Capital Briefs: May 12-16

GOP DOWN: The number of voters who consider themselves Republicans is now at its lowest point in three years, according to a just-completed nationwide Rasmussen Poll. The survey finds that 41.4% of American voters consider themselves Democrats, compared to 31.4% who consider themselves Republicans. The remaining 27.2% call themselves independent. This is the third straight month Democratic identification among voters has topped 41%, according to Rasmussen, which concluded that this is the “largest partisan advantage over the Republicans since Rasmussen Reports began tracking this data three years ago.”

‘CLINTON NEWS NETWORK’ DOES BUSH ALUMNI: In the 1990s, conservatives dubbed CNN the “Clinton News Network” because of its overly generous coverage of you-know-who and what appeared to be an abundance of talking heads who were liberal Democrats. But in recent weeks, CNN has shown some signs of more balanced broadcasting. Last week, the network signed on Fran Townsend, longtime homeland security advisor to President Bush, as a commentator. The hiring of Townsend came on the heels of CNN’s signing another well-known Bush White House figure as a guest commentator: former Press Secretary Tony Snow.

EX-FEDMAN FAULTS BEAR-STEARNS BAILOUT: In surprisingly strong language, a former top advisor to the last two chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board recently called the Fed’s $13 billion rescue of the Bear Stearns securities firm the “worst policy decision in a generation.” Speaking at a recent American Enterprise Institute forum, Vincent Reinhart, director of Monetary Affairs at the Fed under Chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, said that the change in laws and decision to lend money to Bear Stearns after it said it might declare bankruptcy was a “panicked” decision and “jumped over other possibilities.” Reinhart also warned that the unprecedented decision to save Bear Stearns “eliminated forever the possibility that the Federal Reserve could serve as an ‘honest broker’ and tilted the political playing field toward direct mortgage relief” by making possible Bear Stearns’ takeover by JPMorgan Chase. 

HILLARY RESEMBLES OBAMA: New Left revolutionary hero, Tom Hayden, is angry at Hillary for condemning Obama for his current associations with past far-left revolutionaries, objecting particularly to the missile she hurled at Unrepentant Weatherman Bomber Bill Ayers, a friendly Obama neighbor who eagerly backed the Illinois senator. She had plenty of such associations, too, Hayden informs
Consider that “after Yale law school, Hillary went to work for the left-wing Bay Area law firm of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, which specialized in Black Panthers and West Coast labor leaders prosecuted for being Communists. Two of the firm’s partners, according to Treuhaft, were Communists and the two others tolerated Communists.”
The Hillary of today, Hayden says, would be accusing “the Hillary of the 60s of associating with black revolutionaries who fought gun battles with police officers and defended pro-Communist lawyers.” The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, “whom Hillary attacks,” represents “the very essence of the black radicals” Hillary used to defend.

WHAT’S UP AT FEC? With the Federal Election Commission unable to make any rulings because of lack of a quorum, the White House last week sent up three fresh nominations: Caroline Hunter, former Associate counsel for the Republican National Committee, was named to the Republican slot that Michael Toner resigned from and Don McGann, a past attorney for the National Republican Congressional Committee and for former Rep. Tom deLay (R.-Tex.), was named to the slot of Republican FEC member David Mason, who reportedly had angered Republicans by occasionally siding with Democrats on the commission. For the slot of Democrat Bob Lenhard (who took himself out of consideration for reappointment), the President named Cynthia Bauerly, an aide to Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.). Pending in the Senate for more than a year are the nominations of Republican Hans von Spakovsky and Democrat Steve Walther.

COUNTDOWN ON FARM BILL: As congressional leaders were in conference on the farm bill (H.R. 2419) last week, the White House was still threatening a veto. The main stumbling block was the ceiling on subsidies for farmers: The administration wants no subsidies for farmers making more than $200,000 a year. But the late news from Capitol Hill was that conferees were adamant about a much higher income. “The final version [out of conference] will probably limit subsidies to farmers with annual incomes of less than $500,000,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R.-Ga.) told HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi last week, adding that about “74% of the [likely compromise package] will be devoted to funding for nutrition programs and food stamps.”

WHITE HOUSE BLASTS BARNEY’S BAILOUT: This is the kind of fighting spirit conservatives wished the Bush Administration had demonstrated seven years ago. Denouncing it as a “bailout”, the White House last week blasted the homeowners relief legislation crafted by liberal House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D.-Mass.). Frank’s bill, which he says will help 1.5 million homeowners hurt by the subprime loan crisis, will authorize the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee up to $300 billion in new mortgages offered by government-approved lenders. Only homeowners who have a mortgage-debt-to-income ratio of 35% or higher and who entered into a mortgage before January would qualify for the program. The administration counters that there are “simpler and more-targeted ways” to help homeowners behind in mortgage payments and noted that the FHASecure program will help a half-million homeowners who are behind in their mortgage payments. House GOP conservatives, who have grown increasingly distant from the Bush White House, weighed in with the administration on this one. In the Frank bill, “You’re telling the guy who did it right that he has to help pay for the guy who did it wrong,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (R.-Tex.), chairman of the conservative House GOP Study Committee. “When people are struggling to pay for their mortgages, they shouldn’t be forced to pay for their neighbors’ mortgage.” Hensarling went on to say that “about 95% of America is either renting a home, own their home outright, or they’re current on their mortgage” and they’d be called on to “help bail out 5% of America who probably wasn’t doing it right.”