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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2011

SARAH-CENTRIC

Journalists may scorn Sarah Palin, but they love covering her; it is sport, and the press went into full cry once Fox Business Network leaked a Monday night interview with Mrs. Palin in which she revealed that, yes, "it's never too late" for candidates to jump into the 2012 race, adding "things can be shaken up ... who knows what will happen?" Those morsels of red meat caused an uproar. Even before the interview aired, Time magazine declared that she was "rattling the cage." Her tease "could well recharge the energy of her persistent supporters," declared the Huffington Post.

Mrs. Palin "swung the door wide open for an entry into the GOP field," offered Mediaite, adding, "love her or hate her, Palin entering the race could add a fun element to the GOP race, which is due for another major shake-up soon."

Meanwhile, SarahPac, the political action committee, is still touting Mrs. Palin's "commonsense conservative revolution." The door hasn't shut on her television career either. Mark Burnett, who produced "Sarah Palin's Alaska" for TLC, says he's negotiating with the cable network for a second season and expects to shoot footage by summer, delicately telling the New York Post, "By the time we edit it, the election will be over. But I am sure the election would be mentioned."

YOU BETCHA

Faith and begorra, their guess is as good as any, perhaps. Following the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, the Irish betting company Paddy Power is offering odds on that nation's future under heir apparent Kim Jong-un:

• 33 to 1 that a democratic election will take place before the end of 2012.

• 12 to 1 that a reunification between North and South Korea will take place before 2020.

• 3 to 1 that a peace treaty will be signed between the two nations before the end of 2012.

Oh, and 1,000,000 to 1 that Kim Jong-il's round of 38 under par will be beaten on the PGA tour and recognized by the Guinness Book of Records next year.

AND IN SUMMATION

"Kim Jong-il was a cruel tyrant who leaves behind unimaginable suffering by the North Korean people. The United States should work with our partners to ensure that this period of transition is seized as an opportunity to persuade North Korea to abandon its hostile nuclear program, open up its society and address the humanitarian crisis that its tyrannical leaders have inflicted," observes Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

NEWTOLOGY

He's up. He's down. Tracking Newt Gingrich's daily favorability ratings is like day trading, with much ado over small increments and their implications. But what does it take to rule the Republican heap, even for a while? At this point, grit. A selection of Mr. Gingrich's campaign stops in Iowa on Tuesday alone: the High-Vee grocery store in Mount Pleasant, the Al Jon Company in Ottumwa, the Smokey Row Coffee House in Oskaloosa and the Swamp Fox Restaurant in Knoxville.

THE TEA INDEX

Tea is still part of the Gingrich brew, meanwhile. The candidate won the Tea Party Patriots' straw poll of 23,000 members who monitored a presidential "tele-forum" between Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, staged Sunday by the nation's largest tea party group.

The former House speaker won 31 percent of the vote, with Mrs. Bachmann in second place with 28 percent, Mr. Romney with 20 percent, Mr. Santorum with 16 percent and Rep. Ron Paul with 3 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry got 2 percent of the vote.

"Just as in 2010, candidates like Newt Gingrich will need to show they will be fiscally responsible and protect the Constitution in the White House," observes Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Patriots, who adds that audio of the forum is available here: www.teapartypatriots.org.

KRUGMAN'S MOMENT

There was a lot of liberal caterwaul this year, but one quote has been deemed the very worst of the worst by 48 conservative radio talk show hosts, journalists and media analysts who judged the Media Research Center's annual end-of-year awards for the worst, most biased reporting of 2011.

And the winner is (drum roll, please) New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a Sept. 11 posting to his NYTimes.com blog:

"What happened after 9/11 - and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not - was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neo-cons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons. The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it."

BUMPER PATROL

"OCCUPY the voting booth."

-Bumper sticker spotted in New York City.

POLL DU JOUR

• 70 percent of U.S. air passengers expect to check at least one bag during their holiday travels.

• 58 percent will have holiday gifts with them.

• 63 percent of that group will check their holiday gifts with baggage.

• 32 percent will carry their gifts onboard the aircraft.

• 56 percent overall are unaware of the Transportation Security Administration's new policy not to pat-down children.

• 39 percent "would rather take another form of transportation to reach their destination."

• 35 percent don't know how much airlines will charge them for a checked bag.

• 33 percent of the travelers do not fly with holiday gifts "because of the hassle."

Source: A U.S. Travel Association survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 8-12.

Caterwaul, low-pitched grumbles, surveys to jharper@washington times.com.

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