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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2010

IT'S STARTING

The war on Christmas, that is. Fed up with 'Godless' trees and other inclusive holiday fare, two Chester County, Pa., commissioners have voted to stop letting groups with multiple political or cultural agendas set up holiday decorations on the courthouse lawn of West Chester. The commissioners resolved that the historic spot would now "erect and maintain its own seasonal holiday displays" themed around "liberty and freedom," with special recognition to honor U.S. troops.

During a recent public hearing on the decision, the noisiest critics of the change were members of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, a group that has erected a 12-foot "Godless Holiday Tree" -- aka "The Tree of Knowledge" -- to the mix of displays for four years, The tree was decorated with book covers promoting atheism and winter solstice celebrations.

Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell, a Republican, proclaimed during the hearing that the town should abandon the "first come, first served" approach to holiday displays and harken to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that permit traditional secular and religious elements -- Santa Claus, a Christmas tree, a Nativity scene and a menorah.

But even mounting a display to honor the American military is fraught with peril, apparently. "We need to consult with our attorneys," Mr. Farrell says.

TURKOLOGY

The bird in question has a chauffeur, a title and an "alternate." Just like Miss America.

President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a ceremony in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, the 63rd year the leader of the free world has confronted and made peace with a real turkey, rather than the turkeys of the political and diplomatic worlds. And as the White House officially puts it:

"After the pardoning, the turkeys will be driven to George Washingtons Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during 'Christmas at Mount Vernon,' a special program through Jan. 6. After the holidays, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernons nationally recognized livestock facility."

AN AIRBORNE MOMENT

"Obama joked he'd have AF-1 fly home via South America so he could see Hugo Chavez. Some joke." (A Tweet by CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller)

"POTUS a little punchy -- comes to press cabin on AF-1 and jokes he's stopping in South Am on way home from Europe to see Chazez." (A near simultaneous Tweet from CNN correspondent Ed Henry).

The observations from both newsmen were made Saturday as President Obama and the White House press corps flew home from a summit with European Union leaders in Lisbon.

GOREVILLE

The 16th United Nations climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico, is just a week away. But Al Gore may be getting revved up in advance; he appeared Saturday with the Dalai Lama and others at a Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2010 that addressed global warming and its esoteric implications. During his "What's to Be Done" lecture, Mr. Gore was asked why a similar U.N. event "failed" about a year ago in Copenhagen.

"It was a collective failure on part of the global leaders. For me, the biggest disappointment was my own country. Had they passed the climate legislation, the end result of Copenhagen climate conference could have been different. There would have been dramatic chances of success of the summit," Mr. Gore said, adding, "There are six anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the Senate. They believe that by deceiving people and creating false doubts about climate science, they can delay the legislation."

Meanwhile, organizers at the Cancun summit have sartorial recommendations: "Taking into consideration Cancuns warm weather, the host country and the Secretariat have exempted their staff from having to use a jacket and tie. Therefore, the dress code during the COP16/CMP6 will be casual smart. The host country suggests the use of a 'Guayabera' shirt, which is traditional attire in the South East region of Mexico."

BUMPER BONANZA

With the uproar over airport pat-downs in full squeal, Inside the Beltway indulges in, well, we're indulging in something here. Behold, a spate of theoretical Transportation Security Administration bumper stickers -- these the least prurient of the lot -- now making the rounds online, at FamousDC.com and elsewhere:

"We handle more packages than the USPS"

"Can't see London, can't see France unless we see your underpants."

"We are now free to move about your pants."

"It's not a grope. It's a freedom pat."

"If we did our job any better, we'd have to buy you dinner first."

"Only we know if Lady GaGa is really a lady."

POLL DU JOUR

- 90 percent of Americans say it is possible for political candidates and campaigns to be "aggressive but respectful."

- 72 percent say elections and campaigning are more negative, 23 percent say they are "about the same."

- 64 percent say incivility in politics "hurts democracy."

- 63 percent say the tone of politics have become "less civil" since President Obama took office.

- 58 percent say they follow politics "very closely," 32 percent follow "somewhat closely."

- 38 percent say the tone of politics makes them "more interested," 30 percent say they are "less interested," 30 percent say the tone "makes no difference."

Source: An Allegheny College/Indiana University survey of 1,252 adults conducted Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 and released Sunday.

Squeals, gobbling noises, reasonable assessments to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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