- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2012

“Unlike 2008, President Obama goes into the debates with a record. But it’s a record he’d rather not talk about: persistently high unemployment, vanishing opportunity, skyrocketing debt, a shrinking middle class, and simmering international turmoil. In the face of these crises, Americans deserve a debate on the issues, but President Obama is unlikely to oblige. Instead we can expect him to lob misleading attacks at Gov. Romney while dismissing the disappointments of the last four years. And he will ignore the standards he set for himself as a candidate,” says Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer, predicting the moment when Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney step onstage in Denver, some 48 hours from now.

“They say talk is cheap. But America has paid steep prices for the president’s talk: $5.4 trillion in new debt and 43 months of unemployment over 8 percent. Americans cannot afford four more years like the last four years. There’s no debate about that,” Mr. Spicer adds.

“GROSS NEGLIGENCE”

Sen. Bob Corker is done with White House dithering over Libya, which he now refers to as “Benghazi-gate.” The Tennessee Republican has written letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, asking for answers about the security concerns in Benghazi that prevent FBI agents from entering the city to investigate the deaths of U.S. Embassy personnel nearly three weeks ago. Mr. Corker has also sponsored legislation with Sen. Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, calling for an investigation of the attacks on U.S. installations abroad. He is not satisfied with White House senior adviser David Plouffe’s claims that it “was not clear” that the attacks were terrorism.

“The deafening silence from this administration on the terrorist attacks in Libya combined with seeing the president’s senior adviser stumble around on ‘Meet the Press’ regarding the situation in Benghazi leads one to conclude one of two things. The administration was either involved in gross negligence or incompetence that cost the lives of four Americans. Or, what has been done in Libya has resulted in a failed state, where our best trained FBI agents cannot even travel to Benghazi,” Mr. Corker says.

SHRUG CULTURE

“Atlas Shrugged Part II” — the second installment of the movie based on 1957 Ayn Rand’s book of the same name — premieres in theaters nationwide on Oct. 12. But the movie has already arrived in the nation’s capital. It’s the subject of a high-profile party in a Capitol Hill home on Monday that will be followed by a red carpet screening at the Ronald Reagan International Center on Tuesday. Among those in town to celebrate: actors Jason Beghe, Angie Janu, Patrick Fabian and Mandy Steckelberg. See a trailer for the film here: www.AtlasShruggedMovie.com.

PREP PRIMER

Preparation for the big debate on Wednesday likely has gone on since June says Tevi Troy, a former official in the George W. Bush administration who served on the “debate prep” team himself for Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in 2004. Now a senior fellow with Hudson Institute and a Washingtonian contributor, Mr. Troy says the elite trainers pore over videotapes of the opposition like crafty football coaches, ultimately seeking to coax “real world” answers from their candidates.

Then there’s the pivotal role of stand-in sparring partners. Sen. John F. Kerry has acted as Mitt Romney for President Obama, now in serious prep mode through Tuesday in Henderson, Nev. Sen. Rob Portman has played the president for Mr. Romney; the Ohio Republican adopted similar roles in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 campaigns. Notably, he once played Mr. Obama for Sen. John McCain.

“The key to being an effective stand-in, Mr. Portman says, is to be so tough that the candidate and his family really don’t like you. In fact, Cindy McCain walked out of one of Mr. Portman’s Obama-channeling attacks, telling him later, ‘I was about to throw something at you,’” Mr. Troy observes.

JOHNSON’S TENACITY

He didn’t make it. Despite raising $600,000 for his campaign and presenting cogent arguments to be included on the debate podium, Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson will not be part of the Denver debate on Wednesday. But the candidate will host a live 90-minute online town hall of his own on Tuesday, and is anxiously courting questions from his fans. The event begins at 9 p.m.

“This town hall will be featured on Vokle.com. To ask questions via video or text, simply sign into your Facebook account or sign up for a Vokle account. If you just want to watch the town hall, go to www. GaryJohnson2012.com,” he explains.

YOUNG AND RESTLESS

“Young voters are significantly less engaged in this year’s election than at a comparable point in 2008 and now lag far behind older voters in interest in the campaign and intention to vote,” says a new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. “The share of voters younger than 30 who are following campaign news very closely is roughly half what it was at this point four years ago (18 percent, down from 35 percent). Just 63 percent of young registered voters say they definitely plan to vote this year, down from 72 percent four years ago.”

Fewer young people are registered to vote: 50 percent are registered, compared to 61 percent in 2008 and 57 percent in 2004. The trends are “disadvantages for President Obama,” the study says, though the drop in interest ranges from 12 to 16 percentage points among both Democrats and Republicans alike.

POLL DU JOUR

• 64 percent of hunters and anglers say their access to quality places to fish or hunt has stayed the same; 26 percent say access has decreased.

• 50 percent of hunters and anglers are conservative, 42 percent are Republicans.

• 37 percent are moderates, 32 percent are independents; 10 percent of the group are liberal, 18 percent are Democrat.

• 47 percent say gun rights and conservation are equally important; 37 percent say gun rights are the most important issue facing sportsmen.

• 42 percent say they are “strong conservationists”; 25 percent belong to the National Rifle Association.

Source: A National Wildlife Federation survey of 800 registered voters conducted Aug. 27-Sept. 1 and released Friday.

Yeas and nays, neighs, caterwaul to jharper@washingtontimes.com