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Inside the Beltway: Carsonmania

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It was almost inevitable. Dr. Ben Carson will be a featured speaker at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in mid-March, praised by American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas as someone deeply in touch with the fiscal and social challenges of the age, who nonetheless "represents the optimism and hope of the future of the conservative movement."

The pediatric neurosurgeon has been on conservative radar since his straightforward speech about the state of America at the recent National Prayer Breakfast, before an audience that included President Obama. The Wall Street Journal ran an immediate op-ed titled "Ben Carson for President," in the aftermath, declaring that Dr. Carson "may not be politically correct, but he's closer to correct than we've heard in years."

He joins a blockbuster roster of speakers that includes Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

"The dangers that face our nation today are every bit as great as those we have faced in the past. The question is whether we have lost our capacity to endure hardship and sacrifice for future generations," says Dr. Carson.

ADVICE FOR THE PRESS

"I think conservative media is failing to advance ideas and stories. Certainly part of that is because the general media has an ideological bias against conservatives, which makes it harder for the media to take our views seriously. But many conservatives are, instead of working doubly hard to overcome that bias, just yelling louder about the same things. The echo in the chamber has gotten so loud it is not well understood outside the echo chamber in the mainstream press and in the public. It translates only as anger and noise, neither of which are conducive to the art of persuasion," says Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.com, in an open message to journalists.

"Conservatives are trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial, we have forgotten the basics of reporting: W5 + H as I learned in grade school, also known as who, what, where, when, why, and how. I think conservatives need to reset some of their reportorial resources to tell the stories that need to be told by focusing on the facts at hand in a world view of the right. We need to establish a baseline for integrity in reporting that then allows us to highlight the truly outrageous," Mr. Erickson observes, also cautioning reporters not to get mired in talking points, particularly those from "Republican leadership."

A BLUNT INSTRUMENT

President Obama could have skipped the sequester scare tactics and managed spending cuts responsibly. "But the president hasn't tried," say National Review contributors James C. Capretta, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Tevi Troy, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.

"In dealing with the sequester, the administration appears to favor the 'Washington Monument' strategy -- making all cuts as painful and prominent as possible for maximum political leverage. This is a reprise of the playbook used to great effect by President Bill Clinton against House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s. But the 1990s showdown was a confrontation over a full government shutdown. When the sequester hits, the federal government will continue full operations and, with some creativity, could do so with little discernible drop in public services," the pair observe.

"In the hands of a president committed to responsible deficit reduction, sequestration could be a powerful tool for good. The sequester that the president and his team proposed is a blunt instrument that is far less desirable than sensibly targeted cuts, but that is no reason to administer it irresponsibly."

UPPING THE ANTE

GOP operatives should make note of this canny idea that could intensify the Democratic Party's manufactured blame game and fear mongering over the coming budget cuts. Organizing for Action, the aggressive grass-roots nonprofit that grew out of President Obama's 2012 campaign, is now seeking "sequester stories" from loyal Democrats.

"Each of us has a responsibility to step up and make sure Congress hears our voices. Whether you'd be directly affected by these sequester cuts, or whether they'd affect a senior, veteran, or teacher you know, please share what they mean to you," says Stephanie Cutter, former deputy manager for the Obama campaign, in an email. The group supplies a handy online link to do just that.

Meanwhile, the organization also has the rights to all content via a submission agreement, which grants the group "perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sublicensable, royalty-free license to publish, reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, edit, modify, create derivative works of and otherwise use the submissions in any manner or media and for any purpose whatsoever."

STILL BREWING

"This is it. By the end of today we must raise $59,037 more to reach our $1 million fundraising goal," the Tea Party Patriots declared in a last-minute message to supporters Wednesday. And they made it, says Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the group.

The Patriots, the largest umbrella organization for the grass-roots movement, has been seeking small donations in the past nine days -- a "money bomb" -- as proof of their political prowess in uncertain times, and against certain foes.

"Both the big-government Republicans and Democrats are carefully watching our progress. They truly believe that only 'professionals' can make a difference in politics," the Patriots noted in their appeal. "They don't believe in grass roots. They don't believe it's possible for 'ordinary' Americans to raise $1 million in ten days. And they hate the tea party."

POLL DU JOUR

• 52 percent of Americans say the sequester's automatic spending cuts in military and nonmilitary programs are a "bad idea."

• 21 percent say the cuts are a "good idea."

• 50 percent say the cuts are "too severe" and will hurt the economy.

• 46 percent say the cuts are "not perfect," but continued partisanship in Washington justifies "dramatic measures" to reduce the deficit.

• 39 percent say they favor a plan with more cuts; 37 percent favor fewer cuts.

• 14 percent approve of automatic cuts.

Source: A Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 21 to 24.

• Squawks, braying and delicate peeping noises to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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