- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

ALL IS CALM

The Republican presidential hopefuls are essentially taking 72 hours off for Christmas, after months of ceaseless voter wooing, punctuated by big debates, grand gaffes and a shrill press. The campaign goes dormant on Christmas Eve, but not before a few last-minute campaign scurries of the most down-home demeanor.

The modest finales? The esteemed Mitt Romney holds court with the citizenry of the Granite State, breakfasting at the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, and lunching at Dos Amigos in Concord. Rep. Michele Bachmann is still in Iowa, meeting and greeting at the Lodge Pizza and Steakhouse in Corydon and Uncle Nancy’s Coffee House in Newton, among several stops. Newt Gingrich has a single “Christmas Lunch” and town hall meeting in Columbia, S.C.

And then … nothing.

The phones go silent, volunteers disappear, the public halls are deserted, TV trucks lumber off. Journalists sputter, for want of a quick story. The candidates will allow themselves at least a few nanoseconds of unstructured holiday cheer before the old irresistible political itch sets and their minds race to the campaign trail — to poll numbers, stage combat and the horse race.

There won’t be much noise until Tuesday, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who recently switched his billing from the “fighting conservative” to the “proven conservative” — fires up his big fat campaign bus to complete a dogged, 42-town tour of Iowa. The journey finally comes to an end on New Year’s Eve at the Dutch Oven Bakery in Boone. But never fear. The mere thought that “2012” has finally arrived will recharge every campaign, and whet every political appetite.

PALINTOLOGY

“My family and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! I offer this to all because Christmas is a holiday for all, whether you are a Christian believer or not. The message of Christmas is full of hope, peace, joy, and the fellowship of all mankind; so I find it amazing that every year we hear more accounts of a ramped up ‘war on Christmas.’

“How sad and ironic that a handful of grinches are at war with the annual celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, whose coming was prophesied centuries earlier and was then gloriously heralded by the angels with a blessing for ‘peace on earth’ and ‘good will toward men.’ Even if one doesnt believe the story, cant one at least recognize the beauty of the message? Or at the very least, let everyone else enjoy the season without throwing a temper tantrum at the sight of a Nativity scene?”

(From Sarah Palin’s Christmas message to Americans)

NOT SPOCK

What’s the biggest “misconception” about President Obama?

“Me being detached, or Spock-like, or very analytical,” he tells ABC interview queen Barbara Walters in a “20/20” interview airing Friday night.

“People who know me know that I am a softy. I mean, stuff can choke me up very easily. The challenge for me is that in this job I think a lot of times the press or how you come off on TV, people want you to be very demonstrative in your emotions. And if you’re not sort of showing it in a very theatrical way, then somehow it doesn’t translate over the screen.”

STOCKING FEAT

Shame, shame. No little toy drums or dolls that toddle and coo for this crowd. The Washington Board of Trade will send 535 individually addressed pieces of coal to every senator and representative they can find on Friday. President and CEO Jim Dinegar says this is simply an expression of their “frustration and dismay” with Congress.

Yeah, well, get in line.

Lawmakers are “Inexcusably heading home for the holidays while the economic outlook worsens,” the trade group says, doing nothing to remedy uncertainty in the marketplace and discord of the debt.

“Congress’ inability to reach agreement on the basic responsibilities of running the government has led to significant frustration and the demonstrable loss of opportunity among the greater Washington business community,” the group says. “Congress has not been very ‘good’ this year.”

BUMPER PATROL

“My other car is a college tuition.”

- (Bumper sticker spotted in Glen Burnie, Md.)

SIGN HERE

Americans are fuming plenty at year’s end. One gauge is the “We the People” online petition project on the White House Web page, which allows anyone over the age of 13 to post a public petition for presidential consideration. Petitions that garner 25,000 signatures within 30 days warrant a policy review and an official response. Twenty five petitions so far have made the cut, and drawn an answer from the White House.

Among the 83 petitions currently posted at the site:

- “Give the National Guard a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

- “Grant voters the ability to vote for the President of the United States by dissolving the electoral college.”

- “Change the motto of the United States of America to ‘E Pluribus Unum.’ “

- “Re-establish and maintain the separation between investment banks and commercial banks.”

- “Actually take these petitions seriously instead of just using them as an excuse to pretend you’re listening.”

See them all here: www.whitehouse.gov/petitions

POLL DU JOUR

• 91 percent of Washington-area residents prefer to “give than receive.”

• 89 percent will celebrate Christmas; 8 percent observe Hanukkah, 3 percent Kwanzaa.

• 80 percent say their children under 9 years old believe in Santa Claus.

• 74 percent have a Christmas tree.

• 72 percent do not plan to visit the national Christmas tree near the White House.

• 51 percent say they “believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas.”

• 58 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A WTOP Beltway Poll of 643 adults in the District, Maryland and Virginia conducted Dec. 5-8.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day and Happy New Year. Thank you for reading Inside the Beltway; tipline always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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