- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

TEA FOR ONE

“The juxtaposition on our front page this morning is striking,” David Hughes writes on the London Daily Telegraph’s Web site.

“We carry a photograph of Acting Sgt. Michael Lockett - who was killed in Helmand, Afghanistan, on Monday - receiving the Military Cross from the queen in June 2008. He was the 217th British soldier to die in the Afghan conflict. Alongside the picture, we read that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was forced to dash through the kitchens of the U.N. in New York to secure a few minutes of ‘face time’ with President Obama after five requests for a sit-down meeting were rejected by the White House.”

“The president’s graceless behavior is unforgivable. As most members of the Cabinet would confirm, it’s not a barrel of laughs having to sit down for a chat with Gordon Brown. But that’s not the point. Mr. Obama owes this country a great deal for its unflinching commitment to the American-led war in Afghanistan but seems incapable of acknowledging the fact,” the paper’s lead political writer wrote.

“Admittedly, part of the problem was Downing Street’s overanxiety to secure a face-to-face meeting for domestic political purposes, but the White House should still have been more obliging. Mr. Obama’s churlishness is fresh evidence that the U.S./UK special relationship is a one-way street.”

Asked Thursday about the trans-Atlantic dust-up, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs offered a succinct rejoinder: “Stop reading those London tabloids.”

Mr. Gibbs called the controversy “media-generated.” Asked why the White House had reportedly turned down five British requests for a bilateral meeting with the prime minister, Mr. Gibbs replied, “We’re talking to them constantly. The notion that you can only do this in one meeting is absurd.”

ANTI-CHRIST PARTISANSHIP

“A new national survey from Public Policy Polling has the firm asking a question: ‘Is extremism becoming mainstream in 21st-century American politics?’

“The poll finds that numerous fringe views are either accepted outright or are open questions among significant portions of the party bases opposed to the politicians who are targeted by them,” Eric Kleefeld writes at TalkingPointsMemo.com.

“The poll found that only 59 percent of voters believe that President Obama was born in the United States, with 23 percent saying he was not, and 18 percent undecided. Among Republicans only, a 42 percent Birther plurality say he was not born here, 37 percent say he was, and 21 percent are undecided.

“As for the left, check out this question: ‘Do you think President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?’ The top-line response is 14 percent yes, 78 percent no, and 8 percent undecided. But among Democrats, it’s a somewhat larger Truther contingent, at 25 percent-63 percent-12 percent.

“In addition, respondents were asked whether each of the two most recent presidents are the Antichrist. For former President George W. Bush being the Antichrist: 8 percent yes, 81 percent no, 11 percent undecided; with a breakdown among Democrats of 14 percent yes; 75 percent no; 11 percent undecided. And whether President Obama is the Antichrist: 10 percent yes, 79 percent no, 11 percent undecided, with a split of 19 percent-67 percent-14 percent among Republicans.

” ‘Strange times in American politics,’ writes PPP Communications Director Tom Jensen. ‘Forget bipartisanship, it would be an accomplishment if we could just get to the point where excess partisans didn’t think the opposite party’s president was the Antichrist!’ ”

BOORISH BALONEY

“If something happens to happen three times with a high profile, it’s supposedly sweeping the nation. In fact, we’re no ruder than we were, and just as decent as always,” Meghan Daum writes in the Los Angeles Times.

“You don’t need me to go over the details again. Suffice it to say: Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson during President Obama’s health care speech and rapper Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards.

“Forget swine flu, terror plots or the public option. The nation’s greatest vexation, according to headlines and radio and TV talk-show hosts, is bad manners. A Rasmussen poll found 75 percent of a survey group of 1,000 believed that Americans were ‘becoming more rude and less civilized.’ Etiquette experts and sociologists have been called in to comment on the epidemic.

“The culprits? A lack of emotional nuance engendered by blogging and texting, not to mention the generally churlish tone of the Internet. Mass culture that rewards obstreperousness and instant reactions while making little time for measured thought. Not yet cited as causes but no doubt still under consideration: the bad economy, mercury poisoning and cold, distant mothers.

“Maybe because, as the president suggested when he made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows over the weekend, reasonable discourse doesn’t catch as many eyeballs on the news crawl as unbridled fits of rage. Or maybe because decency doesn’t come in threes - in fact, it’s a lot more common than that. Then again, it could be that I’m dining with the wrong crowd.”

IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY?

“The Republican right has suddenly discovered the word ‘czar’ - roughly 36 years after it was first used by the press as a nickname for Republican Richard Nixon’s in-house energy guy, a Republican named John Love,” writes Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman.

“The word was rarely if ever cited as prima facie evidence of a president’s evil intent - until now, naturally. With strong assists from Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck at Fox News, Republican politicians are suddenly complaining that these policy hires are ‘an affront to the Constitution,’ and that Obama ‘has more czars than the Romanovs’ (the Mother Russia insinuation, courtesy of John McCain). …

“The Republican right insists that Obama’s czarist tendencies are different, that his whole intent is to evade congressional scrutiny. Fox News, which characterizes Obama’s America as ‘Land of the Czars,’ recently showed photos of 30 czars and asserted that ‘they don’t have to be confirmed.’ That bit of reportage was as overblown as Fox’s graphic of a czarist crown atop the White House. The fact is, nine of those Obama advisers were confirmed by the Senate, and two were appointed to posts created by congressional statute.

“Will facts such as these dampen the ire of those who perceive Obama as a closet czarist who perhaps is bent on replacing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ with the mournful marching music from Dr. Zhivago? Of course not.”

Sean Lengell can be reached at slengell@ washingtontimes.com.

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