- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

BUZZ

“The White House Honey for this occasion came from the first beehive located on White House property near the First Lady’s White House Kitchen Garden.” -From a White House dispatch explaining Michelle Obama’s gifts (tea set, crystal honey jar) given to foreign dignitaries Thursday during the “spousal summit” arm of the Group of 20 economic summit in Pittsburgh.

Operative term: “First beehive.” Reaction among Obama critics: reluctantly charmed, though worried that White House branding may be afoot.

“Like, maybe they’ll get carried away with marketing and we’ll end up trademarking the White House the way we’ve trademarked the Hollywood sign or Marilyn or Elvis,” says one self-described paranoid Republican.

The White House bees were not available for comment.

FIELDING THE SHIELD

A Democrat from Vermont is not happy. It’s that pesky “media shield” law again, floating like a dirigible above the Senate, full of hot air and going nowhere.

“I have been terribly disappointed over the past several weeks that we have not made more progress on the Free Flow of Information Act,” says Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, referring to federal legislation that would protect journalists who chose not to reveal their confidential sources.

“I placed that matter on the agenda some time ago and have worked with [Democratic] Sens. Charles Schumer and Arlen Specter, the lead sponsors, and with the administration, and I tried to work with Republican senators to proceed as we did last Congress to report the bill to the Senate. I have tried to be fair to all, and to allow time for the sponsors to have discussions that could lead to moving this important legislation,” Mr. Leahy continues.

But the siren call of health care reform is distracting all the heavy hitters, and the media shield law lingers, airborne but immobile. Mr. Leahy has given up on it for this week, anyway, mournfully noting, “I do not believe we will be able to break through the opposition today and end debate on that measure and have it voted on - up or down.”

But why rush, ask those perhaps poised on the sidelines and armed with a sharp pin.

“Republicans continue to believe strongly that this bill would hamper national security and criminal investigations, and make it harder to protect our nation’s classified information and programs from disclosure to our enemies,” a senior Republican Judiciary Committee aide tells Inside the Beltway.

“It seems that some Democrats on the committee share our concerns. We appreciate the chairman’s willingness to suspend work on the bill until members of the Finance Committee are able to return from health care negotiations, and if we resume consideration of this bill, Republicans will continue, via debate and amendments, to point out the very serious flaws in this legislation.”

SECRET SCOTUS

Oh, the things the public does not know about the Supreme Court, in all it’s monumental mightiness. There is a “Robing Room” for the justices, with nine lockers and an attendant. The justices eat lunch together every day in a fabulous, wood-paneled private dining room with the same cafeteria food as the public gets. The esteemed nonet also shake hands with one another before venturing out to the bench each day, just to be nice. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writes out all his opinions in longhand.

“This is a human institution as well as a legal institution,” C-SPAN producer Mark Farkas tells Inside the Beltway. “It’s the only branch of government that doesn’t allow TV cameras inside, so there is a mysterious side to it.”

The C-SPAN cameras have gotten access, however, and Mr. Farkas is now putting the final touches on a documentary that ever so gently probes the secret lives of justices. Well, kind of.

“The only rule at lunch is that they can’t talk about a case. That was something Justice Sandra Day O’Connor suggested years ago as a way to maintain the collegiality. You can’t be angry with someone you’re breaking bread with. Remember, these are lifetime appointments, so there’s plenty of impetus to get along,” Mr. Farkas said.

Let’s hope so. C-SPAN’s ambitious series on the Supreme Court begins Oct. 4, just in time to welcome newly-minted Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the inner circle.

TURNING THE CORNER

And now, a comforting moment for the angst-ridden.

“The Republican Party is enjoying some improvement in its recently beleaguered favorability ratings from the American people. A major reason for this is that rank-and-file Republicans are feeling more positively toward the party today than they did in the first few months after the Democratic electoral victories last November,” says Gallup poll analyst Lydia Saad.

And now the numbers, from a Gallup survey of 1,026 adults conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Forty-one percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the Republican Party, up from 34 percent in May. The Democrats retain a 51 percent favorability rating, down from 53 percent. Eighty-three percent of Republicans give their party a thumbs-up; the number is 55 percent among conservatives.

POLL DU JOUR

• 59 percent of Americans say that voters are angrier now than during the George W. Bush administration.

• 69 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Democrats agree.

• 22 percent say the public anger level is lower.

• 16 percent say it is the same.

• 56 percent blame Mr. Bush for current economic woes; 37 percent blame President Obama.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Sept. 20-21.

Buzz, dispatches, righteous snorts to jharper@ washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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