Inside the Beltway: A little gift to the ‘Stop Hillary’ movement

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The determined activists behind Stop Hillary PAC — a grass-roots political action committee founded six months ago solely to deter Hillary Clinton from making a 2016 run for the White House — are still devoted to their task, spokesman Garrett Marquis tells Inside the Beltway.

And they’re excited. The group has been invigorated by a few choice revelations in an upcoming memoir by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that suggest the former secretary of State opposed the 2007 troop surge in Iraq as a calculated political strategy. At the time, voters were knee-deep in the critical lead-up to the presidential campaign that was to follow. Proper talking points were vital.

“Secretary Gates confirms what so many American have already known, Hillary Clinton is disingenuous and deceitful. She will do anything, including mislead the country, by putting her political ambitions ahead of the safety of Americans at home and abroad,” Mr. Marquis says.

“From Whitewater to Benghazi and now the truth about her opposition to the troop surge, Hillary continues to show her true colors and why Americans can’t trust her now or as president,” he concludes.

IS DENNIS A DIPLOMAT?

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman will play in an exhibition basketball game in North Korea on Wednesday to mark leader Kim Jong-un's birthday. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman will play in an exhibition basketball game ... more >

Now immersed in his fourth visit to North Korea, Dennis Rodman and a cast of former basketball greats will stage an exhibition game before the isolated nation’s most elite citizens on Wednesday, all to celebrate the 31st birthday of dictator Kim Jong-un. Mr. Rodman insists it’s hard but productive work, and that the leader is his close pal; the athlete screamed as much to CNN in an aggressive interview with Chris Cuomo. The network correspondent dryly noted he was relieved the encounter was via video rather than in person.

Yes, well. The world looks on anyway, waiting for spectacle. Or something. Both State Department and White House remain elusive on the Rodman phenomenon, insisting that the trip is one of a private citizen and that’s that.

“Sports exchanges can be valuable. Sports diplomacy can be valuable. And it’s something that we pursue in many places around the world, including through direct support. But this is a private trip,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told the daily press gathering on Tuesday.

“I don’t think we should ignore the real suffering in this gulag state,” counters Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who is minority leader of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. “And Dennis Rodman wants to go there and play basketball. It would be like inviting Adolf Hitler to lunch. What Dennis Rodman is doing is very ill-conceived.”

But then there’s this from Jesse Jackson in a Tweet: “Ping pong diplomacy worked in China, and basketball seems to work in North Korea.”

Or it could all be an odd diplomatic hybrid which has some legs, ramped up by a news media eager for fabulous controversy and stunts. Mr. Rodman and his team are “unlikely emissaries,” says a New York Times analysis, conducting “a strange trip that has left the world’s diplomatic corps puzzled and, perhaps, a little jealous over the access the players may receive.”

PINING FOR THE POLL BOOTH

Americans are looking forward to the 2014 midterm elections more than either the Academy Awards or the World Cup soccer tournament, offering some proof that the nation is politically engaged indeed. A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday reveals that 51 percent of the citizenry is “especially looking forward” to the election, compared to 24 percent who anticipate the Oscars and 22 percent who will follow the tournament.

Only the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics eclipse the midterms in the survey, winning 55 percent and 58 percent, respectively of the public attention.

And a small note to political strategists: the Grand Old Party is pining for the poll booth more than Democrats and independents. The survey found that 63 percent of Republicans are looking forward to Nov. 4, compared to 53 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of the independents.

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