- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 10, 2011

THE BIG FIVE-OH

President Obama turns 50 on Aug. 4. So naturally, his personal moment has become the “50 for 50 Sweepstakes,” an aggressive Democratic campaign tool aimed at grass-roots loyalists.

“Here’s a challenge: Do you think you can bring 50 new people into this campaign for President Obama’s 50th birthday?” asks Jeremy Bird, national field director of Obama for America. “When you reach your goal of 50 new people, we’ll enter your name into a drawing to join the president, his family and other supporters at his 50th birthday celebration in Chicago next month.”

The winner gets airfare, ground transportation and a night’s stay in Chicago, plus admission to the big birthday bash. Total value for the lucky campaigner: $1,050.

LIGHTS, CAMERA

“Political Hollywood started much earlier than most people realize,” says film historian Steven Ross, who points out that J. Edgar Hoover, then assistant director of the Bureau of Investigation — forerunner of the FBI — was so concerned about the power of movie stars to affect national politics that he ordered clandestine agents to watch suspected Hollywood radicals; the first report was issued on Charlie Chaplin in 1922.

And contrary to conventional wisdom about the dominance of the Hollywood Left, Mr. Ross also says that Tinseltown has a longer history of conservatism than liberalism, with Republicans rather than Democrats establishing the first “political beachhead” in Hollywood under the tutelage of studio mogul Louis B. Mayer, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan and other luminaries in later decades.

“The Hollywood left’s story line has been one of hope and guilt: hope of what the United States could be and guilt that we are not doing enough to achieve that vision,” Mr. Ross says. “The Hollywood right has told a simple but compelling story of American triumphalism: America is the greatest nation in the world. What more do you need to know? Few citizens want to hear a Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty or Sean Penn point out what is wrong with the United States.”

Mr. Ross‘ new book about his observations — “Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped Politics” — will be published by Oxford University Press in September.

PARSING THE ANTI-OBAMA

“Anyone but Obama, 2012” is a frequent motto on bumper stickers these days. But who is the real “anti-Obama” candidate among such Republican hopefuls as Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman Jr., Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry?

“Perry can take advantage of the moment and position himself as the quintessential opposite of Obama. He stands out from the pack pretty clearly. Romney’s experience with health care will always prevent him from being the best anti-Obama candidate,” observes Ryan Streeter, a special assistant to former President George W. Bush and now editor of Conservativehome.com.

“Pawlenty’s main credentials boil down to having succeeded as a conservative governor in a blue state, but his anti-Obama credentials are thin. Bachmann is the anti-Obama ideologically … Huntsman worked for Obama. Enough said there,” Mr. Streeter says. “But only Perry can stand toe to toe with Obama on the issue of jobs and claim that, unlike the president, he knows what it means to preside over an energized, productive economy.”

HERMAN, NEWT AND JON

It’s business as usual for Republican presidential hopefuls. The work is rigorous, and excruciatingly local. Herman Cain, who leads a new Washington Times/Conservative Leadership Conference poll as the top 2012 candidate of choice, is in Iowa on Monday, then he’s on to Tennessee for citizen rallies, followed by an appearance in Alabama at week’s end for the Shelby County “Reagan-Lincoln” dinner. The poll, incidentally, found that 76 percent of the respondents said that Sarah Palin’s campaign “was no longer viable.”

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich holds court in a high school auditorium in Pella, Iowa, on Monday; he then sallies forth to Charleston, S.C., for a tea party rally Tuesday. Jon Huntsman Jr. is also in the Palmetto State this week — speechifying at Mutt’s Barbecue in Spartanburg on Monday and at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville on Tuesday. But his mind is on big things, handlers say.

“He’s going to be focused on jobs and the deficit, plus his record in Utah growing the economy and balancing budgets, bringing home the point that this is what the country needs right now,” his spokesman Tim Miller tells Inside the Beltway.

SPENDAHOLICS

“America could learn a lot from a drug addict. Even though this country’s $14 trillion in debt, Washington raised the debt ceiling 10 times in the last 10 years. Each time, it’s like another hit — another spending hit. But you’re the junkies. Four cents out of every dollar you spend is borrowed from places like China. So China is like your dealer. And your addiction and your dealer control your life. To borrow less you need to spend less. Yeah. Washington could learn a lot from a drug addict.”

— Dialogue from a new 30-second TV ad from Public Notice Research & Education Fund; see it here: www.washingtoncouldlearnalot.com.

POLL DU JOUR

• 30 percent of Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God.

• 54 percent of weekly churchgoers, 46 percent of conservatives, 42 percent of Republicans, 14 percent of liberals and 27 percent of Democrats agree.

• 49 percent overall say the Bible “is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally.”

• 41 percent of weekly churchgoers, 45 percent of conservatives, 51 percent of Republicans, 48 percent of liberals and 46 percent of Democrats agree.

• 17 percent overall say the Bible is an ancient book of stories and moral precepts recorded by man.

• 3 percent of weekly churchgoers, 7 percent of conservatives, 6 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of liberals and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Gallup Poll of 1,018 adults conducted May 5 to 8 and released Friday.

Talk and squawks to jharper@washingtontimes.com.