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Inside the Beltway: The secular press

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not many headlines, it seems, are inspired by the Creator these days: Just 19 percent of Americans say reporters and the news media are "friendly" toward religion. Naturally, there's partisan interpretation: 11 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats agree that the press is a faith-friendly bunch, according to a new survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Another 35 percent of Americans overall also say the press is downright "unfriendly" to faith. The majority of GOPers - 56 percent - agree, compared to 22 percent of Democrats. Thirty-eight percent overall say the press is neutral to religion; 29 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats agree. Meanwhile, the Republican Party bests Democrats and the Obama administration as being most at home with religion. See more numbers in today's Poll du Jour at column's end.

BUDDY AND BUDDIES

Buddy Roemer, the independent presidential hopeful who will take donations only in $100 increments, arrives in the nation's capital Thursday to talk corruption and campaign finance reform with onetime lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter. Mr. Roemer's motto, incidentally, is "Pick a president, not a party."

The trio meet for a public "empire salon" under the auspices of the Committee for the Republic, which notes, "In the world of political influence peddling, the money trail always leads back to the lobbying community. Lobbyists dispense political contributions like Halloween candy - only for them, every day is Halloween."

The conversation should appeal to Mr. Roemer.

"If Mitt Romney's campaign is an Etch-A-Sketch, then the GOP primary is a game of Twister," says Mr. Roemer, referencing a cheeky comment from Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom, who compared his boss's campaign to the vintage toy, telling CNN, "You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."

THE REPUBLICAN PURSE

That purse is getting fatter. And smarter, too.

"The Republican National Committee raised an impressive $11.3 million in February. Our cash on hand now totals $26.7 million, empowering us to keep taking the fight directly and aggressively to Barack Obama," says Chairman Reince Priebus, who notes that 97 percent of the donors are of the grass-roots variety, giving less than $200, though generous "major investors" have forked over $5.8 million this year.

"We remain committed to effective financial stewardship," the frugal-minded Mr. Priebus adds, noting that the money will help "undo the damage of Obamanomics and Obamacare and put America on the path to opportunity and prosperity."

HISTORIC MUDSLINGING

"After eight years as president, I have only two regrets: that I have not shot Henry Clay or hanged John C. Calhoun."

(Andrew Jackson on two rivals, 1837).

IT'S A GAS

Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies is getting strategic, and to the tune of six figures. The advocacy group has spent $650,000 on advertising buys in Albuquerque, N.M.; Columbus, Ohio; and Las Vegas - all spots where President Obama is pitching his energy plan this week.

"Bad energy policies mean energy prices we can't afford," the 30-second spot says, and it urges viewers to contact the White House and Congress.

"Instead of delivering practical solutions to make energy more affordable, President Obama is pursuing restrictive and naive policies that are hurting families at the pump and in their utility bills," says Steven Law, president of the group. "There are plenty of supply-boosting solutions Obama could adopt immediately, but he remains obsessed with impractical sideshows like algae and Solyndra business schemes."

The White House has its own interpretation and is intent on increasing "American-made energy" and "reducing our reliance on foreign oil, most notably through the historic fuel economy standards the President has established, which will nearly double the efficiency of the vehicles we drive and save families $1.7 trillion at the pump."

ON THE RADAR

It will go on for eight hours and promises a cast of thousands. The Reason Rally for atheists, humanists, agnostics and secularists on the Mall this Saturday is billed as the world's largest assembly of "Godless" folk. There will be a children's tent and child care, videos via Atheist TV, bright merchandise, VIP seating, two dinner galas, a pre-rally lobbying outreach, one after-party and celebrity guests, including comedian Eddie Izzard and Discovery Channel "Mythbuster" host Adam Savage.

HBO host Bill Maher and magician Penn Jillette will offer pre-taped greetings. They have political company. Former California Rep. Pete Stark also will send a video message, as will Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, who says he welcomes "those who reject all religious faith." Mr. Harkin is not shy and already has shared his video with Roll Call.

POLL DU JOUR

• 54 percent of Americans say the Republican Party is "friendly" toward religion; 65 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of Democrats agree.

• 39 percent overall say the Obama administration is friendly toward religion; 15 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats agree.

• 35 percent overall say the Democratic Party is friendly toward religion; 13 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Democrats agree.

• 51 percent say "religious conservatives have too much control over the GOP; 34 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats agree.

• 41 percent say liberals "who are not religious" have too much control over the Democratic party; 60 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Democrats agree.

• 38 percent overall say politicians talk about religion too much; 24 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey of 1,503 U.S. adults conducted March 7-11.

Clamor, uproar, polite applause to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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