Inside the Beltway

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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BAD HAIR DAY

A single Associated Press photograph of Sarah Palin during her recent humanitarian trip to Haiti turned into a bashing bonanza for her press critics. Mrs. Palin stands with her husband, Todd, and another woman, the image accompanied by a damning caption from the wire service: “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, center, has her hair done during a visit to a cholera treatment center.”

Mrs. Palin’s actual take-away message to the world was “not to forget Haiti,” and she was accompanied by the Rev. Franklin Graham and Fox News host Greta Van Susteren. The other “female,” however, is Mrs. Palin’s daughter Bristol — who was simply tucking in an errant strand of her mother’s hair. But no matter.

“Ready for her close-up: Sarah Palin lands in Haiti. Well, she wants to look just right for those poor cholera-stricken residents,” reported a Daily Mail headline.

“It’s revolting seeing Sarah getting her hair made up like this field hospital is her movie set,” observed Huffington Post contributor Michael Shaw.

The caption identified Mr. Palin, but “purposely” left out Bristol, says Redstate blogger Lori Ziganto, who adds, “The oh-so-tolerant and loving Left is anything but. It’s far easier to mock and bash Sarah Palin than to actually, you know, do anything to help. Secondly, their blatant sexism, particularly against conservative women — femininity with smarts and strength is icky — has once again been exposed for all to see.”

DUCK SANDWICH

“After neglecting to pass a budget and any of the 13 annual spending bills this year, we learn Senate Democrats now want to sandwich them together, totaling almost 2,000 pages, and jam them through in the waning moments of this lame-duck session before anyone can read them,” observes Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, of the $1.1 trillion spending package proposed by the, uh, party of the first part.

Wait. It’s deja vu. Did Democrats just make a copy of old health care reform legislation and pass that around?

“This political end-around reveals just how quickly my colleagues across the aisle have already forgotten the voters’ message in November,” Mr. Cornyn adds.

DOGGED DETERMINATION

No T-bones. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals President Ingrid Newkirk has sent a basket of vegan doggie treats, a dog party book and a penguin squeaky toy for first dog Bo — plus a note to first lady Michelle Obama that reads, “Happy holidays to you and your family, including your beautiful ‘son,’ Bo.”

Well, OK.

“Our cruelty-free basket of gifts didn’t cause harm to any animals, and we think that’s how Bo would want it,” Ms. Newkirk says.

SOONER THAN WE THINK

Newt, Mitt, Mike, Sarah, get ready. Or make up your minds, anyway. The New Hampshire Union Leader, ABC-affiliate WMUR-TV and CNN have announced they will present the first Republican presidential primary debate on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 in Manchester.

WOO WOO

To woo or not to woo, that is the question for President Obama. Should he shore up his base in the Democratic party or try fancy footwork with independents and swing voters? A new Zogby poll finds his approval rating languishes at 39 percent, with 63 percent describing him as a “weak leader.” Among independents, that last number is 68 percent; among Republicans, 88 percent. About half of Democrats and six out of 10 liberals say Mr. Obama “gives in too easily to Republicans.”

Lawmakers, meanwhile, have more to worry about; 12 percent overall approve the job performance of Congress. Another 28 percent approve of the Republican party, and 27 percent give the nod to Democrats. The poll of 1,914 likely voters was conducted Dec. 8-10.

“It was a bad week for Obama’s relationship with his party’s base, which sees him giving in too easily to the Republicans,” says pollster John Zogby. “That has to be a worry for the White House, but Obama is more concerned about showing swing voters he can get things done, especially anything that might stimulate the economy.”

WIKI FATIGUE

Fed up with WikiLeaks folly? Tired of founder Julian Assange and his $310,000 bail money financed in part by filmmaker Michael Moore? For some free diversion, there is WikiLeaks: The Game, which allows players to control Mr. Assange as he tries to sneak his way through the White House as President Obama sleeps at his desk, a laptop in front of him. In a matter of days, the game already has attracted a million players, its creators say.

“We created it as a sort of joke, a social commentary on a developing story,” says developer Sebastiaan Moeys. “We knew the topic was hot, but didn’t expect so many players for a relatively simple game.”

Play the game here: www.jeuxjeuxjeux.fr/play/special/wikileaks.html.

POLL DU JOUR

• 66 percent of Americans are following news of the tax cut agreement between President Obama and Republican leaders “closely.”

• 60 percent of that group support the agreement, 35 percent disagree.

• 49 percent overall support the agreement, 32 percent disagree with it.

• 47 percent say tax cuts should be extended, with “new limits” for wealthy Americans.

• 49 percent of that group say Congress should pass the agreement.

• 41 percent overall say tax cuts should be extended for all Americans.

• 58 percent of that group say Congress should pass the agreement.

Source: A USA Today/Gallup Poll of 1,019 adults conducted Dec. 10-12.

Rants, raves, sandwiches to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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