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OPINION

Urbane Orders?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

What's all this about President Obama wanting to decide where Americans will live?

Such a scenario sounds far-fetched, but Ronald D. Utt, a senior research fellow for economic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, draws attention to Mr. Obama's early opposition to "suburban sprawl," adding his intention to "alter the way Americans live" took a step closer to reality by his creation of an interdepartmental initiative on housing and transportation.

"While some may hope this effort is nothing more than the president's attempt to use the White House as a bully pulpit to encourage Americans to mimic the urbane lifestyle he experienced in an upscale Chicago neighborhood, the record of past such efforts by the federal government is more troubling," Mr. Utt writes in a background paper.

He recalls 1998, when President Clinton's Environmental Protection Agency threatened to withhold transportation funds from Georgia because the Atlanta region did not meet federal air-quality standards. The EPA said it would restore funding once Georgia discouraged single-family detached housing and encouraged public transit use and investment.

Carol Browner headed the EPA when the threat was imposed on Atlanta. Today, she is assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

FEE, FIE, FIDDLE-I-O

Speaking of commuters, we had to laugh at Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Thursday as he and President Obama discussed a vision for high-speed rail in America.

"I'm not sure it's good or bad," Mr. Biden said, "but my father referred to my many commutes - it exceeded over 7,900, they tell me. He said one day before he died, he said, 'You know ... that is the definition of a misspent adulthood, sitting on a train.' "

Mr. Biden commuted to Washington by train from his home in Wilmington, Del., during his entire Senate career.

FEAR THE RIGHT?

A group of conservative women is up in arms after the Department of Homeland Security released a controversial 10-page report warning against "right-wing extremism," despite a disclaimer: "The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis has no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right-wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emerging issues."

Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's organization, points out the report also expresses concern about right-wing extremists' reaction to the election of President Obama.

"What unconscionable guilt by association," she said. "It is the worst sort of extremism for a government agency to stir up fear against those groups who hold biblical views on social issues" - identified by the department as "abortion, inter-racial crimes and same-sex marriage."

Ms. Crouse told Inside the Beltway that the DHS report is "an unbelievable bit of arrogance and incomprehensible ignorance of mainstream American values and people."

QUARTER-TON GIPPER

The U.S. Capitol Rotunda statue of former President Ronald Reagan will be unveiled June 3 and the entire congressional leadership says it will join former first lady Nancy Reagan for the unveiling.

On the Democratic side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as Republican leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John A. Boehner, have all confirmed their attendance.

The statue will become part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, composed of statues donated by the 50 states to honor notable persons in each state's history. The nonprofit Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation led efforts to donate a statue after California state legislators in 2006 unanimously approved a resolution to send a statue of the "Gipper" to the U.S. Capitol.

Artist Chas Fagan of North Carolina sculpted the bronze likeness, which measures 7 feet high and weighs 500 pounds.

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