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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2011

FOR THE LEXICON

"Operation Pantsuit."

(Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's increasing presence on the global stage, her irritation with President Obama and her possible future bid for the White House. Now in use in the blogosphere.)

ON THE RUN

Almost 100 "individuals" have filed a "Statement of Candidacy" with the Federal Election Commission as 2012 presidential hopefuls. Yes, Timothy Pawlenty and Charles E. "Buddy" Roehmer III are on the 96-person list, but then so is President Emperor Caesar, President Warren Roderick Ashe, Rutherford B. Hayes and George Washington Williams. All filled out the eight-question "FEC Form 2" and wrote "president" in the box that says "office sought."

Inside the Beltway will update readers as the list grows. It's inevitable. The federal agency typically receives 200 to 300 applications in a presidential election year. But there's a catch.

"An individual becomes a candidate for federal office when the individual has received contributions aggregating in excess of $5,000 or made expenditures aggregating in excess of $5,000," the agency advises.

GOREVILLE

Al Gore is coming back to the nation's capital. Soon. Mr. Gore will deliver the keynote address at "Power Shift 2011," a three-day event that is the equivalent of Woodstock for the young, restless and eco-centric. The mid-April conference, which includes "nonviolent direct action training" and "leaders from across the progressive movement" is large enough for the Washington Convention Center.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson and former White House environmental "czar" Van Jones are among green-minded luminaries who also will appear.

CASTING CALL

The roster grows. Ed Harris has been cast to play Sen. John McCain in "Game Change," the Hollywood version of the Arizona Republican's 2008 run for president. Julianne Moore has signed to play Sarah Palin; the role of President Obama has yet to be cast. Some observers remain unimpressed.

"Liberal writers writing liberal movies for liberal actors directed by liberal directors for liberal audiences. And no one will watch them," notes one contributor to a discussion of the film at Lucianne.com.

BE PREPARED

Republicans are more prepared for the unthinkable than Democrats. Really. A CBS News poll finds that 34 percent of the Grand Old Party say they're prepared for a natural disaster, compared to 25 percent of Democrats. Six-out-of-10 Republicans have stocked up on food and water; 43 percent of the Dems have done the same. Eleven percent of Republicans have a generator compared to 2 percent of Democrats. President Obama's party appears ready to exit, though: 18 percent have an "evacuation plan," compared to 5 percent of the GOP.

DEEP POCKETS

Congress actually has some leftover money hanging around - $1 trillion in "unobligated funds" in the first quarter of fiscal 2011. Rather than use unspent funds to reduce future deficits, lawmakers prefer to spend that money. It's a murky business.

"That may be changing with the government running trillion-dollar shortfalls and a GOP House brimming with fiscal hawks," says Investor's Business Daily analyst David Hogberg.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that $717 billion in unobligated funds will remain when fiscal 2011 ends. But wait. Using such funds for new purposes isn't deemed "new" spending; the Congressional Budget Office calculates funds' budget impact when they're authorized. Congress also can "borrow" funds from one area to shore up a shortfall elsewhere, Mr. Hogberg says.

Who's got the most spare change? The Treasury Department leads, with $337.6 billion. The Toxic Asset Relief Program has $21 billion left. There's also $4.9 billion in "salaries and expenses" at several agencies.

"There is no reason why we can't simply cancel unobligated funds to reduce the deficit," says Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, who has introduced a bill to eliminate $45 billion in unobligated funds.

DOCTOR'S ORDERS

Journalists and politicans are not the only ones to run afoul of social media. Some physicians are "disseminating unethical and unprofessional content" on Twitter, says Dr. Katherine Chretien, associate professor of medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine, who published her research in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

She examined more than 5,000 tweets from 260 doctors to find that 3 percent included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material or discriminatory statements; 1 percent included unsupported claims about a product the doctors were selling on their websites; and 10 statements about medical therapies countered existing medical knowledge or guidelines, potentially leading to "patient harm."

POLL DU JOUR

• 79 percent of Americans say the U.S. and its allies should remove Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power.

• 60 percent support bombing Libya to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians.

• 48 percent say President Obama's leadership in the matter is "cautious and consultive."

• 36 percent describe his leadership as "indecisive and dithering"; 17 percent said it is "strong and decisive."

• 23 percent support an increase in airstrikes.

• 20 percent approve of the U.S. and its allies sending special forces to Libya.

• 7 percent approve sending ground troops.

Source: A Reuters/Ipsos poll of 975 adults conducted March 22.

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

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