Where "Credit" is Due

Colin Powell.  Paul O’Neill.  Michael Brown.  Harriet Miers.  Alberto Gonzales.  John Ashcroft…..

The list of Bush appointees who have come under withering criticism — some justifiably, others not — is long. The president has taken a battering over their — and by direct extension, his — perceived mismanagement of their respective jurisdictions.

But what the president’s critics never do is give him credit when one of his appointees performs extremely well in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Exhibit A: General David Petraeus, who was castigated by the far left until his astonishing success in turning Iraq around could no longer be refuted.

Exhibits B and C: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Over the past few months, as the financial system began to melt down, Paulson was ahead of the curve, managing the bailout of Bear Stearns effectively. Then came the implosions of quasi-governmental mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Paulson successfully saw us toward a resolution (albeit an incredibly expensive one) of that mess. Last week came the biggest bankruptcy in American history, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, about which Paulson exercised the government’s discretion NOT to intervene.  His lead in the $85 billion bailout of insurance giant AIG is getting widespread positive reactions, as is his major contribution to the plan to have the government absorb banks’ toxic assets to get credit and lending flowing again. And throughout the crises, Bernanke kept the markets as reassured as possible, the money supply controlled, interest rates stable, and inflation in check.

Paulson’s and Bernanke’s steady hands are winning rave reviews. And yet, nary a peep of credit to the president for choosing them and deferring to their expertise in this financial storm.

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ idea of financial leadership is Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, Chairmen of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees. Where were they when the you-know-what started hitting the fan?  Dodd was busy getting sweetheart mortgage deals from Countrywide (also up to its eyeballs in the subprime corruption) and Frank was busy stonewalling reform of Fannie and Freddie while rolling in their contributions (Dodd too).

And remember the guy Democrats used to consider a “god” of finance?  Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin?  He got a ton of credit for presiding over a prosperous economy during the nineties, but then he returned to head CitiGroup and stumbled. His third act?  He’s now a leading economic adviser to Obama. Lucky Barack.  

The Democrats have relentlessly attacked Bush’s past lieutenants, but their own so-called “leaders” in this area have failed miserably.

Furthermore, Democrats are rejoicing that all of this government intervention is a repudiation of the conservative approach of laissez-faire and deregulation. They should be reminded that the mess began with the liberal idea of making homeownership available to everyone, even those (especially those) who couldn’t afford it. This was the brainchild of the Clinton administration, championed by guys like Rubin.  Social engineering of that part of the economy put us on the path to disaster.

Meanwhile, there were a few actual leaders who were raising the warnings about the mortgage mess and the contagion it was unleashing. One of them, John McCain, had the vision and the judgment to blow the whistle. (Isn’t this exactly the kind of “vision and judgment” for which Barack Obama is exalted for his early opposition to Iraq?)  McCain was screaming into the wind, while Democrats like Obama ignored him in favor of slurping at the trough. (You can feed a pig contributions from Fannie and Freddie, but it’s still a pig.)

Paulson, Bernanke, and McCain: two Bush appointments, and one seeking to succeed him. They have shown what real leadership is — not when it’s been easy, when times are good, but in challenging times, when it’s been difficult.

They deserve “credit,” and so does the president.  


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