Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Leadership vacuum: USS Economy, meet iceberg
The lack of leadership, on both sides of the partisan aisle, is shameful, cowardly, and deeply unpatriotic.
On Monday, the US House of Representatives failed to pass the $700 billion bailout package. The word was that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had worked out a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner. The two leaders had whip counted their caucuses and apparently believed that they had enough votes to eke out passage. Both presidential candidates expressed support for the package, with John McCain even "suspending" his campaign to fly in to Washington to try to finagle public perceptions so that he could take the credit for rescuing the economy. President Junior, his disapproval rating hovering right around 70%, came on television to plead for support.
Then came the vote.
As the world watched, one third of Pelosi's caucus, and two thirds of Boehner's, voted against passage, the measure failed, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 778 points (or roughly 1.2 trillion dollars). Both sides responded immediately with finger-pointing, Junior scurried back to his hole, and Mad Johnny looked like a fool yet again.
As to the actual merits of the legislation, it is not clear that they were abundant. Concerns about burdening the tax-payer, about rewarding irresponsible behavior on Wall Street, about ignoring the plight of desperate mortgage-holders all seem legitimate. The legislation was certainly not a panacea; and even its strongest supporters admitted it had many weaknesses.
But, regardless of its lack of merits, it had been forged in that time-honored American way, through compromise and hard-fought bargaining between the administration, both political parties, and both houses of Congress.
That it would then be defeated in a floor vote in the House of Representatives is a stark indication that there is a leadership vacuum in our nation. There is no trust between the administration and its own Republican party, let alone any trust between Republicans and Democrats.
There is no one at the helm. We're adrift in a sea of ice.