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Inside the Beltway: 4,383 days after 9/11

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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4,383 DAYS LATER

"Twelve years ago this month, nearly 3,000 innocent men, women, and children lost their lives in attacks meant to terrorize our nation. They had been going about their day, harming no one, when sudden violence struck. We will never undo the pain and injustice borne that terrible morning, nor will we ever forget those we lost. On Sept. 11, 2001, amid shattered glass, twisted steel, and clouds of dust, the spirit of America shone through. We remember the sacrifice of strangers and first responders who rushed into darkness to carry others from danger. We remember the unbreakable bonds of unity we felt in the long days that followed."

— from President Obama's proclamation issued Tuesday, recognizing the anniversary of 9/11.

"Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on Sept. 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond Sept. 14, 2013. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency that was declared on Sept. 14, 2001."

— from Mr. Obama's public notice, also issued Tuesday, addressing "the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States."

C-SPAN 3, incidentally, will air 9/11 events minus inane prattle, beginning at 8:30 a.m., including ceremonies in New York City and at the White House and Pentagon.

OUTWEIGHED BY THE PUBLIC INTEREST

"In June of this year, President Obama directed me to declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive intelligence collection programs undertaken under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) while being mindful of the need to protect national security. Consistent with this directive, today I authorized the declassification and public release of a number of documents pertaining to the Government's collection of bulk telephony metadata under Section 501 of the FISA, as amended by Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act," said Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, in a lengthy statement released Tuesday.

"These documents were properly classified, and their declassification is not done lightly. I have determined, however, that the harm to national security in these circumstances is outweighed by the public interest," he said.

Curious? Find the aforementioned documents — and Mr. Clapper's comments about "gaps in understanding" — here: icontherecord.tumblr.com.

THE NEW WHITE HOUSE NEIGHBOR

Is Pennsylvania Avenue ready for the glittering touch of one Donald Trump? It better be. The billionaire has $200 million ready to finance an upgrade to the massive Old Post Office Building. The 1899 landmark and its 319-foot clock tower looms over the aforementioned historic boulevard, between the U.S. Capitol and the White House, on some of the priciest real estate in the nation. Work gets underway in about six months, with a grand opening in 2016.

Included in the Trumpalicious plans: 270 guest rooms, penthouses and presidential suites; restaurants, cafe, bar and lounge; extensive banquet, ballroom and meeting facilities; a 4,000-square-foot Mar-a-Lago Spa by Ivanka Trump; and a library. Mr. Trump has also indicated he plans a curated museum, exhibition gallery and indoor and outdoor gardens.

"It will be magnificent at the highest level," he said during a news conference in Washington on Tuesday.

A BRIEF MOMENT

"Run, Ted, run."

— Group chant during the "Exempt America Rally" against the Affordable Care Act at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. Yes, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, was speaking at the time.

WRANGLING WITH OBAMACARE

The Affordable Care Act still weighs heavily on the minds of grass-roots folks who are braced for impact as the health care law goes from legislative monster to public reality. Fiscal conservatives from FreedomWorks reveal all: the U.S. House plans to "sidestep" regular order and enable the Senate to fund Obamacare, they say.

"House Speaker John Boehner is using a procedural trick called 'deem and pass' to pass a continuing resolution defunding Obamacare in the House, while working out a deal that allows the Senate to remove defunding Obamacare from the continuing resolution before their vote," says Matt Kibbe, president of the organization.

Oh, but it's complicated. Many moving parts, many interpretive dances here.

In assorted communications, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina have called their GOP peers to block any government funding resolution that includes money for the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however, caution that such a rigid approach could backfire, prompting voters to blame the Republican Party if the federal government shuts down.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia now proposes a continuing resolution that funds the government and the health care law into December, plus a separate concurrent resolution that defunds Obamacare.

The mind reels.

"This is a classic 'Boehner bait-and-switch' that allows House Republicans to blink on Obamacare funding, while telling their constituents the opposite," Mr. Kibbe complains. "The entire purpose of the Lee-Meadows letters was to link the defunding of Obamacare to the best leverage the Republicans have, the continuing resolution. Speaker Boehner is giving the Senate a 'hall pass' to separate the two, inevitably funding Obamacare as a result."

And among the many petitions now in circulation comes this one from Americans for Prosperity, a free-market group.

"Now that Obamacare is about to take effect, it seems like Congress and all of President Obama's friends are receiving exemptions. I want the president to exempt me, too," says a brand new petition from Americans for Prosperity, a free-market grass-roots group.

"Ever since Obamacare's inception, people have been fighting against this job-killing, bureaucratic nightmare, while a special few sought and won exemptions. With Congress' recent action to exempt themselves, it's time to ask the question: If Obamacare isn't good enough for Congress, then why force it upon the American people?" says Tim Phillips, president of the organization.

POLL DU JOUR

51 percent of U.S. voters say the U.S. is safer today than it was before 9/11; 38 percent of Republicans, 48 percent of conservatives, 64 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of liberals agree.

38 percent of voters overall say the U.S. is less safe than it was before 9/11; 54 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of conservatives, 25 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of liberals agree.

48 percent of voters overall say the U.S. is now less respected around the world, compared to five years ago; 72 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of conservatives, 27 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of liberals agree.

36 percent of voters overall say the respect for the U.S. worldwide is "about the same"; 22 percent of Republicans, 28 percent of conservatives, 46 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of liberals agree.

14 percent of voters overall say the U.S. is more respected now; 6 percent of Republicans, 9 percent of conservatives, 25 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of liberals agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 900 registered U.S. voters conducted Sept. 6 to 8.

Solemn commentary, annoyances to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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