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Capital Briefs August 28-Sept.4, 2008

BIDEN’S GRADES: Asked in Claremont, N. H., on April 3, 1987, about his law school grades, presidential candidate Joe Biden barked: “I think I have a much higher IQ than you do,” said he had “ended up in the top half” of his law class and insisted he had received three college degrees. Biden, in fact, graduated 76th out of a class of 85 and received just one college degree. Whether his IQ was greater than the questioner’s was never resolved.

Under pressure, Biden released his Syracuse University College of Law records and his undergraduate grades at the University of Delaware. A faculty report said a Biden paper “had used five pages” of a law review article “without quotation or attribution” and should be failed. In his first three semesters as an undergraduate, his grades, according to the New York Times, “were Cs or Ds, with three exceptions: two As in a physical education course, a B in a course on ‘Great English Writers’ and an F in ROTC. The grades improved somewhat later but were never exceptional,” said the Times.

BIDEN FAMILY VALUES: On the same day that Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination for Vice President in Denver, the Washington Post reported that Barack Obama had helped his running mate’s lobbyist-son Hunter Biden obtain $3.4 million in earmarks — including $192,000 for St. Xavier University in suburban Chicago, an earmark sought by Obama himself. The Post went on to report that since the younger Biden joined the Washington law firm of Oldaker, Biden, and Belair in 2001, he has brought in 21 clients and $3.5 million in business to the firm.

NADER POWER: During the week of the Democratic National Convention, a Time/CNN poll showed that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is running stronger than ever in four battleground states: 8% in New Mexico, 7% in Colorado, 7% in Pennsylvania, and 6% in Nevada. Contrary to the accepted notion that Nader hurts Barack Obama, the survey showed that he could take from John McCain as well. In Nevada, for example, Time/CNN showed that Nader “flattened McCain’s lead into a 41%-to-41% tie.” But, in New Mexico, the poll showed that he drew equally from both Obama and McCain. In Pennsylvania, the survey said he siphoned more votes from McCain, giving Obama a lead of 47% to 38% in the Keystone State.

GOP REBELLION: When Congress returns from its five-week vacation next week, Democrat leaders will confront a rebellious group of House Republicans who refused to go home. More than 100 members spoke on the House floor during August in an unprecedented uprising over the high cost of energy. The pressure prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi to back down from her strident opposition to drilling. It also set the stage for a showdown over the September 30 expiration of the moratorium on offshore exploration. Representatives Jeb Hensarling (R.-Tex.) and John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.) have collected more than 146 signatures from GOP members promising to oppose an extension of the banenough to sustain a presidential veto. In the Senate, Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) has the support of 39 Republicans.

GANG OF 16: Complicating life for the GOP, including presidential nominee John McCain, are eight Senate Republicans who struck a deal with eight Senate Democrats on an energy plan. The package was put together by Senators Saxby Chambliss (R.-Ga.) and Kent Conrad (D.-N.D.). While it allows some offshore drilling, production expansion would be limited. According to The Heritage Foundation, the Gang of 16’s deal raises taxes by more than $80 billion to promote renewable sources of energy. It would also repeal tax breaks for oil companies. “It would be better if nothing was done at all,” Heritage’s Nick Loris says of the plan. In addition to Chambliss, GOP supporters include Norm Coleman (Minn.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), John Sununu (N.H.), John Thune (S.D.) and John Warner (Va.).

MCGOVERN AGREES WITH Human Events: Encountering 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern on the convention floor in Denver last week, HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi told the former South Dakota senator how H.E. had recently praised him for opposing the AFL-CIO’s much-desired “card-check” that would end the secret ballot in union elections. “What publication are you with?” the grand old man of liberalism asked. When Gizzi repeated, “HUMAN EVENTS,” McGovern smiled and said, “I knew we’d agree on something sooner or later!”

QUICK MITT: Appearing in Denver last week as part of the Republican “truth squad,” Mitt Romney showed he could handle rapid response well. Reminded at a press luncheon of John McCain’s failure to remember how many homes he owned, Romney was then asked how many homes he and wife Ann owned. “Four,” replied the former Massachusetts governor without hesitation, “One less than John Kerry.”

SCHAFFER’S GOT ENERGY: As Democrats dominated the news in Colorado last week, there was nonetheless fresh news on the state’s heated Senate race. A just-completed Hill Research Poll showed the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Wayne Allard still a close one, with Democratic Rep. Mark Udall leading Republican Bob Schaffer by 41% to 38% statewide. But, after weeks of a Schaffer media campaign focusing on Udall’s environmentalist ties, the survey showed the GOP hopeful leading 46% to 32% among voters who favor more domestic oil and gas drilling.

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