- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2013

Though they have dominated national cable news ratings for the past 140 months, Fox News is upping its game. Consider chief news anchorman Shepard Smith, who appears to be morphing into the proverbial newsman-of-the-future. He has just been named managing editor of a newfangled breaking-news division, headquartered on a reinvented set that has even warranted its own title: the Fox News Deck.

Management sees it as a command center, twitching with news feeds and manned by producers, social media mavens and “information specialists.” The nimble Mr. Smith might lead his network into a forward-thinking hybrid that continues to nab the nation’s attention.

“He will exemplify the ethos that Fox News is when and where the news is, as it happens, no longer bound by a traditional evening format conceived in the 1960s,” says Roger Ailes, chairman of the network.

Then there is the saga of Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She withstood with grace the rigors of being the sole conservative voice on ABC’s “The View.” Now she arrives on friendlier territory, debuting Monday as a co-host of “Fox & Friends,” joining current on-camera veterans Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade on a redesigned set.

There are affable guests during the first week. Mrs. Hasselbeck launches her new broadcast identity with a visit to the quirky cast of “Duck Dynasty,” on their home turf in Louisiana. Yes, she’ll learn everything there is to know about making duck calls. Mrs. Hasselbeck also anticipates a harmonious launch with Mr. Doocy and Mr. Kilmeade.

“They’re like my brothers,” she says. “Joining the Fox News family is the equivalent of growing up as a Boston Red Sox fan or a Yankees fan and getting asked to play for the team. I’m just beyond thrilled.”

THREE SENATORS SUMMARIZE

“Putin’s NYT op-ed is an insult to the intelligence of every American.”

— Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, tweeting a reaction to Russia President Vladimir Putin’s contribution to The New York Times that cautions the U.S. not to consider itself “exceptional” and to “avoid force” in Syria.

“Mr. Putin worries that it is ‘extremely dangerous’ for President Obama to encourage Americans to see themselves as exceptional. His concern is well placed. Historically it has not boded well for autocrats when Americans are clearly focused on the values and principles that have made our nation great.”

— Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, reacting to the same op-ed.

“History teaches us that a strong and engaged America is a source of good in the world.”

— Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, on Mr. Putin’s claims.

RESTLESS WORLD

The United Nations reports that there is more international migration than ever before, with “the United States remaining the most popular destination.” New figures from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs show that 232 million people worldwide, or 3.2 per cent of the world’s population, live abroad, compared with 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990.

The U.S. gained the largest number of international migrants between 1990 and 2013 — nearly 23 million, equal to 1 million additional migrants per year. The United Arab Emirates recorded the second-largest gain with 7 million, followed by Spain with 6 million.

ON TOP OF MOUNT REAGAN

Their hopes are peaking. Citizen’s Outreach, a grass-roots group hoping to persuade the state of Nevada to name a 4,000-foot mountain near Las Vegas after Ronald Reagan, says the Nevada Board on Geographic Names voted 5-2 to approve its proposal. The win comes despite a petition from anti-Reagan activists and local Democrats claiming that President Reagan’s legacy has little to do with the “values” of the state.

Still, the renaming project had the support of Paul Laxalt — the former U.S. senator and Nevada governor, who went on record to note that Reagan “loved Nevada and Nevadans loved President Reagan.

“With the Nevada board’s approval, the proposal now moves to the federal Board on Geographic Names for consideration,” says spokesman Chuck Muth. See their outreach at MountReaganProject.com.

PICTURE THIS

“Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting or EGO Act.”

That’s the snappy name of recent legislation introduced by one Rep. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican. He means to prohibit the use of federal funds for the costs of official portraits of members of Congress, heads of executive agencies and heads of offices of the legislative branch.

Mr. Cassidy was inspired to propose the measure after discovering that the EPA spent $38,350 for a painting of former administrator Lisa P. Jackson. The bill is already on its way through the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

For those who worry, portraits of presidents are privately funded, reports Richard Simon, a political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.

“The House of Representatives has 286 portraits in its collection, including portraits of former Ways and Means Committee Chairmen Wilbur Mills, Arkansas Democrat, remembered for his escapades with stripper Fanne Foxe, and Dan Rostenkowski, Illinois Democrat, who served 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud,” Mr. Simon observes.

MAYOR STUBBS ON THE MEND

Here’s 30 seconds worth of, well, uplifting news. The wee Alaskan town of Talkeetna has announced that its mayor — recently injured in a close encounter with a dog — is much better. That would be Mayor Stubbs, the cat elected to the office by write-in vote 16 years ago in the unincorporated town of 876, located in the very shadow of Mount McKinley, and not far from Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.

News of the wounded kitty spread fast: 9 Lives — the cat food manufacturer — picked up most of Mayor Stubbs’ $3,000 vet bill; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent him a gift basket. Donations came in from as far away as Australia and Germany, so many that owner Laure Stec has donated the money to a local animal shelter. She is optimistic about the mayor’s future.

“When he recovers, he’s set,” Ms. Stec told the Alaska Dispatch. “I just got a package of organic catnip donated to us from someone in Canada, so he’s set.”

Needless to say, there are currently not one but two Facebook pages proposing that Mayor Stubbs make a run for the White House.

POLL DU JOUR

57 percent of Americans oppose all or most of the health care proposals in the Affordable Care Act;87 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of conservatives, 26 percent of Democrats and 32 percent of liberals agree.

54 percent overall would blame Republicans if the debt ceiling is not raised; 25 percent would blame President Obama; 15 percent would blame both.

51 percent would blame Republicans if there was a government shutdown if Congress does not pass a spending bill; 33 percent would blame President Obama; 12 percent would blame both.

45 percent say that if the debt ceiling is not raised, it will cause “major problems” in the U.S., 27 percent say it would cause “minor problems”; 17 percent say it would cause a crisis in the U.S.; 9 percent said it would cause no problems at all.

40 percent say a few days of government shutdown due to an impasse in Congress on spending would cause only “minor problems” in the U.S., 38 percent say it would cause “major problems”; 11 percent say it would cause a crisis; 11 percent said no problems at all.

Source: A CNN/ORC poll of 1,022 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 6 to 8.

Tip line always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.