GM: Government Motors

"GM: Government Motors.”

That’s how Republicans on Capitol Hill are now referring to General Motors, after the Obama administration’s virtual takeover of the once-mighty Detroit automaker.

CHANGE

Sen. Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee who withdrew his name to become commerce secretary, says President Obama in a few short weeks has managed to steer the country "dramatically to the left," and in doing so he has sacrificed the "American dream" for future generations.

First accepting the post of commerce secretary, then suddenly bowing out uncomfortably on Feb. 12 in light of differences with the new administration, Mr. Gregg tells this columnist: "I’m glad I didn’t take the job, although I didn’t handle it very well, so really in many ways I feel rather badly about it."

Yet given the president’s massive tax-and-spend budget proposals, which the senator warns will "triple" the national debt over the next decade, Mr. Gregg now says for the "first time" in America’s history one generation will be passing to the next "less opportunity than we received from our parents" that will "reduce the quality" of our children’s lives.

Mr. Obama "thinks governments create prosperity and not individuals," Mr. Gregg says.

The respected GOP senator says he also opposes taxpayer dollars going to the floundering U.S. automakers, adding that structured bankruptcies of the Detroit companies "would be better than what is planned now, to be honest with you."

Now, with Mr. Obama taking the unusual step this week of ousting General Motors Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner, Mr. Gregg reasons: "That’s the slope you get on when you start doing industrial policy — when the government starts running a company."

SAM’S USED CARS

"By the way, Madam Speaker, if you like the way the federal government runs other government businesses like the post office, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FEMA and the IRS, you will love the new federalized auto industry."

 — Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, addressing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the House floor this week

BIG BROTHER

A North Carolina congresswoman is accusing the Democratic leadership of “living the book 1984 by George Orwell,” published in 1949 and famous for its portrayal of government encroachment and control over the citizenry.

"I want to say that if there is anybody out there who hasn’t read 1984, ” begins Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, “or hasn’t read it in a long time, I strongly urge you to do so because we are obviously living through what Orwell predicted. We are just a few years later than he suggested it would be.”

Twenty-five years, to be exact.

LOCAL CELEB

The good folks of Pikeville, N.C., don’t get caught up in national celebrity worship. After all, the rural region has more than its share of local celebrities.

"I got out of the car; a lovely lady next door to the fire station here waved a pamphlet to me and said she had to talk to me," Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recalled of his recent trip to the Tar Heel State. "So I walked over and took out a pen — I thought she wanted an autograph.

"She said, ‘No, no, honey, I’ve signed it for you.’ She did, swear to God."

SPIRITS OF PAST

That was former House Speaker Jim Wright stopping by the Capitol to greet his former congressional colleagues.

Observed Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat: "This is a proud day for us to welcome a distinguished Texan who rose from Weatherford, Texas, to serve here with the legendary Sam Rayburn and then to preside over this chamber."

Indeed, the 86-year-old Mr. Wright served 34 years in the House and was speaker for two years until 1989, when a feisty Republican congressman from Georgia named Newt Gingrich brought ethics charges against the Democratic leader. Mr. Wright subsequently resigned his leadership post and retired.

BATAAN ATROCITY

In the category of "better late than never," a bill has been introduced in the Senate to award the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award, to U.S. soldiers who were prisoners of war at Bataan in the Philippines during World War II.

An unprecedented 76,000 American and Filipino troops surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, following the Battle of Bataan. Then came the infamous 60-mile "Bataan Death March," during which thousands of Americans were physically abused and murdered by their Japanese captors.

LEGGO MY LOGO

”Reminds me of Jimmy Carter turning off the lights at the White House,” says our insider at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who forwards a memo he and his colleagues were sent by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Among nearly two dozen “major” cost-saving steps Ms. Napolitano announced she will implement over the next 120 days: consolidating subscriptions to publications and newspapers to avoid duplication, eliminating printing and distribution of all reports and documents that can be sent electronically or posted online, maximizing use of conference calls and Web-based meetings and using purchasing agreements to save on office supplies.

“Finally,” the secretary writes to the myriad agencies that now fall beneath the DHS umbrella, “in the interest of cost containment and unifying the department, I enacted a moratorium on all external contracts for the design and production of new seals and logos. Let me be clear – many DHS components have long histories that are linked to their seals. We are proud of this heritage and thankful for their service. But we’re also stewards of taxpayer dollars and we’re not spending any more money to develop new logos.”

HONEYMOON OVER?

So how popular is President Obama after 70 days in the Oval Office?

A recent Rasmussen Reports daily presidential tracking poll finds 37 percent of the nation’s voters “strongly approve” of his performance, while 29 percent “strongly disapprove.”

Overall, 57 percent “somewhat approve” of Mr. Obama’s performance, while 41 percent “disapprove.”

Mr. Obama’s biggest group of supporters: 84 percent of African-Americans “strongly approve” of the president’s performance.

WILD WEST

The late Joseph Pulitzer once stated: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

Now, a survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center finds that even the newest breed of “online” journalists believes that “the Internet is changing the fundamental values of journalism — and more often than not for the worse.”

That said, these same members of the Online News Association are less likely to think journalism is headed in the “wrong direction” than are journalists from the “legacy media,” such as newspapermen.

The more-traditional journalists surveyed, who also file stories on the Internet, albeit not exclusively, also believe the Web is lowering journalistic values. “In particular, they are worried about declining accuracy,” the research group states.

Said one unidentified reporter: “I think there’s a huge potential in online journalism, but there’s also a lot of scary stuff out there.”

SUITE ‘007’

Thick bullet-resistant glass protects the sweeping views from the living space, shielding also the luxurious master and guest bedrooms, the plush dining room and even the windows of the exercise room with its elliptical trainers overlooking the hustle and bustle of Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest.

No, we have not stepped inside the White House. Welcome to 21st-century Washington.

Or more precisely what Liliana Baldassari, director of public relations at the famous Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, suspects is the only hotel suite of its kind in the nation.

She won’t tell us which VIPs (hotel policy protects the privacy of its guests) have reserved the lavish Royal Suite since it was unveiled during Barack Obama’s Jan .20 inauguration. But in between high-end (the suite runs $12,500 per night) bookings, Ms. Baldassari on Friday allowed this columnist a tour of the one-of-a-kind fortress, starting in the sparkling stone mosaic foyer with its shimmering crystal chandelier and rich woodwork with inlays of mother of pearl.

The 5,287-square-foot living space — including three bedrooms, sitting areas, stocked kitchen, dining room for 10, library, private study with computer and a wooden-floored 1,000 square-foot landscaped terrace with fire pit — is surrounded by silk velvet draperies. The floors are limestone, enhanced with designed wool-and-silk-blend rugs that actually feel comfortable enough to sleep on.

There’s a glass-enclosed fireplace, media center, 60-inch LCD (among other state-of-the-art TV sets) and white marble bathrooms – the largest one featuring a sculptural 90-gallon bathtub (a lighted crystal masterpiece is draped directly overhead) and oversized glass “rain” shower.

VIP guests, either foreign heads-of-state or Hollywood types, also receive personalized butler service, a luxury car and driver, and practically every other imaginable amenity a visitor to Washington could ask for. The Four Seasons even takes care of the unpacking and packing.

And yes, there’s a private entrance, so that the guests can come and go unnoticed by the rest of us.

FAMILY CONNECT

Who hasn’t heard parents complain that the frantic pace of society allows scarce precious time for family bonding?

In her book to be released Monday, D.C. author Rebecca Hagelin, a mother of three (among a myriad of other hats she wears around town), has discovered a way to slow down life — for parents and children — to enjoy genuine family time.

It’s just one of 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, the title of Mrs. Hagelin’s guidebook, which offers 30 practical steps to “restore peace in your home and reconnect with your children” during a time when popular culture has everybody’s heads (and bodies) spinning in different directions and arenas — many of them not so healthy.

The author explains how to fight modern culture and not your child, and even tells readers why it’s important to write a letter to your child — something more tangible, obviously, than the flurry of e-mails and text messages families exchange daily.

“My heart’s desire was to do more than just write another helpful parenting book; I wanted to challenge parents to embrace a whole new way of thinking about how they spend their time, energy and talents,” says Mrs. Hagelin, the senior communications fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who also wrote Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad.

“If we, as a nation, poured as much time and effort into building our families as we do into building our careers, we could end up solving most of the problems we now face as a society and as individuals. There’s an old saying, ‘As the family goes, so goes the nation.’ If that’s true — and I believe it is — then shouldn’t we be very deliberate about teaching our kids specific values?” she says.

And given the current atmosphere, not to mention the depressed economy, the author tells this columnist: “It’s more important than ever for us to concentrate on building the next generation of adults who understand the importance of personal responsibility and the critical role that the family unit plays in the stability of our nation. And the only real way to do that is to start by strengthening our own families.”

JIMMY’S PARK

A congressional bill has just been introduced to expand the boundary of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Georgia and redesignate it as the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park.


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