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POMP-ALICIOUS

The monumental presence of China already is on American soil, well before the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who arrives in Washington on Tuesday with a bustling entourage and a full agenda. As a reminder of its “soft power,” media-savvy China is unfurling building-sized images of its major home-grown celebrities — basketball star Yao Ming, actor Jackie Chan and astronaut Yang Liwei — over Times Square. A three-day campaign on major TV networks emphasizing the “prosperous, democratic, civilized and harmonious” side of China — plus the mottos “Hello, world” and “made with China” — will also herald the leader’s arrival. The White House, however, is ready with a little presence of its own.

When Mr. Hu arrives on the South Lawn, he’ll be greeted with pomp and circumstance, military honor guards, service bands cranking out national anthems, a 21-gun salute, and yes, a review of the troops by each president. There will be an intimate dinner in the Old Family Dining Room attended by, among others, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a rare joint press conference

Then there’s the big black-tie state dinner on Wednesday — presumably party crasher-free, and jammed with U.S. and Chinese officials, prominent Chinese-Americans and eager arts and business liaisons. Fresh, “local” American cuisine, perhaps with a few Asian fusion touches, could be on the menu; alas, it’s guarded closely as a state secret, along with the night’s entertainment. Times and ballyhoo change, though. Five years ago, Mr. Hu only rated a luncheon with President George W. Bush during his last state visit.

JUST SO YOU KNOW

“Sa-rah Palin, she won’t listen to their bunk. Sa-rah Palin’s coming south to hunt some skunk. Sa-rah Palin, she’ll throw ‘em all in jail. And when she gets to Washington, it’ll be cold as hell.”

Original lyrics from the three-minute video “The Sarah Palin Battle Hymn,” sung to the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” taped in a church and currently in debut here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhMepzqJvIw

PLAYING FOOTSY

Democrats and Republicans sitting together during President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address: Won’t that be a swell photo-op, a veritable icon of political civility? Well, yes, in the eyes of the press, on permanent mission to reassure the nation that the Democratic Party is leading the way when it comes to a bright new world of bipartisan cooperation.

“Any Republicans who participate in the silly gimmick are simply validating the liberal media’s anti-conservative narrative that tough criticism of President Obama and Democrats had something to do with the Tucson shooting, when the evidence shows Jared Lee Loughner didn’t follow politics,” Brent Baker, vice president of research at the Media Research Center, tells Inside the Beltway.

“Democrats are trying to exploit the tragedy for political gain by quieting their opposition and discrediting criticism as uncivil — and some Republicans are playing along,” he adds.

The conservative press watchdog asked the public to weigh in on Sen. Mark Udall’s suggestion that lawmakers sit together during the address as a show of unity. Most of the 100-plus observers dismissed the Colorado Democrat’s idea as political theater or a manipulative “kumbaya” moment. Mr. Udall’s invitation, meanwhile, has received an “aye” from — among others — fellow Democrats Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, as well as House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.

REJECTING RON

A historian rejects the notion that President Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s disease when he was in office, a controversial claim made by his son Ron Reagan Jr. in a new book, “My Father at 100.” Mr. Reagan was not diagnosed with the disease until 1994, five years after he left the White House.

“Biographers of President Reagan and his presidency are legion, and while some may dispute his policies or decisions, not one credible individual has ever brought up anything or suggested anything other than a physically and mentally vigorous man,” says historian Craig Shirley, who has written two books on Mr. Reagan and is first in line for the upcoming Eureka College’s Ronald Reagan Visiting Scholars Program.

“The body of evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of President Reagan. From doctors to aides to hundreds of others who were in close contact with Ronald Reagan day-by-day during his presidency, there was never any report or suggestion or hint or accusation or rumor of Alzheimer’s,” Mr. Shirley says.

Mr. Reagan’s other son, Michael Reagan - a conservative talk radio host — also rejected his half-brother’s claims, noting in a series of tweets, “My brother seems to want to sell out his father to sell books. My father did not suffer from Alzheimer’s in the 80s. My brother was an embarrassment to his father when he was alive, and he today became an embarrassment to his mother.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 58 percent of Americans say it’s “very important” to build a better relationship with China.

• 54 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats agree.

• 43 percent overall say China is a “serious problem,” not an adversary.

• 47 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats agree.

• 22 percent overall think China is “an adversary.”

• 24 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats agree.

• 16 percent overall say U.S./China relations are “improving,” 55 percent say they are the same, 22 percent say they are worsening.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 1,503 adults conducted Jan. 5-9.

Pomp, circumstances, press releases to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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