- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2010

VOTE DREAD

The health care vote looms heavy over the nation in the next 72 hours, like the sword of Damocles or maybe a 500-pound gorilla holding the sword of Damocles. Prepare for media saturation as press and pundits handicap, underestimate and overpackage the confusing legislation that has come to symbolize the agony and/or ecstasy of the democratic process. There will be whirling graphics, vote tallies, time lines, speculation: Broadcasters will treat the vote like an election, the coverage amped up by emotional politicians and the added frisson of “tea party” street protests at the Capitol, led by, among others, actor Jon Voight.

Confused? Colin Hanna - founder of the grass-roots group Let Freedom Ring - has advice for those who want to make sense of it all. He should know. As a matter of public record, the determined Mr. Hanna tracked which lawmakers bothered to actually read health care legislation in all its permutations before voting on it. Now. Peek at the newest form of HR 4872 here: http://rules.house.gov/ bills_details.aspx?NewsID= 4606. And take Mr. Hanna’s advice.

“The best way to get a true flavor of this legislation is review bills yourself as they are made available online in PDF form. Use the ‘text search’ feature. Look for certain terms that could lead to pertinent passages,” Mr. Hanna tells Inside the Beltway. “Suggestions? Try the words fee, tax, regulation, regulator, limitations, penalty and their synonyms. Read the surrounding paragraphs on these citation words. And just for fun, see if you can find their opposites - terms like incentive, free market, economic freedom, free enterprise. I suspect you won’t find any of those antonyms in those thousand-plus pages.”

CRASH TEST

(Corrected paragraph:) Hola, America. Will this fete be faker-free? Will somebody show up, say, in toreador pants instead of a sari? President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the second White House state dinner on May 19 to talk over economic issues, immigration and all that stuff. As a public service, Inside the Beltway has consulted our favorite mind reader and prognosticator Blair Robertson, hoping he can predict whether the event will attract would-be party crashers who hope, like Michaele and Tareq Salahi, to enter sans invitation.

“I predict that although security will be tighter than a burrito at the upcoming State Dinner on May 19th, another attempt to crash the event will be made and thwarted. The offender will likely have a first name starting with an ‘M.’ And May 19th isn’t a good day to host the event. It appears that it will be plagued with problems and will be an enormous challenge to pull off successfully. I predict White House Social Secretary Julianna Smoot will need a strong margarita after this event is over,” Mr. Phillips tells Beltway, noting that he used numerology to work out his prediction, and believes “that someone will be dumb enough to crash it.”

THE REAL NUMBERS

What do Americans really think of health care reform? A trio of handy-dandy opinion polls:

• 55 percent oppose health care reform, 35 percent favor it. (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics survey of 900 registered voters conducted March 16 and 17.)

• 48 percent think the plan is “a bad idea,” 36 percent say it’s “a good idea,” 15 percent have no opinion. (NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 adults conducted March 11 to 14.)

• 46 percent “generally oppose” the health care bill, 38 percent “generally favor” it, 13 percent are unsure. (Pew Research Center poll of 1,500 adults conducted March 10 to 14.)

U-H-H-H-H-H-H-H

“I’m unaware - again, I didn’t go to law school - I’m unaware that, I’m unaware of legal suits filed by a similar organization when the Republicans did similar things on legislation. I’m not going to get into a series of legal hypotheticals that both of us seem unprepared to discuss.”

- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, regarding talk-radio host Mark Levin’s threat to President Obama should Democratic lawmakers employ the “deem and pass” strategy to the health care vote.

ALL IN THE TIMING

The House passed Rep. Bruce Braley’s Plain Language Act (HR 946) on Thursday, which requires the federal government to write documents such as tax returns, or Veterans Administration forms in simple, easy-to-understand language.

“There is no reason why the federal government can’t write these forms and other public documents in a way we can all understand,” the Iowa Democrat says. “Writing government documents in plain language will increase government accountability and will save Americans time and money. Plain, straightforward language makes it easy for taxpayers to understand what the federal government is doing and what services it is offering.”

A companion bill introduced by Sens. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, and George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, was passed by a Senate committee in December.

GEORGE’S REPLACEMENT

Sunday mornings will change at ABC. A CNN stalwart has won the ABC News’ Sunday morning jackpot. Christiane Amanpour was named new anchor of “This Week” and will take the anchor chair previously held by George Stephanopoulos, who now hosts “Good Morning America.” The network is currently in a death match of sorts with NBC; in recent months, “This Week” has come close to matching audience numbers with “Meet the Press,” long the kingpin of the time period.

“More than once over the years we’ve talked with Christiane about her joining us in one position or another. Until now, it wasn’t the right time or the right fit,” says ABC News President David Westin. “Christiane will be joining ABC News in August. Until then, Jake Tapper has agreed to become the regular, interim anchor.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 50 percent of U.S. voters say they are “less likely” to vote for their representative in Congress if he or she votes for Obamacare.

• 79 percent of Republicans agree.

• 34 percent of voters overall are “more likely” to vote for an incumbent if they support the health care plan.

• 55 percent of Democrats agree.

• 8 percent say the health care vote will have no impact on how they will vote.

• 52 percent oppose Obamacare, 45 percent favor it.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted March 17.

Yeas, nays, neighs, snorts of victory to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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