Capital Briefs: July 16-20

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER FOR MCCAIN: The dismal reports on fund-raising for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign followed by the sudden exit last week of his two top campaign officials, led to widespread speculation that the end may be near for the senator’s ‘08 bid for the Republican nomination for President. Having raised $44 million so far and spent $42 million, the McCain campaign had, as numerous bloggers told the world, less cash on hand than fellow GOP presidential hopeful Texas Rep. Ron Paul (who reported $2.4 million). Then came a terse announcement from McCain headquarters of the resignations of campaign manager Terry Nelson and strategist and media maestro John Weaver—the candidate ‘s closest adviser, whose departure was considered the equivalent of Karl Rove’s leaving George W. Bush or James Carville’s leaving Bill Clinton. Days later, the leaders of McCain’s campaign in the Iowa caucuses said they, too, were bailing. “As much as I like Sen. McCain, it’s not a team I’m willing to stay involved with any longer,” said Ed Failor, Jr., who was joined by fellow Iowa McCain leader Karen Slifka in resigning. So is McCain finished? Close friends of the Arizonan say no, that the campaign will rise again with the enhanced influence of veteran Republican consultant Charlie Black and of newly minted campaign manger Rick Davis, a well-known and well-respected political consultant, who is a veteran of the Nixon and Reagan presidential campaigns. There was some speculation last week that the cash-strapped McCain campaign would now “pull a Kerry” and follow the example of the ‘04 Democratic hopeful by turning to his wife’s wealth for campaign dollars. But this now seems out of the question, because, as several published reports pointed out, Cindy McCain’s estimated $53-million fortune is all in her name rather than her husband’s, and unless she gives him some money and pays the steep gift tax, she is restricted to the same $2,600 contribution limit as anyone else.

DEMOCRATS’ GAY ISSUES DEBATE: In Los Angeles August 9 at 9:00 p.m. (EDT ), the gay television network LOGO will air the first-ever presidential debate devoted entirely to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues. Confirmed, so far, as participants are these Democratic candidates: Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.), and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.). They will answer questions in front of a live audience from singer Melissa Etheridge and Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which is also sponsoring the debate, on such issues as relationship recognition, “Don’t ask Don’t Tell,” HIV and AIDS, and workplace fairness. The one-hour debate can also be viewed live at 

BLUNT ASSESSEMENT: A USA Today/Gallup poll last week reported the lowest approval rating for President Bush to date: 29%. In November 2006, the Republican Party received a thorough pounding, and most GOP members of Congress now fear next November could be worse.

To prevent this outcome, Republican Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), in a major speech last week, encouraged Republicans to start a revolution based on strong ideas. Explaining why Republicans lost the House and Senate, he said, “The need to govern became more important than the results of our work.” Blunt said the four bedrock issues the GOP should emphasize over the next year are: national defense (the “first and primary duty of the federal government”), controlling government spending, reducing reliance on foreign energy, and responsibly reforming our healthcare system based, unlike the Democrats, on free-market principles.

ANOTHER ENTITLEMENT: With Baby Boomers now beginning to retire, the already huge spending on the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlement programs is certain to balloon even more, but the liberals in charge in Washington remain unconcerned. Last Wednesday, by a vote of 273 to 149 (see Human Events rollcall next week), the Democrat-controlled House passed the misnamed College Cost Reduction Act, a new entitlement certain quickly to grow larger. In an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) said that the bill “won’t reduce college costs, but it will add billions more to the federal deficit by creating nine new costly entitlement programs.” “Furthermore,” said Boehner, “most of the so-called ‘student aid’ in the Democrats’ bill wouldn’t help a single college student—instead, it forces working families to subsidize individuals who have already graduated with a college degree.”

HOUSE ENERGY HORROR: Following the abysmal energy-rationing bill recently passed by the Senate, the House is expected to vote on energy legislation the week of July 23. As with the Senate, the House bill has no provisions to increase domestic energy supplies.
Instead, it carves out huge subsidies for wind and solar power and renewable fuels such as ethanol, which will enrich Al Gore and Midwestern farmers but do nothing to solve America’s growing energy problems. The House’s tax provisions are even more outrageous: Democrats reported a bill that would increase taxes on oil and gas production, which will decrease supplies and raise prices at the pump.  To make matters worse, observers expect that an amendment by Rep. Diana Degette (D.-Colo.) to mandate that 20% of electricity production come from renewable sources by 2020 will pass, as will another by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), to radically increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) for automobiles, forcing production of lighter, more dangerous cars that are more expensive for consumers. Auto industry sources say they are working with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D.-Mich.) and labor unions to defeat Markey’s amendment but probably will not succeed.

AUGUST 8 A ‘GO’ FOR THOMPSON? Two intimates of television actor and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson insisted to Human Events last week that after twice postponing the date he was expected to declare for the Republican presidential nomination, Thompson will make it official in an address in Nashville, Tenn., August 8. In the meantime, the 64-year-old Thompson continues to sign on heavyweight talent for his anticipated campaign. Nelson Warfield, spokesman for Bob Dole in his 1996 presidential effort, is to handle media and advertising for Thompson, veteran pollster John McLaughlin will do the campaign surveys and much-respected California conservative operative Ken Khachigian will be a key Thompson strategist. A just-completed CBS News survey of likely Republican voters shows that the unannounced candidacy of Thompson is now in second place with 22%, following Rudy Giuliani at 34%. In the CBS poll, Thompson placed slightly ahead of McCain (21%) and far ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (6%), both of whom have been active candidates for months.