- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For those weary of Obamacare, the State of the Union address, progressive caterwaul and ongoing talk of a Republican identity crisis: the Conservative Political Action Conference is just 36 days away. That’s right. Get through the next month, and your beloved CPAC begins March 6, staged at the glittering Gaylord National Resort, on the very banks of the Potomac River, eight miles south of the nation’s Capitol. Someone already is sounding the clarion call of Reagan-style optimism, and the can-do spirit of yore.

“At this year’s CPAC — and through our theme ‘ACU’s Golden Anniversary: Getting It Right for 50 Years’ — we will celebrate how conservatism has shaped our past and look to the future with excitement,” Daniel Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, tells Inside the Beltway.

“There will be more than 200 thought leaders and personalities from government, politics and entertainment in what will be our best CPAC ever. This will be the year that conservatives begin pulling the nation back from the brink of Barack Obama’s disaster with a movement that inspires, unites, and discovers new solutions to our current challenges,” he continues.

The full schedule for CPAC 2014, which includes the annual Ronald Reagan Dinner, will be finalized and made public late next week. In the meantime, Mr. Schneider has some news.

“Our confirmed speakers now include Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio; Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Sarah Palin has been invited to appear,” the cordial Mr. Schneider says, advising one and all to visit cpac.org for more information.

THE HILLARY LAWMAKERS SURFACE

There’s much talk about early bird political action committees who are already fundraising for a potential Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign for president. Such news takes a back seat to a close head count on Capitol Hill by The Hill newspaper, revealing how many Democratic lawmakers have stepped forward to endorse Mrs. Clinton, though she has yet to declare her intentions.

The numbers so far: 18 senators, 16 of whom are female — and 39 members of the House, a roster that also includes 13 women.

“The level of support is astounding, especially two-and-a-half years before the Democratic Party hosts its nominating convention. The total represents more than 20 percent of the 253 Democrats in the House and Senate. It is also more than half of the lawmaker endorsements Clinton received in 2008,” point out Jasmine Sachar and Bob Cusack, who made the count.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland is among the Clinton fans, despite the fact that Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat in his own state, might also run.

FIRE UP AIR FORCE ONE

What? It’s already fundraising time, and so soon after the State of the Union address? But yes. First lady Michelle Obama departs the nation’s capital on Wednesday for a trio of West Coast fundraisers in Los Angeles and San Francisco to benefit the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Among the events: a swell “Woman’s Lunch” at a svelte ‘Frisco hotel, hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Among the prices: $32,400 per couple, or $10,000 for a single ticket, yes for lunch.

Mrs. Obama will also give an interview to the syndicated talk radio program “On Air with Ryan Seacrest,” elaborating on “how to stay fit by eating healthy, getting active and signing up for health care,” according to the White House. It airs nationally on Thursday.

THE POLARIZED VORTEX

“American politics over the last decade has become notoriously polarized, with congressional Republicans and Democrats disagreeing on the best way to address health care, immigration, taxes, and a host of other issues,” points out a new Gallup poll analysis. “But supporters of both parties do agree that the economy should be a top priority, with 91 percent of Democrats and 88 percent of Republicans saying it is extremely or very important that the president and Congress deal with that issue this year.”

There is less agreement on other issues, however.

“The four top issues that Democrats rate as high priorities are education, poverty and homelessness, health care policy, and Social Security and Medicare. At least three in four Democrats rate each of these issues as extremely or very important for the federal government to deal with,” Gallup advises.

“By contrast, at least three in four Republicans feel that terrorism, the military and national defense, and health care should be high-priority issues for the president and lawmakers this year. Education, at 70 percent extremely or very important, rounds out Republicans’ top five priorities.”

The environment brings out the most partisan instincts. Gallup found that 71 percent of Democrats said green-minded issues should be a top priority, compared to 32 percent of the GOPers — a sizable 39 percentage point difference.

THE HUMAN DYNAMIC

Behold, a cultural, clandestine moment of sorts. When much press coverage emphasizes the public perils of faceless electronic surveillance, along comes a quiet word from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealing that the human factor is still very prized in that very complex realm. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, an office within the federal agency, has embarked on a vigorous new effort to up the intelligence ante at a basic level.

The program is called SHARP; it’s meant to improve reasoning and problem solving among the rare few who must make strategic decisions from uncommon resources — “inferences from sparse, voluminous, or conflicting data must be drawn, validated, and communicated — often under stressful, time-sensitive conditions,” notes an official online source. The ability to accurately “update one’s mental models, make valid conclusions, and effectively deploy attention and other cognitive resources is critical,” the source says.

Indeed. The new research, if successful, could enhance intelligence analysts’ capacity to reason through complex, ambiguous and often novel problems. Research partners include Charles River Analytics, Honeywell Corporation and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“The long-term goal of SHARP research is to develop evidence-based tools and methods that can improve the quality of human judgment and reasoning in complex, real world environments,” says program manager Adam Russell. “Any successful results from SHARP research could lead to significant benefits for the intelligence community, in particular, as well as society, in general.”

POLL DU JOUR

62 percent of Americans use negative words and phrases like “downhill” and “wrong track” to describe where the nation is headed in the next year.

27 percent use positive words and phrases like “right direction” and “hopeful” to describe the national state.

59 percent say they are uncertain, wondering, pessimistic and worried about the job President Obama will do over the rest of his term.

40 percent say they are optimistic, confident, satisfied and hopeful that Mr. Obama will do a good job in that time period.

51 percent say Mr. Obama does not have a clear agenda for major issues facing the nation.

43 percent say he does have a clear agenda.

39 percent say the nation is worse off since the president took office, 31 percent say better off, 29 percent say it’s “the same place.”

Source: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 800 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 22-25.

Disappointed sighs, applause and press releases to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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