- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yes, they do things differently in the nation’s capital, and Halloween is no exception. As in previous years, President Obama and first lady Michelle will hand out goodies to local tots and military children from the South Portico of the White House. Meanwhile, costumed “young professionals” plan to trick or treat at embassies along the most hoity-toity streets of Washington, the idea being that they will receive their sweets on “international soil.”

The organizers from Things to Do, an events group catering to well-heeled 20- and 30-somethings, advise, “We will be knocking on the doors of several embassies and ambassador’s residences along the way.” They note they have been “successful at getting tours” in half a dozen diplomatic habitats in years past.

Well, one never knows. A historic tale: a friend of Inside the Beltway notes that intrepid collegiates from American University once trick-or-treated at the private Washington residence of one Vice President Lyndon Johnson, in an era when security was not an issue. Each received a nickel and was sent on his or her way.

Moving right along, the aforementioned events group also is staging a “haunted limousine scavenger hunt” plus a black tie “American Werewolves in Paris” party at the French Embassy, again with the cachet of soil, kind of like Dracula’s legendary allegiance to his native earth, perhaps.

Revelers plan “to embrace the season where very few else can say — on French soil,” the planners advise. On the menu: Montparnesse Cemetery Vol au Vent plus fancy French chocolates and wines. But no Miley Cyrus clones, s’il vous plait.

“French-themed costumes or masquerade style is strongly encouraged. Costumes that are not tasteful, including togas, however, will not be permitted,” the organizers insist.

And far from the “international soil,” vice presidential nickels and pumpkin topiaries of a Washington celebration? Americans spent a rollicking $6.9 billion on Halloween this year according to the National Retail Federation, an amount that includes $330,000, which went toward pet costumes.

THE SEBELIUS REVIEWS ARE IN

The command performance is over with not all that much to show for it. Nevertheless, here’s how Health and Human Service secretary Kathleen Sebelius fared in reviews of her appearance before Congress, addressing the woes of Obamacare:

“Sebelius dishonesty in testimony this morning exceeds anything President Nixon was accused of” (Newt Gingrich in a tweet); “The Obama administration’s latest pinata” (The Washington Post); “Obamacare czarina” (columnist Michelle Malkin); “A political punching bag for Republicans” (Chicago Tribune); “The face of the Obamacare website mess” (Politico); and “Mortifying performance. I almost felt sorry for her” (Charles Krauthammer, in an interview with talk radio host Hugh Hewitt.)

ROMNEY SPEAKS AT LAST

“In the years since the Massachusetts health care law went into effect nothing has changed my view that a plan crafted to fit the unique circumstances of a single state should not be grafted onto the entire country,” Mitt Romney said in a statement released just as President Obama arrived in Boston to give a speech about the Affordable Care Act, on the very spot where Mr. Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, introduced his version of state-run health care.

“Beyond that, had President Obama actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep, millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket, and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment,” Mr. Romney continued.

“Health care reform is best crafted by states with bipartisan support and input from its employers, as we did, without raising taxes, and by carefully phasing it in to avoid the type of disruptions we are seeing nationally.”

CRUZ TO LATE NIGHT

It was inevitable. This must mean he’s running for sure in 2016. Sen. Ted Cruz makes an initial foray next week into the peculiar but effective populist politics of late-night TV. On Nov. 8, he will appear on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Mr. Leno is one of the few of the midnight broadcast crew who wears an American flag pin.

Meanwhile, the Texas Republican will discuss the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, Washington gridlock and the state of the Republican Party, according to the network.

LATE NIGHT TO CRUZ

“I think he has an absolute shot at the nomination. He is definitely going to be the favorite of the people who vote in Republican primaries. You cannot underestimate him and he knows exactly how to get those people’s votes. He has played it exactly right. He is their hero. He is the guy they think finally stood up to the establishment and did what he said and went to Washington.”

— An uncommonly positive assessment of the aforementioned Mr. Cruz by HBO late-night host Bill Maher, to CNN.

REPUBLICANS COLLECT THE EVIDENCE

The Grand Old Party wants those insurance cancellation notifications and tales of woe. The Republican National Committee has created a central repository for America’s stories of lost benefits, cut hours, higher premiums or website glitches as related to Obamacare.

“Millions of Americans have lost or will lose their health plans. Their stories need to be heard, and so do the stories of families who have been affected by layoffs, reduced hours, and the disastrous HealthCare.gov website,” says committee chairman Reince Priebus. “Republicans are listening. And we will make sure the country hears their stories.”

The details: stories, photos, images can be shared here: Gop.com/TellUs. Mr. Priebus and company plan to share what they uncover here: Obamacare.org.

POLL DU JOUR

46 percent of Americans equally blame the White House and Congress for partisan bickering; 48 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents agree.

42 percent of Americans overall blame Republicans and Democrats equally for partisan bickering; 46 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents agree.

34 percent blame Republicans for the fighting; 8 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents agree.

22 percent overall blame the U.S. House; 5 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of independents agree.

17 percent overall blame the Democrats for the bickering; 41 percent of Republicans, 4 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of independents agree.

15 percent blame the White House; 37 percent of Republicans, 2 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of independents agree.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,368 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 16-21.

Happy talk, old adages to jharper@washingtontimes.com.