Inside the Beltway - Jennifer Harper - Washington Times
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Start your engines: CPAC arrives Wednesday

- The Washington Times

The Conservative Political Action Conference - CPAC - rumbles to life in 24 hours. Doors open Wednesday for activism training and assorted receptions that herald a mammoth event which cheers up conservatives, whether they attend or not.

Student gun-control activist: 'You are either with us or against us'

- The Washington Times

Students who witnessed the school shooting last week in Parkland, Florida, have already organized a "March for Our Lives" in Washington next month which has quickly gained traction after the young organizers appeared on multiple Sunday talk shows to make their case - particularly to unnamed lawmakers.

What once was: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with running mate Sen. Tim Kaine at the Democratic National Convention. (Associated Press)

Democrats in search of a brand

- The Washington Times

Maybe the Democratic Party is worried about their money and their message. Maybe an identity crisis is in progress as the midterm elections loom. Whatever the cause, many Americans appear to be associating Democrats with obstruction and fury rather than productivity and good will. Rivals are noticing this trend, and are only too happy to craft a message around it.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump in front of the Lincoln Memorial, on Inauguration Day, which was just over a year ago. (Associated Press)

Media: 'Stop worrying about normalizing Trump'

- The Washington Times

One critic continues to question much of the positive, often fawning press coverage of the North Korean presence at the U.S. Olympics. But he also wonders why this same news media does not give a similar courtesy to President Trump.

Interest in UFOs is on the radar once again with a new Marist Poll revealing the nation's surprising sentiments toward extraterrestrials. (NASA)

Extraterrestrials are on the radar again

- The Washington Times

Weary of budget arguments and partisan discord? Consider talk of extraterrestrials, a topic which comes and goes in politics — a distraction or a joke to some, a serious concern or curiosity for others.

A new book by Newt Gingrich schools voters and the media in understanding Donald Trump, described as a unique, brilliant and very productive president. (Center Street)

A unique and extraordinary president; Gingrich schools the public in 'Understanding Trump'

- The Washington Times

Much of the current political discourse consists of incendiary bursts of outrage and indignation from Democrats over the Trump White House, every syllable amplified by the news media, happy to cover the fireworks as they come and go. But there is another dynamic at work as well. Politics is also a long march with enduring themes - which is where books come in.

Some Republican strategists see President Trump's skills in creating spectacle and working the media as an asset for the midterm races. (Associated Press)

Trump's political savvy and showmanship now considered 'unique asset' in midterms battle

- The Washington Times

Whether his critics like it or not, President Trump has a knack for creating productive political spectacle that can engage the voting public on a grand scale. Mr. Trump is also a master of media tactics — not surprising, since he was a famous commodity on reality TV for years and is deft at producing buzz-worthy tweets and lasting narratives. Journalists, in act, simply can't get enough of Mr. Trump, even if he infuriates them. The president is flexible — comfortable on late-night TV, the global stage, a jumbo rally or among the faithful. Mr. Trump, in fact, will address the 66th Annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.

President Trump's image looms over the New York Stock Exchange, even as many news organizations tried to blame him for the plunge. (Associated Press)

Media blames Trump for stock market woes

- The Washington Times

It was a foregone conclusion that news coverage would blame President Trump for the stock market plunge — but never credit him for its record-breaking rise. There's some history here. Many journalists ignored the spectacular stock market climb after Mr. Trump took office, as one record after another was shattered and Americans cautiously grinned over their 401(k) plans.

Tuesday marks what would have been Ronald Reagan's 107th birthday. His fans still celebrate the moment, while some now guard his legacy. (Associated Press)

Tuesday marks the 107th birthday of Ronald Reagan -- and his enduring legacy

- The Washington Times

That Gipper cachet has not ebbed. On Tuesday, fans of Ronald Reagan around the nation will mark what would have been his 107th birthday. There are big doings at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, of course. The Camp Pendleton Marine Division Band will be on hand, plus a color guard, chaplain, and a brass quintet. There's a 21-gun salute plus a hearty, old-school birthday lunch with a menu featuring roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans almondine and chocolate birthday cake with vanilla ice cream.

According to one media analyst, the overall news about the House memo was a "hyperbolic smear campaign" against President Trump. (Associated Press)

Triggered: The media's memo meltdown

- The Washington Times

The release of the House Intelligence Committee memo suggesting misconduct within the FBI set off the press and provided an instant catalyst for explosive news coverage casting Republicans as villains who either obstruct justice, undermine the Russian investigation or even aid Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some accounts also claimed the memo was proof of disunity in the Republican Party, or that it could eventually cause a constitutional crisis.

National Rifle Association analyst and broadcast host Dana Loesch is among the many speakers who will appear at CPAC, which begins Feb. 21. The event typically draws in 13,000 attendees from all over the U.S. (American Conservative Union)

Cheer up: CPAC countdown now underway

- The Washington Times

It is an annual rite of spring for conservatives, and the countdown is now underway. Here comes CPAC -- the Conservative Political Action Conference -- which begins Feb. 21 and features three days of robust speeches, rousing moments, authentic patriotism and profound reassurance that conservatism is thriving and gutsy.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III vowed to "fight" when he offered the Democratic Party's official rebuttal to President Trump's State of the Union address. (Associated Press)

Democrats still in the mood for a brawl

- The Washington Times

The resistance, the struggle, the fight: They are the mantras of choice for the Democratic Party, which is still centering its strategies on pushback and aggression. That could make sense, perhaps. Democrats raised $65.9 million in the last year, and their GOP counterparts brought in $132.5 million. Democrats are $6.1 million in debt, and the GOP has zero debt. Meanwhile, the midterm elections are just over 40 weeks away.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, speaks at a campaign rally. (Associated Press) ** FILE **

Throughout the chaos, Republicans stay on task

- The Washington Times

Between the squawking over the State of the Union Address and chatter about Russian collusion, Americans now live in a noisy, often polarizing melodrama — which is a lot of work. Some thrive in the environment. Like President Trump, the Republican Party has remained admirably on task and focused during all the unruly upheavals, whether they are created or genuine. Case in point. Within hours of Mr. Trump's speech, the Republican National Committee's winter meeting begins, staged at a hotel a dozen blocks from the White House. The three-day gathering begins with an address by Newt Gingrich.

President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address Tuesday. A new poll says 52 percent of Americans will tune in for the speech. (Associated Press)

Hostile media already blasting Trump's State of the Union address

- The Washington Times

President Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday will be covered by at least 15 cable and broadcast networks - and there could be a substantial audience. A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds that 52 percent of Americans plan to watch the address; that includes 76 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of independents and 37 percent of Democrats. The networks, meanwhile, have already pounced on the speech even before the president has delivered it.

A tasty chicken wing may become more expensive as Congress ponders a "sin tax" on meats, including beef, pork and chicken. (Associated Press)

Here comes the 'sin tax' on burgers, brats, ribs and wings

- The Washington Times

Burgers, buffalo wings, brats, ribs, chili, shrimp, crab dip and bacon-loaded anything are staples in the nation's traditional Super Bowl feast. It is a big deal. Americans will spend a hefty $15.3 million on their game day celebrations, according to the National Retail Federation — and there's a proverbial Trump bump too.