Archive for Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Economic crisis reveals leadership deficit

September 30, 2008


— The failure of a proposed Wall Street bailout Monday underscored that America is suffering not just from a financial crisis, but also from a crisis of political leadership.

"This has been a bad day for Washington and a bad day for American politics," said Harold Ford, a former Democratic congressman from Tennessee. "What happened today was an embarrassment for the country."

None of the country's political leaders, Republican or Democrat, has proved able to navigate the treacherous politics of the moment and secure an agreement to bail out the country's financial system and restore confidence in the marketplace.

President Bush is a largely discredited lame duck. He's not trusted by his own party and was unable to bend the Congress to his will even as he warned of a catastrophe if lawmakers rebelled.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his party's congressional leaders control the Congress and agreed with Bush's urgency, but they couldn't deliver a majority, either.

Still, they came closer than did Republican John McCain and his party's leaders in the House of Representatives, who delivered only 30 percent of the GOP votes for the compromise, while Democrats delivered some 60 percent of their members.

Leaders of both parties vowed to seek bipartisan cooperation toward drafting a compromise that could pass, but with their own elections five weeks away, they couldn't stop themselves from partisan attacks, which make the goal of bipartisan agreement even more difficult to reach.

Nowhere is the crisis more evident than it is in the White House.

Bush limps toward the end of his second term with among the lowest job-approval ratings in history - a recent Gallup poll found just 27 percent approving and 69 percent disapproving.

Worse, he's lost credibility in Congress, notably for leading the country into war in Iraq on false claims that Iraq had ties to al Qaida and weapons of mass destruction. When he dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney to lobby House Republicans to support the Wall Street bailout, the closed-door session grew heated, and some members reportedly reminded Cheney that they'd trusted him on Iraq.

Bush also is paying a price for years of strong-arming Congress, particularly when he counted on then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to "hammer" proposals such as a costly expansion of Medicare past skeptical conservatives.

"There's no question the rank-and-file are carrying some grudges from the past," said Dan Schnur, the director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Democrats, who won control of both the House and Senate in 2006, also couldn't deliver. Congress' approval rating is even lower than Bush's, at around 18 percent.

When Obama, the party's new leader, learned of the plan's rejection, he spoke about Washington almost as if he weren't a member of Congress.

"Democrats and Republicans in Washington have a responsibility to make sure that an emergency rescue package is put forward that can at least stop the immediate problems we have so we can begin to plan for the future," he said.

He didn't say how he might lead or what role he'd play. "Step up to the plate," he told Congress. "Get it done."

His party's leaders in Congress also threw up their hands, as House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and others bragged that they'd delivered a majority of the Democratic votes, even though that wasn't enough.

"The Democratic side more than lived up to its side of the bargain," Pelosi said, lauding fellow Democratic leaders for "getting 60 percent of the House Democrats to support a bill which isn't our bill."

Republican leaders in Congress were powerless as well to deliver the votes they'd promised, saying that they lost about 12 committed votes when some of their members got mad at Pelosi.

"We could have gotten there today had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House," said House Republican Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

McCain appeared as impotent as everyone else. He'd suspended his campaign briefly last week to rally support for the plan, and spent part of Saturday lobbying House Republicans by phone, but he couldn't deliver, either.


Hoots 9 years, 4 months ago

Putting blame on the Depublicans is too silly. Open your eyes. Many Democrates didn't like this deal either. Pelosi couldn't even deliver her own people and then she kicks the other team in the face before she has it done. We really need a house cleaning of these idiots on both sides. Five year olds in a sandbox are more cooperative than this group of wankers.

jaywalker 9 years, 4 months ago

Well, said, jmadison. Bush might go down as our worst President, and Pelosi may very well be the biggest joke of all time at speaker.But while the writer rips everyone for not signing this particular bill, there's really no reason given as to why? I believe we need this bailout, but if it's not done the right way what would be the point? I heard on the radio yesterday than one line of the bill entrusted the Secretary of the Treasury to "ensure the general welfare of the public". How the hell is the SoT gonna do that? Since when does that type of responsibility get foisted on any one person, especially 'ensure', when the Preamble only specifies 'promote', and that's the duty of the entire Congress?! Dodd and Franks should be immediately removed from office in disgrace, or at the very least there should be wide ranging investigation.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

Republican John McCain has maneuvered himself into a political dead endWithin hours, however, the measure died in the House mainly at the hands of McCain's own Republicans.

jmadison 9 years, 4 months ago

Nancy Pelosi is a dissembler. 5 committee chairmen installed by her voted against the bill. Jesse Jackson, Jr, Sen Obama's election co-chair voted against this bill.I thought Bush was the leading idiot in Washington, but Pelosi's speech prior to the vote makes her a candidate to replace Bush as the leading idiot. The writer of this article failed to mention Pelosi's pre vote speech, but it is available on youtube.

jaywalker 9 years, 4 months ago

"What it has revealed is rightwing lies about the free market:"Any chance you can back up your assertions, log?Nope, didn't think so. I say again, Clinton and numerous liberal politicians with the backing of groups like ACORN force a shift in the free market by strong arming companies into giving low interest, no money down, no credit check loans to people who have little chance of paying them off. And that's the 'rightwingers' fault!? Their fault lies in not having the stones to put an end to such ridiculous business practice, but the spectre of being labeled 'racist' by the above strong-armers made them balk. Stick to stuff you actually know something about before blathering, log. That should keep you off the blogs indefinitely, I figure.

JohnBrown 9 years, 4 months ago

Let's hope we learn something from this crisis. Free market fundamentalists need to recognize that SOME regulation of markets is necessary (otherwise it's greed gone lawless), and liberals need to stop myopically tweaking the market rules while not considering unintended consequences.Hopefully, this marks the beginning of the end of the conservative movement that began after Barry Goldwater lost (remember the silver "27" lapel pins? = "27 million voters can't be wrong"). I also hope that, should there be a big Democratic win --which seems likely, that they embrace much (but not all) of the moderate fiscal path chosen by Bill Clinton.Our country is much damaged by the past little while. Our Constitution has been assaulted, the Justice Department has been politicized like in Uganda, our energy plan is in shambles while we transfer Trillions to oil countries that don't like us, and we are less safe because we attacked Iraq which took the lid off Iran and their nuclear and terrorist programs. Not to mention the strain on our troops, their families and our vets.A year ago I wrote that McCain or O'Bama would be a vast improvement over Bush. Since then, McCain picked Palin, his first presidential decision, and a poor one at that, and he has zig-zagged on issues I thought I knew where he stood. One-third of all VP's become president. With McCain's age and health risks (cancer) his probabilities of survival seem less, meaning Palin's chances of becoming president may be much greater than 1/3. Her lack of interest, knowledge, and her inability to express herself, poses too large a risk for her to even remotely become the president of our country. O'Bama keeps a cool head; isn't rash or a hothead --and importantly doesn't gransstand--, which bodes well with regard to handling foreign policy. He wants aides to speak truth to power; which bodes well for both foreign and domestic policies; and, he wants his kids to grow up in a sound country. With the country's broken political leadership, his message of 'change' comes as welcome, and much needed, relief.

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