Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs You’ve probably heard the never-ending series of Republican presidential debates this winter referred to as a bad reality television series.
Well, if you watched Thursday night’s debate from Florida on CNN, you still might be scratching your head and wondering which reality show is more distasteful, “Wife Swap” or “Presidential Fannie Bickering.”
The exchange between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich during which they poked and jabbed each other ad nauseum about who had spent more time in bed with mortgage-backing monsters Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was nothing short of embarrassing. They reminded me of two stepbrothers with acutely developed abilities to push each other’s buttons.
Fannie Mae is the Federal National Mortgage Association and Freddie Mac is its evil twin, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.
Maybe you know that their role in the housing bubble involved increasing the secondary mortgage market by securitizing mortgages as mortgage-backed securities that could then be sold. Fannie and Freddie certainly contributed to the housing crisis. But the cartoon version of their full names has somehow transformed them into the ultimate punching bags for this year’s presidential hopefuls.
“We discovered to our shock Gov. Romney owns shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Gov. Romney made a million dollars off of selling some of that,” Gingrich said, almost taunting Romney.
Romney was waiting for him.
“Mr. Speaker, I know that sounds like an enormous revelation, but have you checked your own investments? You also have investments through mutual funds that also invest in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” Romney shot back. Score! The problem is the public has more pressing issues.
Candidates Ron Paul and Rick Santorum did their best to move the debate in a healthier direction, one in which they would exchange views on legitimate issues. But Romney and Gingrich refused to get off their Fannies.
And Wolf Blitzer, of CNN, didn’t do much to raise the level of discourse, repeatedly feeding the two front-runners questions that led them to attack the other’s attack ads.
As the famed ’60s rock group, The Band, once sang, it’s time to “take a load off Fannie.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com