Capital Briefs May 4, 2009

NO HEARINGS ON INTERROGATION: That’s what, by a margin of nearly 2 to 1, American voters were saying last week. Even after all the recent negative publicity in the media about Bush Administration actions, a just-completed CBS News/New York Times poll shows most American voters nationwide — 62% — do not want hearings into harsh treatment of detainees in the war on terror during the Bush years. Only 34% favor such hearings. Opposition to them leads in all categories of voters, with 89% of Republicans, 51% of Democrats, and 60% of independents opposed to holding congressional investigations into how detainees were interrogated.

DEMS EKE OUT WIN IN NY-20: Democrats finally managed to retain the seat of former Rep.-turned Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-N.Y.) — barely. Although some absentee ballots remained to be counted in New York’s 20th District, the nearly 400-vote lead of Obama Democrat Scott Murphy was enough to convince State Assembly Republican Leader Jim Tedisco to concede the race last week. Many Empire State observers told HUMAN EVENTS that, while Murphy had led in several polls a week before the balloting, Tedisco made it a photo finish after many of his supporters independent of the campaign began to hit hard on conservative themes such as abortion and taxes. Pro-life backers canvassed Roman Catholic churches and neighborhoods with leaflets underscoring Tedisco’s anti-abortion stand and Murphy’s agreement with Obama’s weak line on life. In addition, there were robocalls to voters from singer Pat Boone, spokesman for the 60 Plus Association, the leading organizational voice for permanent repeal of the Death Tax.

: To the surprise of Congress-watchers on both sides, the House Financial Services Committee last week passed an amendment by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) to prevent organizations that have been indicted for voter fraud from receiving any housing-counseling or legal-assistance grants under the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. If it sounds as though the bill could affect government funding of ACORN, that’s one of the goals its author had in mind. “Before we commit any more taxpayers’ dollars,” Bachmann told reporters after the committee vote, “I want to ensure that organizations such as ACORN are prohibited from receiving funds while simultaneously facing charges of voter fraud and tax violation.” The most surprising aspect of Bachmann’s success was that her amendment cleared the panel chaired by Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) unanimously.

ROHRABACHER VS. CLINTON OVER CHENEY: A verbal brawl between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R.-Calif.) took place last week during her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. When asked by Rohrabacher if she agreed with Dick Cheney’s call for declassifying more interrogation memos, Clinton fired back: “It won’t surprise you that I don’t consider him to be a particularly reliable source of information.” Rohrabacher countered by telling Clinton: “Madam Secretary, I asked you a specific question, [not] what your opinion of Dick Cheney is, and if you want to maintain your credibility with us, what is your opinion on the release of those documents?” Clinton said only that she felt “we should get to the bottom of this entire matter” which would, of course, mean releasing more of the memos, including those describing the success of the interrogations. Rohrabacher later called Clinton’s remarks about Cheney “unconscionable” and said “she stretched her own credibility to the limits by suggesting that information about interrogations was not made available to her during her tenure as a sitting senator on the Armed Services Committee. That was a huge issue at the time.”

MORE POWER FOR IMF AND DSK: With the G-20 nations calling on the International Monetary Fund to increase its lending resources to $1 trillion, IMF leaders took the opportunity to flex IMF’s muscles last week. At its regular meeting with the World Bank in Washington, the IMF announced it was moving away from strict terms for lending money to countries and making it easier for financially strapped countries to secure loans. The easier terms for lending were announced by the IMF’s policy-making committee, which is made up of financial ministers and central bankers from many nations and chaired by Egypt’s Youssef Boutros-Ghali (nephew of onetime UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali). In addition, the IMF will undertake a review of the U.S. financial system for the first time since the Fund was created after World War II. All this was music to the ears of IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has long sought a greater role for the Fund in the world economic crisis. “We’re really in new times,” the former French finance minister known as “DSK” told reporters, “I like this.”