- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Battle lines

Politics and terrorism are at a critical juncture this week. Inquiring minds want to know: Does partisan bickering among lawmakers and officials pose a real and present danger to the national security of the United States — and do leaders have it in them to trade argument for productive unity?

“To be effective, American intelligence needs the kind of consistent and clear policy guidance that only the American political process can provide it,” former director of the CIA and retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden tells Inside the Beltway. “Where is the appropriate line, for example, in that difficult balance between security and privacy? Between transparency and secrecy? Between convenience and safety?”

Gen. Hayden continues, “In today’s super-charged political atmosphere, such lines seem far from clear and political discourse seems to fluctuate between accusing the intelligence community of doing too much when people feel safe and of doing too little when they don’t. That’s hardly wise or steady policy. The success of American intelligence is a shared responsibility.”

“Lines need to be clear and consistent, and policymakers in both Congress and the executive branch need to publicly embrace the reality that the lines they draw and the policies they set materially affect the likelihood of success against terrorist threats. Every danger is not the product of an intelligence failure.”

Avatar blues

Oh-h-h, the ideology. “Avatar” has inspired conservative bashing among liberal film critics who are vexed that, well, conservative film critics like the Weekly Standard’s John Podhoretz and the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg have spoken out against the blockbuster sci-fi movie, which globally has earned $1 billion just three weeks after its release.

“It is fascinating to see how today’s ideology-obsessed conservatives have managed to walk away from such a crowd-pleasing triumph and see only the film’s political subtext,” says Los Angeles Times culture critic Patrick Goldstein, who calls the collective conserva-critics a “prickly cadre” who only dwell upon the movie’s pro-peace, pro-green, anti-military messages rather than its groundbreaking visuals and special effects.

“The ‘prickly’ part of this comes from people who don’t like the idea of anyone objecting to this movie.” Mr. Goldberg tells The Beltway. “The idea that my right wing antennae were off the scale is absurd, and my initial response to all this is to stifle a yawn.”

His main issue with “Avatar” is its “trite and cliched story,” Mr. Goldberg says.

“That’s why I have a problem with it, not because the film supposedly takes cheap shots on George W. Bush, neocons and ‘shock and awe.’ The story is lame. Hey, I’m a sci-fi geek. I love this stuff. But they should have hired Joss Whedon who wrote ‘Angel’ and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ to beef up the script. And he’s a good liberal,” Mr. Goldberg adds.

All clear sign

Well, maybe not so clear. Columbia Journalism Review writer Clint Hendler has graded the Obama administration when it comes to transparency and press access. The results:

State secrets: D. “The Obama administration has held the Bush line on state secrets in a series of cases dealing with the previous administration’s interrogation and intelligence practices. The administration has declined to endorse one popular fix, the State Secrets Protection Act,” Mr. Hendler observes.

Freedom of Information Act: B.

Open Government Directive: Incomplete.

Revealing online government data: D+.

Revealing White House visitor records: A-.

Media Shield Law: B.

Off-record background briefings to the press: F.

See the complete report card here: www.cjr.org

A Vigorous voice

Former Charles County Republican Party chairman Charles Lollar is intent on unseating House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer this fall, thus ending the Maryland Democrat’s 28-year run in Congress. Mr. Lollar — a former Marine Corps officer and father of four — is promising “a new day in Maryland” and believes he’s found a ready audience across a wide political spectrum.

“The demographics are different across Prince George’s, Calvert and Saint Mary’s counties. But the concerns are the same. People are afraid of all this spending, of a socialized way of doing business,” Mr. Lollar tells The Beltway. “And the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

The “real enemy” is not Democrats and their beliefs, he says. “It’s those who would impose socialism on our lives.”

He predicts that skittish voters will seek the reassuring candidate who upholds the most basic American tenets.

“Democrats will vote for Republican candidates who uphold and maintain the Constitution,” Mr. Lollar says. “As for the Republican Party itself, we need to take a step back and remember what it means to lead, not just play catch-up. And we must re-examine what it means to be a statesman or stateswoman. Americans were sold a bill of goods in 2008, and now they are angry. We have the chance now to do the right thing, and the winning thing.”

Just so you know

Well, at least somebody, somewhere has money. Or maybe it’s just nerve.

Known as the “King of Kalorama,” realtor Jim Bell of Washington Fine Properties predicts that the “D.C. luxury home market” could grow between 5 percent and 10 percent in 2010; he expects to sell upward of $100 million in properties this year.

“I base my prediction on my luxury home sales in 2009. Luxury home sales in this market has been consistently moving upward,” Mr. Bell says.

Poll du jour

• 47 percent of Americans say their opportunity to “succeed in life” is greater than their parents’ generation.

• 24 percent say the opportunity is the same, 27 percent say it is worse.

• 72 percent are satisfied with their lives, 28 percent dissatisfied.

• 13 percent say a “long healthy life” is their prime ambition.

• 12 percent plan to further their education, 8 percent will change jobs or start a business.

• 7 percent want to work less, 5 percent want to get rich, 3 percent want to marry or travel.

• 1 percent wants to write a book or a screenplay.

Source: A CBS News poll of 1,048 adults conducted Dec. 17 to 22.

Murmurs, asides, ballyhoo to [email protected]

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