Inside the Beltway: Tea party brews straw poll

It’s never too early for a nice juicy straw poll, particularly if it’s of the presidential variety. The Tea Party Patriots have already drawn 250,000 voters to a survey listing potential 2016 hopefuls of interest to liberty-minded folk. The grass-roots group intends to drawn a million votes by March. Who’s leading this early, early match-up among undeclared candidates?

In front, it’s Sen. Ted Cruz; the Texas Republican has garnered 40 percent of the votes. He’s followed by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 21 percent, who is publicly wrestling with a White House run despite misgivings from his wife. In third place is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 10 percent. And yes, Sarah Palin is on the roster, drawing 6 percent of the votes. Just under a quarter of the voters indicated they were either undecided or have someone else in mind.

The poll is the proverbial shot across the bow to those who dismiss tea party influence or relevance.

“We need to show the liberal Democrats that we can — and we will — heavily support tea party candidates who are running to replace them,” says Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the organization, which represents 3,500 local groups

“And even more importantly, we need to put liberal Republicans on notice. They need to know that if they don’t toe the line, we’ll replace them as well,” she adds.

AMERICANS CHILLY TOWARD IRAN DEAL

Well, how convenient. Just as Secretary of State John F. Kerry steps before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday afternoon to quell alarm about the interim nuclear agreement with Iran, voila: a poll reveals that Americans are seriously skeptical about the deal. Committee chairman Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican, should take a keen interest in the numbers.

Less than one-third of Americans approve of the deal, says a new Pew Research Center poll; 14 percent of Republicans, 13 percent of both conservatives and tea partyers agree. Half of Democrats and 60 percent of liberals, however, approve the deal.

Meanwhile, 62 percent of Americans overall say Iranian leaders are “not serious” about reducing international concerns about their nuclear program; 77 percent of Republicans and even 49 percent of Democrats agree.

CHENEY CHILLY TOO

No, Dick Cheney doesn’t like the Iran agreement either. “I’m not impressed. I don’t think the Iranians have given up anything,” Mr. Cheney told Fox Business Network host Neil Cavuto on Monday night.

“I have grave doubts. I really do. The Iranians have been down this road before and they stretch out the negotiations. In the meantime, they’re very busy working on improving their enrichment capabilities. And they’ve significantly expanded their number of centrifuges,” the former vice president said.

THE HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE

“When you’re dealing with the Middle East, two thousand years is the normal wait for something to happen.”

— White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, to Newsweek, Nov. 27, 1989.

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.

“I do want to thank my good friend Dick Fecteau; he couldn’t be a better guy to spend 20 years together with,” Mr. Downey told the crowd. Mr. Fecteau displayed “his trademark humility, confessing that he was proud to receive the honor but unsure if he deserved the award,” according to a CIA account.

“No matter what their captors were taught to believe about Americans, Dick and Jack taught them something else: what it means to be undefeated,” Mr. Brennan said.

POLL DU JOUR

68 percent of Americans do not think President Obama and Republicans will reach a federal budget deal before the Jan. 15 deadline; 75 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats agree.

55 percent overall say reducing pay and benefits to federal workers is acceptable to avoid increasing taxes and fees; 67 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Democrats agree.

49 percent overall say cuts to Obamacare would be acceptable to avoid increasing taxes and fees; 77 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Democrats agree.

43 percent overall say cuts to defense spending would be acceptable; 28 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats agree.

18 percent overall say cuts to Medicare would be acceptable; 24 percent of Republicans and 7 percent of Democrats agree.

13 percent overall say cuts to Social Security would be acceptable to; 19 percent of Republicans and 8 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A McClatchy-Marist Poll of 1,173 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 3-5.

News, brews and stews to jharper@ washingtontimes.com

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