- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It’s like clockwork. The White House does something monumental without much notice or protocol, the press goes crazy and the critics bristle with rage. Here we go again, courtesy of President Obama’s sudden decision to put the U.S. and Cuba on speaking terms — negotiating a prisoner release and normalizing relations that have been broken for five decades. This sort of thing seems to be happening every week in the era of the mighty presidential pen and phone. What counts is that the phenomenon continues to gain strength and acceptance. The by-products become part of history, when all is said and done.

“For more than five years, Alan Gross, a humanitarian worker, was wrongly imprisoned by the Castro regime. He should have been unconditionally released a long time ago. Period. Instead, a disturbing pattern is emerging where the Obama administration is willing to negotiate the release of spies or terrorists. I fail to see how this trend will improve the long-term security of the United States and its citizens,” says Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee.

“The President outlined numerous changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba, intended to bolster civil society and Cuban access to information. It’s ironic that’s exactly what Alan Gross was imprisoned for. It is still unclear what steps the Cuban government is taking in return for this change in U.S. policy. It doesn’t look like much,” Mr. Royce notes.

And as always, headlines and public narrative reveal a complicated tale:

“Rewarding a dictator?: Obama seeks to normalize Cuba relations” (Fox News), “Can Obama lift Cuba embargo without Congress?” (The Hill), “Cuban-American senators rip Obama’s Cuba trade” (Time), “Ban on Cuban cigars goes up in a puff of smoke” (Fortune), “Obama and Raul Castro thank Pope for breakthrough in U.S.-Cuba relations” (The Guardian), “Obama doesn’t rule out visit to Cuba” (USA Today), “Obama makes deal with Cuba’s fascists” (Daily Caller), “GOP Hill leaders balk at Obama Cuba policy” (Politico), “Obama’s very sly Cuban move” (Mother Jones).

CRECHE FIRST, SLEIGH SECOND

They look to the creche first, not the sleigh. Though Christmas is a beloved holiday for many reasons, a new survey finds that 56 percent of Americans view Christmas as primarily a religious holiday, while 21 percent view it as a cultural holiday — and 22 percent say it’s a little of both. And there’s a partisan divide, even here: 69 percent of Republicans identify Christmas as a religious event, compared to 52 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents, says the Vox Populi poll of 711 registered U.S. voters.

“In the age of political correctness, the majority of Americans will be celebrating this Christmas as a religious holiday,” says analyst Lisa Boothe. “Interestingly, more Republicans identify Christmas as a religious holiday than Democrats or independents.”

By the way, only 20 percent of Americans insist that religious symbols be barred from Christmas displays at government sites and other public places; 9 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats agree. So says a Pew Research Center poll released Monday.

A SECURITY-MINDED AMERICA

John Bolton was definitely onto something when he identified and supported 76 “national security” candidates through political action committees, emphasizing that the hopefuls understood that the U.S. should maintain a strong posture and a sound defense on the global landscape. Now a new industry poll reveals that such things resonate with voters. The Aerospace Industries Association released data Thursday from a study conducted on their behalf by Harris Poll showing that 69 percent of American voters say the U.S. government should increase spending on America’s national security relative to the caps set more than three years ago. The same number also say they would be more likely to support a candidate for public office who supports increased spending on national security.

“These numbers don’t surprise me one iota,” says Marion C. Blakey, president and CEO of the bodacious aerospace group. “The new Congress should sit up and listen to them attentively.”

HILLARY’S CLAUS CLAUSE

The Republican National Committee has been busy with seasonal activities, crafting a suggested letter from one Hillary Rodman Clinton to a certain Mr. Santa Claus.

“Dear Santa: I have only one wish this year: no primary opponents. Please. I don’t want any competition for the Democratic nomination. We all know I should be inevitable, but some people in my party are starting to say I’m too out of touch, too cozy with Wall Street, too closely tied to Barack. They even say I’ve been in politics too long. Can you believe that?” the imaginary letter reads.

“So can you please make sure Warren doesn’t run? And Biden and O’Malley and Webb and Bernie Sanders and, well, anyone. I don’t want Democrats to think they have a choice. That didn’t work so well for me last time. P.S.: Is Bill still on the naughty list?”

ANOTHER ANTI-BUSH PETITION

The pot shots continue. An activist group launched an anti-Jeb Bush petition within hours of his announcement that he was ready to explore the possibility of running for president in 2016. Now comes another one from the Democratic Party which will likely get raucous.

“President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush both wrecked the economy — and now Jeb Bush is thinking about running for president in 2016. We say, ‘No thanks, Jeb,’ the missive to loyal Democrats advises. And soon they will be a-tallying.

DID JEB BUSH WAIT TOO LONG?

Some historical research suggests that Jeb Bush may be a little late in taking an interest in the White House. A University of Minnesota analysis finds that the 14 years between Mr. Bush’s last electoral victory in 2002 and the presidential election of 2016 is the longest such gap recorded by any victorious presidential candidate in more than 150 years.

“The last president who saw 14 years pass between his last electoral victory and winning the White House was none other than Abraham Lincoln,” says political professor Eric Ostermeier, who led the painstaking study. He notes that Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House from Illinois in 1846 but served only one term and did not win another race until the White House in 1860.

“Since then, only two winning presidential candidates had seen more than eight years pass since their last electoral victory. Richard Nixon in 1968 — 12 years after winning the vice-presidency on Eisenhower’s ticket in 1956 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 — 10 years after being re-elected to a second term as Governor of California,” Mr. Ostermeier says.

“The average gap between electoral victories during this 150-year span has been just a shade over four years,” he adds.

POLL DU JOUR

78 percent of Americans disapprove of the job that Congress is doing.

71 percent say the next president should take “a different approach” than President Obama.

64 percent say the nation is “off on the wrong track.”

50 percent disapprove of the job President Obama is doing.

40 percent would like to see a Republican president in 2016; 38 percent prefer a Democrat.

18 percent say 2014 was one of the “worst years” for the U.S.

Source: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 10-14.

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