I’m struck by how little attention has been given to the tough hits dished out by Bush administration Treasury Secretary Hank Pauslon to various prominent congressional Republicans, including golden boy Eric Cantor.
Meetings with Senate Republicans were “a complete waste of time for us, when time was more precious than anything” (page 275). Ideas that Republicans do add are “unformed,” like Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor’s plan to replace TARP with an insurance program. In a rare moment of sarcasm, Paulson goes off on the minority Whip: “I got a better idea. I’m going to go with Eric Cantor’s insurance program. That’s the idea to save the day” (page 285).
Politico, reflecting its usual shallowness, remarks:
But Republicans may have the last laugh: TARP is, arguably, the most unpopular federal program in recent memory — and voters seem poised to punish Democrats for passing it, even if Republicans like Cantor eventually signed off.
Well hardy-har-har. Some of us, though, are less interesting in the timing of who laughs when than in the formulation of national policy. The fact that Cantor had an approach to a severe economic crisis that attracted nothing but derision from his same-party Secretary of the Treasury seems noteworthy to me. The national press has, however, done an absolutely horrible job of putting conservative TARP-bashing in appropriate context as a program deemed necessary by all the leading officials in a very conservative administration to avert a Depression. If this stuff is just hypocrisy, that’s bad and noteworthy. But Paulson’s message seems to be that it’s not just hypocrisy, but rather genuinely frightening cluelessness.