- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2011

NO DEBATE FATIGUE

The next Republican debate looms Thursday, with 14 more to follow in the next three months. Do we care? Why, yes. We do: 62 percent of all Americans are paying attention to the candidate encounters, including 70 percent of Republicans, says a Poll Position survey of 1,066 registered voters released Sunday. The findings “will make civics teachers proud,” observes analyst Larry Register.

PERSISTENCE

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorumcontinues to battle his way down the campaign trail, doggedly staying on message. He’s trolling for grass-roots support and sending up flares to prove his viability and focus. The candidate also renamed his campaign the “Faith, Family and Freedom Tour” and retooled a motto that echoes the distant days of the George W. Bush administration.

“I am a passionate conservative, and I am the only passionate conservative running for president,” Mr. Santorum says in his newest outreach. “I am committed to the conservative ideals that you and I share. Ideals like protecting the unborn, fighting for traditional marriage, and protecting our freedom of religion.”

Jon Huntsman Jr. has some new friends, meanwhile.

He is reveling in a recent New York Times election prediction model based on the whims of the economy, ideology and approval ratings that ranks him “as the candidate most likely to defeat President Obama.” Mr. Huntsman - who chimed in Sunday on the waning controversy of fellow hopeful Herman Cain - has also won support from former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge. He deems Mr. Huntsman “the principled leader best suited to win in November 2012.”

SCREEN GEMS

The political underpinnings of “J. Edgar,” the Hollywood version of the life and times of the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, are emerging. From Hollywood Reporter correspondent Scott Feinberg’s notes on a recent question-and-answer session at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with the film’s director, Clint Eastwood, leading man Leonard Di Caprio and screenplay writer Dustin Lance Black:

“Some highlights of the Q&A: Eastwood taking the stage dressed in sneakers and munching on a cookie; DiCaprio noting that Black told him that the secrecy of the Bush administration after 9/11 inspired him to write the film as a cautionary tale about what can happen if one man accumulates too much power and influence; Black laughing that when he went for his tour of the FBI, it was led by some ‘lackey’ but that when DiCaprio went for his, it was led by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. … ; Black making it quite clear that he believes that Hoover and his longtime companion Clyde Tolson were indeed gay lovers (something that DiCaprio seemed less inclined to state outright).”

OCCUPADO

“It’s a leaderless bazaar that’s been divided into statelike camps - with tents packed together so densely that the only way to add more would be to stack them. And despite an NYPD watchtower overhead and the entire north side of Zuccotti lined with police vehicles, it is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places in New York City.”

(New York Post reporter Candice Giove, who spent the night in the Occupy Wall Street gathering of “psycho rabble” in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.)

ONE FOR THE REVEREND

Happy birthday on Monday to the Rev. Billy Graham, who turns 93. “Old age is not for sissies. But that isn’t the whole story, nor did God intend for it to be,” Mr. Graham writes in “Nearing Home,” his 30th book, published three weeks ago.

“While the Bible doesn’t gloss over the problems we face as we grow older, neither does it paint old age as a time to be despised or a burden to be endured,” he notes.

PERSISTENCE OF ETHICS

Despite the political circus and shrill media, character and ethics issues “will have a huge impact on the 2012 elections,” Los Angeles-based ethicist Michael Josephson tells Inside the Beltway. “Whether it Romney’s hiring of undocumented landscapers or Cain’s alleged sexual harassment, every candidate will be confronted with every imaginable claim that they are unworthy. These accusations work because, despite widespread cynicism, most people care about the kind of people they will be entrusting with the power to make policy.”

Degree matters, though.

“The difficulty will be sorting through reliable and unreliable information and distinguishing minor human transgressions from serious moral breaches that reveal character traits that will really matter,” he advises.

“Every accusation of wrongdoing has to be evaluated carefully. First, the information has to be credible and complete. Motivations and context matter. Second, there are always at least two ethical dimensions to these accusations: 1) if the underlying facts are true, what does this say about the competence or character of the candidate? and 2) what do we learn from how the candidate handles the accusation?”

POLL DU JOUR

• 54 percent of voters in 12 key swing states say “the Republican candidate” is best able to handle the federal budget deficit and debt.

• 38 percent cite President Obama.

• 49 percent say the Republican is best able to handle unemployment; 42 percent cite Mr. Obama.

• 46 percent favor the Republican to handle health care; 45 percent cite Mr. Obama.

• 44 percent say the Republican is best able to handle terrorism and international threats; 45 percent cite Mr. Obama.

• 51 percent say the new health care reform law is a “bad thing”; 38 percent say it is a “good thing”; 12 percent have no opinion.

Source: A Gallup Poll of 1,334 adults, in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, conducted Oct. 20-27 and released Friday.

Rumors, candor, odd humor to jharper@washingtontimes.com