- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

“Conservatives are having quite a bit of success drumming up manufactured controversies, but each one makes them look less and less like the kind of people you’d trust to run the country,” writes Paul Waldman on the Web site of the liberal magazine the American Prospect. “It is appropriate that the conservative moment’s new leader is Glenn Beck, who spends his hours on the air drawing conspiracies on white boards and literally telling his viewers that he’s terrified, and they should be, too. …

“Beck has focused his all-seeing eye on the fact that there are people in the executive branch who have been referred to, at various times and by someone or other, as ‘czars.’ … This has become Beck’s latest anti-[President] Obama crusade - that these czars, with their unchecked, unaccountable, nearly unlimited power, represent a threat to the life and liberty of every American….

“I can’t help but wonder if behind closed doors, Republicans say to themselves, ‘Man, that Glenn Beck is a real idiot. I wish we could just ignore him.’ But they can’t, of course - you go to war with the Fox News hosts you have. If Beck starts yammering on about a plague of czars, well, that’s what the base is interested in. So you’d better put on your outrage beanie, step up to the microphone, and start yelling.”

OBAMA’S WAR

“It’s understandable that [President Obama would] want to deliberate carefully about a decision to send as many as 45,000 more troops” to Afghanistan, writes Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, in a syndicated column. “But on his Sunday-show marathon, Obama questioned the premises of the war. He complained of ‘mission creep’ in Afghanistan and claimed that he wanted ‘to narrow it.’

“If so, this is the only news from his mind-numbing round of interviews. In August, he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars that Afghanistan is ‘a war of necessity,’ because ‘if left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.’ In March, he announced ‘a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ He called for reversing the Taliban’s gains by taking the fight to the insurgents, training the Afghan security forces and promoting a better Afghan government. If the mission ‘creeped,’ Obama did it.

“If Obama never meant what he said about Afghanistan - or has changed his mind - this is the time to say it.”

TOP 10

When President Obama appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” Monday night, the host dedicated his iconic Top 10 list to the commander in chief. So here are the “Top 10 Reasons President Obama Agreed To Appear on the ‘Late Show:’ ”

“10. Heard the lady with the heart-shaped potato was going to be here.

“9. Thought it would be fun to watch someone else get heckled.

“8. Has something to do with that whole ‘cash-for-clunkers’ thing.

“7. Every president since Teddy Roosevelt has been here.

“6. In this economy, someone offers you $600, you take it.

“5. We told him Megan Fox would be here.

“4. Needed a place to hang out until check-in time at his hotel.

“3. Honestly, I have no idea.

“2. Said, ‘yes’ without thinking … like Bush did with Iraq.

“1. Wanted to congratulate Dave on the big Emmy win.

PRESIDENTIAL POLLS

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday found that 31 percent of the nation’s voters “strongly approve” of the way President Obama is performing his role in the White House - up 1 percentage point from the end of August. Thirty-nine percent “strongly disapprove.”

Overall, 49 percent of voters say they at least “somewhat approve” of the president’s performance, with 50 percent disapproving.

The number of survey respondents who “strongly approve” of Mr. Obama’s job performance has fallen from 43 percent in January, according to Rasmussen.

Yet most Americans still trust Mr. Obama to lead the country, according to a Gallup Poll released Monday. Seventy-two percent of survey respondents say he “is willing to make hard decisions,” and 66 percent describe him as “a strong and decisive leader.” Sixty-four percent say he “can get things done.”

The poll also shows that the president gets high marks for empathy, as he has done since he rose to national prominence. Sixty-four percent say Mr. Obama understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives. No less than 63 percent of Americans have said this about Mr. Obama since the characteristic was first measured in a March 2008 Gallup poll.

His weakest traits, according to the poll, are those most closely tied to his politics, with just 52 percent of respondents saying he “shares their values.” Fifty-two percent also said he “has mostly chosen good advisers and Cabinet officers.”

GOING NUCLEAR

Addressing the president’s speech on climate change at the United Nations on Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander rhetorically asked on the Senate floor, “How can the United States lecture other countries about climate change when we won’t take advantage of the one technology that shows the most promise of dealing with it? … I’m talking, of course, about nuclear power.”

The Tennessee Republican went on to say that, of the top five countries that produce carbon emissions, four - China, Russia, India and Japan - “are committed to a bold program of expansion of nuclear power. Only the United States is not.”

“It’s time to embrace the one technology that truly has the possibility of powering a prosperous planet without ruining the environment or covering our treasured landscapes with energy sprawl,” said Mr. Alexander, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Mr. Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, recently released a “blueprint” for America’s energy future that says the United States should double its nuclear capacity by building 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years.

HEALTH PLEA

Two health care groups Tuesday sent a petition signed by 14,266 patients, physicians and others to the Senate Finance Committee, urging it to include “meaningful changes to our nation’s broken medical liability system during today’s mark-up of health care reform legislation.”

“It is clear from our petition drive that there is widespread public support for medical liability reform,” said Doctors for Medical Liability Reform’s (DMLR) Chairman Dr. Stuart L. Weinstein. “President Obama, Democrat and Republican members of Congress, leading health care policy experts, and opinion leaders all agree that the current system costs too much, and does not serve the needs of patients.”

Added Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA) Chairman Mike Stinson: “If Congress is truly serious about reforming our health care system, they must put the personal injury lawyers’ interests aside and include reforms to the medical liability system.”

The groups said that the proposal introduced thus far in the committee does not seriously address medical liability reform. Instead, the proposal expresses a “sense of the Senate” that there should be consideration of state-based demonstration projects on liability reform.

DMLR, a national grass-roots organization that includes physicians and patients, and the HCLA, a broad national coalition of health care providers and medical liability insurers, joined forces to push for medical liability reform.

• Sean Lengell can be reached at [email protected] or at 202/636-3208.

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