Friday, October 10, 2008

The Presidential Mouth is Working Overtime

Where is President George W. Bush getting his input, and is he paying attention to it? Consider his Rose Garden speech this morning. Here is a bit of the text from that speech, as reported by James Politi for the Financial Times:

The [Treasury] will implement measures that have maximum impact as quickly as possible. The plan we are executing is aggressive. It is the right plan.

Did he hear what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in his statement yesterday? The good news is, now that he has his carte blanche resources, Paulson has embraced Senator Christopher Dodd's injunction that doing the right thing is more important that doing anything quickly. The bad news is that this means that the Administration does not yet have a plan; that is why Paulson claims he is working hard to make sure that things get done right before anyone jumps in and starts doing them. Will the plan be the right one? No one can answer that. If Paulson is a good planner, he will set himself periodic assessment points and be prepared for a mid-course correction after each one, if that is what the assessment tells him. Will the plan be aggressive? My guess is that Paulson is not yet ready to commit to that adjective. Chances are that the plan will end up utilizing both carrots and sticks.

This then leads to another one of the President's allegedly comforting observations:

Anxiety can feed anxiety, and that could make it hard to see all that is being done to solve the problem.

This one I find patently insulting. It amounts to saying, "Your brain is so clouded by your anxieties that you cannot see the positive things we are doing." Now that the Executive and Legislative branches have come to an agreement that Paulson will not be doing anything without oversight, Paulson is at least beginning to show the dignity of speaking to the public as if they were grownups. The President cannot seem to get beyond comforting them as if they were scared children. Given all the things he has done to cultivate a culture of fear in this country, this rhetorical stance should not surprise us. The bottom line is that he really wants to talk to the scared children about having faith; but, since the public is as grown up as Paulson is willing to assume they are, they are not going to buy the faith line any more. As the title of Jean Shepherd's book put it, "In God We Trust: all others pay cash!" Now that Paulson has the cash, let's give him a chance to tell us what he will do with it and let the Presidential mouth take a vacation!

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