- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2015

It happened to Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush too. And now Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker joins the ranks of Republican presidential contenders whose carefree school days have come under scrutiny by the journalists who want to prove — well, something or other.

The breathless stories follow the same template, seeking out old classmates with tales to tell, or records that might indicate discord or dysfunction. Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush were painted as bullies. But wait. The Washington Post offered revelations that Mr. Walker dropped out of college back in 1990, a quarter of a century ago, for those who don’t want to do the math. “Questions linger over college exit,” the solemn Post headline intoned.

“Gosh. I mean, you don’t say. This, you will have noticed, is the tone that newspapers reserve for serious revelations,” observes Roger Kimball, a columnist for PJ Media. “Scott Walker left college and got a job. Is that the best they can do? I suspect that it is the best they can do for the simple reason that Scott Walker, unlike the vast majority of politicians of either party, is what he appears to be: a hard-working, small ‘c’ conservative who is well liked and is possessed of serious political skills. Walker, in other words, is the Democrats’ biggest nightmare.”

Could be. The Democrats also weighed in on Mr. Walker after he opted not to answer about evolution during a trade visit to London this week. “Would’ve been a lot simpler to just stay home.” says Holly Shulman, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.

The press narrative is already being shaped however, with multiple accounts declaring that Govs. Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal also struggled with their public appearances in Britain, now billed as “the curse of London” by CNN. The Associated Press declared that Mr. Walker was “the latest 2016 prospect with a UK hiccup.”

What the coverage misses are the facts about Mr. Walker’s international trade prowess, these supplied Thursday by the governor’s office: “Wisconsin businesses exported $23.43 billion in goods worldwide in 2014 — an all-time high for the state and a 1.4 percent increase over 2013. In the past four years, Wisconsin’s total exports have jumped by 18.3 percent. Wisconsin’s agricultural exports rose by 13.6 percent in 2014 to a record $3.7 billion. The state’s increase was nearly three times greater than the growth rate for total U.S. agriculture exports in 2014 and marks the fifth straight year the Wisconsin’s numbers have risen.” Exports to Britain from the Badger State, incidentally, are up by 25 percent.

MCCAUL’S MASTER PLAN

Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has released a seven-point plan for victory in the “War Against Islamist Terror,” he says, and here they are verbatim:

“Defining the threat in order to defeat it — violent Islamist extremism; taking the fight to the enemy; targeting the enemies’ tools, including by targeting their financing and human capital flows; denying terrorists safe haven overseas by confronting threats early; defending the homeland against domestic radicalization; countering the insidious ideology at the core of Islamist terrorism; and promoting liberty and human dignity as the great alternatives to repression and terror.

“This is a long-term struggle, a struggle of ideology, but we can declare our plan of action as a first step. America must throw down the gauntlet on the doorsteps of the enemies of freedom — and put them on notice that their reign of terror will end,” the Texas Republican advises.

REASSURING NEWS

Americans will spend $14.9 billion on Valentine’s Day, a record-breaking amount according to the National Retail Federation. More than half the nation — 55 percent — will celebrate the romantic but kindhearted day. Yes, 96 percent of those folks buy for their spouses or significant others. But 45 percent get a little something for family members, 38 percent offer gifts to co-workers, 32 percent to their pals — and a full quarter of Americans will buy something for their pets. Yes. Treats for all.

A LITTLE SECDEF HISTORY

Ashton Carter, now confirmed as the nation’s 25th secretary of defense, is the seventh without military service. So says a historical analysis of this rarefied roster by Smart Politics, a University of Minnesota research group. The past four Pentagon chiefs served in the nation’s armed forces: Chuck Hagel and Leon E. Panetta both served in the Army, Robert M. Gates in the Air Force, and Donald H. Rumsfeld in the Navy and Naval Reserve). The last defense secretary who did not serve in the uniformed military was William S. Cohen, a three-term Republican U.S. senator from Maine.

“Cohen sailed through his U.S. Senate confirmation by a 99-0 vote in 1997 as did his five predecessors who never served in the military. Charles Wilson in 1953 by a 77-6 vote, Neil McElroy in 1957 by voice vote, James Schlesinger in 1973 by a vote of 91-0, Harold Brown in 1977 by voice vote, and Dick Cheney in 1989 by a vote of 92-0,” reports Eric Ostermeier, the professor behind the painstaking research.

STEWART’S POSSIBLE TRAJECTORY

“Sure. If he wants to come, we’d like to talk to him.”

— CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker on whether he’d hire outgoing Comedy Central “anchor” Jon Stewart, during a press conference Thursday to promote new programming.

HUCKABEE TO ISRAEL

He has been to the Holy Land many, many times Mike Huckabee says. But there’s always room for one more visit. The potential presidential candidate leaves Saturday for Israel with 250 like-minded folk.

“Israel is more than an American ally, she is a mirror image of America in commitment to religious liberty, women’s rights, free speech, elected government and an economic system based on free enterprise,” he says.

And is Mr. Huckabee, author of “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” in serious White House mode? “I don’t think it’ll be a big shock to anybody if I jump in the fray and once again run for president in 2016,” he recently told CNN.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: The Melvyn Estrin House, located in the “Embassy Row” area of Washington, D.C; 12,713-square-feet; built by the late financier primarily of limestone in 2008, modeled after the William Vanderbilt Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island. Nine bedrooms, 15 baths, “stunning” marble foyer, marble surfaces throughout, ceiling murals, grand staircase, wine cellar, four levels, state-of-the art chef’s kitchen, gated lot with parking for 10 cars, three-car garage. Elevator, extensive landscaping, pool and terrace with pizza oven.

Priced at $16.5 million through Washington Fine Properties; WFP.com, multiple listing No. DC8539608

POLL DU JOUR

80 percent of U.S. voters say a sense of humor is the most important factor when choosing their Valentine; 75 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of independents, 85 percent of Democrats, and 63 percent of tea partyers agree.

7 percent overall say finding someone who shares their political views is most important; 11 percent of Republicans, 3 percent of independents, 4 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of tea partyers agree.

69 percent overall say they are “currently in love”; 75 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents, 62 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of tea partyers agree.

51 percent overall believe in love at first sight; 49 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of independents, 49 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of tea partyers agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,044 registered U.S. voters conducted Feb. 8-10.

Have a nice, or at least an interesting, Valentine’s Day; thanks for reading Inside the Beltway.

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