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To what extent is the Wall Street meltdown that started in September 2008 really a consequence of the policies and actions of George W. Bush? Jo Becker, Gay Stolberg and Stephen Labaton have at this question in Saturday’s New York Times. I put it aside to read until this morning, and after shoveling snow (well, you can’t really call it “shoveling” when you need a hammer and chisel) finally got to finish it:
There are plenty of culprits, like lenders who peddled easy credit, consumers who took on mortgages they could not afford and Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk. But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making, according to a review of his tenure that included interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials. From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.
He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.
Even at 5,000 words this is not an in-depth examination, but it seems reasonable as a survey. Still, there is much, much more to be learned. And look at the White House’s response to the Times broadside. It’s so lame you could almost append it to the charge sheet as “Exhibit A.” In a 600-word rejoinder, the White House finds no actual mistakes and focuses its charge on the Times’s failure to hold Congress to blame—as if Congress were the source of economic policy. The response also ignores the fact that, as the recent bailout votes show, Congress has done Bush’s bidding for eight years.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”