Inside the Beltway: Jake Tapper takes the lead

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Broadcast debut of note Monday: that would be CNN’s “The Lead,” showcasing the he-man talents of Jake Tapper, who has managed to sidestep the land mines of broadcast to emerge with his own show, credibility intact. Mr. Tapper, a onetime Democratic press secretary, did hard time in print journalism for many years, including a 1998 story in Washington City Paper titled “I Dated Monica Lewinsky: Behind the tawdriest of headlines, there’s a woman I wouldn’t mind bringing home to mom.” Persistent reporting and an intense mien eventually landed Mr. Tapper in front of the cameras; he spent nine years as an ABC News correspondent before announcing his exodus to cable news three months ago.

“We want to put on a news show you want to watch, one that doesn’t have political ideology, and one that aggressively seeks the truth,” Mr. Tapper tells Inside the Beltway. “We intend for this to be engaging and compelling. We’ll cover a wide range of topics, from Syria to HBO, from Capitol Hill to Wall Street, from the gridiron to soda bans. We’re going to carve out time for all those topics.”

The one-hour show airs at 4 p.m., with New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Comedy Central fake newsman Stephen Colbert among the first guests. CNN frames the program as a reflection of Mr. Tapper’s “curiosities and interests,” bolstered with headlines from elsewhere, plus “prolific” use of social media.

“There are more than 300 million people in America. They have a wide variety of tastes. If they want information told by those who share their political point of view, that’s fine. But that’s not what we’re going to do. We’ll have a wide variety of guests,” he says. “Hopefully, people will be left with the impression that I ask tough but fair questions.”

POPE TO THE PRESS

“Your profession requires study, sensitivity and experience. It requires particular attention to truth, goodness and beauty — and this brings us particularly close together, because the church exists in order to communicate precisely this: truth, goodness and beauty in person.”

— Advice from Pope Francis to journalists during an initial news conference Saturday

GARY JOHNSON PUSHES BACK

There’s much talk that young libertarians will be as drawn to Sen. Rand Paul as they were to his father Ron Paul. But wait. The former official Libertarian presidential candidate is convinced there’s still room for him in the political spectrum. Gary Johnson has launched Our American Initiative, a political action committee, and will embark on a monthlong tour of 10 college campuses April 1. He plans to “spill his guts” with much ado, ending his travels in the nation’s capital at George Washington University.

“I am convinced that liberty is reaching a tipping point in America,” says Mr. Johnson, who lauds Mr. Paul’s recent 13-hour filibuster against drone policy, among other indicators that voters seek small government.

“This will either be a brief moment in history or the beginning of a real return to the principles of liberty. Which of those it is frankly depends on us. Opportunities are meaningless if we don’t seize them.”

And Mr. Johnson has slogans, many slogans, his spiffy new merchandise emblazoned with the phrases, “Live free 2016,” “Live free with me,” “I will not show my papers” and ‘The united United States of America.”

ROVE PUSHES BACK

“The last thing we need is Washington, D.C., vetting our candidates. The architects can head on back to the great Lone Star State and put their names on some ballot.”

And so said Sarah Palin before frantic fans at CPAC on Saturday, alluding to Karl Rove.

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