And if you believe that, there’s a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Out of Utah’s five members of Congress, two voted against it (see KSL article). Rep. Rob Bishop (R) of the first congressional district and Rep. Jim Matheson (D) of the second congressional district both voted no. Outgoing Rep. Chris Cannon (R) of the third congressional district enthusiastically supported the bill, as did Sen. Bob Bennett (R). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) gave some cautionary lip service, but ultimately voted for the bill, as did three quarters of all senators, because, “We’ve got to do something. Doing something is better than doing nothing.” I don’t even let my kids get away with such lame excuses.
Peggy Noonan finds the events of the past couple of weeks both historic and instructive. Questioning the seriousness of the economic condition, Noonan writes, “We have never seen an economic meltdown like this? We've never seen a presidential meltdown like this. George W. Bush's weakness is not all lame-duckship. … After the first bailout failed, Mr. Bush spoke like a man who was a mere commentator, not the leader in a crisis.”
Noonan explains why she thinks this is important:
“We witness here a great political lesson. When you are president, it matters—it really matters—that a majority of the people support and respect you. When you squander that affection, you lose more than mere popularity. You lose the ability to lead when your country is in crisis. This is a terrible loss, and a dangerous one, for the whole world is watching.”While Noonan’s observations strike a chord, she seems not to appreciate the fact that even as her article went to press, it was quite certain that the bailout bill would succeed the second time around. Pres. Bush, for all his squandering of trust and lame-duckness was able, with only 3½ months remaining in his presidency, to pass the single largest transfer of the private economy to centralized government control in the history of our nation. And he did so with masses of Americans clamoring for it to happen. Marx would be proud.
While Noonan’s assessment of Bush’s weakness seems somewhat myopic, I think Noonan is right on a more significant point. Everything that Pres. Bush has accomplished with the passage of this bill diminishes him in many ways. It diminishes the institution of Congress. It diminishes the free market. And it diminishes each of us as Americans.
With the passage of the bailout, we are less — both individually and as a whole — than we were before. This accomplishment may even trump that of the damage Bill Clinton did to the office of the presidency. It’s kind of grand, in a rather macabre way.