Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Personal Aside: Jim Durkin and Charlie Johnston Score Well in Rivalry for their Favorite GOP Presidential Candidates…Greenspan Wobbles in Clarification Because He is a Human Being, After All.


Durkin & Johnston.

State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Charlie Johnston, grassroots expert and columnist for “The Chicago Daily Observer,” made a good pair on my Sunday WLS-AM talk show…and not because they got along all that famously. While having great respect for each other, they are enthusiastically backing different presidential candidates…Durkin serving as Illinois chairman for the McCain for president committee and Charlie who has signed up as a delegate for Rudy Giuliani. They tussled without bitterness but with good ripostes: Durkin saying that Rudy had one memorable day, 9/11 when he acted the hero but McCain has had years in the harness—five of them as a POW who turned aside offers to be freed because he was not first in line among the POWs. Charlie zeroed in on McCain’s prior sidings with liberal Democrats; I chimed in with a question on how a candidate like Giuliani…in addition to his own personal imperfections…has, in wife No. 3 the possible holder of the World Cup in spectacular marriages and living-together arrangements.

Wobbly Greenspan the Human Being.

The Washington “Post”…giddy for a while with the thought that Alan Greenspan can be used against President Bush and the Republicans…has been giving him great honorifics recently ever since his book came out which zings President Bush. So the prelude up to his earlier quotes was that Greenspan is a towering intellect, probably the most perspicacious economist of all time (oh come now: what about Milton Friedman?). But as the “Post” had to recognize yesterday, in the promotion for his book, the former Fed chief has been running off at the mouth in the same excitable way that a freshman congressman does—pontificating about all manners of issues not within his ken and then having to back up and correct himself.

He started off saying, in words that brought thrills to the American Left and Paleo Right: “the Iraq War is largely about oil.” Now he is backtracking. “I was not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” he clarified in an interview Saturday. He said that he himself had presented the White House with the case that removing Saddam Hussein was important for the global economy. Then he swings into complicated theological musings. “I never heard them basically say, `we’ve got to protect the oil supplies of the world’ but that would have been my motive.” Oh? So the weasel-worded Alan is now saying in effect two things: he believed the Iraq War was important because of oil and also it wasn’t —the bigger issue was Saddam Hussein. “I wasn’t argument for war per se, but to take [Hussein] out, in my judgment, it was something important for the West to do and essential…” One can deduce that taking Hussein out, if it was a bigger issue than oil, would be his possible possession of nuclear weapons and the disruption this would have on the economy. But as he bobs and weaves, he comes back to the issue of oil and you are forgiven if you conclude that…yes indeed…it was oil that was foremost in his mind. “If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first Gulf War. And the second Gulf War is an extension of the first. My view is--.”

Okay what is your view after all this muddy rhetoric, Alan? “My view is that Saddam, looking over his 30-year history, very clearly was giving evidence of moving towards controlling the Straits of Hormuz, where there are 17, 18, 10 million barrels a day” passing through. He added disruption of even from 3 to 4 million barrels a day could translate into oil prices as high as $120 a barrel (compared to recent high of $80 last week and loss of this would mean “chaos” to the global economy. Now get this. He summarizes: “I’m saying taking Saddam out was essential”—but adds he is not implying the war was an oil grab as the Left and U. S. paleos generally believe. . “No-no-no!” Riding the world of Hussein is a means of “making certain that the existing system [of oil markets] continues to work, franklyh until we find other [energy supplies] whnich ultimately we will.”

There—now if that isn’t clear, it isn’t your fault. Greenspan supported the decision made by a neo-conservative president…spoke a sensational headline-making statement to publicize his book…and like a freshman congressman is backing down when the heat gets to him. Which means he’s human, as much as “The Washington Post” dislikes to admit it.

For what it’s worth, I—and many other conservatives I know—don’t believe for a moment that safeguarding our access to oil is worth the lives of a single American soldier. Nor do I…and many others I know…believe that taking out Saddam Hussein was worth American lives either. The only thing that the precious treasure of American lives is worth is to protect the peace and liberty of the United States. Bush believed…as did every other government on the face of the earth…that Iraq had access to weapons of mass destruction. That they did not…and this is not a foregone certainty even now…did not and does not vitiate his taking steps to protect the peace and liberty of the United States by striking at Iraq for that reason and as a harbor to terrorists. The greatest Middle East scholar, Bernard Lewis, points out that for the first time, the Islamic world has come to grips with the fact that the West has had a leader who will not shrink. To me it is marvelous…knowing how malleable U. S. politicians are…that this president has not yielded to pressure from the media…the Democrats…the Paleos in his own party who are in lockstep with the hard left MoveOn.org zealots. But if I believed we did it for solely oil, I would be disillusioned.

And also for what it’s worth, I—and almost every other conservative I know—agree with Greenspan on the hideous proclivity of the Bush administration to over-spend. No president is perfect—not is George W. Bush. The value of Greenspan’s book seems to be…as I poured over it for nothing at Barnes & Noble…that the real triumph for our system came not from Greenspan but capitalism itself.

His book is really an insightful delight because it says things meaningfully that a number of us—but not the Left nor the paleos of the Right—comprehend. Neither Left nor Paleo Right would have had us engage the Soviet Union as we did during the long days of the Cold War…and hysterical agents of both sides are as critical (but not vocal about it) of Reagan who won the Cold War as they are of George W. Bush. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the defining economic development for the world as Greenspan sees it—when the failure of economic planning was evident for all to see. Any belief that Communism would have fallen by its own weight ignores the pressure that Reagan and others put on the tottering USSR system. The Left and the Paleo Right would not have put that pressure on because it would not have accepted for a moment that need to build Star Wars which ultimately led to the poker game play that won the stakes.

At bottom, Greenspan approaches but does not present a thesis as to why with our rising prosperity, our culture and learning has not progressed. Why was the top-rated radio show of 1939 “Information Please” where a panel of intellectuals…Oscar Levant on music…Clifton Fadiman on general knowledge…critic John Kiernan and others… vied in answering radio queries about the arts and history for $500 prizes…compared with the disgusting and decadent top-rated shows of today like “American Idol” where amateur belly dancers vie to become multi-millionaire entertainment icons. The answer is as old as the New Testament: material success without a belief in God and the eternal verities cannot and will not elevate the human condition.


  1. Bravo, Tom-
    Further on Alan Greenspan, who now seems to be in his second childhood, I recommend Steve Forbes' editorial (title the same as this comment) in his magazine this week.

    Rather than being the economic genius of all time, Greenspan has made some very serious blunders, such as printing much more money than the economy needed, and then in the late 90's inadvertently tightening up. This caused the 2000-01 recession. The Fed has raised interest rates since 2004, but has failed to take this excess money out, which is one of the major causes of the current sub-prime loan mess.
    Greenspan served many presidents not because of his genius, but because of the lack of economic ken of these politicans, and the American people as a whole.

  2. We need a non-disrupted flow of oil for our economy and for the economy of our trading partners. We would quickly lose any peace and liberty with an economy in chaos. Since liberals do not allow us to drill our own oil - whether in Alaska or off-shore - then we must get a significant portion from other countries. We get a fairly small percentage of our oil from the Middle East but our trading partners get a large percentage there. If they don't get it there then they would be competing with us for oil supplies in South America, Mexico and the North Sea. One of the jobs of the U.S. military is to protect our economy along with peace and liberty. Troops understand and agree with that. This is speaking as someone who was in Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003-4.

  3. This is an honest question. I have been puzzled about the new embassy in Iraq -- the largest of its kind in the world. It dwarfs U.S. embassies elsewhere. It is reportedly the size of the Vatican.
    Why? Why do we need that kind of embassy if our only purpose is to restore peace (etc.) to Iraq? Or is it because we expect to be there indefinitely because of the oil. Why would we need an embassy that size in that small country otherwise? I wish you would discuss this in a future blog.

  4. Why do all of you criticize this man? His ability and intellect is far above any of yours. I'm sorry but all of this is starting to smack of jealousy and antisemitism.

  5. Is it me, or does Alan Greenspan not bear a striking resemblance to to the Graet America/Six Flag Break-Dancing Geezer?

  6. While Greenspan is credited with saving the US from recession many times, he also put lots of money into the economy which resulted in cheap lending rates.

    The cheap rates led to irresponsible investment in Real Estate. Ultimately came the present credit crisis and real estate collapse. Wasn't Greenspan genius enough to see this coming.

    Conclusion: Greenspan provided some needed immediate fixes, but the present condition of the economy proves he wasn't such a great mind after all.

  7. Alice Hays,

    This post and the comments are some of the more analytic and informative I have seen on any blog concerning Alan Greenspan. The purpose of these things is to have legitimate discussions of serious issues.

    I do not see how anyone could consider an evaluation of Chairman Greenspan to be "anti-semetic", rather your remarks seem targetted to squash any dissent from accepted wisdom about Greenspan.

    If you disagree, post something, but the name calling is stifling to adult discussion of serious issues.


  8. Greenspan is no guru and does not deserve the praise the gidy pundits heap on him. First he pulled the plug on the dot.coms at a very vulnerable stage when many were just starting up and were not yet profitable. This allowed his Wall Street buddies to swoop in and pick up bargains from the people who actually did the work. Next he unduly lowered the interest rates in part to help the neo-cons fund the war with cheap money but in the process HE created a real estate bubble.

    In many areas the prices of real property driven by speculators and give away interest rates DOUBLED, yes doubled including in many areas in the burbs from Park Ridge to Hinsdale. The speculators were crawling everywhere with condo's here and condo's there, teardowns... MANY AVERAGE PEOPLE were hurt by this Greenspan caused frenzy. They saw their real estate assessments dramatically RISE along with their real estate taxes. Secondly, they saw the homes they wanted become un-affordable unless they took out a risky loan.....
    Then they tried to fund their declining lifestyles with home equity loans.

    Then came the mortgage speculators! Bundling the mortgages and selling them on Wall Street to eager high return funds. Again Spectulators, the buddies of Greenspan were riding high

    and then the rates went up....

    And then everyone cried MORTGAGE CRISIS
    so what does cute boy Bernanke do... he effectively bails out the cute crowd on Wall Street.

    I think that the price of real estate should COME DOWN to reflect the pre-speculator/Greenspan frenzy... but that won't happen.. the gov will just let it all INFLATE the speculators troubles away while the rest of us pay GROTESQUE OUTRAGEOUS REAL ESTATE TAXES.

    I say to John, Alice, Matt, Frank, and Tom etc. that GREENPSPAN was reckless and should be tried for corruption!

    But then he turns on Bush after giving him the bananna peal to slip on. Then he sanctimoniously talks about the war for oil... Well Greenspan we all know it was a war for those whose only focus on their Middle East Hobbies, the neo-cons! Thanks to these people who are beyond criticism because of people like poster Alice, the Republican Party will be come a LOSER in 2008. HOW SAD! But Tom, maybe they were trojan horse democrats all the time, thank of that!

  9. Just the thought that Giuliani would allow a sleazy old drunk like Charlie Johnston to be a delegate is just one more reason I could never support the guy.

    Talk about horrible judgement!!