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HUFFPOST HILL - Kent Conrad: The Next J. Lo?

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Former President George W. Bush called his time as president "awesome," because commanding history's most powerful army and having the power to hasten the apocalypse is a lot like having a basketball hoop on your garage door. Romney surrogate John Sununu called pot smoking an un-American activity, even though nothing embodies the American value of self-interest quite like Bogarting. And Newt Gingrich will appear on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tomorrow, probably because he'd love nothing more than to lecture the interviewees on "Jaywalking." This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, July 17th, 2012:

Harry Reid will file the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2012 tonight which extends the Bush tax cuts for one year for incomes below $250,000.

@newtgingrich: I will be on leno wednesday night with Snooki! It should be an interesting evening! I hope she likes zoos and animals!

ROMNEY WON'T BUDGE ON TAX RETURNS - The anticipation is killing us -- at this point if the former Massachusetts governor's returns don't reveal a cache of Alex Rodriguez-esque portraits of Mitt Romney as a centaur, we'll be disappointed. "In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy," he told National Review Online. "And I'm simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort, and lie about." [National Review Online]

NRO, MEANWHILE, SAYS COUGH 'EM UP ALREADY - "Romney may feel impatience with requirements that the political culture imposes on a presidential candidate that he feels are pointless (and inconvenient). But he's a politician running for the highest office in the land, and his current posture is probably unsustainable. In all likelihood, he won't be able to maintain a position that looks secretive and is a departure from campaign conventions. The only question is whether he releases more returns now, or later -- after playing more defense on the issue and sustaining more hits. There will surely be a press feeding frenzy over new returns, but better to weather it in the middle of July." [National Review Online]

KENT CONRAD KNOWS A LOT ABOUT AMERICAN IDOL - The Hill's Judy Kurtz asked the Senate Budget Committee chairman who ought to be the next judge on American Idol. "I'm surprised that you knew to talk to me, because I am in talks with Fox to be the next American Idol judge, or one of the two. Because of my looks, I'd probably be replacing Steven. There is a pretty good chance I'll be signed for next season." What will they pay you, Sen. Conrad? "It's going to be less than Jennifer Lopez."

Today's Obama pool report, filed by Amie Parnes, set to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage": "Travel pool was separated for about 20 minutes from the motorcade en route to the next stop at a private residence. This separation resulted in a high speed, wild goose chase weaving through the streets of San Antonio. Led by a police escort, your pool was led up wrong way streets, driving on the shoulder of highways, and so on. Finally, after cars were literally pushed off the highway by the police escort and the three White House pool vans, we had interstate 10 ourselves at a speed of about 85 miles per hour. (Needless to add, it was a crazy ride.)"

SOCIAL STUPIDITY - With Mike McAuliff: "Some members of Congress have begun leveling accusations that rising enrollment in Social Security's disability insurance program is evidence of growing American dependence on the government, and even a 'slave' mentality. But a new report out Monday says the rise in America's ranks of disabled to 8.3 million in 2011 stems from an aging population, a surge in women workers, changes in the law in the 1980s and a terrible economy in which disabled people can't find jobs. The study, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, found that the biggest jumps in the disabled population came from aging Baby Boomers. From 1996 through 2009 -- 'the approximate period during which the baby-boom generation entered their 50s -- the share of disabled worker benefits awarded to older workers (age 45 and older) rose from 67 percent to 76 percent,' the report said. Meanwhile, the share of benefits going to younger workers -- between the ages of 25 to 44 -- fell from 31 percent to 22 percent. 'Baby boomers' aging would have boosted enrollment in the DI program even if no other factors had changed,' the report said." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Wayne Olson of Wausau, Wisc. wanted to know whether his congressman, Republican Sean Duffy, supports raising the minimum wage. Olson is a 73-year-old volunteer for Wisconsin Jobs Now, a local coalition of labor groups, and CREDO SuperPac, a group running campaigns against Tea Party Republicans nationwide. As Duffy walked to his car following a meeting with the Wausau Daily Herald's editorial board on Monday, Olson started hollering, "Mr. Duffy, when are you going to hold your next town hall meeting?" Duffy said, "We said we're going to do one every year, and we've done that. So if you want to come set up an appointment in my office, we'd be happy to have you come on by." Duffy then got in the car and drove off as Olson asked if Duffy supports raising the minimum wage. Olson didn't get an answer, but he figures Duffy doesn't. "He doesn't support anything that has to do with the common person," Olson told DDD. "He supports big businesses with tax breaks." [YouTube]

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ROMNEY SURROGATE GOES BERZERK - Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, who in a past life was undoubtedly a belligerent New England bartender, went a wee bit overboard during a conference call with reporters today. The most striking moment was undoubtedly when Sununu wished that President Obama "would learn how to be an American," implying that there's a Learning Annex class somewhere that the president can attend where he'd be taught how to use cup holders, be disappointed when movie theaters don't have stadium-style seating and cultivate an intense fear of foreigners. Although Sununu quickly clarified that he was referring to the president's understanding of American business, he didn't let up. "He has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn't be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia," he said. "And, frankly, when he came to the U.S. he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago." [HuffPost]

@emilyprollcall: oops @SenJohnMcCain just had to silence his phone ring on Senate floor - peeps should always ck CSPAN b4 calling a Senator I think

GOP TARGETING BLACK LUNG REGULATIONS - Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee are doing everything they can to get big government out of your lungs -- freeing up space for toxic particles. iWatch News: "House Republicans inserted language in a budget bill unveiled Tuesday that would kill a proposed rule to protect coal miners from dust that causes black lung... The Center-NPR investigation found that, after decades of decline, black lung is making a comeback, increasingly afflicting younger miners with a more severe, faster-progressing form of the disease. The system for monitoring miners' exposure to dust is riddled with loopholes, and regulators have sometimes failed to enforce even these rules. Mining companies have taken advantage of a self-policing system to manipulate dust sampling results for decades." [iWatch]

Hillary Clinton has broken a State Department record by traveling for 351 days during her tenure as secretary of state. After she steps down, she would be well advised to spend a few weeks in a Days Inn somewhere in Ohio... just to recalibrate herself mentally. AP: "Since becoming secretary of state in 2009, Clinton has logged 351 days on the road, traveled to 102 countries and flown a whopping 843,839 miles, according to the State Department. While some previous secretaries may have flown more miles -- mainly due to shuttling back and forth to the Mideast on peace missions -- none has visited more nations. Clinton broke that record last month, eclipsing Madeleine Albright's total of 98, when she traveled to Finland for number 99 and then hit the 100 mark in Latvia." [AP]

@smkeyes: Rep. Steve King says he carried an acorn for the past 3 years to remind him of what ACORN "tried to do to the Constitution"

George W. Bush reflects on his time in the White House: "Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful..." [Politico]

OBAMA GETTING EXTEMPORANEOUS - The Hill reports that President Obama has begun to deliver speeches without a teleprompter, the device that has drawn ridicule from conservatives, who insist it undercuts the president's supposed charisma. The report indicates that the commander-in-chief is instead reading from notes, although we still think Jon Favreau is squatting under the podium, loudly whispering the lines to the president (Now say you love them too!). The Hill: "But [a] senior official said the lack of teleprompters has 'less to do with image and more to do with upping the tempo' at campaign events, while creating more unscripted moments. Not using a teleprompter lets Obama be more spontaneous on the stump. Since making the shift, the president at times has ad-libbed remarks while playing off his supporters' reactions, something that had been difficult with a teleprompter." [The Hill]

The president is so dead-set on undermining traditional marriage that he won't even kiss his wife for the benefit of 20,000 amped-up sports fans -- one of the cornerstones of a traditional union. Patrick Svitek: "A pool report confirmed that the presidential spectator 'smiled,' but 'didn't kiss' Michelle Obama when the couple were caught on the arena's giant Kiss Cam screens. The crowd booed in response... The president received a second chance on the Kiss Cam in the fourth quarter. This time, he and the first lady did smooch." This is also what brought down Herbert Hoover. [HuffPost]

RACIST HOEKSTRA AD BACK ON THE AIR - That campaign spot for Republican Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra that ran during the Superbowl is back on the air, Mike McAuliff reports. The ad, which featured an Asian woman in a rice paddy thanking Debbie Stabenow in broken English for borrowing money from China, hasn't been aired since. Mike McAuliff: "[O]n Tuesday, the spot somehow made its way onto a CBS station in Flint, Mich. Although Hoekstra defended his advertisement at the time, the campaign's removal of it suggests the backlash was fierce. Hoekstra's fundraising slowed after the ad aired and he tanked in the polls. A campaign spokesman could not be reached immediately to comment." [HuffPost]

Anthony Weiner denied that he's mulling a mayoral run in 2013, but did so in such a crowd-pleasing way that we have a hard time believing him. WSJ:"In recent days, there have been reports speculating Mr. Weiner is seriously exploring the possibility of seeking office in 2013. Asked to comment, Mr. Weiner wrote in an email, 'It's a clown story, bro.'" [WSJ]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Becoming Fearless: Kitten with Doberman edition.

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and their daughter Willow testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today about human trafficking. Not surprisingly, the hearing drew a lot more attendees than that one about the Law of the Sea Convention. Examiner: "At one point during testimony, committee chair John Kerry got a little cross with the media attention drawn by the Smith family. 'Can I ask the cameras to kind of minimize the clicking if possible?' he asked the photographers who packed the hearing. 'I know you have to take some pictures, but you must have more than a million pictures of Will Smith from the last half hour.'" [Examiner]

COMFORT FOOD
By @bradjshannon!

- Want an anonymous political argument over the phone? PoliticalScreamingMatch.com is for you! This week's topic: Romney/Bain! [http://bit.ly/NCBjp0]

- Star Wars "Call Me Maybe" makes us wish we lived in a galaxy far, far away. [http://bit.ly/NCBb93]

- "How To Light A Fire With Your Pee." Yeah. [http://bit.ly/NCAzjP]

- Bet you can't guess the country of origin of this ridiculous computer animation of a cat transforming into things. [http://bit.ly/NCBLDE]

- Burger King employee takes pic while standing in lettuce. Internet tracks down GPS coordinates. eJustice. [http://n.pr/NCC1ma]

- There was a bellyflop competition. Everyone lost. [http://huff.to/NCCTau]

TWITTERAMA

@steelekelly: BREAKING: Romney camp now saying Sununu retroactively resigned as a campaign surrogate at 9am eastern.

@delrayser: At the American Institute for Real Americans, Romney got straight A's in both Being American and Forcible Haircutting.

@indecision: What an honor for Newt Gingrich to meet someone slightly more famous than him.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: Bill Pascrell hosts what might be the least-appetizing fundraiser around, his "Taste of Paterson" reception. [203 C Street SE]

6:00 pm: NRSC Chairman John Cornyn is from Texas so naturally the NRSC is holding a fundraiser at the beef BBQ-centric Hill Country. The brisket is phenomenal. [Hill Country BBQ, 410 7th Street NW]

6:30 pm: Ka-ching: John Thune leverages some of that renewed VP buzz into campaign cash at a fundraiser for his Heartland Values PAC. Representatives for AT&T and Dow Chemical will be there... expressing their heartland values and what not. [330 Maryland Avenue NE]

7:00 pm: Pete Stark might not be the most well-liked guy in Congress, but a not insignificant number of his colleagues will convene to sing the praises of the unapologetically atheist lawmaker. [WAshington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave NW]

8:00 pm: A local revival of the wildly popular "The Agony of Steve Jobs" debuts at the Woolly Mammoth. Topical, yes? [Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D Street NW]

TOMORROW

3:30 pm: First Lady Michelle Obama attends a Birmingham fundraiser for her husband's reelection. Birmingham, though commonly known as "The Magic City," is also known by some as "The Pittsburgh of the South" -- that one isn't as appealing. [Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, Birmingham]

6:00 pm: David Vitter attends a fundraiser benefiting his Can't Believe I'm Still Here But Let's Just Let This Thing Ride PAC reelection campaign. John Cornyn will also be there, enjoying the ride. [NRSC HQ, 425 2nd Street NE]

7:00 pm: Roger Wicker -- you know, the white guy with the white hair from that southern state -- is the guest of honor at a fundraising dinner benefiting his reelection campaign. [Ruth Chris Steak House, 724 9th Street NW]

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