- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A date has been set for the political rumble of the year: The time is 9 p.m. on Sept. 26; the place is Dayton, Ohio. That is the very first officially sanctioned presidential debate for just two combatants — not the 22 assorted Republican and Democratic hopefuls once in the fray. The foes are likely Hillary Clintonand Donald Trump, who will face off on that night, gesticulating from podiums just a few feet from one another, before what will likely be a global audience. Press, pundits, strategists and operatives will go crazy. So will European oddsmakers.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump already appear to be in battle mode, aiming at one another through social media and via sharpened talking points. One longtime observer predicts that Mr. Trump is already in victor mode, however. He appears ready for Hillary, indeed.

Author and veteran political consultant Roger Stone calls the presumptive GOP nominee a “fearless brawler” with strategic intent.

“He understands Hillary’s weaknesses and will exploit them in his own inimitable way,” Mr. Stone tells Inside the Beltway. “There will be no holds barred.”

RSVP TO ZUCKERBERG

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be hosting about 15 high-profile conservatives at the company’s California headquarters on Wednesday, seeking to make amends after an investigative story by the technology blog Gizmondo revealed that the social media giant was biased against conservative organizations and news organizations.

Glenn Beck, Fox News commentator Dana Perino and American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks are among the attendees. Breitbart News executives Stephen K. Bannon and Alexander Marlow are not, noting, “We have zero interest in a Facebook photo-op.” American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp is also a no-show. Tea Party Patriots founder Jenny Beth Martin, however, plans to be there, and for practical reasons.

“Conservative news is being suppressed on Facebook. Facebook is a critical communications tool, and we must make sure that conservative voices are not blocked from fully participating in the exchange of ideas,” Mrs. Martin notes.

UFO SIGHTING AT THE WHITE HOUSE

Media interest in Hillary Clinton’s reported link with UFOs continues to orbit. The Democratic front-runner has been labeled the “E.T. candidate” for her interest in unexplained aerial phenomenon and Area 51, the story covered by The New York Times, The Times of London and dozens of major news organizations in the last week. On Tuesday White House press secretary Josh Earnest took not one but two questions about the infamous UFO said to have crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, almost 70 years ago and possible White House knowledge of the particulars of the event.

“You need to answer this,” one reporter demanded while the assembled White House correspondents had a polite giggle.

“There are some questions that even the White House press secretary doesn’t have answers to, and this is one of them,” Mr. Earnest replied.

“There is laughter, as usual. But they won’t be laughing much longer,” observes Stephen Bassett, a registered lobbyist who has asked officials to disclose facts about government involvement in otherworldly matters for years — and now predicts such disclosure could be imminent.

THE LAVATORY WARS

“I can’t believe that at a time when our country is faced with immense challenges such as international Islamist terrorism and fiscal and monetary insanity in Washington, the current presidential administration is obsessing about who uses which bathrooms,” says Mark Hendrickson, a fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

“The left wants to create safe spaces where sensitive college students may seek refuge from perceived micro-aggressions. While I haven’t accepted the validity of the micro-aggression concept myself, can’t the left see that losing a sense of privacy when using public restroom facilities would feel like a micro-aggression to tens of millions of Americans? If there are to be safe spaces in our society, surely Americans should have a sense of security when using a bathroom.”

Mr. Hendrickson adds, “I suspect that the Obama White House is using this bathroom issue as a diversionary tactic during a crucial election year — a device to energize the countercultural left and force Republicans to spend precious time talking about bathroom justice instead of the more pressing issues of how to keep Americans safe and help the economy recover from its Obama-induced sluggishness. Imagine what our Founding Fathers would think if they came back today.”

THE ICE CREAM WARS

Move over “Chubby Hubby” and make room for “Empower-Mint,” a new flavor from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with yet another message. “The flavor reflects our belief that voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment, and that an election should be more ‘by the people’ and less ‘buy the people,” says company co-founder Ben Cohen, who was, uh, recently arrested at the U.S. Capitol during a Democracy Awakens rally. The new flavor is a peppermint ice cream punctuated by brownie bits and fudge swirls.

The choco-mint combo must be symbolic for the makers, incidentally. In January Ben & Jerry’s offered a limited edition flavor called Bernie’s Yearning to honor Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernard Sanders. It featured mint ice cream topped by a lid of dark chocolate and these instructions: “Open joyfully. Political revolution inside.”

POLL DU JOUR

68 percent of Democratic voters who support Sen. Bernard Sanders are concerned the U.S. will get too involved in Iraq and Syria; 53 percent of Democratic voters who support Hillary Clinton agree.

62 percent of Sanders voters say the war on the Islamic State is “not going well”; 38 percent of Clinton agree.

51 percent of Sanders voters say anti-terrorism policies restrict civil liberties; 35 percent of Clinton voters agree.

48 percent of Sanders voters say involvement in the global economy has been bad for the U.S.; 37 percent of Clinton voters agree.

45 percent of Sanders voters say U.S. efforts to solve world problems “makes things worse”; 28 percent of Clinton voters agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 857 registered Clinton voters and 629 registered Sanders voters conducted in April and released Tuesday.

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