- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2013

The intentions are not to upstage or undermine the Republican Party. No, really. That’s what Sen. Rand Paul suggests about the official tea party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. Mr. Paul should know. He is delivering the grass-roots retort on behalf of the Tea Party Express at the National Press Club, to ensure that the media and the Republican establishment don’t write the movement off as “dead,” organizers say.

“There’s a lot of energy that still comes from the tea party, and while they consider themselves mostly to be Republican, they occasionally will chastise even the Republican establishment. So they want an independent voice,” the Kentucky Republican advised CNN on Sunday.

He’s not out to chastise the Republican establishment, and promises to “emphasize” certain points that he believes Sen. Marco Rubio won’t broach when the Florida Republican gives the Republican response to Mr. Obama’s speech. One topic is of particular interest to Mr. Paul.

“We shouldn’t send foreign aid or money to people who are burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America,’” he said. “I think I do represent a wing of the Republican Party who doesn’t want to send money to Egypt, or to several of these countries. I would put strings on the money that goes to Pakistan. I would say to Pakistan, ‘You don’t get more money until you release the doctor who helped us get Osama bin Laden.’”

The tea party agrees with him, Mr. Paul added. And about his own speech Tuesday:

“I see it as an extra response, I don’t see it necessarily divisive. You know, I won’t say anything on there like Marco Rubio is wrong,” he said, adding in summation, “None of the things I ran on as part of the tea party have been fixed. We’re still going down a hole as far as the debt crisis looming. And so we really have to still talk about spending. And we want to make sure there is still a voice for that.”

FROM THE TRAVEL OFFICE

The aforementioned State of the Union address will be in President Obama’s rearview mirror just hours after he finishes the pivotal speech. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama will be bound for Asheville, N.C., “for an event.” On Valentine’s Day, the president heads to Atlanta “for an event.” And on Friday, he journeys to Chicago “for an event.”

No details yet on the “event,” the White House says. But they’re coming. Soon.

BUMPER PATROL

“Barack 2012. Michelle 2016.”

— Bumper sticker spotted in Chevy Chase

NOT ENOUGH

Uh, about that federal pay raise:

“President Obama’s proposed 1 percent pay adjustment for 2014 is simply not enough. It is not enough to allow federal employees to make up lost ground from two-plus years of frozen pay. It is not enough to allow workers, most of whom earn very modest salaries ranging from $24,000 to $70,000, to maintain living standards. And it is not enough to send a message with any kind of clarity that the administration values the federal workforce and doesn’t believe it should continue to bear an enormously disproportionate share of deficit reduction,” says American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox.

He adds that the group, which represents 675,000 federal workers, “will work with friends in Congress who truly value the federal workforce, and understand that forcing us to bear an additional $18 billion to $19 billion in deficit reduction by failing to provide employees with the full across-the-board increase called for under the law is absolutely unconscionable.”

BONJOUR, MONSIEUR KERRY

He was once lauded as a suave global guy who could speak French. But not, apparently, during his first news conference as secretary of state. Newly minted Secretary John F. Kerry was asked by a Canadian reporter to also reply in French for the benefit of French-Canadian audiences after a meeting at the State Department with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.

“Not today,” Mr. Kerry replied. “I got to refresh myself on that.”

VACANT: ‘1600 PENN’

Even a White House screening and a scriptwriter who once penned prose for President Obama may not help NBC’s “1600 Penn,” the ballyhooed series about a dysfunctional first family. The show was created by Jon Lovett, who is indeed a former speechwriter for Mr. Obama; the president graciously attended a pre-release screening of the Thursday night series at the White House last month.

But alas. “1600 Penn” has been pulled from this week’s NBC lineup, replaced by a special one-hour Valentine’s Day episode of “The Office.”

There are omens. After only two episodes, the network has already canceled the medical drama “Do No Harm,” which drew 2 million viewers, making it the lowest-rated debut for a major-network series. Ever. “1600 Penn” was the lead-in for the canceled show; industry observers wonder whether the White House comedy is next.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, is in fine fettle. An all-new “Celebrity Apprentice” returns with much ado in March on NBC, featuring all the stars Mr. Trump fired in previous episodes, including Gary Busey and Trace Adkins.

“It’s show time,” Mr. Trump says.

POLL DU JOUR

• 89 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents and 60 percent of Democrats are “non-Hispanic white.”

• 6 percent of Republicans, 8 percent of independents and 13 percent of Democrats are Hispanic.

• 2 percent of Republicans, 16 percent of independents and 22 percent of Democrats are “non-Hispanic black.”

• 1 percent of Republicans, 3 percent of independents and 2 percent of Democrats are Asian.

• 2 percent of Republicans, 3 percent of independents and 3 percent of Democrats are of “other” ethnic background, or did not designate their background.

Source: A Gallup Daily tracking poll of 338,703 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 2 to Dec. 30, 2012, and released Friday.

• Banter and ballyhoo to jharper@washingtontimes.com.