- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

QUASI-VOYEURISTIC GAWKING

Only the economy eclipsed the midterm elections as a news story last year, according to the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism’s massive “State of the Media Report 2011” (www.stateofthemedia.org). And “the biggest election story line” last fall was the impact of the tea party and its spirited Republican candidates.

Indeed, while President Obama drew the most political coverage, former U.S. Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell of Delaware came in second, followed by California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Sharron Angle, who ran for Senate in Nevada. New York governor hopeful Carl Paladino, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Joe Miller, who ran for Senate in Alaska, also made the top-10 list.

“A significant portion of the coverage of candidates like ODonnell and Paladino had a gawking, quasi-voyeuristic component, with the media drawn to controversy and color,” says analyst Mark Jurkowitz.

“That didnt necessarily add much depth to the public understanding of the tea party phenomenon. And a qualitative evaluation of election coverage finds that in much of the media, there was more of a fierce partisan argument about what the tea party was than a journalistic exploration of that subject,” he notes.

BRACKETOPIA

President Obama is not - as Elvis Presley once advised - taking care of business, some say. He is tending to “trivial pursuits” like golf, March Madness and “Women’s History Month” rather than grave matters in Japan, the Middle East and the economy says Keith Koffler, who writes the White House Dossier. There’s more to come, he predicts, what with Saint Patrick’s Day and a South American tour coming up later this week. Naturally, the Republican Party is looking upon the phenomenon with a jaundiced eye.

“How can the White House deflect accusations of failed leadership when the presidents public schedule is actually helping build the case?” demands the Republican National Committee in a waggish moment.

“In a stunning upset, the ‘NCAA Bracket’ has beaten out ‘Creating Jobs’ and ‘Cutting Spending’ for the presidents attention,” the group said.

CHARITABLE PRUDENCE

Myriad charities have stepped forward to help Japan in its darkest hour. Some are more effective with donors’ money, though. Check the list of 24 recommended organizations providing relief to the beleaguered nation at the Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), which rates organizations according to the percentage of donations that goes to victims rather than administrative costs.

Among those charities with a top “four-star” rating: Americares, Brother’s Brother Foundation, Catholic Medical Mission Board, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Doctors Without Borders USA and Save the Children.

SPACE FARE

Just so you know. As the scuttled U.S. Space Shuttle program heads to that great garage in the sky, NASA has signed a $753 million contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for U.S. crew transport to the International Space Station. That’s round-trip rides for 12 astronauts, at $62.75 million each.

“The Soyuz flights will carry limited cargo associated with crew transportation to and from the station, and assist with the disposal of trash,” the agency notes. Needless to say, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has repeated a “call for American-made commercial alternative.”

VIGILANTES

Ah yes. Another lunchtime, another vigil. Progressive Democrats of America plans “brown bag vigils” outside regional offices of 35 mostly Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday, among them Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Henry Waxman of Massachusetts. Ending the war in Afghanistan is the primary agenda for the group, come high noon.

“People everywhere have been supporting the activism in Madison, Wisconsin, this week,” says national director Tim Carpenter. “We’ve seen a people’s movement compel Democrats to stand up straight and push back, a far superior outcome than continued ‘bipartisanship,’ in the view of most Americans. We’re taking that energy national this week to insist on a change in priorities. Our country is bankrupt morally, not financially.”

ON THE RADAR

Coming Friday at the Family Research Center: “Under fire: How Ireland’s pro-life laws are being targeted by Planned Parenthood and The European Union.”

The forum features Dr. Eoghan de Faoite, a Dublin physician and pro-life activist who aims to “galvanize and motivate the youth of Ireland to speak out against abortion,” and has been deemed “a constant and uncompromising pro-life voice in the Irish media.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 47 percent of Americans trust “Republicans in Congress” to reduce the budget deficit and still maintain needed federal programs.

• 92 percent of Republicans and 14 percent of Democrats agree.

• 76 percent of conservatives and 12 percent of liberals also agree.

• 43 percent overall trust President Obama to reduce the budget and maintain programs.

• 4 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats agree.

• 18 percent of conservatives and 77 percent of liberals also agree.

• 36 percent overall say a government shutdown if Congress does not pass a spending bill is a “good thing” for the country.

• 62 percent of tea party supporters, 53 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A CNN/Opinion Research poll of 1,023 adults conducted March 11 to 13.

Brackets, rackets, fact checks to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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