- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2014

Frequent calls for unity in the nation come from many sectors, though most simply push emotional buttons while delivering little substance. Enter the Heritage Foundation, which is now setting forth this simple, but canny thought: “Uniting America through conservative reform.” The idea could prove a mighty foil to narratives repeated in the mainstream media that claim both the conservative movement and the Republican Party are without a clear message and plagued with infighting.

Heritage President Jim DeMint has a countermeasure:

“It’s not sufficient for conservatives to run against agendas. They must advance ideas and legislation that will build a stronger America,” he told a daylong conservative policy summit organized by Heritage Action for America — the organization’s feisty political action committee — staged Monday at the group’s headquarters just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

The former South Carolina senator put an emphasis on nine focused agenda items that are doable, and the opposite of monster legislation that has wearied and confused the nation. Among them: privacy in a digital age, the welfare state, bailouts and cronyism. Mr. DeMint’s repeated emphasis: “clear leadership, bold ideas.”

He had plenty of company. Among the many there to share their thoughts about uniting America via sound policy and some vigor: Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas, Tim Scott, of South Carolina and Mike Lee, of Utah; plus Reps. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, Tom Price and Tom Graves, of Georgia, Phil Roe, of Tennessee, Jeb Hensarling, of Texas, Matt Salmon, of Arizona, and Raul Labrador of Idaho.

And from the day’s agenda statement: “What the left offers is more of the same: managed decline and the further Europeanization of our country. Conservatives on the other hand, have a bold agenda that would restore economic vitality, renew the American Dream and equip individuals and communities to achieve happiness and prosperity. But to ensure the American people get that choice, conservatives must lead through action. The good news is that many conservative reformers are doing just that.”

WHAT’S ON THE MENU

Essentially, it’s all about meat, potatoes, salad and chocolate cake. But oh, what meat and potatoes and chocolate cake. The White House has revealed the luscious menu for a state dinner on Tuesday evening to honor French President Francois Hollande, who could use a little comfort food right about now.

He’s getting an all-American variety, and the selections resemble a travelogue of the United States. The 350 guests, incidentally, will be feted under a behemoth tent on the South Lawn, and serenaded by chanteuse Mary J. Blige.

Among the dining dainties: smoked Maine trout, Osetra caviar from Illinois, Pennsylvania quail eggs and a dozen nifty varieties of potatoes from farms in Idaho, Calfornia and New York, plus a salad of petite radishes and carrots on a bed of merlot lettuce with White House Garden herbs. Then there’s aged rib eye beef from Colorado served atop a blue cheese crisp from Vermont, braised chard, charred shallots, oyster mushrooms.

Last but certainly not least: chocolate malted cake with Hawaiian bittersweet chocolate and Florida tangerines, vanilla ice cream made in Pennsylvania, fudge gussied up by Vermont maple syrup, plus lavender shortbread cookies and cotton candy spritzed with orange zest. Yes, cotton candy. A selection of moderately-priced wines from California, Washington and historic Monticello, Virginia round out the meal.

BIMBO ERUPTIONS, ET CETERA

“Everything’s on the table. I don’t see how someone just gets a free pass on anything. I mean, especially in today’s politics. So, I think we’re going to have a truckload of opposition research on Hillary Clinton and some things may be old and some things might be new. But I think everything is at stake when you’re talking about the leader of the free world and who we’re going to give the keys to run the United States of America. Character matters, policy matters.”

— Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, on whether rehashing 1990s-era scandals would be part of the GOP toolbox in 2016, to MSNBC.

UH-OH, HERE COME ‘POWER COUPLES’

America’s first ladies have been exempt from the discerning eyes of pollsters for the most part, save for a few favorability ratings in recent years. That may all change Saturday though, when C-SPAN and Siena College release new research that ranks 39 first ladies based on judgments from 240 historians, scholars and political scientists who gauged their “value to the country, accomplishments, being her own woman and courage.”

Such analysis has been conducted before, but this research — produced in tandem with C-SPAN’s meticulously-produced “First Ladies” series — adds a certain contemporary frisson.

“Recent first ladies are assessed on additional issues including managing family life while in office, advancing women’s issues and as a potential president,” the producers advise. “For the first time, combining the data with Siena’s Presidential Rankings, this study identifies ‘Power Couples’ and the first ladies that were the greatest asset and liability to their president.”

MARK LEVIN ADDS TO THE BREW

The tea party is preparing to celebrate its fifth anniversary, timed to recall the epic rant by CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli on Feb. 19, 2009, from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. At the height of President Obama’s mortgage bailout, he called for the formation of a new tea party-style revolution.

The Tea Party Patriots have already organized a substantial gathering on Feb. 27 in the nation’s capital, to be headlined by radio host and best-selling author Mark Levin, who is quite ready to rumble.

“The tea party, which consists of millions of hard-working taxpayers, is to be celebrated not condemned,” Mr. Levin declares. “The ruling class must be trounced and its media cheerleaders must be exposed if the republic is to survive. The tea party is our only hope,” he said.

Among the many joining him on the dais: Republicans Sen. Mike Lee of Utah plus Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Steve King of Iowa, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma and Matt Salmon of Arizona.

Organizers have a sense of history as well. Also on hand: Keli Carender, who put together the first tea party protest just 72 hours after Mr. Santelli’s game-changing declarations and Breitbart.com contributor Michael Patrick Leahy, first to coordinate efforts among various tea party leaders.

POLL DU JOUR

54 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day with “loved ones.”

91 percent of that number will buy something for their “significant other”; 59 percent will buy for family, 28 percent for friends, 20 percent for teachers, 19 percent for pets and 12 percent for work colleagues.

51 percent will send greeting cards, 49 percent will buy candy, 38 percent will give flowers, 37 percent will go out to dinner; 19 percent will purchase jewelry, 15 percent will buy clothes.

$17.3 billion: Total amount Americans will spend on Valentine’s Day.

$134: Total amount the average person will spend overall.

$108: Amount the average man will spend on his significant other; $49: amount the average woman will spend on her significant other.

Source: A National Retail Federation survey of 6,417 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 2-3 and released Thursday.

Bold ideas, clear leadership, et cetera, to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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