- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation continues to update its ongoing Presidential Travel Study that tallies the cost of President Obama’s journeys aboard the magnificent but pricey Air Force One. The president’s trip to India and Saudi Arabia brings his grand total to 38 trips to 85 nations — or 150 days spent abroad, the watchdog group says. This particular trip cost tax payers $6.8 million, incidentally, based on the $228,288 per hour price of operating the aircraft. In comparison, former President Bill Clinton made 34 trips to 86 countries, and spent 158 days abroad at this same point in his presidency, while George W. Bush went on 36 visits to 93 countries, for a total of 143 days abroad, also in the same relative time frame.

“While President Obama is right in line with the most recent executive office holders in terms of days spent abroad, his trend toward taking a higher number of shorter trips, means costs are going up as Air Force One is flying more,” observes Michael Tasselmyer, the man behind all that tallying.

A RABBI CONSIDERS ‘AMERICAN SNIPER

The Hollywood blockbuster with a record breaking $200 million in box office receipts during its first 10 days in theaters earned intense interest from heartland audiences, but has sparked much commentary, pro and con. “American Sniper” moves people for many reasons.

“So why are so many people on the Left attacking the film?” asks Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of the Values Network. “The answer lies in our failure to hate evil. What American Sniper is really about is the battle by decent men against truly dark forces of wickedness. The American soldiers who battle the terrorists in Iraq do not hide their contempt for the killers. They hate them, despise them, loathe them, and want to kill them. Not because they have any bloodlust and not because they enjoy violence. Rather, they are committed to life and are well aware of the fact that the only way to prevent the murderers from slaughtering the innocent is through the necessary evil of conflict,” Rabbi Boteach writes in an op-ed for the New York Observer.



“Which brings me to this conclusion. The most accurate standard in judging our commitment to humanity is the extent to which we fight to preserve life. For some that fight involves research in a lab to defeat cancer. For others it involves climbing a ladder in a terrible inferno to rescue a stranded child. And for some it involves going to war against barbarous terrorists so that they cannot blow up pregnant women. Hating evil is just as important as loving the good. Because if you don’t, you’re likely to give evil a pass,” the rabbi notes.

MR. FORBES CONSIDERS NETANYAHU

“It is fitting and proper — indeed essential for our very security — that Speaker John Boehner has extended an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran and its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them anywhere in the world,” states uber-executive Steve Forbes in Forbes, the publication that bears his name.

“It’s a message much of Europe and even segments of the U.S., particularly in the Obama administration, don’t want to hear. The President has made clear his intense dislike of Israel’s prime minister and his refusal to keep quiet about Obama’s desire to conclude a Neville Chamberlain-like deal with Teheran. In a flagrant interference in another country’s election, Obama operatives are working hard in Israel to help bring down the courageous Prime Minister. Congress needs to hear first-hand the truth about what Iran is doing and the dreadful implications of those activities.”

A GAS ATTACK

Fifty organizations have used a single letter sent to every member of Congress to protest an increase to the federal gas tax just as hard-pressed Americans are beginning to enjoy low prices at the pump.

“Not only is increasing the gas tax an ineffective way to address the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs, it would further increase the burden of government on families and business, and would disproportionately hurt lower income Americans already hurt by trying times in our economy,” say the signers — who include Brent Gardner, vice president of American for Prosperity; Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks coalition and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. The big coalition bristles with institutional knowledge of how things works — or don’t work — in the nation’s capital.

“As with so many other issues in Washington, transportation infrastructure has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Rather than asking Americans for even more of their hard-earned paycheck to fund reckless Washington spending, Congress should seek an alternate solution that properly prioritizes federal transportation infrastructure needs, reduces costly and time-consuming bureaucratic hurdles, and further empowers state and local governments in conjunction with the private sector,” the letter states.

WHAT IT TAKES

Shaking hands, kissing babies and delivering rousing speeches still works for politicians. Campaign strategists, however, like to amplify such activities via social media, and the scope is enormous. A few revealing numbers from the Republican National Committee from its midterm election push: Among many other things, the GOP sent out 2.6 billion messages and 17 million get-out-the-vote emails; it accrued 8 million Facebook friends and 500,000 extra voter email addresses. It’s only going to get larger. The message from chairman Reince Priebus about 2016: “I look forward to working with my team as we expand our mission.”

INVASION OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

And so it begins, like clockwork, The presidential hopefuls have begun their invasion of New Hampshire. Here’s who’s on the way according to a deft count by John DiStasio, a New Hampshire Journal columnist. Jim Gilmore arrives Thursday for coffee with veterans, a visit to a local gun shop and media appearances. Independent Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders shows up Saturday for house parties, followed next week by John Bolton, who appears at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, and George Pataki, who has stops in the town of Keene and Saint Anselm College. Carly Fiorina follows a few days later, also appearing at the aforementioned political institute.

Midmonth, Rick Perry arrives for a business roundtable, a Republican women’s club dinner and a Lincoln Day Dinner in Dover. Right behind him: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who visits with Republican leadership in Concord. Then comes Sen. Marco Rubio, “sources” say, along with former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives in March.

POLL DU JOUR

90 percent of Americans give the U.S. Congress a negative job review following President Obama’s State of the Union address; 90 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats agree.

58 percent overall give Mr. Obama a negative job review following the address; 90 Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats agree.

39 percent overall give Mr. Obama a positive review; 10 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats agree.

56 percent overall say the nation is “on the wrong track” following the address; 81 Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 32 percent of Democrats agree.

38 percent overall say the nation is headed in the right direction; 19 percent of Republicans, 39 percent of independents and 68 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Harris poll of 2,057 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 21-23.

Indignant squawks, squeamish squeaks to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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