- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2010

MISS ME YET?

“Public cynicism that the federal government operates in an atmosphere of secrecy is as strong as ever, despite President Obama’s promises to make government information more easily available to the public,” says research from the American Society of News Editors, Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University released Monday.

Certain realities of the world persist, apparently: The new survey of 1,001 adults found that 70 percent believe that the federal government is either “very secretive” or “somewhat secretive.” The largest portion of respondents, 44 percent, said it is “very secretive.” That finding “matches the worst rating the federal government received during the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency,” the consortium says. (See more findings in “Poll du Jour.”)

NAKED TRUTH

It’s been 28 years. But no one is really quite over then-Senator-to-be Scott Brown’s 1982 appearance as a nude male centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine, including the Massachusetts Republican himself. During an annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston, the “overwhelmingly Democratic” Massachusetts political establishment got a laugh when state Treasurer Timothy Cahill presented Gov. Deval Patrick with a blowup of Mr. Brown’s languorous, reclining pose - with the governor’s head digitally placed over Mr. Brown’s.

But there was a greater guffaw when Mr. Brown himself showed up to present his former State Senate colleague Jack Hart with yet another blow-up of the same old photo, with Mr. Hart’s head in place this time, advising the crowd that this was truly “Jackie Heartthrob” - and adding just a wee symbol o’ the season, according to one august news organization.

“It had Hart’s face in place of Brown’s - and a shamrock over the crotch,” the Associated Press observed.

A DOSE OF REPUBLICAN

The hard-wired, hard-charging habits of Democratic heavyweights could damage President Obama’s image, some say.

“If President Obama is ever going to regain the ground he’s lost as a bipartisan healer determined to transcend ideological divisions, he’ll need to have Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Majority Leader Harry Reid or both shunted back to the minority. For Obama, a Republican Congress could be a counterintuitive political boon,” says Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.

“Congressional leaders generally don’t make appealing national figures. They rule over an unwieldy (and often unseemly) institution and rise to prominence based on their appeal to their fellow members, not their stage presence or post-partisan personas. At the health-care summit a few weeks ago, Pelosi and Reid characteristically jangled as Obama soothed. He’d have been better off without them,” Mr. Lowry continues.

But the Grand Old Party could have palliative effects.

“A Republican Congress would give him a handy foil and force him, right in time for his re-election campaign, into strategic bipartisanship. … Obama probably doesn’t consider a Republican Congress in his interest. But with all he’s done to bring one about, who knows?” Mr. Lowry asks.

JUST SO YOU KNOW

A terse missive from Friend-of-Beltway and Ronald Reagan historian Craig Shirley: “Maybe you heard. Newt Gingrich asked me to write his political biography. The working title is ‘Citizen Newt.’ What do you think?”

Sounds good, Mr. Shirley.

GET MORE GITMO

Why fix what ain’t broke? House Minority LeaderJohn A. Boehner of Ohio dismissed suggestions that Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba be shuttered and that 9/11 suspects transferred to a fancy “supermax” prison stateside.

“They want $500 million from this Congress to rehabilitate this prison in northwest Illinois. I want to see who the members are who are going to vote for this. I wouldn’t vote for this if you put a gun to my head,” Mr. Boehner told CNN on Sunday.

“We have a world-class facility at Guantanamo. I think it’s the appropriate place to hold these prisoners. And they can do the tribunals right there at Guantanamo,” he continued. “There is no reason to bring these terrorists into the United States. No reason to increase the threat level here because they’re here. Their friends may want to come. It makes no sense to me. And I don’t think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 60 percent of Americans say their local government is “somewhat or very” open.

• 36 percent say it is somewhat or very secretive.

• 47 percent say their state government is somewhat or very open.

• 48 percent say its is somewhat or very secretive.

• 38 percent say the level of secrecy is “the same” as it was under previous administrations.

• 34 percent say it is less secretive; 22 percent say it is more secretive.

Source: A Scripps Howard Survey Center at Ohio University poll of 1,001 adults conducted Feb. 3 to 9

Secrets, reveries, just plain noise to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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