Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – A belief in tea, and the Constitution

October 19, 2010

The Tea Party takes pride in its belief in the importance and centrality of the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, Senate Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell has been reported as referring to the document as a “covenant” based on “divine principles”.

So there was some disbelieving laughter from the audience in Delaware today when O’Donnell showed she did not know the contents of the First Amendment. “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” she asked Democratic opponent Chris Coons. OBAMA/

“The First Amendment does?” O’Donnell went on to ask. “Let me just clarify: You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?” Watch the whole eight-minute exchange here, part of a debate about whether schools should teach intelligent design or evolution.

Later, O’Donnell stumbled over the 14th and 16th amendments too. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring my Constitution with me,” she said. “Fortunately senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution.”

Just for the record (and as a Brit you can perhaps forgive me for having to look it up), you will find the full text of the First Amendment and an explanation here. Worth looking too at Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists where he explains his belief in the need to build a “wall of separation between Church & State.”

Elsewhere on election watch, perhaps the most interesting question in the midterms is whether Democrats can hang onto their majority in the Senate. As John Whitesides explains today, they are counting on liberal-leaning West Coast states, California and Washington state,  to preserve that fragile majority. That is exactly where President Barack Obama is heading this week.

In Colorado, our exclusive Reuters/Ipsos poll shows the Democratic incumbent narrowing the gap on Republican frontrunner Ken Buck, to just three percentage points. “Bennet seems to have some momentum,” said IPSOS pollster Julia Clark. “A Tea Party candidate like Buck should be doing better in this political environment.”

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama, Democrats count on U.S. Senate wins out West 

Democrats are counting on the liberal-leaning West Coast to counter the national trend and help them preserve their fragile U.S. Senate majority. “Right now, Democrats have their best chances on the West Coast. They are in relatively good shape out there compared with the rest of the country,” said one political analyst.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

For a factbox on 12 Senate races to watch, click here.

For a factbox on 12 House races to watch, click here.

Republican lead narrows in Colorado race

Republican Ken Buck has a dwindling lead over Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, who has gained ground in Colorado’s Senate race since August, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. “This race is narrowing pretty substantially,” an Ipsos pollster said, noting Buck’s support had remained frozen, while Bennet had improved by five percentage points.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

Shots fired at Pentagon, no injuries

A gunman using what investigators believe was a high-velocity rifle fired up to seven shots at the Pentagon, shattering two windows but injuring no one. No suspects have yet been identified in the incident, the first since a lone gunman in March shot and wounded two security officers near a Pentagon entrance. An official said the shooting was “a random event” and did not foresee any new security measures.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart, read here.

Pentagon tells recruiters: You must accept gays

The Pentagon has told military service recruiters they must accept applications from gays and lesbians, given a judge’s decision to strike its ban on openly-serving homosexuals. “Recruiters have been given guidance, and they will process applications for applicants who admit they are openly gay or lesbian,” said Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

For more of this story, read here.

Investors, White House press banks over mortgages

Big banks took a hit as investors threatened to seek redress over questionable mortgage bonds and the White House warned it would hold lenders accountable for any illegal foreclosure practices.

For more of this story by Jeff Mason and Al Yoon, read here.

U.S. regulators to meet Wed. on foreclosure crisis

Federal regulators will meet on Wednesday to discuss the foreclosure crisis amid concerns it could affect the housing market and broader economy after attorneys general in all 50 states launched a joint investigation into allegations against banks.

For more of this story, read here.

Housing starts at 5-month high

Housing starts hit a five-month high in September, a tentative sign of healing in the housing market, though permits for future home building fell as approvals in the volatile multi-family segment tumbled. The Commerce Department said housing starts rose 0.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units, the highest level since April.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Officials hint Fed on the verge of more easing

A string of Federal Reserve officials indicated the central bank will soon offer further monetary stimulus, with one saying $100 billion a month in bond buys may be appropriate. “If we’re going to pursue another round of quantitative easing, it has to be a large enough number to make a difference,” Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said in an interview on CNBC television.

For more of this story by Mark Felsenthal and Pedro da Costa, read here.

FDIC sees lower bank failure cost, cancels fee bump

Bank regulators revised down the estimated cost of bank failures and proposed rules for how to restore the depleted insurance fund that backs bank deposits. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said it estimates bank failures will cost the Deposit Insurance Fund $52 billion from 2010 through 2014, compared with a prior estimate of $60 billion.

For more of this story by Karey Wutkowski, read here.

SEC brushes off flash crash report critics

The securities regulator dismissed accusations that a government review of the May flash crash inaccurately fingered a large trade by a big mutual fund for the market plunge. But a research firm said the trades occurred after the market bottomed, and another trading venue recently said a single trader could not have caused the Dow to drop 700 points in minutes before recovering sharply.

For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai, read here.

CFTC has flexibility on timing of new trade limits

The U.S. futures regulator unexpectedly signaled it has flexibility to wait to make new rules take effect on limiting the size of investment in commodity markets until it has more data on the breadth of the swaps market. The CFTC said its proposal on position limits in energy, metals and agricultural markets would be released on November 30.

For more of this story by Roberta Rampton and Christopher Doering, read here.

For a factbox on CFTC’s rule for reporting commodity swaps, click here.

Ethanol makers seek renewal of tax breaks

Attacked as subsidy addicts, ethanol makers may need help from friends in high places, including the White House, to hold on to lucrative tax breaks set to expire at the end of the year.  The industry says it is ready to discuss revisions in the incentives, worth $6 billion a year. An amalgam of food makers, livestock producers, environmentalists and deficit hawks say there is no need for subsidies.  “The ethanol industry is addicted to subsidies,” said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a good-government group. “It’s time for the decades-old ethanol party to end.”

For more of this story by Charles Abbott, read here.

Tax measures on ballots reflect U.S. economic unease

The still-struggling economy is at the root of most of the state and local tax and debt measures on ballots that could drive voters of a more fiscally conservative bent to the polls. “It’s the economy for sure,” said an elections analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, noting that financial measures are more prevalent than social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, in the upcoming election.

For more of this story, read here.

What we are blogging…

McCain hails Palin power in the mid-term elections

John McCain says Sarah Palin is a “visionary” for the United States. “She has had a tremendous impact on this election cycle, as you well know, by supporting certain candidates,” McCain said in an interview on ABC’s “Nightline. “It is really a remarkable thing to observe.” The 2008 Republican presidential nominee again defended his decision to pick the then relatively unknown Palin for the number-two spot on the ticket.

For JoAnne Allen’s full post, click here.

Political Surrogate Smackdown!

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the full cry of the surrogate can often be heard from coast to coast — or at least from Broadway to Reno, Nevada. At a Broadway theater on Monday night, Michelle Obama got a glitzy introduction from Sarah Jessica Parker of “Sex and the City” fame, who called the first lady “a role model, an inspiration” and a woman who “doesn’t need a pair of heels to stand tall.”

For Deborah Zabarenko’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Out with the abacus in China’s 25-bp rate rise

China shook global markets with its unexpected increase of interest rates, but the surprise was compounded for careful observers by the size of the move. The increase was the first time in modern history that Beijing adjusted deposit and lending levels by a number not a multiple of nine. “The reason is that on the abacus, adding multiples of nine was much easier than adding multiples of 10. So the modern People’s Bank of China inherited that special character from the old days,” a Beijing economist said. “But clearly, computers and market participants may prefer rounder numbers.”

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (shadow of President Obama seen on U.S. Constitution)

Comments
4 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Why don’t you people try reporting the truth? O’Donnell is right. It should make you concerned when law students laugh thinking she don’t know what she is talking about! Coons couldn’t even name the freedoms that is in the constitution!!! The story was written in such a way they had Christine O’Donnell saying, “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?” What she was talking about was this idiot Coons talking about “the separation of church and state.” She was saying, “Are you telling me separation of church and state’s in the Constitution?” because it isn’t.

There’s nothing in the Constitution about separation of which you need and state. It was Coons who couldn’t figure out what’s in the Constitution. It’s Coons who didn’t know what he was talking about. And so the panic in the State-Controlled Media, they write a story making it look like O’Donnell doesn’t know what she’s talking about. They had to misquote her and take her out of context in order to make this point. “Are you telling me that that’s in the First Amendment?” meaning, the government cannot officially sponsor a religion. That’s not what she was expressing incredulity over. She was incredulous that somebody was saying that the Constitution said, “There must be separation between church and state.” Those words are not in the Constitution.

Posted by releggneh6 | Report as abusive
 

They aren’t laughing with you, Christine, they are laughing AT you…

Posted by Yellow105 | Report as abusive
 

“Yes, Virginia, there is a separation clause!”

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Posted by pauleewhiting | Report as abusive
 

It’s the “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” part of the 1st amendment that gets trampled all over in the agruments against acknowledging the place religion has in the fabric of this nation. The government is not supposed to “establish” a religion, but neither is it supposed to force religions and religious practice to be banished from public places. If the Congress of the United States and the Supreme Court of the United States can start their assemblies with a prayer, then why shouldn’t schools?

Posted by fbcx | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/