- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Maybe there’s a reason why Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, called his recent memoir “Unintimidated.” While Republicans cluck and dither over personal ideology and cautiously flirt with a master strategy for the 2014 midterm elections, Mr. Walker has cut to the chase. He gets it. The clock is ticking. Get busy. Pick up a weapon of choice and move forward.

“I say to fellow Republicans. Any Republican who’s focused on anything other than 2014 is doing a disservice to themselves, to their party and to their country,” the governor told a Chamber of Commerce audience in his home state on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot at stake in the 2014 election, not only in my case as governor, but the U.S. Senate is very much in play, and the question of holding the House or not,” Mr. Walker declared.

And where does he stand in the ever-present presidential possibility polls? Mr. Walker appears in all of them, usually in the middle of the pack — often running neck and neck with fellow gubernatorial competition such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican. And interestingly, Mr. Walker’s potential is getting notice in wildly contrasting spots.

“The rise of Scott Walker: Wisconsin may be the most polarized state in the Union. It’s also what might put its governor in the White House,” predicts Slate magazine. Mr. Walker also ranks fourth in a massive Tea Party.net survey which lists 22 potential GOP candidates for 2016. He is only eclipsed by Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, and Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, in first and second place, respectively, and Ben Carson in third.

ACT II, SCENE 1

There are several melodramatic narratives now in orbit around the debt-ceiling debate, which rattled to a close Wednesday after the Senate passed the legislation. Are the arguments over, now? Not exactly. Take House Speaker John A. Boehner, for example. In the wake of it all, he has been cast in two distinct roles by press and pundits.

Some insist Mr. Boehner is a canny, smooth operator who made a pre-emptive strike by shepherding the neat, clean, beautifully turned out debt-ceiling agreement through the legislative process for the betterment of the Republican Party. Observers reason that had the GOP dug in its heels and threatened another government shutdown, Democratic foes could beat them over the head with it as the 2014 midterm elections loom, and 2016 takes shape in the distance.

The other narrative casts Mr. Boehner as the capitulator-in-chief, a sellout whose intended bipartisan finesse will only empower the White House, Democrats and progressive activists to release their inner spending instincts and simply bankrupt the nation.

Republicans — who pine to remind the American public that Obamacare is a quagmire and that the GOP are the rational ones on Capitol Hill — are getting very few breaks in the press.

A victorious President Obama has won the fight, and the debt ceiling “is no longer a political weapon,” declared USA Today. There were multiple stories about “behind the scenes” angst. Some reports were obituaries: “The GOP’s debt-limit brinkmanship is officially dead,” noted Slate, while The Washington Post pointed out that “GOP debt limit extortion is dead.”

Combat terms also came into play. There’s a “civil war” now at work in the GOP, said MSNBC. And according to many accounts, Mr. Boehner and the Republicans either surrendered, backed off or gave in rather than fighting to the last soldier. There is still some sword-rattling going on, however, with more to come. So it ain’t over yet.

“Fiscal responsibility is the foundation of prosperity, and the vote on the debt ceiling was fiscal negligence,” said Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican. “Congress’ response to approaching the debt ceiling should be to debate and enforce policies that help put our country on the path toward a balanced budget. Instead, this vote gave the president a clean pass to continue on the destructive trajectory of big government spending.”

A WHOLE LOT OF LEMMINGS

“This is the same group that back in September and October went into a government shutdown that everybody knew was a disaster. They ended up looking like morons following Ted Cruz over the cliff.”

— Rep. Peter T. King, on conservatives vexed by House Speaker John A. Boehner and the House passage of the debt limit bill, to MSNBC.

NBC TROTS OUT THE DONKEY

And we’re not talking “Hee Haw” here. Late night on a certain network may be skewing Democratic. We must remember that former NBC “Tonight” show host Jay Leno told more jokes about Democrats than he did Republicans, and wore an American flag pin when he appeared on camera, even when it was not the accessory of choice among many broadcasters and politicians.

We must now note that one of the very first guests on replacement host Jimmy Fallon’s version of the show when it debuts next week will be first lady Michelle Obama. And when Seth Meyers — Mr. Fallon’s replacement — rolls out his new “Late Night,” which follows “Tonight,” his first guest will be Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Don’t be surprised if Bill and Hillary Clinton also make guest appearances in the future. This is, after all, an election year.

A ‘FANTASTIC CLUB’

President Obama and first lady Michelle may not be much for stuffy state dinners — they’ve hosted only six — but when they throw one, they know how to turn it into a party.

With Bill and Hillary Clinton, the ultimate symbol of prestige bestowed on close Hollywood supporters was a sleepover in the Lincoln Bedroom. Now, it’s dancing at the White House well past midnight.

Following Tuesday’s dinner for 350 in a tent on the South Lawn, the fun became so relaxed and uninhibited that the guest of honor, French president Francois Hollande, told one guest that he didn’t expect his first state visit to include a trip to the dance floor. He said, “I was dancing with Michelle, then Barack. I thought we came for serious meetings, but I ended up in a fantastic club.’”

— From an account of the White House state dinner for Mr. Hollande by Hollywood Reporter correspondent Tina Daunt.

POLL DU JOUR

72 percent of U.S. couples who are married or in a committed relationship say the Internet has had “no real impact” on their relationship.

67 percent share their Internet passwords with their partners.

27 percent share an online account.

25 percent have texted their spouse or partner who was in another room of the house.

25 percent say their spouse or partner has been distracted by their cellphone when they were together.

9 percent of those in a relationship have sent a “sext” of themselves to someone.

8 percent of the couples have argued about the amount of time one of them spends online.

4 percent have been upset at “something they found their spouse or partner doing online.”

Source: A Pew Research Internet Project survey of 2,252 U.S. adults conducted April 17-May 19, 2013 and released Tuesday.

Dance moves, chatter, cautionary tales to jharper@washingtontimes.

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