Kevin Drum points out that Hank Paulson has nice things to say about Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi (two of my favorite members of congress, too) but not so much about his colleagues in the Bush administration:
Paulson was determined to approach the problem in a bipartisan way, in contrast to the often heavy-handed and divisively partisan pattern of the Bush administration. To some degree, this was an acknowledgment of reality; both houses of Congress had been in Democratic hands for a year by this point, and Democratic cooperation was essential. Paulson had a larger goal, too—he believed a display of bipartisanship would in itself be good for the markets and for the economy. “It’s not enough to just sit there and say, ‘I’m right, the other guys are wrong,’ ” he told me at one point, explaining why it was often so difficult working with some of the more doctrinaire members of the White House staff. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with ideology. I’ve got my ideology and my philosophy. But those that say, ‘I won’t compromise,’ to prove a point, and then ‘I’m going to point a finger afterwards and say, See, I was right … ’ ” Paulson was impatient with such people.
The second reference, I take it, is to right-wing members of congress. As the country debated TARP and stimulus, after all, the opposition had a great opportunity to make an opportunistic one-sided bet. By the fall of 2008 it was clear that no matter what policy measures were taken in the winter of 2008-2009, the mild recession we were already in was going to get much worse. So one had the chance of taking whichever proposals were on the table, loudly denouncing them, and then when the economy was crappy in June claiming vindication. Which is basically what the right did, nevermind that their alternative ideas would have made things even worse.
One question, however, is why Paulson-style Republican elites who remain somewhat tethered to reality don’t speak more clearly and take more forceful action. Bruce Bartlett perhaps has the answer:
I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.” How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?
I am not alone. When I talk to old timers from the Reagan years, many express the same concerns I have. But they all work for Republican-oriented think tanks like AEI and Hoover and don’t wish to be fired like I was from NCPA . Or they just don’t want to be bothered or lose friends. As a free agent I am able to say what they can’t or won’t say publicly.
I’m not 100 percent sure I buy this theory.