- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ah, the glittering White House fundraising amid political discord: We’re talking seven events in 48 hours to raise money for Democratic lawmakers gearing up for the 2014 midterms. President Obama departed the nation’s capital Sunday, bound for a pair of fundraisers in Seattle. But, hey, a West Coast visit always includes California, and Mr. Obama jets South on Monday to headline the moneymakers.

The president arrives in San Francisco for two Democratic National Committee events in the morning, tickets priced from $1,000-$15,000 each. By afternoon, it’s on to Los Angeles, first to the home of basketball great Magic Johnson, tickets $2,500-$15,000 per person. Then it’s over to Beverly Hills for dinner with billionaire Haim Saban and friends, tickets at $16,200 each. A visit to the home of TV’s “Friends” creator Marta Kauffman follows, tickets $32,400 each.

Deadline Hollywood correspondent Dominic Patton, who has been tracking the events, expects the final fundraiser to be “smallish,” but bring in $1 million. “The president will take direct questions for an hour or so from the big-money ticket buyers,” Mr. Patton says.

Mr. Obama will make it back to Washington in time to pardon the White House Thanksgiving turkey early Wednesday afternoon. The handsome bird from Badger, Minn., has gotten some Hollywood-style coaching of his own from his owner and National Turkey Federation Chairman David Burkel, who has offered the gobbler pointers on photo-ops, media hubbub and pardoning protocols.

The bird in question and his official alternate left Minnesota on Sunday for the 1,500-mile journey to the White House, comfortably ensconced upon cedar shavings in the back of a van. They will luxuriate in an unnamed hotel nearby and ultimately retire to a Virginia farm in the aftermath of the ceremony, a harmonious destiny not without criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The activists condemn Mr. Obama’s pardoning as “pimping for poultry producers.”

THE TOP TEPID AMONG US

President Obama is on the list. So is Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Edward Snowden and the wee royal infant Prince George. This is not the list to be on, though. They are among the “25 Least Influential People of 2013” according to GQ magazine, which has also placed Donald Trump and House Speaker John A. Boehner, who has been deemed “basically an orange traffic cone at this point,” in this ineffectual hall of fame.

Mr. Obama is No. 17 on the roster.

“I have spent the majority of this man’s presidency watching bad things happen, then hearing a thoughtful speech about how we have to make sure the bad things never happen again, and then watching as nothing gets done,” says Drew Magary, who made the determinations.

Anthony D. Weiner is No. 2, while Dennis Rodman wins first place by merit of his visit this year to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. And about that list. It could have been longer. “The hardest part for us was keeping it to 25,” Mr. Magary observes.

POLICING THE THANKSGIVING POLITICS

“If you thought you were going to get a chance to sit around the table and forget about the craziness of this world and enjoy some good quality time with your family, think again. Organizing for Action — formerly President Obama’s campaign engine Obama for America — is calling on its membership to sell socialized medicine at the family dinner table. They have created a series of talking points and persuasive tactics to try to convince their loved ones to sign up for Obamacare.”

And so warns the Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest umbrella group for the grass-roots movement. They’ve developed a “Thanksgiving Toolkit” for those who may encounter progressive ideas right in the middle of feast and fellowship. Indeed, the eight-page strategy covers facts about the Affordable Care Act, plus suggested conversations to have with out-of-town guests and older family members, among other things.

The organizers have a warning about the aforementioned progressive activist group, calling it “very effective with elections. We can’t discount that ability when it comes to pushing legislative issues. And in this instance, we have a bigger mountain to climb to repeal this law and save America from even more turmoil.”

A NEW COLD WAR

Why, look: Here’s another facet of climate change for Al Gore to consider. Witness the newly articulated Defense Department’s “Arctic Strategy,” revealed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during an international security forum in chilly Nova Scotia on Friday.

Global warming could now foster a hot security risk and international dispute. If the polar ice cap is diminished, the entrepreneurs, shipping companies, tourists and opportunists arrive. And there’s the rub, Mr. Hagel told his audience, which included Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Tim Kaine of Virginia plus Canada’s Justice Minister Peter McKay.

“Climate change is shifting the landscape in the Arctic more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. While the Arctic temperature rise is relatively small in absolute terms, its effects are significant — transforming what was a frozen desert into an evolving navigable ocean, giving rise to an unprecedented level of human activity. Traffic in the Northern Sea Route is reportedly expected to increase tenfold this year compared to last year,” Mr. Hagel told his audience.

He went on to speak of stewardship, safety, budget limitations, fuel efficiency, international law, diplomatic engagement, the “Arctic Security Forces Roundtable” and the 27,000 military personnel in Alaska. He predicted the new strategy would prove effective over decades.

“As President Obama has said, ‘the Arctic region is peaceful, stable, and free of conflict.’ Our goal is to help assure it stays that way,” Mr. Hagel concluded. “Ultimately, we envision a secure and stable Arctic, where all nations’ interests are safeguarded, and where all nations work together to address problems and resolve differences.”

THE GOP’S IRAN ANGST

Unhappy Republican warnings about the prudence of President Obama’s interim agreement with Iran regarding that nation’s uranium enrichment are accumulating. Here’s just a few:

“Iran’s track record of deception and refusal to abide by past international demands make me gravely concerned about this deal. Now is not the time to ease up on the pressure and turn the other way, allowing Iran to make further progress in achieving its goal.” (Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas).

“Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care.” (Sen. John Cornyn in a tweet referring to the White House and Obamacare)

“Apparently, America has not learned its lesson from 1994 when North Korea fooled the world. I am skeptical that this agreement will end differently.” (Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California)

“Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. We are the ones doing the dismantling.” (Rep. Edward R. Royce of California)

POLL DU JOUR

55 percent of Americans are following Obamacare news about people dropped by health insurers and sign-up problems.

40 percent say the news coverage of Obamacare is “balanced,” 33 percent say coverage is “biased against” the law, 17 percent say it’s “biased in favor.”

49 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare; 33 percent have a favorable impression.

43 percent say the nation will be worse off under Obamacare; 34 percent say it will be better off, 15 percent say the law will have no impact.

41 percent say the health care reform law will not impact them personally; 37 percent say they will be “worse off,” 20 percent say they will be “better off.”

Source: A Kaiser Health tracking poll of 1,204 U.S. adults conducted Nov. 13 to 18 and released Friday.

Squawks, arias, complaints to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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