- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2014

He closed the brief letter like this: “With every good wish to Your Holiness, I am, Sincerely Yours, John Boehner.” The recipient was Pope Francis, the author House Speaker John Boehner, who has asked the pontiff to address a joint session of Congress in the future. The simple but formal gesture promoted more than 1,000 press mentions in the space of an hour when it was released on Thursday; the topic was subject to interpretation.

“Is Congress holy enough for Pope Francis?” asked the Daily Beast. “Can Pope Francis bring peace to Congress?” asked New York Magazine. Lawmakers could be “looking for a miracle” suggested Fox News Latino while the National Review deemed Mr. Boehner’s invitation “grateful and penitential.”

Congress is not a God-free zone, and bipartisanship is a byproduct here. Indeed, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi offered her complete support for the idea.

“Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service,” Mr. Boehner explains. “His tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us — the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished, the unborn — has awakened hearts on every continent.”

The lawmaker continues, “His social teachings, rooted in ‘the joy of the gospel,’ have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom and social justice. These principles are among the fundamentals of the American idea. And though our nation sometimes fails to live up to these principles, at our best, we give them new life as we seek the common good.”

PIPE DREAMS

Things should be interesting near the White House around or about April 22. That’s when the somewhat fearlessly titled Cowboy and Indian Alliance arrives in the nation’s capital to express their distaste for the Keystone XL pipeline project. The “pipeline fighters” consist of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities who have planned a “Protect and Reject” march, among many other things.

“We will set up camp nearby the White House, lighting our fire and burning our sage, and for five days, we will bear proud witness to President Obama’s final decision on Keystone XL, reminding him of the threat this tar sands pipeline poses to our climate, land, water and tribal rights,” says Mark Hefflinger, spokesman for organizer Bold Nebraska, a grass rootsy group that condemns “far right ideas and policies,” among other things.

“Throughout those five days, we will show the power of our communities with events ranging from prayers at Secretary of State John Kerry’s home and an opening ceremony of tribes and ranchers on horseback in front of the White House,” Mr. Hefflinger adds.

That should be interesting. Among the organization’s support groups: Oceti Sakowin People of the Seven Council Fires, The Sierra Club, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CREDO, a San Francisco-based progressive group that launched an “anti-tea party” super PAC in 2012.

KEYS TO THE KEYSTONE

And what do Americans think of the Keystone pipeline at this point? Overall, 34 percent say it should be constructed; 57 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats agree. Another 32 percent approve construction, but only after an “careful” environmental impact review; 25 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Democrats agree. Nineteen percent overall give a total thumbs down on the project; 7 percent of the GOP and 25 percent of Dems agree.

And last but not least, 16 percent “don’t know”; 10 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats admit to the same feelings. The source is a YouGov poll of 998 U.S. adults conducted March 4-5.

‘BOSSY’ JUMPS THE SHARK

Only five days old, and the bodacious “bossy” campaign has already been co-opted. On background: A female power trio consisting of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chvez and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice have declared the word “bossy” unfair.

“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Pledge to ‘Ban Bossy,’” the ladies reason in their pitch, which has inspired a welter of bossy reactions from friends and foes alike.

“Ban the behavior, not the word,” says David Vienna, a screenwriter and Huffington Post contributor.

“I’m not bossy. I’m the boss,” declares the chanteuse Beyonce in a video supporting the idea.

“What’s so wrong with being bossy?” demands Andrea Tantaros, the Fox News correspondent.

Ah, but agenda lurks. Sharp-eyed Washington Examiner editorial writer Ashe Schow determined that Ms. Sandberg is an ally of Hillary Clinton who intends to up Mrs. Clinton’s “likeability” among voters should she run for the White House in 2016. And the “bossy” ban could help.

Clever. Subtle. But such an idea can be capsized with ease. A counter “bossy” ban has already emerged, complete with bumper sticker featuring the motto, plus a portrait of Mrs. Clinton in, let’s just say, rigorous squawk mode.

WEED FOR THE ‘VERY RELIGIOUS’

National support for marijuana legalization grows as the public considers an increase in possible tax revenue or a decrease in prison populations. And so will the use of weed among young people who normally wouldn’t touch the stuff, says the New York University Center for Drug Use and HIV Research that analyzed the habits of close to 10,000 high school seniors. The research found that “large proportions” of low-risk students reported intention to use marijuana if it were legal.

“What I personally find interesting is the reasonably high percentage of students who are very religious, non-cigarette smokers, nondrinkers, and those who have friends who disapprove of marijuana use who said they intended to use marijuana if it was legal,” said Joseph Palamar, the public health professor who led the research. “This suggests that many people may be solely avoiding use because it is illegal, not because it is ‘bad’ for you, or ‘wrong’ to use.” The research was published this week in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: The Glencoe School, Burlington, North Carolina. All brick, built in 1930, rural Craftsman Style; 10,890 square feet on three acres near the Hee Haw River, multiple mature oak trees. Maple floors, pine molding, decorative brickwork, “12-over-12” windows, starburst press glass panels, five classrooms, offices, kitchen, two restrooms, cafeteria, offices, gymnasium/auditorium space. On National Historical Register, eligible for historic restoration tax credits. Price: $137,500, through Preservation North Carolina (Presnc.org)

POLL DU JOUR

55 percent of Americans say they want to “give a new person a chance” in the next election for U.S. Congress.

54 percent say if the ballot allowed them to “replace every single member of Congress” they would vote to do that.

44 percent would prefer a Republican-controlled Congress, 43 percent would prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress.

44 percent say the federal government is not working well and needs large reforms.

27 percent say the federal government is unhealthy and stagnant.

25 percent say the government is “okay,” but needs small reforms.

3 percent say the government is healthy, vibrant and working well.

Source: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted March 5-9.

Follow Jennifer Harper at Twitter.com/harperbulletin

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