PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES - Pivotal Facts Missed
By Alan Nathan
Published October 17, 2008

In all three presidential debates, some pivotal facts have been grotesquely obscured. The very law that Democrats cite as the reason for our current financial mess, and the one for which they blame Sen. John McCain, is a law that he opposed and they supported [-] along with the majority of both Republicans and Democrats that included Sen. Barack Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. Here's a quick recap in case you missed it:

They're condemning Mr. McCain for a bill they backed and he rejected. Did I happen to mention that they're holding Mr. McCain responsible for a law he fought, they defended, and President Clinton signed? If I seem overly insistent about making this abundantly clear, it's because we're currently burdened with a press so cataclysmically obtuse, intellectually barren and academically impoverished, that even well-documented facts are either underreported or completely ignored should they run contrary to the fortunes of Mr. Obama.

The law in question is the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This repealed the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act because the 106th Congress believed that the old law's separation of commercial and investment banking had become obsolete. The House vote was 362-57 and the Senate was 90-8. While Mr. McCain voted for it on the first sweep, he was one of the eight opposing it when it came out of the House-Senate Conference Committee. Paradoxically, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused the GOP candidate for what 80 percent of the House and 90 percent of the Senate actually championed, ahem … including Mr. Reid.

These facts, however, didn't stop Sam Donaldson of ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" from falsifying history on Sept. 21 when commenting on the 1999 law. He said that Mr. McCain has "the heaviest burden here, since he voted for all the deregulation, [and] for him to now say he would be the toughest re-regulator is kind of a hard thing to swallow." Adopting Mr. Donaldson's ignorance through their own silence were fellow panelists George Will of The Washington Post, Cokie Roberts of National Public Radio and Donna Brazile of Roll Call Magazine.

In 2005, then Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan foretold of the mess that would be confronting us today unless we brought more oversight to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Responding at the time was Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, then chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. He, with help from Mr. McCain, sponsored the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act that survived a party-line vote out of committee but was later batted down by Senate Democrats.

This law would have provided the very regulatory oversight about which all on Capitol Hill are now insisting should have happened. It seems monumentally simplistic to blame Mr. McCain for a debacle that could have been stopped had his critics voted with him when it mattered most.

Refusing to acknowledge that his party's coddling of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac blocked desperately needed regulation and oversight, Democrat Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank instead charges that Republicans are racist for pointing it out. How does he make the racist connection? There has been something called the Community Reinvestment Act geared to making it easier for lower-income families to own houses. Given that this was one of the mishandled programs contributing to our current financial maelstrom, its defenders naturally wish to hide behind the race of many of its intended recipients - thus escaping accountability for harming those same recipients.

People of color should find it insulting that an elected official like Mr. Frank would use their skin as a shield for his guilt.

This mindset is apparent whenever Mr. Obama is criticized for his relationship with the scandal-soaked former Fannie Mae chief executive Franklin Raines. On July 16, The Washington Post reported that he had "taken calls from Mr. Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters." The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight charged Mr. Raines for his part in manipulating the record of Fannie Mae's earnings for over six years. These violations helped to trigger a multibillion dollar accounting fiasco that rocked Wall Street in December 2004. In April of this year, Mr. Raines was required to pay $ 24.7 million for his participation. When Casey Hendrickson of KXNT Radio in Las Vegas questioned Mr. Harry Reid about this on Oct. 9, Mr. Reid said that, "The only connection that people could bring up about Raines and Barack Obama is that they both are African-American, other than that there is nothing." Question: How long has the senator been on this pharmacological excursion?

Messrs. Frank, Reid and Obama must learn that if it's wrong to assume guilt based on race, then it's equally wrong to shield guilt based on race. The only ones not recognizing this are racists themselves.

 

 



Alan Nathan, combative centrist, columnist, speaker and the nationally syndicated host of "Battle Line With Alan Nathan" on the Radio America Network.

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