- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2013

When President Obama arrives in Northern Ireland on Monday for the two-day Group of Eight summit, he’ll encounter “the biggest policing operation” in local history. Some 8,000 police and military troops have assembled in the picturesque town of Enniskillen, which plays host to the president and seven other leaders, along with a large, uninvited gaggle of dissidents, environmentalists, pacifists and protesters that also number in the thousands.

The spectacular golf resort that will house the luminaries is ringed by concrete barriers and razor wire, punctuated by water cannons and overflown by security drones. But alas. Persistent rumors that Mr. Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will steal away for a friendly glass of stout and a photo op at some local pub appear remote.

Yes, the pair will meet privately in the evening. But it’s complicated. A difficult agenda looms, with arms control to address plus that pesky Russian support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. “There are no illusions that it’s going to be easy,” recently advised deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. There’s Hollywood noise as well. Just in time for the summit, Matt Damon, Robert DeNiro, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Douglas and Alec Baldwin are among the considerable Tinseltown cast in a new video produced by the activist group Global Zero, demanding Mr. Obama simply eliminate all nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia have their own schedule to the south. The family trio will visit Trinity College in Dublin to examine archives that document their Irish ancestry; two years ago Mr. Obama revealed he was the great-great-great-grandson of one Falmouth Kearney, a young cobbler who left Ireland for America 163 years ago.

Mother and daughters will see a performance of “Riverdance,” visit the Wicklow Mountains and ultimately meet up with dad in Berlin on Wednesday. Mr. Obama will spend time with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, give a speech at the much ballyhooed Brandenberg Gate and sit through the inevitable state dinner. That, too, is complicated; Germans are looking askance at recent hubbub over National Security Agency tracking of citizen phone and Internet use.

The favorite parody headline about Mr. Obama’s visit from local German tabloids: “Yes, we scan,” which also appeared, incidentally, in The Wall Street Journal.

THE COLD WAR

“Black Forest,” “White Russian,” “Stout Surprise,” “Eton Mess,” “Nuts About Obama.”

Four G-8-themed ice cream flavors concocted to honor German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama — introduced for the meeting by Lilley’s Centra, a local shop in the aforementioned host town of Enniskillen.

‘NOT BEING BUSH’

“It seems to me ‘not being Bush’ is our foreign policy,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told NBC on Sunday, upon confronting the tricky, dangerous situation in Syria, and relations with the aforementioned Bashar Assad.

“The goal should be to basically make sure Assad leaves. Last year, Assad was isolated, he had very few friends, he was hanging by a thread. This year he’s entrenched with Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, stronger behind him than ever,” the South Carolina Republican said. “I think our goal should be, in the short term, to balance the military power, and providing small arms won’t do it. So we need to create a no-fly zone to neutralize Assad’s air power.”

Mr. Graham added. “A political solution is the only way you solve this, and Assad must go to get a political solution The whole region’s about to blow up and our foreign policy, I don’t understand it. Whatever it is, it’s not working.”

MOTORCYCLE MULTITUDE

They made a joyful noise. A big one. Pope Francis blessed several thousand Harley-Davidson motorcycles and riders on Sunday, amid “the celebratory roar of V-twin engines,” points out Mark-Hans Richer, chief marketing officer. The multitude of riders assembled in Rome for a “bike blessing” to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the motorcycle brand. The pontiff also thanked the riders during the Mass that followed.

And a message? There was that, too.

“Our promise to our customers is to offer them once-in-a-lifetime experiences that few other brands can fulfill. Having our customers treated to the blessing fulfills that promise of epic adventures,” Mr. Richter adds.

REPUBLICAN FUTURE

It’s the Republican Party, local version. GOPAC, the 34-political action committee established in 1979 to groom future campaign heavyweights, hosts an “Emerging Leaders’ Summit” through Wednesday in New York City. The group is heralding the prowess of 21 state lawmakers and officials, including Colorado state Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff, Virginia Delegate Peter Farrell and Texas state Rep. Scott Turner.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is there to cheer them on and offer a boot camp of sorts for the “many obstacles” faced by state legislators.

“There has never been a more critical time for the Republican Party to ensure we have prepared leaders who can move our party and nation forward,” says GOPAC Chairman Frank Donatelli. See the gaggle of GOP up-and-comers here: GOPAC.org.

POLL DU JOUR

• 71 percent of U.S. voters wonder if the nation’s political leaders are the “best people we can find to lead the country”; 85 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats agree.

• 23 percent of voters overall feel “confident and proud” of the people in leadership roles; 11 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats agree.

• 64 percent overall say the federal government is “too big”; 87 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats agree.

• 63 percent overall have “not much” or no trust in the federal government; 83 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

• 48 percent overall say President Obama is “honest and trustworthy”; 83 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Republicans agree.

• 29 percent say the federal government is the “right size”; 47 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of Republicans agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,010 registered U.S. voters conducted June 9 to 11.

Tip line always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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