- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2011

ALL MY CHILDREN

It could turn into yet another midday TV soap opera. The Republican National Committee chairmanship debate at the National Press Club among six voracious hopefuls has been handicapped, poked at and speculated upon by journalists for a month — billed as allegory for the party itself. Oh, the drama. Who spent all the committee’s money? Will incumbent Michael S. Steele ever make nice with ally-turned-rival Reince Priebus? Will Maria Cino and Ann Wagner show the gents how things are really done? Will Republicans agree on anything? Anything at all? Tune in Monday at 1 p.m.; C-SPAN will be there. Consult www.rncdebate.org for pertinent details.

PROPERTY RITES

Big house, historic features, river view, home office, in-law apartment. Indeed, the White House has multiple appeals for the discerning homeowner, but escalating value isn’t one of them. The big fat property at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has lost almost a quarter of its value since President Obama took office, according to daring estimates by Zillow.com, an online real estate venture that is well attuned to pop culture and politics.

The 132-room mansion on 18 acres was worth $331.5 million when the real estate market was flush with speculation four years ago; the price is now $253 million, Zillow says. The White House is not the only one to suffer; the nation’s real estate market lost an estimated $1.7 trillion in 2010.

“Like many of the country’s houses, it’s not worth what it was once. Over the last three years the president’s home has lost nearly a quarter of its value. In the last month alone the value dropped almost $4 million. Does any of that sound familiar?” asks Lew Sichelman, a Los Angles Times real estate analyst.

Zillow also determined that by popular vote, Sandra Bullock was first on the list for “most desirable celebrity neighbor for 2011,” followed by Sarah Palin, Ellen DeGeneres and the Obamas.

We are a conflicted nation, though. The company’s poll also found that the reality TV cast of “Jersey Shore” were the “least desirable” famous neighbors, followed by the Obamas, Mrs. Palin and Kanye West.

“Polarizing politicians make polarizing neighbors,” reasons Zillow spokeswoman Amy Bohutinsky.

TEA PARTY TIME

Hear ye, hear ye. Traditional patriots, fans of less taxes, smaller government. You now exist. You now have a name. So says the Associated Press, which formally has acknowledged an already familiar term and given its usage blessings via a “style update.” Finally. Along with “911 call,” “Post-it” and eight other words or phrases, journalists are now cleared to use:

“Tea party: Populist movement in the United States that opposes the Washington political establishment and espouses conservative and libertarian philosophy, including reduced government spending, lower taxes and reduction of the national debt and the federal budget deficit. Adherents are tea partyers. Formally named groups in the movement are capitalized: Tea Party Express.”

ON THE RADAR

He’s rated a snappy Newsweek profile, and noise in Politico and the Blaze: That would be U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. — now rumored to be the flavor of the month as a possible 2012 Republican presidential contender. The well-heeled Mr. Huntsman — age 48 and a Mormon — looks very presidential most days and has the gravitas of experience: He served as a diplomat for former President George H.W. Bush. The Republican heavyweight accepted his overseas post from President Obama two years ago, accompanied by offstage whispers that he was now safely out of the political picture.

But some press observers claim Mr. Huntsman has heeded the siren call of the White House and is mulling a run; imagine a Mitt Romney/Huntsman ticket, vice versa. Tea party folks will have none of it, though. Mr. Huntsman is already receiving grumbles that he is “Republican in name only,” and heavens, an “ole” for the White House. More soon.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

Public fury over pat downs? Here comes delay rage after thousands languished in airports during holiday weather delays. But wait. International airline passengers — under the 1999 Montreal Convention ratified by the U.S. eight years ago, and which replaced the Warsaw Convention — now have legal rights superior to the rights of passengers on U.S. domestic flights, reports Flyersrights.org, a consumer group. International air travel covered by this treaty includes any ticketed trip with stopping, departure or destination points in two or more countries.

Airlines can be liable for delay damages up to $6,640, and $1,640 for damaged or delayed baggage. U.S. federal district courts could be involved; the group recommends some reading, as in the full text of the Montreal Convention, found here: www.jus.uio.no/lm/air.carriage.unification.convention.montreal.1999/doc.html

POLL DU JOUR

• 94 percent of all black voters and 38 percent of all white voters “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of President Obama.

• 51 percent of Democrats “strongly approve” of Mr. Obama, 29 percent “somewhat approve” of the president.

• 75 percent of black Democrats and 40 percent of white Democrats “strongly approve” of Mr. Obama.

• 33 percent of white Democratic men strongly approve.

• 60 percent of liberal Democrats and 14 percent of conservative Democrats strongly approve of the president.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 2,000 likely voters conducted Dec. 27-30.

• Polite applause, doggerel, cat calls to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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