- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

Falling in love

“We are getting very excited,” Peggy Noonan writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

Barack Obama is brilliant, eloquent and fresh. He is ‘exciting’ (David Brooks), ‘charming’ (Bob Schieffer), ‘my favorite guy’ (Oprah Winfrey), has ‘charisma’ (Donna Brazile), and should run now for president (George Will). Our political and media establishments, on the rebound from bad history, are sounding like Marlene Dietrich in her little top hat. ‘Falling in luff again, vot am I to do, vot am I to do, kont hellllllp eet.’

“Well, down from your tippy toes, establishment,” Miss Noonan said.

“He is obviously planning to run. This [past] week he was in New Hampshire — rapturous reviews, sold-out fundraisers — and before that, Iowa. His second book is his second best-seller and the biggest-selling nonfiction title in the nation. The intro he taped for ‘Monday Night Football’ — in an Aaron Sorkin-like setting of gleaming desk and important lighting — showed he is an actor who can absorb the script and knows by nature what a camera is. This is a compliment. All the great presidents of the media age, FDR, JFK and Reagan, were great actors of the presidency. (The one non-great president who was their equal in this, Bill Clinton, proved that acting is not enough.)

“He has obvious appeal. I asked a Young Democrat college student why he liked him. After all, I said, he has little experience. That’s part of what I like, he said. ‘He’s not an insider, he’s not just a D.C. politician.’

“He is uncompromised by a past, it is true. He is also unburdened by a record, unworn by achievement, unwearied by long labors. …

“Sen. Obama spent his short lifetime breathing in the common liberal/leftist wisdom, which he exhales at length. This is not something new — it’s something old in a new package. And it is something that wins you what he has, a series of 100 percent ratings from left-liberal interest groups.”

Romney’s laundry

Conservative activist Brian Camenker says his 10,000-word report on Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney‘srecord is “spreading,” according to the New Republic magazine.

“While most of Romney’s flip-flops on social issues are generally known, the excruciating detail of Camenker’s report might make it tough for conservatives to embrace Romney,” New Republic senior editor Ryan Lizza reports.

Mr. Camenker, an activist with MassResistance, a Waltham, Mass., conservative organization, “takes readers through Romney’s promise to be a greater champion of gay rights than Ted Kennedy, his support for the rights of same-sex couples who adopt children, his embrace of civil unions, his opposition to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scoutmasters. Camenker reminds his fellow conservatives that Romney appointed numerous openly gay men and women, including the state employee responsible for adding a box to driver’s license renewal forms to indicate whether the applicant’s sex has changed. He points out, with links to many interesting pictures, that the governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth … organized a ‘Youth Pride Day’ and ‘Transgender Proms.’ ”

The response to the MassResistance report has been less than enthusiastic from Republicans who view Mr. Romney as the best alternative to Arizona Sen. John McCain as their party’s 2008 presidential nominee.

“We’re getting a lot of negative reaction from Republicans. … ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you attacking Romney? He’s better than [former New York Mayor Rudoph W.] Giuliani and McCain,’ ” Mr. Camenker tells the New Republic.

“I’ve always accused liberals of going with their emotions, not thinking things through, and generally being stupid and having a very shallow way of looking at the issues. … I’m finding the same thing on our side.”

Gingrich waits

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he’ll wait until next September to officially announce whether he intends to undertake a bid for the White House in 2008. When asked why he’s waiting so long to decide, Mr. Gingrich, Georgia Republican, said that he’s going to wait and see if the other leading Republican contenders have a lock on the nomination before he makes an announcement.

“Romney’s had a good year. He’s emerging as a serious player,” Mr. Gingrich told “Meet the Press” host TimRussert. “[Former New York Mayor Rudolph W.] Giuliani is wildly popular for national security reasons. John McCain has built a base from years of hard work. If one of them seals it off by Labor Day, my announcing now wouldn’t make any difference anyway. If none of the three having from now to Labor Day can seal it off, the first real vote is in 2008. And there’s plenty of time in the age of television and e-mail between Labor Day and 2008.”

When asked to rate the list of possible 2008 Democratic candidates, Mr. Gingrich said he believes Sen. HillaryClinton, New York Democrat, is the front-runner. He said the list of other Democratic contenders, in order, includes Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and former Vice President Al Gore.

Show time

Inspired by his father, who was homeless for a time as a teenager, Chattanooga, Tenn.,Mayor Ron Littlefield tried to raise the hopes of a group of homeless people by taking them to see a new movie that tells a rags-to-riches story.

“The Pursuit of Happyness,” a movie starring Will Smith as a man who gets evicted along with his young son and becomes homeless for a while, is based on the true story of Chris Gardner, now a millionaire business executive.

“This is not going to drastically change anyone’s life,” the mayor acknowledged as about 15 homeless movie guests were given large soft drinks and buckets of popcorn, concessions provided by an anonymous donor.

But he said his aides came up with the movie idea as a “good way to illustrate that homelessness is not permanent.”

Critics call it patronizing that the mayor is counting on a movie to inspire Chattanooga’s homeless, many of whom are mentally ill and have substance-abuse problems, but the film’s real-life subject hopes it does exactly that.

Mr. Gardner told the Associated Press in a statement that he wants the Chattanooga group to “take one thing away from those two hours: Chris Gardner isn’t doing anything I can’t do.”

In second place

President Bush has kept Air Force One pretty busy in his six years, but Washington’s pre-eminent expert on presidential travel says that at his current foreign travel rate, Bush won’t best his predecessor,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

” ‘He’s creeping up on Clinton’s record,’ says CBS Radio White House correspondent Mark Knoller, whose records on presidential travel even the White House refers to as the authoritative source. So far, Bush has done 36 overseas trips to 58 countries, an average of six a year. Clinton completed 55 [trips] to 72 countries. W did beat his dad: In four years, he made just 23 trips to 36 nations.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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