Inside the Beltway: Fifty shades of bimbo

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The mutating “Petraeus affair” has conveniently filled the media vacuum left after the presidential election ended, providing press, pundits and assorted officials a veritable gold mine of material. A casual Google News count, in fact, reveals that 165,000 stories and news accounts have emerged about former CIA Director David H. Petraeus‘ marital infidelity. It’s interesting to note that only a scant few of those stories use the old phrase “bimbo eruption.” But no matter. Some observers seek, meanwhile, to trim away the sordid or melodramatic baggage and get to the facts.

“By what standards should we judge top officials?” asks National Review columnist John Fund.

Indeed, many deep thinkers have wondered over the years if our leaders must also be paragons of virtue and morality — or just be good at what they do. Mr. Fund cites the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 32, Chapter 1, Part 147) that clarifies when sexual behavior is a security concern. A person can lose security clearance for “personal conduct or concealment of information that may increase an individual’s vulnerability to coercion, exploitation, or duress, such as engaging in activities which, if known, may affect the person’s personal, professional, or community standing or render the person susceptible to blackmail.”

Mr. Fund points out that President Clinton issued Executive Order 12968, stipulating that those with access to classified material must have a record of “strength of character, truthfulness, honesty, reliability, discretion and sound judgment” and be free from conflicting allegiances. Three months later he began a dalliance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

“I think it was proper for Gen. Petraeus to resign his position, even based only on the facts we know,” Mr. Fund concludes. “But we need a national debate on a consistent standard that we hold our high officials to. Is it the Petraeus standard, by which officials with access to secrets must adhere to a zero-tolerance policy? Or is it the Clinton standard, by which egregious breaches of security go unpunished?”

SPECTATOR SPECTACLE

Well at least someone is planning a party. The American Spectator Foundation’s annual Bartley Gala is set for Wednesday in the glittering ballroom of a swank hotel six blocks from the White House. Among the 400-plus guests: Rep. Paul Ryan, already back in the legislative saddle; Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, plus Donald H. Rumsfeld.

On hand to deliver witticism and wisdom centered upon economic freedom, limited government and traditional American value: Ben Stein, T. Boone Pickens and Michael Novak, with Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma delivering the big keynote speech. Also on the agenda: the Barbara Olson Award for Excellence in Journalism, previously bestowed upon such luminaries as Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes and The Wall Street Journal columnist Dan Henninger. The revelers will dine on roasted pumpkin salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, local greens and sherry vinaigrette dressing; herb-marinated filet mignon with glazed baby carrots, green beans and grilled red pepper polenta cake — plus a carrot cake napoleon with dark chocolate torte, milk chocolate mousse and espresso cream.

Yowsuh.

Afterward, guests will dance away their troubles and saturated fats to the tunes of Manhattan lawyer-turned-band leader Alex Donner, who will be playing from the “great American songbook,” a spokesman tells Inside the Beltway. That means that Mssrs. Rumsfeld et al will harken to the classy fare of Cole Porter and inevitable Frank Sinatra classics.

INSTA-SANDY

Well, that was quick. Hurricane Sandy will be showcased in a new TV special, likely before all power has been restored to New York and New Jersey. The National Geographic Channel airs “Superstorm New York: What Really Happened” on Thursday, even though it’s still not entirely clear what really happened during the fatal weather event that claimed at least 113 lives in the U.S. alone. The special has been whipped together by Pioneer Productions, the company behind such dramatic broadcasts as “Raging Planet” and “The Year the Earth Went Wild,” among others.

“We’ve made countless hours of weather programming before, but the nature of this storm really does make it exceptional,” declares programming executive Jeremy Dear. “This film will break down the true cause and consequences of Sandy’s devastation using computer generated imagery, news footage, compelling home video and new first-person interviews.”

The network, meanwhile, has offered to run public service announcements for the Red Cross during air time, and plans to rebroadcast the production in 172 countries worldwide later this month.

SCANNING THE SCANNERS

The nation’s business goes on. Upcoming hearings before the House Committee on Homeland Security chaired by Rep. Peter T. King re-examine the all-but-forgotten threats posed by biological weapons present in Syria, Iran and Pakistan, and currently favored by al Qaeda. But the New York Republican has not forgotten the recent “scanner shuffle” at the Transportation Security Administration.

“TSA is about to warehouse 91 body scanners that cost taxpayers $14 million. Despite initial reports, these scanners, which were removed from large airports, will not be used in small airports, nor will they be updated with privacy software anytime soon,” points out Rep. Mike Rogers, who chairs the hearing Thursday.

“This raises serious questions about the entire process for developing this technology and how much taxpayer money is at stake. At this hearing, the subcommittee will investigate the actions that got us to this point,” the Alabama Republican said.

POLL DU JOUR

• 66 percent of Americans will buy sale items when they go Christmas or holiday shopping.

They expect to spend $386 on gifts, $242 socializing, $149 entertaining and $65 on holiday home decor.

• 58 percent will shop in December, 45 percent in late November, 28 percent on Black Friday.

• 54 percent will use social media to find discounts, 51 percent will seek lower-priced items, 49 percent will use coupons, 38 percent will consolidate their shopping trips.

• 42 percent expect sales help to be “welcoming.”

• 36 percent will buy a gift for themselves; 27 percent prefer shopping with someone else when compared with shopping alone.

Source: A Deloitte survey of 5,089 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 14-24 and released Monday.

Bluster, quizzical remarks to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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