- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

MONSTER MASH

Run for the hills. Halloween’s coming early, inspired by one lawmaker in particular. We can expect locked doors, dim back rooms and mysterious murmuring in the very near future, predicts Rick Scott, director of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, a grass-roots group.

“You’d think we were in a haunted house. But it’s Capitol Hill we’re talking about here, now that the fate of health care reform is in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,” Mr. Scott tells Inside the Beltway.

“He’ll literally play the role of Dr. Frankenstein, as he patches together a monster health care bill from the HELP and Senate Finance committees. The temptation for ‘Halloween Harry’ and his minions to reanimate the ‘public option’ is going to be difficult to resist. All of us must keep a wary eye on this process,” Mr. Scott continues.

Americans are keen on lower costs, not higher taxes and long waits for care, he says - and are loath to fall into the clutches of “a government-run health care monster.”

Mr. Scott suggests that both the public and lawmakers get at least 72 hours to read Mr. Reid’s new “creation,” which could be a weighty 1,000 pages or so, and might require a jolt from, say, lightning bolts. Or a new brain.

“The last thing the American people want is for it to remain hidden in October shadows before senators vote,” he adds.

REIDSPEAK

Speaking of Sen. Reid, he was channeling his inner Yogi Berra on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, his curious aside overheard by our ace political editor David Sands.

In his never-ending quest to speed up proceedings in the chamber, the majority leader began to read his morning statement without formally asking the presiding officer, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, to set aside the bill that was the pending business before the Senate - a parliamentary no-no.

Heavens. Imagine such a thing.

“Sorry, Mr. President,” Mr. Reid said. “I was trying to hurry up a little too fast there.”

HELENSPEAK

Well, stop the presses. Veteran newswoman Helen Thomas has a soft spot in her heart for former President Gerald Ford, admires Nancy Reagan and thinks President Obama “lacks courage.” Wait, what? Who knew? That is what she told Phil Bronstein, editor-at-large of the San Francisco Chronicle, who interviewed the 89-year-old media maven in a recent public forum. The crowd gasped.

“It was interesting,” Mr. Bronstein tells the Beltway. “I guess I was prepared that she was so forthcoming; she’s a columnist now and can say what she wants.”

Miss Thomas also revealed that being a columnist involved “getting up every morning and deciding who you’re going to hate that day,” he says.

“So I asked ‘who are you thinking about today?’ And she said ‘you’. So I was relieved that there were only 24 hours in a day after that,” Mr. Bronstein adds.

TOE-TAPPER

Yee-haw. Dressed as Uncle Sam, white beard shifting in the country breeze, singer John Chaffee is determined to issue a clarion call to fellow Americans about errant leadership. The Cleveland-based performer has recorded “Play By the Rules,” his lyrics pummeling the “arrogance” of those in public office.

“How do you know who to trust anymore? It seems nobody plays by the rules. The American people are coming to grips with the grim reality that trustworthiness is becoming a difficult thing to find,” Mr. Chaffee tells Beltway. “In many ways, America has become like a rudderless ship, careening across the water, wishing she had a moral compass. There was once a Dignity Code, but it’s no longer in our rule book. Maybe it’s time to bring it back.”

His new bluegrass anthem is a growing favorite among the “tea party” set, and there’s a video - complete with a somewhat tawdry Statue of Liberty on stilts.

“It’s meant as a call to arms,” Mr. Chaffee says. See the video here: www.youtube .com/chaffeekid.

41 AND 44

It is a noteworthy political moment, and one with a little harmony attached during an otherwise contentious week. President Obama joins former President George H.W. Bush on Friday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “a thousand ‘Points of Light,’ ” - Mr. Bush’s vision for volunteer service during his time in the White House. The pair will host a forum at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University.

“This is a significant moment in history as these two leaders come together to celebrate their shared vision of service and volunteerism in America,” said Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light Institute, based in Washington.

“Dating back to our nation’s inception, and even before, the uniquely American neighbor-helping-neighbor spirit has sustained us, and strengthened us, through times of peace and prosperity, as well as crisis and challenge,” Mr. Bush said. “I salute President Obama for his leadership in renewing this call to community service.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 94 percent of Americans say health care reform is “important.”

• 74 percent say it affects them personally.

• 71 percent say heath care reform is “interesting.”

• 66 percent say it is hard to understand; 26 percent say it’s “boring.”

• 21 percent say there is too much heath care news coverage; 35 percent say there has been too little.

• 40 percent say the coverage has been about right.

Source: A Pew Research Center survey of 1,000 adults conducted Oct. 2-5.

Send wheezes, snickering and press releases to jharper@washingtontimes .com or 202/636-3085.

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