Journalists love nothing more than small events that yield big speculations and fancy headlines. Such was the case with President Obama's handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. The moment spawned close to 3,400 news accounts within four hours, the headlines rife with question marks and wishful conclusions. A minuscule sampling:
"No high five" (The Economist), "Will handshake with Castro lead to headache for Obama?" (The New York Times), "All those miles, all that money and all we get is Obama shaking hands with Raul Castro" (Lucianne.com), "A sign of Mandela-like reconciliation?" (Reuters), "Just how big a deal is the Obama-Castro handshake?" (The Atlantic)," "Should he have snubbed Cuban leader?" (Christian Science Monitor), "Obama makes nice with Castro: the grip and grin" (Fox News), "A sign of things to come?" (Fox Business News), "OMG! Obama Shook Raul Castro's Hand! Assume Outrage!" (Reason), "Presidential handshakes can change history or change nothing" (ABC News), "Handshakes that gripped the world" (The Daily Mail).
And there are historic underpinnings to the stray term "handshake-gate," which became an instant Twitter hashtag Tuesday and a cheeky aside for many broadcasters. In journalistic terms, this one is ancient, having gained fame and traction more than two years ago among NFL fans who witnessed a handshake followed by a meltdown between San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
LOW AND LOWER STILL
It's a cold shoulder for the White House. The chilly numbers: 57 percent of registered American voters now disapprove of President Obama's job performance, says a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. That number is 92 percent among Republicans, 18 percent among Democrats, 62 percent among independents, 83 percent among conservatives, 19 percent among liberals, 50 percent among moderates, 43 percent among Hispanics, 6 percent among blacks and 65 percent among whites.
"A rousing chorus of bah, humbug for President Obama as American voters head into the holidays with little charitable to say about the president," sighs Tim Malloy, assistant director of polling at the Connecticut campus.
THE TALE OF PATTY 'N PAUL
Not everyone is happy with Patty and Paul. As in Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, and Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican — who have carefully maneuvered their bipartisan federal budget deal through the political landscape like nitroglycerine or a nine-foot wedding cake. But they got the thing, well, somewhere. Now there's copious press, and the measured acquiescence from Democrats and Republicans who fear cuts or spending, but fear voter annoyance even more. Maybe there's a very nice resume item for Mr. Ryan tucked in as well.
Then there are the grass-roots fiscal conservatives who will have none of it. Period.
"It's disingenuous for Republicans to surrender the only real spending reforms accomplished under the Obama administration, and call that a deal. Immediate spending and revenue hikes without long-term reforms to spending and entitlement programs isn't a deal, it's just another manufactured, govern-by-crisis shakedown," says FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe.
Heritage Action, the aggressive grass-roots arm of the Heritage Foundation, declares it "cannot support a budget deal that would increase spending in the near-term for promises of woefully inadequate long-term reductions. While imperfect, the sequester has proven to be an effective tool in forcing Congress to reduce discretionary spending." And there's one more voice in the chorus.
"Republicans should once again stand firm in upholding the modest sequestration spending cuts that both parties agreed to for the current fiscal year," says Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity. "Otherwise, congressional Republicans are joining liberal Democrats in breaking their word to the American people to finally begin reining in government overspending."
PAUL STILL PERCOLATING
We're talking Ron Paul, here. He is still raising money, and still pushing talking points.
"The big government establishment of both parties wants you and me to shut up, give up and go home and leave the politicking to them," the former presidential hopeful from Texas tells his followers in a new message. "They hate the fact you and me stand up for what we believe in. They hate the fact you and I support candidates who vote the same way in office as they talk on the campaign trail."
And who are those candidates? Among them: Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, plus Greg Brannon, currently edging into the GOP primary field in the Tar Heel State, and billed "the next Ron Paul," an amused Mr. Paul observes.
"Dear children, I regrettably bring bad tidings. For some time now, melting ice here in the North Pole has made our operations and our day-to-day life intolerable and impossible and there may be no alternative but to cancel Christmas."
And so utters a grim and disheveled Santa Claus during a two-minute Greenpeace "call to action" video released Tuesday.
"The North Pole is only a frozen ocean and it's melting away faster and faster. Santa can no longer function. His warehouse is flooded. All the presents are ruined. World leaders are ignoring the reindeer's cries for help as they sink in the melting ice. Even the threat of being on Santa's naughty list hasn't prompted a rescue operation," reports Savesantashome.org, a new fundraising and petition site.
PARSING THE ANTI-CHRISTIAN PRESS
Of interest to those who ponder the output of supposedly neutral "print and TV journalists [who] increasingly report news from an anti-Christian standpoint." Here comes Warren Cole Smith, whose newly revised and updated book with co-author Marvin Olasky traces the path of the press as it relentlessly shifted from a Christian worldview to secular humanism.
Mr. Smith will introduce "Prodigal Press: Confronting the Anti-Christian Bias of the American News Media" at the Heritage Foundation at high noon Wednesday; the event can be viewed live online at Heritage.org. The phenomenon is not new, however. The book originally was published in 1988.
"Not all of us are called to be journalists, but every American — whether he likes it or not — has his thinking shaped by journalism. Prodigal Press helps explain the blatant and subtle ways journalists promote liberal and anti-Christian ideas, and what you can do to protect your family from that influence," advises Gary Bauer, president of the nonprofit American Values.
POLL DU JOUR
• 62 percent of Americans say they are "the kind of person" who enjoys saving money.
• 33 percent say they are the kind that enjoys spending money.
• 40 percent say they have been spending less money in recent months than they used to; 28 percent of this group say it's a "new, normal pattern"; 12 percent say it is temporary.
• 30 percent say they are spending about the same amount.
• 28 percent say they are spending more money than they used to; 11 percent of this group says it is their new normal pattern; 17 percent say it's a temporary change.
Source: A Gallup poll of 1,017 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 3 and 4.
• Season's greetings and season's grouses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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