Landmines And Witch Hunts
As the past two days have unfolded before my weary eyes, my take on what the hell is going on has sloshed back and forth in the pool of outrage that I share with almost everyone in America. Day before yesterday, I was ready to give the boot to Timothy Geithner for leading President Obama into the landmine field left behind by the previous administration on its hasty exit after crashing the economy. If the Republicans on Capital Hill would have just kept their mouths shut, I would have still held that view today. But in their own rush to not waste a crisis, they did what they could to blame Geithner for everything but killing babies yesterday in their mad attempt to get Edward Liddy to agree that just because he told Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke about the outrageous bonuses that were being paid out by AIG, that Mr. Bernanke passed that info on to Treasury Secretary Geithner. Keeping it truthful, Mr. Liddy declined to make such an assumption. You know, “Assuming makes an ass of you and me.” Thanks to their witch-hunting ways, the Republicans wasted a perfectly good chance to convince an old Democrat that they were onto something. Thanks, Republicans, for restoring my sight.
One of the greatest dangers that faces an advancing army into newly conquered territory is the landmine fields that have been left behind. Princess Diana made it one of her major causes to help dig up and make safe the remnants of minefields all over the world. Today, we need a “sniffer dog” to find and unarm the financial minefields left behind by the Bush Administration. In the fast-paced world of the 24-hour news cycle, we are quick to forget things that happened just a few months ago. I take you back to consider the great hooray that went up from Wall Street and Republicans when President-elect Barack Obama announced the appointment of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. He was hailed far and wide as someone who “understood” the situation on Wall Street and would lead us through the dangers ahead. In effect, he was treated as someone who would know where the bombs were buried on Wall Street and disarm them.
What the Wall Street crowd and their Republican cronies in the White House failed to disclose was the nature of the backroom-dealing that was contained in the original TARP bill pushed at breakneck speed by Secretary Paulsen and President Bush. Within the voluminous bill – too large to read in the deadline period allowed by Paulsen and Bush – were a series of landmines for the incoming Administration to blow itself up with. The same White House that stood strong against the workers in Detroit, pushed through a bill loaded with goodies for their friends on Wall Street and then graciously retreated from the field leaving the mess behind. It has proven to be a perfect political strategy for a party that was in disgrace and disarray. In a very short period of time it would prove to be the catalytic boost the Republicans would need to launch their comeback.
Now, let us not be knee-jerk Democrats in our rush to defend our President and his Treasury Secretary. They have certainly added their own misery to the story, first, by Secretary Geithner not knowing where the landmines were, and secondly by the White House choosing the “surprised outrage” strategy over the past weekend. Our baby President is learning one of the great truths in the modern reporter-saturated Washington he leads: there are no secrets. After eight years of the Bush Administration practicing “surprised denial” about everything, the press and the people are not willing to sit down and shut up anymore. And that is a good thing. It didn’t take long for the facts to get out that Geithner knew about the bonuses last Tuesday, and the President found out about them on Thursday, giving the Administration enough time to stop the advance of the bonuses at midnight on Sunday. But they didn’t, and KABOOM!!!!!!!!! Geithner and Obama both had a limb blown off when they stepped onto the landmine.
Now, it was time for the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to spring into action, especially the Republican side of the aisle, which used this misstep to its fullest advantage. First, they pointed to it as a lack of credibility on the part of the White House. Second, they began hammering away at the idea that it was “proof positive” that big government is bad government and less regulation is the solution to this problem. Incredible! Now, who has a credibility problem? But yesterday they armed the press with pitchforks and embarked on the Great Witch Hunt of 2009. And the main object of their vilification campaign was Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner. Never mind that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, according to the head of AIG, Mr. Liddy, had given tacit approval of the bonuses that are now the object of rage on both sides of the aisle in a Congress that clearly has been dropping the ball from both sides for a long time now.
Smelling fresh blood, the press, which had also been asleep at the wheel for the past eight years, sprang into action and started looking for “other witches” to burn. First up: Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut). Seems he removed language from the Stimulus Bill that would have cancelled the offending bonus contracts. But in the save-your-own-ass mentality that has scuttled Democratic unity for years, Dodd was quick to point to “unknown persons” within the Obama Treasury Department who asked that the language be removed. OMG! Stoke those bonfires! It’s time to roast some ass! Democratic ass, that is. Suddenly, the press is no longer talking about a Republican Administration and Republican Congress that turned the evil demons of Wall Street loose on the American People to begin with. It looks like it could be game, set, match to the Republicans.
Today’s feeding frenzy is pointed directly at the top, President Obama himself. After stepping forward to defend his Treasury Secretary yesterday, explaining the enormity of the task facing him, the President did what Presidents are supposed to do: he took responsibility. Admirable! But the feeding wolves of the 24-hour-news pack were not to be denied their attacks. Pettiness is the flavor of the day when it comes to coverage of our Commander in Chief. He was roundly criticized this morning for both completing his NCAA Tournament bracket on ESPN yesterday, and tonight’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Joe Scarborough actually said today, “I would like to see him nose to the grindstone right now.” Does Joe have a point? I guess to the whip-cracking mentality that permeates Republican ideals, that makes sense. They just keep on evoking the values held dear by Ebeneezer Scrooge. Take that, Bob Cratchett! However, I’m not sure that we should lock the President of the United States in the Oval Office demanding he remain hunched over his desk until he is suffering from the kind of fatigue that could lead to – how do I put this? Oh, yeah, a severe mental breakdown. You know, he does have some very dangerous toys to play with.
In addition to that little nugget of advice, with a well orchestrated push from the Republicans, Joe Scarborough once again asserted that there would be no problem at all had the evil Barney Frank not saved Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the early Bush years, once again brushing aside all those years of complete control that Republicans had of our government at every level: the control they used to turn off the switches of oversight on the avaricious traders and bankers of Wall Street. It’s sickening to watch as the Republicans come forth with their “pure-as-the-driven-snow” offensive. I refer them to that great actress of the stage, Tallulah Bankhead, who at least had the honesty to admit she was “pure as the driven slush.”
The Republicans are keeping themselves busy pouring gasoline on a fire right now, and with nothing constructive to add to the conversation, they have opted for destruction. Not since colonial Salem have we seen such a shameless stirring of the masses by a group of influential people. The Republicans, in an attempt to rehabilitate their political fortunes without changing their “core beliefs,” are doing exactly what Rush Limbaugh called on them to do: make sure the Obama Administration fails.
And let us not forget the hand of the media in all of this witch hunting. In the recent tradition of the American press, they have thrown good journalism and good sense aside to rush after the easy-to-report story with no thought of the consequences of their actions to the nation. After all, they have ratings to make and commercial sponsors to woo. What they need is big numbers of demographically significant viewers, so sensationalism is the order of the day. Let’s face it, the freedom of the press that our Founding Fathers inserted into the Constitution as an important stopgap against “government gone mad,” is doing everything it can to stir the pot, thus adding to the maddening of government. The days of journalistic integrity have given way to a tabloid mentality that only serves to confuse and enrage a citizenry that is in desperate need of education. I am still holding forth hope that somehow the press will return to their useful purpose, but the outlook is grim.
And as for all the dirt that Republicans are attempting to kick into the faces of the American People right now, I offer two things for us not to forget. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, the control valves that were meant to keep our financial system safe from fraud and abuse were turned off, leading to the sad place we find ourselves today. And during that same administrative period, a medium-sized – level 3 – hurricane named Katrina slammed into the Louisiana Gulf Coast, swamping a great American city. And while our President did a fly-over, thousands of people were suffering the dire consequences of his government’s inability to respond with more than a photo-op.
So as the Republicans work the magic of distraction, I would like to launch a new closing for my posts. It’s not that I don’t want us to keep fighting the good fight, I just feel that we need a new battle cry.