Forget shabby politics, an evolving White House and the “Celebrity-in-Chief” for a moment: It’s God, country and education at Liberty University on Saturday morning, when 14,012 students receive degrees from a school administration unapologetic about its religion-based curriculum. Mitt Romney delivers the commencement address to a campaign-size audience; officials estimate that 34,000 will attend the event in Arthur L. Williams Stadium at the campus in Lynchburg, Va.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has impressive political company. Then-presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan addressed Liberty graduates in 1980, then-President George H.W. Bush was there a decade later. A baccalaureate service, incidentally, will precede the graduation Friday evening, featuring evangelist Luis Palau. The service is no optional afterthought.
“One of the privileges of attending Liberty University is that this service, honoring Jesus Christ, has not fallen prey to political correctness and is still one of the official commencement ceremonies,” says chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., whose father Jerry Falwell founded the university in 1971.
BIG HOUSE, RIVER VIEW
Based on the median price per square foot of a residence in its neighborhood, the Movoto Real Estate Watch finds that if the White House were put on the open market in the nation’s capital, the 55,000-square-foot-mansion would fetch up to $115 million.
Ah, but it’s a volatile field. Based on sales data from other markets, the group found that the White House is worth more — or less — elsewhere. The historic property would go for a $387 million in New York City, $147 million in San Francisco, $79 million in Los Angeles, $44 million in Chicago, $39 million in Miami and $20 million in Houston.
“Why should Washington, D.C. have all the fun?” demands Movoto writer David Cross.
The press has taken to billing Sen. Rob Portman as the “insider’s” pick in the Republican vice-presidential derby, a notion confirmed Thursday in a bipartisan National Journal’s Congressional Insiders Poll that placed the Ohio Republican ahead of four other potential running mates, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
“Portman conveys seriousness of purpose. The rest are political supernovas who will fade away fast,” one Democratic respondent told the news organization, while a Republican volunteered, “He could turn the VP position from a cipher into a CEO for government.”
Journalists are going through their standard drill: Is Mr. Portman — the “common-sense conservative” who worked in both Bush administrations and served a decade in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2010 — getting feisty? Is he attacking the White House? Is he acting vice-presidential? The lawmaker has attracted other attention, meanwhile.
“The U.S. senator from Ohio would be the leading candidate to be Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential choice, if he wasn’t widely viewed as a stiff. Actually, according to a Portman ally, he’s kind of a [expletive for a tough guy],” notes Andrew Kaczynski, a BuzzFeed political reporter who listed 15 “genuinely interesting things” about Mr. Portman.
Among the revelations: He kayaked the entire 1,900 mile length of the Rio Grande. He’s a lifetime hunter and fisherman who bagged a turkey last month. He learned Spanish from Mexican cowboys while working on a Texas-Mexico border ranch. He has a titanium collarbone from a mountain biking accident. He gave his wife a chicken coop and four live chickens for Christmas present.
“Fight global warming. Turn on the A/C.”