- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2015

That didn’t take long. The White House agenda circus is right back up to speed just a few days into the new year. But this is a traveling circus — so fire up Air Force One and let the speechmaking and happy talk begin. Consider that President Obama was absent from the nation’s capital for a 17-day vacation; well, OK. That’s nice. But he will be remaining in town only 72 hours before it’s time to board the magnificent, $228,288-per-hour aircraft and journey elsewhere with the first of many messages that underscore all the administration’s crowning victories. On Wednesday, the president is off to Detroit to highlight “workers in the resurgent American automotive and manufacturing sector now that the auto rescue has been completed and the decision to save the auto industry and the over one million jobs that went with it.” That is the official description from the White House. Mr. Obama then travels to Phoenix “to put a spotlight on how the recovering housing sector has helped restore wealth and economic security to millions of middle class families and announce new steps to help more Americans achieve the American Dream of owning a home.”

Again, that is the official spin. At week’s end the script gets even more complicated. Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and spouse Jill Biden jet off to Knoxville, Tennessee to discuss “new initiatives” to help those who pine to go to college, and “highlight the administration’s efforts to act on his own to create new, good paying manufacturing jobs.” What is happening here? Timing is everything, what with a Republican-controlled Congress bustling into town and the State of the Union speech looming in just 15 days. A sampling of headlines to fill in the blanks:

“Obama looks past GOP in promoting his 2015 agenda” (ABC News), “Obama seeks support outside Capitol as Republicans take over (Businessweek), “Obama to push plans ahead of State of the Union speech (Wall Street Journal), “Republicans ready to battle Obama on energy, Cuba, immigration” (Newsweek).

SO WHAT’S ANOTHER $1,539,402?

“Once again, Judicial Watch has found that President Obama is flying high at taxpayer expense in order to push his political agenda,” reports Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has filed yet another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to reveal that Mr. Obama’s fundraising trip to Denver last July cost taxpayers $896,278 — that included $183,260 for hotel expenses for a security detail, Mr. Fitton notes.

“There’s history here,” he continues, adding that additional U.S. Air Force records reveal that Mr. Obama’s Labor Day trips in 2014 for fundraising, personal business, a wedding and some politicking came to a total of $1,539,402. “The abuse of travel privileges within the federal government certainly did not begin with Obama, though he has certainly taken it to record highs,” Mr. Fitton observes.


SEE ALSO: Ted Yoho joins Louie Gohmert in challenge of John Boehner’s House leadership


TWEET KING

The Digital Policy Council, a nonpartisan think tank, has analyzed the tweeting realm to reveal that 82 percent of world leaders were using Twitter, sending out their 140-character missives to a combined audience of 116 million followers.

President Obama confidently retains the No. 1 spot with a vast following of 51 million. The U.S. president actually holds the third largest number of followers in the entire world exceeded only by ‘fellow’ pop stars Justin Bieber and Katy Perry,” the research states.

And of note: 84 “tweeting countries” out of a total of 94 countries in the world were classified as fully democratic — signifying that approximately 90 percent of the leaders of the world’s democracies tweet. “In contrast, only 62 percent of nondemocratic nations have leaders that tweet,” the report says.

THE POSTMASTER HAS HIS SAY

Now that the hair-raising holiday rush is over, change could be afoot in mail-ville. On Tuesday, outgoing Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who has led the oft-challenged U.S. Postal Service for four years, heads to the National Press Club for some candid talk about the future of things involving stamps and envelopes. On Monday, the service says it will “lower standards for mail delivery across the nation. Mail will take longer to reach its final destination.” This is an era when online bill paying and email has supplanted the appeal of a hand-delivered letter.

“What about USPS’ finances? The postal service just reported its best quarter financially in seven years. Yet, USPS has been hobbled by a congressional requirement to prepay billions in retiree healthcare costs,” the service states in advance materials. “Congress also adjourned last year without approving either new members for USPS’ Board of Governors or enacting postal reform legislation that was years in the making.”

Mr. Donahoe says he will offer a “frank appraisal on what is working and what needs to be fixed” before he leaves his post Feb. 1.

ANOTHER BOEHNER FOE

The list of potential foes grows; House Speaker John Boehner has one more faction to worry about as he digs in to preserve his status as kingpin of the chamber when the vote comes up Tuesday. Reps. Thomas Massie, Jim Bridenstine and Ted Yoho plan to publicly oppose the Ohio Republican; Rep. Walter Jones revealed he’d been chatting up with 16 to 18 conservatives about taking up the anti-Boehner while Rep. Louie Gohmert has actually challenged Mr. Boehner for the coveted and powerful designation. FreedomWorks, which boasts a membership of almost 7 million frugal, liberty-minded folks, has also joined the fray.

“With a growing Republican majority in the House and a historically high number of liberty-voting fiscal conservatives within it, there is an urgent need replace Speaker Boehner with fresh, bold leadership that better represents the views of the whole caucus,” says Matt Kibbe, president of the grass-roots group. “Speaker Boehner has kicked fiscal conservatives off committee positions for voting against his wishes, caved on numerous massive spending bills at the eleventh hour, and abused the legislative process to stomp out opposition by holding surprise votes and giving members little time to actually read the bills before they vote.”

Things have gotten noisy. FreedomWorks has mobilized its community of 6.7 million grass-roots activists to contact their representatives in the House using phone calls, email messages and social media in the days leading up to the Tuesday vote.

“An effective Speaker would be someone who leads through action, consistently doing what Republicans promised the American people they would do. We need someone willing to shake up the status quo,” Mr. Kibbe advises.

POLL DU JOUR

57 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of House Speaker John Boehner; 48 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of independents and 61 percent of Democrats agree.

55 percent overall have an unfavorable opinion of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; 83 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats agree.

49 percent have an unfavorable opinion of outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; 72 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

49 percent have an unfavorable opinion of incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; 36 percent of Republicans, 50 percent of independents and 56 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 997 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 27-29, 2014.

Happy talk, traveling agendas to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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