Inside the Beltway: Fire up the old campaign mobile

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Some wonder if President Obama prefers to be in campaign mode rather than tending the home fires — or putting them out, anyway — in the nation’s capital. There could be truth to that notion this week. After delivering the State of the Union address, the president jets off aboard Air Force One at $181,757 an hour in operating costs, headed for an auto parts company in Asheville, N.C., on Wednesday. He’ll discuss “proposals, unveiled in the speech, that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there,” the White House explains.

Also on the itinerary, and with similar agenda: stops in Georgia on Thursday and Chicago on Friday, where the focus will be on gun violence.

SEQUESTER WHAT?

It’s supposed to kick in March 1. The sequester. You know. Sequester? Despite much media coverage and caterwauling over the term, only 36 percent of Americans actually know what “sequester” means. So says a new poll from The Hill, which also revealed that a quarter of the U.S. adults who responded freely acknowledged they didn’t know what the heck a sequester is while 21 percent felt it had something to do with “fiscal.” Nine percent thought the term “describes the process by which an elected official is tossed out of office,” while 8 percent said it referred to some sort of Supreme Court ruling, the poll found.

“Such a case would come as news to Chief Justice John Roberts,” observes Hill analyst Peter Schroeder.

HERCULES, STYX AND SHATNER

One legendary starship captain simply cannot stay out of space. “Star Trek” icon William Shatner is among those rare folk who have suggested names for a pair of tiny, previously undiscovered moons orbiting Pluto, unceremoniously referred to for now as “P4” and “P5.”

One of Mr. Shatner’s choices — “Vulcan” — has made the 13-name official ballot organized the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. The other choice — “Romulus” — did not.

The cosmic-minded public has been invited to vote on the monickers, all Greek or Roman mythological names, as befits moons for Pluto, named for the Roman king of the underworld. Other possible names include Styx, Orpheus and Hercules.

Pluto’s three other moons, incidentally, are named Charon, Hydra and Nix. Voting ends Feb. 25; the two winning names will presented to the International Astronomical Union, which governs such things. See it all at www.plutorocks.com.

‘ANYONE BUT CATHOLICS’

Much reaction to the impending resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was kind and laudatory. But the “Big Three” networks? ABC, CBS and NBC used the announcement to “advance their left-wing social agenda and attack the Catholic Church’s centuries-old doctrine on the priesthood, abortion, and gay marriage,” says a Media Research Center analysis of the coverage. NBC and CBS “predictably dwelled on sensationalism and the Pope’s conservatism.”

But the conservative watchdog called ABC coverage a “disgraceful onslaught,” citing anchorwoman Diane Sawyer for equating the pontiff’s resignation with in-house scandals rather than his failing health, while suggesting the church’s positions on social issues should change. ABC stands for “anyone but Catholics,” the analysis says.

“The liberal media’s snarling, bigoted anti-Catholicism is on full display, and ABC World News has won the race to the bottom. Instead of reporting the historic news of Pope Benedict’s resignation, Diane Sawyer — who calls herself a Catholic — and Disney-owned ABC used the opportunity to bludgeon the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict with every left-wing grievance imaginable,” proclaims L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the research center.

“ABC World News refused to mention a single accomplishment during Pope Benedict’s tenure, even on lefty-approved environmental issues. It demonstrates the contempt that ABC News and Sawyer have for the Pope and for the Church. Sawyer’s stunning editorializing that, ‘There has to be fundamental change,’ is disgraceful and unprofessional. Who is Diane Sawyer to demand changes to thousands of years of Catholic doctrine? She and The Walt Disney Company owe 1.2 billion Catholics an apology. And she should go to Confession,” Mr. Bozell adds.

FRENETIC INTEMPERANCE

Now here’s a thought: Rampant consumer culture and a sense of entitlement have contributed to the precarious state of the U.S. economy. So says John Horvat II in his new book “Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society — Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go.”

It is sobering to recall the spartan, hardworking culture and the proverbial stiff upper lip of past generations that drove the nation to the exceptionalism admired by Ronald Reagan. Mr. Horvat says a different cultural force has taken over, a restless societal drive to consume and gratify — a “frenetic intemperance,” he says. Easy acceptance of debt, risky speculation and irresponsible credit has thrown the entire economy off balance.

The author says we should abandon this “Rule of Money,” and adopt a “Rule of Honor,” which focuses on leadership, integrity and excellence, plus church, family and community. Frenetic intemperance has become “unsustainable,” Mr. Horvat says. The 400-page volume was just released by York Publishing.

POLL DU JOUR

• 57 percent of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling the threat of terrorism; 27 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents agree.

• 52 percent of Americans overall approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling his job; 12 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents agree.

• 45 percent overall approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling the economy; 7 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of independents agree.

• 17 percent overall say there will be “more cooperation” between Republicans and Democrats during Mr. Obama’s second term.

• 6 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of independents agree.

Source: A CBS News poll of 1,148 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 6 to 10.

• Claims and names to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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