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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 1, 2011

HUCKABEE-ING

It's politics, perhaps, around the proverbial cracker barrel: Mike Huckabee intends to retool the presidential debates in his own fashion when he stages a live forum on Fox News for six of the Republican hopefuls on Saturday night. Questions will be posed not by "media stars," Mr. Huckabee says, but by GOP Attorneys General E. Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, Pam Bondi of Florida and Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II of Virginia.

"I will moderate. The candidates all get the exact same amount of time. The order in which they answer questions is determined by a random drawing and not by arbitrary decisions of 'kingmaker' moderators," Mr. Huckabee continues.

"The candidates will appear singularly on stage and are not allowed to discuss or attack other candidates, but must stick to questions that will focus on the federal/state relations of immigration, education, jobs, Obamacare, etc.," he adds. "It will be a very unique format and substantive — no 'gotcha' stuff."

On board: Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum. Meanwhile, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and businessman Herman Cain have declined, though this sounds like an ideal format for the embattled Mr. Cain. Showtime is 8 p.m. EST.

E.T. CALL BILL

E.T., Please call the House. And the Senate. And maybe former President Bill Clinton. The Paradigm Research Group — which successfully drew a recent response from the White House about extraterrestrial life — is ready for liftoff once again. The Washington-based group acquired 12,078 signatures to an online petition submitted to the White House "We the People" program, asking for transparency about UFOs.

The official response, which drew gleeful coverage from a global press: "The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye."

"These statements from the Office of Science and Technology Policy are false and indefensible," says Stephen Bassett, founder of the organization. He has now submitted "Disclosure Petition II," demanding "a full congressional investigation of UFO/ET disclosure efforts by the Clinton administration Office of Science and Technology Policy."

Uh-oh. Mr. Bassett contends that Mr. Clinton "in concert with billionaire and Clinton friend, Laurance Rockefeller" conducted a UFO investigation from 1993 to 1996. He also claims that "those who knew of and have not spoken publicly of this initiative" included Mr. Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama transition co-chairman John Podesta, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, former Vice President Al Gore and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. See the petition here: http://wh.gov/jz0.

If it gets 25,000 signatures by year's end, a White House response is expected by mid-January, Mr. Bassett says.

$13,500=ASTROBIOLOGY

Hmm. Must be something in the air. While the aforementioned Mr. Bassett petitions the White House, applications are being taken for a new "NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology," centering on the "research into the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe."

It carries a stipend of $13,500 per month. Yes, that was "per month"; the yearlong appointment in the John W. Kluge Center begins in October 2012. Applications must be postmarked by Jan. 30. For guidelines and forms, visit www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/fellowships/NASA-astrobiology.html.

PAUL's PARTY

Alas, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump was not in the mix. But one pollster is already surveying voters about who they'd vote for on a third-party ticket. If there was a third-party ticket, of course. A certain Texas lawmaker is ruling that roost.

"An IBOPE Zogby interactive poll measured likely support for possible third party candidacies of Ron Paul, Ralph Nader and Michael Bloomberg, and finds 16 percent saying they would be likely to vote for Paul compared to 9 percent for Bloomberg and 7 percent for Nader," says Zogby analyst Corry Schiermeyer. The poll of 2,061 likely voters was conducted Nov. 23-28.

CANDIDATE TRACKER

The big event of the weekend for most of the Republican hopefuls is the aforementioned forum with Mr. Huckabee at the Fox News studios in Manhattan. Newt Gingrich will hang around the city long enough to meet with billionaire Donald Trump on Monday; an endorsement may or may not be in the offing.

Herman Cain has not gone into hiding, meanwhile. On the contrary he'll be opening his Georgia campaign headquarters in Atlanta on Saturday, followed by a quick visit with the Oklahoma Republican Party. Meanwhile, here's where the restless Republicans will be in the next 72 hours:

Iowa: Rick Santorum

Georgia: Mr. Cain

New Hampshire: Mr. Santorum, Rep. Ron Paul

New York: Rep. Michele Bachmann and Mr. Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum

Oklahoma: Mr. Cain

South Carolina: Mrs. Bachmann, Jon Huntsman Jr.

POLL DU JOUR

• 38 percent of Americans approve of Mitt Romney in terms of basic favorability ratings.

• 56 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of conservative Republicans, 23 percent of Democrats, 23 percent of liberal Democrats and 45 percent of independents agree.

• 35 percent overall favor Newt Gingrich.

• 60 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of conservative Republicans, 19 percent of Democrats, 16 percent of liberal Democrats and 36 percent of independents agree.

• 32 percent overall favor Rep. Ron Paul.

• 39 percent of Republicans, 39 percent of conservative Republicans, 26 percent of Democrats, 25 percent of liberal Democrats and 38 percent of independents agree.

Source: An ABC News/Washington Post poll of 1,009 U.S. adults conducted Nov. 22-27.

Tipline always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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