- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As spring has sprung, it’s become more than obvious that the political season is in full bloom — even before the cherry blossoms have a had a chance to bud. All you have to do to get a noseful is look to the three presidential frontrunners’ recent responses on the economic mess and housing dilemma. Three candidates — sitting senators, mind you — have had plenty of time to address the problems as early as last fall. They chose not to.

Sen. John McCain’s “economic team” conducted a conference call with the press following his economic speech on Tuesday, and they struggled to answer how the senator has specifically addressed the mortgage problem — other than to say that he has conducted some town hall meetings. Ah, yes — town halls as a candidate for president.

The Democrats’ solution to throw money at the problem is no better. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s call for a moratorium on all foreclosures is absurd. Sen. Barack Obama? Well, he’s on vacation this week.

The focus of Mr. McCain’s remarks was that there is no role for the government to bail out speculators, bad loans or bad credit risks, and that everyone, including the nation’s top mortgage lenders, needs to play a role in helping the real “victims” (unsavvy, preyed-upon homeowners) get back on their feet.

The secretary of Housing and Urban Development is pushing for more government “help” that includes making the temporary loan limit extension permanent, and there’s an FHA modernization package that includes reducing a borrower’s down payment requirement from 3 percent to 1.5 percent. The McCain team balked at that those points and said that he most certainly doesn’t support a nearly 100 percent government-financed loan. Mr. McCain does, however, support recent Federal Reserve, Treasury and administration actions to reform and modernize housing.

But get this: McCain senior policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin said he “couldn’t comment” on the FHA modernization legislation since it’s “currently being worked on.” The legislation passed 93-1 in the Senate last December. But neither Mr. McCain nor the Democratic frontrunners voted. When they had the opportunity to address the “housing crisis” where were they? Stumping. Too busy to vote, too busy to sponsor legislation.

Now, the bill is languishing in a conference committee while the candidates talk about what they would do as president.

Former candidate Mike Huckabee said in an interview this week with Ralph Hallow of The Washington Times that he was the only Republican candidate “to say that the economy was in trouble” when the others “quoted the Republican National Committee’s talking points, saying the economy’s great.”

Mr. McCain’s team spoke of lessons learned and “take aways” from our current economic challenge. Admirable. They emphasized transparency and accountability. Kudos. The senators’ voting records couldn’t be any more transparent. Mr. McCain and his colleagues chose to campaign rather than vote yes or no on an issue that’s on the minds of most Americans. All three candidates should be held accountable.

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