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Inside the Beltway: August whets the Democratic appetite

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Democratic operatives and activists have declared it's now "Action August," and they've targeted specific Republicans during what's normally sleepy summer recess time. We're talking Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Peter T. King of New York, plus Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Chris Christie of New Jersey. To name a few.

In the next 48 hours, all could encounter possible confrontations with vocal folk from Hold Them Accountable, a project of Americans United for Change, a progressive organization founded in 2005 to challenge "the far right conservative voices and ideas that for too long have been mistaken for mainstream American values."

The group has revealed the time and place for public appearances of the aforementioned officials — the Red State Gathering in New Orleans for Mr. Cruz and Mr. Perry, and a New Hampshire campaign event for Mr. King, for example — and have urged their local membership to show up. Nimble organizers have also provided talking points, questions to ask and policy information about six issues, including immigration, "gun violence" and Obamacare.

"Elected officials work for you. This is your chance to meet them face-to-face and hold them accountable for imposing gridlock and for obstructing the common sense agenda Americans demand," organizers say.

They're not alone. Organizing for Action, the 3 million-member grass-roots group that grew out of President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, is recruiting people for an "Action August" campaign, touted by the president himself.

"There is only so much I can do on my own. The special interests know it, and they're counting on you to be silent on gun violence and climate change. They hope you're not paying attention," Mr. Obama said in a personal message to the group. "They plan to make the loudest noise when your members of Congress come home for August recess. I'm counting on you to be just as vocal — to make sure the agenda that Americans voted for last year is front and center."

PRESIDENT LATE NIGHT

Surprise. President Obama is going on NBC's "Tonight Show" on Tuesday, this following a campaign speech in Phoenix earlier in the day. Well, heck. Air Force One will be all fired up; he might as well drop by. It's just a little hop over to Los Angeles.

This marks the president's sixth visit to the ratings-dominant late-night show hosted by Jay Leno.

But this is no casual affair. In a press release, NBC has already revealed that Mr. Obama will talk about "job initiatives and the economy" during his visit. It may be due to the relentless media marketplace, or the celebrity nature of politics. According to the Internet Movie Database, Mr. Obama has appeared 155 times on entertainment and public affairs programs since he first appeared on Chris Matthews' MSNBC show in 2004.

DE-SCANDALIZING

Sanitizing, steering, then changing the public discourse on all those pesky "scandals" is well underway at the White House. Deft press secretary Jay Carney offered this to crabby reporters at the daily briefing Wednesday:

"We all remember a few weeks ago when Washington was consumed with a variety of issues that, while in some cases significant, there was an effort underway to turn them into partisan scandals. I don't think anybody here would doubt that. And what we've seen as time has passed and more facts have become known — whether it's about the attacks in Benghazi and the talking points or revelations about conduct at the IRS — that attempts to turn this into scandal have failed," Mr. Carney said.

Yes, so move on everyone. Nothing to see here.

NIXON'S HOME MOVIES

Here's a film called "disarmingly jaunty" by The Hollywood Reporter and a must-see, "eye-opening documentary" by Variety. Wait, what? These reviews are coming in for a new film about Richard M. Nixon from a pair of creatives who want their audiences to "re-examine" the legacy of the 37th president.

Behold, it's "Our Nixon," which debuts on CNN at 9 p.m. Thursday, with limited release in commercial theaters in September.

Co-producers Brian Frye and Penny Lane created their feature-length documentary from 500 reels of personal Super 8 home movies of the life and times of President Nixon, from 1969 to 1973. Most notable are those who actually shot the footage: Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, domestic affairs adviser John Ehrlichman, and special assistant Dwight Chapin. The film footage had long been retained by the National Archives.

"The personal footage reveals a multidimensional president and staff who were heartbreakingly earnest, idealistic and naive — as well as self-protective, suspicious and cynical," Ms. Lane says. "Our goal was to invite viewers to re-examine their prior assumptions about Nixon and come to their own conclusions about what that era means."

There's also newsreel footage, recordings of Nixon's phone calls and meetings, and a closer look at the White House press corps, which had evolved into something "wary, suspicious and ultimately hostile." The film airs four times a day on CNN on select days through Aug. 11.

REPUBLICANS RIPE FOR RIGHT

There are timely new findings from Republican voters themselves that reveal the majority wants the party to move right.

An ambitious Pew Research Center survey reveals that 67 percent of those GOPers say the party must address "major problems" while 6 out of 10 say it must reconsider some positions. But the big number: 54 percent of Republicans overall want party leaders "to move further to the right." Among tea partyers, the number is 69 percent.

"Tea Party Republicans have influence in the GOP partly because of their high level of political engagement. Overall, they make up a minority (37 percent) of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationally," the poll says. "Yet this group is more likely than other GOP voters to say they always vote in primary elections; as a result they make up about half of the Republican primary electorate (49 percent)."

Who heads up the party? Fifty-six percent of the respondents said that either "no one is in charge" or they didn't know. There's still affection out there, though.

POLL DU JOUR

65 percent of Republican voters overall give a favorable rating to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin; 81 percent of "Tea Party Republicans" agree.

55 percent of Republican voters give a favorable rating to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky; 70 percent of tea partyers agree.

50 percent of Republican voters give a favorable rating to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida; 59 percent of tea partyers agree.

47 percent of Republican voters give a favorable rating to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; 47 percent of tea partyers agree.

44 percent of Republican voters give a favorable rating to House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio; 52 percent of tea partyers agree.

33 percent of Republican voters give a favorable rating to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; 48 percent of tea partyers agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center survey of 497 registered Republican voters conducted July 17-21.

Fine whines, curmudgeonly observations to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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