- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

HANDY DANDY

Joe the Plumber, meet Flagg the Fix-it, who has political prowess and much skill with hand tools. Flagg Youngblood - director of Vets for Freedom PAC and former director of military outreach at Young America’s Foundation - is competing for the title of “All American Handyman” on HGTV, one of 20 finalists on parade during the show’s debut on Sunday.

Mr. Flagg already has a public presence. A former Army officer, Yale University undergraduate and conservative columnist, Mr. Flagg has spent years defending military recruiters and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps against “leftist attacks,” he says, adding that he was also “the first witness called to testify against Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination” in midsummer.

“Dean Kagan’s unlawful brand of segregation clearly estranged the students at Harvard Law School from the military,” Mr. Youngblood said during his July 10 appearance before the Senate Judiciary Commitee. “Dean Kagans action deemed the military not worthy to do so much as to gather up the crumbs under Harvards table - and all during a time of war.”

But about that handyman. Though Mr. Flagg says he is partial to a certain cordless hammer drill, his heart lies in heritage and simplicity. And maybe duct tape.

“I inherited all my great-grandfather’s hand tools. I still use some drill bits and handsaws from the 1920s,” he tells Inside the Beltway. “And you know what? I can handle most things with a simple hammer, a putty knife and a flat-head and Phillips-head screwdriver.”

PALIN+IOWA=MYSTERY

“Pack the shotgun and red pantsuit. Sarah Palin is going to Iowa.” (New York Daily News)

“Palin visits Iowa. Clever marketing or 2012 prelude?” (Atlantic)

“No one visits Iowa by accident.” (Quad City Times)

“There is more smoke than fire regarding Palin’s political prospects in Iowa.” (Washington Post)

FROM THE UH-OH DESK

“Dirty Sexy Politics” is the title of Meghan McCain’s 208-page memoir, released Wednesday. No, really. That’s the title, though an early look reveals minimal naughty bits.

“As a new role model for young, creative, and vocal members of the GOP, she’s unafraid to mix it up and speak her mind. In ‘Dirty Sexy Politics’ she takes a hard look at the future of her party. She doesn’t shy away from serious issues and her raucous humor and down-to-earth style keep her positions accessible,” publisher Hyperion explains.

“Meghan steals campaign signs in New Hampshire, tastes the nightlife in Nashville and has a strange encounter with Laura and Jenna Bush at the White House. Along the way, she falls in love with America - while seeing how far the Republican Party has veered from its core values of freedom, honesty, and individuality.”

And from an Amazon reader review: “Laura Ingraham once said, ‘Meghan McCain is a useful idiot.’ That pretty much sums up this book.”

BUH-BYE

The midterm elections are 61 days away. But there is another number to consider. James E. Campbell, a University at Buffalo political science professor, predicts Democrats will lose 51 seats in the House, yielding a Republican majority. And oh, the science. Mr. Campbells forecast is based on what he calls the “seats-in-trouble model,” which includes a White House factor.

“Past experience indicates that a politically neutral presidential approval rating in midterm elections is about 65 percent,” Mr. Campbell says. “The only two presidents to avoid midterm seat losses for their party since approval ratings have been conducted were Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002. Both enjoyed approval ratings of over 60 percent at the time of those midterm elections.”

President Obama’s approval rating hovers around 44 percent, 21 points below the neutral point, he says - not strong enough to check heavy Democratic losses. And voila.

“Many of these are the Democratic seats now in trouble,” Mr. Campbell says.

THE MOSQUE MATTER

The “ground zero mosque” is taking a toll on troubled voters who must live with the controversy, says a veteran observer.

“The heated, sometimes angry, debate over the proposal to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has New York voters twisted in knots, with some of them taking contradictory positions,” explains Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which has tracked public sentiment about the project for months.

“A majority agrees that American freedom of religion gives Muslims the right to build the mosque near the site of the terrorist attack. But Republicans disagree 54 to 39 percent. Because of the sensitivities of relatives of the terrorist victims, an almost identical majority, including many of the same voters, believes Muslims should not be allowed to open the mosque,” he continues.

“Overwhelmingly, across all party and regional lines, New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” Mr. Carroll adds.

POLL DU JOUR

- 55 percent of Americans say Republicans in Congress do a better job dealing with terrorism; 31 percent favor Democrats.

- 50 percent of Americans say Republicans do a better job dealing with immigration; 35 percent favor Democrats.

- 50 percent of Americans say Republicans do a better job dealing with federal spending; 35 percent favor Democrats.

- 46 percent of Americans say Republicans do a better job dealing with unemployment; 41 percent favor Democrats.

- 45 percent of Americans say Republicans do a better job dealing with Afghanistan; 38 percent favor Democrats.

Source: A USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,021 adults conducted Aug. 27-30.

- Send rants, raves, the pitter patter of applause to jharper@washington times.com.

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