- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

DIVISIVE FIGURE

”Mr. Obama has hastened the decline of Republican support with petty attacks on his critics and predecessor,” writes Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, in the Wall Street Journal.

”For a person who promised hope and civility in politics, Mr. Obama has shown a borderline obsessiveness in blaming Mr. Bush. Starting with his inaugural address and continuing through this week's overseas trip, the new president's jabs at Mr. Bush have been unceasing, unfair and unhelpful. They have also diminished Mr. Obama by showing him to be another conventional politician. Rather than ending 'the blame game,' he is personifying it.

“The question that will worry the Obama West Wing is whether the views of independents come to look more like Democrats or Republicans. Recent opinion surveys show that support for his policies among independents is slipping.

“On both Mr. Obama's performance and policies, independents are starting to look more like Republicans. For example, the most recent Fox News poll (taken March 31 to April 1) found that Mr. Obama's job approval among independents has fallen to 52 percent, down nine points from the start of March and down 12 points from late January. Over the same period, the number of independents who disapprove of Mr. Obama's performance has doubled to 32 percent from 16 percent.”

“If independents continue looking more like Republicans, especially on deficits, spending and the economy, Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats could be in for a rough ride.”

GOP FRANCOPHILES

”It's odd, but the Europeans are lining up with the know-nothing Republicans on the central question of the hour: which is how to revive the global economy,” writes Matthew Rothschild in the Progressive, a liberal magazine.

”I'm not surprised by the Republicans. Their answer to everything for the past 100 years has been tax cuts for the rich and slash government spending. On [April 1] Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican with the good hair but not much underneath it, unveiled their budget finally, with this unbelievable proposal: to freeze domestic spending for five years.

“Unbelievable because to follow that advice would send the U.S. economy straight into double-digit unemployment, where it would stay for years to come.

“But not Ryan and the Republicans. And surprisingly, not France or Germany, either. For reasons of petulance, because the crisis started on Wall Street, France and Germany are in no mood to accommodate Washington. And they do have a solid point about the need for new regulation. For its part, Germany has overlearned the lesson of hyperinflationary Weimar, and so for that reason, as well, it refuses to grapple realistically with the crisis of today.

“So here's the irony: The Republicans, who love to make fun of France and of Old Europe, are now in lockstep with them today on this crucial issue.”

THE LEVELER

”One of the most important distinctions between liberals and conservatives involves their contrasting explanations of the existence of inequality,” writes conservative columnist Michael Medved.

”Those on the left see the disparities between rich and poor individuals, or between prosperous and impoverished societies, as automatic evidence of unfairness. … Conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, view success or failure as the inevitable consequence of different levels of talent, hard work and productivity …

“There is no doubt which attitude characterizes the worldview of President Barack Obama. As (conservative columnist) Charles Krauthammer recently wrote: 'Obama is a leveler.' He has come to narrow the divide between rich and poor. For him the ultimate social value is fairness. Imposing it upon the American social order is his mission. Fairness through leveling is the essence of Obamaism.”

“Unfortunately, the president's recent trip to Europe showed that he applies the same leveling instinct to the international arena. His apologetic tone, insistence on 'listening and learning' from the nations he visited, and controversial references to his own nation's purported 'arrogance' all suggest that he believes Americans ought to feel more guilty than grateful, more embarrassed than proud, over our disproportionate power and prosperity.”

OH CANADA

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, has accused Canada and Europe of helping prop up Cuba's communist regime.

”We stand with the oppressed and not with the oppressor,” Mr. Smith said during a news conference Thursday. “The fact that many of our European friends and Canada and other countries have failed to support us in this have enabled, perhaps unwittingly, but enabled this (Cuba) dictatorship to flourish. So our hope is that they will join us” and impose sanctions on Cuba.

“I was one of those back in the 1980s, as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee … to support the sanctions toward South Africa because of apartheid. There were those who argued, 'Oh, you're making life harder for the black Africans in South Africa by imposing sanctions.' But that egregious human rights abuse of racism could not go unchallenged.

“Well, now we have a situation where human rights defenders [in Cuba] are being cruelly mistreated, tortured. And we're going to do business as usual? I don't think so.”

HOME IMPROVEMENT

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said on CNBC on Thursday he expects interest rates on typical home loans to continue to drop from their current, record low.

”I think you will see them continue to come down, based on everything that we're doing, but recognize that they've already started to make a big difference,” he said.

Mr. Donovan was speaking after a White House press event where President Obama touted his plans to rescue the housing market.

Mortgage rates climbed from record lows in the past week and settled at 4.87 percent for a 30-year loan, said mortgage finance company Freddie Mac. A year ago, the rate was 5.88 percent.

The White House in late February announced a plan to help 9 million homeowners win lower mortgage rates or lower their monthly bills to a more affordable level.

“Home purchases are up about 20 percent since we announced the plan, so we are already beginning to see a difference,” Mr. Donovan said.

Mr. Donovan, while speaking in a separate appearance on MSNBC, added that there are “early signs” that the slumping housing marking soon will improve.

“I won't say they're conclusive at this point, but some early good signs,” he said.

Home construction “starts and permits were up significantly. We've begun to see sales increase, particularly in markets like California. … We're also providing funding to help stop the impact that foreclosures are having on communities as part of the recovery plan.

“So I think we are starting to see some effects, and we'll continue to watch them closely.”

Sean Lengell can be reached at 202/636-3208 or [email protected] .com.

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