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DIESEL POWER

Uh-oh, it's a Republican rumble, maybe a 4.5 on the party's Richter scale. Yes, Newt Gingrich's aides quit and his presidential campaign "imploded" according to a gleeful press. The 2012 election seismology shifted, sending insiders scrambling for footing, but eager to handicap who might be next on the shifting roster. Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Rudy Giuliani? Oh, the events made a hollow boom, all right.

But wait. Listen. There's another sound: It's the reassuring hum of big wheels on asphalt. The trusty campaign buses still roll. Coming soon to Sioux City, Waterloo, Davenport, Indianola, Ottumwa, Oskaloosa and a dozen other Iowa towns that are magic to the ears of presidential hopefuls. Behold, it's the Iowa Tea Party Bus Tour, set to make ample use of the same outreach that works so well for Sarah Palin.

Indeed, the bus, co-sponsored by the nonprofit American Principles in Action, departs Monday from Council Bluffs for a circuitous route around the Hawkeye state, with a final stop in Des Moines on July 2. On the agenda: Grass-roots training sessions about straw polls and caucuses, much talk on tea party issues, the fate of the gold standard, the federal takeover of education and, of course, candidate speeches. Follow the route at www:teapartybustour.com.

The tour has attracted the heavy hitters, organizers say. Among those who will appear at stops along the way: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum, who is already in Iowa. He'll appear Saturday at a home-schooling conference in Des Moines, then celebrate the grand opening of his Iowa campaign headquarters in Urbandale.

BIG SCREEN PALIN

"I think this primary needs a full representation from the tea party."

- Film director Stephen Bannon, on announcing that "The Undefeated" - a full-length feature movie chronicling the life and politics of Sarah Palin - will have a nationwide release, rather than limited exposure in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

THE NAUGHTY METER

The scandal du jour spells big business for those who capitalize on the gaffes of elected officials. Cafe Press, online purveyor of political wearables, has gauged which of those officials resonates with the public for all the wrong reasons. The company reports that more than 3,500 new designs already have been submitted to the site following the sexting shenanigans of Rep. Anthony D. Weiner. But the New York Democrat is no record-breaker.

That title belongs to former President Bill Clinton. Clinton-themed merchandise still accounts for 66 percent of all "political sex scandal T-shirt sales," the company says, most inspired by his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky some 15 years ago.

Among the other record holders: Former vice presidential hopeful John Edwards-themed shirts generate 13 percent of the sales, and among former governors, Mark Sanford generates 8 percent, Eliot Spitzer 7 percent and Arnold Schwarzenegger 4 percent.

TWEET CONTROL

It's not just lawmakers who have to worry about social media. The American Society of News Editors pines to control the tweeting, Facebooking hordes of journalists who can be at their best or worst running rampant online. The organization has issued a "best practices" guide for press use of social media, a situation often fraught with peril.

The group's 10 edicts: "Traditional ethics rules still apply online. Assume everything you write online will become public. Use social media to engage with readers, but professionally. Break news on your website, not on Twitter. Beware of perceptions. Independently authenticate anything found on a social networking site. Always identify yourself as a journalist. Social networks are tools not toys. Be transparent and admit when you're wrong online. Keep internal deliberations confidential."

PANETTA'S STRATEGY

"I reached out to every living former secretary of defense - Democrat and Republican - and asked for their advice," outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta told lawmakers during his Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of defense.

"To a person, they impressed upon me how important it was to stay focused on management of the Pentagon. This is the biggest enterprise in our government, and it requires focused, hands-on management, which is, frankly, the only way I know how to do business," he said, noting that the nation had shifted from "Cold War" to "Blizzard War."

Mr. Panetta later added, "I am very aware that we must be highly disciplined in how we spend the taxpayer's precious resources. This committee well knows: The days of unlimited defense budgets are over. Our challenge will be to design budgets that eliminate wasteful and duplicative spending while protecting those core elements we need for our nation's defense. I do not believe that we have to choose between strong fiscal discipline and strong national defense."

POLL DU JOUR

• 65 percent of U.S. voters would support a political candidate with leadership skills and who shared their views even if the candidate had past "sexual indiscretions."

64 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of conservatives, 66 percent of tea partyers, 71 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of liberals agree.

• 58 percent of voters overall say that if voters "focus" on a political candidate's past indiscretions, it keeps "good leaders out of office."

• 52 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of conservatives, 50 percent of tea partyers, 63 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of liberals agree.

• 36 percent overall say voters need to know about past relationships because they "reflect on a candidate's character."

• 41 percent of Republicans, 39 percent of conservatives, 44 percent of tea partyers, 33 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of liberals agree.

Source: A Fox News Poll of 912 registered voters conducted June 5 to 7.

Tipline always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com. Follow the column at twitter.com/harperbulletin

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