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Inside the Beltway: Much too much information

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Not long after the Iraq war began, another conflict also was underway between news organizations and the Pentagon, tasked with supplying information to the restless press in a 24/7 marketplace without compromising the safety of troops or the security of the mission. Then Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was often on the hot seat, facing down journalists and their demands for more, more, more.

At one point, Mr. Rumsfeld shook his head and publicly recalled a simpler information era, suggesting to his media foe that the old weekly film newsreel of the World War II years had been of practical service. Americans on the home front got a clear idea of what was important, he said. They had a workable perspective, informed and engaged, but not confused or overwhelmed.

"No TV," Mr. Rumsfeld lamented at the time. "There was radio, and people went to the movies and saw a newsreel, a summary of the week's events. Now we're seeing every second."

A decade later, the public faces an even greater barrage of information and news clutter. Distrust in the media is at an all-time high, according to the latest Gallup findings. Do we need to return to the no-frills newsreel from a time when less could be more?

Certainly not, says Ron Paul, who launches the online Ron Paul Channel on Monday.

"I think we should have more information, not less," the former Texas lawmaker and presidential hopeful tells Inside the Beltway.

"When you're maintaining a state, you have to put some lies out there. The need to know exactly what our government is doing has become more important than ever. So the key is more information, more media, more news," Mr. Paul says.

"The government, on the other hand, should never know exactly what we're doing."

PRIVATE MATTERS

One Texas Republican already has proposed that Obamacare be defunded as part of "any continuing budget resolution." So says Rep. Steve Stockman, who cites a Health and Human Services Department analysis that says the Affordable Care Act's data system is rickety, vulnerable and won't be ready to go until Sept. 30, just a day before public enrollment begins in the program.

Americans are likely placing "private medical information in the hands of hackers," Mr. Stockman reasons.

"Unless Congress agrees to defund Obamacare, they will be making people pay through the nose for the privilege of having their identity and private medical records stolen," he says. "Hackers and identity thieves love Obamacare. Time is running out and Congress needs to act now, because Americans will be thrown under the Obamacare bus beginning Oct. 1. The last thing Congress can afford to do is look like they don't care by refusing to defund the failed program."

AND NOW THE VIDEO

Just in time for all those rumored town hall meetings? Crossroads Grass Roots Policies — the aggressive outreach group founded by Karl Rove — has produced a video quickie for lawmakers to screen on their home turf. It is three minutes worth of arguments against the Affordable Care Act, pointing out that the law's promises of lower costs and universal coverage "are false."

The video and a strident memo will be distributed hastily through U.S. House and Senate offices.

"Your constituents are about to see major changes to their health care — many negative, many unexpected — and robust outreach with clear messaging products can help educate your constituents on these changes," CEO Steven Law tells lawmakers, citing a recent Crossroads poll revealing that respondents opposed Obamacare and were not aware of potential negative consequences.

"We strongly encourage members to educate their constituents on this issue in August," Mr. Law says.

SEEKING SEIGENTHALER

This news network goes live in 10 days and likely will do so with much ado. Al Jazeera America already has peopled its on-camera ranks with veterans hailing from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, PBS and ABC — with an incoming cast that includes everyone from Soledad O'Brien to Libby Casey, the former morning host and producer for C-SPAN's "Washington Journal."

John Seigenthaler, who spent 11 years as an NBC News anchorman, also has joined on, and with much enthusiasm.

"I left NBC more than five years ago and fully intended to continue in a family consulting business. I really hadn't paid much attention to Al Jazeera America, but when they approached me, and explained their goals, I was interested," Mr. Seigenthaler tells The Beltway. "They intend to produce in-depth, unbiased reporting and balanced coverage. Given their resources — 12 news bureaus in the U.S., 70 bureaus overseas — well, for a journalist, it's impossible to turn down that kind of opportunity."

He adds, "There are cutbacks in many news organizations now. But this one is expanding. We want to do news that others are ignoring and to counter much of the sensationalism and tabloid mentality that has taken over in a lot of places."

NOVELLE CLINTON CUISINE

"Roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes, spiced and herbed quinoa with green onions, shredded red beets in vinaigrette, garlic hummus with raw vegetable batons, Asian snow pea salsa, fresh roasted nuts, sliced melon and strawberries, gigante beans tossed with onion in extra-virgin olive oil."

And so reads the menu for a recent private lunch between Salon columnist Joe Conason and former President Bill Clinton, who has become a vegan. The aforementioned author dutifully wrote up the encounter for AARP Magazine.

Ah, but consider the carefree olden days.

"The good news is, my husband loves to eat and enjoys it," Hillary Rodham Clinton told The New York Times in late 1992 before the couple had even arrived in the White House "The bad news is, he loves to eat, even when things are not always right for him."

The Times visited Mr. Clinton's old eatery haunts in Arkansas and beyond.

"Visits to nine restaurants here that his friends say are among Bill Clinton's favorites, as well as sightings around the country, confirm his wife's description of his eating habits. From Sims Bar-B-Q to Juanita's, from Doe's Eat Place to Hungry's Cafe, President-elect Clinton prefers the stuff with fat in it: jalapeno cheeseburgers, chicken enchiladas, barbecue, cinnamon rolls and pies."

POLL DU JOUR

82 percent of U.S. voters say that Congress does not deserve to take a summer recess; 82 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of conservatives, 80 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of liberals agree.

48 percent of voters overall say President Obama does not deserve to take a vacation; 71 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of conservatives, 19 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of liberals agree.

63 percent of voters overall say the best way Mr. Obama can solve the nation's problems is to "lock himself in a room with Republicans"; 76 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of conservatives, 42 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of liberals agree.

24 percent of voters overall say Mr. Obama can solve problems by traveling the nation and making policy speeches; 12 percent of Republicans, 17 percent of conservatives, 42 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of liberals agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,007 registered U.S. voters conducted Aug. 3 to 5.

Tip line always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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