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Inside the Beltway: Baseball lobs one to the White House

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Canny marketers have tiptoed into "We the People," the White House's public petition outreach that draws motley interest groups with myriad causes. And now the cause is baseball, beer, opening day revels and official blessings. The pointman here is a certain Mr. Smith, who is indeed going to Washington. That would be Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, who is among those determined to make the opening day of Major League Baseball a national holiday.

"On opening day, every team is in contention to win the World Series. Nothing can top that optimism, with the excitement felt at every level of play — from the players to the most casual of baseball fans," the exuberant Mr. Smith says. "Now let's make it an official holiday."

Yes, he supports a petition for the cause at the White House website, organized by none other than Budweiser, the "Official Beer of Major League Baseball, " which is aggressively marketing a sign-up drive, complete with video pitches, a link directly to WhiteHouse.gov and multiple ads buys on ESPN.com. The beer behemoth hopes the petition will garner 100,000 signatures by opening day on March 31, thus drawing an official White House response.

"Millions of baseball fans already consider opening day to be an unofficial national holiday," says Tim Brosnan, the league's executive vice president for business. And the stats he cites: 22 million people admit to playing "hooky" from work to attend or watch an opener.

The fans, meanwhile, have already batted up.

"Declare Major League Baseball Opening Day a national holiday," states the petition, which was filed online Monday, drawing some 12,000 signatures in 24 hours. "Opening day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It's a day of celebration ... Join us in our quest to make sure every American can exercise their inalienable right to celebrate the day those two magical words are uttered for the first time: "Play ball!"

OH LOOK AT US, GOP

Wednesday is deadline day for cities who are falling all over themselves to woo the Republican National Committee and its big, fat 2016 presidential convention to their fair towns. The contenders are Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Kansas City and three spots in Ohio: Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

"Las Vegas is ready. This is what we do. Las Vegas 2016," proclaims a noisy promotional video for Sin City that extols the virtues of 10.7 million square feet of exhibit space, 15 of the world's 20 largest hotels and 900 retail stores, among other things.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock step up to the camera on behalf of the Mile High City, pledging a "commitment to the RNC" for the event. Will legal recreational marijuana in the state hold sway? The video does not broach the question.

For Phoenix, former U.S. Senator John Kyl touts the GOP's favorite "icons" who call Arizona home — Sen. John McCain, Sandra Day O'Connor, Gov. Jan Brewer, Barry Goldwater, Jr.

"Arizona's Republican credentials are without comparison. It is the perfect venue for the rise of the Republicans," an earnest Mr. Kyle advises viewers Yes, well. Why all the fuss? Simply put, a presidential convention typically brings an influx of up to 40,000 visitors and up to $200 million in revenue to the host city. Phoenix may generate the most drama. While local heavyweights pitched the GOP, the Democratic National Committee placed Phoenix on its short list of potential host sites.

"The city might want to start stockpiling red, white and blue balloons: Phoenix could host both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2016," reports KTAR, a Phoenix talk radio station.

MR. JOHNSON DEBUTS

On radar Wednesday: Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson goes before a full House Committee on Homeland Security hearing touted under the heading: "The Secretary's Vision for the Future — Challenges and Priorities." Things get rolling at 10 a.m. and can be viewed live online here: Homeland.house.gov

"Secretary Johnson is two months into his tenure as head of the federal government's third largest department, and thus far I have been encouraged by his willingness to work closely with the legislative branch," says committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican.

"Mr. Johnson is now the face of America's counterterrorism operations, and the department has much to be proud of and much to improve upon," the Texas Republican adds.

CPAC DELIGHTS

The deep thinkers are getting ready to gather. Here is a selection of topics to be covered during assorted forums and breakout sessions at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, which begins in eight days at a resort on the Potomac River, just eight miles south of the White House.

The telling titles: "Does the U.S. Congress Matter Anymore?"; "Health Care After ObamaCare: A Practical Guide for Living When No One Has Insurance and America Runs Out of Doctors"; "The American Dream vs. the Obama Nightmare: Income Inequality"; "Can There Be Meaningful Immigration Reform Without Citizenship?"; "What Should Be America's Place in the World in 2017 — After Obama."

But wait, there's more: "More Guns, Less Crime: How Law Enforcement Is Beginning to Embrace a Well-Armed Civilian Population"; "Rocky Mountain High: Does Legalized Pot Mean Society's Going Up in Smoke?"; "Clairvoyance and Hard Data: Electoral Trends for 2014, 2016, and 2040."

WRONG MESSAGE

The "New York Dream Act," already has the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Democrat, who said he would sign the bill that would provide state financial aid to the children of illegal immigrants, now under consideration in the state Legislature. Not everyone heralds the idea.

"Tens of millions of immigrants have struggled to legally come to the United States. Tens of millions more are waiting on line overseas, trying to immigrate legally. They've done the right thing and that isn't easy. When we pass legislation offering state grants to illegal immigrants, we're sending the wrong message to all of those legal immigrants," says Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, a Republican from Fishkill.

"We're rewarding the people who cheated the system. We're telling the people who played by the rules that they were foolish, that they could have just cheated. That's not a message the United States should send to the millions of people around the world who are dreaming about coming to America."

Mr. Lalor adds, "When American citizens themselves, including legal immigrants, are struggling to pay for college, Albany shouldn't ask them to put their tax dollars to tuition assistance for illegal immigrants. It's simply not fair."

The bill is expected to pass in the New York Assembly this week, then it's on to the Senate. The question lingers, as it does wherever similar legislation emerges: who will pay for it all?

POLL DU JOUR

93 percent of registered U.S. voters have confidence in the military.

74 percent have confidence in the FBI, 69 percent in the Supreme Court,

64 percent have confidence in the CIA, 53 percent in major business corporations.

52 percent have confidence in the White House; 25 percent of Republicans, 39 percent of independents and 83 percent of Democrats agree.

51 percent have confidence in the IRS; 42 percent have confidence in the news media.

39 percent have confidence in Congress.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,006 registered U.S. voters conducted Feb. 9-11, and released Tuesday.

Deep thoughts, frivolous observations to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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