- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

BATTER UP

“The two things a politician fears hearing the most are, ‘Agent Jones from the FBI is here to see you,’ and ‘We’d like you to throw out the first ball on opening day.’ … Why do we fear throwing out the first ball? Perhaps it’s an honor, but most politicians can do without it because, like a meeting with the FBI, it almost never turns out well,” notes former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who now pens a weekly Philadelphia Daily News sports column.

When the baseball season commences Thursday, President Obama will not be throwing out any ceremonial pitches at the Nationals’ opener. Incidentally, President William Howard Taft threw out the very first, uh, first ball on April 13, 1910, for a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics; the Senators won 3-0.

BIG BREW

The prospect of a possible government shutdown April 8 is either good, bad, ugly or a strategically useful tool, depending on which lawmaker is doing the talking. As they banter, another faction is unshakably on message. The Tea Party Patriots return with familiar ferocity at high noon Thursday for a “Continuing Revolution” rally near the U.S. Capitol. Joining them will be Republican Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Steve King of Iowa, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Tom Graves of Georgia, plus Institute for Liberty President Andrew Langer, Let Freedom Ring founder Colin Hanna and commentator Dick Morris.

Budget discussions may have devolved into a game of chicken as Republicans and Democrats wait for one another to blink. Or compromise. One thing’s for sure. The Patriots’ co-founder, Mark Meckler, blames the potential federal disruption on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama after Democrats rejected a Republican push to cut $100 billion in discretionary spending.

“$100 billion in cuts represents less than three cents out of every dollar budgeted to be spent by the U.S. government,” Mr. Meckler tells Inside the Beltway. “I asked my daughter what would happen if I took three cents out of every dollar in lunch money I give her. She laughed and told me it’s not enough to even notice. Eleven-year-old children understand this, but grown men and women in Congress seem unable to.”

UH, UH, UH

Are Republican presidential hopefuls dithering? Is that campaign trail just too daunting, complicated and expensive? Well, maybe. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation has canceled its official debate between the 2012 contenders, originally scheduled to take place at the Reagan Library in a mere 32 days, in a partnership with NBC News and Politico. The new date is Sept. 14.

“Although there will be a long and impressive list of Republican candidates who eventually take the field, too few have made the commitment thus far for a debate to be worthwhile in early May,” says executive director John Heubusch.

Some still have a taste for springtime debate, though. Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party are raring to go with their own version May 5, showcasing whoever shows up.

OPERATION PANTSUIT

“With a 66 percent favorable rating from Americans, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is more popular than the president, more popular than the vice president, and more popular than she, herself, has been for much of her time in the national spotlight since 1993,” observes Gallup Poll analyst Lydia Saad.

A Gallup survey released Wednesday finds Mrs. Clinton even garnered a 40 percent favorability among Republicans.

“Secretary Clinton recently ruled out serving another term as secretary of state in a possible Obama second term and has squelched speculation that she might replace Biden as vice president. This has only fueled speculation about what her presidential ambitions might be for 2016,” Ms. Saad says.

TAMALES AND FRENCH FRIES

Hm. Well, maybe it could include a trek to Doe’s Eat Place, that iconic eatery that was a favorite with a certain Arkansas governor before he traveled North? One can still get hot tamales with chili and french fries here for $6.75.

“Make a contribution by April 7 and you’ll be automatically entered to win a chance to spend a day with President Clinton in Little Rock this fall,” notes Bruce Lindsey, CEO of the William J. Clinton Foundation, in a fundraising message.

SPITTIN’ IMAGE

They want a “chaw”-free zone. When baseball comes calling to America on opening day Thursday, smokeless tobacco is not welcome on the field, say city health officials in 15 Major League Baseball cities, including Washington, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York.

“Baseball is important to civic life and ballplayers are local heroes. They should provide positive role models and not associate themselves with a product that causes disease and death,” the officials told MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

POLL DU JOUR

• 50 percent of U.S. voters are concerned that budget disputes will lead to a government shutdown.

• 31 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats agree.

• 43 percent overall say a shutdown is “good” because it would force decreases in government spending.

• 73 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats agree.

• 36 percent overall would blame Republicans for a shutdown, 37 percent Democrats, 25 percent both.

• 31 percent overall say Congress should raise the debt ceiling.

• 55 percent of Democrats and 8 percent of Republicans agree.

Source: A Zogby Interactive survey of 1,930 likely voters conducted March 25 to 28.

Shutdowns, shut outs, shut-ups to jharper@washingtontimes.com.