- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The press already has billed President Obama’s first jaunt to Israel since entering office as yet another charm offensive, a “symbolic visit” or simply a photo op. The White House does not appear to be festooning the four-day trip with any fancy predictions either.

“This visit is not about trying to lay down a new initiative or complete our work on a particular issue. Frankly, there’s value in traveling precisely at a time when there is a new government in Israel and a new government in the United States and just having a broad strategic conversation,” said Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes.

But please. When the time comes, if the times comes, ask the right questions, some insist. Make progress on Iran’s nuclear threat, the Syrian implosion and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. So says Joel C. Rosenberg, former aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a Fox News contributor.

“There are still three critical questions the president must answer on this important trip. Have diplomacy, sanctions and covert operations failed to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons? If so, will President Obama order airstrikes against Iran, or give Israel the green light to hit Iran’s nuclear sites since other measures have failed? If not, why not?” Mr. Rosenberg asks.

“Here’s the sobering truth. With his new government now in place, including new Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Netanyahu is ready to launch a massive pre-emptive military strike soon, and alone, if need be. Netanyahu and Yaalon would prefer the U.S. lead decisively toward peace,” he continues. “Netanyahu and company are unsure if they can trust Obama, and have yet to get clarity from Washington.”

JUST A LITTLE REMINDER

“Prepared to Prevail”

— Official motto of the 36th Wing at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, host unit to B-52 training flights over Korea; the 13,000-mile round trip flights are part of the Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence.

C-SPAN’S SURPRISE AUDIENCE

C-SPAN celebrates its 34th anniversary this week. But wait. C-SPAN could be an emerging as a hipster network. Younger viewers are now the largest regular audience for the no-frills broadcaster where policy wonks are king and opinionated prattle is minimal. And therein lies the appeal to the young and restless. They have a taste for unvarnished content.

C-SPAN offers “raw uncut coverage of their political heroes,” says Hart Research pollster Allan Rivlin, who is tracking the growing audience.

Among the 47 million regular C-SPAN viewers, he found that 51 percent are male and 49 percent female; 26 percent are liberal, 31 percent conservative, and 39 percent moderate. Almost half are college graduates. Viewership is highest, however, among the 18 to 49-year-olds, with 28 percent reporting having watched at least once a week, compared with 19 percent for 50- to 64-year-olds. Twenty-two percent are 65 and older.

“This growth in C-SPAN viewership, especially among the youngest groups, is surprising in this time of generalized media fragmentation,” Mr. Rivlin observes. “But it is not so mysterious in that C-SPAN offers the emerging group of information free-agents access to the raw uncut coverage of their political heroes, and sometimes perhaps their villains, they can then share on blogs and social networks.”

Among other things, 43 percent have watched their local lawmakers on C-SPAN, while a third share the network’s videos by uploading or linking them to a website. The survey of 1,229 U.S. adults was conducted Jan. 10 to 17 and released Tuesday.

STEELE VS. PRIEBUS

“No question. I would clean his clock. Just one knock on the head. It’s done.”

— Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele’s predicted outcome, should he ever face current Chairman Reince Priebus in a steel-cage wrestling match, to Talk Radio Network host Andrea Tantaros.

CAVUTO’S WARNING

What’s happening in Cyprus could happen in the U.S., says Fox Business news anchor Neil Cavuto.

“While no one’s taxing our bank holdings, thanks to Obamacare, they are going after some of our other assets. Remember that 3.8 percent Medicare surtax on investment sales larger than $250,000? Surprise. The next time you try to sell your house, trust me, you’ll be hitting the roof. Think about that. A tax not on your income, earned or unearned, but your assets. Your tangible assets,” Mr. Cavuto observes.

“Homes here. Bank accounts there. Is there really a difference? No. Just like there’s no difference between an American government taxing you for medical devices and what it deems an excessively generous medical insurance plan. Let me be very clear here: Taxing you not on what you make, but what you have. The stuff you’ve attained through a life of work,” Mr. Cavuto continues.

“To government, all it sees is that you’ve got it now. And it wants it now. And it wants you to pay up now. So feel for these Cyprus citizens who can’t get access to their money and now have to wait until at least Friday to get a crack at getting their money. More time, I suspect, for the government to sort out how it’s going to steal their money.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 66 percent of Americans say Israel and Arab nations will not settle their differences and live in peace; 78 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of conservatives, 54 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of liberals agree.

• 49 percent of Americans overall say the U.S. should support Israel if it attacks Iran over nuclear weapon issues; 63 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of conservatives, 42 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of liberals agree.

• 46 percent overall consider Israel an ally of the U.S.; 63 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of conservatives, 33 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of liberals agree.

• 33 percent overall say Israel is “friendly but not an ally”; 18 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of conservatives, 39 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of liberals agree.

Source: A CNN/ORC poll of 1,021 U.S. adults conducted March 15 to 17.

Quaint tales and persistent rumors to jharper@washingtontimes.com.