- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 24, 2016

Score one for Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, who previously vowed he would never take off his “stinking glasses” despite criticism from critics. Has his focus changed? An appearance on ABC News on Sunday revealed the new and improved Jeb, minus glasses, wearing an impeccable dark gray suit and flag pin, hair precisely trimmed, his demeanor calm and direct.

Mr. Bush is upping his game despite setbacks in the polls. He’s still got such stalwarts as Sen. Lindsey Graham and Bob Dole in his camp, and the formidable Bush clan is not about to see their man lose without serious, strategic pushback. Interesting to note is that former GOP hopeful Rick Perry donned studious glasses to gild his image, but that is another story. Attention to glasses, hairdo, weight, necktie color and other excruciating details is serious stuff for White House aspirants.

“Acting presidential is one thing, appearing presidential can be another, and in the contemporary United States, it is hard to know which is more important,” points out “American Photography,” a PBS documentary film project that traced presidential image-making back to Abraham Lincoln, who tapped the talents of famed photographer Matthew Brady to help him out at the time.

“Brady pulled up Lincoln’s collar to cover his long neck, retouched his face to eliminate the gauntness and, in general, gave him what we would now call a photographic makeover. From that day to this, presidents have struggled to look good,” PBS points out.

BLOOMBERG WORTH WAY MORE THAN TRUMP

There has been renewed chatter that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is mulling a White House run as an independent. If true, that means there will be two Manhattan billionaires in the race — Mr. Bloomberg and Republican front-runner Donald Trump — a phenomenon that is both entertaining and ironic in the age of financial uncertainty.

But wait, Mr. Bloomberg is worth $26 billion more than Mr. Trump, according to the Forbes magazine roster of the uber-rich. Mr. Trump checks in at $4.6 billion, though he claims he has about $10 billion, while Mr. Bloomberg has $36.5 billion.

We’ve been here before. Mr. Bloomberg, now a 73-year-old bachelor, has surfaced as a presidential candidate 21 times since 2006, according to an Atlantic magazine analysis of the press coverage. It makes for pretty good political theater. “I would love to see Michael run. I would love the competition. I’d love to see what would happen. He’s the opposite of me in many ways — opposite on guns, opposite on numerous issues,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times on Saturday.

“Bloomy is unlikely to throw his wallet in the ring. He’s too smart to go on a fool’s errand,” says veteran New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin. “He won’t run if he can’t win, and anybody who sells him a vision of victory is suffering hallucinations or looking for a payday. Especially fanciful is the idea that he could run as an independent at this point and win the Electoral College.”

FOR THE LEXICON

“Trust in God Townhall”

— New campaign outreach by Republican hopeful Ben Carson, who has six on his immediate schedule.

HILLARY’S RATIONALE FOR $250,000 SPEECHES

Question to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, from NBC “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd: “Senator Bernie Sanders has been hitting you on Wall Street contributions, including some paid speeches you did for Goldman Sachs, among other banks. Why do you think one of these big banks paid you over $200,000 for a speech?”

And the reply from Mrs. Clinton: “I gave speeches to a wide array of groups, from health care groups to auto dealers and many, many more. And I think what they were interested in, because what we talked about, was the world. Coming off of four years as secretary of state, in a complicated world, people were interested in what I saw, what I thought. They asked questions about the matters that were on their mind — a lot of interest in the bin Laden raid, how such a tough decision was made and what I advised the president.”

AMERICANS SHRUG OFF THE DEBT

The $18 trillion federal debt is not troubling Americans so much anymore. A new Pew Research Center poll finds that concern over the monster debt has slipped to No. 9 on an 18-item roster of public concerns. “Defending the nation from terrorism” and “strengthening the U.S. economy” are now tied for No. 1 — each of concern to 75 percent of the population.

“As Barack Obama begins his final year in office, the goal of reducing the budget deficit, which the public once ranked among the most pressing objectives for his administration, has continued its recent decline in perceived importance,” the poll says. “Overall, 56 percent say that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress in 2016, down from 64 percent.”

Republicans have not given up the fight yet. The survey found that 70 percent of the GOPers say the debt is a top priority, compared to 48 percent of Democrats.

POLL DU JOUR

81 percent of Americans say discrimination refers to “any discrimination of people of one race against another.”

13 percent say discrimination refers only to “white people against minorities.”

50 percent of Americans say “race relations in this country are getting worse”; 26 percent overall say they are “about the same.”

20 percent overall say race relations are improving; 33 percent say race relations are “poor.”

18 percent say they are “good or excellent.”

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted January 14-17.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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