before anyone receives government health care aid.

• 95 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of independents and 70 percent of Democrats agree.

• 90 percent of conservatives and 56 percent of liberals agree.

• 53 percent of voters currently oppose proposed health care reform legislation.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Sept. 4-5.

c Polite observations and nettlesome noise to jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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