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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2010

INQUIRE WITHIN

Though the American public may not be glued to the play-by-play, the Republican National Committee is keen on the much-ballyhooed confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Among other things, the Republicans want to know the following:

"Can you assure the public that you know the difference between serving as a political adviser and making decisions as a judge?"

"Based on your past history, should the American public be concerned that your role on the bench will be to protect President Obama's policy agenda?"

"Are you going to follow your own advice and answer questions directly, avoiding 'platitudinous' statements and political spin, so this hearing takes on more than 'an air of vacuity and farce'?" the RNC asked, referring to a 1995 University of Chicago Law Review article that used those and similar phrases to criticize then-recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

KISS AND MAKE UP

"This magazine has not always agreed with Sen. John McCains judgments is an understatement. For a few years at the start of the decade, not an issue went by, it seemed, without our feeling obligated to criticize the Arizona Republican."

"But there are three considerations that militate against dumping McCain for his primary challenger, former congressman J. D. Hayworth. The first is that McCain has usually been on the conservative side of national controversies. He has never voted for a broad-based tax increase, he has voted for every conservative on the Supreme Court, and he has a long pro-life record. By itself, this voting record does not compel conservative support for him: Hayworth had a conservative record, too. But it does make the case against McCain less compelling. He may not be Marco Rubio, but hes not Arlen Specter, either."

"Second, when McCain is right, he can have a terrific impact. McCain has a credibility on national security that few other Republicans can match. It is entirely possible that without Senator McCain, we would have left Iraq in ignominy. Few legislators ever accomplish as much good as McCain did through his leadership on the surge. Conservatives should be grateful for this service and appreciative of the wisdom and fortitude that made it possible. This accomplishment, in our judgment, more than makes up for McCains mistakes, the impact of which has also been major (as in the cases of campaign-finance regulation and interrogation policy)."

-- From Monday's endorsement by the National Review of the re-election campaign of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

MOVING RIGHT ALONG

Yes, there are tabloid tales that newly single Al Gore has misbehaved with a masseuse, may be trying to hide his personal assets and is selling his cable-TV channel. But he still has the blessings of the Democratic Party, and has resurfaced in the fund-raising and Bush-blaming role for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"After eight years of the Bush-Cheney administration, America is now beset with major challenges: A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, an economic downturn that has put good people out of work, and a crisis that I have dedicated my life to solving - global warming," Mr. Gore advises loyal Democrats in a new fundraising letter.

Oh, and he wants the money by Wednesday.

SURPRISE PARTY

"While four months can be a lifetime in politics, the reality is, it is just about 18 weeks until the elections in November," says Regina A. Corso, director of the Harris Poll. "In those 18 weeks, there are a lot of outside events that can occur which cannot be predicted. There is always that 'October surprise,' which can shift an election. The way this year is going, do not be surprised if there are surprises in July, August and September."

Voters are short-tempered these days. A Harris Poll released Monday finds that 85 percent of Americans overall give Congress a negative rating. Among Republicans, the number is 97 percent; among Democrats it's 75 percent. The 'tea party' is still a factor; about two in five Americans support the movement, with large partisan divisions. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans are tea party fans, while 56 percent of Democrats flat out oppose it.

"It would be better news for the Democrats if a tea party candidate enters the race. Just over one-third of Americans would still vote for the Democrat, but 18 percent would vote for the Republican candidate and 14 percent would [back] the Tea Party candidate," Ms. Corso says.

The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted June 14-21.

BY THE BOOKS

Sh-h-h-h? No way. Librarians are vexed and unhappy that 77 percent of local and state funds have been cut for libraries around the nation, though 156 million people now have library cards -- the largest number in history. More than 1,000 librarians will defy the entrenched stereotype that theirs is a "quiet profession" and rally in Upper Senate Park by the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday morning to drawn attention to their plight. Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, plus Reps. Vern Ehlers, Michigan Republican, and Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, will be on hand to help them out.

Organizers at the American Library Association have definitely gotten in touch with their inner advocate; the group now publishes the "Beltway Insider" and is speaking out on many technology and social issues -- pointing out that the public is increasingly dependent on library services to help in job searches, resumes, certification tests and education advancement. See this new breed of librarian at www.ala.org.

IT'S CATCHING

Could they be fretting about MRSA and other hair-raising, antibiotic-resistant germs? The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians and the Trust for America's Health are just a few of the myriad medical groups now supporting the development of 10 new antibiotics in the next decade.

The call for jump-starting the effort was originally made by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), which has at last corralled researchers and analysts from both the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who will actually be in the same room for some serious talks. The groups will have their big "bad bugs, no drugs" sit-down in late July.

"The dry antibiotic pipeline puts every American at serious risk even from common bacterial infections. Infectious-diseases physicians are pleased that Congress and the Obama administration are beginning to pay attention to this critical public health crisis," IDSA public policy vice president Robert Guidos tells the Beltway.

POLL DU JOUR

*66 percent of Americans plan to take a vacation this summer.

*56 percent will seek "less expensive" activities; 54 percent, less expensive meals.

*46 percent will vacation closer to home; 23 percent plan a "stay-cation" at home.

*42 percent plan to save money by driving instead of flying.

*41 percent will stay with friends rather than in a hotel.

*15 percent plan a "nay-cation" -- no leisure trips in the next 12 months.

*$1,627: The average amount Americans will spend on their vacation.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,503 adults surveyed May 10-17 and released Monday.

*Hurrahs and hand-wringing to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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