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Inside the Beltway: Instantly politicizing tragedy

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"In wake of this most recent mass-casualty shooting, it is important that we all respect the feelings of America's gun enthusiasts," Daily Beast columnist David Frum tweeted within two hours of the mass shooting at the Navy Yard on Monday. He followed it with six more tweets that suggested rules of etiquette, and included comments like "Gun ownership is essential to freedom, as in Serbia and Guatemala. Gun restrictions lead to tyranny, as in Australia and Canada."

The proverbial Twitterverse erupted in nanoseconds. Along with several hundred critics, RedState.com founder Erick Erickson chastised Mr. Frum. But he also noted that some conservatives had joined the fray, complaining about national media coverage and drawing some parallels to press treatment of the Trayvon Martin case.

"Some decided it was, in the heat of the moment, already time to drag race, politics, and policy arguments into the fray," Mr. Erickson says in immediate reaction. "I've been there. I've done that. Even I've learned how inappropriate it is."

Organizations were also poised.

"It's too soon to say anything meaningful about the whys and wherefores of the Navy Yard atrocity. It's a good moment, though, to note the self-defeating confusion engendered by proponents of gun control," says Paul Barrett, a policy analyst for BusinessWeek, who received an email from the Violence Policy Center, an advocacy group, in the immediate aftermath of the shootings.

Mr. Barrett says that such groups attempt to "respond to horrific violence by excoriating American gun culture." He says the email included "Blood Money: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA," the organization's recent research report.

"Attacking the NRA in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting at a naval installation, where many people are presumably allowed to carry firearms, seems at best like an exercise in irrelevance," Mr. Barrett observes. "At worst, it's ill-timed sensationalism. As an alternative, let's sort out what exactly happened at the Navy Yard, then calmly discuss what policies, if any, can deter such slaughter."

A GROWING INTEREST

Hemp enthusiasts will hoist an American flag made from hemp over the Vermont State House on Tuesday to mark Constitution Day. But wait. This particular flag is being delivered to Vermont by Mike Bowman of the Colorado Hemp Commission, who managed to have the very same flag flown over the U.S. Capitol on July Fourth with the help of Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat. The flag also flew over the Colorado State House.

"Vermont farmers are ready to lead the nation," says Robb Kidd, an organizer with Rural Vermont, a grass-roots group. "Considering the U.S. Justice Department's recent marijuana ruling, many legal experts believe that the states have been given the green light in allowing hemp cultivation as their laws allow." The organization plans to work with Vote Hemp, a national advocacy group, to "get confirmation about what the recent ruling means for hemp cultivation," which became legal in Vermont in July. Farmers simply file paperwork with the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets and a pay a registration fee of $25.

"Given that hemp is now legal in Vermont — and given that they can now proceed (with caution) thanks to the Obama administration's recent announcement — the placing of a hemp flag at the state's Capitol Building will surely be a triumphant feeling for the advocates that made it happen," points out The Joint Blog, a site that follows "cannabis news and issues."

GLOBAL WHAT?

Prepare for the big whooshing sound: Here comes a climate force that Al Gore will not approve of. On Tuesday, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change releases a major report produced by an international team of 40 scientists.

The title: "Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science" challenges what its many authors say are "overly alarmist," distorted or exaggerated reports from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"Its authors have no agenda except to find the truth. It anticipates and soundly refutes the U.N. panel's hypothesis that global warming is man-made and will be harmful," says Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, a nonprofit research group.

"And it comes at a time when global warming alarmism is retreating among academics, the general public, and the political class," Mr. Bast adds.

THE FIVE-DECADE FACTOR

"If you could skip time and live forever in good health at a particular age, what age would you like to live at?" asks a Harris Poll released Monday.

Based on the responses of 2,400, the pollster reveals: "Obviously circumstances matter but, overall, the perfect age appears to be 50."

There's a partisan divide, though.

"Republicans and Democrats actually agree on something: for those in either party, the perfect age is 53. But for Independents the perfect age is 46," Harris reports.

"Differences by political philosophy appear to follow a scale — either the more conservative you are the more your perfect age goes up, or the more liberal you are the more your perfect age goes down. For conservatives it is 53, for moderates it is 51 and for liberals, the perfect age is 46."

MR. CHRISTIE'S CACHET

Buzz and intense fundraising have kept New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the presidential hopeful radar; he enjoys stable favorability numbers and a campaign war chest that now tops $9 million, with fundraising apparatus now set up in 50 states.

"He's the hottest property in American politics and the most compelling personality the state has produced since Tony Soprano. Polls say he is now the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination," says Tom Moran, a columnist for The (New Jersey) Star-Ledger.

But Mr. Christie is overrated, he observes, noting that New Jersey's economy is a mess, property taxes are up, poverty and crime levels are rising while the state's credit rating is dropping.

"Christie is a better politician than he is a governor. [H]is fame is based on his personality, not his performance," Mr. Moran says, noting that a Rutgers University poll released Friday finds that voters disapprove of Mr. Christie's performance on jobs, the economy and education. Yet 60 percent still love the guy.

"At town hall meetings, Christie is relaxed, funny and persuasive. He usually looks to pick a fight at the end, like an entertainer singing the crowd favorite as an encore. It's compelling stuff," Mr. Moran observes. "But it's thin gruel, in the end. Because the substance doesn't remotely measure up to the spin."

POLL DU JOUR

65 percent of Democrats favor Hillary Rodham Clinton as their party's 2016 nominee of president; 10 percent favor Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

17 percent of Republicans favor Gov. Chris Christie as their party's 2016 nominee for president; 28 percent of moderates and 8 percent of conservatives agree.

16 percent of Republicans overall favor Rep. Paul Ryan; 17 percent of moderates and 16 percent of conservatives agree.

13 percent overall favor Sen. Rand Paul; 6 percent of moderates and 16 percent of conservatives agree.

10 percent overall favor Jeb Bush; 8 percent of moderates and 11 percent of conservatives agree.

9 percent favor Sen. Marco Rubio; 7 percent of moderates and 11 percent of conservatives agree.

7 percent favor Sen. Ted Cruz; 7 percent of moderates and 7 percent of conservatives agree.

Source: A CNN/ORC survey of 1,022 U.S. adults.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Jennifer Harper INSIDE THE BELTWAY

Jennifer Harper INSIDE THE BELTWAY

A graduate of Syracuse University, Jennifer Harper writes the daily Inside the Beltway column and provides additional coverage of breaking national news, plus long-term trends in politics, media issues, public opinion, popular culture, Hollywood foibles and “eureka” moments in health and science.

She has been a frequent broadcast commentator on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Voice of America, Citadel Broadcasting, ...

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