- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

SPIN STRAW TO GOLD

We’ll soon be privy to the results of the very first 2012 presidential straw poll, to be released at the Values Voter Summit under way at the swank Omni Shoreham - and absolutely awash in conservative and Republican royalty.

The matchup offers up a slew of possible presidential candidates, including Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

But wait. Isn’t the election, uh, more than three years away?

“Given the radical changes this country has undergone since President Obama has taken office, it is only natural that voters are concerned with the direction of this country and are eager to be involved in the selection of the next president,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins tells Inside the Beltway.

“The increased tax burden on the average family, coupled with the decaying culture and promotion of abortion, has awakened many people and caused them to be involved. So, no, it is not too early to start worrying about 2012.”

PUTTIN’ ON THE BLITZ

Let the media extravaganza begin. President Obama will appear on five Sunday talk shows and then some, in a schedule that could challenge guest and hosts alike.

“You don’t go into an interview like this thinking you’re going to stump the president,” CNN anchor John King tells Beltway. “You’ve got 10 or 15 minutes, tops. There are things you must ask, and you can overprepare for something like this. But you have to listen. Listening is just as important.”

Mr. King’s interview with the president will air at 9 a.m.

“I refresh my memory with what Mr. Obama has talked about lately, and what he hasn’t talked about. Maybe it’s policy or something philosophical. And I travel a lot - I was in Connecticut and Rhode Island this week. That’s where I ask people, ‘What would you ask the president if you could?’ That’s a resource. There are some interesting ideas that come from outside the Beltway as well.”

CARTERIZING THE WOUND

What with all the policy complications, cultural commentary and global intrigue, President Obama is in danger of morphing into former President Jimmy Carter - with some hidden benefits, perhaps. The transformation could inspire hibernating Reaganites to get up, stretch, feed and emerge invigorated from their dens. So says Gregory R. Mueller, president of CRC Public Relations, who floated this idea Thursday in Human Events.

“The Carter analogy started bearing fruit when after all of the big government spending, and the intense regulatory approach to the economy, the president went on an ‘apology tour’ in the Mideast,” Mr. Mueller tells Beltway.

“It was cemented when the administration failed to properly support the indigenous, freedom-seeking people of Iran after the recent vote, and now as his Iran ‘let’s talk’ policy fails, he walks back missile defense - a peace-sustaining mechanism - to appease Russia in return for pressuring the Iranians. Rather than making history, Obama is on the cusp of repeating it.”

UNIVERSAL MESSAGE

Hurrah. At last we have some clear evidence that world leaders may just understand what’s really important on the planet, despite meaningless prattle at the United Nations, testy relations in the Middle East and dangers lurking elsewhere.

“It’s important to know that when I travel around the world, no matter where I’ve gone so far, the first thing world leaders, prime ministers, kings, queens ask me about is the White House garden,” first lady Michelle Obama said Thursday as she surveyed the verdant spoils of the new White House kitchen garden.

“And then they ask about Bo. Everybody, it’s the garden and Bo, or Bo and the garden, one or the other,” she added.

The first dog needs his own office, preferably in the West Wing.

WASTE LINE

And so ACORN-gate rages on, under close observation of those alarmed that seven “nutty” senators want to continue sending tax dollars to the embattled Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, stung this week by undercover videos showcasing unsavory dealings with its clientele.

The sympathetic septet consists of Democratic Sens. Roland Burris of Illinois, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

“Cutting off funds to ACORN should have been the easiest vote of the year, yet these senators could not bring themselves to do it,” Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, tells Beltway.

Mr. Schatz continues, “Taxpayers should not be accomplices in the rampant malfeasance of ACORN. Sen. Gillibrand deserves special opprobrium for her vote, since one of the videos was shot in Brooklyn’s ACORN office.”

Mr. Schatz has named all seven lawmakers “porkers of the month,” adding that the lawmakers are “keeping the spigot open to this seedy group in the face of pervasive unethical, if not outright crooked behavior.”

POLL DU JOUR

- 39 percent of Americans say the press has too much freedom, 7 percent say it has too little.

- 48 percent say the amount is “about right.”

- 29 percent say the news media report “without bias,” 49 percent disagree.

- 71 percent say it is important to democracy the press act as a watchdog on government.

Source: First Amendment Center survey of 1,003 adults conducted July 25-Aug. 3.

Howls, whimpers, assorted findings to jharper@washingtontimes .com or 202/636-3085.

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