Capital Briefs: April 28-May 2

ADMINISTRATION WON’T TOUCH CARTER: For all the furor over the recent meetings Jimmy Carter had with Hamas and his attempts to engage the Islamic militants, no one in the Bush Administration appears willing to take any action against the former President. At the White House last week, HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi asked whether there was any discussion of prosecuting Carter under the Logan Act, which was enacted in 1799 and punishes by fine or imprisonment any citizen of the United States “who without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” Press Secretary Dana Perino replied that “I have not heard anything about that” and suggested Gizzi “call the State Department.” Gizzi’s question was followed up by CBS-Radio’s Mark Knoller, who asked the White House reaction to Carter’s claim that “no one told him not to talk to Hamas.” Perino again replied, “Talk to the State Department.” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told Gizzi that “We are not contemplating any such action” and “any action under the purview of a criminal statute belongs to the Department of Justice.” So what did the Justice Department tell Gizzi? A spokeswoman e-mailed him to say she “has been instructed to refer you to the Department of State, for they would be the proper ones to deal with your earlier question regarding a possible investigation of President Carter.”

POST-PENNSY POLLS: In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s triumph in Pennsylvania, a new poll shows her in much weaker shape against Barack Obama in the next key primary state. According to a just-completed SurveyUSA poll of likely North Carolina primary voters, Obama leads Clinton by 50% to 41% statewide. In five previous polls conducted in North Carolina since January, Obama has always led by margins of 5 to 14%

NO FARM BILL IN SIGHT: As House and Senate conferees met last week on the farm bill, the White House made it clear it was not going to go along with another extension of the 2002 farm measure. The Senate has outlined about $10 billion in new spending above the ten-year baseline (currently $560 billion)and the House about $9.5 billion, and each bill calls for a different set of offsets to pay for the extra spending. The President has made it clear he is not going in this direction and hints at a veto, saying:  “Now is not the time for Congress to ask other sectors of the economy to pay higher taxes in order to increase the size of government.” Along with the estimated $10 billion in new spending in the farm bill, there are disagreements between the House and Senate over tax credits for land conservation, alternative energy, and timber.

PROPHET MARLIN: “Hillary will go over the top and have to thank blue-collar Roman Catholics for it,” political scientist and author George Marlin told HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi in Philadelphia the day before the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. “She will have a big night Tuesday, thanks to ‘Reagan Democrats.’” Marlin’s analysis, carried on the day of the primary, was in sharp contrast to that of many Keystone State pundits and pols who were forecasting a narrow Clinton win that would lead to her exit from the race. But the author of The Catholic Voter in the Twenty-First Century, proved a prophet: Clinton won among white voters with incomes under $50,000 by 32 percentage points statewide and Roman Catholics by 38 percentage points. Families with incomes under $50,000 make up 41% of Pennsylvania Democratic voters and Catholics comprise 37% of the Democratic electorate in the state.

BUT MCCAIN COULD PROFIT: Marlin, however, also told HUMAN EVENTS that Democrats should not consider this a long-term gain and that in November the same “Reagan Democrats” could easily cross over to John McCain. Many conservatives feel that this might be incentive for McCain to address cultural issues such as the pro-life cause that he has so far said relatively little about. (Terry Jeffrey discusses this on page 5.) Marlin cited statistics from the 2004 election, in which Democratic nominee John Kerry—himself a Catholic—carried historically Republican, upscale counties such as Bucks (51.5%), Delaware (57.2%), and Montgomery (55.5%) over George W. Bush, a Protestant. However, Bush carried historically blue-collar Democratic counties such as Schuylkill (54.6%), Lehigh (48.5%), Northampton (49.0%), and Westmoreland (55.9%). Writing in his study of the Catholic voter, Marlin concluded that this was "proof that cultural issues took precedence over monetary ones" and that Bush "carried (or nearly carried) the overwhelmingly Democratic, economically depressed coal and steel regions while he actually lost the wealthy Republican ‘Main Line’ counties to John Kerry.”

OBAMA’S HARMFUL TIES: The Pennsylvania primary shows that Barack Obama’s associations with controversial figures, now highlighted by the mainstream media, are hurting him politically. Many voters in Pennsylvania, as Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi discovered last week in Philadelphia, repeatedly brought up the senator’s close ties with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the fire-and-brimstone pastor who has long been an Obama friend and advisor.

When ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos noted Obama’s connection with Weather Underground bomber William Ayers, Hillary pounced, pointing out Obama’s relationship “continued after 9/11” and after Ayers had said he didn’t “regret setting bombs” and wished he had done more. ( See pages 6 and 16.)

Insiders believe Obama will soon be confronted with other “harmful ties.”

MCCAIN JUMPS IN: Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) has also begun to pick up on Obama’s ties to Ayers, despite the Arizonan’s penchant for avoiding personal attacks. His political gurus apparently think this is a good line of assault.

On ABC’s “This Week,” McCain noted that the Illinois senator “became friends with him [Ayers] and spent time with him while the guy was unrepentant over his activities as a member of the terrorist organization, the Weathermen.”

McCain was also riled that Obama compared Ayers, the unrepentant bomber, with his senatorial ally in the fight against wasteful spending, Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.), a pro-life doctor, who, McCain stressed, is “one of the greatest spokespersons for the rights of the unborn in America.”