- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 20, 2011

MR. PRESIDENT

Ah, Presidents Day. It’s a federal holiday, not to mention a showcase for mattress sales, bank closings, vacation specials and protest rallies in Wisconsin and the Middle East. For a few seconds, though, linger on the historical underpinnings and consider that the presidential job description has not changed much since George Washington gazed upon the glint of the Potomac River with a keen eye and hopeful heart.

Indeed, presidents still have to be a good shot, though not necessarily with a firearm. They can’t be kings. They must know their nation, to its very bones. Presidents must also reconcile the role of president — whether lauded or vilified — with their own sense of self, and ultimately make peace with the trajectory of their legacy.

And with such fancy political callings, presidents must also be cultural icons.

In the centennial year of Ronald Reagan, the Gipper dominates presidential popularity polls; he’s No. 1 at Gallup, named America’s “greatest president,” with Abraham Lincoln in second place. A Rasmussen Reports survey finds Reagan “the most influential president of the last 50 years,” followed by John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. A National Review poll quizzing readers about their “favorite president besides Reagan” places Washington first, followed by George W. Bush and Calvin Coolidge.

THE BROWN SAGA

Some conservatives wonder: is Sen. Scott Brown “great,” or should the party mutter, “Great Scott”? They grumble that the Massachusetts Republican has taken on the dreaded characteristics of the RINO — Republican in name only, waggishly suggesting he’s really Mr. Scott-McCain. But let’s not go into that here.

Some also wonder why the lawmaker suddenly traded his rugged, pickup-truck-driving image for a public acknowledgment of childhood trauma and sexual abuse in a CBS “60 Minutes” appearance on Sunday, and the torrent of leaks from his new book “Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances.”

The work is on bookshelves Monday; publisher Harper Collins hammers on the hardship, noting that the author’s greatest win was not capturing the U.S. Senate seat held by Edward M. Kennedy but surviving “a savage beating at the drunken, dirty-fingernail hands of a stepfather,” among many hardscrabble life events.

And though Mr. Brown’s 2008 election committee last month asked the Federal Election Commission to allow it to use leftover campaign funds to buy thousands of copies of his autobiography, the 336-page book is already No. 5 on Amazon’s political book list. A 16-city tour starts Tuesday, with stops this week in Boston, Dallas and even the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

ON THE RADAR

The Southern Poverty Law Center releases a new report Wednesday detailing “the explosive growth of extremist organizations — particularly militias and other anti-government ‘patriot’ groups — over the past year.” The nonprofit civil rights group’s mission is “fighting hate and bigotry, and seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” Previous reports, incidentally, have named the Family Research Council, the Traditional Values Coalition and the Jewish Defense League among the nation’s “hate” groups.

HOLA AMERICA

“Between 2000 and 2010, while the overall population of the state of Texas grew 21 percent from 20.9 million to 25.1 million, the Latino share of that population increased 42 percent, from 6.7 million to 9.5 million. Latino residents account for 65 percent of overall population growth in Texas over the last ten years,” says a report from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, based on 2010 census data.

“Now more than ever, all eyes are on Texas. Our state is gaining four new congressional seats, and that is largely due to the unprecedented growth of the Latino population,” said the group’s president, Sylvia R. Garcia.

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