Inside the Beltway

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

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OH, SAY CAN YOU

Just so you know: “The Star Spangled Banner” still resonates with the nation no matter how many hapless performers take untoward liberties with its lyrics. A Rasmussen Reports survey finds that only 15 percent of Americans would replace Francis Scott Key’s big-shouldered, 197-year-old song as our national anthem, even with the more serene “America the Beautiful.” About 82 percent of the respondents insist they know all the words, while three-fourths say the anthem is not hard to sing. Hip-hip-huzzah.

THE GINGRICH ESA

“It is not enough to reject the policies of the left, you need to describe in detail what you would replace them with,” Newt Gingrich tells Inside the Beltway. “I hope there is lots of attention paid to this question: What would a center-right governing majority replace the current failing policies with?”

Those are his hopes heading into CPAC 2011 on Thursday. Mr. Gingrich will hammer on U.S. energy policy when he addresses the annual conservative gathering, itself fraught with the drama of boycotts, sensitive dynamics and the choreography between outgoing Chairman David Keene and incoming Chairman Al Cardenas.

“Part of the strategy would be to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an ‘Environmental Solutions Agency’ that achieves better environmental outcomes through an emphasis on the transformative power of new technology and a collaborative approach with industry and state and local governments as opposed to the bureaucratic, regulatory model of the current EPA,” he says. “It does more to kill jobs and halt American energy development than it does to protect the environment.”

Meanwhile, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is parsing out the Energy and Tax Prevention Act to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act.

“The real issue facing Congress is simple: Who determines the content and direction of national policy — the people’s representatives or politically unaccountable bureaucrats?” says Competitive Enterprise Institute fellow Marlo Lewis.

RUMSFELDIAN

Donald H. Rumsfeld has carpet-bombed the press with his new book, “Known and Unknown,” his institutional knowledge of security matters and that certain Rumsfeldian cachet. The spry Mr. Rumsfeld turns 79 in July but can still draw the incredulous, often entertaining ire of the left-leaning press. His numbers ain’t bad either: a National Review poll of some 5,000 readers finds 56 percent rated his tenure as defense secretary for the George W. Bush administration as “extraordinary.”

SEE CPAC

The American Conservative Union, host of CPAC 2011, will release its much-anticipated 2012 presidential straw poll on Saturday. But the organization already has revealed its annual congressional ratings, intended to define who’s liberty-minded and who’s just plain liberal — “a go-to guide to determine whether an elected official’s philosophical rhetoric matches his or her record.”

Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas, John Barrasso of Wyoming and 10 others are deemed “defenders of liberty,” with ratings of 100. The “true liberals” — and there are 28 — rate zeros. The House is categorized, too; see it all here: www.conservative.org/congress-ratings.

WEBB MASTER

Buh-Bye. Since Sen. James Webb’s term of office won’t run out for two years, many puzzle over his decision to retire, announced right on his 65th birthday. Will the Virginia Republican — who appears at the National Press Club on Thursday for the Ronald Reagan Centennial Conference on Foreign Policy — return to a life as an author/screenwriter? Was he swayed by the thought of spending more time with his fifth child, age 3? Some say Mr. Webb is just being pragmatic.

“He became a reliable vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Obama agenda, which became problematic as Virginia drifted back to the right in the 2009 and 2010 elections. But one vote in particular stands out — his support for the national health care law and subsequent opposition to its repeal,” observes American Spectator correspondent Philip Klein.

“Remember, Virginia is the epicenter for opposition to Obamacare, having been the first state to pass a Health Care Freedom Act, and then launch one of the suits challenging the law’s constitutionality. Webb would have an uphill battle to re-election, especially given that he only won by a whisker in 2006,” Mr. Klein says.

BUMPER PATROL

“My other vehicle is a chariot.”

“The Pharaoh only took 20 percent.”

“What would Tutankhamen do?”

“Mubarak is in ‘duh Nile!’ “

(New series of Egypt-themed bumper stickers from Cafe Press.)

POLL DU JOUR

• 33 percent of Americans rate Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s job performance as positive and 39 percent as negative, but 29 percent are not “familiar” enough with him to judge.

• 30 percent give Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates a positive review and 18 percent a negative; 53 percent are not familiar with him.

• 22 percent give House Majority Leader John A. Boehner a positive review and 27 percent a negative; 52 percent are not familiar with him.

• 22 percent give House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi a positive and 48 percent a negative; 31 percent are not familiar with her.

• 20 percent give Republicans in Congress a positive review and 44 percent a negative; 37 percent are not familiar with them.

• 19 percent give Democrats in Congress a positive review and 47 percent a negative; 34 percent are not familiar with them.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,566 adults conducted Jan. 17 to 24 and released Wednesday.

High notes, low notes to jharper.@washingtontimes.com

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