When Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the floor of the House on Monday to blame Republicans for the financial turmoil and charge them with a laissez-fare attitude toward regulation, it seemed like a calculated effort to shift attention and accountability from what Democrats have done to create the current conditions. Fortunately, we have YouTube so Democrats can run from their records, but they can't hide.
At a 2004 hearing of the Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee, then-Chairman Rep. Richard Baker, Louisiana Republican, predicted the collapse of Fannie Mae if nothing was done. Baker called for more regulation, something Democrats claim Republicans never wanted. In an editorial Tuesday, The New York Times got it wrong when it accused Republicans of engaging in "free markets-above-all ideology." That just isn't true. President Bush was calling for more oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in his first year as president, though he also praised efforts to expand minority home ownership at a time when bad credit risks were straining the system.
Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, said in a Sept. 25, 2003 hearing of the House Committee on Financial Services, "We do not have a crisis at Fannie Mae and in particular Freddie Mac under the outstanding leadership of Frank Raines." It was Raines who took close to $100 million in "compensation" from Fannie Mae during his tenure as its chief executive officer. In the 2004 hearing, Rep. William Lacy Clay, Missouri Democrat, called the investigation that found illegal activity at Fannie Mae a "lynching," an incendiary word, as both Clay and Raines are African American. Watch this eight-minute video and see who wanted to fix the problem and who did not.
There was something fishy about the Democrats' concern that the bailout process would be drawn out. Democrats and the Bush administration wanted to rush a bill through to avert further damage to Wall Street. As Rush Limbaugh noted on his Tuesday radio program, Democratic leaders claimed President Bush "rushed" the United States into war with Iraq, though Bush spent months building his case with Congress and the United Nations, both of which approved military action against Saddam Hussein.
Now, noted Limbaugh, Democratic leaders want to rush through a "rescue" bill to "bailout" those who made wrong decisions and now want to escape accountability. It is a good point. Many noted economists are opposed to the bailout plan, as are significant numbers of the American people, and even a substantial number of House Democrats. Never has "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you," sounded emptier. If there is such urgency in avoiding financial Armageddon, does the Rosh Hashanah holiday necessitate that non-Jewish members stop working toward a reasonable compromise? Would they quit for Christmas if another war broke out?
Before Democrats and some in the left-wing media add this fiasco to their list of indictments against Republicans, they might consider what Bill Clinton said on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Sept. 25. About his party's reluctance to place more restrictions on Fannie and Freddie, Clinton said, "I think the responsibility that the Democrats have may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress, or by me when I was president, to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."
As for the claim by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank that the Republicans are to blame, The Wall Street Journal correctly noted in a Sept. 10 editorial, "(Frank's) record is close to perfect as a stalwart opponent of reforming the two companies, going back more than a decade. The first concerted push to rein in Fan and Fred in Congress came as far back as 1992, and Mr. Frank was right there, standing athwart. But things really picked up this decade, and Barney was there at every turn."
This mess has afforded conservative Republicans an opportunity to ask the public to throw out the Democratic majority and start over with a chastened and hopefully wiser Republican Party in the majority. But that will take leadership, a commodity that seems in short supply, like bulls on Wall Street.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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