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Inside the Beltway: Vanity Fare

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** FILE ** In this 2008 photo, faux pirates cruised Tampa’s waterfront for the city’s Gasparilla festival, which drew about 300,000 people. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

Uh-oh. When Republicans arrive in Tampa, Fla., for their big, bodacious presidential convention in late August, they’ll arrive in a haughty place, perhaps. Tampa has been declared the nation’s “vainest city” according to Men’s Health magazine, which based its judgment on such factors as the number of cosmetic surgery procedures done in the city, per capita rates of cosmetic dentists and tanning salons, and sales of teeth whiteners, at-home hair dyes and shapewear (as in girdles and such).

But isn’t the Grand Old Party already acquainted with vanity? Not necessarily. The nation’s capital — home to big egos and power suits — ranks 18th on the list of 100 major cities, the publication found. Incidentally, Charlotte, N.C., site of the Democratic National Convention, ranks No. 48 on the roster.

Meanwhile, vanity is alive and well elsewhere. After Tampa, the second vainest city in America is Plano, Texas, followed by Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Houston, Miami, San Francisco and Providence, R.I., to round out the top 10. Oddly enough, New York City is 17th, while Los Angeles is 60th. And the least vain of all? That would be Des Moines, Iowa.

THE FAITH FACTOR

Like the birther issue, the question about President Obama’s religion may persist throughout the election no matter how many times he attends church on Sunday.

“Just 34 percent of Americans correctly say President Obama is a Christian, while 44 percent say they don’t know Obama’s religion and 11 percent say he is a Muslim,” notes Gallup Poll director Frank Newport who surveyed more than 1,000 Americans about the question earlier this month.

There’s a partisan divide, of course. Less than a quarter of Republicans — 24 percent — say the president is Christian, compared to 29 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats.

Eighteen percent of the GOP-ers say Mr. Obama is Muslim, though the pollster says it’s “unclear” whether this is because Republicans truly think this, “or because it is a politically charged idea.” Twelve percent of independents and 3 percent of Democrats also think Mr. Obama is Muslim.

“Both Obama’s religion and his birthplace have been points of controversy in his public career. These data show that in terms of his religion, most Americans do not adhere to the belief that he is a Muslim. However, the fact that almost 1 in 5 Republicans do hold this belief suggests the potential for continuing controversy on this issue in the months ahead,” Mr. Newport observes.

F-WORDS

Fast and furious? Rep. Allen B. West appears to exercise both qualities when he ponders the gunrunning debacle of that name which brought contempt of Congress charges from the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Mr. West is ready to act quickly. And he is definitely not happy.

“When this resolution is brought before the full House of Representatives, I will vote ‘yes’ to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt. Operation Fast and Furious has been a dark blight which must be resolved, as U.S. Border Patrol agents and hundreds of Mexican citizens have lost their lives as a result. This is not something to disregard,” the Florida Republican says in a message to his constituents.

“The Dept. of Justice under Eric Holder has not been truthful or forthcoming, not only with the Congress, but the American people, and with the parents of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry,” the lawmaker continues. “Operation Fast and Furious is either the result of abject ineptness or complicity, or both. No matter which, both are egregious and leadership must be held responsible and accountable.”

Mr. West adds, “For President Obama to claim executive privilege demonstrates that this administration has been misleading Americans about its knowledge and involvement from day one. The invoking of executive privilege now begs the question. What part did the administration play in this Operation Fast and Furious?”

STANDING FOR BRIAN

The family of Brian Terry is also awaiting the vote this week on Operation Fast and Furious.

“We need answers. We need to hold people accountable. We need to know this type of flawed investigation will never happen again,” says Robert Heyer, cousin of the slain agent, and chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation, which is now seeking donations to assist families of Border Patrol agents, raise public awareness of their deaths, and see to a future memorial for fallen officers.

“We need to honor Brian’s memory and the memory of all of those that have suffered or been killed by Fast and Furious weapons. We pray that the truth will eventually be known and that those responsible will be held accountable,” Mr. Heyer says.

A public petition at the organizations’s website (www.honorbrianterry.com) urges the “nation’s leadership to never again repeat the mistakes that were made by the United States Department of Justice in the conception and investigation of Operation Fast and Furious.”

BUMPER PATROL

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About the Author

Jennifer Harper

To read Jennifer Harper’s Inside the Beltway columns, click here. Contact her at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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