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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2011

SAVAGE SUCCESS

The American public, apparently, has a taste for power fiction, tinged with terrorism and intrigue, with an old school, rough and tumble journalist as its hero. Talk-radio host Michael Savage, already the author of 25 nonfiction books, penned a debut novel "Abuse of Power," which was released in mid-September. It reached as high as No. 4 on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover fiction.

And the inevitable question: Will a film script follow? The concept of primary character Jack Hatfield — a former war correspondent "smeared as a bigot and extremist by a radical leftist media-watchdog group" — could either intrigue or ultimately terrify Hollywood.

HERMAN'S STAR

His popular appeal glints on an often wearisome political landscape. Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain posed with Donald Trump after a "great" visit with the billionaire in Manhattan on Monday. The power pair's power ties were aglow — Mr. Cain in yellow, Mr. Trump in rose. But Mr. Cain is not done with the Big Apple yet. On Tuesday, he makes a live appearance on ABC's "The View," then it's on to a tete-a-tete with former New York Mayor Ed Koch.

Is Mr. Cain a proverbial "top-tier candidate?" Among 6,000-plus National Review readers, 72 percent say the straightforward but affable businessman is a leading contender among the mighty nine Republican hopefuls. He's also got some down-home help: Mr. Cain has picked up the support of one Hank Williams Jr., the country crooner who once was loyal to Sarah Palin.

Next up: Mr. Cain launches his two week national book tour for "This Is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House" at high noon Wednesday in Florida, site of his surprise straw poll victory two weeks ago. But serious duty calls.

The candidate will be in the nation's capital by Friday — with a proverbial cast of thousands — for the massive Values Voter Summit. He'll share the afternoon stage with GOP rivals Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, plus Rep. Steve King of Iowa, talk radio goddess Laura Ingraham, RedState.com founder Erick Erickson, NationalReview.com editor Kathryn Jean Lopez and HotAir correspondent Ed Morrissey.

PERRYGATE IN QUESTION

"Even some of Perry's fiercest Texas critics say they do not believe he is racist," says Emily Ramshaw, an investigative writer with the Texas Tribune, a nonprofit news organization in Austin that follows Gov. Rick Perry so closely that it maintains an online "Perrypedia" of pertinent Perry facts in seven categories.

Mr. Perry has countered recent charges made by The Washington Post that the name of a vacation property his family once frequented contained a racial epithet. Ms. Ramshaw, meanwhile, says that Mr. Perry's defenders point to his official record as evidence he's not a bigot.

"He appointed the state's first African-American state supreme court justice, Wallace Jefferson, and later made him chief justice. Jefferson's great grandfather was a slave, 'sold like a horse,' Perry once said with disgust," she notes. "Perry's former general counsel and former chief of staff, Brian Newby, is black; so is Albert Hawkins, the former health and human services commissioner who Perry handpicked to lead the massive agency in 2002."

Also defending Mr Perry: former Democratic state representative Ron Wilson, who is black and once served with Mr. Perry in the state legislature. "He doesn't have a racist bone in his body," Mr. Wilson says.

SO-SO SUPREMES

The public approval of the Supreme Court has "dipped" to 46 percent, a new Gallup poll reveals, down from 61 percent in the past year. The pollster attributes it to a decline in the public's trust of the federal government in general, rather than some judicial faux pas, since the court only returned to session Monday. Ideological underpinnings are another thing, though.

"Americans' perceptions of the court's ideology have changed in recent years. A plurality of Americans, 42 percent, believe the Supreme Court's ideology is 'about right,' but more believe it is 'too liberal' than 'too conservative,' " says Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.

Between 40 and 42 percent of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike deem ideological leanings of the nation's highest court "about right." But 31 percent say the court is too liberal. Fifty percent of Republicans, 30 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats agree. On the other end of the spectrum, 20 percent say the court is too conservative; 3 percent of Republicans, 19 percent of independents and 37 percent of Democrats agree.

W'S GRADE

Former President George W. Bush is not quite finished with the nation's schools. Mr. Bush has quietly issued a "Global Report Card" that rates the academic performance of U.S. students with those in other developed nations. The news is not good: The U.S. ranks 25th on a list of 34 countries.

"Sadly, the results show that most of America's schools, including those in affluent suburban school districts, are mediocre when compared to the world's schools," says Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation, which conducted the research.

See the report and compare the results of U.S. school districts with the rest of the world on a nifty interactive map. It's all here: GlobalReportCard.org.

POLL DU JOUR

• 64 percent of Americans worry that their total family income will not be enough to meet their expenses and bills.

• 69 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats agree.

• 55 percent overall expect their income to "stay the same."

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

• 28 percent overall expect their income to "get better."

• 13 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of Democrats agree.

• 17 percent expect their incomes will "get worse."

• 28 percent of Republicans and 11 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Marist Collegepoll of 1,042 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 13 and 14 and released Monday.

Revelations, smug pronouncements, rants to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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