- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2014

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.”

From Mr. Sharockman’s analysis: “Rice referred to the video as the source of the conflict in five different Sunday interviews, transcripts show. On Fox and ABC, she said the attacks were not preplanned but rather were related to the video protest. She never used the word ‘terror’ or any variation. She mentioned ‘extremists’ on CBS, CNN, NBC and ABC, but again connected them to the protest of the video and implied the uprisings were not planned as an act of terrorism.”

He continues: “She mentioned al-Qaida only on CBS and cautioned that she wasn’t sure they were involved. Rice’s appearances were consistent in that she repeatedly said that the federal government was investigating what happened and that ‘we’ll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms.’ But when asked to offer her assessment of what happened, Rice stressed protests related to the anti-Muslim video and downplayed suggestions that the attacks were planned. PunditFact rates Roberts’ claim Mostly False.”

THE FINAL JOKE COUNT

Researchers have long tracked political bias by analyzing the partisan content of jokes from late-night comedians. President Obama is not in the late night host category just yet, but he delivered a cavalcade of humorous fare at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday evening. Mr. Obama told a few jokes that were neutral. He poked fun at himself. But he is a Democrat after all, and here is the final count for political content: he told 15 jokes aimed at Republicans, and five jokes aimed at Democrats.

The GOP-y subjects; Mitt Romney, Sen. Rand Paul, Charles and David Koch, Fox News, the GOP itself, Rep. Eric Cantor, House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Ted Cruz, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Pat Buchanan, Rudolph W. Guiliani, Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity and former President George W. Bush.

And then the Democratic-y subjects: the Affordable Care Act, MSNBC, CNN, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

ONE FOR H.W.

It was breaking his pledge not to raise taxes that won former President George H.W. Bush the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on Sunday, naturally at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

Mr. Bush’s granddaughter, Lauren Bush Lauren accepted the award on his behalf.

“President Bush had promised Americans no new taxes during the 1988 presidential campaign and he was voted into office with that promise. But, he had also promised to serve his country, and he decided that was the promise he would keep,” said Jack Schlossberg, son of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg,during the awards ceremony.

“The 1990 budget compromise enacted responsible and desperately needed reforms at the expense of the president’s popularity and his chances for reelection. America’s gain was President Bush’s loss, and his decision to put country above party and political prospects makes him an example of a modern profile in courage that is all too rare,” said Mr. Schlossberg.

POLL DU JOUR

55 percent of Americans say race relations in the U.S. are “good”; 46 percent of black respondents and 60 percent of white respondents agree.

55 percent overall say NBA action against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was “about right”; 71 percent of blacks and 52 percent of whites agree.

49 percent overall say Mr. Sterling should be forced to sell the Clippers; 71 percent of blacks and 43 percent of whites agree.

42 percent overall say it’s “acceptable” that Mr. Sterling be punished for his private racist remarks; 60 percent of blacks and 39 percent of whites agree.

25 percent overall say Mr. Sterling’s attitude about blacks are widespread among team owners; 54 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites agree.

Source: A New York Times/CBS News poll of 1,054 U.S. adults conducted April 30-May 1.

Soaring rhetoric, flighty commentary to jharper@washingtontimes.com