Capital Briefs August 21-28 2008

OBAMA’S THOMAS ATTACK: In responding to Barack Obama’s vicious attack on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during the much-watched interview with the Presidential candidates at the Saddleback Church last week, the Wall Street Journal, after listing all of Thomas’s experience by the time he was nominated to the High Court (See “Obama Watch, “Page 12) also pointed out that “as he bids to be America’s commander in chief, Mr. Obama isn’t yet four years out of the Illinois state senate, has never held a hearing of note at his U.S. Senate subcommittee, and had an unremarkable record as both a ‘community organizer’ and law school lecturer. Justice Thomas’ judicial credentials compare favorably to Mr. Obama’s presidential résumé by any measure.”

IS MCCAIN STILL “LIFE OF THE PARTY?”: With days to go before the opening of the Republican National Convention and John McCain’s scheduled announcement of a running mate, pro-lifers have been growing a bit edgy. The announcement that Rudy Giuliani will deliver the convention keynote address did not hearten abortion opponents, since the former New York mayor was alone among GOP presidential hopefuls this year in not embracing the pro-life cause, even though Conservatives doubt Giuliani will mention the issue in his remarks. In addition, McCain repeatedly refuses to specifically rule out a running mate who is not pro-life despite his own insistence that “I will be a pro-life President and my administration will have pro-life policies.” Some McCain backers were particularly upset by reports of a conference call with the McCain high command last week in which campaign operatives throughout the country were asked if they would have a problem with McCain’s choosing a running mate who was not pro-life, such as Independent-Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) or former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

PILGRIMAGE NORTH CONTINUES:  Just over a month after House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) led a group of ten GOP lawmakers to Alaska, Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) last week led another group of House GOP members on a visit to Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Described as an “educational tour,” the Shadegg trek focused on “the energy resources available, the environmental surroundings in the region, and local perspectives on increased production and development,” according to the congressman.  

Joining Shadegg were Republican Representatives Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), and Ric Keller (Fla.).  Many Washington conservatives wonder if President Bush will before long will make a trip North to put pressure on Congress to permit oil production in ANWR.
PELOSI’S POISON: According to Democratic leadership sources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is insisting on adding numerous poison pills to energy legislation she is drafting. Designed to immunize fellow Democrats from the public’s outrage over high gasoline prices, and a constant barrage of criticism from House Republicans, many of whom who have gathered on the House floor over the recess to decry Pelosi’s refusal to allow a vote on expanding offshore drilling, the bill would include, among other things, a “renewable portfolio standard. This anti-coal provision would require utilities to produce 15% of their power from wind, solar, and other renewable sources by 2020, a goal that is not only unachievable but extremely costly for consumers — and something most Republicans have long opposed.

According to Hill sources, Pelosi, despite opposition from several oil-patch Democrats, also wants to eliminate various tax incentives for oil companies as the price for expanding offshore drilling — a cost that would make gasoline more expensive. “Republicans want a vote, so we’re giving it to them,” said a Democratic leadership source.  “It’s going to be hard for them to say ‘no’, and they’re going to have to swallow some things they don’t like.” Encouraged by the public support for their energy position they encountered back in their districts over the recess, most Republican members are expected to be able to resist Pelosi’s sugar-coated poison.

: In crafting their national platform language on abortion this year, Democrats had help from such Christian leaders as the Rev. Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, author of Red Letter Christians. But while it proclaims support of “a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access and availability of” programs ranging from pre- and post- natal health care to “caring adoption programs,” the platform also makes clear that the party “strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion.” This is a significant change from the party’s past calls for abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare,” the so-called “Bill Clinton language” that has been in the platform’s abortion planks since 1992. David O’Steen of the National Right to Life Committee proclaimed that “this platform is worse” and voiced doubts that “pro-life voters will be fooled.”