- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2011

NEWT GEARS UP

Wily and practical: Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is lining up sturdy planks for his White House platform, using tried and true methods to build his “brand” in the eyes of an ever-distracted voting public. Yes, his online candidacy announcement shows that he gets social media. But he hasn’t forgotten the lessons of a previous era. The presidential quest remains strategic and relentless; he’ll embark on a 17-city Iowa tour this week.

In the past few days, Mr. Gingrich offered a serious economic address in the nation’s capital. He talked up Social Security and praised Ronald Reagan during a commencement speech at Eureka College, the former president’s alma mater in Illinois. When Mike Huckabee opted out of the White House derby, Mr. Gingrich was on immediate civility patrol, calling the decision “a wonderful example for all Americans of someone trying to do the right thing.” On Sunday, he sparred with NBC’s David Gregory over racism. Which brings us to Monday, when Mr. Gingrich addresses an Alzheimer’s Association advocacy forum, demanding treatments and a cure, but framed in financial and “moral” terms.

“Over the next 40 years, Alzheimer’s disease will cost American society $20 trillion, $15 trillion of which will be in Medicare and Medicaid,” the candidate says, adding that a treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years would “cut government spending on the disease nearly in half in 2050.”

TRUMP RUMPUS

Ted Turner, Charlie Sheen, Richard Branson, Sarah Palin, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban. OK, what do they have in common? They are all popular suggestions for Donald Trump’s replacement as host of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” should Mr. Trump decide to run for president. No, really. This is all still going on. The network has picked up another edition of the show, but has cobbled its own policy should the billionaire gallop onto the campaign trail.

“If he decides to run and is unavailable, we will bring the show back and someone else will be sitting at the head of the board table,” says NBC programming director Robert Greenblatt. “We’re still hoping to have Donald back. But it’s the right and privilege of anyone to run for the highest office of the land. Nothing would make me happier than for someone to reach that.”

RUN, MITCH, RUN

The possible presidential prowess of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels grows. He’s racked up plaudits as a canny, hands-on leader. There is grass-roots appeal, and much talk that Mr. Daniels’ bid could garner support from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and onetime presidential hopeful Haley Barbour.

Former first lady Laura Bush has already telephoned spouse Cherie Daniels with a woman-to-woman message, suggesting she support her hubby, should he run. Mr. Daniels insists he hasn’t made a decision.

“Daniels is hesitant because he might win,” says Evansville Courier politics writer Eric Bradner.

Meanwhile, Mr. Daniels is carefully tending his track record as a governor, and little things matter. For instance, he’s just signed into law a bill that requires the state to track all purchases of products containing pseudoephedrine in “real time,” allowing retailers to block sales to buyers who exceed the legal limit. (The decongestant is a key component in making methamphetamine.) So how does that translate to the public? It’ll play well in Evansville, not to mention Peoria and beyond.

“These developments in the Hoosier State are a victory for families and workers, and a significant defeat for criminals,” says Elizabeth Funderburk, spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

PICTURE BIN LADEN

“At this time, we are unable to make a release determination on your request within the 20-day statutory time period,” the Department of Defense says in a reply to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Judicial Watch on May 3 to obtain the post-mortem Osama bin Laden photos and videos.

“The American people have a right to know, by law, basic information about the killing of Osama bin Laden. Incredibly, the Obama administration told us that it has no plans to comply with the Freedom of Information law, so we must now go to court,” says Tom Fitton, president of the watchdog group.

TEA FOR MR. MOFFETT

Rally the troops? You betcha. ConservativeHQ.com Chairman Richard Viguerie, Ronald Reagan historian Craig Shirley and Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips are calling on Kentuckians to support Phil Moffett in Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial primary.

“We urge all movement conservatives to strongly support him. Moffett has been endorsed by all three major tea party organizations in Kentucky and dozens of local tea party groups, the Northern Kentucky Right to Life, and Kentuckians for the Right to Bear Arms, an affiliate of Gun Owners of America,” the trio say.

They call Mr. Moffett’s rival David Williams, who has been president of state Senate since 2000, an “establishment politician” with big spending habits. Mr. Moffett champions smaller government and less taxes, and “his influence will be felt far beyond the boundaries of Kentucky,” they observe.

A recent Louisville Courier Journal survey of 500 likely Republican voters found Mr. Williams with 47 percent of the vote, Mr. Moffett with 21 percent and third candidate Bobbie Holsclaw with 12 percent. Twenty-one percent were undecided.

POLL DU JOUR

• 64 percent of Americans say recent severe weather around the nation will “hurt the economy.”

• 15 percent say it will have no impact, 12 percent say the weather will help the economy.

• 49 percent have not donated to victims of bad weather; 30 percent have contributed, 22 percent are undecided.

• 36 percent say the federal government should bear most of the financial responsibility for weather-related disasters.

• 26 percent say local agencies should bear the burden, 22 percent say individuals should be responsible.

• 16 percent are not sure who should be responsible.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adults conducted May 10-11.

Sunny statements, thunderous applause, hails to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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