Oh, the loneliness of the long-distance president: The topic of President Obama's chilly isolation in the White House generated much buzz in the last 24 hours after he was asked about his socializing habits, or lack thereof, during a news conference. Yet the very same topic came up before Mr. Obama even entered office four years ago. In a CBS "60 Minutes" broadcast that aired Nov. 16, 2008, the incoming president told correspondent Steve Kroft that former presidents had forewarned him about upcoming solitude.
"All of them recognize there's a certain loneliness to the job. That, you know, you'll get advice and you'll get counsel. Ultimately, you're the person who's gonna be making decisions. And I think that, even now, you know, I — you can already feel that fact," Mr. Obama told his host.
Such sentiments followed him right into office. The London Telegraph labeled Mr. Obama the "lonely president" after a mere two years in office. In 2011, The Washington Post called him the "loner president" who left the chummy stuff to Vice President Joseph R. Biden and operated with "no entourage, no friends of Barack."
And now, in four months, there will be a whole book on the subject.
To be published in May: "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership" by Kenneth T. Walsh, chief White House correspondent for U.S. News and World Report.
"President Harry Truman famously called the White House 'the great white jail.' One can scarcely imagine an environment outside the nation's penal system that is more isolating than the executive mansion, a habitat almost guaranteed to keep America's commander in chief far removed from everyday life," says Paradigm Publishing in an advance notice.
Gun control at No. 7
President Obama will dwell dramatically and perhaps conveniently on gun control during a ballyhooed appearance with jittery youngsters at the White House on Wednesday, prompting talk-radio host Laura Ingraham to ponder the president's onetime claims that children should be left out of politics. Despite all the White House staging, the topic does not weigh heavily on the minds of most Americans at the moment, however.
"Four percent of Americans name issues relating to guns and gun control as the nation's top problem," says Gallup director Frank Newport.
"Americans' concerns about the federal budget deficit and government dysfunction rose high enough in January to knock unemployment out of the top two slots on Gallup's 'most important problem' list for the first time since 2009," he notes of the new poll, which places "the economy in general" as the most often cited concern, followed by the federal budget and dissatisfaction with government. Gun issues are seventh on the list behind unemployment, "lack of money" and taxes.
The Review's review
Maybe there can never be too much discussion about conservative identity. The National Review Institute has organized "The Future of Conservatism," a substantial summit to address the challenges facing conservative thinkers that gets the jump on the bodacious Conservative Political Action Conference — CPAC — by some seven weeks.
There will be biggies. Many of them.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will headline the Jan. 25-27 event at a swank hotel in the nation's capital, along with Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Other speakers on the lengthy roster include Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Ralph Reed, Larry Kudlow, Michael Barone, William Bennett, Rich Lowry, Kathryn Lopez and Jonah Goldberg.
"National Review founder William F. Buckley sought to preserve and buttress the foundations of our free society and to conserve our inheritance from America's founders," says Elizabeth Fitton, executive director of the aforementioned institute. "The summit seeks to continue this important mission."
Discussion topics include "What is wrong with the right?" "Does the constitution have a future?" and "Do demographics doom the right?"
A Gray day
Rick Santorum and Republican Reps. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Diane Black of Tennessee will be among the very large crowd expected on the Mall for the 40th annual March for Life. Sadly missing is Nellie Gray, the determined pro-life activist who founded the march itself; she died at 88 in August, five months short of the anniversary. House Speaker John A. Boehner and Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Illinois Democrat, will address the marchers via video.
"This year's March will be a significant meeting place where pro-life congressmen, leaders, students and clergymen unite to stand up for the unborn," predicts Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.
"Fun fact — my Senate desk was previously occupied by Phil Gramm, Nixon and Goldwater. Quite the legacy to try and continue."
(Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, in an initial volley from his official Senate Twitter account, fired up Tuesday.)
Poll du jour
• 58 percent of Americans favor banning bullets "designed to penetrate bullet-proof vests."
• 60 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats agree.
• 56 percent of Americans overall favor banning "high-capacity ammunition clips."
• 48 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats agree.
• 46 percent overall favor banning semi-automatic guns; 37 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats agree.
• 28 percent overall favor banning the possession of handguns; 21 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A National Journal Congressional Connection poll of 1,001 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 10 to 13.
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