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Inside the Beltway
Question of the Day
Though the debt ceiling debate has ended up a twisted wad of belligerence, at least it has prompted the million-dollar question: Is Congress stuck on stupid or stuck in neutral? That's subject to interpretation. Academics caution lawmakers that melodramatic political theater in recent weeks has damaged their reputation permanently with the American public. Some pollsters insist that Republicans are the big losers, and that the sour sentiment will follow the Grand Old Party all the way to 2012.
But wait. Stubborn persistence is a viable political trait in other realms. Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler praises lawmakers who "stand firm and buck the Washington elite" — and he has plenty of backup in the conservative blogosphere for that sentiment. There are also those who disagree and have taken to the airwaves:
"We are Republicans, Democrats and independents. But above all, we are Americans. We deplore that extreme partisan politics has trumped our patriotic duty. We have one word for our elected officials: Enough," says dialogue from a stark little advocacy spot that begins airing Monday on CNN and other networks, from No Labels, the self-described "bipartisan group."
AW, THEY CARE
"Regardless of our recent collective bad behavior, late-night comedians' barbs, 24/7 cable news punditry vilifying us daily, and the American people at the end of their ropes, I am asking for a moment of reflection," says Michigan's Dennis Hertel, president of the U.S. Former Members of Congress Association.
"While we have a long way to go to restore the American people's trust, I hope they know that we are dedicated public servants who got into this business for all the right reasons. We care and we want to make a difference."
THE COCKTAIL SOLUTION
Talk about compromise. Just in time for that post-Aug. 2 debt ceiling funk, Englewood Wine Merchants, a purveyor in where else but New Jersey, is offering a "Debt Ceiling discount" of 20 percent off its wares, through 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, less is more at Morton's classic steakhouse, which offers the impossible dream for those fed up with the debt wars: spa-tini cocktails, each with less than 200 calories. Among those to be unveiled on Thursday:Skynny Blood Orange Cosmo, Red Velvet, a Skinny Rita, Antioxidant Me and the Lean and Green.
RUDY'S NOT FIT
Uh-oh. Critics have taken notice that former New York City Mayor and potential presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani is hosting "Mob Week" on AMC from Monday to Sunday, and his treatment of anti-Italian stereotypes makes him "unpresidential." So recalls the Italic Institute of America, a think tank that tracks such stereotypes in press and politics.
"Rudy clearly suffers from Godfather Tourette's syndrome. He kicked off his 2008 campaign by aping Vito Corleone, something columnist Peggy Noonan found distasteful and utterly unpresidential," notes Rosario A. Iaconis, chairman of the group. "Indeed, Giuliani delights in depicting the scions of Italy as vulgar Neanderthals a la Tony Soprano."
Mr. Iaconis adds, "One can almost envision 'Hizzoner' tapping Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, to be his running mate. Rather than lauding his Italian heritage's seminal role in the formation of the American republic, Giuliani traffics in vile stereotypes."
Americans may have mixed feelings about former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his reported marital infidelity. Not so for the Austrians, who proudly opened his childhood home near Graz to the public Saturday, the Governator's 64th birthday. Local artisans meticulously re-created Mr. Schwarzenegger's Sacramento office for the project, and 1,000 objets d'Arnie are featured, including his first set of body-building weights.
The man himself — who is re-entering Hollywood with "Last Stand," a movie that casts him as an aging lawman taking on the Tex-Mex border wars — is pleased and says he'll return to his native land in November for a star-studded formal party.
"He'll be back," quips the Croatian Times.
TENDING TO 9/11
One productive way to recognize the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks: bring back the 9/11 commission, say Republican Reps. Peter T. King of New York and Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, who have introduced H.R. 2623, legislation that would reconstitute the commission in terms of what was learned — and emerging national security threats, including domestic radicalization.
Mr. King is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Mr. Wolf is chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the FBI.
"A decade out from the deadliest attack on U.S. soil, we owe it to the American people to have an independent and comprehensive reassessment of the steps taken to guarantee the safety and security of this nation," Mr. Wolf says.
POLL DU JOUR
• 42 percent of likely U.S. voters view President Obama as a "good or excellent leader."
• 82 percent of Democrats agree.
• 41 percent of voters overall rate Mr. Obama's leadership as "poor."
• 73 percent of Republicans agree.
• 32 percent overall say the president's leadership style is "about right."
• 58 percent of Democrats agree.
• 30 percent of voters overall say his style is "too confrontational."
• 53 percent of Republicans agree.
• 13 percent overall are unsure about Mr. Obama's leadership style.
Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted July 24-25.
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