Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
Paying the Price
It is believed President-elect Obama's inauguration will be the costliest in history — around $50 million — despite the recession. President Bush has declared a state of emergency to free up federal funds to help the district cope with the soaring cost of the event.
There has been little outcry over the hefty price tag so far — unlike four years ago when the cost of President Bush's second inauguration provoked liberal outrage. Salon.com described the event, in an piece by Eric Boehlert on Jan. 20, 2005, as "Bush's overblown celebration," the think tank Center for American Progress called it "lifestyles of the rich and heartless," and an article in the London Guardian by Paul Harri on January 9, 2005, said it was "an unashamed celebration of red America's victory over blue America."
Inaugural planners are trying to create the most environmentally-friendly event to date. The Hill newspaper reports the committee plans to deploy 6,000 volunteers to pick up recycling along the parade route. The oath of office will be recited on a recycled carpet.
And there are even plans to recycle the manure from horses walking in the parade. But Brian Darling of the conservative Heritage Foundation says, "you're going to have people flying in on their private jets, limousines and SUVs cruising around Washington... the recycled carpet and all of that probably makes everybody feel better and they can feel like they have a green inaugural ceremony, but in reality it's not."
Looking for Mr. Right
The University of Colorado — which has a very liberal reputation — is still looking for a conservative professor to counterbalance the campus' leftist slant. A local TV station reports the university has raised only $575,000 of the $9 million needed to fund a "visiting chair in conservative thought and policy." The effort is taking hits from both sides. One Republican on the regents board says the professor would be a token.
The president of the school's College Democrats, Jesse Jensen, says, "The entire concept... politicizes academics in a way that is contrary to the university's mission... by endowing a chair in one specific political ideology, we are not promoting intellectual diversity."
But Ken Bickers, a political science professor, says, "I think the idea behind this chair is that this university has lots and lots of liberals and not a lot of conservatives."
And finally, Herb Quintero, a tackle shop owner in Clearwater, Florida has come up with an unusual response to city officials who are fining him for having a giant mural of fish painted on the outside of his building. The St. Petersburg Times reports the city says the mural illegally depicts a product that is sold inside, and therefore is a business sign.
The shop's owner says it's art — not a sign – but has covered the mural anyway with an oversized banner of the First Amendment. He says, "I'm not trying to be difficult. I can't just let them railroad over me."
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Online reports officials are looking to see what — if anything — can now be done about the First Amendment banner.
— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.
Bret Baier currently serves as anchor of Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Bret Baier" (weeknights 6-7PM/ET), the top-rated cable news program in its timeslot. Based in Washington, D.C., he joined the network in 1998 as the first reporter in the Atlanta bureau. Click here for more information on Bret Baier.