Inside the Beltway: Tea party brews straw poll

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A LOFTY PERSPECTIVE

“Air Force awkward? Obamas, Bushes, and a Clinton head for South Africa on Air Force One.”

— CNN host Jake Tapper, in a tweet Monday night.

The aircraft was bound for Nelson Mandela’s memorial on Tuesday. The passengers included President Obama and first lady Michelle, former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush plus former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Together, they are set for an almost 20-hour flight, with only one bed on board,” Mr. Tapper points out.

DON’T CONFUSE THEM WITH PROGRESS

“Centrist Democrats? Aren’t they already extinct?” asks New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, who says the party of President Obama bears little resemblance these days to the party of, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or even Bill Clinton.

“The Democratic Party has gone so far left that late Senate stalwarts like Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson and Pat Moynihan, lions of liberalism but also of common sense and a strong military, must be spinning in their graves,” Mr. Goodwin observes. “Or take Joe Lieberman, who got spun right out of the party. He was the Dems’ vice-presidential nominee in 2000, then drummed out as an infidel in 2006 because he didn’t bail on Iraq when the going got tough.”

Both parties are moving away from the center. But that doesn’t make them equally guilty, he says.

“Conservatives revolted over the destructive expansion of government and growing curbs on individual liberty. They take seriously, and sometimes too literally, the Constitution’s limits on federal power,” Mr. Goodwin continues. “Progressives recognize almost no limits. They want a bigger government with more power, coming at the expense of individual liberty. Many want the Constitution scrapped or stretched beyond recognition.”

He adds, “If you’re not sure where you stand, think of President Obama as the litmus test. If you’re with him, you’re no hawk or centrist. You’re a progressive. But don’t confuse that with progress.”

ONE FOR THE HEROES

It was a capacity crowd in an unusual venue: CIA headquarters. The intelligence community recently assembled to honor a pair of intrepid clandestine officers detained by China for 20 years. Awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Cross for their “sheer heroism and unflappable patriotism”: John Downey, 83, and Richard Fecteau, 86.

“Their ordeal remains among the most compelling accounts of courage, resolve, and endurance in the history of our agency,” CIA Director John O. Brennan told the crowd.

The mission in November 1952: Attempt to retrieve an agent on the ground in China “by hooking him mid-flight to their low-flying plane,” which took enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed. The pilots perished but the two officers survived, only to be taken prisoner and then revealing little to interrogators. They were released in the early 1970s. Strength, ingenuity, and decency allowed the men to survive and prevail, Mr. Brennan said.

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