- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2011

OPTICAL ILLUSION

At least Bo is still in the White House. Well, we theorize that the first dog is holding down the fort, anyway. President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and most lawmakers are elsewhere at an inopportune time, punctuated by the sound of missiles over Libya and Geiger counters in Japan. There’s also some disquieting murmurs that the role of America on the global stage is up for grabs. Enough already, says a former politician, who has seen much.

“Far be it for me to give President Obama advice. But — and there’s always that ‘but’ — the ‘optics’ aren’t good on this administration,” Vincent “Buddy” Cianci tells Inside the Beltway, referring to the impressions the public forms about politicians, based on press buzz and broadcast coverage.

The former Providence, R.I., mayor has written a new book “Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Dined with Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community and Lived to Tell the Tale.” The Rhode Island Republican, in the nation’s capital on a book tour, also was, uh, indicted in 2001 on federal criminal charges of racketeering and served time in federal prison.

“When Americans think Mr. Obama should be home taking care of business, he’s overseas. It almost appears like he’s been taking a family vacation in South America when there’s so much going on in Libya, in Japan,” Mr. Cianci says. “These situations demand Mr. Obama’s undivided attention. And his attention appears nonchalant to Americans at this point. So I don’t think this White House is into the optics. They are into good times, maybe, but not optics.”

POLICE MATTERS

Ah, the shifting American image. Indeed, the U.S. appears damned by the big, fat global community if it takes military action one day, and damned if it doesn’t get rough on another. Yeah, well. As Byron MacGregor’s old 1974 anthem “The Americans” once pointed out, it’s always “the Americans” who get the call when things go terribly wrong as well. (Revisit the tune here: www.onehitwondercentral.com/americans.cfm)

And of course there are new survey numbers to reflect the dynamics: 71 percent of likely voters say the U.S. “can no longer be the world’s policeman.” And 79 percent agree that “generally speaking, U.S. military engagement is not appreciated by other nations.” This is courtesy of Zogby Interactive; see more in today’s “Poll du Jour.”

BUSHTOPIA

Hurray. “All Together Now — A Celebration of Service” honored former President George H.W. Bush and his “thousand points of light” sense of volunteerism Monday night at the Kennedy Center. The event drew considerable firepower: former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, not to mention Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker and Carrie Underwood. The many luminaries exchanged pleasantries at not one, but two receptions; the performers offered a monumental show.

“I remain optimistic about America,” the elder Mr. Bush says, lauding the innate sense of service in his fellow citizens.

“The true strength of our nation has always been, and always will be, our people,” he adds.

NBC will broadcast the festivities next Monday from 8 to 9 p.m. The Points of Light Institute, incidentally, offers much on “high-impact” volunteerism (www.pointsoflight.org).

TRUMPALICIOUS

There is a certain old-school he-man in Donald Trump. The billionaire real estate mogul is good at firing people. He’s not skittish about fantastic amounts of money. And should he run for president in 2012, Mr. Trump might be good at wrangling problematic foreign leaders. “Appeasement” does not appear to be in his vocabulary.

“I dealt with Moammar Gadhafi,” Mr. Trump told Fox News, recalling a real estate deal in Bedford, N.Y., that he once worked with the Libyan leader.

“I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn’t let him use the land. That’s what we should be doing. I don’t want to use the word ‘screwed,’ but I screwed him. That’s what we should be doing,” Mr. Trump continued.

Uh-oh. But hey, it smells like foreign policy. Or something.

“That should be the thinking of this country, not the kind of thinking we have right now. It’s ridiculous,” Mr. Trump observed.

BUMPER PATROL

“There’s no government like no government.”

— Bumper sticker spotted in Roanoke, Va.

NOW HEAR THIS

The public broadcasting battlefield has expanded beyond the rarefied air inside the proverbial Beltway. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has replaced the entire board that governs the state Educational Television network (ETV) and appointed seven new members who are perhaps a little more frugal.

Mrs. Haley bluntly declared that her state just can’t afford to fork out $10 million to the network, which operates 11 TV stations, eight radio stations and a closed-circuit broadcasting system.

“Gov. Haley believes we need to convert ETV and its functions to the private sector, and she is excited to have found a group of appointees who share her priorities and vision,” says her spokesman Rob Godfrey. “We simply can’t fund ETV with tax dollars.”

FROM GREAT BEYOND

Yes, we like to offer insight from all sorts of sources. Here’s something from psychic and mentalist Blair Robertson, about a certain Middle East country this fall:

“I fearlessly predict that there will be American ground forces on Libyan soil within four to six months,” Mr. Robertson tells Inside the Beltway.

OK. We’ll talk, say, around Sept. 22.

POLL DU JOUR

• 61 percent of likely U.S. voters say the Libyan government is suppressing an uprising of “ordinary people,” 26 percent say the conflict is a “civil war.”

• 57 percent approve a U.S.-led no-fly zone in Libya.

• 52 percent believe the U.S. has “no significant national interest in Libya.”

• 45 percent say that Libya is a complex situation and President Obama is “duly cautious.”

• 38 percent say Mr. Obama “appears overwhelmed and should act more forcefully.”

• 66 percent of Republicans and 16 percent of Democrats agree.

• 19 percent overall say the U.S. should offer humanitarian aid only to Libya.

• 13 percent say the U.S. should take “no substantive action.”

Source: A Zogby Interactive Poll of 2,168 likely voters conducted March 18 to 21.

Clamor, clatter, irritated whining to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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