Inside the Beltway: Ben Carson’s 12 words to live by

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Is there a message to the nation from Ben Carson, a man who draws both political and cultural interest for his plainspoken wisdom and inner mettle? Yes. There is.

“It’s impossible for America to be free if America is not brave,” he tells Inside the Beltway.

REPUBLICAN MEETING, RED MEAT STRATEGY

It’s not exactly hush-hush. But the Republican National Committee is spare for now on the details of the organization’s two-day spring meeting which begins Wednesday in Memphis. It is mostly closed to the press save for a committee meeting on rules, a cheerful luncheon to introduce the GOP’s “rising stars,” and another lunch, with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Oh, there will be strategy afoot no doubt, important, red meat kind of stuff, in an important year. Voters head to the midterm election polls on Nov. 4 — now less than six months away. Meanwhile, there will be significant updates from a trio of party committees plus talk of the Republican National Convention in 2016. Even the choice of the host city is being monitored by the competition. The take-away message here? The Grand Old Party appears seriously determined to augment and protect its traditional strengths and values while adding “big tent” thinking and aggressive tactics to combat an equally aggressive Democratic foe.

The big doings are centered around the very swell old Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, a 127-year-old landmark where live wild ducks swim in the lobby fountain and the menu still includes smothered chicken and buttermilk chess pie. Republicans will likely leave Memphis in a good mood, and possibly ready to rumble, old school style. The private farewell dinner for the gathering will take place at Graceland — which typically includes an after-hours tour of Elvis Presley’s longtime home.

WHAT IF IT WASN’T A U-2?

Journalists are fascinated with reports that a U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane recently disrupted commercial aircraft service near Los Angeles by triggering a glitch in air traffic control tracking systems, thus delaying hundreds of flights. Much jaunty and speculative coverage has emerged.

“But aren’t these aircraft flying daily around there?” asks David Cenciotti, founder of The Aviationist, a blog focused on military aircraft.

In its breaking coverage Saturday, NBC News referred to the U-2 as a “Cold War relic” that “fried” computers, claiming the aircraft had originated at Edwards Air Force Base, 30 miles north of Los Angeles. Mr. Cenciotti suggests that the U-2 in question was likely from Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, adding it’s “worth noticing” that U-2s in general have been flying in the area at 60,000 feet for 50 years.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk — an unmanned surveillance aircraft introduced in 2001 — also reaches that level, and is also found at Beale.

“For this reason it seems at least weird that a U-2 transponder triggered the problem only on Apr. 30,” he says. “What if it was another kind of plane? Something relatively new, like those mystery planes spotted in Kansas and Texas?”

Well, that’s interesting. That’s a thought. Connecting the dots, the quartet of triangular, reportedly silent mystery aircraft Mr. Cenciotti refers to were spotted and photographed near Wichita and Amarillo in March. Among other things, a “hack attack” on the Los Angeles air control systems has also surfaced among those following the story.

PARSING BENGHAZI — AGAIN

It is study time. Aaron Sharockman, an analyst with the Tampa Bay Times’ Politifact and PunditFact research groups, looked closely at a remark by ABC News contributor Cokie Roberts. On Sunday, she suggested on that 2012 transcripts of “those Sunday shows” that aired after the Benghazi attack reveal that then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice deemed it “a terrorist attack” rather that blaming “the whole thing on the video.”

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