Biden Needed the Raise

Not that either elected official is hurting when it comes to household income, but President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. each will be getting a substantial raise by leaping from Capitol Hill to the White House.

The rundown of salaries for the executive and legislative branches, as of Jan. 1, 2008:

President: $400,000

Vice president: $221,100

House speaker: $188,100

Senators/congressmen: $169,300

Actually, Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, probably can use the extra dough. She’s a teacher, after all, and he’s spent most of his professional career in the Senate (Mr. Biden also teaches part time at the Widener University School of Law).

The couple’s 2007 joint tax return lists a total income of $319,853, all but $66,546 (Mrs. Biden’s teaching salary) earned by the senator.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have seen their incomes increase in 2007 to more than $4.2 million, much of it coming from book royalties. 


Keith Olbermann and Ann Coulter an item?

So to speak. As 2008 draws to a close, it’s time once again for the American Speaker’s (now in its 17th year) annual Patrick Henry Awards for the best — and worst — public speakers of the year.

By way of credentials, the American Speaker is founded and edited by Aram Bakshian Jr., who served as a White House speechwriter for three presidents (Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford and Ronald Reagan, including being director of presidential speech writing during the Gipper’s first term).

Without further ado, the Patrick Henry Award for the Most Effective Political Speaker this year is shared by Barack Obama and John McCain, who through their individual speaking strengths and weaknesses made the 2008 presidential race, in the words of the judges, a fascinating “speech lab.”

Other 2008 award winners are Al Gore (Best Return From the Rhetorical Dead), Rush Limbaugh (Best Radio Talkmeister), Jim Lehrer (Best Network News Anchor), and Sarah Palin (Most Promising Speaking Debut).

A few of the more notable losers include 2008 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (Most Embarrassing Oratorical Mea Culpa), Eleanor Clift (Longest-Suffering Talking Head), and the otherwise odd adjoining of Mr. Olbermann and Miss Coulter (Twin Horrors of Broadcast Commentary).

The acerbic pair of pundits “would rather rant than be rational, and neither seems capable of exercising tolerance, restraint or simple civility,” writes Mr. Bakshian. “Considered together, left-wing Olbermann and right-wing Coulter are proof that neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on rhetorical excess and simple rudeness.

“Someone should lock them in a soundproof room together.”


That was Michael Reagan doing a perfect impersonation of his father, Ronald Reagan, while appearing at the Heritage Foundation to discuss reviving the Reagan agenda in America.

Given the enthused audience of former Reagan hands, Mr. Reagan didn’t stop there, telling tales and cracking jokes about growing up in the Reagan household. At one point, he recalled an old Hollywood rumor that his father was approached to play Rick Blaine in the classic movie “Casablanca,” but turned down the role.

The younger Mr. Reagan recalled hearing somebody comment, “Had Ronald Reagan accepted the role of Rick in the movie, Ingrid Bergman may have decided to stay.”

The event was organized by Reagan Alumni Association Executive Director Lou Cordia and included former Virginia Lt. Gov. John H. Hager, former Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Miller and Reagan biographer Craig Shirley.

“Casablanca,” if we might digress, is one of President-elect Barack Obama’s two favorite movies, the other being “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”


A representative of Eureka College has let it be known that Mikhail Gorbachev will be visiting Ronald Reagan‘s alma mater in Illinois this spring to talk about the late president’s influence in the world.

The 77-year-old Mr. Gorbachev, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was the last general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was the Soviet Union’s last head of state until its 1991 dissolution.

Which isn’t to say that Mr. Gorbachev doesn’t continue to have revolution running through his veins. During a visit last autumn to New Orleans, he surprised everybody, including President Bush, by promising to lead a local revolution if the city’s faulty levees weren’t rebuilt by 2011.

“We will be coming back,” he told a cheering crowd. “If this pledge is not fulfilled, we will start a new revolution in New Orleans.”


Be advised that the federal government will lose nearly one-third of its work force over the next five years as baby boomers retire.

So it’s not surprising that on top of the list of advice for President-elect Barack Obama from the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service is a “national call to government service” – making people issues a presidential priority.

“People are policy,” says Max Stier, partnership president. “Tackling these important human resource issues is key to President-elect Obama fully realizing his administration’s policy goals.”


“Fantastic Find for Inauguration,” reads the ad posted on Craigslist, offering three bedrooms on the top two floors a rowhouse on Capitol Hill for $12,000.

“Located 8 blocks from the Capitol Building,” the ad states. “There is a dog that lives in this house, which will not be present during your stay.”


Thought you knew the nation’s best and worst U.S. presidents?

Of the four presidents exalted glory on Mount Rushmore, only George Washington deserves the honor, writes Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute, whose intriguing new book is appropriately titled, “Recarving Rushmore.”

The author argues that Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was overrated by historians and scholars; Thomas Jefferson hypocritically violated his lofty rhetoric of liberty; and Abraham Lincoln provoked a civil war that achieved far less than believed.

Mr. Eland’s book profiles and ranks every U.S. president on the merits, including his oath to uphold the Constitution. Surprisingly, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter are anointed the two best modern presidents, and Bill Clinton is declared in some respects more conservative than George W. Bush.

It might come as a surprise that John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, earns the No. 1 ranking of all commanders in chief. Tyler, we read, exhibited “restraint in dealing with an internal rebellion, a bloody Indian war, and a boundary dispute with Canada. He supported a sound policy of limiting the money supply, and he generally opposed high tariffs, a national bank and federal welfare to the states.

“In sum, John Tyler gets the number one ranking here not only because he favored limited government, but because he fought members of his own party (Whig and Democrat) to preserve it – thereby torpedoing his chances for a second term.”

As for the worst president (President Bush, if you wondered, ranks 36th), Woodrow Wilson’s “abominable track record” earns him the bottom ranking of 40th. (William Henry Harrison and James Garfield weren’t ranked because of the short amount of time they were in office).


“As America mothballs the shuttle, relying on Russian rockets to get our astronauts back up to a space station we built, China is putting men into space and heading for the moon.”

— A dwindling America, as described by conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, who also sees fit to point out that Chinese auto production has quintupled since 2001, the country now producing more cars than Germany and likely to exceed the United States in 2009.


“At last President Bush has an exit strategy. His own.”

–Washington-based political satirist Mark Russell


“Please leave my name out of this,” requests our source within the Department of Transportation, “however, I think it’s interesting that the DOT [assistant secretary] apparently feels OK with Kinara (whatever that is) and Menorah, but shies away from ‘Christmas Tree.’ ”

Referring to a memo dated Nov. 28 from DOT Assistant Secretary Linda J. Washington, its subject: “Holiday Decorations in the West Atrium.”

“In the spirit of the holiday season, [staff] will decorate the West Atrium on Saturday, November 29. A decorated tree will be set up in the middle of the atrium, just as last year. For the protection of the DOT employees, [staff] will position wrapped boxes underneath and around it to extend beyond the tree.

“Stanchions will also be placed around the tree for precaution. The atrium will also be decorated with a Kinara and a Menorah. We hope you enjoy the festive displays.”

A kinara is a special candleholder used during Kwanzaa. It holds seven candles – red, green and black, which represent the colors of the Bendera, or African flag – that honor the seven principles of Kwanzaa.