- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2013

This strategy of spectacle and grandeur could be premature, or even unlucky, in the fickle political arena: President Obama will journey to Boston on Wednesday with plans to talk about the Affordable Care Act in none other than Faneuil Hall — the same historic spot where then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed his state’s health care law in 2006.

Oh, it was a dramatic moment, all right. Mr. Romney sat at an ancient wooden desk below a 30-foot wide painting of Colonial heroes; he used 14 ceremonial pens to sign the legislation and was surrounded by a crew of powerful Democrats that included Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who Mr. Romney called “my collaborator and friend.”

Fancy bunting sported the motto “Making History in Health Care” in old-fashioned typeface. Everybody smiled. Everybody clapped. Cameras rolled. Mr. Romney got good press for a while, his bill hailed as “landmark.”

Now it appears Mr. Obama hopes for the same bipartisan good feeling. Indeed, White House adviser David Simas recently told The Boston Globe that the town’s old hall was the “perfect setting” for Mr. Obama to show that Republicans and Democrats could work together and be productive.

But a perfect setting at this juncture? The errant sign-up site, fee increases and disappearing insurance coverage for a growing number of Americans is definitely not playing well in the press. Even Democrats are grumbling. A speech at a humble neighborhood clinic might have been a better choice.

“Maybe the president is trying to share the blame, not the glory of bipartisanship here,” a Republican source says. “Lining up with Republicans on a stage is a good way to do just that.”

MIA: THE FACE OF OBAMACARE

Hundreds — literally hundreds — of news accounts have pored over the mysterious disappearance of the unidentified but nonetheless friendly female face that once greeted visitors at the Obamacare website. Alas, the image is missing in action, interpreted by the press as an allegory for the woes of the site itself.

Such marketing is a tricky business. When the operations are fixed next month, the creative team should take a page out of the General Mills playbook. And it is a very old page. The manufacturing giant was tasked with producing an image of Betty Crocker, the original domestic goddess and symbol of their brand. Here is what they did:

“In 1936 Betty Crocker got a face. Artist Neysa McMein brought together all the women in the company’s Home Service Department and ‘blended their features into an official likeness.’ The widely circulated portrait reinforced the popular belief that Betty Crocker was a real woman. One public opinion poll rated her as the second most famous woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt,” notes a historical account from George Mason University.

Betty was also versatile.

“Over the next seventy-five years, her face has changed seven times: she became younger in 1955; she became a ‘professional’ woman in 1980; and in 1996 she became multicultural, acquiring a slightly darker and more ‘ethnic’ look,” the account notes.

QUESTIONS FOR SEBELIUS

There will be much health care hubbub in the U.S. House in the next 48 hours. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on the current status of Obamacare’s faulty implementation. The really big show, however, is Wednesday morning when the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to hear (drum roll please) from the one, the only Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Ever hopeful, and possibly gleeful, House Speaker John A. Boehner points out to all gloomy consumers that the agency official is there to address “the train wreck of Obamacare.” And he adds, “What would you ask her?”

Yes, there is a place to do this on the speaker’s own Facebook page. It drew 729 responses in 24 hours. Among those many, many questions for Mrs. Sebelius:

Why do you feel you do not work for the taxpayers?

What did you do with our $638 million?

How quickly can you pack?

A BLANKLEY BEGINNING

It is a panacea to all the liberal antics in the nation’s schools, to be sure. To be introduced Tuesday by a host of conservative heavyweights: the Tony Blankley Chair for Public Policy and American Exceptionalism, a new academic fellowship for emerging scholars organized under the auspices of the Steamboat Institute, a Colorado-based nonprofit.

The late Blankley, a cheerful but ever insightful and consistent conservative force, oversaw the editorial section of The Washington Times for six years and was a press secretary to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Among the many gathering at an urbane, private Capitol Hill club in early evening: Mr. Blankley’s widow Linda Davis; Mr. Gingrich and his wife, Callista; Washington Times Chairman of the Board Thomas McDevitt; Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Dana Rohrabacher of California, and Cory Gardner and Scott R. Tipton of Colorado.

“Tony firmly believed that unless it was cherished and protected, liberty could be extinguished in a single generation,” an organizer says. “He viewed America’s founding principles as a precious legacy to be preserved for posterity, not in some abstract way, but as the product of personal effort.”

WHY AMERICANS OWN GUNS

The findings are straightforward enough. Gallup asked 309 gun owners an open-ended question: Why do you own a gun? Here is what they said — the desire for personal safety and protection was in first place, cited by 60 percent.

In second place, hunting (36 percent), followed by recreation (13 percent), target shooting (8 percent), concern for Second Amendment rights (5 percent), personally “like guns” (5 percent), the firearm was an antique or heirloom (5 percent), they were “raised with guns” (4 percent), ownership was related to employment (3 percent), “no reason in particular” (3 percent), animal control (1 percent) and collect guns (1 percent).

“Personal protection is the top reason Americans own a gun, as was true in 2000 and 2005. This, rather than views on the Second Amendment, may explain why moving toward greater gun control, as Obama and many Democrats have sought to do, is so difficult,” Gallup analyst Art Swift says. “Those who own firearms for protection may feel that their own personal safety is a vital need on which they do not wish to compromise.”

POLL DU JOUR

51 percent of Americans say “the uproar and bumpy opening” of Obamacare has made them more curious about the health care law;

64 percent of those who are uninsured and 58 percent of those 18- to 29-years-old agree;55 percent of women and 47 percent of men agree; and51 percent of both Republicans and Democrats and 53 percent of independents agree they are more curious.

4 percent overall say they are now less interested.

Among those who say they are more curious about Obamacare:

55 percent overall know where to find more information; 43 percent do not.

58 percent of those without a college education, 47 percent of the uninsured and 34 percent with employer-based insurance do not know where to find the information.

38 percent of the uninsured feel “more negative” about Obamacare now than they did a year ago.

Source: A Bankrate.com survey of 1,001 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 17 to 21.

Ballyhoo, noise and a few murmurs to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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