No Comment — September 16, 2007, 9:59 am

Greenspan’s Judgment

They’ve come as a steady trickle since the first years of the Bush Administration: insiders leave and publish accounts telling us that deep inside the White House there’s a frightening show. The principal themes to emerge are cynical manipulation of national security for partisan political reasons, infidelity to traditional conservative values, insatiable thirst for power, mendacity and a general and far-reaching incompetence. The first of these was Richard Clarke, he was quickly followed by Paul O’Neill and a raft of others.

Now as the release date of his memoirs approaches, it appears that Alan Greenspan, the conservative icon who ran the Federal Reserve system during the nation’s glory days of economic success—the nineties and into the first years of Bush—will have a harsher judgment to pass than his predecessors.

Forbes reports on the Greenspan book:

Bush ignored his advice to veto “out-of-control” bills that sent the U.S. deeper into deficit. “Little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long-term consequences,” he writes of the Bush administration. The Republicans deserved to lose control of Congress in last year’s elections, Greenspan writes in The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, to be published on Sept. 17. He charges that Republicans in Congress “swapped principle for power” and “ended up with neither”.

Greenspan said he never became part of Bush’s inner circle, in which dissent from staff wasn’t encouraged, and that his hopes that the Bush administration would become a “reincarnation” of the fiscally conservative Ford administration never materialized. But despite differences over economic policy, Greenspan said the president kept a promise not to interfere with Fed policy.

In fact, Greenspan is clear: of the six presidents under whom he served, he ranks George W. Bush dead last. He harbored hopes that Bush would adopt the fiscally prudent policies of Gerald Ford—but it became obvious that that was not happening when Bush and the Republican Congress fell in love with ear-marking and pork-barrel spending at levels that had never been seen before.

Still the most disturbing piece of the Greenspan book may be his discussion of the Iraq war. According to a rather sensationalized report in this morning’s Times (London), Greenspan says that the claims that the Iraq War was about weapons of mass destruction were always a deception. The war was planned and fought to protect American interests in Gulf oil, and to extend those interests into Iraq:

However, it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says. Greenspan, 81, is understood to believe that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the security of oil supplies in the Middle East.

This immediately brings to mind Paul O’Neill’s similar suspicions—including his reminder of Dick Cheney’s dismissal of admonitions of the need for fiscal prudence during cabinet meetings, and his discovery one day of Cheney amid maps of the Iraq oilfields, which he appeared to be dividing up for foreign development.

It’s clear that the voice of fiscal prudence—the voice of O’Neill and Greenspan, for instance—was relegated to the corner by Bush. They were necessary to give the market some comfort, but they could not influence key issues surrounding federal spending.

And the consensus view that O’Neill and Greenspan seem to share—that the Iraq War was essentially an oil grab—allows us to view some other developments in Iraq in a different context. For instance, the successful deal struck by the loyal Bushies at Hunt Oil for the Kurdish fields.

I am eager to see how National Review, the Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal editorial page cope with Greenspan. Will he suddenly be transformed into just another lefty loon? The question here is betrayal of conservative values. It’s obvious to any careful observer that they were betrayed, and that the media which claim to uphold those values in fact have been so coopted by unalloyed partisanship that they no longer do.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2016

A Sigh and a Salute

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Prose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Don the Realtor

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Atlas Aggregated

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Origins of Speech

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Verse

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, fiction by Diane Williams, and more

In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Don the Realtor·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"If you have ever wondered what it’s like, being a young and avaricious teetotal German-American philistine on the make in Manhattan, then your curiosity will be quenched by The Art of the Deal."
Photograph (detail) © Polly Borland/Exclusive by Getty Images
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
A Sigh and a Salute·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Si told me that various paintings had spoken to him, but he wished they had been hung closer together 'so they could talk to each other.' This observation planted a seed that would come to fruition years later in his mature work."
Artwork (detail) by Si Lewen
Article
El Bloqueo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Amid the festivities and the flood of celebrities, it would be easy for Americans to miss that the central plank of the long-standing cold war against Cuba — the economic embargo — remains very much alive and well."
Photograph (detail) by Rose Marie Cromwell

Estimated portion of registered voters in Zimbabwe who are dead:

1/4

Honeybees can recognize individual human faces.

Pope Francis announced that nuns could use social media, and a priest flew a hot-air balloon around the world.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today