- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2014

The press has embraced an instant narrative about Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican appointed to lead the House select committee on Benghazi. He is a man intent on meticulous clarity and fairness; Mr. Gowdy says of his new mission, “All of those lines of inquiry are legitimate and should be apolitical. Facts are neither red nor blue.”

The lawmaker appears to have struck a dramatic chord with his media observers, however. USA Today proclaims that Mr. Gowdy “has made a name for himself by going after top administration officials with the same fervor he once reserved for murder convicts.” Fox News calls him a “former federal prosecutor known for his aggressive style of questioning at congressional hearings,” while The Daily Mail deems Mr. Gowdy “a knife-in-the-teeth former South Carolina prosecutor.” The Wire declares that “he makes up for what he lacks in congressional experience with his unshakable confidence in the morality of his cause.”

And from NBC News: “Gowdy is popular with the conservative wing of the House GOP Conference, but also close enough to House leaders to allay any concerns of going off script during the probe. He often refers to himself as ‘a prosecutor, not a politician.’” And from talk radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh: “A real tiger. He’s not going to leave one stone unturned.”

VOTERS NOW JUST HOPE FOR CHANGE

It’s a “challenging midterm landscape for Democrats,” says a new Pew Research Center poll revealing that 47 percent of American voters now are Republicans or lean that way, compared to 43 percent in the Democratic camp. Six months ago, Democrats held a six-point lead, 49 percent to 43 percent respectively. In the meantime, there’s change afoot, and it’s not President Obama’s old hopey-changey variety. Voters are weary.

“Thinking about the next presidential election, 65 percent would like to see the next president offer different policies and programs from the Obama administration while 30 percent want Obama’s successor to offer similar policies,” advises the survey, conducted in conjunction with USA Today.

Voters are crabby about Congress across the board, meanwhile: 32 percent of the respondents approve of the job Democrats are doing while 23 percent approve of Republican job performance. But here’s a fact of most delicate sort, promising interest to GOP strategists:

“At this stage of the campaign, independent voters are 16 points more likely to say they plan to vote Republican (49 percent) than Democratic (33 percent) in the midterm election,” the poll states.

BUMPER PATROL

“Government is not God.”

— Bumper sticker spotted in Rockville, Maryland.

THE ‘CULTURE OF DISRUPTION’

Now that he is no longer mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg is ramping up some vigorous projects. Yes, he’s promised another $50 million in his efforts for gun control. And here comes the politics. Coming soon, it’s Bloomberg Politics, an aggressive new “digital brand” to be wrangled by former Time magazine analyst Mark Halperin and former MSNBC analyst John Heilemann — yes, those lofty co-authors of the election chronicles “Game Change” and “Double Down: Game Change 2012.” Both will be arriving at the Bloomberg News bureau in Manhattan this week, ready for, well, something with lots of moving parts.

There’s bristling marketing talk involved, so brace for impact.

“As our traditional competitors buckle under their own legacy weight, we are unencumbered, benefiting from a series of unique corporate advantages: the Bloomberg business model; our owner’s insistence on long-term perspective; a culture of disruption; and an established tradition of high-quality journalism,” predicted Bloomberg Media CEO Justin B. Smith, upon announcing the “full throttle” concept in a March.

Bloomberg Politics is framed as a template “to be replicated by the subsequent new brands” of niche media in the Bloomberg-ian realm, all of them stacked on “multi-platforms” — we’re talking mobile devices, TV, digital video, print magazines, radio, online sources and even live events. And yes, Mr. Halperin and Mr. Heilemann will have their own daily TV show.

“We have a new, aggressive vision for what our media products can be going forward and Bloomberg Politics is the model for how we will be re-architecting our approach to consumer media,” says Mr. Smith.

‘STOP HILLARY’ MUSCLES UP

There’s some big news from Stop Hillary PAC, a political action committee intent on rallying voters against a possible White House run by Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016.

“We have 250,000 Americans who we have signed up to defeat Hillary, and we have raised over $500,000,” Garrett Marquis, spokesman for the group, tells Inside the Beltway. “As the leaders of the stop-Hillary effort, we’re encouraged by the support we’ve seen in all 50 states. These results show voters across the country are becoming more concerned about what a Hillary Clinton Presidency means.”

KENTUCKY’S HEMP-HEMP-HURRAY

Move over Kentucky bluegrass. Here comes industrial hemp, and a new strategic alliance between activists and war veterans which is centered upon it. Vote Hemp, a national advocacy group dedicated to “re-commercializing” industrial hemp plus nonprofit Growing Warriors, will stage a “historic planting” of industrial hemp next week in the picturesque town of Mount Vernon, located in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains.

Vets will sow certified industrial hemp seed provided by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. This follows decades of federal prohibition of industrial hemp fiber and oilseed, used in rope, building materials, biofuels, cosmetics, textiles and more. Hemp was permanently banned in 1970 as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. It’s mainstream now. The big planting moment will include speeches and the presence of state officials, including James Comer, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner.

“We took on this fight in the state legislature a year ago, and who would have ever dreamed we would change Kentucky law — change federal law — and have hemp in the ground today?” says Mr. Comer. “This is a historic moment for Kentucky farmers.”

To date, 33 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and twenty-two have passed it. “Despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in those states risk raids by federal agents if they plant the crop outside the parameters of Section 7606 of the recent Farm Bill, due to failure of federal policy to distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of cannabis — i.e. industrial hemp — from psychoactive varieties — i.e. marijuana,” the organizers note in a terse advisory.

POLL DU JOUR

88 percent of Americans are annoyed when parents allow their children to run wild in public places.

80 percent are annoyed by people who are chronically late.

60 percent are annoyed by people who special order or ask for substitutions at restaurants.

57 percent are annoyed by people who complain about the heat.

53 percent are annoyed by tailgaters in traffic.

49 percent are annoyed by people who don’t reply to emails.

45 percent are annoyed by people who brag on social media.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,234 U.S. adults conducted March 12-17 and released Monday.

Big talk and small quibbles to [email protected]

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