- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2009

Comedic relief

Prepare thyself. The press is going to get lofty indeed as we approach Inauguration Day. So just for old times’ sake, let us consider the goof factor which at least made the endless 2008 presidential campaign bearable.

Consider that the candidates made 110 guest appearances on late-night comedy TV — four times more than they did in 2004, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

“Talk show hosts have replaced editorial boards in vetting candidates for voters. David Letterman wasn’t kidding when he said, ‘The road to the White House runs through me,’” notes Robert Lichter, president of the research group.

Sen. John McCain was the biggest ham in the entire field, with 17 appearances in the well-upholstered guest chair. In second place was Mike Huckabee with 16, and President-elect Barack Obama with 15.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was next on the late-night political roster (seven appearances), followed by Sen. Joe Biden (six), John Edwards (five), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (four) and Fred Thompson and Sen. Chris Dodd with three each.

Among assorted late-night hosts, Jay Leno offered the most frequent forum for the candidates (22 appearances), edging out Jon Stewart (21), David Letterman (19), Stephen Colbert (15), Bill Maher (12), NBC’s Saturday Night Live (eight), Jimmy Kimmel (five), Conan O’Brien (four) and Craig Ferguson (three).

The “most notable no-show,” the research found, was Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who didn’t appear on any talk show during the campaign, although she made a gutsy appearance on Saturday Night Live opposite tiresome Palin imitator Tiny Fey.

Leave town?

The most recent official missive from the Congressional Inaugural Committee is terse indeed:

“Getting to the swearing-in ceremonies will be very difficult because of the large crowds. In addition to the 240,000 ticketed guests, a million or more people are expected to view the inauguration from the National Mall between 4th Street and the Lincoln Memorial, along with hundreds of thousands of others who plan on watching the Inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

“A security perimeter will be established around the U.S. Capitol and the parade route on or before January 20. Subway stations, bus stops, and streets within that perimeter will be closed. Street closures throughout Washington, D.C., will make traveling by car or taxi very difficult. Bridges from Virginia crossing the Potomac River into Washington, as well as major roadways from Maryland into Washington, may be closed to all but bus traffic.”

“D.C.’s subway system will be running ‘rush-hour’ service all day, but is expecting ‘crush-level’ crowds. Be prepared to wait for space on a train for long periods of time, during which you will have to stand in close proximity to several thousand people.”

Oh, and outdoor waits could last six hours, no umbrellas are allowed and many Metro escalators will be closed, the committee notes.

Quotes of note

“Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional.” - Karl Rove on President Bush’s reading habits, in the Wall Street Journal.

“Do I think the press is fair? Absolutely not.” - Laura Bush, to Fox News.

“Hapless White Boys Run for GOP Chairman.” - Headline in the American Spectator.

Going to pieces

What? Your Inaugural invitation got lost in the mail? A little time on your hands? Liberals, moderates and conservatives alike can consult Puzzle USA, which has perhaps the biggest inventory of jigsaw puzzles on the planet, from patriotic themes to Barack Obama, John Deere tractors, Elvis, trains, space, maps, money, frogs, out-of-print puzzles, nostalgia, inspirational, glow-in-the-dark and “the world’s largest puzzles.” That’s 18,000 to 24,000 pieces, surely enough to last past Jan. 20.

Visit the New Jersey-based company at www.puzzlesusa.com or call 877/544-7294.

Days of yore

On this day 45 years ago, President Johnson introduced his idea of “The Great Society” in his Inaugural Address.

Republicans held their breath 14 years ago today. The 104th Congress became the first session to fall completely under control of the GOP since the Eisenhower administration — the victory credited mostly to Newt Gingrich and his “Contract With America.”

All hail the scissors hold: professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was sworn in as governor of Minnesota on this day one decade ago.

Last but not least, the term “Madame Speaker” surfaced two years ago today, when Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California was elected the first female speaker of the House.

By the numbers:

55 percent of Americans say that marriages between gay and lesbian couples should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages.

44 percent say same-sex marriages should be recognized.

57 percent say the government should do more to support “traditional values.”

81 percent say openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.

17 percent disagree.

Source: CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll of 1,013 adults, conducted Dec. 19 to 21.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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