- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A CHRISTMAS VICTORY

Let us consider the New York City school superintendent who recently ordered that Christmas festivities be restored at a Brooklyn elementary school after the principal declared the small campus to be a Santa-free zone. The Pledge of Allegiance and Thanksgiving were also nixed. But no more.

The nation would likely agree with it all: A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 76 percent of Americans believe Christmas should be celebrated in public schools. Among adults with school-age children at home, 82 percent favor celebrating Christmas in the classroom.

Another 61 percent overall believe there should be more religion in those schools. Another 54 percent say there’s not enough religion in the public schools; 70 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of the parents and 44 percent of Democrats agree. The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted Dec. 10-13; Rasmussen Reports notes that the findings are virtually unchanged from similar surveys in recent years.

PERTINENT LEGISLATION

“Seasonal religious expression must continue to be protected for all Americans. The efforts to remove religious aspects of Christmas from the public square are not only misguided, they are unconstitutional. Christmas is a wonderful time of year when a majority of Americans take time to remember the humble birth of Jesus Christ on a holy night more than 2,000 years ago. The message of Christmas is one of love, hope, and peace,” declares Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has introduced House Resolution 564 — which protects the symbols and traditions of the day, and rejects repeated efforts to ban public references to Christmas.

“It is a message that our country and this world needs more than ever in the midst of ever increasing conflict and chaos. Regrettably, there has been a troubling effort by some in America to ban any and all Christmas celebrations and traditions from the public arena. These attacks on Christmas clearly violate the rights of religious expression our Founding Fathers deliberately provided for us in the Constitution,” says the Colorado Republicans, who has the support of 36 other GOPers at the moment.

POLISH UP THE RESUME

“Frequent travel may be required.”

— Detail from the official NASA astronaut candidate job application, which went public Monday. The federal space agency is talking applications until Feb. 18 — a stringent but interesting process, indeed. NASA has hired 300 astronauts over the years; the current salary range is $66,026 to $144,566, incidentally.

Curious? Visit USAJobs.gov and enter JS16A0001 as the keyword in the search function.

LIBERTARIAN PARTY EYES MUSLIM REPUBLICANS

The Libertarian Party is out to win over some new fans, fueled by Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that Muslims be banned from immigrating to the U.S.

“Republicans like to talk a good game about our Constitution but, clearly, many are making an exception when it comes to religious liberty,” says Libertarian National Committee chairman Nicholas Sarwark says in an open letter to Muslims who identify as Republicans. “If you have not previously considered the Libertarian Party, I encourage you to do so now. We are an extremely diverse group of people who are passionate about liberty — about all rights, of all people, all the time.”

Mr. Sarwark vows that Libertarians will stand by Muslims, concluding, “Friend, if you find that the Republican Party continues to disparage you, please consider a home in the Libertarian Party where we respect all rights, of all people, all the time.”

The chairman might want to draft a letter to Muslim Democrats as well, however. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, Muslim support for the GOP eroded after the 9/11 attacks; 78 percent of Muslims backed Republicans in the 2000 election. A decade later, 70 percent of Muslims identified as Democrats, the pollster found.

While Muslim voters may be a small portion of the American population, they are concentrated in some of the states that could play a decisive role in 2016, including Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Those states can be decided by razor-thin margins. At that point, every constituency matters,” wrote reporter Clark Mindock in a recent International Business Times analysis of the demographic.

TED CRUZ EYES THE CONSERVATIVE CROWN

The traditional conservative crowd is in search of an unwavering standard bearer as 2016 barrels down on the nation — now a mere three weeks away, give or take an hour or two. That standard bearer could be Sen. Ted Cruz, who recently won the support from longtime conservative stalwart Richard Viguerie.

Mr. Cruz just added another fan: Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the influential Family Leader organization, and a man with huge sway over dedicated conservatives and evangelicals in the Hawkeye State.

“I am confident that Ted Cruz is the right man for the job,” says Mr. Vander Plaats, who says he has prayed over the decision for months.

“This is an endorsement that simultaneously sends a signal to political observers and motivates active Caucus voters,” notes Mr. Cruz.“The time has come for us to coalesce. If we as conservatives come together in Iowa, and across the country, we will win.”

BERNIEISM

The dictionary mavens at Mirriam-Webster have named their word of the year: “ism.” Yes, as in “ism,” the suffix. A group of seven words that end in “ism” were the most looked up terms during the whole year, the organization found. One in particular sparked the most hubbub:

“Curiosity about this year’s top word, socialism, has been especially intense this year,” reported Mirriam-Webster editor Peter Sokolowski in a rationale, noting that the term’s popularity has increased by 169 percent in the last year.

”Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” and the word spiked in the summer when large crowds showed up at multi-city rallies organized through social media, and again after the first Democratic debate in October.”

And the rest of most popular “ism” words? They were fascism, followed by racism, feminism, communism, capitalism and terrorism.

FRANK RETURNS WITH A VENGEANCE

Behold, it’s “FU2016,” a spiffy new website for a fictional presidential campaign, and as canny a marketing tool as any real candidate could muster. The “FU” stands for Frank Underwood, the president of the U.S. as defined by actor Kevin Spacey in the Netflix series “House of Cards.” The website has all the hallmarks of the real thing, including a fake campaign ad that aired on CNN during the recent Republican debate.

“It’s a new day in America,” says Mr. Spacey in the faux spot — in character as Frank, of course. “Today, more people will go to work, return home to their families and sleep more soundly than ever before, all because one man refuses to settle, putting people before politics. That man is Frank Underwood.”

    The fourth season for the series begins on March 4, 2016, even as the carefully crafted illusion continues.

    “Progress. Forward momentum. Getting things done. These are my mottos. I have no patience for useless things — like political gridlock and stagnation. And neither should you. Join me. Let’s roll up our sleeves together. Let’s plow through the stubborn and small-minded and send Washington a message loud and clear. F.U. 2016,” the candidate advises at his website.

    Ah, but President Underwood has already appeared on political polls — most recently earning better approval ratings than President Obama in a Reuters/Ipsos survey in March.

    DEBATES WIN OVER THE PUBLIC

    Well, maybe there’s something to be said for all the sprawling sets, whirling graphics and attractive, aggressive moderators. Americans are actually paying attention to the presidential debates, which have indeed proved a ratings boon to the hosting networks.

    “The presidential debates clearly have been a hit with the public. Nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) say they have watched at least some of the televised debates between the candidates. In December 2007 — the most recent election in which there were contested nominations in both parties — just 43 percent reported watching any of the debates,” notes a Pew Research Center report.

    Over half of the respondents said the on-camera clashes were “fun to watch.” Hopefully, that translates into voter engagement and possibly a more informed electorate, lest the 2016 election be plagued by “low information voters,” the bane of Rush Limbaugh, among other close observers.

    FOXIFIED

    They continue to do things right. The Fox News is the top-rated cable news channel for the 14th year in a row. No, really. Fourteen years as No. 1, this according to Nielsen Media Research. But wait there’s more. Fox News is now second rank in primetime viewing across all 120 cable networks, bested only by ESPN. Meanwhile, “The O’Reilly Factor has been rated No. 1 in it’s timeslot for 14 consecutive years; “Special Report” with Bret Baier claims the same honor for the last 16 years.

    POLL DU JOUR

    66 percent of Americans predict the U.S. military campaign against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria will succeed; 65 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of independents and 72 percent of Democrats agree.

    64 percent of Americans support the U.S. military campaign in Iraq and Syria; 69 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats agree.

    56 percent overall say government anti-terrorism efforts have not gone “far enough”; 71 percent of Republicans, 49 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats agree.

    47 percent overall favor the use of ground troops in Iraq and Syria; 66 percent of Republicans, 48 percent of independents and 33 percent of Democrats agree.

    46 percent overall say using force “creates hatred and more terrorism; 18 percent of Republicans, 49 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats agree.

    Source: A Pew Research Center survey of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 8-13.

    Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin

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