Inside the Beltway: Mottos du jour

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— Former President George W. Bush, at the close of his third annual Warrior 100K ride with 14 veterans through rough terrain near Waco, Texas; the three-day event ended Saturday.

THE OLD GUARD BLUES

The Republican Party is in the throes of an identity crisis that mystifies even veteran politicians. “They ought to put a sign on the Republican National Committee doors that says ‘closed for repairs,’ until New Year’s Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas,” Bob Dole, 89, told Fox News Sunday.

The former senator and onetime presidential nominee mused that he would no longer fit in the contemporary GOP, which he deemed obstructive, among other things. But then, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon wouldn’t cut it either in 2013, Mr. Dole theorized.

“Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might’ve made it, but I doubt it,” he said. “It seems almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget or legislation. We weren’t perfect, by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”

ADMIRATION FROM AFAR

Yes, we love our military. The most recent Pew Research Center findings reveal that 91 percent of Americans feel proud of those serving in the post-9/11 era, and three-fourths had personally thanked someone in the military for their service.

“But the public that will be observing the Memorial Day holiday is also one increasingly disconnected from the military and the wars it has fought since 2001, compared to those who lived through the wars of 20th century,” says Pew Research analyst Bruce Drake, who points out that the admiration in “at a distance.”

There’s a widening “military-civilian gap” after the elimination of the draft in 1973 following the Vietnam War. Reliance on a professional military and enlisted volunteers means that less than 1 percent of the American public has served on active duty since 9/11, Mr. Drake says. The figure almost reached 1 percent during the 1990-91 Gulf War, and stood at 1.8 percent during the Vietnam years. More than 2 percent of Americans served in the Korean War and nearly 9 percent in World War II.

More than three-quarters of those 50 and older said they had a spouse, parent, sibling or child in the military, according to the Pew numbers.

“But that number falls to 57 percent of those ages 30 to 49, and the generation gap widens even more for the youngest adult, with just 33 percent of adults under 29 saying they had an immediate family member in the military,” Mr. Drake says.

ONLY WAIST DEEP

Pollster John Zogby has given President Obama a grade of “C-minus” over the past week, and notes that his favorability numbers have descended from 51 percent to 48 percent. The phenomenon is “more than cosmetic, it denies Mr. Obama’s capacity to claim a mandate,” Mr. Zogby observes.

“The three scandals are still in the headlines, but Americans seemed more focused on the tragedy in tornado-ravaged Oklahoma. At the same time, applications for jobless benefits are down dramatically, with economists suggesting that the overall unemployment rate may dip again in May,” the pollster says.

“And the president has been widely praised for a major speech calling for reducing the most dangerous practices associated with the war on terror. Congress can surely investigate — as it must — but can it legislate — as it should? Mr. Obama is only waist deep in doo-doo this week,” Mr. Zogby concludes.

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