Inside the Beltway

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

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STRONG BREW

The term “tea-bagger” is like uttering the “n” word, some say. Though he aspires to promote civility, evidence has surfaced that President Obama has added “tea-bagger” to his public lexicon, though it’s considered a cheap and tawdry insult by “tea party” activists. Watchdogs at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) barked when they saw the proof, tucked in a sneak peak of Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter’s new book, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” to be released May 18. Indeed, it appears the president joined certain partisan critics and the liberal media, and took the tea-bag plunge.

“This remark is the equivalent of using the ‘n’ word. It shows contempt for middle America, expressed knowingly, contemptuously, on purpose, and with a smirk. It is indefensible to use this word. The president knows what it means, and his people know what it means. The public thought we reached a new low of incivility during the Clinton administration. Well, the Obama administration has just outdone them,” ATR president Grover Norquist tells Inside the Beltway.

There is not always parity in these situations. There were outraged calls for Rep. Dan Burton’s resignation and massive press coverage after the Indiana Republican called President Clinton a “scumbag” during the Monica Lewinsky matter in 1998.

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The offending passage that started the tea-bagger shuffle? Mr. Alter wrote, “Obama said that the unanimous House vote against the Recovery Act ‘set the tenor for the whole year’: ‘That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.’ ”

Mr. Obama himself was recently ruing the contentious state of politics, noting Saturday at a college commencement speech, “We’ve got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names. Pundits and talking heads shout at each other. The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story.”

The watchdogs, incidentally got their advance look at the book in Mike Allen’s “Playbook” in Politico.

JUST SO YOU KNOW

“Drill” is not a dirty word among U.S. voters, even after the big BP oil spill. A Zogby poll reveals that 63 percent support the expansion of offshore drilling. But they’re prudent: 62 percent also support President Obama’s decision to suspend those plans pending an inquiry on the disaster. The poll of 3,100 likely voters was conducted April 30 to May 3.


TEACHABLE MOMENT

Will the treatment of Times Square car-bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad — closely monitored by the press — amplify the controversy surrounding a proposed trial of Khaliq Sheikh Mohammed in New York City, and the treatment of terrorists in general?

“I strongly believe that Shahzads recent arrest will spur further controversy about trying terrorists in civilian courts, and I think that that is a very appropriate response. This weekends foiled plot proves that NYC remains an active target for terrorists, and we are incredibly fortunate that the last several terror attempts have been thwarted,” Michael Wildes tells the Beltway.

Mr. Wildes is a former federal prosecutor who recently represented Kwame James — the Trinidad-born hero who subdued “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid — in his quest for U.S. citizenship.

“Once the suspects are apprehended, however, we should think twice before inviting terrorists into New York City to stand trial, affording them a further platform and audience to spew their venomous hatred. This latest threat is a function of our ongoing war on terror and as such, it is a military matter that should be handled in a tribunal setting,” Mr. Wildes says.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

Laura Bush has begun a 17-city tour through seven states for her new book “From the Heart.” But no big rush: The former first lady is taking eight weeks to do it.

Though Marco Rubio was in Washington this week for some serious fundraising, there are numbers the conservative hopeful for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida may heed more than donor dollars: A Rasmussen Reports survey of likely Florida voters finds his rival Gov. Charlie Crist with 38 percent of the support; Mr. Rubio garnered 34 percent and Democratic challenger Kendrick Meek 17 percent. Mr. Crist’s new campaign slogan: “People Above Politics.”

Meanwhile, is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “good get” for TV talk bookers? Must be. PBS’ Charlie Rose spent an hour with him Monday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos takes his turn Wednesday on “Good Morning America” when the pair discuss why Mr. Ahmadinejad doesnt fear an Israeli attack, and his theory that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are at odds over Iran.

KNOWS THE DRILL

“All responsible energy development must be accompanied by strict oversight, but even with the strictest oversight in the world, accidents still happen,” says Sarah Palin, who ramped up oversight of the oil industry in her state and created a “petroleum systems integrity office” as Alaska governor.

“No human endeavor is ever without risk — whether its sending a man to the moon or extracting the necessary resources to fuel our civilization. I repeat the slogan ‘drill here, drill now’ not out of naivete or disregard for the tragic consequences of oil spills - my family and my state and I know firsthand those consequences,” Mrs. Palin continues. “How could I still believe in drilling Americas domestic supply of energy after having seen the devastation of the Exxon-Valdez spill? I continue to believe in it because increased domestic oil production will make us a more secure, prosperous, and peaceful nation.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 59 percent of Americans overall react negatively to the word “socialism.”

• 84 percent of conservative Republicans and 40 percent of liberal Democrats have a negative reaction to the word.

• 52 percent of Americans overall react positively to the word “capitalism.”

• 67 percent of conservative Republicans and 44 percent of liberal Democrats have a positive reaction to the word.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 1,546 adults conducted April 21 to 26.

Tips, quips, flip flops to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

About the Author
Jennifer Harper INSIDE THE BELTWAY

Jennifer Harper INSIDE THE BELTWAY

A graduate of Syracuse University, Jennifer Harper writes the daily Inside the Beltway column and provides additional coverage of breaking national news, plus long-term trends in politics, media issues, public opinion, popular culture, Hollywood foibles and “eureka” moments in health and science.

She has been a frequent broadcast commentator on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Voice of America, Citadel Broadcasting, ...

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