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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

THE PACKAGE DEAL

Hollywood beckons the White House: several glittering fundraisers are scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Tinseltown, complete with the Obama Victory Fund's own "Platinum Package," just for two. The $71,800 price gains the discerning couple entrance into several Democratic events, a reception with first lady Michelle Obama and dinner at a private Beverly Hills home with President Obama. But wait. "Gold" and "Silver" packages - priced at $35,800 and $15,000 per person respectively - are also available.

"The Obama Victory Fund has been one of the most lucrative of the re-election campaign's fundraising efforts, and according to last year's federal election documents, it collected $39 million during the first half of 2011 alone," says Hollywood Reporter contributing editor Tina Daunt, who notes that Californians contributed $9.9 million of it.

But big money and celebrity are a Democratic tradition. Former President Bill Clinton offered a $1 million "VIP Package" for his foundation donors during a Los Angeles fundraiser in September that included a golf outing and birthday gala. Meanwhile, White House showbiz instincts are in fine fettle. Mrs. Obama will appear on NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show". And, uh, President Obama's astute rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" during a recent appearance at the Apollo Theater is now available as a free ring tone via his campaign website.

DEBATE NO. 20

The indefatigable quartet of Republican hopefuls face off again Thursday night in Jacksonville, courtesy of CNN, the Hispanic Leadership Network and the Republican Party of Florida. Anchorman Wolf Blitzer moderates, prompting many to wonder if there will be another "Newt Gingrich moment" followed by voter adoration. Recall that CNN anchor John King prompted a bold rant from the aforementioned candidate against the news media that won hearts in South Carolina.

The answer: not likely. Folks in that state voted just 48 hours after Mr. Gingrich's rant and it was fresh in their minds. Floridians have five days until they take their turn. A new CNN poll of Republican voters in Florida, incidentally, reveals Mitt Romney leading Mr. Gingrich, 36 percent to 34 percent. Election fever is also rising. Four more presidential debates remain - and there will be primaries or caucuses in Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri in the first week of February alone.

FORGET THE 'FOUR SCORE'

So much for the soaring rhetoric: the State of the Union speech was written on an eighth-grade level declares Eric Ostermeier, a University of Minnesota political professor who pored over President Obama's address to find that multiple sentences were boiled down to five or six words. Yes, it lent a certain dramatic cadence. But the professor found the simplicity wearing.

"If the audience is Congress, as was the original, intended purpose of the speech, then brief policy outlines, episodic illustrations, and short sound bites are probably not very instructive," says Mr. Ostermeier, who based his conclusions on something called the Flesch-Kinkaid readability test.

But Mr. Obama's other State of the Union speeches were also at the eighth-grade level, giving him the lowest rating of any modern president in the speechifying department, and placing Mr. Obama in "almost unchartered linguistic territory," the professor adds.

Who delivered a speech at the 12th-grade level? Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George W. Bush managed it. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter lingered on the 11th-grade level, Bill Clinton in the 10th.

"Obama's speeches are a continuation of a general pattern that finds as State of the Union addresses have perhaps become more and more political, they have been written more and moresimplistically," Mr. Ostermeier concludes. See the research here: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cspg /smartpolitics.

CAFETERIA STYLE

Then: "Hot dog on a bun with ketchup, canned pears, raw celery and carrots with ranch dressing, low-fat milk."

Now: "Whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, whole wheat roll, cooked green beans, broccoli and cauliflower, raw kiwi halves, low-fat milk, low-fat ranch dressing, soft margarine."

Comparison of the old and new elementary school lunch menu, according to the $3.2 billion, five-year "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act" newly unveiled by first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, destined for 32 million school-age kids.

GINSU KNIVES, HAIR SPRAY

"Shameless infomercials." That's how the Libertarian Party describes both the State of the Union address and the Republican response to it on Tuesday night.

"Unlike Ginsu knives, hair spray for men, and ripped abs in 30 days, the Republican and Democratic infomercials have no redeeming social value," observes Mark Hinkle, the party's chairman. "More voters than ever realize that Democratic and Republican politicians are players in the same game of big government. They differ only in the color of their red and blue jerseys."

POLL DU JOUR

• 61 percent of U.S. voters agree that until alternative energy becomes more available, the nation should support fossil fuel sources; 88 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats agree.

• 57 percent overall support the construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas; 90 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Democrats agree.

• 31 percent overall oppose the project; 5 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats agree.

• 51 percent overall say the Keystone pipeline would reduce U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East; 90 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats agree.

• 32 percent overall say the environmental impact of the Keystone project has not been studied enough; 4 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: An IBOPE/Zogby poll of 1,997 likely U.S. voters conducted Jan. 20 to 24.

Murmurs and asides, crabby observations, menu hints to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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