Greenspan is to economic mess as Clinton is to…

Hillary Clinton didn’t do herself any credit when she explained to the Philadelphia Daily News why she named Greenspan as a potential wise man despite his partial responsibility for the current mess (it’s not clear exactly what the question was here):

Not only that, but the Fed didn’t act while he was there. But he has a calming influence still to this day on Wall Street — don’t ask me why because I never understand what he’s saying — but nevertheless people respond to that Delphic oracle approach. I think it would be wise to include him. And recently he’s come out, and very smartly so, that we have to deal with housing and maybe we need to have some kind of buyout mechanism for mortgages. So he’s moved on his understanding and depth of the problem — but you know you could pick three others. You just have to have some demonstrable involvement of presidential leadership…

So let me get this straight: she admits that he bears some responsibility for the current mess, and she admits that she doesn’t understand his explanations. Yet she is persuaded that he has “very smartly” learned from his mistakes, and therefore he’s shown the judgment to be put in another position of power. Does this logic sound familiar to anyone else? Iraq? Health care? Take your pick!

As for “you could pick three others. You just have to have some demonstrable involvement of presidential leadership,” it sounds like she is saying that this panel of wise men would be essentially for show — a reading that she encouraged when she also told the Daily News, “that she’d suggested Greenspan, former Fed chair Paul Volcker and former Treasury Secretary Ronald Rubin because ‘each one is supporting one of the three of us.’ ” There’s probably something to be said for considering appearances — and diversity of political views — in addition to substance and expertise when choosing people for these sorts of panels, but admitting that people are being chosen for their political views or their mysterious “delphic oracle” powers of persuasion instead of their aptitude seems to defeat the point.

Another thing Clinton said in her speech yesterday was, “We need a president who is ready on day one to be Commander-in-Chief of our economy.” I understand that she that this is mostly just meaningless rhetoric — she thinks that “ready on day one” and “Commander-in-Chief” are useful lines of attack against Obama, so she plans to adapt it to any subject — but I’m sure I’m not the only person who cringed hearing a Democrat allude to “commanding” the “economy.” I don’t know much about economics, but I’m pretty sure that thinking of the economy as an army, and thinking of the President’s economic team as the commanders of that army, is not a recipe for economic growth or stability. I advise all Democratic candidates — who will, fairly or not, always be accused of over-regulation and quasi-socialism — to keep the words “command” and “economy” as far apart as possible in their speeches.

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One response to “Greenspan is to economic mess as Clinton is to…

  1. “Does this logic sound familiar to anyone else?”

    This is the way the American establishment now works–once you’re in, you’re in, no matter how much you screw up. In fact, the bigger your mistakes, the better, because when you screw up as massively as Bush & Co. have in Iraq etc., it just comes to look like an act of God and also, more importantly, because Americans (Clinton, the NYT) don’t want to call attention to the fact that THEY WERE THEMSELVES COMPLICIT. As Dean Baker never tires of pointing out, the rhetorical question “Who could have foreseen…?” always has an answer, but that answer is never given.

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